Playable Perplexities: FFXIII-2

Game:  Final Fantasy XIII-2

Platforms: PS3 and Xbox 360

Genre: RPG

Publisher: Square Enix

Single Player

Rating: T

I have been playing this game non-stop since it came out.  I don’t normally do that.  I’m not sure if its just cause Final Fantasy is plastered on it, but I keep picking them up at launch without even thinking.  I played through FFXIII, well past a point that I should have, probably, given my level of frustration at it in the end.  So coming off that bit of a disappointment, I was hopeful about XIII-2, but had my reservations given X-2’s pretty weak showing.  As of today I am at the final encounter of the game, but after 3 hours of devastating almost-wins, I threw in the towel in favor of grinding a few more levels.  Normally I’d like to finish a game before I review it, but I hope you’ll let me make an exception.  I’ll let you know if the ending changes my opinion.

its sephy 2.0!

And here we have Tribal Sephiroth.

This game starts just shortly after XIII’s ending.  Well, actually, you run through a super-badass tutorial session with Lightning and her monster buddies fighting off some tortured but attractive fellow who wants to blow the whole place up.  As things heat up, some other guy falls from the sky somehow (from the future!), and Lightning tells him to find Serah, her sister, and bring her to Valhalla (!).  The intro to a Japanese cartoon, essentially.  You then wake up as Serah, and a lot of strange things start to happen.  You find out that, the timeline of events that happened post-XIII have been altered and no one remembers but Serah.  You eventually meet up with future boy (Noel) and your adventure begins.

Yeah, it’s cheesy and teeny-bop, but it’s TIME TRAVEL.  And, unlike its predecessor, you can’t ever mess anything up because you can just go back and rewind it and do it again! (: D)  You’re tasked with getting to Lightning, who is somehow beyond space and time in Valhalla, fighting that weird guy.  Serah and Noel jump through time gates, explore familiar locales in new time periods, and meet up with old friends (some of whom have aged and have become quite attractive).  The story unfolds in the game like an anime would, slowly, and sometimes painfully obviously, but its cute – and more importantly its really, really fun.

Wheeeee!

Gave that bitch some time travel. Bitches love time travel.

Gameplay

The battle system is largely the same as it’s predecessor XIII.  You set up and use paradigms that you can change freely in combat, and the paradigms are a fixed grouping of roles that your characters can use.  For example, you have the fighter/mage/healer roles, as well as the buff/debuff/tank roles, and you can use any combination of these to make a paradigm.  Some boss fights get you to preform “cinematic actions” or quicktime events, which are trigger button combinations to deal damage and finish off the fight.  You receive rewards for performing them well, and it looks pretty sweet to boot.

Your third party member is a monster!  You can catch monsters!  You can level them up!  You can put bows on them!  IT’S POKEMON IN FINAL FANTASY.  This was actually super exciting for me.  If you want a better party member, you have to catch a better monster, and certain monsters are better at certain roles, and it freshens up the battles to see you have a giant ass lizard fighting with you as your tank (And you can put a bow on him).

Mr. super suave

Isn't he darling!

There are now ‘out of phase’ treasures that you can find and collect as well as the ability to leave a time era and go back to the ‘Historia Crux’.  If you leave a time era, you go back to the exact spot when you return.  This is especially awesome when trying to complete the side quests and the fragment collecting.  Whenever you quit the game, you resume in the Historia Crux where you can create new saves, or just get on back to what you were doing.  There’s also an autosave, and you can save manually from the Crux, or in the time era.

There’s a ‘mog clock’ that pops up when monsters appear giving you a time restraint on engaging or fleeing from the encounter.  If you attack when the mog clock is green, you get a preemptive strike.  Wait too long, and you’re locked into combat with no retry option (a death sentence if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time).

And finally, there are three different puzzle types to solve in the time paradoxes.  Some are easy, and some make you want to hurt things.  There’s the connect the dots puzzle, the walk along the path as is falls puzzle and the fucking clock math bullshit puzzle.  You can guess which were my favorites.  (No seriously, the clock puzzle is the worst).  (THE WORST).

That bow is actually a moogle.

I will shoot you in the face, no lie.

Technical Stuff

The game runs in 1080p on the PS3 so you don’t miss the Xbox’s anti-aliasing.   It’s a beautiful game, and it knocks other games out of the park in that department.  I found there were dips in the framerate quite frequently during cinematics, especially in the larger and more populated locales, but nothing during normal play or combat.

The collector’s edition was only 10$ more than the $69.99 price tag, and it comes with a neat box, art book and a 4-disk soundtrack.

The music is…Ok?  When it was good it was good.  But when it’s bad, it’s real bad.  Like the heavy metal Chocobo music, or the music in the Historia Crux if you leave it there too long.  God, I actually can’t get over the terrible gravelly screamo Chocobo music – it is literally the worst thing.

Nearing the final encounter, plus or minus a few side quests, I’m at about 35 hours.  Which is awesomely reasonable for a Japanese RPG – and it doesn’t force you through a 20 hour tutorial at the beginning (I’m looking at you XIII).

The trophies/achievements seem reasonable, although I’m sure a lot of them involve extensive grinding and leveling as is expected with these sorts of games, but they do not seem –too- demanding.

Overall

I really had a lot of fun with this one.  Its casual and not too complicated (assuming you played at least part of XIII or the tutorials) and I actually quite enjoyed the story.  Except for the parts that had me face palming, or asking if “in fact –really- they didn’t figure that out until now”.  The game was better than I expected, and it ranks as one of my favorites.  This could be due to the fact that FFXIII was the last RPG I played before this one, or it’s just actually a charming and fun addition to the series (and before you ask, no, I’m sorry, FFVII was not my favorite, and embarrassingly, I haven’t played FFVI so I’m not about to start ranking the games in order).

Noel and Serah share a moment.

So....pretty....

According to the stats, FFXIII had a super large female demographic, and I think they went on emphasizing that in the sequel.  The male characters are (mostly all) pretty, the villain is a tortured Sephiroth-type character, Lightning is a totally badass warrior/servant to the goddess.  There’s weird romance stuff, there’s pre-teen longing.  You know, the cliché stuff.  It wasn’t painfully present all the time and to be honest, I’d complain more if they didn’t actually go out and make a game that was almost perfectly right up my alley.  (Come on, HD Pokémon with collectable accessories?  Take all my money).  I was worried that this game was going to end up like X-2, a sexed up dress up game that made you uncomfortable while playing it (as a girl) or probably not want to admit to playing (as a guy).  Every Final Fantasy that comes out will never live up to what VI and VIII (or VIII or IX) were, nostalgia or otherwise, but this game did a wonderful job of refreshing my interest in the genre and leaves me excited for what comes next!

 

Graphics: 10/10

Story: 6/10

Music: 5/10

Money’s Worth:
10/10

**

I found something amazing – a clock puzzle solver.  If you end up playing this game – you might want to bookmark this!

http://clockpuzzle.pl/

***

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