Digital Spy

Search Digital Spy
35

Gaming Review

'Final Fantasy XIII-2' review (Xbox 360)

By
Released on Saturday, Jan 28 2012

'Final Fantasy XIII-2' screenshot

© Square Enix


Also available on: PlayStation 3
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Role-playing game

We were very fond of Final Fantasy XIII, but not everyone felt the same way. The contentious entry saw dungeons become long, linear paths and towns and sidequests a forgotten distraction. Even if underneath that was a brilliant combat system, an endearing cast and a strange futuristic world filled with ancient secrets, it was obvious that it diverted away from the things Final Fantasy was traditionally known for.

This direct sequel offers a chance to rectify those problems. In a sense it truly does make amends, but not as you would perhaps expect. Instead of a traditional, world spanning adventure like the Final Fantasy's of old, it's a game broken up into small chunks as players travel across time and space, visiting areas hundreds of years apart, and offers more traditional dungeon exploring and heaps of side content to delve into.

With Lightning missing thanks to some mysterious circumstances, it's up to her sister Serah and Noel, a boy from an apocalyptic far future and the last surviving human, to find out what happened to her. Soon enough, the duo are given the all-important task of saving time itself. The future following the events of Final Fantasy XIII is riddled with paradoxes, which have strange and incredible effects on different eras, from monster invasions, vast eclipses and even humble villages being stretched and torn from existence altogether.

Once a problem is solved in an area, they can proceed through a gate to the next one, which has its own series of issues. It's not that straightforward, though; the Histroia Crux, a time-travelling map (yes, there's a map of sorts this time) propels you forward and backward between vastly different locations and time periods in a non-linear order. It's this back and forth nature that allows the story to create consistently interesting reveals. Not knowing when or where in time the next gate will take you, and what strange aliments will present themselves, is genuinely exciting.


With each era not outstaying its welcome, it makes for a pacey and fast-moving adventure that continuously surprises. The story itself does a great job at keeping things ticking along, and while it has its share of twists and head-scratching concepts - from paradox loops to alternate timelines - things never get too complex to understand. The heaps of exposition and melodrama in the dialogue still remain, but it's not nearly as constantly downtrodden as Final Fantasy XIII, and still has some pretty dark moments of its own thanks in part to an excellent stirring soundtrack.

While there's a narrative thread you must follow as part of the main story, extra gates allow you to explore bonus eras, usually unlocked through side-quests from non-playing characters. There's an awful lot of it, too, giving you plenty of reason to keep going once the main quest is over. While there's some well-made quests to be found, fleshing out more of the story and lore, the majority consists of fetching items in the environment. It's made worse by the fact that most collectables are almost invisible to see (your sidekick Mog can reveal them), making them frustrating and time-consuming activities.

Elsewhere, almost every system has been tweaked or adjusted in a clear attempt to improve everything. The sheer number of changes makes things a little overwhelming at first, but it almost all works out for the better. The Mog Clock system, which removes enemies from roaming the field to randomly appear next to you, adds the same spontaneous and dangerous feel of random encounters but allows you to see your foe before committing to a battle.

Cutscenes now offer two new features - Quick Time Events and dialogue choices - as a way of making them more interactive than XIII's lengthy moments. Both at first sound like groan-worthy additions, but are actually smartly implemented; QTEs are simple and short-lived, and appear rarely - usually after a boss encounter - and hand out bonus items upon completion. Meanwhile, dialogue choices don't influence the direction of the game but are usually a one-time only act, and with the potential for rewards (and in some cases, punishments) they actually become involving.


Perhaps the biggest change outside of time-travelling itself is the addition of a monster ally, which sees a captured enemy join your ranks in battle as a third party member. It's a tantalising prospect, and one clearly reminiscent of Pokemon, but unfortunately one that's wasted potential. Aside from being fed items to gain stats and being dressed in little adornments, the lack of interaction outside of battle means there's little attachment or desire to hunt down and experiment with different types.

Not only that, but with each monster restricted to a single class, it means that paradigm diversity and party tactics can suffer a little. It's not a major issue, but a fully fledged third party member would have been more enjoyable to level and customise instead. Thankfully, the fundamentals of Final Fantasy XIII's excellent combat system are still largely unchanged, with the same thrilling speed and pace and tactical staggering mechanic that has you try and quickly gain the upper hand.

There are many, many smaller changes, too; the occasional platforming segment and (occasionally frustrating) side-puzzles aim to make dungeons more diverse, an easy battle option and the chance to save anywhere to make it more accessible, and the return of Chocobo racing, a casino and coliseum (the latter two to be expanded with DLC) add a little more fun. Combined with the previously-mentioned diverse series of scenarios, it makes for an adventure that rarely lags or feels tired part-way like many Japanese role-playing games tend to do.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 does a tremendous job at addressing the complaints of its predecessor. While it does so by dramatically changing how the adventure plays out, the results are at times stunning, with a well integrated time travel mechanic that benefits the adventure's pacing and story. While the side-quests can underwhelm and frustrate, the sheer amount of extra content is a welcome addition, making for a more well-rounded role-playing experience and one that well lives up to the Final Fantasy name.

You May Like

Comments

Loading...