On Final Fantasy XIII-2

Last year I wrote a negative review of Final Fantasy XIII where I stated that the story was incomplete, the world was not immersive, and the systems were mostly off-putting. My main complaint was that there was too much linearity – the game forced players to move from one event to the next, giving players no chance to explore, and forcing them through the game at a pace not of their choosing. These complaints were echoed throughout the entire gaming community. Despite all these shortcomings, not surprisingly, Final Fantasy XIII sold amazingly well.

Earlier this year, following the tradition set by Final Fantasy X, Square Enix released Final Fantasy XIII-2. There is a slight difference between the two sequels to sequels released by Square Enix – that difference is that while Final Fantasy X-2 was a poor RPG with poor storytelling that was nothing more than fan service, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a game that’s actually good.

Since the release of the first Final Fantasy, the Final Fantasy series saw an increase in the quality of the storytelling and the mechanics that implemented in the game that climaxed somewhere between Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy VIII, depending on who you ask. A sentiment that is fairly widespread, however, whether one enjoyed Final Fantasy X or not, is that Final Fantasy XI “doesn’t really count” because it’s an MMO, and a bad one at that, and that Final Fantasy XII, although it makes an attempt at a good game, falls short all around. Most people would agree that X-2 is quite horrendous. Final Fantasy XIII, as I explained in my previous review, was also lackluster. And so, it’s been 10 years since the release of a “good” Final Fantasy title. That being said, while Final Fantasy XIII does not disappoint, it’s not the highlight of the series either, and while it does many things right, it falls short on others.

At times, Final Fantasy XIII-2 feels like Square Enix’s apology to gamers for everything not done properly in Final Fantasy XIII. From the beginning of the game the player is set lose to explore a town – the one thing that those playing FFXIII longed for throughout the entire piece. All towns in this game are incredibly well designed. Although the non-playable characters walking around town are at best empty shells when they are not part of the story, the NPCs who have some sort of role in the story are interesting in their own way.  The dungeon layout was also enjoyable, and the way they are connected to towns was interesting. What I did not enjoy in terms of spatial design was the whole Historia Cruz time travel thing. Forcing players to play through the same situations with slightly different options gets old after a while. That being said, the concept is well weaved into the overall story.

I also liked that the characters this time around are much more developed than in the previous installment. Although some might say that the characters are stereotypical or that Serah is too much of a stereotypical feminine figure, or whatever other complaints critics might have (some of which are, indeed, true), the fact remains that this time around the relationships between characters are more developed than in XIII.  When Serrah and Noel first meet Snow, I could feel myself thinking “what now?” Although not yet developed at this point, there was some tension between Serrah and Noel, which was a welcome addition to the game.

The battle mechanics were excellent, as they expand on the groundwork laid in Final Fantasy XIII, but the concept of capturing animals to do battle for you should stay in Pokemon. I liked the 13-inspired battle system as much as I did in 13, but I hated having to keep an eye out for the next strong monster with a certain job type so that I could butt my party.

The music works well within the game, but it’s nowhere near as epic as Uematsu’s work from Lost Odyssey. That’s all I’ll say for sound.

I must admit that I was slightly annoyed when the game treated me as some sort of mentally deficient player who needed instructions such as “find the cube we just showed you in the previous FMV” or “climb to the top of the tower”, and the whole “retry” option took away from the difficulty of the game dramatically, but these were not  bad enough for me to give the game an overall poor review.

In the end, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a solid RPG with enough of a story to keep you coming back, if you can overlook the Historia Crux thing and the underwhelming difficulty of the game. The battle system and the story are solid, and while it falls short in some elements, it is certainly a game worth putting down the admission price and the 60+ hours of play.

I’ll write something more intellectual and critical-y about the game later if I feel like it…

… after I finish an incredible piece on Catherine.





About Quijano

Johansen Quijano is a professor of English in The University of Texas at Arlington, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Development focusing on TESOL, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature. He has published and presented on a variety of topics including video game studies, popular culture studies, education, teaching methodology, language acquisition, romantic poetry, and victorian literature. His research interests include the above-mentioned topics, narrative, interactivity, simulation, new media in general, and 18th century literature. He also enjoys creative writing (fiction, historical fiction, and poetry), and reading all kinds of epic literary works - from the Epic Poem of Gilgamesh to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Posted on May 22, 2012, in Video Game Commentary and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I can’t wait for the day when I finally get my hands on Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2.

    • Thanks for reading and posting! 13 isn’t that good, but going through it is a worthwhile investment so that you can grapple with 13-2. Jumping straight into 13-2 might be a bit tricky because of the story ^^

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