Parent Talk: Final Fantasy XIII-2 is rated T for teen by the ESRB for drug references, mild language, mild suggestive themes, simulated gambling, and violence.
Plays Like: Final Fantasy XIII. It employs the same battle system, though with more customization options. XIII-2 also features a time-travel mechanic similar to the old Squaresoft classic, Chrono Trigger.
Review Basis: Square-Enix sent us the PS3 version for review purposes. I reached the final boss battle, when I decided to backtrack and finish a ton of side quests I left untouched. I intend to unlock all 160 fragments and put this bad boy to rest. I’ve seen everything the game has to offer, outside post-game paradoxes.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a direct sequel to FF XIII. It continues the story, brings back an assortment of characters and the Paradigm Shift battle system, and introduces a time-travel mechanic reminiscent of Chrono Trigger. If you enjoyed FF XIII or haven’t played it, XIII-2 is a perfect jump-on point. Square-Enix fixed the problems associated with the original, and has created one of their best console games in years.
The number one complaint about Final Fantasy XIII was that it was too linear. The game only opened up toward the end, with many sensing a disconnect between it and previous FFs. Square-Enix heard those cries and did a complete 180. From the onset, you choose where to explore, and how the story unfolds. While not as groundbreaking as Chrono Trigger, FF XIII-2 is as close to a modern CT as we’ll get this generation.
+ Accessible. If you’ve never played XIII like me, you can still enjoy XIII-2. Thanks to primers that fill in the backstory, and tutorials, new players should settle in comfortably. Although it’s obviously better to have already experienced the predecessor.
+ Excellent battle. The Paradigm Shift system lets you choose between highly customizable teams with unique skillsets. You can combine a physical combatant with a medic and black mage, or mix and match other styles. Switching paradigms is the heart and soul of the game, and it must be mastered to defeat some of the tougher bosses.
+ Blood wounds force you to rethink battle. Enemies can hurt you, and additionally decrease your characters’ HP limit to the point where even strong healing magic doesn’t help. Thankfully that effect is reversed after victory.
+ QTEs keep your focus on-screen. After every major boss battle, a quick time event kicks off to enhance the experience of the fight.
+ ATB gauge. XIII-2 blends real-time fighting with the traditional RPG battle systems of yesteryear.
+ Addictive monster-hunting. Instead of a three-human party, XIII-2 allows for two, and the third is a monster you’ve captured. These creatures can be enhanced with special items you purchase or find. The real fun comes when you can travel the timeline scouring the best creatures in every class. Once in your possession, it’s addicting to train them to max levels.
+ This is how you do random battles. You have a certain time-limit when enemies appear on the screen to either battle or flee. Obviously some encounters can’t be avoided, but I never thought of battles to be tiresome or frustrating because of encounter rates.
+ Interesting and fun leveling system. Victory in battle and completing quests nets you CP, which unlock new abilities within a giant network of skills. The more you unlock, the stronger your characters become and more unique classes and skills that are learned.
+ Numerous side-quests and mini-games. Head to the Serendipity timeline to lose yourself in hours of Chocobo races, or gamble your way to a small fortune at the casino. There’s no shortage of side entertainment.
+ Time travel is simple, and encourages exploration/repeat visits. As timelines are unlocked, players can revisit whichever ones they want to accept new quests. Special items also restore timeline states to before Noel and Serah fixed the paradoxes.
+ Moogle to the rescue. Your Moogle friend, Mog, can fix small time fractures..revealing treasure, items and more. You can even pick the little guy up and toss him to hard-to-reach places where fragments might be hiding.
+ Solving paradoxes is different, and therefore awesome. Most of the paradoxes Serah and Noel must fix revolve around basic puzzles, but you can occasionally accept a paradox as real and end the game. I’m uncertain how many endings there are, but there must be a lot. This isn’t including all the post-game paradoxes that need fixing.
+ Saving the future from catastrophe. The story isn’t epic enough for XIII-2 to stand on its own, but it’s still awesome. Some of the more intricate elements are convoluted, but overall the plot comes together and ties well into XIII.
+ Another spectacular Square-Enix audio-visual package. The environments are detailed and varied, depending on which timeline you jump to. I especially loved visiting one area ten years in the future only for it to seem like a brand-new dimension because the presentation was so different. The soundtrack is equally awesome.
+/- A little easy. The latter battles are challenging, but the rest of the game is pretty simple once you understand the Paradigm Shift system.
+/- Grinding. It’s at least not as in-your-face as it used to be. You could theoretically skip grinding entirely, but rushing to the end will likely guarantee the need for improving your party.
– Pacing. The action is usually fast and furious, but then you’re suddenly walking around doing nothing. One fetch quest in particular is painfully huge, and the reward is not entirely worth it. Another area features platforming elements (yes you can jump in XIII-2) that feel ill-conceived.
– XIII’s stars are given minimal roles. Newcomer Noel looks like Kingdom Hearts’s Sora and sounds like Tom Cruise, but at least his story picks up as you’re nearing the end. Serah doesn’t fare so well. She’s not as likeable as Lightning, but thankfully also not as whiny as some more recent JRPG female leads have been. That said, man do I wish we saw more of Caius, the main antagonist. His on-screen time is ridiculously too short.
Some of the monster designs are downright freaky…and when you combine two, well…you’ll see.
Fans of Final Fantasy should certainly check out XIII-2. It addresses the problems we had with XIII and offers a quality story, even if it’s not the best we’ve seen. It’s not very long though, taking me 23 hours to reach the final boss, having done little grinding. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of post-game content, monster training, DLC, etc. Plus the Paradigm Shift system and freedom will have RPG fans playing this for a while. I happily recommend this to anyone who thinks of him or herself as a fan of the genre.
Average Score Scale: 8.5 (+/- 0.5) out of 10
Personal Final Score: 9/10 (Inflated)
Reason for +0.5 Inflation: Enjoy Final Fantasy? Want a more open XIII experience? If yes to either, slap on another 0.5 to the score.
Reason for -0.5 Deflation: You hated XIII. XIII-2 won’t change your mind since it takes place within the same universe.