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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review

Nature says Lightning never strikes twice, but Final Fantasy XIII-2 says otherwise.

Square Enix has released the sequel to its 2010 hit with Final Fantasy XIII-2. From the get-go, it's clear that the developers heard the complaints about the original, Final Fantasy XIII, from gamers the world over and have produced a follow-up that not only lives up to its predecessor, but also surpasses it in many ways.

The game centers on Serah, sister of protagonist Lightning from XIII, and picks up three years after the events of the original. Serah has been having dreams of Lightning fighting at a mysterious place known as Valhalla and has begun to question what is real. Shortly after waking from one such dream, a meteorite crashes near her home and delivers Noel Kreiss to her. Noel explains that he is from the future and was sent to Serah by her sister. Together, they must travel through time in an attempt to save the past.

It's a captivating story that should be sufficient to keep fans of XIII intrigued until the credits roll, but it does pale a bit in comparison to the original. But even if players do not find themselves completely fascinated by the plot, there are still the gorgeous Final Fantasy cutscenes that are rendered beautifully enough to distract players from whatever the characters are saying and the updated gameplay that unquestionably beats out that of XIII's.

If you counted yourself among the hordes of raving gamers baying for blood after judging XIII as "too linear," than XIII-2 might just be your saving grace. Square Enix has opened up the worlds of Gran Pulse and Cocoon in the sequel and given players some much-needed room to breath and battle Proto-behemoths.

The hallway-esque style that marked most of XIII has been replaced with more open-world environments that place the traditional exploration and discovery emphasis of former Final Fantasy games back at the forefront. The landscapes are vast and booming with bounty, as are the time periods.

As you progress you'll unlock different time periods you can jump to throughout the game, all without the use of Doc Brown's DeLorean or the Tardis. Some are new, some are reminiscent of XIII, and some throw you hundreds of years into the future of the game's universe. It's captivating to see one area green and sprawling with life at one point in time become brown, withered, and dead at another.

The main story alone won't be enough to unlock all of the times. In order to do so you'll need to take on a generous helping of side quests, but it's worth it. Every time period is as beautifully rendered as players have come to expect from a Final Fantasy game and rife with new beasties to battle, and you'll definitely want to fight all the monsters you can.

Where in XIII players had the option to swap out different characters to customize the party to their liking, XIII-2 takes a different approach. This time around players' parties will always be made up of Serah and Noel plus one monster. There are dozens of monsters available to players, each with their own class and level progression. They're a nice addition to the gameplay and the sheer amount of monsters help keep battling fresh, but they're not able to fill the void left by the absence of summons.

The battle system in XIII-2 should be familiar to anyone who played the original, albeit with a few tweaks. Paradigm shifts are much quicker and changing up your tactics on the fly has become a lot smoother. As a result, Square Enix was able to make the process feel like a more polished and refined version of XIII's without sacrificing any of the frenetic action.

While the game may stagger a bit here or there – particularly in regards to plot – the improved battle system and increase in open world environments are more than enough to make up for the lulls. All encompassed, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a solid sequel that should be enough to satiate most gamers' JRPG appetites.

Email: arts@ubspectrum.com


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