~ Square Enix ~
~ Age Rating: 16+ ~
~ Genre: JRPG ~
~ PS3/Xbox 360 ~
Well its been a while I wrote one of those, so here it is finally, bit late, but here it is, Final Fantasy XIII-2, one of the rare ocurances where Square Enix actually continues a story with the same characters, and there are already 2 other games in this universe too (Type-0 (I'll review this one when the localised version comes out) and Versus), not the same characters tho, so at least square seems to like this universe a lot.
The game has been improved quite a bit, but like with all improvements, some new problems came out, dont get me wrong, i loved the game, but it does deserve its critisism where its due.
Also i apologise that this review is somewhat long, it wasnt intentional, but somehow it ended up twice longer than my normal reviews, so its a bit too long, but i couldnt really find where to narrow it down without removing relevant information. Also the screenies are a bit blurry, the game it self is sharp, but i dont have the ability to take my own screenshots on my current PS3 setup and finding ones without various companies logos plastered all over them is surprisingly hard.
So my ranting aside lets dig into the game.
- December 15, 2011 ~ Japan
- January 31, 2012 ~ NA/PAL
- February 2, 2012 ~ Australia (Wow Ausies actually got a game before Europe did for once)
- February 3, 2012 ~ International
- ACB: M
- CERO: B
- ESRB: T
- PEGI: 16
Graphics: Well the graphics are pretty much what you expected, not may changes here, they did reduce the texture resolution a little bit, but that is mainly because the last game choked in framerates a bit, especially on the 360 and this game features even larger areas. But apart from that the game is still one of the best looking console games to date. The new areas in the game are designed really really well, and some look really stunning, Acadamia 4XX AF for example, i know this name wont mean much for those who haven't played, but to sum it up its the major city of the game. Either way, you will get what you expected from the game, graphics are top notch and even if there are a couple things to pick on here and there, it is still a pleasure for the eyes.
Sound: The sound is top notch, i really cant complain about anything here, i played the dubbed western version and watched videos of the Japanese one and voice acting is great in both of them, the music is great too, which is a trend in Final Fantasy series anyway, it has a lot more vocal songs than the last one, but they dont get annoying, and the Dying World 700AF music is just amazing, especially combined with the atmosphere there.
Story: This i will write in 2 sections, the one right below this in spoilers WILL contain spoilers and read it only if you beat the main story or if you dont care.
Well like with any story involving time travel the story does get messy a bit, but it is a very well writen one and i actually enjoyed it quite a bit. The story in a rough nutshell involves Lightning disappearing right after the end of the last game, and Serah being the only one that can remember her, so she joins up with a new character Noel, who is sent by Lightning to bring Serah, and they set out to find a way to get Lightning. It gets a lot more complicated than that, but i dont want to spoil anything for anyone. All the characters from the previous games make at least an appearance, some more involved, some less, but they are all still there. Story wise apart from the ending i dont really have a lot of things to pick on. As for the ending, here comes the spoiler part.
- Serah Farron - The true main character of this story, while both her and Noel are the leads, the story circulates around her a lot more than Noel. She is Lightnings sister, and was the only non playable core character in the previous game, now she is back, kicking an awesome battle dress. She is supposed to be 21 in the game, but i wouldn't give her one year over 16 personally, if that, but she is still pretty hot. Personality wise, i would have to label her "normal", meaning she doesn't have the extreme personalities like the characters in the previous games. She is likable though and makes a solid main role.
- Noel Kreiss - The new addition to the series, a guy from a very distance future, traveling back in time with hopes to create a new future. Personality wise i found him a bit plain though, he is an alright character, i liked him even, but he could have held more depth.
- Mog - Technically a main character, he is more like your personal assistant flying around you all the time, he also acts as Serahs weapon, transforming into it during battle. But boy did he get on my nerves sometimes, his personality is just silly, as if they weren't sure what to give him, so they made him into a.. greedy money loving mog? or something of the sort, although if he does annoy you, just toss him around a bit, he always screams like you are torturing him every time you throw him.
- Lightning - She acts as a narrator of the game this time, observing everything from Valhalla, personality wise she hasnt changed at all from the previous game, still tsundere to the core, she is also playable for a bit in the prologue part of the story. (Also obtainable as a pet in DLC, see DLC section).
- Sazh Katzroy - Only makes a short cameo appearance in the story, however now has his own DLC expansion which allows you to get him into his party (See DLC section)
- Hope Estheim - Needs to be mentioned too as he plays quite a big role in the game, he is somewhat different than the Hope you seen in the last game, his personality is actually mature and strong now instead of the EMO boy in the previous game, and despite the fact i hated him in the last game he is actually not so bad here. Also his looks are changed some what, since the first time you encounter him is 10 years since the first game.
- Vanille and Fang also make a Cameo appearance along with some new side characters, i will skip these to avoid making the section too long.
Gameplay: Well the gameplay it self is very similar to what all of the final fantasies were, you have the running around part and the battle part. Unlike in the previous game, they switched back to the old system of random encounters, however it doesn't follow the same swooosh screen every 5 steps like before, now the monsters spawn next to you and you get this timer called moogle clock, during this timer you can either A) Hit the enemy before it hits you and get a preemptive strike B) Get hit by the enemy in which case the battle starts normally C) Try to run away, if you cover a set amount of distance between you and the enemy, the battle will cancel out, however some enemies are so persistent that they will change you to the ends of the world. If the timer runs out and neither of the previous mentioned point is reached, the battle will still engage and you will have the retry option locked, which means you cant use retry to fast end the fight and try to run away again and will have to see it through to the end (if you die you still get the retry option however).
The maps them selves have undergone a lot of changes too, the previous game was accused over and over for being too linear, so now the areas are much wider, with plenty of side paths and such to explore, you no longer feel confined by 2 walls all the time, there are a lot less "invisible walls" that you could find in the previous game too, and your character can jump, which is actually used quite a bit in some areas.
But the biggest addition is of course the time travel stuff, which allows you to hop back and forth between all the stages of the game, i call them stages, because they are separated by drastic location changes and loading (the loading times are a bit on the long side too, but the areas are huge and detailed so it's forgivable.). This does make the game some what less linear, though you still have to follow quite a straight path if you follow the story, there is a part where you can go two different paths, but in the end you will still have to do both of them, so its just choosing which doing first. It also has a time reverse option, which is quite nice, what it is, is basically an overglorified save game +. You can do that on any stage and that will allow you to replay that stage like you never done it before (minus the quest item collection), while letting you keep your characters as they are, it is used quite a bit to collect fragments, but mainly its just fun to go back and whoop some bosses ass you had troubles with before.
The promised multiple endings are a bit of a false advertising, the only real alternative ending i would say is the bad ending you can get while getting the story (which btw you should get while you play the story the first time, will save you time backtracking later, it wont make you loose any work you put in anyway). The other endings labeled paradox endings are... well they are technically endings, but they are just really cutscenes of "what could have happened if..." and while they are quite fun to watch, they usually cut off right before it gets interesting and just makes you go aww, but what then. One of them is really funny though (The flan one for those who already played). There is no confirmation if these will be continued in DLC content or not, so it is hanging in the air so to say.
Moving back to the whole time idea a bit, it is executed quite nicely, most of the areas will change some what depending on what time you are in, some over going cosmetic difference (Like it will be different season or something), to being completely new maps, but even the cosmetic changes will change the surroundings quite a bit, things get affected by time wear, areas can become accessible or inaccessible, and so on.
The NPC/City issue has been addressed too, now there is plenty of NPCs and cities, though the shop is centralised still like in the previous game, though instead of a floating console (which never made sense in some areas), you now get this Chocolina chick that sprouts the most annoying lines ever and i find my self mashing X to skip dialog every time i talk to her just to shut her up. There are plenty of side quests too, like seriously plenty, a bit too many even i could say, im not sure about the quest count, but it will range between 60 to 100 depending if you count chain ones or not.
During the story and from side quests you will get these items called Fragments, as items them selves they serve no purpose apart from having descriptions in your item list, by collecting certain amounts or all the fragments in certain areas, you will get fragment skills, which are gameplay skills, instead of battle skills, i will cover them right after the battle section. But getting them all is a pain, each quest will reward you one, so that means if you want to get all of them, you are inevitably stuck with doing all of them. And there are several very annoying ones, the top 3 being the slot machine one, where you need to win 7777 coins out of it, thankfully that one is easily solved by buying a ton of casino coins, and jamming the auto play key on your controller, and go away for an hour or two, and if you're lucky you will have gotten it. The second one is revealing all maps at 100%, which is just tedious and the gold medal winning one is of course kill EVERY monster in the game, all the bosses, special boss modes you might miss in your initial play through and so on, and boy does this game have a huge bestiary, ranging easily over 200, so be ready to pull up a guide if you want that one, because the game isnt nice enough to tell you what mobs you are missing.
The grinding is less grindy too, at least XP wise, if you bother collecting fragments and get as much as you can before finishing the main story line (a couple of them require you to have it finished), just the rewards from obtaining them will be enough to max out 4 or even 5 of your jobs, the others you will max out just by leveling your pets. So that saves a lot of grinding, unlike in the previous game where the amount to max out end game was about the same you needed to max out before the main boss.
But with making something good, they have to go ahead and spoil it with something else. For those who played the previous game and actually bothered getting the ultimate weapons, remember farming Trapezohedron? Remember the jolly 5% drops from Adamantoises, well guess what! They made that even harder to get, now it drops with the same marvelous 5% drop rate from a monster that is a lot harder to kill than a Long Gui (The nastier version of Adamantoise), and now you need a whooping 2 of them to craft it, and if you want auto haste hermes shoes, throw in another one, so thats at least 5 or 6 if you do both chars. So its a nightmare, i honestly have the game at 100% completion, but i only have 1 of the weapons. Luckily there are alternatives, one being a 50% ATB charge boosted weapon, which is frankly faster than the 6ATB block weapon, since 5+50%=7.5, but has less dmg, so it balances out on about the same, and the other is the Odin weapon, which is only really worth for commando mode, it is 5 bars and no boost but if you have all the fragments it has NASTY dmg.
Battle system: This one hasnt't really gone through that many changes, if you played the previous game hop past the first paragraph to the second one where i will discuss the changes from the previous game.
As for the ones who haven't played the first game, here's a quick rundown. The game uses an ATB (Active Time Battle) battle system, which you could see through out the whole game series being improved bit by bit, though unlike in older games like VII, it uses the style of X-2 and XII and is real time, though you still have to wait for your turn bar to charge up. For those who are unfamiliar with this at all, you basically have a bar charging and once the bar is full (or part full, depending what you do) your character will execute the action. Unlike in previous final fantasy games (with the exception of XIII of course) you control only one character and the other characters will be controlled by the AI, which seems to cause a lot of arguments about the game being less involved, i could counter that argument by using the same ever so popular FF VII as an example, but thats already a side discussion and not part of the review. Another new addition is the Paradigm system (once again with the exception of the previous game) which makes you switch between jobs to access certain skills. (Refer to the paradigm section for full information on that).
Now once we got the basics out of the way, the battle system did experience some changes from the previous game, some are good, some are bad, perhaps bad isn't the right word, it would be more correct to say different from what you are used to which makes it a bit annoying.
The major introduction is of course the Pet system, about 80% of the monsters in the game are tamable now and each one of them will come with its own skills and jobs, also each one of them has a special move that can be executed in battle (the usage is limited by a charge of a bar called Feral Link, so dont expect to be able to spam this). The monsters also can be infused to each other and ect. Look bellow for the pets section where i will address it in more detail.
This is a really nice addition, but it brings out one of the irritating things i mentioned before, they made you need to rely on the pets way too much, your characters get a very limited set of skills, which makes it quite inconvenient, the jobs that suffer from this the most are Ravager, Synergist, Saboteur and Medic, Sentinel and Commando jobs are barely affected, though both characters make quite a crappy Sentinel anyway. Ravagers problem is that they split the elements between the 2 chars, making them have 2 each, which can be inconvenient in some cases when a monster has certain immunities. Medic on the other hand is tragic, you pretty much get only Cure, Curasa and Raise with some variations, that means your basic characters don't even have AOE heals, which is quite a bit irritating, Synergist suffer in a similar fashion, your characters only get the defensive buffs and all the attack buffs are bound on a pet, Saboteur lacks a couple spells like curse which is really useful, but its livable, things like deshell, deprotect, imperil, dispell and poison are still there, which is the primary stuff you will need anyway.
Another change is the lack of haste spell, which is very annoying, the only ways to get haste is to either get a preemptive strike or use hermes sandals, and while preepmtives are really easy to get in this game, they dont last forever, and in long fights you will run out, not to mention you cant do that on bosses, on the bright side critical haste now kicks in every time your chars HP is red so thats a good change.
The inability to move your characters at will is still irritating though, by move i mean run around the field, i really wish they would actually fixed that in the second game, it gets so frustrating when your controlled character gets in front of the sentinel and gets constantly blasted in the face by wave attacks that are targeted at the sentinel, it happens rarely, but at times is still annoying.
Some more small additions are the ability to change party leaders in mid fight and your controlled characters death doesn't result in a game over anymore, only if both your characters die will you lose the battle, which is how it should have been in FFXIII and doesn't make sense that it wasn't. Also another addition allows you to set your attack mode to single target, aoe or normal, which helps a lot depending on what you are doing, also in single target mode you can avoid the multi targeting when having 2 or 3 commandos, which was somewhat annoying in the previous game. Also both characters have new special skills, but similar to FFXIII they are bloody useless, the only ultimate skill i consider useful thus far is Vanille's Death skill.
There is some quick time elements this time, but thankfully there is very little, i think only like 4 or 5 battles actually use that, and that's only in the beginning of the game, about midway through they kinda give up on it all together, and the ones that are presented are actually pretty time sparing, i haven't failed any of them personally. The pet special skills use a button sequence which requires you to click out as fast or accurate to get higher effectiveness of the skill, however since that is called up on demand, its not really a hassle.
Fragment Skills: As i mentioned above, these you will obtain from collecting fragments, and while some of them are totally pointless, like the one that lets you change what music plays when you ride a chocobo, others are extremely useful, and one is pretty much necessary. The necessary one would be moogle throw, it allows you to throw your moogle to get to items which you cant reach, and then an advanced version of the same thing which allows your moogle to find random items, the second isnt necessary already, but you will need it to get some pets, and boy are those pets in random places, the chances of you throwing it in the right place are very low, i only found 1 of them by accident, the others i needed to look up, and even those im not sure how people found out, unless they went around throwing the moogle in every imaginable direction. Another small change is that characters now have switching weapons depending on range, Serah will use a sword or a bow (it somehow transforms >.<) and Noel will throw daggers, so there is no more of that annoying cant reach in physical and will throw ruin instead like there was in the previous game with close ranged characters.
The other ones that are very useful are increasing or decreasing monster spawn rate, increasing spawn rate of rare monsters, antigrav jump and ect. And the final fragment skill allows you to play the game in 200% or 50% speed, which is not only useful if you have some grinding left over to do, but is also really hillarious, it literally speeds up the whole game, which includes non prerendered cutscenes, so you can have some hilarious dialog.
Paradigms: No real changes from the previous game here, if you played it you can just skip this, for those who happened, it is the job system of the game, basically you have 6 different jobs that will contain different skill sets in them and are leveled separately, which you change in battle to access what you want. To save time i will copy paste the rundown from my previous review since nothing has really changed.
- Commando (COM) - Attacker (ATK) JPN - The melee paradigm, contains physical attack skill sets and neutral magic skills.
- Ravager (RAV) - Blaster (BLA) JPN - Alternatively the magic attack skill set, depending on the character will contain just ranged magical attacks, or both close ranged magical and long ranged magical.
- Sentinel (SEN) - Defender (DEF) JPN - A purely defensive paradigm, it only has like one attack that counters enemy attacks, the rest is taunts and defences, it makes the character take tremendous amounts of punishment and at the same time lure the enemies off the other party members.
- Saboteur (SAB) - Jammer (JAM) JPN - Debuff skillset; damage debuffs, defence debuffs, poison, slow.
- Synergist (SYN) - Enhancer (ENH) JPN - The buff skillset, more or less the oposite of the previous skillset.
- Medic (MED) - Healer (HLR) JPN - Well this is kinda self explanatory, heal heal and more heal, with Esuna thrown in there.
Crystarium: This went through some changes from the previous games, once again for new players, this is the skill leveling grid, in a sense reminiscent to FFX sphere grid, you collect CP (the equivalent of XP here) and go through a grid unlocking skills and stats.
As for the changes, well for one thing now all the jobs share the same grid and there are no more limitations story wise where you needed to progress some part of the story to unlock a new part of the grid, so now you can get one job to 99 and have all others at 1 if you wanted to, not that you would, because you would just get slaughtered. Also there is no more moving through a bunch of different spheres and levels which made it confusing, now you will follow a constellation sign, once you reach the end of it, you will get a bonus and the grid will start at the beginning again. Its really a lot more simple and self explanatory than the last one was, BUT, if you are one of those people that just have to get the maximum stats one everything, it gets a bit tricky, since all the jobs share the same grid, if you really want maxed out stats on some job, or HP, you need to pick the right job lvls on each orb. There are big and small orbs (not counting skill orbs) that will grant you bonuses to stats, bigger ones giving more obviously and depending what job you give the big orb to, you will receive different bonuses, so its a bit of a messing around if you feel like it. But if honestly it doesn't matter, i just leveled them in whatever way i felt i needed at the time and end game maxed out there is only 1 monster that bothers me still.
Also each of the pets received its own grid, which works as same as the main characters grids, but instead of using CP you use special items, kinda similar like weapon upgrading worked in the previous game (which btw is pretty much gone now, there is some upgrading but its barely there).
Pet System: Well as i mentioned before, its a great addition, they just concentrated a bit too much on it, but nether the less, its quite a fun thing. As i said earlier about 80% of the monsters you will encounter in the game are tamable, there are also a couple you can only find if you throw the moogle in a correct place. All of these monsters will have 1 out of the 6 jobs and its own set of skills. Simple enough eh? Well no not really, cos if you want really good monster you will have to infuse them with other monsters to transfer passive traits and skills, and the infusion system is well pretty hard to figure out, some things transfer, some things don't, for some you need to fuse some other monster with a bunch of monsters to use as a filter to not pickup crappy passives and then fuse that into the main one, its a bit of a hassle, though in the end you don't have to do it, its just quite a bit useful if you want strong pets.
Pets will have all the skills your characters are missing, so be prepared to set up a versatile party setup, that would make the pets cover you pretty well, and since you can only use 3 at a time, it makes it a bit challenging to cover every angle. As i also mentioned, each pet will have its own special skill, which can range from hitting the enemy, to emergency heals or buffs/debuffs.
There is also pointless stuff like pet accessories, and naming them. Though its pretty funny, a giant purple chocobo with a big plus toy of a cactuar on its back never gets old.
Puzzles/minigames: There are several types of those in the game this time so i feel like i should address them separately, but i have a feeling they went a bit overboard. Lemme cover each one of them.
- Time anomaly: Connect the dots - That's literally what it is, you connect colored crystals with lines, its really incredibly simple and you can only fail it if you run out of time, which wont happen ever if you stand around, either way this one is ridiculously simple and can hardly be called a puzzle.
- Time anomaly: Crystal collection - This one is already more of a puzzle, your task is to collect all the crystals while running over disappearing platforms, they don't really ever get so hard that you will have trouble figuring it out, but you can fail once or twice in later stages, cos then the crystals start vanishing.
- Time anomaly: Clock puzzle - Now this one is a pain in the ass, frankly they made it way too difficult for a general public, i mean i like puzzles like that and i have done a bunch like that in the past, and even i failed a whole bunch of times. It is really hard to explain how it works without actually showing it. But the puzzles do grow increasingly difficult and can be timed and randomized on each failure too, and if you aren't great with such puzzles, you can end up spending a good 30 minutes on each set, and well this isnt a puzzle game, this is an RPG
- The Quiz: This one is another one they went overboard with, while this one is optional and you really need to do it if you want to get all the fragments, it is a PAIN, i played it right when the game came out, so i didn't have the opportunity to use guides or anything like that, so it took me about 6 hours to solve all of that, and that is way too much. The problem with it is that the questions don't make any effin sense half of the time, some of them are from the previous game or the current one, like whats who's special attack, or what mob has some trait, which well is at least something you may know, at least the special attacks are easy if you played the previous game, but that's when the logic ends, 90% of the questions are just asking completely random stuff, and while 30% of them you can figure out by looking at the the answers, the others you will just be plain forward guessing, and you need to get 10 correct in a row to win, if you get any wrong you go back to the start, and you need to do it in 4 terminals, and if you think you can just easily memorise it, there are a good 200 different questions. And if that wasn't hard enough, occasionally you will get some retarded question like heads or tails and red or black, which is not even a question, its just random bs. And once you finally get done with that, there is an extra mode where you need to find an invisible guy that appears at random parts of the city, and has a set of a completely different questions, and while he only asks one at a time, you need to do it 5 times. I know this turned into a big rant, but this minigame deserves it, it is truly a pain.
- Theres a couple other puzzles that are stage related, mainly turning rooms in Augusta Tower and a platforming puzzle, but they arent complicated so it's rather simple.
As for minigames you have 2, (4 if you have Sahz DLC, look at DLC section)
- There is the Chocobo races, which can be pretty fun and can net you pretty good prizes, but since its less involved than FFVII was and just contains the chocobo racing around a track, it gets dull after a while, mainly you really will just end up raising a good chocobo (this time it is done by fusing stuff into a chocobo and leveling it instead of breeding though) and racing it till you get the collectors catalogue, because you NEED the collectors catalogue if you plan to farm anything.
- The other one is the before mentioned slots, and boy does everyone hate those, they arent even designed properly, meaning its not trully random, cos i seen the same patterns repeating over and over again, plus the win ratio is like in a real casino aka physically painful, sadly you need to do that stuff to get the fragment in the slots machine.
DLC: (Reviewed at March 04, 2012, so DLC released past this date will not be included, though i might update it):
Well this game already shows all signs that it will have more DLC than you can buy, by creating a time travel story where you can hop through time lines like its nothing, they pretty much opened them selves an unlimited gate for expansions, just go back and forth in time, set it for different characters, do whatever you want basically.
I will not be including the weapon DLCs that came with the initial release, because there is too many of them, at certain places, depending where you preordered, or what version of the game you have, you could have received a unique weapon for either Serah or Noel, but frankly all of them are crap so its not even worth mentioning.
- Costumes: So far there are 4 released, 2 for each character, a summoners garb (JPN only atm) and a swimsuit, the later can be gotten off the PSN or whatever the xbox alternative is. Noel has one that is available everyone and one that is US/JPN exclusive. Also there is an announced costume for Noel that gives him Ezio Auditore's look from Assassins Creed.
- Coliseum Battles: These are basically boss fights which allows you to get the crystals of the defeated foes and use them as a pet. There are 2 available, one is an Omega Weapon, which is currently not openly out for download, but could have come with your game when you bought it, depending which country and what version. The second one is Lightning and Amodar combo, you can tame both, though its a pain, the crystal drop rate is only 7%, not really sure what it is with the fragment skill increase, but it took me 15 battles to get Lightning, so its a bit of a pain, Lightning is a great Ravager tho if you fuse her in with stuff correctly, i didnt bother much with Amodar so cant comment on that one.
- Sazh: Heads or Tails?: The first story expansion, well more like a side story for Sahz, which once you beat you can get Sahz crystal, and while that does sound great, it is really a bit disappointing, i actually decided not to buy it for now and wait till there is a sale or something, because it really isnt much of a story, it does explain what happened to Sahz and how he ended up in 500AF, but most of it is just Casino grinding. It does bring 2 new card mini games with it, out of which one is kinda hard to explain and the other is just Texas Hold'em Poker, and the AI is horribly stupid in that too. So the whole DLC can be beat in about 30 minutes, and 3 pounds (or 5USD and 3.60EUR) is a lot for a DLC this short that doesnt even involve any fighting or anything, so IMHO the first story DLC is a fail.
- Great graphics
- Great musical and sound score
- Well improved over the previous game
- Battles could be more immersive
- Still a lot of things that could have been improoved
All in all a decent tittle that eliminated quite a bit of issues from the previous game and provides nice new story for your pleasure.