IMHO: Final Fantasy XIII-2: Square Enix Still Has It
Months ago, I stood in a nationally renowned gaming store (*wink*) deciding between two titles to purchase with my bonus check. I was staring at Kingdom’s of Amalur and Final Fantasy XIII-2. I wanted to try something new, so I snagged Amalur. While it was a modernized take on RPG gaming, it lacked the magic that pulled me into other RPGs that are still a nostalgic prize to fall back on. Now, months later, with another bonus check, I cashed in on FF XIII-2, and it was well worth the wait! My playthrough proves that Square Enix still has the magic, and is willing to listen to the fans to improve what was bad about FF XIII. Here are seven reasons why Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a success.
Successful FF titles sport a catchy story with plenty of intrigue, scandal, and passion. While these elements existed in FF XIII, they were vague, complicated, and confusing. I spent hours reading the datalog trying to figure out what Cocoon, La’Cie, and Fal’Cie were and what the conflict was. FF XIII-2 presents a relatively simple story: time and space have been twisted because Lightning and the gang were saved by a goddess to release them from their roles as La’Cie at the end of FF XIII. Now Lightning’s sister and her time traveling companion Noel are on a quest to set the timeline straight, all the while being heckled by Caius Ballad: the bad guy. Which brings me to my next point.
A Bad Guy
In FF XIII, Barthandelus is a Fal’Cie in disguise who desires to bring about an apocalypse and introduce an era of prosperity for the god-like beings. At the same time, there was no real enemy to focus on. With a lineup of good bad-guys like Kefka, Garland, Gomez, and Sephiroth, the franchise thrives on having a good enemy. 13-2 introduces Caius Ballad, a protector of a seeress who possesses the ability to see the future. This gift also drains the life out of her, which infuriates Caius, who then sets out on a quest of vengeance to destroy the gift-bestowing goddess. This quest threatens the very existence of reality, as the destruction of the goddess would be the destruction of time and space itself.
Final Fantasy XIII offers strictly linear gameplay in which most areas are inaccessible after their completion. XIII-2 presents an open world mechanic, with a linear storyline. Players can jump to any world or point in time from the Historia Crux: the medium of time travel. There are dozens of areas to explore, tons of crystals to find, and plenty of monsters and minigames to offer entertainment.
The sequel also offers a traditional comeback to side quests. Instead of monster hunting, Most involve solving minor tasks for citizens of the locale in question, but some involve finding items over spans of time in alternate areas, with the occasional monster hunt. The quests usually involve finding a treasure box or resolving space-time anomalies with the help of Mog, so they do get repetitive, but it certainly is an improvement from the prequel.
Many who played Final Fantasy 13 shared the disappointment that was Nautilus. In the prequel, Sazh and Vanille travel to the theme park. My eyes lit up in Gil-filled wonder as I beheld the towering roller coasters, fluffy-plumbed Chocobos, and candy-laden children. Much to my dismay, however, the trip is short lived, and the area is NEVER VISITED AGAIN. The closest thing to a minigame is a short scene where Sazh chases a baby Chocobo. The sequel redeems itself in full with Serendipity: a wonderland lost in time full of plenty of slot machine, card playing, Chocobo racing fun. Hours can be lost in Serendipity alone with no disappointment.
The in-party cast of FF XIII-2 consists of Noel and Serah through the entirety of the game. Although other characters to add to the party would be nice, the game offers a new twist: Monster Capture. Throughout the game as monsters are defeated, they drop crystals that allow the party to equip the monster as a member. Each monster possesses one Paradigm affinity. As paradigms shift, the monsters assigned to the respective paradigm come into play. This new feature adds a fun twist, allowing players to finally fight side by side next to tonberrys and cactuars.
One of the greatest appeals to the Final Fantasy games are the musical masterpieces they’ve produced. We all still shed tears when we hear the Aeris death tune, and that is the core appeal to Final Fantasy’s music: the emotion it invokes. Right off the bat, FF XIII-2 tugs at the heart strings with its clever use of music, and it adds depth and reality to the experience. The massive soundtrack sports four discs at a whopping $60 bucks! (depending on where ya’ look) The time and quality put into the music has yet to fail. And, hey, what the heck, I won’t complain about the music from the prequel; it was pretty damn good too.
This game is a win for sure. It’s use of unique story telling, new game mechanics, and classic elements that keep fans coming back for more, Final Fantasy XIII-2 does not disappoint. Square Enix still has the magic, and keeps me wondering about Final Fantasy Versus 13. I believe the developer/publisher is putting much heart and quality into the upcoming Final Fantasy title. Let’s just hope it happens before the Mayan Calander runs out.
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