A reversal of fortunes?
There arenít many gamers who have never played a Final Fantasy title, and even fewer who have never heard of Square Enixís premiere franchise. So, when Final Fantasy XIII debuted as a more linear, streamlined game in 2010, there was widespread disappointment. Why? Because the exploration elements reduced to essentially traversing corridors of land. Square Enix were accused of wanting to move into films more than games, by dictating a playerís experience. Now, they have set out to prove that isnít the case.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is the peace offering Ė a direct stand-alone sequel that attempts to evolve the gameplay that divided opinion in Final Fantasy XIII. If you never played the original title, then the Beginnerís Primer will allow you to read through the story of Final Fantasy XIII, providing you with some background knowledge that is helpful. Itís not necessary though as XIII-2 evolves outside that story but with characters new and old appearing, it is a useful addition for newcomers to take advantage of before they start the story.
Time for Change
As the game opens, you witness Lightning, the protector of the Goddess Etro, fighting Caius Ballad, the main antagonist and rival of Lightning, in Valhalla. As the battle draws to a close, Noel Kreiss appears from nowhere, as if through time. Lightning recognises him from a vision she has had, and tasks him with collecting her sister Serah and bringing her to Valhalla. This is where the game ties in with Final Fantasy XII Ė at the end of the last game, Lightning was nowhere to be found after saving Serah from her crystallized form. However, three years later, during a chaotic influx of monsters through spatial distortions caused by a meteorite, Serah meets a strange young man (Noel), who rescues her and promises to lead her through time to her sister. With Lightning fighting in Valhalla forming part of Serahís dream, Serah believes Noelís story about being sent by her sister, and she embarks on her journey to Valhalla.
So begins your adventures in Final Fantasy XIII-2, travelling through time itself to reunite Serah with Lightning. Thatís right Ė time travel is one of the many changes the game brings to the table, in response to the criticisms levelled at the previous title. Whilst your party continues on its adventure, you will encounter artefacts, either off the beaten path (thereby alleviating some concerns about linearity) or when you defeat certain monsters. These artefacts, once collected, allow you to travel through time, in order to collect items and complete quests. Time travel forms an integral part of the story, with the characters relationships and motives towards Caius being explained by time, as well as the continuation of the story and the completion of the journey depending on it. Therefore, the Time Gates that you encounter throughout the game are incredibly important, and the choice of eras to travel to in the Historia Crux does provide some of the player choice that its predecessor sorely lacked.
An enjoyable story, with none of the linear corridors of the previous title. Little additions make it a very strong RPG.
The battle system is still a bit pedestrian, and the changes to the Crystarium are irritating. The addition of Cinematic Action sequences is an annoyance and the ending is disappointing.