The Choice is Yours
As the story develops, you encounter familiar faces and see the world in an entirely different light. As these expansive locales evolve and change through the centuries, you realise one thing- the corridor-like maps of the previous title are finally a thing of the past. Instead, you have to make deliberate decisions to explore eras, as you often can’t complete certain areas in space and time at a particular point. However, the nature of the paradoxes has affected space-time itself, and this results in Temporal Rifts.
Temporal Rifts are breaks in the continuum that Serah and Noel have to resolve, and they take the shape of puzzles that you encounter when the party comes across an anomaly that needs eradicating in order to advance through a map. These puzzles vary from simply making a route to the end by stepping on a stone only once to connecting crystals. Whatever the challenge, the rifts make a nice change from the constant exploring and fighting.
Battling the Mechanics
That fighting, however, is the important part of Final Fantasy XIII-2, and it is an area that will divide opinion. The Combat System is essentially the same as last game – some will be annoyed, while others will relish it. However, there have been a few changes that mean it’s not quite as weak as it was last time. The introduction of the Mog Clock is one such addition – when a monster suddenly appears, the clock allows you gauge their alertness. If you attack whilst the indicator is green, you get a bonus in battle. However, the problem still remains; the battle system is by far the weakest part of the title, it is just a bit more bearable this time around. The biggest chance has been the introduction of ‘Cinematic Action’ – Quick time events to you and me. No game is ever improved by the presence of quick-time events, and unfortunately XIII-2 is no different.
Another area where the changes are somewhat underwhelming is in the Crystarium. In the previous game, there was a degree of progression with the unlocks – characters could only access certain roles at certain points. That is no longer the case. With most roles available either at the start or just a few levels in, the streamlining has removed a sense of advancement by making levelling up seem like a chore. It’s a shame, but it doesn’t make Final Fantasy XIII-2 a game that you should avoid.
Looks Like We’re Back on Track
In the history of the Final Fantasy series, they have never been accused of being ‘ugly’ or poorly presented for their time. This is because Square always manage to push the boundaries of the technology on offer, and Final Fantasy XIII-2 is no exception. With excellent voice acting, fantastic background music and beautifully animated FMVs complimenting the superb in-game graphics, the presentation is stunning as always. The character models are crisp and well designed, as they were in its predecessor. It’s just a fantastic audio-visual experience all around, and the title thrives because of it.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a welcome return to form for the series after the comparative disappointment of its predecessor. With a strong story (apart from the ending), room for player choice and no corridors, it’s a strong showing, but not one without its flaws. Whilst the battle system stays the same, there will always be disappointments.
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.