The Average Gamer

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review (PS3)

Spoiler Warning: This review features major spoilers regarding the ending of FFXIII and minor spoilers for XIII-2 itself. You have been warned.

Final Fantasy games usually revolve around the traditional universe threatening super evil and XIII-2 is no different. XIII finishes with our troop of heroes prancing happily around the fields of Pulse with a fallen cocoon suspended in crystal holding Fang and Vanille sleeping in its core.

Serah (our intrepid XIII-2 heroine) is reunited with her sister Lightning and given permission to marry the dashing blond slab of muscle that is Snow. All very good right? XIII-2 flips that on its head. Why? Someone has mucked about with time! Lighting is now trapped in battle with one of the most outrageously-designed bad guys that RPGs have ever seen, with his Soul Calibur-inspired sword. So follows Serah and angsty teen Noel bounding through time like a fantasy Doctor but with a Moogle instead of a Tardis.

Really, it’s all downhill from there, story-wise. There is something about this narrative which greatly annoys me. Maybe it’s all the time bouncing. Maybe it’s all the talk about paradoxes and folds in spacetime and artifacts that open gates to other times and alternate realities and Chaos and Time fighting each other.

Okay, maybe this time travel malarkey isn’t too bad – you can travel between several different periods to retrieve items or solve wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey paradoxes. In essence, that means repeated maps. Other than minor area changes and adjustments to monstrous denizens, very little difference can be found between locales. In total there are probably only a dozen locations, each only taking 5 minutes to travel from one side to the other.

In fairness these 12 locations do give access to a complex and sprawling world, packed with missions, monsters and paradoxial madness for the willing adventurer, but they don’t feel connected. Gran Pulse is a world with scale yet even the intimidating expanse of the Archylte Steppe, the first major opening point of XIII, is small and claustrophobic. The Historia Crux and its map of gateways into different times only serves as a further divide.

As I said in my demo impressions post, the Paradigm system works, although it is still like marmite. The addition of monsters on your battle team is only relevant to a certain point – find the right trio for your troupe and you don’t need to worry about catching any more.

Word to the wise, investing in a strong Sentinel from early on is essential. If you grind ahead of the curve naturally then you should have no problem flying through the traditional combat in a whir of staggers and reward screens. Nothing much has changed in this way from XIII. Extra Gil (money) can earned from the casino of Serendipity with its slot machines and Chocobo races for those with the patience to master the craft.

One thing is clear though, this isn’t Final Fantasy as we know. Smaller areas, faster combat, conversation choices and a much shorter play time are a long way from the epic sagas of VII, IX or X. Cameo appearances from several of XIII’s more likeable characters kept me smiling for a few moments, despite the almost ridiculous scripting and narrative I have ever seen in a FF game. The standard adventuring fare and my addiction to XP is all that kept me going.

XIII-2 has me torn. I want to love it but, as with XIII, I can’t say it has won my heart. In essence FFXIII-2 is for completionists and series obsessionists. With all its changes it may even push those away.

Curious about the verdict? Read our review policy.