A solid JRPG that's fun to play
Jun 23, 2012
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Gameplay, Story, Graphics, Leveling
Cons:Writing, Main Characters
The Bottom Line:
If you like the grinding, battles, and exploration of the JRPG genre, FFXIII-2 is a good example of it.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is the sequel to Final Fantasy XIII. If you didn't play XIII, it's not that big a deal, but small things like character cameos will mean a lot less to you. Luckily, the main menu has a “Beginner's Primer” option that provides a timeline of what happened in the previous game. However, this is a new story in the same world, so you don't need to know the fine details.
Recommend this product?
How's the presentation? Great. The game looks fantastic. There's one CG movie at the very beginning, but almost the entire game uses the in-game engine which looks almost as good anyway. The music is good, though some tracks seem a little out of place.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is about time travel, and lots of it. Mostly forward travel, since the beginning of the game is the furthest back you can go. In other words, you can't mess with the events of the last game. You play as Serah, sister of Final Fantasy XIII's heroine Lightning. Lightning has been snatched out of history somehow following the end of the last game. She has now fallen into some kind of far-future hell-world called Valhalla, and must fight an eternal apocalyptic war against a mysterious enemy for reasons unknown. Between battles, Lightning is able to send a time-traveler named Noel back in time to find her sister Serah. Serah and Noel have no idea why Lightning is in such dire straits or who she's fighting, and the mystery of the game is figuring this out and how they can help her.
The story is a mixed bag. I really liked the plot and thought it was really cool. The problem I have with the story is Serah, who seems really thick-headed at times. She'll figure something out suddenly that was already explained to her by another character half an hour ago, or that you've figured out hours ago. She and Noel seem unable to make intuitive leaps of logic and have to be spoon-fed everything, though other characters seem generally smarter. Also, like in so many other JRPGs, there is a lot of redundancy in the dialog. The story itself is pretty awesome, but you have to tolerate the rough execution of the writing to get to it. For me it was worth it, because I love time-travel stories, but I can imagine people being turned-off early on. The main characters are a little annoying, but it's nothing too bad. If you play a lot of these types of games, you've seen far worse.
Fights are started by a variation on JRPG-style random battles. As you run around, you'll randomly get an enemy alert that spawns enemies in the world that you can attack to start a fight or run from if you want. The battle system uses Final Fantasy's Active Time Battle system for timing. It's turn based, but turns are based on a timer that grants actions over time. So your actions and your enemies' actions can overlap, because you're not really taking turns with one another. The primary tactical mechanic is switching roles, called “paradigms,” which determine what you can do. For example, a Sentinel is a human wall that can draw enemy attention and use shield skills to make itself nearly invulnerable, while a Saboteur can cast debuffs to weaken enemies. Commandos and Ravagers attack with weapons and magic respectively. Before battles, you set up loadouts of party classes to switch between in battles. For instance, one loadout can be Commando, Ravager, Sentinel, for distracting an enemy while attacking. Another can be Synergist, Medic, Sentinel, for recovering and strengthening the party while hiding behind the Sentinel. Actions themselves are generally handled by Auto-Battle, which selects appropriate actions based on your paradigms and status. You only directly control one character, either Sarah or Noel, which you can switch between at any time. The battles feel tactical but fast. Your main actions in battle are Paradigm-Shift to switch loadouts at any time, and Auto-Battle to execute abilities based on those paradigms. You can select actions manually, instead of using Auto-Battle, but you'll never truly need to.
For Final Fantasy fans, you should know that summons are gone but items are still there, though far less important. Paradigm skills can eventually handle everything. MP is also gone, and more powerful skills simply require more time-units to execute. Also, equipment has been reduced to a weapon and accessories, though there's little reason to care. Again, paradigms can handle everything you need.
Now I mentioned Serah and Noel, but your third and final party member is an interchangeable captured monster. As you fight monsters, you have a chance to capture any monster you fight that you don't already have, with a few exceptions. Once you capture monsters, you can slot up to three of them into an active stable, which can then be slotted into the paradigm loadouts. Each monster has only one dedicated paradigm that defines them. This makes them one-note tactically, but each one is a slightly different take on that paradigm.
Character customization is paradigm specific. You use experience from battles to level each characters' individual paradigms, and the monsters can be leveled using collectible widgets found after battles and in the world. Since each monster has only one paradigm, leveling them is simple. For Sarah and Noel, you choose which roles you want to strengthen and by what amount. Leveling paradigms gives you stat bonuses, and different ones emphasize different stats. Also, when you reach certain milestones in leveling, you get to choose one of many very significant milestone bonuses, like an extra time-slot for that character in battle, or a passive bonus to one of your paradigms.
The game is structured as a series of open map/dungeons, representing a specific time and place. Connecting them are portals you have to find to open up new locations. You also have to find keys to the portals. Connecting the little worlds to one another is a time-stream called the Historia Crux. The Historia Crux is a flow-chart-looking web of the time-places you can travel between, and the hub of the whole game. You can return to the Historia Crux at any time and return to where you left off when you go back, which lets you pursue multiple story threads. It also lets the game set up little roadblock puzzles that make you go to different times and places to find keys to progress. It sounds annoying, but it's not. There's a leap-frogging effect to it that encourages you to jump around in time and wander into little sub-stories along the way.
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