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LTTP: Final Fantasy XIII-2 (PS3)

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LTTP or ‘late to the party’ pieces are opportunities for me to catch up and write about games I missed out on the first time around. They may contain spoilers.

I don’t believe many people were clamoring for a sequel to Final Fantasy XIII. I was in the minority and actually enjoyed the game. The battle system and brand new universe itself was enough to carry me to the very end. It was also quite the looker which was a nice bonus.

I grew a fondness for Final Fantasy XIII’s lore. From a high level perspective, I even enjoyed the events that transpired in that game. However, I didn’t develop an attachment with any of the main characters. So you could imagine my level of excitement for the new game’s protagonists: Lightning’s sister, Serah, and her new Kingdom Hearts friend, Noel. (He wasn’t really from Kingdom Hearts but he could have been. Oh, that Nomura!)

Final Fantasy XIII-2 was a time traveling tale. It started three years after the events of Final Fantasy XIII and stretched 700 years into the future. They also somehow ended up in Valhalla. I didn’t quite follow (nor cared to follow) the intricacies of the story. The questionable use of the word “paradox” bewildered me to no end and the eye rolling dialog between the two protagonists didn’t help matters either.

I preferred to digest the story via the recaps that played every time I returned to the game. I also enjoyed the audio previews they gave before entering each point in time in the “Historia Crux” aka the means which time travel was possible in this wacky universe.

As a fan of Chrono Trigger, I quickly took to this game’s time traveling. I retrieved items from the future and brought it back to the past and vice versa. I was looking forward to more complicated time travel ideas but they never materialized. They didn’t even employ anything resembling the “sealed chests” of Chrono Trigger.

But it wasn’t like I wanted to hop between different eras anyway. The long load times discouraged me from flipping back and forth. They could have mitigated the problem by allowing hard drive installs but that was sadly not the case. The install could have helped smooth out the framerate issues as well but I think that’s just Square Enix overreaching with their graphical details. This is particularly disappointing when you consider how unappealing some of these areas are. Final Fantasy XIII was a legitimately gorgeous to look at. Final Fantasy XIII-2 was visually boring and by the numbers by comparison.

The core of the battle system remained intact. Switching party paradigms in the heat of battle was still exhilarating against a challenging boss. In the previous game, I enjoyed trying to piece out how to tackle certain bosses but in the sequel? It didn’t seem necessary to use anything beyond the mix of Commando, Ravager and Medic roles for 90% of battles. It wasn’t until the very end that I found my party being wiped by devastating attacks or found myself being overwhelmed by a buffed enemy.

Since FFXIII-2 starred only two protagonists, the third was filled by monsters. I was never a fan of managing monsters outside of Pokemon so I didn’t invest much time fusing or hunting down monsters. I honestly thought it was lame that they didn’t have a legitimate third party member to grow and spec out. I would have been fine with that flying schizo of a Moogle, Mog, being a party member. But no, they felt he was better served as sword for Serah instead.

I don’t understand why Mog transformed into a sword so don’t ask. I also don’t know why his voice and demeanor flipped between cute lovable fluff ball to a snooty and obnoxious creature that I wanted to throttle. Thank goodness they introduced the ability to throw the damn bugger to retrieve things because that’s one of the rare moments of legitimate cuteness.

I guess Square Enix wanted to cater to the western audience with the inclusion of quick time events and a conversation system. Both of these mechanics aren’t new to the Final Fantasy franchise but their implementations highlights how misplaced and awkwardly implemented they were.

Quick time events during limit breaks or summons are fine; Final Fantasy VIII’s Guardian Force boosting gave summons a more involved option. Quick time events thrown haphazardly at the end of boss battles? They’re not a good fit at all. Square Enix even managed to make them look garish with blinking prompts.

Well integrated conversation systems like the ones found in the Mass Effect games are welcomed additions. Pausing the game during an FMV sequence to ask what I think the character should ask wasn’t elegant whatsoever. Admittedly some of the options were amusing.

I wrapped up Final Fantasy XIII-2 after 30 hours or so. It felt like an eternity which was exacerbated by the couple of hours of grinding I had to undertake in order finally vanquish the final boss. After it was all said and done, I didn’t want to go back to Final Fantasy XIII-2. I didn’t want to endure the long load times, put up with the protagonists or listen to their paradox drivel. With an uninteresting world story and a slew of technical and character issues, Final Fantasy XIII-2 felt more like a chore than an unwanted sequel. But I guess that’s a distinction without a difference.

Verdict:
Disappointing

Ratings Guide

For more information on Final Fantasy XIII-2, visit the official website.

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