After what seemed to be the not so well received Final Fantasy XIII, Square Enix are now treating us to a sequel in the form of Final Fantasy XIII-2! You can this of this game as a big improvement over its predecessor further improving elements from the last title and adding new features that work seamlessly with the Final Fantasy universe.

Those passionate fans shouted and Square Enix heard them loud and clear but does Final Fantasy XIII-2 deliver what was meant to be a true game to the series? Or is the game doomed to repeat the same problems found in the last?

Story
The story continues right after the last game as Lightning is attacked by the mysterious paradox and flung across time. The only one who remembers her presence is her younger sister Serah and for some reason, everyone around here seem to have their memories altered leading them to believe that Lightning sacrificed herself to save Cocoon. A hefty battle begins in which a boy from the future called Noel appears before Serah claiming that Lightning had sent him to get her. The two use the time gates to travel through time to find Lightning and fix whatever problems they can along the way.
He's not proposing... trust me.
The narrative itself is engaging and spread out well through the game. Each part is told in “Episodes” which act like check points to alert the player to their progress. The idea of time is a tricky one but the writers seemed to pull it off particularly well, threading together what looks to be a deep story that is easy to understand. The emphasis of time also creates multiple endings and while there is only one true finish, you can experience up to 8 alternate ones too.

To get the story moving along and to give players a more interactive approach, a new mechanic was introduced called “Live Trigger” in which at certain points of the game (usually dialogue) four different options appear on the screen. These could vary from questions to ask the character you’re currently conversing with or things for the main characters to discuss together.

Using this you get to pick how to respond and sometimes you can go through all four options, however depending on your choice you can open up the conversation further or earn special items so interacting with these should be done with the best choice possible.

Gameplay
Most elements from the last game have been kept along with a few new features that give this sequel a fresh perspective. For one, there is a much bigger emphasis on exploration, something that was heavily missing in the last game and was a complaint of many fans. The ability to traverse vast areas and investigate every nook and cranny is definitely one of this title’s strongest points.
Some battles become absolutely crazy.
Another thing that returns is the Paradigm shift system along with a few additions that make the battles even more strategic than before. This time you can switch between Paradigms mid battle to better suit the situation; this is done by assigning these roles before hand in the games menu. You can set up several of these and stack them in order of importance depending on the enemy you go up against. It adds a lot more freedom and choice in the battle on top allowing you the option to fight in whatever way you see fit. Of course the ATB Gauge is back too and has been given its improvement as well mostly by making you think about the number of attacks you decide to stack together. Now some of the more powerful attacks take a larger chunk of the gauge allowing fewer options for any follow ups.

One way in which the developers looked to get us players more involved in the action is through the use of Quick Time events or QTE for short. These generally appear during big action pieces in which the game prompts you to push the sequence of buttons shown on screen in order to progress to the next part. For a game like Final Fantasy where the core is strategy and using your team effectively, having QTE kind of makes everything look out of place, even during battle where a monster performs their Feral link in which a QTE decides how much power the attack has. While this indeed pulls away from what the series is known for, it also makes for some pretty great looking climaxes however I don’t believe they’ve found the right balance for it yet.
The sisters reunited for a brief moment.
There is a bigger emphasis on recruiting Monsters to your team and yes they can potentially be the difference maker when it comes to some of the bigger battles. At the end of a battle with a monster you will pick up their crystal in which they are added to your collection. Monsters can be upgraded through special materials picked up in battle or bought from the shop.

Time Gates are one of the game’s biggest features and something you would need to seek out constantly in order to progress. In order to use the gates, the player must look for an artefact to unlock it, once unlocked you will be able to access a new area in the game either the same place in a different time period or somewhere else all together. The new location is unlocked in the Historia Crux a somewhat hub area that keeps track of all the locations you have been to, plus allows ease of access for re visits.

The Moogle is your biggest companion through the game and has many functions that can be upgraded to make aspects such as exploring a little easier. One of the bigger things is the “Mog Clock”, which is basically a timer that appears below the screen when a monster randomly appears within your reach. The clock counts down until you either attack the monster of escape its reach.
The super useful Moogle about to get thrown.
Another useful ability is the fact that it can reveal treasure that’s hidden. Throughout the game you may come across slightly invisible floating objects in which the light on the Moogle’s head reacts to. The Moogle can therefore use its power to reveal the object in order to collect its riches.

The game just seems to be jam packed with new additions and tweaks to make the experience that much better. For instance the ability to save where you want is a huge upgrade and even if you leave the area, you will restart from where you were last standing. Other features such as the mini games in Serendipity give a good break from the main game and are awfully fun to play.

Graphics
The visuals have been kept mostly the same from the last game but that’s not saying they aren’t amazing to look at. From the Rocky plains of Yaschas Massif to the futuristic creations of Academia and Augusta tower, the game has a lot going for it in terms of striking graphics and creative environments.

The cutscenes themselves have been slightly downgraded and I believe this was the right choice considering how much content is actually packed into the game. Having the cinematics rendered from the engine saves space but can also look awkward especially when it comes to the parts where more conversation/ emotion is involved.
Beatiful landscapes!
As always the soundtrack for the game is great to listen to and fits all the themes presented perfectly. I like the mix of the metal genre in to some of the parts, especially the battles but overall the sound design fits well with the general universe.

Final Verdict
Final Fantasy XIII-2 looks to be a huge improvement on the last game. It really goes back to what the series is all about, improving your party, completing quests and exploring vast areas. The use of pre rendered cutscenes is a good idea however in some places they just seemed to stack one after the other unnecessarily causing some weird jumps between it and gameplay. Overall the game is still graphically impressive, the improvements do it a lot of justice and the soundtrack just tops it off.

Story = 8/10
Gameplay = 9/10
Graphics = 9/10

Final We Know Gamers Score = 8.6/10
Had a chance to play the game? Tell us what you thought of it in the comments section below!
Final Fantasy XIII-2

Reviewed by Liban Ali
on Feb 21 2012

Rating: 8.6/10

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