Sunday, August 26, 2012

Final Fantasy 13-2 I Choose You!!!

Final Fantasy 13-2

Final Fantasy 13 came with its ups and downs. You either loved it or you hated it. The number one complaint, it seemed, was its linear pathways and corridors. In fact, “linear” was perhaps the word that popped up the most and was the number one word used to describe Final Fantasy 13. And with the new release, Final Fantasy 13-2, many were afraid that the sequel would continue the unfortunate linear experience so many gamers loathed about the original. So does Final Fantasy 13-2 fix this issue? Does it reignite hope in SQUARE and it’s ability to create memorable, beloved Final Fantasy games ? Or does Final Fantasy 13-2 come with its own set of problems that hold it back from greatness? All of this, and more, will be answered in this review.

Final Fantasy 13-2 Trailer Youtube by G4Videogame Trailers

Final Fantasy 13-2 Fixes

Let’s address what is perhaps the chief concern here. Is Final Fantasy 13-2 the same linear experience of the original? Well, that’s a bit of a mixed bag all things considered, but in general, the answer is an overall NO. Final Fantasy fanatics rejoice, it’s about time you had something to be happy about again. When playing Final Fantasy 13-2, it becomes apparent early on that this is one of the biggest issues Square-Enix worked on and avoided at almost every possible opportunity. Are there still some linear paths and corridors? Absolutely. And I challenge you to find a game that doesn’t have at least some linear elements. Fortunately, Final Fantasy 13-2 is a more open experience with tons of choices and paths to choose when compared to the original.
Final Fantasy 13-2 Story
In Final Fantasy 13-2 players control Serah, Lightning’s sister, and Noel, a time traveler seeking to fix and change certain events of the past to change some unfortunate things that happen in his time. I won’t ruin too much for you, so all I’ll really say is that’s pretty much your party. Serah, Noel, and any monsters they capture and train. But more on the monsters later. With Noel’s help, Serah can traverse the ebb and flow of time, and space, even changing alternate realities, and everything else you’d expect from a time travel movie or game. And no, the whole time travel paradox isn’t really explained or solved. Players will go to different places, usually when something important happens that must be changed, and fix it. The usual right? Most time travel games are like that, nothing new, nothing surprising. But Final Fantasy 13-2 does manage to add it’s own unique twist. Players can close Time Gates and start the area and even from the beginning, correcting mistakes they made or starting something new. Think of it as a level reset if you screwed up or wonder what would happen if you did this or that. It’s actually fairly interesting, especially if you’re big on “what if’s” like I am.
Final Fantasy 13-2 Environments
The environments are breathtakingly gorgeous, Final Fantasy is known for its graphics and visuals, especially its effects and set pieces. And as I said, most no longer follow the set linear path formula. Players are encouraged to stop and smell the roses, take some time, explore, see what there is to see, and find secrets. Treasure chests abound and many are out of sight and must be located through exploration.
Final Fantasy 13-2 Combat System
Another big complain players had with the original Final Fantasy 13 was the combat system. Many found it to be confusing, others felt it was simply a bad setup and not user friendly, and some just preferred the battle systems of old. Final Fantasy 13-2 has changed the way battles work to a certain degree, but the overall core and principles behind the mechanics are essentially the same as they were. Serah and Noel are the only human characters. To, this was actually a bad thing. Having two party members that are so similar and get along all the time takes away from the experience. Most Final Fantasy games have several characters each with different personalities, different motives, and in some cases, are literally a stark contrast to another party member. They often clash, argue, even fight, but ultimately learn to work together. Final Fantasy 13-2 lacks this almost completely. But I digress. Final Fantasy 13-2 has streamlined the process of the battle system and Paradigm Shifts are easier to execute and can be done in quick fashion. The action is more fast-paced and it’s easier to queue up commands, execute abilities and magic, and the whole process is more intuitive and easier to wrap your head around whereas the original left many newcomers to the franchise scratching their heads.
Final Fantasy 13-2 Monsters

The most obvious change to the battle system is the new addition of monsters. Every time Serah and Noel defeat a monster, they have a chance to capture and tame it. Monsters level up with certain items and by consuming other monsters. The whole thing made me feel like an ancient Aztec, sacrificing someone to appease the gods. Only in Final Fantasy’s case, it’s to get a cooler, better monster…. It’s not murder, I swear it. The monster you choose will take up the third slot in the party and help Serah and Noel based on the type of monster it is. One might cast spells, one might use physical attacks, and another kind might provide passive buffs and healing abilities for the party. This creates Final Fantasy’s take on Pokemon. And while I will admit it is kind of addicting collecting all the monsters you can and trying them out in battle and leveling them up, I would much rather have had an actual party with real characters like in previous Final Fantasy games. The monsters should have been a fun addition. Maybe a certain character uses monsters in battle as his/her own unique ability. But these monsters should never have replaced an actual party and while it does add a twist to the constant fighting, it is a missed opportunity overall in terms of story, and ultimately takes away from what Final Fantasy 13-2 severely lacks, a good story.

Final Fantasy 13-2 Gameplay Youtube vid by Gamespot

Final Fantasy 13-2 Narrative
The story of Final Fantasy 13-2 is lacking to say the very least. The interesting characters have been pushed to the sidelines for the most part. The story itself is lost in all the gameplay, as if the developers working on the game got so caught up in fixing all the problems of the original, they forgot about the story, or perhaps didn’t feel like they had enough time to really work on it and make it something substantial and memorable. And while the main story is decent in the long run, this is, for me at least, one of the weakest stories in terms of plot and character motivation, and fails to truly grab hold of the player and invest them into the plot. Most of the time I found myself doing something simply because it was the next thing to do to progress through the story, not because I really cared. As a game on its own, the plot is good enough. But this is Final Fantasy folks. The masters of narrative. It just falls short and I can’t help but worry about what’s happening to one of my favorite video game franchises.
Final Fantasy 13-2 Easy Battles
Most battles too easy. Combat is fun at first but grows stale, even with all the flash and effects because there is very little strategy difficulty and suspense as the older games. There is even auto-battle for crying out loud that aids the player in selecting smart choices for taking down foes or preserving their lives. Almost as bad and boring as Final Fantasy 12’s Gambit System.
Final Fantasy 13-2 Final Verdict
In the long run, Final Fantasy 13-2 is the better game in terms of gameplay. As far as the narrative, Final Fantasy 13 is superior in every way. Plain and simple. The battle system of Final Fantasy 13-2 has been streamlined and improved. The linear paths are gone for the most part, and players will all benefit and appreciate the separate paths and layers of divergence available to them. At the same time, there are new problems with the combination of Pokemon and Final Fantasy that just doesn’t make up for the lack of a real party. The characters, even the leads, are average, if not eager in their own right. And while the battle system has seen some improvements, it’s still far from perfect. So there it is; it even seems contradictory in some parts, but with a game that fixes so many things and yet manages to create a new one for everything that is fixed, it’s hard to write a review that sticks to one particular praise or critique. But I do stand by what I said. I think Square-Enix is in some serious trouble as the numbers are in and the statistics don’t lie. Per capita, most vets feel the older games are better. And if the Final Fantasy franchise doesn’t return to form soon, they may find themselves back in the same situation that led the developers to dub what was supposed to be their last game Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy 13-2 earns a strong 7 out of 10.

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