Final Fantasy XIII-2 is the second game in the Fabula Nova Crystalis series. A direct continuation of Final Fantasy XIII, the game takes you on a journey through the time and space continuum. After their epic battle with Orphan to save the world of Cocoon, Sarah was freed from her crystal form and was reunited with her sister Lightning, or was she?
In the year 3 AF (After Fall), everyone knows how Fang, Vanille and Lightning turned to crystal to protect Cocoon, but only Sarah remembers differently. Things start getting complicated after a meteor shower brings monsters to her village, along with a young man name Noel, who claims to have come from the future with a message from Lightning. Elated at having some sign that her sister is out there somewhere, she agrees to go with Noel. So begins a journey through time and space to find Lightning.
The gameplay remains more or less the same as Final Fantasy XIII. Instead of the usual half a dozen or so playable characters that Final Fantasy games throw at you, you are limited to only two – Sarah and Noel. But Sarah has the ability to tame defeated monsters, which makes up your third party member (I choose you, Pikachu . .errr .. I mean Grand Behemoth ). You can select up to three different monsters from your list and design your Paradigms based on them. The three slots are given because unlike the characters, the monsters are limited to only one role. For example, the Grand Behemoth can function only as a Ravager.
The Crystarium has undergone a change. Unlike Final fantasy XIII, where you could decide what skills you wanted to choose when you encountered branches, there is no such freedom here. Skills are pre-decided based on the level of your role, taking away some of the fun of levelling up your characters. Your monsters get their Crystariums too, only you need to spend special items to level them up instead of CP. You can even fuse certain monsters together to have your intended one gain more abilities. The cute and delightful Moogles make a return. Mog, as he is called, transforms into Sarah’s weapon during battle. Mog can also correct small anomalies in the space time continuum to reveal hidden objects. Later in the game, you get to grab him by his antenna and throw him at floating chests that are out of reach or even at empty spaces in hopes of getting hidden treasure.
At a point in the game, you unlock Serendipity, a Casino on the edge of time. Clearly, it has been modelled on the one from Final Fantasy VII, with slot machines and Chocobo racing featuring here. You also unlock special abilities by collecting ‘fragments of time’. You also have a colosseum, but to fight, you must purchase DLC. The good part is that the battles feature tameable monsters, one of which is Lightning.
The linearity in Final Fantasy XIII has been removed to some degree, which optional time gates taking you to more time zones. While most of these have no bearing on the main story line, you get trophies, monsters, fragments and other stuff for trying them out. You also get seals, which can close a gate. What that does is allow you to play that world all over again, but this time with your current stats. This lets you gain those five stars in battles or that treasure that you were not able to get during your first visit to the timeline. You also unlock alternate timelines, versions of an era. For example, if 400 AF was the original timeline, your meddling with the space time will create a 4XX AF. Think of 400 AF as the world where Goku and Vegeta died, and 4XX AF where they survive due to the interference of Trunks. By the way, did I forget to mention that you can save anytime during the game? No, I am not lying to you.
Final Fantasy games have always delighted with their gorgeous graphics, and XIII-2 is no different. The voice acting is also top notch. The music is pretty good, with additional chocobo tracks making their debut. Depending upon the chocobo you ride, a different chocobo track will play. Because you are limited to only two characters, the game doesn’t grip you like JRPGs usually do. There is only so much you can take of a squealing teen and an emo hunter. The game’s predecessor had a father desperate to save his son, an angry woman ready to tear down everything in her path to save her sister, a young man overcompensating to hide his feelings of guilt, an angry and hurt boy seeking revenge for his mother’s death, and two women centuries from the past. In fact, every Final Fantasy game had a collection of characters with varied backgrounds, personalities and skills, which made for a fun time.
XIII-2 also does away with the whole idea of summoning, one of the coolest feature in the franchise. While you do get a whole menagerie of monsters to play with, nothing compares to the thrill of summoning a gigantic being of destruction to mow down everyone in your path. I know now how Ben 10 feels without his Omnitrix. The game ends with a ‘To be continued…’ message, leading me to think that a Final Fantasy XIII-3 was on the way, but a quick internet search quickly dispelled such notions. According to the official statements, Square Enix will be releasing DLC so that players can experience the closure of the story. While I appreciate DLC carrying extra content like boss battles, extra maps or goodies, wrapping up the game in a DLC is pure horseshit.
As a whole, Final Fantasy XIII-2 fails to recreate the magic associated with the franchise. It does improve upon some aspects of Final Fantasy XIII, but lets you down in others. Yet another average game in an otherwise magnificent series.