When I first heard about Square Enix making a sequel to Final Fantasy XIII, I was pretty excited. Although I have to be honest, I had high hopes and low expectations. I just finished the massive thirteen when I started the second one, so I had the plot stored in my memory.
The story of XIII-2 takes place three years after the events of thirteen. Lightning has disappeared, and most of the population lives on Gran Pulse. But instead of starting out on pulse, you instead start in a land called Valhalla. After an intense movie with Lightning battling an unknown person, there was a flash that read "cinematic action." First gold star, I hate when games don’t warn you there are button pushing sets coming up.
Not only does this game let you know when there is a cinematic action sequence, but they allow you adequate time to push the desired button. After my first set of button presses, it went back to a normal cut scene and I was left in awe of the jaw dropping graphics. The only way that cut scene could have been more realistic is if I was watching it at an IMAX.
With most games you have that one action-packed moment and then it fizzles. Not here. It was a non stop action ride that kept me glued to the screen from start to finish.
But back to the beginning. At the end of the movie you meet one of the protagonists, Noel. After exchanging a few words and a moogle with Lightning, he dives through a yellow orb as there is a giant explosion over Valhalla.
Now it finally follows the other main character, Lightning’s sister Serah. Remember her? Serah started having these weird dreams of Lightning and is still suffering from her disappearance. After being woke up from yet another one, she hears a noise outside and walks over to see the village being overrun by monsters. After a quick cut scene, Noel comes in to help. It was at this moment I laughed when the moogle turns into Serah’s weapon.
After the dust settles Noel explains that he came from the future and that humanity ended in his time. So Serah and Noel set out to not only fix time, but find Lightning as well.
Overall this game is really well developed. The battle system has been improved and now if the character you control becomes incapacitated, it’s not game over. Instead it’ll switch to the other member of your party who is still moving around. In addition to fixing old errors, they added some new mechanics as well. One of which is having a monster ally with you in you party. That’s a nice change.
The only complaints I found with XIII-2 is that I believe the character development system has been over-simplified, probably in an effort to bring in more casual-like players to the Final Fantasy world. This was not unexpected given how well XIII did, but is still a little disappointing to hardcore (and longtime) fans. In addition, some of the classes have been all but gutted. I taught Serah to be a synergist in XIII, a person who casts spells to buff-up your other characters so they can hit harder and be more protected in battle. But only a third of the abilities in that class are still available.
The last thing XIII-2 does that bugged me to no end, is to make you do the same thing over and over. Once you get a few levels into the game, your experience will consist of boss battles and covering EVERY square inch of EVERY place you ever been looking for one person or object. After doing to the same level four times in an hour, I started to get annoyed.
All in all, annoyances aside, I found Final Fantasy XIII-2 to be exceptional. This should be on every RPG lovers "must-have" list. Because of the innovations, the stunning graphics and the raw entertainment factor, I give this game 4.5 Gin Gems out of 5.