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SnickerdoodleNinja's Final Fantasy XIII Game Review

Final Fantasy XIII Final Fantasy XIII Screenshot Our epic heroes...and winners of 3 sound points. Final Fantasy XIII Screenshot KUPO KUPO KUPO! Final Fantasy XIII Screenshot Lightning ranks high in terms of epicscosity. Final Fantasy XIII Screenshot "Guys, don't you love me anymore?"

Final Fantasy XIII game Review

Final Fantasy XIII is set in a futuristic world controlling advanced technology and magical crystals. Pulse, the world Final Fantasy XIII is based on, has had an evil history which has resulted in the construction of the floating utopian city called Cocoon. The citizens of Cocoon fear the world below. Lightning, the heroine of the game is seen fighting soldiers in Cocoon in the E3 2006 trailer but we aren't sure why. All we know about her is her codename and the fact that she has amnesia.

Story & Playability

Note: This is a review of Final Fantasy 13-2. It is recommended that those who have not finished its predecessor refrain from reading this review as it contains spoilers due to the fact that the ending to FF13 is directly related the basic premise of FF 13-2.

Two years after helping to save humankind and set them free from the reign of terror of the Fal’Cie, young Serah Farron is happily married and still close to her elder sister, Lightning, the very heroine who led the heroes against the Fal’Cie, as she leads a peaceful life on Pulse. At least, that’s how things should be. Instead, Lighting has gone missing immediately after returning home. Snow has been on extended leave trying to find her. Old friends remain trapped inside of a decaying pillar. And now, when Serah feels her most helpless, the mysterious Noel literally drops from the sky, claims to know her sister, and offers her a chance: to travel time and space to set right the paradoxes that threaten to collapse the proper timeline; to find Lightning; and to finally be the one to save rather than be saved.

To put it simply, 13-2 follows Serah and Noel as they search for Lightning, who seems to hold the key not only to Serah’s happiness, but to saving Noel’s dying world 700 years in the future as well. Naturally, to do this the pair will have to wade through a multitude of timelines, correct the paradoxes that seem to plague them, and face some of Noel’s oldest skeletons before there can be any hope of meeting her face to face. While the idea is actually pretty novel among the Final Fantasy franchise, in practice the game seems to play out more as a wild goose chase full of item fetch quests, but I‘ll touch more on this later. If 13-2’s prequel was painfully linear-which it was, believe me-13-2 is anything but. With a large variety of options as to what time period and setting you explore, the game gives up on linearity in favor of allowing the player to select their destinations. In that regard, the game deserves a fair amount of credit: the lack of a binding, linear plotline is a refreshing break from 13, and there’s something to be said for the fact that regardless of the direction chosen, the story is written in such a way that following certain paths before others will not spoil or conflict with any others, allowing a smooth sequence of story revelation regardless of player decisions. Sadly, however, this attempt to prevent overwhelming amounts of cut scenes sometimes leads to the players feeling as though they are having to play hide-and-seek with the story. Fortunately, a better balance of pacing is achieved the farther you get into the game, but it can still be frustrating early on nonetheless.

Once you finally find the story, it actually proves to be pretty good…sort of. With Serah experiencing what is her world’s future while Noel simultaneously views his world’s past an interesting dynamic is created,s especially as Noel’s straightforward, earnest personality compliments Serah’s shy, hesitant personality rather well. Add a pet comic relief moogle in the mix, and it’s surprising just how well the trio works for having no other human party members to back them up, with the lack of an excessive cast allowing for both the two heroes and the two main antagonists to be sufficiently developed. Sure, they can all be pretty melodramatic at times, but in general their development feels natural and realistic as opposed to over the top and forced. Even better, the game chooses to delve into the effects-both positive and negative-of time travel and offers explanation for the majority of the plot questions that it brings up.

However, this is where we run into the “sort of” I mentioned earlier. For one, poor Snow. In 13, the man fought fate, destiny, and the entire world to save Serah, only to become chopped liver in 13-2, talked about often but ultimately swept under the rug as a plot element that the game forgot to wrap up at the end. Second, and far more frustrating, is the conclusion. As I mentioned earlier, 13-2 gives sufficient explanation for most of its plot elements, yet at the end still manages to leave the player dissatisfied-actually, dissatisfied is probably a huge understatement- by offering explanation for much but actually solving little despite the fact that there is a simple enough, albeit slightly tragic, solution. While it’s difficult to truly explain without spoilers, take my word when I say that it is not just that the ending is bad-its that the ending might as well not even be there, it leaves things so unfinished. Sure, there are downloadable content stories being released, but should it really take DLC just to make a game feel like there isn’t a gaping hole in it? Even should the player put in the time to collect all 160 fragment items in the game-which could take as long as 70 hours-in order to view the secret ending after the credits, you still won’t find resolution for the game’s many loose ends. To put it another way, the regular ending makes you want to fall to your knees in mourning. Then, after hours and hours of your life, the secret ending proceeds to kick you in the gut while you’re already down. This might sound like an exaggeration, but there really is that little resolution in the game. Granted, there are additional paradox endings that can be viewed with clear data, but while these are interesting they are still far from satisfying.

To sum up-and guys, if you can stick with me to the end of this monster-sized review I promise ponies and puppies-13-2 is a fairly fun ride of a story, offering a balanced amount of development for a game that is trying to avoid story overdose. While the plot may not be as grandiose or as serious as that of its predecessor’s, it still offers a refreshing change of pace from the more linear trend of role playing games lately. Be warned, however, that the game is like a novel whose last chapter is cruelly left out of and never shown to the public eye, making you seriously wonder if the many hours of plot and story telling actually have a point other than to ruin 13’s happy ending and sense of closure.

Rating: 4

Graphics

As in the case of 13, 13-2 has highly advanced graphics with textures, movements, and facial expressions that are all above average, sometimes even spectacular. For instance, imagine a world 500 years in the future, its advanced technology and flashing lights set against the darkness of night and rain, creating an immersive impressionistic environment. Sadly, however, the same amount of praise cannot be given to all of the settings. While the graphics are always high quality, they’re not always particularly immersive or vibrant, with many being fairly typical in design and lacking in innovation.

In general, character designs are similarly good but not always slap-your-momma-good. Lightning’s new valkyrie style costume is appropriate for her demeanor, but Noel’s baggy samurai pants are questionable at times. Mannerisms are also occasionally a bit over the top, but in general movement and facial expressions are appropriate and well…expressive. Additionally, once again monsters are essentially recolored and renamed such that there are a lot of repeats, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise to most gamers.

Sadly, 13-2 is a reminder that outstanding graphics don’t equate to great art. Far from bad with its moments of stunning environments and consistency in quality, 13-2’s general lack of creativity also won’t take the cake when it comes to its visuals.

Rating: 7

Sound

Oh goodness, where to start. To be honest, 13-2 has some pretty painful background music, often opting for vocal pop songs rather than instrumentals. While the music isn’t personally to my taste to begin with, that isn’t really the issue here. First off, most of the time these songs are played at inappropriate times, sometimes horrendously so-while running around amidst monsters and tragic events, pop songs are probably as far from fitting as you can get. Second, imagine putting your favorite song on repeat for an entire hour as you explore environments and see if you don’t get sick of it. Now imagine that with a song that doesn’t even fit the mood or hold wide appeal for audiences. It sounds something like insanity and death in the form of a sugary pop song.

On the other hand, some instrumentals sound much more intense, appropriate, and emotional…until you realize that they’re nearly all recycled from 13, making the music suddenly seem quite lazy. Some pleasant exceptions seem to be the new battle music and the equally new chocobo theme, but a few good tracks are not enough to salvage the soundtrack. Especially since whether or not the chocobo theme is a plus is questionable.

Voice acting, however, is considerably better. The majority of the English cast is appropriately natural and avoids overacting in addition to portraying individual personalities well, though naturally there is one painful exception: Mog, Serah’s pet moogle. While his voice acting is acceptable, his lines are most definitely not. In Final Fantasy games, as many fans will probably already know, it is a common trait for moogles to add the word “kupo” to the end of some of their sentences, kupo. What is supposed to be a unique trait, however, is heavily abused in 13-2, kupo. In fact, the word ends up at the tail end of nearly every single sentence that comes out of his mouth, kupo. This ends up making him more than a little painful to listen to, kupo. Even worse, Mog’s lines during puzzle modes-which will be addressed later-are often redundant, kupo. Honestly, Mog is an unusual but significant case of bad writing in the game that is not devastating but irritating nonetheless, kupo.

As a whole, voice acting is above average, but Mog’s lines, an overwhelming amount of recycled tracks, and painful background music make it nearly impossible not to need a straight jacket at points in the game. So yes,basically, Noel and Serah's voice acting alone nets this game all three of its points for sound.

Rating: 3

Fun

When I beat Final Fantasy 13, I had two major complaints: length and linearity. Luckily for me, Final Fantasy 13-2 fixed both of these problems. With a length that varies greatly depending on how many optional quests you want to complete, the game can be as long or as short as you want it to be. As for linearity, well, the game tries so hard not to be linear that it almost seems as if it’s trying to be a rebellious child. No longer bound by a single pathway with short branches only for treasures, 13-2 allows the player to circumvent transition areas by eliminating a world map and replacing it with a timeline of settings’ leaving you to decide when and where you want. And if you get tired of one place? No worries, you can exit to another place at any time and the game will remember where you last where in the area, making it easy to travel back and forth…provided you can stand the absurd loading times between each time zone. Still, anyone upset by the flow of 13 will find 13-2’s freedom and ability to save anywhere and everywhere almost therapeutic.

Now, on to the battle system. Here 13-2 has also made a number of changes but still managed to keep the heart of the original’s with elements such as the active time gauge and the ability to stagger-or weaken-enemies. Paradigms still exist, allowing Serah and Noel to change class at will and use a variety of tactics, but this time the level caps have been removed, allowing character growth to occur when the player chooses and not when the game sees fit to allow you to become stronger. Second, you can now change party leaders between Serah and Noel in the middle of battle. While this may not seem like such a big deal, this adds even more flexibility in strategy and lets you adapt to situations much more leisurely. . But none of these are the real kicker. With only Serah and Noel there to fight your battles, you’ll have to find some way to fill the void that is the third part member slot-and there’s no better way to fill that void than with monsters you tame on the battlefield. If you’re like me, initially this will sound terrible-I mean, why have a monster when you could have a character with a personality? However, before long it becomes what I call the Pokemon effect: you just gotta catch ‘em all. As it turns out, there’s nothing quite like being able to collect monsters and rotate between three of them in one battle, especially when some of your options are old classics-chocobos, tonberrys, and giant cactuars are only a few of the many options available. Each monster also holds different stats and is capable of only one paradigm, but this just makes you have to be more strategic in your paradigm choices. For giggles, you can even add aesthetic ornaments to them, just in case the monster needs a moustache or a set of fairy wings. Goodness, you can even select a name for the little guys. Abilities can also be synthesized by leveling up these monsters or combining one with another-kind of terrible when you think about it, sacrificing one monster for another…but that’s why you don’t think about it. Anyhow, monsters prove to be an unusual and highly enjoyable part of 13-2’s battle system that set the game apart from the average bear.

Next, a look at adventuring. Sadly, while the freedom of the game is great, there is far too much emphasis on item fetch quests, both as optional quests and as story requirements. It’s so bad, one of our heroes even remarks at one point that finding items is what they do best. While some of these item hunts make sense, many serve little purpose and seem like they are just designed to take up time, and end up constituting far too much of the game. Particularly in the case of the 160 optional fragments that provide interesting information and unlock the game’s secret ending, there are just too many items to have to chase down. 50, alright. Maybe even 100. But 160 items in addition to the plethora of story related items is overwhelming, especially considering the tedious trials you have to endure to obtain some of them. Whether it’s answering maddening quiz terminals of which you sometimes have to guess between options as absurd as “left or right,” hoping you get extremely lucky at the slot machines, or solving tedious puzzles, fragment hunting proves to become a chore after a while. While monster related fragments seem to have some purpose and aren’t too bad, puzzles often lack variety, resulting in the player performing one of 3 types of puzzles over and over and over again. Additionally, many of the fragments, items, and paradox endings are difficult to find, making it nearly impossible to find everything without a guide. Worst of all, however, is the lack of reward. Unless you are a completionist or just really love bragging rights, chances are the secret ending isn’t going to be satisfactory enough to make the hours feel like time well spent. Like I said earlier, the secret ending feels like someone kicking you in the gut, but if getting kicked in the gut sounds to you like a good reward for 70 hours of game play then by all means be my guest.

Reading that last paragraph, 13-2 probably doesn’t sound that fun, but in all fairness, it is. Between the battle system, decent overall story, and addictive monster hunting, 13-2 is honestly a lot of fun, and different from the typical game to boot. In fact, if it weren’t for the inconclusive ending, I would probably play the game again and again, and simply choose to avoid the optional fetch quests. Sadly however, the ending is something each person must weigh the worth of for themselves. If you love games mostly for game play, then 13-2 won’t let you down. However, if you put any more than a little investment in story, beware: 13-2 takes everything you know about 13’s ending and turns it on its head, only to fail to wrap everything up-almost to the point that if you were at all satisfied with 13‘s ending, you might wish this game had never existed no matter how much you enjoyed the game play or that you could somehow “unknow” the events of 13-2 with brain bleach. So judge for yourselves, ladies and gentlemen, between the value of innovative game play and the cost of a story that ends up lost in a black hole.

Also, I may have broken my promise about the puppies and the ponies.

Rating: 7

Final Verdict

5.33 (moderate)

Reviewed by SnickerdoodleNinja, Jul 18, 2012

Comments

  1. angelxxuan Jul 22, 2012

    wow such a low review, and doodle doing spoilers :O I never could get into Final Fantasy, so this just saved me the time of finishing up the game. only Derge held my full attention span, maybe it was related to the dubbed Vincent voice. at any rate, been awhile since I've seen a review and to see a blue doing a review is even more outstanding ! where do the blue get all the time ! but but puppies and ponies :( maybe they broke into the black hole so they could open it up for another final fantasy, since we're at 13-2 now chances are there's going to be more. they might want to get off the dead horse, but something tells me they gonna ride it some more ! nice review by the way.

  2. Drakill Oct 10, 2012

    Wow! I didn't think the sound was THAT bad XD
    Very good review but I don't think I would've given it a 5. I probably would've said 6/7. I know it's only about 1 point but oh well.

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