Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Final Fantasy 13-2 for the PS3 and 360 review


Oh, dear gravy lord we are finally here. Sadly, for some reason, people still think Final Fantasy 13 is a GOOD GAME. Did I miss something here? Did the brain aliens from Futurama come down and make everyone stupid and I didn’t notice? Were people bribed by Square Enix to say it was good? I don’t fully know, but man, Final Fantasy 13 was one of the more disappointing games I have ever played in the series. Sure, it had good combat elements and wonderful graphics, but that was pretty much it. The rest of the game was filled with an utterly confusing plot, annoying as heck characters, pointless combat where all you really had to do was press auto-attack, a waaaaay too linear progression, and frankly, the game was just annoying for a million other reasons. It was one of the worst RPG’s I have ever played, and I still gave it a 6 out of 10, but I think a year later, I should have given it a 5 out of 10. It does make me happy that there are better RPG’s out there like Tales of Vesperia, Xenoblade Chronicles, and Dragon Quest 8 to fill the gap in my heart for the loss of my respect for the Final Fantasy franchise. This however leads to a deal I made to myself back in 2011 about this game. If I ever reviewed Final Fantasy 13, I would review its sequel, which is today’s review, Final Fantasy 13-2. Famitsu gave it a perfect score and Japan seems to love the game. Then again, they are the same people who gave Dragon Quest 7, a poorly aged and terrible RPG, a perfect score. I’m not saying they are wrong, but, well, yes I am saying they are wrong and can be wrong. Square Enix promised however that they fixed all the problems by adding a time travel gimmick to the story, recruitable monsters ala Dragon Quest, more endearing characters, and better combat. It’s promising, but this is the same company that published Kane and Lynch 2 and Mindjack, two of the worst shooters I ever played, that didn’t even deserve a review from me. Let us not forget how Final Fantasy 10-2 ended up. Pray for me people, this might be my last review ever. After a few deep breaths, let us get started. Who knows, I might be wrong and this game could be amazing! Emphasize on “maybe”.

Once again, I might be ahead of myself, so let us start with the story. The story takes place 3 years after the end of Final Fantasy 13 with Laura Bailey voicing the younger sister of Final Fantasy 13’s dull and boring main character, Serah Farron.  Apparently, Lightning has been transported to a place called Valhalla and is fighting some guy who has what seems to be the Soul Edge from the Soul Calibur series. His name is Caius Ballad, voiced by Liam O’Brian. During that period of time, Lighting and Caius are fighting a huge battle against each other for reasons I won’t spoil. In the time where Serah Farron is, things become a little screwed up and begin to distort time and well, for a lack of a better term to use, hell breaks loose. Serah then meets a time-traveling character that appeared first in Valhalla and then was sent into Serah’s time named Noel Kriess, voiced by Jason Mardsen. It is up to the two of them to find out why Lightning is in Valhalla and what the heck is going on with the timeline, and stop whatever Caius has planned. As if the story in this universe couldn’t get anymore dang confusing, they add the element of time traveling. It makes an already confusing and, for me, uninteresting story even more confusing at times. Half the time, due to this time-traveling story mechanic, I lost interest in what was going on. However, the two characters of Serah and Noel are not as bad as the original cast from the last game, but I still can’t find myself being fully invested in them. It also doesn’t help that a few things like the monster taming mechanic is never fully explained as to how your character knows how to do that. It bugs the sweet potatoes out of me that stuff like that is missing from the already confusing story. 

The combat and gameplay have been tweaked slightly, but some of these are actually good. Instead of going through one long hallway a.k.a the last game, you go through multiple different periods in time and find out what the heck is going on with the time stream. Your main goal in all of the levels is to find some kind of time paradox and fix it. This might mean you need to leave the current level you are in to travel to another level, complete that level’s task, and then go back to the level to solve that paradox. The combat is still pretty much the same annoying auto attack button mashing that if you like it, good for you, but for me it is still annoying with no strategy besides changing the paradigm shifts from the last game. The biggest improvement though is the monster tamer mechanic where you can beat random monsters and they will become your third partner, since you only get Noel and Serah for human characters. Each monster will have its own paradigm ability, like some might be the heavy hitting commandos, the magic-casting ravengers, or the healing medics. Leveling is now much simpler by using only one crystal-leveling thing instead of using one for each class. You just choose which class you want to level up, and you level up your characters with points you get by fighting enemies or solving paradoxes. You level up your monster teammates by using special items that can be found or purchased by some weird Chocobo lady.  Random battles have been brought back, instead of seeing enemies out in the open. To get a bit of an advantage in battle, if you attack the enemy when the random encounter happens, you get a little bonus in the meter that you fill up to stagger an enemy or boss. Luckily, you can run from these encounters without even getting into a battle, but you have to run pretty far since if you don’t run far enough, you will be pushed into the battle either by the monster touching you or by running out of time. Overall, this game might be shorter, but there are a huge number of things that give this game a lot more replay value, like multiple endings and DLC storylines. 

Graphically, it looks just the same as the last game, which is still very impressive, but I spotted some graphical glitches and some slowdown. The hair still looks like plastic and looks like Barbie doll hair or the hair used for the My Little Pony toys. The voice acting is still pretty good, but not my favorite, due to some of the cornball melodramatic dialogue that you will see from time to time. The music is good, but to me, nothing that memorable besides the battle music. Two of the composers I could get any info on are Masashi Hamauzu and Naoshi Mizuta. Masahi is known for some of his works on games like Tobal No.1, Unlimited Saga, and Musashi: Samurai Legend. Naoshi is known for Parasite Eve 2 (main composer), and his help in games like Resident Evil 2, Final Fantasy 11, Blood of Bahamut, and his work on Street Fighter Alpha. The music is catchy, and fits the moment, but again, it wasn’t that memorable to me. 

So, did I have any huge complaints of this game? I mean, I hated the first game, but what complaints do I have for this game? I already talked about the story and characters that were not that interesting. Well, I still hate how it’s still auto attack in combat since the only strategy you need is to change the paradigm shift you are in, which means there are boss patterns, which in returns means trial and error. I am sorry, but I do not care for bosses that are trial and error. I would rather have a free-flowing combat that doesn’t require me to follow some boss pattern. I also found that some bosses attack way too often with the giant flan in one timeline being a good example of this. He will constantly attack you and you will have to keep shifting between shifts to not get wailed on, and only get a split second until he does a multi hit attack. It gets tedious after awhile. The auto attack shouldn’t be the next evolution of the Final Fantasy series. I think they should have done something like Eternal Sonata because it’s still turn-based, but you can move around and attack in real time. I am also a bit confused as to where to go at times. One example was I only got a split second to see what point in time got wiped and I couldn’t remember where it was. I know the ending depend on how you tackle the story, but sometimes I just want to go to the next level and get that mission done. I am also a little confused as to why they brought back random battles. I mean, they could have easily implemented more modern mechanics, like enemies visible on the overworld, but add the tweaks, like if they are weaker than you, they back off, or if they are stronger, they will come at you. It just seems like a step backwards in my honest opinion. I also think the lighting in some areas and quick-time events could have been worked on. You do have a map, which is good since the levels are huge, but sometimes I couldn’t see where I could go and I would bump into a wall while running away from a random encounter with an extremely powerful monster like a behemoth or something worse. I also couldn’t see the quick-time events that you can pull off with certain actions and monsters due to them being a bit too dark. I also am going to criticize it because the developers are thinking about making a Final Fantasy 13-3. REALLY?! This entry in the series is already not that popular and they want to make a third one?! Why not make Final Fantasy 15 and have it be more akin to the original Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy 9?! Why not go back to its roots, and show new gamers where this franchise was before you messed up with this title and Final Fantasy 14’s rocky and terrible launch. 

Overall, it does surprisingly fix a few things that were wrong with the last game and it’s welcomed, but I still don’t like this game that much. I don’t like the combat as much, I couldn’t care for the story or villain, the future setting still bugged the heck out of me, and it doesn’t feel like a Final Fantasy game. It’s a better RPG than the last Final Fantasy game, but if you want a good old fashioned Square Enix RPG, I would recommend waiting for Bravely Default: Flying Fairy for the 3DS whenever it comes out. It is going to be more similar to Final Fantasy 5 and the art style looks amazing. Again, they fixed a few things, but it still doesn’t come fully recommended by me anyway. I would recommend renting it if you want to check it out. I just wish Square Enix could make an old fashioned Final Fantasy RPG with some elements, like visible enemies, tweaked leveling, turn-based battles, and a likable story, like Dragon Quest 8. Throughout all of the big games that came out in January, Soul Calibur is probably on top, with this game coming in as probably the second best game that came out, but that isn’t saying much.
This game gets a 6 out of 10

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