The Bargain Games Club: Final Fantasy 13-2

ff13-2Final Fantasy 13-2
Price: About £10

(I know, I know, Batman Arkham Asylum… I’ve reached the point with that game where I know the first hour will be spent trying to refigure out what all the buttons are, which doesn’t entice me to play. My bad.)

I’m a big fan of Final Fantasy. I love epic fantasy worlds, turn based combat, levelling up and character customisation. I’m a sucker for the movie like quality of the animation and the grand story that’s told. I don’t think Final Fantasy will ever beat Final Fantasy 12, which for me was gaming perfection, but I do enjoy the newer instalments in the series all the same.

One of the great things about FF13 was it boasted some of the strongest female characters going. From Lightning’s steely determination to save the life of her sister, to (Spoilers) Fang and Vanille’s ultimate decision to sacrifice themselves to save the world, there was an abundance of girl power going on. Which, to be fair, has always been true of Final Fantasy games, but something about the advanced PS3 graphics made it all the more noticeable.

FF13-2 continues much in this vein, although I do find Serah slightly more annoying than her sister. Mostly because Serah loves Snow, who is the most annoying character of the series since that weird frog creature in FF9. Roles are reversed as Serah seeks to save Lightning this time, accompanied by a Moogle and (hot as video game character hell) Noel Kriess, a hunter from a bleak future.

Aaaand, that’s where I stop because, honestly, the story was utterly confusing. Something about timelines and saving the future by travelling to the different time zones. And there were paradoxes. And… Stuff.

You did get to see most of the characters from FF13 (even crystallised Vanille and Fang showing up in dream sequences) which gave the game a nice degree of nostalgia. Though, grown up Hope from the future timeline was disturbingly attractive, which I found rather off-putting the whole way through the game, much to my sister’s amusement.

Confusing storyline aside, this was an engaging game, combining all the tried and true elements of Final Fantasy with rather freer exploration, side quest missions and the usual distractions – chocobo racing, gambling etc. They fixed the annoying problem from the FF13 battle system that meant if your main character died, the whole team died, did away with summoning and introduced instead Monster characters.

With only two main characters, the usual three party member configuration didn’t work. To mix things up you could capture monsters from battles, train them up with materials (also won in battles) and have them aid you as part of your party. The monsters were mostly utterly useless, and time consuming to level, but that was okay, because the game lacked a ‘master monster’. Usually, Final Fantasy games have the regular storyline, and then a series of ‘ultimate’ battles – optional challenges for the people who like to level grind and max out their characters. But, honestly, there weren’t any monsters in FF13-2 that really presented any sort of challenge. I was playing the game on Easy mode, but there was nothing that seemed significantly harder compared to anything else in the game, no ‘Ultimate Weapon’ boss that one shots all but the most hardcore party. Which meant all the side quests and stuff were a little pointless, because all that training up was ultimately for nothing.

There was also the incredibly annoying mechanic of sealing time gates and going back through eras to play out different endings. All of which involved pressing select then start to skip cutscenes you’d already seen three times, just to give a different answer to a question to generate a three minute ‘alternate ending’ video.

Overall, the game was good, but Final Fantasy promises such wider scope than the actual ‘storyline.’ Like Oblivion and Fallouot, there’s a main mission to play through, but there’s a rich and diverse world out there to experience. At least, there should be. Despite the openness of exploration, FF13-2 never really felt that open – the missions were arbitrary fetch quests, the difficult battles not all that difficult, giving you no incentive to cultivate the most powerful weapons or fully level your monsters.

Also, please PLEASE bring back the battle system of FF12. I’m getting sick of this battle animation schtick.

Next Up: Batman Arkham Asylum (honestly, I’m going to be so busy in the next few weeks, that plugging away at this 30mins at a time will be all the gaming time I can afford. I don’t want to try something new that I’m going to get utterly sucked into!)

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