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Thread: Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review
06-08-2012, 02:16 PM #1
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- Jan 2010
Final Fantasy XIII-2 ReviewFinal Fantasy XIII-2's box art features the indomitable Lightning, looking strong and feminine in her tough-as-nails armor and flowing skirt of feathers. You remember Lightning, of course: she spent the majority of Final Fantasy XIII trying to release her sister Serah from a crystalline prison. Don't let that gorgeous portrait of the daunting heroine fool you, however. She has a part to play in this direct sequel, but it's Serah's turn in the spotlight now. Serah's not the powerhouse personality her sister is, but that doesn't keep Final Fantasy XIII-2 from delivering a satisfying mix of poignant storytelling and exciting action.
That isn't to say Final Fantasy XIII-2 is as epic an adventure as you may have expected. The story isn't long as far as Japanese role-playing games go--maybe 25 hours for a standard playthrough. There are reasons to linger or return if you're the completionist type, but the length is a consideration for series fans hoping for a Final Fantasy-sized adventure. If those 25 hours were jam-packed with challenging action and dramatic cutscenes, perhaps you wouldn't notice the story's brevity. Alas, a lengthy fetch quest makes the game drag considerably, as does a protracted platforming sequence that causes the pace to chug as you near the conclusion, right when you'd expect the tempo to take off. The cinematics and battles both burst with occasional thrills, but it's as if developer Square Enix decided that unnecessary padding was the proper solution to the problem of Final Fantasy XIII's overly linear progression.
If that sounds like a lot of negativity, don't worry: Final Fantasy XIII-2 may not be the super-great RPG you might have wanted in a series known for reinventing itself at every turn, but it's still a very good one. You could say the same thing about lead character Serah: She's a good, not great, leading lady. She doesn't have the steely strength of Lightning, though she isn't as annoyingly dainty as Final Fantasy XIII's Vanille, either (though she does have her overtly girlish moments as she twitters with the affected chirps and sighs of the prototypical Japanese RPG heroine). But she's a perfectly serviceable "every girl" who teaches school in her village on the world of Pulse, just a few years after the bitter victory that concluded the previous game.
Serah's purpose is to find Lightning, who is assumed to be gone for good--perhaps inhabiting the crystal pillar holding up the orb of Cocoon, along with Fang and Vanille. But Serah remembers events no one else does; most importantly, she remembers her sister's blessing to marry Snow, though Lightning was not always so fond of him. She knows Lightning must be alive, and she's right, of course. Lightning resides in Valhalla, a realm that exists outside of the constraints of time, where she's locked in struggle with a man called Caius. The game's initial moments dramatize this conflict in fine fashion. Caius speaks with a quiet confidence, his voice filled not so much with rage as with brazen purpose. He and Lightning stare mercilessly into each other's eyes and their swords meet, emanating a blaze of blue light. Soon thereafter, you take control of Lightning atop Odin in his form as a mechanical steed, fending off the ominous winged Bahamut in the game's first tutorial.
It's a pity that the game's two most engaging characters--Lightning and Caius--have considerably less screen time than Final Fantasy XIII-2's protagonists. Caius is a compelling villain, in part because his villainy isn't the typical in-your-face, menacing, power-hungry gnashing of teeth. It's sorrow that drives him, and as the source of this sorrow becomes clearer, your empathy grows. His emotions are distinctly, authentically human, and he isn't inherently evil; thus, he is a much more interesting villain than the usual frothing maniac. Caius gets his chance to chew the scenery a number of times, though where male characters are concerned, your focus is generally on Final Fantasy XIII-2's other lead: Noel. Noel's from the future--a future in which Cocoon has collided with Pulse many years before. He arrives in Valhalla where he witnesses the clash of the two titans, but he escapes to the past (and to Serah's side) at Lightning's behest. His hopes are somewhat loftier than Serah's. She wants to find her sibling; he has an entire future to change.
And so the two set out on a journey across time, hopping from one level to another, with each one representing a different place or time. The two make a blandly pleasant team, and apart from a third slot designated for voiceless monsters (more on that to come), they are your sole party members. Where Final Fantasy XIII's party members had plenty of interpersonal conflicts to overcome, Serah and Noel get along nicely enough. Moments that could have had great poignancy in the first half of the game--multiple reunions among them--are curiously bereft of tension and emotional impact.