A less linear affair than its predecessor.
The Final Fantasy series has to be one of the longest running, continually successful franchises in gaming history. 2010's Final Fantasy XIII was met with some criticisms due to its linear direction, but thankfully this direct sequel fixes those problems, rising above its predecessor to offer yet another fantastic addition to the prestigious franchise.
What Final Fantasy XIII-2 Got Right
Exploration is rewarded -The major issue most gamers found with Final Fantasy XIII was the fact it was extremely linear. Thankfully, FF XIII-2 is anything but linear, providing sprawling environments that actually promote exploration. If players take their time to head off the beaten track, they will find a multitude of treasure chests, which is certainly a welcome change from its predecessor.
Monster collection is addictive - During the course of the game, the only two human characters you will control are Serah and Noel, with a third slot open up to a monster who can fight by your side. Each time you defeat a critter, you have the ability to tame, train and use that monster in battle. Finding that perfect monster companion, levelling them up alongside you and seeing the effects in battle is an exciting and rather addictive experience. After a few battles, it's hard to imagine the game functioning without this awesome feature.
Amazing visual design - Despite using an ageing graphics engine from 2010, FF XIII-2 is really shows off the unique visual design the series is renowned for. Eye-catching characters and colourful worlds really pop off the screen, and manage to charm the player as they move throughout the majestic environments.
What Final Fantasy XIII-2 Got Wrong
Uneven pacing - Certain tasks during your quest really chug along, particularly as you get closer to the conclusion. There is on fetch quest in particular that drags its heels for what seems like an eternity, and a convoluted platforming section that not only feels out of place, but really breaks up the gameplay and feels forced. It doesn't ruin the experience, but it certainly detracts from an otherwise great story.
Rather short - For a Final Fantasy game, FF XIII-2 is a rather short affair, with the main story clocking in at just over 25 hours. While there are plenty of reasons to come back, those expecting a 70 hour plus experience will be sorely disappointed. Keeping in mind how addictive collecting monsters can be, and the chance to find a number of hidden treasures however, those completionists out there should be able to pick up a few extra hours here and there.
The Final Verdict
If you're a Final Fantasy fan then there is no question, go ahead and purchase Final Fantasy XIII-2. Impressive visual design, backed up by gameplay that is addictive, and rewards exploration means that this direct sequel outperforms its predecessor in every facet of gameplay. For those who aren't fans of the series, or JRPG's in general however, this will do very little to change your mind.
By Stephen Heller