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Final Fantasy XIII-2 review

AT A GLANCE
  • More freedom, more exploration, more discovery
  • Story driven by characters
  • Battle system still rules
  • No summons
  • Some difficulty dips and spikes
  • Only two party members

Whether you loved or hated Final Fantasy XIII, anyone who cares about its sequel wants to know how it compares: is it better than FFXIII? How different is it? Well, Final Fantasy XIII-2 definitely improves upon XIII… in some ways.

As with XIII, your enjoyment of XIII-2 will greatly boil down to personal taste, but speaking generally, XIII-2 is markedly catered toward longtime Final Fantasy fans compared to its vastly divergent (and therefore highly divisive) predecessor. The return of the moogle is symbolic of this, but its classic tendencies are manifested throughout the game, most notably through its increased focus on exploration and discovery. These changes aren't without their tradeoffs, but if you're a longtime Final Fantasy fan, you will probably prefer XIII-2 over XIII.

Above: Check out the video review to see (and hear) what we thought

The freedom of the Historia Crux

Most importantly, the claustrophobia-inducing linearity of FFXIII has been cleverly alleviated through a branching world map that allows you to travel around Pulse and Cocoon across both time and space. The Historia Crux functions as a world map with various nodes that represent locations in specific points in time.

Each location you visit has a number of time gates, for which you need an "artefact" to unlock each one. Some artefacts are obtained through the story and integral to the main quest, while others you may stumble upon whilst exploring that unlock areas off the beaten path. Once you've unlocked a time gate, the node it links to on the Historia Crux will be open for to you explore henceforth. As you unlock more and more locations (some of which will be the same location at different points in time) the possibilities for exploration increase dramatically. 

Above: The Historia Crux is the crossroads of time

One of the best parts of the Historia Crux structure is that it allows the player to selectively go back to key moments in the game and replay them to see different outcomes. Once you've obtained the Gate Seal for a particular node on the map, you can "close" the gate, resetting the time to when you first stepped through it, so you can experience that portion of the story again, and as many times as you'd like. And since the story does contain branching decisions here and there, being able to reset individual story moments makes it easy to see all possibilities without actually having to replay the entire game multiple times.

You might have guessed where this is going. Yes, there are multiple endings to Final Fantasy XIII-2 (quite a few, in fact). But the genius bit is that since you don't have to play the game in a linear fashion, you can see many endings without ever having to start over from scratch. It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure book in a way – if you get to one dead end, you can simply turn back the page to where the story branched off and keep going down a different path. Don't like the way a scene played out the first time? You can easily go back and play it again without any fuss or penalty. This system thoroughly respects the player's time by not wasting any of it.


Saving the world

An absolutely fantastic save system makes this all work beautifully, too. Not only can you save at any time (no save points!), but you can also teleport back to the Historia Crux world map at any time and your progress in your current location will be automatically saved. This way, you can have multiple quests going all over the place, jumping from place to place and time to time, with your progress saved in every individual location.

Say you're in the city, exploring one of Academia's many flashy alleyways and suddenly you remember where you might have seen a particular flower that some NPC asked for in a side quest. You can pop back to the Crux in a jiffy, skip over to Bresha Ruins, grab the item and complete the quest, then teleport back and return to exactly where you left off in Academia. The save system is so fluid and flexible that you never need to worry about losing your progress at any point at all, and the freedom to jump across time and space so easily feels delightfully efficient.

Speaking of locations, we were nervous going into the sequel that many of the environments would be recycled from XIII, but XIII-2 features a surprisingly large array of new locales. And the places that are recycled don't feel like they've been thrown in lazily, since it makes sense story-wise that we'd have to revisit some old places, since it's still the same world after all. Many of the old locations have been totally transformed too, and the environments constantly play a silent part in telling the story through how they've changed in different time periods (and across alternate timelines).

More Info

Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Square Enix
Franchise: Final Fantasy
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Drug Reference, Simulated Gambling, Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Language
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending
GamesRadarCarolynGudmundson
GamesRadar

Life is nature's way of keeping meat fresh.

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  • Moondoggie1157 - October 22, 2012 2:32 p.m.

    I know this is an old article, but hell I feel like commenting. I picked up 13-2 a couple weeks ago and have been playing heavy... But no matter how hard I try I still can't put it over 13. the story is too chopped up to be interesting, and if you mistakingly unlock an area that you aren't ready for, you end up wasting time doing small quests in that area only to be completely destroyed by the boss at the end... I dunno, I like the characters quite a bit, but the story just seems so tossed together.
  • g4m3rk1dd - February 4, 2012 3:46 a.m.

    looks like 13 is better than 13-2 to me...no summons? only the 2 human party members? thats half of the reason to play the game gone for me already...ill still try to pick it up at some point though...
  • yAkidAgain - February 4, 2012 9:18 p.m.

    Thinking the same thing. I don't remember any FF game from 1-12 not sure about 11 that didn't have summons and 2 main characters smh Square, were is my Versus 13!
  • Alexlicious - January 31, 2012 1:21 p.m.

    I might be alone here but I thought 13 was better.
  • Squander - January 31, 2012 9:14 a.m.

    great review, thanks a lot!! this game seems to be highly polarizing (Edge 5 out of 10...) - looking forward to playing it! Also enjoyed FF XIII so I guess I'm on the safe side =)
  • Net_Bastard - January 31, 2012 9:24 p.m.

    Edge is known for giving extremely low review scores to games that got a 70-100 Metacritic score.
  • 5DollarFootlong - January 30, 2012 9:59 p.m.

    Awesome review Carolyn. Good luck in the future in where ever life takes you.
  • Moondoggie1157 - January 30, 2012 7:15 p.m.

    Thanks for the great reviews, articles and Pokemon, Carolyn... you will be missed! On a brighter note... I am nearly done 13 (had to restart 3 times, don't get me started). I have really enjoyed it so far, so 13-2 is really looking good. Going to go drink my sorrows away now...
  • juicenpancakes - January 30, 2012 4:52 p.m.

    Goodbye Carolyn and the rest of the talented people at GR (Mike, Matt, and Cheryll). You should be very proud of the work you did. We'll miss you all very much.
  • lilbuddha - January 30, 2012 3:12 p.m.

    I would be less harsh on trash like FF13 if it weren't called Final Fantasy.
  • Cyberninja - January 30, 2012 4:28 p.m.

    different people have different opinions on alot of this like i loved 13 and would say its my second favorite single player game on ps3 and i have alot of games, the linearity worked because i am busy, the battle system was great and only played it self in easy battles, and the story wasn't that hard to follow even if you only watch cut scenes. honestly i would call something like Skyrim garbage because hearing about hundreds of glitches doesn't make something worth playing until the developers get their crap together.
  • lordgodalming - January 30, 2012 5:09 p.m.

    Hey, thanks for checking in with that creative, informed critique of a game that's not even being reviewed here. I'm sure you have a lot of other gaming forums to visit before your next hate crime, so let me help you out with a whole basket of classic go-to phrases on a variety of topics: RPGs 1. Final Fantasy IV wass the best in the series. CECIL WAS SO DEEP! 2. Mass Effect killed the JRPG. 3. World of Warcraft is getting "long in the tooth." Consoles 1. PS3 has no games. It is only a Bluray player. 2. Every 360 gets the RROD like 2 months out of the box. 3. The Wii is for casual n00bs. Shovelware! General Gaming 1. Bobby Kotick is a jerk. 2. EA's Origin service sucks nads. 3. Japanese game developers can't keep up with the mighty West. So there you are. Feel free to use those anywhere. I promise everyone will continue to have just as much respect for you.
  • lilbuddha - January 30, 2012 5:28 p.m.

    To the vast majority of people reading: Hey thanks for being 13, ruining WoW by complaining it wasn't more like single player games / easier, ruining FF series by asking for more J-Pop anime, and ruining the entire video game industry by eating up every last piece of "DLC" your mommy's credit card let you buy. Please, let me move on to another genre/activity that will become popular so you can hop on the bandwagon, ruin it, then point at ME and complain that I'm the problem. You sure did a bang up job doing it with this right here. -Old, disgruntled, jaded gamer
  • lordgodalming - January 30, 2012 6:24 p.m.

    Oh yeah? Well, YOUR comment was...actually pretty solid. Point to lilbuddha. For the record, we're both old and we both (apparently) hate DLC. I just liked FFXIII, both as a game and as a Final Fantasy game, and you didn't. Peace.
  • Jahbu - January 31, 2012 4:54 a.m.

    Your comment it is trash. I loved FFXIII. Its my favorite game all gen.
  • Soxknight1127 - January 30, 2012 3 p.m.

    what an awesome review. its a good thing they didnt just dump her and half the staff that gives Radar the unique personality and feel we all like about the site. that would have been a terrible move...
  • TheRebaleKing - January 30, 2012 2:52 p.m.

    Great review Carolyn, everyone is going to miss you!
  • profile0000 - January 30, 2012 2:22 p.m.

    Great review, Carolyn. We will sincerely miss you here. Good luck.
  • IChooseUAntistaMON - January 30, 2012 2:12 p.m.

    New format is bad for people who don't read the article, sadly like me, fans don't even have to click on the article, they can get the score right from the mainpage thumbnail
  • TheCakeIsaPie - January 30, 2012 2:01 p.m.

    Carolyn! I already miss you! D: