78 hours, 2 weeks, 1 cliffhanger ending to piss you off! Sorry to spoil it for you if you haven't finished it but if you get to the main ending, it ends with "To Be Continued" just before the credits. So yeah, Final Fantasy XIII-3 coming soon. Until that comes out, here's my review of Final Fantasy XIII-2... half a game!
The story of Final Fantasy XIII-2 starts 3 years after the events of Final Fantasy XIII. For some stupid reason Lightning disappears just after Final Fantasy XIII's ending and is now in Valhalla, a place where the Goddess Etro(first time we ever here of her too) resides and is unaffected by times flow. The new main character Noel falls into Valhalla in the middle of a fight between Lightning and new bad guy Caius Ballad. Anyway, Lightning sends him and a moogle to Serah and we find out Noel is a future boy from 700 years in the future where everything is apocalyptic and Mog is a weapon. Now Noel, Serah and Mog are on an adventure to change the future. Yeah I know it's a long description for the story but it's a grain of sand compared to the full story... for half a game!(Yeah, I'm going to keep this up throughout the review.)
The gameplay has been tweaked to be more lenient and easier. Unlike it's predecessor, you can change your party leader in combat and recruit monsters(stolen from Shin Megami Tensei) to take the 3rd party space. The game is also more open then Final Fantasy XIII but more constrained at the same time. What do I mean? Well the game isn't as linear as Final Fantasy XIII, but every area is relatively small and the game is shorter if you aren't level grinding or going for completion(which is impossible without finishing the game first.)
While navigating each area you'll be able to find hidden objects using Mog and you can throw him at unreachable objects. Also random encounters return, but you can avoid most battles by just running from the spawned monsters. Chocobos are back again and they can be ridden once you complete an area and you can collect them to use in battle and believe it or not, race them.
Combat is pretty much the same from Final Fantasy XIII since the paradigm system returns and you still only control 1 person in combat(My biggest gripe about Final Fantasy's XII and XIII), fortunately you can swap the party leader in combat but like I said, you only use 1 person in battle... which sucks! If you played Final Fantasy XIII(If you haven't played that, do it first.) you should be able to adapt quickly and easily to the combat. You even earn Gil along side CP from combat so no more hunting for selling items to earn Gil, but item hunting for weapons is still in this game.
The crystarium returns but it's now streamlined and is hard to use for optimising your characters without starting from scratch again. The monsters you collect use the cystarium too but to level them up requires you too use specific items you collect in battle and you can also infuse monsters with other monsters to obtain extra abilities to enhance them.
The games uses a level select screen called the Historia Crux for the time traveling(Time travel ripped from Chrono Trigger) to each area. Each area has a different map for each time period and some have gates that require Artefacts to unlock and access new time periods. Each time period also has fragments in them to collect. The fragments are mainly collected through sidequests and story progression and unfortunately the sidequests are mainly just fetch quests and monster hunting. The fragments you collect unlock fragment skills which are used to tweak the game with a variety of effects like a longer jump or increased monster encounters to name a few. The time periods can also be closed so you can redo them for different conversation responses or in some cases unlock an alternative ending(after completing the game... half a game!).
Is Final Fantasy XIII-2 better then Final Fantasy XIII? NO! It's just as good as Final Fantasy XIII. While it fixes some of Final Fantasy XIII's problems, it brings a few of it's own like the monster leveling system, too much end game content and the fact it's only half a game! Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a good game. It's the first Final Fantasy since X-2 to have a great story, but ARGH! It's half a game! I highly recommend getting this game but make sure you've played through Final Fantasy XIII first and be prepared to slap down money for Final Fantasy XIII-3.
Oh yeah! This year is the 25Th anniversary of Final Fantasy. 16 great years, 8 years sucking and meandering and this year looks good for Final Fantasy... maybe.