Play
Please use a flash video capable browser to watch videos.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Review

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review

  • Game release: January 31, 2012
  • Reviewed:
  • X360

Final Fantasy XIII-2 doesn't capture Lightning in a bottle, but it's still a fun and heartfelt role-playing adventure.

Final 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.

For Serah, blood really is thicker than water.

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.

Being wounded diminishes your health bar for the remainder of battle. But most battles are so easy you rarely worry about it.

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.

Wish you could see how things might have turned out if you chose differently? No big deal--just go back to the level and do it again!

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.

On the other hand, the game's second half features an extended sequence that combines gameplay and narrative in powerful ways. To fully describe them would risk spoiling what makes them so intriguing. But consider this circumstance: you wander through desolation, citizens of another time appear as semitransparent figures. You can normally phase transparent objects into your own time, thanks to the moogle that hovers and whirls at your side (useful when you find a treasure sphere, shimmering and bobbing somewhere nearby). When you phase in one of these human figures, he falls to the ground dead, crying out to his goddess. It's shocking and heartbreaking, yet not a major plot point; it just happens as the result of experimenting with a routine game mechanic. This may seem a mere detail--a subtlety you could overlook. But it's this kind of touch that gives the game's latter hours so much heart and heft.

If you wished Final Fantasy XIII had real shopkeepers, the sequel's grating Chocolina might have you rethinking your position.

You won't mind spending so much time with Noel and Serah. The actors deliver their lines in earnest, though other characters aren't so uniformly excellent. Final Fantasy XIII's Hope and Snow both reappear; Snow as stubborn as ever and Hope less whiny than before. You could even call him strong and likeable. Hope's assistant Alyssa, on the other hand, is insufferably precious, while feathered shopkeeper Chocolina's soprano screech might have you shoving chocobo feathers in your ears. Inconsistent acting aside, Final Fantasy XIII-2's production values are impressive, the occasional frame rate dips notwithstanding. But the sequel is more visually diverse. In Augusta Tower, neon yellow and orange accents provide a striking contrast to the blue checkerboard walls. That area couldn't be more different from the Archlyte Steppe, where the grassy plains harbor grazing sheep and a machine allows you to control the wind and weather.

Of course, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is more than a semicoherent time-traveling tale threaded through a hodgepodge of beautiful settings. It's a full-fledged role-playing game that builds upon its predecessor in sensible ways. Does that make it ultimately a better game than the previous one? Not necessarily. It certainly addresses the issue of linearity that irked so many of XIII's players, though. Rather than follow a narrow path toward your eventual goal, XIII-2 offers room to breathe. Many areas--too many--are still collections of constricted paths. But in regions like the aforementioned Archlyte Steppe, you can venture off on your own and uncover the secrets waiting for you. (Caution: touching a cactus may not have the expected effect!) Citizens may offer you tasks, though these are few and usually amount to no more than "find me some missing items" or "kill a big monster." If you're so inclined, you can also head to Serendipity--a casino that exists outside of the normal constraints of time and space. Play the slots. Enter your chocobo in some races. Such side activities are good for the occasional diversion, but they're not so urgent or addictive that you would lose hours to them.

You can return to the historia crux--from which you access the various levels--at almost any time.

The overall structure also invites nonlinear exploration. Once you've unlocked a node that represents a particular place/time period, you can visit whenever you like. In fact, a later quest has you hopping around multiple nodes, scouring every square inch of the land in search of shimmering objects hidden in some of the most ridiculous places. (This excruciating quest is old-fashioned padding at its worst.) Thankfully, such time hopping is usually optional, but it often gifts you with unexpected results. You can return to the area as you left it--or you can reset it and play it as though it's your first time. Doing so allows you to choose different dialogue options or, perhaps, to approach some dangerous behemoth differently from the first time around. It's best left to discover on your own what benefit such excursions might bring you. Let's just say that when it comes to time-travel stories, the future isn't always absolute.

Freer exploration aside, Final Fantasy XIII-2's moment-to-moment gameplay is remarkably similar to its originator's. Moving about the world causes monsters to spawn, and you can run away from them, but you'll usually wish to attack. As before, party members have combat roles associated with them (ravager = offensive magic; synergist = defensive buffing). As you level up, you earn new roles to take on, so Noel and Serah aren't limited to a single role. From there, you create combinations of roles called paradigms. When battle commences, you enter the battle arena, an action bar called the ATB gauge fills, and you queue up actions for your party leader. (Other party members perform their actions automatically.) When the gauge is full, you unleash your skills, whether that means healing your ailing friend or casting lightning bolts at marauding ghouls. And should you need to, you can switch to a different paradigm during battle.

Moogles? Check. Chocobos? Check. Big hulking summons? Don't hold your breath.

The action's primary strategic consideration lies in knowing how to put together successful paradigms and when to use them. There's also an additional consideration this time: the most powerful enemies can inflict blood wounds, reducing your maximum amount of health during the fight. Until you reach the final boss gauntlet, however, you'll rarely worry about blood damage. Simply put, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is noticeably easier than Final Fantasy XIII. If XIII's Eidolon battles had you pulling out your hair in frustration, this may come as welcome news. But in XIII-2, you can overcome a few too many battles by just setting your party to an offensive paradigm and letting things take care of themselves.

Nevertheless, combat is fun, even when it's on the easy side. This is due in part to all of the flash and sparkle. Fire and ice light up the battlefield as you fight a goblin chieftain in the murky plains. Noel slices up ghasts, leaping through the air like a circus acrobat that has forgotten the laws of gravity. And the battle music eggs you on with its skipping beats and busy melodies. When you do encounter a creature that tests your wits, your fingers and brain stay busy, moving back and forth the paradigms that best keep your teammates alive while edging some heaving monster closer to its breaking point.

What did you expect? It's a desert, after all!

But monsters aren't always enemies; in Final Fantasy XIII-2, they can be your best friends. You see, there's that third-party slot. And that slot is reserved for monsters you capture on the battlefield. Whenever you defeat a monster, there's a chance it'll leave a crystal behind. Should it do so, you now have one such creature to call your own. Each monster has its own combat role assigned. Cait sith is a medic; the zwerg scandroid is a ravager. One by one, you start to collect these monsters and assign them to your various paradigms. Switching a paradigm doesn't mean just switching combat roles--it often means switching monsters as well.

Collecting, using, and improving monsters is the game's most interesting and enjoyable mechanic. There's the whole rewarding Pokemon-esque "catch-'em-all" vibe to it. Grabbing more monsters for your roster is addictive, in part because it's fun to see what they bring to battle. The wolfish snarl of a silver lobo makes that monster a powerful battlefield presence; the thing looks like it could bite off a limb and leave a bloody stump behind, just for giving it a dirty look. For some comedy, try capturing the gigantuar, if only because its awkward poses and garish green color make it look so hilariously clumsy during a battle to the death. Monsters level up separately from Serah and Noel. Each possesses its own crystarium; that is, its own leveling-up matrix. And while you spend crystogen points (read: experience points) to improve your human party members, monsters require specific items that you must buy or earn as battle spoils.

What happens in Serendipity stays in Serendipity.

If that aforementioned battlefield comedy is your thing, you can even outfit your monsters with trinkets. Stick a jaunty hat on a toothy ceratoraptr's head. Adorn your creepy managarmr with a four-leaf clover and then name it Mortimer. Watch these monstrosities charge about the arena, putting on vaguely ridiculous airs afforded by these silly accessories. Like most of the game's frequent cutesy touches, you might find such details charming or you might find they distract from the serious tone Final Fantasy XIII-2 cultivates. In any case, the adornments have no value beyond the aesthetic. If you want to further improve your monsters, you can combine them, sacrificing one monster in favor of granting bonuses (normally passive ones) to another. Just be careful to choose your sacrifices wisely. There are rare monsters out there, challenging to find but not always certain to be captured. You don't want to cast one monster aside in favor of some twerp that just can't bring the same kind of power and presence to battle.

In keeping with the game's "more freedom, more quickly" approach, your main party's crystariums offer more flexibility than before. You earn new roles and level them up quickly, so Noel and Serah can fulfill the roles you imagine for them, and you can choose the monsters that best pick up any slack. Progression is a pleasure. You earn points so fast that waiting a few hours to apply them means zipping through the crystarium with glee, washed along by the smooth chimes of its audio cues while watching your levels rise higher and higher. By the time the story ends, you might fully level three different roles for each character and be well on your way to topping off a fourth.

This uridimmu would be so much cuter with a carbuncle figurine on its back.

Square Enix should be commended for addressing Final Fantasy XIII's problems and for once again delivering a fun and highly playable RPG glowing with visual beauty and saturated with simple but universal sentiments. Nevertheless, the improvements feel less weighty than they might have--mechanical triumphs in a game that feels less than the sum of its parts. You won't perform awe-inspiring summons as a matter of course, and the ending--well, the ending isn't likely to leave you with the sense of closure you might want. Yet the monster collection and time-hopping freedom alone are enough to make it worth embarking on this enjoyable adventure. Just remember to keep your expectations in check: Final Fantasy XIII-2 isn't a timeless adventure in the grand tradition of the beloved series. But if you're curious to see the next stage in this ongoing tale, there's no reason you shouldn't chase after Lightning. After all, she can't defeat Caius without you.

The Good
Monster collection is fun and addictive
Multiple heartfelt moments combine story and gameplay in effective ways
Caius is a fantastic villain
Impressive, varied visual design
The Bad
The best characters were sidelined in favor of less interesting ones
Multiple sequences bog down the pace
Main story is relatively easy and short
7.5
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Final Fantasy XIII-2

About the Author

Discussion

78 comments
D3dr0_0
D3dr0_0

This was worse than the first and that one sucked ass too.

Stardust7
Stardust7

Square payed every fkk reviewer including IGN to review the first FXIII  and this shit and give a high score for sure....

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

Wait wait wait, GS Rated this lower than 13, even though 13-2 is widely acknowledged as being the only good FF13 game?

Samslayer
Samslayer

I still buy every FF that comes out (except for MMOs), and I've been disappointed on everyone since X.  When will I learn :( haha

bahamutzzzz
bahamutzzzz

The best Final Fantasy = FF IV and FF VI.

Cha0sCVZ
Cha0sCVZ

Gotta say that the Final Fantasy games are not what they were before. I'm still playing the older PS1 FF games, great games. Why even make xiii-2 if xiii wasn't even that good :/

 

Today it's ALL about the graphics... Hope FF makes a comeback in the near future.

herminio360
herminio360

some childish, my 7 year old daughter just LOVES IT 

GeneralEpic
GeneralEpic

At least my control did not end up inside the TV when to be continued was displayed. It did with Halo2.

 

Grimwinters
Grimwinters

Final Fantasy XIII-2 sucks compared to 13 (Not saying 13 was the best they both have ups and downs) and I was mad my girlfriend had the audacity to buy it as a late X-mas prezzie; it's as bad as X-2 I swear to god square Einx should be sued by a fan everytime they make a sequal -.-'' the storyline was a dissapointment not the worst but time paradox's is that all they could think of? 13 was better than that. The battle system wasnt so bad but fighting with monsters? Come on couldn't they think of more characters or did they just get lazy?

themightyfez
themightyfez

 @Boxfire Actually I never played 12 or 14 (I'm assuming they were the online MMO-types).  My favorites are VII, VIII and X. RPGs are just going downhill.  They're being sloppy all around, not just Square.  Like I said Versus is the only glimmering hope I have at the end of a dark tunnel.

Stardust7
Stardust7

I miss PS2 and Dreamcast time when the RPG games were good.......the only good RPGs that i played in this console generation was Resonance Fate ,Tales of Vesperia and Eternal Sonata...only 3 games all this time lol...

snypock
snypock

My final fantasy experience ends with final fantasy X. Square enix will do better with a remake of final fantasy VI to get things properly done.

Boxfire
Boxfire

@themightyfez ... oh yea, ffx-2 was way too girl friendly but by far not the worst game nor was this one. Let me guess, you love 12 or 14. Utter crapfest

themightyfez
themightyfez

This was the worst Final Fantasy game to date (Way to dethrone FFX-2). Square has been a disappointment. I hope they can make something out of 13 Versus or else I'm done with Square.

mykknjenn
mykknjenn

For 60 of my hard earned dollars, I expect more than 25 game play hours. I am sadly disappointed that they are wrecking the best RPG franchise in the history of gaming. Such a shame....

DrizztDoUrden16
DrizztDoUrden16

@vault-boy's @tevic... heh, my little brother kills me because the kid plays tons of games and never finishes em. Its a sign of the times, the ADD generation need ease of play, crazy good graphics, and faster and faster paced games to keep them interested. Idk what happened to the good old games that were just plain fun to play. Just beat FFVI again the other day, one of my all time favs.

vault-boy
vault-boy

@tevic /facepalm. You are so unbelievably wrong it actually hurts me a little. Their is a difference between 'difficult' and 'frustrating'. If a game offers no challenge it offers no satisfaction. Also, really? Most normal people don't finish games? And you have heard of a difficulty setting, right?

tevic
tevic

Kevin: "relatively easy" should count as a good point and not a bad one. The worst thing I can imagine in a game is frustration. I think too high difficulty is the main reason why most "normal" gamers very rarely finish a game, if ever. (I don't mean hard-core gamers or myself, but other people that I know for whom gaming is not the ultimate passion). I remember heaving read "too easy boss fights" as a bad point in the Batman Arkham City review. It's criminal saying things like that !!! :)

jorba
jorba

I didn't want to read the review cos i wanted to find out everything for myself... but i'm really curious, is vanille there in the sequel ? Couldn't stand her voice in XIII....

gorgonaut
gorgonaut

A quick read of the gamespot rating system will clear things up for you. A 7.5 "...is good overall, and likely worth playing by fans of the particular genre or by those otherwise interested..." This game is not worth a play by non-FF13 fans. Conversely, FF13 may be worth a play by those who are not initiated into the FF universe, so it got an 8.5, though no higher because of it's lack of wider appeal outside its genre's fandom.

AQWBlaZer91
AQWBlaZer91

@Mister_Over Then I'll make sure I defeat them all.

nintendo-naut
nintendo-naut

I love how GS thinks they're so hipster giving these games ridiculously low scores.

TTDog
TTDog

Seems fair.... the original was over-rated in the first place, makes sense a poor sequel would score less.

megakick
megakick

So more of the first FF XIII.

valdips3
valdips3

hum, thank god this game will be released, so finally squeenix can focus on the real final fantasy, bring Versus 13 this year !!!

Mister_Over
Mister_Over

@AQWBlaZer91 Which I'm sure will help the series progress in the way you desire to no end...

AQWBlaZer91
AQWBlaZer91

@Mister_Over Oh I'll tell you what I'm going to do to the series for sucking this bad. Destroy the games and annihilate the heroes once and for all. I already killed Firion's party, Lenuth's party and the onion knights and also Cecil's party. Brutz is next on my list.

Mister_Over
Mister_Over

@AQWBlaZer91 What you fail to stress is what exactly you don't like about the games nowadays; it's easy enough to say you dislike it (or hate it in your case), but why? And what would you do to make it better? It's not exactly constructive criticism. I respect the fact you may not like the direction FF has gone, but I've not read any reason to back up the negativity. I for one am very much looking forward to this sequel, as i am sure many others are too; if there were no demand for such a thing, and others did not feel the same, then it wouldn't have been made - simple.

jakerscythe
jakerscythe

Won't be getting this at full price, that's for sure.

godzillavskong
godzillavskong

@AQWBlaZer91 Wow. Maybe one post directed to all the individuals would've been better. :)

godzillavskong
godzillavskong

@xXShortroundXx Yeah, their reviews are always odd to say the least. I've noticed that there are certain games that they review as mediocre, or slightly above average, which I find extremely fun, then they come back and review a game that I didn't like at all, and review it with a high score. So I take it for what it is, just a opinion of a staff member, and I usually take multiple sites reviews into consideration before making the plunge. If is a game is from a relatively well known franchise I may just purchase it. I still haven't beat the 4 disc FF beast on the 360 yet, so I'll wait on this one, at least until I finish the other.Looks promising though.

mack10
mack10

@xXShortroundXx you mean the opinion that said this game was above average and generally good with some bog downs? you mean 75% isn't good enough? hell 75% on a university exam can net me a B+ to an A- in a fourth year course...but right, just because its not 9 and above it must mean its a horrible game. Actually read the review and then complain.

xXShortroundXx
xXShortroundXx

Once again, I will ignore Gamespots opinion and continue to enjoy the game as I usually would have.

AQWBlaZer91
AQWBlaZer91

@texasgoldrush oh they have and it's the final straw for me.

AQWBlaZer91
AQWBlaZer91

@GamerLegend10 Before you play it and realize how much the game sucks.

k41m
k41m

@Grimwinters I bet you acted like a spoiled brat when your woman gave you that, as a present... go ahead man.. keep acting like a whiny punk, women really love that. Wonder what she's up to while your at work..

must_988_004
must_988_004

@snypock i agree on both, also notice that they were square soft until x then they combined with enix and started going on a downward spiral.

Samslayer
Samslayer

@malachi_27 Obviously just my opinion, but I couldn't get into XII, I keep trying to give it a shot, but I just can't.  As for XIII, it is way to straight forward for me, I love having huge worlds to explore and so on.  Also, I think my taste in games has changed overall. 

bahamutzzzz
bahamutzzzz

@Bayonetta2013 @bahamutzzzz 

Of course my comment is an opinion and not a fact as I didn't try to make it or to force my opinion into someone else.

So try to understand it and accepts it just like you said 

Final Fantasy XIII-2 More Info

  • Released
    • PlayStation 3
    • Xbox 360
    Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a direct sequel to Square-Enix' 2010 role-playing game Final Fantasy XIII.
    7.8
    Average User RatingOut of 1436 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Final Fantasy XIII-2
    Developed by:
    Square Enix
    Published by:
    Square Enix
    Genres:
    Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Drug Reference, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence