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Critical Reception: Square Enix's Final Fantasy XIII-2

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Square Enix's RPG sequel Final Fantasy XIII-2, which reviewers describe as "an encouraging step in the right direction."

Danny Cowan, Blogger

February 1, 2012

5 Min Read

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Square Enix's RPG sequel Final Fantasy XIII-2, which reviewers describe as "an encouraging step in the right direction." Final Fantasy XIII-2 currently earns a score of 81 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Heidi Kemps at Official Xbox Magazine scores Final Fantasy XIII-2 at 9 out of 10. "To say that the original Final Fantasy XIII was controversial would be something of an understatement," she notes. "The game’s incredibly rigid structure, while great at delivering a gorgeous cinematic experience, alienated longtime Final Fantasy fans who enjoy the thrill of experimentation and discovery." Kemps continues: "Consequently, Final Fantasy XIII proved a massive disappointment to many, and those who felt burned by the game may feel inclined to automatically turn up their nose at Final Fantasy XIII-2. But doing so would be a huge mistake." A new time-travel element makes gameplay feel more open-ended. "Though parts of the story are still linear, you’re given far more freedom to approach challenges in a way you personally enjoy," Kemps notes. "Don’t feel like advancing the main plot at this time? Boss fight giving you trouble? Just hop to a different time period to explore and build strength for a while until you’re content." In addition: "You now have more control over character development, as you can choose to level up specific Paradigm roles on the Crystarium board (as in FF XIII) while also unlocking additional roles and bonus boosts (stat gains, accessory capacity) after reaching certain levels. Moreover, battles continue on even after the initial player-controlled party leader has fallen, giving you a chance to regroup and make a comeback." "FFXIII-2 repairs almost every problem with Final Fantasy XIII, delivering an experience that feels like what that original game should have been," Kemps summarizes. "If your faith in Final Fantasy has been damaged by past disappointment, playing FFXIII-2 will restore your excitement for the franchise’s future." 1UP.com's Jeremy Parish gives Final Fantasy XIII-2 a B grade, describing the franchise as "a series in the throes of awkward adolescence." "With Final Fantasy XIII, it went from being the cool, cutting-edge RPG series that everyone in the world loved to a symbol of everything troubling the Japanese game development process in one fell swoop," he explains. "Final Fantasy XIII-2 is clearly that nerdy kid's naked attempt to be hip again. As so often happens -- and I speak from personal experience here -- it goes through all the right motions, but the charade isn't entirely convincing." "You can see that the developers pored over reviews and forum discussions and made a checklist of complaints about FFXIII they intended to address with the sequel," Parish observes. "Too linear? FFXIII-2 is an open-ended tale of time-travel and alternate realities. Not enough choice in the player's party? Now you can recruit dozens of different monsters to fill the third slot. No towns? By god, now we have towns." However: "The problem is that these changes also lay bare the problems FFXIII's heavily directed style was designed to hide. FFXIII-2 drops the fixed camera and rigid paths of its predecessor, but the graphics have taken a huge hit. Frame rates are rough, and the visual quality represents a step back from the splendor of FFXIII's. The plot adds a heavy element of non-linearity, but the story makes even less sense than FFXIII's." The result is entertaining, if uneven. "In mimicking so many of the trends and styles of the current hot RPGs, FFXIII-2 frequently highlights how far it's removed from the cutting edge of the genre," Parish writes. "Still, it's an encouraging step in the right direction; if nothing else, it at least demonstrates that Square Enix is open to other studios being involved in the production of its tentpole franchise and realize they can't expect to sell on name alone." Joystiq's Jason Schreier rates Final Fantasy XIII-2 at 3 out of 5 stars. "After the mediocre Final Fantasy XIII and the sheer disaster that was Final Fantasy XIV, many fans have lost faith in the RPG titan," he begins. "Final Fantasy XIII-2 is the publisher's attempt to mend this relationship. At times, it feels like the development team just went down a laundry list and added everything that fans believed Final Fantasy XIII lacked." "All of these trappings help make Final Fantasy XIII-2 far more appealing than its predecessor, but they don't make it great," Schreier continues. "For every dazzling landscape or satisfying puzzle, there's a niggling flaw or baffling moment that will make you wonder why you're still playing." Schreier cites the narrative as a particular weakness. "Soon enough, the plot takes a turn for the nonsensical, veering into the land of Weird Proper Nouns," he says. "Perhaps this might all be easier to swallow if the game had competent dialogue or voice acting that didn't sound like a hammy 80s sitcom set to quadruple speed for maximum squeakiness." In addition: "Final Fantasy XIII-2's music is average at its best moments and abominable at its worst. One particular boss theme (a scream-packed metal ballad) was so infuriating that I got up and muted my television until it was over. No title, Final Fantasy or otherwise, has driven me to do that before." "Ultimately, if Final Fantasy XIII took the series five steps back, Final Fantasy XIII-2 takes it one hesitant step forward," Schreier concludes. "Features like non-linear dungeons, optional side quests and NPC-populated towns are wonderful and all, but they were RPG staples twenty years ago. While Final Fantasy XIII-2 does quite a bit to fix the mistakes of its predecessor, it does very little to stand out on its own merits."

About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan


Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

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