Either way, despite aiming for somewhere in the middle, Final Fantasy XIII wasn’t quite what everyone was expecting. A far more linear affair than anything the Fantasy series had experimented with before, the less esoteric plot received ‘mixed’ reviews, and the new battle system combat was intriguing if not exactly refined.
Thankfully for pretty much everyone, Square Enix have not only listened to the criticisms aimed at its predecessor, but acted upon them.
Set three years after XIII’s rather epic finale, a lot has changed in the worlds of Cocoon and Gran Pulse. For one thing, Lightning (she of the pink hair and ass-kicking prowess) mysteriously vanishes upon being freed from stasis by her sister Serah.
Even worse, no one else seems to remember why or where she left – that is, until the mysterious arrival of one Noel (he of the floppy hair and a FF8 Squall-lookalike to boot) who not only reveals that he’s met Lightning, but he can take Serah to her. Cue a history-bending race through time and space to find Lightning and save the day from the even more mysterious enemy Caius.
Once the time-travelling plot gets underway, it’s instantly obvious that XIII-2 suffers from a mere fraction of the linearity that plagued its predecessor. Bouncing through time with paradoxes to solve, and endless side-quests and towns to explore offers up far more of a traditional, rambling RPG explorative feel.
Meanwhile the battle system (specifically the Paradigm Shifts) has been tightened up so it’s swifter and boasts a whole Pokémon-esque monster collecting angle which allows you to add all manner of wonderful and weird beasties to your fighting party.
Either way, this is Final Fantasy and an RPG at heart, meaning you should expect cutscenes and menus in abundance, a 20+ hour main mission and waffly monologues aplenty.
While there’s enough innovation and accessibility for fanboys and newbies both to enjoy, it feels like Square Enix are using XIII-2 as an exercise in making good on the quibbles many fans levelled at the original.
XIII-2 is far from perfect (some of the advancements and improvements still feel a little behind the modern RPG curve), but it’s beautiful to look at, thrilling in battle, and – like all the best Fantasies – insanely addictive.
And that’s something guaranteed to please just about everyone.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is out now and available on Xbox 360 and PS3.