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    dkirschner's Final Fantasy XIII-2 (PS3)

    [March 11, 2014 02:46:29 PM]
    Been on this a couple weeks now. Just beat the main game. Huge huge improvement over FFXIII. I noticed immediately that it fixed one of the problems with the original, that is, it was FUN from the start. It has Final Fantasy charm oozing out of it, which is so great, and was so missed in everything Final Fantasy that I've played since X and X-2. The music is excellent and there are a bunch of songs just for when you are riding chocobos, including...a metal song. SO YOU THINK YOU CAN RIDE THIS CHOCOBO? GIVE IT SOME GYSHAL GREENS AND WATCH IT GO. That song is hilarious, surprisingly good, and majestic in metal-nerd grandeur. I'll just go through some pros and cons so to minimize the rambling topics...


    It's a great sequel, picks up a few years after the end of FFXIII. It takes the story in a wholly unanticipated direction, but it works. All the major characters from XIII have cameos, with Hope being the most important one. Actually, Hope (and Lightning, you who are trying to save), have more than cameos. They're pretty integral to the story. You find Snow in one time and spend an area with him. Fang and Vanille appear, luckily only for about 5 minutes because Vanille was Most Hated Character #1 in FFXIII. Sazh and Dajh pop up heroically at the end too.

    Story. The story is mind-bendingly wonderful. It's impossible for me to explain it in much detail though. I'm not sure it would make sense to a player if they played XIII-2 but not XIII. Anyway. It's about time, temporal paradoxes and changing the future and the past. A little confusing, but worth the effort to follow it.

    Basically...the goddess Etro saved everyone from crystal slumber after they completed their focus in the last game, except Fang and Vanille because they became part of the crystal pillar supporting Cocoon. As Etro's power saved everyone, in that moment, some dark Chaos something or other emerged from Etro's temporary weakness and sucked Lightning into Valhalla, which is like this eternal realm of neither life nor death nor time in the game. When Etro intervened and saved everyone, and that Chaos popped into the timeline for a moment, the timeline was altered. A ton of paradoxes were introduced such that there are now multiple futures and multiple pasts.

    Playing as Serah, Lightning's sister, your goal is to find Lightning in Valhalla. And playing as Noel (the last human in the distant future who was cast back into Serah's timeline), your goal is to follow Caius (bad guy) and save Yeul (a seeress from Noel's futuristic tribe), which is an interrelated story arc.

    So you go from timeline to timeline, different times and places, and the same places in different times, and the same times in different places, resolving paradoxes in order to unlock other timelines. Paradoxes in the game are things that are in a timeline that don't belong there, that are there from another timeline. Sometimes it's a powerful enemy or some NPCs or some item.

    Example: You need to climb Augustus Tower in the year 300. You climb partway, but are blocked by an AI security system (a product of a man-made Fal'cie actually). You need to go back in time to find out why the AI system is blocking you. To do this, you need to find the proper gate (there are various gates leading to various places that you can unlock in each timeline). So You need to go back through old timelines and try to find the correct gate to unlock Augustus Tower in the year 200 to figure out what's up with the AI. The timeline that has the proper gate is one with Hope, who is a research scientist, who has also figured out about time-travel, who is building a new artificial Cocoon for everyone to live on. He had this artificial Fal'cie built, which put this AI system in place in another timeline, which you find out. You've previously played a timeline where the Fal'cie/AI system he put in place takes over an entire city and begins killing citizens. So by interacting with Hope here, you learn what that was all about too. You find some override code to override the AI in Augustus Tower. You go back to Augustus Tower and get past the part you were stuck at. In the boss battle against the artificial Fal'cie in the tower, you can't kill the Fal'cie because it doesn't really exist in that timeline. It exists in some other timeline and is just projecting itself into this timeline, so it keeps coming back. You have a bunch of options of things to try, and one is "Yell at Hope." I did that one last because it sounded futile, but it's the correct one. You yell at Hope about creating the Fal'cie/AI that eventually goes nuts and kills everyone, and he, in the past, doesn't create it, and then in the future (or the present where you are fighting it), it disappears because the past was changed such that it shouldn't exist in the future anymore. Then you if you go exploring the different timeline of that city that I mentioned that was destroyed by the Fal'cie/AI, it is a wonderful metropolis where the people don't rely on the Fal'cie/AI.

    SO COOL.

    Which reminds me, I've been reading through Jane McGonigal's book, Reality is Broken, and she has a discussion of "awe" in games and says that games inspire this reverence when we stop to think about their complexity, everything that went into making them, and the experiences they enable us to have. This game is "awe"some in the real sense of the word. The environments, the music, the story...the whole fiction that is built up and the way this game is done with the time-travel is just AWESOME. I can't count how many times I just stopped and stared and thought "Wow." The last dungeon was particularly cool, this big open Tetris-block inspired maze, and the last boss had a really cool design.

    A couple other things to point out that are worth mentioning because they are vast improvements over the original...

    The music is SO GREAT in this game. It was good in the first game, but I definitely remember the same battle song being used over and over and over and over in practically every location and playing it on mute sometimes. I wanted to hear all the music all the time in this game. I've already mentioned the funny and surprisingly good metal chocobo song. There is J-pop, ambient environmental music, and orchestral scores. They seem to have made a song, or a different type of music for every event. There are probably 30 timeline locations, and at least half a dozen scores for them.

    There are a lot of interesting side quests. In XIII, there was literally nothing else to do for the first 20 hours of the game except follow the story, then you could basically "kill hard monsters" for side quests. First of all, the pacing in XIII-2 is infinitely better. You can start doing optional exploratory, FUN, things right away aside from the main story.

    Let me explain how this works a bit...You use "gates" to travel the timeline. Each gate is opened with a crystal fragment. There are 160 fragments, only some of which are used to open gates. These are the ultimate objects of the side quests. You get them from defeating hard monsters, finding objects, playing quiz games, winning chocobo races (I assume!), performing requests for NPCs and various other things. There are some number of fragments (average, probably 5 or so) in each timeline. Like I said, I just beat the main game and I have 69/160, and I've spent some time actually hunting for them too!

    Now that I've beaten the game, there is clearly a lot of stuff I can do regarding getting fragments. The game said that I can explore "alternate futures" and stuff, so I think that I can go places I haven't been, find fragments I couldn't find before, see alternate timelines that differ from the "real" one that happened through the main story, maybe even see alternate endings! It sounds really cool. I am not a person to do much extra stuff after beating a game, but I am really interested in what all there is to do and see here. The reason is it doesn't sound grindy. It sounds exploratory. I love exploring. The locations are so varied and beautiful, and the story so mind-bending, that I want to see more.

    Finally, there is this whole other sort of collectible mini-game. In FFXIII, you had 3 members in your party at a time, with more characters sitting out waiting to be swapped in. In XIII-2, you have Serah and Noel the entire time. They are complemented by a third, a monster. You collect the monsters. It's like, I don't know really because I haven't actually played these games, but maybe like Monster Hunter or Pokemon or something where you collect monsters to raise and fight. You can collect all the monsters (there's probably a fragment for this [that I will not get!]) just by winning battles against them. You can set 3 monsters from all you've collected to choose among in battle to fill that third party slot. Monsters all have assigned roles like Medic or Sentinel, so they are like little role specialists you can sub in and out. You can also level them up in the Chrystarium, making them stronger and learn more abilities. Each monster has different attributes too, like "Meleeproof" (high physical damage resist), "Early Peaker" (can only go up to level 20 [out of 100]) and so on. You can also "infuse" monsters, which I like to think of as having them cannibalize one another and absorb their abilities. So you can grow them this way too. There's more to the system, but it's pretty freaking cool and is like a gazillion times better that that horrible Eidolon summoning system in XIII.


    Yeah, there are a couple little snags.

    Although the pacing is better than XIII, it's not perfect. It was over before I knew it. The last portion of the game is just really fast. There's a ton of story parts, then BAM, characters start talking about the final confrontation! You go through the last dungeon, and sure enough, boss battle, done. This isn't so bad though because of all the extra stuff at the end I guess, but it was surprising and I like the game and story so much I didn't want it to end already!

    There is a downside to the fragments. When you are just casually finding them, it is great, but there were a couple times where you needed a particular fragment in order to continue, which meant you had to go back to a bunch of different timelines and search for them. Some fragments, and lots of treasure chests too, are invisible! Yes, invisible. Your Mog companion can see them, so sometimes he will get excited and yell "Kupo!" when you're near one, but not always. This made searching for fragments begin to feel like playing a hidden object game with random encounters. A similar thing happened with the quests from NPCs too. A lot of them were sequential, so you had to do them in order, which meant searching the entire area for an NPC with a quest, then doing that quest, then searching the entire area again for an NPC with the next quest, then doing that, then searching the entire area...until you found as many fragments as you could in that timeline (and usually there was one or two unaccounted-for fragments, which I guess I can find now that I've beaten the game[?]). Hopefully it doesn't feel tooooo much like hidden object hunting anymore. If it does, that's definitely when I'll retire the game!

    Finally, there's a casino fun town called Serendipity, which is reminiscent of that one place in FFVII with chocobo racing and other stuff where you go on a date with Aerys and gamers the world over got a tear in their collective eye. Anyway, this place, Serendipity, has two things: slot machines and chocobo racing. I hate slot machines, so that takes care of that one. Now, chocobo racing, I was super excited about. I raced the hell out of some chocobos in FFVII. This is completely nostalgic though, and unfortunately not as exciting as I remembered. You can race chocobos that you capture from battles. I the entire game. This means my chocobos were not leveled up at all (Rank D in all attributes, yuck). I leveled two of them up to 30 even! Actually one might be 40. But I did find a golden chocobo near the end of the game, which sounds promising. Anyway, I'd like to continue screwing with the chocobo races, but there doesn't seem to be much substance to it. Serendipity particularly sucks because, and even the NPCs say this, it's "unfinished" or "under construction." This means, "if you want to have something else to do besides race chocobos or play slots, you need to go buy DLC." Yeah, I think I'll go buy DLC to play virtual poker in FFXIII-2...not. How dumb. Why not just put all the mini-games in there to begin with?

    Anyway, I will check out the endgame and hopefully find even more enjoyment in it! This is a straight up 5/5 from me. Worth every word I wrote about it.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Mar 11th, 2014 at 14:55:34.

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    dkirschner's Final Fantasy XIII-2 (PS3)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Friday 28 February, 2014

    GameLog closed on: Wednesday 12 March, 2014

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Great "awe"-inspiring game. Big improvements over XIII. Such fun!

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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