If it's crap ... We'll tell you
It's a rare thing for me to do a videogame review, but there is a lot to talk about with this particular one, it has been dividing the fans quite a lot since its release. Is it an improvement? Is it being bold? Is it an immeasurable heap of junk? Well, after putting many hours of my time into it I can say... it's a lot from each of them really.
I won't even dare go in to the specifics of the story because I'd be here all night otherwise. Put simply, it continues the tale from FF XIII, but now from Serah's perspective (Lightning's sister) Her world is starting to crumble, and her friends all cannot remember details of her past that she knows are true, especially those which occurred after Pulse was saved by Lightning and the gang. She has vanished completely, with n trace of where she may be now. A young man named Noel meets up with Serah, claiming he met Lightning, and was giving the task of protecting her, and returning her to her sister. However, the timeline of the world has become distorted and even broken at some points by an unknown force, and they both set out to use these Paradoxes and time portals to try and fix the broken world, and return to Lightning.
*whew* Even on a simple level, it's baffling to describe, and the opening doesn't help it at all. It was so maddening in its immediete complexity and abstract notions, I was ready to stop the game and not bother continuing. The fact that it copied many references from FF X and VII didn't help either, it was an opening we've all seen before and didn't feel new whatsoever. But, once you pass the hour mark, things start to slowly improve.
The battle system will be very recognisable to those who have played XIII, it sticks to the ATB gauge and active battles. The only difference being, the monsters now appear randomly, rather than roam the map. Each side has its flaws, so it's not something to harp on about here. The combat feels a little bit tighter, and a bit more predictable, you can time your attacks to get the maximum effect. Some major battles include QTE's, but they're not hugely important, and pretty easy to achieve perfect scored in. The levelling system is a much more simplified version of that from the previous game as well, with just one path to follow, and you upgrade each battle status as you wish.
There are major changes in other areas, most notably in the maps and locations. The timelines bring much more variance and expansion than before, and also other sidequests that thread out from the main story. You're not tied down to the one path anymore, and it's a big benefit to the overall experience. They also vary in where they're situated as well, from lush forests to sprawling cities, futuristic towers to barren wastelands. The weapon system has been vastly simplified too; the old upgrade system has been abolished, with all weapons and accessories now available from stores, or found during your travels. The can be upgraded, but only require a few items to do so.
The story itself isn't too bad either. After the terrible opening, it becomes a lot more interesting, as you work to solve the Paradoxes, while viewing first-hand the effects of doing so. And because the line-up only has two characters now, the discussions and development is much more focussed and streamlined. Its still Final Fantasy - complex thoughts and ideas interweaved into all the dialogue, but isn't as demanding or straining as before. Noel is a good new character too, strong-willed and reliable, but with a dark back-story that's actually really good to discover. And because each timeline has its own locations, each location has its own story and mysteries to solve. The old gang make appearances too, but mostly focuses on Hop, who (thank Christ) isn't a sullen brat anymore.
The difficulty level does seem to have been perked up a little, with two characters, your decisions on what strategy to take have a much bigger effect on the outcome of the battle. Taking on the side-quests does make levelling up easier though, so once you take the time to re-visit areas, you'll get along fine. It also means far less time spent just wandering around looking for fights just to gain XP, which gets a big plus in my books.
But then.... there’s the problem with this game too. First and foremost, is that fu**ing Moogle. I despise that little bastard so much, and worst of all, he's in almost EVERY discussion, and constantly follows you around. One of the worst FF characters? Very likely. Second, the puzzles you must solve to fix anomalies. They're not particularly hard, but they're such a forced element of the gameplay, I can see it throwing off many players. Thirdly, the casino. Now, some out there enjoy these games, I despise them. Once again, they're a forced inclusion that makes you sit through even more hours of tedious gameplay, and all based on the most haphazard luck system I've seen. It wouldn't be so bad, except there are items you must win here, I'm just sick of them slot machines by now.
The other problem comes with the Monsters, which you can add as the third member on your party. This one's a bit of a double-edged sword really, because on one hand, it brings a lot of flexibility to the battles. There's many ways to build the perfect team, to get your strategy just right. But then, this is just another "farming" system, the levelling system is more annoying than the weapon upgraded from the previous game. It's far too complicated for the average fan, and in a game that already demands so much time, it's going to add at least another 20 hours onto it. Best to just skip it really, or at most, delve in a little to gain some of the bonuses.
It's a strange one to call; on the one hand they made some good changes to the game that makes it far more diverse and entertaining than the previous. But then, they fuck some parts up pretty badly. I haven't even delved into the music, which goes between annoying, great, dull, and absolutely tortuous. It's like they had a suggestion box at Square Enix for improvements, and just took on ever damm one. Some were good, some were great, and others were terrible. If this is your entry to the Final Fantasy series, don't bother, because it will drive you up the wall with frustration. But if you have played the previous game, I think there's enough in here to check out.
I'll give the rating of Try Before You Buy, it'll be a good idea to rent it out and see if it suits your taste in RPG's. It's a big mixed bag, but I enjoyed it on the whole, and hopefully Square will learn from their silly mistakes. If you've played FF XIII already, this is a Full Price, you'll enjoy the new locations and diving back into the world of Pulse once again.
Thanks for reading! ^__^