The fight is over, and Lightening and her comrades have survived their battle against the Fal’cie Orphan. Vanille, and Fang’s self sacrifice saved Cocoon from plummeting into Pulse, and gave the hero’s a second chance at life. With their La’cie brands erased The team is ready to move forward with a their new lives’. This is what we all know as the ending to Final Fantasy 13, but what if that perception was challenged? What If what we saw was not the reality of the events that took place on that fateful day? What if Lightening never made it out alive, and everyone knew this as the truth, but in your heart, mind, and dreams, you knew that she did survive?
That is the frustrating situation Serah, Lightning’s young sister, finds herself in at the beginning of Final Fantasy 13-2. This change in history sets in motion a time traveling journey to not just save humanity, but time itself.
Serah is joined by Noel, a Hunter from a future where he is the last of mankind. Wandering his desolate planet, his cries to the Goddess Etro Open a portal sending him to Valhalla, a place where time stands still. He is saved by lightening, who is in a ferocious battle against the Main antagonist Caius. Lightening sends Noel through a Gate with a Moogle companion to find Serah, and bring her to Valhalla, so she can help set things right.
The two new main additions to the cast, Noel, and Mog, Are nice additions to this final fantasy universe. Square-enix has managed to stay away from creating annoying characters, which is probably thanks to that fact that the three main characters are the constant focal point, but even the return of some of the older characters are handle with care. Some growing in the years since they saved cocoon and taking on more adult, and focused attitude, while others have remained the same, and rightfully so.
Noel and Serah have a great chemistry together, which makes it easy to stay interested in their growing friendship, and situation through out the 40 plus hour adventure.
Moogle, with it’s own bright and cheery personality, brings a torrent of knowledge about the current situation the two other characters are not aware of, and also serves as a tool for treasure hunting.
When roaming the field, you will come into contact with items that are stuck inbetween time and space, you can use the Moogle ability to bring these items into current time, making them accessible, as the game goes on, other Moogle abilities will become available, and will be necessary to collect all the various items in game.
I loved the main Antagonist Caius, Guardian of the Serees, a priestess like character that can see the future. He first comes off like a Time Cop, protecting the time lines from your meddling, but as the story goes along, and his history and future are revealed, his intentions, and reasons for why you find him in battle with Lightening, become a balance of insane, and dedicated. I found him to be a interesting mix of Sephiroths angst’s, and Kefka’s ability to get the job done: a comparison that will make sense later in the game.
Even though this game takes place exactly where its predecessor ended, the basics of how the storyline unfolds couldn’t be any different. It could almost work as a standalone title if not for its character connections to the previous game. Gone, for the most part, are the fal’cie interveners, and your characters are no longer tied to a brand that sends them in a single direction. Serah and Noel are tasked with jumping through time gates into different time period in the future using the History Crux. In these time periods, they have to locate Artifects, which are items or people that are out of place for the time period. Normally the artefact is tied to a battle, or puzzle, which are considered paradoxes, and by solving these paradoxes, you fix the time distortion, awarding you an artefact, or fragment. once that artefact is found, it can be used to open a gate to another time period. While some of the areas you visit are technically the same, the type of environments, accessible areas, and the people you interact with in the areas will change depending on which point in history, or which branching timeline you are in. At one point in history you can be at a location overrun with Cie’th, but the same location, at a different point in history can be a peaceful utopia.
While there is a set path to the ending, the Feeling of having a free roaming world is back in this installment. You can jump to the Historia Crux at any point by going into the start menu, and travel to any points in time that you have unlocked. All of the time periods have fragments that you gather to get more information on the world, and different time periods. Thankfully a list of the fragments can be accessed in your menu allowing you to sort them by location or type of fragment, this makes it a little bit easier to track them down, and keeps you from wasting time in area where you have already completed all the fragment quests.
The battle system remains fairly unchanged, the paradigm system is still used, with queuing of techniques on a Active Time Battle meter, the available abilities switching as you change to different paradigm combinations. Noel fights using dual swords, and Serah uses a Moogle who transforms into a Bow Sword when a fight is encountered. The weapons are upgradable by visiting Chocolina, a time traveling half Chocobo half Human merchant that serves as a replacement for shops in town. The big change with combat comes in the party member system.
Gone is the traditional party system of picking up new members along your journey, and replaced with a Jade Cocoon Style Monster Taming system. Going into battle with the monster will sometimes net you monster crystals, these crystals add the monsters to your inventory making them usable in battle. The monsters all have their Job role, such as Synergist, Medic, or Commando, and they round out the 3rd position in your party. Each of your paradigms can have a different monster attached to it, so you can have a more Medic focused Paradigm, then switched to a combat focused paradigm, and another monster will sub in for the previous one. Each monster is also upgradable via the Crystarium System but they don’t use Crystarium points like the main characters, they level using Monster materials that you can find in treasure spheres, or attain from battle. With a plethora of monster crystal to collect, it can be a game in itself to try to come into contact with, and collect as many of them as possible to create your dream team.
The Level system, The Crystarium, Returns with a much more stream lined approach. Open the Crystarium menu, choose the class you wish to upgrade, and distribute your points, Keeping in mind the larger nodes along the path unlocked superior techniques, and abilities for your characters. Being careful how, and when you distribute the points into the classes gives you a good amount of control over how your character will develop.
With a time spanning storyline, compelling new, and returning characters, Final Fantasy 13-2 goes a long way to rebuilding the bridge many people felt was burnt with the release of final fantasy 13. If Square-Enix can keep up the innovation The Final Fantasy series can remain one of the top dogs in the rpg world