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Final Fantasy XIII was a highly anticipated game for both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 that received fairly mixed reviews. Many fans were divided regarding their opinions of the game as the game was unique and a radical departure from earlier Final Fantasy instalments. After nearly a two year wait, the eagerly awaited sequel, Final Fantasy XIII-2 has arrived at last on North American shores.

 

The game takes place after the events of the original with Vanille and Fang’s sacrifice to save the inhabitants with their Ragnarok transformation. Following a short reunion with everyone in high spirits, Lightning disappears into the world of Valhalla with only Serah believing that she is still alive. To top things off, Snow has disappeared after promising her he would find Lightning and bring her safely back. After being rescued from a deadly ambush of monsters, Serah teams up with a young, enigmatic fellow named Noel who insists Lightning is indeed alive as they search for her together.

The Historia Crux is the portal that allows you to travel to different time periods and locales. Each location has a specific number of time gates with the number signified with unique symbols. They are activated by using special items known as “artefacts” which are keys found during your travels. Live triggers allow you to choose what to say or how to respond to your immediate surroundings which may result in discovering valuable treasure along the timeline. If you’re in a bind, you can call upon your trusty Mog for aid to find. Gates opened with the artefact keys unlock additional locations to visit on the vast timeline in the Historia Crux. Any gate closed with a special item known as a Gate Seal is rewound in time that gives you a second chance to correct your mistakes and alter history.

Battles have returned in the form of Paradigms with a few enhancements. Changing Paradigms is now instantaneous with the ability to select your opponents or use auto attack to engage your foes. Abilities are acquired as you level up and gain experience with the option of chaining your attacks and staggering your enemies to weaken and gain the upper hand in difficult encounters. You’ll be kept on your toes with the new “Cinematic Action” sequences where you need to press the correct button sequences to determine the outcome of a sudden event or situation. The Crystarium returns and is used to develop your party member’s roles and abilities via the distribution of CP or Crystarium points earned by winning battles and completing missions.

You will encounter Temporal Rifts when traversing different timelines which consists of an expansive void. To escape it, you need to solve the anomaly by solving the puzzle to pick up items and walk in a specific and strategic pattern. They start off slow but quickly grow more difficult in the latter chapters of the game. Fragments are awarded for fixing anomalies which are memories of time with bits of history engraved with a total of 160 of them to be found.

One of the whimsical highlights is the quirky but fun loving gal known as Chocolina who wears a sassy, red chocobo outfit. Her identity shrouded in mystery, she sells your party items, weapons, monster materials, accessories, components and more. She is a merchant who is found in various locations in your travels and serves as a useful aid. Even if you’re curious about the world, you can chat with her for some amusing and entertaining dialogue.

The newest feature is the Monster Customization and Allies. After a successful battle, you can recruit monsters that you’ve fought and defeated by collecting their crystal spoils. Up to three monsters are grouped into a Paradigm Pack and added to the Paradigm system. Once there, they can be called into battle to fight for you with each possessing their own unique Feral Link abilities that are unleashed via a full gauge that triggers a Cinematic Action sequence. Monsters can be renamed, infused with abilities, set free and customized with decorations and adornments.

Serendipity is a hidden amusement casino that serves as both entertainment and a fun distraction apart from the complex storyline. Slot machines dispense prizes with more coins that can be inserted after a successful winning streak. The highlight of the mystical wonderland is the Chocobo races where you can wager big and win prizes. Racing chocobos have speed, stamina, abilities and race points as their individual attributes. You can either use your own Chocobo to compete or bet on other chocobo races to test your luck.

Visually, this game sports a lot of the beautiful environments and character artwork from the original and more. The open, free roaming world looks polished and fine attention to detail is evident in many of the various locations. There are some rough edges in select scenes of the game but the issue is minor as the game as a whole looks stunning. As for the soundtrack, there are memorable tunes from the original tunes as well as a few catchy tunes.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is superior to the original game in almost every way. It addresses all the shortcomings of its predecessor with refined combat system, open free world to explore via the timeline, monster hunting and collecting and the adorable Mog, who doubles up as Serah’s weapon and a valuable ally to discover hidden treasure. Loyal and casual fans should not hesitate to buy this game to complete their Final Fantasy XIII experience.

Score – 82%

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