Thursday, November 29, 2012

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is Also Dumb

Ever since I popped XIII-2 in after beating XIII and subsequently reviewing it, I have been trying so very hard to like it.  Because it's apparently good!  I mean, that's all I've heard about it since it came out at the start of this year and, after what was considered a 'bad game' like Final Fantasy XIII, the idea that the sequel was, then, good seemed like it had to have a -lot- done right to earn such praise.  In most cases, even when you don't particularly like a game that is praised as 'good' by the collective known as 'the internet', you can at least see why they judged such as they did, so at the very least, even if XIII is 'bad' and XIII-2 is 'decent' if not great, then hey, you've upgraded in any case, right?  So everything's sugar and rainbows no matter what, because at least, at least you're getting Final Fantasy XIII 'if it were good'.  Surely, I'm not really hammering in this point for any reason in particular.

So, before I address what is perhaps the least subtle thing I've said in the entirety of writing this blog, I would like to once again direct your attention to a recent post titled "How Final Fantasy XIII Could Have Been Better" because I pointed out three specific areas in which FFXIII came up short - Linearity, Poor Balance in terms of the Skill System and General lack of Focus with the story and elements as a whole.  I have stated, as well, in the past that the Battle System is an unusually good aspect of the game, that the Crystarium was not wholly bad and was, in fact, close to being good and that the characters, if nothing else, were fantastically established and grown throughout Final Fantasy XIII.  For XIII-2 to be praised so highly, you would think that it would at least fix a couple of the issues while strengthening the good parts, because that's generally how things work - a clear improvement gets a cheering.  And it is because of all that, that I think Final Fantasy XIII-2 is an amazing game, because it manages to take everything I just said, good and bad, and make it worse.  Frankly, I am fucking baffled and amazed at just how the hell that works.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a game that knows even less about what the hell it wants to do than its predecessor and that is saying something.  Being that it's a time travel story (spoiler:  FFXIII-2 has a Time Travel story), you go into it knowing that by the end of it, absolutely goddamn nothing will make sense because nobody knows how to write a competent time travel story that isn't Chrono Trigger, and I'm sure people will argue on that one too.  That, however, doesn't excuse the absolute laziness that goes through the rest of it, hitting on the parts that aren't even directly affected by time travel dickery.  For example, and this is pretty much the biggest example and the one I've been gritting my teeth against for the entirety of today in which I put many, many hours into the game, let me tell you about Lightning.  And when I say let me tell you about Lightning, I mean I am going to openly spoil Final Fantasy XIII so if you don't want to know anything, please move on to another post, sorry for the inconvenience.  I can't very well explain the laziness in the story without explaining the story, unfortunately, and I imagine most of the folks who want to play it, really want to play it, have already and know this anyway.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 begins with Lightning in a strange land that is quickly identified as 'Valhalla' where she and Odin are fighting some dude and it's all very epic I assure you and stuff is going on.  Then one of our protagonists, Noel, is introduced and speaks to Lightning who gives him a magical moogle (I am serious) and tells him to go find Serah on the other end of a time gate.  This is important.  So, blah blah blah, Noel finds Serah and they become TIME TRAVEL BUDDIES and BLAH BLAH BLAH, none of this is actually important, really except that the gist of it is Serah says "I had a dream that Lightning was in Valhalla, so I know she's alive" and Noel says "Yeah, I was there, she is" and Serah is genuinely fucking surprised by this.  They go on to meet old friends, discuss the situation and find more evidence that lends credence to the story of the guy who literally brought a fucking magical transforming Moogle that can talk and mentions Lightning through a time gate saying he saw Lightning.  And every.  single.  time. they 'realize', with great shock that Lightning 'might' be alive in Valhalla and that maybe they can get to her through a time gate.

I wish I was kidding.  I honestly do, because this shit is offensively stupid and it detracts from the overall experience which isn't too high to begin with.  Because the game can branch, in that you can go off and dick around in many time periods at once, I assume -some- of it can be contributed to the overlap in ensuring you establish a story no matter where the player goes, but after a certain point, you're literally somewhere you can only get after Point A and Point A included a portion where this whole Lightning bullshit was talked about already, and regardless, you have to play through everything eventually, so maybe you just need to manage it a little tighter in the narrative, which, after FFXIII is a fucking -riot- to say. 

But I can't really say too much of the story or the narrative overall just yet since I haven't beaten the game.  I imagine that when I do, I'll have an entirely larger post devoted to picking it apart completely and totally because I am very annoyed.  I guess the thing that's the problem is that I just really saw potential with FFXIII and with the assurance that XIII-2 was a good game, it had earned that by capitalizing on what was good about the original.  Instead, I am greeted with something that is praised for reasons I honestly, truly cannot comprehend on any level.  I am not having fun playing the game as I was with XIII towards the middle of it.  Maybe that will change later on, as I am probably still early on in it, but I really don't know.  I know that I'm very, very over-leveled for the area I'm in, so I'm absolutely steam-rolling everything which, honestly, kind of takes away from the fun too.  Odd as that might be, being able to stomp everything, including bosses, in your path isn't even fun in XIII-2.  Perhaps not yet, but certainly not now at the very least.

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