Final Fantasy XIII-2 PS3 review
From Valhalla, I can see all of time,” says Lightning as she scans the brutalist landscape of FFXIII-2’s opening locale. It sounds abstract at first (everything sounds abstract when a pink-haired battle babe says it) but it’s the crux of this new Final Fantasy’s gameplay and narrative. Travelling back and forth through time is commonplace. Visiting parallel universes you’ve created by changing history is bread and butter. To main characters Serah and Noel, time is a plaything, and altering it makes for a unique role-playing experience.
Instead of looking at a map of the world like some troglodyte, you navigate FFXIII-2 using the Historia Crux, a visual representation of temporal planes that works like… a map, actually. Pop into various points in time, change the course of history a tad then move on, hoping each time that the next leap will be the one home.
Or to a world that hasn’t been destroyed, at least. To reach a new destination in time, you need to find an ‘artefact’ – an object that doesn’t belong in the time you’re in. It’s your common-or-garden key and door mechanic, just dressed up all fancy.
Serah and Noel take as long to get used to all the time-bending as you do, and their dialogue usually falls the right side of helpful. Having been sucked out of the far future like Marty McFly with hair straighteners, Noel lands in the game as clueless as anyone who didn’t play the prequel, ensuring all backstory refreshing is dealt with neatly.
When the pair get lost, they vocalise their frustrations. When the plot looks in danger of running off into hopelessly unfathomable territory, their recaps are useful. And it does that a lot. The tale picks up soon after the events of XIII in a world of malicious gods, cursed humans forced to do their bidding, crystallised planets and – crucially for Serah – missing sisters. Alongside Noel, she starts messing with the fabric of time to bring Lightning back to her. Accompanying them is Mog, a deadly weapon/cute mascot/super-intelligent being who can reveal hidden objects. Mog says “Kupo!” a lot.
As you clock in the hours, that mission escalates exponentially until everything ever is at stake. Still, despite some excellent characters, mysterious motivations and blurred morality, the plot struggles to poke its head above ‘quite good’ until the final six hours, which are excellent.
Sometimes the purpose behind your actions gets rather woolly, and as likeable and fleshed-out as the cast are, they don’t often get to do much – because by its nature, FFXIII-2’s plot can’t commit to any definitive events, what with time always being changed by that meddling duo of yours.
Considering that Noel and Serah are the same two human party members throughout the whole game, it’s a credit to them that they never make you want to climb through the screen and punch them. It doubtless helps that there are so many other things to punch, of course.