It’s no secret that during these last few years the Final Fantasy series has been in decline. This first became readily apparent upon the release of the thirteenth console entry and continues with the release of its sequel: XIII-2.
While in the beginning it starts out well enough, complete with high octane action and emotional transitions accompanied by a dramatic soundtrack, the gameplay quickly falls short. Still sticking with the ATB battlesystem (real time turn based) Square Enix has taken a step down in terms of strategy and shifted the sequel to more inclusive gameplay at the expense of depth. Many encounters can be solved with but only a couple of Paradigm Shifts, while only the most hardcore encounters reserve actual planning.
Looking past the combat, however, still not much redeeming content is to be found. While the plot, Lightning mysteriously disappearing and her sister-Serah-tasked with finding her somewhere in the mythical place of Valhalla, takes some interesting turns as the player is thrust from one time era to the next, one will quickly begin eye rolling when the characters repeat basic plot points established in the first hour of gameplay even as late as before the final encounter.
Looking past even this one will also be disappointed with the lack of originality and diversity. Though the game is about time travel and fixing the wrongs of the past (as expressed through paradoxes) the developers placed little effort into side quests instead content to merely take old environments and add a new shade of color while inserting some fetch quests. Such could have been an opportunity to deliver spectacular extra-areas and serve up some memorable events connected to the wider universe yet this path was never taken.
Even the conclusion and pace is off. Opting for a cheaply made cliffhanger Square Enix not only hashed out the strange plot but failed to show excellent character development. While several of the characters were of material which could have lent the game some heavy hitting emotional moments-the last human born on Earth and a immortal guardian tasked with protecting a Seeress-even these are poorly handled and convey little of what could have been had the developers taken the necessary time to flesh out the world and cast.
Indeed it seems that the PS3 generation of Final Fantasy games is doomed to mediocrity. While a third entry is planned-Lightning Returns-I have little hope that this entry will be any better than the previous two. With an amazing new tech demo recently released, a demo which resides within the Final Fantasy universe that aims for the PS4, the world glimpsed within of that brief video already seems vastly more interesting than the convoluted and poorly imagined realm of FFXIII.