Since I rather enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII after giving it a second try and there's a third game coming out for that series, I've decided it's about time I picked up XIII-2. So far, I'm enjoying it! I mean, the game has its problems, but I was pleasantly surprised by the substance it has compared with the pre-conception most folks might have regarding a sequel to a game that was received poorly.
I'm not sure what people have against XIII and XIII-2. Like how people who don't live in Miami love to hate on the city and its denizens, gamers at large pick and choose the games they decide to dislike, and these two drew the short straw.
Yes, XIII had its major "extended tutorial mode" issue, but it is overall a good game with a lovely story, beautiful art and a wonderful soundtrack. The combat system is great, even though it took the game too long to teach players how it works. And don't even get me started on how awesome the Eidolon designs are.
Now with XIII-2 you've got skippable tutorials, and are dumped right into the battle system with (almost) full control right from the beginning. The focus has shifted to a character who was dormant throughout most of the first game in an effort to a) save the world and b) save her sister, Lightning - one of the main characters from the first game. And her (Serah's) character is balanced with a strong male companion (Noel) that looks and acts exactly like Tom Cruise.
So far, I've only got two problems with the game. By so far, I mean I've clocked in a good 12 hours or more.
Problem a) I'm not down with the girl who sings the main themes. She needs to just shut up already. I enjoyed the arrangements with FFXIII, but somehow I find myself reaching for the mute button for FFXIII-2. It's too bad, because I enjoy the metal/rock themes for the battle music, but I'm just not into this warbling girl making my ears bleed.
Cinematic actions are distracting and unnecessary. When I'm watching a cutscene, I want to just, you know, watch it. I'd like to enjoy the glorious graphics that the game engine has to offer without having to be scanning the screen for button prompts. Granted, you do receive rewards for landing all the hits after each cutscene that asks for that, but I could do without it altogether. Whatever possessed the crew to do this is beyond me - maybe they are listening to people who complained that FFX was a "movie" rather than a video game.
That's it. I'm enjoying the game in all other respects. It's neat! Time travel, parallel universes, changing the future and the past depending on the paradoxes you encounter and resolve -- all fun and games. The return of side quests and being given full access to whatever areas you want to visit at pretty much any time is a huge plus. I like that I'm meeting the characters from the previous games at various points in time as well. I like that there are slowly-developing plot points for each character and mysteries that I'll surely discover later (like, why does Snow have the mark on his arm?).
Finally, and most importantly, I love that I can literally throw my Moogle to go look for treasure for me. Moogle Throw is my new absolute favorite game-related activity and I have no idea what will top this any time soon. Seriously. Go play FFXIII-2 and toss a Moogle.