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Final Fantasy XIII-2 Review

Kevin VanOrd
By Kevin VanOrd, Senior Editor

Final Fantasy XIII-2 doesn't capture Lightning in a bottle, but it's still a fun and heartfelt role-playing adventure.

The Video Review

Kevin VanOrd travels through time searching for Lightning in this video review for Final Fantasy XIII-2.

The Good

  • Monster collection is fun and addictive  
  • Multiple heartfelt moments combine story and gameplay in effective ways  
  • Caius is a fantastic villain  
  • Impressive, varied visual design.

The Bad

  • The best characters were sidelined in favor of less interesting ones  
  • Multiple sequences bog down the pace  
  • Main story is relatively easy and short.

Final Fantasy XIII-2's box art features the indomitable Lightning, looking strong and feminine in her tough-as-nails armor and flowing skirt of feathers. You remember Lightning, of course: she spent the majority of Final Fantasy XIII trying to release her sister Serah from a crystalline prison. Don't let that gorgeous portrait of the daunting heroine fool you, however. She has a part to play in this direct sequel, but it's Serah's turn in the spotlight now. Serah's not the powerhouse personality her sister is, but that doesn't keep Final Fantasy XIII-2 from delivering a satisfying mix of poignant storytelling and exciting action.

For Serah, blood really is thicker than water.

That isn't to say Final Fantasy XIII-2 is as epic an adventure as you may have expected. The story isn't long as far as Japanese role-playing games go--maybe 25 hours for a standard playthrough. There are reasons to linger or return if you're the completionist type, but the length is a consideration for series fans hoping for a Final Fantasy-sized adventure. If those 25 hours were jam-packed with challenging action and dramatic cutscenes, perhaps you wouldn't notice the story's brevity. Alas, a lengthy fetch quest makes the game drag considerably, as does a protracted platforming sequence that causes the pace to chug as you near the conclusion, right when you'd expect the tempo to take off. The cinematics and battles both burst with occasional thrills, but it's as if developer Square Enix decided that unnecessary padding was the proper solution to the problem of Final Fantasy XIII's overly linear progression.

If that sounds like a lot of negativity, don't worry: Final Fantasy XIII-2 may not be the super-great RPG you might have wanted in a series known for reinventing itself at every turn, but it's still a very good one. You could say the same thing about lead character Serah: She's a good, not great, leading lady. She doesn't have the steely strength of Lightning, though she isn't as annoyingly dainty as Final Fantasy XIII's Vanille, either (though she does have her overtly girlish moments as she twitters with the affected chirps and sighs of the prototypical Japanese RPG heroine). But she's a perfectly serviceable "every girl" who teaches school in her village on the world of Pulse, just a few years after the bitter victory that concluded the previous game.

Serah's purpose is to find Lightning, who is assumed to be gone for good--perhaps inhabiting the crystal pillar holding up the orb of Cocoon, along with Fang and Vanille. But Serah remembers events no one else does; most importantly, she remembers her sister's blessing to marry Snow, though Lightning was not always so fond of him. She knows Lightning must be alive, and she's right, of course. Lightning resides in Valhalla, a realm that exists outside of the constraints of time, where she's locked in struggle with a man called Caius. The game's initial moments dramatize this conflict in fine fashion. Caius speaks with a quiet confidence, his voice filled not so much with rage as with brazen purpose. He and Lightning stare mercilessly into each other's eyes and their swords meet, emanating a blaze of blue light. Soon thereafter, you take control of Lightning atop Odin in his form as a mechanical steed, fending off the ominous winged Bahamut in the game's first tutorial.

It's a pity that the game's two most engaging characters--Lightning and Caius--have considerably less screen time than Final Fantasy XIII-2's protagonists. Caius is a compelling villain, in part because his villainy isn't the typical in-your-face, menacing, power-hungry gnashing of teeth. It's sorrow that drives him, and as the source of this sorrow becomes clearer, your empathy grows. His emotions are distinctly, authentically human, and he isn't inherently evil; thus, he is a much more interesting villain than the usual frothing maniac. Caius gets his chance to chew the scenery a number of times, though where male characters are concerned, your focus is generally on Final Fantasy XIII-2's other lead: Noel. Noel's from the future--a future in which Cocoon has collided with Pulse many years before. He arrives in Valhalla where he witnesses the clash of the two titans, but he escapes to the past (and to Serah's side) at Lightning's behest. His hopes are somewhat loftier than Serah's. She wants to find her sibling; he has an entire future to change.

And so the two set out on a journey across time, hopping from one level to another, with each one representing a different place or time. The two make a blandly pleasant team, and apart from a third slot designated for voiceless monsters (more on that to come), they are your sole party members. Where Final Fantasy XIII's party members had plenty of interpersonal conflicts to overcome, Serah and Noel get along nicely enough. Moments that could have had great poignancy in the first half of the game--multiple reunions among them--are curiously bereft of tension and emotional impact.

Kevin VanOrd
By Kevin VanOrd, Senior Editor

Kevin VanOrd is a lifelong RPG lover and violin player. When he isn't busy building PCs and composing symphonies, he watches American Dad reruns with his fat cat, Ollie.

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Shadownk 6 pts

just started playing , love the easy mode they added in this game!!! guess I don't have to power leveling anymore

Star_Gem 8 pts

When it comes to "too easy" or "too hard", I think it's wiser for a game to lean towards the easy side, just as long as it doesn't drop to a state of boredom. Remember, some people play games just for fun, casual entertainement, or as a hobby - not to be challenged. If a game is too hard, there's nothing those people can do to enjoy that game since cheats aren't even available on most games these days. However, if a game is too easy, there are tons of ways the player can challenge himself (if he has any hint of imagination, that is). Do a speed run. Complete a level using only melee attacks. Some of these might even net you some achievements or trophies. Bottom-line, I honestly hope developers never listen to the inconsiderate gamers who keep whining about games being too easy, and I also hope gaming journalists have the proper sense to convey the message that you should NOT ostracize such a large portion of the gaming community. I'm all in favor of games that have multiple difficulty settings, so that everyone has what they came in for but, if some weird reason that's not possible, aim towards the easy but playable, NOT the hard and punishing.

slainta 16 pts

@Kevin-V Well Kevin, since you're reading.. 7.5 is just "good" in the GS rating. Very good would be more like an 8, similar to great. We all know that 8 is a psychological threshold for video games. Anything between 7 and 8 is of uncertain quality. Below 7 not worth to be played. To me this game is a 9 for the reasons I described already. Also its technical execution (on PS3) is nearly perfect as usual, which matters a lot. A 9.0 for PS3 messy Lagrym 1.0 while giving 7.5 to FF XIII-2 is a crime against humanity. But anyway, my bigger concern is that professional reviewer should refrain from evaluating FF games depending on how much they like some characters. To me Mog is very cute although a little too over the top sometimes (but that's true about all moogles, I suppose) and Chocolina is just terrific. I connected with her since the demo. While the first Lightning was a? female dog, just give me Fang and Vanille. Stepping back on time? overrated Cloud was a whiner (The British would use a much more appropriate derogatory term. Oh yeah!). That's subjective. Some people even love Hope!! Still the FF XIII-2 fun factor is high. The game is fast, moves on, makes sense. It's beautiful. It's just too short and small compared to FF standards and too easy or unbalanced.

Kevin-V 127 pts moderator

@slainta -- It is indeed very good. I say so in those exact words in the review ;) Also, 7.5 = very good.

Also, the most popular games list has nothing to do with how good a game is. Street Cleaning Simulator was the most popular game on GS for a while not so long ago, and it got a 1.5. people read about games for all sorts of reasons, and if you've played games (or listened to music, or read books, or watched movies) long enough, then you know that what's popular isn't necessarily what's best. :)

slainta 16 pts

If this game was not so exceptional why is still the most popular here in GS? I just finished it 100% few days ago. A very good sequel, with a good story, an improved combat system and full of exploration. The only downside is that it's a little too short for being a FF game and there are few locations, changing a little (very little) depending on the year. But all together it's a solid FF game. Ah, and Choco-boco-lina is just choco-tastic! Don't listen to reviewers, we know better! :D

maryalex 5 pts

I beat the game two days ago, after 71 solid hours of gameplay. I, personally, liked it pretty much. The story is compelling and the idea to play with time and paradoxes was pretty fun. Characters are likable, though I'd have preferred a wider choice of playable characters. I kinda don't like some of the themes and how they overlapped with characters' voices. I hate the random encounter bubble-thingamajiggy, though. If there's another episode I'd go and buy it asap. Yet some aspects need to be fixed. Less copy and paste please!

Toonzbery 5 pts

Just beat the game yesterday. I think squenix need to make another badass villain like Caius The only ''thing'' that is not-out-of-place in this series

nedrith 5 pts

My opinion on this game: Decent story, the first 30-50% of the story is meh, but the end really draws it together and makes you wished it didn't end so quick. Decent gameplay, Monsters add quite a bit of flavor and IMO they are done right. No leveling monsters atleast not with EXP like a traditional sense. Items are used instead. You also have quite a bit to do and quite a few puzzles to solve. though the puzzles and side-quests could of been longer and harder they aren't mind-numbingly boring like some open world RPGs. The leveling system could of been a bit better, but then again in most games it could of been. Characters are decent. Sure Serah isn't the smartest heroine ever made, but she does add quite a bit. Noel on the other hand kind of fits nicely into the story. Overall comments: Game has a lot to do, and most of it is done well. Might not be the best of the best, but a creative and innovative game and a very good take on both the Time Travel and Monster control systems.

naomha1 6 pts

This is only my personal opinion, but what a let down this game is. No more almighty summons, Pokemon style collective gameplay, Mass Effect dialogue, the list goes on and on. I like cutscenes occasionally, but, wow. A little overkill here Squenix. Serah, while very likeable (considering you're staring at her cleavage most of the time) is no heroine. Feral attacks are sooooo boring to use most times. The exact same prerendered scene over and over and over again and the attacks don't "connect" most times. They kind of take place on your back, or off to the side, or while a bad guy is circling you, you will see "punch" damage as it's flying overhead. Really? I REALLY wanted to like this. When I heard gameplay improvements, I was ready and willing to jump on board. I'll finish it just to do it and get it done. It really is more of a chore now than enjoyment, which, honestly, is the first FF game I can say that about. Go back to the drawing board Squenix. Make FF15 something to talk about, something to shine. Get rid of "auto battle".Bring back summons. Cut the whiny character development, and give me something mature, something I can sink my teeth into. Please.....

Mkeegs79 5 pts

TheoAlmighty, it is Japanese games as a whole that is taking longer. It doesn't help also that they announce games prematurely. Resident Evil 6 was the only exception of a game from Japan that was announced and coming out the same year.

toyo75 7 pts

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

TheoAlmighty 22 pts

These final fantasy games are taking longer and longer to make.

musicaholicz 6 pts

doesn't matter if gamespot rated this a 7.5, i am still enjoying this game for hours...dont really care about the story anyway cuse its fun to play!

adam270391 9 pts

I'm at the final boss after playing for about 60-70 hours (I'm kinda a completionist) I sorta missed the fetch quest everyone says is annoying due to already having all the required items but the platforming section is just...bad, it's just a case of waiting for platforms to move where you want them, jumping and fighting a combination of under-powered enemies (including nektons which are probably the first enemies you'll fight in this game) and over-powered enemies capable of 1-hitting your entire team if you're not over-powered. Overall good game though, if not too easy in parts. Really hoping they add a hard mode as DLC in the future .

tjsmoke63 5 pts

I'm about 18 hours or so into this game, towards the end of episode 4. Finding this game to a mix of good and bad. Exploration is a bit freer and you do get side quests, though they're not all that exciting, as the review points out. The dialogue spoken by the characters varies wildly, from fairly good to ridiculous. Most of the voice acting is decent, but you'll wish you could mute Chocolina and Mog, the moogle who accompanies Noel and Serah on their quest (if I ever hear "Kupo" again, it'll be way too soon!). The battle system is a bit more fluid, but more likely you'll be forced to sticking with auto battle, since the enemies attack at a rapid pace, leaving you no time to make any decision. Also, way too many random battles (to the point of ridiculousness at the beginning of Episode 4). Curiously, I'm finding the quieter moments where you can just explore and uncover the (thin) story to be more enjoyable. At least the environments are varied, but that doesn't make the fetch quest you get bogged down in any more fun. Basically, it's worth playing if you played the previous game, but I'd recommend renting before you buy.

Romangelo 5 pts

@NTM23 I mean... Gamespot gave this game a 7.5 but all of users just slapped in their face after we make it the most popular on their first page.

Dakey87 5 pts

Great game every gaming franchise has it's hiccups but they seem to be going bac in the right direction keep it up

Sokcr 5 pts

Im enjoying it throughly, honestly if you take away the Final Fantasy from the title im pretty sure this game would get a lot more positive reviews out of it. Honestly when it comes down to it we kind of have ourselves to blame for this one, Square-Enix did open up a forum for people to put in suggestions for XIII-2 in order to appeal to us more, you see what happens when they act upon what we want? they make something that normally doesnt flow as well as it should have, and even break out of the comfort zone they have for creating Final Fantasy. If you have played the others you are aware of what the company is capable of, I completely understand that, and then there are those who played VII and rave over that game like crazy, we all plead remake, remake, remake, but kind of hard for a company to remake a game let alone get the people to do it if even when they answer to our pleas they still catch flak for it. Play the game with an open mind, and don't consider it a FF and i guarantee you'll fall in love with it. I was the same way with Spirits within, hated it at first then watched it again with a more open mind, loved it.

NTM23 8 pts

@Romangelo -- What are you talking about? It has nothing to do with GameSpot's opinions, it's the rest of us that make the current most popular list. Plus, the score of a game doesn't effect it either, other than the fact people want to view the review page. The reason it is or was so high was because people look into it, it has nothing to do with score. I... I don't why you thought this way. What did you think it was, GameSpot loving a game so much they put it on there like a top ten list? No.

VenPlayer 5 pts

I'm saving money for this... But many people on GS says it sucks, and there are many others say it's good. I think the game play is about 6/10 but I'm curious about the story too. I don't care if it's good or bad, but I have appreciation for every game I buy and I play. Now that XIII-2 is released, will u SE guys continue working on Versus XIII and KH series? Finish those while I'm playing XIII-2,'kay?

Romangelo 5 pts

This game is the current Most Popular "out now" game on the Gamespot first page. OMG! a 7.5 game is more popular than Skyrim and the others? Must be the greatest 7.5 game ever. right? Gamespot.

airborne26 5 pts

vigin nerds everywhere just joygasmed. my friends would kick my A$$ if they saw me playing this , and rightly so. this game has homo written all over it

Hezzron73 6 pts

Just more garbage from Japan, the land of the failing fun.

damojeebs 5 pts

hmm this is strange,i hated 13 pretty much within the 1st few minutes but for some reason i don't hate this game even though ive been only able to play it for a few hours before my son took over the ps3. sure the battle system still sucks and is uninteresting cause its too easy but i think its because i can choose multiple choice dialog when talking to characters in the game,sort of reminds me of the previous games.

haishido 5 pts

I really couldn't understand why there would be a sequel. Even with all the promotion and hype, my mind was set on just hating it (old wounds from X-2). SE Put out a demo for this one and I couldn't get myself to play for more than 15 minutes. I hated the demo so much I deleted it. Then the game comes out and I decide to rent it and play it with an open mind. Turns out I was playing for hours. Yeah, If you want 5 stars, auto battle, blah blah. The game has changed my perspective so far. I'll give SE props for this sequel. Knock 'em dead with XIII versus guys.

neock2003 5 pts

Great mixed opinions. Looks like I will wait until I find this in a random used video store for less then $50. Especially if you can only get 20 hours of story gameplay.

damojeebs 5 pts

i just bought the game today but dont even know why as i didnt enjoy 13 itself :P i guess its because i still hold onto that glimmer of hope where i think maybe this one will be the one that would blow me away... fingers crossed. but i swear that they dont even care about the story or character development anymore,its all about the gameplay system and cutting-edge visuals and audio (which is written on the back of the case) god damn yous... make a ff title where i can actually feel for the characters and get pulled into the story.

AntonSaidWhat 5 pts

Ehh, I love this game, sure it's easy, but its not bad at all. Its a solid 9.0 for me.

-Shadowbinded- 10 pts

@blamix99 I just read IGN's review for this game. How can you recommend it? Are you serious about that? They state "Final Fantasy XIII-2 proves itself the better game" right after saying "Characters act without clear motivation, and the only driving force is to find Lightning." How can you say it's a better game when there's absolutely no structure? Sure, parts of the game are great (exploration, monster-hunting, side-quests), but it lacks very important components of a game in that statement: story-telling and characters. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying GS's reviews are the best, either. But from this comparison it's clear that IGN doesn't realize that having a compelling story is just as important as having good mechanics. When you break it down into parts, the sequel might have better parts; but when you take it as a whole, the original certainly is much more than the sequel.

angeloti83 5 pts

worst ff game ever! soo pink and girly!

Shengali 5 pts

@Thelfym20 KH3 is done by the team developing FF Vs XII, not this one

TheIfym20 22 pts

@Linkmaster2010 Then who is it? Last I read the reason why they have not started KH3 was because the main guy was working on FFXIII-2.

bonander 15 pts

I thought that this was a certain buy for me, but now that I learned Serah is in the spotlight, I'm not so sure. Maybe that's pathetic, but oh well. I really liked Lightning. Serah was ok as the "damsel in distress" but as a protagonist, I'm on the fence on that one. I'm going to need to mull this over on whether to buy or not.

Linkmaster2010 5 pts

@Thelfym20 Wrong development team.

TheIfym20 22 pts

Sweet it's out... Now work on kingdom hearts 3 and release 1 and 2 in HD.

Blackened_Halo 7 pts

Famitsu's 40/40 sounds as a fist into the eye

Standalone88 5 pts

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Taroni1 5 pts

That's because Hironobu left Square after 10 to cause them to merge with enix. He has Mistwalker now( Lost Oddessey and Blue Dragon + a wii game in the making.)

blamix99 11 pts

@Lambon23 - try IGN they understand games more than this site. i hate too how they rate games here on gamespot

Aero5555 5 pts

I got the game early and have played about 4 hours so far. Let me tell you that the review is almost dead-on IMO. The game did nothing but take user feedback relating to chocobos and town exploration and stick it in the game. It's like a upgraded edition of FFX with FFXIII's battlesystem. Those who thought FFXIII was too streamlined and the battle system was all about pressing X won't change their mind with XIII-2. I loved XIII, so more of the same is good for me, and the story's interesting for those who liked XIII.

washnwax 5 pts

it took all my will just to finish FFXIII,and i did not enjoy that game from start to finish. i fell in love with the series because i loved the storylines of each of the games up until FFX,after that game the stories just sucked and i refuse to play anymore FF games that have chose pretty graphics over interesting characters and a strong storyline.

lpsyco666 16 pts

you are until now..the best site in Review...

goldsy 5 pts

I liked XIII. I didn't love it but I liked it. I will give XIII-2 a shot and I'm sure I'll like that too. Who cares about the reviewer score. If someone else at Gamespot reviewed it I'm sure there would be a different rating. At the end of the day it's still opinion based. FFIX is still my favorite. @Lambon23: If I rushed through FF9 if would take me 30+ hours. I don't know how anyone can possibly go through it in 10-15. That was the longest in the franchise for me and I've played them all. (Main ones anyway, I only played a few of the spin offs)

Iamtrent424 5 pts

im going to try to finish ffxiii. I am not a big fan of ff13. The storyline is the worst in the series but gameplay is great.

rkzhao 10 pts

@Lambon23 comparing scores to a game reviewed over a decade ago by a different person doesn't really mean much does it =/. I don't know why people care so much about the specific scores games get. They're personal opinion. It's more of just a reference to make sure a game isn't absolute garbage. Some of my favorite games only got a 7-8. If I'm interested in a game, a 7 or above would mean it's worth playing. I'll make the final decision as to whether a game is really good for me. In any case, I'd much rather a game be scored lower and surprise me by being really good than a game getting an undeserved 9-10 and disappointing me when I actually play it.

Lambon23 5 pts

@Kevin I'll agree that the story is important, but can you tell me with a straight face that Final Fantasy is known for good story telling? I'm a big fan of the series, but with the exception of a notable few, the stories are rather absurd. By your logic; Skyrim should have been given a 3 out of 10. The story is laughable. If were going to discuss how this is all subjective, then we should stop now while were ahead.

Heinzman57 6 pts

Do they still have the auto play function.

txgamerwavg 5 pts

I wish for a playable character of Lightning on FF13-3 and not on two playable characters that is. Feedback time.

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