So last week I finally got around to finishing Final Fantasy XIII-2. Like its predecessor, it was a reasonably interesting and entertaining game, though aspects of it again gave rise to mixed feelings.
My main complaints about FFXIII (here's the blog post from when I played it) were its linearity and lack of content other than successive battles. They obviously tried to change this in XIII-2. There are much more NPC's to talk with, optional locations to explore, and side quests. Almost too many, one could say. When I beat the game there was still a lot of content I could've explored.
They give you the option to keep exploring after you've beaten the game, of course, even unlocking additional stuff. However, having seen the main storyline through, the game could provide me with absolutely no motivation to do so. This seems to be a problem with many games these days that offer lots of 'post-game' content. I simply don't get the point of it...
One thing I really disliked about the game was that it only has two protagonists. Yes, two! The third slot in battles is filled by monsters you obtain along the way. Really, this is supposed to be Final Fantasy, not freakin' Pokémon! You need to spend a lot of time in menus levelling up those monsters, too, which is just boring. I'd much rather have had a full cast of regular characters. Summons, an old staple of the series, are also absent, replaced by special attacks of the monsters (which mostly seemed neither very effective nor impressive). The battle system itself is more or less the same as in XIII. And it is still pretty interesting and original. I don't think I prefer it to the classic turn based battles, but it is kinda fun.
Visually I found the game quite pleasing to look at. And the music wasn't half bad, either, even though it was no Uematsu soundtrack. I found the use of vocals in many tracks particularly interesting, and different from most game soundtracks. These mostly consisted of soft female vocals, mixed fairly low so they weren't too distracting.
So, uh, the story, then. Frankly, I'm not quite sure how to feel about it. It involves travelling back and forth in time, so it can get a little confusing. I'm not sure the writing is always the strongest it could have been. As with XIII there probably would've been potential for something a little more. But the world itself and its mythology are relatively interesting. (Knowledge of the first game's story is probably recommended, since it is often referred to.)
I beat the game in just over 40 hours (according to the game's clock), so it's a little shorter perhaps than many other Final Fantasy games. It wasn't particularly hard, either, and I did very little intentional grinding. (The game also offers an 'easy' mode, but I have trouble seeing the point of this. Easier modes make sense in action games, but less so in an RPG, particularly one that isn't especially hard to begin with...)
Warning: The last part of this post may contain mild spoilers
And then there's the ending. I'd managed to somehow not read anything about it, and was truly surprised. It basically ends in a cliffhanger, making way for another sequel. I'll say this much, it was a pretty efficient ending, got my adrenaline pumping. Cliffhangers can be both infuriating and exhilarating at the same time. I'm not aware if a sequel has been officially announced yet (I could find nothing about one at Wikipedia, anyway)...