Monday, February 13, 2012

Final Fantasy XIII-2 - Part 2

Shockingly, I beat "Final Fantasy XIII-2" already.  Turns out the game was actually roughly thirty hours, which is pretty short for an RPG, but honestly, a great thing.  Because this game was getting very close to wearing out its welcome, I finished it at exactly the right time.

Last post I asked the question of whether I would recommend "Final Fantasy XIII-2" to a human.  Now to spoil anybody who is still wondering about what my answer is, I'll resolve it right now.  "Final Fantasy XIII-2" fixed a lot of the problems of its predecessors, and ultimately ends as a serviceable RPG.  It never becomes a great RPG, but its playable, the gameplay has some good moments (mainly against bosses), and building the perfect party of monsters can be surprisingly fun.  There are a few decent sidequests, so there is joy to be had here.  I loved the soundtrack.  But even with all that, I can't recommend this to a human.  I'm not sure what kind of creature I would recommend this game to, but definitely not one of my species.

I'm going to return to the case of "Metroid Other M", a game whose gameplay I loved, but whose storyline I completely detested.  The analogy is not perfect, because I have all kinds of problems with "Final Fantasy XIII-2"'s gameplay, but it still stands.  Because the storyline of "Final Fantasy XIII-2" is arguably a new low for Square Enix.  I have never played a game with a more unsatisfying storyline.  This is the kind of game that once you are finished, you will be furious for years.  And I guess that's Square Enix's plan.  To make you so angry over the ending that you'll buy the next game or the DLC episodes just to see what will happen.  Well, here's my answer to that:  SCREW YOU.

I am done with "Final Fantasy XIII".  I beat this game.  It is concluded.  I don't care what kind of dirty tricks Square Enix wants to play, they are not getting my wallet to open up again for another piece of crap "Final Fantasy XIII" game.  But I'm getting ahead of myself here.  I need to describe the storyline first.  Because, ignoring "Dissidia", "Final Fantasy XIII-2" has the worst storyline of any Final Fantasy game yet.

As we all know, "Final Fantasy XIII-2" is a time traveling adventure.  Unfortunately, the storyline here is far too much "Chrono Cross" and not enough "Chrono Trigger".  Because, since this is time travel, that basically opens up the storyline to be incredibly weird and make up any kind of strange time traveling rule that they want.  Everything and anything in this game is explained by a time paradox.  If something happens in this game, you can bet good money that its caused by a time paradox.  Even Serah's change in outfit at the beginning of the game is a time paradox.  The game also cannot seem to decide how time paradoxes actually work, they just sort of make it up as they go along.  Sometimes time paradoxes are just puzzle minigames, sometimes you have to defeat bosses, and sometimes the game just says "you solved a paradox" even when all you did was watch a cutscene.  The consequences of solving a time paradox are all Contrivances of the Plot, whatever the writers wants to happen will happen.

However, the time paradox business at least explains why this game is riddled with lag.

Beyond paradoxes, this game's storyline is just weird as Hell.  For example, an early storyline rule is "if you change the future, you change the past".  Let that one sink in.  "Change the future, change the past".  How does that work*?  I guess we're just supposed to accept it as a story thing, because otherwise you could find yourself complaining about plotholes for years.  Basically what this means is that you create alternate timelines leading to what you'd think is finally the Good Future.  Nobody ever comments on these alternate timelines, they just sort of ignore their existence.  Thanks to alternate timelines, this game creates such things as a clone of the main villain, which you never fight.  And then there's a robot boss that cannot be defeated at first because when you kill it, its future form goes back to the past, and builds itself in the past.  (Ignore for a second the fact that makes no sense.)  The way to kill it?  Have Serah yell really loud so that the guy who built the robot 500 years earlier decides not to.

...Uch.  I'm not even going to try to explain how that works.  Because I don't know myself.  It takes a certain kind of logic.  A certain kind of Toriyama logic.

"Final Fantasy XIII-2" is directed by a man named "Motomu Toriyama".  If you're a Final Fantasy fan today, you probably know his name, because he's one of the most hated men in gaming right now.  Toriyama is infamous for making "Final Fanservice X-2", "Final Fantasy XIII-1", a game we all know too well, and "Parasite Eve: The Third Birthday", where he single-handedly destroyed the entire previous Parasite Eve canon and brutally killed off the main characters.  I'm not a Parasite Eve fan, I never played those games, but if you are a fan, you must hate him even more than I do.  Lately Toriyama has been borrowing the worst traits of Masato Kato, writer of "Final Fantasy VII", "Xenogears", and the Chrono games.  Kato was able to write really complex and psychological RPG storylines, sometimes with great results, and sometimes with terrible ones.  Toriyama mostly takes the complex part in order to inflate what are really simple stories and give them false depth.

Like, "Final Fantasy XIII-2" is not a complex game.  There's this guy named Caius who is trying to destroy the timeline in order to save his girlfriend from immortality.  So Serah and Noel go out to save the timeline, they fight Caius a lot, ect.  There are not many big twists here, and really not many character arcs.  Weird shit happens during the course of the game, like the scene where Serah accidentally erases her husband from the timeline**, but that doesn't really change the course of events.  Caius wants a space station planet to fall, you want to build a new one.  Its the same villain from beginning to end.  Then you fight, the end.

Also, thanks Toriyama, for inexplicably erasing Alyssa from the time space continuum.  She was my favorite character in this disaster, and as soon as she finally does something, she's inexplicably erased.  No explanation is given.  As I write this review, I'm editing out a lot of curses I put in my first draft.

So anyway, the game really comes crashing to a final death in... you guessed it, the ending.  If you haven't heard about "Final Fantasy XIII-2"'s ending yet, you must have been living under a rock.  And it is as bad as everybody is saying.  In fact, its worse.  I'm just going to spoil it because I don't give a shit about the sanctity of Toriyama's terrible storyline, and honestly, I don't want you to play this game.  This is a consumer warning here, don't do it to yourself.  If you're thinking of playing Toriyama's game, don't.  The ending will ruin whatever positive experience you might have had.

Let me try to explain this:  So Caius is the big bad.  He wants to kill the Goddess who controls time in order to do some Time Compression or something.  Luckily for Caius, he's immortal, and he has the Heart of the Goddess beating inside his heart.  (I'm not sure how it got there.)  So, if you pierce his heart, the Goddess dies.  It appears to me that Caius' could win just by killing himself, but he doesn't think of that until the very end.  So instead Caius' plan is get Noel to kill him, but Noel is a big pussy, so he won't do that.

Caius is also an incredibly stupid moron, because his plan is based around compressing time so his girlfriend won't have to constantly die and be reborn so often - even though his girlfriend never actually complained about it.  She doesn't seem to have any emotions, but she definitely doesn't want Caius to go through with the plan.  She's fine with dying a lot if it means that everybody who ever lived doesn't need to get erased from time.  Caius is also ignoring how he can now live forever with her, so what's his problem?  What a bitch.  Really, that's no other word for Caius, he's a bitch.

Anyway, Caius decides he's going to blow up the space station with all of humanity inside.  That means Serah and Noel have to fight him in order to save the future.  You fight fight fight fight, you win.  The game gives you the option to kill Caius or spare him.  (It never occurs to the heroes that killing Caius might be a bad idea.)  I chose to kill Caius, but Noel didn't listen to me, because again - pussy.  Caius runs himself through on Noel's sword, and he dies.  At first it looks like everything is going to work out fine.  Everybody might live happily ever after.  But not so fast!  Serah drops dead.  Because she got a vision of the future, and that means she dies.

Oh, did I forget to tell you that seeing the future kills you?  Because that's a rule, you just need to accept that.

Anyway, Serah is dead.  The Moogle dies too.  The Goddess is dead too, Caius laughs a lot.  And then Chaos takes over the world.  Caius is now king of the timeline - because he's alive again.  Somehow.  And that's the ending.  Everything you set out to do fails.  You are left in total darkness and misery, the universe is destroyed.  But wait, "TO BE CONTINUED".  Insert more coins to keep playing.  Wait another two months for the DLC episodes to come out, and pay ten bucks for them each.

"Wait!" you might say.  "There are multiple endings in this game, right?"  Wrong.  There's one ending!  The other "Paradox Endings" are not endings, they're scenarios.  For example, in one ending, Serah and Noel find themselves in a Terminator Future and have to defeat an army of giants before they burn the world down.  That's not an ending of a game, that's the beginning.  There's another ending where Snow appears, saves the day, and invites Serah on an adventure on board his time machine motorcycle to kill all the Caiuses across the timeline.  And my personal favorite is the adventure when Serah and Noel magically transform themselves into Flans as part of a plot to kill the Flan King.  See, none of those conclude the story, they merely continue it.  As a matter of fact, most of the Paradox Endings imagine scenarios many times more interesting than the actual "Final Fantasy XIII-2" main plot.  I want to play those games, not this one.

Returning to the real ending.  Some people have said:   "Oh, its just a bad ending, that's fine.  Bad endings exist in all mediums!  Isn't it cool how Square Enix is breaking tradition and being edgy?  Good endings are cliche."***  If you are one of those who actually said that, I... I don't know what to do with you as a person.  Let me explain the difference of mediums.  In a movie, its a movie, you are simply watching the story.  If the hero fails at the end, that's really sad, but you accept it because that's just what happens.  In a game, you're supposed to be the hero.  So if the hero fails, that means you aren't allowed to beat the game!  The ending is a non-standard Game Over!

"Final Fantasy XIII-2" asks the player to save the future.  This is not an option in "Final Fantasy XIII-2".  At no point during the game do you have any control over the storyline.  From beginning to end you're riding on Toriyama's deranged plan.  There's no choice in the matter.  In "Tactics Ogre", I got the bad ending because I failed to save my sister, I was punished for it - there was game choice, and I made the wrong choice.  "Final Fantasy XIII-2" punishes you for nothing.  So even when you do everything the game asks of you, beat all the bosses, complete the filler fetch quests, etc. etc., you still haven't won.  Because the future isn't saved by the end of the game, its totally fucked now.  I'm still not clear if the universe was actually destroyed outright, but the ending looked pretty crappy.  Serah could have stayed home during the game, she could have not lifted a finger, and the outcome would not have changed one bit.  This is the game that you did not need to play.  Your actions are meaningless.  "Final Fantasy XIII-2", I believe, is unprecedented in that respect.  Some video games have bittersweet endings, sometimes the main character dies, but at least you accomplished something, often you died saving the world.  In "Final Fantasy XIII-2", you simply fail.  And now Square Enix wants you to pay more money to win.

If "Final Fantasy XIII-2"'s final ending really is DLC, that would be the worst game design decision I have ever seen.  I can understand simply making design mistakes, but this is something else.  This is purposefully designed nickle and diming.  The bare essentials of a storyline are being cut out and now you have to pay more to get them back.  Well, Square Enix, fuck you.  I'm not paying a cent.  I might just trade in my "Final Fantasy XIII-2" copy for a different game.  A better game.  A finished game.

Speaking of unfinished, "Final Fantasy XIII-2" has quite a few missing features.  This is all to justify the DLC.  For example, the Gold Saucer area is totally unfinished and bare bones because Toriyama was either too lazy or too greedy to implement all the features.  You can walk over to a poker table, and then the NPC will tell you that the poker game isn't finished, buy the DLC (as of yet unreleased).  I used to see things like this in "Crimson Echoes", the fan Chrono Trigger sequel.  But that game has an excuse, it actually was unfinished.  "Final Fantasy XIII-2" was released full price as a AAA video game.  And yet it can't find a way to fit poker.  The only time you can play as Lightning, the character on the cover and also the character that was supposed to be the main character of this game in the first place****, is if you buy DLC.  And even then, Lightning is technically a monster, so she's uncontrollable.

Later on there will be full episodes where you can play as Lightning, where you can play as Captain Awesome Afro, Sazh, and where you can play as Snow.  But those aren't on the disc.  They apparently explain the ending too.   But that explanation is not on the disc.  If those things were, I might have a different opinion about this game.  However, they're not.  They were cut out to steal more money from me.

"Final Fantasy XIII-2" is a crook.  It is, at a fundamental core, a cash-in, but even then, its designed to rob its players.  I let this thing into my house.  I wonder what kind of darkness I've unleashed upon myself.

I'm going back to "Resonance of Fate".  This game sucks.

* I have heard a rather clever solution, but its not the one "Final Fantasy XIII-2" gives us.  Because time-travel is non-linear, if you change one event it causes a ripple effect across time changing things in both directions.  So you've changed the outcome, that also means you have to change the sequence of events that leads to that outcome.  Honestly, even that isn't a perfect solution, but its rather elegant.  Square Enix, however, is not nearly that clever.  And nothing about this storyline is elegant.

** Snow is Serah's husband.  He's jumping through time too.  However, Snow cannot join your party, because that would ruin the Pokemon battle system.  If you had a third human, you would probably ignore the Pokemon for the most part.  So to keep him out of the party... Toriyama erased him from existence.  I haven't seen plot deaths this gameplay contrived since "Final Fantasy IV".

*** Considering that the real world is rarely home to Good Endings, I'd say stories with Good Endings are anything but cliche.

**** FFXIII-2 was initially introduced as "Lightning's game" where she would be the main character.  If you being the main character means you're on the game cover and nothing else, then you won't call Square Enix filthy liars.  Everybody else would, however.  But it gets worse.  Supposedly the developers made this game with the intention of "making Lightning happy".  Compared with the actual ending this game has, the irony of those statements are painful.  I don't know what happened behind the scenes with this game, I don't know if Square Enix was just lying out of their ass to sell more copies, or if something terrible happened in the development forcing a Serah-Noel only game when initial plan was for something else.  Either Toriyama has the most peculiar definition of happiness, or he can go fuck himself.


  1. Honestly, I think you're overthinking the story. Over time, I've learned how to deal with Toriyama stories, and that's to just accept everything, and don't question plot points that don't make sense. It actually becomes much more enjoyable that way, even if it is a pathetic way to deal with them.

    I posted a review on a forum not too long ago, which I'll link at the end of this post if you like, and I gave the story 8/10. Mainly because if you let the weird and messed up time explanation pass, the interactions between Serah and Noel are actually quite enjoyable. They have a lot of chemistry as a team. Even the ending, which is really cheap, was pretty intense. And I love intensity in a game, so I loved the final bosses. It was fun as hell. I also think Caius has been the best FF villain since Doctor Cid, solely because he gets the screen time a bad guy deserves. Also, he was introduced early, unlike FFXIII's villain(which the party didn't meet until the halfway point).

    I guess I just take stories at a different level than you. I'm a much more go-with-the-flow kind of person when it comes to stuff like this. And with the gameplay being as fun as it was, I can forgive enough of the game's faults. It's a good game. It could have been better, but you know, you take what you can get. FFXIII-2 was really enjoyable overall.

    I'm glad you gave this game a play though. I always wanted to hear you rant on FFXIII(even if I did like the game), but I suppose hearing you rant on FFXIII-2 will suffice. :P

    Here's my review, if you wanted to compare.

    1. Look, its not about the minor plot explanations. I don't care about plot holes, I care about plot implication. Snow dies for nothing. Serah dies for nothing. Everybody dies for nothing. Caius' motives are the most shallow reasons to blow up the world that I've seen since Seymour.

      If a game is going to have an intense shocking ending, it has to earn it. This game did not. Not by a long shot.

      (Also, during most of the Noel-Serah scenes, I simply skipped the scenes. Noel is horribly boring as a character, and Serah has no chemistry with him. I didn't put this in this review because I thought that was way too personal a complaint.)

  2. You know, its sad, I'm in my mid-twenties, and i've seen all kind of changes, from real music to techno crap, from true TV shows to stupid reality television, and even unplayable Madden changes which pissed me off. But I never thought that Final Fantasy would reach this kind of low. What kind of world will we bring our children into? Final Fantasy has turned into an abomination.

  3. I saw a guy on a forum defending the ending of this game as genius storytelling, claiming that he will happily pay for any DLC they make for it. Reading his posts was like reading the end of 1984 again.

  4. something I really hate about the modern games industry now, is that if you buy a game on release date (not always true, but certainly true here, another example is Mass Effect 2) what you are actually buying is a "early release" of the full game, here there is all that DLC to come, and what is going to happen is they will release THE ACTUAL FULL VERSION
    with all that DLC, later this year or next, at full price, thats the full game, and they are trying to trick you into buying it twice.

  5. Well unfortunately I got given the game as a present for Valentines off the boyfriend, now I feel stupid. 'Oh you love Final Fantasy, here's the new one.' He says smiling.
    I corrected him, I loved Final Fantasy when they remembered how to tell a good story. This doesn't sound very promising, it sounds worse than XIII itself, I am gutted. I read somewhere that there were a lot of episodes that would be available for DLC later, like whole chunks of story would be explained and I thought that was a stupid idea. Now... After reading this, I am going to be massively disappointed.

    Grabbed a copy of Xenoblade Chronicles the other day, feel much more excited about playing that now to be honest...

  6. Are you going to release the draft with all of the curse words on it? :3

    But, seriously, overall this is a good review.

    Everyone has their opinions. I'm going to see for myself if I have the chance to get XIII-2.

    (I hope this isn't going to be a mistake...)

  7. I don't see why anyone with even the tiniest bit of a brain would want anything to do with FFXIII or anything related to it. I'm not touching that shit with a universe-sized pole.

  8. Saw it comming never trust the -2 in a final fantasy title

    1. Why not X-2 had a good ending. both the ending are good. one ending yuna and the gang save the world. and the second ending follows the first except she gets tidus back. thats why i bought this game >.< i thought they would save the world lightning returns all is well. this game deceived me with its fuckery -_-

  9. Well, hey, at least Square doesn't seem to be pulling this kind of shit with Kingdom Hearts 3D, right?

    1. DON'T JINX IT.
      Oh wait, it might not matter. Wasn't "Birth by Sleep: Volume Two" hinted at the end of BBS Final Mix?

    2. Yup.

      Why can't they hurry the fuck up and make Kingdom Hearts 3 already?!

    3. You know what's funny? Square Enix, the idiots they are, are actually sitting on a Mofo'ing gold mine and don't even realize it...i mean, if KH3 came out tomorrow with a release date...i would actually pre-order it! AND i NEVER pre-order!! I mean, i know they'll screw it up by adding a bus load of DLC or something...but just saying, their wasting their time creating a story around characters I actually want to be killed lol

  10. I finished the game about a week ago and when I finally saw the ending my entire trust for Final Fantasy shattered. This game was the final straw that broke the camel's back. I'm through with you Square. The only relations we have with each other is Kingdom Hearts, Dragon Quest, Type-0, and Versus, but even then I'm still pissed about it. But a funny secnerio popped into my head when I learned about the DLC episodes.

    Me:My god Square. Y-your a monster!


    Me:*Bombards me with sequals, prequels, and the occasional new title* NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  11. The game wasn't that bad i enjoyed it and yes it's a ,fuck you give us more of your money, ending but despite that it's not bad and at least it's like in 8 where Ultimecia just wanted to "Compress time" Caius just wants to save Yuel from her cursed fate of re-incarnation because every time she sees the timeline she loses more and more of her lifespan and that's fine as long as you don't read into it too much. I knew the moment i reserved my copy that I'd be paying for DLC. But hey at least it's not like Lords of Shadow where i felt robbed of my money for an annoying maybe 2 hour long extra 2 chapters that explain almost nothing plot related it tried to explain things but failed miserably by raising more questions than the ones it answered.

  12. I'm so glad I didn't waste money on this garbage then, try for honest review. (aka. f u famitsu) I'll wait for tales series and ni no kuni and accept that final fantasy is the last place I should go for jrpg at the moment, and possibly in the constant future

  13. Bah. This makes Radiant Historia's storyline look sane. Except that RH had a good storyline. And unless you like really fast-paced gameplay, it has better gameplay too. Oh, and the best part of all, no DLC. DLC is the bane of humanity's existence. Not gonna spend a cent on this... not that I was planning to.

  14. - This is FFXIII-2's ending. No joke.


  15. Just watched the ending of FFX13 on YouTube (couldn't bother playing it), and I was WTH?! I need to Google this.
    Your review was both informative (I was like "OH!! that explains it...") and an enjoyable read.
    Thanks ;)