Upping the ante for Final Fantasy XIII-2

A radical departure from the series’ norms, Final Fantasy XIII undoubtedly alienated a particular subset of steadfast fans. Its divergence from an established formula – perhaps even more so than its fully-fledged predecessor – left many, including ourselves, incredibly frustrated. It’s significant, then, that Square’s efforts still provided an engaging experience in-spite of those irritating elements.

Combat

Final Fantasy XIII sacrificed nuance and tactical considerations largely for the sake speed and aesthetics – it was inherently a style over substance affair. Synergists, for example, would often cast every spell under Cocoon, often omitting the very buff needed to execute my masterfully prepared battle-plan until the end of their cycle. More often that not, then, I’d be forced to wait for such a spell to be cast, often taking an unnecessary beating in the process.

Final Fantasy XIII rarely felt tactical. At the best of times, it was a flashy, albeit still engaging, system primed to appeal to the senses. At its worst, however, XIII felt like a hurried race to the finish line – the frantic nature of the game’s combat created a disconnect between my intentions, my inputs and the fight’s outcome. Victory wasn’t a product of picking a particular combination of spells, it was the product of my Syngerist’s decisions.

And that was a decision effectively reduced to casting ‘Libra’ in the hopes that my allies would deduce my intentions. The fact that I couldn’t switch between party members, or at least give the occasional direct command, could be incredibly infuriating – perhaps I hadn’t earned enough badges from their respective gyms.

Adam Meadows

Towns

Although it’s been argued that towns are a ‘staple’ of the series – apparently, towns don’t exist beyond the realm of Final Fantasy – Square Enix has demonstrated its ability to construct a workable title without a need for traditional ‘hubs’. This, however, came at a cost. Final Fantasy XIII almost always felt ‘on-rails’ – I didn’t have the option to choose which building to enter or which NPC to interact with.

Towns provided the illusion of choice, and a much needed respite from saving the world. They also, perhaps unintentionally, provide narrative landmarks upon which our memories attach themselves – there’s no doubt that many of us remember Final Fantasy VII’s Kalm, the first place to be entirely free of Midgar’s pollution.

Adam Meadows

And add a world map. Tales of Vesperia did it so well!

Sal Romano

TP and Gil

Scarcity in spending amount is never fun. We all want to be rich. Such is the case with Technical Points and Gil, two forms of currency bound to players in Final Fantasy XIII; one is used for performing special skills such as ‘Libra’ and ‘Summon’, and the other for buying goods such as potions and weapons. For a role-playing game, a genre in which I’m generally used to purchasing new equipment and items to keep my team in shape, Final Fantasy XIII rarely throws enough money at the player, so much that he/she could purchase a simple Phoenix Down. It’s ludicrous. I understand it wouldn’t make sense for the monsters roaming Pulse to carry wallets, but it also doesn’t make sense that everyone’s hair and clothes stay perfectly unimpaired despite their constant fighting and traveling. I barely spent time at the shop in Final Fantasy XIII due to being financially unable to handle the cost.

TP felt the same. The majority of Final Fantasy XIII‘s skill set doesn’t require the use of Technical Points, but a significant minority does. If you’re a completionist — trying to obtain data for every enemy you come across — or are just trying to discover your enemy’s weakness, you’ll find yourself using the ‘Libra’ skill for a fair amount of the time. That’s 1 TP for you out of your, let’s say, 5 max. Summon Odin, and there goes another 3 TP. Another Libra, and there’s your last TP. Your TP doesn’t return after the fight is over. Earning it back will take more than just a few battles, depending on your the rankings you earn. It’s time consuming; and earning five-star rankings on battles fought deeper into the game isn’t the easiest thing in the world.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 should cut the insufficiency seen in its predecessor, give me reason to visit shops, and provide a better solution to TP.

Sal Romano

Character Progression

As with many of Final Fantasy XIII’s elements, character progression, in the combative sense, was painfully linear. Whilst it quickly invited comparisons to Final Fantasy X’s sphere grid, the two are entirely dissimilar. And although the crystarium wasn’t short of branching pathways, they would ultimately force you to return to a central line of progression – again, a system that initially appeared to be flexible and conducive of choice quickly revealed itself to be entirely linear.

In contrast, Final Fantasy X’s Tidus could be a radically different combatant depending on the player’s manipulation of the sphere grid (unless both had completed the grid in its entirety). In Square’s latest iteration, though, two Lightning’s would be largely identical, with any variation dependent on how far a character is on their respective paths. Square’s reluctance to stray from a traditionally linear ‘level-up’ system, coupled with its obvious desire to be different and experimental, left character progression to feel arbitrary and dissatisfying.

Adam Meadows

Difficulty

I really hope I wasn’t the only one who experienced this, but a better bulk of my battles against your standard enemy in Final Fantasy XIII were brick walls of either: 1) hard or 2) time-consumption. I would find myself in battle with an enemy for 8 minutes, using all of the proper techniques to hit its weak spots, only to finish that battle, walk ten feet down the hall, and find that same enemy blocking my path, ready to battle once again. After defeating him, there would be another fight against the same enemy before I’d finally reach a save point. As you could imagine, it got annoying.

A lot of the time, I’d find myself in the red zone, low on health, spamming cure spells, and rarely able to attack; my attacker’s current paradigm would be ineffective against the enemy. There should be far greater difficulty balance in XIII-2. I don’t want to sit in a battle for nearly ten minutes repeatedly hitting auto-attack until I finally down the enemy. I want to enjoy battles — enjoy them like I did in Final Fantasy VII, IX, and X.

Side-note: summons like Odin and Hecatoncheir barely scratched said enemies.

Sal Romano

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