PS3A Writer’s GOTY: Final Fantasy XIII-2
As we rapidly approach the end of the current console generation, it should have come as no surprise that 2012 was a relatively quiet year in the world of videogames. Even so, we were still treated to tons of great titles including highly anticipated sequels such as Mass Effect 3 and Black Ops 2, new IPs like Kingdoms of Amalur and Sleeping Dogs, and let’s not forget the launch of the PlayStation Vita!
However, since the start of the year there has been only one contender that could ever hope to earn the title of my own personal game of the year: Final Fantasy XIII-2.
In 2010, I described Final Fantasy XIII as not only my favourite PS3 game of the year, but also one of my favourite games of all time. Back then the idea of a sequel was almost unthinkable, although the existence of Final Fantasy X-2 served to keep my hopes alive.
Sure enough, FFXIII-2 was officially announced in January 2011, so for the next year I greedily gobbled up any screenshots, gameplay footage or new information released by Square Enix. Despite being hugely encouraged by what I saw, I was still slightly worried that the sequel wouldn’t grab me as much as FFXIII did. Predictably, I needn’t have worried.
For me, the genius of Final Fantasy XIII-2 is that it changes just enough of the formula to make it feel new again while still retaining everything that was good about XIII. The amazing graphics, sound effects and music are all present and correct, but the linearity of the previous game has been replaced with truly open-world environments and optional objectives.
Simply put, Square Enix actually listened to their fans; they added side quests, minigames, greater character customisation, alternate costumes, monster collection, random encounters, conversations with NPCs and so, so much more.
However, there was one addition in particular that genuinely revolutionised the gameplay: time travel. Sure it’s a gaming cliché, but the ability to visit areas at different periods along the Historia Crux timeline was utterly fascinating, and allowed Square Enix to expand upon the Fabula Nova Crystallis mythology in ways that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible.
It’s admittedly a little disappointing that you only get to play as Lightning in the prologue, but Serah and Noel are still likeable enough characters in their own right, and are more than capable of carrying the story on their own. It’s true that Mog the moogle can get a little annoying, but I’m pretty sure all JRPGs have to include at least one irritating character by law.
Something that surely cannot be disputed however is the technological achievement of the game, which in my opinion isn’t recognised as much as it deserves to be. With virtually no install, FFXIII-2 somehow runs with zero slowdown, zero pop-in, and pretty much zero graphical glitches of any kind. I bet you can’t think of another game that can claim the same (well, apart from FFXIII!).
At the beginning of this article I wrote that FFXIII is one of my favourite games of all time, and now I’d also like to echo that sentiment for its sequel. To me, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is simply an amazing game and a textbook example of how to design a sequel.
Unlike the first game, FFXIII-2’s ending couldn’t have screamed ‘SEQUEL!’ any louder if it tried. Although the announcement of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII was the final straw for several long-time FF fans, I for one am dying to finally get my hands on it. There are definitely no prizes for guessing which title is likely to be my next game of the year.