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jshunter

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4 reviews in total 
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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Close to being really good, 25 August 2012
6/10

I'm going to assume you already know that Final Fantasy XIII Part 2 is an RPG, and have some familiarity with the series. If not, please Wiki it, as it's too much to cover in a review. So how does this latest installment stack up? Short answer: fun, but flawed.

A common criticism of FF-XIII-2's predecessor was that it was too linear. This game has gone overboard in the opposite direction; you not only have the choice of different large and labyrinthine locations, but also different time periods and even alternate time lines.

Unfortunately my joy of exploring these vast realms was thwarted by the frustration of having to find artifacts to unlock gates to get to new areas and advance the story. To make matters worse, some of these artifacts were invisible, and in locations where I couldn't stumble upon them just through casual exploring; I had to throw one of my companions to retrieve them. I had no clue that one of these artifacts was in an area, or if I'd already picked it up, so I had to resort to ticking off items on a walk-through printout.

It would have been easy for the game to meet me halfway; at least have the map screen let me know that I wasn't wasting my time laboriously exploring every nook. And let me zoom in on the map a bit more, and make the icons easier to see. I'm playing this from the other side of my lounge, not within arm's reach of a computer monitor!

As a result of all my exploring, I also battled a lot of random monsters. This was fun for a while, but I quickly became far too munty. I like to push through to the boss monsters so I can have a decent fight and am forced to be strategically creative. However, because of all my grinding while just trying to find where to go next, my boss strategy was usually just "hit it with my sword until it dies."

One nice touch is that you can capture monsters and have them fight in your party, level them up, and even infuse them with other monsters. Unlike other games in the series, you can't Summon a heavy hitter when times are tough, but your monster teammates do have special Feral Link abilities which are extremely useful and will form part of your battle strategy.

The battle system is almost identical to its precursor. I like the frenetic semi real-time pace, but my wife (who enjoyed all the Final Fantasy games from 7 through to 12) dislikes it, finding it overwhelming. If you like your RPG's to be turn based, be warned.

Leveling up is usually one of the most fun parts of a good RPG, but your options here are extremely limited. It's an entirely linear progression, with your only choice being which of the six roles to develop. You have no choice about when to learn an ability. Compare this with the leveling system of FF-IX; "Should I learn the Fire spell, or an ability which will earn me more money, or build up my immunity to poison attacks?" You had an array of options, and it was fun to choose. No so in FF-XIII-2.

On the plus side, the graphics are sumptuous, and the music generally pleasing, although sometimes jarring: after the first serious battle in your home village, your fiends and neighbors lie wounded on the ground. Something somber seems in order -- so why is this carnage accompanied by a nightclub dance track?

The story itself is okay, but ends on a "To Be Continued..." There is DLC (Down-Loadable Content) available to pad the game out, which activates the battle arena and adds extra mini-games. Part of me grumbles that I didn't have to download Battle Square or the Gold Saucer in FF-VII, but that's the game world we live in now.

In conclusion I enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII-2, but it could have really done with a few simple tweaks to enhance the gaming experience.

Final Fantasy XII (2006) (VG)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Great Game, But Lacks Heart, 13 July 2007
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I can imagine the developers of FF-XII having this discussion before they started designing: "This is a fantasy game. What's made a lot of money in the fantasy genre lately? Lord of the Rings! Let's run with that. Our characters will speak with unnatural formality. Any exuberance, fun, or whimsy in a character will be replaced with restraint, stoicism and dry humour." The problem for me was that everyone was so... serious. The usual Final Fantasy archetypes were there, but they were all grown up, and frankly, not as interesting as their previous FF incarnations.

Young Hero: Vaan's brother was murdered. You think that would put a fire in his belly. More like mild heartburn. Romantic chemistry? Nah, more like amicable companionship. Desire to set the world to right? Nope, just following everyone else really. Even the aloof Cloud (FF-VII) and taciturn Squall (FF-VIII) got to develop their characters. It's like the real hero got sick and an NPC was drafted to replace him.

Heroine: nobody could say that Ashe doesn't take her regal responsibilities seriously. She makes the reserved and self-sacrificing Yuna (FF-X) look like a party-girl in comparison.

Cool Veteran: Okay, Balthier does cut a suave James Bond-like figure, and he had an interesting back story.

Femme Fatale: Fran is a confident, kick-ass woman, like Lulu (FF-X) or Edea (FF-VIII). She also looks like a playboy bunny, in terms of dress and ears. For a supporting character she's in danger of stealing the limelight.

Cute Kid: Penelo is just there to even up the gender balance and give Vann someone he knows to talk to. Eiko (FF-IX) was only six years old and had more personality and gumption.

Loyal Protector: Basch is steadfast and stoic, so he actually fits his role, like Kimahri (FF-X) or Steiner (FF-IX).

Weirdo: As if. There are occasional touches of zaniness, such as the head-falling-off Mandagora Bosses, but the main party has no place for a Cait Sith (FF-VII) or Quina (FF-IX) or Gau (FF-VI).

These characters had resolve, but they didn't have passion, which made it hard for me to care about their quest. The emotional engine wasn't firing on all cylinders. And without the incomparable Nobuo Uematsu composing the music (as he did for Final Fantasy 1 through 10) the game was missing a lot of heart.

That's not to say that it wasn't a lot of fun. Visually, it has a well-crafted and detailed 3-D environment (although my wife complained that the landscapes were too samey and not fantastic enough).

It has an innovative system of controlling a party via the Gambit system which can be described as "programming" actions for party members, which isn't as complicated as it sounds. The same Gambits will work for most fights, which certainly saves the mindless button mashing for minor encounters: you basically steer the party towards enemies and let them do the rest. However, for tougher fights you have to manually choose your actions and it is fun to tweak Gambit strategies depending on the situation; hit 'n' heal will only get you so far.

There is a large Ability list to play with, although some of the explanations are rather vague, and the manual is rather thin. "Horology does damage based on time" is an example. Time starting from when? What type of damage? Based on what stat? Even basics like what the Elemental Magic icons meant were missing (c.f. the comprehensive Help in FF-VIII).

In summary, it looks good, plays well, but really needed an infusion of personality in the main characters to be a real winner.

Laughed like a drain, 13 January 2003

When former WWF wrestling legend Mic Foley was young he and his college friends made a low-tech movie which involved over-the-top fight scenes and stunts (he leapt off a two-storey barn onto a pile of cardboard boxes). Back of the Y has this sort of feel; a bunch of stuntmen having a bit of a laugh, not really giving a sod about social niceties nor the mythical "little old lady in Ekatahuna" which TVNZ is so eager to avoid offending. Basically it's a grown-up version of schoolboys playfighting and often funny as hell

Final Fantasy IX (2000) (VG)
Beautifully crafted, 30 April 2002
9/10

Final Fantasy 9 is the last in the PlayStation RPG series, and a beautiful closing chapter it is. For the uninitiated, FF9 is not a sequel; the characters and setting are different from the previous FF games, and the battle/magic/ability system is also new. However, the FF "feel" remains. Spells are learnt differently, but they are still the same healing, helping, hindering and harming array of magic that FFphiles are familiar with. Monsters, weapons, chocobos and summoned creatures are also recognisable. In fact, it's almost a game in itself, spotting the references to previous FF games (all the way back to FF1 on the Nintendo)

The story is nothing new (unlikely group of heroes band together to save the world) but it works, and has the necessary motifs, themes, and plot twists to give the experience some depth. The characters have uniqueness which was missing in previous titles. In FF7, for example, the characters were practically the same in terms of abilities, which were literally interchangeable. In FF8 only their limit break attacks distinguished them. In FF9 they have distinct personalities and roles (cocky thief, uptight knight, gluttonous blue mage, etc) which leaves less room for customising but gives a stronger flavour and less administration.

Eye candy? Top marks. Ear candy? Excellent music and sound. Playability? Very nice; no more boring waiting for a Summon, no clicking everything as you walk to find secrets, and much less menu juggling. Square have come up with an elegant game devoid of the things which can make a great game annoying. Even the opening credits are quietly integrated into an impressive movie opening which immediately sets an epic tone.

I probably sound like I should be on the payroll of the FF9 marketing division, but the game really is that good. It may lack the fun coarseness of FF7, and the ending may be not have the camaraderie and closure of FF8, but it is a gem nonetheless.