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FANTASY FALLS FLAT.

FINAL FANTASY XIII-2 PS3, XBOX 360 FINAL Fantasy XIII was, to put it mildly, a bit of a disappointment. Fans of Japanese role playing games (or JRPGs as they are known) had waited patiently for a next-gen epic that would hopefully reach the heady heights of Final Fantasy VII, all in glorious HD.

What they got instead was an extremely linear game with none of the series' signature towns or exploration that, while gorgeous to look at, told a slow, clunky story delivered with ageing game mechanics.

This standalone sequel Final Fantasy XIII-2 looks to address many of its predecessor's failings. And in many cases it succeeds.

Set three years after Final Fantasy XIII, it introduces new character Noel Kreiss as he helps search for Lightning, the missing hero who saved the world of Cocoon in the first game, introducing a handful of significant gameplay updates.

Perhaps the most often complained-about issue with the first game was the lack of freedom, branching storylines and towns full of non-player characters (NCPs) to explore.

This is not only rectified with plenty of explorable areas and side quests to partake in, but dialled up with the inclusion of time travel.

Areas of the game can be visited across centuries, and your actions will affect proceedings in other eras.

It's like Back to the Future with doe-eyed manga kids.

Much was made in the run-up to the release of the "Cinematic Action" enhancements to combat. But with combat still a stat-crunching turn-based affair, this is merely the introduction of flashy-but-shallow button mashing events mid-bout, which offer bonuses if pulled off successfully.

Recruiting monsters is where the real variation in combat lies.

Taking its cue from the likes of Pokemon, you can have all manner of ludicrous beasts fight at your side, each customisable and bringing a significant layer of depth to battles.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a marked improvement over its predecessor, and does bring to mind some of the series' best moments over the course of a very long adventure.

However, too much of the gameplay still seems archaic, almost for the sake of sticking with genre conventions.

There's still the opportunity for a great Final Fantasy game to rear its head once more.

Final Fantasy XIII-2, though, will have to make do with being "good".

merely "good".

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 3, 2012
Words:414
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