Final Fantasy XIII-2Final Fantasy XIII-2 is the direct sequel to XIII and the second of its trilogy/subseries. It was released a couple of years after the first, in December 2011 in Japan and January/February 2012 for the rest of the world - there was also a demo of Lake Bresha’s chapter 1 a few weeks before its worldwide release, which itself was pretty rad (rain effects!). Like its predecessor, you can play XIII-2 on PS3 or XBox 360, as well as Steam. It also happens to be my favourite of the three.
The game’s logo.
The set-up of XIII-2 dealt with many of the ‘criticisms’ that the original received, primarily by implementing a non-linear story that jumps back and forth through time (narratively speaking, there’s not much more non-linear you can get than time travel), complete with areas the player was capable of visiting multiple times. XIII-2 went beyond, as locales could be visited under the cloaking of different environmental effects - day, night, eclipses, rain, snow, fog - all kinds of seasons and weather, which made each visit fresh; and each era had different concerns and stories to tell. Whilst the game had an eventual outcome, once completed, Paradox Endings can be played out by the player for events that were a probability in the timeline. This use of ‘what if’ is pretty fun, and it’s just another avenue of time’s usage in the game.
The paradigm system returned from XIII, but with some fine-tuning. With Serah and Noel as the only party members, monsters were tameable to round it back up to three - unlike the player characters, monsters had one role that they specialised in, but three monsters could be used in a party set up to make more paradigms available in battle. Conveniently, Serah’s paradigm strengths were Noel’s weaknesses, and vice versa.
DLC was also introduced for XIII-2, due to its rise in popularity at the time. This meant outfits for Serah, Noel, and Mog, monsters to fight in the Coliseum staring foes from the franchise past and present, and DLC episodes - one for Sazh and one for Lightning. The Lightning one, Requiem of the Goddess, is an epilogue-crossed-ending and paves the way to Lightning Returns. It explains where Lightning is, what she’s been doing, and why Serah is the protagonist and Lightning isn’t… so, it should have been included in the game and not behind a paywall, right? Anyway, it’s the one I’d most recommend seeing before going from B to C.
Much like the first, XIII-2’s story begins in New Bodhum with Serah. Serah is the only one to remember the original ending of Final Fantasy XIII, as the rest of the cast believe Lightning to be dead and gone. Serah is, in fact, not wrong - Lightning is trapped in the realm of Valhalla, and though Serah has no proof to her gut feeling, Snow leaves to find his fianceé’s wayward sister. This leaves Serah alone until a meteorite strikes just outside the village - the first ripple and change to the timeline. Shortly after, a timegate is opened, which heralds the arrival of Noel, a young man from the end of time itself with a message for Serah: Lightning is alive, and together, they can find her.
But there is more to Serah’s journey than merely finding Lightning. The timeline is being ripped apart, and the world ends with the eventual fall of Cocoon, as all crystal pillars seldom survive forever and eventually break. Serah and Noel seek a way to prevent it - and when they cannot stop Cocoon’s ultimate fall, a way to save humanity and to give them a new world instead.
Unfortunately, the end of the world has other ideas when the Chaos breaks through, time stops, and Nova Chrysalia is born.