Not all levels are specifically tied to the storyline either, meaning we spent plenty of time diving into sidequests
(a feature missing from FFXIII), talking to NPCs (also missing) and purchasing loot from eccentric merchant Chocolina (yup, missing). They may seem like small touches, but these features make FFXIII-2 feel more alive than FFXIII's shiny, empty corridors.
Better still, the new protagonist actually feels like a proper enemy - something absent in recent series entries. FFXIII's baddie - crazy priest god Barthandelous - was a wishy-washy waste of pixellated space. His rare appearances meant he lacked any sort of presence or threat.
Purple-haired Caius, however, oozes menace. His self-infatuated sneer is the first thing you encounter upon beginning FFXIII-2's adventure, as he engages in all-out war against Lightning. It's a relief to encounter a bad-ass warrior, especially one with such a proficiency in swords and spells - when we squared up against him later there was a genuine feeling we were in over our heads.
If there is one oddity, it comes with the new Live Trigger system. Occasionally, context-sensitive dialogues pop up, allowing you to choose how to steer the conversation. While the outcome of some of these debates will change the storyline (for instance, you can choose to take on gigantic boss Atlus as soon as you meet him, or opt to search nearby ruins for a switch that'll bring down his shields), the vast majority has no impact whatsoever.
So what's the point? "The Live Trigger system is more for instant fun," says Toriyama. "So you can enjoy how characters react to what you say. Some exchanges can be quite comical."
Okay, it's nice to see that FFXIII-2 has a sense of humour, but it would have been preferable if our answers actually drove the storyline. Regardless, it's great to see that Square Enix really has listened to the (largely negative) feedback, and acted by incorporating essential fixes.
Ones that have brought FFXIII-2 back to what it should be - a gorgeous world that promises exploration and adventure. Welcome home, Final Fantasy. We missed you.
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