Though the cover of the game, the logo, opening cinematic sequences and a good chunk of the narration features Final Fantasy XIII’s main protagonist, Lightning (as voiced by Hollywood actress Ali Hillis), you will only play as her little sister Serah and her companion Noel throughout 99 percent of the game. As a matter of fact, only Serah seems to know that Lightning isn’t dead. Where Final Fantasy XIII offered a wide variety of characters through branching storylines, nearly all of Final Fantasy XIII-2 follows the story of Serah as she attempts to repay and save her sibling along with some assistance from Noel, the last of humankind, trying to save the world from its bleak future.
Instead of branching storylines, in Final Fantasy XIII-2, Serah must travel through alternate timelines to resolve “Paradoxes” that doom the world at every turn. Ironically, the plot itself is a bit paradoxical. Where the original game, Final Fantasy XIII set up a new mythology with a tight narrative of classical themes, through the vast variety of characters, there was plenty of opportunity for humor but, the story of Final Fantasy XIII-2 offers a much more cerebral theme and seems unable to consistently bear the maturity of that load. Oftentimes, Serah’s lines seem too naïve or oblivious to be believable and other humorous content is accidental and comes off as incongruous.
While the new plot is a mixed bag, the gameplay in Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a return to its RPG roots and is reason enough to make those on fence jump in. And why yes, you can jump in Final Fantasy XIII-2. Along with a couple of other JRPG titles on the PlayStation 3, Final Fantasy XIII was widely panned as an interactive storybook due its severe linearity. Make no mistake, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is no open-world, sandbox type game like Skyrim or the latest of the Fallout series but, it does offer side quests and the ability to travel to unlocked areas at will. As a matter of fact, the game will force you to do some backtracking and if you desire, you can actually reset an area.