I really have to say, I never got into the Pokemon games, but this is a really unique direction for the franchise to take it in. Instead of having some annoying rodent fighting the monsters, you can just beat the crap out of them yourself, shackle and enslave them, and then level them up. You can even do it with groups!
And, when you’re tired of them, you can feed them to another monster to level it up, which seems more honest about the dogfighting nature of this franchise.
Also, there’s some side thing about some Pokemon trainer named “Lightning”, but whatever. You can’t feed her to a monster, so it’s not that interesting.
As you may have guessed, now that I’m done trolling, I found something worth my sixty bucks in “Final Fantasy XIII-2″. A lot of things, actually. It’s just that none of them were the main quest. Or the combat.
If you hate menu based combat, you will hate this game. That said, the menu based combat is incredibly deep, offering a lot of strategic choices and options. It’s still irritating when the game violently jerks control away from you and plays itself for a few seconds, but at least you get a large amount of control most of the time, and if it didn’t feel like working an Excel spreadsheet, it might actually be fun.
Unfortunately, once you can anticipate attacks and have a workable strategy, combat stops being dull and instead becomes an unbearable, lengthy chore of repeating that strategy, capturing the monster and moving on. This game has given me a solid week of dreams where I’m working as a temp again, and my boss assigns me quests instead of tasks. It’s really that dull and unengaging to fight things.
It’d be something if the main quest was remotely compelling, but, as I don’t care about cardboard characters nattering about people I’m expected to know about who aren’t very interesting either, and the fate of a world that frankly could kind of use a massive flood or volcanoes or something to thin the herd of irritating people is the only thing really at stake, it combines to make you really want to not play the main quest. There’s just no suspense here, nothing at stake, and frankly, the more you hang out with the heroes, the more you really start rooting for the villain to just wipe all this out.
All of this in concentrated in the pure aural hate that is Chocolina, your weapons merchant, who could manage to out-annoy a party consisting of Slippy, Tingle, and Gex. If my victory means she and her hellspawn friends live, I’m joining the villain. Let’s destroy this world. It doesn’t deserve to live.
Fortunately, this game has plenty to occupy your time otherwise. Like monster-hunting, which unlike the main quest is actually insanely compelling and even addictive. Or the obligatory gambling. Or the huge pile of side quests. Or just poking around looking for stuff (like monsters). The sheer number of minigames and mechanics on display are kind of ridiculous.
Another point in its favor: the huge map. Even before you unlock different eras to explore, there’s a ton of places to go and things to do. It’s frustrating because with a better script and a better combat system, this would actually be a genuinely great game.
As it is, I suppose it’s a great example of its genre. If this is your kind of thing, you are absolutely going to love this game. But if it’s not your kind of thing, it’s not going to sell you on it.
Unless you like hunting monsters. Then do we ever have a game for you!
image courtesy Square Enix, with some revisions