Final Fantasy XIII-2 challenge day thirty
Your overall thoughts on XIII-2 as a sequel: I really like XIII-2 as a game. As I’ve said before, the improvements Square made to the gameplay, the permanently unlocked crystarium and the variety of sidequests, among other improvements, really made this game for me. As a sequel… hm. I’m torn on how to answer this because XIII-2 did not feel that connected to XIII. It was set in the same universe and they made brief mention of l’Cie and Cie’th, but that’s all I really caught as I played the game through. On the other hand, a sequel cannot completely follow its predecessor, and I feel as if this was Square’s intent. They wanted to improve on the aspects of XIII that were criticized, and they most definitely did. The story they provided was enjoyable to play and get immersed in for sure. They even picked new protagonists… and I think everyone knows how I love them to death. So, final thoughts: it was an excellent game, and a very good sequel.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 challenge day twenty-nine
Your thoughts on the canon ending: My initial thoughts were something like, “Oh, they’re going to be so happy. New World is playing and the sky is so pretty and Hope is lifting Bhunzjljfi into the sky. Wait, WHAT— OH MY— WHAT. NO. NO. THIS IS BALLS!”
If I were to be perfectly honest, I do still kind of feel this way, just mellowed out. Square set it up so nicely for a happy ending. When Noel and Serah were running into the gate I had this warm, fuzzy feeling. Then, of course, the plot twisted (darn you, Caius Ballad) and now we’ve got a dead Serah and a hugely guilty-feeling Noel. I feel so terrible for Noel. He’s seen so many people close to him die. He wasn’t even the one who stabbed Caius (at least the way I played it) - Caius stabbed himself using Noel’s sword, killing Etro himself. Serah dying felt like such an awful waste.
The ending is very, very open-ended, which has me feeling some frustration. The pessimist in me is saying that we’re not getting another game in the XIII universe and that that universe is basically doomed without the passage of time. Noel’s full name even means “circle birth”, which looks ominous to me. All I can do is hope for answers from Square via another game, be it a sequel or another game in the Fabula Nova Crystallis series.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 challenge day twenty-eight
Was XIII-2 what you expected?: Nope! I mean, I read some reviews so I wasn’t going into it completely blind. What I wasn’t expecting was to like it quite so much. The gameplay is smooth, thanks to a few minor improvements Square made (no more close-ups for the paradigm shifts, ability to change out leaders). The story was a surprise for sure, since I was adamant about not spoiling anything for myself. Though I know to expect super multi-layered stories from Square by now, I guess I was just impressed at how much they changed the XIII universe.
I was also not expecting to write so much fanfiction for Noerah. Oh, who am I kidding? I loved them from the start.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 challenge day twenty-seven
(So, so long because I missed three days and also because I love Serah.)
Your thoughts on Serah’s development in XIII-2: Serah’s development was subtle, awesome and honestly, surprising. When Square named Serah as protagonist of XIII-2 I was baffled at their choice - why not Lightning? I was surprised that they would pass over a character that obviously resonated with the fanbase in favour of a character that had been an NPC. I think that this was a smart choice on Square’s choice in the end though, and the addition of another new character to your party - Noel - just really hit the message home: this is a different game. But that’s getting into tangential territory.
Serah’s development was subtle and slow, I feel. Slow is not bad though, not at all. If she developed too fast as a character I would not have believed it. Her first big step was, obviously, believing Noel about his being from the future and choosing to travel the timeline with him in order to find Lightning. She stopped waiting for Snow to come back, finally put some faith in herself and her abilities, and went to go look for her long-missing sister. I think the next phase in her growth was during her time in the Sunleth Waterscape with Snow. I have it in my head that Snow treated her like she didn’t know how to handle herself, and when she fought in front of him, she cemented it for herself - that she was a capable fighter, and that she was genuinely growing. That pushed her toward the resolution to turn it around and save him. The next big step was when Yeul died in Academia, and Serah realized that her and Noel’s actions were causing Yeul’s deaths. Seeing Noel in such pain over Yeul’s death probably had an impact on her, too, just really hit it home that she couldn’t simply do what she wanted without severe reprecussions. But then came the time in the Augusta Tower, and realizing that if she didn’t do something, Hope and Alyssa could die. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, indeed. But she pulled through, and the future rewarded them with a thriving Academia!
The next part of the story had Serah’s resolve seriously set in. I believe she reached the height of her development here. When she rejected the fake Lightning, that was the moment she really, really came into her own. No amount of pretending, no amount of running, no amount of sitting and waiting was going to replace a real future, one that she had fought for, protected, and shaped with her own actions. And then she went and proved herself even more by going into Noel’s dream and waking him up! She acknowledged Noel’s role in her growth - “Lightning, I’ve come a long way, and it’s all thanks to Noel. That’s why, when I reach Valhalla, I want him with me.” She went into his dream not only out of a need for a good fighting partner for the rest of the way, but because she recognized his contribution to her growth, and that it was simply right to have him by her side when she finally saw Lightning again. To see that she hadn’t done it all on her own - that strikes me as very mature. AND THEN she resolved to keep on fighting in spite of the very real possibility that she could die, indirectly of her own doing! If that’s not resolve, I don’t know what is.
Serah is simply amazing.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 challenge day twenty-six
Your favourite side-plot/quest: The miniflan one, all the way. Serah beseechingly asking Noel to be a “monster finder”, Noel’s semi-quick acceptance, Serah yelling at the miniflan and Noel’s closing remarks about Meanie Miss Farron… seriously heart-warming and hilarious.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 challenge day twenty-five
Your opinion on the Rift puzzles: I didn’t mind them, EXCEPT for the occasional hands of time rifts. I didn’t mind them when they didn’t run on a clock because I could just sit there and divine a solution. When they were timed though - ugh. I swear I wasted twenty minutes on one. I actually got as close as I could without setting the timer off, plotted out the clock face on a piece of paper, and went to town on it with coloured pencils. That’s how bad it got. Curse you, timed hands of time rift puzzles!
Final Fantasy XIII-2 challenge day twenty-four
Your thoughts on Mog and the Moogle Throw ability: I like Mog! At first I thought he was going to be a generic cute moogle companion (which I would have been fine with, to be honest), but they gave him an actual personality and a backstory! His personality is a riot (“No one needs ten years worth of toilet paper!”, “You’re going to be the first one to get a taste of my poison flan, Noel!”) and the way he fell into Light’s/ Serah’s hands makes me sigh a huge “aww”. Yeah, he’s a cutie.
The Moogle Throw ability is cool. I think it added to the game for sure, and I’m still finding stuff I didn’t know existed during my playthrough. Mog sounds so tortured when you throw him, which makes me simultaneously snicker and feel sorry for him. The fragment skill that makes Mog return faster I like, too.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 challenge day twenty-three
Your opinion on DLC releases: I can’t judge them properly since I don’t have any of them (yet)! I’m excited that I’ll be able to have Lightning/ Sazh/ Jihl (to some extent) in my party as a result of them, though. The DLC costumes are cool, though I can’t really see myself spending money on them. I love their original designs so much already!
Final Fantasy XIII-2 challenge day twenty-two
Your thoughts on Serendipity and the inclusion of chocobo racing and slot machines: I don’t mind Serendipity, but I’m not that fond of it either. The only trips I make there are for fragments or achievements, and I’m still missing the Serendipitous achievement, so that goes to show just how little I race/ play the slots. I do like equipping my chocobos with different adornments and telling them they’ll be late for school/ a black tie event/ their paper route as they’re running. I don’t think I’m mature enough to be fake gambling.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 challenge day twenty-one
Your thoughts on the involvement of secondary characters (Hope, Sazh, Fang and Vanille etc.): Wow, this is going to be long.
Hope: I have written way too much about Hope for this challenge already. Suffice to say that I’m proud of what he has achieved and how he’s grown up to be such a p-i-m-p. His involvement is 100% necessary to the story, and he’s definitely one of the more prominent secondary characters.
Sazh: I haven’t checked out the DLC, so I can only base this on what I’ve seen of him so far. I feel like he could’ve been involved more. The only times you see him are as an apparition in the Vile Peaks and then at the end as a pilot employed by Hope. It’s cool that he’s piloting the ship that catches Serah and Noel, but beyond that he doesn’t contribute much, and it’s sad.
Fang: Girl is as kickass as ever, and I’m glad we got to see her, however brief it was. I love that she helped Serah leave her dream world!
Vanille: I love that Vanille also helped Serah to leave her dream world. It’s nice that Serah got to see Vanille again, and that this time Vanille was actually able to dispense some helpful advice (versus the useless “face it later” in XIII). The paradox ending involving Vanille I was sad about, but it was nice in its own way… I guess it was cool that she featured again, given her huge role in XIII.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 challenge day twenty
Your favourite Live Trigger: I’m sure there’s a better one out there that I can’t remember at this moment, but I really enjoyed asking Yuj if he’d like to try Serah’s new clothes on. Yuj is such a pretty, pretty princess. Oh! I also enjoyed yelling at Hope in Augusta Tower. Serah losing her temper is hilarious. Plus that was followed by one of Noel’s many famous sex poses/ faces, and those are just gold.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 challenge day nineteen
Your thoughts on Live Triggers and Cinematic Actions: They’re a nice addition! I did mess up on the Zenobia cinematic action though (which is embarassing) so I had to play through the whole start of Academia 400 AF to get the cinematic action-related achievement… it was annoying dealing with all those Cieth again, to say the least. And the live triggers I enjoy! Sometimes the answers are just hilarious (Serah will never live that “cat is my only family” thing down), and as I’ve mentioned before, I always answer with the intention of making Noel and Serah fall in love with each other. Muahaha?
Final Fantasy XIII-2 challenge day eighteen
Your thoughts on the dynamics between Noel, Yeul and Caius: (This answer is more spoiler-y than my usual, so watch out!) I like their dynamic, or what there is that we’ve been shown. I wish we got to see more, actually. Noel’s dream was one of the most memorable parts of the story for me because we finally got to see what it was like for him in A Dying World, and just who Caius and Yeul were before all the heavy paradox matters came to light. Even more was revealed about them at the very end during the conversations between Noel and Caius, and I found what they said to each other very compelling. It’s clear that both Noel and Caius care about Yeul very much. I’m of the opinion that Caius cared about Yeul too much - he went too far in his quest to make her happy, deluding himself into believing that “freeing” her from her seeress destiny would make her happy, and that the only way to achieve that would be to destroy the timeline. I think that the bond between Caius and Yeul was extremely strong just because of all the time they had to forge the bond, and because of the nature of their bond, of course. But then Noel came into the picture, and he cared about Yeul, too, but he knew his place. The duty of Guardian hanging over his head, and the fact that he was born at the end of days meant that he would take his job very seriously - life is too precious to Noel. I think he saw just how connected Caius and Yeul were, right from the start. I think he scared Caius in a way, just for his ability to see what others couldn’t - that Yeul wanted to come back to see Caius. That she almost, kind of accepted this fate for him. But hey, I actually haven’t thought very much about this (despite the dissertation), so don’t take my word for it.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 challenge day seventeen
Your favourite relationship between two characters: I could throw a curveball and say “Caius and Yeul” or “Serah and Lightning”, which are both absolutely beautiful, but you know what my answer is.
Noel and Serah. Yeah, you knew it. It doesn’t matter to me if they’re together as friends or romantically, their relationship is just absolutely beautiful to me. They work well together. They help each other grow. They are powerful together. And you know what? They actually care about one another, and they just plain like and respect each other as people. As simple as all of that is, how rare is that to see? It’s that kind of bond that can weather any storm.
I’ve written a whole other mini-essay on them, so I’ll stop here. But seriously. Noel and Serah. Serah and Noel.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 challenge day sixteen
Your favourite character design/ outfit:
Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be. Thank you Tetsuya Nomura for Noel’s gorgeous face and thank you Yusuke Naora for Noel’s kickass outfit. I know some people find his pants ridiculous, and yeah, they’re certainly different, but I think he makes them work. (You could put him in a paper bag and he’d make it work.) With those arms and torso, he could make anything work. Everyone knows he’s got a killer pair of arms, but I must draw attention to his back. As I’ve said many times before, I could easily sit on his back as he does one-armed pushups and feeds me chocolate-covered strawberries with his free hand. Yeah, this level of gorgeous makes me entirely shameless. I also love that Noel is ambidexterous. I’ve always really wanted to be ambidexterous myself. Delving a bit deeper (and looking at creation and development notes for Noel), I also really like how the creators contrasted him to other characters, namely Lightning and Snow. There’s the way he carries himself, his maturity, and that he has “a different type of chivalry from Snow” and that he’s “a brave young man burdened by a heavy destiny - a different type of protagonist to Lightning”. It all adds up to one awesome character!