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THE ENDGAME: Final Dungeons of the Final Fantasy Series Part XIV

by January 7, 2013 1 comment

Hello all, remember this? If you weren’t around before, I wrote a little series reviewing the final dungeons of each game in the main series. Basically it looked at the elements that made up each one, without consideration of the final boss or story attached to said dungeon. And now enough time has passed that spoilers shouldn’t be as huge a deal (but, obviously, they are present). So, we left off with FFXIII’s Orphan’s Cradle, which brings us to:

Final Fantasy XIII-2: Academia – 500AF

After traipsing around the timeline, Serah and Noel finally come to the point the whole game was foreshadowing. The day the old Cocoon will collapse and mankind will slowly die off. Due to their previous alterations to history, humanity has a plan to survive thanks to Hope. (I get it!) Unfortunately, Caius is going to screw with this to just set things back to the way they were before., Evidently he’s doing this for some combination of misguided chivalry and being just as confused with the time-mucking as we are.

Or maybe Nightmare just figured out who stole his sword.

So, like Spira, FFXIII’s world gets a second chance to impress. Orphan’s Cradle, honestly, was a pretty decent final dungeon, there just wasn’t a whole lot to look at. FFXIII-2’s is similar in a lot of ways. It still consists of platforms with variable orientations. There is less plot significance, I feel. This period in history, as I said, has been looming for much of the game, but the area seems rather pleasant, apart from all the floating Tetris pieces. The impending catastrophe is going to happen suddenly, so it makes sense, but it doesn’t feel like climbing the evil tower, plunging to the depths of the earth, going to Hell, taking on an eldritch horror that has tormented the land for a millenium, etc. You’re mostly just left to wonder why these blocks spawned from the “chaos of Valhalla” are so…orderly. Orphan’s Cradle truly didn’t feel like you were getting anywhere. Academia requires some backtracking, but you make obvious progress.

The background imagery is a little more interesting than it’s predecessor, and XIII-2’s addition of jumping allows for the obvious utilization of this dungeon format – platforming. I’ve seen people complain about the platforming, I didn’t really have much trouble, and the only penalty for falling is losing some time. There are some frustrating parts, like if there’s a gap you can’t see and just fall through it or a platform moves on you when you are right at the end of it. On the whole, though, I liked the exploratory element it added to it, something the game has in spades. (And if you have the Fragment skill that powers up your jumps, you’re golden.) Like the old days, there are alternate paths with treasure, and some are just dead ends, but they don’t send you back to the beginning or something like going the wrong way did in the Farplane in X-2. There’s a very slight puzzle element to it, and I liked that.

This dungeon is not easy. Due to XIII-2’s open nature, depending how much you’ve fought, how many Fragment Skills you’ve unlocked, what Pokémon monsters you’ve captured, the difficulty of the endgame can vary wildly. However, they seemed to err on the difficult side with this. A pack of Yeomans (chibi-versions of XIII’s futuristic enemies) can decimate you before you have time finish even one off. Summoner enemies also put you under a severe time crunch. There is no boss gauntlet, only a midpoint boss, but after that midpoint, you will encounter Proto-behemoths. And Square was just straight trollin’ with those things. If it stands up, you’re better off falling on your own sword.

Granted, Serah falling on her own sword seems like it would be more of a fluffy and pleasant experience than anything.

You often hear criticisms of the simplicity of the XIII-series’ combat system, but in my experience, just like Orphan’s Cradle, if you don’t exhibit mastery of the Paradigm Shift system, you will be absolutely trounced. Probably even moreso here, and XIII-2 eliminated the cheap Game Overs from a party leader dying.

Much like the story impact of the dungeon lacks the oomph it should, so does the music. The track that plays is Labyrinth of Chaos. It’s a fine song, and I would even go so far as to say that it fits the environment. But where’s the rousing crescendos? This is do or die time! Get me pumped! Especially with the difficulty of the encounters here. Or you could at least go the unsettling route like the Interdimensional Rift and Memoria. It’s a pretty average experience, emotionally. I do like the area’s battle music.

The rather involved endgame sequence is a bit more exciting, and you’ve arrived. Caius awaits, and he’s shown how powerful he is before, so prepare yourselves!

Or, y’know. Don’t. Whatever.

1 comment

  1. AvecAloes
    #1 AvecAloes 7 January, 2013, 23:17

    So glad you finally posted this!

    “…a very slight puzzle element” Very slight? Yeah, that definitely gave me a hard time. I will openly admit to having used the walkthrough to navigate my way through the puzzle aspect after getting very confused a few times.

    This area was also incredibly difficult for me to get through, battle-wise. I had spent the large majority of the game sailing through every battle I came across (even battles against Caius and whatnot), as I accidentally over leveled early on in the game, but all of a sudden my face met the ground as the Proto-behemoths absolutely ground me into the dirt. Quite the change of pace.

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