Final Fantasy is one of the most varied RPG franchises so let's take a look back at 2 entries in the series and see which one prevails.
Debuting almost a decade ago, Final Fantasy XIII blew me away when it first released. Sure, I was disappointed by its linear campaign but its story, characters, and battle system are fantastic. Although many won't agree, I find Lightning to be a great protagonist who comes across as cold yet you eventually realise that she's strict with those close to her because she wants everyone to succeed. When Final Fantasy XIII-2 released a couple of years later, it took a while to grow on me but once it did, I was hooked. In fact, I ended up getting the platinum trophy in both games as well as Lightning Returns which released a couple years later. Considering my introduction to the franchise was the original NES Final Fantasy back in the early '90s, it's impressive how much the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy has won me over. So, even though this is a Versus piece, I highly recommend ignoring the critics and playing both of these memorable RPGs.
Warning: there will be heavy spoilers in this section. Final Fantasy XIII tells the tale of 2 worlds: a floating moon-like sphere named Cocoon and a massive planet underneath known as Pulse. The people who live on Cocoon are told by their government that Pulse is uninhabitable but is that just a ruse? Meanwhile, mechanical gods called fal'Cie control both worlds and they can brand people as l'Cie thus giving them a goal (or Focus) to achieve and if they don't, they turn into a monster known as a Cie'th.
The plot begins with Lightning, Sazh, and Snow rescuing Lightning's sister Serah among other folks from being exiled. Serah came in contact with a Pulse fal'Cie which resulted in her becoming a l'Cie. They then meet Hope and Vanille as they watch Serah turn to crystal in front of a fal'Cie then they all become l'Cie as well. There's some drama that follows the party throughout the plot and they meet a warrior named Fang. They ultimately learn that the fal'Cie want them to destroy a fal'Cie known as Orphan which will make Cocoon crash into Pulse and summon the Maker. Finally, they kill Orphan then Vanille and Fang erect a crystal pillar which holds Cocoon at a safe distance from Pulse. This ending reminded me a great deal of Final Fantasy VII's conclusion and it's also bittersweet because Vanille and Fang sacrificed themselves yet the worlds were saved from destruction. Oh, and Lightning reunited with Serah, of course.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 focuses on alternate timelines that you can explore via the Historia Crux. Jumping around locations in different time periods may be confusing to some but I found it absolutely captivating. Anyway, Final Fantasy XIII-2 has you play as Serah who meets a man named Noel when monsters attack her town. Considering he knows Lightning, the 2 travel in the hopes of finding her and they end up fixing time paradoxes only to meet Caius; a man that Noel knows from the future. Caius is revealed to be the immortal guardian of the seeress Yeul who keeps dying and being reborn. Caius goes insane after watching her die countless times so he plans on ending all of time by releasing the Chaos that the goddess Etro is trying to keep safe. Serah and Noel then defeat Caius which kills Etro as Caius has her heart and Serah perishes, too, because of the drastically changed future. Finally, Chaos is unleashed; to be continued...
Final Fantasy XIII has a self-contained story and it's full of great characters, memorable scenes, and a fantastic premise. Meanwhile, Final Fantasy XIII-2's ending made me incredibly frustrated when I first finished it yet it also blew my mind with the sudden dark turn right at the end. Also, Final Fantasy XIII has a rather weak antagonist while Caius in Final Fantasy XIII-2 is one of the best villains in the entire series. Wow, this one is very tough to decide but I can't deny that Final Fantasy XIII set up the world of Gran Pulse and its key characters in a masterful way so I have to give it the win here although Final Fantasy XIII-2's Caius definitely makes its story come close.
Final Fantasy XIII set itself apart from past entries by introducing the Paradigm battle system. This basically involves setting up job classes for your party members in sets then switching to those Paradigms mid-battle. I find this system to be amazing as that's basically what you do in past Final Fantasy games yet it's perfectly streamlined here. In other words, when you play the older Final Fantasy games, you may think "Okay, let's get everyone healing each other" or "Time to do an all-out attack". In Final Fantasy XIII, you basically shift to the appropriate Paradigm then issue the odd command to keep things going. There's nothing more satisfying than beating on an enemy until you Stagger it then watch its health meter drain as the damage multiplier climbs. Final Fantasy XIII-2 has an even more streamlined system yet it allows you to recruit and level up monsters which is just awesome. As a result, Final Fantasy XIII-2 wins here.
Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII-2 feature some of the best soundtracks in the entire series. Masashi Hamauzu did a phenomenal job composing Final Fantasy XIII's music and his established themes would continue in Final Fantasy XIII-2 with composers Naoshi Mizuta and Mitsuto Suzuki joining him. Both games include a wide variety of genres including moving piano pieces, inspiring orchestral movements, energetic electronic tunes, and even heavy metal. However, Final Fantasy XIII-2 went above and beyond with tunes that mess around with musical formulas by changing time signatures and tempo mid-song which ties in with the theme of altering timelines. Also, the fact that the music seamlessly changes whenever monsters emerge is nothing short of brilliant. It's so awesome that I even felt compelled to make a DJ mix of my favourite tracks from the OST. Although I love both soundtracks, Final Fantasy XIII-2's is definitely superior.Final Fantasy XIII-2 OST DJ Mix
I could go on all day about these fantastic Final Fantasy games but it's time to choose a winner. This is a tough one but I have to pick...
Winner Final Fantasy XIII-2
Final Fantasy XIII established an unforgettable world along with a wonderful cast of characters and a cleverly designed battle system. That being said, Final Fantasy XIII-2 went above and beyond by featuring a monster recruiting element, a jaw-dropping soundtrack, and one of the greatest video game villains ever. Its ending may leave players disheartened as opposed to Final Fantasy XIII's tale which wraps up nicely but sometimes, tragic endings are more memorable and thought-provoking. Even though I enjoy Final Fantasy XIII-2 more, I recommend playing through the whole trilogy. It holds up beautifully.
That's just my opinion. Agree? Disagree? Vote now!