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The collectors edition of this game is excellent for the money considering what you get. there is a holograhic print of the lightning character, a soundtrack of all the best music which is brilliant, several postcards of the main characters, a book of developers art which is fantastic, and the game. also most places give you a pre order bonus pack, in a lovely steel tin with lightning on the front another picture of lightning inside, and some downloadable extras plus a story book to fill the gap between 13 and 13-2.
Firstly you dont need to have played 13 to understand 13-2. Sure, all the characters will be new, but everything is explained cleverly in 13-2. the opening cutscenes in true final fantasy style are epic movie like sequences with a few button bashing points in the middle called cinematic action sequences.
There is only one game mode as it were, the single player RPG. you play as Serah or Noel on their quest to find Lightning ( Serahs Sister) who disappeared shortly after Serah was reunited with her after being frozen in crystal. Noel for some reason appears in Serahs time from his time which is the end of days. He is Serahs sidekick basically. you can change at anytime between the two as your party leader (the one you control directly) and the other just follows.
When a battle starts you see the monsters flare up and you are given a menu. Instead of pressing buttons for specific attacks, you stock a set of battle commands that are then unleashed in one go. This makes for visually stunning battles more than anything and also means the controls are not fiddly and overworked?
Each character has several roles. they can be trained up in these roles to give them exceptional characteristics in certain areas. EG, training Serah in the Ravager Role gives her exceptional magical attacks. Training Noel in the Sentinel role with make his defensvie stats super high. Training characters in multiple roles means you can access paradigms shifts. these are when you switch between a characters roles in battle to help you. e.g. you switch Serah from ravager to medic because her health is low.
In 13, you had up to 6 people in your party. in 13-2 you only have Serah and Noel. However you can recruit monsters that you defeat to fight alongside you. Monsters have one role assigned to them and they are supreme in this area. For example the Flanitor is a good medic. He heals your party.
The roles and abilities bit sounds complicsted at first but its easy to master. just difficult to explain.
Being able to change monsters whenever you like means if you get bored, you can start again. this is an excellent feature.
the progression through the game is simple. You enter an area from the 'Historia Crux' through a gate. you proceed through the level fighting monsters and doing missions until you find a gate and an artefact (the key to unlock gates) to go back to the historia crux where the next level will magically be unlocked.
when you unlock more levels and are able to freely select them form the historia crux the way you complete the game changes. coupled with live triggers (decisions you make on screen affecting the story outcome) there are multiple endings to the game.
when you do reach the main ending however, the only thing there is to do is to replay certain levels until you manage to find all the alternate endings. thats a downside, and ubsequently, i've stopped playing 13-2 for a bit only a week after i got it. It only took me a week, becaus efor some reaosn, even on hard difficulty the game is very easy, unless im doing something wrong. especially if you played 13.
Overall, this is excellent game sadly with a short lifespan. Right from the off, the fantastic HD cutscenes that are more movie like than game like will captivate you. They are fantastically drawn and the cinemtaic action sequences keep you awake during them. Some are quite long! also, stocking the battle commands, healing, watching what your enemies are doing and switching paradigms and monsters make the battles fast paced, exciting and a pleasure to watch. Especially when you learn massive sweeping thunder and ice attacks :)