Originally posted on tumblr March 1, 2012.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is an enjoyable game. It has problems and is far from perfect. But it managed to offer a compelling experience that I frankly hadn't had on my Playstation 3 for quite a few months. Perhaps that speaks more to my own tastes than anything else, but I think anyone who saw some potential in XIII owes themselves a play of XIII-2.
I'm sure it price will drop soon enough.
Being a sequel in the Final Fantasy series puts the game in a unique situation. Now, this isn't the first Final Fantasy sequel (and I doubt it'll be the last). But instead of the drastic change from X to X-2, XIII-2 is more of a subtle refining.
X-2 was a mixed bag. It continued the story of X directly but with a dash of Koda Kumi and some questionable dress-up, the game is generally disliked. (Surprise: I really like it.) The only thing most people seem to agree on is that the battle system is quite enjoyable.
The battle system in XIII is, spiritually, the continuation of X-2. XIII-2 doesn't go a completely different route but managed to add one thing that really changed the game play: blood damage.
Blood damage is essentially damage to the character's maximum HP. It then, obviously, prevents the player from healing their characters' HP above the new, lower, maximum value. Normal damage is shown on the life bars in red. Blood damage is clear. This works well to instantly inform the player how low their new maximum HP values have become.
The twist is that unlike most status effects, blood damage does not go away after character death. Reviving them leaves them with the piddly maximum HP the blood damage gave them. (It should be noted that it does go away after battle like every other status effect in FFXIII.)
Counteracting blood damage is easy enough. Use a Blood Potion. They are readily available at Chocolina's shops. However at 600 gil apiece they are quite the premium compared to normal potions.
And cash does not flow freely in XIII-2 as it does in many other Final Fantasy games.
First showing up in a boss battle and slowly making its way to the lower ranking enemies blood damage raises questions. Use the blood potion or just try to finish the battle at a disadvantage? And since item use is not and cannot be automated, it is something else to keep an eye on.
Going down the menu and selecting the right item hardly seems like an arduous task, but the situation it puts you in makes time of the essence. Restoring the characters' maximum HP does nothing to the current HP so all of this must be considered while the enemies are still piling on their attacks.
Blood damage gives the already tense fights of FFXIII another layer to consider in XIII-2. Simple, but effective in raising my enjoyment of the game.