Published: Aug 15, 2012 12:00:00 PM

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Some modern games have their auto-pilots set to: "cruise," a plush rug that's nice between your toes and looks good next to a Metacritic score of 86. Final Fantasy XIII-2, however, has its auto-pilot set to: "beautiful," or, at least, beautiful to somebody that has stared at the moon for too long. Whatever Final Fantasy XIII-2 was intending to make you "feel," it has failed, because nobody would try to mass-distribute a sugarcane-enema-simulation for the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 on purpose.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a child that has never dressed itself in the morning, and it still clings to its parent's pants at a cocktail party, staring upward, afraid of its own voice, and with good reason, it only knows a few super-loud words and phrases like, "Let's go!" and "We did it!" If you are a twelve year-old boy or a fifteen year-old girl, and you consider yourself to be a creative person, watching the first cinematic for Final Fantasy XIII-2 is like having your face thrown into a melted, super-heated McFlurry, full of crystallized cream and diced-up miniature Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Chunks, and you quickly realize you want to live there forever. Watching the second cinematic for Final Fantasy XIII-2 though is like reliving that final Halloween where you were still in it for the candy. Final Fantasy XIII-2 was designed by the middle-management at Square-Enix Complaints Department. Sometimes, when playing Final Fantasy XIII-2, you'll be loping along and suddenly say, "Hey, what the heck was that giant planetoid-monstrosity that just flew by?" and then a doll with bat-wings will explain the origin of life to you in a child's voice.

When asked, certain people will not be able to explain why they like to jog, even after a forty-minute run. The artistry of Final Fantasy XIII-2 was drawn by people that are not able to explain why they like to draw, even after sketching a motorcycle-dragon, or a gargantuan-dessert that is chewing on a crystal pillar that props up the world. For all of its colors, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is very binary, and "0" and "1" can only be rendered in so many shades until you realize that a washer-dryer set on sale at Sears is a more exciting weekend prospect than Final Fantasy XIII-2Final Fantasy XIII-2 is nap-time during a easy-going apocalypse. The gravity-power-slider-mechanism is set at minimum in Final Fantasy XIII-2, and it's a great simulation of the downhill-part of walking through the Guggenheim Museum while a fifth-grade girl on anti-depressants holds your hand. The fights you get into in Final Fantasy XIII-2 are flighty, frictionless space-walks out in the Horsehead Nebula, and they are about as engaging as a text message from one of your bros that reads: "k." There are silver numbers that splash out of monsters when you press "x" in Final Fantasy XIII-2, and those numbers signify parts of a bar that in turn signify the monsters' existence, so making silver numbers is good, but the gold numbers take off more BAR -- you should try to make the numbers turn gold.

Noel, Final Fantasy XIII-2's male lead, is a time-traveler, and he dresses like it, because his clothes are a mixture of Native American, Ancient Roman, Oakland California, Shibuya Tokyo, and Bohemian Parisian. He's into smiling, and emotion, and being responsible, reliable guy. A girl with a ponytail on the side of her head named Serah is Final Fantasy XIII-2's female lead, and she carries a bat-winged doll-bot that can change into a metallic-purple crossbow or a sword that looks too heavy for her. Both of them can jump thirty feet in the air and can time-travel. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a vase of collected spat-up wine that they have at northern California wine-tasting bars -- somebody might have thought part of it was good at some point, but nobody can find that person. If you stare at Final Fantasy XIII-2 long enough, the game becomes forgetful and it has to repeat itself, and then later its attention gets borrowed by time-traveling light-ribbons that are sentient but have limited emotional vocabularies. 

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is the opposite of Ernest Hemingway.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is nepotistic, and it deserves none of its self-importance, and it was grown from a clutch of spider-eggs that a fashion-designer injected with 500ml of Modred le Fay's blood, and all of that coalesces into a beautiful, exotic art project that makes it impossible to differentiate between left and right. At first, you look at it and think, "Whoa," but then you look at it for a little while longer, and you tilt the control-stick forward, and a cozy breeze unsticks your character from time, and you think, "So, tequila." Final Fantasy XIII-2 won't let you eat your pie until you finish a smoothie made from cake, Coke Zero, an Oreo 6-pack, Rolos, spinach, a coloring book, and your math homework. If Final Fantasy XIII-2 were a babysitter, it would let you watch R-rated movies, but it would make sure you wore a diaper first.

The story for Final Fantasy XIII-2 involves Serah trying to reach her sister, who is a woman named Lightning, that is stuck at the end of time, and there is time-travel, and it makes no sense because Serah and Noel want to change the past by alterting the future, because of a misconception about what defines a temporal paradox, and the story has the logic of an artist that wants to be unique by walking everywhere backwards, just, you know, for the sake of difference because it's better to be misunderstood that significant. Normaler time-travely stories change the futurey moments by changing the past or present parts -- Serah choses to time-travel so she can apologize to everybody she meets about her irresponsible boyfriend and maybe meet up with her sister in the hellish battlescape at the edge of reality's ocean where insects occupy a city crafted from unicorn bones.

Final Fantasy XIII-2's story focuses on a world where there's a beach bonfire in a discothèque every night, and everybody remembers their blocking perfectly.

There are animals at the zoo that look sad in their cages and you hate yourself for laughing at them, and Final Fantasy XIII-2 probably would be be better off if you rolled it up in a carpet and threw it off a bridge, and that wouldn't technically be murder, because Final Fantasy XIII-2 isn't a human or a zoo-animal, but you feel sad just looking at this slow-hopping kangaroo done up to go clubbing in Akihabara, her girlfriends telling her that she just needs to dance and get over her issues. Final Fantasy XIII-2 mixes metaphors, and it is scientifically-inaccurate. Final Fantasy XIII-2 has all the personality of a bookmark they give you when you buy a paperback at Barnes & Noble. Final Fantasy XIII-2 will not age gracefully, and no amount of numbers, big, small, or combined will save Final Fantasy XIII-2 from the ravages of time, and it will never experience glory, and it will always be breathing heavily, and even when it tries its hardest, it still has no rhythm or grace.

For a game about time-travel and stylish sword-bouncing, it's unfortunate that if you stopped playing Final Fantasy XIII-2, there is a zero percent chance that your future-self would suddenly materialize before you out of a chrono-rift and say, "I'm you from the future, and believe me, Final Fantasy XIII-2 will become your favorite thing in the world. Treasure every moment with it, because such emotions are fleeting!" It endures on its familiar, comforting title alone and without it, it becomes a series of interconnected Roman and Arabic numerals welded together with an over-budgeted market-research team directly-targeting your younger sister, hoping to find a place on her shelf as the go-to kaleidescope she takes down whenever the real world just isn't quite sugary enough -- when she's done, she'll put Final Fantasy XIII-2 right back where she got it from. God willing, she'll algoether forget about it soon.

-- Alex Crumb (originally published 8/15/12)
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