Once again, I found myself sitting with a Final Fantasy XIII game and its corresponding strategy guide published by Prima Games and written by Piggyback Interactive. Considering how much I was disappointed with the last strategy guide, I was not looking forward to this one at all. Piggyback has redeemed itself to me as of late, but I was still wary when it came to Final Fantasy XIII-2. Piggyback, I owe you yet another apology. The Final Fantasy XIII-2 strategy guide is by far one of the best and most complete strategy guides I have ever come across.
The walkthroughs were broken up into two sections, one aptly called Walkthrough and the other Tour Guides. The Walkthrough section takes you only through the story of the game, so it’s of course, the shortest section in the entire book. The Tour Guides cover each time and location in far more depth and provide more information on the monsters found in the areas, treasures, fragments, and the paradox endings.
Normally this separation would really bother me, but in this instance, it really works. If the Walkthrough section contained everything in the Tour Guides, it would be incredibly overwhelming. The vast amount of information in the Tour Guides rarely coincides with anything in the main story, so this info would be distracting and a little irritating, especially when it comes to all of the fragments that you cannot get until after you complete the story. In this case, the meat of the game is definitely not in the main story; there are literally hundreds of other deviations you can take. In short, combining the two would hamper the efficiency of the guide and make everything more difficult to find when needed.
Also, since the two are separated, the Walkthrough portion takes great care to not assume that the player has done all of the sidequests in the Tour Guides when giving strategies. Since you will be incredibly more powerful by doing the sidequests, you can get through most of the story with Relentless Assault, a sentinel paradigm, and a healing paradigm. By assuming that you aren’t that powerful, the strategies are conservative but incredibly effective for low-level parties.
At the same time, the guide does tell you where Noel and Serah’s HP levels need to be in order to have a prayer in surviving as well as suggest what monsters you should add to your paradigm pack. The strategies work for low-level parties, but they won’t work miracles if you’ve been avoiding most battles. Not to mention, the guide rightly warns all players that low-level parties cannot make a single tactical mistake when following this strategy. This is a harsh truth that I discovered with the final bosses. Even though I was above their suggested minimums, it only took one slow paradigm shift to kill off my entire party.
A great majority of the collectibles–such as fragments, key items, and treasures–are in the Tour Guides, and this is great for seeing which fragments you need to fetch in that world. However, what if you need to know what enemies you should hunt down for particular Monster Materials? Or, which fragments will unlock certain fragment skills? I asked these exact questions, and it was at that point that I knew that being able to find these answers easily would make or break the guide. It passed.
The appendices answered every question I had about random collectibles throughout the game, the most important of them–to me–was a list of the fragment skills and how to unlock them. Most importantly, though, was that I was able to find these answers in a snap. All appendices are organized in a manner that just makes intuitive sense, and they are presented in a way that makes it easy to instantly see on a page what you are looking for. I honestly can’t remember a time when I was able to find collectible info so easily with a guide.
I do, however, have one teensy complaint. I really wish that the bestiary was organized alphabetically within the monster categories. It kind of made my search for finding where a particular monster was located a little difficult.
Piggyback has always placed a great emphasis on a very artistic design in their guides, oftentimes making it more like an artbook than a strategy guide. As a result, sometimes this artistic vision got in the way of effectively presenting the strategies. This time, they found the perfect balance between artistic and effective presentation. As shown in the image to the left, none of the artwork impedes on the strategies. And, the strategies themselves are set in a very recognizable fashion so they don’t get lost amongst text, screenshots, and artwork.
Piggyback also absolutely nailed the “bookmarks” for the sections. Looking again to the image on the left, you can see that there are colored bookmarks on the right side of the pages that indicate where you are in the book, where other major sections are, and where the mini-chapters within a particular section are. This is exactly why I was able to find everything I needed from the Tour Guides and the appendices so quickly. Many guides are adopting this practice, but I haven’t seen one do it this well. Guide publishers…take note of this. Here’s how you do it.
In the End
There isn’t much more I can say on this topic since I think I’ve gushed enough. The Final Fantasy XIII-2 strategy guide is practically perfect in every way. If you really want to learn how to squeeze every once of bang for your pennies spent on the game, this guide is the best way to help you uncover every fragment, see every paradox ending, and of course, earn every Trophy/Achievement.