Final Fantasy XIII-2 ‘cinematic’ but ‘repetitive’ aanbu‘repetitive’

Final Fantasy XIII-2 ‘cinematic’ but ‘repetitive’ aanbu‘repetitive’

Have you ever heard of the “Color ‘Red’ Conundrum?” Basically, picture two people looking at the same fire-truck, which they both agree is painted the color red. However, neither can accurately describe what what “red” looks like without talking about other red things they’ve seen in the past. Thus, the question is begged: When those two people look at the fire truck, are they seeing the same color red?
Is anyone?
This thought exercise forces people to recognize the absurdity of consensus perspective. We’re taught from birth certain truths: That circle is round, that surface is smooth, that truck is red. But what is “smooth;” what is “red?” They’re pointless questions in the long run, but necessary for an individual’s tolerance and understanding of the strange. Once you accept nothing is objective and everything is absurd, it makes the affirmation of the foreign much easier.
All of this is a very roundabout way of saying: Final Fantasy XIII-2 is one weird ass game, but a lot of people seem to like it for some reason.
It probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a very Japanese game. Specifically, the story is incomprehensibly complex, the characters act and speak in no way any regular human would, and the combat system is divorced from the rest of the game world, where you prance about looking at impressively rendered skyboxes.
If the story wasn’t baffling enough for simply being Japanese, it’s also about time travel. You play Serah, a girl whose sister, “Lightning,” is lost in time. Along with her platonic friend Noel, Serah must scour the time-stream and bring her sister home.
That’s probably the most coherent bit of plot you’re going to get out of Final Fantasy XIII-2. The rest of the game is filled with “poignant” soliloquies about the nature of existence, life, and choice. The world, it’s characters, and their struggles are so alien and ridiculous, they’re unidentifiable to the player.
So what’s the appeal? Why have their been around sixteen Final Fantasy games?
Maybe it’s the combat? Well, compared to the old, “everybody stand in a line and take turns hitting each other,” system of past iterations, Final Fantasy XIII-2’s combat is pretty fast and frantic.
Battles move so quickly, the game assumes you don’t have time to choose your exact commands and instead gives you a macro system to customize beforehand. Certain characters can be relegated to the task of healing, where others can be customized to more efficiently break the damage shield around more powerful monsters. All of these roles can be switched on the fly, depending on what the situation requires.
It’s pretty entertaining, for the first few times you do it. Then you get into more random battles, then another, then twenty more, over and over, and over again.
In The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive, author Brian Christian discusses high entropy vs. low entropy activities. One of the functions of a computer is compression; the act of making a large file smaller for means of presentation or transportation.  The computer’s degree of difficulty completing this task depends on the file’s entropy; specifically, how much can be removed without threatening its’ integrity. A file with low entropy would be fairly easy to compress, where one with high entropy would be comparatively difficult.
For example, a text file containing the complete works of Fyodor Dostoevsky would be high entropy, and quite large, where another such file containing nothing but random characters and words the same length as the Dostoevsky file would be still be much smaller in size, and considered low entropy. The more complex and systematic the content, the higher the entropy.
The high entropy vs. low entropy argument can be applied to many facets of life, and for our purposes, video games. Games where the range of activities are broad and constantly changing are high entropy, and games where you do the same thing over and over again, are low entropy. Final Fantasy XIII-2, specifically it’s gameplay, is a very low entropy.
Is Final Fantasy XIII-2 a bad entertainment experience? Certainly not, it’s visually gorgeous, cinematic and interactive in a way static media never usually attempts. But what about as a “game?” In that case, it’s probably going to be pretty bland, boring, and repetitive to an American audience.
But maybe we’re just seeing a different shade of red.