FINAL FANTASY XIII-2

RATING T for Teen

This sequel begins at the end of civilization, with Final Fantasy XIII heroine Lightning battling against a powerful, purple-haired enemy named Caius. Hoping to reverse this disastrous timeline, Lightning flings the last surviving human, Noel, back through time. He finds Lightning's sister, Serah, and they begin their mission to "save the future."

That entails traveling through time warps to a series of locations at different points during a 500-year span. There's a lush forest where a crystal tower precariously balances Cocoon, a city in the sky. There's an archaeological site where soldiers are fighting monsters from another dimension. There's a sprawling urban campus where scientists are trying to build another Cocoon.

At each stop, Noah and Serah have a number of ways to correct the timeline and save humanity. Eventually, the "map" of XIII-2 blossoms into a tangle of alternate realities, even as Caius and a mysterious girl named Yeul are hot on the protagonists' trail.

Nonetheless, we found XIII-2 more absorbing than its predecessor, in part because we've gotten used to its "paradigm"-based combat. Instead of controlling all three characters in your party, you control just one, though you can switch the paradigms used by the other two so they concentrate on physical attacks, magic or defense. Boss battles force you to constantly adjust your paradigms, so while the fights are fast-paced, they require strategy.

PLOT Time-traveling fantasy

DETAILS Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $60

BOTTOM LINE Back on track

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