The Final Fantasy XIII saga is, in large part, regarded as the black sheep of the franchise. Yes, Final Fantasy XIII was a bit over pretentious, but the battle system was stellar and the story was touching. It was overly linear though and lacked any kind of puzzles. Thankfully, Final Fantasy XIII-2 fixed that. The story itself is completely non-linear, rife with exploration, and includes an element of time travel not found anywhere in the series. While it is a “side game” in the franchise, it still manages to capture the magic of the mainline Final Fantasy titles. It is leagues above Final Fantasy XIII. In many ways, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is the game that Final Fantasy XIII should have been. Final Fantasy XIII-2 has the best story of any Final Fantasy game. Its non-linear structure is an asset and its characters are some of the best in the series. Serah starts out as a somewhat weak, passive young woman, but goes on a personal journey to find her inner strength. She knows her ultimate fate yet keeps fighting regardless. Yes, some of the SNES Final Fantasy games are fantastic, X is probably the second-best in the series. XIII-2 is magical though. The villain is one for the ages, Noel is a great contrast to Serah, and while Lightning isn’t front and center, her presence is ever lingering. The puzzles ins Final Fantasy XIII-2 are the best in the series and adds a new element to the series. The combat is also better than any in the Final Fantasy franchise. It’s a mix of turn-based and real-time combat. Once you know what you’re doing it’s so much fun! This is the one aspect, along with the story, which sets Final Fantasy XIII-2 apart from its counterparts. And yes, it’s lightyears better than Final Fantasy XV. Time travel is always tricky when it comes to incorporating it into a narrative, but Final Fantasy XIII-2 does this perfectly. What’s even more impressive is despite so may assets being reused from the first game, it still feels like its own, and not a re-hash. III-2‘s idea of time travel is somewhat contradictory though; what happens at the end always happened. As they say in lost, “whatever happened, happened.” So were the changes Serah and Noel made always the way history played itself out? The question isn’t answered, but the non-linear aspect of the narrative and the presentation of the story is the best in the Final Fantasy series, hands down. Final Fantasy XIII-2 may be a “side” game, but it is the best Final Fantasy game. It has the best narrative, the best gameplay, an abundance of challenging puzzles, and wonderful characters who will make your heart break. Serah didn’t have a large role in XIII, but this is her story. She starts off as somewhat weak and passive yet goes through a transformation as the story unfolds and reaches a point of self-realization, which is incredibly rare. Final Fantasy XIII-2 isn’t only the most underrated Final Fantasy game, but, it’s the best. It’s only unfortunate that its name is somewhat tarnished by the game that game before, even though Final Fantasy XIII wasn’t that bad of a game. Final Fantasy XV was a disaster. Hopefully, Square either releases a remaster of the XIII games or takes a step back and realizes the masterpiece what was Final Fantasy XIII-2 and builds off of it. Because it is the best Final Fantasy game, hands down.