"Linear." A word hurled at the original Final Fantasy XIII without relent, and rightly so. The game funneled players down a hallway for more than 20 hours while it told a provocative story of defying the gods. No matter how you felt about its battle system, you still had precious little to explore. When word of a sequel spread, the fear of that linearity persisted. But it seems the developers at Square-Enix wanted nothing more than to prove the gaming populace wrong with the same level of defiance Lightning and her friends showed the gods. Final Fantasy XIII-2 showers you with choice and branching paths. The battle system functions faster and includes several new features like tamable monster allies. But with these improvements, the story sheds much of its focus. Characters act without clear motivation, and the only driving force is to find Lightning. Without question, it's a better game, but Final Fantasy XIII-2 makes costly sacrifices to its narrative in order to achieve mechanical advancements.