Square Enix left dangling plot threads at the end of Final Fantasy XIII-2, and has promised more story through downloadable episodes. Sazh: Heads or Tails, on sale now for $4.99 (400 MSP) is the first such piece of DLC. It holds the dubious honor of being not only our first glimpse at Square Enix's content plans for this game, but its first tentative step into delivering story episodes as DLC in the main Final Fantasy series.
The story, however, is barely present at all. Minor spoilers follow.
Sazh was one of the the standout characters from the original game, but he was missing almost entirely from Final Fantasy XIII-2. Square Enix committed to a mostly new cast of characters for this installment, so Sazh was one of the original crew left with brief cameos. He joins in the fight, but the main game's story doesn't detail why and how he got there. "Heads or Tails" attempts to explain just how he came to help the game’s heroes.
Through a rip in time, Sazh finds himself in the Serendipity casino, but outside the realm of time. Missing his son and convinced he's dead, he's approached by a mysterious casino worker who tells him that he's in a place between the possibilities of life and death. The only way to break out of this fate is to win games of chance and collect enough Fortune Medals to determine his own destiny.
In practice, this serves as a flimsy excuse to set the entirety of the episode in one small room. Sazh doesn't do battle with monsters, and has no area to explore that would hold them anyway. Instead, "Heads or Tails" adds two new casino games, and those are your path to earning Fortune Medals. Serendipity Poker is, essentially, a standard poker match with slightly altered suits. Chrono Bind is the more interesting of the two offerings, as it mixes elements of card games, roulette, and even coin multipliers for a more unique experience.
The Fortune Medals aren’t given in the games themselves, but rather handed out at the end of a match. They stack like achievements, earned for winning hands, winning in a particular way, and so on. Once you’ve collected enough Fortune Medals -- an invisible goal that the game never tells you -- the story ends and Sazh is a selectable "Monster" type for Noel and Serah to use. If you're good enough at the card games, you could probably finish the entire episode in an hour or so.
The story it tells is more coherent and satisfying than Final Fantasy XIII-2, even if it uses the same trite platitudes about fate and destiny as a crutch. Sazh is an affable enough character to carry the brief story segments, and his cynical nature makes him a good foil for the player. He doesn't take the bizarre happenings in stride like some other characters, which makes him more identifiable.
The problem is that Sazh's story doesn't really resolve anything. I never wondered what Sazh was up to or why he chose to join in the fight. It answers a question no one asked, while leaving the much larger questions unresolved. The loose threads of Final Fantasy XIII-2 are still as loose as they've ever been. That's really the shame, because it was my main point of curiosity in checking out the DLC. I didn't really believe Square Enix would wrap everything up, but I wondered if we'd see any progress at all. The answer is no.
So, I come away from "Heads or Tails" more convinced than ever that Final Fantasy XIII-3 is on the way. The conflict left by the unresolved ending requires broad swaths of plot resolution, and this pack only offers wispy brush strokes to an unrelated plot point. Unless Square Enix has much more DLC in the cards, and more ambitious DLC at that, it's simply impossible to resolve the cliffhanger story in this manner.
I hesitate to dole out buying advice, but five dollars is a lot to ask for this package. It adds nothing meaningful to the story, and brings no new achievements or trophies. Sazh as a quasi-party member and the Chrono Bind game are decent additions, but the pack as a whole feels too short and insignificant. If this is the future of episodic content for XIII-2, Square Enix still has a lot to learn about western sensibilities.