Except this game was worth the money. FFXIII was also worth the money, there was just almost no point in having a controller for the first 6 hours! Hahaha. But which was more worth the money, if you're looking for a FF experience? XIII-2.
I can't refute that the focus and therefore limitation with XIII was the graphics. Stunning, and I think the best I've seen this generation in both games. Interestingly, XIII-2 isn't quite as pretty, which seems to fit everyone's gameplay over graphics argument.
People are understandably butthurt about XIII, XIV and maybe even some from XII. These people have gone to the cynical place in which I usually dwell, where a blanket of hatred is placed over everything new because mistakes have been made. XIII-2 is their way of saying "OK, we get it, we did it wrong. Here, is this any better?" and the answer is YES, it most certainly is better. But the user scores are jaded fans, again butthurt and probably annoyed by the "to be continued".
For me, it is most certainly the game that has felt most like a FF game since FFX. XII was directed by the tactics team while the "real" FF team worked on XIII (originally for PS2 then PS3, hence the huge dev. cycle). XIII deviated too much from the formula. XIII-2 is like an amalgamation of old and new, and the system works beautifully.
Would I rank it in the top 50%? For quality (and I don't mean graphics) yes. For story? It feels like a middle chapter. So probably not. For me, the golden 3 are PSX era. In my head they cannot be beat. I loved the SNES era too, IV or VI I cannot choose between.
Everyone says "oh if it wasn't called Final Fantasy we wouldn't be talking about this and it would be amazing blah blah blah" - and that's true. But it doesn't matter, because what I'm saying is Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a FINAL FANTASY GAME. XIII didn't feel like one, granted. XIII-2 does. That's what I'm trying to get across here.
And DLPB, if we're going for hotel metaphors, I really have to be honest and say that your 5 star to 1 star thing is not applicable. It's more like you've been going to a 5 star hotel, then you back another time, it's a renovated 5 star hotel. That's a bit more plausible. XIII is not a 5 star experience, but it is jaw dropping. XIII-2 is, but it's less jaw dropping. It's also the least linear FF game i've ever played aside from XII, so that argument doesn't really hold anymore. Though all FF games by nature are linear, so that's irrelevant.