Overall, I would say that it was enjoyable, although I never fell in love with it like I did FFX or X-2. Worth playing for sure, and I look forward to continuing on with the Cieth Stones and other missions on Pulse. But I missed things like being able to explore Cocoon, and sidequests other than the marks, and the total lack of puzzles. When I play a Final Fantasy game, I want to feel like I'm getting to know a world, and although we get that with Pulse, Cocoon never became more than a series of unconnected sets to me.
Endgame: So... I am confused. If killing Orphan is the terrible thing that's going to destroy Cocoon, why do they kill Orphan? And when and how did they come to the conclusion that their goal was to fight Orphan rather than protect it? It made sense after the fact -- kill Orphan to end fal'Cie rule of Cocoon, then use the power of Ragnarok to keep Cocoon together -- but I never got a sense that they got together to discuss this plan. If I have one serious gripe with this game, this is it: the tendency for character development and important exposition to be explained in the Datalog rather than shown on the screen. (I also wish that they had just added new character information to the Datalog rather than overwriting the old. I have the feeling I missed a lot.)
We got Bartandalus Part 3 pretty easily, and we also beat Orphan Part 2 on the first try, but Orphan Part 1 was harsh. We tried several different party configurations before throwing our hands up and going back to level up and upgrade our weapons some more. Against all conventional wisdom, our final party was Sazh, Vanille, and Hope; the combination of buff/debuff/heal while Sazh played Commando almost full-time was slow, but effective. I don't know that I would *recommend* it, exactly, but it worked for us. (Lightning would probably have worked just as well as Sazh, but Sazh had notably more hit points, so it was a lot easier to keep him alive.) Has there *ever* been a final boss who talks as much as Orphan? Blah blah Ragnarok metaphysics blah. Just shut up and die already! Geez.
The very end scenes, I did enjoy: Fang and Vanille joining to become Ragnarok and fulfill their focus together was poetic and beautiful. It leads me to wonder whether protecting Cocoon after the fall of Orphan was what Anima intended as their focus all along, and if Lightning and company were only bound to support them toward this goal (and so they turned to Cieth when it appeared that Fang and Vanille were going to continue at cross-purposes). The reunion with Serah and Dajh at the end was beautifully bittersweet -- you could see how much their lost companions were missed, and I am sad that the six of them won't continue to explore Pulse and have adventures there together. A lot was left unexplained at the end: did anyone still on Cocoon survive the crash, who will lead the people now, where did everyone on Pulse go, what about Hope's dad? But overall, despite my nagging questions, I was satisfied.
BTW, T got impatient and skipped through the credits; was there any sort of cut scene between them and the end card? Maybe one that shows Fang and Vanille melting again? It's nice that they're together at the end, but I'd rather them have an existence that's more like a life. Please say yes.
So this thing where you can keep doing side missions after the final battle? Awesome. So, so awesome. This may be my favorite development in this game. Now we can play around at leisure without worrying that I'm going to stumble across some awful spoiler on the Internet. I hope they keep this model for future games, even if it does mean that the final boss is a little easier on the grand scale than usual.
Speaking of spoilers: now I can properly research the story I started the other day without fear. Excellent.