previews\ Jun 29, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Preview


Final Fantasy XIII was one of the bigger disappointments of 2010. It’s not that the game was bad, but the grouping of linear stages and obnoxious characters turned off a lot of Western gamers. For all the years that Square Enix worked on the game, by the time it came out, many people were disappointed.

So when Square Enix announced that they would be making a new game in the Final Fantasy XIII world (great, another title to be long-delayed in this Fabula Nova Crystallis series), players were quick to voice their disinterest. Once I sat down with the game, it was clear that the development team had taken the complaints to heart. They're hoping to make this the Final Fantasy XIII experience that gamers want: open, dark, and expansive.

The Command Synergy Battle system and paradigm shifts are still in place, so don’t expect the game to pull a Final Fantasy X-2 and offer a radically different battle system. After the events of Final Fantasy XIII, major changes happened to the world of Pulse and Cocoon. The two worlds have collided, and many of the main characters are gone or missing. It’s a darker universe.

Different is the cast of characters that players will control. In our E3 demo, the characters were fighting a massive statue manifest with different vulnerable parts found around the city of New Bodum. Playable was the new dude named Noel. Clad in purple and rocking dark spiky hair, he’s teamed up with Serah, the sister of Lightning from the first game. Serah is out of her crystal, and she takes after Lightning's fighting style. She starts out with the same paradigms as Lightning, and with her assistant moogle Mog, she’s a capable fighter. Mog can transform into an assortment of weapons, such as a sword or bow and arrow.

The combat is the same as in the previous title, although occasionally quick-time events pop up in certain battles to make the experience more cinematic. Noel is a solid fighter, leaping around the body parts of this gigantic structure that's attacking New Bodum. Then there's the Mog Clock. Enemies no longer hang around; they appear in a slightly random manner. Players then have a limited amount of time to attack them, for advantages and disadvantages are granted based on when the enemies are battled.

Monsters can now be collected. After defeating a monster enough times, players can bring it into battle. These monster are tied to a specific type, so certain monsters might be a ravager, or a commando, or a sentinel. While I only saw two characters and a monster engaged, I’ve been told that up to four units can enter a battle, with three characters and a monster joining the fray--creating even more play options. Weather also impacts battles, so players will want to be well aware of rain and shine.

At its core, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is very similar to its predecessor. However, as the world changes, so do some of the features. The world currently thinks Lightning is dead while Serah insists she's alive, and the grand mystery is the truth of what's going on. Cocoon will be visited, and I’ve been told that an alternate timeline is involved. Almost none of the characters from the first game were seen in the demo, but I’ve been promised that all of them will make an appearance in some way. Lightning herself is playable during select segments.

The best new features of the game are the new open towns and NPCs. Characters can be chatted with, and there is much more focus and interaction than the corridors of the first game. Major plot points will require players to make a decision that will influence the game's outcome. Also, Square Enix is introducing Anomaly Sessions, which force players to solve puzzles. Not too difficult, these at least break up the flow of the game.

Clearly Square Enix is addressing head-on the problems of the first game. With an expanded world (offering equivalent game time), new characters, new abilities, and an acknowledgment of the first game’s problems, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is not just a curious experiment--it's a game I want to sit down and play.

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