Previews// Final Fantasy XIII-2

Posted 16 Nov 2011 17:00 by
Games: Final Fantasy XIII-2
Itís strange to think that, with all the love for the classic PlayStation One games, Square Enix seems intent on trying to modernise the Final Fantasy series.

Itís last attempt, Final Fantasy XIII, was respectable but fell short of the mark in many areas - primarily in how it didnít feel like an RPG at all. Now, just a year later, itís trying again with a direct sequel in Final Fantasy XIII-2 - and it may actually have a chance of winning fans back over.

Things kick off in the futuristic world of Valhalla - a somewhat post-apocalyptic city that seems to be the Final Fantasy equivalent of an urban limbo. Lightning, thought to be dead by her sister Serah, is in constant battle with Caius - a nasty-looking chap whoís fancy-boy looks and visual kei fashion is lifted right out of the A-Z of Final Fantasy supervillain design.

After some introductory battle scenes that gently guide you into the mechanics of the Paradigm Shift system and Quick Time Events (or Cinematic Actions as theyíre called in the game), Lightning is left to make a last stand for the sake of humanity, the world and everything else.

Serah, who is left in another time and dimension rebuilding civilisation with Cocoon survivors, is apparently the only hope for Lightning and the safety of the universe. Enter Noel Kreiss, a mysterious kid who teams up with Serah to help get reunited with her sister. And time appears to be of the essence - former resistance group NORA witness a strange meteorite thatís impacted near Cocoon, which Noel and Serah discover is causing timelines between hundreds of years to bleed into one another.

Yes, it reminds me of Back to the Future as well. You know the bit where Doc Emmett Brown is explaining alternate realities to Marty McFly in the second film. This is kind of whatís happening in Final Fantasy XIII-2, with Noel and Serah having to hop between historical moments and dimensions via Stargate-esque portals to reach the Historia Crux.

This void is essentially your new world map, offering a straightforward timeline with branching paths to alternate realities and worlds. Beating a boss in a stage will unlock one of several gates that will progress the storyline, but if you explore the maps enough to complete various tasks and collect historical Ďartefactsí to repair various timelines, you can access a number of alternative gates that will lead you to a different story path. Once in the Historia Crux menu, you can even close gates to certain worlds to rewind time there, so that you can repeat certain events and have another chance to trigger secret paths.

This is just one of the major ways in which Square Enix have tried to tweak the original Final Fantasy XIII formula on the back of fan feedback. Another is in the worlds and dungeons themselves, which are designed with a lot more imagination and offer branching pathways and hidden treasures. Itís no longer a corridor-based affair, thank the heavens.

Battling enemies in XIII-2 is a very similar affair to its predecessor, however. This is a promising thing, given that I quite enjoyed the Paradigm Shift system - it allowed for the same mindless automatic battling that you could achieve in past Final Fantasy games by spamming the X button, but maintains a strategy in Paradigms that allow you to get creative with team attacks.

Square Enix hasnít changed too much to the combat here in that regard. What it has done is add some new features to shake things up a bit. Monsters fought on the field can be captured automatically and added to your own team. Each creature has its own set Paradigm style that you can use to cover any cracks in your strategy. Cait Siths are Medics, for example, while Zwerg Scandroids are Ravagers that can cast spells in your stead.

You can manually set each creature to any Paradigm that you have customised in the menu, but to save us all from a massive headache the game also auto-assigns monsters based on their skillset. So if you just want to get stuck into battling with your badass creatures, you certainly can. Better yet, each monster you collect can be leveled up using the Crystarium - although rather than using experience points, you use monster materials that are collected around the dungeons you explore.

These little critters even have a Limit Break style system called Feral Link. When active in battle, a little bar gets filled up following attacks or taking damage. Once itís filled up, you can expend all that energy to dish out a tasty attack. You need to be ready for a QTE sequence to successfully pull it off though.
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Games: Final Fantasy XIII-2

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Joshua 17 Nov 2011 11:42
XIII-2 is looking amazing, to simply put it.
I was put off with the addition of Serah being the main Female character and the Rap Music (not modern Rap, but nevertheless out of place in a Final Fantasy game).
But time-traveling, multiple choices and improved combat and much more is all appealing to me.
I'm one of the few fans who found XIII emotionally amazing and hopefully this one will leave me in tears aswell.
mrAnthony 27 Jan 2012 11:09
Just played the demo, and pre ordered on shopto, so looking forward to this. i was very disappointed by XIII, though still played through to the end, (no idea why, just needed closure i suppose). The story was ok, i didn't hate it, and it had its moments. But yeah just didn't feel like a final fantasy game AT all. This seems, from the demo, to be much more inline with older games, which is a good thing in my opinion.

The new games, while the graphics are nice, for some reason i still prefer the prerendered backgrounds, and the camera angles of the ps1 games, maybe its because i was younger and more wide eyed, but it just appeals more to me than the glossy, 3rd person style looks these days.
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