New York Comic Con 2011: Preview: Final Fantasy XIII-2

New York Comic Con 2011: Preview: Final Fantasy XIII-2

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Final Fantasy XIII returns with time travel, monster-hunting, and truly preposterous hair.

What do you do after you save the world? For Lightning, the protagonist of Final Fantasy XIII, the answer is pretty simple: get erased from existence in a time paradox. It's not quite as glamorous as living the high life with her hard-earned Gil, but it does provide the impetus for her younger sister, Serah, to begin a perilous adventure to bring her back. During my time at New York Comic Con 2011, I got a chance to try out Final Fantasy XIII-2 firsthand. While the game is functionally almost identical to its predecessor, it has a few new tricks to keep things fresh: less linear level design, a robust monster-hunting system to augment your party, refined combat, and the ability to change the story via time manipulation.

A PR representative for Square Enix set up the story for me as I waited for the demo to load: a few years after the end of Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning encounters some temporal trouble when a time paradox causes her to disappear from the world. Her younger sister, Serah, joins up with an adventurer named Noel in order to rescue her. Along the way, the two - along with the help of a friendly moogle named Mog - will piece together more secrets of the worlds of Cocoon and Gran Pulse while meeting old friends, confronting new enemies, and taking down enough monsters to fill a Meteor-sized hole.

The demo begins in a set of ancient ruins where Noel, Serah, and Mog search for clues about Lightning while a military organization conducts a scientific study. Immediately upon entering the area, Noel and Serah must do battle with Paradox Alpha, an enormous golem boss. The combat here will be immediately recognizable to anyone who played Final Fantasy XIII. Like most Final Fantasy titles, the battles are a real-time/turn-based hybrid. Characters wait for an action bar to fill, perform their actions (such as attacking or using items), and then wait for the bar to refill. This gives battles a real sense of urgency and interactivity, although players will still control only one party member at a time. The Paradigm system makes a return as well, allowing players to assign offensive, defensive, and healing roles to the whole party on the fly.

Anyone who played Final Fantasy XIII should feel comfortable with XIII-2's battle system, but that doesn't mean that it's exactly the same. A few key features differentiate it from its predecessor. Before a battle begins, a Mog Clock will begin a countdown with green, yellow, and red phases. If the player strikes an enemy during a green phase, the battle will begin with a pre-emptive strike. A yellow phase confers no advantage, and a red phase will mean that the enemies get the first blow. As in Final Fantasy XIII, a pre-emptive strike opens up enemies for devastating combos much earlier in battle, and is well worth the effort. If there are weapon-wielding NPCs in the area, though, they might take out enemies before the encounter even starts. This could be frustrating when trying to grind for experience or items, but extremely welcome when trying to advance to the next plot point.

Two other major changes in battle are Cinematic Actions and the party's composition. Cinematic Actions are quick-time events that take place during boss battles. Certain enemy attacks will begin short cutscenes with these events. Successfully completing a Cinematic Action (usually pressing a button or rotating a control stick) will reduce or negate damage, while missing one may spell doom for the party. Quick-time events are not necessarily the most beloved game mechanic out there, but the game gives ample warning before each one, and it's fairly simple to get the pattern down on the first try.

As for the party, Noel and Serah are the only playable humans who stick with the group. The third slot is otherwise occupied by monsters, which players can recruit after defeating them on the battlefield. Different monsters fill different Paradigm roles, so switching between multiple monsters in a single combat is common. Each monster has unique abilities and stats, and each one can level up along with the rest of the group, so this affords a player a ton of customization.

The demo progressed in fairly standard Final Fantasy style from there. I traversed the ancient ruins (which had multiple branching pathways and hidden treasure to find, a pleasant departure from the original's interminable linear corridors), solved a few puzzles, and encountered enemies leading up to a huge boss fight at the end. However, the area was littered with "time gates," that were inactive for the demo. In the full game, these portals will bring players to other time periods and give them a chance to explore the area in a different light. The gates can also alter the story, driving it towards one of a few possible endings.

As the demo winded down, I had a choice: fight the big boss monster now, or solve a puzzle to make him a weaker target? Square Enix informed me that choices like this will be common throughout the game. As far as I could tell, there was no penalty for taking on the significantly weaker version of the boss, although anyone looking for a challenge will likely enjoy having this option.

Overall, the game plays like a slightly-upgraded version of Final Fantasy XIII. Fans of the original should keep an eye on this one, while its detractors may want to give it another look based on the story's premise and the revised mechanics. The game will see a Western release on the PS3 and Xbox 360 on January 31, 2012.

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Marshall Honorof:
What do you do after you save the world? For Lightning, the protagonist of Final Fantasy XIII, the answer is pretty simple: get erased from existence in a time paradox.

Overall, the game plays like a slightly-upgraded version of Final Fantasy XIII.

No Lightning is all the upgrade this game needs.

I enjoyed XIII, so I'm definitely looking forward to this game.

One thing is getting to me though: monsters filling the last party member slot. Hopefully this doesn't turn out to be like Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World...

31st of Jan? Its that soon? Better start saving the pennies......even more

So it's Final Fantasy XIII meets Final Fantasy X-2 (disappearing/reappearing hero) meets Chrono Trigger (time traveling impacts story) meets Final Fantasy VIII (Quick Time events) with Pokeman thrown in?

I mean really...what could go wrong here?

Which reminds me...I need to go finish Final Fantasy XIII so I can bash the disks in with a hammer. Nah, I'll keep playing Dark Souls.

Final Fantasy XIII - 2 Part 3, Episode 1 part 4, Junior.

Why! Why do they keep making these things!?! Can we get a Tactics game or at least something that isn't linear and with a better combat system? I enjoy actually making choices in my RPGs instead of just watching the characters do the playing for me.

And seriously quick time events are HORRIBLE! Why do they keep putting them in games?

Aggieknight:
So it's Final Fantasy XIII meets Chrono Trigger (time traveling impacts story) meets Final Fantasy VIII (Quick Time events) with Pokeman thrown in?

I mean really...what could go wrong here?

Which reminds me...I need to go finish Final Fantasy XIII so I can bash the disks in with a hammer. Nah, I'll keep playing Dark Souls.

Actually, it's the same thing as FFX and FFX-2. It's the same team that did that game. At the end of X, Tidus is erased. And in X-2, the main story is about getting him back...

This shit is fuckin' stupid.

OT: I checked it out at NYCC, but it's exactly like the last game, or at least the little bit I played felt the exact same. There were cooler things at Comicon (I lost my voice in the Asura's Wrath sound chamber, which was awesome (people make the funniest faces when they are screaming at the top of their lungs)). I'm really disappointed because I have been play FF games Since I got a SNES. FF:Mystic Quest was my first game for it. I'm just so disappointed in Square Enix at this point. I never finished XIII because my copy mysteriously disappeared around the same time I had a fallout with my room mate. And I didn't feel a need to get another copy because I wasn't really enjoying it all that much... though I get the itch to finish it sometimes when I have been drinking... and then I get the itch to burn down my ex-roommates new house. Then I sleep and all is well.

Baresark:
Actually, it's the same thing as FFX and FFX-2. It's the same team that did that game. At the end of X, Tidus is erased. And in X-2, the main story is about getting him back...

This shit is fuckin' stupid.

Good point. I'll edit my original post for accuracy.

Wait....so where is Versus XIII? Shouldn't that be out by now?

JaredXE:
Wait....so where is Versus XIII? Shouldn't that be out by now?

Don't even remind me of that. All of the FFXIII games have come out since that game was announced, plus a sequel that was not planned, and we still don't have a release date for it. AND we won't get Kingdom Hearts 3 until VXIII is out. Goddamn you, Nomura.

"will reduce or negate damage, while missing one may spell doom for the party. Quick-time events are not necessarily the most beloved game mechanic out there"

So, FF13 wasn't shitty and cheap enough before, now there's instant death QTEs? Why is Square so focused in inserting "twitch" crap into these games? It wouldn't be so bad if they just went full-on action RPG and stop this half and half garbage which is unpolished at best. They're trying to service two types of player/styles and aren't giving anyone a satisfying job. Just pick a game style and commit to it ffs.

"Different monsters fill different Paradigm roles, so switching between multiple monsters in a single combat is common. Each monster has unique abilities and stats, and each one can level up along with the rest of the group, so this affords a player a ton of customization."

Now they're just ripping off Pokemon, most of Atlus' games, or that awful Enchanted Arms game. Question is will it be done well, Persona, or like shit, Enchanted Arms.

They should get the rights to republish Lost Odyssey as Final Fantasy XV. Than we can all say "Wow! A good Final Fantasy game???"

Broken Blade:

JaredXE:
Wait....so where is Versus XIII? Shouldn't that be out by now?

Don't even remind me of that. All of the FFXIII games have come out since that game was announced, plus a sequel that was not planned, and we still don't have a release date for it. AND we won't get Kingdom Hearts 3 until VXIII is out. Goddamn you, Nomura.

Neither of the games are real. Square Enix just announced fake games as a gag to get their fanboys all foamy in the pants so they'd buy all their remakes and ports.

Final Fantasy = day one purchase for me.

I'm a little disappointed that they're cheaping out with a direct sequel again. Although I kind of expected it with how it was reported about how many locations were cut but no intention of DLC was present - plus with their admission that they don't know whether they could do another sequel (as in successive of the series).

Story seems weak at the moment for me, I had no issue with the gameplay last time - with the tidbit of collecting monsters interesting me. This game is almost a relaxing alternative to something like Demon Souls. I may even wait to play Dark Souls in tandem with XIII-2 as a delicious companion.

I'm hoping that the end of this will bear some relation to Versus XIII - nice theories afoot that the blonde woman in the trailer released at the beginning of the year is Fang, it would be nice of Square to give us something a year after their last information release.

Versus I'm actually interested in, rather than this one I'm purchasing just because.

This is going to be a nice birthday present for me when it comes out.

I'm wondering, does Verses XIII have any ties to XIII? It would make sense since that game is taking forever to come out, let alone have anyone at SE to talk about it.

Marshall Honorof:

As for the party, Noel and Serah are the only playable humans who stick with the group. The third slot is otherwise occupied by monsters, which players can recruit after defeating them on the battlefield. Different monsters fill different Paradigm roles, so switching between multiple monsters in a single combat is common. Each monster has unique abilities and stats, and each one can level up along with the rest of the group, so this affords a player a ton of customization.

Does this mean just for the demo, or are you talking about the whole game? I'm pretty sure you mean the whole game.

My opinion of Final Fantasy XIII-2 just changed from "must buy" to "if I need something to do." I'm disappointed. I was hoping that they wouldn't go the Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World route here, but it seems they did. On its own merits, Dawn of the New World was pretty good, but it was nowhere near as good as the original Symphonia, although the animation and acting for everyone but the characters who had their actors replaced (Zelos, Lloyd) was better. But I digress!

I hope that the previous party members will join your party for at least parts of the game, although I wish they'd stay. Snow and Lightning would be a bit redundant, though, because Noel and Serah, respectively, inherit their exact roles. I wish they'd have been more creative with the roles instead of directly copying them from other characters. That would have opened up more room for the other characters to join.

supersupersuperguy:

Does this mean just for the demo, or are you talking about the whole game? I'm pretty sure you mean the whole game.

I'm pretty sure Noel and Serah are the only two party human party members who stay for the whole game. There will be other humans who join you temporarily, but it'll be Noel/Serah/monsters-of-your-choice in the long run.

wow you some people really hate the series. oh well their loss, this is a day one buy for me. then again western gamers are always like this. I shouldn't be surprised.

Ragnarok185:
wow you some people really hate the series. oh well their loss, this is a day one buy for me. then again western gamers are always like this. I shouldn't be surprised.

Generalities tend to be false, Rag.

I've been an avid FF fan since the original on the NES. I don't hate the series or JRPGs; I hated XIII. From over stylized art (seriously - a plane that shoots saw-blades? really?) to the boring straight line levels, to the most annoying cast of characters that I couldn't wait to die of any game I've ever played, and an insanely stupid plot, it was a let down. Should be banished and renamed something else as not to diminish the brand.

And I know a lot of other fans that are just like me.

Dang, Square-Enix! I haven't even finished FFXIII! Now you're gonna make me rush through it just so I can get the sequel!

So far, the original is taking ages to start. Everyone keeps telling me it will get better soon, but I am losing my patience. So if the sequel's anything like this one...then I'll still buy it. :/

What? I like FF despite how far it strayed from its original concept! D8

Well then. I, for one, am really excited. I absolutely loved FFXIII, so this is a no-brainer purchase for me.

i just heard they will be releasing DLC for this....... a part of me just died.

 

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