If you ever listened to the Pink show, you already know my disdain for the last Final Fantasy game (if you didn’t listen to our podcast, you’re dead to me). It didn’t have the same feel I’ve come to know and love from the series, and despite its visual beauty, I was bored with every battle and cutscene I encountered.
One day I will finish the game in its entirety. Every time I look in its general direction, it just feels like it’s taunting me. So given those feelings, I was skeptical about FFXIII-2, but it looks like I don’t need to worry! Square Enix is listening to their fans!
You play as Noel, a young boy accompanied by Serah, Lightning’s younger sister that set most of the first game’s story in motion. Three years have passed since the ending of FFXIII and Lightning has disappeared. Noel and Serah work together as a detective duo to try to track her down.
As expected from a Final Fantasy game, the graphics are pleasing to the eye for both the characters and the environment. It never ceases to amaze me how much improvement Square Enix can do visually. The game is still somewhat linear in the sense of telling you where to go. However, you now have different paths to venture to if you feel like exploring. I pulled up the map, and confirmed it’s not just a straight, narrow path to the next stage (and breathed a sigh of relief after confirming that).
I was brutally honest about my outlooks of FFXIII when speaking to the Square Enix representative who was demoing the game for me (he told me to be!). He eased my worries by informing me that the team back home took every critique seriously and adjusted the game to avoid their past mistakes. I wasn’t the first to tell him the problems with FFXIII, and he assured me I wouldn’t be the last.
Regarding the gameplay, paradigm shifts make a return, and they’re as helpful as ever.
The battles went by quickly, but Square showed a new aspect to the combat: the ability to pick up crystals of the enemies you defeat.
Crystals serve a good purpose: the next time you enter battle, you have a new ally! From Flans to Behemoths, you now have the option to battle alongside your (former) enemies. It is a cool addition to the game and the monsters can definitely hold their own. If you want to change the monster fighting alongside you, all you have to do was swap your paradigm. Monsters also have their own synchronize bar that, when full, prompts a “feral attack” that does heavy damage.
When it came to boss battles, a few quick time events popped up (they call them “cinematic actions”). Although they’re quite easy to execute, if you somehow do end up missing your cue, nothing bad really happens. Square Enix didn’t want to punish their players with
quick time events cinematic action moments because they’re aware that there are some gamers out there who like seeing the results of not completing button prompts. So when I purposely missed the last cinematic action sequence, all that prompted was some funny dialogue from the NPCs.
When you’re in battle, the camera shifts angles from time to time to give you a sense that you’re actually doing something in the heat of the battle.
There are moments in the game where you’ll be prompted to make a decision in a conversation, but these don’t effect anything in the game — like how it would in Mass Effect. In the conversation that popped up for me, I was simply deciding on who to listen to for advice. I still had complete control over what to do afterwards, and I’m pretty sure I still had a chance to get busy with Serah if I wanted to.
This game is starting to look more promising than its predecessor, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see the final product to really determine that. All that matters now is that I’m happy with what I saw and look forward to more!
Final Fantasy XIII-2 will be out on January 2012 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.