Final Fantasy XIII-2 Preview (Xbox360)

Imagine a world where Final Fantasy XIII's beginning wasn't so confusing. Imagine a world where Vanille's voice didn't make you want to strangle her, where Hope wasn't such a whiny little so and so, where giant disembodied hands try to grab you as if possessed by the spirit of MJ himself. Imagine a world, where Final Fantasy games got canonical sequels- oh wait. Welcome to Final Fantasy XIII-2, a game where paradoxes, alternate realities, temporal rifts and maybe even time travel seem to be the order of the day.

The first Final Fantasy titles on a current-gen console, Square themselves saw FFXIII as the most polarising amongst press and the fans. Go to the deep dark corners of internet fandom and there are people out there who think FFXIII was an abject failure - despite it being the fourth best selling Final Fantasy game of all time. Little is currently known about the plot to the sequel XIII-2, with only three characters - Lightning, her sister Serah, and newcomer Noel (and the moogle, I guess) - confirmed so far. With all this talk of paradoxes though, we wouldn't be surprised if a certain blue box appeared as well.

Also known as the hand of Midas. This one doesn't turn things into gold though. Just death

There's only been one other direct sequel prior to this one, so it's not that easy to really say what should be expected. On the one hand, the game needs to be a decent and natural evolution of the formula, but at the same time, it can't be that radical as it still ties into the previous game – something traditional Final Fantasy iterations don't have to worry about. Still, you can expect a similar settings, and similar gameplay, but with changes and tweaks that make this its own core game.

First and foremost, Square have recognised how linear Final Fantasy XIII was for a sizable chunk – whilst I personally didn't mind it too much, there was a period towards the end where you couldn't help but get a little frustrated at how restrictive things were. Square have supposedly fixed this by going back to a more hub like system, with more paths and places for you to explore, and even dead ends. We were shown a section that did have multiple routes and side-paths to explore. Which side of the 'token gesture' line this design feature will reside remains to be seem, but the almost unprecedented inclusion of a 'jump' button means that level designs will be more open, to say the least.

Newcomer Noel. We don't like him much

In terms of combat, good old-fashioned "if it aint broke, don't fix it" thinking seems to have been applied here, as very little appears to have changed. In terms of how you engage in battles, XIII-2 uses a system that's a mix between random encounters and the staged encounters of XIII. The map is empty of enemies, but encounters are randomly triggered whereby a monster will appear on screen a la XIII. You can choose to attack (and a new 'mog clock' feature determines whether you are the ambusher or ambushee) which initiates the battle, or you can try and run away - although enemies do give chase.

Regarding the battles themselves, it's a still a case of paradigms and adapting your strategy to the situation. We're not sure if this is directly linked to Noel or not, but parties have the abilities to 'recruit' mobs into the party to fight on your side. Details on this system are annoyingly vague, but all we do know is that sometimes defeated enemies give off crystals. These crystals allow you to summon monsters into battle, and the monster present changes depending on the paradigm. There monsters generally aren't controllable (apart from a special 'Feral Link' QTE attack), and take up a party slot on the combat screen. We're not sure how this affects party sizes, but hints were dropped that those could be changed as well.

We couldn't get confirmation, but there was a hint of a possible weather system as well. The official line was that the rain that was pelting down during the playable demo was for “immersion”, however the map has a reading for “weather type” along with a symbol – we don't want to speculate too much but to us that suggested more than mere aesthetics, so perhaps this could also have a bearing on combat. Apart from that, the only other change is that QTE cinematic sequences have been included, so far in major boss fights. Depending on whether you succeed or fail, they can give you an advantage or set back your progress via buffs.

Lightning, still looking as mildly pissed off as ever

We've noticed a few other changes as well - puzzle sequences that take place within temporal rifts, sometimes referred to as "The Paradox", and a very techno backing soundtrack, which was... interesting, to say the least. Another big change was what was referred to as a 'Live Trigger' system, where essentially the player is presented with a choice. In this specific case, do we run head long at the boss? Or do we try and find a way to subvert him first (which takes longer but naturally makes the boss easier to deal with). We're not sure how 'real' choices like these are going to be - the demo build we tested was basically geared so that you had no choice but to take the long way around, and running head long at the boss was literally impossible, but things will probably be different in the finished game.

It still seems very early days for XII-2. Like last time, we see this as being another gradual release of information kind of set-up as we move closer to the release window. Plot details, gameplay mechanics, characters... there's a lot left to find out, so we'll keep an eye out. Doesn't seem like this will be more of a 'girl power' game like the last sequel, although the re-inclusion of moogles hints at renewed concessions for the original eastern fan base. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is due out on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 in sometime in early 2012

Most Anticipated Feature: Final Fantasy games have always been about the story for me, so more details about that will be eagerly awaited. I rather liked XIII's plot, you know.

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By PowerJack (SI Elite) on Jul 14, 2011
"Welcome to Final Fantasy XIII-2, a game where paradoxes, alternate realities, temporal rifts and maybe even time travel seem to be the order of the day."

Great thats what I like, a confusing storyline.

Well I liked chrono trigger so maybe it wont be so bad.
By VHugoSama (SI Core) on Jul 16, 2011
Hooray for Chrono Trigger, now for real, I hope the story line is good, if not it will be a new disappointment.
By starch (SI Newbie) on Sep 02, 2011
Looks fun, I've never played a Final Fantasy. Might try this one.