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E3 2011: Final Fantasy XIII-2 First Impressions

Feature; Jun. 9, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Jenner David Cauton
Subtypes: Opinion, Preview
Return to the world of Pulse
Los Angeles, CA, USA

The Final Fantasy series has never been known for its storyline's continuity. The only consistency is in the signature mascots: chocobos and moogles  -- and, of course, jaw-dropping graphics. Released in 2003, Final Fantasy X-2 was the series’ first true sequel, and Square Enix has done so again, with Final Fantasy XIII-2.

The demo showed a somewhat changed Pulse, later on giving us a look at Seraph, now a playable character, traveling with the possible new male protagonist, Noel. The two are also accosmpanied by a flying moogle, whom they simply refer to as “Mog.” The three are exploring ruins in Cocoon until what looks like a blue, giant robot’s arm attacks the two explorers. A boss battle ensues, leaving the player in control of Noel.

Combat, so far, is generally the same as it was before. You still control a single character, using the Paradigm System to control the flow of combat, as well as your ally’s roles. Battles can now have quick-time events, which can drastically shift things to the player's advantage -- or disadvantage should you fail it. (Nothing will outright kill you, however.) The QTEs are simple, though -- we’re not talking anything complicated, like Heavy Rain.

Preemptive strikes make a return, allowing the player to gain an advantage in battle. This can be achieved by approaching an enemy from behind before combat and pushing an action button after a timer appears. Monsters now spawn some distance away instead of just being placed, which seems to be a combination of both preset placed enemies and the series' old way of random encounters, which, while the latter added a bit of unexpectedness to the game, has been known to annoy many players. For me, this seems to be the best of both worlds.

Monsters can now be captured after defeating them and can be used to fill different roles in your party. These monsters can be summoned during battle when switching to certain Paradigms. Different monsters have different roles, such as a tank. Currently, a huge number of monsters is planned.

Mog is more than just a traveling companion. He’s also a mine detector. In the first game, orbs, which acted as treasure chests, were previously just lying around in the open. Orbs are now partially hidden, and if the player thinks he found one, he can call Mog over to check.

NPCs now have speech icons above their heads if they have something interesting to say before you approach them. This can eliminate needless walking around talking to everyone if you’re trying to figure out what to do. Less important NPCs (ones that don't initiate a cutscene) also seemed to be fully voiced, or at least the ones I talked to. Other members of your party now act more realistic when out of battle. Party members used to follow you in straight lines like mindless drones. Now, they walk in curves, do random idle animations, similar to a real human being, and will even start random conversations with other nearby characters. (They will automatically catch up if you get too far from them.) You can’t hear what they’re saying, but it still adds a great deal of life to your other party members.

Final Fantasy XIII-2, in battle at least, seems to be shaping up rather similar to its predecessor. What has me worried is the included Pokemon-like feature thrown in. While it is defiantly a welcome addition to the franchise, I’m hoping that it will not serve as a main character replacement, with only having a few (Noel and Serah) main protagonists. The trailer showed many familiar faces, so there shouldn't be any reason why at least some of them wouldn't be playable.

The linear maps for the larger portion of the first game were a huge turn-off for many gamers. Unfortunately, I was told that it was unknown whether or not the maps would be the same this time around. Final Fantasy XIII, for many, was hit or miss. Let’s hope there won’t be any reason to miss this one.


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