Written by Twisted Ideas
Final Fantasy XIII was a game that disappointed many fans. Wisely Square has released a demo as the game a few weeks before the release of XIII-2 later this month. Square expressed that they wanted to deal with all of the complaints the fans had with XIII and fix them in XIII-2 and all I have to say about that is good luck.
I won’t go into the piece of the story that I gathered but it is a few years after the events of XIII.
The demo starts you off in a boss fight against Atlas’s hand. Those how have played FFXIII will be familiar with the battle system but with additions. You play as Noel and Serah and the tutorial starts off by introducing the Paradigm system and lets you get used to the interface. The first addition is wounded damage. Wounded damage is additional cannot be healed by regular potions or magic. The second addition in this fight is the Cinematic Events. They are Quick Time Events that change the pace of battle. They can be offensive or defensive and failure leads to damage while success earns you benefits in battle.
After the battle you find yourself in Bresha Ruins basically a town with people. Here you notice more changes. You have a Moogle named Mog who can uncover items that are in a different timeline. You also have the ability to jump freely which doesn’t do much in the demo. There is a store owner who can be found in several places in the demo named Chocolina. Not much of a change but it is nice to have a person associated with a store. People may have missions to complete.
After leaving the town you find yourself in another battle. After this fight you are introduced with a new gameplay mechanic. You have the ability to control monsters you defeat and set up to three in the Paradigm Pack. What this does is place monsters in the third character slot on specific paradigms and will change in battle accordingly. Monsters have fixed roles, unique attributes and can be leveled in the Crystarium using items. In battle monsters have a meter called Feral Link when maxed out can trigger a Quick time Event to perform a special attack.
Battles are now random. Encountering monsters activates Mog Time. Here you can get a preemptive strike or attempt to flee. If you fail to flee the battle will start and you lose the ability to retry. You are able to switch party leaders mid fight and if the party leader dies the second character will take over. Now at the end of battles you receive Gil.
The final noticeable changes are with equipment and the Crystarium. The system for equipment is mostly unchanged except that you have a capacity limit for accessories. Crystarium has changed significantly. Originally you each of the six roles had their own separate grid. Now all roles use the same grid and each crystal is now generic. Each role has its own level that increases by one after a crystal has been activated in that role. You gain new abilities when a role reaches specific levels. The Crystarium grid is broken in sections and completing a section unlocks bonuses. As far as I can tell there are two types of crystals small and large. Activating crystals gives you stat boosts and activating a large crystal will give you an bonus boost depending on the role used to activate the crystal.
Near the end of the demo there is a “Live Trigger” which presents you with dialogue choices. I do not know if this will affect anything in the story as it did not in the demo.
For someone who enjoyed XIII, XIII-2 has potential to be just as good and probably better. My biggest problem with XIII was that it didn’t open up until much later in the game which was about 20 hours and the battle system didn’t have a game that complemented until that point. The story and the characters were mostly forgettable but I did have fun with the game and that’s what most important, to me anyways.
The changes in the demo is not a good tell of what the rest of the game has to offer. Other than the monsters many of the changes are variations of old concepts but have more of a RPG feel. The Cinematic Events feel lazy in concept but they do help speed up the combat in long boss battles. It’s hard to say if the changes are improvements. I am also bothered by the fact that monsters are allies. This isn’t the first JRPG I’ve played with this mechanic and it takes away from the charm of having a party of “characters” with their own skills and specialties.
The gameplay video at the end shows that it will probably nonlinear to an extent, will have Lightning as a playable character and have more towns with things to do like Chocobo racing. I didn’t have a strong opinion going into the demo but for curiosity’s sake I want to play the full game.
The hard sell for Square is are those who disliked XIII. The demo probably needed to be the length of the Mass Effect 2 demo on the PS3 or show the nonlinear branches to convince that demographic.