It takes some giant, Square Enix-sized balls to release a demo to the sequel of a game that most fans hated. If said demo received even remotely similar criticisms, that could mean a second, more embarrassing failure before the sequel even touched shelves. But someone at the top had enough faith in the game to say, “We’ll show ‘em. We’ll win ‘em back.” And in my opinion, Square Enix’s gamble was wise: I’m sold. What follows is a list of complaints surrounding Final Fantasy XIII, and my personal accounts of the improvements made in Final Fantasy XIII-2.
Is the game still a straight hallway lolololz?
Far from it. Once I could explore, there were a variety of different paths stretched out before me. Enticing me to get out there and explore were 2 sub-quests I adopted early on — one of which required I find two misplaced items. Returning them to the NPC who initiated the quests awarded me with some EXP and treasure. The other sub-quest was a simple mini-boss. Not only does the game feature expansive maps, but I’m relieved to find that they’re filled with rewarding content for the player.
Is that battle system still a snooze-fest?
For the most part the battle system is unchanged. That means the occasional Paradigm Shift between spamming Auto-Battle like a mad man. You’re welcome, of course, to take the time to individually select your actions — but there is really no point. One new system I took note of is wounding. It is possible for enemies to inflict “wound damage” on your party. This shortens the afflicted character’s maximum health equal to the amount of wound damage dealt. The enemies in the demo did very little wound damage, when they did, but I can imagine this system could become interesting down the road — possibly as a determining factor in how quickly the player must slay an enemy. Other than that, everything outside of battle sequences, has been touched up. That brings me to the next question, wherein the improvements largely exist:
Wound damage. Wound damage everywhere.
I heard there are pokemon in the game . I HATE pokemon — so much.
Calm down, dude. The monster-ally system, as I choose to call it, is easily the game’s biggest improvement. After defeating any normal enemy (i.e met via a random battle) it’s possible that the monster will drop an item allowing you to use it as a 3rd party member in battle. Getting the monster’s drop isn’t a guarantee, but performing admirably in battle heightens your chances. Once acquired, the player has a ton they can do with their monster:
- Level them up using battle spoils, similar to the Final Fantasy XIII weapon enhancement system.
- Give them a name, either random or from a few different preset lists.
- Adorn them with different goofy accessories.
- Fuse monsters together to transfer inherent skills.
Monsters have the same roles in battle as your human members, like Ravager or Sentinel. This allows for a lot of party customization as you’re not only able to change your formations, but you have a lot of control over the third character you bring into battle. You can adjust situationally or just pick a monster you think looks cool. Now I may be biased here, because I have an affinity for games where you raise your favorite critter and give it a name and a funny hat, but this system really opens doors for party customization in a fun new way.
What about the quick time events? My expert gaming skills are wasted on such lame mechanics!
OK, I will agree that this system is lame. It pulls my consciousness out of the game and forces it onto where my fingers are on my controller. Also, most of the event scenes are overly dramatic without contributing much to the story with any real substance. Rather it’s usually some Matrix-esque back-flipping or bending with the occasional large obstacle avoiding. What I can say in favor of the Cinematic Action system is that if you succeed in executing every QTE for a scene, you’re given a nice reward afterwards. I don’t care who you are, that feels good.
Cinematic Action System
What about the story? I went to Fal’cie University and I STILL don’t get what was going on in Final Fantasy XIII…
As I played the demo, which took place somewhere after the game’s real beginning, there wasn’t much story development. For that reason I will reserve judgement until I can play the full version! What I can say is that the straight paths are gone both on maps and structurally. What I mean by that is I was given an option as to how I’d like to solve a problem rather than told what to do. This made me more interested in the events happening around me, since now I could make an impact. That being said, I would have appreciated the new cast being highlighted more, as I don’t know what makes them different from any other masculine sword-dude and feminine bow-wielder duo out there.
I want to talk to people, make it rain Gil, and shop until I DROP. Where my towns at?!
Err, well the one town in the demo wasn’t very impressive. It was literally a bunch of people dumbly standing in the rain. Some had conversations as I passed by, some I could directly interact with. Since the story was largely a mystery to me, their dialog wasn’t very engaging. As for Gil, well I was relieved to see I earned it after battles. There was also a merchant who would appear in a few different locations throughout the map. This was a welcome change, despite the grating voice of the shop character and her affinity for rhyming and puns. Yea, I’m gonna go ahead and say I hate Chocolina based on the little I know about her.
I also noted that NPC’s dialog changes based on my accomplishments. For instance, after beating that mini-boss I mentioned earlier, wandering military types thanked me for helping out. Towns and NPCs are definitely in place and more engaging, but the demo didn’t show this feature off as much as some may have hoped.
Chocolina, the game’s roaming Chocobo-loving merchant.
I was sad when the Final Fantasy XIII-2 demo came to an end. I wanted to keep finding and raising monsters, I wanted to keep exploring, and I even wanted to keep getting into random battles. Having so much to do aside from advancing down a corridor was a welcome return to form. While I don’t think the demo did a good job selling the new cast to me, it certainly succeeded in showing off the new mechanics which really separate Final Fantasy XIII from its evolved predecessor.