You may have noticed that we have two very large Final Fantasy XIII-2 videos – if you watch them both you’ll have nearly 100% of the content shown both behind closed doors and on the show floor for the title. During our behind-closed doors walkthru of the game I got a little (lot!) more detail about the title that might surprise you. You talked, they listened – get ready for a much improved Final Fantasy.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a direct sequel to XIII, and starts right where the previous one ended. Lightning has gone missing and everyone presumes she is dead. Serah (your sister rescued in the first game), Noel (a brand new character for E3), and a Moogle companion kick off the demo entering through some sort of teleporter. We’ve made it to the inside of Cocoon, looking up to the sky to see Pulse. As we enter the area, a mechanized arm reaches through the cityscape, crushing the landscape. The arm is semi-translucent and looks not unlike a moving oil slick effect. Nearby soldiers try to gun it down, but we are spoiling for a fight. Our Moogle companion won’t be engaging in direct combat, but can instead transform into a bow or sword for Serah – Kupo!
As we enter the combat phase it was easy to notice that a great deal of the game is remaining the same, while other parts are being added or revised. The Paradigm system is intact, but as our combat sequence moved forward we entered into a Cinematic Sequence. These Cinematic Sequences are engaging quicktime events that will allow you to do serious damage, or if you fail them, take serious damage. In this example, the cinematic asked us to tap the left analog to dodge, and then hit A at the right time to unleash a blur of melee attacks. These are meant to keep the player engaged between action sequences since you, just like its predecessor, you don’t directly control the secondary characters. With Noel in Commando mode and Serah casting spells, we battle on until reinforcements in the form of three small ships show up to attack Atlas directly. Bombarding him with explosives, they force him to retreat, ending the battle sequence.
This area is called New Bresha – it is a rebuilt portion of a city that was destroyed in the war with Grand Pulse. Some areas of the previous game will return, but there will be many new areas as well. Additionally, it’s no longer just bright and sunny in this world – the developers are adding environmental effects such as rain to the mix.
Running through the area, I noticed several more additions to the game. Instead of seeing enemies walking around all of the time, you instead have a “Mog Clock” – when you are near random enemies a large circle will appear around the characters. The clock will count down and change colors based on time and proximity to an enemy, as well as the position in which you approach them. When the clock is green, your team will engage the enemy with full ATB gauges, hasted, and often preemptively attacking, with the enemy slowed and sporting empty ATB. In the yellow position, neither side has the advantage. Engaging in in the red position, or letting the clock run out before you escape the enemies is very bad – you’ll start the battle slowed, while the enemy will have haste and full ATB! The new Mog Clock makes battle go by more quickly, allowing players to really boost their rating to get good items and loot.
Defeating our enemies a small crystal appeared during our battle summary. These crystals correlate directly to creatures that we defeat and capture. Since we have a third open battle slot, these creatures will fill them during combat. In this case we were joined by a Flanbanero – the odd tomato-monster type creature from the first title. When we Paradigm shifted to Commando, the Flanbanero retreated and was replaced by a Behemoth. The creatures you collect will vary to be sure, so this third slot could be a roulette wheel of possibilities.
Making our way towards our objective, our character did something never seen in a Final Fantasy game – he jumped. Nothing in this demo showed where you’d use this, but it has indeed been added. Our little Moogle friend has uses beyond being a weapon and being cute – he can also help you locate hidden treasures this time. Since the maps have been changed to add more complexity and alternate routes to fix the complaint that the previous game was completely linear. To aid in navigation, they’ve also locked the minimap so it doesn’t rotate with the player – a common request in reviews and discussions. In another heard and answered request, SquareEnix promises that there will be more interactions between the NPCs and characters.
In addition to the beautifully rendered cutscenes in the game, there will also be minature talking events. These will be conversations that occur naturally in the environment without stopping the player. You can choose to stop and engage in the dialog, or you can blow by and skip them as you see fit – they are optional.
Just before our fight we got something else completely new – options. This “Live Trigger” event gave us four options – confront Atlas directly, utilize a nearby device to see if it helps the fight, ask our Moogle for advice, or back out of the conversation point. Headstrong, we decide to take Atlas head-on. It was a poor choice. We engage Atlas and he crushed us within two rounds, ending the entire party. If we had been sufficient level we might have been able to complete this battle, but we were not. Backing up, we instead decided to try our hand at the nearby device. As we approach the device, Atlas reminds us that he has other ideas, crushing through the wall and dragging Serah into a sort of Temporal Rift between the two worlds – the Void. The Void is simply a way to break up the action by dropping you into a puzzle area. These puzzle areas need to be solved to resolve the anomaly and let us get back to our battle – they play like the recently-released Android Game “Walkabout”. That is to say that you have to collect some crystals while moving towards the exit, but each step you take makes the floor disappear behind you – proper route planning is key. As we solve the puzzle and are carried back into Cocoon we activate the nearby device. This causes Atlas to full shift into our world, removing the oil-slick effect he had before. Battling our way back to him we engage him once again – it is time to get some payback.
Atlas’s health bar is halved, his stagger gauge is stacking faster, and he’s doing less damage being damaged by the device! Shifting between paradigms we go on the offensive and unleash our might on the beast. As a new bar called “Feral Link” charges in the bottom, we are given the chance to also unleash our creature friends to cause a great deal of damage periodically. Inside of a minute our party had dispatched the once-impossible giant, felling him and ending this section of the demo.
Square had one last gem to share with us, but we were not allowed to film it. Close to the beginning of the game we find Lightning escaping from a flying Chaos Bahamut on her trusty steed Odin. Racing away from the creature while engaging him, she is wearing all new armor and sporting Ullr’s shield and a new sword. The camera sweeps around in a more cinematic look as the battle continues. With Chaos Bahamut being nearly defeated, we get a cinematic sequence as she cuts through the city to her escape, thus ending the demo.
The game is currently slated to release at the end of 2012, so there is plenty of time for even more improvements, but the changes we saw today were already welcome ones. Check out the video of the game in action, and look for our continued coverage as more information becomes available.