Despite accused of being linear and confined, Final Fantasy XIII still had the wonderful aspect of being immensely absorbing and addictive like the previous games in the series. Sure, we weren’t offered the amount of freedom that comes with the other Final Fantasy titles, but nevertheless the game was adored for all the right reasons.
Motomu Toriyama, the director of FF-XIII, is determined to not repeat the same ‘linear’ mistake again, that perhaps might have forced fans to rate FF-XIII as one of the more forgettable ones, even though it had some amazing things, and rightly followed the conventions of the series.
Toriyama is looking to add the missing flavors in the follow up of the game: Final Fantasy XIII-2, and is confident that players will get both the open freedom that they are accustomed to and the brilliance of the FF-XIII world, to make a perfect Final Fantasy title.
All that bit is fair enough, but one wonders whether a continuation is a wise idea or not. We’ve seen continuations of FF games fail miserably, such as the many spin-offs of FF-VII or FF X-2. So the real question is what is the dev team doing to ensure FF XIII-2 doesn’t follow the footsteps of the above mentioned continuations?
Firstly, in XIII-2 players will play as both Lightning and Noel, a young lad dressed in harem pants and wielding dual swords. Lightning will be wearing an all-new crusader-like armor, which looks ultra cool (not to mention hot), while Noel will have a role as a companion, and perhaps protector, of Serah.
So far, little is known regarding the story of the game, except that is set after the events of FF XIII. Things seem stable in the world, but not stable enough for people like Lightning and her companions to sit back and relax. Noel has befriended Serah, and with her is on a journey that we barely know anything of.
The game’s mechanics will pretty much remain the same, with offensive and defensive paradigms doing what they are meant to do. However, the cutscenes will now feature quick-time events.
The quick-time events won’t really determine whether you live through a cutscene or not; instead your success in doing the displayed task, such as pressing a set of buttons in order or twisting the analog stick in certain directions, will determine the outcome of the cutscene.
That means a certain cutscene with quick-time can play out in different ways, changing the path of the storyline and giving you multiple paths to play through.
As far as side-quests and liberty is concerned, there will be lots of side plots, puzzles, and multiple paths to take, making the game feel less restrictive than its predecessor.
Certain NPCs will occasionally offer side quests and reveal locations of secret special items. Moreover, there will be many mini-games to play as well, making the entire world feel more alive and much more Final Fantasy like.
In FF XIII-2 enemy encounters will be slightly different. FF XIII adapted the roaming system of FF XII, where you could clearly see the monsters and animals lurking here and there.
In the sequel, you won’t be able to see monsters or threats until you get close enough. We’re not quite sure why this is done, but perhaps it plays an important role in making the game a more player-driven experience rather than a story driven one.
There is also a slight positive addition to fighting against normal creatures. If you fight against a certain monster in a specific way, you can make turn into a crystal, and you could make the crystal work for you, such as using it for summoning the creature during a battle.
Apart from that, it seems that we’ll be playing as Noel more than as Lightning. Being a guy who has a crush on the lovely female protagonist, I’m slightly disappointed in this regard, particularly since Lightning will be much more powerful than any of the playable characters in the game.
Since she saved the world in the previous one and has tons of experience, her stats will be much higher than the other characters, not to mention the new armor she wears will give her extra defense.
Summarizing it all, the dev team has really paid attention to what fans had to say about FF XIII, and have tried their best to work on it. While quick-time events may be a factious addition, the increase in exploration and player-oriented experience is something that will satisfy a lot of folks.
The only thing that worries me is that perhaps the FF XIII-2 attempts to redeem the linear nature of its predecessor so much that it leaves out the great aspects that made FF XIII so addictive and such a great game.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 will be released this December in Japan, and in early 2012 for the rest of the world.