E3 2011: Final Fantasy XIII-2

QUICKTAKE: Square Enix returns to Cocoon with Final Fantasy XIII-2, the first direct sequel to a Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy X-2. In addition to continuing the storyline of Final Fantasy XIII, Square Enix is taking the opportunity to add some new features and address some of the criticisms of the first game. BOOM video 9341 THE DEMO: Square Enix's Final Fantasy XIII-2 demo began with a voice-over from Lightning, the main character from Final Fantasy XIII. The first playable characters shown were Serah, Lightning’s younger sister; and a new character named Noel, who wields a pair of swords. The pair were thrown into a battle with Atlas, a giant behemoth. Once defeated, Atlas rises again, looking for a second fight. Square concluded their demo by showing off a battle with Lightning on horseback fighting off a flying Bahamut. DETAILS: Square Enix wasn’t shy about showing off new features for Final Fantasy XIII-2. They also didn’t hesitate to occasionally note that some of these features are meant to address some issues with Final Fantasy XIII. One of the primary issues they addressed was the linear feel of the original game. Square took aim at this by offering more than one path to complete certain objectives. An example is the aforementioned fight with Atlas. Serah and Noel were presented the option to fight Atlas immediately; however, the Square rep noted that the pair wouldn’t have Cocoon’s aerial forces to back them up against the fully-powered beast, so they wouldn’t stand much of a chance. Sure enough, when Serah and Noel fought the fully-powered Atlas. Skilled players may stand a better chance, the rep addd. In a surprising twist, Square added the ability to jump in Final Fantasy XIII-2. The mechanic will hopefully create a lot of exploration possibilities. Monsters would also appear, which would introduce another new feature called the Mog Clock. If the player strikes a monster while the Mog Clock is in the green, the party will receive a distinct advantage in the form of early hits or party buffs. If a player runs and is chased by the monster, the Mog Clock runs out. This gives the enemies extra hits with the possibility of beginning the battle with negative status effects.

The adventure continues in Final Fantasy XIII-2.

In battle, Paradigms return and are largely unchanged. One unique aspect to the game is that fallen monsters will occasionally join your party and their attacks will vary depending on the Paradigm being used. Also added is a feature dubbed the "Cinematic Action" sequence. This presents the battle with cutscene-style sequences. Players would need to respond to Quick Time Events and successfully completing them would show a neat cinematic sequence and also provide a buff for the party. One of the big ones I was shown was Noel running up Atlas’ arm and slashing away at him with a successful QTE response. Final Fantasy XIII-2 adds the ability for players to escape into a Temporal Rift, changing the pace of battle. In order to escape, the player must collect items while solving a puzzle. While I could see what they’re aiming for, it looks like a momentary departure from the game and could end up being more of a distraction than anything else. From my experience, it appears that Square Enix are attempting to hold on to the elements FFXIII fans enjoyed, while refining the experience to appease naysayers. I appreciate that Square is actively trying to address criticisms of the first game, but I can’t help but wonder if anyone turned off by Final Fantasy XIII will give this sequel a chance. Watch the Shacknews E3 2011 page to follow all our coverage of this year's show. You can also subscribe to it with your favorite RSS reader.