Final Fantasy XIII was a very controversial title for fans of the series, it wasn’t exactly a bad game per se, but when you compare it to what the franchise has done previously with lesser hardware, it’s safe to say it was a huge disappointment. Personally I had no issue in dubbing it the worst Final Fantasy game (not counting the MMOs). When they announced a sequel for XIII I had mixed reactions. My first reaction was to question why they would bother making a sequel when Final Fantasy: Versus XIII looked like it could be the Final Fantasy to redeem the franchise. My second reaction was that maybe it was time for me to try XIII again to give it a second chance, I did the latter and I definitely did enjoy the game the second time around.
[quote-left]I noticed that initiating a battle is way different this time around; instead of just spotting an enemy, you actually get to attack them whilst roaming.[/quote-left]
At the Eurogamer Expo last week I had the chance to get some play time with the sequel Final Fantasy XIII-2, and to be honest it was hard to miss it being that posters for the game were plastered all over Earls Court, including inside the train station (Good job Square!). The demo at the show allowed you to take control of Noel and Serah on Cocoon. The first thing I noticed was that there was no real jump in terms of visuals, but Final Fantasy XIII looked good enough as it is, so that wasn’t really an issue. Secondly I noticed that initiating a battle is way different this time around; instead of just spotting an enemy and running into it to start the battle sequence, you actually get to attack them whilst roaming. If you manage to pull of a clean attack initially – it grants you bonuses once the battle sequence starts, this is also a better way of getting a pre-emptive strike.
Battles have also been improved. Anyone who played XIII will still feel at home, as it’s still just a case of tapping the X button and switching classes. However thing’s get more intense as when your party member’s HP meter decreases it stays decreased after a certain point. You can still switch to a medic class and heal your party of course, but you won’t always be able to top up your HP to 100%. Some may not like this, but I think it adds an extra level of intensity, and forces you to do the best you can at taking out enemies in the quickest time.
[quote-right]This time around side missions are actually assigned by a real person instead of some random floating conduit device[/quote-right]
The improvement I am most happy about is how party leaders are managed in battle. Previously if your party leader died in battle, you were presented with the gameover screen. Thankfully this time around if your party leader dies, the second person in line automatically becomes the party leader, allowing you to revive the previous leader if your remaining characters have the medic class activated. I’m all for punishing gamers for their mistakes and forcing them to try harder, but that was one thing that really annoyed me in Final Fantasy XIII so you can imagine my joy when I realized they fixed it.
Another big improvement was how side-quests are handled. In the previous game side missions were very boring and repetitive, making players want to skip over them completely. This time around side missions are actually assigned by a real person instead of some random floating conduit device, there is also an exchange of dialog to fill you in on what needs to be done and why. It seems like much more effort has been put in this time around as far as side quests which is fantastic as that’s what role-playing is all about. Those who were upset about the lack of towns in Final Fantasy XIII will also be pleased to know that Square Enix has taken our woes on board, there are many different towns and locations which we will be able to explore this time around.
In closing, Final Fantasy XIII-2 has left me a little more optimistic about the future of the series which was near and dear to my heart. It’s great to know that Square Enix are aware of their faults and are willing to put them right. With so much competition in the RPG market, I would love nothing more than for Final Fantasy to claim its spot once again as the top dog.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 will be released in Japan on December 15th, 2011, January 31st, 2012 in North America and February 3rd, 2012 in Europe.