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Final Fantasy XIII-2 Preview

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is launching in the West next week, hitting US shores January 29th. While the Japanese have had an entire month to the game, we’ll finally have a chance at this next big title from Square-Enix. For those who haven’t played the first title, Final Fantasy XIII, you don’t have to purchase it in order to know the tale of XIII since it contains a neat system to retell the events of Final Fantasy XIII, however, XIII is still an incredible game so you should check that out when you have the chance. XIII-2 takes place 3 years after the original where the people have finally settled after a catastrophic event. Serah, the sister of the Lightning who was the main character from the Final Fantasy XIII, will take the helm as she and the mysterious time traveler Noel journey to search for Lightning. The story explores various ideas of time since time travel is involved so be prepared for some heavy logical thought processes in order to comprehend certain plot elements. 

If you’ve played Final Fantasy XIII then the battle system will be familiar to you but if you haven’t, the game utilizes the Active Time Battle system. Similar to turn based combat, each character waits to attack and cannot attack again without fulfilling certain requirements. In Final Fantasy XIII-2, you control only one character out of your party of three. During the battle a bar in the middle of the screen will slowly fill up. This is the ATB Gauge. At first it’ll be sectioned off into two or three but as you level up it’ll max out to six. Each section represents an action that you can queue up and unleash against your enemy. Once you complete these set of actions, you can requeue new actions once it reaches max. Of course, you don’t have to wait for the bar to fill up completely and can just choose to fulfill an action by pressing the triangle or Y button, depending on the console. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Meet Noel, Serah, and Caius (left to right)

 

XIII-2, just like its predecessor, uses the Paradigm Shift system. You can create paradigms which are sets that assign a specific role to each character: Commando, Blaster, Jammer, Synergist, Healer, and Sentinel. Each role has its own set of actions and fulls a particular role Commandos are efficient in dealing raw damage while Synergists add buffs to your party. In the menu you can create various Paradigms and use them in battle. During boss fights, setting up particular Paradigms will be essential since there are bonuses that help to make the fights easier such as having your entire party changing to the Sentinel role will greatly reduce damage. Changing out your Paradigms for another in battle will not only make your characters stronger against enemies but end the fight quicker. This is the basic combat bread and butter of XIII and XIII-2. However, there are small changes that help to make Paradigms become much more efficient. Along with choosing roles for particular party members for each Paradigm, you have the option to choose what types of attacks to use and how to focus enemies. This customization really allows for the player to create a specific paradigm for a particular situation.

Watch as Noel slices the enemy

Crystarium System, which is the leveling mechanic in XIII-2, is very similar to XIII just like the combat system. There aren’t various trees to choose from so you can grow your character a specific way, instead there is only one linear route. There are various nodes connected to each other and you have the option to level them up with the various roles unlocked to you. In the demo for Noel you have Commando, Blaster, and Healer unlocked. This means that you can unlock the node in any of the three roles you possess. Unlocking the node with a specific role will increase that role’s level as well as possibly unlocking a new move. While it seems like you can customize your character in how you level, it’s still a straightforward and linear progression in terms of leveling. 

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of XIII-2 that XIII failed to do is map traveling. Long gone are the maps where everything was a line. Instead the maps seem larger with much more turns and detour routes allowing the player to explore instead of just pushing up on the control stick. There’s even a dedicated jump button now so freedom is expanded upon. While it seems like a very drastic change at first, it’s hard to say how XIII-2 handles traveling beyond the demo since the jump feels like it’s purely aesthetic and the maps still feel strangely linear. Luckily there are side missions to tackle so it’s definitely an improvement over the original. It seems like Final Fantasy XIII-2 makes various changes, improvements, and tweaks over the original but are they enough to make it a great game? Find out in our full review next week!

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