So I played the Final Fantasy XIII-2 demo today. …it’s difficult to select a starting position. On the one hand, I don’t mind at all that it stayed very much like its predecessor because I maintain that FFXIII was a great game. On the other hand, I have a little difficulty seeing where Square Enix “listened” to all its fans. Plus, I have to consider that the game in question is quite large and we only saw a very small piece in this playable demo.
So I’m a little stuck but I’ll do my best. First and foremost, let me say I’m intensely annoyed at the prospect of keeping the exact same party throughout the adventure. Of course, your third “party member” will always change due to the new monster recruiting and training mechanic, but if I’ve read the news correctly, it’s always Noel and Serah throughout FFXIII-2. No exceptions or changes. Now that I have that out of the way, let me focus on this new monster idea.
Personally, I don’t really like it. However , before elaborating, I want to make it clear that this is a very subjective viewpoint and I can see how some gamers could really fall in love with this new feature. It actually reminded me a bit of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne , where you would recruit, train, breed, and use monsters in battle. In FFXIII-2, it seems that just about any foe you conquer in combat becomes an ally that can be used by attaching the monster into a Paradigm Shift. You can have up to three monsters equipped into various Paradigms at any given time.
It’s a tremendously in-depth feature that acts as a double-edged sword. You can “adorn” your monsters with items, allow them to grow, and even fuse them with other monsters to create more advanced allies. The fact that each has its own set of skills, combined with their inclusion in every Paradigm, makes this an extremely robust mechanic. Furthermore, when a monster hits a certain point, he can unleash his Feral ability, which, in FF parlance, is kinda like a Limit Break.
The downside is that due to its depth and because you only have Noel and Serah to consider, this monster thing could take up half your life. It could easily take up a good portion of the gameplay preparation, and I find it a tad tedious. But as I said, some people might love it. The other major change in battle comes in the form of Cinematic Actions, which is similar to the button prompts you’ve seen in numerous action titles, ranging from Resident Evil to God of War . They’re relatively easy, as analog movements are on the left side of the screen and face button prompts are on the right.
In the demo, you run around the Bresha Ruins, tracking down a giant creature called Atlas and even taking on a side quest or two. As expected, it’s very pretty, and there are plenty of people to talk to at certain parts of the demo. Oh, and there’s one other gameplay addition and this involves choice, an element we often see in many modern-day RPGs. When it comes time to make a big decision, the game will give you an option of who to ask for advice, or sometimes you can just fish for more information.
Basically, it’s FFXIII with a few small additions and one big new feature in the monster collection. The Paradigm Shifts seem faster but other than that, those who enjoyed FFXIII should be able to dive right in with little problem. I just don’t know if it will satisfy those who didn’t like this sequel’s predecessor. I’m guessing it won’t but you never know.