Final Fantasy XIII-2 Has Transforming Moogles, Recruitable Monsters And Rap

I've always thought that Final Fantasy XIII didn't get a fair shake. Admittedly, it was an overwhelmingly linear journey—player agency wasn't topmost among the priorities incorporated into its development. But it was an extraordinarily intentional game; nothing about it ever felt accidental or unplanned. It did a few things, but it did them exceedingly well: excellent combat, well-produced cut scenes, a surprisingly mature narrative, and quality voice-acting. But all of that deliberateness—of which I was a fan—came at the expense of a certain amount of freedom that many fans expect from the series. XIII-2 is looking to change much of that.

The Final Fantasy XIII-2 E3 demo gave the impression of a game that is a much looser experience than its predecessor. The environments were larger and more meandering, the gameplay systems more varied, and the character models and plot elements especially flamboyant (and often obscure). It's clear that the developers are prepared to emphasise gameplay this time around, even if it comes at the expense of consistent world-building and narrative plausibility. This isn't necessarily a bad thing—but those expecting a direct continuation of XIII might find the sequel jarring.

The demo was set in a sprawling complex identified as the Bresha Ruins. It was raining, and large droplets of water periodically splashed on the screen. The soundtrack was familiar, but very vocal-heavy; at one point it slipped into rap. I controlled Noel, a young man dressed in a blue garb that was very suggestive of Fang's costume in the previous title. In tow was Serah, Lightning's younger sister, and—surprise!—a moogle.

Aside from being a throw-back to the franchise's older days, this moogle appears to serve multiple functions, For one, he (or she—it's terribly hard to tell) can transform into Serah's weapon, either a bow or sword. Outside of combat, pressing the gamepad's left trigger will make him to perform a scan of the area, occasionally revealing hidden treasure orbs. He's sort of goofy; it would be hard to imagine a comparable character alongside the high-drama of the the last installment. But there's something charming about having him tag along. Like many of the new elements I saw in this demo, I struggled to see how the moogle would fit into the title's larger framework.

The Ruins were populated with non-playable-characters, something we didn't see too much of in Final Fantasy XIII. Now you can talk to many of them by using the confirmation button. No more strangers yammering-off whenever you walk in front of them. It had more in common with the way the series has handled NPCs in the past. They were still fully voiced, but their dialogue could be scrolled, and would even change depending on how many times they were engaged. The alleyways, plazas and staircases—full of people wandering and going about their business—reminded me of the cities of Final Fantasy XII. I wouldn't be surprised if we see a return to a more traditional, hub-like structure in XIII-2, with shops and side missions.

The story is quite confusing, and despite my being a seasoned (and enthusiastic) player of XIII, threw me for a loop.

Square Enix is being tight-lipped about the title's narrative. The story is quite confusing, and despite my being a seasoned (and enthusiastic) player of XIII, threw me for a loop. Apparently, the game is set in an alternate reality situated sometime after the events of the first title. Lightning is missing. Or simply doesn't exist. It was difficult to get a straight answer. At any rate, Serah is the only person who believes that Lightning is still out there somewhere, and sets off to discover her older sister's condition and whereabouts. There was a lot of dialogue about time travelling, and alternate dimensions, leading me to believe that the plot will incorporate some form of cross-dimensional adventuring.

Combat plays out much the same as did in the previous game: there are paradigms, auto-battle, and a three-character party. But this time, the action is broken up by quick-time-events called "Live Triggers", the conditions for which appeared to be random. Of major interest is the inclusion of monster-type allies in battle. In the course of the demo, I linked up with a flan, a behemoth and some sort of rock-based beast that had particular combat specialties. Switching paradigms would automatically reassign the appropriate monster ally to my party; a defensive paradigm might feature the rock monster as a sentinel, for example, or a ravager-intensive paradigm would bring in the flan. According to Square Enix, these monsters can be permanently recruited by collecting crystals at the end of battles and will experience some form of level-up as the game progresses.

Combat also received an overhaul. The demo was a lot more generous in dolling out preemptive attacks, thanks to yet another moogle-involved subsystem referred to as "Mog Clock." Whenever Noel entered within the radius of an enemy or group of enemies (who had a tendency to spawn out of the ground, rather than be visible far into the distance), a color-coded count-down timer appeared at the bottom of the UI. Engage the enemy while the timer is still green, and you'll receive a preemptive attack and all the bonuses therein. If the timer is yellow, you'll enter battle with neither any special advantages nor penalties. And a red timer, as you could probably guess, is bad news.

There's more. Puzzles, actually. Entering into a "Temporal Rift" (whatever that is) toward the end of the demo brought Noel and co. into a abstract space, with a tile floor plotted down the centre. The tiles formed a puzzle: each time Noel stepped on one, it would disappear. The challenge consisted of having to collect tokens arranged at intervals along the tiles, all the while making it from point A to point Z without backtracking. The puzzle wasn't particularly difficult or riveting, but it was an inoffensive way to break up the action. It was yet another way in which the game felt like a grab-bag of ideas and systems.

My 25 minutes with Final Fantasy XIII-2 ended in an unexpected way. It gave me a choice. A big choice. Would I attempt to attack big ol' colossus head-on or take the scenic route and try lowering its defenses via some ancient machinery? The game was proud of this decision-point moment: the prompt expanded to fill the entire screen. Fun demo, but I couldn't help but worry—is this title attempting to do too much at once?


Comments

    noticed some fo that in the trailer- happy to see moogles floating aorund :)

    vocal background music is a flatout terrible god damn idea for any rpg, especially knowing the cheesy shit square will pick.. also if they incredibly annoying b*tch that was in the first one is in this, i will stop playing straight away. the one that wouldnt stop making groaning noises and giggling at NOTHING. go back to roots enix. i want an old school story in an old school world with new school graphics go

      And I want people to stop whinging on the internet, but we have to learn to accept that which we cannot change.

        whatever lol i leave you to your "ahhh, hahah, wee, oh! uhgn, ahhh' with terrible jarring rap in the background, final fantasy has gone to shit, im jumping off the bandwagon should have a long time ago

          Thanks for jumping off, now there is more room for me to spread out whilst playing FFXIII-2

        "longtime Vanille fan" ahahhahaha. Don't worry, I'm sure Superman 64 had its fans too.

        If you're fine with a voice track that's 90% gasping, peppered with "Let's go!", "I got your back!", "You ain't seen nothin' yet!" and cinematics that are nothing but melodramatic, stilted dialogue with JPOP shit, then go ahead!

        There will be hardcore fans of just about anything, even the Simpsons still has some I suspect. The rest of us have moved onto greener pastures.

          I geddit. You grew up hearing form your dad how great FFVII was (and it was great) and you thought you finally had a FF to call your own. Now you feel hurt and betrayed that it didn't live up to your expectations. Unfortunatly 'the rest of us' that you talk about is called 'the noisy minority'. I do encourage you to move on though... or look at FFXIII again. What ever gives you enjoyment, friend :)

            hahaha. What. I love how your position automatically goes straight from defending this turd of a game to baseless scrutiny of any critic's 'final fantasy credentials'. I guess it worked with McCarthy, though whatever helps you sleep at night.

            FFVII WAS fun because it was the first decent one on the PSX that we got here, it was fairly fun, even if the story elements weren't all there. I enjoyed the minigames and kookiness of it, that never took itself too seriously and were a decent distraction.

            So you BET I was looking forward to FFXIII. I loved FFXII, I didn't play the MMOs (and never will), and it looked like it was really going to kick ass on the new generation of consoles. I picked up the Collector's Edition (as I usually do) and guess what? It was a pile of puke.

            The people you think who are the vocal minority are everyone who isn't Japanese, Japanophilic, weeaboo or is a fanboy. I think it's clear from the amount of recent backlash, YOU are in the minority here.

            actually ive played 1,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,10-2,12,13, thirteen is BY FAR the worst. 10, 10-2(somewhat), and 12 all proved you can have voice acting without all the weird retarded japgasping, so theres not excuse for vanille. i just dont like what square has been doing in its latest efforts, and the company doesnt seem to pay attention to its fans, like at all? they just do what they want, fail. just venting the shit i didnt vent when ff13 came out i guess.

              "I love how..."

              I was just stiring you up champ. My defence of FFXIII is simply this: I enjoyed playing it and am looking forward to the sequel because I think I will enjoy it too.

              Fortunatly for me your dissapproval of my tastes doesn't diminish from my enjoyment of the game. It does dissappoint me when people like yourself are so adamant it was a bad game just because it wasn't your cup of tea. I respect woo's comment below though where he aknowledges that it's down to his personal taste.

              Actually come to think of it, if you look past the cheekiness in my previous post, maybe my comment about 'hurt feelings' isn't too far from the mark? You feel something that was not in anyway FF was delivered to you, which was a massive let downn. I guess I'd repsond to that by saying that surely there are many games on the market at the moment that you do enjoy instead, can't you have your fun there? What is floating your boat at the moment?

              Maybe FF vs XIII will be what you are looking for.

                I am looking forward to FFXIII versus, because it's made quite clear that FFXIII-2 is just more of the same.

                I'm actually totally fine if people choose to play what I don't like. I personally hate CoD, but if you're into that sort of thing, then sure, whatever.

                However, I don't like people defending a company's product for no reason other than they could. Even if you're a FF fanboy, you'll probably acknowledge that XIII was possibly the worst in the franchise. If someone critiques the game, don't just say "oh, it's just bitching" because if we don't vote with their wallets, Squeenix will continue making the same goddamn thing, especially if there's no incentive to do otherwise. The fact FFXIII-2 is coming out proved the last one sold well enough despite the lukewarm reception in the west.

                  The longer this discussion goes the more sensible it becomes. If you would like to continue, please email me at [email protected] - I won't try and change your views about the game per se but I'd welcome the oppotunity to explain why the game is important to me, as well as demonstrate that I am no meer fanboy.

      I agree. I don't like the idea of the soundtrack becoming vocal heavy and I definitely DO NOT appreciate rap sneaking into any FF music. The greatest thing about the FF music to date was that it focused on melody, not lyrics. Yes, vocal music has appeared in FF's of the past but they were always very limited and seemed to suit the situation. Aside from One Winged Angel and Otherworld, there were never any flat out vocal songs unless they were the opening/ending songs.

    I just want a hub of some kind. The biggest problem I had with XIII was that without any towns, or people to interact with, there was absolutely no pacing. It made the whole thing so much more tedious and exhausting than it needed to be.

    Not sure we played the same Final Fantasy XIII there.

    The one I played had cut scenes and a plot that seemed to revolve around what the designers and artists had put together. At times it felt like they'd made cut scenes and then worked out the dialogue afterwards.

    I quite liked 13... glad to see someone else did as well. I must admit I always get lost in 12, and quite often got sick of towns where I didnt get to do anything interesting. 7 has some of the most boring town moments in history. Looking forward to 13-2.

    "excellent combat, well-produced cut scenes, a surprisingly mature narrative, and quality voice-acting" LOL.

    1) Mature Narrative? I jumped into FFXIII not knowing wtf was going on and for 2 hours people would drop fal'cie, l'cie, cocoon etc into conversation lines like it was the most normal thing in the world. Maybe something got lost in translation, but this is NOT how you introduce a setting and characters in a 3 act story.

    2) Well Produced Cutscenes: Well, that's true enough, but we're at a point in gaming where cutscenes don't dazzle people anymore, ESPECIALLY IF YOU CAN'T DO ANYTHING DURING WHILE THEY'RE GOING ON. Everything has reached a stage where it can look fantastic, so the proof is in the dialogue and storytelling elements.

    3) Quality Voice Acting: Is this guy deranged? I've never wanted to punch a girl in a game before, but Vanille was a first in many regards. The worst, WORST forced Aussie accent I've ever heard in my life. Ever heard Claudia Black? Or Yvonne Strahovski? Doing an Aussie accent doesn't mean you have to turn into a stereotype.

    Also doesn't help when her character voice is deliberately higher pitched than the actress herself, so she sounds like a 12 year old, and she's ticking every "JRPG perky girl" genre stereotype in the book.

    Even regular troopers like Ali Hillis who usually do better work elsewhere just seemed to be down on their game for FFXIII. Everything that comes out of her mouth has to sound like she's auditioning for the Bold and the Beautiful. That pause-heavy, husky, melodramtic tone that is useful in certain scenes but comes off as whiny when that's her setting for the entire bloody game.

      Vanille's voice actor is Australian. Agree that the voicework wasn't very good, though.

    I liked 13. Portal 2 is incredibly linear and you don't hear people complain it sucks because of it. It often annoyed me in Final Fantasy games how, in order to explore much of the content, you'd have to deviate from doing tasks which should have been of world-shattering importance to the characters.

    Vanille's voice actor aside, I liked the characters and the story. if that was too complex for people, well, sucks to be them. If they got impatient with whiny Hope because his character development to stop being whiny took more than half an hour of the game, again, sucks to be them.

    The combat system, the levelling system and the crafting/shopping system were all half-baked though. Worst gameplay system since FF8.

    13 not so bad. It back to console style rpg.
    If talking bout the ff old school gamer way. Maybe the 11th 12th 14th are the fail one. Cause the pc rpg style.

    But if we just include all the ff with console rpg style. Of course 13th is the worst.

    I was playing Star Ocean International after FF13, and after a 30 hours of running all over the maps looking for chests that only give you health potions and occasional weapons that become obsolete at the next town, I realised - I'm too old for this sh*t now :P

    FF13's linear format started to look quite appealing in comparison, makes me feel a little less like I'm wasting my life. (just a little less.)

    Rap isn't to bad in a game. The japanese seem to make it work fine in anime like Gurren lagann or Soul eater. Why not this?

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