E3 2011: Final Fantasy XIII-2 Hands-On Preview

Final Fantasy XIII-2 aims for greater player freedom with multiple story arcs, bigger dungeons, and some tweaks to the battle system.

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"Linear, linear, linear," says Motomu Toriyama. For the director of Final Fantasy XIII, it's a word that wasn't even in his vocabulary until a whirlwind press tour that saw critics and fans constantly questioning the new direction for the series. It's a criticism that Toriyama and producer Yoshinori Kitase don't want repeated for the sequel, Final Fantasy XIII-2. They've been working on a host of new gameplay mechanics for XIII-2, all intended to move the game from a "story driven" experience, to a "player driven" one. We got a taste of these changes in our hands-on at E3, where we jumped back into the stunning world of Pulse and got a glimpse of the new fully armoured Lightning in action.

Our hands-on began with a short cutscene, introducing us to new character Noel. Dressed in harem pants and wielding a pair of swords, he cut an imposing figure as he jumped across the screen to join his pink-haired companion Serah. A huge hand then rose out of the ground, smashing the surrounding scenery and letting us know the pair were on the run. That hand was attached to a semi-invisible giant called Atlas, who the pair subsequently faced in battle. Joining them was a moogle, which transformed into a weapon that Serah could wield.

Atlas' size meant he barely fit on the screen, dwarfing the heroes who stood at his feet. It was here that we got to grips with the battle system. It remains largely unchanged from that of XIII, making use of a paradigm switching system that let us change the role of our characters during battle. Defensive paradigms let us block and heal, while offensive ones let us unleash a string of strong attacks. Switching between them effectively remains key to winning battles, and it wasn't long before we had worn down Atlas' health bar.

Before we could finish him off, a cutscene began, showing a group of large vehicles flying overhead. This showcased a new feature called Live Trigger. Cutscenes now feature quick-time events, such as having to hammer the A button repeatedly or twist the analogue sticks in certain directions. Depending on whether you perform the action correctly or not, the cutscene plays out in different ways. While you can't fail as such, the path of the storyline changes, giving you multiple paths to play through. On this occasion, we successfully performed the QTE, causing the ships to fire at Atlas and send him back into the ground from which he had emerged.

It wasn't the end of Atlas, however, and the rumbling of his movements beneath the ground let us know there was still work to be done. We moved forward to investigate a set of ruins, which were drenched in water from a thunderstorm. The weather effects looked beautiful, with each drop of rain causing reflections of light to bounce around the surrounding rubble and buildings. Like in XIII, there are numerous enemies to fight along any given path. Walking into them initiated a battle, but with a twist. Before the fight, a clock appeared onscreen with a fast-moving ticking hand, which we had to try to stop in a green section of the clock. Doing so gave us an advantage in battle, which in this case was a preemptive strike. We were told stopping the clock in a yellow area would result in no advantages to our team, while stopping it in a red area would result in a penalty.

After defeating a pair of floppy flan opponents, we received a crystal. In subsequent battles we could use that crystal to summon flan and have it fight on our side, which could prove useful if your team is weakened or you're down a member. Moving further into the ruins we noticed that our character now had the ability to jump, letting us reach different areas of the map and discover secret pathways. Our moogle helped out too, using a special power to help us uncover a stash of hidden treasure. After a brief cutscene, Atlas reappeared, and he didn't look happy. It was here our heroes heard of an ancient controller that could possibly deactivate or control Atlas. We were given the option of trying to find the controller in the ruins, asking our moogle for advice, or tackling Atlas head-on. We decided to tackle the giant, which proved a costly mistake because his superior level destroyed our entire team with one hit.

Loading the previous checkpoint, we decided the more sensible option might be to try to find the ancient controller within the temple. We were told that it is possible to defeat Atlas without finding the controller, but it would have required a team with much higher levels. After making our way through a grimy tunnel, we discovered the controller, but before we could activate it, Atlas' giant hand appeared, pulling us into a vortex. This took us to an area called The Void Beyond, a spacelike area filled with a number of red platforms. To leave the area, we had to solve some simple puzzles using the platforms--collecting crystals scattered across them. Each time we stepped on a platform, it disappeared shortly after, so we had to figure out the best way to collect all the crystals without falling into the deep abyss of space below us. These small puzzle sections are littered throughout the game, which Square Enix told us were intended to break up the action.

After collecting all the crystals, we were transported back to the real world, where we could activate the controller. This caused Atlas to change colour and suddenly start behaving strangely. Moving back out of the ruins to the surface, we faced him once more. This time, his attacks were significantly weaker and his health bar had been halved. He was also much easier to stagger, letting us unleash a barrage of attacks and eventually take him down.

While that was the end of our hands-on, Square Enix showed us another section of the game, this time featuring XIII's heroine, Lightning. The level opened with Lightning falling from the sky and landing on Odin, all while being chased by a very angry-looking Bahamut. As Bahamut launched energy projectiles and vicious-looking swipes at the fleeing Lightning, the camera swept across the scene, showcasing the beautiful ruins of a city in the stormy background. Lightning continued to fight off Bahamut from atop Odin, with her new suit of armour protecting her from attacks. We noticed that Lightning's health, attack power, and level were much higher than those of the characters we saw earlier. Square Enix told us that she starts the game at a much higher level than the others--a concession to the fact that her heroic deeds saved the world in the last game, and therefore she is already extremely powerful.

Our time with Lightning was even briefer than that of our hands-on, and so the demo ended there. The numerous changes to the game were a lot to take in, in particular the QTEs, which are no doubt going to be a divisive new feature for fans. Giving the player more choice is a nice idea, though, and the multiple paths, plots, and puzzle sections all go some way towards making the game feel less restrictive than its predecessor. We were also promised that speaking to non-player characters in towns would present multiple options for dialogue, allowing players to discover hidden side quests and secret items. More minigames were promised too, though sadly Toriyama and Kitase weren't giving anything away at this stage. Whether all the new features will banish linear criticisms remains to be seen, but since its release date is set for early next year on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, we'll be sure to get a further look at Final Fantasy XIII-2 before its release.

Discussion

186 comments
Wensea10
Wensea10

this doest look better than crisis core final fantasy xii

nestorafranco
nestorafranco

FF 13 tends to be quite polarizing :P In my opinion the game had a great battle system, believable (albeit cliched) characters and stunning graphics. If the creators at SE can fix the linearity of the story then the game could turn out well. But we'll have to wait, FF 13 Versus looks very alluring :3

mgfan09
mgfan09

FF XIII was good, but previous Final Fantasies were more than just good. XIII is definately the low point of the series so far...it wasn't so much the battle system that made me not like it near as much, but the linearity of it. I mean, give us an open world map with towns to visit, or at least a system like X had. And isn't it about time for a classic, old-school jrpg setting? The past several FF's have had futuristic settings (which I have nothing wrong with but don't overdo it SqEnix)

romans1001
romans1001

I think I am going to pass this game for final fantasy versus.

auron11022
auron11022

FFXIII is probably the worst game I've ever beaten. That being said, it was good enough for me to beat, so that is pretty good within itself. I loved the battle system, I just hated everything else.

variable21
variable21

@Digital_DJ_00: you are absolutely right.. i think that they wanted to change the battle system, but i think they didnt have the guts to really reboot the final fantasy system without sakaguchi, they just put the paradigm shift over the original system in the fear they would destroy final fantasy... and that fear shows, they (at least) damaged the system and depth of the battles, XIII is not a complete reboot or change(like XII was) nor a reuse of the old classic-systems like FFVII or FFX (i think they used FFX as a main base for FFXIII) ... but i did like Crisis Core, they really got that right for the psp, with al the remade music,that was really good

mled
mled

@thundercraker - finding a strategy that incorporates no skill is a skill in itself :) . Not gonna sue you, opinions...

thundercraker
thundercraker

@mled I was running around Pulse beating Humbaba's and farming Tonberries with a 2500 hp party. Point is, no matter how much 'skill' it takes, there is always a strategy that incorporates no skill. I ended up with a 7000~ish hp party only because I simply had to have Superstar. Other games have more skill needed even with strategy. I don't play FF for the battles, I play it for the characters and the story. And I loved FF 13 for the story. So sue me.

mled
mled

@ aron_1993 - You said it!

mled
mled

@ thundercraker - Clearly never defeated the secret bosses like Omega, Ozma, Omega Weapon, etc, with low levels... O_o . It takes skill to do that, although Final Fantasy is generally easy, some specific bosses require skill.

thundercraker
thundercraker

@Afterthought Skill needed in Final Fantasy and RPG titles? Hahahaha! Oh wait. You are serious? Let me laugh even harder. HAHAHAHAHA!

aron_1993
aron_1993

Everyone loved the battle system. Even RPG veterans/critics. It's you fanboys that always complain. Besides, it's basically your beloved ATB system from FF4-9 but more fast-paced. isn't it? And don't give me that auto-battle excuse. You could turn it off. It's for the new players who want to get a piece of that awesome. Frankly, if they made games with the battle system untouched, you guys would complain about how unoriginal SE would be, using the same system over for nearly a quarter of a century. After all that's what happened to the Dynasty Warriors series.

Liziah
Liziah

Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait!!!

Afterthought_bt
Afterthought_bt

Same battle system? Not getting it then. The battle system was atrocious. No skill needed whatsoever - you could almost play it with your eyes shut. The battle system probably more than anything else was what made FFXIII so bad. Give XIII the systems of VI, VII, X, or even XII or VIII and it would have been bearable (despite the lack of story and rigid linearity) those systems were that good. Damn, Final Fantasy is dying a slow and painful death. :(

WhitePhoenix86
WhitePhoenix86

The linearity of the first game was by far the worst thing about it. It just didn't feel like a Final Fantasy game to me. At least Squeenix seem to have realised their mistake. I'm now looking forward to this one a bit more. :)

HyuugaHinata
HyuugaHinata

Hopefully they fix the terrible combat system mechanics that plagued the first one (IE, area based attacks, but little to no control over your characters placement, and the silly game over condition. Why couldn't my buddies use a phoenix down on ME?) Also, lolSony fanboy

yixingtpot
yixingtpot

That is why I quit paying $60 for XBROKE2 DVD level ports... they are only worth $20. Now i wait until things like Bayonetta are $20 and buy them off Amazon with free super saver shipping, that's all they are worth. I only pay $60 for games like Uncharted series and other real HD games.

yixingtpot
yixingtpot

So, this is the REST of the game that wouldn't fit on 3 dvds lol. M$ is destroying HD gaming. At least once Wii U comes out and is true HD like PS3, THEN developers will finally have 2 REAL HD formats to develop for up to 25GB of content on one disc, not spreading it out over 3 non-HD format dvds like XBROKE2. Face it, 3 dvds only sounded impressive to people who have no brains to realize that equals just ONE Blu-ray disc. The game should have been at least 2 Blu-ray discs like a REAL HD FF game would naturally have been. But that would have meant 6 dvds for XBROKE version of dumb down the graphics to XBROKE1 level and M$ bribed them not to do so.

Quinzark
Quinzark

I still HATE quicktime though. That is not fun gameplay :(

Quinzark
Quinzark

i enjoyed xiii but i do agree it was a little... corridor-y i hope they didn't move to far from story driven, after all it is importaint. I will most likely be picking this up & not just to add another FF title to my game shelf :)

slainta
slainta

I don't get it. Why do people complain about the combat system? I am replaying FF IX right now. I still press X most of the times. It is also annoying because if I want to chose something else to have nice effects or make the best use of some characters I dry out all mana in a couple of battles. To me the paradigms are cool. I replayed FF XIII as well disabling the autobattle this time. Knowing already the enemies it has been a walk. And I still managed to die few times because of a wrong setup. At the end what it matters in the first part of any FF is the journey. On the second part, the open world. there is no way to constantly use autobattle effectively. The turtles don't go down for example.

ratchet200
ratchet200

Change the battle system from hitting 'Auto Battle' all the time to something more interesting (like FFXII's battle system :D)

drokmore
drokmore

XIII was basically a pretty movie where I pused a few buttons, I hope the go further then just adding a few "side" quests. Its great you should have access to high level areas and get your butt kicked. Its fun to try to push the envelope..

Digital_DJ_00
Digital_DJ_00

@mdchapel9 I 100% agree, more than you can imagine. Squaresoft was part of my childhood because of its fantastic games. Super Mario RPG, Final Fantasy IV,VI,VII,IX,X, Tactics, Xenogears, Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Legend of Mana, Parasite Eve... What does Square-Enix have? The World Ends With You and Crisis Core. That's it. Final Fantasy XIII is garbage. Me and you had the fortune of playing Squaresofts games, which lets us appreciate the old days - because now I know those games will never happen again. Bethesda Studios and Bioware make the good rpg's of this decade, not Square-Enix... Fallout 3, Elder Scrolls Oblivion, Mass Effect, Dragon Age. Japanese developers have certainly lost their touch, and now North America is making the good ones. When Hironabu Sakaguchi left Squaresoft, he took the heart and soul of those games with him. I can't let go of the past either. You can hate us all you want FFXIII fanboys, but one fact will always remain - FFXIII sucks comapared to the classics and its predecessors. Im glad I grew up in the Super Nintendo/ Playstation 1 days, because it got me Squaresoft. Too bad the same can't be said for you fanboys who get spoon fed that garbage you call Final Fantasy XIII.

MaddogQ80
MaddogQ80

somethign that will make this game so much better than the previous...add a world map. why the hell did you even get rid of it.

HyoudeN
HyoudeN

so wheres lightning's gameplay ....

mdchapel9
mdchapel9

Sobbing.... I Cant let go of the past. I need to move on, those days are over.

mdchapel9
mdchapel9

FF13 to me was nothing like any other square soft (square enix) game, I remember when just about all square soft games on the ps1 and ps2 were amazing with full of adventure, great memorable story and unforgettable characters. Square soft games had it all Horror (parasite eve), Shooting (einhander), Action (brave fencer musashi), Strategy (front mission 3) Fighting (Boshido Blade 2) Adventure/RPG (all Final Fantasy and XenoGears.) It ticks me off when retards praise 13 and make fun of people like us for hating it. Most of these jerks arent real gamers they are just mindless fools that will only play games that were mentioned in the media like COD, Halo, Madden, Rock band, and FF13. Those dummies sure as hell missed out the best games in the 90's and early 2000's........... I wish Games were still an underground thing... maybe then we would have good quality games...

BlackSnake123
BlackSnake123

why make a sequel to a disaster? this game was terrible,there is no need to milk it anymore,if there was anything good at it,it should have been shown at the first game,this is just milking.

EsotericNights
EsotericNights

I'm happy then. I liked the battle system and a little more openness wouldn't hurt so I'm happy.

kmykL_optiOn
kmykL_optiOn

I enjoyed the new battle system, but I can't say it was perfect. I wouldn't mind if this game had the same one though, it would make sense. My biggest hope is for this game to actually be more memorable.

ryanmkl
ryanmkl

It sounds like what Square-Enix is doing with FFXIII-2 is good. They're taking out what was bad from XIII and adding what players wanted, but there's more to do. I personally wish that JRPG companies would go back to their roots. I mean, when graphics were 8 and 16-bit, the things to rely on for fun were story, battles, exploration, side quests, and soundtrack. Now, it seems that exploration is no longer important. That used to be one of the most important elements, alongside story. Correct me if I'm wrong, but before you ever started playing RPGs, story wasn't the reason you started playing it because you had no idea what the story was like until you played through it. Exploration, on the hand, was a given as soon as you looked at the screenshots. The battle-system was also seen beforehand. Don't misunderstand me! Story is incredibly important where RPGs are concerned, but before playing it something has to draw you in. Today, for most people, that seems to be graphics. As it stands, there is one JRPG company out there that continues to make RPGs the way they used to be made. Anybody hear of the Tales series? It was a rhetorical question. I know you have. To be honest, if Namco took the script writers and authors from Square-Enix and used them for their Tales games, you would have the perfect modern-day JRPG series. Who agrees THAT?

CaptainVictory
CaptainVictory

@cprmauldin Don't listen to people's complaints on Gamespot. They are babies and whiners and like nothing new. Like kiramasaki.

damojeebs
damojeebs

least the devs are learning,13 really upset me lol cause of how much i was hyped to play it only to be let down by pretty much how boring it was...graphically beautiful but boring. get rid of this staggering BS..its a joke,having to base your fighting on staggering an opponent to hurt it more so how bout pissing that off for more better character growth and development which actually makes them stronger instead of upgrading your weapons which does jack all. feel so much better now that they are gonna try and make it better and p.s to the guys who hate on ff fans cause those said fans complain about ff13 being pretty much rubbish stfu,as fans we have every right to have our say just cause we complain doesnt mean we arent true fans,we arent just gonna say its an awesome game and suck up its a** just cause we are fans.

NodakJo2010
NodakJo2010

@kiramasaki I couldn't agree more...I was stoked for Versus XIII because the gameplay was better and improved...Linearity isn't a problem for me much, but a sloppy battle system is.

DBZKING1234
DBZKING1234

You guys missed the big picture. Fix the battle system and get some competent writers this time. Then maybe I'll consider buying another Final Fantasy game.

urayanya
urayanya

what the!? they changed the moogles to their original form. didn't they looked very much like a rabbit if FF12?

urayanya
urayanya

it's not only the linearity...I had been observing this in FF series the characters' clothes never changes. In FFX-2 They change only during battle. So Snow dead?.... we don't know yet but it seems he is since Serah is paired up with this new guy that have a long face ( awful design).

Toropore
Toropore

I think that SE realizes this is their last attempt to not lose touch with a large player base. After the linearity of XIII (which i didn't mind much), and the failure of XIV, I think they realize that if this game isn't a hit SE will likely start to fade away forever, for its already fading.

kiramasaki
kiramasaki

Just change the gameplay for God's sake. This quasi turn based, staggering mess was awful. If the gameplay is significantly improved i might give it a chance.

Rasu89
Rasu89

In the interview it was said that this is the first Final Fantasy with multiple endings, but didn't FFX-2 have multiple endings depending on mission completion rate? I may be wrong since I did not finish that game (the only FF game I left unfinished.)

LittleMac
LittleMac

When I heard the first line "time flows without pause" I thought for a split second Liara T'Soni from Mass Effect was going to make an appearance...

Hiroo4
Hiroo4

They need some new writers. I enjoyed 13, but it is unarguably riddled with cheese dialogue and melodrama.

LJELLZ
LJELLZ

Please please be everything i miss..

LtReviews
LtReviews

This is huge! The developer of a Final Fantasy game is responding to criticism and incorporating improvements! Before this, Final Fantasy games would expirimentally edit the formula in any number of ways, and the result could be go great, or the other way. When you listen to what your players hate about the game; remove it (Vanille, Hope, and Snow weren't in the trailer, so good work!) Than listen to what players want, and if the developer finds it can fit, than they oughta try it. More player-driven storyline, less linearity. As for concerns about lack of depth in a player-driven storyline: making the cut-scenes in Final Fantasy are by far a billion times more expensive than paying your writers to come up with some extra dialogue. I'm sure the makers of Final Fantasy can manage adding some sub-storylines to side-quests. I'm very hopeful about this, even after being generally disappointing with FFXIII's lack of greatness.