The Final Fantasy XIII-2 Demo: An Elegant Solution, or Slap in the Face

The Final Fantasy XIII-2 demo was released on Tuesday, and, by now, everyone who cares has had time to check it out. XIII-2 is the sequel to the wildly hated Final Fantasy XIII. The reason the name looks so weird is because of how the series does sequels. You see, internet, each Final Fantasy is in its own self-contained universe with totally unique characters, and gameplay. Square-Enix (Developer) decided on the tenth instalment that they wanted to make a direct sequel to the game. After, what I can only assume, was the least productive board meeting ever, they came up with quite possibly the least creative name ever: Final Fantasy X-2. In that tradition, XIII has been followed up with XIII-2.

It’s like a pink-gasm for my eyes!

XIII-2 is a risky move for Square-Enix. As alluded to earlier, Final Fantasy XIII is far from the most popular game on the market right now. It was criticized for being linear, too easy (or just being a button mashing affair), having a weak story and characters, and most damning of all: being boring. Of course, most of these complaints could be made of countless games, including some extremely good ones, and it doesn’t explain the level of hatred people have have for the game. Why is the game so offensive that it demands constant attack, even upon its sequel? The reason for this isn’t very complicated actually. Firstly, Square-Enix had hyped the game as some sort of Messiah for five years. By the time the game was released, there was no way that it was going to live up to the obscene amount of hype. Couple with the fact that the game was legitimately a disappointing affair, and you have a huge amount of disgruntled gamers, who love nothing more than to take to the internet in order to spread their hate. Secondly, the Final Fantasy series is popular, which is bad in two ways. It attracts obnoxious fanboys, and it is really fun for people to take potshots at. The first part is irritating (Nobody likes fanboys) and leads to the inevitable backlash. In fact, every Final Fantasy message board as early as FFVIII has been full of people decrying the series. The second part is true of any popular franchise; look at all the people who hate Call of Duty or Halo before it. Finally, there are the trolls. These are people, who, like the people taking potshots at popular series, want nothing more than to rile up fans. There is no point behind their actions, other than to get a cheap laugh. In short, they are the scum of the universe.

OF THE UNIVERSE!

Well Square-Enix listened to all of the internet rage and promised everyone that they were going to address all of the problems in the game. They were going to open the game up and make it less linear, and they were going to make the battles more dynamic and less of a button-mashing affair. They promised a huge collection of minigames and a branching story, which would allow multiple playthroughs. These are serious promises. It is very rare for a gaming company to so thoroughly address the complaints of the fans. If every gaming company did this, we may have some serious innovation for some unfortunately stagnant series. Of course, Square-Enix may have promised too much and may be leading their fans to inevitable disappointment the same way they did with its predecessor. So, after three paragraphs of backstory, it’s time to look at the demo proper.

No demo will ever be this fun, so it’s lost points already

The XIII-2 demo delivers on several of Square-Enix’s promises, while it falters on others. The game is clearly less linear. The map is far more open than any environment in XIII (No, big empty grassland doesn’t count), and, its maze like structure is a welcome change to the predictable environments that have littered most RPGs since the PS2 era. At the beginning of the demo there is a collection of NPCs, which is something traditionally called a town. Although it is very basic in structure, it’s still a nice touch. On top of being opened up, the game also features small sidequests. While these are unimpressive on their own, they show some serious promise for the full game. The place where the demos falters the most is in the combat. There is very little changed aside from the addition of quick time events (QTEs), which are the scourge of the gaming world. There is still an auto battle option that makes battles too much of a mashing affair; although this is slightly mitigated by the fact that enemies are harder than in XIII and a few in the demo require some attention. Upgrading characters has been improved significantly. There are times when upgrading where you must choose a permanent bonus, which hints that two different playthroughs could play out differently, battle-wise, based on player choices.The biggest new addition to the game as seen through the demo is the ability to add monsters to your party. This is by far the best part of the demo. Collecting, upgrading, and even dressing monsters up, is very, very fun and addictive. The fact that monsters can be combined to add passive skills adds some much needed depth to the game. On the character side, both protagonists are not shown in any detail, but it is clear that the story will be convoluted and the characters will range from loveable to annoying. Who fits where has yet to be determined.

Oh, Chocolina, you loveable drunk

All in all, Square-Enix delivered an impressive demo. They showcased exactly what they wanted. Firstly  that the game was less linear and, secondly that their systems are deeper than XIII. There is a lot of promise that could be squandered such as the underutilization of sidequests, and the stagnation of the battle system. The story and characters are likely to be very melodramatic, but how bad that is depends on personal tastes, so there is no need to comment about that. For now, my view on the game is very positive. A lot has been done on Square’s part to make the game superior to XIII. I can only hope they followed through on the rest of their promises.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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