Hands on with the final Fantasy XIII-2 demo

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Gamers just weren’t enamoured by Final Fantasy XIII. Sure, it had just about the most interesting battle system we’ve seen in a JRPG in ages, but its linearity bored many to tears. Final Fantasy XIII-2, according to its creators, is meant to fix the many issues that plagued its predecessor. We’ve had a go at the demo, available on Xbox Live and PSN.

To put it bluntly, the Final Fantasy XIII-2 demo made my excitement levels go into overdrive. This may just be the perfect Final Fantasy!

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Lasting little over an hour, which I somehow managed to milk for closer to three, several interesting and welcome additions to the game’s engine are immediately apparent.

Sprawling maps, which can now be locked to always face North, are full of characters to interact with. Side quests make a welcome return, and are listed very neatly in the map interface.

Levels are back! The crystarium system had a big make over, allowing for more freedom in your levelling options. Choose which roles you want to level, and instead of hunting for those elusive ATB gauge increase crystals, they are an option on certain boost crystals, with bonuses varying from unlocking new roles (or jobs if you prefer the old school system), better damage and a host of other stat increases.

Monsters drop Gil again, something that plagued me, and my wallet, in FFXIII. Components and materials are still around, and get used in new ways too.

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Instead of introducing too many new playable characters, you can now collect some of the monsters that you fight and use them as the third party member. Always wanted a cactuar or catoblepas to fight by your side? You can set a pack of three monsters, and then choose which monster fights alongside you for each paradigm. Paradigms now have a fine tuning option, allowing for even more tactical options.

Monsters level by being fed various components and by absorbing other monsters – and feels like it combines the best parts of FF tactics, Pokémon and the Shin Megami Tensei monster systems.

Having a larger, more interactive world, full of puzzles, side quests, time travel and interactive fights left my mouth watering for more long before the trailer teasing Lightning and what the Aeons are up to. This game reminded me of the strengths of every FF I loved and enjoyed, all wrapped together in glorious HD.

If Final Fantasy XIII left you jaded, give the demo a try. It might just make up for XIII’s every transgression.

Last Updated: January 13, 2012

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