First Thoughts on Final Fantasy XIII-2
Yes, you read that right, if you haven’t already heard, a SEQUEL to Final Fantasy XIII is in the works, called, creatively, Final Fantasy XIII-2. It was announced last Tuesday, and since then, a single trailer has been released. If you are a Final Fantasy fan of any kind, and have been keeping up with the series, you’ll remember that, back on the PlayStation 2, Square Enix released the first ever true sequel to a Final Fantasy game when they created Final Fantasy X-2. Mind you, now, that Final Fantasy X was a good game in most standards, with an average critic rating in the 9/10 range. On the other hand, Final Fantasy XIII was stuck in the 80% range, and the Weasel Report even gave it a review, and a score of 80%. As you know, 80% doesn’t necessarily make it a bad game, however it was definitely, in many peoples’ opinions, not up to par with previous iterations of the series.
For those of you who are a little rusty on your Final Fantasy history, allow me to refresh your memory. Final Fantasy is one of the most popular JRPGs, Japanese role playing games, in the world. It is developed and published by the now combined Square Enix, originally Square. Each Final Fantasy game that is released is a standalone game from all of the others, though there are some things, such as chocobos, which make an appearance in each game. None the less, the storyline and gameplay for each Final Fantasy game is completely unique. The original Final Fantasy game was created for the Nintendo Entertainment System, followed by the Super NES in 1991 with FFIV, and in 1997 they created FFVII for the PlayStation. FFX was the first game on the PlayStation 2, and in 2009 FFXIII was released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
While there have been plenty of offshoot Final Fantasy games created for the portable systems and even mobile phones, there has only been one direct sequel to a game on the same system as the original, and that was Final Fantasy X-2. The unusual thing about X-2 though was that it was a completely different game. While the setting, characters and lore were the same as the original, the battle system and gameplay were completely different from the original game. Unfortunately, in most cases, this did not appeal to the same audience that the original game had garnered. Because of this, the game was not a huge success, although, due to it’s Final Fantasy name, it sold decently anyway.
In my own personal opinion, I did not like Final Fantasy XIII compared to the Final Fantasy games of the past. As someone who has played them since VII, the battle system, immersion into the world and divergent storyline has changed so much that, in some cases, it doesn’t exist anymore. Instead, we see a polish into the FMVs and cutscenes, as well as a beautiful graphical style. While these are all pluses in their own respects, the amount of story and non-linear aspects and the much more unique battle system that didn’t allow you to hit “auto-battle” and complete the entire game with this method, made for a much better experience in the older games. In fact, I feel that the Final Fantasy series has been gradually going downhill since XI, which was their first foray into the online experience (which hasn’t been any good either, for the record).
Now, we obviously can’t tell much about the game from the trailer, however, we can tell that it will still feature the exact same character set, and it will take place nearly directly after the original game. In an odd turn of events, they’ve made the main character be a little more scantily clad than before, which has scared many people who remember the dress spheres in X-2, which involved the characters changing their outfits while in battle, and sometimes these outfits were more revealing than others. However, unlike with X-2, rumor has it that this game is going to take the same battle system and idea from the original game, and incorporate the improvements and feedback from the players into it to make it even better. If that is the case, I’m pretty sure that I still won’t like it anymore than I liked the original, but for those who are fans of the original, this will just be more good gameplay for them.
That being said, it brings up an interesting question. When Square Enix announced Final Fantasy XIII, they also announced two other games to go along with it, one of which was Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which to this day, we have heard nearly zero information about. Yet, Square Enix was quick to announce that they were working on ANOTHER Final Fantasy XIII game with the announcement of XIII-2. But what has happened to Versus? While XIII-2 was said to have a Japanese release date of Holiday 2011, there still has been no word on anything, especially a release date, on Versus. This year will be an interesting year for Square Enix, and if XIII-2 has a retail success, I feel that the originality of Final Fantasy games may start to change from their previous incarnations. Or will this be the FINAL Final Fantasy? What do you think?