Spotlight: Final Fantasy XIII-2 demo

I had fallen out with the Final Fantasy series recently, as much as I loved Final Fantasy XIII's visuals and design. I wasn't too struck on the linearity of the gameplay and the level design. Getting to disc 3 on the Xbox 360 and Gran Pulse was more chore than anything, but I stuck with it because as the game progressed, the story got better and the characters opened up. It was on a whim that I downloaded the FFXIII-2 demo and it's one that I recommend people to try out.

What's changed?

History: that's the big thing about XIII-2; Lightning has has Snow and the old crew have gone their separate ways. If you didn't finish XIII (we can't blame you for not doing that) then here's a bit of a spoiler - Serah is free of her crystal form and the fal'Cie are all but gone. You'll have to wait for our full review of the game to find out the whole deal, but it involves something close to my heart as a fan of Doctor Who: Time travel!

Central to FFXIII-2 is the concept of player choice, player pace and player driven gameplay. You are free to explore the game as you like and towns are back, so are a mysterious vendor and a few more things that aren't in the demo. Since this is focussed on the demo though, this is what you do get.

• Bresha Ruins 5AF - a good chunk of the first little bit of the game to get used to the exploration side of XIII-2. There's a big bad to battle, monsters to fight and the Crystarium is open for you to play with and level up your characters roles.
• ATB refined: The ATB system from XIII is back and it's been polished up a lot. In the case that your party leader gets totalled, and there seem to be only 2 characters that are core to the story of the game - Noel and Serah, you can switch leader in battle from the selection menu and this allows you to play with the character you want to play with.
• Cinematic Action Scenes: these reward you with completion bonuses if you get a Perfect score from the various QTE (Quick Time Event) scenes.
• Tameable Monsters: In a very Pokemon meets FF way you can grab the soul crystals of monsters and tame them, having them in your group for battle. These monsters can be levelled up in the Crystarium and given new powers through infusion.
• Feral Link: A QTE special power that has various bonus effects based on the monster type and requires quick reflexes depending on the creature in question.
• The Mog Clock: When random enemies spawn in, the Mog Clock activates and ticks down. If you manage to get an attack on the enemy before it reaches 0, you can get a Pre-emptive Strike that gives you huge bonuses in battle. If it hits 0 and you fail to hit the enemy/initiate combat - then you will lose the retry battle option. If you escape the zone around you, you can avoid combat altogether.
• Mog: Moogles are back, or Mog is at least. Mog is a helpful fellow/weapon that also helps you find treasure and items out of phase with reality/time.
• An expanded system for rewards at the end of a battle: There are two difficulties in FFXIII-2, Easy and Normal. Play on Normal and you get better items, you also get a clearer indication of the item spawn chance based on your performance.
• Live Trigger: There are certain dialogue moments that let you pick a choice, some of these choices can have vast impacts on the game.
• Paradoxes: these puzzle like areas are vital to progress further into the game, there's one in the demo and it's fairly fun.

The demo offers a decent chunk of gameplay, enough of it to warrant an interest in the full product and proves that Square-Enix is on the right track with this one. Now if only there was a main map and an airship. You do get the HistoriaCrux though which is your map to time travel in the gameworld. Something that we can't wait to discover more of in the game since you don't get to play with it in the demo.

Graphically it's a nice looking game and Square has said it ships on 1 disc. This is possible since they use in-engine systems for the majority of the cut-scenes.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 will be out Friday in the UK.

Note: screens not from demo area.