Upon hearing that Final Fantasy XIII-2 was getting a playable demo, I was ecstatic. Never before have I been able to download a Final Fantasy title to "try before I buy."
I can definitely see why Square Enix decided to make one for XIII-2 though, since the original was met with mixed feelings from fans and critics alike. Personally, I had a good time with Final Fantasy XIII, despite some of its obtuseness. Anyways, I checked out the demo for XIII-2 the other day, and here are my thoughts. (Note: I played the PS3 version of the demo. )
Cinematic Action "“ I know some people don't like quick time events, but I've been a fan of them ever since the original Shenmue. For that reason, the addition of these timed button presses into the bigger battles of the game is something I was really excited to see. I won't spoil anything, but the way they were implemented into the demo's climax felt both appropriate and visceral. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what other ways they will be incorporated into the full game.
Choices - This only happened on one occasion in the demo, but it looks like there is a sort of Mass Effect-style choice system under the game's hood. I wasn't really able to tell how exactly it affects the story since it only happened once, but it definitely should be interesting to see how these decisions and dialogue options play out in the long run.
Moogle - In Final Fantasy XIII-2, Serah has a moogle companion (aptly) named Mog. Unfortunately, the demo didn't show too much of what Mog could do other than pressing the Right Trigger button to have him find hidden treasure chests. Even if that's all he does in the final version, it could still lead to some interesting puzzle and item finding segments.
Story and Characters - The demo didn't reveal too much in the way of story, but I can already tell that I like Serah's character much more than I did in XIII. It is too early for a verdict on Noel, but his voice actor and character mannerisms definitely don't aggravate. Of course, Lightning will be returning in some regard as well, but the demo didn't feature any gameplay segments containing the titular heroine.
Monsters - One of the major changes to the game's battle system is being able to add the monsters you've defeated to your party (for assistance in battle). I found this feature to be quite engaging and it definitely helped to diversify paradigm selection once more creatures got incorporated. The demo itself featured three distinct monsters that could be "captured" and utilized. Each of the monsters appear to have their own designated paradigm role, whether it be a ravager, medic, etc.
Life! - XIII-2 does well to address one of my (and everyone else's) biggest complaints about the original XIII: the fact that if your lead party member falls, it is GAME OVER. Thankfully, this isn't the case in XIII-2. I was glad to see that Square Enix remedied this oversight from the original game.
Overall, I really enjoyed the demo as it improved upon many of the foibles that the first XIII had. Right now I am more eager than ever to get my hands on the full title come the end of this month. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is set to be released on January 31 (in North America) and February 3 (in Europe) for both PS3 and Xbox 360.