Final Fantasy XIII-2 Xbox 360
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Released on 03-Feb-2012
Following global sales of over 6 million units, the high-definition console debut of Final Fantasy is about to receive a fully-fledged, complete sequel.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is created with the aim to surpass the quality of its predecessor in every way, featuring new gameplay systems and cutting-edge visuals and audio. In this game the player has the freedom to choose from a range of possibilities and paths; where their choices affect not only the immediate environment, but even shape time and space!
It is no longer about facing destiny. Create a new future and change the world!
Final Fantasy XIII-2 Features
- A New Tale Awaits
Final Fantasy XIII-2 will reveal further world-changing events from the amazing mythology as presented in the original Final Fantasy XIII, now featuring both familiar faces and new characters. The story of Final Fantasy XIII-2 is written in a way that can still be enjoyed without knowledge of the previous title, while series fans will find plenty of interesting references to the original story too.
- Larger, More Interactive Environments
Places with multiple pathways to explore, and many secrets to find, offer players the chance to shape the adventure their way - giving more variety, choice, and control over the experience.
- Time Travel - A New Dimension of Exploration
A new gameplay system called the Historia Crux, encourages players to experience choice and freedom in a way unlike any other Final Fantasy game. The situation, scenery, flora, fauna and weather conditions all change depending on when you visit that location. Some information and items can only be obtained in certain combinations of time and place. Untangling the threads of time is essential in witnessing the full story!
- Enhanced Battle System
The acclaimed battle system known of Final Fantasy has been developed to offer even greater quality. Additional choice and variety are available through new elements such as visually dynamic Cinematic Action sequences, and an innovative battle clock that will either reward or punish players depending on their actions and choices.
- Master of Monsters
A wide variety of over 150 different monsters inhabiting the game world can be recruited into the player’s party and battle strategy, with each creature having unique and devastating special abilities!
She spent years fighting her destiny. With courage in her heart, she faced the false gods who ruled over people for centuries.
Her unfaltering determination changed the world. The gods were vanquished, their plans to massacre the human race destroyed. As Cocoon fell, a single pillar formed, connecting the ravaged world to the one below―Pulse, the underworld. It was the beginning of a new era.
However, she was nowhere to be found. Everyone was convinced she was gone―with the exception of her sister, Serah Farron.
Three years later―
A single meteorite falls from the sky. As spatial distortions are created, bloodthirsty monsters appear, threatening the peaceful existence of the townspeople.
In the midst of this chaos, Serah is rescued by a young man by the name of Noel. A hunter from the future, he appears in front of her with a message.
"Come with me across the boundaries of time," he says. "Your sister is waiting."
She is Lightning—protector of the Goddess who rules the realm of death and chaos. She is Serah's sister, her heroine, her savior.
I need to see my sister again.
Grabbing her weapon, Serah heads out on a journey as she takes her first step into a new, unknown future.
To save her sister Serah from her crystallized form, Lightning sets out on a journey, and in the process, turns the entire world against her. Ultimately, she becomes Cocoon's savior, and a peaceful life is finally within reach. Before she can embrace this prospect, however, it slips from her grasp. She currently serves as the protector of the Goddess Etro, who resides in the land of chaos, Valhalla. Infused with the Goddess's power, Lightning gains incredible strength as she engages in her own battle.
She soon encounters Noel, and asks him and Serah for their help.
- Noel Kreiss
A young man wielding two unique blades who appears before Serah. Melee is this fighter's combat style of choice. His dual-wielding method demonstrates an expert technique, which includes combining his swords into one new weapon. Although straightforward and cheerful, no one knows much about his past, or how he stumbled across Serah in her time of distress.
- Serah Farron
Better known as Lightning's younger sister, Serah suffered a tumultuous fate in FFXIII.
As one of the protagonists of FFXIII-2, she lives with members of NORA in New Bodhum, a town they built together on Pulse. Her daily routine consists of teaching kids at the local school. Hearing of Lightning's survival, she and Noel head out on a journey to find her. At first glance, people see a timid, fragile girl, but she is friendly, outgoing, and much stronger than she looks.
- Snow Villiers
Serah's fiancé once fought alongside Lightning to save Serah in FINAL FANTASY XIII.
As the battle ends, Lightning is nowhere to be found. Snow is the only one who believes Serah when she says her sister is still alive out there. He decides to go on a journey to find Lightning, but not before he gives Serah his necklace. He's an easy-going optimist who gets along with everyone. Although he's known to be reckless at times, he has the strength to work through whatever comes his way.
- Hope Estheim
Director of Academy Research, Team Alpha.
A tireless work ethic and extraordinary ability have propelled Hope through the ranks of the Academy. Despite his youth, he has become the de facto leader of the research institute. Hope is articulate, considerate, and admired by his peers. He has matured considerably in the ten years since he fought alongside Lightning and the other l'Cie.
He is researching "spacetime anomalies" that were discovered at the site of ancient ruins. Sorrowful events in his past once threatened to destroy him, but now they are the fuel that drives him to build a better future.
- The Moogle
A mysterious little creature, he makes himself useful by transforming into a weapon for Serah's use. No one knows much about this strange animal who calls himself her guardian. People were led to believe that moogles don't exist, and those who meet him for the first time assume he is merely a stuffed animal.
Although shy at first, once he opens up, he is quite the chatterbox, teaching Serah and Noel all about the world and its history.
Final Fantasy back on the PSP
The PSP2 might be hogging the limelight right now - and who can blame it? The thing's a marvel of science - but that doesn't mean that the PSP isn't getting a bit of love now and then. If you're a Final Fantasy fan, you should probably sit down: Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection will be hitting the platform on 22nd April, according to Eurogamer.
It's quite an item, too, the PSP special edition including art cards and a decorated screen cleaning cloth, all housed in a fold out presentation box. You'll also be getting some downloadable content, which will allow you to unlock stuff in the forthcoming PSP game Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy. Weird name.
What about the content itself? Apparently, The Complete Collection squeezes all the characters and storylines from Final Fantasy IV and its sequel The After Years into a single title. There's a new storyline that links the two, snazzy updated visuals, galleries, CG movies, and illustrations, too, alongside a new soundtrack arrangement.
Final Fantasy IV first came out for the SNES in 1991, and is seen as being one of the series' best titles.
Leading the line-up is Noel Kreiss, a young boy who will be the new main character. According to Eurogamer, though, the game art director Isamu Kamikokuryo has told the Japanese magazine Famitsu that he won be alone.
He wasn able to say who these new characters are, though. Spoil sport.
XIII-2 takes place five years after the events of FFXIII, and it sounds like a cracker. Lightning has disappeared, and her younger sister Serah Farron must set out on an epic adventure with Noel to track her down again. Youl encounter plenty of returning characters from FFXIII along the way, by the looks of things, and theyl be slightly more grown-up, in keeping with the fiction.
FF 13-2 Community Event
We were lucky enough to be invited the Final Fantasy XIII-2 community event in London, 3 months be it release, and we were more than happy to attend! An afternoon with a hundred odd fellow Final Fantasy fans, hosted by Yoshinori Kitase, in a swish London cinema, yes please!
Yoshinori Kitase is the producer of Final Fantasy XIII-2 and has worked on Final Fantasy games for 20 years. He has been involved in almost every game since Final Fantasy Adventure in 1991 and is best known for his work on Final Fantasy Seven, Eight and Ten.
As he took to the stage, a buzz of electricity filled the air as everyone realized they were in the presence of a legend.
Kitase went on to say that he really appreciated the feedback, from the Final Fantasy community, that Final Fantasy XIII received and that it had been listened to. He wants to give us the best experience possible, and as a result there are a number of changes that have been implemented, a couple of which are below.
One key improvement In Final Fantasy XIII-2 is an emphasis on exploration. There will be more player choice, more expansive environments and a greater emphasis on time travel. These new features allow you to explore the world how you want to, at your own pace. These improvements aim to give Final Fantasy 13-2 a more re-playable experience, than was possible in the original.
He also stated that Final Fantasy XIII-2 expands on the mythology of the Final Fantasy XIII universe, with a whole host of recurring characters and new faces to help drive the story forward and build up the feel of the world.
FF 13-2 also includes a recap system. This means that gamers can dive straight into Final Fantasy XIII-2 without having to have played Final Fantasy 13.
We were then shown gameplay that had never before been seen by the public anywhere else in the world. The gameplay is set in the Sunleth Waterscape, an area that was previously maintained by the fal-Cie, but has now changed considerably due to the events that took place in Final Fantasy 13. Here we are introduced to some of the new features and below are some of the cool details that we saw.
We met two characters outside of Serah and Noel in this play through. The first is Snow, he joined the party as a NPC at this stage and helped kick some monster butt. The second was a mysterious travelling merchant called Chocolina, who is (unsurprisingly) dressed like a Chocobo. What affect that they have on the story line wasn shown as, Square Enix worked really hard to ensure that there were no spoilers.
The world is a lot more interactive than it was before. When you explore there are multiple areas to go through and directions to take, combined with different ways of getting there. Swinging on vines or riding a Chocobo are just two of the ways that you can navigate the world around you. Ride a Chocobo and use its jump & glide abilities, to get to unreachable places, and do so without any random encounters.
This is pretty much how it sounds. Noel throws Serah Moogle (called Mog) at item pods - floating spheres - and Mog tries to open the pod to get some loot. Some of these pods are off the beaten track which provides you with another incentive to explore every nook and cranny.
When you get close enough to a monster the Mog Clock feature kicks in. This is the new way in which you get a pre-emptive strike on your opponent by ensuring you attack when the dial is correctly pointing green.
In Final Fantasy XIII-2 monsters no longer roam like they did in FF13. They now randomly appear in the world and getting to close activates the Mog Clock. Another big change regarding the monsters is you can now Tame them! This big change enables you to have monsters within your party. And with over 150 to be tamed, each belonging to a particular Paradigm, you have a whole new dimension to adjust, providing you with a wealth of new strategies.
It was great to see the game in the flesh, as it were, though we do wish we had a chance to see how the new conversation system will unfold, or in what new ways we can customise our party that Kitase had hinted at earlier. Despite this, we really left with the feeling that as gamers, we had been heard and that he were working really hard to create the best game possible.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is released on the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 on the 3rd of February 2012, will it be the best Final Fantasy yet? Only time will tell, what we do know is that Final Fantasy XIII-2 is shaping up to be a blinder.
Written by Glenn Ticehurst
Final Fantasy producer Yoshinori Kitase has said that he feels the series took too long to come to the current console generation, and aims to speed up development to enable a new entry in the series every few years.
'Final Fantasy XIII was obviously the first game [on current consoles], and personally I think we took a little too long getting it out,' he told Game Reactor. 'When you think of Western AAA titles like Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Assassin's Creed, they seem to work with a lot shorter turnaround - they make a new game in one to two years. That is something we need to follow up, because that seems to be the best way to keep our fans interested and attracted to the franchise.'
There wasn't an entry in the main Final Fantasy series for the current consoles until Final Fantasy XIII in 2010.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is set to arrive on Xbox 360 and PS3 in the first week of February 2012. It's taken a spritely 18 months to put together, compared to the five years it took to create Final Fantasy XIII.
Bigger, better, bolder.
These are unusual times for Square Enix's long-running RPG behemoth. While the release of a new mainline Final Fantasy game would traditionally have been greeted with fevered anticipation, this February's Final Fantasy 13-2 finds itself with something to prove.
In Japan, ascendant stablemate Dragon Quest has been snapping at its heals, and in the UK the likes of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Dragon Age 2 have found a huge market for their more action-orientated Western spin on the RPG genre. Not only that, but its immediate predecessor was met with mixed reactions from the franchise faithful when it launched on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 back in 2009.
So, has the developer risen to the occasion? Judging by the first four or five hours of the game, it's certainly a bold, confident step in the right direction.
The action picks up a few years after Final Fantasy 13 left off. This time around, our principle protagonist is Serah, the sister of FF13 lynchpin Lightning, who disappeared at the conclusion of the last game. When her hometown of New Bodhum comes under attack from a posse of monsters, a mysterious figure named Noel appears out of thin air to save the day. Insisting he's been sent by Lightning from another dimension, the pair set off on a quest to reunite the two sisters.
Whereas some grumbled that its predecessor took too long to hit its stride, 13-2 roars out of the gate at a furious clip, throwing the player straight into a prologue boss battle that sees the aforementioned Lightning racing along a beach on horseback while fending off a winged Chaos Bahamut. It's a thrilling statement of intent that sets the tone for a faster, slicker sequel.
Not only has the pace picked up but the game has opened out too. Following the mixed response to 13's relatively linear structure, this time around there's a much greater emphasis on exploration. There are towns to poke around in, NPCs to grill for information, merchants to haggle with and, frequently, more than one path to your destination. While not quite a return to the franchise's free-wheeling roots, it's a crowd-pleasing change of course nonetheless.
In addition, we also get intermittent puzzle sequences to break up the wandering. These see you transported to something called The Void Beyond and tasked with solving various grid-based conundrums. Taken in isolation, they're nothing particularly new, but they do add an additional strand of gameplay to keep you engaged; a sign perhaps that Square is keen to answer critics who complained that Final Fantasy 13 felt too much like an interactive movie at times.
Final Fantasy 13's most successful innovation the punchy Paradigm Shift combat system - is back, with a handful of refinements to keep things fresh. Chief among them is the ability to recruit any monster you've defeated in battle as a third member of your team. Not only does it offer impetus to actively seek out encounters but it also adds another layer of depth to combat, as each creature boasts a distinct set of strengths and weaknesses.
Also new are occasional 'Cinematic Action' sequences that offer an opportunity to inflict massive damage on an opponent by successfully pulling off a series of timed button presses during a dramatic cut-away. Though essentially little more than a traditional QTE, it keeps battles exciting and breaks up the lunatic button mashing demanded by the lightning fast core combat system.
13-2's other big talking point is the Historia Crux progression system. In the interests of keeping this preview spoiler-free we won't go into too much detail on the game's plot, but we're not giving too much away by saying that time travel is involved. Consequently, the game's world map lets you hop between dimensions at will and, depending on where you are in the game, return to areas you've already completed but in a different time period. Again, after Final Fantasy 13's more straightforward approach to story progression, this offers some welcome incentive to explore the game's every last nook and cranny.
All these tweaks, new additions and incremental improvements promise to add up to a richer, more populist outing. Will it be enough to re-assert the series' stranglehold on the RPG genre? That remains to be seen, but it's clear that this is a generous, content-heavy game that's very, very eager to please. Great news for fans of the franchise.
Relatively speaking, Final Fantasy has had a tough time over the last few years. Having debuted in 1987, the series hit 100 million worldwide sales in 2011. As one of the longest running, best known and most popular gaming series of all time, Japanese creator Square Enix should have been celebrating the milestone, but that wasn't the case...
In 2010, a somewhat mixed reaction to Final Fantasy XIII for PS3 and Xbox 360, and an awful reception for Final Fantasy XIV Online on PC soured its mood, with company CEO Yoichi Wada going as far as to say that the latter had "greatly damaged" the brand. Enter Final Fantasy XIII-2, a direct sequel to FFXIII with a lot riding on it - one that has been designed to show the world that the role playing powerhouse Square Enix is back on top of its game.
Thankfully, we're pleased to report that FFXIII-2 looks set to address a number of the issues critics had with the last console game. In some people's eyes, FFXIII's key flaw was its linearity, which saw players spend the bulk of their time battling from A to B through corridor-like environments alongside an uninspired cast, stifling the drama and pace of proceedings.
In response to fan feedback, FFXIII-2 returns to the series' traditional open, town-based structure. Take a look at the game's map and, while it's clear there's a main route to journey along to reach your ultimate goals, there are plenty of branching paths to explore for hidden treasures and new adventures to uncover in a bid to level up your characters.
The environments are packed with chatty residents, many of whom offer short sound bites as you pass, have floating speech bubbles next to them and can be talked to for information, or offer you side-quests, something that makes the game feel far more alive than FFXIII did.
Set three years after the events of its predecessor, the sequel depicts the story of heroine Serah's journey across time and space alongside main male protagonist Noel. They are on a mission to prevent the end of the world at the hands of bloodthirsty monsters and to locate Serah's missing sister Lightning, the hero of the previous game.
With the world plagued with time rifts causing all manner of unwelcome events, players have to explore each fractured timeline, resolve the paradox and locate the gates to the next broken rift. It's a structure which sees players seeking out giant crystals that act as portals to further levels set in alternative time zones, which can be located in multiple orders, ensuring a different experience for each player.
Freedom of choice
In FFXIII-2, project director Motomu Toriyama has said "every part of the game will develop as a result of the player's choices". Player choice has been a popular design feature over recent years with western role playing game developers like BioWare, Obsidian and Bethesda, and now Square Enix is also attempting to embrace it with FFXIII-2's 'Live Trigger Events'. These allow players to choose their reactions to characters during conversations in moments that influence the course of progression, although it's unclear to what extent they actually impact on gameplay.
One thing that's largely unchanged from the previous game is Final Fantasy XIII-2's battle mechanics. The Paradigm system, which sees players only directly controlling one character during fights, allows users to shift their character's tactics between offensive, defensive and support roles mid-battle, therefore guiding the tactical flow of proceedings as they wield elemental attacks, magic spells, items and summons moves. Battles do however introduce little cinematic cutscenes featuring quick time events, which require players to perform actions shortly after the appearance of on-screen prompts, an addition that makes combat even more engaging.
From what we've seen of the game, Square Enix appears to be travelling along a very promising looking path by reacting to fan feedback and further developing strong existing gameplay systems. Alongside sumptuous visuals and audio work, the developer's decision to grant players more freedom in how they progress appears to be a wise one that could well pay off when the game arrives next month.
There was no stopping FIFA 12 in the UK charts as the blockbuster football game topped the sales rankings for yet another week.
The EA Sports title was once again the top-selling title in Britain for the sixth straight week, making it a total of eight weeks atop the GfK-ChartTrack rankings overall.
FIFA 12 has already been crowned the highest-grossing sports videogame in UK history and just edged out Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 to take top honours this week.
The thirteenth entry to Square-Enix's flagship role-playing game series divided audiences. On the one hand, it presented the sort of pin-sharp HD visuals during exploration and combat that the series had previously only managed to deliver through CGI cut-scenes. Then, its battle system was ingenious and engaging and, for those who managed to make it through the first 20-odd hours of linear journey, there was a huge array of interesting side-missions to engage in.
On the other hand, the series' classic staple of towns were removed, limiting the amount of exploration drastically. Meanwhile, the standoffish lead character Lightning was difficult to empathize with, while the story was full of complicated fantasy jargon that made difficult to grasp what was, in reality, a simple plot.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a rare sequel to a mainline Final Fantasy game and it reveals a concerted effort on the team's part to address the issues of the first game, while accentuating its strengths. Instead of focusing on Lightning, this sequel follows her younger sister, Serah, a primary school teacher from an ocean-side village. The much-maligned linearity of the first game has been addressed in the premise of this game, which concerns time travel and multiverses.
Lightning is trapped somewhere in time and space, so Serah and newcomer Noel are tasked with jumping between dimensional gates, unraveling anomalies in history in order to track her down. Once the first few hours of the game are out of the way you gain access to the Historia Crux, a honeycomb network of interlinked dimensional gates (or, if you prefer, a level select screen) which you use to navigate between different locations, dimensions and and time periods.
Before you are able to freely explore the multiverse you need to track down Artifacts, keys that open gates to new nodes on the Historia Crux. Indeed, the vast majority of time in the game is spent tracking down the next Artifact to unlock the next dimensional gate. Although there is a backbone journey running through the game to take you to the story's conclusion (around 25 hours worth of adventuring), you are free to explore off the beaten track, investigating new areas as you solve side quests, and hunt for the 160 hidden fragments that have been scattered across the game.
The non-linearity ensures that the game's journey feels uniquely your own and is one of the core strengths of Final Fantasy XIII-2. Another is the battle system, that builds upon the classy combat of the previous game. In this game you control just Serah and Noel, with the third slot in the team taken up by one of the scores of monsters that you can catch during your travels. These monsters can be trained up, customized, named and even fed other creatures in order to build their abilities. It's a neat system and, combined with the flexible customization of the other main characters, makes battles fresh, meaningful and engaging.
A Twist in the Tale
Less strong is the story that struggles to make you care about the world or the characters that drive it. Semi-antagonist Caius is certainly an interesting villain �not least because you empathize with him as the story progresses, but overall the cast of characters fails to engage in a meaningful way. The structure has benefits in allowing you flexibility, but can also feel disjointed, while the multiverse realities can be confusing. A couple of weak spots in the main story missions (including one particularly tedious one in which you have to find five semi-translucent objects scattered through the world) means that this relatively brief game can drag at times.
Nevertheless, it's by far the better game than its predecessor, succeeding in not only diminishing that title's shortcomings but reversing them into strengths. It is, at times, a difficult, convoluted game to get inside, but there are compelling rewards for the persistent.
- Innovative structure
- Frantic, engaging battle system
- Monster collecting
- Dislikeable characters
- Convoluted storyline
- Many fragments frustrating to acquire
SquareEnix has announced that the first downloadable content for its new role-playing game Final Fantasy XIII-2 will be released next week.
By taking part in Coliseum Battles, players can face off against famous enemies and allies from past Final Fantasy titles and recruit them to their parties, while new story episodes will provide additional insights into characters such as Lightning.
The promise of plentiful DLC will help to further bolster the appeal of Final Fantasy XIII-2, which arrives in stores this week.
A direct sequel to the multimillion-selling Final Fantasy XIII, the new game introduces a wide array of improvements, including a larger, more open game world and a revamped battle system.
It is being released in both standard and special editions, with the latter including bonuses such as a soundtrack CD and art cards.
Role-playing epic Final Fantasy XIII-2 has become the first new release of the year to top the UK all-formats chart.
The latest instalment in Square Enix's legendary series toppled the long-reigning FIFA 12 from the summit of the GfK-ChartTrack rankings, emulating the chart-topping debut of its direct predecessor Final Fantasy XIII.
It was one of a number of new releases to make a big splash this week, with second place going to Konami's compilation title Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, which features three of the most popular entries in the classic stealth series.
Next week should see another batch of new releases making their chart debuts, including fantasy blockbuster Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, comic book shooter The Darkness II and quirky relationship drama Catherine.
Answering the critics
2010's Final Fantasy XIII received a mixed critical reception. Chief among the complaints was the ditching of the series' usual side-quest-packed open-world structure in favour of a linear journey filled with desolate environments that offered the bare minimum of distractions. Two years later - the series is now a quarter of a century old and has surpassed 100 million game sales - creator Square Enix delivers the direct sequel, aiming to give fans what they wanted from the previous game. In many respects, Final Fantasy XIII-2 makes good on that promise.
Set three years after the events of its predecessor, the game sees mysterious time paradoxes causing all manner of unwelcome events, such as the destruction of the pillar supporting the world of Pulse and the disappearance of FFXIII protagonist Lightning. Players take control of Lightning's sister Serah and newcomer Noel, a stranger from the future. Both characters want to alter the timeline, Serah to bring back her sister and Noel to save humanity from a future destruction he has witnessed first-hand.
Back to the future
To do so players have to explore fractured timelines by jumping between different historical periods and resolving paradoxes, usually by defeating angry boss monsters. Featuring a more open world structure than its predecessor, there are plenty of branching paths to explore, allowing players to uncover and enjoy the experience at their own pace in multiple orders, ensuring a different experience for each user.
FFXIII-2 boasts some truly stunning and imaginative worlds to visit, from futuristic Blade Runner-like cities that glisten in a rain-soaked neon glow to gorgeous planets sporting sunset beaches and sparkling star-filled skies, and each is packed with characters offering side-quests and general chit chat that helps bring them to life. Player choice, variety and the ability to shape the adventure is greater than in FFXIII, then.
FFXIII-2's battle system may be the game's most divisive element. On the one hand it's accessible and looks lovely in motion, while on the other it hasn't evolved greatly from its predecessor's, and arguably isn't challenging enough. It's is the first game in the series to feature an adjustable difficulty mode - players can choose between Normal and Easy - but some will find it pretty easy even on the tougher setting.
Battles are built around your three party members - Serah, Noel and a third left open for monsters you collect along the journey - although players only directly control one lead character's moves during fights. While the other two characters are computer controlled, players can switch up their wider team's tactics between offensive, defensive and support strategies mid-battle to counter enemy attacks, the idea being to guide the tactical flow of events.
During the tougher encounters the battle system requires a good blend of thoughtful strategy and quick reflexes, making it highly satisfying when everything comes together to pull off a hard-earned victory. However, some experienced players will go through lengthy stretches of the game feeling unchallenged. During some battles, simply setting up your computer controlled companions to attack and heal while leaving your main character idle can be enough to earn a victory. The criticism that the battle system effectively "plays itself" hasn't been totally addressed, then.
A step forward
FFXIII-2 falls short of recapturing the franchise's glory days on PlayStation 1 and PlayStation 2, but that's not to say it isn't a great game. While the lack of a more challenging battle system may disappoint some veteran players, looked upon as the direct sequel to FFXIII, FFXIII-2 rectifies many of the problems its predecessor had to offer a significantly improved experience. There's some thrilling action, gorgeous worlds to explore, and a fair amount of emotional engagement with the character driven story. It's also a generously large game that clocks in at about the 40-hour mark, meaning it'll keep series fans and newcomers busy adventuring for some time.
- Better than FFXIII.
- Open level structure.
- Stunning worlds to explore.
- Overabundance of cut-scenes.
- Battle system could be improved.
- Some fans will find it too easy.
- Better than FFXIII.
Games. Girls. Historically they've not really been words you put together, at least not in a positive way. Time was girls barely played games, and when it came to female characters in games, they were rarely more than damsels in distress.
But things are changing. Games have evolved. Female characters are stronger, bolder, more prominent and, most importantly, playable.
This is our run-down of some of the best and brightest girls in gaming today. The women who solve problems, kick @$$ and actually matter.
Lara CroftLara seems the obvious place to start really, the first real female lead in a game - not simply the character you played, but the character the game was centred upon. And she was the first to really achieve widespread media attention.
Lara Croft and Tomb Raider took a male-dominated genre and character type and did a gender switch. Strong, feisty, independent and intelligent, Lara was everything a stereotypical female character wasn't. That said, there was always one thing (well, two things) that garnered Lara the most attention.
Since 1996's original Tomb Raider, Lara has appeared in eight sequels to date, with a ninth due this year. Again simply titled Tomb Raider, we go back to the start of the story and find out what made her the woman she is.
Tough, smart and sexy, there's no doubt that Lara Croft is still the benchmark.
Resident Evil: Revelations
The Resident Evil series has seen many female characters, from the cunning Ada Wong to the tough Sheva Alomar. But Jill Valentine is the one that stands out.
Debuting in the original Resident Evil and continuing throughout the series, Jill proved herself to be more than a match for those virus-ridden zombie types. Jill was designed to complement partner Chris Redfield by having different strengths and skills, thus showing that she wasn't just a female 'version' but an independent character and a genuine alternative to the male lead.
A promotion to sole protagonist for Resident Evil 3 showed she was capable of carrying a game on her own. Although she would return to shared billing in later games, including this year's Revelations, her continued appearances throughout the series is testament to the strength and staying power of the character.
Street Fighter X Tekken
Where would this list be without Chun-Li? The archetypal beat 'em up girl showed she could certainly handle the male fighters and spawned a thousand* imitators.
Introduced in Street Fighter II, Chun-Li is one of the few characters to have appeared in almost every Street Fighter game (and crossover game) since. She has a fighting style, a character and a story that is completely her own. She's as tough as they come, but at the same time, her avenging-her-father's-death motivation showed a humanity that sets her apart from the crowd.
With a look as iconic as any you are likely to find in gaming, Chun Li has been taking on - and taking out - all comers for 20 years and shows no sign of stopping. Which is just fine - would you try to stop her?
*not actually a thousand. This is a dramatic exaggeration!
Lightning and Serah
Final Fantasy XIII-2
The Final Fantasy series is well known for blurring gender roles, with androgynous boys and tomboyish girls. Appearances aside, it has had some strong female characters, exemplified by the Farron sisters, Lightning and Serah.
Lightning was the protagonist of FF XIII, a soldier whose gruff confidence hides a more sensitive, vulnerable edge. At once both strong and feminine, she may be one of the most mature and emotionally rounded characters in the FF franchise. Serah takes the lead in FFXIII-2, and is almost a mirror image of Lightning - seemingly vulnerable on the outside, but tough and determined, and willing to do what needs to be done.
Lightning and Serah go beyond two-dimensional 'types' and prove we can have strong female characters that don't have to play up - or play down - their femininity.
SPECIAL MENTION: Samus Aran
Yes, she doesn't have a game out at the moment, but this list would be remiss without a mention of Samus Aran.
Ten years before Lara put on her exploring shorts, Samus was the surprise lead in Metroid. Surprise in that it was only as you completed the game that she took her helmet off and you discovered she was, well, a she under all that armour.
One could argue that hiding her true identity is doing her gender a disservice. But by removing gender from the equation, Samus was the first character that showed gamers that women could do blowing stuff up in space just as good as men, something she would continue to do in 11 more Metroid games (as well as turning up in a handful of others). And, after all this time she still keeps the armour on.
While Samus was someone I couldn't not mention, Chell is a bit more of a question mark for this list. After all, the star of Portal and its sequel is silent and largely off-screen, due to the first-person nature of the game. Plus she was only female because it was thought this best suited the scenario of Portal, rather than any desire to make a female character.
But it's that "what works best" thinking that makes her an important figure in the history of female characters - she's not there to make a point. And that is a point worth making.
So what does the future hold?
In 2012 we'll be seeing the Buffy-esque cheerleader vs zombie fun of Lollipop Chainsaw, point-and-click piracy with Captain Morgane and the Golden Turtle, and the largely-female cast of Akai Kitana Shin making their way to UK consoles. The Dead or Alive franchise returns with Dead or Alive 5 which looks to have toned down the exaggerated sexuality of the female fighters. There continue to be rumours of sequels to Bayonetta and Heavy Rain. And some day - maybe this year, maybe next - Beyond Good and Evil 2 will finally come out and Jade will get another chance to show the world what she can do.
Female protagonists are increasingly giving their male counterparts a run for their money. But who's your favourite? Who do you play as, and who would you add to this list? Why not leave us your comments below.
EA's new role-playing game Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has ascended to the top of the UK all-formats chart in its first week of release.
The much-anticipated title from 38 Studios and Big Huge Games dethroned Final Fantasy XIII-2 at the summit of the GfK-ChartTrack rankings, becoming the first brand new series to top the charts since last year's Dead Island.
It was not the only debutant to excel this week, as comic book-inspired shooter The Darkness II came in third, behind the latest Final Fantasy game.
SquareEnix has revealed that a new batch of story content is coming soon for its chart-topping hit Final Fantasy XIII-2.
Entitled Lightning's Story: Requiem of the Goddess, the new episode will be released for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in May and will focus on Lightning, the heroine of the original Final Fantasy XIII and a major character in XIII-2.
Also on the way in the coming days is additional content for the Coliseum mode, allowing players to take on Psicom officer Jihl Nabaat in battle.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 was released last month and is the direct sequel to the multimillion-selling Final Fantasy XIII, providing a time-travelling storyline, an expansive game world, multiple endings and a refined combat system.
SquareEnix has committed to providing regular DLC add-ons for the game, with new items, costumes and story episodes being released regularly.
The most recent of these was last month's Sazh: Heads or Tails?, a side-story focusing on one of Final Fantasy XIII's most popular characters.
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