Final Fantasy XIII GamesCom 2009 PreviewBy Andrew Pfister - Posted Aug 21, 2009
A month or so ago, I finally got to try out the Japanese demo for Final Fantasy XIII. I didn't know much about the story or battle system going into it, but after seeing it in action (the game is *gorgeous* if you're fortunate enough to have an HD display), and messing around with the basics of stacked attack commands and combat chains (tough to figure out in Japanese), I got hooked very quickly.
And after seeing a new demo of Final Fantasy XIII at GamesCom today run by producer Yoshinori Kitase and director Motomu Toriyama, I'm even more excited. The new location is a frozen-over and completely crystalized lake area, but what's more important is that it's the first time I can see the battle menu in beautiful, understandable English.
It's then that I learn about the Paradigm Shift system. Working in conjunction with Active Time Battle, your party is able to shift into different class roles during combat, depending on what the situation calls for. For instance, you can shift into "Aggression" to increase your offensive power, or even kick it up a notch further with "Overwhelm." As your party progresses through the game, they'll be able to learn new specific jobs, and it's that combination of job skills that forms the various offensive, defensive, and healing paradigms.
I also got to see the Summoning system in its full glory, including the second phase of summoning: Ghestalt mode. To demonstrate this, we saw main character Lightning summon Odin. In the first phase of summoning, Odin (or whoever it is being called) fights along side you using the regular battle system. The better you perform during this phase -- chain combos, mostly -- the more time you have in Ghestalt mode, which completely changes the battle by turning it into an action game, akin to something like Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core. When we asked Kitase and Toriyama what inspired this action-oriented approach, they said they wanted to use the high-quality visuals and fast-paced action to appeal to a wider range of players who might not necessarily be into a Final Fantasy game (or RPG altogether).
Summons are tied to one character, but as Kitase explained, they'll appear in other situations during the game, and we'll get to see some brand-new faces, in addition to the series favorites (Odin, Shiva, Ifrit, etc.).
One other tidbit that came up only because we were the first demo during the entire GamesCom event where Toriyama died in battle: there's an instant battle restart should you die. (No more losing two hours worth of progress because I accidentally got into a fight with a Marlboro!)
The PS3 version of Final Fantasy XIII is about "90%" complete, and the Xbox 360 version is currently at "70%" as it enters its debugging phase. All localization is complete, so it's just a matter of time. As we found out today, Square Enix is considering releasing a demo via the console download services, and we were promised that we'd see even more new content at Tokyo Game Show next month.