We're still waiting for a great Final Fantasy game on this generation of consoles and with any luck, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII will be it. XIII-2 failed to engage with its awful combat, but the story and visuals made me want to persist with it. It's one of the best-looking RPGs out there and the game structure is much more open than XIII thanks to side-missions and explorable environments.
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It didn't matter if you were a Western RPG fan, or a connoisseur of JRPGs; whether you were in it for the story, the combat, the epic loot, or all of the above, there was an RPG for you this year. Many of them were hybrids, many had taken on elements from other genres in a bid to grow and expand, many of them were franchised entities, building on games that had come before in evolutionary manner. Projects went abandoned, revision left untouched, there were timesinks aplenty - too many worlds to save, characters to get to know, destinies to fulfil, and legacies to forge.
And loot. So much awesome loot.
NB. Click on the thumbnails for price comparisons and the game's title for the relevant review where available.
We described Borderlands 2 as "the best co-op shooter of its generation" and it still holds true to that accolade. Outstanding AI, superlative scripting, one of this generation's finest villains in Handsome Jack, persistent RPG mechanics and upgrades, and more loot than we knew what to do with, Borderlands 2 was a huge step up from its predecessor. Not that Borderlands 1 wasn't great, it's just that its bigger, badder, bolder brother was so very pleasing.
It was broken in places, and Gransys was one of the more forgettable worlds we've seen from an RPG, but Dragon's Dogma was one hell of an endearing game. Breathtaking combat, an innovative Pawn mechanic, and deep customisation options made it a firm favourite in spite of its flaws. Plus, the opportunity to take down a hole bunch of mythical beasts made it all the sweeter. Refreshingly mature.
Square delivered a game that built upon, and corrected a number of the mistakes of, its predecessor, whilst sacrificing none of what made FFXIII an attractive proposition in the first place. This was a game that made few concessions to genre unbelievers, preferring to reward the faithful with some fine examples of fan service. It wasn't perfect, and it doesn't quite stand on its own two feet, but rather made a bid to be the game that FFXIII should have been...and it largely succeeded.
Big Huge Games made a big huge game, and one that was good for hundreds of hours of addictive questing. The brilliant combat and compelling skill system deserved stronger characters and a more imaginative, less insipid setting, but Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning absolutely nailed the 'Playing Game' aspect of RPGs. With gameplay this good, we were willing to forgive the compromise in the 'Role' department.
The third and final entry in the Mass Effect trilogy was a stunning achievement. The combat systems were better than ever, the multiplayer hugely enjoyable, and there was a sense of scale and heightened emotion that drove everything. But it was the excellent pacing and wonderful writing that rung out, providing us with some of the most memorable moments in videogaming. It's just a shame that BioWare rushed and ruined the ending. The journey was sublime; the destination found utterly wanting.
If last year's JRPG spectacular - Xenoblade Chronicles - gave us forward-thinking genre pinnacle for our times, this year's The Last Story sought to create the definitive traditional JRPG. Sakaguchi's opus was beautiful, and gave the Wii a fittingly epic swansong.
Runic Games may have less than 40 developers on staff, but they delivered what was perhaps the best loot grinder since Diablo II. Practically perfect in every way, it shamed Blizzard's third effort in the aforementioned franchise through comprehensive content and exquisite execution.
Square Enix is back in black, according to recent reports, with Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Final Fantasy XIII-2 to thank for hauling the company back into profitability in the last financial year.
The previous year saw losses of 12 billion yen last year (roughly £47 million), but this year Square Enix has posted figures of 6 million yen in the black.Click here to read more...
So this isn't quite the Mass Effect DLC announcement we were expecting, but it's an interesting one nonetheless. Famitsu magazine (via Andriasang) reports that a Mass Effect-themed costume pack is headed to Final Fantasy XIII-2 on March 27th, which will contain new outfits for Noel and Serah. Screenshots aren't forthcoming, so we don't know exactly what to expect. This ties in with a rumour from Siliconera earlier today.
We have a new UK number one this week, along with another interesting addition to the top ten.
First things first, Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning has secured the top spot. Rolston's big huge game was fated for greatness from the start, and we awarded it 8/10 in our Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning review. Thoroughly satisfying, but characters and world-building is at a premium. If you're a fan of trivia, you might be excited to know that this is the first new RPG IP to take the top spot since Pokemon Red/Blue.
But wait, there's more. The Darkness 2 has managed to butcher and snarl its way into third place, which is an impressive effort for what must have been a risky title to develop. With only a hardcore fanbase for the original game, 2K are to be congratulated for making their sequel stick. Our full review is incoming.
Otherwise, we've got ourselves a mix of old and new. Final Fantasy XIII-2, the MGS collection and the military FPS' are still vying for chart position - along with old mainstay FIFA 12. We've got the full chart below.Click here to read more...
Packing a more focused story alongside more expansive gameplay options, FFXIII-2 is the game that its predecessor should have been and a must for anyone who found positives in the original. Simply Games have the best price for this one, having been persistently undercutting the likes of Amazon, but the real steal is on Xbox 360, where you'll save £3 as opposed to £1.
FIFA's unbroken run is at an end, brought low by two new challengers from the Land Of The Rising Sun. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is now top of the charts, resonating with fans who enjoyed the premise of the first game more than its execution. The masterful Metal Gear Solid HD collection comes in at a close second, buoyed up by insane value and timeless quality. Be sure to check out our Final Fantasy XIII-2 review and Metal Gear Sold HD Collection review for more details.
Soul Calibur V makes its UK debut at number five, which is a solid showing for a fighting game. However, Matt's 6/10 review takes a hard line on its streamlined new vision of the franchise.
Otherwise, the same old faces are scrabbling for position. Battlefield 3 has overtaken Modern Warfare 3 and even fellow EA mega-hit FIFA 12, clocking in at third place thanks to a host of affordable deals last week. We've got the full chart below, along with links to our reviews where applicable.Click here to read more...
It's coming. A full season of informative chat, witty (and not so witty banter), rant-inducing provocation and declarations of gaming love - a full season of the Dealspwn podcast is underway. In this original pilot episode, Jon, Carl and Matt sit down and cast a retrospective eye over the past few weeks, natter about the games we've been playing and also have a glance at what lies ahead for 2012.
PWNCAST | Original Pilot - Recorded: Feb 2nd, 2012
...and much more!
Parental Advisory: We've tried to keep it as conversational and informal as possible and you should be warned that there may be some few instances of strong language.
Click below to play the file, or right click on the banner and select 'Save Link As' to download the file onto your hard drive.
Reports suggests that the new Final Fantasy XII-2 Ultimania guide books hold a few newsworthy tidbits towards the end, with staff interviews from the producers at the end of the book hinting at further story content continuing the adventures of the some of the characters from the Final Fantasy XIII saga.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS3 | Xbox 360 (Reviewed)
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
After ten hours of Final Fantasy XIII, I was beginning to lose patience. No, I'm not the fastest gamer in the world, nor the most proficient, but not even I needed a tutorial that lasted for half a day. JRPGs have often employed a fairly rigid sense of linearity into their formulae, but this was ridiculous. All I'd done to get this far was press 'Up' and 'A' and listen to Hope moan and whine about a tall, brash hothead in a beanie.
Yes it got better, but for some that was already enough. Square had put out their stall, and many felt unfulfilled. Final Fantasy XIII-2 doesn't fix everything that was wrong with the first game, not by a long shot, but it does go some way to creating a better experience and one that after ten, twenty or thirty hours, still makes a return to Cocoon and Pulse an attractive proposition.
This is primarily down to a simple inversion of sorts. Gone are the branching, confusing narratives of the past game. No more irritating character switching, no feeling of organisational impotence. Whereas FFXIII had you bouncing between characters, separated sometimes by necessity, sometimes by pride, occasionally by events that didn't seem to make any kind of sense at all, its sequel offers up a simple, high concept story, and one that proves far more engaging because of its refined focus.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS3 | Xbox 360 (Both Versions Tested)
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
The first thing that the discerning Xbox 360 owner will notice upon firing up the recent Final Fantasy XIII-2 demo is just how clear everything looks. No, it's not quite as sharp as the PS3 version, not quite, but it's a damn sight better than The Game That Came Before.
It's no secret, I had a rather ambivalent reaction to Final Fantasy XIII. But then I'm a reviewer, I was spurred onwards by a critical code of sorts, mandated by editorial guidelines to persevere until completion wherever possible. And I'm glad I did. Gran Pulse was the sort of environment any long-time Final Fantasy fan would have been after from the start, a semi-open world landscape of breathtaking beauty and plenty to do, see and explore. It wasn't Square's problem that you had to grind through 15 hours of autopiloted melodrama, and by grind I do of course mean press 'Up' and 'A' incessantly.
Except, of course it was Square's problem.
This game, then, provides a second chance, but from the first battle of the demo you could be forgiven for thinking that very little has changed. Brendan covered this particular FFXIII-2 demo rather comprehensively post-Eurogamer Expo last year, noting that "the overly simple nature of the auto-combat was all too apparent when I was able to start taking notes on my phone with one hand while hitting X with the other". He wasn't exaggerating, not to begin with, anyway.Click here to read more...
Just in case you somehow missed it, the FFXIII-2 demo has been live on PSN and XBLA for a week or so and it got itself a shiny new video to celebrate the occasion, which you can check out above. We'll have an impressions piece for you in a day or two as well as a review come the end of the month, so watch this space.
Square Enix have confirmed and dated the release of the FFXIII-2 demo we reported earlier, with both consoles receiving it on January 11th in Europe, with American PS3 owners able to nab it a day early on the 10th.
Our biggest criticism of Final Fantasy XIII was that it took far, far too long to get to the good bits. Well it looks like Square Enix are shaking things up a bit with the follow-up with this latest trailer from across the channel taking a peek at some lush, colourful locales.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 emerges on these shores on February 3rd.Hit the jump to watch the trailer...
Not content with his celebrity guest role in Soul Calibur 5, Ezio Auditore Di Firenze is planning ahead for life after Assassin's Creed, securing himself an exclusive part in Square Enix's upcoming Final Fantasy XIII-2. In a statement delivered to the press from his villa in ancient Italy, Ezio told the assembled crowd of time-traveling journalists he was looking forward to not having to wear heavy assassin's robes to work everyday, as Square had designed his very own androgynous outfit for the game.
But in a surprising turn of events, Ezio's scorned outfit had a word with the Square brass, and has replaced the Renaissance-era assassin entirely. Yes, bad jokes aside, you can dress up as everyone's favorite assassin in Final Fantasy XIII-2, with Ezio's costume available as downloadable content for character Noel Kreiss. No pricing nor release dates have as yet been revealed.
Will FFXIII-2 be all style and no substance? Will it offer up deep and gripping gameplay aside from shiny eye candy and slick visual effects? Who knows. What we do know, though, is that it's likely to be ridiculously incomprehensible and very pretty. This latest trailer offers up little by way of narrative explanation, but it does looks very nice and sees a freshly attired Lightning, with that perennially serious expression stuck to her face, dodging meteors.Click here to read more...
There are some things that never change, like the UK's unpredictable weather, the tastiness of Skittles and Final Fantasy being a turn-based RPG. But Square Enix have hinted at a future for the series that might be a little different, suggesting that they're taking the successes of Western RPGs onboard and noting that you ignore such dominant trends 'at your peril'.Click here to read more...
Square is looking to do right by Final Fantasy fans with XIII-2, the followup to last year's much-anticipated but surprisingly mediocre JRPG. The pseudo-sequel features an all new combat system, expanded exploration and a wealth of new story content for FF fans to feast on, and Square has bold plans in store for post-release content, aiming to have one or two packs ready each and every month following its release later this year.Click here to read more...
Regretting not finishing Final Fantasy XIII? Well that probably depends on whether you managed to forgive the linearity and heavily automated combat to push on and finish, or on how adept you are at finding HD cutscene compilations on torrent sites to enjoy what was a cracking story along with some generation-leading CGI.
Either way you better get cracking because there’s every chance that you’ll want to return to Cocoon and Gran Pulse next year with this sequel. Don't worry about your FFX-2 flashbacks; no Dresspheres have been sighted, yet.
Our demo began at the start of Episode 2, dropping the party into a section of a city in somewhere on Cocoon. There's little in the way of scene setting, but they appear from a portal and seem surprised to be on Cocoon. The rather small party consists of Serah -sister of the moody, alluring and enigmatic Lightning- and new boy Noel, who looks like an older version of Sora from the Kingdom Hearts series. He’s all spiky hair and brightly coloured JRPG clothes from the genero-character 3000 distributor. Sadly, there's no appearance from the other XIII members today. We’re not sure what Snow will think about Serah hanging around with...this guy. To be honest, he's not that annoying, not compared to that brat Hope.
Final Fantasy fans, well the girls at least, prepare to squeal with delight (although if any of you do it down my ear again at an Expo, shit will go down), as the Moogles are back and one of them is a member of your party, Kupo. This flying cat/bear/toy abomination flies around with your party and can be used to scan areas for hidden items with a push of R2. This scan will also initiate combat with any nearby hidden enemies.Click here to read more...