At a glance, the screenshot above makes Final Fantasy XIII-2’s battle system look just like Final Fantasy XIII. Square Enix added a number of tweaks, which I discovered last night when I played the PlayStation 3 version.
I was in control of Noel, a new character who protects Lightning’s sister Serah. Noel’s basic moves are quite similar to Lightning he has Attack and the magic spell Ruin as his two basic commands. Switch paradigms to Sentinel and Noel’s commands switch to Steelguard and Provoke. Serah acts like a mage either spamming Fire when set as Ravager or cure spells as a Medic. You still pick attacks and use paradigm shifts to control your partners. The core hasn’t changed, but Final Fantasy XIII-2 adds quick time events.
When the words cinematic action popped up in the top left, the camera panned to a giant hand ready to crush Noel. I had to move the left analog stick to block the attack. Final Fantasy XIII-2 smoothly went back into battle after the event and I continued pummeling Paradox Alpha. Later, the quick time event was in my favor. After taking a massive fist to the face, Noel slid back asked Serah if she was OK and jumped on the monsters arm. He ran up the creature preparing to strike, but only if I hit the triangle button on time. This move damaged the invisible giant, but did not defeat it.
You can use quick time strikes during regular fights too. I knocked a behemoth with a QTE finisher where Noel leapt into the air and came crashing down with his swords.
During the demo I gained a third "character". And by "character" I mean a monster joined my party. A behemoth first and later an orange Flanbenero. Monsters can execute Feral Links, another kind of QTE attack. Take "Hundred Fists," the move from the Flanbenero as an example, trigger it and you have to mash X for one set of attacks and then triangle for the next round. The Feral Link move continues even if you fail the first QTE. The orange flan remained in my party after the Feral Link, but the meter underneath its life bar was empty.