What We Want In Final Fantasy XIII-3
Square Enix's announcement of a direct sequel to Final Fantasy XIII was surprising, but not nearly as shocking as the ending of Final Fantasy XIII-2. Ending with the phrase "To be continued," the game practically promises a new installment to gamers who had no idea they were dealing with a trilogy. Of course, Square Enix hasn't announced Final Fantasy XIII-3, and is being cagey about the possibility. Even so, the odds of it happening are good – especially since the company registered finalfantasyxiii-3.com (which is currently blank) last fall. Assuming a third Final Fantasy XIII game is on the horizon, these are the lessons that we hope Square Enix will learn from the previous entries.
Betrayals, deaths, and other plots twists have no impact on players if they don't understand what is happening or why. I like the fact that the world of FF XIII has a mythology, but the team at Square Enix needs to emphasize the relevant pieces of information and clear away some of the clutter. Or maybe the writing just needs to be straight-up better. Either way, players want to feel excited about the characters and plot development, not confused. Neither FF XIII game has even come close to getting this right.
Less Linearity Is Good
Many fans criticized Final Fantasy XIII for its linear progression. Even if linearity doesn't bother you, the open structure of Final Fantasy XIII-2 is still a vast improvement. Being able to take a break from the main story to explore other areas, hunt down fragments, and level up allows players to set their own pace. Plus, then no one feels like they're just being pulled forward through a series of tunnels with no control.
The Battle System Is Still Fun
Hopefully Square Enix realizes that the battle system in the two FF XIII titles is the best the series has had in ages. It could still use some small tweaks (maybe a seventh role could shake things up?), but it's pretty awesome as-is. Battles are gorgeous, fast, fun, and don't leave players bogged down in the second-to-second actions of the party. This part of the equation should remain largely unchanged going forward.
Better DLC Strategy
The fact that Final Fantasy XIII-2 has significant DLC is a big step for the series, but Square Enix doesn't seem to have a good handle on how to roll this stuff out. Why are in-game casino attendants telling me to look forward to future DLC card games? Why do players have to grind Lightning over and over again to get her as an ally, despite the fact that they've already paid real money for the content? Who wants more bad casino mingames? Swimsuits!? It isn't enough to just have DLC - games need quality content rolled out strategically to enhance the experience and keep them playing. No clear plan for this DLC was outlined for North American gamers beforehand, so it's probably not doing much to keep gamers from trading in their copies of the game once they beat it.
Ditch Time Travel
As a central plot device, time travel is dangerous. If not handled carefully, it can turn any story into a huge chorus of "who cares?" This happened with Final Fantasy XIII-2, where the answer to every mystery is "Because a time paradox did it" (except the one time where the answer is "Because a robot did it"). Square Enix, if you want to make another Chrono Trigger so badly, then do it. Time travel and Chrono Trigger go together. Time travel and Final Fantasy apparently do not. Also, stop having characters say "If you change the future, you change the past." That's not how it works!
Up next: Characters, monsters, and the ending.
Keep The Post-Game Content
After you beat FF XIII-2, there's an entire arc of cool post-game activities, and I'd love to see that trend continue with a sequel. Alternate endings, powerful bosses, hidden monster allies, and ultimate weapons are excellent incentives to keep gamers playing after they've beaten the final boss. The Paradox Endings were also a great idea, giving players a fun chance to triumph in battles that were previously unwinnable. It also helps when all of these things are set out in a clear arc of post-game progression, instead of a shotgun blast of potential activities once the credits roll.
Monster Collecting Is Fun
Despite some detractors drawing unfavorable comparisons to Pokémon, the monster collection adds a fun layer of depth to leveling process and gives players a gratifying side activity to pursue apart from the main quest. The thrill of finally catching that Cloudburst, Green Chocobo, or Tonberry is a fantastic reward - but not as good as actually seeing the monsters tear it up in combat. For the gamers who really want to dive into optimization, this is a wonderful addition.
As in, no Hope. He was hands-down the worst character in Final Fantasy XIII, and I was disappointed to see him return with a prominent role in the sequel. He's probably already set to be a big part in the story's continuation, but here's my plea to the team at Sqaure Enix: Write Hope out and kill him in the first 5 minutes of FF XIII-3. Please. There's still time.
Noel Works. The Moogle Doesn't
He takes some getting used to, but Noel developed into an interesting and cool character over the course of FF XIII-2. It would be a pity to see him tossed aside in the next installment like Sazh was this time. Mog, on the other hand, should just disappear. We never thought we could hate a moogle...but that was before they talked all the time.
Those are the words that should come immediately before the credits roll. Not "To be continued" or "Please look forward to upcoming DLC for the complete story." The. End.
That's our list. Use the comments below to share your thoughts on what you want from Final Fantasy XIII-3!