It's about noontime here, so I have ducked into the Press Lounge to make an update of what has been going on so far before grabbing something to eat.
I arrived pretty much as registration opened, so I had some time to walk around. They gave us a magazine listing all the events, games present and retailers. There were a few things able to be gleaned from this:
Final Fantasy XIV is 50% complete.
Vana'diel Collection 2 is 95% complete. Shantotto Ascension is supposed to release on November 12th, and will be included in this.
Lines were long to get into the hall, but things actually moved fairly fast. This morning, I made a bee-line for the Square Enix area to check out what they have. I did not see any areas set up for Final Fantasy XI or Final Fantasy XIV, but there was a huge Final Fantasy XIII base in the center, where you can play a demo and watch some trailers.
I thought I would be waiting forever, but the group ahead of me was done, I basically shot up to the front real fast. At this point, they handed out some laminated sheets explaining the controls and how the demo would run.
The layout is like a typical RPG. The analog stick on the left moves your character, while the D-pad is used to browse menus and switch targets during battle. Circle selects commands, X cancels and Triangle opens your menu. There were two demos to choose from, one with Lightning that lets you test out the Summon system and another with Snow where you fight against a boss and use the Optima System. I chose the Lightning scenario, since I thought Summons would be more exciting.
You began by infiltrating a base named PalomPorum, most likely a nod to the kid mages from Final Fantasy IV. I just charged head first into enemies to see how the battle system would play. It seems you control the main character and press L1 to access the Optima system menu and determine the actions of supporting characters. The Optima system works like a Gambit you can set mid-battle. When pressing L1, I could choose Attack/Cure and Attack/Support. I set it to Attack/Cure and it was pretty helpful.
When attacking with the main character, in this case Lightning, you can select Attack, Command or TP Abilities. When using attack, an attack bar starts to fill up. Lined up above this bar are selected commands. You can either let the character perform all these commands, or press Triangle to stop and charge up their ATB bar. For example, say there are four "Fight" commands above the bar. If you simply choose "Attack" and let Lightning do her thing, she will attack four times in a row. If you press Triangle after the bar fills past two attacks, but not three, she will attack twice and then start charging her ATB gauge until it is her next turn.
I took a glance at the menus as well. Unfortunately, there were no other weapons or accessories to play with under the Equipment menu. Under items, there was a stock of some fairly standard stuff: Potion, Elixir, Phoenix Down. So, no hidden goodies that I could see.
At this point I decided to test out the summoning system. In Final Fantasy XIII, summons are called Eidolons and come out and fight alongside you. The summon linked to Lightning is Odin. When calling upon him, Lightning throws a stone into the air and chops it open with her sword, revealing a large design not unlike summoning circles in Final Fantasy XI. Odin comes forth and after a little acrobatic demostration, they make a fighting pose together and the battle continues. Besides just fighting, Eidolons can also be put into Driving Mode. I believe the English localization for this is "Gestalt Mode." This is where the summons transform and unleash their full power. There is a gauge that builds up when the Eidolon is out and determines how long you can maintain Driving Mode once it is activated.
The enemies were standard soldier types. At one point I went inside a sewer area and fought some Flans with sirens on their heads. They were fairly strong, but at no point was I in danger of dying. Everyone was probably pumped up for the sake of the demo, so it felt a little like a button-mash. The actual game might be more exciting in that regard.
OK, time to head back out onto the floor. I'll keep my eyes open for more Final Fantasy information and report back later!