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Final Fantasy XIII: Chocobos, Alexander, and the Crystarium System

The latest on Square Enix's year-end epic.

 

Famitsu managed to score a major update on Final Fantasy XIII in its latest issue. As usual, much of the information was touched upon in Weekly Shounen Jump earlier in the week, but Famitsu came through with many (although not all!) of the missing pieces regarding Hope's summon, the Crystarium system, and Chocobos.

Hope & Alexander

This is Hope, growing up real fast.

As detailed earlier in the week, Hope's summon is Alexander. In his FFXIII form, the classic summon spell is as big as you might expect. He towers over Hope, although the magazine screenshots show that he may be matched in size by some of the enemies you encounter on your adventure.

Alexander fights with his mighty fists, but is capable of attacks both close and far ranging. He seems to have some transformation capabilities outside of his Driving Mode, as Famitsu states that he can transform his fists to fire at airborne enemies (I assume this means he can turn his fists into cannons, although the screens aren't clear about this).

In Driving Mode, Alexander transforms into a fortress so big that it looks like a series of connected castle towers blocking off one side of the battle field (Famitsu actually says that the fortress surrounds the battle field). Fortress Alexander attacks enemies using cannons.

It's easy to picture the summon transformations that turn Odin into a horse and Brynhildr into a car (The Shiva sisters' merging into a motorcycle is just a bit tricker). No matter how imaginative you are, though, there's no way the humanoid Alexander could possibly transform into a full fortress with all those flanking towers. FFXIII director Motomu Toriyama explained to Famitsu that during Alexander's Driving Mode transformation sequence, parts -- specifically the towers, it seems -- fall from the sky and assemble to form the fortress.

The concept behind the Alexander summon, explained Toriyama, is "Tactical Commander." The decision to go with a fortress as Alexander's Driving Mode was made in order to convey his size.

As big as these summons are, they're nothing compared to Alexander!

Toriyama also shared a secret about FFXIII's summons. They don't actually start off on good terms with their partner characters. You'll have to face off against them in battle and have them recognize your power. This doesn't mean defeating them. In fact, if you just fight regularly, you won't be able to defeat them. Your goal is to take some sort of action that makes them recognize and accept you.

Chocobos

Jump's recent reveal of FFXIII's Chocobos detailed just the Chocobos that you'll find in Pulse. There are Chocobos in Cocoon too. The two types of Chocobos have different forms.

Pulse's Chocobos have a wildness about their design. They're massive, dwarfing their riders, and they don't really look like the Chocobos from other Final Fantasy games.

Most of the Chocobo details shared by Famitsu this week concern this kind of Chocobo. As detailed earlier in the week, you can use the Pulse Chocobos a means of transportation. Toriyama explained to Famitsu that you'll have to progress a certain ways in the game before you gain this ability.

While traveling on Chocobo back, the Chocobo will incur damage if you strike an enemy. Toriyama explained that because the life slowly recovers on its own, it's possible to ride continuously if you're quick.

Unfortunately, the magazine did not share further details on the mysterious digging system that Jump alluded to. As you explore the fields of Pulse, an exclamation point will occasionally flash over your Chocobo friend's head. This is an indication that there's treasure in the area. The magazine speculates that the Chocobo will use its sharp claws to dig out the treasure for you. (What, no motion controlled digging minigame?)

Different from Pulse, Cocoon's Chocobo's look more like the cute, traditional Chocobo design from past Final Fantasy games. Famitsu's screenshots show just one example of the Cocoon Chocobo: a farm scene in Nautilus Park in the tourist city of Nautlius. The magazine says that you'll be able to meet Chocobos and other creatures here. A screen shows Vanille interacting with a small sheep-like creature.

So which brand of Chocobo does Sahz carry around in his fro? The magazine doesn't give a definitive answer, but does say that it's missing some features of the Pulse Chocobos, and is thus probably from Cocoon.

Crystarium System

Crystarium... crystals... get it? I don't have any shots of the Crystarium system, so this is the best I can do.

Final Fantasy XIII's growth system was kept under wraps until Jump managed to share first details a couple of weeks back. As explained then, FFXIII does away with standard leveling up and has you raise your characters via the all new Crystarium System. You don't actually build your characters directly, though. Instead, the Crystarium system is used to build your characters' roles.

Roles, you'll recall, are similar to jobs. In FFXIII, changing a character's role gives him a different set of skills. Roles are grouped together in a grouping called an Optima which can be switched around during battle, changing your party's battle capabilities in a flash.

Character/role building starts off by selecting the Crystarium option from the main menu. This takes you to a screen showing the character you've selected along with a crystal shape which symbolizes the character.

From here, you select the role that you want to build up. Screens shown in the magazine have Lightning with Attacker and Blaster roles under her belt. Select one of these, and you're taken to a circular chart showing a bunch of crystals connected by various paths. These paths are called Power Lines. You upgrade your character by advancing along these lines and arriving at crystals which correspond to individual upgrades.

Crystal types include new abilities/skills as well as parameter modifiers. Abilities shown in the Famitsu screenshots include things like "Thunder," "Ruin," and "Fight" (I was a bit surprised to see this myself -- if you don't have the "fight" command from the start, how do you attack your opponents?). Parameter modifiers come in exactly three forms: increased HP, increased physical attack power, and increased magic attack power. The parameter upgrades are listed in the form "HP+15," to mean you get 15 points of added HP.

Each Power Line has a Crystal Point (CP) cost associated with it. Earned at the end of battle, CP can be thought of as FFXIII's experience, as you get different amounts depending on the type and number of enemies that you kill.

While the crystal management screen has a flashy graphical display, you can probably simply think of each role's crystal chart as a tree which you traverse by expelling CP. You're always free to backtrack along the tree and explore new paths. Toriyama noted that players are free to try out a number of different character growth styles -- focusing on acquiring abilities, focusing on parameters, and so forth.

FFXIII does have the concept of "levels," only not for your characters. Instead, the roles themselves have levels.

You raise your character's level in a particular role by progressing through the role's crystal chart until you reach the chart's central point. The crystal at this point makes the role level up. Your character moves on to a new, higher level crystal chart for the role.

Your characters also have a Crystarium level. This increases usually as part of the story. As explained by Toriyama, the Crystarium level serves as a cap of sorts on your roles -- basically, the maximum level your roles can reach.

There's a bit more in Famitsu on FFXIII's Role system. Check back shortly for that.

Whew... that sounds like quite the complex battle system. It will hopefully be a bit less confusing when playing through FFXIII from the start come December 17.

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