Square just released a Q&A with Final Fantasy XIII-2 director Motomu Toriyama, in which he gives the lowdown on Historia Crux, a new and important gameplay system involving time travel.
According to Toriyama, the Historia Crux "functions like a compass for time travel. As the portal which allows the player to select areas and time periods to go to, it functions a bit like a home menu and is at the heart of the story and gameplay progression of Final Fantasy XIII-2."
Toriyama contrasts the effect of Historia Crux with the more linear, story-driven FFXIII. "For the sequel… we are going for a more player-driven concept, so this time around the gameplay and story itself will alter to fit the player's choices… the game will provide not just simple environmental exploration, but also a multi-layered exploration of history through the Historia Crux."
The addition of this time/history travel system makes XIII-2 a game that can be experienced in different ways by different players. One could get lost in sidequests scattered throughout time, or simply choose to follow the main story a la XIII. "The flow of areas accessible via Historia Crux has been structured so that all of the player's actions and decisions will influence the gameplay," Toriyama says.
He then likens the experience for casual gamers to browsing the Internet and clicking through links, whereas "more dedicated gamers" can challenge themselves by exploring all different times and places, and finding hidden secrets and multiple endings.
"In the original game, the sidequests were only unlocked in the second half of the story on Gran Pulse, but in the sequel we have put in many different sidequests right from the start," explains Toriyama, no doubt quelling the concerns of many.
When asked if he would like to explore time travel more in future games, Toriyama says, "Each [Final Fantasy] game has its own new game system, so it is not as if we are intending on making time travel key to all future installments… there are those who say [XIII-2] reminds them of the classic RPG, Chrono Trigger."
Toriyama closes his explanation of the Historia Crux: "It will be possible to wind back time in each of the areas you visit and replay them. Character levels and equipment etc. will be carried over so it will be possible to play the game as if doing a 'New Game+' for each of the areas at different times. It will be possible to play through from the start using your leveled up characters, once you have completed the game. We have taken care to put a number of elements into the game system to make replays more exciting and user friendly."