Battle Royale: The Last Generation Of An SNES-CD Saga

All Aboard The Battle Bus
(Author's Note: For all intents and purposes, this is to be treated as Massively Multiplayer: Gaming In The New Millennium. Massively Multiplayer has won its Turtledove, and this shouldn't be considered a new timeline for those purposes. We hit the 10,000 post limit and that's why this topic is going up, I'm just naming it something different because it sounds cooler than "Massively Multiplayer (Part 2)".)

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Welcome to Battle Royale: The Last Generation Of An SNES-CD Saga! This thread is a continuation of the previous stories, Player Two Start: An SNES-CD Timeline and Massively Multiplayer: Gaming In The New Millennium! Those can be found here:

Player Two Start: https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/player-two-start-an-snes-cd-timeline.280151/
Massively Multiplayer: https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/massively-multiplayer-gaming-in-the-new-millennium.395490/

This timeline is an attempt to answer the question: “What if Nintendo and Sony had decided to work together in the video game business?” The POD is in 1991, just before Nintendo was set to go behind Sony's back and strike another deal to create a CD-ROM console with Philips. This timeline is video game focused, but with ramifications for pop culture, sports, politics, business, and beyond.

Player Two Start covered 1991 through 2000, Massively Multiplayer covered 2000 through 2012, and Battle Royale starts in 2012 and has a definitive end period: Spring 2021, just before E3 (assuming E3 still exists in TTL's 2021). At the current pace of updates, that should be right around when our timeline and this timeline meet, barring stoppages for major RL events.

I'm not going to do a full recap for this topic like I did for Massively Multiplayer, but here's a quick "on the last episode"-type summary to remind readers where we're at.

It's the fall of 2012. Google has just launched their first ever home gaming console with the help of Samsung, called the Google Nexus. Apple, which purchased Sega's gaming division in 2003, is planning to launch their eighth generation console, the Apple Virtua, in March 2013, while Nintendo (still collaborating with Sony on hardware production after two decades of working together) is set to launch the Reality later that year. The last few big seventh generation games are about to be released as the next generation is set to get underway. Apple and Nintendo have battled it out fiercely, with both of their seventh-generation consoles selling over 100 million units, while Google is hoping to succeed where Microsoft failed (though the Xbox line was successful for a time) by creating a true third competitor to the two companies' dominance over the gaming market.

This thread will feature the same format as Massively Multiplayer: small updates, mostly focused on certain games, covering a three-month period at a time in chunks of 10-12 updates per quarter. The individual game updates may start to taper off as the timeline progresses, in favor of covering more general industry and pop culture news, but for the foreseeable future (2012-2014), I'll be continuing with the previous topic's format.

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November 7, 2012

It was the day after the 2012 United States presidential election. Jon Huntsman, Jr. had won a second term in office, but Satoru Iwata, sitting in his office in Kyoto, Japan, cared little for that at the moment. He was instead reading the first sales reports to trickle out about Google's new gaming console, the Nexus. The Nexus had enjoyed a successful launch, with a million units sold worldwide in the first week. They would be a formidable competitor, though they weren't quite on the same level as Nintendo or Apple.

"Google has created an interesting console," said Iwata to some of his colleagues, as they too studied the latest sales figures. "The Covenant is still a very popular game, and people seem to be having a lot of fun with Forza as well."

"Those were two of the Xbox's most popular games, right?" asked one of Iwata's subordinates. Iwata nodded.

"Google managed to convince Microsoft to give them exclusivity over certain select properties," said Iwata, who had been a bit disappointed that Microsoft hadn't at least offered Nintendo the right to put a Covenant game on the Reality, though he knew that the series wouldn't sell as well as many of Nintendo's most popular titles. "Actually, my favorite game on the Nexus is Combo Smashers. It's very fun, and I could see it pushing sales for them later on, especially among families. It's a puzzle game, a very bright and colorful one. It's not violent, and unlike a mobile puzzle game, one isn't required to make any additional purchases to play. Google was smart to make so many copies available for free."

Iwata knew that Nintendo had its World Of Color series, though that franchise had faded from prominence in recent years, and was no longer a system seller as it had been during the late 90s and early 2000s. He knew of a World Of Color game in early development for the Reality that would likely be available in 2014, some time after the console's release, but it too would be unlikely to move consoles. He'd pondered ideas for puzzle games on his own, and had asked Gunpei Yokoi to help develop one for the Reality, though Yokoi had his own idea for what would be his last game, and Iwata didn't want to ask his old friend to develop something that he didn't feel truly passionate about.

"We could try another Pokemon puzzle game," said another of Iwata's subordinates. "We could ask Game Freak if they're up for it, they may have extra time since that American company is helping them to develop the next game in the series."

"No, I think any puzzle game we developed for the Reality would have to be an original one," said Iwata. "Remember, the best puzzle games are simple. Think about Tetris. Think about how fun it still is after all these years. Unless it's something that can challenge Tetris, it won't be something that will sell consoles."

Iwata decided to change the subject. While Google's Nexus launch was a successful one, it wasn't big enough to be a serious challenge to Nintendo, at least right away, and if Google did prove to be a threat later on, Nintendo would need something more than a puzzle game to challenge it.

"We need to focus on how we can best show off the strengths of the Reality. We have the right line-up of games to demonstrate its power, but showing off the virtual reality applications of the new console will be more difficult. Make sure our software partners are working toward making VR fun."

Iwata knew that games didn't need virtual reality to be fun. After all, he himself had just said that Tetris was still a fun game to play, and it was one of the most simple games around. However, VR would separate Nintendo in a market that was rapidly changing. Iwata knew that making fun games should be good enough. He just didn't know if it would be.

It was his job to make sure it would.

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Across the ocean, where it was still November 6, 2012, Steve Jobs was at a Silicon Valley party. Some of his colleagues were celebrating Huntsman's re-election, others were lamenting it, but Jobs himself knew it didn't make much difference who won, at least to him. Huntsman had put more money in his pocket, but Jobs had made plenty of money under 16 years of Democrats as well, and whoever had won, he planned to make a lot more.

He too was well aware of Google's entry into the console wars and the moderately successful Nexus launch. His mentality about the Nexus was much more apathetic: "I've been competing against Google in just about everything else, why not in games too?" He saw Nintendo as the bigger threat, and knew that the Reality was a force to be reckoned with. Even without motion controls (yet), the idea of VR gaming was something that Jobs wanted to pioneer, though he knew the Virtua wasn't quite powerful enough to accomplish the kind of VR that Nintendo was pushing.

He knew it wasn't. He'd tested it.

The fact that the Reality was capable of VR gaming meant one of two things: either Nintendo was attempting to push out really shitty VR (something Steve Jobs knew was nearly impossible, in what reality would Nintendo ever willingly release a bad VR product?), or the Reality was more powerful than the Virtua (ding ding ding).

He didn't mind the Reality being a more powerful console. The iTwin had been significantly less powerful than the Sapphire, and it had still managed to sell more units. It seemed, at least from early preview footage, that Apple had at least closed the gap somewhat, and the Virtua was at the very least more powerful than the Nexus (and $200 more expensive, which, again, Jobs didn't mind because he knew it would still sell).

He did mind the Reality beating the Virtua to market in VR. He thought VR was ninth generation tech, not eighth. Had he known Nintendo was going to beat him to market on VR, he might well have delayed the Virtua until 2014. It was too late for that now, but Jobs was still fuming, though his colleagues didn't know whether that scowl on his face was because of something specific or just the same scowl Jobs seemed to carry on his face all the time.

"Jesus, man, for somebody that beat pancreatic cancer, you sure are pissed off."

Jobs looked up to see who was talking to him. It was Steve Wozniak, and Jobs couldn't help but give a small smirk at seeing his old friend trying to cheer him up.

"You saw it, right? Nintendo's got VR."

"Yeah, so? How good can it be early on?"

"Looked pretty good from here," said Jobs, taking a sip from his drink. "You know Nintendo wouldn't bring shitty VR to market."

"Maybe not shitty, but maybe not great either. Plus, they don't have full motion controls, they have these weird grip things, it's not like the Virtua with full range of motion."

Jobs had been considering a solution for the Virtua similar to what he'd done with the iPod Play and the iPhone, with successive Virtua models released a couple of years apart from one another. However, it would be a tricky proposition for a console. He risked splitting the player base if he released a Virtua 2.0 with exclusive games. It worked for mobile devices, but trying it for consoles might risk an issue like Sega used to have with their old consoles: add-ons and expensive devices that certain games required. Nintendo had pulled it off with the SNES-CD, but only because the SNES-CD had supplanted the SNES completely. A "Virtua VR" console released in 2015 could work, or it could sink Apple in the next round of the console wars and let Nintendo or god forbid, Google get ahead.

"Now when we do VR, it'll look like we copied Nintendo," said Jobs.

"Great minds just think alike," said Wozniak, shrugging his shoulders. "Cheer up, you're still going to launch the Virtua first, by a few months at least. You'll have a head start again, and people are already excited for it. I know I am."

"Think you'll be able to play the games?" asked Jobs.

"Are you calling me old?"

The two men shared a laugh, and continued to talk and drink together, enjoying the party even as Jobs kept thinking about Nintendo and their new console. Apple was still at the top of the gaming market, and between their game consoles, their computers, and the iPhone, the company that the two men had founded together was still the most important technology company in the world. They were beating Nintendo in gaming. They were beating Google in everything else, and now in gaming too.

Steve Jobs had already won the fight of his life.

He was ready for another.
 
Fall 2012 (Part 2) - Mystic 2
Mystic 2

Mystic 2 is a cinematic adventure game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony exclusively for the Nintendo Sapphire. Like its predecessor, Mystic 2 is much like OTL's Uncharted series of games, with big, epic worlds and characters portrayed by actors in motion capture suits to create cinematic cutscenes. Coming just a little more than a year after Tales Of The Seven Seas: Horizon, Mystic 2 features a lower budget than that title and the original game. It was created in large part because of the original's success, and Naughty Dog didn't want to spend more money on Mystic 2 than was necessary, creating a game that has a slightly smaller scale, re-using some assets, and generally telling a more intimate story. Despite that, the title is still full of adventure, epic twists and turns, and emotional character moments, with many of the same elements that were so well received in the original. It takes place a few years after the events of the original game, with Oridae magic merged with ancient human technology to eliminate the blight that once threatened the Oridae civilization and allowing their race to expand out over the old Earth, creating new technology while utilizing the old. However, all of this new activity has stirred up a forgotten group of humans who somehow survived, un-evolved since the days of the old apocalypse, and now seeking to use their technology to retake what they have lost. At the same time, the game also features a number of other human evolutionary branches and lost civilizations, each looking to reclaim the world for themselves while protecting what they already have. While Luma and Lake return as playable protagonists, and numerous minor characters return, there are also many new characters, including a brand new protagonist named Keta (voiced and motion captured by young actor Avan Jogia). Keta is a wandering traveler unconnected to Luma and Lake, and his journey forms the main crux of the story, with Luma and Lake's adventures playing a more tertiary role. Keta's journey is considerably inspired by the classic novel Gulliver's Travels, and he and the other protagonists will experience similar trials to Gulliver's adventure, visiting four separate civilizations based heavily on the lands of Lilliput, Brobdingnag, Laputa, and the Land of the Houyhnhnms, civilizations which exist in the shadow of the rapidly expanding Oridae. The gameplay of Mystic 2 is very similar to that of the original, with characters exhibiting realistic, Uncharted-like body movements (the Oridae, despite their plant fairy-esque appearance, are unmistakably humanoid). Characters can utilize both melee attacks and ranged weaponry, and all three protagonists have their own set of special powers (Luma's are obviously the most powerful, but each of the three specializes in their own different branch of powers). There are far less human-like enemies in Mystic 2 than in the original title, with more beast-like creatures and animals, including insect-like creatures and giant creatures resembling mammalian dinosaurs. There are also more humanoid enemies who possess special powers, making them especially dangerous and making humanoid enemies usually to be feared, rather than the waves of grunts in the previous game. Mystic 2, despite its shorter length and less epic feel, is a more "adventurous" game than the original Mystic, and strays even further from reality. Much of the team from the original Mystic have returned, including Amy Hennig, though Jane Espenson did not return (as she's been working on the TV show Once Upon A Time). Most of the original voice actors have returned as well, including Dante Basco as Lake and Esme Bianco as Luma. Mystic 2 features improved graphics from its predecessor, though the graphics aren't quite as highly detailed as those in Tales Of The Seven Seas: Horizon, due to the game's lower budget. Overall, while Mystic 2 has high production values when compared with most games on the market, it's clear that Naughty Dog didn't quite put their full might behind the game's development, instead choosing to focus on the Tales Of The Seven Seas series along with their next generation titles (indeed, even during the end of Mystic 2's development, the company has already been working on a third title in the series for the Reality).

Mystic 2 begins by introducing the player to Keta, a wandering Oridae who lives amongst a group of semi-sentient creatures, occasionally visiting a nearly village to resupply and sell what he's found. He eventually comes across a massive, technological city, but as he attempts to explore, he is chased by strangely armored humanoids, and eventually falls into some kind of vortex, seemingly killed. We then switch to Luma and Lake, who, along with some of their friends, are exploring another, smaller technological city, though we soon learn that this city has actually been built recently by Oridae builders, and was abandoned after disturbing some type of ancient machine. This segment of the game eventually culminates in Luma and Lake fighting a large, fast, bull-like boss creature, and afterwards, they explore a cave that leads them to a mystical realm where small fairy creatures are flitting about. These creatures try to capture the two heroes, but they are able to avoid being captured, and end up following a group of these creatures to a clearing, where Keta has been captured. Luma and Lake convince the fairies to set Keta free, and the three learn of a war being fought between the fairies and insect-like creatures known as the Hynops. As Luma tries to hold off a Hynop invasion, Lake and Keta make their way to a river. The two bond a bit, but are eventually separated, and Keta finds himself pursuing a beautiful female Hynop to the queen's lair. Keta learns that this female Hynop wishes to marry one of the small fairy creatures, but does not wish to defy her queen. Meanwhile, Lake reunites with Luma and learns for the first time about a hidden colony of unevolved humans that may have been shielded from the magical event that created the Oridae. They explore for a bit, then we see Keta fight his way through a hive of insects. He is able to convince the queen to allow the Hynop and the fairy to be wed, only for the queen to be murdered by a bullet fired from an ancient-looking rifle, causing chaos in the fairy realm and forcing Keta to flee. He flees until he reaches a land of massive beasts, representing Brobdingnag. Meanwhile, Luma and Lake escape as well, and their story begins to parallel Keta's, with them learning more about the humans, while Keta embarks on his adventures in multiple realms. The next segment of Keta's quest involves the pacification of numerous beasts in an almost Shadow Of The Colossus-esque series of gameplay challenges. Eventually, Keta is able to climb up the back of an enormous creature to reach a kind of mysterious floating city, at the same time that Luma and Lake reach the city as well. The three reunite and adventure together for a while, meeting with the Oridae inhabitants of this city high above the clouds. The city is ruled by an Oridae princess named Leda (voiced and motion captured by Jennifer Paz) who has a mysterious relationship with Lake, and turns out to be his long-lost sister. The floating city is home to an enormous amount of ancient human media (we get another "Don't Know Why"-esque moment about halfway through this section, when Keta and Luma discover an old cache of Queen records). Indeed, the climax of this Laputa-esque segment is a battle between a flying army of pure humans and the Oridae floating city set to Queen's "Hammer To Fall", which ends with the city plunging to earth as Lake, Luma, Keta, and Leda are separated from one another. The four end up in separate parts of the world, with Lake falling directly into the same city that Keta explored at the beginning of the game, Luma falling into an ancient cave, Leda falling into a giant technological dumping ground that turns out to be the ruins of Tokyo, Japan, and Keta falling onto an island where he meets a race of sentient beasts (the game's equivalent of the Houyhnhnms) and also a race of violent humans whose manner of speech and technology resemble the humans of the early 21st century (the game's equivalent of the Yahoos). The next four chapters feature each protagonist exploring alone, with Lake eventually being captured, Luma finding a major clue to why pure humans still exist, Leda constructing a personal flying machine, and Keta learning that the beasts aren't opposed to the humans, but to the Oridae, who they believe are even worse and who have misused technology in worse manners than the ancient humans did. Keta is unable to get the beasts to help him, and eventually becomes suicidal until Leda shows up to save him on her flying machine (fighting off swarms of the Yahoo/Humans as she carries Keta away). Luma surfaces in the city, where Lake is about to be executed by the human techno-cult. She uses her powers to fend them off, but can't defeat all of them. Leda and Keta show up to save the day, and the four heroes battle their way to the core of the city, where they meet the game's primary antagonist, a human cult leader named Reiss (voiced and motion captured by Richard Brooks). A fair bit of exposition reveals that these humans have been secretly operating on the Earth for hundreds of years, dodging the Blight and taking what they could, while also capturing and experimenting on the Oridae to harness their power with little success thus far. The humans aren't portrayed as evil, per se, just doing what they believe they must to survive. Leda offers the humans a chance to co-exist peacefully with the Blight gone, but Reiss refuses, believing that it's just a trick. He and the other humans attack, and in the resulting battle, Leda is killed and Lake is badly wounded. While Luma fights off as many humans as she can, Keta fights his way to Reiss, who has armed himself with one of the few magical artifacts in the city and is using it as a cannon. Keta manages to defeat and kill Reiss, but is still consumed by guilt and is mourning Leda (who he was in love with). To make matters worse, Lake is dying, and Luma, protecting him with her shields, has decided to hold the humans off to allow Keta to escape. Keta barely makes it out, but Luma and Lake's fates are left uncertain. Meanwhile, humans all over the planet have received a message that Reiss left to transmit upon his death, telling them to emerge from hiding and claim what they can. Keta returns to an Oridae society that itself seems to be nearing civil war between different tribes. The post-credits scene ultimately reveals that Luma and Lake did survive, with Lake being treated by a group of human medics who turned against Reiss in the aftermath of the battle, while the other defected humans beg Luma to make the others see reason. Luma is uncertain about what to do as the game ends.

Mystic 2 is released in October 2012 to a strong critical reception, albeit not as strong as the one received by the previous game. It's a beautiful and epic game, but not to the same degree as the original, and the plot in particular receives a lot more criticism, with Keta not seen as being as strong of a protagonist as Luma and Lake were, the villain seemingly emerging from nowhere, and the game being too short and poorly paced. Reviews average in the mid to high 8s, making the game a critical success but not a Game of the Year contender. Sales are also somewhat slower than those of the original game. The release, sandwiched between Super Mario Laboratory and Metroid Gravity, gets somewhat ignored despite the success of the original game, and ultimately Mystic 2 would sell only about half as many copies as the original. Despite all of the problems, though, it's still a very good game, and Naughty Dog gets a lot of praise for doing what they could on a relatively small budget. It's no Tales Of The Seven Seas: Horizon, but the series remains popular and the game left a LOT of sequel hooks for the inevitable Mystic 3, which becomes one of the Reality's most anticipated games.

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More Early Pokemon Gen 6 Details Released

More details about the upcoming Pokemon game for the Nintendo Connect have emerged, including sketches of the game's world and its presumed main character. Though nothing official has been revealed about the new region, we're learning that it could be a region based on New England, with a "capital" city based on Boston. The region appears to have a large forested area bordering a coast with numerous towns and cities, and a "rich history" of events that the player will be encouraged to discover throughout the game. We've seen the Boston setting for games before, most notably for Grand Theft Auto II, but a Pokemon region based on New England could provide a wide variety of areas to explore and Pokemon to find (and we're hoping for some Stephen King/Lovecraft references in the area based on Maine!). The protagonist has also been revealed as being female (and there doesn't appear to be a male option), a young girl with brown hair tied into a ponytail, who seems a bit angrier than previous protagonists, scowling rather than smiling, though that could just be one piece of concept art and she'll be smiling more in the main game. She also appears to have a female friend/rival with darker skin, who appears to play a significant role in the story as she's seen with the protagonist in numerous sketches and concept drawings. The game is being developed as a collaboration between Game Freak and Naughty Dog, both studios owned by Sony. The unique mix of Eastern and Western game design philosophies could lend itself quite well to the newest Pokemon generation, and we'll be finding out more soon, as a special New Year's week celebration announcing the new game is planned in just a couple of months. We should have a definitive title for the new game then, and we should also find out more about the new region. We might even get starter reveals!

-from an article on Pokexpo.net, posted on October 27, 2012
 
{Catch up from the last thread; apparently one of the "updates" got rid of the ability to quote from locked threads, which is annoying.}
Pharrell To Produce New Broadway Musical
Cool.
"2013 may well be the year of the music-themed musical,
Interesting.
PSY's "Gangnam Style" enters its 10th week at #1 on the Billboard charts
YES!
Riki: *hammering away on her ukulele* Hey, sexy lady...

Jason: Stop that!

Riki: *playing even louder*
XDXDXDXDXDXDXDXD
Whitney Houston To Enter Rehab After "Altercation" With Gangnam Style Singer At American Music Awards
Is that TTL's "I'mma let you finish, but..." moment?
No fine today for ABC. Jon Huntsman, who got re-elected a couple weeks ago, has quietly neutered the FCC over the last few years.
-from Drew Carey's Twitter, posted on November 20, 2012 at 9:12 AM
YES!
I'm just naming it something different because it sounds cooler than "Massively Multiplayer (Part 2)"
But I was looking for "Massively Multiplayer (Part 2)" so it was harder to find.
in what reality would Nintendo ever willingly release a bad VR product?
o_O..........
XD
 
Fall 2012 (Part 3)- Takahashi's Double Fantasy
Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy XIII is an open world JRPG developed by Squaresoft for the Nintendo Sapphire and Google Nexus. Like the previous game in the series, it's directed by Tetsuya Takahashi. Where TTL's Final Fantasy XII was structured much like OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles, Final Fantasy XIII takes a lot of gameplay and visual cues from OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X. However, as opposed to TTL's XII, which combined plot elements from OTL's Xenoblade and OTL's Final Fantasy XIII, TTL's Final Fantasy XIII tells an almost entirely original story, focused on the world of Letai and the struggle between a technologically advanced civilization of humans and an awakened race of giants known as the Espers. Thousands of years ago, humanity nearly went extinct, only to be saved by the Espers who were summoned forth by a group of powerful sorceresses. These Espers helped humanity survive and then went into a deep slumber. Now, humanity prospers, with a civilization more advanced than real-life Earth (comparable with the technological level of the civilization in OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X). However, about eighteen years before the events of the game, Espers woke up and began rampaging across the planet, destroying large swaths of humanity and forcing the surviving humans into walled, gated cities for survival. Brave humans must venture out amongst the ruins to discover a method of stopping the Espers before they finish humanity off for good. Final Fantasy XIII features open world exploration and MMO-style combat taking place on the world map, much like Final Fantasy XII (both IOTL and ITTL). The player controls a character while the AI controls the other two. Unlike in OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X, there's a defined main protagonist, rather than a player-created one. Characters can fight either on foot or in mechs known as Guardian Skells, much like the Skells in OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X. Each character has their own specialty weapons and combat skills, with magic being replaced with Ether techniques that function much like magic but don't follow the typical Final Fantasy naming structure (with the exception of a few techniques on certain characters). Characters can also utilize weapons and weapons techniques, and like in Final Fantasy XII, enemies can be Staggered, Broken, Toppled, Launched, Pierced, and Bound, with similar effects as they had in that game. Enemies can also be Smashed (slammed down after being Launched for enormous damage) and Severed (enemies can lose limbs or body parts, crippling their offensive and defensive abilities and also doing massive damage). Characters level up much more simply than they did in Final Fantasy XII: the Soul Grid is gone, and characters simply level up themselves and their techs using XP and TP respectively. In place of the Soul Grid is a more complex system for the characters' Skell mechs, which have base frames and then many different parts that can be swapped and attached. These parts can effect a Skell's attack, defense, speed, the types of techniques they can use, or any number of other different parameters depending on the part. There are parts that grant special buffs, parts that debuff one aspect of a Skell while buffing it in another way, etc. There are several dozen types of Guardian Skells, most named after famous bosses such as Ultros, Gilgamesh, etc. or famous summons like Shiva, Ramuh, etc. (at least summon names that aren't being used for Espers). Some skell bodies are extremely rare, requiring long quests or lots of grinding to acquire. Like in OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X, there are plenty of postgame challenges and some truly uber Skell builds to take them on with, though most players can get by in the main game just by using what they find along the way or buying the best stuff they can from the available shops. TTL's Skell mechanic operates mostly like OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X system, but also takes some inspiration from the Mechatos games. It features the Skell insurance system, which will replace a player's Skell if it's destroyed, but only a certain number of times, after which the player must rebuy their Skell (and it's not cheap). Final Fantasy XIII features plenty of optional side quests and diversions, with a big open world to explore right from the start of the game. Unlike in OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X, there's no online mode, but there's a decent amount more for single players to do in terms of side quests and exploration.

Final Fantasy XIII features a total of six playable characters, along with a few guests. Unlike OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X, there are no “hidden” or “recruitable” characters: all six join the group over the course of the main story, no matter what the player does. Those characters are:

Gash: Gash is the main protagonist of Final Fantasy XIII. A young soldier in the Syrbladian Army, he embarks on a quest of his own after meeting a mysterious girl and promising to protect her. Though he comes into conflict with the Syrbladians at times, he technically never defects from them, and remains a soldier throughout the game, even if his goals end up superseding theirs. He's young and idealistic, and wields a pistol in battle, though he can also wield a battle staff if the player chooses. He's voiced by Todd Haberkorn.

Lune: The secondary protagonist of the game, Lune is a mysterious and shy young woman who has a special connection to the Espers, a connection the Syrbladians wish to exploit. She's also a talented Skell pilot with an innate fighting and healing ability, though she's reluctant to use her talents until she realizes the fate of the world is at stake. She plays primarily a healing and support role in battle but is capable of wielding a few powerful Ether attacks as well, and she uses a special energy bow. She's voiced by Liliana Mumy.

Ilayna: Ilayna is a somewhat older captain in the Syrbladian Army (in her late 20s/early 30s). She's an extremely intelligent and talented fighter and a “perfect” soldier, though she becomes skeptical of the Syrbladians' aims after she learns that they've been secretly experimenting on her. Though she's cold and harsh at first, she has a deeply caring heart, and seeks only to do the right thing (she's comparable to Morag in OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles 2). She wields both Ether magic and a laser rifle, and serves as a sort of “heavy hitting glass cannon” in battle. She's voiced by Laura Benanti.

Hanto: Hanto begins the game as Gash's superior officer, but is more like a mentor/big brother to him, and is a lot more friendly than he is strict. He's brave and a bit of a jokester, and comes around quickly to Gash's point of view (unlike Ilayna, who fights him at first). Hanto wields a big katana into battle and is a bit of an old fashioned type of guy who loves old tech and exploring old ruins. He's voiced by Johnny Yong Bosch.

Arthur: Arthur is a big, gruff, senior military official who starts out sending Gash on missions, but eventually decides to jump into the fray himself. He fights with powerful energy fists and serves as a sort of tank for the party, a slow but tough fighter who can soak up a lot of damage. He's comparable to Jack Vandham from OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X, with similar character traits and mannerisms. He's voiced by S. Scott Bullock.

Darcy: The only one of the playable characters not to be connected with the Syrbladian Authority in some way, Darcy is a thief from a village of scrappers. She's an antagonist at first and seen as an annoyance at best and a terrorist at worst, but she eventually comes around to the party's way of thinking after Gash and Luna prove themselves to her. She's a quick ninja-type character who specializes in debuffs and stealing, and with lots of good stuff to steal on enemies, she's a fairly essential character for players who want to rack up lots of loot. She's voiced by Minae Noji.

Final Fantasy XIII has seen a decent level of graphical improvement over Final Fantasy XII, making the Sapphire version one of the best looking games on the system, while the Nexus version looks significantly better, with more detailed resolutions and character animation and an even farther draw distance. The game's music is mostly original TTL, though it does feature a few tracks from both OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X (including “NO. EX. 01”, used as the Esper fight theme), and from OTL's Final Fantasy XIII-2, including “New Bodhum”, “Village And Void”, and “Limit Break!” It features a wide array of atmospheric and symphonic themes that blend a futuristic, technological sound with a very sweeping and epic one, with a more sci-fi focus on the soundtrack theming than OTL's Final Fantasy XII's more fantasy-sounding score.

Final Fantasy XIII begins with an early mission that sees Gash battling alongside Hanto against some monsters who are encroaching on the opening city. The opening city is large, but it's not the capital city, which is closed off to the player at the start of the game. However, once the opening missions are completed, Gash is able to explore a surprisingly large area, about 10% total of the game's entire world (which is divided into four main areas, Syrbladia, Enralia, Nocturna, and Obsidia), though if he explores too far from the starting area, he'll come across very highly leveled enemies. Eventually, Gash and Hanto separate, and Gash is sent on another mission, where he meets Lune for the first time. During this opening chapter, we learn about the Esper rampages, of which three are responsible for most of the damage, while the other three remain sealed on the other side of the world, and then there are rumored to be two more hidden away. The Esper rampages have also caused monsters to go feral, while there are also rebellions against the Syrbladian Authority now that the country's power is weakened. During this time, we also meet Ilayna for the first time, as a strict, highly-ranked soldier who is leading battles against rebels. Gash is tasked with taking Lune to a research lab, but she refuses to go. Rather than taking her against her will, Gash decides to get “creative” with his orders, running away with her but technically still following the letter of what he was told to do. This eventually causes a conflict and a boss fight with Ilayna, but after being defeated by Gash and Lune, Ilayna follows them and soon joins them to battle a larger threat: a mech hijacked by rebels. Gash convinces Ilayna that experimenting on Lune would be a bad idea, and Ilayna, who was experimented on herself, reluctantly agrees to accompany them on a mission to the capital city, where they can explain themselves. In the meantime, the group hears whispers of Esper activity, and gets sidetracked into fighting some monsters to defend a border town, where they meet up with Darcy for the first time (but she doesn't join right away). The group also reunites with Hanto and he rejoins them. About 25% of the way through the main story, the group is finally allowed into the capital for the first time. This kicks off a series of missions in and around the capital, where Arthur will join as a proper party member, and the group eventually gets the chance to pilot their first Skells. Soon after the group gets acclimated to their Skells, there's a climactic battle in which Ifrit, the first Esper to be fought, invades the city. This is a truly epic battle, with Ifrit being the size of a proper kaizo, dwarfing even the Skells, whose firepower is barely enough to take Ifrit down. The city survives, though with heavy damage, and upon defeating Ifrit, the group is allowed to conduct more of their own business, with the threat of experimentation no longer hanging over Lune's head. They're tasked with venturing to the Enralia area, where a border skirmisk is taking place between the Syrbladian military and a rebel alliance headquarted in Enralia. During this segment of the game, Nocturna also opens up for exploration. Nocturna is a vast and beautiful jungle, much like Noctilum in OTL's Xenoblade Chronicles X. It's Darcy's home, and a series of missions take place here in which she'll eventually be recruited. The heroes also learn more about the Espers and more about Lune and her heritage, as she is a descendent of the sorceresses who once summoned the Espers to the planet (which is why she has a connection to them). Ilayna also learns that she has a connection to the Espers as a result of the experiments conducted on her, and we also meet a character named Belen, who has essentially taken Ilayna's place as the Syrbladians' “super soldier” archetype, who assists the party and particularly Ilayna when they are attacked by the Esper Mateus, a powerful ice being. Eventually, the heroes reach the military city of Falkarel, and Ilayna parts ways from them to report to her superiors, while Darcy and Hanto also have their own business to conduct. The Falkarel segment of the game is the second major climax, coming about halfway through the main story. Numerous plot twists and major events happen here, including the characters receiving flying modifications for their Skells. Eventually, a plan is revealed to harness the power of the Esper Mateus, which has been captured by the Syrbladian military scientists. They plan to utilize Ilayna's ability to sync with Espers in order to control it, but the heroes learn to their horror that this was done against Ilayna's will, and that she's essentially a prisoner of Mateus now, which breaks loose and goes on a rampage through the city. The military mobilizes to take the Esper down, which would also kill Ilayna, but the heroes board their Skells and intercept the rampaging monster. This battle is a tricky one, requiring the player to avoid targeting Ilayna while dodging Mateus' powerful ice attacks. After some hairy moments, however, the heroes do rescue Ilayna, though she's somewhat traumatized and disillusioned from what happened to her, and leaves the party for a time. Arthur leaves as well, leaving Gash, Lune, Hanto, and Darcy to continue into the next portion of the game, a journey into Enralia.

This segment of the game, in which the heroes discover a group devoted to protecting the Espers, is steeped in mystery and intrigue. At first, the heroes are attacked by the Enralians, but eventually, they come to earn their trust, especially with the help of Ilayna, who returns to the party after a few emotional missions. There's another fierce battle here between the peace-loving Enralians and a group of angry separatists who hijack a massive battle mech, with Arthur showing up to play hero and rejoining the group (making the party six strong for the first time, and for the remainder of the game). Eventually, the heroes are pointed toward a town called Kyril, once a powerful city but now a somewhat small and out of the way town. The heroes gain some crucial clues about the Espers here, but before they can find out the truth about Lune, the town is attacked by another Esper. This one is named after Thor, though it's not the fun and friendly Marvel Thor, it's a massive and angry thunder beast wielding a huge hammer that completely destroys Kyril even as the heroes use their Skells to defeat it. It's clear now that the threat from the Espers is poised to destroy all of humanity, and the heroes must venture into Obsidia, where the King of Espers, Bahamut, is said to dwell. At the same time, Syrbladia is becoming even more aggressive, and they hope to use Belen to control the Espers in a way that Ilayna could not (Ilayna herself believes she was too weak, and continues to have somewhat low confidence, though her bond with Lune eventually helps her to regain it). The heroes eventually reach a massive cave complex running between Nocturna and Obsidia, and inside this cave, they find the esper Titan, an enormous giant of earth causing earthquakes spanning the entire planet. Defeating Titan ends the immediate Esper threat, and also kicks off the last couple chapters of the game. A lot happens here: numerous major Syrbladian characters are killed in an epic battle between Bahamut and the Syrbladian army, and Belen eventually takes control of Bahamut, only to betray the Syrbladians by taking Bahamut for himself and using the Esper to wipe out nearly the entire army. The heroes must return to protect the capital city, and it's Ilayna who takes charge, leading the counter-strike that allows the heroes time to put up the ancient barrier wall to protect from Bahamut's attacks. Belen takes Bahamut back to Obsidia, where there's an ancient city said to rest deep beneath the earth. The heroes find this ancient city, and they meet the last sorceress, a woman who has lived for thousands of years. Her name is Mysidia, and she is Lune's mother, not her ancient ancestor. Mysidia tells Lune that the Espers once protected humanity, but that humanity believed it could steal the power of the Espers by creating soldiers to control them. Mysidia froze herself in time with her daughter still in her womb, intending to use Lune to pacify the Espers to form a bond between them and humanity. Mysidia woke up when the Espers did, giving birth to Lune and sending her to a village in Enralia to be raised by a human family and to form a bond with humanity. Shortly after these plot revelations, another Esper, Leviathan, awakens, and the heroes must battle it in their Skells. Then, Belen attacks with Bahamut, destroying the ancient city and striking down Mysidia, who sacrifices herself to protect the heroes. Lune tries to pacify Bahamut and almost succeeds, but Belen's will is too strong, and the heroes are forced to flee. After this, Belen ascends to the Tower of Obscuria, from where he plans to take control of the remaining Espers sleeping under the planet's surface in order to destroy humanity for its sins. The heroes ascend the tower, battling both Belen's loyalists and a succession of powerful monsters, before battling and subduing Bahamut, and then finally Belen. Belen attacks first in his Skell and then in his human form, but then uses his powers to transform himself into the Esper Apollyon, who then attacks the heroes in one final grand and epic battle. After Apollyon is defeated, the world begins to quake... every Esper remaining is beginning to wake up. Lune is able to pacify them using the ancient sorceress' power, while Gash, Ilayna, Hanto, and the other heroes work to convince humanity to reject the practices that caused the Espers to awaken in the first place. Lune is able to survive, but just barely, and Gash and the others take her back to the Syrbladian capital. Humanity survives as well, with most of its technology intact, but it's clear that things have changed in the wake of the Espers' rampages, and that humans will need to reach a harmony and equilibrium with the planet to prevent the Espers from stirring again. Even with the main quest cleared, there's a robust postgame, including two more Espers to find and defeat (Typhon and Eden) and plenty more powerful monsters to defeat as well. The game is also the first Final Fantasy title to receive paid DLC chapters, with a battle arena and two large side quests that can be purchased and downloaded.

Final Fantasy XIII is released on October 25, 2012, which also happens to be the launch day for the Google Nexus. It not only proves to be one of the most popular launch titles for that console, but it's also extremely popular on the Sapphire as well, and despite the Nexus port being technologically superior, the game would sell the majority of its copies on the Sapphire. The game's critical reception is extremely positive, praising the game's combat system, extensive Skell customization mechanics, and vast open world, along with its six main characters (each of which have their own arcs in the main storyline and separate side quests as well that further expand upon their characters). While the game ultimately wouldn't receive quite the glowing reception that Final Fantasy XII got, it's still considered one of the year's best RPGs and a game of the year contender. Tetsuya Takahashi had developed three amazing Final Fantasy games, but after XIII, he announced that he'd be done with the Final Fantasy series and would go on to develop his own games, leaving a brand new team to take over for next generation's Final Fantasy XIV.
 
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