Tired of Final Fantasy yet? It seems Japanese gamers aren't, as Final Fantasy XIII-2 was released in Japan on December 15th and sold more than half a million copies in less than a week.
According to the sales number released by Japanese market research company Media Create for the week ending on December 18th, 525,271 copies of the PS3 version of Final Fantasy XIII-2 were sold; for gamers who haven't been following Final Fantasy, this number actually comes as quite as surprise given the negative public perception of the game. It should be noted that the Xbox 360 version was released on the same day, but does not appear in the top 30 games sold that week.
What negative public perception, you ask? For months the game was dogged by fans posting concerns on Internet message boards that the game would undersell. While plenty of fans turned out for the launch event at a Bic Camera store in Yurakucho, many shops reported no lines at all for the game. However, this could be due in part to the Sony PlayStation Vita launch the next day.
What was more shocking is that by Friday of last week, Amazon.co.jp slashed the price of Final Fantasy XII-2 on PS3 and Xbox 360 from the MSRP of 7980 yen ($102 USD) to 5420 yen ($69 USD). By Saturday most retail chains had also lowered their price. While this behavior isn't uncommon in North America, it is almost always signals that a game is failing in Japan. Often there is no return policy for Japanese vendors, so if a game doesn’t sell the store is stuck with the game until they lower the price enough to get rid of the excess stock.
Final Fantasy XIII received heavy criticism in both Japan and North America for its linearity, lack of towns, and paucity of interesting sidequests. While the battle system was praised, it wasn’t fully unlocked until a dozen hours into the game, which was too long for most players. The game was also supposed to be released along side Final Fantasy Versus XIII (unreleased and still in development since 2006) and Final Fantasy Agito XIII (rebranded as Final Fantasy Type-0 and released to high sales on the PSP in Japan with a North American release in the works.)
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a strong response to those criticisms. It's a much more open game with a heavy emphasis on time travel element tons of sidequests, and it's already received a perfect score from both Famitsu and Dengeki magazines (though both magazines gave its predecessor similarly high marks). Famitsu gave it a 39/40, and Dengeki claimed giving the game a numerical score would do it a disservice, such was its greatness. It should be noted that publisher Square-Enix paid for tons of ads in both magazines leading up to the game's release.
In contrast, the user reviews at Japanese website PlayStation MK2 currently average out to about a C grade; common complaints include high encounter rates and the game only having two party members. Of course, the fact that the “third” party member is a monster somewhat negates this. Based on early player reports, the mini-games and late-game story also appear to be uninteresting, but perhaps the most surprising news we're hearing is that the story takes between 13 to 20 hours to complete. In contrast, that was when most players said FFXIII finally started to get good.
If you're still interested in the English version, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is expected to release in North America on January 31st, 2012.