Thankfully, there are only a few new wrinkles for XIII vets to absorb. Namely, there's more to explore, more ways to fight and more ... uh, time rifts to discover.I was told that XIII-2 will have a bigger focus on exploration than its predecessor. The area in which I began my adventure had more than a few pathways to explore, some of which contained hidden items that could be sniffed out by my Moogle companion.
Another feature called the "Mog Clock" pops up prior to battles. When enemies are encountered in the field, a circular area appears around them. If you initiate a battle before the circle turns red, you'll be rewarded with a pre-emptive strike. Wait too long, and you may not be so lucky.
The battle system remains much the same as it was in XIII, with players choosing one of several "paradigms," which assign various roles to each character. The roles and paradigms haven't really changed, though the characters that can use them have. Specifically, players will be able to collect monsters – Pokemon style – and use them during battle. Each monster has a different role assigned to it, be it Commando, Medic, etc.
In other words, shifting paradigms can also shift the monsters you have in your party. One of the advantages to switching monsters mid-fight is accessing their "Feral Link" maneuvers, special attacks that can be activated once a special meter is full. The meter is filled by performing actions specific to each monster. A Medic monster, for example, will build its Feral Link meter as it heals part members.
Once full, the Feral Link attack is unleashed with the press of a button. The attack initiates a quick time event. The faster the event is completed, the more effective the attack will be. The best attack I saw probably belonged to the Chocobo, which unleashed the most fearsome series of pecks I've ever seen.
Quick time events can also pop up in the middle of battles, though Square-Enix has opted to call them "Live Triggers." You can probably imagine the sort of situations that call for Live Triggers – cinematic boss fight moments and the like.
I didn't get to experience XIII-2's new time travel features, although I did visit a time rift. It's not as interesting as it sounds. The single rift that I played boiled down to a simple logic puzzle, in which I had to collect trinkets in the correct order. This was made slightly more difficult as the "floor" tiles of the time rift fell away with each step.
Based on my relatively short demo, Final Fantasy XIII-2 doesn't move far away from predecessor, and I don't think the changes made will draw new players into the fold, though it should help keep things fresh for XIII fans. Speaking solely as someone who hasn't played XIII at all, I can say that I walked away intrigued. I might have not just one, but two Final Fantasy XIII games to try out in the near future.