Or, How I Would have Done It.
Like most FFXIII "Haters" I don't actually hate the game. Was just disappointed and underwhelmed with what was finally delivered after much hype and promise. Sight of the first trailer, the very first trailer, which hinted at steroid infused grown-up Kingdom Hearts styled gameplay as well as a possibly expansive interactive world. Not the largely linear title with a simplistic and unrewarding combat system. It didn't even have towns.
It had online internet shops that could instantly deliver supplies and equipment to a band of fugitives in the middle of nowhere without any worry - BUT IT DIDN'T HAVE TOWNS.
Anyway, after thinking long if not hard about "What I Would Have Done" just thought I'd share the few ideas I came up with.
1) Make it Like GTA+MGS:
First off, I'd make all general areas big expansive, exploratory sandboxes. The train escape would still a point A to B tutorial, but once the basic character introductions and commands were done, encounters would fit into three categories: 1) Random; monsters or people who just happen to populate an area 2) Hunting; monster or soldiers actively looking for the party and 3) Advance/Boss; encounters that advance the story or trigger a boss fight.
Like Grand Theft Auto, the party could wonder anywhere they like, but as they break laws/became noticed the tension in the area would elevate to higher and higher states leading to higher levels of law enforcement to be call in. Or in this case, being defacto fugitives because of their l'Cie brands which would randomly flare alerting normal citizens that "monsters" were among them, the security forces already looking for them would call in more and more reinforcements until finally a "Boss" would be called in to finish things. Likewise the racket of a random monster encounter battle would alert soldiers to tighten their search to around that specific area.
And Like Metal Gear Solid, the party would have the option to sneak around. Run away from a panicked civilian who saw a flaring brand, blending into the crowd or background to escape an investigating patrol to less and less success as said patrols only become more numerous. Using the advantages of concealment to ambush their pursuers once and a while, which would then make the reminder more alert and harder to surprise.
2) Give Characters Centric Skills and Abilities:
Given that they are being hunted and can’t just walk into shops - Imagine a setup where they find an unlimited Gil card, walk into a shop that just happens to be offering all of the best weapons at a discount only to have a brand flare trigger a panic leading to a mini-boss fight - the characters would have to rely on talents they just happen to have. With Lighting, Snow and Sazh able to modify and enhance certain weapon types, while Vanille can make potions and defensive talismans from things they happen to come across from defeated enemies. Other things that happen to be laying around an area they’re being hunted in giving them reason to stay and explore while avoiding patrols and story advancement. Throw in a few weapon texts or cookbooks locked away in some discarded data terminal that Hope has the ability to hack and unlock, builds the other's crafting skills as well as introduces new methods, and gil becomes pointless.
Also, depending on who’s leading the party, their search/hide profiles and priorities would change. With Lighting and Sazh the best choices for avoiding/surprising organized military type enemies in urban areas, where Vanille would be a better avoider, Fang the best hunter of monsters in wilderness locations.
Hope would be the best all around sneaker while Snow – being the type for whom subtlety is something horrible that happens to other people – would actually attract enemies while inherit luck also means he tends to stumble on very rare items.
Probably be a good idea to have a quick/easy character switch option on world maps.
Not just timed juggling you have to figure out and use against the more difficult enemies, but outright Chrono Trigger type combined attacks. Vanille casting lightning on Lightning’s sword after Snow just tossed her cannonball style at a monster vulnerable to lightning attacks ending with an electrically charged mushroom cloud. Then there’s the near world shattering Eidolon double and triple combos that you really have to earn.
Of course I’m talking about none of this happening within combat engine used in the game. Would likely have to be turned based with an option to either skip the f/x, or be able to sit back and watch them. Not miss them while you planned your next move or set up a paradigm shift.
4) Airship mini-game:
For my last idea I considered the very elaborate cutscenes featuring the airship. How they could have been made into on rail Panzer Dragoon shooter segments with one even featuring a boss fight before the crash on Grand Pulse. How even that part where Fang wrangles and rides a monster could not have only been made into another, but could have become the Chocobo riding of the game.
Like I said before, in part I’m just offering these ideas to offer them, but also as my final argument of the game as multiplatform. That once the decision was made, the very argument begun to make it multi, the leeway to introduce ideas such as these disappeared. Not that Square in its current condition has shown itself to be anywhere near inventive as to even considered the things I've suggested here.
Again, just saying for what will be my last statement on a dead argument. (At least until/if vsXIII becomes multi and limited by what are currently not even half-issued promises.)