Unlike with the last game post, I'm going to assume you can look up information on this game, for the sake of brevity. In this one, I'm only gonna talk about character designs, and I'll save plot-stuff for the next post.
Above is Noel Kreiss, a hunter from the far future, where he is the only human left alive. Apparently Lightning recruits him to try and change the future, gives him Mog, and makes him go find her sister. Design-wise, Noel is what Fang was originally meant to be, back before the designers changed her gender. When I first saw Noel, my thought was, "Wait, Link is gonna help Serah? WTF?" Seriously, the guy is very clearly based on recent designs for our favorite green-clad hero, just in blue to avoid copyright issues, and with a BFS in his off-hand (since this IS Final Fantasy, after all). Overall, I like his design, especially his head and left arm. The shoes, shoulders, and BFS have me lost though. Also, I'm rather fond of his voice. Jason Marsden, famous to me as Haku from Spirited Away and Rosh Penin from Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, does an excellent job with his lines, especially when cussing out Snow(!). Next to Noel is the above-mentioned Mog, who transforms into a bowblade, allows access to the Historia Crux, and can be thrown at treasure chests (which seems like catharsis more than anything else). AND IT IS ADORABLE. Seriously, seriously adorable. Although I think it screaming "KUPO!" every two seconds is gonna get old.
Lightning's redesign comes from the fact that she is now the guardian of Etro in the invisible world of Valhalla. She leads the Eidolons in battle against all transgressors, mainly Caius and his corrupted Eidolons. So now we have Valhalla, Odin, and Sleipnir associated with Lightning. This can only mean one thing: she's a Valkyrie now. And boy does her redesign show it. From the no-nonsense (well, at least for a Square Enix title) military uniform to a full suit of armor with a wing-skirt on one hip. Wow. I mean, she could honestly kill people just by elbowing them (and she probably does). She also now has Ullr's Shield, which, given her combat style from the previous game, will actually improve her fighting abilities. (She would always block with her bare left arm.) Her gunblade also gets a totally awesome redesign, with a broadsword blade, bayonet, and arm guard thrown in, and it's still capable of firing rapidly like her old Blazefire Saber. The only thing I don't like about her redesign is the gap between the armor on her waist and the armor on her thighs (which is actually similar to my complaint about the old uniform; seriously, who wears a miniskirt in the military? FMA fans, don't answer that) which seems to be both unnecessary exposure and a possible source of chafing. Ow. I'm hyper-excited that Lightning is the narrator of this game, because I think Ali Hillis is the best voice actor of the bunch.
Snow, who has decided that, instead of marrying the love of his life, he should go try and find Lightning, has been rebranded as a l'Cie, and probably hasn't showered in over a year. As a result, his redesign is a fun combination of more emo clothing and more fantastically messy hair. Clearly, you should not run your hand through your bangs when it's filled with grease and dirt, lest you turn out looking like this. He looses his scarf (which made no sense in the first place), dyes his coat black and tears up the edges a bit more (but it's clearly the same coat, so bets on what the dye is? Monster blood? Tar?), loses his zipper shirt, and dyes his undershirt red (WITH BLOOD! I wish). Otherwise, he looks exactly the same. Apparently he undergoes a profound personality change. I hope so, cos I was one of the millions who cheered any time Light punched him in the last game. On the other hand, while everything that comes out of Snow's mouth is profoundly stupid, I do like his voice actor, Troy Baker. He really does have the perfect voice for the part.
Finally, my favorite redesign of the returning cast. Hope, thanks to time travel, is seen as a 24 year old in-game, in the year 10 AF. All grown up, running a government science agency known as the Academy, and trying to use the Historia Crux to bring back Light, Fang, Vanille, and his mom (AWWWWWWW), Hope still carries his boomerang, but only for sentimental purposes, as he doesn't fight anymore. From the cute-but-annoying 14 year old, he has become one handsome adult. Admittedly, I have no idea why he has so many damn buckles, but I've always liked that style, so I'm rather pleased. I also really like his boots, and if you look, he's still wearing that orange bandana he covered his l'Cie brand with. The guy does not want to forget his past. His color scheme is a bit, well, violent, but it's PSICOM's fault, not his, so oh well. I love his hair, and his grown-up face. Seriously, I never thought Hope could be this awesome looking! His voice actor has appropriately lowered Hope's voice, and with the more adult writing, Hope sounds so much better than in the first game. It's also obvious that the effect Lightning had on him hasn't worn off, which is nice to see.
No word on Sazh, Dajh, Fang, or Vanille, but their voice actors have all been confirmed as returning. Three other new characters who don't have official renders yet are joining the fray: Caius, Lightning's eternal rival; Paddra Nsu Yeul, the seeress who wrote the 4th and 9th Analects found on Gran Pulse; and Alyssa Zaidelle, Hope's subordinate at the Academy.
Yeul looks like a rejected design for Vanille. She even has the same bear skirt. Like all things associated with Caius, she also has plenty of purple, mainly on her skirt. She is also veiled most of the time, and is a seeress, who informs Serah of her new prophetic abilities. She's from the far past of Pulse, and dies from overuse of the Historia Crux. Honestly, she's really creepy, both in looks and voice.
That's it for characters. Next post, we'll look at the plot.