The Japanese press appears to now be allowed to discuss its experiences with Final Fantasy XIII-2, and due to that, we have even more details about the game. Game writers have confirmed that XIII-2 has towns which load seamlessly with the explorable world and that there are plenty of side quests available. They've also discussed a few items that haven't been covered in-depth by Square Enix.
Most interesting is the game's "Live Trigger" conversation system. The player will be able to make dialogue choices that affect the game's story. Unlike most RPGs with this feature, experimentation with different dialogue outcomes is encouraged. Players will be able to reset time gates to their original settings and replay the different time periods in order to see how the story is changed.
The press reports that about ninety percent of event scenes are rendered in-engine, and that the dialogue can be sped up in order to "skip" the scene. Players will be able to save anywhere, and load times are reported to be fairly short unless changing time periods via the Historia Crux.
The Crystarium returns as the system for controlling Serah and Noel's character growth, but this time each character has a single Crystarium with separate paths for each combat role. In other words, it works about the same way as before, but without having to change screens for each combat role. Accessories play a larger role in this game, giving characters special effects when certain combinations of accessories are equipped.
Monster party members are acquired when certain enemies drop crystals after being defeated. Monsters don't have their own Crystarium, but instead level up via growth items. Monsters have fixed combat roles, and as new abilities are opened up for a monster combat role, every monster filling that role will have access to the ability. Accessories can also be purchased or found for monsters, and some of the accessories simply change the way the monsters look.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is currently scheduled to release in North America in January of 2012. Expect to see more Engliah language media and coverage of the game over the next few months.