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Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Demo Impressions

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Demo Impressions

Written by Spencer — 13 Jan 2014

While many people dismissed Lightning Returns as soon as it was announced, the game is clearly doing something different for the series. While the word different is scary to die hard fans of any series, actually getting your hands on something is the best way to judge if something has really made a change for better or worse. Well thanks to the Japanese PlayStation Store everyone is able to check out Lightning Returns and for those who can't speak a lick of Japanese you won't miss out on this great demo.

This demo takes place inside of a night club that everyone's favorite hero Snow seems to run and Lightning has a few questions to talk to him about. This conversation doesn't last very long and soon becomes an all out brawl between Lightning and Snow as monsters are also attacking the club thanks to the new troublemaker, Lumina. Now after a very flashy CG cinematic setting up these events in this demo, you then get to focus on learning how to play Lightning Returns.

Simply calling Lightning Returns new battle system a mix of Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy XIII is far from what it really plays like. If you had to compare it to another game, it feels like they mixed the Dress Sphere system from Final Fantasy X-2 with Final Fantasy XIII. The fact that you can move around the battlefield as Lightning is defiantly an interesting new feature, but never helped me dodge enemies since you walk so slowly.

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Now going back to the new battle system referred to as Style-Change Active Time Battle (SATB). Each of the three outfit you can wear in battle has it's own set of four skills you can use in battle. Some outfit will have certain skills locked and won't let you customize them, but a majority of these outfits are extremely customizable. You can even mix and match your weapons as well as accessories. While outfits in XIII-2 didn't affect your character, this time they define your character.

Each of the outfits four skills will take up a certain amount of Lightning's ATB meter and instead of just waiting for it refill like in previous games you simply switch to another outfit. Each outfit has it's own ATB meter that in independent from the others. So if you plan out your attacks wisely you can switch between the three without ever having to just wait for your ATB meter to refill. This really helps the game's new faster sense of pace.

As soon as you enter a battle you are immediately thrown into your fight and these can be over in less than 20 seconds if you know what your doing. Before you know it you are transitioning in and out of battle faster than you would ever expect from a Final Fantasy game. This new feeling is a little jarring at first, but once you really get use to the faster pace you see that Lightning Returns is not wasting your time at all.

Now just because I said that battles are faster doesn't mean that the game isn't challenging. I had my doubts at first when I was mowing down the enemies, but that was because I understood how to properly use my different outfits in battle. Also as the demo came closer to ending the enemies were defiantly raising in difficulty as I got closer to the boss. The end boss in this demo actually took a few tries to beat and this was mainly because I hadn't been using items properly up until that point.

Items in Lighting Returns are accessed by pressing the start menu and actually pause the battle you are in. To make up for this the game seems to hand out items a lot less than previous Final Fantasy XIII games. Even though I was given quite a lot to mess around with in this demo in terms of customization, there are still a lot of features I have yet to properly try out. Still, as a basic way to teach players the games new battle system and show how the game plays this demo does a great job.

We still have a little under a month until Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is released outside of Japan, but this demo has gotten this long time fan of the series even more excited to play the final product. If you have any questions about how the game played that I might not have covered here, then feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments below. I will answer them to the best of my ability. Do you plan on checking out this demo or waiting until Lightning Returns releases next month? Let us know in the comments below.


Spencer is something of a veteran around these parts, as a previous podcast host. He has a desperate love for Persona, but that just makes his love for Final Fantasy grow even stronger! You can follow his confused JRPG ramblings on Twitter.