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What We Thought When We Saw Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

What We Thought When We Saw Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

Written by Spencer — 13 Feb 2013

Final Fantasy XIII is one of the most divisive games main series titles and its story is finally coming to a close in 2013 with Lightning Returns. First off, put any of your hate or even love for the past two titles aside. Lightning Returns will have familiar concepts and characters, but play unlike any other previous entry to date.

While some may be cautious of this, Square Enix has shown us a hands off demo and plenty of the brand new features and systems on display here. While the game is still extremely early in development, it shows promise of being a fresh breath of the air the series didn't even know it needed.

Let's start off by talking about the 'Amazing ATB' system that will be replacing the paradigm shifts from the past two games. From the outset it may look like someone smashed a Kingdom Hearts HUD into Final Fantasy XIII, but it feels more like an evolution of the dress sphere system for Final Fantasy X-2. Lightning can switch between three different sets of outfits and each outfit not only changes her look, but her play style too. You assign what equipment, weapons, and abilities go into each outfit style before heading into battle.

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Another new part to this system is how you execute attacks. Each of the main four face buttons are assigned an attack and each attack depletes a bit of your ATB meter for that specific outfit. This way when you run out of meter and can't attack, you have to switch up your class if you want to keep fighting. This keeps the player from just mashing the same attacks as you would in any other action RPG.

Now that you don't have to pick attack, you will be using the left stick to control Lightning as she strafes around enemies. The movement is slow, but will be better than just standing still as you attack and will make evading attacks a little easier. In battles that have you facing off against more than one enemy, it doesn't seem like you will be able to switch enemies. This hopefully is just something the team is working out as this is a major flaw for the battle system.

Enemies also have a new stagger mechanic called knockdown and while little is known about it, it seems to tie into the medals that appear under an enemy's health in some way. Square is still pretty tight lipped about what this actually represents, but it seems to be a pretty safe bet at the moment. If you were also hoping for all new monsters to face in Lightning Returns there are some old enemies, but Square has promised that there will be plenty of new enemies as well.

While we still do not know much about the story we now have a better understanding about what is going on and even a new name for the world you will be exploring. Nova Chrysalia is split up into four unique are to explore. Out of the three areas we know of so far there is Luxerion, a city that has a very art deco like look and is full of people. Next is the Wildlands which will offer a mix of a great variety in its forest, plains, and other locals. Finally the Dead Dunes is vast desert that will have you exploring ruins to discovery new treasure and more.

The locations shown off so far really offer a nice variety and seeing as there is a much bigger emphasis on traversing the world now this is quite the god send. While you will be able to fast travel to each location with the train system available, time is still of the essence. You will now have an ATB bar that you can use to run faster around the overworld. Since you have a clock constantly counting down to your demise, this makes the steady running speed from before fit a little better this time.

Having 13 days to save the world is quite an interesting mechanic, as other games such as Dead Rising and Majoras Mask have had such great success with it. Instead of just counting down, specific times of the day will activate certain events to happen to you. This feel like a much better way to extend replayability as compared to the time travel mechanic of XIII-2. The amount of possibilities available in Nova Chrysalia will hopefully be enough to keep us coming back after our first playthrough and keep discovering new events.

Since exploring is still relatively new to the XIII series, Lightning Returns still has a few kinks it already needs to sort out. In the large town of Luxerion you will constantly be interrupted by giant blocks of texts telling you which district or block you are at. This was popping up so often and staying on the screen so long that by the time it fully disappeared a new one would be right in your face. This easily got annoying and needs to be addressed if the final product doesn't want people getting annoyed just by running around.

Throwing a sneaking mechanic and investigative mechanics into the game seem like they would be among some of the first issues, but somehow these meld with the action surprisingly well. Lightning Returns never feels like a game that's trying to make long running series feel fresh by throw as many ideas into a game as possible and see what sticks.

Hopefully we will start to learn more about the overall story of Lightning Returns instead of having to try and connect the dots ourselves for now. Bring back Lightning 500 years after XIII-2 with Hope now communicating with you from a mysterious location, along with Noel losing control of his soul and wanting to destroy Lightning, and to top it off the mysterious Lumina seems to wrapped up in this mystery surrounding Nova Chrysalia.

The Lightning saga without a doubt is trying some drastically different things for its final game and has a lot of potential to be the best regarded game in its own series. Still with such a huge game there is still a chance of a small sliver of the game deceiving what the real game will actually deliver. Still for a games first showing this is quite a good start and fans should definitely stay optimistic until Lightning Returns reaches its Fall 2013 release date.

If you want to pre-order Lightning Returns, you can go for North America or United Kingdom!

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.