Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 excels in beauty, gameplay, and music, but ends the trilogy uneventfully.

By Grayshadow, Posted 18 Feb 2014

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 marks the conclusion of Square Enix’s trilogy. It’s clear that Square wants Lightning’s final adventure to be a memorable one, with new features combined with classic Japanese RPG elements and those introduced in Final Fantasy 13 proper and 13-2. It’s unfortunate that the story fumbles, as it attempts to close each story within the Final Fantasy 13 universe in dull and uninteresting ways by relying on deus ex machina. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 excels in beauty, gameplay, and music, but ends the trilogy uneventfully.

Lightning Returns,Final Fantasy XIII,Review,Screenshots,Gameplay,Square Enix

Lightning Returns doesn’t require you to have previous knowledge of the other games in order to understand its premise. Instead the script is held together by loosely connected ideals that don’t make sense. Taking place 500 years after the events of Final Fantasy 13-2, the world has almost been engulfed by a destructive cloud known as Chaos and Lightning has been awoken from her slumber to save humanity from the end of the world, which will happen in 13 days. To accomplish this, Lightning has been made into the Savior by the god of light Bhunivelze, a being capable of freeing the souls of humanity from the darkness within their hearts and guide them to a new world. In exchange for this task, God promises Lightning the return of her sister Serah. It sounds simple, but over the course of the story the reasoning behind a lot of the unsolved questions is because God wills it. Even the characters are perplexed about what exactly is going on.

It’s a shame that Square Enix didn’t attempt seize this opportune make Lightning a more engaging character. Her persona is mostly the same from the other games, but this time she constantly explains the absence of her humanity as the reason behind her cold tones – something that never manifests and is usually dismissed unless the story calls for it. The other notorious characters, however, are more charismatic. Whether it’s seeing Noel attempt to redeem himself for his past failures or seeing Snow battle his inner demons, the personal stories of each of these people easily overshadowed anything happening with Lightning. Each one of them are plagued with a difficult issues and combined with strong voice-acting easily overshadow Lightning.

Lightning Returns,Final Fantasy XIII,Review,Screenshots,Gameplay,Square Enix

The world of Nova Crystallis is composed of four sections that have yet to be absorbed into the Chaos. Consisting of lush green lands, a large desert filled with crypts, and two booming cities where residents go on with their lives awaiting the world’s end. It’s in these areas you’ll find people that require your assistance. And since the world is going to end regardless of whether you’re ready or not, Lightning Returns uses a strict timer that is continually counting down, giving you a sense of urgency.

You can add days and extend the doom days clock by completing quests and saving souls. Unlike traditional RPG’s, Lightning doesn’t gain experience from battle but by completing quests. Whether it’s playing errand girl or fighting a powerful beast, Lightning won’t gain any statistical upgrades until you finish a quest. This presents a large issue in Lightning Returns. Since the timer is constantly ticking, you would think that potential and active quests would appear on your map. Instead it only provides locations to shops and the main quest-line, leaving you to lose time attempting to find people who require your help or completing an active side missions. If you’re unable to complete each area’s main quest line the game will end, but you’re given an option to play again with most of your current equipment.

Lightning Returns,Final Fantasy XIII,Review,Screenshots,Gameplay,Square Enix

Lightning Returns uses a refined version of the paradigm combat system. Square Enix has adamantly captured the essence of classical JRPGs by offering an array of options to customize your Schemata abilities and allowing enough free control within the fight for a more modern feel. Schematas are decorative forms, which can be cosmetically changed, that have their own attacks, strengths, weakness, looks, and ATB meter, all which can be customized, but are limited to three in battle. Weapons, attacks, and trinkets all hold special properties that alter each Schemata.

During a battle Lightning can choose up to four attacks with each Schemata currently in use. Each attack uses a fixed amount of ATB points that regenerate slowly afterwards, requiring you to switch between roles frequently and plan each attack. Each enemy has a specific set of roles to induce stagger, a phase where the enemy is valuable to large amounts of damage. Blocking is essential to survival, but to use it properly players must be precise with each enemy’s attack to ensure minimum damage. This becomes an issue when the camera is fixed on a certain attack making it difficult to correctly time attacks or even see what’s going on.

Lightning Returns,Final Fantasy XIII,Review,Screenshots,Gameplay,Square Enix

Experimenting is essential to surviving each fight. Choosing the right combination of defensive and offensive attacks is essential, especially during boss fights where exposing weaknesses are paramount. Lightning is limited to how many recovery items she can carry, battles happen in real time, and escaping cost one hour of your time regardless of who you’re fighting. Lightning must manually attack, dodge, counter attack, and guard while attempting to whittle down her adversaries health and expose their weaknesses. Every action you make drains your ATB meter, but recover regardless of what form you take during the fight. If you’re in trouble, Lightning has special abilities linked to your EP gauge that can recover health, remove ailments, and slow down time.

While traveling through the world of Nova Crystallis can get tiring there is plenty to admire. The visual details of significant characters have been polished to perfection while lesser characters weren’t given the same treatment. Instead most of them follow the same basic animations or clip through environments. Even the environment tends to repeat the same geological patterns with only slight changes in the coloration. After visiting so many varied environments in Final Fantasy 13-2, I expected so much more from the final game.

I came into Lightning Returns expecting a wonderful story teeming with glorious characters and a interesting protagonist. Instead it was fresh combat system, challenging fights, and varied customizable options that was the primary reason I enjoyed Lightning’s adventure. It’s a shame that the plot is underwhelming and Lightning herself given an uneventful final hurrah. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 is a great action-adventure title with a sizable amount of options for personalizing Lightning, but falls short of what made past Final Fantasy games memorable.

Adam Siddiqui, NoobFeed
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  • I havent played it, i played the demo. and just with the demo i was a bit skeptical about it being a good game. the whole 360 about serah and snow and lightning shown in the demo was quite stupid. sure the battle system seemed nice, personally i had no qualms about the past battle systems. but it did annoy me a little. anyways, i wasnt expecting much of this game and really just wanted it to have the collection and to beat the trilogy (since i guess EVERYTHING now must be a trilogy...from movies to annoying)
    Posted Feb 21, 2014


General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3
Publisher(s): Square Enix
Developer(s): Square Enix, tri-Ace
Genres: Role-Playing
Themes: Action
Release Date: 2014-02-11

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