Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

Release Date: February 11, 2014 US
Genre: JRPG
Developer: Square Enix
Review by: Luddite11

The world of Nova Chrysalia has been a very, turbulent ride since the introduction, and the very palpable excitement that the release and hype of Final Fantasy XIII back in 2006, however most major reviewers gave it such underwhelming scores that the public as a whole decided to skip this title or jump on the bandwagon that Square Enix has completely destroyed the franchise.

Now considering I'm writing about the third and last game in a trilogy spanning 8 years, it would make sense to at least touch base with the other two games, and list at least minor spoilers at best. Because really, if you haven't played the other two, you don't really care about what I'm about to reveal, or you probably won't get around to playing them in the first place. So, let’s begin shall we?

Final Fantasy XIII was mainly tanked because most people didn't like the beginning 20 or so hours of the game which was for the most part linear, and had to establish the characters and the elaborate story. Then XIII-2 was looked down on because of the fact it took the "Hey we saved the world" typical Final Fantasy ending, and said "Nope, nothing you did mattered, everything is completely screwed, now go use Time Travel to fix it!" even though on paper it sounded a little goofy, it worked out as a very well put together game, with a better character based story then XIII, and the same amazing battle system. Even though I put most of the blame of these games being poorly reviewed, on the companies and journalists that hyped the hell out of this game, many of which stated things like that this was the RPG of the generation, and it would be change the face of JRPGS for the rest of time.

Lightning, what a beauty she is :)

But it didn't, but people fail to seem to realize that the whole trilogy had a lot of positive things going for it, all titles have what has to be one of the best battle systems in an RPG for years, and that's a good thing because RPG's are made up, basically, of three elements: 1) Combat 2) Story 3) Graphics/Art, and no matter how good 2 and 3 are, if the combat is boring, then the game will just be a drawn out horrible mess. We've all played a couple of them.

The battle system of Lightning Returns is a slight tweak of the Paradigm Shift of XIII/-2 which uses the familiar Active Time Battle system that has been very dominant in various titles, and changing it in the fact that you are doing battle completely alone with no party members that you can control. You can still change your class by using the new Garb system, which nothing more than a retelling of the Job system used by past title such as III and V, and you can customize these garb with abilities such as the tried and true: Attack, Blizzard, Fire, and so on. However... getting these abilities comes with a little hiccup, you can only get them from drops of defeated monsters, but you could be out of luck because you hunted the monsters you need to extinction, but more on that later.

All sorts of Job Garb lightning can have and those cool costumes

Another thing that Lightning Returns, and the series as a whole, was getting difficulty correct. Lightning Returns gets boss battles to be challenging without being overly frustrating, making you learn the delicate ins and outs of the robust battle system.

Let me share an experience: I had a powerful Lightning, blowing through the main dungeon of the Wildlands area of the game, completely storming through it on my way to the boss completely destroying everything in my way with a simple yet effective setup: Battle starts, I debuff the enemy, switch garb, launch magic to exploit weakness, change garb, use physical attacks to stagger and defeat the enemy. Cut and dry. Then I approach the boss, not only was the setup completely pointless, he utterly decimated me in under a minute. So based on that fight, I had to remake every garb over, changing most into new ones, and reworked the abilities to ones that would work better, and the fight went off without a hitch, and I couldn't of been happier, and why? Because from about Final Fantasy VII all the way to XII, it was overly simple, with it being too easy to overlevel, or just being able to brute force your way through every single fight in the game, and have to worry about using any sort of skill or strategy.

Customization you can do with her clothes

Lightning Returns also decided to change the format in another major part of the game with the addition of the Clock, that counts down the remaining days of the doomed world, which makes sense in the fact that after the ending of XIII-2 the Chaos exploded into the world, and has been in the process of destroying it in the process of the 500 years between that and the start of Lightning Returns.

You awaken with 6 days before the world ends with God coming and saving every soul and letting the Chaos eat the rest. You quickly get thrown into the mix and get introduced to several faces throughout the past titles: Snow is back to being a L'cie and also the de facto ruler of a town. Vanille and Fang, whose actions are qualified as decent spoilers. Hope, who is now a child again, helping you as another tool of God. Sazh who is busy with his son. Noel is still trying to put the events of XIII-2 behind him, and lastly....Mog, who is busy being a Moogle that should of never been given spoken dialogue. But even all of these characters do fall into tropes of sorts. Snow is too depressed about Serah to actually help you in anyway whatsoever, Noel is too moody and whiny about Serah, and the whole causing the end of the world thing, Vanille is still self-sacrificing for no real reason. But it's easy enough to look past as most every game does this anymore, and secondly because they are nothing more NPC's, and your role in the game is to "save their souls" which basically stops them from being clichés, so Win-Win.

Snow, can you lend me a hand? Don't tell me the answer is no lol

The game world itself is considered to be pretty small, but considering you have to run around on foot, and you have that damn clock staring you in the face, everything quickly feels very huge considering some quests have time limits, and only appear certain times of the day. The four (you read that right, 4) areas of the games consist of 2 towns, one slightly larger than the other, a grasslands area, and a big vast crappy desert.

These areas are populated with different monsters, which are good because they do the usual, and just reskin monsters, but bad because of the clock, and the extinction factor. Now about that, since the world has been destroyed by chaos, and only so much land remains, the developers thought to implement the fact that there would only be so many monsters as well.

For example: In the Wildlands there are Reavers, a large spawn enemy, and there are only 30 of them. They drop the abilities Blitz and Area Sweep. So if you kill 30 of them and only get Blitz, but no Area Sweep, then you lose the chance to get that ability for the entire game, until you start New Game +. Which is great to find out about halfway through your own personal playthrough, so you're welcome.

Cute Mog is still flying with it's underweighted tiny wings

There are negatives to this game that I personally find to be glaring faults, as they make no sense in some regards. First of all, they changed the inventory system for the worse, you still have potions, phoenix downs, and the like, but after doing all quests that will increase the amount, you are only allowed 10 max items, and they don't even stack. If you buy 5 potions for healing in battle, you only have 5 more slots for any other things you might need. Yay! Then the most striking change is that all white magic is just gone, no more Cure, Esuna, nothing, and no one in the whole world seems to know, or even care anymore. The kicker? Enemies still use it to heal themselves in battle, and you have to rely on potions. Nevermind the ability existed in the first two titles. This doesn't really add to difficulty, it just raises questions.

They also changed the way Lightning powers up over the course of the game, you can defeat all the monsters you want, EXP no longer exists, instead you can only increase the two stats, (Strength and Magic) and Max HP through quests, both main and side quests award increases, with the major area bosses giving both larger stat increases and increases to the ATB meter for more actions in battle, and sometimes increases to your inventory capacity. There is also a way to increase stats by beefing up the weapons and shields you acquire throughout the game, but you can only do that on New Game +, and of course you will need that as if you go for the unlocked Hard Mode, then the monsters are buffed to be very powerful.

Overall, the story of Lightning Returns doesn't disappoint, it has to drop out of the action to naturally tell you of the world, and its people from time to time to establish story, even though this somehow pisses people off. But the story doesn't start out as slow as XIII did, or have crazy aspects thrown in like XIII-2, and the ending that wraps this vastly underrated series is nothing short of amazing, it makes playing NG+ all the through just to see it again, as bluntly, it is just one big "Fuck Yeah!" moment after the next.

So Lightning Returns. Should you play it? Yes, but if you haven't played the first two, you will miss slight nuances and references to why certain people or items are so important.

Pros: Fantastic battle system, High replayability, the variety of costumes, and the deep customization is compelling

Cons: People might find the story drawn out by the multiple throwbacks to the previous titles, but since this was wrapping up a trilogy, it should be expected.

Overall score: 8.0 /10



Mar 14th 2014


The games you might like if you enjoy Lightning Returns:

  • Final Fantasy XIII
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2

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