When Final Fantasy XIII-2 released last year, it managed to address nearly every flaw the plagued the original. The maps were opened up, the cast was scaled down and better written, and time travel elements were implemented. Honestly, the only thing missing was a decent conclusion. That’s where Lightning Returns comes in.
There isn’t much context given to the events shown in the demo of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. As Lightning, you are following the trail of Snow. You’re never really given a reason why, though throughout her conversations with Hope you discover that Snow has risen to power as a leader in one of the major cities. I also noticed that the time remaining said seven days, which leads me to believe that this is a ways into the game, though without knowing if the “thirteen days remaining” progress in a linear fashion, it’s hard to say. At any rate, the chase begins; though not without clearing some monsters out of your way.
Lightning Returns is drastically different from its two predecessors in regards to the battle system. The most obvious change is that you control Lightning exclusively, rather than a whole three person party. Each of the face buttons corresponds with a different attack. An ATB meter off to the left corner tracks how much you can attack before you have to stop and recharge. Rather than just wait passively, Lightning has access to Schemata, which is similar to the dressphere system from Final Fantasy X-2. Each Schema signals an outfit change on top of the awarding access to new skills, and since each one has its own ATB meter, you will be consistently swapping them on the fly. The ones that were available in the demo were Dark Muse, Divinity, and Sorceress, though I’m not sure if there will be more in the final game.
Since actions happen in real time, Lightning can block attacks if the player can time it right. Mitigating damage as much as possible is going to be a primary concern since your health is no longer full regenerated after each battle. Only healing items can bring you back up to snuff, though I’m going to assume save points may do the same. Monsters can be staggered as before when targeted with attacks they are vulnerable against, so part of the strategy seems to be trying about every skill until you find a few that work effectively. As if that weren’t enough, there exists an Overclock mode that slows down time for the enemies and allows Lightning to unleash more attacks in a smaller timespan. This, of course, makes for effective pummeling on staggered enemies.
The demo concluded with newcomer, Lumina (who looks suspiciously like Serah), summoning a large boss monster for you to defeat. Based on what little I’ve played so far, I’m excited to see how this new direction for the FFXIII games pans out. I’m perhaps even more excited to see an actual conclusion to Lightning’s tale.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII releases February 11th, 2014 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.