With the third installment of the Final Fantasy XIII saga releasing in the U.S. on February 11th, many people are looking to Square Enix to renew their faith in the franchise. Will Lightning Returns return Final Fantasy to it’s former glory?
In the latest game players will retake control of the story’s main protagonist, Lightning after the events of Final Fantasy XIII-2 and for those unfamiliar with the story thus far, worry not. For there will be no spoilers here. Players will be given a deadline of seven days to keep “bad things” from happening to the world of Nova Chrysalia. This length can also be extended to 13 days through side-questing. The game will focus solely on Lightning this time around and will be open-world in design. Developers have attempted to make everything visible in game accessible to the player, allowing them to freely navigate the environment with the addition of climbing and jumping. When they say everything that’s visible, they mean it. This game is said to have a much larger world area than experienced in previous Final Fantasy’s. Developers have even said that the world is so expansive it’s unexpected for the player to explore it in it’s entirety on their first playthrough and to top it all off, there will be no load times between areas unless the player uses a vehicle, teleports, or otherwise triggers a cutscene that moves them to a new location. Developers boast that if a player wanted to run across the whole world it would take them at least 45 minutes, that’s excluding enemy encounters.
Combat for this Lightning Returns drastically modifies the Paradigm combat system the previous two games were known for. This new system will feature faster mechanics that will allow for real-time attacking dodging, blocking and countering, as well as shifting Paradigms or “Schemata.” The new system called Style-Change Active Time Battle (SATB) will allow players to freely assign commands to different buttons on the controller as opposed to selecting them from the menu like before. To keep a close tie to more classic action-RPG elements an ATB gauge will still be present, but every action will take away from the full meter. Each Schemata will have it’s own set of customized actions, gear, and individual ATB gauges, so switching between each one will be a key element to winning battles.
Many costumes and most equipment will be accessible by playthrough, but other costumes will be paid DLC or by pre-order exclusives. One of the pre-order costumes being a Cloud Strife costume with Buster Sword and armlet to match. Equipping these will actually change the in game victory theme to the Final Fantasy VII victory fanfare.
On the note of DLC Square Enix says they will feature an original Japanese dialogue and lip-syncing free download for the first two weeks of the western release of the game, allowing players to switch between English and Japanese audio. After two weeks however, it will be only available through purchase.
Lightning Returns has an incredible amount of promise. Square Enix desperately realizes the series is struggling and they seem to be taking great measures to ensure they release a quality game. Let’s hope the latest entry in the series is the Final Fantasy game we deserve.