A Final Fantasy fanatic admitting he’s completely lost about the Nova Crystallis storyline (13 to anyone else) is nothing new, dividing the community. The “seven is perfection” camp eagerly await the day Cloud dons a dress in glorious high definition, whilst the rest of the community bicker needlessly whether or not Lightning’s efforts are a worthy addition to the franchise…
…and they’ve given it a lot of flak. XIII-2 aimed to right the wrongs of its predecessor, despite addressing numerous concerns, it was rendered inaccessible by its complex storyline. Lightning Returns Final Fantasy XIII draws this “epic” trilogy to a close; will it be the injection of new blood the franchise needs or affirmation that Square Enix have lost their way.
Things start in the heat of the action, tasking Lightning with hunting down former ally Snow Villiers, the Patron of Yusnaan. It’s a drawn out chase through narrow walkways, reminiscent of XIII, littered with enemies. You can engage upon them by pressing [RB], awarding a 10% or the “perfect” 25% bonus and instigating combat.
An expansion on the active time battle system, abilities are mapped to (A), (Y) and (B), draining energy when used. Switching costumes resets the energy gauge, allowing you to chain abilities, or alternately button mash the controller until things stop happening.
Square have lovingly renamed this the “style change active time battle system” (rolls off the tongue doesn’t it), though thankfully costume changes take a mere fraction of the time pronouncing it does, tapping [RB] or [LB]. It’s frighteningly similar to the Dressphere system implemented in X-2 and though the lengthy anime-esque changing cutscenes are no longer present, the outfits are equally as hyper-sexualised.
Regardless of what you’re wearing (or not wearing), (X) functions as a bloc, reducing damage taken from enemy attacks. Get the timing just right to perform a “perfect block”, knocking the enemy to the floor and leaving them vulnerable to counterattack. Combat is fast and fluid, but with so many elaborate particle effects onscreen, it can be tough to decipher when to block. With practise I imagine combat deters from archaic button mashing to a tactical chain of abilities to stagger opponents.
Traversing the map is pretty simple, the jump function implemented in XIII-2 makes a return, allowing you to clamber obstacles in order to reach new heights. The doomsday counter was ticking away in the corner of the screen, but how gameplay factors into it was not referenced during the demo.
Lightning failed to catch up Snow encountering a field of “chaos”, powerful dark magic. Inside she came across someone strikingly similar to her sister, Serah, who summoned a powerful enemy before whisking away.
Lightning Returns Final Fantasy XIII draws this complex trilogy to a close on February 14th, when it launches on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.