I have played the entire Final Fantasy XIII series and have a pretty good opinion towards it. The first game was rough and drug on for a while, but overall had an intriguing story. Then XIII-2 came along introduced a whole new time jumping, multiple realities gameplay to it.
Fast forward to Lightning Returns and you see a newly imagined title and the possible future of the franchise. In fact, other than the title, this title didn’t even appear to belong in the same franchise. From new battle systems to a new level up system, Square Enix did a great job creating a whole new game. One of the most interesting things is the fact that you are on a time clock while playing.
To start with the story, the core concept is interesting. Lightning is awakened after many years in a stasis. She finds that she is now in the middle of an eternal struggle between dark forces called the “Chaos” and the last remaining survivors. Lightning is now an agent of the god Bhunivelze and is needed to save souls for the coming new world that Bhunivelze is creating.
Lightning faces many old friends in addition to some new enemies. One of which is the demon Lumina. Lumina is a combination of a young Lightning and her sister Serah. In addition members from the first two games make appearances in the main story, often times as foes. Snow and Noel are just a few that play an important role in the main story.
One thing I loved about the dialogue is that each character has grown or developed in some way over the trilogy. Unlike the original Halo trilogy, the characters grew and changed as each game happened. Snow showed the most growth and change throughout the three games.
Each cut scene that happens is a breathtaking piece of cinema. The graphics are crystal clear and the action intense. Lightning returns is a clinic on how to compose cinematic action scenes.
Lightning returns also introduces a new type of combat system. Instead of having to grind out experience, you improve by completing quests. In addition, completed quests save souls used to feed a great tree of life, thus keeping the game going. Each combat gives you money to spend on weapons and items. I love this feature because it eliminates the need for hours and hours of repetitive battles.
The battle system is also unique in the way it is set up as well. While you have the ATB gauge still, you can move around off of any rails. A major part of the battle includes timing of blocks to prevent damage. In addition, there is a system much like the paradigm system in the previous two that allows quick swap of skill sets. The difference is this system is allotment for customized skills.
All in all, Lightning Returns is a great title in the Final Fantasy series and can actually be a stand alone title even if you haven’t played the other games, though you will likely enjoy it more if you have. With dynamic gameplay and a great story, this title should be on your “to get” list.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII earns a very high 4 and 1/2 Gin Gems out of 5.