It is an exciting time for Final Fantasy fans; FFX/X2 HD Remake, FF XIV: A Realm Reborn release and the recently re-branding and announcement of FFXV BUT I am much more excited for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII and here is why…
Let me just tell you right off the bat, I did not enjoy Final Fantasy XIII or XIII-2. I was originally very excited for the release of FFXIII, however when I played the game I was disappointed with its linearity and I felt as though it was overshadowed by Versus XIII which looked like its stronger, better looking alternative. So why am I so excited for Lightning Returns? Simply because it doesn’t look or feel like a typical Final Fantasy game. The game looks like a complete overhaul of the entire series; game systems have evolved and tired elements that we are so used to in recent Final Fantasy titles have been vastly improved and updated and I think this what the series desperately needs.
Lightning Returns looks as though it will stand alone in the series. Look at the title for example, it is not Final Fantasy XIII-3, it is Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. Early in December 2012, Yoshinori Kitase (Director of FFVI/VII/VIII and X) stated that naming the game XIII-3 “would give the impression that it was a direct evolution of XIII-2, rather than the ‘new experience'”.
The developers have listened to player feedback and improved player freedom and exploration, this is a vital feature and something that gamers have been begging for. I love to explore new areas and have the freedom to roam towns and interact with NPC’s. To add to that there is a time limit which means that time management is a huge part of Lightning Returns. This seems to have caused mixed reactions, on one hand they offer you exploration but on the other they are putting you under the stress of time meaning you may not explore at your leisure. However this single big feature of the game is exactly what pulled me in.
Exploring the world is great but to throw that urgency in the mix – that I actually have to be somewhere or do something because I want to stay ahead of time – will keep me interested and wanting to start a second play through. Take Dead Rising for example. The biggest element in that game is staying on top of time whilst trying to save people but finding hidden weapons and killing zombies in unique ways is what kept me coming back for more.
Battles will not be as ‘plain‘ or boring as they were in XIII and XIII-2. Some enemies can be taken down using different strategies such as attacking from behind first to cut off their tail and GP (Glory Points) can be used to change the course of battle, such as creating a shadow image of Lightning to distract enemies and take hits, healing also requires GP. Turn-based battles will feel more like real-time action combat, which seems to be the way Final Fantasy XV will be, judging from what we have seen so far. This makes combat much more fast paced, as you will be able to move Lightning around, along with the new dodge roll ability. This will make a huge change from just mashing the ‘Autobattle’ button.
There will also be a Hard Mode for advanced players, which will offer stronger enemies and introduce various other elements. If you defeat the same enemies then they will become extinct and stronger enemies will be introduced and once you reach the last of a species they will be extremely difficult adding a greater challenge to the game.
Each different continent in the game (4 in total) will be very different and include their own themes. The design concepts for each continent was: A mystery-suspense feel for Luxerion, a spy theme for Yusaan, grand nature for The Wildlands and labyrinth exploring for the Dead Dunes.
In XIII-2, downloadable costumes were only for cosmetic purposes which received mixed reactions. Again, the developers have listened to feedback and thus in Lightning Returns different outfits for Lightning offer stat boots and battle advantages.
The Crystarium System will not appear in Lightning Returns. Instead, Lightning’s stats will be increased by completing story events and side quests. Players can also purchase abilities, equipment and magic, adding yet more strategic options for players.
And finally, Lightning as a character will be seen in a whole new light. Toriyama stated “We wanted to depict her again in a slightly different light so that people can have another opportunity to get to know her better” he explains “… Throughout the story you’re going to find out more about her real emotions and what goes through her mind. She will be getting more and more human and vulnerable, even as you play”. No more boring, drippy Lightning!
Square-Enix have clearly taken player feedback very seriously, and the changes and enhancements being introduced in Lightning Returns are being done for good reason. This refreshing new take on Final Fantasy will bring the game up-to-date and, even though the drastic changes may come as a shock at first, I think this could become the Final Fantasy game that fans have been waiting for.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Gamescom 2013 Trailer
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is slated for release in February 2014 in North America and Europe.
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