Happy New Year everyone! Megan Highwind here bringing you my thoughts on the demo for the newest installment in the long running Final Fantasy franchise Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. This demo was extremely short. It only took me about fifteen minutes to complete so I did not get to see a whole lot. Much like Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning Returns focuses on the character of Lightning and her quest through the Fabula Nova Crystallis universe. This time around, however, the world is coming to an end. Lightning is a warrior of God running around the world trying to save souls from Chaos before the world completely crumbles. She has help from longtime companion Hope Estheim and in the demo is trying to save the soul of her sister Serah’s fiancé, Snow.
When the demo starts, the first thing that you notice is the graphics. As always, what comes across the screen is beautiful and all encompassing. If Square has learned anything throughout the years, it is that they are great at giving people something amazing to look at. Likewise, what I got of the soundtrack was also well done. I liked the music that was playing while engaged in battle and running through the area given looking for Snow. I realized very quickly, however, that I had absolutely no idea what was going on. Given that this was a demo, I do not give it much weight that there was not a whole lot of story to go on, but by the end of it I felt like all I knew is that there are angels and demons, God and Chaos, good vs. evil and that you have thirteen days in order to make everything right. I did not really get much of a reason why the world was ending or what role Lightning was playing aside from saving souls, so I am interested to see how it all plays out. The part of the demo I was looking most forward to, of course, was the gameplay. My immediate reaction was that it is reminiscent of Final Fantasy X-2 in that depending on what costume or job class that Lightning is in, her moves and options change. For instance, as a Lancer she can jump and attack while as a black mage she has the ability to use magical moves and her clothing itself changes as the job class does. Besides that, though, Lightning Return’s gameplay is completely different from Final Fantasy X-2. Lightning is given a bar that is full and depletes as you use moves and you have to switch between job classes as one is refilling in order to keep attacking your opponent. It is more of a live action style of play in that when an enemy is coming at you you have to guard in order to take less damage and the play does not stop until the battle is over. Like in Final Fantasy XIII, opponents will stagger and you can cause more damage by attacking the staggered opponent to eventually take them down. Lightning herself has been given an overdrive type mode wherein she can keep attacking an enemy without depleting any of the action bar. This gameplay style seems as though it will be quite a bit more difficult than previous titles as it makes you think on your feet more. Not to mention, only having Lightning to control instead of three fighters means that you are in charge of healing yourself, bolstering your character, and attacking as well. Lightning also does not regain her life points between battles so you need to be well stocked on potions in order to keep her alive. The biggest downside to the demo was that it clearly suffers from some framerate issues. When you reached the main room where there were other players running around to talk to the game slowed down and it also suffered some when it came to the cut scenes. I can only hope that this issue is fixed by the final release because while it was not a game breaker for me when it happened in games like Batman: Arkham Origins, it definitely takes away from the experience and detracts from what could be a great game if done well.
Overall, I will freely admit that I am ready for the Lighting saga to be done with. While I did not hate the saga per say, it is not one of my favorite entries in the series and I am ready to move on to a new set of characters and a new storyline. At this point, I am skeptical as to how this game is going to pan out. Not being a huge fan of the first entry into the series made me not want to delve back into the world once, not to mention twice more, but after I thought that Final Fantasy XIII-2 improved upon a lot of the problems I had with the first entry, I am hoping that the final entry in the series continues the trend. I will definitely play the game to finish out the story and see what happens to Lightning and the rest of the crew as the world that they know and love falls around them. Expect my review to be here in the coming weeks!
-Megan Highwind has left the party.