Hello everyone! Megan Highwind finally bringing you my review of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. For those of you who are not aware, Lightning Returns is the final entry into the triad of Final Fantasy XIII titles for the Playstation 3. This entry takes an entirely new battle system and adds new locales to try and make things more enthralling and interesting to those who have played the other two titles in the series. There are a few things that Square Enix does well in this title, but overall I would have liked to see the final entry into Lightning’s story be a bit more memorable.
Let us start with what I did like about this game, shall we? As I stated in my article about the demo of this title, Square Enix has always been good with the visuals and the music in their games, and this title follows suit. The different locales that you will visit in this title vary from sandy deserts to bustling towns and everything in between. The worlds switch between day and night and the scenes before you appear completely different depending on which time of day you visit them. The Dead Dunes, for example, you are cautioned by the travel agent to not visit during the day because they are covered in monsters. Not heeding this advice ends you in a spot where early on in the game, you will be completely desimated in a short span of time. The characters themselves and the clothing that they wear are also quite detailed. Lightning’s outfits are each unique and the adornments that can be put on them add a little flair. Music wise, some of the same tunes from past Final Fantasy XIII titles make their way into Lightning Returns in one way or another, but the new music that have been created specifically for this title also are well done and add to the gameplay.
Speaking of gameplay, Lightning Returns overhauled the entire system. When I first played the demo I was a little apprehensive about the whole dynamic of Lightning fighting alone in the real time battle system, but I was pleasantly surprised. The game is fought in real time action and Lightning is able to equip different Schemata, which change her clothing and give her different abilities and enhancements in magic, attack, ATB, etc. It was fun getting to customize my own character to the point where if I wanted to, I could change the colors of her Schemata to completely make it my own. The only real downside to fighting battles is that despite giving you items that you will need to complete quests, you do not actually gain any levels or stats by fighting. This seems odd since all of the other Final Fantasy titles have put a huge emphasis on fighting battles in order to level up and defeat bosses. While I personally hate leveling up for hours just to defeat a boss, it is even harder for me to fight battles just to maybe get items that may help me complete a quest in the future. That being said, I did like the varied quests and that there were plenty of them to keep me entertained for a while, but after hours of play, the quests do tend to get redudant as you are usually searching the world for specific items.
Unfotunately, where the game really falls apart is in the most important aspect of any game that I play, the storyline. The world is coming to an end and darkness is taking over and Lightning is comissioned by god to save people’s souls in order to bring them to a new world after this one is enveloped by the darkness, called Chaos. This concept may not sound much different than past Final Fantasy titles, but the execution is what suffers most. When Lightning visits one of each of the four areas in the title, there issupposidly a different main quest that she is asked to complete. However, each area has the exact same main quest just maybe done slightly different in each area. Lighting meets one of the people she used to fight with, they have turned to the darkess of for one reason or another, and she is in charge of making sure their soul is saved. I applaud the idea of bringing back characters from the other titles in some capacity, but making it so that they are the main focus and no new characters that have any real importance are introduced throughout besides the villian, Lumina, is kind of boring. While I love knowing what happened to past characters, it would have been nice to have run into some of them in a sidenote instead of having to save every single one of them. Besides that, the characters are just shells of their former selves and it is disappointing because even though I did not love Final Fantasy XIII, I did enjoy most of the characters and in this entry they are all downtrodden and depressed and do not have any life left in them. Not to mention, even though the NPCs and lesser characters, to some extent, have a sense of the levity of what is going on around them, it seems like Lightning herself has no sense of foreboding. She never acts like she needs to be in a hurry to get things done. Also, even though it is explained that Lightning feels as though she no longer has much left in terms of emotion(like she ever did?), it would have been nice to see her seem to care about anyone she encounters, especially her old friends that she spent so much time with in XIII.
Overall, the graphics, music, and gameplay make this title one worth spending money to rent or buy used, but the storyline makes it so that I cannot recommend this title as a new buy to anyone. While, as I mentioned earlier, I was not the biggest fan of Final Fantasy XIII, I was really hoping this entry into the series would end on a high note. The gameplay beckons back to older Final Fantasy titles and others in the genre, giving me hope for the future of the franchise, but the underwhelming storyline and lack of any sort of connection to the characters make this game one that I will, sadly, probably never revisit. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is nowhere near an awful game, it just does not seem like a worthy entry into a series that has enamored fans for so many years.
-Megan Highwind has left the party.