Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Preview
Final Fantasy XIII-2 was addictive for me. There, I said it. It was not, however, what I would call a “great Final Fantasy,” nor did I play it for the same reasons I played previous entries in the series. As for the upcoming Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, I refrain from comment for the sake of this preview. We need one so I’ll write one. Okay?
Welcome to the world of Novus Partus, an expansive, fantastical world that utilizes an intriguing day/night cycle, which dictates the flow of the adventure. There are four total islands to explore and based on what I’ve seen of the early media and artwork, the main city of Novus Partus sort of combines fantasy with steampunk ideals, as we see a monorail, a darker-colored palette, and an apparent combination of futuristic sci-fi elements and traditional old-school JRPG style. That day/night system will play a very large role, as will time in general.
With only thirteen days to save the world, the protagonist – Lightning – will have to work quickly and efficiently. Square Enix has highlighted two major themes for this sequel and although one is expected (more customization), the other adds a twist to the gameplay. They want to deliver a continually changing and a constantly moving environment, as time will continue to run out during the course of your adventure. However, being the goddess that she is, Lightning will be able to increase the available time for quests and missions, and she can even perform miracles that could alter the flow of time. You know, divine power and all that.
This will be Lightning’s final story and she’ll be more customizable than ever before. In addition to being able to move about with free will during combat – which instantaneously makes this more of an action/RPG than anything else – she’ll also change her appearance. On top of which, the different equipment and weapons will sometimes give her special abilities, so there should be a fair amount of strategy involved when outfitting the heroine. This will be crucial because remember, Lightning is on her own this time; there will be no traditional party. That also gives this more of an action/RPG vibe…or maybe just “action.”
You’ll always have to keep an eye on the time gauge when traveling and fighting, but as I understand it, the game doesn’t end if the timer hits zero. Basically, it just means you missed a chance to see that particular story arc through to completion. With a bigger, more freedom-oriented environment, there will be times when you simply fail to complete a mission. Failure is often part of the open-world experience, as Skyrim players will tell you. Obviously, you shouldn’t expect a huge world ala Elder Scrolls, but there’s no doubt that the developers are aiming for something bigger and freer than anything we’ve seen before in Final Fantasy.
The Paradigm Shift system will return and for the record, we will retain the quasi-turn-based mechanic that has a gauge fill, after which we can attack. Lightning’s skills will be mapped to the face buttons, as you might find in other action titles, and we have to assume we’ll be able to access her other abilities via pop-up menu of some kind. I’ll assume (and dearly hope) that such a menu will pause combat, but there’s no knowing for sure at this point. We do know that Lightning will have access to her standard repertoire of both physical and magic-based skills, which is good news.
Lightning will be the centerpiece and she’ll be extremely powerful this time around. She’d have to be, as she has to handle everything herself, right? So perhaps fans of the character can’t wait to kick some demon ass. As for long-time hardcore Final Fantasy aficionados, I’m not sure what they think. …okay, that isn’t true, I know exactly what they think, but I’m trying to be all professional and optimistic here.
10/16/2012 Ben Dutka