The Final Fantasy XIII saga is the first true trilogy for the series, and Lightning Returns brings back the titular character for the finale of the story. It is also the first entry in the Final Fantasy franchise to feature a single character rather than a party during combat. We got our hands on it recently to check out how it measures up to the rest of the trilogy.
What it is: Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII takes place 500 years after the end of Final Fantasy XIII-2, with Lightning showing up again just 13 days before the world ends. She’s trying to stop it from happening, but faces resistance from some former friends, including Snow and Noel.
Lightning Returns also replaces the Paradigm combat system of the previous entries in the trilogy with a new Schema system. Schemas are essentially different classes that Lightning can switch between instantly on command, each with their own moves assigned to them and with their own action gauge. During our time with the game, we saw three Schemas: Dark Muse, Divinity and Sorceress. Sorceress was (as you’d expect) very magic-heavy, Dark Muse had powerful physical attacks assigned to it and Divinity had a mix of magic and physical. Movement in battle is completely manual, so you can run around to avoid attacks, and each schema also had a blocking move.
Why we’re excited: We knew from trailers that combat would be much different in Lightning Returns, but had no idea how it would actually work. After getting to experience it firsthand, it definitely feels like it could be the strength of the game. The new system works extremely well, and is a lot of fun to use.
What we’re wondering: Our experience was entirely based on the new combat system, with no real focus on the story or characters. We know that Hope, Snow and Noel are around, despite it taking place 500 years into the future. How did they all get there? Will Lightning Returns wrap up this convoluted saga in a satisfying manner? The story kept us interested through the second game, but endings can be the most difficult part to get right.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is currently slated to release in North America on February 11, 2014.