E3 2013: Hands-on: Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII


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Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII LightningIt’s no secret that the Final Fantasy XIII series has been under heavy criticism since the first title in the trilogy was released to the world. Linear gameplay and a confusing story was followed by a strong, vocal community that analyzed every bit of XIII and its presence within the Final Fantasy sphere of games. Now, we have Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII to conclude the story of Lightning and Serah, and thankfully, I was able to play a demo of it on the E3 show floor.

I have generally enjoyed the first two installments of the Final Fantasy XIII franchise, but I do have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of the series’ overall direction within the last few years. I have enjoyed the combat the most, then the characters, and then finally the story last. The demo I played at Square Enix’s booth solely featured combat. The combat system has been modified to accommodate Lightning, and only Lightning. There seems to be no chocobo companion to fight alongside you, let alone Noel or Snow, for example.

The ATB gauge has been upgraded to hold more opportunities for Lightning to make a move, and this time, different moves have been mapped to the right face keys on the controller. What I liked about the battle system is how you can now switch between character classes, or paradigm shifts, I should say, similar to how the dressphere system worked in Final Fantasy X-2. This was a very fluid transition, and I enjoyed it very much, as I wasn’t expecting to be able to pick up the shifting so easily.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII class shifting

Although the combat came off as a strong point, I was more disappointed in how the demo was laid out. As it’s an E3 demo, it’s expected that people will understand that Lightning Returns is certainly still under development and that Square Enix can only show a small glimpse of the gameplay. What I received was a quick highlight of the new character Lumina and how she seemed to have been the cause of a boss battle I died fighting in. I didn’t really understand what was going on, other than the fact that I was told to stagger it with lightning magic.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII battle demo

I tried to do this a few times, but there wasn’t a stagger bar to speak of like in the first two XIII games. I’m not sure if I was doing it wrong or if the game itself was unclear to me. After the demo finished, I felt underwhelmed and a bit lost as to what the point of the demo was. I did witness other demo stations having a different set of battles to progress through, so maybe things are explained better in that sampling.

So, there you have it. I had a bit of fun playing Lightning Returns on the E3 show floor. It had its pros and a few more cons, and I didn’t really feel excited for the game after I finished playing it. If anything, I felt underwhelmed by and disappointed in the demo, which is too bad, because I’ve been looking forward to a new Final Fantasy XIII for a long while. If the demo had smaller monsters to battle and possibly more of a grounding in story, I would have had a better time. It’s still a title to keep an eye on, but I feel like this title will only cater to those who have played the original Final Fantasy XIII and its sequel.

You can read more E3 2013 coverage here.


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About Jared Cyhowski

[Former Staff] Jared is a recent graduate from Fitchburg State University where he studied communications, video production, and English. He enjoys playing video games, watching anime, writing, and of course pizza. His favorite games are Shadow of the Colossus and Final Fantasy IX, but he can’t possibly choose a favorite anime. Jared enjoys following the games industry and observing what will happen next, and he puts out an invitation for discussion on these topics. He loves a great story in these mediums and prefers a stronger narrative design over most features. Jared is personally responsible for creating and managing the Anime section of the website, and hopes to inspired and entertain with everything he writes.