|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: Square Enix|
|Pub: Square Enix|
|Release: TBA 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
Leveling up seems to work differently as well. The Crystarium seems to be absent this time around; instead, you purchase or find your new abilities. In addition, Lightning’s sword, shield, and armor determine what abilities you can equip, so you essentially create your own loadouts and Schemes from scratch. All of this comes with a variety of visual changes too, allowing you customize Lightning’s appearance to your own liking. Of course, this kind of feels like playing dress-up, which kind of feels like Final Fantasy X-2, which brings back very bad memories indeed.
Exploration seems to be far freer in Lightning Returns. All of the continents of the new game world are able to be explored as you wish, alluding to a much more open map, perhaps like the old map screens of Final Fantasy games past. However, you won’t have infinite time to explore the map because, if you remember, the world will end in thirteen days. These days transpire in real time, giving you a limited amount of time in which to complete your story-based missions and power up your character. This all comes together into something that feels a whole lot like Dead Rising, just with fantasy monsters instead of zombies.
Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 introduced quick time events into the Final Fantasy series. Lightning Returns, on the other hand, will introduce gameplay elements from other styles of games. For example, a stealth section has been shown, which involves Lightning sneaking around a city in order to get to the bottom of a murder case. Just what Lightning is doing investigating a murder when the world is going to end in thirteen days is a question that will have to be answered later, but she does this through a stealth sequence that has her collecting evidence without being seen. This section seems a lot like Hitman or Assassin’s Creed, as it focuses on using the environment to keep Lightning hidden. So there are elements of both mystery games and stealth games, and supposedly many more interesting gameplay variations will be included by the time the game is done.
Lightning Returns certainly does seem like an interesting game with innovative systems and a unique approach to gameplay. However, I just have to ask the question: Why is this still calling itself Final Fantasy? Where are the moogles and chocobos? Where’s the fanfare, the intro theme, the party mechanics? Lightning Returns seems like it will be an awesome and fun game to play, but it has little to do with Final Fantasy XIII or the Final Fantasy series in general. For now, we will have to wait and see what the future of this ever-changing series holds.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
Date: January 29, 2013