Lightning (Final Fantasy)
|Final Fantasy character|
Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII
|First game||Final Fantasy XIII (2009)|
|Created by||Motomu Toriyama|
|Designed by||Tetsuya Nomura|
|Voiced by (English)||Ali Hillis|
|Voiced by (Japanese)||Maaya Sakamoto|
|Weapon||Blazefire Saber (Gunblade)|
|Special attack||Army of One, Legion of One, Zantetsuken|
Lightning (ライトニング Raitoningu ) is a fictional character from Square Enix's Final Fantasy series. She first appears as a playable character and main protagonist of the role-playing video game Final Fantasy XIII, featuring as a former sergeant in the Guardian Corps whose sister Serah has been branded as a l'Cie. In her attempt to save Serah, Lightning and others are also branded and tasked with destroying their home by the fal'Cie, a divided race of demigods who rule the worlds of Gran Pulse and Cocoon. She reappears as a supporting character in Final Fantasy XIII-2, residing in the netherworld of Valhalla as protector of the Goddess Etro. She is the sole playable character in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, in which she sets out on a quest to save the people of her world, which is destined to end in thirteen days. She is also featured in other games within the series, most notably the crossover game Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy.
Lightning was created by Motomu Toriyama, the game's director and scenario writer, and designed by Tetsuya Nomura. The idea was to create a female protagonist new to the series, who was strong, good at fighting, and less feminine than previous heroines within the franchise. Over the course of the games, she went through multiple design changes, many of which were meant to reflect her role and development in each game, particularly in Lightning Returns. Lightning's real name is Claire Farron in English and Éclair Farron (エクレール・ファロン Ekurēru Faron ) in the original Japanese-language version. She took the code name "Lightning" to escape her vulnerabilities and insecurities, and become a stronger person.
Critical and fan reception to Lightning's character was mixed owing to her cold personality, which resulted in comparisons with Cloud Strife, another character from the Final Fantasy franchise. Nevertheless, her strength across the game and her development were well received for standing out within female characters in video games.
Lightning was designed by regular Final Fantasy character designer Tetsuya Nomura, who had previously served as the character designer for Final Fantasy VIII and X, both of which were also directed by Motomu Toriyama. Multiple designs were considered for her, including some designed by other staff members, although Toriyama later claimed that "one look at [Nomura's] design made [him] say 'This is it!' She looked so cool and strong that there was no need for any retakes." Because of the graphic capacities of the game's prospective platforms, Nomura could include far more detail in her design than characters for previous games, including her cape and facial features, though conversely this meant far more effort on his part. Nomura, commenting on her original design, explained that she is essentially a "cool character" and that "you can't have a cool character without anything inappropriate". Some of her earlier characteristics were blonde or silver hair and Asian-looking features. The final art was made less Asian-looking than originally conceived, while the silver hair color was given to Hope Estheim in favor of pink: her final hair color was made to reflect her feminine side. Her weapon, the Blazefire Saber (known as Blaze Edge (ブレイズエッジ Bureizu Ejji ) in the Japanese version) was created to mirror the transforming nature of the game's summons, the Eidolons, as well as the theme of change found within the game.
During the early stages of production, Lightning's real name was to have been Averia: "Eclair" was originally used to keep her then-real name secret, but it was eventually chosen as her official name. Her English name, Claire, was chosen over the Japanese name "Eclair" because the latter name was closely associated with a type of pastry, a problem not present in the Japanese version due to differing romanization. While the name "Claire" is only loosely related to the weather or skies, part of a common naming tradition for Final Fantasy protagonists associated with Tetsuya Nomura, her alias of "Lightning" is the more proper representation of this tradition. The latter name was not chosen by Nomura, who was surprised by it, as he was thinking about stopping this naming tradition. Lightning's home never appeared in Final Fantasy XIII, but the original work by Isamu Kamikokuryo is contained in an artbook; several models were constructed before this aspect of Lightning's life was removed from the game due to space issues.
Due to global demand and the development staff's desire to further Lightning's character, development began for a sequel to Final Fantasy XIII. The original game ended with a lingering question: "Is Lightning really happy?" The conclusion of the story in Final Fantasy XIII-2 was to have provided a clear answer to this question. Toriyama revealed in an interview that, even before the decision was made to make a sequel, he had wanted to create a happy ending for the character. After Nomura made a rough sketch to show how Lightning should look in the sequel, Kamikokuryo did the final design. Her outfit was redone several times by Kamikokuryo, with a qipao and a science fiction-style outfit both discarded as they seemed to clashed with the game's atmosphere; the final design was inspired by the valkyries of Norse mythology.
Her outfit in Lightning Returns was designed by Nomura, who was told by Toriyama to create something representative of her final battle, with "strength" as the main guideline. The outfit was designed along the lines of a "leather body suit", with the arms given patterns in the style of a spinal column and the primary colors as white and red. Nomura later commented that he had felt "a strong reaction within [himself]" while creating Lightning's final look. Nomura's design was also cited as Kamikokuryo's favorite out of the many outfits designed. Her other outfits for the game were designed by Kamikokuryo, Toshiyuki Itahana, and Toshitaka Matsuda: many of the outfits were inspired by character designs by regular Final Fantasy artist Yoshitaka Amano. In addition to the new costumes, Lightning's in-game model was rebuilt from the ground-up, her bust was enlarged and several of her outfits were made to show her off in a more feminine way. Toriyama claimed that Lightning was the Final Fantasy series' "first female protagonist" with her solo role in Lightning Returns.[note 1]
Toriyama wanted Lightning to be a new type of female character, with an athlete's body and a less feminine nature than some of the previous female characters of Final Fantasy. His guideline to Nomura was to make her "strong and beautiful", "someone like a female version of Cloud from [Final Fantasy VII]". Reviews commented on this marked resemblance, with both VideoGamer.com's Wesley Yin-Poole and 1UP.com's Jeremy Parrish speaking of the resemblance and its repercussions on the character's narrative in an indifferent or negative way. Commenting on the resemblance, Toriyama stated that the similarities between the characters only extended to their cool personalities and their military backgrounds, but otherwise "Lightning really [was] her own person." Nomura also commented on Cloud in reference to Lightning during an interview shortly before the Japanese release of Lightning Returns, saying that he had "desired for her to be carefully developed and loved for a long time, like Cloud." Toriyama later commented in an interview that, among the characters he had been involved in creating, Lightning was his favorite female video game character, alongside Yuna from Final Fantasy X and Yoyo from Bahamut Lagoon.
In contrast to other characters within the series, where their personal characteristics were defined by the story, Toriyama conceived Lightning's base personality before the game's narrative or much of its basic mechanics had been finalized. Nomura commented that Lightning had a very cold personality, forming a contrast with Snow Villiers' passionate, outspoken nature. He also commented earlier that Lighting had "a strong element of mystery about her character". In a later interview, Nomura stated that Lightning originally had a more flirtatious aspect to her character, which was transferred to Oerba Yun Fang when the latter character's design changed from being a male character to a female. During an E3 2013 interview, Toriyama said that in XIII-2, the character was conceived as having become more akin to a deity, and thus it was "kind of hard to approach her." In an interview with Polygon, Lightning Returns' game designer Yuji Abe said that, for the last XIII game, the developers wanted to portray Lightning in several different lights as opposed to her more set persona in the previous games. One of the main priorities was to make Lightning a character who had lost much in her life and was consequently far more vulnerable. In another interview at Gamescom, Abe elaborated that Lightning, because of those losses and newfound vulnerability, came across as darker and slightly numbed to what's going on around her, and that this caused her to "come across like a puppet, like someone who doesn’t quite have her real self inside. That shows the kind of vulnerability she has, and it’s the point from which she starts to change afterward."
Across her spoken appearances, Lightning is voiced by Ali Hillis in English and Maaya Sakamoto in Japanese. Yoshinori Kitase, while commenting on the difficulty of balancing Lightning's depiction as both a woman and a professionally trained warrior, noted that Sakamoto's acting helped bring out Lightning's femininity. Hillis was given the role of Lightning after reading a few lines provided to her, then given a book all about the universe of Final Fantasy XIII, which she said was a little "overwhelming" when she read it. Part of the challenge for Ali was listening to the Japanese dialogue and trying to capture the emotion and energy of Sakamoto's performance for the English rendition of Lightning. She also said later that she tried to help the staff of the XIII games portray Lightning as a real person, saying: "I think that was my main priority, to make sure that Lightning had every single layer of who she was as a person, not just a game character, but a real person with layers and history and relationships to every single character in the game...even the Chocobo!" Over the course of the trilogy, Ali felt that Lightning "maybe [became] a little more sarcastic...a little more hardened to everything that's going on around her and has [needed to evolve] into a real warrior". She also said she was impressed by how much the character had impacted on the Final Fantasy fanbase.
Final Fantasy XIII series
In Final Fantasy XIII: Episode Zero: Promise, a novel set before the main game, it is revealed that Lightning and Serah's parents died when they were young and Lightning worked hard so she could become a protector for her sister, but ended up neglecting her in the process. A few days before the main events of the game, Lightning is saved by Snow and the other members of rebel group NORA from an attack by dangerous wildlife. Despite this, Lightning objects to the group's activities, and Snow's relationship with Serah. Lightning realizes too late, on her 21st birthday, that Serah has been branded as a l'Cie—a human cursed with magical powers and a task to complete within a time limit—by the Pulse fal'Cie Anima, initially thinking that Serah was using it as an excuse to get married. She then resigns her position as a member of the Guardian Corps and submits herself for the Purge, a forced relocation of citizens who have come into contact with Anima, to save her sister.
In Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning advances on Anima to save her sister. Joined by Snow, along with Hope Estheim, Sazh Katzroy and Oerba Dia Vanille, three of the surviving exiles, Lightning finds Serah, who turns to crystal after asking them to save Cocoon. Lightning and the party defeats Anima, and they are marked as l'Cie when PSICOM, Cocoon's main military force, destroys the Vestige. Lightning, skeptical of Snow's faith to save her sister, abandons both him and Serah, still in crystal stasis: the pair are later rescued by Oerba Yun Fang and the Cavalry, a rogue section of Cocoon's military forces. After an airstrike, Lightning ends up traveling with Hope. During their time together, she inadvertently summons Odin, her Eidolon, then trains Hope to fight against the Sanctum. From there, she learns of Hope's mother, Nora, and unwittingly helps support Hope's intention to kill Snow. However, during a conversation with Hope, Lightning realizes that she is misdirecting her anger, partly stemming from being made an enemy of her homeworld, and tells Hope to abandon his attempt on Snow. During the course of the game, Lightning struggles to deal with her nature as a l'Cie and realizes that she had hated herself for distrusting her sister, acknowledging Snow's relationship with Serah and his faith that they will restore her to normal as a result. After killing the fal'Cie Orphan to save Cocoon, Lightning is allowed to continue her life as a human and ends the game reconciling with Serah, who has also been restored to normal.
In Final Fantasy XIII: Episode I, a short novel which takes place immediately after Cocoon's fall, Lightning, feeling uneasy about whether her battle is over or not, leaves to find a way to save Fang and Vanille from their fate. Before she leaves, she gives her blessing to Snow and Serah's marriage. Eventually, she finds herself caught in a dark void, but decides to keep moving forward.
In Final Fantasy XIII-2, Lightning disappears from Gran Pulse with everyone except Serah thinking she sacrificed herself to save Cocoon with Vanille and Fang. In reality, Lightning was whisked away to Valhalla, capital of the Unseen Realm, as a direct result of the Goddess Etro's intervening to release her and the other l'Cie from crystal stasis. This, in turn, causes the timeline to become distorted and Lightning to be erased from that moment in history. Though tempted by Caius Ballad to return to her own world, she chooses to stay in Valhalla and accepts her new role as the dying Etro's protector, also hoping to atone for the deaths she caused during her time as a l'Cie. It is she who instructs Noel Kreiss and Serah to stop Caius from releasing Valhalla's chaos into the world of the living and destroying time. In her DLC episode, Requiem of the Goddess, Lightning is defeated by Caius after learning of her sister's death and her role in it, with Caius believing her dead. Though she nearly falls into despair, she is comforted by Serah's spirit, who reassures her that she knew what she was doing and asks Lightning not to forget her. Vowing to not lose hope and remember Serah, Lightning sits on Etro's throne and enters crystal stasis, allowing her be unaffected as the chaos is released and reforms Gran Pulse in Valhalla's image.
In Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning wakes from her crystal stasis five hundred years later into a post-apocalyptic world, Nova Chrysalia, which is fated to end for good in thirteen days. Awakened by the god Bhunivelze to be the savior, a messiah-like figure to guide souls into a new world of his design, Lightning accepts the proposal on the condition that Serah is brought back to life. This design entails her freeing her former allies of deep burdens on their hearts caused by their exposure to the chaos, bringing her into conflict with factions who see her as a threat. She also reunites with Odin, who had been locked in the form of a Chocobo after Etro's death. Lightning eventually learns that Bhunivelze's objective is to make her into his ideal Etro for the new world, refusing to follow his will upon learning that he intends to purge the people she saved of their emotions and use Hope as his physical form. Lightning, her former allies and the Eidolons unite and defeat Bhunivelze, freeing the souls of humanity and enabling Serah to be resurrected. As the old world dies and the new one is created, the Eidolons fade for good, and Lightning and her friends head for a new life on a world without gods.
Aside from her appearance in the XIII games, Lightning has appeared in several spin-offs of the Final Fantasy series. In the fighting game Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, Lightning is one of the warriors summoned by the goddess Cosmos during the 12th war between her and Chaos. She was meant to have first appeared in Dissidia Final Fantasy, but the idea was scrapped as Final Fantasy XIII had yet to be released and Square Enix did not want to reveal her abilities ahead of time. During Dissidia 012, Lightning's group is confronted by beings called Manikins, which cause permanent death for those they defeat and threaten to disrupt the cycle of war. She leads an expedition to the portal where the Manikins are emerging from, and the group sacrifices their lives to close it. Lightning bears three alternate outfits in the game, including one based on the character Aya Brea, made available as downloadable content by using a given password when purchasing The 3rd Birthday. Lightning also appears in a series of special Full Active Time Events (FATEs) in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. In the plot, Lightning appears in the land of Eorzea along with many monsters during her time in crystal stasis between XIII-2 and Lightning Returns. It is hinted in a conversation with her that she was sent to Eorzea by Bhunivelze to hone her skills in preparation for future battles in her world. After the FATEs are completed, Lightning meets up with the Adventurer one last time, saying that she is thankful for the time spent in Eorzea and that the deity that sent her would regret what they did. As she fades, she asks the Adventurer to remember her time there. Players who participated in the FATEs received gear themed after items and weapons from the XIII games and clothing modeled after Lightning and Snow's outfits in Final Fantasy XIII.
In the rhythm game Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, Lightning is a playable character representing Final Fantasy XIII. In Final Fantasy Airborne Brigade, Lightning is featured in her Final Fantasy XIII-2 form. She also makes appearances as a premium character in Final Fantasy: All the Bravest, a chibi-styled figure in Final Fantasy in Itadaki Street Mobile, and a character card in Final Fantasy Artniks. Outside the Final Fantasy franchise, Lightning makes an appearance in Kingdom Hearts Re:coded as a player avatar. Speaking in an interview in 2013, Yoshinori Kitase said that while Lightning's role in the main game series had come to an end with Lightning Returns, there was still a strong possibility of her appearing in future spin-off games.
In merchandise and promotion
Lightning has been used as the theme for multiple pieces of Final Fantasy XIII-themed merchandise produced by Square Enix. The two pieces directly inspired by the character are Lightning's necklace and a mild perfume. Along with this, action figures of Lightning in her three main iterations were produced by Play Arts Kai, who have frequently made action figures of characters and creatures from the Final Fantasy series. Several cards depicting the character are also available in the Final Fantasy Trading Card Game. Lightning in her outfit for Final Fantasy XIII appeared in a live-action PlayStation commercial titled "Michael", alongside characters like Nathan Drake, Kratos and Cole McGrath. An actress also portrayed the character in her Final Fantasy XIII-2 attire during the Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary Event during Asia Game Show 2013. She was portrayed again in a Japanese live-action/CGI TV commercial for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. In April 2012, Lightning and other characters from Final Fantasy XIII-2 were featured in a 12 page section in the male fashion magazine Arena Homme + showcasing Prada's designs. Lightning was also featured on the packaging of snacks produced by Ezaki Glico as part of a campaign to promote Lightning Returns.
Lightning's character has received mixed reviews. When Final Fantasy XIII was still in development Anime News Network's writer Todd Ciolek expected Lightning's activities in the game to be similar to the ones from previous games, and found the baby chocobo to be more likable than her. In a review of the game, Ciolek commented that Lightning is initially "far too distant and cold, as though the writers were so intent on creating a tough, competent heroine that they forgot to make her at all compelling". However, he mentioned that after hours of playing the title, Lightning becomes a more appealing lead character. Wesley Yin-Poole of VideoGamer.com simply referred to Lightning as the female version of the Final Fantasy VII lead character Cloud Strife. Jeremy Parrish of 1UP.com commented that if it were not for Lightning's scenes in which she shows a thoughtful side, she "could simply be your typical, sullen Square protagonist". On the other hand, GameSpot's Kevin VanOrd called Lightning a "likeable, strong-willed beauty" while commenting on her interactions with the other main characters of the game. Martin Robinson of IGN UK stated that Lightning "instantly endears herself" due to the scenes in which she punches Snow whenever he gets full of himself, but commented that due to the fact her backstory "soon gets bogged down in generic swash", the character of Sazh became more appealing than her. GamesRadar's Carolyin Gudmundson was unenthusiastic, opining that while Lightning's narrative had its points, "it certainly isn't above and beyond what we'd typically expect", later commenting that this resulted in her coming off as "one-dimensional and boring". In his analysis of the game as a whole, Gamasutra author Christian Nutt commented that Lightning's relationships with Snow, Serah and the rest of the cast added a level of humanity to the narrative.
Her small amount of screen time in Final Fantasy XIII-2 was criticized by several outlets, especially in contrast to her presence on the game's cover. Joe Juba of Game Informer was disappointed that Lightning had been transferred to a supporting role in favor of weaker characters like Serah and Hope. DualShockers' Alexa Ray Corriea said that while the game's protagonists did a good job, she felt that fans of the first game would be sorely disappointed about Lightning being "side-lined". Simon Parkin of Eurogamer felt that the game suffered to a degree without Lightning's single-minded drive as part of the story. In his review, GameSpot's VanOrd was disappointed that Lightning, along with Caius Ballad, got considerably less screentime than many of the other characters, since they seemed stronger characters.
Beyond the individual games, Lightning has been popular among characters in gaming. In 2010, she was ranked as the 34th most popular video game character in Japan in a Famitsu poll. Out of all the Final Fantasy XIII cast, Lightning was voted as the most popular character in a Microsoft poll. In a VideoGamer.com's listing of the best ten Final Fantasy characters, Lightning was sixth with the writer Yin Poole finding her interesting in the course of the game despite still finding her similar to Cloud. In 2011, IGN ranked Lightning among the best Final Fantasy characters, saying that she demonstrated that "a delicate balance can exist between strength and tenderness, even in the midst of her incredible acrobatic feats." In GameZone's list regarding the same subject, Lightning was eighth owing to her visual appearance as well as the character's determination which made her "one of the strongest female leaders of the Final Fantasy series." Cheat Code Central also listed her as one of the top ten "badass" women of video games for her independence that distances her from previous Final Fantasy heroines. Lightning also ranked second in AfterEllen's list of the "hottest" video game characters. In Game Informer's list of top ten heroes of 2010, Lightning was ranked eighth and praised for her as the only protagonist in Final Fantasy XIII who seemed capable of taking on the corrupt government of Cocoon and that her no-nonsense approach to her mission made her the game's standout hero. In 2013, Lightning was voted the favorite female Final Fantasy character in an official poll by Square Enix, and was also ranked as the 39th greatest heroine in video game history by Complex. Professional journalists and game developers have also ranked her high among important female video game characters, with her coming third in a list of top female characters in an RPG or JRPG during a panel at PAX Prime 2013.
- Director Motomu Toriyama's full quote: "We feel that every person within the party is a main character, but we feel Lightning is very impactful as the main female protagonist in the Final Fantasy series. Not only is she the first female protagonist, she is very powerful, cool, calm, and collected. So we believe that is another attractive feature of hers." This official statement addressed the common claim of Final Fantasy VI's Terra as being the first female protagonist; but does not address Final Fantasy X-2 or Final Fantasy XIII itself. According to this official statement; Square Enix identifies Lightning as the first female protagonist; without expanding on the criteria as being the female protagonist in a single character title or conventional definitions of female protagonists.
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- Square Enix. Final Fantasy XIII. (Square Enix). PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. (2010-03-09) Vanille: Pulse fal'Cie and l'Cie are bad news. That's why Cocoon kicked them out. Live too close to the fal'Cie? One-way ticket to Pulse! That's the Purge in a nutshell.
- Square Enix. Final Fantasy XIII. (Square Enix). PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. (2010-03-09) Lightning: This l'Cie curse, it took everything from me. My future. My dreams. I didn't want to think. So I fought instead. As long as I was fighting, nothing else was real. I was running away.
- Square Enix. Final Fantasy XIII. (Square Enix). PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. (2010-03-09) Datalog - Operation Nora: Operation Nora[...] the means by which he will exact vengeance on Snow. [...]Lightning soon realizes her mistake. Her lecture to abandon compassion was intended as a warning against the hesitation she fears will be his undoing.
- Square Enix. Final Fantasy XIII. (Square Enix). PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. (2010-03-09) Lightning: It was too much. / Snow: Hm? / Lightning: What happened to Serah. All I could think about was, 'What could I have done?' I hated myself for not trusting her. It hurt too much. I couldn't face it.
- Square Enix. Final Fantasy XIII. (Square Enix). PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. (2010-03-09) Snow: We will see her again, right? / Lightning: Don't go there. No room for doubt. / Snow: You're right. / Lightning: We'll see her again. And soon. You've convinced me of that. So stay strong. / Snow: Don't worry. We'll finish this, and go see her together.
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- Square Enix. Final Fantasy XIII-2. (Square Enix). PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. (2012-01-31) Datalog - Valhalla: Valhalla is an otherworldly dimension, also known as the Unseen Realm. According to Pulse legend, it is the final resting place of the souls of the dead, and the chaotic world where the goddess Etro makes her home.
- Square Enix. Final Fantasy XIII-2. (Square Enix). PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. (2012-01-31) Lightning: I was lost. The darkness caught me in its embrace, and wrote me out of history.
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- Square Enix. Final Fantasy XIII-2. (Square Enix). PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. (2012-01-31) Caius: Lightning is dead. I killed her with my own hands.
- Square Enix. Final Fantasy XIII-2 DLC: Another Beginning, Lightning's Story; Requiem of the Goddess. (Square Enix). PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. (2012-01-31) Serah: Don't be sorry. And forget your tears. You don't need them. No matter what future is waiting for us, I'll have no regrets. No matter what end we see coming, I won't change my mind. / Lightning: You knew. You knew what would happen. [...] / Serah: I believe in you. You'll keep the future of this world safe. So it's okay. I don't mind if I'm gone. [...] Just keep me in your thoughts. Remember me, and we'll see each other again.
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