Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

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Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
A woman in a leather suit with a large cape. On the left, the game's title appears in a font unusual for the series. In the background, a clockface is visible against a blurry, colorful background. The game's logo is visible on her chest.
Developer(s) Square Enix 1st Production Department[1]
tri-Ace
Publisher(s) Square Enix[1]
Director(s) Motomu Toriyama
Producer(s) Yoshinori Kitase
Designer(s) Yuji Abe
Programmer(s) Naoki Hamaguchi
Artist(s) Isamu Kamikokuryo
Writer(s) Daisuke Watanabe[2]
Composer(s) Masashi Hamauzu[3]
Naoshi Mizuta[3]
Mitsuto Suzuki[3]
Series Fabula Nova Crystallis
Final Fantasy
Engine Crystal Tools
Platform(s) PlayStation 3[1]
Xbox 360[1]
Release date(s)
  • AU February 13, 2014[5]
  • EU February 14, 2014[4]
Genre(s) Action role-playing
Mode(s) Single-player
Distribution Blu-ray Disc
DVD-ROM DL

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (ライトニング リターンズ ファイナルファンタジーXIII Raitoningu Ritānzu: Fainaru Fantajī Sātīn?) is a console action role-playing video game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was released on November 2013 in Japan and February 2014 in Europe and North America. The game is a direct sequel to Final Fantasy XIII-2, concludes the storyline of Final Fantasy XIII, and forms part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis subseries. Lightning Returns employs a highly revamped version of the gameplay system from the previous two games, with an action-oriented battle system, the ability to customize the player character's outfits, and a time limit the player must extend by completing story missions and sidequests.

The game's story takes place five hundred years after the previous game's ending. Lightning, the main protagonist of the first game and a key character in the second, awakes from a self-imposed hibernation 13 days before the world's end, and is chosen by the deity Bhunivelze to save the people of the dying world, including former friends and allies who have developed heavy emotional burdens. As she travels, she learns the full truth behind both the world's fate and Bhunivelze's true agenda.

Development of the game started in May 2012, shortly after the release of XIII-2's final piece of DLC, and was unveiled at a special 25th Anniversary Event for the Final Fantasy series in September that year. Most of the previous games' key creative minds and developers returned, and it was developed by Square Enix's First Production Department, with developer tri-Ace helping with the graphics. The development team wanted the game to bring a conclusive end to the story of both Lightning and the XIII universe, and to address criticisms leveled against the last two games. It has received mixed reviews in both Japan and Western territories: while the main praise went to the game's battle system, opinions were more mixed for the graphics, time limit and other aspects of gameplay, while the story and characters were criticized for being weak or poorly developed.

Gameplay[edit]

The player directly controls the character Lightning through a third-person perspective to interact with people, objects, and enemies throughout the game. The player can also turn the camera around the character, which allows for a 360° view of the surroundings. The world of Lightning Returns, as with Final Fantasy XIII and its sequel XIII-2, is rendered to scale with the character, who navigates the world on foot. In one of the areas, the player can use chocobos, a recurring animal in the Final Fantasy series. The player is able to freely navigate the game's open world layout, explore towns and country areas, and accept quests from various NPCs.[6] Lightning is also able to sprint for limited periods, climb up ladders and jump freely.[7] The game features three difficulty levels: Easy,[8] Normal and Hard, the latter of which is unlocked after first completing the game. There is also a New Game+ option, whereby players can start a new game while carrying over their equipment and stats from a previous playthrough.[9] The in-game clock runs continuously during normal navigation, with one in-game day equating to two to three hours in real time on Easy mode and one hour on Normal and Hard modes.[9][10] The timer starts out at seven in-game days, but can be extended to a maximum of thirteen days.[9] The timer stops during cutscenes, conversations and battles. Lightning can also pause time using an ability called Chronostasis.[11]

Quests are directly linked to Lightning's growth: as she completes quests, her stats are boosted, with the main story quests yielding the biggest boosts.[9] Many side-quests can only be obtained at certain times, since the real-time build of the world means NPCs are in constant movement, and only appear in certain places at a given time.[6] Lightning can also accept quests from the Canvas of Prayers, a post board found in all the main locations.[12] Upon completing NPC quests, Lightning is rewarded with a portion of Eradia, spiritual energy retrieved when a person's burden is lifted.[13] Every day at 6 AM game-time, Lightning is drawn back into the Ark, a location where the in-game clock does not progress. Once there, Lightning gives her gathered Eradia to a tree called Yggdrasil: if she has gathered enough, the in-game clock is extended by a day. She can also restock on supplies and collect new equipment.[14][15] Another feature in the game is Outerworld Services, a feature where players can take photos and share them, along with their personal stats and battle scores, on Facebook and Twitter.[16]

Battle system[edit]

A woman attacking a bipedal monster with magic, with a UI overlay on top of the image depicting their status.
The Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII battle system, with the ATB meters for Lightning's garb, the available abilities of the current garb, and the EP visible. The enemy's health and stagger meter are visible above it.

As with the previous game, enemies appear in the open field and can be avoided or engaged. The number of enemies increases during nighttime,[13] and their strength and ability to deal damage increases the more days pass in-game.[9] By killing all the standard versions of an enemy, a final version appears as a boss. Defeating it will yield a high reward and make the enemy type extinct in an area of the game.[17] When Lightning attacks an enemy, or they attack her, the battle starts. If Lightning strikes a monster, they lose a small portion of health, while if the enemy strikes Lightning first, she will lose health. The battle system, termed the Style-Change Active Time Battle system,[8] uses elements from the Active Time Battle (ATB)-based Paradigm system from the first and second XIII games and bears similarities to the dressphere system featured in Final Fantasy X-2.[18][19][20] Lightning has access to several customizable outfits (garb) with different power sets (plural: Schemata; singular: Schema). Each garb has its own separate ATB gauge, and actions for them are mapped onto the controller's face buttons, meaning that the usual menu-style ATB battle system is no longer needed: this enables Lightning to be moved around the battle field to a limited degree.[18] The majority of the garbs and their accessories are either purchasable in the in-game shops or received upon completing quests.[9] Stronger garbs, items, shields and weapons are unlocked in Hard Mode, along with access to more challenging areas and boss battles.[21]

As Lightning performs attacks, her ATB meter is drained and she must switch to another assigned garb: the depleted garb's meter recharges while not being used. Lightning utilizes her many swords for short-range melee attacks and magic for long-range attacks. She can block enemy attacks using her shield[22] and has the option to evade an attack, which can be assigned to any garb.[23] Each enemy has a stagger meter, represented by a line behind their health bar. As Lightning lands certain kinds of magical or physical blows on the enemy, their meter oscillates more. Eventually, the enemy is staggered, rendering them vulnerable to damaging attacks.[24] Lightning can also spend Energy Points to perform special moves or activate abilities, such as Overlock (which slows time for Lightning's opponents and enables her to land more hits); Army of One, Lightning's signature move;[18][25] and create a decoy to distract enemies.[23] By winning battles, Lightning earns gil, the in-game currency, and replenishes a portion of her Energy Point gauge.[26] In Normal and Hard modes, if Lightning flees from or dies in battle, one in-game hour is lost.[10][27] Unlike the last two games, the player character does not automatically recover HP after battles, instead needing to use remedies bought from in-game merchants and shops, and there is no auto-battle mode, with Lightning needing to be controlled manually at all times. In Easy Mode, Lightning can recover lost health if she stands idle.[21][23][28]

Story[edit]

Setting[edit]

Lightning Returns is set after the stories of Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII-2. In XIII, Lightning is one of six people who are turned by a fal'Cie—one of a race created by the gods[29]—into l'Cie, servants of the fal'Cie gifted with magical powers and a 'Focus'—an assigned task to be completed within a time limit; those that succeed in their Focus go into crystal stasis, while those that fail turn into monsters called Cie'th.[30] The six were intended to cause the large, floating sphere named Cocoon to fall onto the world below, named Gran Pulse, killing all of the humans of Cocoon. At the finale of the game, two of the l'Cie transformed into a crystal pillar to support Cocoon, preventing the catastrophe. The remaining l'Cie were made human again by the Goddess Etro, the deity responsible for maintaining the balance between the mortal world and the Unseen Realm. In XIII-2, it is revealed that Etro's interference allowed Chaos, an energy trapped in the Unseen Realm, to escape and distort the timeline as written after the fall of Cocoon. Lightning was drawn to Valhalla, Etro's citadel, and decided to stay and act as her protector. Three years after Cocoon's fall, Lightning's sister Serah sets out to correct the distortions and reunite with Lightning, while the people of Gran Pulse construct a new Cocoon, since the old one is destined to collapse. The protagonists unwittingly end up instigating the death of Etro, which allows Chaos to spill into the mortal world and bring an end to time itself.[31] Serah also dies, causing Lightning to nearly lose hope. Reassured by her sister's spirit, Lightning chooses to enter crystal stasis to preserve her sister's memory and keep hope alive.[32]

Lightning Returns is set five hundred years after the ending of XIII-2, during the final thirteen days of the world's existence. Because of the unleashing of Chaos, the world of Gran Pulse has been consumed, leaving only a set of islands called Nova Chrysalia.[33] The new Cocoon, called "Bhunivelze" after the key deity of the XIII universe, acts as the world's moon. The Chaos has halted human aging and no new children are born due to Etro's death, causing the human population to stagnate and shrink.[34][35] Over the intervening centuries, two opposing religions have formed and dominate the life of Nova Chrysalia's people: the Order of Salvation, that worships Bhunivelze,[36] and a rebel cult called the Children of Etro, who worship the Goddess.[37] The world itself is divided into four regions, each dominated by a specific mood or environment.[38] The city of Luxerion is a capital of worship whose people are loyal to the Order. The pleasure capital of Yusnaan is a city of revelry where people live in a constant state of celebration. The Dead Dunes is a desert area dominated by ruins. The Wildlands is an untamed area where the human city of Academia used to stand; it also houses the remains of Valhalla, the capital of Etro. Within the New Cocoon is the Ark, a zone where time is frozen.[39][40][7]

Characters[edit]

Lightning, a central character from both XIII and XIII-2, is the game's main protagonist, sole playable character, and narrator. The other main characters from the previous games also make appearances: Hope Estheim aids Lightning using a wireless communicator;[41] Snow Villiers, devastated by the death of Serah Farron—his fiancée and Lightning's sister—becomes the leader of Yusnaan and the world's last l'Cie; Oerba Dia Vanille and Oerba Yun Fang, released from crystal stasis, go separate ways, with Fang becoming the leader of Monoculus, a bandit gang in the Dead Dunes, and Vanille gaining the power to hear the voices of the dead, thus being deemed a saint and falling under the constant protection of the Order in Luxerion. Noel Kreiss, feeling guilty over his role in the deaths of Etro and Serah and the world's current state, becomes a vigilante in Luxerion. Sazh Katzroy and his son Dajh, who fell into a comatose state, reside in the Wildlands. The region also becomes the home of Mog, Noel and Serah's former moogle companion from XIII-2; Caius Ballad, Lightning's old adversary and the one responsible for the unleashing of Chaos into the mortal world; and Paddra Nsu-Yeul, a former seeress and pivotal character in the previous game whose cycle of early death and reincarnation was the motivation behind Caius's actions. The game also introduces Lumina, a mysterious near-doppelganger of Serah who both aids and taunts Lightning during her quest;[42] and Bhunivelze, the main deity of the Final Fantasy XIII universe who chooses Lightning as the world's savior.[43]

Plot[edit]

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII begins with Lightning being awoke by the god Bhunivelze after hibernating for 500 years. The world is set to end in 13 days, and to this end Lightning is made the savior, a figure who will free the souls of humanity from the burdens on their hearts and guide them to a new world that Bhunivelze will create once the 13 days are up.[44] Lightning undertakes this task to rescue and ensure the rebirth of Serah's spirit.[45] Hope acts as her guide from the Ark, which houses the rescued souls of humanity: Bhunivelze chose him and changed his physical form to his 14-year-old self from XIII.[46] As she journeys and performs her task, she encounters her former allies and adversaries, many of whom now carry heavy emotional burdens. She is also followed about by Lumina, who both gives her advice and taunts her at regular intervals.

In Luxerion, Lightning investigates a series of murders where all the victims match the physical description of the savior. During her journey, she is followed by Noel, who has become obsessed with a prophecy that he must kill Lightning to realize a better world.[47] The two briefly ally to rout the Children of Etro, who are responsible for the murders, then later do battle. Lightning uses Noel's rage to make him realize and accept his mistakes, lifting his burden. After this, she meets up with Vanille in the Order's cathedral. Vanille shows Lightning a place within the cathedral where the souls of the dead have gathered. Vanille is being prepared for a ritual to take place on the final day that will apparently purify the souls: she hopes that in performing the ritual she will atone for past actions.[48] In the Dead Dunes, Lightning encounters Fang and goes with her on a journey through the region's dungeons in search of a relic called the Holy Clavis. When they find it, Fang reveals that it is key to the ritual in Luxerion as it has the power to draw in the souls of the dead, and that the ritual will kill Vanille.[49] Fang attempts to destroy the relic, but the forces of the Order arrive and take it. On the eleventh day, the souls of the dead speak to Lightning through the visage of Cid Raines, a man Lightning encountered during XIII.[50] He tells her that the Order has deceived Vanille and plans to sacrifice her to destroy the dead, so the living will forget their existence and be 'purified' for rebirth in the new world. Lightning decides to stop the ritual, though Cid warns her that she will be defying Bhunivelze's will.[51]

In the Wildlands, Lightning saves a white chocobo called the "Angel of Valhalla" from monsters and nurses it back to health. The chocobo is revealed to be Odin, one of the Eidolon race who acted as her ally in XIII.[52] She encounters Sazh, whose son Dajh has fallen into a coma and become unwilling to wake because of his father's current state.[53] Lightning retrieves the fragments of Dajh's soul, lifting Sazh's emotional burden and waking his son. Traveling to the ruins of Valhalla, Lightning encounters Caius and multiple versions of Yeul. After fighting with Caius, Lightning learns that he has become tied to life by Yeul and thus cannot be saved.[54] She also learns that it was Yeul's perpetual rebirth that caused the Chaos of Valhalla to seep into the mortal world and trigger the events of XIII-2.[55] She also finds a village of moogles, ruled over by Mog, and helps them fend off attacking monsters. In Yusnaan, Lightning infiltrates Snow's palace and finds him preparing to enter a concentration of Chaos he had trapped in the palace. He plans to transform into a Cie'th, then have Lightning kill him. Though he performs the act and they fight, Lightning manages to renew his hope of seeing Serah again, reverse his transformation and lift his burden.[56] On Nova Chrysalia's final day, Hope reveals to Lightning that Bhunivelze used him to watch over Lightning, and that the deity will dispose of him now that his task is completed.[46]

After Hope disappears, Lightning is transported to Luxerion and enters the cathedral, where Noel, Snow and Fang help her fight the Order to save Vanille. Lightning manages to convince her to free the souls of the dead.[57] This act allows Lightning to find Serah's soul, but Bhunivelze then arrives using Hope as his host and captures both Serah and Lightning's allies.[58] Transported to an otherworldly realm, Lightning meets Bhunivelze in person to do battle, and learns that he has been conditioning Lightning to replace Etro.[59] After wounding the god, she frees Hope and prepares to become the new goddess and protect the new world.[60] An illusion of Serah then confronts Lightning, revealing that Lumina is the physical manifestation of Lightning's suppressed vulnerabilities.[61] Accepting Lumina as a part of herself, Lightning calls for aid. Hope, Snow, Noel, Vanille, Fang and the Eidolons answer her call, and they sever Bhunivelze's hold on the souls of humanity, including Sazh, Dajh, Mog, and a revived Serah. The souls then unite and kill Bhunivelze. In the aftermath, Caius and the multiple versions of Yeul choose to remain in the Unseen Realm and protect the balance between worlds in Etro's stead.[62] The final incarnation of Yeul, who alone wishes for a new life, is allowed to accompany Lightning and her friends.[63] After the Eidolons and Mog disappear to be reborn, Lightning, her allies, and the souls of humanity travel to a new Earth-like world, where humans can decide their own fate. In a post-credits scene, Lightning is seen in normal clothes arriving in a rural town, going to reunite with her friends.[64][65]

Development[edit]

The concept of Lightning Returns originated during development of XIII-2, while the development team was brainstorming ideas for possible continuations of the story and universe of the games, though there was no solid decision to make a second sequel to XIII at the time.[66] Development of Lightning Returns started in May 2012, soon after the release of Requiem of the Goddess, the final story-based DLC episode for XIII-2. According to Motomu Toriyama, he had wanted to tell more stories about Lightning, and the DLC had not provided a satisfactory ending for her. The game was designed in a shorter time than the other games in the series; Yoshinori Kitase explained that this was because the team did not want players to forget the story of the previous games, and the team needed to work especially hard as a result. Another reason was that the team wished to bring the XIII series to a close before the release of the next generation of gaming hardware.[67][68] The title was also chosen to be the last original Final Fantasy game on seventh generation consoles,[69][70] and next-gen versions of the game were not considered.[71] One of the key story concepts behind the game was the "rebirth" of Lightning as a character: this was cited as the main reason why the game was called Lightning Returns and not XIII-3, alongside the team's desire to attract new players to the series.[67][72] Lightning was also made into a darker and more vulnerable character, partly because Kitase felt that her previous depictions might have alienated earlier players.[67][71][73] The main scenario and script was written by Daisuke Watanabe, the main writer for the previous XIII games. The process of writing the script was slow, causing difficulties for the rest of the team. In response to this, Watanabe worked extra hard to create an appropriate finale for the characters and story.[2]

The game was designed as the final entry in the XIII storyline (generally dubbed the "Lightning Saga" by the production team),[74][75] but was also intended to stand independent of the Final Fantasy series as a whole.[72] One example of the breakaway from series norms is the game's logo, which was not designed by regular series logo artist Yoshitaka Amano,[76] and which was one of several created during the early stages of development.[77] The concept of the story's progression was termed as "world-driven", a concept whereby the world the player interacted with moved independently of their actions: i.e. NPCs would appear in different locations depending on the time of day. That concept partially gave rise to the game's time limit, which was suggested by the game's battle designer Yuji Abe after having read of the Doomsday Clock.[67][72] Another inspiration behind the story pacing and time limit was the 2011 movie In Time.[78] The open world aspect of the game was heavily influenced by The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,[66] and some of the hard-edged gameplay ideas were borrowed from Dark Souls.[79] The majority of the hardcore-gaming elements were eventually trimmed out in order to make the game accessible to newcomers.[80]

In terms of assets, the team reused very little from the previous two games, choosing instead to build a large proportion of the game from the ground up, especially when it came to the overworld design and NPC behaviors.[71] The Crystal Tools engine, used in the last two XIII games, required a major overhaul as it was not designed for open-world games.[81] In contrast to the previous games, a lot of the game's cutscenes were created while the game was still being developed, meaning developers needed to use many placeholder objects and models before returning to polish the scenes up. The team also had to thoroughly check Lightning's various outfits and weapons, to ensure that there were no gaffs in cutscenes with the weapons and that the character's underwear remained concealed during active battles even for her more revealing outfits.[82] Because the team was mostly using new assets to create the game, the various continents took longer to create than the environments in XIII-2, and story scenes sometimes needed to be redone as the game's overall plot had yet to be finalized when development began. The voice actors, in contrast to the normal procedure doing their performances first and those being used to create the game characters' facial expressions, recorded their lines for the characters well after the various cutscenes had been created.[82] Developer tri-Ace, who had previously worked with the team on Final Fantasy XIII-2, returned to help with the graphics.[83]

The concept of Lightning Returns' battle system originated while ideas were being discussed for the battle system in Final Fantasy XIII, but technical limitations and problems implementing it in a party-based battle system prevented it from being used in that game.[20] It reemerged when some of the development team wanted Lightning to change her appearance during battle, and reducing to one playable character opened up the memory space necessary for such a system to be implemented.[84] In making the system revolve around one character, the developers ended up removing any opportunity for story scenes between party members, which was cited by Abe as its main weakness.[20] The time limit sprang from the story concept of a world with a set time to live. When the feature was first announced, there were some who felt it was too new a thing, as a time limit was seen as a taboo in role-playing video games.[85] The mechanic originally received negative feedback from test players who were unable to complete the game in time. In response to this, the team made adjustments so that players were given a more comfortable amount of time.[10] Along with sharing design elements with the previous two XIII games, the system also bears similarities to the battle system of Final Fantasy XV, although the developers said that they were not directly inspired by it.[20][86]

Lightning's multiple outfits were designed by Isamu Kamikokuryo, the game's art director, Toshitaka Matsuda, the lead art designer, and Toshiyuki Itahana, a designer who had worked on Final Fantasy IX and the Crystal Chronicles series. The three drew inspiration from character designs done by Amano and the atmospheres of game locations.[87] Matsuda and Itahana also respectively did the character designs for Bhunivelze and Lumina.[72][88] Tetsuya Nomura returned to design Lightning and Snow's new looks.[89] Kamikokuryo used the game's theme of a dying world to create Nova Chrysalia, as well as incorporating cultural and architectural influences from the Middle East, Asia, and London during the Industrial Revolution.[76] Nova Chrysalia was originally conceived as a single island, but as the game's development advanced, the world grew into its final, four-island configuration.[90] The world's open design was inspired by MMORPGs such as Final Fantasy XI, described by Abe as a "tourist guide style".[91] Each island was designed to have a definite feel and theme, while their construction was handled by separate small teams, with the content for each area held and quality-controlled by each team.[68][90][92] The art team used multiple real world locations as inspiration: Luxerion and Yusnaan were inspired by Paris and Las Vegas, while the Dead Dunes and Wildlands were influenced by Cairo and Costa Rica.[93] The scenery for the final FMV was based on southern Europe.[94]

Music[edit]

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Original Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Masashi Hamauzu, Naoshi Mizuta, Mitsuto Suzuki, & Nobuo Uematsu
Released November 21, 2013
Genre Video game soundtrack
Length Disc 1: 1:17:28
Disc 2: 1:18:23
Disc 3: 1:16:58
Disc 4: 1:14:38
Total: 5:07:27
Label Square Enix

The music of Lightning Returns was composed by Masashi Hamauzu, who composed the music for XIII, Naoshi Mizuta and Mitsuto Suzuki, who co-composed the music for XIII-2 with Hamauzu.[3] Other artists involved include Kokia, Gabrial McNair and Joelle.[95] Japanese band Language was also contracted by Suzuki to help with recording and remixing.[96] The main soundtrack album, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Original Soundtrack, was released on four compact discs on November 21, 2013.[97] It was released by Square Enix under the catalog number SQEX-10392~5: the album features seventy-four tracks spanning 5:07:27.[98] A bonus album, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Soundtrack Plus, featuring unreleased tracks and rearrangements of classic themes used in the game, was released on March 26, 2014. It features 25 tracks with a total running time of 73.31.[99][100] A promotional album, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Pre Soundtrack, was released in July 2013. It contains six tracks from the game, three of which did not yet have an official title.[101]

The score was created with far more percussion than previous entries in the series, and featured "Blinded by Light", a recurring theme in the XIII games, as a leitmotif: this was meant to emphasize the focus on Lightning. Ethnic musical elements were also incorporated.[90] In addition to this, the thirteen minute-long final boss theme was meant to reference the title's numeral.[102] Hamauzu wrote "Crimson Blitz", the first piece of the score and one of the game's battle themes, while on tour in Switzerland.[3] The Video Game Orchestra, founded by Shota Nakama, was contracted by Hamauzu to perform, record and mix the music at their studio on Boston. According to Hamauzu, they were his first and only choice for recording the score.[103][104] Nakama received the final score in April 2013, and Hamauzu was regularly at the studios to help with the recording process.[104] Unlike the previous two games, Lightning Returns did not feature a theme song as it was felt that this would diminish the emotional impact of the ending. Instead, the composers created a purely orchestral piece.[105] The game also featured multiple musical Easter eggs, including tunes from previous entries in the franchise.[106]

Tracklist


Marketing[edit]

Rumors about a second sequel's existence started even before XIII-2's release, when a domain name was registered in the name of Final Fantasy XIII-3, however it turned out that the domain was registered by the company's western branch without the main company's knowledge.[107] After XIII-2's cliffhanger ending became common knowledge, the game's creators released a statement saying that the ending was meant to prepare fans for coming DLC packets that would expand upon the game's story.[108] However, after the release of the last piece of DLC, company officials stated that they would be releasing future content related to XIII.[109] By August 2012, during the run-up to a special 25th Anniversary commemoration event for the Final Fantasy series, a teaser site titled "A Storm Gathers" was released, promising new developments for the XIII series and its main protagonist.[110] The game itself was finally unveiled at the event, with Toriyama, Kamikokuryo, Abe and Kitase detailing the core concepts of the game.[1] Because character dialogue varied due to the time of day in-game, the western release of the game was delayed by over two months after the local release, as there was far more translation, dubbing work and lip-synching than in previous titles.[111] For the promotion and marketing of the game, the development team totally rethought their strategy, working closely with Yohei Murakami, the publicity and marketing agent for many Square Enix games. Lightning Returns was heavily promoted at gaming events throughout 2013.[112] As part of the promotion campaign, Lightning and monsters from the XIII series featured in a series of player events in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.[113]

Downloadable content[edit]

While the previous game had a large amount of downloadable content in the form of character costumes, extra story episodes and battles in the game's fighting arena, the reaction to these was mixed. The costumes were liked by fans, despite some complaints of them being purely cosmetic, but the presence of story DLC caused many to criticize the original game as incomplete. In reaction to this, the developers decided to package the game's entire story with the retail edition.[114] However, they did create pre-order DLC for the game in the form of outfits Lightning could use in battle.[115] One of these featured the clothing, weapon and equipment of Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII, available with the game's limited edition Pre-Order Bonus Pack,[116] while another featured a collection of Samurai-inspired outfits.[115] In addition to this, as part of a cross-game promotional campaign,[117] Square Enix of Japan also made Yuna's costume from Final Fantasy X a playable garb for those who had purchased the Japanese HD Remaster of the game on either PS3 or Vita.[118] The garb was later made available as a pre-order exclusive from Amazon.com.[119] After the game's release, an additional set of DLC costumes was released, among them a moogle outfit. In the Western release of the game scheduled on February 11, 2014, a free DLC pack was released that enabled players to play the localized version of the game with Japanese voice acting and lip-synching. The DLC was free for the first two weeks, and then became paid DLC.[120]

Versions and merchandise[edit]

Lightning Returns was released on November 21, 2013 in Japan, on February 11, 13 and 14, 2014 in North America, Europe and Australia respectively. Alongside the standard release, a special box set titled "Lightning Ultimate box" was released. It included Final Fantasy XIII, XIII-2 and Lightning Returns, a figurine of Lightning, selected music from the games, a special stand from the game and a book of artwork.[121] A limited edition of the PlayStation 3 version containing a specially-themed Dualshock 3 controller was also released in Asia.[122] A Collector's Edition exclusive to North America was released through Square Enix's online store. It contained a copy of the game, an artwork book, a pocket watch embossed with the game's logo and codes for costume DLC.[123]

As part of the game's promotion in Japan, Square Enix teamed up with Japanese confectionery company Ezaki Glico to market a range of Pocky snakes in packaging promoting the game.[124] A Play Arts Kai figurine of Lightning as she appears in the game was also created by Square Enix Merchandise.[125] After the game's release, an Ultimania guide to the game was also released, containing concept and character artwork, interviews with staff members, and guides to the game's enemies, continent layouts and times for events.[126] A book set between XIII-2 and Lightning Returns, Chonicle of Chaotic Era, was originally scheduled to be released alongside the game in Japan,[127] but was eventually cancelled due to the author falling ill.[128] After the game's release, a three-part novella set after Lightning Returns' ending was released through Famitsu Weekly magazine, titled Final Fantasy XIII Reminiscence: tracer of memories.[129] Written by Watanabe, the book takes the form of a series of interviews with the main characters of the XIII series.[130]

Reception[edit]

Sales[edit]

In Japan, the PS3 version of Lightning Returns reached the top of the Top 20 in software sales in its first week, selling just over 277,000 units and beating Nintendo's Super Mario 3D World.[131] In the same period, the Xbox 360 version sold 4,000 units, under half of the initial sales of XIII-2 for that platform.[132] By the end of 2013, the PS3 version was 17th among the 100 best-settling titles of the year, selling 404,147 physical copies.[133] In the United Kingdom, Lightning Returns debuted at third place in the top ten debut video games.[134] The game was 8th in the top ten best-selling video games of February.[135]

Reviews[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings X360: 70.47%[136]
PS3: 66.15%[137]
Metacritic X360: 69/100[138]
PS3: 66/100[139]
Review scores
Publication Score
Destructoid 7.5/10[140]
Edge 6/10[141]
Eurogamer 8/10[27]
Famitsu 37/40[142]
Game Informer 7/10[144]
GameSpot 5/10[145]
IGN 7/10[146]
Official PlayStation Magazine (UK) 6/10[143]

Lightning Returns has received mixed reviews from critics. The game scored 37/40 in Famitsu magazine, with the reviewers giving scores of 10, 10, 9 and 8 out of 10 for each console version of the game.[142] Famitsu later gave the game an "Excellence" award during the 2013 Famitsu Awards.[147] Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the Xbox 360 version 70.47% based on 15 reviews and 69/100 based on 21 reviews.[136][138] and the PlayStation 3 version 66.15% based on 40 reviews and 66/100 based on 62 reviews.[137][139]

The battle system gained the highest amount of praise. Matt Elliot of Official PlayStation Magazine said the battle system was fun and "[felt] like Final Fantasy: an energetic, modern approximation of combat that was previously turn-based."[143] IGN's Marty Sliva greatly enjoyed the battle system, saying that "Lightning Returns did a great job of empowering me to create a [trio of Schema] that felt unique and personal."[146] Joe Juba of Game Informer was also pleased with the system which he considered to be an improvement over the previous two XIII games, noting that the switching of Schema created "a fast-paced, high-tension system that makes fights exciting."[144] Eurogamer's Simon Parkin called it "perhaps the best and certainly most flexible version yet" when compared to the other XIII games, while GameSpot's Kevin VanOrd stated that if it were not for a few flaws such as the blocking, "it may have even found a place among Final Fantasy's better battle systems."[27][145] Naoki Hongo of Dengeki PlayStation enjoyed it greatly, praising the customization options and weapon variety. One minor criticism was that he found it unexpectedly challenging on higher difficulty levels.[148]

The quest gameplay was less-well received, with Sliva saying it made him "feel like [he] was stuck in the opening hours of an MMO", while Juba called the tasks "dull".[144][146] Parkin stated that the quests "can seem trivial under the eye of the apocalyptic clock".[27] VanOrd commented that while many quests were "absorbing on their own", he admired their ability to get the player out into the world.[145] Destructoid's Dale North felt that the time limit made the quests "a waste of the precious time left".[140]

The time limit itself received mixed reviews. Sliva said the time limit gave the game "a sense of urgency ... that I really enjoy.", while VanOrd said the limit worked against the player and "collides with almost every other aspect of the game."[145][146] Juba enjoyed planning out his days, but on the other had felt that the time limit prevented exploration, and that it "severely [limited] your ability to fully dive into some of the systems."[144] Elliot said the limit overly pressured him, and became unpleasant when coupled with the time penalty for fleeing battle.[143] Hongo was less critical, saying that the time limit was one of the game's primary points of interest, citing the need to manage time wisely.[148]

The graphics received mixed reviews. Sliva referred to the locations as "visually interesting and varied", while VanOrd said the player "can't help but gawk at the beautiful spectacle before [them]."[145][146] Juba liked the overall look and design of the main cast and environment, but critiqued the environment textures and NPCs.[144] Elliot praised the CG cutscenes, but said that "the tired, boxy side streets feel unfinished." However, he further said that the expansive nature of environments balanced this issue out.[143] Hongo enjoyed the expansive nature of the game, feeling that it was a true RPG in this sense.[148]

The game's story was poorly received by most reviewers. Sliva said the narrative was "drenched in uninteresting pathos that failed to give me a reason to care about these characters that I've spent well over 100 hours with."[146] Juba called the story "a joke", saying that there was little development for Lightning as a character, and that the narrative "killed whatever lingering investment [he] had in the universe."[144] VanOrd found the large amount of character dialogue a distracting and jarring feature, while Parkin said that the game's narrative could not fix the issues present in the previous two XIII games, although the side-quests and dialogue helped lighten Lightning's character.[27][145] Elliot spoke of it as one of the reasons to play the game, terming it a "typically bonkers narrative".[143] While he did not state his own opinion, Hongo was confident that the story would satisfy fans of the XIII games.[148]

Official response[edit]

Both Toriyama and Kitase have responded to the mixed review scores the game received. Speaking to Siliconera about the Japanese reviews, Toriyama said that most of the negativity stemmed from the time limit, and that "opinions on the game become more positive after some time since Lightning Returns' initial release [after players get used to the nuances]."[65] Speaking with Joystiq, Kitase said that he "wasn't really shocked. There are negative reviews and positive reviews, it's a real mixture. When I started making this game I took on very new challenges, so in a way I had anticipated that there would be mixed opinions, so this is more or less what we had anticipated."[149]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]