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Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII review

On February 27, 2014 by Aaron Meehan

The Final Fantasy XIII series has divided many with people praising and slamming it in equal measure, with fans complaining about the linearity of the first game, and the somewhat uninteresting lead characters. However, fans did praise the battle system of the previous games. Now it is time to reach the end with the final FFXIII game, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.

In regards to the first two FFXIII games, I only played part of the first and I have not yet played the second.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII sees Lightning once again take centre stage. After sleeping for five hundred years she is back with an all new purpose. In Lightning Returns, Lightning has been transformed into The Saviour by Bhunivelze, god of Light; Lighting only agrees to become the Saviour after Bhunivelze promises to revive her sister Serah. Her mission as the saviour is to save as many people as possible before the world ends, which as it happens is only thirteen short days away, when the thirteenth day arrives god will send all the saved souls to a newly created world. In the five hundred years she was away the world has changed with clouds of chaos spreading all over the world leaving only a fraction of the world left, and those who survived the destruction brought about by the chaos now no longer age.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is a decent game, but it does have several issues that make me dislike the game. The main issue I have with the game is its core mechanic, time. In the game you know you only have thirteen days to save the world, but the game wants to make sure you cut it as close as possible, especially if you want to do as many time consuming side-quests as possible. My main issue with time is the fact that certain areas, items and even monsters can only be accessed or obtained at certain hours of the day. For example: In a main quest near the start of the game I had to wait a full day to access one location. The game does try to make up for this by allowing you to buy more time by completing main quests and side-quests, but this has flaws because after spending one in-game day completing numerous side-quests I did not gain an extra day.

Lightning crosses swords with Noel from Final Fantasy XIII-2

Speaking of side-quests, they are well frankly boring with the majority of the quests having Lightning collect X amount of items, escort someone or kill X amount of monsters. If you aren’t interested in performing side-quests you can skip them, but if you do you are only penalising yourself as these quests provide you with stat increases, and for a game that has no levelling system increasing your stats is important. Some quests also provide you with some new outfits and adornments. There is another form of side-quest called Canvas of Prayer these side-quests are obtained via message board manned by Chocolina and offer a small stat increase and items.

The world of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is split into four areas: Luxerion – the city of light, Yusnaan – the city that parties every night, The Wildlands – a vast area of farms and forests, The Dead Dunes – a vast desert that holds various hidden treasures. These four areas can be visited either via the ark at the start of the day, via the areas train station or by using some eradia if you are stuck in the middle of nowhere. The Wildlands and The Dead Dunes are two of the biggest areas in the game they are so big in fact that the game offers you a free transport system for both areas. The two city areas are a good size, both these areas require you to run around a small bit, but you can easily get from one end of the city to the other in less than five minutes. Each area also has a number of side-quests, hidden items, and stores where you can buy new outfits, weapons/shields, recovery potions, enhancement shots. What these four areas do best is pull you into the world, when you walk through the areas and talk to people they know the end is coming, but they wish to live out their last remaining days by either partying like there is no tomorrow in Yusnaan or living their final days with nature in the peaceful and beautiful area of The Wildlands.

The Wildlands – farms and trees for a far as the eye can see.

Now let’s back up a bit and talk about the story. Lightning Returns story is a bit of a slow burner, you get an idea of what’s happening at the start with a now younger Hope, who god sent to the Ark to help Lightning, he explains to her what she has to do etc. But there is a snag with this as the game tells you, you only really need to save five souls aka complete five main quest chains, as look might have it these five souls are all past associates of Lightning, characters from the FFXIII and FFXIII-2. The story does try to create a bigger more meaningful story about god, religion, the soul, faith etc. These points are rather easy to see early on especially in the first city you visit, Luxerion. The game also tries to force the messages that something isn’t right and that you shouldn’t trust anyone down your throat even though the game already makes it obvious after the first, second and third time it told you. Honestly, the story isn’t terrible, but if you like discovering plot points and story elements for yourself you will be left disappointed.

Now let’s talk about characters. In all honesty Lightning is a pretty mediocre character. She has close to zero personality or any form of emotion, although the game attempt to explain this by telling the player that god took them away, but this fact doesn’t detract from the problem. I tried to get invested in Lightning’s struggle, but I couldn’t care about her. Whenever she showed some semblance of emotion it would disappear and be replaced by a blank expression. Overall, Lightning feels like a supporting character who rarely appears and who we aren’t meant to get attached too. The supporting characters are a bit better with Fang been emotive when it comes to her personal mission in the desert, and Vanille who you barely see has amazing sense of presence, when you see her for the first time you feel like she is the main character and that Lightning was the character that only appeared for a few scenes.

One of the most prominent features of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is the ability to change Lightning’s outfit. In combat you could switch between three different schemata, each one you used in combat had a corresponding outfit so when you changed schemata during battle Lightning’s outfit would also change to match the new schemata. For combat this made sense and is a great way of telling your schemata apart. But if you look beyond the combat reasoning for the ability to change outfit this new feature is well just so players can play dress up with Lighting. There is also one annoying part about the new outfits and that was the fact many don’t suit her. What I mean is the Lightning we have seen in the two previous game’s would wear someone practical outfits, outfits that aren’t overly revealing and that would offer some form of protection, but the outfits players can make Lightning wear in Lightning Returns is anything but that. Some outfits you can unlock/buy are rather revealing and aren’t practical for any sort of battle, unless a battle required Lightning to sunbath on beach. For a character that is on a mission from god to save as many souls as possible you would think that the outfits she wore would be well tasteful. For those curious the DLC outfits aren’t as powerful as the unlockable outfits. Also the outfit you wear appears in dialogue scenes, so if you add adornments to your costume you can turn a sad scene into a comedy by having Lightning wear cat ears or something equally as silly.

You ready to play dress up with Lightning?

One of the best things about Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is its new action focused combat. Gone is turn-based fighting and in comes the action with players being required to guard attacks at the right time and manage your attack bar as they throw out an array of chosen abilities. There are similarities to the first game with the changing of schemata in combat been similar to doing Paradigm shifts in Final Fantasy XIII. The key to success in combat is managing your attack bar, this is done by altering between your three schemata to help you make an attack last as long as possible, this need to constantly change means you have to be always alert, especially when fighting against multiple enemies. Combat also has a new interesting addition in the form of EP abilities these abilities can turn the tables in battle in nearly an instant. If you use say overclock when your enemy is staggered you can do more damage because overclock slows down time and temporarily removes you attack bar, you can also combine it with army of one, an ability that offers a stunning sequence of attacks from Lightning. With everything said and done combat feel like one big cinematic experience, if you get your attack and defence right it like you are watching an over the top fight scene with explosions everywhere and the camera trying to find the best angle to really show it off. This of course is also a problem because with all the explosions and the camera flying everywhere it is easy to get lost and serious hurt or killed by another enemy. Also in regards to the camera I recommend zooming out as soon as you enter combat because the default camera is too close to Lightning and as such makes it difficult to see the enemy, this problem is made most apparent when dealing with multiple enemies because they become pretty much invisible if they step behind Lightning. To get a better understanding of the fast paced combat, please view the video below.

If you look at Lightning Returns from a distance the game look graphically but if you get up close the game looked well ugly with objects appearing to be rather jagged with very little smoothing done. Although unless you are a graphics first focused player the jagged nature of the objects shouldn’t be an issue.


Should you buy Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII? NO (Although if you have played the first two games I recommend at least trying it out.)

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is a game that relies on the gimmick of playing dress up and over the top action combat system. Unfortunately the focus on these aspects has led to a sub-par story and feeling of gratitude from knowing that the series is finally over.


+ Dazzling action combat
+ No levelling system

+/- The outfits Lightning acquires serve a practical use

– Lightning is a bland and uninteresting character
– Story is weak and plot twists are far too predictable

Developer           Publisher        Genre     Rating                Platform                   Release Date

Square Enix        Square Enix       RPG       16+          PS3 (reviewed)/Xbox 360      February 14, 2014

For more information on Lightning Returns: Final fantasy XIII, visit http://www.lightningreturns.com/.

Author: Aaron Meehan

Hi, I’m the creator of SG Gaming Info. When I’m not working on my writing or creating content for this site’s YouTube channel, I like to relax and enjoy character driven story games.

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