Not every game needs a strategy guide, but if you want to get the most out of Lightning Returns, you’re going to need some help. Thankfully, the official strategy guide from Piggyback Interactive covers everything you need to know and then some.

Of course, some gamers prefer to discover everything themselves. That’s totally understandable, but finding all of the sidequests and bonuses in Lightning Returns is virtually impossible without assistance. For those of us who are completionists (and who just appreciate a good strategy guide), here’s the stuff to look forward to if you pick this one up.

Day-by-Day Walkthrough
One of your major concerns in Lightning Returns is time management. You want to make the most out of the limited time that you have, since an in-game clock is constantly counting down the minutes until the end of the world. Not only that, but some events, quests, and items can only be accessed at certain times of day. This means that you want to keep your travel time to a minimum and accomplish as much per visit to each location as possible. Even though you can still see the end of the game without fretting too much about the clock (just focus on the five main quests), this section of the guide tells you what you should do and where, removing the threat of overlooking an important quest. It helps strike a balance between using your hours effectively and allowing you some free time to explore, gather resources, and build up your stats.

The guide's table of contents

Ultima Walkthrough
Personally, I love optimization. That’s what this section is all about. Like the day-by-day walkthrough, this one tells you what you should do and when…but with an eye toward efficiently milking every minute for all it’s worth. This has you completing the main quests and most sidequests by the end of Day 4, leaving with you plenty of time to hunt monsters, track down rare items, and beat optional bosses. Because of the precision required to pull it off, this route through the events is most useful if you are already familiar with the game. As such, it isn’t great for your first playthrough, but if you want to get the most out of your new game+, this is an ideal reference.

Last Ones
The coolest new system in Lightning Returns is the Last Ones. These are special monsters that appear after you have defeated enough of their regular counterparts. They are more difficult, drop better items, and make the species disappear entirely once defeated. The guide not only gives you strategies for these challenging foes, but also helps you know how many of the regular enemies you need to beat before the last one spawns. For example, you don’t want to waste time grinding Meonektons trying to wipe them out, since you need to kill over 65,000 of them before the Last One appears. Thankfully, there is another way to fight Last Ones, and the guide tells you what you need to know.

A graph from the guide laying out the basics of staggering

Strategy and Analysis
This whole section is pure gold if you are obsessed with maximizing your performance. You can read about damage calculations, optimal schema configurations, and assessments of the usefulness of varying abilities. It’s ridiculously in-depth; though this info is certainly not necessary to play and enjoy Lightning Returns, it’s extremely valuable if you like diving into the details that make the game tick…and then exploiting them.

Overall Assessment
Due to the game's lack of any linear structure – and the importance of going from place to place to make the most of your time – this guide requires more flipping to different sections than usual. You often need info about multiple things at once, like which side quests tie in nicely to the main quests, or which monsters drop a particular ability you’re looking for. The in-guide references help direct you, but keeping multiple bookmarks is the way to go. Plus, the info is remarkably thorough, answering virtually every question I could come up with. I wish Lightning Returns was a better game, but the team at Piggyback did a top-notch job wrangling all of the information into a complete and interesting package.