The lights are on
The final installment of the Final Fantasy XIII saga is nearly here, and many fans are wondering how the team at Square Enix will conclude the trilogy. To answer some of those questions, we spoke to Lightning Returns producer Yoshinori Kitase about a wide range of topics, including the countdown clock, the battle system, and the ending.
Lightning fights alone for most of the game. Did you have any reservations about not including traditional party members?
Actually, we thought that having Lightning as the sole playable character was an ideal way to introduce a new battle system, befitting the Final Fantasy franchise – one that incorporates action-packed combat with strategic elements that remains on par with traditional party battle.
For instance, by focusing on Lightning’s schemata and associated strategy, players can have a fuller understanding of their decisions during battles, which will ultimately help them to understand the battle rules.
Also, because players control Lightning directly, we were able to develop a system that reinforces the importance of blocking. This also provides the element of timing similar to that of an action game with the Stagger system that heightens the excitement for the players.
Can you elaborate a little more on how the countdown clock affects the game?
Many players that have yet to play the game seem worried about the element of a countdown clock, but I assure you it is something you can easily understand as you play. It is not meant to be a stiff restriction or a time limit, but more about feeling the passage of time in this new realm, from morning to afternoon to the evening, just as it is in our world.
At first, players may feel a bit intimidated by the sense of time, but after spending several days in the world, I’m certain that they will get accustomed to the new environment, just like getting over jet-lag when traveling to a foreign country.
In this game, the world can end if left alone without doing anything, and so the countdown does serve as a starter that leads the player to be more proactive. At first, players may feel like time is against them, but before they know it, the allotted time will increase as quests are completed. They should be able to maneuver through the system as they please.
Summoned monsters (like Bahamut and Shiva) played a role in Final Fantasy XIII, but were less prominent in XIII-2. What is their role in Lightning Returns?
The summoned monsters within the Final Fantasy XIII series are a power that Etro, the goddess of death, bestows upon the l’Cie, who are the servants of the gods. Because most of the l’Cie are no longer around after Final Fantasy XIII-2, summoned monsters only appear in rare and special circumstances during battle.
In Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, a certain summoned monster will make an appearance in a particular part of the main quest, so the player will be able to enjoy it from a story perspective.
Lightning Returns employs ultimate elemental spells such as “Flare” and “Chill” that can be used as powerful attacks, similar to the summoned monsters’ attacks in Final Fantasy XIII. Once you master Lightning’s new special attacks like “Overclock” and “Army of One,” the battles will become even more enjoyable and thrilling.
Combat in the previous Final Fantasy XIII titles allowed the auto-battle command to take care of many encounters as long as players switched paradigms. Did that influence your decision to use a more action-oriented approach in Lightning Returns?
That’s exactly right. Combat in the previous two installments required effective real-time control of multiple characters. Players are also required to have a deep understanding of the Paradigm system to properly manage the behaviors of AI-controlled party members.
So our challenge for this installment was to make it easy for the players to understand the battle system mechanics while keeping the strategy elements by paring down to a single character and controlling individual abilities.
So once you play the game, I believe you will feel that it is a Final Fantasy XIII battle that plays much like an action-driven game as well.
Yoshinori Kitase, producer of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XIII-2 had some excellent post-game content, from different endings to the string of extra boss fights. Does Lightning Returns have a similar array of challenges to tackle after beating the game?
There are plenty of challenges that the players can tackle, such as unlocking the Hard Mode, which can be done after beating the game once. Players can even get to places that are much harder to access in a normal method, engage in extremely tough boss fights, and so forth.
One example is that we’ve incorporated a sort of ecosystem of monsters. If a player continues to defeat the same species of monsters, he/she can make them go extinct after defeating a certain amount. Before the species become extinct, the final one appears, but some of these so-called “Last Ones” can be pretty tough. I would definitely recommend players to take this challenge.
After unlocking Hard Mode, players can raise the stats and parameters on Lightning’s equipment significantly, to combat these strong opponents. There are also weapons and equipment only available in the Hard Mode. Through this, we hope that the players will be able to enjoy the high level of customization and depth offered in the game.
Without spoiling anything, how would you characterize the ending of Lightning Returns?
During Final Fantasy XIII-2, we worked under the concept of “expansion,” and so we provided additional game content, including new episodic DLC. Because we created Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII under the concept of “completion,” the story is all-inclusive in the package. Any questions about the world, or the fight against the fate of being controlled by the gods, or relationships between characters will be resolved with this installment.
Games featuring Lightning and the other FFXIII characters have been in process for a decade. What are your thoughts on being done with them?
It has been almost 10 years since we created the world of Final Fantasy XIII and Lightning. We had always planned to approach this project with a fresh mindset throughout the development process. This was greatly enhanced by all of the fan feedback, which allowed us to improve the sense of freedom within the gameplay, and to create new game mechanics, world settings and a rich storyline.
While I am naturally feeling deep emotions about sending Lightning off to her happy ending, I am excited about being able to create a new piece of work. However, I’m sure as time goes by, I’ll miss Lightning, but to mitigate this sense of longing, I’m going to do my best to create an equally charismatic and appealing character for my next project!
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This sounds like it could be pretty great. I am excited to try it out!