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Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

Tinkering With Lightning’s New Repertoire In Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

Update: Square Enix has just released the game's E3 trailer. Take a look!

The world is in rough shape by the end of Final Fantasy XIII-2, (spoilers incoming) and Lightning has to pick up the pieces in the next entry. She only has 13 days before the apocalypse strikes, a time limit represented by a countdown timer that runs as you play. I played an early version of the third chapter in the Final Fantasy XIII saga, testing out the more action-oriented combat. Lightning Returns moves away from the multi-character, role-swapping battle system of past games, but still provides a good time.

This preview also appears in Game Informer issue #243

Lightning is alone this time, but the basic flow of combat feels familiar. During my hands-on demo, I stalked through a chaotic city on the trail of FF XIII hero Snow, who Lightning is pursuing for mysterious reasons. I sneaked around foes, jockeying for position to strike them from behind. Sneaky assaults like these grant you advantages in battle, like enemies starting with 10% fewer hit points. Once engaged, battles play similarly to previous games, but with an added sense of urgency. In past FF XIII games, players had to wait for a meter to fill before casting magic spells or attacking. In Lightning Returns, players can wail away on their foes until their ATB (Active Time Battle) meter drains. Attacks like lightning strikes or dashing blade thrusts are mapped to face buttons. If you press the corresponding button, Lightning attacks immediately. Once an ATB bar is depleted, you can swap to a new schema (this entry’s version of paradigms) for a fresh assault. Meanwhile, the ATB meters of Lightning’s other scheme replenish.

These schema let Lightning instantly swap between a selection of offensive and defense maneuvers. A magic-based schema lets her damage enemies with frost or fire-based spells, while a melee-focused option lets her choose between heavy and light sword strikes. Like Final Fantasy X-2, these combat modes are linked to various outfits, but I was too focused on the action to notice Lightning’s skimpy costume changes. Each schema I used included a block command, which allows players to mitigate damage from incoming assaults with a quick button press. Swapping between schema and doling out attacks feels like a snappier version of the previous games’ battle systems. Up to three schema can be equipped at a time.

Near the end of the demo Lightning crosses paths with a female antagonist cloaked in a veil of dark magic. The woman prods and taunts Lightning verbally. The mysterious lady is eventually revealed as Lightning’s sibling, Serah. We suspect the sisters launch into a battle here, but we’ll have to wait until Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII hits February 11, 2014 for more answers. If our hands-on time is any indication, this encounter will be a frenetic trial of Lightning’s new skills.

Watch us try to make sense of Final Fantasy XIII's ending in an episode of Spoiled, or learn about five big changes to the series here.

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  • CANNOT WAIT! But February what the hell?!?!
  • sounds good to me. I just wonder why they released the E3 trailer so early

    edit: I always feel alone when it comes to the FF XIII games. I genuinely liked them, yet the majority of the comments are negative. *sigh*. oh well.
  • Versus pl0x kthnx

  • I'm looking forward to seeing how this story ends. Though I wouldn't put 13 and 13-2 on par with many of the previous games, there was enough there to like that I went and Platinum'd both titles. I really liked the combat though, so hopefully it's still good in this title.

  • Why is it's FX XIII-II and not just a new title. Do they have to put a number on it. just call it Final Fantasy the return of lightening or something.

  • I can tell it's just another terrible story with time travel as the excuse for massive plot holes.

    No thanks.

  • Yup, I stopped taking this series seriously a long time ago, and this does nothing to change that. They need to stop taking themselves to seriously with this franchise, because it just makes it lok more and more silly and ridiculous... To a fault that is.

  • Honestly, I think Square is trying too hard to make people like FF XIII.
  • Yay more FF 13. I haven't been this happy since I heard about the kinect 2.............

  • Based on whats in the trailer if the game is just Lightning going around brutally murdering all of her former companions, it could be the BEST Final Fantasy XIII yet. Total wish fulfillment!

  • Mod

    I loved XIII in spite of its wtf conclusion with ______. Some of the characters were understandably boring - Vanille and Snow in particular - but I can't help but say that Hope, Lightning, and Sazh grew on me. Especially Sazh, since the last black party member they had- although I love him - was basically the FF equivalent of Mr. T. In FF XIII-2 it was nice to see how these characters had evolved, and despite the cheap plot device, I liked the premise they were aiming for, especially the ending. So I'm interested in where SE will take Lightning in the final entry.

  • Well, if that is the actual release date then I guess that means that not only do I have enough time to beat the other two games, but this could make a nice birthday present.
  • So from the pictures I have taken away that Snow is the main villain? That would be a little strange, but he would only do it for a good reason. Remember, they were all the 'villains' in XIII because of their brands.

    After watching the trailer I guess Lightning is being perceived as the 'villain'.
  • Wow. That is looking very nice. But more actiony than FF-y...

  • I don't expect the story to make much sense, however I am looking forward to the gameplay and overall adventure. I enjoy many elements of the ff 13 games, and don't enjoy a lot o other parts but still.

  • imported the first two ... I will import this one aswell :D

  • Probably will pick a 3 of them up when this comes out.

  • Yes, people don't like a new game, must be nostalgia.  And how are gamers nostalgic, football has been played the same way for years, are they all just nostalgic?  Even the staff agrees this game blows, how are you a mod?

  • Ugh, why can't I get interested in this series anymore. Final Fantasy (7) was the game that got me into video games, and I can't bare to look at it anymore.

  • I wan them to keep the game name as Final Fantasy XIII-3 i liked the way it looked and stuff. grrr now i hate you