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The Beginner’s Guide To Lightning Returns

by Joe Juba on Feb 11, 2014 at 05:00 AM

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With the release of Lightning Returns, gamers can finally close the book on the saga that began with Final Fantasy XIII. If you’re jumping into Nova Crysalia to say farewell to Lightning and friends, these are the five things you should know to make your journey to the end of the world run as smoothly as possible.

(Read our review of Lightning Returns here.)

Choose Your Difficulty Carefully

Easy or normal? It seems like a straightforward decision, but it can significantly impact your enjoyment of Lightning returns. As you might expect, easy mode is not too tough, and gives you some clear advantages like automatically recharging health and lowered EP cost for special abilities. Normal mode, on the other hand, provides a significant challenge. I'm going to reiterate that here, in case you missed it: Normal mode is hard. Health management becomes an important concern, and enemies (particularly bosses) are much harder to kill on your first playthrough. The challenge can be fun, but it can also be frustrating enough to kill your momentum. If you really want a brutal introduction to Lightning Returns, go ahead and start on normal. However, I’d recommend starting with easy and then bumping up to normal on later playthroughs, since you can’t change difficulty once you’ve selected one.

Fail Immediately

Eventually, you want to win. However, when you first start a new game, you should strongly consider losing by running out the timer, then starting up a new game+ right away. It’s easy to do by sleeping your days away at an inn, and has some surprising benefits. Lightning can only pick up certain items and abilities in the Ark – the place where she meets Hope between days. These treasures are gated purely by how many days have passed. So, if you sleep your way to the world’s destruction, you have the chance to pick up these items between days along the way. You need to wait until Luxerion opens up before you can access the inn, but the process of skipping through the days, restarting, and getting back to where you were shouldn't take more than an hour or so, and the rewards are worth it. The powerful black mage, white mage, and amazon warrior garbs can be obtained this way…and if you do enough quests to add an extra day before your doom, you can pick up Lightning’s special overdrive attack, Army of One. Since all of these items carry over to new game+, you can then begin your "real" playthrough with a considerable advantage. 

Don’t Worry Too Much About Time

The doomsday clock is always ticking, though it isn’t the threat it first appears to be. Yes, you can lose the game if time runs out. If you complete all five of the main quests, however, you are guaranteed to make it to the final day. This doesn’t mean that you should waste entire days doing nothing, but it does take some of the pressure off. Technically, you don’t even need to do sidequests to add more time to the clock…but you should. More on that next.

Do Lots Of Sidequests

This seems like a no-brainer in any RPG, but sidequests in Lightning Returns are particularly important. They are your only route to making Lightning more powerful, since you don’t gain traditional levels or experience from normal encounters. Instead, completing side quests (and main quests) give you boosts to basic stats and other features. For example, one side quest might give you 400 gold, an extra 40 HP, and a +5 boost to magic. These boosts are static; you can’t assign the points yourself to fill in any gaps, so you need to do a bunch of quests to get your numbers up. Also, you get to access a bit of extra content before the final day if you do enough side quests.

Wait A While In The Wildlands

When you first arrive in the Wildlands area, you’ll be steered toward Main Quest #3, which you should start right away. It allows you to obtain a chocobo to ride around the zone, which makes traversing the large area much less of a pain. However, when the quest directs you toward a temple, take the opportunity to do other things; do some extra side quests or even another main quest to build up your stats before finishing the final phase of Main Quest #3. You’re going to want a healthy reserve of HP going into that temple, and the boss there gave me my hardest won fight of the game. Make sure you’re well-prepared, especially if you’re playing on normal difficulty.