Square Enix finally brings a close to their Final Fantasy XIII trilogy with the release of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. Many Final Fantasy fans have had varying opinions on this one game trilogy than any other Final Fantasy game series. Very few games in the series have actually had their own series, such as Final Fantasies IV, VII, and X. Thirteen though has sparked much controversy for its departure from traditional elements of the classic series.
Lightning Returns is being regarded as the best in the trilogy. In my opinion, it’s not. Thirteen was regarded as having too confining and linear of a storyline that no one could experience the story line. XIII-2 had a more open world where one could go through the storyline at their own pace and order as wanted. Lightning Returns is regarded as being completely up to the player. The problem with this is there is no guideline.
Lightning Returns focuses on Lightning’s mission to save souls for the god, Bhunivelze, before the world ends in thirteen days. Unfortunately, you only begin with six days and if you cannot complete objectives efficiently, you will not gain extra time to achieve the extra days for all thirteen. The only way to do so is to complete the main quests and side quests efficiently.
This is where I found a huge issue. When you first start playing the game, you really don’t have an idea of how you should be doing everything. On the very first day, you can travel to any location in the game and begin pursuing any of the main story points. In most games, you will be linearly through the story line. This was what I was expecting, figuring you would complete an area and then move onto the next, while being able to freely explore that area as you progress the story. I was horribly wrong. You literally must manage your time within the 24 hour day to complete main storyline objectives and side quests across four areas.
Without knowing this, I sunk over 14 hours into game play that was frustrating and disappointing. I would spend a day completing the main storyline but instead of being congratulated, I was only informed that I had lost another day. Then I would spend a whole day doing side missions to gain that day back, which would only be lost when I tried to pursue the story line once more. Needless to say, I hated the game after playing it for this long. This game is extremely hard to play without a guide. I finally had to invest in it so I could understand how to properly progress in each area. It took me til Day 4 to realize that I could travel to other locations in my original play through. With the guide, I was able to complete double the amount that I originally had done in half the time.
Now looking at the game and not feeling completely lost and frustrated, I can appreciate it. The game has seamlessly beautiful graphics as expected of a Square Enix game. While many fans disliked the thirteen trilogy, I thoroughly enjoyed it and one of my favorite parts is the characters. Between XIII and XIII-2, there are many characters that come and go. At the conclusion of XIII-2 with its upsetting ending, I was hesitant to see what they would do with Lightning Returns because it didn’t seem like it would solve the questions that had been left over at the end of the game. As Square Enix began to promote the game, it became more and more interesting. One of the biggest factors for me purchasing the game was because the cast of the first game and the cast of the second game were all coming together for this one. One of the best characters in the game is Snow Villiers, who has fantastic character development between the first and third game. I found it funny that in the first game, you began with a three person party, which decreased to two in XIII-2, and now in Lightning Returns, has become only one. I adore the battle system in Lightning Returns because it is a combination of the previous games Paradigm Shift system while using a new system called Schemata which are very similar to the dressphere system from Final Fantasy X-2, a personal favorite of mine.
At first glance, Lightning Returns is a disappointing finale to the Final Fantasy XIII series. But once you have mastered how to play through the game and properly manage your time, it is a fabulous conclusion to the series that answers all of your questions and brings satisfying endings to each of your favorite characters. The grueling battle of Lightning becoming a more open character, something we haven’t seen through the series, is fascinating in itself. The world is extremely open and it is left to the player to enjoy and explore. If you enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII or XIII-2, you will not be disappointed. It’s also possible that even if you didn’t enjoy the other two games, you will enjoy this one.
For now, I have logged over 12 hours on my second file and about half way through the actual story. Even though I have much ahead of me, I can already tell that this game will not disappoint in the end.