It's finally over, the series that is filled with the worst gameplay, worst story, worst characters, and amazing music is finally over. Funny though, my hate for this series (not Final Fantasy just the XIII series) is not as bad considering Square-Enix did us a favor and made Final Fantasy XIII-2 great in all aspects, except the box-cover art; in turn my three day 1 purchases will never be justified. �Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, is the third and final installment of the XIII series, and features the return of the worst main character to garner anyone's attention, Lightning Farron. Asides the return, many changes were brought to the game, majorly focusing on the gameplay. The first major change brought is the fact you only control and play as Lightning, getting rid of parties altogether and the other main change, you will notice, is the combat play is slightly more action-rpg orientated than their first two installments, though it still is not classified as an action-rpg.
The story of LR:FFXIII takes place about 500 years the events of Final Fantasy XIII-2, with only thirteen days the world has left before it's extinction. Because after the events of FFXIII-2, where the Chaos was unleashed unto the world, time has stopped, and all the humans, who cannot age, yet are not immortal (murder and disease can still kill), now live on a set of isles in Bhunivelze called Nova Chrysalia. Lightning, who has awoken from her crystal slumber, is tasked from God/Bhunivelze, that she will be known as the savior, and will harvest and free the souls of humanity from the burdens of their heart, to lead them towards the new world that Bhunivelze will create. Helping you in your quest from the Ark, your "home-base", is a familiar face to the FFXIII series, Hope Estheim, who has been regressed to his 14-year old, first game appearance. A funny note, that Square-Enix tries to pull for Lightning's lack of emotion, is that Bhunivelze took away their emotions/feelings, however, for anyone who has played any of the XIII games, Lightning is exactly the same. Now, deemed as the savior for the world, it is up to Lightning to save the humans of a crumbling world. Throughout her journey, she will travel across lands, meeting old allies, who may have changed in the 500 years she's been away, and must help do Bhunivelze's bidding in order to save her sister, Serah Farron. However, is always doing what you're told the right thing to do, and can you always trust the gods? Lightning's quest brings you and her around a giant apology-fest to every character, where Lightning, once again, robotically tries to shoulder the blame. The game tries to implement many anime cliches, but honestly, these aren't bad things per se; it's just this voice-cast and story-team are so bad at portraying it that it's just annoying and/or boring. What trying to die, because you are running away from the pain and given up the right to live, so you get the anime one punch to the face? That's fine I've seen it many times, almost every GUNDAM, but wow does this game do it horribly.
I almost did Snow
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII decided to "overhaul" (if they want to call it that) the gameplay from its predecessors in the Final Fantasy XIII series. Instead of the new type of turn-by-turn based battle system, which had the infamous "auto-battle" feature, they decided to keep the player more integrated with the fighting. Battle Gameplay mechanics require you to play as Lightning, but as three different "forms" of Lightning, that you customize using your personal Schemata. Schemata simply is what you choose for Lightning to wear and what abilities you want her to have. By wearing clothes, like a flamed-theme dress, you get a locked ability and possibe bonus stat of a type of Fire-Spell in one slot, and the other 3 slots are for your choice of: Attack, Magic, Defend, or Status. Your set-ups are entirely up to you, if you've played FFXIII or XIII-2 you'll know what to put, if you haven't it is pretty easy to figure out what to set for most garbs. Besides main garbs. the only other parts of customizing Lightning's looks are with accessories and a non-ability item like sunglasses or a pumpkin head. After setting up your Schemata, the fights in LR:FFXIII essentially play the same, you have to stagger the enemy using magic based attacks until you can actually hurt the enemy with physical attacks. Although you can "move" around the battle field, Lightning only slowly strafes to whatever direction you hold your stick to, making it required for you to defend (or evade/counter whatever ability you equipped).
All enemies have automatic Libra, meaning you don't need to find out the stats for the enemies after you kill them once, or fight them for a bit. While fighting, you are constantly alternating from the garbs you have; the reason this is important is because your ATB charge is now more of a refill gauge rather than a wait-it-out standby. As you switch garbs, the ATB charges for the garbs on standby at a faster rate than if you are wearing it and/or obviously doing commands which take ATB. As previously mentioned, the Stagger bar is back but this time in all new more confusing manner of frequencies. The stagger is now located on the enemy name and will show a frequency line going up and down from blue, to yellow, to red. Sometimes you will see multiple frequency waves but that is never explained in the game; however good news is some enemies require you to stagger them, multiple times! (/end sarcasm) All in all, battles require the player to be more focused and integrated with them, but in essence they are still the same boring and broken system from the previous entries with a new look.
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Overworld Gameplay is basically an American RPG. So, if you like GTA or whatever, then you'll love LR:FFXIII design! The game has main quests, that you can fulfill at anytime, though those main/story quests only take about 5-10 hours gameplay MAX. The rest of the time you are running around as Lightning doing sidequests because this is an RPG that doesn't give EXP. If you want to make Lightning have better stats, then you have to do sidequests, such as getting a ball from a roof, finding fireworks, or killing monsters. There are tons of sidequests and they make the game does a good job making the player feel like they have to complete them all with great time management, due to the constant running clock that Lightning Returns imposes on the player. However, by the Eighth Day you will realize that you do need to waste all your EP and manage the clock well, because you will have completed everything or nearly everything and nap all your days away at an Inn. In the main world, you run around as Lightning, where you can talk to NPC's, who sometimes give items, quests, or hints on where to go. Lightning has a stamina bar so you can sprint around, though you will constantly have to recharge it; this bar also serves as your power to preemptive strike the enemies in the overworld. Striking enemies unnoticed give a 25% HP decrease vs a 10% decrease if they notice you. Monster battling is important because it serves as an important part for the most important thing in the game: EP!
EP is Lightning's special power, she can stop time, teleport, or do massive damage to enemies in a short amount of time. EP can only be recharged by rare items or by constantly killing monsters; which you are going to have to do, although there is nothing else to it but a small monetary reward. All quests are split up into 3 parts: Main Quests, Side Quests, and Canvas of Prayers. While the other two were mentioned, Canvas of Prayers Quests, are similar to the town quests found in Xenoblade Chronicles; where a sign would ask for the player to get X amount of item and it becomes magically given to them for stats. All quests are important, though some just have ludicrous stories to them. Finishing out gameplay bits are the scattered treasures and mysterious items found all over town and the ability to upgrade your abilities or weapons, however this feature is not available until AFTER you beat the game; so in turn it is pretty useless.
Graphics remain Final Fantasy XIII's strong point, though the areas in this game are not as memorable as the ones found in FFXIII and FFXIII-2. There is a lot of depth put into some of the dungeon design, however, this does not mean many of them require much thought. While music has always been Final Fantasy XIII's strongest point, Lightning Returns falters in this one, with bad and forgettable new themes or just rehashing old themes (not a bad thing) from its previous entries. Replay-value of the game is moderate, if the story wasn't so bad you can replay the game to enjoy tougher boss battles and gaining newer items or sharing your boss battle scores online!
Score: 6.0/10 [b/c of Japanese audio] English VA Score: 5.0/10
Lightning Returns is a bad game that has...or had some potential. The problem is the story, the main character (who isn't even the most important character), and just how poorly executed everything is. I enjoyed my time trying to do every sidequest, but the more I think about it the more I never want to play the game again. The entire time you play as Lightning, you have to hear her manly, robotic err monotonic voice, just constantly say the same thing or try to say something funny when it doesn't work. In addition, I got tired from hearing her apologize or here how she's missing something for the entire game; okay once is enough! The game just shows no character growth, disappoints me in the music because I love FFXIII music and is overrated in its gameplay, which people think is good. There was nothing different about pressing x and o for my magic attacks and then switching to my other garb to do that, to FINALLY STAGGER like we always did in the previous two. Why do I need to stagger to kill? Why do I need to always do the weakness to be effective?
I did have fun with impossible to beat bosses Aeronite and Ersh....something but other than that challenge it takes no skill to beat this game or customize for it.
- Michael Troina
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