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Loony BoB
02-15-2014, 12:57 PM
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It's Final Fantasy XIII, Jim, But Not As We Know It

The final piece in the XIII trilogy, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is different. Yes, the game shares characters with the earlier game. The plots vaguely link into each other. That's pretty much it. The battle, gear and leveling systems seen in the old games have all been dropped in favour of something new. The world has changed. The atmosphere. The feel. The entire experience is different. For the most part, this game stands alone from the other two.

I feel I should quickly state the obvious: this game (and to a very small extent, the next paragraph in this review) will indeed spoil parts of the other games, including the endings. If you intend on playing the other two, I suggest you play them first. If you don't intend on playing the earlier games, that's fine. The game still fills you in on the details as and when you need them.

(500) Years of Stasis

At the end of Final Fantasy XIII-2, the highly destructive 'chaos' erupted into the world, tearing it apart at the seams. Lightning was shown in a different dimension, frozen in crystal stasis. Final Fantasy fans all over the globe flew into a rage at how the game was suddenly "To be continued." The wait is over. In Lightning Returns... Lightning returns. She is woken from her 500 year hibernation with a simple instruction: Save as many souls as she can before God himself ends the world. Which is in thirteen days. With a clock ticking away the minutes on your screen. Oh, yes, time is most definitely of the essence.


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The end is nigh. Wait, wasn't Hope older? Oh, right, right. Gods and chaos.

Far more interesting to me was the premise given to what happened over the past five centuries. We discover that major parts life were essentially paused while she was absent. People don't die from old age anymore, because aging and reproduction just don't happen. Sure, they can die from disease or misfortune, but otherwise humanity became immortal. This certainly left the door open for a fantastic plot. Sadly, as the story continues from XIII and XIII-2, it's to be taken with about as many pinches of salt as are prescribed to someone watching Doctor Who (www.youtube.com/watch?v=vY_Ry8J_jdw) for the very first time. In line with the first two games, the story is riddled with awkwardness and easily spotted inconsistencies. When all belief failed me, I just reminded myself that there are Gods and chaos at work here (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AWizardDidIt). Still, the writing has its moments - even some of the sidequests have some really touching finishes that pulled at my emotions.

People Change

If you loved the characters in XIII & XIII-2, don't expect to see the same bright personalities blessing your console. Those 500 years and the impending end of the world have definitely taken their toll. Thankfully this isn't a rule as a couple of them felt much more in line with their previous appearances. But who cares about old folk? Let's move on to someone who was most definitely done well: A new prominent character, antagonist-apparent Lumina. Lumina is basically awesome. If Lightning was left a little short in the eccentrics department (http://home.eyesonff.com/final-fantasy-xiii-xiii-2/132806-lightning-worst-character-history-final-fantasy.html), I find Lumina is the opposite. She's blessed with incredible personality that makes me wish she would pop into cutscenes just a little more often. She has exactly the kind of wicked attitude I would love to see used for villains in future Final Fantasy games.


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Serah is essentially a bitch, and I love her. Oh, crap, did I say Serah? Lumina! Clearly Lumina.

It's a Small World After All

As for the setting, it's Gran Pulse, but you won't recognise a thing. The lands have been eaten away by the chaos (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AWizardDidIt). The remnant of habitable world is made up of just four regions - a capital, a city of leisure, a vast desert and the varied landscapes of the Wildlands. However, do not be demoralised! The maps are huge, and the variety of areas within the four maps leaves you with the feeling you've been in closer to twenty. Exploring this world gave me memories of roaming Ivalice in Final Fantasy XII. Imagine that, but with much more seamless transitions between most of the maps, and you're on the right track.


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Naughty Dog recently advised fans that Uncharted 4 is being delayed while they try to find out how the hell their gorgeous maps wound up in a Square Enix game.

Don't worry about linearity, either - the design of these maps is closer to major (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassin%27s_Creed_(series)) sandbox (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Theft_Auto_(series)) and MMO games (eu.finalfantasyxiv.com) many are accustomed to in this generation. Some are large enough that you are given more efficient means of travel which you unlock via exploration or quest progression. You can access almost everywhere straight off the bat, although a couple of smaller places you will need to unlock through quests... or the time on the clock.


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There's nothing on earth like a genuine, bona fide, electrified six-car monorail!

Tick, tock.

Ah, the clock. This little beast had me on the back foot when I first heard about it. Thirteen days? A clock on my screen, constantly ticking away time left to complete everything? My relaxed attitude to progression in RPG's left me very cautious. Just imagine how much worse I felt after, having barely done a thing, the first gameday had already slipped through my fingers! The second day was slightly longer, but I was still concerned. But worry not - during a part of the third day I went to an inn and slept for an hour or two simply because I was finding time so easy to manage (http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2002-02-24/). Last night I jumped into the game and the clock read 8:33am. I stopped playing a few hours later and the clock read around 9:40am. In a game where a minute passes every few seconds of realtime, I had made three hours of realtime use up a little over an hour for Lightning.


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Lightning Returns touches on serious issues such as terrorism (not really).

It's a rather clever part of the game, really. I found myself having quests that I could only do at certain times. I knew I had to sneak into an area at 3pm, but then I picked up a sidequest that required me to be around the corner for 12pm, so I did that first. Thankfully I finished both time for the date I had at 7pm... Lightning was a very busy girl on Day Three. My hard work paid off - I regained a day! If you save enough souls (or important enough souls) then you are rewarded at 6am with an additional day to complete your many quests. Despite the world ending in a very fixed thirteen days due to divine choice, the chaos is speeding up the process. This means you start with a mere six days to complete your tasks. Getting the additional days is something you can only do by countering the chaos, which is done by completing quests. Every quest completed is equal to a soul saved.

Battling for Time

There are a few other easy ways to influence time (http://static3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20100807223813/powerlisting/images/b/b6/Hiro_Time_Travel_Heroes.jpg) and it makes things much more agreeable. The easiest way is most definitely by making use of your EP and simply pausing the clock for an in-game hour. EP is what you get as a result of beating up enemies. It can be used in a number of ways outside of securing time, but I find that to be what I save it up for. I found myself pausing time almost endlessly. When I ran low on EP, I would simply battle to regain it (time is automatically frozen during almost all battles, as well as cutscenes) before smashing through a few more sidequests or pushing on with the main story. That's the main reason you battle - to quite literally save time. Stat boosts are not gained through leveling up in battle, but rather as a reward for completing quests.


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Expect to see all the series staples return. Expect 1,000 Needles to be stapled to your face.

There are two other battle rewards. Firstly, items you can use for saving souls or looking pretty, perhaps the occasional weapon if you're very lucky (thanks, Behemoth!). Secondly, gil for purchasing recovery items (http://finalfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Potion_(Energy_Drink)). You can only hold six recovery items at once, and unless you're playing Easy Mode you won't heal after battles. You don't get your regular recovery magic - the closest you get to this is Mediguard, which is a very slow method of regenerating HP while blocking moves. There is Curaga, but that comes at the cost of the very precious time-halting EP. It's not the end of the world if you are defeated, though. The worst that can happen by losing in a fight is, rather than die, you use "Escape" at the cost of an hour of in-game time (which the game will happily rub in your face) and appear wherever you were before you entered the fight.

Fancy Dress

The much publicised dress-up in the game is given the title of Schemata, and in the end it feels very little like a silly dress-up option and much more like a serious consideration of how you want to head into battle. You get three schemata slots, each fully customisable. A schemata is made up of your clothing (I'm not going to call that armour), weapon and a couple of accessories. There's a purely aesthetic adornment option too, similar to that seen in XIII-2 (http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2012/02/06).


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Tuxedo: Lightning Returns literally lets you fight in style.

A schemata is basically a job, and you get an action tied to each of the main four buttons on your controller. Each piece of equipment comes with the potential of stat boosts, locked actions (for better or worse) and occasionally other random enhancements. If you select magic boosting gear (http://www.themagicknickershop.co.uk/product/magic-padded-pants) with an action slot locked to Fira Level 3, then naturally you're picking out a mage job. Some will have excellent attacks, some excellent defence, some will come with valuable buff and debuff jobs. Some are generally open - an even distribution of stats and no locked actions.

I've settled into a mage/warrior/tank setup, although my tank has solid options for debuffing and a Galestrike Level 2 attack which is more than handy in the desert. In battle, I find myself using all three schemata, rapidly switching between them. Actions flow seamlessly - I start a sequence of standard melee attacks, switch schemata and finish the sequence with Galestrike. Lightning carries on through her movements as if nothing had changed. Guard moves work the same way - I flick between Heavy Guard on my tank to block the heaviest attacks and Mediguard for the lighter attacks, but Lightning holds her pose throughout. There is no auto-attack in Lightning Returns, which means the days of entering battle and holding down X to win are gone.

My only gripe is how late upgrades are unlocked in the game. I've only recently unlocked the ability to level up my actions - I feel this was unlocked a bit late into the game. Then I browsed my trophy collection for the game and noticed that there are even more things I can do, such as upgrading my weapons and accessories, but I still haven't unlocked such things. Perhaps that's just a result of me being obsessed with making my gamedays last near-endlessly. I'm a glutton for time. Yet it would have been nice to have such things opened up to me a day or two earlier, because this is the kind of thing that I really love to play around with. Thankfully, I'm still finding the enemies to be manageable throughout the game and haven't felt like this has stopped me from progressing in any other way whatsoever.

My only guess is that this means that there will be even stronger enemies that I've yet to stumble across - perhaps The Final Ones. If you kill enough of a certain monster, you will eventually stumble across The Final One, a tougher equivalent of the original monster. Killing it will leave the monster's species well and truly extinct. I've only faced two Final Ones so far and they were fairly easy fights, but they were based on very easy monsters. Don't worry about running out of things to fight, though - some species apparently get down like bunnies and will never die out.


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Poor Snow. All he wanted was to be able to upgrade his gear before the end of the world.

Finally Finally Final Fantasy XIII: Gameplay Done Right

The main criticism against the original game was that of linear gameplay. XIII-2 addressed this issue and Lightning Returns has taken open gameplay to a new level while still allowing the game to remain challenging throughout. There is a surprising amount to do, a surprisingly large landmass to explore and a surprisingly large amount of time to do this in. Sidequests may often be the same fetch quests you see in every game out there, but there are some unique ideas - I'm currently battle-testing some new recovery items made by an alchemist and have to report my findings back to her. I have to use them in specific situations, too.

Visually the world is on par with the rest of the XIII series. The cinematics are better than those seen in XIII-2, and I particularly enjoyed a dramatic performance by Lightning in Luxerion. Little blew me away with the environments which had sadly little to fit the description of fantasy, but there was nothing dull about them either - the word 'clean' comes to mind a lot when describing this game. As with the rest of the Final Fantasy series, the central characters are immaculately clean even in the dirtiest of neighbourhoods. Even the UI is clean and very easy to use.


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To the relief of many gamers, they didn't take hundreds of years to change the gameplay within the XIII series.

Despite this technically being a sequel, you shouldn't expect to finish everything in a couple of days. I played all weekend. I played Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night. I feel I've got at least a couple more evenings to go before I'm done with the main story, let alone having experienced everything else.

When you start the game, you stress about time. As you play further into the game, it becomes something you can manipulate to do your bidding (http://www.wikihow.com/Slow-Down-Time), and can even play an interesting gameplay challenge in it's own right when it comes to areas that are only open at certain hours. I've really grown to appreciate the unique experience provided by the clock. Speaking of trying new things, I'm glad to see that Square-Enix has stayed strong in this department. In (www.pokemon.com) this (www.naughtydog.com/games/uncharted) modern (masseffect.bioware.com) era (www.callofduty.com), I have never played a sequel so different from its predecessors. I feel like I've played something new, something different. I'm really glad for the experience.

If you didn't like either of the previous two games because of the plot or the characters, this game won't improve on things. If you didn't like either of the previous two games because of gameplay reasons, I strongly suggest you give this game a shot. Personally, I look forward to returning to Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII tonight.


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All in all, Batgirl Returns: Yusnaan City XIII gets a solid 8/10.

Summary

A poor plot. A sequel to the previous two games was never going to be incredible.
Fun and diverse gameplay with a variety of things to do.
Huge, open maps with varying landscapes to explore right from the start.
While the clock seems a hindrance at first, it's very easy to control. You can freeze time near-endlessly.
Characters are hit and miss. New character Lumina is a definite highlight.
Fast, flowing combat that is complimented well by the Schemata gear system.
Sadly, the action and gear upgrade systems are unlocked noticeably late into the game.
Graphics are on par with the earlier games in the series.

Black Magic Shopkeeper
02-15-2014, 02:22 PM
As usual, gonna be a pass for me.
Honestly, I would be more OK with Lightning if Square Enix didn't parade her around as if she's the #1 mascot of the entire Final Fantasy series.

Scotty_ffgamer
02-15-2014, 05:43 PM
I think I agree with most what was here, so I probably won't write my own review Some thoughts I've had so far:

-The locations are all pretty and interesting to look at so far, but some of the textures are kind of awful. When talking to NPCs with the camera looking at close, some of the background and foreground stuff like walls and flowers can look like ugly pixelated messes. These moments are kind of jarring, but everything is still pretty to look at as you are running around the different locales. Unrelated, but the random NPCs just walking around town tend to just walk into the middle of my conversations and then just stand there between Lightning and who she's talking to. It amuses me.

-For a world being consumed by chaos and dying and whatnot, the world has never felt more alive than it does in this game. I mean this as a compliment. It actually feels kind of like a living world rather than what we got in XIII.

-I mentioned this in another thread, but you have radio conversations with another character as you are going around doing your sidequests. These conversations are often lengthy, and I find myself not getting to hear the end of them pretty frequently because these conversations are triggered so frequently. The only way to really be sure you hear the whole conversation is to just stand there and listen, which eats up your time (or chronostasis). This was handled pretty poorly I felt.

-I keep reading online about this game having terrible voice acting outside of the main characters, but everyone sounds okay to me. Definitely not the worst I've heard.

- This game is a lot of fun to play. So far I enjoy the story for what it is too, but it's definitely not a masterpiece of storytelling.

- I've also found myself really intrigued by the mythology now that I've read some of the datalogs and such. It's not handled the best in the game, but it is fairly interesting to think about.

Sephiroth
02-15-2014, 08:22 PM
It is true that plot holes like the impossibilty of causality paradoxes or Yeul having one and the same soul but then multiple in the third installment, both statements made by Caius himself, while she normally should always have a new consciousness and personality but the same soul as mentioned in Final Fantasy XIII-2, exist (somehow both also mentioned in Final Fantasy XIII-3 making it even more illogical), on the other hand they also do very much exist in Final Fantasy V, VII and VIII. While I do not like this for any Final Fantasy or any other story the rest of the story and everything else are just fantastic for me. Logic aside, that is pretty much to ignore in fantasy stories anyway, the Fabula Nova Crystallis of Final Fantasy XIII is my second favourite Final Fantasy.

It is definitely nothing that is worse than logical problems with Final Fantasy V's Void, Final Fantasy VII's JENOVA Project or Final Fantasy VIII's Time Compression.

The Voice Acting is very good if you ask me. However as great as Ali Hillis is, Lightning in the original is better. She reflects both the human side and the "inhuman" side of Lightning perfect.

Also that you make job classes out of the "base of job classes" as I have explained already is great for me and I like customizing characters with outfits.

It does have its flaws but as the Compilation it is it still gets a 10/10 from me. It replaced Final Fantasy IX and that was near unbeatable. Expanded Universes just show way more life and detail in everything, so Final Fantasy VII and XIII are simply great for me and I am glad that those characters and their worlds were made.

Cloud21
02-15-2014, 08:44 PM
I haven't finished Final Fantasy XIII-2 yet, but I can't wait to play this game.

Cloud21
02-15-2014, 08:48 PM
I've won the first Final Fantasy XIII, but I haven't finished Final Fantasy XIII-2 yet. I can't wait to play this game.

Del Murder
02-15-2014, 09:48 PM
Very thorough review. :up:

Ayen
02-16-2014, 03:41 AM
Okay, if you get to run around in a tuxedo I may have to reevaluate my stance on getting this game.