In the first entry in a few series of articles about our visit, we’ll be discussing the trailer and the hands-off demo we witnessed. Combined with Toriyama and Kitase’s commentary, we had a first hand glimpse at the game and its new style.
Although the trailer was leaked early, we saw the full HD version of it with details from Kitase and Toriyama. We found out that the graphics in the video are not polished as you may be able to tell. They were more focused on the gameplay than on the graphics at the moment. Hoping to have the gameplay polished first, they wanted to show the major differences of the game for the fans.
Apparently more excited than Del Murder, I started to scribble notes like crazy. They gave us our own small note books and this Editor actually ran out of paper after using the front and back of the small notebook. Even during the trailer they gave their commentary. The first thing you notice as Lightning walks of the train is the people. They went on to say that these trains are there to connect the continents. The world is living and breathing even without your involvement. Everything is very active as well as interactive. Various platforming was shown with a more dynamic camera to see your surroundings.
In the trailer there is a voice over for Hope. He was mentioned as a supporting role for Lightning. He goes on to speak of faith, divine light and teachings of god. This all gives credence to the fact that religion once again plays a big part in this new entry. As you may know Square has often dabbled with religion being the antagonist so it’s no surprise really. Not only that but Noel makes a brief appearance questioning Lightning’s validity and jumps to attack.
Then in the trailer the combat is shown. Similar to previous entries, the battles are still break away. Instead of having a menu to select your attacks as the previous entries have had, this one assigns hot keys to particular spells and abilities. This gives it an action feel to it focusing on that and your reactions instead.
And of course her badass glasses are there, as you can see.
That’s all the general information gained from the trailer. Now though, now I get to sill juicy scoops with you. What may you ask? Well a full hands-off demo. It was clear that the demo wasn't as far along as the XIII-2 demo we had the luxury of playing last time but that was okay because it allowed me to get more notes for you guys! And let me tell you, it’s looking to be quite fun!
First off we were once again shown Lightning’s arrival. Although this time it was expanded into far more. Upon arriving, you come across a crowd gathering. Murder in the streets of Luxerion, The Divine City! As the crowd grows, suddenly a body swings down, hung from the rooftops. Scared this may be another body, it turns out to be more of a doll that looks similar to Lightning. At this point is when we’re able to see the actual game being played rather then just cinematics.
Now you’re no longer Lightning, hero of time and all that jazz. No now you’re Lightning Holmes, the Great Detective. There have been three murders now and you have to find out whodunit! That’s where your detective skills come into play. In this extremely open world you’ll need to find clues and witnesses to help solve the mystery. Your platforming skills as well as moving your camera will help you out in these type of quests. They said there will be plenty of side quests for you to spend your time on.
Clues were found, people were talked to, and we found the culprits, somewhat anyway. A suspicious group shows up in white coats that are reminiscent of the Organization XIII uniforms in the Kingdom hearts series. You’re now no longer Lightning Holmes. You’re now Lightning Auditore Di Firenze. And by that I mean, it’s time for sneaky stealth action. The stealth isn't always used, it’s just an extra perk to help with some of the quests. Stalking your prey, you see them escape behind a gate that requires a code. Time for more searching.
At this time they wanted to show off some of the world for us. Unlike any other Final Fantasy game to date, the massive amount of stores is astounding. They have never had this many stores in a Final Fantasy game. They wanted the world to be that of a living and breathing sort so they made restaurants, bakeries and the like more important. To heal Lightning, you have to actually visit these places to get that precious HP back. Of course, there will still be potions, but only for combat.
Not only will you have to visit those stores for health but other stores will be used for various things as well. One of the more important stores of the game is the ability shop. Unlike the previous entries, in Lightning Returns, you’ll be able to buy all your skills, abilities, and spells. Since Lightning is the only playable character they wanted to allow you to pick and choose exactly how you wanted to set her up and when.
The NPCs in Lightning Returns are unique themselves. With the 24 hour clock, the days progress as they should in our world. In the morning people are commuting to work. Later near lunch they are moving very differently. The world is constantly in action. Because of these time frames you may miss quests or clues. It gives you a sense of urgency as well as makes the world feel interactive. But watch out, time does still pass during those cut scenes as well. The management of time is something that will push you forward through the story.
NPCs will react uniquely to monsters occasionally roaming the streets. As previously stated battles are still break away meaning you can still get those surprise attacks on the monsters. Those new and unique monsters they've added, that is! There are monsters completely unique to the XIII series that you'll have to change your tactics for. The ATB gauge is used for your attacks as you hit the assigned buttons for attacks. Not only does this gauge go down IN battle when you use skills but it also is used for sprinting outside of battles. The gauge slowly refuels itself over a short period of time.
“The Amazing ATB” is what Square Enix is referring to this next part. You’ll be able to shift between outfits which have skills attached to them. Each outfit has its own ATB bar. They all will reload as you’re using another during battle. The seamless transition between the outfits and styles was impressive.
Speaking of styles, that’s right guys, you CAN change that outfit. There are a number of ways that you could do this though. If you like an outfit but don’t like the colors picked, don’t you fret! You can customize near every color of Lightnings clothing. You want to be a pink power ranger? You go-go-ranger it up! The give you an entire color spectrum wheel. Not only that but there are various outfits and each outfit has skills and stats attached to it.
We saw a few of them such as a Viking looking style, a clown (I was getting a Kefka vibe off it), Serah-ish one, and get this, a full formal elegant dress. Yes. Lightning looked like she was going to prom. Not only can you change the outfits but you can mix match all the weapons and shields to fit your needs, or just your stylistic choices if you want. Every outfit has something unique to it.
When in combat you'll only have a choice between three outfits at a time, each with their own skills. They didn't want to completely change the battle system so if you're used to the strategy you used before then you will really enjoy the new stagger system, referred to as “knock down”. The battle has really been enhanced. Not only are you able to freely move around and counter a monster at certain times for weakness due to your timing, but you also get to be doing it with style! They've been diligently working on completely upgrading the visuals of combat. This means spells and the like!
They then showed us the various locations. In the world of Lightning Returns there consists of four continents. We were only shown three. Luxerion which is the main continent and what we saw the most off. The Wildlands which is a nature continent filled with wildlife, trees and small villages hidden without. Lastly they showed us a glimpse of the Dead Dunes, a desert continent where ruins are lurking beneath the sands.
People stopped aging in this world and it became a “heavy burden in their hearts.” Which seems to be a tell against the plotline. The shared with us that fellow comrades may show up in your journey. They introduced us to a new character, Lumina. Although her appearance is very similar to Serah's we were told she is a separate "more playful" character. Hope is playing a supporting role, directing Lightning from above, essentially. The last character to appear from previous entries of the saga was Noel of Final Fantasy XIII-2. He fights with Lightning and referred to himself as the “Shadow Hunter”. There very well might be more from the series to make an appearance than just those few.
It all seems to have a lot to it and there was a lot more told to us through the presentation and the interviews but we’ll save that for the next entry! What are your impressions and what are you looking most forward to?