Critics Corner: Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

lightning-returns-final-fantasy-xiii-headerThe saga of Lightning and Final Fantasy XIII comes together in the third installment of the FF13 trilogy. Square Enix billed it as a story that needed three games to be told in its entirety. When I dropped $70 on the first Final Fantasy XIII back in 2010, it seemed so dull and generic with combat that only required you to hold down X until the battle was over that I made about an hour before I put it at the bottom of a drawer and haven’t touched it for the last four years. I spent hundreds of hours playing the FFX games. I even loved X-2 and I’m pretty sure that everyone hates that game and the J-pop therein.

Somehow, the game managed to get a franchise-record two sequels. If the critics scores are to be believed, the games have been getting worse as the FFXIII trilogy has gone along with Lightning Returns hitting the bottom. Oddly enough, that’s how I feel about the franchise  now too. I’ll be quite happy to get back into the series with Final Fantasy XV but, for now, good riddance to FF13.

Anyway, enough of what I think. Here’s what the critics think about Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.

Story

“Lightning Returns picks up 500 years after the events of XIII-2, with the end of the world – the literal end of everything – a mere 13 days away. Lightning has been sent by the God of Light, Bhunivelze, to save as many souls as possible so that they can be reborn when he creates a brand new world on day 14.” – Joystiq (8.0/10)

“Square Enix hasn’t exactly let up on how dense the story and plot are. It makes some token efforts to remind you, but you’ll want to have played the previous games or read up extensively on the prior game’s stories to properly enjoy it.” – The Escapist (7.0/10)

“Lightning Returns is best thought of as a crazy dream, which mitigates your attachment the characters or the story. Hell, the game itself tells you there’s not going to be an explanation for most of the plot. It’s like a slightly grittier Sailor Moon. Lightning is bestowed power and can save the world by helping people with their life problems… and her powers involve swapping fantastic outfits.” – Machinima (8.5/10)

“These characters never stop talking, finding new ways to explain the simple events occurring around them with as many words as possible. For having so little to say, the characters of Lightning Returns sure do talk a lot. You could say the same things about many other Japanese role-playing games, as well as plenty of anime and manga, but I can’t remember the last time I played a game with so much dialogue that went absolutely nowhere.” – GameSpot (5.0/10)

Gameplay

“Lightning has been sent by the God of Light, Bhunivelze, to save as many souls as possible so that they can be reborn when he creates a brand new world on day 14. You only have a handful of days to work with when the game begins, but collect enough Eradia – the energy of souls – and God will do you a solid and give you another day. A soul is saved by providing its owner with what they need most – hope, closure, a last grasp at happiness, whatever.” – Joystiq (8.0/10)

“Similar to Dead Rising you’re under a constant timer. The world will end in 13 days, and each day spans roughly 1 hour of in-game time. The timer won’t tick down during cut-scenes and dialogue, but it’s imperative for you to manage your time effectively in order to save as many as you can. It’s a task that gets further muddied when specific NPCs might only appear during certain hours of the day, or sections might likewise be closed during certain times. It allows for the game to form some natural moments of tension as you race to complete quests on a deadline.” – The Escapist (7.0/10)

“As you save souls (by completing main and side quests) you’ll earn more time – which is another problem: you’ve actually got way too much of it on your hands. The main story isn’t deep or vast enough to fill up the entire thirteen days, which is a bit of a tension killer. There’s replayability in the Hard Mode, unlocked by beating Normal, which presents more of a challenge, but ultimately requires you to go through the game again just to experience the extra features and real difficulty, which is a problem because you’re unlikely to want to play it all again.” – God is a Geek (7.0/10)

“Without a doubt, the game’s highlight is its fast-paced battle system. Certain boss battles in this game rank are among the most exciting, most intense, most thrilling of the entire Final Fantasy series.” – Game Revolution (4.0/10)

“Though Lightning stands alone front and center in most fights, Square wisely captures the spirit of classic RPGs by allowing you to equip and customize a trio of Schemata, which each act like a different party member.” – IGN (7.0/10)

“Combat has a different pace than before, but the principle of it is essentially the same. Battle revolves around the Active Time Battle (ATB) System, but now Lightning has around 100 ATB slots instead of only five or six. Attacks clearly require more ATB slots each, and the damage and/or effects that each ability induces on opponents will reflect that, where more powerful abilities will need more ATB slots. The time it takes to refill the ATB bar becomes part of the art of mastering the combat in Lightning Returns, and players are equipped with three separate Schematas that they can freely switch between in combat. Each Schemata has its own relative ATB bar, and the combination of the three gives players the chance to constantly use abilities across all three.” – PlayStation Universe (8.5/10)

“Rather than growing in power by defeating monsters and gaining experiences points, [Lightning] receives stat boosts for each quest you complete. Having no traditional means to sit around and slowly gain levels makes sense in the context of the end of the world. I just wish it wasn’t replaced by an equally boring and less dependable grind.” – Polygon (5.5/10)

“EP is perhaps your most valuable resource in the game. This substance can be used to freeze time during battles (allowing you to attack the static foe), heal Lightning and, most usefully, temporarily stop the clock while in the world. You begin with just five EP per day, although this slightly increases as the week progresses. EP is refilled in tiny increments by completing battles. Optimal players will spend EP exclusively on freezing time, extending the 24-hour day by a few hours, thereby allowing for more missions to be completed and more of the world to be explored.” – Eurogamer (8.0/10)

Graphics/Audio

“It looks lovely throughout. Occasional minor juddering notwithstanding, the graphics are beautiful and the world is consistently interesting. As always, the cutscenes are simply astounding, displaying a breathtaking ballet of light and colour that, unfortunately, makes the actual gameplay feel a bit too sedate.” – God is a Geek (7.0/10)

“The world itself is impressive on a grand scale, but it becomes a bit too much for the engine at times. While out in the field, monsters appear from across vast horizons; but when navigating between areas in a city, non-player characters tend to be represented with an exclamation sign until they fully load. At the same time, the game itself doesn’t lag anywhere near as much as XIII-2 did, so the enhancements that allow Lightning to run from a village directly into an open world are quite impressive on the older hardware.” – PlayStation Universe (8.5/10)

“The game is all over the map from an aesthetic standpoint. While Lightning’s model and the designs of her various outfits are all well crafted, and other major NPCs and some of the game’s locations enjoy a similar level of polish, a lot of the other models and textures are downright laughable. Even considering that this is still last-generation it shouldn’t look this bad at times.” – The Escapist (7.0/10)

“Sadly, the mediocre audio production is a major distraction. You explore and reexplore the game’s four zones as Lightning, who usually travels alone, with Hope chattering in your ear via transponder so frequently, you wish he’d just shut up. He drones on so often, in fact, that he’s constantly cut off mid-sentence whenever a battle suddenly occurs, when you trigger a cutscene by walking into a new area, or when you engage another character in order to complete quests. In the most extreme examples, Hope cuts off his own dialogue, though even when he isn’t the one providing his own interruptions, lines are constantly shut down mid-sentence, sometimes to be repeated, and sometimes to be forgotten. The game drowns you with unnecessary audio, as if developer Square Enix were fearful that you’d forget what you were doing or why you were doing it.” – GameSpot (5.0/10)

Overall

“Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 had some serious missteps, but Lightning Returns ends on a strong note by sticking to what really matters: great combat and a story you want to see through. No gimmicks, no tricks, no convoluted treks through time, no cliffhangers, no tunnels – just one last trip around the world with a pink-haired heroine, and then a fond farewell.” – Joystiq (8.0/10)

“If you were hoping that Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII was going to be a return to Square’s RPG greatness of yesteryear, you’re going to be disappointed… If you like the new direction of Final Fantasy or simply want to see how the story of Lightning wraps up, then you’ll enjoy Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. Otherwise you can give it a pass.” – The Escapist (7.0/10)

“Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII will be lauded in the short term for its fun battle system, but remembered in the long term for its bad story and atrocious ending… Lightning Returns creates that empty feeling of being in a huge world with nothing to do, tries to put the player in a hurry despite there being no reason to rush, and tops it all off with an ending that embarrasses the game industry.” – Game Revolution (4.0/10)

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About Steve Murray

Steve is the founder and editor of The Lowdown Blog and et geekera. On The Lowdown Blog, he often writes about motorsports, hockey, politics and pop culture. Over on et geekera, Steve writes about geek interests and lifestyle. Steve is on Twitter at @TheSteveMurray.

Posted on February 12, 2014, in Games and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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