Love it or hate it, Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy series is a mainstay in videogaming. Some of the most prized stories, amazing musical scores and graphical tour de forces have come from the 20+ years of their flagship RPG series. With each game a different story unfolding in a new vast universe, Final Fantasy 13 has been arguably the most diverse universe between them all, as it is the only one in the series to be a direct trilogy. While Final Fantasy 13 was given lukewarm praise, 13-2 tidied up the combat and opened up the world to a less linear affair. Now, with LR, Square-Enix looks to strike lighting again and invest you in the world of Gran Pulse. Is this the trip for you, or are you better off sitting this fantasy out?
The story to Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (Xbox 360/PS3) is rather… imaginative. I own every single numbered Final Fantasy including several of the offshoots, but this one takes the cake for having my mouth agape at the plot. After 13-2’s rather ridiculous ending, you pick up as Lightning, the warrior combatant from the other two games. 500 years after the events of 13-2, due to an outspreading of Chaos, the world has been turned upside down. People can no longer die (they can however still be killed), with the adverse effect that children can no longer be born. Within a week, the Chaos shall reach levels so dangerous that the very world shall be destroyed. In order to prevent this, the God Bhunivelze has tasked you and Hope (former comrade from Final Fantasy 13) with collecting the souls of the people of Gran Pulse, in order for them to be reborn anew on a brand new planet once the Chaos completely takes over. It gets more convoluted with inclusion of the life tree Yggdrasil, relations with old friends who have turned evil over the centuries, , and a whole slew of other things that, to be honest, threw me for one wild loop. And that was just within the first hour. If you are just jumping onto the Final Fantasy 13 train, or if this is your first foray into the series, be prepared to be confused.
The game focuses on quests in order to gain the souls of people for their rebirth on the new planet. Since time is of a factor, it is hard to save everyone, and you may have to leave a person or two behind as helping them may require you to invest too much time. This, however, is really hard to do since the game does away from the traditional leveling up mechanic present in every other Final Fantasy. You do not gain experience from battle, but instead by helping people. Each quest you complete grants you bonus stats, so it’s in your best interest to help others. But since time is of an issue, you may not be able to. Paradox much?
Thankfully, the combat is not so hard to wrap your head around, and is arguably one of the most fun experiences in any Final Fantasy to date. If you have ever played Final Fantasy 10-2 you may be familiar with this schemata system, as it was essentially the same thing. You can equip Lightning with different costumes/battle attire found throughout the game, each with their own attributes. Likewise, you can then equip whatever weapon you want to that schemata as well as customize the moves, which are mapped to each face button. When you enter battle, you can then perform any ability linked to face button, and with a press of another, switch to a different schemata and continue the onslaught. Sounds heavy handed, but it is fairly simple. In a few minutes you can equip, customize and even color your own battle suit and pummel enemies with various attacks, kind of like Dante in the Devil May Cry series. You can choose to be offense-heavy and map all attacks, then switch to a magic schemata and blast enemies from far away. There is almost no limit to how you play out combat, and since combat is now a live action affair, you will need to block, dodge and parry if you want to last long during the 30 or so hours it will take you to complete this game.
Bottom Line: This game, oh boy. While I am absolutely in love with what it brings to the table, namely the AMAZING combat, the open world and the customization options of everything, it has quite a few, head scratching problems. Since the world ends in a week, time is very precious in this game, but many things eat away at that time such as escaping from battle (you lose an hour), resting at an inn, or even just talking to random people! Also of note, the combat is a blast, but since you don’t gain experience from it, sometimes you may just find yourself avoiding fights all together, as aside from collecting components and resources, it is largely pointless. If you are a fan of the series, like engaging and deep combat, and don’t mind a very overtly dramatic story, this is a decent adventure to take. For everyone else, you might want to sit this out.
Next Review: Infinite Crisis
Bonus Review:Daniel-Peter Adjetey’s One Sentence Game Reviews
This Week’s Game: The Last of Us (PS3)”I thought that was a clicker, damn it!”Daniel-Peter Adjetey