Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII sees a new spin on an old engine

Square Enix brings back the Crystal Tools engine tools to create a seemingly open-world, Final Fantasy take on Nintendo's Majora's Mask formula.

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Square Enix has yet to give us video proof of Final Fantasy Versus XIII's ongoing development, but it did show the media and invited guests something else concerning the story of Final Fantasy XIII during its 25th anniversary showcase today in Tokyo, Japan. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, the official name for the final chapter in the FF XIII trilogy, seems to mix a lot of the old with the new.

The key mechanics game designer Yuji Abe presented during the showcase were "constant-moving world" and "customization". For the former, he explained that time does not stop for Lightning; she has to find ways to increase time to complete quests and forward the story since the world comes to its demise in thirteen days. One highlighted way is to defeat enemies and monsters. She can also perform certain miracles that could either shake up the in-game elements or the world itself, but at the cost of time. Yes, this concept may not be new as The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask pulled it off back in the Nintendo 64 days, but it's nice to see a time-rewinding mechanic of sort implemented in today's games.

The game world of Novus Partus is using a day/night cycle; NPCs and monsters appear and act in accordance to this. There will be bigger and more dangerous encounters at nighttime when compared to the daytime. There are four islands for players to explore, and so far the one talked about in detail is the city of Luxerion. The main metropolis of Novus Partus seems to have both a mechanical and fantasy vibe to it, complete with gothic architecture, a monorail system for players to get around, and a black-and-grey color motif to the resident's everyday attire.

For the latter concept, Abe stated that players can customize Lightning's getup any way they want. This isn't purely cosmetic; different clothes and armor sets will affect her stats in combat, as well as give her extra abilities. For now, the armor and weapons count is "more than 10 or 20" according to him. We do hope that she gets more choices apart from swords and shields, but the promise of quick equipment-swapping mid-combat may hint that she can start multi-tasking with spears, claws and even assault rifles and other long-ranged armaments.

The actual gameplay we were shown that isn't available for the public was still using the Crystal Tools engine used for the past two Final Fantasy XIII games, albeit with some minor graphical tweaks here and there. Instead of a party of three, you now control Lightning only. Producer Yoshinori Kitase and director Motomu Toriyama showed off a bit of the game's story scenario where Lightning had to find the culprits behind an unsanctioned public hanging in front of a clock tower in the city of Luxerion. As she talks to different NPCs and explores the city area, the time gauge at the bottom started to count down. While details weren't given if the timer reached zero, we would assume that a story point would be closed out and that the ending to the game would be affected if the world-driven concept was of any indication.

After much mucking around and finding for clues, the producer and director jumped straight into the game's battle system where our heroine squares off against a behemoth (a trademark FF beast). While similar to the Paradigm Shift system viewpoint at first glance, players can now move Lightning around the battlefield using the left analog stick. Her abilities are mapped on each face button so that she can use them when her action time battle gauge is filled; so far she has her old repertoire from past games like her Thundaga spells, protective buffs and combo slashes.

While the game has a more action-like feel to it, the combat will still retain its semi turn-based roots. At the very least, controlling just one powerful character seems like a slight breath of fresh air if only because of the many potential battle scenarios the designers can put players in. The developers did say that Lightning is considered a powerhouse in this game compared to the past titles, so we hope that they include more fights with bigger villains within elaborate set pieces ala God of War to raise the stakes.

From the looks of things, there seems to be shades of an open world mechanic, or at least an illusion of one like in previous Final Fantasy titles. We also felt that the world-shaping elements could play out like a lighter version of action game-world-building hybrid Actraiser. Plus, there's hope that the combat will be more involved now that players have reigns over a pseudo customizable demigoddess. While this may not be the big news Final Fantasy fans are waiting for (that honor goes to Final Fantasy Versus XIII), at least gamers will know that the Final Fantasy XIII chapter will draw to a close soon in 2013 on both PS3 and Xbox 360.

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5 comments
eliebaz
eliebaz

if i don't hear anything about FF versus in the next E3 i'm completely giving up on square enix, they really screwed everything up 

tyson3240
tyson3240

WHERE IS VERSUS who the fuck cares about continuing XIII it was soo fucking Lame. Bring about the darker Final Fantasy vets have been promised. Were older now, weve suffered through your cutesy crap but FFVII was the darkest storyline Square has ever produced and no surprise it is the series most heralded. Square it's time to grow up with your fans and give us some serious shit. 

colekhoo
colekhoo

Well, i don't understand why all the hate on FF13 series, i mean of course it did not felt and played the same as previous successful FF like VII and XII but it is still a great game overall. I played it, i enjoyed it, the new combat system is fine in my opinion, anyway just voicing out my own opinion ^^

kazzu
kazzu

Despite it being another XIII game, I'm actually surprised at how good it sounds on paper. Lightning has been a better protagonist than most FF characters, and throughout two games, they have told an interesting amount of lore. I, for one, am looking forward to this. I loved MM, and making more games around that time mechanic is great. 

HiroArka
HiroArka

HA HA HA!! Reading all the negative comments is always funny! Funniest part is how a lot of people feel that .. get this .. Square Enix is " Required " to make every ones beloved franchises the way that " They " want them! Oh man .. you are all killing me here! I  mean .. it isn't like you pitched in money to some " Kickstarter " and have a say in how they do business or own " Shares " in their company! This goes for all games out there from different developers that people feel entitled to have a say in! 

 

0_0 

 

Too bad your opinion hasn't been noted much by them or pretty much a lot of people on Gamespot and will be buried in the wastes of the internet soon 

winder207
winder207

lets wait fer few videos to come out 1st b4 deciding how its gonna be 

SilentAssassin
SilentAssassin

I'de love to see a Super Final Fantasy which would be Classic FF just revamped with added details.  And when I say classic FF I mean everything before FF7.  Even though FF7 was a classic it wasn't like previous versions of the games.  To me, the first titles were the best with all the classes.  Bring back the mage with no face!!!!!

say0cheese
say0cheese

I wouldn't say ff13 was a crappy game it just wasn't as good as the other ff games... and versus 13 still sounds more interesting than lighting returns :-/

Afterthought_bt
Afterthought_bt

Good to know. I won't be buying it.

 

Hell, I only bought XIII-2 because I waited for it to be dirt cheap in a sale after the travesty that was XIII.

 

I guess they own Final Fantasy, so they can choose to kill it.

 

It's a shame, though. They used to make good games - even if the last decent one of theirs I can remember was the Last Remnant.

JmanSeo
JmanSeo

Square-Enix perhaps you need to move on to a different franchise...

 

Like Einhander!   I'd love to see a current generation game of Einhander!

 

Oh wait, you'll just ruin that game too with your obscure design non-sense.

 

Never mind....

chazy035
chazy035

Square Enix has read all your concerns.  It will make FF13-episode 1 after they make FF13-III

chazy035
chazy035

I didn't buy FF13... Did i miss mucH???

 

BSEE10
BSEE10

I'm sick of Lightning.

They should drop the idea of making a woman equivalent of Cloud.

For me, Yuna or Rikku is the best female FF character. They are forcing "Cloud Archetype" to lightning which is not working.

dachamba
dachamba

I might just well wait for the remastered version of Final Fantasy X for PS3.

LionHeart48
LionHeart48

Final Fantasy 13 is the worst FF i have ever played. Now they made this a trilogy? Did they not see the sales of FF13-2? Im glad i didnt buy that game.

StSk8ter29
StSk8ter29

Why they insist on giving FF13 all these sequels is beyond me. The original FF13 wasn't even that good. Just leave it as is and move on. I'd rather have a fresh Final Fantasy game than another sequel to one that never worked to begin with.

OJ_the_LION
OJ_the_LION

Ugh, I was wanting to play this game, but bringing in that terrible mechanic from Majora's Mask that turned the entire game into a timed mission? No thanks.

Chatch09
Chatch09

I've been sooo disappointed with the last 2 FFXIII's that Im too discouraged to buy the next one, not falling for it this time Square Enix.....need to go back to being Square Soft.

Albaficas
Albaficas

ff13 sold more than 8mil sounds good till the players realise how crappy it was 

then came ff13-2 sold only 2 mil xd

so the third one will probably sell even less good.

Truf89
Truf89

How is it that no news has come our for Versus, yet all this stuff comes out for XIII? Is it even going to come out before the new consoles get released?

skywalkerforce
skywalkerforce

People complaining about fanboys, battlesystems, the people complaining, etc. At the end of the day, the fans rule the industry. If we want turn based systems then we will get it because if they dont. We wont buy the game so suck it assholes who tell us to change what we want. You can innovate without ruining the series with different battle styles. I love the Action-RPG spinoffs though. Everyone who is fed up with SE, just dont buy the games that suck and that will send a message to there wallets. Well unless SE just hates its fans and doenst care about the money. Starting to seem more possible every year.

Morokoo
Morokoo

Morokoo People want Square to hurry up With Versus, I myself would much rather them take their time on it and make it into what they have planned for it instead of spending my money on an incomplete game that most if the FFfanboys will complain about. We all know it would happen because At somepoint 75% of the FF series' fans turned into bitchy four year olds.

phenom23454
phenom23454

my only issue is the turn based crap, realtime action is what FF should deal with like the dissidia combat was awesome, i get these are changing times.

chipwithdip
chipwithdip

So many nostalgic fanboys. >,>

 

1) I think it's best for FF to keep from recycling old game play mechanics. Nintendo's the only company that really gets away with it due to how inviting their games are. Besides, making it turned-based would make the game compete with other turn-based games like Pokemon...and Pokemon's sure as hell gonna win that one. I personally didn't get into FF until XII. Having myself sit there and eat fireballs and ice blasts while standing there like an idiot doing nothing to defend myself just didn't work for me.

 

2)XII was actually pretty brilliant and EXTREMELY varied, gave loads of customization and exploration, critiqued VERY WELL across the board, and fans still bitched about it because it wasn't turn-based. XIII suffers from the same issues. Now, we get it, XIII-2 was a bit "bleh", but XIII-1 was actually pretty solid, minus the whole "auto-play" and the linearity. Didn't merit a sequel with the confused ending, but enjoyable enough to merit a buy or a rent. Now, I'm not saying this one's gonna be amazing, cause I doubt it. Just saying XIII-1 was pretty good, at least up until the end of the story.

 

3) FF VII fan boys need to buy a PS1 and just live in the past already. Tired of the whining for VII OVER AND OVER again. Like, what are you guys accomplishing? If they remake VII, all it'll attract are a couple hundred thousand die hard fan boys. I think it's an unnecessary endeavor. It wouldn't bring anyone to the series, but instead it'd show that Square is weak enough to bend to the commands from a bunch of dudes who can't keep their pants clean whenever they see FF VII. It may have been good then, but who says it aged well?

unicornvisions
unicornvisions

lol monsters are scarier at night? I smell a little dragons dogma there and ugh players can finally move lighting? took you guys long enough...sounds interesting but the Paradigm system was stupid honestly...

Toplinkar
Toplinkar

Sounds great. Final FAntasy meets God of War would be a dream that comes true - from a lover of both.

 

But of course, I'd bet that this will have more similarities to FF-XII than anything else, after all, on that FF you could move your characters while on combat, creatures were walking in the world just like you were, etc.

 

I do wonder if there will be anything like a Viera, those were a nice touch. :P

Lost-to-Apathy
Lost-to-Apathy

FFXIII's plot was too convoluted and didn't warrant a sequel, in my opinion. I can't believe they're going for a third.

michelle128
michelle128

whats up with all the haters?  they keep askn for a different game, games that are already available else where.. I mean if u dont like the game for what it is then go play some other game. Why complain about a game that you are not into? You obiously know what you want and it is not ff, so go play that game instead of complaining about what could have been or sould have been. It is what it is. ff has changed a lot but nobody is askin you to like it. U have the choice to play it or not. Why complain as if you have nothing else but ff to play.

Bayonetta2013
Bayonetta2013

@tyson3240 Darkest storyline? FFVII? 

Sorry, but there's this thing called "Final Fantasy Type-0" that kicked Final Fantasy VII in the balls in that department.

vincent_tai
vincent_tai

I suspect they are blaming the poor sales of FF13-2 on the lack of involvement of Lightning.  Hence they are doing another game focusing solely on her.  If they are right and they do a good job with this third one, people might just go back and play FF13-2.

LionHeart48
LionHeart48

 @AlbaficasI checked wiki and FF13 sold 6.7M and FF13-2 sold 2.5M. I bet this one will sell 700k. Its sad that it takes 3 FF13 games to equal FF7 sales lol. Im glad this is the last sequel. FF13 was the worst Final Fantasy.

 

Albaficas
Albaficas

 @skywalkerforce stfu ^^ thxyou now that u shut it

go and check ff13 sales and then ff13-2 sales see the difference?

 

see how stupid your whole comment is right now ?

kkthxbb

psx_warrior
psx_warrior

 @vincent_tai

 Could be too that some gamers were scared off by all that nickle and diming we call downloadable content.

psx_warrior
psx_warrior

 @LionHeart48  @Albaficas

 I only wish that Crisis Core on psp had done that well.  I'm playing through it now, and it's a wonderful game.  Not turn based at all, but a strong story for sure.

chipwithdip
chipwithdip

 @Albaficas Not even sure where this came from, but it's whatevs. Random internet mud-slinging is always baseless and undeserving of attention...well, outside of that given to tell the slinger that their mud-slinging was random and undeserving of attention.

Lei_11
Lei_11

I meant to say: '..the fact that it wasn't turn-based...'

yarr, me bad, matey.

Lei_11
Lei_11

 @blackwing55  @phenom23454  @michelle128  @chipwithdip I wouldn't call FFXII's battle system solid :P The thing about it that annoyed me most of all wasn't the fact that it was turn-based, but rather that I could not choose when to attack. Once the meter is full, your character strikes. It's retarded.

I haven't played FXIII at all, so I don't know whether they fixed that problem, but please don't call FFXII's system brilliant.

blackwing55
blackwing55

 @phenom23454  @michelle128  @chipwithdip Dude you guys are all cool lol. Personally ff-x was my favorite guess its the final fantasy you grew up with is your favorite. (I also liked 7, 9, 12 and 13 (Twelve was really fun don't know why it got put down for its gambit system wasn't as hard to use as they said.))