Monday 17 March 2014

Review: Lightning Returns - Final Fantasy XIII (PS3)

(Note: please read the PS/Edit at the bottom of this review)

I've always felt like I've gone against the mold. In gaming, sometimes it feels like playing new Final Fantasy games and enjoying them can feel this way. Reading other reviews of Lightning Returns made me feel as though the gaming world has this massive negative bias on the XIIIth series of Final Fantasy and I highly disagree with it.

Lightning Returns - Final Fantasy XIII is a JRPG situated at the end of the world, but still manages to pack humour, action, a bunch of interesting stories and a great battle system into this 50 hour endeavour. Throughout this time, I cried at least 3 times, found Lightning to be fascinating and didn't like garbs as much as any girl would be expected to.

If you love a good story and have played the other XIII games, I urge you to play this one just to see the ending. Seriously, the ending is so worth it. All loose ends were tied perfectly and in a beautiful style that was true to the heart and soul that is put into every Final Fantasy game. I was surprised to find that I felt attached to Lightning by the end and was shown the depth of character that I'd been missing from her in the last two games. Not to spoil anything, but their is more to Lightning than her cold exterior and we finally get to see it. I've heard people say really mean things about Lightning being boring and one dimension and I lost any taste of that after playing Lightning Returns.

Lightning Returns' garb system can be fun, depending how you use it. I remember hearing the developers say in an interview they wanted to give players the opportunity to give Lightning your own personalised signature, whether you wanted cute Lightning, strong Lightning or sexy Lightning. Some of the outfits they gave her made absolutely no sense to her character and I couldn't fathom her wearing them. Even as a girl who loves cute clothes, I kinda just stuck with whatever made her stats the best, whether it was sexy Lightning with a little buttcrack showing or suited up Lightning. I did enjoy the colour changing options on the garbs though and for those who care more about fashion then their battle stats, I'm sure you'll enjoy it more than I did.

Despite the game providing plenty of variety on battle costumes, for the first 25 hours I was concerned about how often I was running to the same monsters. This was until I found out you could make them extinct. Then the lack of enemy types made sense - for the lack of enemy types, you will run into them until you've beaten every last one. I haven't see this feature in any games for a while (if at all) and found it really motivating, along with the fast pasted battle system.

Lightning Returns ends the trilogy of Final Fantasy XIII with a bang and with no questions left. If you didn't enjoy the first few games, I'm not sure whether you'll feel as excited at the ending, but I think it is worth looking at if you are a fan of a deep story, games with lots of quests, a new world to explore or if you liked the last two.

Score: 7.7/10Not perfect, but a great experience for story lovers.

PS/Edit: This was one of my first reviews and I definitely write to a higher quality nowadays (there are no photos in this review: WHYYYYY?!?!).

Here a few quick things that I should have talked about in this review, but I didn't:

  • The time system: In short I think it's a good idea, although very easy to manipulate if you're playing on any mode below the highest difficulty. I had a day left by the end of the game without even trying because I kept stopping time. I would like to play on a harder difficulty at some point to truly feel the pressure of running out of time, which was meant to be one of the main features of the game.
  • The battle system is highly enjoyable. They made good changes and finally got the best version they could of this active time battle system. The battle system makes you really have to think about your combos to stagger the enemies. Come to think of it, the stagger mechanic has been the best battle mechanic in the XIII series.
  • The story revisits characters from the whole series, however don't always expect to be happy about how they've ended up. Some haven't changed at all or haven't learnt from their mistakes or faults. A few characters are great and have awesome scenes that I found moving, but they don't get nearly enough screen time.
    Also - Yes the game does feature these characters, but remember this is Lightning's game and you will see more of her than anything else. Also as I mentioned, I did love Lightning's character development however it will take time. If you don't like Lightning, be prepared find her annoying for the first few game 'days'. I like to think she'll win everyone over though - as mentioned, I was throughly impressed by her development.


Lightning Returns - Final Fantasy XIII is available now on Amazon. I've also spoken my experience playing Lightning Returns in my lead up posts to this review here and here.

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