Final Fantasy has recently come under hard times. Among franchise fans, XIII and XIII-2 remain some of the most disliked of the series, and sales have begun to reflect that. Once the king of JRPGs, Final Fantasy has fallen pretty far from the prestige its name used to command.
With Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, SE is hoping to turn this all around. Recently, the developer house posted a gameplay video of their conclusion to the “Final Fantasy XIII trilogy”, showing off elements of exploration, customization, and combat.
Responding to criticisms, Lightning Returns does not go the way of previous entries, with Final Fantasy XIII's decidedly linear level design (which I affectionately refer to as “the corridor”) and XIII-2's confusing branching paths where players chose which order they completed story events. Instead, the world looks to be much more open, allowing players to explore more freely.
Square-Enix also showed the various customization options in Lightning Returns. In battle, Lightning will be able to bring in three “Schemas”, or job classes that been arranged prior to the battle. Each schema will have it's own set of abilities than players will be able to use. Further, players will be able to allocate a weapon, shield, and color scheme to each Schema as they see fit. The intent, as the designers state, is to give players lot of choice as to how they approach battles.
Once players enter combat, things get interesting. Unlike previous Final Fantasy XIII games, players are free to control how Lightning navigates the battlefield. To perform an attack, players need only press the button that it is assigned to, expending some of a given Schema's stamina gauge. Since each Schema has it's own stamina gauge, players are expected to frequently switch between Schema to maintain the flow of battle.
As one of the decidedly few people who enjoyed both Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, I am pretty excited for Lightning Returns. The new systems look interesting, but I'll need to actually use them before I can pass a final judgment. As for the story, I am honestly not expecting much. I like this sub-trilogy more for its play than its plot. What do you guys think? Comment below with your thoughts.