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E3 Hands-On Impressions: Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

The third iteration of the Final Fantasy XIII story arc was playable at E3 2013, and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII has a few tricks up it sleeve, although much of the game feels familiar for anyone who’s played any of the Final Fantasy XIII games.

The demo started off with Lightning getting instructions via radio command by Hope Estheim.  It looks like he’s going to be playing the “Anya” role of Lightning Returns instead of the role of “whiny teenage boy” like he did in the original FF XIII.  Lightning is looking for Snow in a ruined temple, who apparently became a leader of a city through unknown means.

The battle system of Lightning Returns has many similar elements carrying over, but there are some interesting new quirks.  The ATB gauge is still present, and performing any attack will use a varying portion of the gauage, depending on how powerful the move is.  But now, Lightning can switch to different modes (called schema) with a press of the right bumper.  In the demo, Lightning could change into three different states: Divinity, Dark Muse, and Sorceress.

Changing schema also changes Lightning's outfit during the battle as well.  And I'm sure some dudes will definitely prefer some schema to others...

Changing schema also changes Lightning’s outfit during the battle as well. And I’m sure some dudes will definitely prefer some schema costumes over others…

Each schema has its own abilities, and each is useful for different parts in the battle.  Switching to Sorceress gives Lightning the power to perform powerful spells like Firaga and Blizzara, while her default state of Divinity is more useful for getting in close and striking foes.  Dark Muse was a combination of both, enhancing Lightning’s regular sword strikes with some elemental abilities.  Lightning had no party members for the duration of the demo, but I’m sure you’ll have multiple party members throughout the game.

Preemptively striking a monster on the world map cut the enemy's health by a certain percentage at the start of the battle.

Preemptively striking a monster on the world map cut the enemy’s health by a certain percentage at the start of the battle.

The demo was mostly linear, and you followed a fairly straightforward path with various encounters scattered throughout.  At the end, Lightning meets a seemingly innocent girl, until she transforms into a monster powered by a dark, shadowy force known as Chaos.  This final fight taught players about the stagger system, which was in the original FF XIII.  Repeatedly hitting an enemy with attacks fills its stagger meter, and once it’s filled, the enemy will be stunned and take extra damage as a result.  Using attacks that the monster is weak to will fill the stagger meter faster as well.  This particular boss was vulnerable to lightning, so repeatedly throwing lightning at it staggered it relatively quickly.

Fans who are dying see through the FF XIII trilogy through have probably already made up their mind about Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.  But for anybody who didn’t think FF XIII or its sequel was all that great, Lightning Returns probably won’t change your mind.  Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII comes out on February 11, 2014 in North America for the Xbox 360 and PS3.



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