Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (PS3 review)

Lightning Returns Final Fantasy XIII Event 03

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII marks the final chapter of the latest installment in the Final Fantasy franchise. This one follows beloved heroine Lightning, where she is tasked with guiding the souls of the remaining population still alive on Nova Crystalia, so that they may be reborn in the new world that will be created in just 13 days. In the final days, Lightning must do everything in her power to save as many souls as she can in the hopes of holding up her end of the deal made with God, so that she would be reunited with her sister, Serah. Fans of the series will recall that Serah met with an unfortunate fate at the end of Final Fantasy XIII-2Lightning Returns starts out with a flashy, fast-paced opening to the third installment fueled from the buildup of the previous two titles, but quickly becomes an unmotivated story lacking emotion. There is an exception for a few lovable characters, however, the rest of the cast is rounded out by seemingly watered down old allies and awkward side characters who fail to leave any lasting impression or draw any emotion from our hero. But let’s get on to the good parts.

Lightning Returns Final Fantasy XIII Battle 67


Lightning Returns did an amazing job of tapping into the hardware of the PS3 to show off some beautiful environments. There are vast deserts, lush wild lands, and very detailed cities with breathtaking inspiration drawn from several European cities with a fantasy twist to them. Overall this series has always been a sight to behold and doesn’t let you down through the entire 30-40 hour adventure.

Lightning Returns Final Fantasy XIII Battle 65


Gameplay revolves mainly around 3 things: story, side missions and combat.

Story missions typically involve seeking out and helping an old ally by either challenging them to a fight or doing some type of mission to help them. Side missions can range from your normal fetch quests to slaying boss type monsters. You start with only 7 days, and only by doing these quests can you hope to extend it to the full 13 days to maximize your play through. If you fail to finish all main story missions in time, you get a game over and must start over from day one.

You return to the ark (home base) in order to turn in the souls of humanity you have saved to increases your time limit left in the world, which happens every day at 6PM, regardless if you’re ready or not. This will usually advance your story progress and give you more insight into the narrative.

Lightning Returns Final Fantasy XIII Battle 61

My favorite part of most RPGs is the battle system. One of the most interesting things, and in my opinion worst changes, was the removal of any kind of “level up” system. Instead all the skill development of Lightning is accomplished by finishing story missions for the major character stats, side quests for the other stat and equipment bonuses. I imagine this was to keep the player from being distracted and to keep people focused on the task at hand, so that they can accomplish as much as possible in the short time limit given to them.

Lightning Returns Final Fantasy XIII Battle 53

Battle System

The Battle system is by far one of the biggest changes in the series; there is no longer a party system. You only control Lightning this time around, with three different schemas (classes) that you can modify through your journey with different gear such as weapons, shields, accessories and spells/skills. (With the latter, you’re able to upgrade and synthesize.) The combat is as fast as ever, with the player now being able to freely control Lightning’s movement during combat. This helps to exploit enemy tendencies such as staying out of range of melee enemies or rotating to an enemy’s backside to hit its weak point. You also have one ATB gauge for each of your schemas that refill overtime, regardless of which one you are using at any given time. Each Schema has 4 abilities that you can, for the most part, fully customize with the exception of certain skills being locked on certain gear. You must also learn to master the guarding system to minimize or completely negate damage. Health recovery becomes expensive very quick on the normal and hard difficulties, since it doesn’t regenerate automatically like the prior games. Careful planning and efficient use of this system will allow victory in the more difficult battles during late to endgame content.

Lightning Returns Final Fantasy XIII Enviroment 04

Final Reaction

Overall I enjoyed the time I spent with Lightning Returns, even without the rewarding feeling of that ding when you finally level up after countless battles. The game is still fun and kept me interested through every fight. The customization depth makes it so you feel like a super-powered badass that Square wanted Lightning to be over the past 3 games, and the ability to change the color of your gear is always a fun welcome customization for me.

The story falls a bit flat at times, but it does have its shining moments, like when you meet old comrades that have now lost their way. It is interesting at times to see them in a way you may not have thought of before. If nothing else Lightning Returns serves as a fitting end to the trilogy. Those who do not pick apart the plot holes and simply enjoy the ride will get the most out of this game’s story.

For the Final Fantasy fanatics, there is a New Game+ which allows you to keep your stats and gear and tackle even more challenges on the hard difficulty after a single completion of the story. This is where the truly battle hardened will get the most out of the end game bosses, and it will truly test the mastery of your skills with Lightning and the combat system.

Grade B-

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Jada Griffin
Jada Griffin 334 posts

Legends tell of a princess captured and raised by Ninjas to be their future leader. Jada was trained from an early age to max the luck stat, always strike first and to never surrender.