Lightning Returns likes it clocks

I run among the busy townspeople as I pass the Clock Tower, but I’m not in Clock Town. I gaze up at what the citizens refer to as a moon, but I’m not in Termina. The on-screen clock counts down to doom, but this isn’t
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, it’s Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII and I’m running through Luxerion gazing up at the Ark.

An
earlier article published at Zelda Informer heralded Final Fantasy X-2 as the Majora’s Mask equivalent of the franchise. Psdeisgnuk described the piece as “bringing together two much-loved and much-maligned games in [a] way few have realized.” That “way” being as more spiritual counterparts than literal ones.

Whereas
Majora’s Mask and Final Fantasy X-2 find similar ground by being sequels that are largely alien to their predecessors, Lightning Returns strikes much more direct and literal parallels with the 2000 Legend of Zelda title, as popular opinion is apt to point out.

Both games play out in the final days before the impending end of the world, and the quest-based focus of the games gives attention to how people deal with their approaching dooms. Do they embrace it, deny it, struggle against it, or pray for salvation from above?

No doubt these similarities are striking, but running through Luxerion and Yusnaan, The Wildlands and The Dead Dunes, it is not the feeling of
Majora’s Mask that Lightning Returns evokes as much as it is that of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Skyrim, from Bethesda Softworks, is the marvel of recent western role-playing games (RPGs). Final Fantasy has long served as the pinnacle of Japanese role-playing games (JRPGs). What we get in Lightning Returns is a hybrid of western style meeting eastern style.

Eerily similar logos of Skyrim and Lightning Returns

The western style of RPG, as epitomised by
Skyrim, focuses on large worlds with quests from non-playable characters. Complex combat systems and statistic strategy is more the realm of JRPGs, along with complex and lengthy storylines. Running through high-definition cities and landscapes, in both the gloom of night and the bright of daylight while completing quests, made Lightning Returns a sort of mini-Skyrim.

In what is no doubt to be considered a contentious opinion, I feel
Lightning Returns is Skyrim done right. Although a lush world to explore, Skyrim suffered in creating a tediousness when it came to getting from point A to point B. Navigating Nova Crystallia of Lightning Returns has aspects of this, but on such a smaller scale it is not as damaging as in Skyrim.

Furthermore,
Skyrim’s randomly generated quests, and even core quests, lack when it comes to narrative drive and substance. Lightning Returns overcame this potential downfall by targeting its main quests to closing the storylines of characters from the previous two installments of its trilogy.

The side-quests of
Lightning Returns are, appropriately, comparable to Majora’s Mask in that they contain an emotional relevance and story within them. For instance, one such quest focuses on aiding the young woman Serala coming to terms with her father’s passing. To a degree, it is a clichéd display of pathos, but it makes the game somewhat more alive than Skyrim.

By combining these western and eastern elements of RPGs,
Lightning Returns provides something new and unique. It is a touch of Final Fantasy in its narrative and battle system; a touch of Skyrim in its world and quest-based gameplay; and a touch of Majora’s Mask in its apocalyptic setting.

Together,
Lightning Returns is just like its three potential sources of inspiration: flawed in parts but wondrous and enjoyable as a whole.

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