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Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Review

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I am going to get
this out of the way right now. If you like this entry in the franchise, more
power to you. This review is my opinion, and if you disagree, that is fine. Now
that I got that out of the way, Final Fantasy
XIII
is one of the worst games in the Final
Fantasy
franchise. It might not be Final
Fantasy: All The Bravest
or the first version of Final Fantasy XIV, but it really is one of the worst. Sure, there
might be some good things about this particular entry in the series like some
of the characters, I like some of the songs used in this entry, but in my
opinion, it has a lot more wrong with it than right. It also puzzles me that
out of any game in the franchise they could make a couple of sequels out of,
they choose the one game in the series that is almost universally hated. Anyway,
it seemed like a much more confusing business decision that they decided to
make another sequel to a game that
no one was asking for. Lightning Returns:
Final Fantasy XIII
has to be one of the dumbest ideas from Square Enix I
have ever heard of, and we know that they have made dumb decisions before. The
future of this game also doesn’t look good when you have Bravely Default, a much better RPG already out, and Final Fantasy XV coming out in the
future. However, in the end, how does this game hold up? Was it worth putting
money into this game, or should you have just bought Bravely Default or waited for Final
Fantasy XV
?

Lightning returns
(see what I did there?) and is once again voiced by Ali Hillis. You might know
her more as Liara T’soni from the popular Mass Effect franchise. She is in the
living world that is about to end, and trying to save everyone and stop the
chaos from spreading. The chaos for newcomers to the series is basically an
evil force that summons hellish monsters and causes destruction. This means she
will need to help out and save her former friends and allies. She will also
have to deal with a young girl named Lumina, voiced by Jessica DiCicco. Can
Lightning stop the world from ending? Can she save her friends/allies? Can she
stop Lumina? Can she take down the Chaos? Can she save the world of Grand
Pulse? Did I enjoy the story? Read later
on in this review to find out.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is
a JRPG through and through, with a lot more emphasis on action-oriented combat,
side quests, and customization than ever before. Instead of having that very
simple and only slightly complex battle system from the last two games in the series,
which was known as the Paradigm Shift, instead, they use something new. You
only play as Lightning, and instead of having an auto-command button doing
everything for you, each of the four face buttons correspond with a certain
move, like melee attacks, magic spells, defensive options, and you get the
idea. You have to press the right button to perform which attack on the enemy.
This means you have to choose what moves to put onto each button command and
know what monster is weak to what attack.

The customization comes in the form
of these outfits called Schemas that you can make Lightning wear that give her
different stats and preset abilities. You also have a multitude of sub-items to
equip your character. It might turn Lightning into a doll since you are giving
her different outfits, but it’s a pretty fun and complex system, and easily one
of the best things about this game. Outside of the main quests, you have side
quests that you can either acquire from complete strangers or learn about them
on a bulletin board. Some of these side quests are timed, so you have to make
sure you meet the person at the right time or else you will miss the
opportunity to do said quest. Now, being timed might be a bad thing since you
can’t fully explore the game’s towns, and to a certain extent, it isn’t that
bad, but it has its issues that I will explain later on in my review. To ease
the stress of not being under full control of the clock, you have an EP (energy
points) bar where you can pull off different abilities from slowing down time, to
fully healing yourself, teleporting, escaping from fights, and those are just a
few of the abilities. The overall game will take you about 25 to 30 hours to
complete, with some replay value if you want to go 100% on it or try out the
multitude of outfits you gain throughout the game.

The game’s
graphics are okay. Some of the character models and cutscenes look fine and are
animated well enough, but a lot of the textures look weak. It is definitely not
as good looking as the last two games. It looks better than what I expected a
lot of games to look like now that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is out, but
it is nowhere near as good looking as the last two games. When it comes to
music, I have mixed feelings. I enjoyed the first game’s soundtrack, but the
second game’s soundtrack was weaker, and the third game’s soundtrack is kind of
in the middle. It has some great songs, but I also feel like it has some
forgettable songs as well. Two of the composers for this game are Masashi
Hamauzu and Naoshi Mizuta. Hamauzu worked on games like SaGa Frontier 2 and Unlimited
SaGa
. On the other side of the spectrum, Mizuta worked on games like Street Fighter Alpha, Parasite Eve II, the Final Fantasy XI MMO and expansions, Blood Bahamut, and Guardian Cross.

Now then, let us
get on with the criticism. Honestly, I couldn’t find myself fully invested with
the story. Lightning, as a main character, isn’t that great. She hasn’t been
that good of a character since the first game anyway, but you would think
Square Enix would learn from that and make her character something worthwhile
in the final game of the Final Fantasy
XIII
series. She comes off as emotionless and boring. Sure, she says God
took her emotions away, but it doesn’t excuse her for sounding so static
throughout the game. She sounds detached from the entire world and the events
that happen in front of her. It also doesn’t help that it seems like no one cares that the world is ending.
They know it’s ending, and they treat it like a minor annoyance. They go about
their day like it was just another day of the week. The countdown clock should
be a much bigger deal than it is, but it really isn’t. That special EP ability
that lets you stop time for a few minutes can easily be abused. Sure, you need
EP energy to use it, but you can easily stop time, fight some enemies to regain
it, and then use it again when it happens like it’s nothing.

While side quests
are usually optional, these side quests are sort of mandatory since it’s the
only way you can level up your stats. If you don’t do enough side questing, you
will find yourself with lower than needed stats when you face the game’s
bosses. This means monsters will just give you items used for side quests,
which almost makes battling monsters
pointless. The clock actually becomes a bigger nuisance with side quests, since
certain people and quests can only be done at certain times. This means if you
want to complete a certain quest or objective during the main part of the game,
you have to wait. In a game that used this time mechanic well, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, you
could move forward or back in time to complete any mission or quest you were on
and didn’t have to wait for a very specific period in time to continue that
quest. Why should I have to wait in an RPG where I need to save the world in a
certain amount of days? I also hate how the first main mission goes, since you
do a lot of the first part of the first main quest, but then you have to
basically waste a day to get to the second part of the quest. Again, why should
I have to wait? It’s almost like certain missions from Red Dead Redemption, where I have to wait for a certain person to
appear instead of just getting the mission going. This is why, in games like Grand Theft Auto V, they don’t force you
with a time limit, and they just move you on through to the mission.

I also
feel like the hub worlds you travel through are rather barren. The two city
areas should be bustling with people, but they act like small towns instead of
huge, packed cities with parties and other things going on. This especially
hurts the more wild areas like the Wildlands and the Dead Dunes where they are
just barren, with only a few people walking around, or only a monster here or
there running around. Then again, the Dead Dunes probably makes more sense, but
what puzzles me is that the first game had visible monsters in an area of the
game where you could see them running around. Why go from that format to this? It
makes it feel like a grind, just running around finding monsters. My final
complaint is small, but why can’t I freely move around during battle? I can
move around, jump, evade, do all those things, but moves like “evade and jump”
are only commands, and not a flick of the right stick or something in that
form. I mean seriously, I am surprised they didn’t just do a Kingdom Hearts-style combat engine with
this game, since I feel like it could have used something like that or the
upcoming Final Fantasy XV combat
system.

Final Verdict: Just buy Bravely Default and preorder Final Fantasy XV

In the end, why
was this game made? I think if you are going to make a third game, you should
put every blood, sweat, and tear into it to make it the best product possible.
That isn’t the case here. In my opinion, I felt like they only made this to
capitalize on the last batch of fans of this particular entry before the much
better-looking and more fun Final Fantasy
XV
comes out in the future. It feels like such an underwhelming end to an
entry in the franchise that I and many other gamers didn’t personally care for.
I can somewhat understand why some people like the series, because there are
some good things about it, but in the long run, would you honestly say it is
the best game out of the franchise?

The only really good thing this game has
going for it is the combat and customization system. However, when every other
design choice conflicts with another design choice, or that specific mechanic
can easily be abused, the combat system isn’t going to be a saving grace when
everything else is so lackluster. If you haven’t picked it up already, I would
personally skip it. I would instead get better JRPGs like Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, Tales of Xillia, Xenoblade
Chronicles
, or even Square Enixs’ own Bravely
Default
. Like I said, if you like the game, that is fine with me. Don’t let
my negative review change your own opinion. I mean, reviews are always going to
be subjective. I would only play Lightning
Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
if you want to play all three games in the Final Fantasy XIII series, but I would
say that this is one tale that you could easily skip.

No
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Our Verdict
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Great combat and customization system, and some decent songs.
The story is confusing and tedious to go through, Lightning is a bore, easily abused game mechanics, and a whole of game design choices that detract from the experience.
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Cameron Ward
Hello Gamnesia! My name is Cameron Ward, but you can call me camseyeview. I have been gaming since the mid 90’s and I still enthusiastically play video games today! I have been writing reviews for about 5 years now and have recently made a website called camseyeview.biz for my reviews and other special feature articles on gaming. I love many varieties of game genres, but I am mostly a Nintendo and Sony fan. However, I do enjoy Microsoft games also. Got a question to ask me? Have a video game to recommend for a game review? An upcoming game or game developer you want me to do a Thoughts On um, on? Ask away!

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