The story of Lightning finally (maybe?) comes to a close as Square Enix’s latest offering in the Final Fantasy series nears its Feb. 11 release date. But for those who want to sample Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII before they commit to a purchase, you’ll be happy to know that a demo is finally launching today on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

This past generation has been an odd one for the Final Fantasy series, one that, until these past five or so years, has been widely regarded as the best ongoing RPG series available. When Final Fantasy XIII first launched back in 2009, it was praised for its graphics but summarily slammed for most other aspects of the game. Fans and critics alike argued that the combat engine was fine, but everything else about the game was lacking. From the story to the lack of anything other than fighting to do in the game, many regard FFXIII as the low point for the franchise.

Rather than tackle a wholly new entry in the series, which was typically Square Enix’s MO, the developer instead opted to utilize existing assets and instead continue the story of Cocoon in Final Fantasy XIII-2. Few of gamers’ issues with the original FFXIII were addressed in this sequel, however, resulting in another round of luck-warm reactions.

With Lightning Returns, however, Square Enix hopes to finally evolve the series with a deeper combat engine, more varied gameplay and more ways to invest one’s time outside of combat. They’re also using it as a way to have the titular Lightning cosplay as some of the series’ most beloved characters, presumably aiming to draw on a bit of nostalgia to help bolster past fans’ willingness to give XIII one more chance. To show off their progress, today’s demo will let layers dive into a chunk of gameplay from the upcoming Lightning Returns, available now on the Xbox 360 and as soon as the PlayStation Network updates this afternoon for the PS3.

“As a special bonus, players who download the PlayStation Network demo will automatically receive the Utsesemi Garb DLC, which includes the Heavenly Fan weapon and the Kaminari shield item,” reads a statement from Square Enix. “The DLC pack will download with the demo and will be unlocked in the full retail game on Feb. 11.”

If you’d rather not download the demo, that DLC will also be available for purchase once the game launches.

The press release goes on to state that, in the demo, players will traverse the “chaos-infested Yusnaan palace of Snow,” one of Lightning’s old allies.

“Players will experience Lightning’s new customization options and master the game’s completely overhauled battle system,” reads the statement. “For those who activate the Outerworld services and submit their battle scores of the final fight against Zaltys, the Siegfried outfit will be unlocked in the full retail game.”

It looks like Square Enix has made plenty of arguments for gamers to at least give Lightning Returns a fair shake. Let’s just hope that the demo and, more importantly, the full game actually deliver.

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