Square Enix was doing more at the Tokyo Game Show than just reminding people that they're an absolute shell of their former self, they were also there to peddle a rehash of Final Fantasy X-2, push Final Fantasy XIV for the PlayStation 4, Final Fantasy XV for the two new-gen consoles and to remind current-gen console owners that Lightning Returns is still coming in early 2014.
The latest trailer for the game sports a basic two-minute preview of the story and Lightning's main purpose for returning. I have to be honest, I had a hard time liking the original story from Final Fantasy XIII and while XIII-2 seemed to fix some of the horrendous pacing issues and over-use of cinematics, the game was still a terribly bovine and suffered from being an insipid experience, enough not to interest me in seeing it through to the end.
Lightning Returns seems to take into account that some people may have skipped out on XIII-2 and seems to weave its story around something a little more personal and heroic for the lead protagonist, Lightning.
One thing I at least have to commend the design team on, is that none of the promotional videos have depicted Lightning as a character trying to return to form, or a character down and out on her luck or a character trying to become badass. Instead, Lightning just “is” and we start from there. I know Square gets a lot of beef for just butchering all forms of coherency and consistency with the world they crafted around Final Fantasy XIII, but Lightning Returns does show potential for a different form of storytelling and character progression without retreading into the same kind of problems that other games fall into, where it's another rags-to-riches, nothing-to-something tale.
In addition to saving the world, players will also have a number of outfits to unlock and purchase for Lightning... it's the typical Japanese-fixation on all things cosplay but I would be lying if I said some of Lightning's outfits didn't look totally awesome. It's obvious the graphic designers had a field day decking her out in all sorts of traditional, fantasy, normal, combat and classical garb.
It's not all fashion shows and existential metaphysics – Square also took the time to revamp the gameplay. We're looking at a whole new way to engage in combat and explore the environments. Parkour plays a big part in getting around, so Assassin's Creed fans should be able to pick up and play the game with ease, and the combat mixes in a little bit of turn-based strategy with active-time battles so it's not quite traditional Final Fantasy but it's not quite non-targeting either. A little bit of organic creativity is very welcome.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is set for release in February of next year. I don't know if I can say I'm sold on the game, but I can say that out of the last few recent Final Fantasy titles (not counting XV), Lightning Returns looks like it could be bucket-loads of fun.
You can learn more about the game by paying a visit to the official website.