Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

Opinion: Lightning Returns is by far the best 'XIII' game

4:00 PM on 02.11.2014 // Chris Carter

Lightning strikes thrice

I wasn't a fan of Final Fantasy XIII.

I felt like in many ways it was a step back for the franchise, and the cast wasn't nearly as charming as Square Enix thought it was. But with XIII-2, I partially warmed up to the series, as it slowly but surely injected that classic Final Fantasy charm of old. It embraced the silliness factor, had a less confusing (but ultimately still confusing) story, and crazy bits like Mog and Chocolina only added to its allure.

Somehow, Lightning Returns has dialed it up a bit, adding in insane elements like the Lady Gaga-esque Moogle suit, more Chocolina, and a story that actually makes sense. For that reason and many more, it's my favorite of the trio.

The XIII brand has gotten less serious with each game, to its benefit:

XIII was too serious for its own good. Although many games in the franchise still maintain an air of dread, there's always a string of comedic elements to help break the tension. Final Fantasy VI had Umaro and Chupon. VII had Cait Sith and the Golden Saucer. X had that silly laughing scene (maybe not the greatest example) and X-2 was just silly all around.

But after watching 40 hours of Lightning being the most stoic hero on the planet, it made me want to bang my head against a wall. In Lightning Returns, she gets the chance to let loose a bit, and break free from her typical conventions. While I wouldn't say she really changes all that much at her core, she does go through some ordeals that shake up what we're used to seeing out of her that I won't spoil here.

I mean, the selection of costumes alone ensures that you'll crack a smile or two while you're playing it.

Lightning Returns has a real ending, with no DLC needed:

While you could debate the finality of XIII's conclusion, XIII-2 did the despicable deed of forcing players to buy DLC to get "the extra ending." For brand new unknown and unproven IPs like Asura's Wrath it's a little more understandable (kind of), but for a storied franchise like Final Fantasy that's known for providing complete stories, it's inexcusable.

With Lightning Returns though, you're getting the full story, with one true ending. You'll also find the vast majority of the cast from XIII and XIII-2, all of whom get a real resolution without any sort of "to be continued" nonsense.

The story overall also makes a whole lot more sense, and the characters you may have hated before (Hope) are a lot more tolerable, and even likable. The general gist of the narrative is that Lightning has been deemed "the savior," and needs to rescue as many souls as possible before the end of the world. It doesn't get a whole lot crazier from there, and the words "Fal'Cie" and "La'Cie" are only uttered a few times in passing.

If you can grasp the concept of a divine struggle and lost souls, you'll follow Lightning Returns just fine, without the need to read a Wiki synopsis multiple times or watch a recap video.

The pacing is flexible, and there's actual exploration involved:

One of my least favorite parts of XIII was the incredibly poor sense of pacing. When it takes you 20 hours of tunnels to reach "the real game world," there's a problem. Lightning Returns offers up a "timer" before the end of the world that keeps you on your toes, but it's not nearly as bad as you may think, since the game basically gives you free reign to explore right off the bat.

The timer is always there, but it's not nearly as restrictive as say, Dead Rising. By doing quests, Lightning can extend the lifespan of the world all the way up to 14 days, which is more than enough time to do pretty much anything you want (I beat the game and did a good chunk of sidequests in eight days). You only need around 15-20 hours of "experience" to take on the final boss, so provided that you've done the five core story quests to unlock the final chapter, you can just advance time and skip to the finale (be sure to have a separate save file just in case though).

In that sense, Lightning Returns is tailored to your skill and comfort level. If you want to jump into the gigantic Wildlands that feels like it's straight out of the sprawling world of Final Fantasy XIV, you can do that. If you'd rather explore the streets of Yusnaan and do some more low key quests first, you can do that too. Although you will need to level up a bit to experience all of the content the game has to offer, the ability to jump around all four major hubs at will is a welcome addition to this historically linear sub-franchise.

It's challenging, and the combat system is engaging:

Although XIII-2 was a step up in many regards, it was also a very easy game. Lighting Returns is not. In fact, if you play on Normal out of the gate, it's one of the hardest Final Fantasy games ever made (seriously). If you don't kit out your costumes and take the time to learn the nuances of combat, you're going to get rocked -- and that's before you even square off against some of the game's punishing bosses.

The combat system rewards you for acting quickly, and every reaction can be made in less than a second. With three schemas to switch between during each fight, you can queue up actions with one magic based costume, and while the spell is doing its work, quickly switch to another costume to initiate a juggle, then switch to a third to throw up some buffs.

As the game goes on and the bosses get tougher and tougher, the combat only gets more rewarding. There will be times where you'll get beaten to a pulp, and feel compelled to run away until Lightning is stronger. It's a natural, welcome feeling that's often missing from games these days.

It's not perfect, but I'm a fan:

Lightning Returns still has flaws. Many of the quests on offer are fetch oriented, or otherwise shallow affairs that may not compel you to do everything the game has to offer. While it is challenging, some may view the difficulty as unfair in a few parts of the game, and it does take a while to really understand all of its intricacies, almost to a fault.

But for those who keep at it, they'll find a wonderful action game buried within Lightning Returns' RPG veneer. It's fast, it's frantic, and best of all -- it actually makes sense this time around, without forcing a cast of annoying characters down you're throat. If this is how XIII finally ends, I'm perfectly okay with that.

Chris Carter, Reviews Director
 Follow Blog + disclosure DtoidChris Tips
Chris (Magnalon) has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff! -----------... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!

Top 5 Reasons Star Wars Battlefront KICKS ASS!

Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Little Slice of Childhood

Top 5 Reasons Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 IS AWESOME!

Cblogs of 11/26/15 + Combat Heropon-isms

Video games go mainstream

I’m Not a SJW, I’m an Anthropologist: Making the Case for Diversity in Games

Insidia REVIEW - A whole dark, gloomy, and kinda creepy world to explore

DS REVIEWS: Trace Memory

Things I'm Thankful For

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

ChrisHannard avatarChrisHannard
Fallout 4 wouldn't be Fallout with ridiculous glitches and shenanigans. Here are a few I've run into - [youtube][/youtube]
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
I've never earnestly went drinking before so it's cool to know I'm the slow, sleepy, impaired type.
The Dyslexic Laywer avatarThe Dyslexic Laywer
Got to admit I didn't expect to find a mewtwo amiibo at my bookstore of all places...
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
My cousin found out I slept with his girlfriend and is pissed. Understandable. I am totally sick of the angry phone calls though. It reminds me so much of playing Call of Duty online. The screaming 11 year olds suck on there too.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Huh. Apparently even Japan has a Black Friday sale going on on PSN right now.
Lawman avatarLawman
Yes, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, I know that somebody has 2,625 more medallions than me. No, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, I don't really care.
Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
This fucking Bloodborne DLC, jesus. I'm on new game+, about level 90, and shit just tears my dick off. I don't know if I want to start another guy just to avoid NG+ and level him up, etc. sigh....
Shinta avatarShinta
Wii U, top selling black friday item on Take that you anti-Wii U people.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
I am pretty hyped for when I get a laptop because I'll be able to have a good enough connection to stream XbOne/soon PS4 games to it along with natively rendered Steam games. Hype!
Avoclefo avatarAvoclefo
Got a PS4 that came with SW Battlefront this week, and planning on picking up the FFX/X-2 remake. Hype is through the roof, especially for FFX. If I were to get one other game, what should it be?
Niero Desu avatarNiero Desu
Did a google maps search around my parents house for bars and there isn't one in like 25 miles, so I picked up an Intel compute stick and South Park: Stick of Truth on Steam. That's more or less the drunken screaming I'm in the mood for at about the cost.
OrochiLeona avatarOrochiLeona
Do you ever have that moment of clarity when talking to someone and suddenly realising: You're just a skull, and they're just a skull, with fucking eyeballs and a sac of skin being the only comparative difference between you visually? ..just me then?
Nathan D avatarNathan D
After quitting for two days out of frustration, I beat Ludwig on my first try of the night. I'm on cloud fucking nine right now.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
When I did my retail shift today, we were moving more Smash/Splat Wii U bundles and the Gears/Rare Replay/Ori XB1 bundles than Uncharted and Battlefront PS4s. I think Nintendo and MS have better value on their side this holiday. Sony got lazy.
Confuseddalek avatarConfuseddalek
I found this weird game called Samurai Heroes for 8 dollars today. Its not bad.
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
Got Deadpool, Arkham Asylum and BioShock 1 and 2 all for 30$. Not to bad for going Black Friday shopping late.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
If you haven't played Tales from the Borderlands yet, GO BUY IT! By far the funniest game I have ever played, and the characters and narrative are incredibly well written. Very few memes unlike BL2 by the way.
James Internet Ego avatarJames Internet Ego
Played all of Life is Strange today in one sitting. Bloody hell. You should all play it. Only game this year to make me cry. Bravo developers. Possibly the most valuable thing I've ever bought for £10.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Last night, got farther than ever in Wasteland 2. This is my third playthrough-once thru beta, once through the orig version, now on Directors cut. Worth the restart, and it speaks highly of the game that I like it enough to do this. DAMONTA HERE I COME!
KeithTheGeek avatarKeithTheGeek
GUYS HELP I KEEP BUYING MORE AMIIBO. Today it was Little Mac, since he went back up on Gamestop's website. I probably would have gotten Captain Falcon as well if I wasn't already running a little short on cash.
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -