Final Fantasy XIII has been an interesting experiment in the Final Fantasy franchise. The first game was as straightforward a game as could be, while Final Fantasy XIII-2 was a pretty wide open experience that added monster collecting and an interesting take on time travel. Now we're reaching the end of the Lightning Saga, and it looks to be the most radical departure from the classic Final Fantasy experience yet. I got a chance to go through the short demo for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
during the show today, and I have to say I'm way more excited now than when the game was first announced.
Lightning is the sole party member this time around, so it's more of a solo gig, and that's fine, it suits Lightning well. It also works canonically and I'll stop there to avoid saying anything spoiler-y. So now how can Lightning fulfill all the roles a party is normally comprised of? By changing clothes of course! In a move reminiscent of Final Fantasy X-2, Lightning can now change her class with a quick wardrobe change. For the demo she had access to a Sorceress role, a Heavy Knight, and her standard class. Each class offered a different set of skills that are mapped to the face buttons, so Thunder would be mapped to triangle, defend is mapped to square, attack is mapped to circle, and Gale Strike is mapped to circle. Using any of these attacks will drain the ATB meter, which slowly refills over time. While it refills you can swap costumes and use the ATB meter for that costume to make more attacks. It's surprisingly snappy and responsive and works perfectly for the fast paced nature of the game.
The brief demo had me chasing Snow through a rather baroque looking building that was bubbling with chaos, which seems to be an unknown entity at this time. There was also a girl named Lumina who looked a lot like Serah, which I'm sure there's a pretty good reason for that. Unfortunately after running in to her and fighting the massive boss she summoned, the demo was abruptly ended. But that last fight is quite interesting as it introduced the Overdrive system. This allows Lightning to tap in to a large pool of ATB that can be spent however you want. While using the Heavy Knight, her Heavy Slash attack deals a great amount of damage but eats up a ton of the ATB gauge. Using Overdrive mode however, she can launch the attack a few times in succession.
With a current launch date of late 2013, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
is looking like it'll be a great addition to the franchise. These radical changes in gameplay between versions is certainly doing the game some favors, because this new battle system has me really intrigued, and after that cliffhanger ending from Final Fantasy XIII-2 I am eager to see how this story wraps up.