Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 Review: Lightning Strike-Out

With your abilities being mapped to buttons rather than buried in menus, Lighting Returns allows combat to be much more reactive. Players can now guard against an enemy’s attack with a simple press of a button, and with good timing, even mitigate most of the damage. A new evasive maneuver allows Lightning to roll to a monster’s backside to potentially deliver some extra damage. All of these additions are great and add an extra layer of skill to an already challenging battle system.

Not everything is perfect, though. Sometimes, the more extravagant spell effects can obscure your view of your enemies, making it hard to read what they’re going to do. This can be alleviated somewhat by switching the camera mode to the far view, but it doesn’t totally fix the issue and you sacrifice some of the spectacle of the battle.

One aspect of the combat that I’m a bit torn on is the actual reward for defeating standard enemies. As mentioned before, there is no leveling up system in Lightning Returns, which means you don’t earn experience from winning battles. Instead, all you earn is usually a meager amount of gold, a fraction of an energy point, an item that only has worth if a quest giver is looking for it, and an ability that you can equip on one of your schemata.

Obviously, this dramatically reduces the importance of standard battles against monsters that spawn in the field, and on one hand, this is actually kind of nice. Since defeating monsters is no longer directly tied to your character’s progression, it allows you to avoid battles without feeling like you’re missing out on valuable experience. But on the other hand, there are times when you’ll get into a battle against several tough enemies, barely make it out alive, and then have basically nothing to show for it. It feels like a better balance could have been achieved.

The extra abilities that you earn can eventually be upgraded to make them stronger, but unless you have some sort of strategy guide or wiki to tell you which enemies drop the abilities you’re looking to improve, and also which enemies drop the mailstones required to perform the upgrade, chances are good that you’re going to be hoarding a lot of useless abilities that you can’t do anything with.

Finally, let’s talk about those costumes. As mentioned earlier, part of customizing your schemata is choosing a garb, of which there are more than 80. Each garb comes with its own stat increases and abilities that are locked to that piece of clothing. For example, if you decide to use the Velvet Bouncer garb — and you should because it’s very good — you’ll be stuck with a level 2 blitz mapped to the “Y” button and must set your other three abilities around it.

It’s always exciting when you get a new garb because many of them are throwbacks to older Final Fantasy games, and others are just simply awesome-looking, but you run into the classic problem of stats outweighing aesthetics. Many of the cooler-looking costumes just pale in comparison to what I had been using for a majority of the game, which was a bit of a bummer.

It should also be noted that some of the costumes that you can put on Lightning are just so far outside of the realm of what the character would ever conceivably wear. It’s a bit of a tough pill to swallow seeing her still come off as the cold and stoic badass while wearing an outfit that looks like it belongs in Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball. Things get even more ridiculous when you start dressing her up with purely cosmetic adornment, like an anime-style Lightning mask, complete with unblinking anime eyes.

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6 Comments on Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 Review: Lightning Strike-Out

Michael

On February 11, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Alright I will say this only once. Square Enix RPGs are getting worse and worse. They are never going to pull off a successful RPG’s the likes that have been done in the 90′s. They just keep damaging a product that’s already been damage once too many times. This is by far one of the worst Final Fantasy games ever made. Why would they keep adding content to this horrible game? They had to redo FF14 which was a waste of time, money and resources. They are releasing FFX and X2 HD soon which in fact will probably sell better than all there recent games put together. What they need to do is go back to the old formula of RPG’s. They really need to play and understand what made those games awesome and what makes there games garbage. Then and only then will they start releasing great RPGs.

SupremeAllah

On February 11, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Hey Mike, if you want a good SquareEnix RPG, look towards Bravely Default. Just came out last week on 3DS, and is basically a traditional Final Fantasy game. It is very good.

chase

On March 3, 2014 at 9:57 am

so tired of haters. the game is not that bad, the story is not that bad. I don’t understand where the hate comes from. Time moves on, not every game can be final fantasy 6 or 7. Many people like more action oriented gameplay. IMO final fantasy 15 looks to be the BEST GAME THEY HAVE EVER RELEASED. from the story, graphics, and gameplay I have seen to me it looks like it could beat every final fantasy ever in terms of quality. So that would make their games getting better, not worse. Final fantasy 13 was the first final fantasy in the current age of gaming, consider it a test if you will, for the absolute MASTERPIECE that final fantasy 15 will be. All three final fantasy 13′s are worth playing while you wait on that GEM of a game to come out ;)

Hyren

On March 3, 2014 at 12:04 pm

@chase – I hope you’re right, because FF13 was awful. Completely linear and unintuitive gameplay, nonsensical story with no relateable or sympathetic characters etc. It’s not just a case of liking the older games better, it was a shallow and tedious experience even ignoring the history of the franchise.

Sephiroth

On March 13, 2014 at 12:57 pm

I think that this game is ok, 3.5/5 maybe. The best thing about the game is the battle system, Ive only seen this in FFX-2, but not nearly as customizable as LRFF13. The clock is your worst enemy in this game, but once you beat the game the first time, you start a New Game+, and as long as you have somewhat of a decent memory its much easier. I ended up getting almost all of the side quests done within the first 8 days, the other 5 I had were used to explore and collect Canvas of Prayers objects. I agree with most that it could have been much better of a game, but it could also be a lot worse.

wolfe

On April 14, 2014 at 2:32 pm

@Chase, you’re a totally a moron… We know back in the days how Final Fantasy game was, do research.