Review: Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII - New Sequel, Same Issues

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII revolves around time. With the end of the world approaching, Lightning – the Saviour and servant of God – must save as many souls as possible. In 13 days when the time expires and the old-world ends, a new-world is reborn for the souls. The game encourages time management, yet it often wastes yours. Lightning Returns surrounds a creative battle system with fetch quests and overwritten conversations, which slow an already time restrictive structure. 

Instead of leveling through combat, Lightning Returns buffs your character through quests. Even though quests send you on monotonous item hunts, their stat rewards make them too important to skip. Most quests also lack appropriate context. One main quest requires Lightning to obtain a dress to disguise herself in a play. To obtain that dress, you fight in a three-tier gauntlet against monsters. I wouldn’t street race cars to win a wedding cake topper. It doesn’t make any sense.

During quests, stiff NPC dialogue and overlapping sounds ruin your adventure. NPCs and supporting characters never stop talking. Hope – Lightning’s in-ear guide – comments on every single conversation, quest and event. He leaves no room for you to think for yourself. Then during cut scenes, endless monologues and cliché filled dialogue drags on for minutes. Phrases like, “Like a nightmare you couldn’t wake up from,” and “I guess I should have pulled my punches,” add nothing. As characters speak, nearby NPCs blab at full volume. In Yusnaan, a main city, an overhead speaker blares the exact same announcement non-stop the entire time.

The poor sound and quest design detracts from the creative combat system. As you control Lightning, Garb – the clothes she wears - changes her abilities. If the enemy’s weakness is fire, change to one of three Garbs with a fire spell. The hybrid of turn-based and real-time combat keeps the fights fast and flowing. Although the Garb welcomes flexibility and creativity, difficulty spikes and quest leveling diminishes the point of combat.  

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII continues the series trend of using stiff dialogue to tell an incoherent story. Even if you ignore the story and its characters, it's the quests objectives, level design and other systems ruining the combat. The last entry in the Final Fantasy XIII series ends like it began – frustrating and forgettable.