The long-rumored sequel to Final Fantasy XIII-2 has finally been announced, but it isn’t quite Final Fantasy XIII-3. In fact, it’s something much different.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is the final entry in the “Lightning Saga,” the trilogy of games containing Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII-2. The story directly picks up from the end of the previous title; hundreds of years following the end of XIII-2, Lightning awakens on a series of connected islands called Novus Partus, featuring locales built around the concepts of “gothic, mechanical and fantasy.” While most other story details have yet to be revealed, the game spans a thirteen-day period counting down to the end of the world, which Lightning is attempting to prevent.
In a sense, Lightning Returns takes a page from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, as time is constantly ticking against Lightning. However, her actions in the game – defeating enemies, namely – can allow her to regain time. Conversely, however, certain other actions can greatly fast-forward time, which can make completing the game more difficult.
Speaking of combat, the overall gameplay in Lightning Returns has received a massive overhaul from Final Fantasy XIII-2. While combat still revolves around an active-time gauge of sorts, it isn’t as segmented as in previous Final Fantasy XIII titles. As Lightning is the sole playable character in the game, players can control her movement in and out of battle, and can map attacks to the controller’s face buttons, allowing instant use of actions so long as the required time is available. Outside of battle, the game is an open-world adventure title, deviating from the linearity seen in Final Fantasy XIII and, to an extent, XIII-2. Players will roam Novus Partus and come across various locales, including traditional RPG-style towns and dungeons. While exploring, Lightning is able to climb obstacles, take cover behind objects, and jump across pits, offering a level of control never seen in a Final Fantasy title before. Players can also give Lightning new weapons and equipment to use, which will visually appear on her in-game.
The story may be a continuation of the previous two Final Fantasy XIII titles, but the gameplay in Lightning Returns is different not just from those games, but from previous Final Fantasy releases in general in that instead of sifting through menus for attacks, players can take full control of Lightning’s actions; the game looks to be yet another example of Final Fantasy reimagining itself every few years. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII releases in 2013 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.