The final chapters of the online released novel Final Fantasy XIII Reminiscence ~ Tracer of Memories ~ came out with new screens featuring Caius Ballad and Lightning. The online novel features events between Lightning Returns’ ending and epilogue, depicting the new lives of the main characters. There has been no word yet on any official translation plans of the novel. You can view the older screens here.
The Famitsu editor shared a teaser picture from the upcoming issue on his Twitter account. The picture is slightly blurred and features Lightning in her Duelist garb from Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.
He adds the following text to the picture: “This is not a new game, but whaaat!?” Where the official Lightning Room account replies “The story of Lightning has been completed, but please be excited because this is a little surprise.”
What could this new Lightning Returns-related content possibly be? New DLC? A developer interview? A hint of upcoming surprise at E3? Definitive Edition for PS4/XBOX ONE?
More information coming next week! Keep your eyes peeled.
UPDATED: Hayashi made another tweet stating that the earlier tweet was slightly misleading. It will be “just” a Final Fantasy XIII article. The content of the article still remains unknown, which is why there might be something very interesting and cool for the fans. Still, it’s likely related to the game development or even the contests outfits which were chosen a few months ago.
We’re very honored to finally release our special interview with Language! The band consists of Kaori (Vocal), Yosuke Kakegawa (Guitar/Computer) and Naoyuki Honzama (Bass/Computer). You may know them from their earlier music, but also from “Ouroboros Festival” song in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. As our very own Johnny sat down with Language, they discussed: Who are Language, what’s up with their new music and how did working on Lightning Returns feel.
Meanwhile reading this interview, I highly recommend pressing play from the Red Single player, which is located in the sidebar!
Johnny: What does ”Language” mean?
We named our band “Language” because it’s something essential to communicate
with someone including yourself inside even if it’s unspoken or unwritten. We like this idea. (Yosuke)
Johnny: How did you end up working together?
We met each other through recording projects in which three of us were involved a decade ago, then worked together on a few one-off programmes. And we finally decided to form the band in 2009. (Kaori)
Johnny: What do you try to reach with your music in general? What’s your message?
We would like people to feel our music first, rather than interpret what we meant. (Kaori)
It would be nice if we could share our feelings or impression about this world with our listeners, since we all are on the same train. I feel there should be admiration rather than just a message in the song. It”s like a feeling “I can’t believe that we are living in this world”. (Yosuke)
THE RGB SERIES
This Spring, Language is releasing brand new music from the RGB Series. The first part of the series, the Red Single, is out now worldwide, and you can buy it from here. More new music is coming as soon as this month, so let’s talk about what’s coming and what kind of release the RGB Series actually is!
Johnny: So, what’s the concept of the RGB Series?
It’s a series of three digital single releases which consists of Red Single, Green Single and Blue Single, six tracks in total. (Yosuke)
Johnny: What’s the new direction?
Maybe it’s a sort of rebound from our previous album, to start using more synthesizers? (Kaori)
On the RGB Series, we wanted to feature classic synthesizer sounds from late 70’s and 80’s fused into modern tracks. Particular synth sounds have been attracting us lately, so we have planned to release some singles to present our intuition immediately via some download sites. (Yosuke)
Johnny: How do Red, Green and Blue singles differ from each other?
The tracks on the Red Single concern some sort of literary-ish matters, like “existence”, and the Green Single is more about smaller feelings in everyday life. We are still working on the Blue one at the moment. (Yosuke)
Johnny: Talking about Red Single, can you explain more about Silencia and Soft Moment? What are they about?
There could be two mysterious feelings when you experience the uncertainty of reality. One could be the confusion in Silencia and the other one could be the pleasure in Soft Moment. The lyrics were set like quotations from a journal written by an unknown person. (Yosuke)
Johnny: What’s the biggest difference between your past work (Magure and Northern Lights, for example) and RGB Series?
The biggest difference is that the RGB series is a project based on releasing singles, which is a first for us. But it might not be as different from our past albums as we initially thought because we planned to release them three months in a row. It feels like we are working on an EP or a mini album, contents-wise. Since it is the first time we are doing these download-only releases, it obviously affects us more. Releasing singles at a fast pace should be a good aspect as well. (Yosuke)
Johnny: Has your past work taught you anything that helped when creating the RGB Series?
Yes, we think the RGB series is an extension of our past works, contextually. Though, we want to keep being open-minded for new things at the same time. (Yosuke)
Johnny: What are you future plans with the RGB Series? Touring? New music videos?
We are planning to make the live recording movies of Green and Blue single as well and playing some gigs to promote the tracks on RGB Series in May and June. (Yosuke)
LANGUAGE AND LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII
Last year, Language collaborated with Mitsuto Suzuki on Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack. Together they created a song called “Ouroboros Festival”. Let’s take a look behind the scenes and how did the recording and production sessions go!
Johnny: How did you and Mitsuto Suzuki end up working together?
We have known each other for a long time. He was my first musician friend at the music production company, where I, he, and Yosuke belonged. (Naoyuki)
Johnny: How did you feel, working together on that project?
It was exciting! We visited his office and watched the highly confidential movie, which was still in production, to catch up with the project. (Naoyuki)
Johnny: How did the production and recording of the song go?
We worked as remixer, but Language is a band, so we tried to add our own taste to the track, including Kaori’s vocal and its melody lines, which Mitsuto expected as well. We played and recorded southern Asian percussions as well, because he asked us if we could blend an ethnic atmosphere into our music when he came over to our studio. After we had recorded the final track, which was the vocal part, we went out to celebrate it together. (Naoyuki)
Johnny: Did it differ from your own music production?
Yes in a way, and it was fun and refreshing to collaborate with other musicians we like. (Yosuke)
Johnny: Would you like to be featured in the upcoming Final Fantasy games?
Yes, we would. (Naoyuki)
Why not? I would be excited to sing in the track for beautiful visuals like this time.
It’s kind of a rare experience, too. I was so glad when I watched the result. (Kaori)
Johnny: Thank you so much for the interview, Language! As a closing, do you have any regards you would like to send for our readers?
We’ve received lots of warm messages from the readers of Square Portal thanks to the opportunity we had to work on Lightning Returns. Thank you guys so much! And thank you so much, Johnny at Square Portal, for your strong support! It would be wonderful, if you guys enjoyed our music in the game and hopefully our own releases as well! (Kaori)
Domo arigato! (All)
We are very excited to reveal that Language will be releasing a brand new single this Wednesday! Not only that – Their new album will be out this year!
The new single will be called “Red Single” and it contains two brand new songs: “Silencia” and “Soft Moments“. The Red Single is the first release of Language‘s “RGB Series“, which consist of six tracks released in three digital single albums: Red, Green and Blue. ‘Green Single‘ and ‘Blue Single‘ will be out late May and June 2014.
As said, RED SINGLE will be out on iTunes on Wednesday! It will be possible to pick it up from their Bandcamp page as well! We will be sharing links to the music release once available!
Square Enix has updated the official Japanese Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy Curtain Call website. The latest update contains even more samples, and an updated version of the tracklist. Now they have revealed tracks coming from Final Fantasy spin-offs and sequels such as Lightning Returns, FFVII: Advent Children, FFX-2 and Dissidia.
Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy Curtain Call will be out in Japan on 24th April. The western release timing remains unknown.
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (Mystic Quest Legend)
- Battle 1 (BMS)
- Battle 2 (BMS)
Final Fantasy Tactics
- Trisection (BMS)
- Antipyretic (BMS)
- Ultema The Nice Body (BMS)
- Prologue Movie (FMS)
- Bland Logo ~ Title Back (EMS)
Final Fantasy X-2
- Yuripa, Fight! No. 1 (BMS)
- “Let Me Blow You a Kiss.” (BMS)
- Their Resting Place (BMS)
- The Farplane Abyss (FMS)
- We’re the Gullwings! (FMS)
- 1000 Words (FFX-2 Mix) (EMS)
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
- Monsters’ Dance ~Rondo~ (BMS)
- Unite, Descent (BMS)
- This Is The End For You! (BMS) (de FFCC: The Crystal Bearers)
- Kaze no ne (FMS)
- Across the Divide (FMS)
- Moonless Starry Night (EMS)
Final Fantasy VII Advent Children
- Let the Battles Begin! (Piano Version) (BMS)
- Divinity II (BMS)
- J-E-N-O-V-A (FFVII AC Version) (BMS)
- Cloud Smiles (FMS)
- Advent: One-Winged Angel (EMS)
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
- Encounter (BMS)
- The SOLDIER Way (BMS)
- The Price of Freedom (BMS)
- Timely Ambush (from FFVII “Let the Battles Begin!”) (FMS)
- A Flower Blooming in the Slums (from FFVII “Aerith’s Theme”) (FMS)
- CRISIS CORE Theme – Succession (EMS)
Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon
- Theme of Dungeon Hero X (BMS)
- Raffaello Battle (BMS)
- Guardian of Darkness 2 (BMS)
Dissidia: Final Fantasy
- The Troops’ Advance (BMS)
- The Decisive Battle – arrange – (BMS)
- DISSIDIA – ending – (BMS)
- DISSIDIA FINAL FANTASY [FINAL TRAILER] (BMS)
- Keeping the Peace (FMS)
Dissidia 012: Final Fantasy
- Cantata Mortis (BMS)
- DISSIDIA 012[duodecim] FINAL FANTASY [FINAL TRAILER] (BMS)
- Gate to the Rift (FMS)
- Lux Concordiae (EMS)
Final Fantasy Type-0
- War: Warrior Worth a Thousand (BMS)
- War: The White Weapon (BMS)
- Vermilion Fire (BMS)
- We Have Come (EMS)
- The Earth Under Our Feet (FMS)
- Soar (FMS)
- Tempus Finis (FMS)
Final Fantasy XIII-2
- The Last Hunter (BMS)
- Etro’s Champion (BMS)
- Heart of Chaos (BMS)
- Historia Crux (FMS)
- Groovy Chocobo (FMS)
- Eclipse (FMS)
- Noel’s Theme – Final Journey – (FMS)
- Warrior Goddess (EMS)
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
- Crimson Blitz (BMS)
- Chaos (BMS)
- Lightning Returns (BMS)
- The Glittering City of Yusnaan (FMS)
- The Dead Dunes (FMS)
- Savior of Souls (EMS)
Thanks to our French friends at FFWorld for making the original translation.
Quite some time ago Square Enix launched a DeviantArt contest on designing a garb for Lightning in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. Three winners were personally chosen by Tetsuya Nomura himself, and today Square Enix revealed his very own sketches of the winners’ designs! What an honor! View them all close-up below.
Congratulations everyone! We’ve unlocked the Helter Skelter garb for free (which is very expensive in-game) through achieving the goal of making enough Outerworld posts for the first challenge. See it in action below (via Square Enix Europe):
To acquire it in the game, make sure that you turn on your Outerworld Services in the settings and keep an eye out for the NPC named @LRFF13. Read their message and unlock the garb in the Rewards Barter Shop in the main menu.
The next Outerworld challenge has now officially begun as well! We will have to reach a total of 250 000 Outerworld posts by March 7 to unlock the garb Duelist.
The world is sinking into a sea of chaos, and in thirteen days, nothing will remain. After centuries in crystal stasis, a hero has awoken – a legendary warrior on a god-given mission to save the souls of mankind.
Her name: Lightning.
Blessed with incredible strength and an arsenal of new weapons, she has everything she needs for the coming battle. Everything except time. And now she must make impossible choices…
How will you spend your final days?
LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII is out now for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 – WORLDWIDE.
GET THE FACEBOOK APP: http://sqex.to/NRZ
Love is in the air in the realm of Eorzea in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn as the seasonal event of Valentione’s Day is just around the corner!
- Tuesday, February 4 at 12:00 a.m. to Monday, February 17 at 6:59 a.m. (PST)
- Tuesday, February 4 at 8:00 to Monday, February 17 at 14:59 (GMT)
Lightning Strikes Twice Event
Lightning returns in the realm of Eorzea to match up with the English release of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. It will have the exact same chapters that were featured in the first event back in November, so if you missed it then don’t worry!
- From Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 12:00 a.m. to Monday, February 24, 2014 at 6:59 a.m. (PST)
- From Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 8:00. to Monday, February 24, 2014 at 14:59 (GMT)
*Only US and Canadian residents are eligible.
By simply pre-ordering the Collector’s Edition of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, you will be automatically entered to have the chance to win amazing prizes! If you didn’t have a reason to pre-order before, take this chance now!
ONE GRAND PRIZE WINNER WILL RECEIVE:
- A LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII ONE-OF-A-KIND CUSTOM CONSOLE OF YOUR CHOICE – PLAYSTATION®3 OR XBOX 360
- A COPY OF FINAL FANTASY XIII AND FINAL FANTASY XIII-2 FOR THE PLATFORM OF YOUR CHOICE (PS3 OR XBOX 360), TO COMPLETE THE TRILOGY
- A LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII COLLARED, BUTTON-DOWN SHIRT
- A LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII LOGO EMBLEM KEYCHAIN
13 SECOND PRIZE WINNERS WILL RECEIVE THE SHIRT AND KEYCHAIN!
The “Sweepstakes Period” has began on January 24th at 12:01 am PST, and will end on February 11th at 11:59 pm PST (The “deadline”). ENTRIES MUST BE SUBMITTED BY THE DEADLINE TO BE ELIGIBLE TO WIN A PRIZE.
Winners will be randomly selected on or February 17th. Winners will be notified through their online Square Enix account on or about the same day (the “Notification Package”).
BE SURE TO READ MORE ABOUT THE RULES HERE.
The third anniversary week of Square Enix is coming to its end tomorrow but surprises keep arriving here. Earlier this week Microsoft accidentally leaked the demo of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII that a few lucky ones managed to download. The demo also included a brand new trailer which you can view below!
The lucky people have uploaded gameplay videos from the English demo online. You can view the whole demo below and enjoy Ali Hillis’ and other casts’ amazing work on Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. 27 DAYS LEFT!
We have less than a month until the release of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII! Jump in the hype train and check out this new batch of screens Square Enix just released.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is due to come out in February 11th in North America and February 14th in Europe.
“Inside The Square” gives a first-ever video look inside the team bringing LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII to reality, where the talented development team members give insights into the creation of the game.
LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII will be available for the Xbox 360® and PlayStation®3 next year in the 11th of February in North America and on the 14th in the same month in Europe and PAL territories.
To celebrate the release of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII in Japan, Square Enix has released a short trailer featuring the game’s environments and main characters.
Siliconera has spoken with producer Yoshinori Kitase on how the characters have developed in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, along with some decisions taken into consideration while making the game.
If the theme of Final Fantasy XIII is breaking away from an unjust fate and the theme of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is quite different. Why did you center the story around salvation?
Yoshinori Kitase, Producer: Throughout the Final Fantasy XIII series, we told the story of the conflict between a god-given fate, and the people who struggle against that fate. With this last installment, we kept consistent with that theme of fighting against destiny, but Lightning will be depicted as a savior who will rescue souls of the people in this dying world. Lightning will act as a servant of god, and she is sure to rescue her own self from the pain she hides in her heart, through rescuing people. Please look forward to finding out what happens when she gets there.
How have Lightning and Snow changed as a character between Final Fantasy XIII to Lightning Returns? Snow, in particular, seems far from the impulsive hero he was in XIII.
After the events of Final Fantasy XIII-2, the world is consumed by Chaos and the end begins to draw near. In this installment, a few hundred years have passed since then, although people have stopped aging. Lightning has been asleep inside a crystal, and her heart is still pure; however, people like Snow and Noel, or any of her old allies lived through all those years while shouldering the burden of causing harm to the world, or not being able to protect the ones they loved the most. Just like the Chaos consumed the world, darkness has burrowed into their hearts as centuries passed by them. Snow is no longer an optimistic hero, instead, he finds himself struggling with all his might to keep himself from falling apart from the sadness of losing Serah. Lightning’s first mission is to save Snow.
It seems like most of the returning characters from Final Fantasy XIII have sad stories. Sazh is coping with his son’s condition, Mog’s village is under attack, and Noel is consumed by Chaos. Why are all of the stories for the returning characters a downer? Is it because Lightning is fighting for their salvation?
This installment takes place in Nova Chrysalia, a world that is faced with a sad and imminent end. People that reside in this world are constantly reminded of the darkness of Chaos that would be brought forth by death, while they continue to live in a world where they have stopped aging. The worldview and the base of the story have a sad tone, but because of that, the fact that Lightning is going to save people will lead to the hope of a new world. Of course, with the side quests, not all of it would have a sad tone, either; you will be able to see a range of scenes, from Lightning and the townspeople’s everyday lives to cute moments as well, so we hope you look forward to that.
Can you tell us more about Fang, Vanille, and Caius’s roles?
At the end of Final Fantasy XIII, Fang and Vanille became encapsulated in giant crystal pillars that held Cocoon up. 13 years before the beginning of Lightning Returns, they awake from that state. They were being protected as people who hold the fate of the world by the Order of Salvation, worshippers of the god Bhunivelze. What their roles are, and what happened in the 13 years they’ve been awake will be disclosed within the narrative of this installment.
No one knew the whereabouts of Caius, or whether he was even alive, after the previous installment; however, he can be found at a place called “temple of the goddess” from Valhalla, which appeared on the largest continent of the Wildlands. The Wildlands is what once was the center of Gran Pulse, as well as where the Chaos from Valhalla, the world of death, first appeared at the end of Final Fantasy XIII-2. Why he continues to live on, and the truth behind a certain mystery left at the end of Final Fantasy XIII-2, will be told through the story of this installment.
Why did you change the battle system to focus on Lightning and where did the idea for the “wear” system develop from? What kinds of new attacks or magic with Lightning have in this game aside from the Overclock ability?
Apparently, there were many gamers that found the battle system of the Final Fantasy XIII series to be difficult to understand. So while I kept the thought process behind the strategy of the battle, I wanted to make it a bit easier to see what the player should be thinking and to have a direct response to that, and that’s how the idea of having one playable character came about.
In terms of the various garb, there was always a request from the development team to be able to change the look of the characters when their roles switched; at the same time, some system memory resources opened up with switching to one playable character. That’s when we found a perfect match.
The concept of changing outfits didn’t come first; it naturally found its way there based on the compatibility between how the game mechanics were set up.
With regard to obtaining abilities:
Anything that requires depletion of EP will be learned by Lightning herself
General abilities are associated with whatever garb is equipped, or obtained through item drops by monsters
There are certain garb that are based off of Final Fantasy jobs, and players can experience abilities with a slightly different feel in the way the character moves. We have already revealed the “Dragoon” garb, whose special ability is the “Lancet,” and the “Rapid Fire” ability on the Black Mage allows for the player to repeatedly cast a spell at a fast rate, so each have a very different feel.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII seems to have a lot of Final Fantasy fanservice with the Cloud costume, Yuna costume, and FFXIV wear. Why did you add these elements to Lightning Returns and can you give us a hint at any other nods to the Final Fantasy series in the game?
The White and Black Mage outfits, available as DLC in Final Fantasy XIII-2, were very well received; and there were also a lot of demand from the fans to bring back past Final Fantasy titles. These outfits were in response to that demand. With regard to the Miqo’te outfit from Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, the leaders of each project came together to make this happen since the release dates for both Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII were fairly close to each other.
What kind of consumer feedback did you take away from Final Fantasy XIII-2 that influenced the development of Lightning Returns? What did you want to do differently?
Amongst the feedback we received from people who played Final Fantasy XIII, was the desire to have more freedom in the gameplay experience. In Final Fantasy XIII-2, we expanded on that freedom by having the player create episodes in history with their own hands. Now, with this installment, we have expanded even further on that freedom by introducing a new concept we call “world-driven.” Within a world that is free to explore, we also strengthened the idea of the passage of time over a 24 hours period. Even if the player chooses not to do anything, the world around them will continue to bustle on. By actively exploring this world, the player will be able to enjoy an adventure they have never experienced before.
Being an open world game Lightning Returns is quite different from other Final Fantasy titles. How did this change the approach when planning the game and the quests? How does the world change as time passes in game?
Having an open environment heavily impacted the way we developed the world map. We placed a lot of weight on how much of the restrictions that a traditional Final Fantasy set for the sake of making the world look beautiful we can remove.
With that in mind, I also had each of the teams handling the different areas think long and hard about how we can keep players to not stray too far off track, or in other words, make it difficult to get lost.
If you never get lost, it’s no different from being linear, but if you become totally lost, then it would cause stress and frustration; I think we were able to get to a happy medium, just in between those two extremes.
In terms of creating quests within the plans, I feel that the latter, element of time, was quite a challenge. Up until now, quests in a Final Fantasy game would be a one-dimensional point within the overall flow of the story; however, with this installment, it felt like it was two-dimensional. When we were creating the quests, I asked, if it was at all possible, that we allow for different ways to get to the solution for each quest, and so the team had to struggle to make the implementation make sense.
Since Lightning Returns has a set time limit, players won’t be able to see everything in one run through the game. Will there be a new game plus mode or extra scenes players can only see in a second lap?
With only a limited amount of time left on this world and a concept of “world-driven,” in which time continues to flow in 24 hours, there are more side quests than can be completed in one playthrough. Not only that, but there are plenty of garb, weapon and armor and other gameplay elements that become unlocked when you start a “New Game+” on certain difficulty levels, and so I feel that this game ended up becoming something you can enjoy playing through multiple times. I recommend doing the first playthrough on Easy Mode, to enjoy the overall narrative. Then from the second playthrough and beyond, go into “New Game+” and try using garb and equipment you didn’t use in the first play through to find something new and interesting during battles. The more you play the game, the more you will find replay value, and so I hope you power up Lightning as far as you can go.
Lightning arrives in Eorzea in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn! This is no simple cameo, it is the one and real Lightning.
The events will run from Thursday this week, November 14, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. to Monday, December 9, 2013 at 6:59 a.m. (PST)
The story arc for this event is comprised of multiple quests that will be released at the following times:
- Chapter 1: From Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. (PST)
- Chapter 2: From Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. (PST)
- Chapter 3: From Monday, November 18, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. (PST)
- Chapter 4: From Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. (PST)
Event rewards consist of various weapons from the main characters of XIII and XIII-2, a XIII Snow Villiers gear set for male characters, and Lightning’s Guardian Corp gear set for female characters. By completing the quest “For the Winsome” players will gain access to a new hairstyle from the aesthetician scheduled for implementation in patch 2.1.
The previous chapters will remain playable as new chapters are unlocked. They cannot be completed however once the event has concluded on the 9th of December. Worry not, for it will make its return just in time for Lightning Returns’ release in the West in February 2014.
For a more comprehensive information about the event, go here.
Finland (11 November, 2013) – Today, Square Portal and FFWorld are happy to release their collaboration here. We hope you enjoy reading this preview of the Wildlands demo that was experienced by the press during Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII European demo tour. Please check out the promo video called “The Opposite” in the end of the preview as well!
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to try out the latest demo for Lightning Returns Final Fantasy XIII, exhibiting the 4th continent of the game world: the Wildlands. Here are my impressions.
The demo is set shortly after Lightning arrives in the Wildlands—a vast and natural region that bears the remnants of Gran Pulse. It is there, Hope tells us, that the Chaos from Valhalla first started to corrupt the land, but looking at the vast expanse of this quiet prairie, you wouldn’t tell the world is just a few days away from its doom. The first quest that we are presented with requires locating and saving a white chocobo, who lost its way in some old ruins on the easternmost side of the plains.
When she finally reaches the chocobo, Lightning discovers a nasty monster called the Chocobo Eater is attacking it. After a somewhat easy battle, the villagers return the white chocobo to their camp, hoping to get it back to its feet. The bird, though, refuses to eat unless Lightning is feeding it. Thus begins a new quest, where the player has to find Gysahl Greens to cure the chocobo and eventually get the chance to ride it. Unfortunately, it seems they are quite rare.
You actually cannot explore the entire Wildlands unless you have your own chocobo: as in the Archylte Steppe in FFXIII and XIII-2, some areas can only be accessed thanks to the chocobo’s wing-powered jumps. As I was not given enough time to get to that point, I decided to simply roam the land and explore some (almost) never seen before areas to the west. From that experience, I can tell you that the Wildlands are really, really huge. The central meadow only represents about 1/3 or 1/4 of the whole area, but the other parts are a bit narrower.
To the west is a nice little forest, where some paths are blocked depending on the time of the day. I was still able to explore another small camp and some clearings. As the time I was allotted began to run short, I pushed northward, past a small pond, and climbed another path that led me to a rocky area at the center of the Wildlands. It did remind me of the arid region surrounding the Taejin Tower in FFXIII, but the crystalline outcrops were a dramatic sight to be sure.
This was a pretty tour indeed, though I have to confess Lightning Returns will probably be the least impressive entry in the XIII series as far as the technical side is concerned. As a result of short development time and limited human resources, it is unfortunately very easy to notice the poor textures and scarce details in the environments. The game is by no means ugly, but it is pretty clear now the developers could not afford building an open world like Nova Chrysalia without some compromises. So be it.
But of course, the art direction is as lovely as you would expect it to be, and the Wildlands feature a picturesque palette of pastel colors. NPCs and animals such cats, dogs and (of course) sheep roam the land, thus underlining the peaceful lifestyle of the area. The soundtrack serves the same purpose, as the two daytime themes I was able to hear were gorgeous, airy orchestrated pieces somehow reminiscent of the Dragon Quest symphonic albums. In stark contrast with those, the battle themes are overflowing with energy—of course, the normal battle theme is Naoshi Mizuta’s “The Savior”, but the Chocobo Eater boss battle music is a fantastic mix of roaring electric guitar and bombastic orchestral elements. As far as art is concerned, Lightning Returns will not let you down—and yes, the soundtrack will be fantastic.
The one thing that might unsettle you is the battle system, which is much more nervous than in the two previous installments. I already had the chance to experience it in the E3 demo. At the time, I could feel how much Lightning Returns’ battle system requires a learning curve. There are many elements to familiarize yourself with, starting with the four skills each of the 3 available costumes gives you access to. Of course, the empowered action elements are at the core of the experience. But this switch doesn’t make it any less strategic, as the key to winning the most difficult fights will be good timing and decision-making.
Contrary to what you would expect, the hardest monster you can encounter in the demo was not the Chocobo Eater, but a Behemoth wandering around the same area. It was a very hectic but fun duel that made me understand how precious the Block button is. Don’t worry: there will be an easy mode for the most careful players among you. But the challenge is definitely exciting and mastering the many possibilities offered by the system will certainly be a lot of fun.
But in the end, for me, one of the most striking moments of the demo was the simple fact that I was finally able to spend some time with Lightning. After months of controversy surrounding the character’s appearance in the game, I was pleased to notice the quests involving the white chocobo revealed a more sensitive side to her. One cutscene, especially, featured a touching monologue where Lightning reflected on the chocobo’s miserable state. A new and beautiful piano piece bearing Masashi Hamauzu’s trademark style highlighted her meditation. This kind of moments is very promising for the rest of the story and shows that the game has much more to offer than lurid fan service.
Based on what I saw in the demo, Lightning Returns should feature a lot of cutscenes with quest NPCs. However, I had the feeling these cutscenes were a bit too long and talkative—fortunately, time doesn’t flow during them. Also, Hope tends to get a bit too pressing each time Lightning receives a new mission objective. Really, I was tempted to answer him “Give me a break” at some point. The developers certainly didn’t want the player to feel alone in these vast landscapes but I am afraid Hope’s frequent chatter on the radio might get slightly oppressive.
There was one thing, however, that relieved me a lot: as many of you I suppose, I was worried about the whole time flowing mechanic. Even if Motomu Toriyama’s team adjusted the game design so that it is now possible to complete every quest in one go, I was still wondering how fast time would flow in-game. I started playing at around 7am and, after roughly one real world hour of playtime, I was reaching the end of the afternoon. And I actually let time flow freely during the whole in-game afternoon, as I was exploring the land and avoiding most of the monsters. Thus, as time stops during cutscenes, battles and menu navigation, Lightning Returns’ signature countdown should not be too stressful.
The time I spent in the Wildlands definitely left me waiting for more. Knowing Lightning Returns carries fewer expectations from the Final Fantasy fans, the developers obviously toyed with open world ideas probably for the best. And the game, to be sure, has more to provide than a wardrobe of fancy outfits.
Here is the promotional trailer “The Opposite” for the preview. We hope this little event was worth waiting and you enjoyed watching the video and reading the article. Lightning Returns :Final Fantasy XIII will be released in Japan on November 21st, and next year in Europe and North America. More news coming soon! Stay tuned!
A few weeks ago Square Enix went on a press tour in Europe to promote Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. The German gaming site Spieletester had the chance to sit down with director Motomu Toriyama and game designer Yuji Abe for an interview about the game’s gameplay and story.
Interviewer: So, after I’ve seen that you focused on Lightning, I was surprised. I’ve always seen Serah as the true protagonist of FINAL FANTASY XIII. And after she got the main role in XIII-2, I was even more surprised. That she could not get the main role in the last part of the trilogy is self-explanatory, but what about Hope Estheim?
Toriyama: Lightning was the protagonist in XIII for us. But we know that many fans and gamers liked Serah, so we made her the protagonist in the second part. XIII-2 was planned to expand the world of XIII, because we could not fit the whole storyline into one game. So, for the epic finale, we thought we’d treat the “forgotten” Lightning a great come-back.
Hope Estheim is for us only a secondary character, even though we love him no matter what. He only lacks something that gives him the heroic image, like Lightning or Noel [the second protagonist in XIII-2].
Interviewer: When did you have the feeling that the storyline of FFXIII was too much to fit into only one game during its development?
Toriyama: Well, that is a complicated thing. We didn’t plan on making FFXIII into a trilogy. But after thinking about the plot holes in the story, we decided to develop XIII-2 and it was very soon clear that we had to make a third part. I think that we created a big and broad universe for the fans.
Interviewer: The topic in FINAL FANTASY XIII-2 was time travel and how it influenced the world of FINAL FANTASY XIII on different levels. Will we see the side effects of time travel or did so much time have passed that they’re not really visible?
Toriyama: You know what you’re talking about so it is not new for you. At the end of XIII-2 Valhalla (the Unseen World) and the world of Lightning fused. The people of Cocoon and Neo Cocoon lost the ability to die and they have become immortal. LIGHTNING RETURNS plays 500 years later and the people have accepted their fate and changed their lifestyle. Damage has been done through time travel and those damages can be discovered at several, hidden places.
Interviewer: With the Wildlands we got a huge area to play with, including many things to be discovered and achieved. Can we expect more of these areas or is the Wildlands an exception?
Abe: We have several huge areas in LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII, as you might have already seen them in our previously published videos. The fun part is, that the player can switch between the areas freely, even if it is not part of the main quest. We can assure you that there are things to be dealt with – the frequency of side quests is really high.
If you want to run across the whole world, you’ll need 45 minutes – without the interference of fights. But then you would only catch a glimpse of the world.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about the battle system. You changed it again, with XIII-2 being already different from XIII. It contains more action and responsive mechanics now. Why the change? While FINAL FANTASY VII, VIII, IX and X are based on the ATB-systems, you excluded yourself from them even though the majority of fans agree that these were the best systems.
Abe: Before we develop a new part of FINAL FANTASY in general, we think about how we can change the battle system to present something new to the player. In FINAL FANTASY XIII the thought about an action-based-battle-system was not thought through yet, so we stuck with the traditional style with a mix of ATB and the paradigm-shifts to create more dynamic and action.
When FINAL FANTASY XIII entered development, the console-generation of the Playstation was new and fresh. We tried to work with the power of the new technology and the pure, and classic style was not possible. We wanted a system that lived up to the graphics and smooth animation of the characters. A static battle-system like the ATB was not the best solution, but we tried it at the beginning.
When we arrived to LIGHTNING RETURNS, we talked with the development team of FINAL FANTASY XV, which uses an action-rpg-based system, and got us some inspiration. Nevertheless, the strategic benefits and elements of the system from the older FINAL FANTASY games are still in use. They work as the foundation ground for our battle-system. And to achieve direct and dynamic fights, we took the paradigm-system from XIII and XIII-2 and chose them as a set on four buttons for four different actions. The result is still a tactical, yet more dynamic gameplay. Also, the flow of play is principally not disturbed by fights and for the future we will also take great value of tactics in FINAL FANTASY XV.
Interviewer: That explains why we’re able to block attacks for the first time in the history of FINAL FANTASY, right?
Abe: Yes, you are absolutely right! [happy & euphoric]. We are always so happy when journalists and gamers speak to us and find out that they’re able to respond to the attacks completely. When we created Lightning’s outfit, the shield came into the design and we knew immediately that we should let her block attacks. Automatically, we had the opportunity to create various fighting styles. Some might be playing more offensive with the sword and some more defensive with the strengths of the shield.
Interviewer: This is more of a personal question: Why did you not use magic such as Flare or Ultima since FINAL FANTASY IX anymore? And what about the summons? Well, XIII had them but…how should I put it. In a different way. I always remember the good old long summon-sequence from Bahamut in FINAL FANTASY VII. Can we hope for something like this someday?
Abe [laughs]: I knew this question would come someday! We thought about bringing Flare and Ultima back to the game. More than the summons who were last seen in XIII, like you mentioned. Our analysis shows that [regarding the long summon sequences] players are not very keen on waiting for the sequence in the midst of a fight to finish in order to see the damage done. That’s why we made a mix of it in XIII – cool effects, short scenes paired with nice gameplay for the player. We already have interactive-scene ideas involving cutscenes for games to come in the future, but I cannot tell you more about it yet.
Toriyama: Now that you asked specifically for Flare and Ultima, for the first time in years, these magic spells will be available in LIGHTNING RETURNS. Though they are very hard to obtain, the effects are pretty nice.
Interviewer: LIGHTNING RETURNS has a time limit and this is always a matter of delicacy in RPG’s. “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask” has found a nice balance. But aren’t you afraid that 13 days are seen as pressuring resulting in rushing through the game?
Toriyama: We made many tests to prevent this situation. At the beginning we got a lot of negative feedback, because the time did not even allow to reach the end of the game. After adjustments we managed to arrive to a satisfying amount of time. We had a countdown running towards zero on the upper part of the TV – constructive feedback has been given and now there is the clock.
Abe: We included some tricks for the players so they do not need to rush. A certain ability gives the opportunity to stop the countdown for a short time so the player can have the chance to discover the world. And if it is still not enough, there exists an “easy-mode”, where no time-punishment exists for fleeing a battle and where more time is given to save the world in general. [One day in-game lasts 2-3 hours in real life].
Interviewer: Do you have plans to publish a trilogy-box? It is a given opportunity.
Toriyama [smiles]: We did not announce anything, but I can tell you that a trilogy-box is planned for the japanese market. I think that we will also plan something for the American and European market in the future.
Interviewer: Our time is running out and here’s the last question: Can you say something about character-development? Is there a crystarium available?
Toriyama: I can tell you a bit about how it functions: In LIGHTNING RETURNS we modified items and theoretically it is possible to see and buy the strongest weapon and armor at the beginning, yet the money for it can only be obtained after a while. Lightning’s personal development is tied to the storyline and the more souls you rescue and gain blessing, the powerful she gets. The rest is still a secret. Sorry!
Interviewer: Wonderful, I am excited! Thank you very much for the interview!
Special thanks to ricerose09 for the general translation!