COLUMN: Aaron’s Backstage Pass: 'Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII' PS3 Review

Updated: 02/18/2014 9:09 AM
Created: 02/17/2014 1:53 PM
By: Aaron Chalich

If you have ready some of my previous reviews, you will know that I really enjoy role playing games (RPG’s) a lot.  The first one that I had ever played was the original “Final Fantasy” for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) back in the day.  I played that game for months and had a blast.  I was hooked on RPG’s and have been playing them ever since.

Now it’s harder for me to play them, because I have a family and role playing games are very time consuming because they have very complex stories and have great replay value.  Every time you play through the game, it is a different experience.

This past week I received a review copy of Square-Enix’s “Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.”  This game is absolutely fabulous.  The graphics are top notch and very impressive, and I love the fighting system. I will talk more in depth about this later.

“Lightning Returns” is the conclusion of a three-part story that started in 2010.  “Final Fantasy XIII” has shipped over 10 million units worldwide and is one of the hottest “Final Fantasy” titles.

It’s about a young woman named Lighting who has a sister named Serah that has died.   The story takes place in a world called Nova Chrysalia, and there are four key locations (Luxerion, The Dead Dunes, The Wildlands, and Yusnaan). 

The world is going to end in thirteen days and Lightning is instructed by the god Bhunivelze to save the souls of the people on Nova Chrysalia by taking them and delivering them to a brand new world that isn’t full of darkness.  Bhunivelze tells Lightning that if she does this, she will be reunited with her sister again.

Lightning must gather enough energy called “Eradia.”   Every day at 6 a.m. Lightning is returned to her base called “The Ark.”  Here she can give the Eradia to “Yggdrasil” which is a tree in the Ark.  If Yggdrasil gets enough Eradia, it will extend the time before the world ends.

The story is very complex, and I don’t want to spoil too much of it, but it’s a great story. 

The graphics are amazing and keep getting better with each “Final Fantasy” game that is released.  The characters and monsters look more lifelike and there is more detail added to everything.

The backgrounds and scenery are breathtaking and look fabulous.

When you first start playing “Lightning Returns,” you can choose between easy or normal mode.  In easy mode, your health recovers automatically, and you don’t get a penalty for fleeing a battle.

You can also choose to do a full install of the game or do a quick install.  The full install takes up 4812MB and the quick install takes up 3101MB on your PS3.  If you install the game, the loading times go much quicker, and it only takes about twenty minutes or so to install.

The controls are very easy to learn and there is a great in game tutorial that explains everything in great detail which is extremely helpful.

You move Lightning around with the left analog stick, and you can change the camera angle with the right stick.  You can sprint by pushing R2 and to jump you push the circle button.

As you are walking around you can examine and talk to people by pushing the “x” button.

If you push the triangle button, you can bring up your main menu.  Here you can look at the map, see your items, abilities, quests, data log and settings.

The map is really cool, because you can see where you need to go for your quests, and you can set different colored markers on the map to indicate different objectives and locations you need to go.

There are so many different quests that you can do.  There are the main story quests and then there are quests that you can do by talking to different people in the game.  There is also a board in the game where you can see if there are new quests.  Once you complete a quest you are rewarded with the person’s Eradia and sometimes will get money or items.

The data log is very helpful, because you can access it to see information about the game.  You can look at the stats of the monsters you have encountered, you can learn about the characters in the game, and you can also re-read the tutorials that explain how to play “Lightning Returns.”

One thing that I think is great about “Lightning Returns” is that you can see the monsters on the screen.  In past RPG games, the monster encounters are random and seem to happen at the worst times.  I like the fact that you can move around the monsters if you don’t want to fight them and that there is a huge advantage if you sneak up on them.

When you encounter a monster and you push “x,” you will pull out your weapon and if you push “R1” you an attack it.  If you attack the monster without it detecting you, you will get a “great” status, and the monster will start the battle with a certain amount of health gone.  If you hit the monster and it sees you, you will get a “good” status, and the monster will also start the battle with less health.  However, if the monster attacks you first, you will get a “bad” status, and you start the battle with less health.

When you go into battle, you can freely move around, which I really thought was great.  In a lot of RPG’s you just stand there, and then you choose what you are going to do.  In “Lightning Returns,” you can run around and attack the monster, use spells, and items. 

Lightning has three different “schemata” that you can design.  There is “The Savior,” “Dark Muse,” and customizable one.  Here you can select equipment, spells, garb, shields, adornments (increased strength and hit points). 

When you are fighting in a battle, you can switch from the three schematas at anytime by pushing the “R1” or “L1” buttons.   You have an action gauge for each schemata, and when it gets to zero, you are not able to attack or use spells.  Each schemata has its own action gauge, so if one runs out, you can use another.  The gauges fill up on their own through time and also while you are switched to a different schemata.

There some really cool things that you can do during a battle.  You can guard against attacks, and if you time it just right, you will take less damage and will cause the monster to be stunned, so you can do more damage to it.

Each monster has a weakness, and you can try different spells and attacks to figure it out.  Once you know its weakness and you do enough damage with that attack you can cause the monster to stagger.  Once the monster is staggered he is stunned for a period of time and cannot move.  At this time you can trigger an ability called “overclock” and this slows down time allowing you to do more damage for a longer period of time.

When you use your abilities, you will also use energy points.   You only have so many energy points and when they are used up, you have to get more.  You can gain your energy points back by winning battles.

When you win a battle, you will get gil(money), experience points, and sometimes items.

You can use the gil to buy weapons, garb, items, and other things in towns.

One really neat and fun feature of “Lightning Returns” is that, you can take snapshots and leave message for other players to see online.  This is really going to be helpful when you come across a tough monster, because you can see if someone left a tip to help you beat it.  You can also send items to other players which is also very helpful.

I really think that Square-Enix’s  “Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII” for the PS3 is awesome.  The story is very complex, and the graphics are awesome.  The battle system is great, and I really like how you can control the characters.  I know that fans of the “Final Fantasy” series and of RPG’s are going to love this game as much as I did.  I would highly recommend that you check it out.

“Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII” is rated “T” for blood, mild language, suggestive themes, use of alcohol, and violence.

*The copy was provided by Square Enix for review purposes

Aaron Chalich is a entertainment columnist.

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