It took about 95 hours, but I am finally done with Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns, and I don’t think I want to play another RPG again for a long, long time. Nevertheless, I ended up having a lot of fun with the game, even if my initial impressions weren’t great. Before I get into my thoughts, however, it would probably be best to summarize what you can expect from this game if you haven’t already played it.
In this game, the world is going to end in about 13 days (less, if you aren’t careful), and Lightning has been tasked by the deity Bhunivelze to save the souls of as many people as possible so they can make it to the new world. You will have more or less time in order to complete this monumental task depending on the number of souls you collect, which is accomplished by completing several main quests and a bunch of side quests in four main locations. The game’s battle system is far better than that of the first two games of the trilogy, as you actually have control over Lightning. Plain and simple. The battles of the other two games largely involved watching your characters while they did everything pretty much on their own, while this one allows you to control Lightning on the battlefield, guard, attack, etc. You have three different schemas you can switch between during battle (kind of like in Final Fantasy X-2, but not quite as…upsetting), and each schema can have up to four commands. You do not level up from fighting, however, but through side quests, which was actually a nice change from traditional RPGs.
The first thing I want to point out is that, if you haven’t already noticed, the game has a rather strange plot. I love games that take place at the end of the world, but I must admit, saving souls is a rather strange plot for a video game. I also didn’t find this game to be as emotional as other games with similar themes, such as The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, which was a shame. (I did find the side quests involving Gem the cat and Bhakti the robot to be the most touching of all, however. Those made me tear up a bit….) Nevertheless, I still took my task, unconventional though it was, quite seriously, and let me just tell you now, the time limit is not an issue. I know that a lot of people don’t enjoy games with time limits, but I was easily able to complete every main quest, nearly every side quest, and defeat every single enemy you could bring to extinction (all those available at that point in the game, at least) before day 13. My advice: use Chronostasis constantly and recover your EP by fighting every enemy you encounter. This ability stops time for a little while, and I was able to make a single day last for about a week of real time using this method. If you do that, you really shouldn’t have an issue getting through the game.
I ended up really enjoying this game, bizarre plot or no (and was it just me or was Lumina really aggravating?), and if you are unsure about giving the series another chance, I would recommend checking it out. It was totally worth completing the trilogy, and I think this is the only game of the three that I would play again. The Last One quest can’t be completed until you start your second game, after all, and I worked quite hard for that one….
Now that that’s out of the way, I really need to ask something. Does anyone else get really lost in the plot by FFXIII-2? Sure, the first game was rather confusing, all FF games are, really, but at least it felt like one story. Lighting and her comrades become unwitting servants of the god-like Fal’Cie, they defeat the Fal’Cie, and end their control over humanity. Good. Done. End of story. I never thought there was any need for a sequel, and then FFXIII-2 comes out, and suddenly there’s all this craziness concerning some goddess named Etro and a man named Caius who were central to the plot but appeared to hold no relation to the first game. And now we’re fighting to prevent the end of the world. Which apparently was futile because the world still ends in the third game. And in the midst of all, Lightning has become some super-being for some reason.
I just never felt that the progression of the story between the three games made any logical sense. Each game felt too much like its own separate thing, but with the same characters. I mean, there should have at least been more connection to the Fal’Cie from the original game rather than just a mention or two. I’ll admit, now that the trilogy is over, I do see some similarities, in that the theme appears to revolve around humans taking on gods and winning, but I don’t believe such a theme is anything new in the FF series. Final Fantasy VI and X had similar endings, as well. Honestly, every Square Enix game seems to end with some equivalent of our characters defeating some super powerful foe, but it didn’t usually take a trilogy to get that point across.
In the end, I don’t believe Final Fantasy XIII should have continued, but considering that it did, I am really happy to have worked my way through the entire thing. To be honest, there were a lot of hours spent with this trilogy that were less than fun, but watching those ending cut scenes and the final credits after completing Lightning Returns just brought a sense of closure that made all those countless hours worth it. Sort of. Like I mentioned earlier, I really can’t say this is a series I would play again, but it is good to have seen it all. The battle system really made all the difference in this game. And from now on, whenever I consider buying a game made by Square, I’m going to do some serious research before spending any money on it. (Unless it’s Kingdom Hearts, that is…)
The Duck Returns
This post was originally published on United We Game on January 5, 2016.