With only a few weeks left until release, a demo was uploaded on both Xbox Live and PlayStation Network for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII this week. In the third and what is said to be final entry in the Final Fantasy XIII series of games, you take control of Lightning once again, after using her sister Serah in the previous game. With a completely new gameplay system, I absolutely had to play through the demo in anticipation of the game’s release. As a result, I thought I would give my impressions of the fairly short demo for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.
When you first start up the game, you will see a beautifully designed opening cinematic, which is almost expected with the Final Fantasy series by now. While many disliked the other two Final Fantasy XIII games, the always gorgeous graphics were never a concern, and they are on top of their game once again with this release. Seeing a Final Fantasy game on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 look this good graphically really makes that wait for Final Fantasy XV on next generation consoles even longer.
With the opening cinematic, the game jumps right into the story, albeit quite confusingly at first, even for someone that has played the first two games. This is due to the fact that the game takes place 500 years after the tragic events at the end of Final Fantasy XIII-2. Luckily, we very soon get some exposition explaining what is happening, with us finding out that series lead Lightning has been given the title of savior by God as the world is nearing its end in only thirteen days. You will interact with a few other characters from the first two games, but I will let you discover who those are for yourselves.
The biggest change in Lighting Returns is the brand new combat system, which seems to have taken elements from the gameplay found in the first two games and combined them with the dress sphere from Final Fantasy X-2. On top of that, you have the ability to run around with Lightning during battle at will. Similar to the switching paradigm shift seen in the other two Final Fantasy XIII titles, Lighting Returns features many customizable outfit sets, known as Schema.
You start with Savior, Dark Muse, and Black Mage as the three Schema set for you in the demo. There are also a few others that you can add to the rotation like Dragoon, which I had some good fun with. The new gameplay system really is a ton of fun to use, and I absolutely cannot wait to experience all of the different Schema sets when I get my hands on the full game.
As expected with a demo, the experience is fairly linear, but there are some areas where you can explore a little further. There is also the ability to backtrack if you wish to fight enemies over and over. After moving forward a good bit, you will fight a boss that a new villain known as Lumina summons. The boss fight isn’t too difficult, while teaching you about the staggering system we’ve seen in the previous Final Fantasy XIII games.
The demo also showcases the Outerworld online system that Square Enix has implemented as a way for gamers to upload comments and their scores from the battles throughout the game. There are other features, but those are the basics. For those that plan on playing the demo, make sure to activate the Outerworld server when you start and upload your battle score after defeating the boss I spoke of above. This will allow you to access a costume based on Siegfried from Final Fantasy IV in the full game when it releases next month.
The demo for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is a pretty short, but very fun experience thus far. The Schema gameplay has a lot of potential, that I can’t wait to see grow throughout the game. As a fan of the first two games in the series, especially the second, I will definitely be playing the full version of this game. If you are on the fence, download the free demo and see what you think. It won’t take you too long to play and may give you an indication on whether or not you’ll enjoy the full game.