Square Enix has announced Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII during the franchise’s 25th anniversary celebration events in Shibuya and Seattle. A direct sequel to Final Fantasy XIII-2, the game is set hundreds of years in the future, and offers more customization than ever before in a Final Fantasy title. Its creators described the game in detail during tonight’s events.
Lightning Returns brings back Lightning, the warrior you’ve come to know from Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, for an all-new adventure.
In Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning was the protagonist, a strong character, the face of Square Enix, and one of the most iconic Japanese characters at the time. Her keyword was “courage,” as she “turned her back on destiny and fought bravely as a soldier,” according to project director Motomu Toriyama.
In Final Fantasy XIII-2, Lightning surpassed humanity and become a deity, and was turned to crystal. In the download content episode, she awakens from her crystal, however, whether it was a dream or reality is unknown.
In Lightning Returns, Lightning is back “stronger than ever.” She is “facing her final battle” and ending her legend, according to Toriyama. There are three words to represent her character: “light, agility, and elegance.” These words will also represent the gameplay experience.
The second concept, “World Driven,” is “what makes the game original.”
“It is a completely unique and original idea not even found on the internet,” said Toriyama. “Imagine yourself as a resident [of Cocoon]. Your world, Cocoon, is in motion, much like the way the Earth rotates around the sun. The sun rises and sets just like in our world. It may even have the same four seasons as we do. Life may not be so different on Cocoon. By experiencing life in a constantly moving world, everyone can create their own story. A world that is constantly in motion will change the experience forever. That is the concept we’ve chosen to call ‘World Driven’. The world in this case is referring to the environment embracing the character – the atmospheric elements and ecology of the world.”
Lightning Returns is set across four islands called Novus Partus. But the world is facing a major crisis, which Square Enix has dubbed “The Last 13 Days.”
“There are only 13 days left until Armageddon. The end of the world signifies the end of humanity. Death looms over Lightning everywhere she treads.”
Toriyama showed concept art for an oasis village, where the sun sets and rises just as it does in our world. “At dusk, a group of thieves begin their hunt,” he said. “People’s lives are depicted in a realistic manner.”
He philosophically added, “How will you spend the last hours of your life?”
But there is a second meaning behind the concept of “World Driven.” Final Fantasy XIII players know of two worlds: the game world and the real world. Square Enix wants players to experience Final Fantasy‘s world both inside the game world and outside.
“We want you to constantly stay connected to Final Fantasy and its characters,” said Kitase. “As the first step, we plan on frequently updating both the official website and Facebook page with new information.” More details are to come regarding the game’s real world connectivity at a later time.
‘Concept #1: World Creation’
The world of Lightning Returns gives players “the freedom to explore at will, rather than forcing players to follow a path,” according to project design director Yuji Abe.
Enter the “Doomsday Clock,” an idea the team at Square Enix got from Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists‘ end of the world countdown clock of the same name. Midnight on this clock signifies the world’s demise, explained Abe. But just as the hands of time can move closer to midnight, it can move back further from it, as well. In Lightning Returns, the world has the same concept.
Defeating enemies can make the clock move backwards, away from midnight. However, when Lightning performs “certain miracles,” she “pays a toll on time,” moving the hands forward, closer to midnight.
“Time can be a hard concept to see without changes,” said Abe, which is Lightning Returns‘ constant flow of time is reflected through changes in the game world.
“People sleep at night and wake up in the morning. As the day progresses, minor developments are seen all around. With morning comes the hustle and bustle of residents going throughout their daily lives. You can see many head to work or school. Some go and hang out near the stations. Around noon, cafes and restaurants are swamped with hungry customers.”
During the day, monsters are rarely seen. However, it is still possible to engage in battle when the sun is out.
When night falls, people will begin heading home from work, and a lesser amount overall will populate the streets. However, the taverns will open their doors for business, and those who enjoy night walks can be seen taking a stroll. But monsters are likely to come out at this time, and Lightning will find herself up against more creatures during the night.
Accessibility is also a key factor in the game’s use of time.
“There are blind alleys found on the map,” said Abe. “If you’re not careful, spending too much time in one place can result in being trapped there until morning. That is one of the horrors of this game.”
As a method of travel throughout Novus Partus, the game will introduce a monorail system connected to each island. This runs on a timetable, just like our world. Trains completely stop running at night. During certain times, you might have to wait a while before the next train arrives.
‘Concept #2: Lightning’
In Lightning Returns, Lightning’s costumes, abilities, weapons, and armor can be customized.
“We cannot tell you how many [costume] choices you will have at this time, but I can tell you it’s a lot more than 10 or 20. Changing costumes will not only affect the aesthetics of the character. Costumes will have various parameters and we’re currently contemplating adding some that may even affect the actions she can unleash in battle, such as unleashing different abilities. Details will be revealed at a later date.”
In Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning’s weapons had little variation in shape. however, in Lightning Returns, the size and silhouette of weapons come in a large variety.
An image of Lightning wielding the sword of one of Final Fantasy‘s “infamous monsters” was shown.
Lightning can steal and wield this sword for herself.
A new battle feature, “that will allow instantaneous equipment swapping,” is currently in consideration. Square Enix hopes to show it at some point.
Speaking of combat, the game introduces a brand new battle system, which promises action unlike any other Final Fantasy before it, while also retaining some of the elements you’ve come to know and love from the series. You will even be able to control Lightning’s movements in battle. Outside of battle, Lightning’s movements have also progressed. She is now able to jump, hang off ledges, duck, and hide behind ledges.
Game World and Environment
Novus Partus, mentioned earlier as the world in which the game is set, is composed of four islands “floating in the Sea of Chaos,” according project art director Isamu Kamikokuryo. These islands, which are “full if wilderness, desert, ruins, and rock terrain,” are surrounding by a blue lagoon. Beyond this lagoon, however, lies a waterfall leading to the abyss.
The shrine of Etro, as well as the floating New Cocoon, can be seen in towards the back of the game world.
Kamikokuryo focused in on Luxerion, “the city of light” and Novus Parus’ largest metropolis. Those who worship the sacred god Bhunivelze live in this city. It was created to a Gothic aesthetic, sprinkled with mechanical and fantasy elements. The previously mentioned monorail system runs above the city, making it a bit noisy at times.
Luxerion’s colors are primarily shades of black and white. Various furniture and other items can be seen throughout its streets, creating a “real, yet surreal” experience. Some areas in the city are reminiscent of medieval times, while others are more futuristic. Some even depict the slums.
Kamikokuryo showed off a set of inanimate objects, which he says play a large part in creating its atmosphere. They are designed to have a retro appeal.
Residents in Luxerion are all of their own kind. Some wear veils to cover their faces, others wear mechanical backpacks, and some appear to be cyber-thiefs.
Monsters here “are a result of Chaos,” said Kamikokuryo. “Does Lightning really have what it takes [to defeat them]?” he asked.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is due for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2013. The first set of concept art can be seen at the gallery. A set of video presentations from the game’s creators, which share the same information compiled above, can be seen below.