At this week’s E3 in Los Angeles, Famitsu sat down with Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII producer Yoshinori Kitase and director Motomu Toriyama for an interview about the upcoming finale to the XIII trilogy. The demo is currently playable at the Square Enix booth as per the video above. Around fifteen minutes in length, the demo involves a pursuit to catch Snow in the city of Yusnaan and an encounter with Lumina.
The city of Yusnaan is very important to the crumbling world of Nova Chrysallia, and so is Snow Villiers. He has become a l’Cie again, and is charged with protecting the fal’Cie responsible for keeping the world together in its final days. By this task, he has become the de facto leader of Yusnaan. While he has become a l’Cie, it seems he is struggling with his desire to reunite with Serah, perhaps even in death. However, his obligations to the fal’Cie via his Focus may prevent him from doing anything rash. The axe he wields is covered in ice, and is meant to convey his change to a more harsh and serious character.
Yusnaan is a different place than Luxerion, and not only in appearance. While the people of Luxerion quietly wait until the end of the world, the citizens of Yusnaan celebrate with decadent parties as the fal’Cie has my resources to provide. The two cities represent different mindsets when it comes to the end. Yusnaan is inspired by a mix of Renaissance and middle-Eastern cultures.
Lightning starts her journey in Yusnaan as the opening cinematic of the game concludes. However, the game is being designed in an open-world fashion in which the player does not have to progress through the story in a linear fashion. Toriyama refers to parts of the game as “Episodes”.
Since Lightning Returns will have one playable character, the team has redone many abilities so that they will feel fresh for those who have played the previous two games. Famitsu remarked that “Blizzara” in particular looked great. Enemies will have vulnerabilites that Lightning can exploit such as Zaltys (the boss in the demo) having a weakness to electricity. Use Thunder or Electric Slash enough and you’ll build up the Stagger Wave and ultimately break the enemy’s defenses.
There are special enemies in Lightning Returns known as “Accent Monsters” in which your performance can be added to an online leaderboard and shared/compared with your friends. The same criteria for getting a five-star battle in previous Final Fantasy XIII games will come into account here.
Lightning’s equipment sets called Schemata can be switched in and out in battle. Each one will have a unique victory pose, as seen in the video above. There re about eighty different Schemata that Lightning can wear.
You will not recover HP after battle, so you must use your restorative items wisely. You can also dine in towns to recover health or stay at an inn, but sometimes travel conditions might hamper your ability to get back to town. This kind of gameplay will challenge players and force them to proceed cautiously, and Kitase made a comparison to the feeling you get when playing Dark Souls.
The team wants to express that the game will allow a great sense of freedom, and after the tutorial section in Yusnaan, you’ll be able to venture off in any direction you please. Different quests in the game will happen at different times, and Kitase mentioned that Hope will have missions for Lightning at 6:00am every day to save the souls of people in the world and will increase the time left before doomsday. You start out Lightning Returns with seven days remaining, but this can be increased through Lightning’s actions to a maximum of thirteen.
Kitase says that downloadable content is not yet decided, but with regard to the story, it will be entirely contained within the game you purchase. The scale of Lightning Returns is larger than you might expect, and the team is trying to push the PlayStation 3 to its limits.