Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
First Look Pt. 3: Tony Returns (With Answers!)

January 25th, 2013 by Tony Garsow

People swarm the south station plaza during the day, as many come from all over to enjoy the hustle and bustle of this divine city.

Hi folks! In Part 3 of our first look at Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, I’ll be answering all of your questions submitted to me about my impressions of the game or just some nitty-gritty details. As a reminder, you can review our coverage by clicking these Part 1 and Part 2 links. They’ll give you all the details you need to be aware of, as well as the scope of the game we’ll be seeing come autumn this year.

The following questions have been submitted by our commenters, and so I’ll take each question one by one. If I don’t know the answer to the question I will provide my best guess or otherwise omit it. “But Tony”, you exclaim “I forgot to ask you a question!” No worries! Just leave a comment below and I’ll respond as best as I can. Remember no question is too small or large in scope, and don’t be afraid to ask for my impressions too! You all should know by now I love talking my head off.

Without further ado:

Tsepo asks:

Would you say the battles look tougher?
It’s a bit hard to judge at this point, as the battle system feels like it’s been entirely reworked. Since the team is introducing elements of action by allowing Lightning to execute abilities with a button press, it looks like you’ll have to keep your wits about you. I noticed Lightning was able to juggle her enemies at different points, and even counterattack with great efficacy. It also seems that the strategy and nuances that came with the paradigm system are intact, but quite different. It also looks like there will be more opportunities for micromanaging skills and abilities to deal with different types of enemies between fights. While this may not add any actual difficulty, there’s definitely an element of strategy to be found which some may appreciate. There is also a new system in battle where you press L1 (the game was running on a PlayStation 3) and the game pauses to show an items menu where our demonstrator was able to select a Potion. It looked similar to how the screen changed when you selected a different Dressphere in Final Fantasy XIII-2. We were told there would be more to see from this feature at a later time.

Did you see any clues about the item creation they say that’s in the game?
Yes! It might be just a small hint, but there was a mission we were shown where Lightning was hunting down a Behemoth for a sidequest. When she defeated it in battle, the Behemoth dropped Behemoth-y type materials. Horns, claws, fangs, to that effect in the same way you saw them drop in FFXIII and XIII-2. The amount of materials seemed to indicate to me that they’ll have a use in some sort of gameplay system akin to item creation. We’ll have to stay tuned for more information to make a safe bet, though!

With changing the color of the costume, do you change individual pieces of the costume?
Yes. You are able to change the color of each costume piece. The interface to do so was rather rudimentary at the time. (For those of you with Windows, open up MSPaint and choose your color selection tool. It basically looked similar to that, but will change for the final version.)

Are there hidden dungeons in this game?
The team has made it no secret that there will be elements of exploration that you may not get to in your first playthrough, and while they made no mention of any hidden dungeons, I assume that there will be a few surprises in store for people who decide to wander a different way off the beaten path. There definitely are dungeons in the game, as we saw Lightning run through one for about three seconds. The dungeon we saw was part of the Wildlands continent.

Brian asks:

Will there be save import bonuses? Will players get something for playing the first two?
No official word yet, Brian. Seeing as players of Final Fantasy XIII got a little extra something-something in Final Fantasy XIII-2, I wouldn’t put it beyond the realm of possibility. Outfit pieces from the previous game would be appreciated, in my opinion!

AnimaMagna asks:

Exactly what impression did the teases about the Dead Dunes and Wildlands leave?
I want to preface this by mentioning something I brought up in previous two parts of our First Look series: the game build we were shown was very early on in the development cycle (the earliest a Final Fantasy had been shown) and so there were many instances where there were unfinished assets like models or textures. Many things had placeholders to represent assets that had yet to be created. Also, the footage we were show of these continents summed up to about ten seconds or so. It was pretty brief. The Wildlands was heavily wooded (picture Ronfaure from Final Fantasy XI), and it seemed that Lightning could venture in just about every direction. Our glimpse of the Dead Dunes was even more brief; Lightning was sliding down a dune similar to the cloth-people in Journey. There was a sandstorm on full blast. Conjure up a memory of a sandstorm from Final Fantasy XII’s Dalmasca Westersand and you’ll be pretty close. The landscape itself (what was visible) was quite barren, living up to the continent’s name.

Would you say Lightning’s Character modal looks smother and less… ragged-edged compared to her XIII-2 appearance outside the FMVs?
Yes, in cutscenes Lightning’s model looked better. In Final Fantasy XIII-2 you could see a bit of dithering on her hair, as well as some noticeable aliasing and different parts of her outfit. The new model isn’t quite as nice as the original Final Fantasy XIII (I can’t put my finger on why, but I think there’s a bit of opacity with her hair that wasn’t there before), but is much better than in XIII-2. The imperfections aren’t as visible. Outside of cutscenes it was a bit tougher to get a good look as our demonstrator had her constantly in motion, but there weren’t any glaring problems.

Leaferian asks:

Was there any kind of confirmation, visual or verbal, on the ability to wear costumes out of battle? The team has been wearisomely silent on the subject, and there are some of us worried we’re going to have another X-2 on ours hands: Lots of outfit choices, but only present as a battle function.
Yes, you’ll be able to wear Lightning’s different costumes like Dark Muse outside of battle. During the footage we were shown this wasn’t demonstrated, but I shot the folks at Square Enix a quick question about it — and they confirmed it. This is my own speculation, but I assume that in-game cutscenes will also have her current outfit displayed.

Can you give us a list of abilities you saw either in the shop or in the customization menu? Was there anything shown beyond just Fire/Blizzard/Thunder? Many comparisons are being made between the Garb system and the Materia system from VII, in light of an early report which claimed that different outfits would have slots you could plug abilities into, followed by the screen where you actually mapped said abilities to buttons. In your opinion, is this a valid comparison?
Great question! In regards to the Style interface for equipping abilities and items, I happened to scribble a lot about this in my notes during the presentation that didn’t make for a good chunk of my write-up, so I’m glad to explain crudely below. Here’s what I saw in the menu where you assemble a Scheme or Style. (Seems like the nomenclature isn’t set in stone yet.)

Lightning has five slots for items that comprise her outfit:
Weapon: Lightning’s Sword (Examples, not real names.)
Shield: Lightning’s Shield
Accessory: Dealwithit Glasses
Accessory: Purple Onesie
Accessory: Moogle Pompom

She also has four slots for abilities that are mapped to the four face buttons:
Triangle: Thundara
Square: Heavy Slash
Circle: Light Slash
Cross: Evade

I suppose there are some similarities to the materia system, but from what I saw, I don’t believe the abilites or equipment grew more powerful by having them in each slot.

Did you get to see first-hand some of the effects you can get from buying food other than HP restoration?
If you’ve ever played Final Fantasy II and visited an inn, you have to pay a gil equivalent to how injured your party members are. The same principle applies here. While we only saw Lightning approach a “vendor” at a restaurant and select to be healed in a menu for a certain amount of gil; it didn’t seem like it was the final interface. However, expect a great number of shops. Toriyama let us know that the game will have the widest variety of shops seen thusfar in the Final Fantasy series.

Some people didn’t like the shop list style and fonts from the previous two games. Did the shop interface get a facelift, or is it more of the same?
In the build we saw, it looks like the shop menu and interface have largely been preserved from Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2. However, I noticed that there were some vendors that had menus and sound effects exactly the same as Chocolina’s from XIII-2, so that cemented my thoughts of them not being final. However, I think it’s within reason to assume they’ll be quite similar.

Finally, my last question is about weapons and accessories. We have now only seen three swords and three shields, but only her default seems to be wildly different in size. Did you get a chance to view some weapons not released to us yet, and if so would we be pleased with the diversity level? As a tack-on, it was mentioned by the team previously that Lightning would get accessories like the sunglasses seen in the trailer. Are these free accessories equippable in any outfit, or is this part of some kind of system where different outfits have different exclusive options for add-ons?
The diversity level of Lightning’s equipment seems to be pretty good, and it seems like there will be plenty of comedic options for Lightning’s garb. In my diagram above you’ll be able to see that accessory slots are essentially independent from each other. I assume the team has designed to make any combination of three accessories look right on Lightning.

Wyvern asks:

From the bits you saw of the other continent and some portion of Luxerion, what is the closest game to compare the world-size to? or can we just picture this as a 2D FF in HD? To clarify, what sense of scale did the world map give you?
You know, I wish I could answer that question a bit more clearly, but I’m still in the dark as to the size of these places — even Luxerion. The areas of Luxerion we did visit were respectably-sized, and I don’t foresee anyone who enjoys exploring towns or cities in Final Fantasy to have a problem. However, it’s really a tough call since the rest of the continents we were shown went by very briefly, so it was hard to get a sense of scope. There are some different landscapes to be had, and by the open-looking nature of some of the areas like the Wildlands, I assume the team had exploration on the forefront of their minds when designing them.

How was the framerate in this early build?
As you would expect from an early build. Inconsistent. Of course, that sort of thing is usually hammered out over the course of the development cycle, so we’ll have to wait a bit longer to see how the game’s framerate fares.

faha asks:

LRFFXIII will have summon i mean like bahamut or shava
No hints of any summons yet!

Storm asks:

What exactly the NPCs and the group of murderers were talking about? There was any other tidbit of information regarding the story?
There’s definitely a correlation between the people in white cloaks and the murders in Luxerion. However, it’s still very much a mystery and we weren’t privy to much more footage that shed any light on it.

For you, the game have potential to be a great Final Fantasy game?
In my opinion, what makes a great Final Fantasy game is one that takes the familiar formula and takes you somewhere new and unexpected. Something that makes you say: “Wow, I didn’t know this could be Final Fantasy”. It also includes an intimate attention to creating a cast of characters that tie you to the story and world they inhabit. A clever execution of interesting game mechanics that convey a sense of mastery and a heartfelt presentation that make your fifth playthrough just as engaging as your first. If these elements fire on all cylinders, I think you are apt to make a game that is timeless — which is what great Final Fantasy games are.

The previous two Final Fantasy XIII games, for me, are ones that got most of these elements right. They are by no means bad Final Fantasy games, but they never reach the paramount of what we expect from the franchise. Perhaps people have had to settle with Final Fantasy games that miss this lofty goal, causing some strife in the fandom. (Which, I think, is a healthy thing — as it’s always been there.) That’s only my observation, though. At this point, I can’t tell you if Lightning Returns will shape up to be a great Final Fantasy title. There are definitely a lot of new ideas being stirred up for this title, which I love seeing and has me the most excited to play the game. But, the proof is in the pudding. That is to say, it’s all a matter of how they are eventually executed.

Until then, I’ll observe the game for myself and take in the new information as it comes along with you folks. I’ll try to look at it objectively, though I’ll readily admit I have gut-reactions to things I find appealing in a Final Fantasy as do many other fans. Ultimately, I think the answer to your question of “does this have a potential to be a great Final Fantasy game” lies with each individual fan to decide. So here are some questions for you and our other readers to think about when you eventually play or judge Lightning Returns — these are questions I think about when I ultimately judge a Final Fantasy title’s greatness:

“Do I feel that this Final Fantasy is taking the franchise somewhere new?”
“What sort of feeling did this new direction leave me with? Did it feel genuine?”
“Were the characters, story, mechanics, and presentation compelling when judged holistically?”
“Is this a Final Fantasy I could pick up five years from now and have no problem settling into?”
“Did the game leave any lasting positive impressions?”
“Is this a game I would recommend or share with my loved ones or close friends to show them what I appreciate in video games?

I think what matters most is what the game ends up meaning to you. No preview impressions, review scores, or post-mortems are going to dictate to you if you thought this game was a good Final Fantasy or not; you’ll just have to use your own personal standards to decide the final grade. Just remember to stand by it!

So there you have it! That concludes our First Look at Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. If you have any additional questions about the game, please feel free to ask in the comments below and I will answer to the best of my ability. Stay tuned to Final Fantasy Network for further developments before the game’s release in Fall 2013!

Click here to read more from our three-part coverage of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII!lrgmt

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  • Leaferian

    Wonderful.

    Just real quick, about that accessory thing. Do those three slots include the chosen costume or is there a separate slot for that?

  • Tony Garsow

    @Leaferian
    I don’t recall, but I believe that’s where the “Equilibrium” or “Dark Muse” outfits would go.

  • Leaferian

    Huh, I see. Weird that it would be called an accessory slot, you’d think there would be a slot specifically for outfit/armor.

  • Leaferian

    Derped and pressed submit before I meant to.

    Is there anything you can tell us about the naming system of Styles/Schemes? Is it based on what abilities you have equipped, or on the costumes, or is there some kind of preset naming list?

  • Leaferian

    Thought of a few more!

    Does the Datalog return to this game, or something similar to keep track of stories, quests, locations, and lore?

    Does the Libra/Enemy Intel function return to battle, allowing Lightning to check enemy stats and weaknesses on the fly?

  • Cricket

    Can you confirm if Noel’s appearance in the trailer was a placeholder or did he not receive an outfit change?

  • Cricket

    During the demo, does Hope frequently talk to Lightning? Also, did they say anything about possible guest characters in battle?

  • Cricket

    Does time pass during cutscenes? Also, did you hear new music playing during the demo?

  • AnimaMagna

    Was there any hint as to when the next piece of solid info or gameplay footage would be shown to the public? The wait, for me, is intense to say the least.

  • Atma

    Do you believe Caius and Yeul will make an appearance will Lightning be able to equip a gunblade later in the game? Lastly, what are they doing different with the 13 formula in order to regain the fans that they lost? (Not me, I thoroughly enjoyed 13 and its sequel)

  • Tsepo

    Thank you for answering my questions, I feel even better about this game

  • AnimaMagna

    No more questions on my part, apart from the one I put up there, which you have no need to answer if you don’t want to. Thanks very much for your answers and all your reports on the game so far. Roll on Autumn 2013.

  • http://none fahad

    intelligence questions and great answers
    my regards to you FF net

  • Cape_Town_Guy

    With regards to accessories,will they be visible when equiped in/outside battle?Also,will it be implemented like XIII-2 where you get a certain amount of accessory points you get to use to equip accessories,or do you just equip three accessories regardless of how usefull it is?

  • Cape_Town_Guy

    Final question:I know its been stated that Lightning won’t be getting any long range weapons,but will swords and shields be the only weapons she’ll be able to use?Would be cool if she could use spears,great swords,maces,handbombs(?) Or daggers.

  • Kuja9001

    Will Caius be making a return?

  • Tony Garsow

    @Leafarian
    I’m not sure on how the Style/Scheme nomenclature works, but you’ll be able to save preset combinations of equipment and abilities. I believe I saw a Datalog in the main menu, but I’m not positive. I’m pretty sure it has a good chance of returning. In regards to Libra, I didn’t see it in any of the command lists.

    @Cricket
    I don’t think it was a placeholder since he appeared like that in a public trailer. Yes, Hope is in contact with Lightning quite a bit. He is the Otacon of Lightning Returns, hehe. No word on any guest characters in battle, but we did see Lightning -fighting- Noel, and they hinted that she might have to fight other familiar faces. I don’t know if time passes during cutscenes, as the clock attached to the minimap wasn’t visible during them. We do know that time stops when you entire the main menu.

    And yes there is a new battle theme that played when Lightning was in combat. It’s not the song you’ve heard in the trailers through. It had a fast tempo, and sounded like Naoshi Mizuta’s work. From what I heard, it didn’t have the melody of Blinded by Light.

    @AnimaMagna
    Please look forward to it.

    @Atma
    Nothing yet on Caius, Yeul, or gunblades, but in regards to what they’re doing with the formula — the concept of a ticking clock counting down the end of the world and building a Final Fantasy around that is pretty interesting. The feedback from the previous two titles have also given them some idea of how to approach this game, but we’ll see if those fans take notice.

    @Cape_Town_Guy
    I believe they will be visible outside of combat, as they comprise her outfit. I didn’t see anything to confer an accessory cost, just three slots for Accessories. The interface may still be an early version, so I would consider some of my details about it accordingly. I only saw Lightning with swords and shields, but there wasn’t mention of any other types of weapons — though it has been said before that she’ll have a sizable repertoire of different-sized weapons.

    @Kuja9001
    Haven’t heard anything about him yet!

  • whmsyrup

    is Lightning going to smile… ever?

  • AnimaMagna

    At the end of the game, almost certainly. Maybe even when she sees her sister again. She can smile, it’s just the circumstances haven’t encouraged her to much recently, and she must still appear strong. A hangover from her younger days prior to XIII I expect.

  • markus

    i have a question. will the NPC interactions be like XIII-2 where you have ‘dialogue choices’?

    i am also curious about the platforming elements, did the game demo shed any more light on this other than what was shown in the trailer? (i.e. climbing up ladders and going down poles)

  • Atma

    Thank you very much for the response. Personally, I do hope Caius returns. He was pretty cool, plus they really did emphasize on his description of being Lightning’s fated rival in 13-2. Do you believe this game is on the right track of returning FF to its former glory. FF used to be the pinnacle of gaming, but now…not so much. Each time they made a legendary game, but now the greatest RPG series seems to belong to Persona. Not saying anything bad about it, Persona is an incredible series, but I know and I hope that FF can rise above if its on the right track.

  • Daniel

    I’ve checked a lot about the game from what you’ve said so far, but I don’t know if you’ve talked about this so far: What about the exp system and gil earning? Will it be like XIII-2, where you get gil after every battle? Is the star rating back? What about Crystarium Points, will they also make a return? Thanks!

  • http://finalfantasy.com.br Storm

    Thanks for the anwsers.

    I just want to know one more thing. The stealth sequences, and Lightning’s movements in general, are well done?

  • Daynal

    With regards to her outfits, there was mention of a dress like garb, can you describe it? In what context were they shown e.g in battle or on the field?

  • Cape_Town_Guy

    I don’t know if this has been asked before but will there be any Quick time events in battles similar to FFXIII-2?I really enjoyed that aspect of the game and would like to see it return.

    Also,did they happen to show Lightning using her Full ATB skill during the demo(eg.Army of One or Legion of One)?

    Lastly,can we take individual pieces of each outfit and create our own custom outfit?

  • sidd

    lol

    “Dealwithit Glasses”

  • http://pjtierney.net PJ

    Just a quick question: has Square-Enix hinted that there would be DLC in this game?

  • Tony Garsow

    @markus
    No dialogue wheel in sight.

    @Daniel
    I didn’t see much for EXP earning since the presenter was flipping through screens very quickly, but there was a bit that showed Lightning gaining “EP” for a yet-to-be-revealed system.

    @Storm
    They seemed to be sufficient for the point in time we they showed the demo. She’ll crouch behind things and hug corners as you might typically expect.

    @Daynal
    It was a showy kind of dress, rather than a battle dress.

    @Cape_Town_Guy
    I don’t believe QTE will make a return, I didn’t see any in the presentation either. Nope, no sign of Army of One/Scene Break. You can assemble your own Style with the equipment you collect, and you can customize each piece’s color.

    @PJ
    Yes, they implied there will be. They’ll be going about it a different way than Final Fantasy XIII-2 based on fan feedback about what DLC they liked or didn’t like.

  • knok_j

    Sorry this is late. If you are still taking questions, I would like to ask abit about the gameplay.

    How much of lightning’s movements are controllable in battle? As in, will we be able to move and position her to attack from the side or target specific areas? In the trailers it doesn’t seem like she’s able to move about much.

    Are we able to equip status magic (or buffs and debuffs) to the four buttons as well? In the trailer it did seem restricted to ravager type spells like thundaga and blizzard.

    Did they give any confirmation about what the small gold/silver squares under the enemy’s health bar stand for?