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Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Preview - E3 2013

We get some hands-on time with the newest Final Fantasy game

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Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII marks the end of the Thirteen-series trilogy, and to close things properly it's brought the pink haired protagonist back for one final romp. The game was playable on the show floor at this year's E3, so we had ample time to take in the demonstration on display.

This was an action showcase, a section of the game chosen to highlight the new battle system to be found in Lightning Returns. As such, it was light on exposition, and heavy on fighting. A brief introductory cutscene set the stage: Lightning was in a sprawling complex, looking for her old comrade Snow. Hope was also on hand, and I'd call him a familiar face, had he ever appeared on screen; he was relegated to providing radio support.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

Lightning is immediately set upon by enemies: some adorable, spherical bats and walking, Anubis-like guardians. To deal with them, we're introduced to the game's "Schema" system, a hybrid of sorts that combines the dresspheres of earlier Final Fantasy entries with the free-flowing, acrobatic combat of the XIII games. With the tap of a shoulder button, Lightning switches between different schemata, each coming equipped with a set of attacks and a dramatic outfit.

The demo build came with three: a magic-heavy version packing spells like Firaga, a melee attacker with light and heavy swings, and a type that combined magic and physical attacks. Each has its own gauge that diminishes with actions taken, so it's necessary to continually shift between them to maximize one's damage output.

Speaking of damage, it's possible to attack enemies in the field, before they've had a chance to start a proper battle. Hitting them from behind can net a preemptive strike against up to 1/4 of their health, if well-executed. Otherwise, the enemies in the demo area could also be avoided with minimal effort.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

After taking down a few foes and chasing Snow across a healthy portion of the dungeon, Lightning suddenly found herself face to face with a mysterious figure with a rather familiar looking face (I'm no Final Fantasy XIII buff, but a pink side ponytail is a rather distinctive look). This girl goes by the name Lumina, however, and she promptly summoned a large enemy creature to attack Lightning.

The beast didn't stand much of a chance for Lightning's new arsenal, however. In addition to her schema movesets, she's also able to temporarily slow time (while moving at full speed) and stagger enemies through repeated attacks with attacks they're vulnerable to. This particular one was weak to lightning, and well, that's just poor luck, isn't it?

I can't say that I was able to make head not tails of the limited bit of plot that Lightning Returns threw my way (something about gods, I gather), but it's safe to say that the battle system has a strong foundation to work from. It's easy to picture the schemata building into a fairly robust feature, and it's easy enough to grasp quickly. It's worth noting that the section of the demo was linear, so we'll see whether it makes its predecessor's missteps in that regard. Still, it was an introductory level, and no more than a minute in we were performing acrobatic attacks and hurling colorful magic with the best of them. We'll be curious to see more. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 will arrive in stores on February 14, 2014.

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Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII box art Platform:
PlayStation 3
Our Review of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
The Verdict:
Game Ranking
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is ranked #1171 out of 1646 total reviewed games. It is ranked #102 out of 152 games reviewed in 2014.
1170. Lucius
1171. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
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