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Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is surprising, but not for the reasons you might expect. With only thirteen days to go before the end of the world, Lightning has her hands full. This final chapter tries a lot of new ideas, many of which work. Unfortunately, the game is a little messy and tonally all over the place. Fans of the series will be satisfied with the emotional finale. Rating: 64%
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
  • Review Score:

  • B-
Previously on Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning fights the fal'Cie to rescue her sister and break the mark of the I'Cie. Along the way she meets up with a group of unlikely allies, who band together to save the Cocoon from being destroyed. And then, out of nowhere, the whole thing turns into Back to the Future and introduces time travel. All this leads us to Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, the exciting (and convoluted) final chapter in the Nova Chrysalia trilogy.

For all the preamble, Lightning Returns has a surprisingly simple story that is quick and easy to summarize. You play as Lightning, who returns to Nova Chrysalia thirteen days before its prophesized destruction. She has been named the Savior by God Bhunivelze and is on a mission to save the souls of humanity from the burdens on their hearts, guiding them to a new world. She is driven by her desire to bring back Serah, the sister that started the domino effect some 500 years ago.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (PlayStation 3)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Obviously, there's more to it than I'm letting on. Beyond saving the souls of humanity, Lightning will use the final thirteen days to track down former Final Fantasy XIII cast members, such as Vanille, Sazh, Snow and more. On top of that, she's being guided by a youthful Hope and stalked by a mysterious girl named Lumina. It's a juggling act to not only save as many souls as possible, but also make sure all the pieces are in place for the final day. Being a servant of God can be incredibly stressful.

There's a reason I keep mentioning that these are the final thirteen days before the end of the world, and that's because time plays an important part in Final Fantasy XIII-3. With the exception of cinema scenes and fighting, the clock is always ticking down for Nova Chrysalia. Lightning is able to buy a few days by simply saving enough souls, but there's nothing she can do about the world coming to an end.

With the clock always ticking, Lightning's final chapter feels more like a Dead Rising game than Final Fantasy sequel. Many missions are time sensitive. Not just when it comes to completing them, but also when it comes to interacting with the quest givers. Forget fighting scary monsters, Lightning's biggest enemy is time management.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (PlayStation 3)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The different quests are split up across four unique regions, each with its own lengthy story mission to complete. We start in Luxerion, which is a quiet town with a very concerning crime problem. When bored of the small town, Lightning can hop on the train and visit Yusnaan, a large party city full of fireworks, staged fights and armed guards on the lookout for a rose-haired woman with a large sword.

Away from the cities, we are able to explore two huge open worlds. The Wildlands is made up of a large meadow, a forest maze and a treacherous mountain region. Over in the Deadly Dunes, Lightning is able to explore the labyrinthine tunnel far below the desert sands and scorching sun. These sections are a great throwback to a time when Final Fantasy was about exploring the countryside looking for adventures. And best of all, these locations and missions can be tackled in any order.

Instead of spending countless hours grinding for levels, this Final Fantasy XIII sequel puts the emphasis on completing missions. Resolving the various quests will increase Lightning's health, strength and magic abilities. You get none of these improvements from going around killing enemies. This may run counter to every other Final Fantasy game, but it ends up being a great improvement.
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