Mike Salbato
New Details for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
A bevy of new factoids on the game's time element, battle system and even a little bit of Hope.
09.06.12 - 2:51 AM

Announced a mere four days ago, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII will complete the story of Final Fantasy XIII's heroine, Lightning. While we knew the game would feature a timer element and more action-based combat, we didn't know a great deal more.

If you've yet to finish either Final Fantasy XIII or Final Fantasy XIII-2, there's a fairly substantial story spoiler for the sequel below, so read on at your own risk.

Andriasang has shared a wealth of small details about Lightning Returns, straight from Famitsu, paraphrased here:

We already knew the title would incorporate a constantly-ticking clock, counting down until the end of the world. Generally speaking, the story unfolds over 13 days, with each in-game day passing in 1-2 hours of real time. While Square Enix had cited inter-area travel as an example of something that would use up extra time, we now know that helping people, defeating monsters and completing quests can have both negative and positive effects on time. Depending on your actions, you'll be able to either extend the time left for the world, or decrease it. If it's too much of the latter, the game can potentially end before the 13 days pass. And it sounds like you'll never forget the timer: Besides being part of the game's interface, clocks will be dispersed throughout the cities as reminders.

While the information about this potential "bad ending" reached by running out of time sounds dire, Lightning Returns is meant to be played/completed multiple times, and isn't a "tens of hours" length game. There's a lot of ways this can play out, from something akin to Chrono Trigger's New Game+ or something else entirely. We'll just have to wait and see.

We knew Lightning would be the only playable character; this was done not only to help the player focus on her actions (versus dividing attention between 3 characters), but add more action and timing-based elements to combat, such as the ability to move around the battlefield. While the series' classic ATB gauge remains, gone are menu-driven commands, replaced with multiple abilities assigned to different buttons (just imagine most other action RPGs and you get the idea).

Are you an otaku, too?
Lightning Returns is set hundreds of years after Final Fantasy XIII-2, but - and this is where the spoilers come in - following the events of Serah and Noel's adventure, time has ceased to flow, and people no longer age. The only returning cast member known thus far is Hope, who - like Otacon to Solid Snake - guides Lightning via a communicator.

World Driven
Square Enix delved a little more into the "World Driven" concept they talked about considerably at the announcement event. According to Square Enix, Final Fantasy XIII was story driven, as the story was the focal point of the story (and why environments were straight lines apparently). Its sequel Final Fantasy XIII-2 was "player driven," as the story was much more open and non-linear, and unfolded based on player choice. With the world dying and time running out, Lightning Returns has players focusing on the world and how choices affect its outcome. The Novus world, by the way, is divided into four main continents, two being city-based and the other two more "natural."

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is, for certain, Lightning's final game and will have a definitive end (if you hadn't noticed, Final Fantasy XIII-2 was left a LITTLE open). The game is currently 30% complete, and is launching in 2013 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Stay tuned for more as we learn it - hopefully we'll be able to see the game itself in the not-too-distant future.