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Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is a console action role-playing video game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was released on November 2013 in Japan and is set for release in February 2014 in Europe and North America. The game is a direct sequel to Final Fantasy XIII-2, concludes the storyline of Final Fantasy XIII, and forms part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis subseries. Lightning Returns employs a highly revamped version of the gameplay system from the previous two games, with an action-oriented battle system, the ability to customize the player character's outfits, and a time limit the player must extend by completing story missions and sidequests. The story takes place five hundred years after the previous game's ending. Lightning, the main protagonist of the first game and a key character in the second, awakes from a self-imposed hibernation thirteen days before the world's end, and is given the task of saving the people of the dying world, including former friends and allies.

Development of the game started in May 2012, shortly after the release of XIII-2's final piece of DLC, and was unveiled at a special 25th Anniversary Event for the Final Fantasy series in September that year. Most of the previous games' key creative minds and developers returned, and it was developed by Square Enix's First Production Department, with developer tri-Ace helping with the graphics. The development team wanted the game to bring a conclusive end to the story of both Lightning and the XIII universe, and to address criticisms leveled against the last two games. Lightning Returns built upon the gameplay basics of the previous games, while adding new content such as a more action-based combat system, an open world that players could freely navigate, and a mechanic wherein the game's events took place within a certain period of time.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Plot

After sleeping for five hundred years, Lightning is awoken by the god Bhunivelze. The world is set to end in thirteen days, and to this end Lightning is made the savior, a figure who will free the souls of humanity from the burdens on their hearts and guide them to a new world that Bhunivelze will create once the thirteen days are up. Lightning undertakes this task to rescue and ensure the rebirth of Serah's spirit. Hope acts as her guide from the Ark, which houses the rescued souls of humanity: Bhunivelze chose him and changed his physical form to his 14-year-old self from XIII. As she journeys and performs her task, she encounters her former allies and adversaries, many of whom now carry heavy emotional burdens. She is also followed about by Lumina, who both gives her advice and taunts her at regular intervals.

In Luxerion, Lightning investigates a series of murders where all the victims match the physical description of the savior. During her journey, she is followed by Noel, who has become obsessed with a prophecy that he must kill Lightning to realize a better world. The two briefly ally to rout the Children of Etro, who are responsible for the murders, then later do battle. Lightning uses Noel's rage to make him realize and accept his mistakes, lifting his burden. After this, she meets up with Vanille in the Order's cathedral. Vanille shows Lightning a place within the cathedral where the souls of the dead have gathered. Vanille is being prepared for a ritual to take place on the final day that will apparently purity the souls. In the Dead Dunes, Lightning encounters Fang and goes with her on a journey through the region's dungeons in search of a relic called the Holy Clavis. When they find it, Fang reveals that it is key to the ritual in Luxerion as it has the power to draw in the souls of the dead, and that the ritual will kill Vanille. She attempts to destroy the relic, but the forces of the Order arrive and take it. On the eleventh day, the souls of the dead speak to Lightning through the visage of Cid Raines, a man Lightning encountered during XIII. He tells her Vanille believes that by performing the ritual she will save the dead and atone for her past sins, but the Order has deceived her and plans to sacrifice her to destroy the dead, so the living will forget their existence and be 'purified' for rebirth in the new world. Lightning decides to stop the ritual, though Cid warns her that she will be defying Bhunivelze's will.

In the Wildlands, Lightning saves a white chocobo called the "Angel of Valhalla" from monsters and nurses it back to health. The chocobo is revealed to be Odin, one of the Eidolon race who acted as her ally in XIII. She encounters Sazh, whose son Dajh has fallen into a coma. Lightning revives Dajh by retrieving the fragments of his soul, and lifts Sazh's emotional burden. Traveling to the ruins of Valhalla, Lightning encounters Caius and multiple versions of Yeul. After fighting with Caius, Lightning learns that he has become one with the Chaos and thus cannot be saved. She also learns that it was Yeul's perpetual rebirth that caused the Chaos of Valhalla to seep into the mortal world and trigger the events of XIII-2. She also finds a village of moogles, ruled over by Mog, and helps them fend off attacking monsters. In Yusnaan, Lightning infiltrates Snow's palace and finds him preparing to enter a concentration of Chaos he had trapped in the palace. He plans to transform into a Cie'th, then have Lightning kill him. Though he performs the act and they fight, Lightning manages to renew his hope of seeing Serah again, reverse his transformation and lift his burden. On Nova Chrysalia's final day, Hope reveals to Lightning that Bhunivelze used him to watch over Lightning, and that the deity will dispose of him now that his task is completed.

After Hope fades away, Lightning is transported to Luxerion and enters the cathedral, where Noel and Fang help her fight the Order to save Vanille. Reaching Vanille, Lightning and Fang manage to convince her to use her powers to free the souls of the dead and grant them rebirth. Though the Order's high priestess tries to force Vanille to finish the ritual, Snow arrives and destroys the Clavis, killing the priestess. Vanille and Fang then use their combined strength to free the souls of the dead, and their burdens are lifted. Bhunivelze then arrives in Hope's body and captures Lightning's allies. Transported to an otherworldly realm, Lightning meets Bhunivelze in person, learning that the deity has been conditioning both Lightning and Hope for his own purposes: Hope was to be his host, while Lightning was to replace the Goddess Etro. Learning that he now intends to destroy the new world, Lightning battles and wounds him. She then frees Hope and prepares to sacrifice herself to seal Bhunivelze away. An illusion of Serah then confronts Lightning, revealing that Lumina is the physical manifestation of Lightning's suppressed vulnerabilities, all from the time she had cast away her birthname Claire Farron and became Lightning. Accepting Lumina as a part of herself, Lightning calls for aid. Hope, Snow, Noel, Vanille, Fang and the Eidolons answer her call, and they sever Bhunivelze's hold on the souls of humanity. Then, together with Sazh, Dajh, Mog, and a revived Serah, Lightning and the souls of humanity unite and defeat Bhunivelze. In the aftermath, Caius and the multiple versions of Yeul choose to remain in the Unseen Realm and protect the balance between worlds in Etro's stead. The final incarnation of Yeul, who alone wishes for a new life, is allowed to accompany Lightning and her friends. After the Eidolons and Mog disappear to be reborn, Lightning, her allies, and the souls of humanity travel to a new world free of deities, where humans can decide their own fate. In a post-credits scene, Lightning is seen in normal clothes setting out on a peaceful journey to reunite with her friends.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Gameplay

The player directly controls the character Lightning through a third-person perspective to interact with people, objects, and enemies throughout the game. The player can also turn the camera around the character, which allows for a 360 view of the surroundings. The world of Lightning Returns, as with Final Fantasy XIII and its sequel XIII-2, is rendered to scale with the character, who navigates the world on foot. In one of the areas, the player can use chocobos, a recurring animal in the Final Fantasy series. The in-game clock runs continuously during normal navigation, with one in-game day equating to one hour in real time. The timer starts out at seven in-game days, but can be extended to a maximum of thirteen days. The timer stops during cutscenes, conversations and battles. Lightning can also pause time using an ability called Chronostasis. The player is able to freely navigate the game's open world layout, explore towns and country areas, and accept quests from various NPCs. The game features four difficulty levels: Easy, Normal and Hard, the latter two of which are unlocked after first completing the game. There is also a New Game+ option, whereby players can start a new game while carrying over their equipment from a previous playthrough.

Quests are directly linked to Lightning's growth: as she completes quests, her stats are boosted, with the main story quests yielding the biggest boosts. Many quests can only be obtained at certain times, since the real-time build of the world means NPCs are in constant movement, and only appear in certain places at a given time. Lighting can also accept quests from the Canvas of Prayers, a post board found in all the main locations. Upon completing NPC-given quests, Lightning is rewarded with a portion of Eradia, spiritual energy retrieved when a person's burden is lifted. Every day at 6 AM game-time, Lightning is drawn back into the Ark, a location where the in-game clock does not progress. Once there, Lightning can give her gathered Eradia to a tree called Yggdrasil and extend the game clock by a set amount. She can also restock on supplies and collect new equipment. Another feature in the game is Outerworld Services, a feature where players can take photos and share them, along with their personal stats and battle scores, on Facebook and Twitter.

In Japan, the PS3 version of Lightning Returns reached the top of the Top 20 in software sales in its first week, selling just over 277,000 units and beating Nintendo's Super Mario 3D World. In the same period, the Xbox 360 version sold 4,000 units, under half of the initial sales of XIII-2 for that platform. By the end of 2013, the PS3 version was 17th among the 100 best-settling titles of the year, selling 404,147 physical copies. The game scored 37/40 in Famitsu magazine, with the reviewers giving scores of 10, 10, 9 and 8 out of 10 for each console version of the game.

Critical reception in the West was mixed. Praise was given particularly to its more action-oriented battle system when compared to previous entries. The storyline and its characters came in for particular criticism, while reviewers also noticed an "inconsistent tone" as attempts at humour were used ineffectively. The enforced countdown to the end of the world was seen as a hindrance, diverting the player away from exploration. In addition, some elements of the presentation were regarded as being at a lower standard than the previous two games in the XIII trilogy, such as environmental textures in town areas, though the art design did receive praise.

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