TFF Interview

BREAKING NEWS: New Lightning Returns Info; Projected Launch Window

TFF had the opportunity to sit down with Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns Producer, Yoshinori Kitase and game Director, Motomu Toriyama

Lightning Returns

During a recent premiere event, TheFinalFantasy sat down with our colleagues in the industry to get a first look at some of the newest content for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. Yoshinori Kitase, Producer, and Motomu Toriyama, Director, were on hand for a fresh look at the game.

With a pair of translators on hand, Kitase-san began the presentation with an extended trailer reviewing some of the videos last month, tying it all together. During the display, he shared with us his vision for the game. Kitase stated that Final Fantasy is characterized by the drama that is woven by the vision of the world. Lightning is the heart of the Fabula Nova Crystallis world, pulling the player's focus toward her. The key to the success of Fabula Nova Crystallis is Lightning, a familiar protagonist returning with a brand new style designed by Tatsuya Nomura. Lightning Returns finds itself with a new logo, new font, and new gameplay, all based on feedback from the fans tied in with the developers' vision. Kitase described Lightning as "holding the key to the nexus of the series."

When asked how fan feedback influenced the direction of the game, Kitase noted that the first title offered players a strong sense of speed. Players would defeat monsters, get a cinematic, defeat a boss, and progress to the following piece of the story, being pulled forward along the way. This is the story-driven style Square-Enix refers to when talking about the first game. The second title was considered a player-driven game, allowing the player to choose the story he or she would experience by creating the branching storyline with multiple endings, and a stronger replay value to see all of the outcomes. In the third title, the team has utilized community feedback to tweak the game's mechanics to balance it with the desires of the community. The player gains the drive to pay attention to the world itself and interact with its occupants, controlling Lightning's activities and how she micromanages the short thirteen days granted to her.

The idea to create a "clock-based game" stems from the Doomsday Clock. Toriyama-san imagines a clock with five minutes on it. As a country develops nuclear technology, a minute is lost from the clock. As other countries pass into law the restriction of such development, a minute is added back. While he was unclear of whether this meant there would be any way to actually add time back onto the clock, the pressure of a limited timeframe was apparent. Toriyama also explained that, aside from the tutorial, the game will be almost completely open, and the player will not be shoehorned into specific events to ensure progress of the timeline. There will be a type of New Game Plus, allowing players to cycle through the thirteen days and complete quests they were unable to finish on the previous playthrough.

Lightning Returns Screenshot

The concept of a world-driven game brings us NPCs who move around in a lifelike fashion, tending to their jobs, their homes, their family and friends. The world itself is alive, whether Lightning is doing anything or not - if left unpaused, the game's clock will progress forward, and continue to do so through all events. Luxerion, the primary location displayed in the trailers and demo alike, is a breathing environment. When monsters invade, the crowds disperse, screaming.

As the early alpha demo was played, Toriyama expressed his vision and touched some key points. Lightning Returns will feature four continents; the first, Luxerion, has been showcased already. Another two were shown to us: The Wildlands, filled to the brim with nature - sweeping plains, forests, canyons, and more with small villages spread throughout the landscape; The Dead Dunes, a vast desert continent filled with various ruins and dungeons to explore. There is still one continent yet to be shown. These continents are connected to one another via railway.

Customization will also be a large piece of the Lightning Returns experience. Not only do each of Lightning's weapons and shields have unique models and animation, but each individual costume is displayed as well. Every piece of equipment has a modifier, allowing the player to choose the color(s) of the item. Weapons, shields, and costumes will also affect Lightning's attributes, altering which abilities are available to her. The player has full control over the individual experience in combat, tweaking Lightning to suit personal style.

The combat system is much faster paced, though still reminiscent of the old paradigm system. Players can save three different outfits into a set, and cycle through them in battle like the paradigm system of its predecessors. What vastly increases the speed of the combat is the new "Amazing ATB" system - each outfit has its own individual ATB gauge, and each gauge charges separately. Lightning can move fluidly between styles to maintain a constant flow of action. Also showcased was an advanced player advantage system - if Lightning can strike first, enemies lose 10% of their HP at the start of the battle; if she strikes from behind, they lose 25% of their HP instead. Also new to the series is the active dodge and counter system, allowing players to control their ability to fight back. Individual actions for each equipment kit are set to the face buttons on the controller, and players can move Lightning around the battlefield using the joysticks. Enemies also have multiple weak points, and can be assaulted by various skills to enter the new Knockdown system, based on the previous Stagger system.

Lightning Returns Quest Screenshot

The demonstration took us through some of these various events - we saw time pass as Lightning investigated the murder she stumbled upon at the beginning of the sequence. Time passed as she moved on into the shops, and the city moved around her. Lightning stopped at a food vendor to refill her health - there will be a larger variety of shops in Lightning Returns than any other title before it - and then stopped at another vendor to purchase new abilities. Time passed as she ran through a crowd, straight into the arms of danger, encountering various foes which had spawned in the city. A quick entry to the menu interface to prepare for the fight ahead ended with a final showdown against a large Behemoth.

From what we saw, the game feels like a fresh take on a good combat system. The player can exhaust all three gauges and be left without any actions to take, so there will still be a strategic element, requiring player focus. Fortunately, the combats themselves appeared to be very short - a useful thing when the clock is always running behind you. The ATB gauges are also utilized outside of battle, as Lightning can expend them to run or jump through the environment.

As announced yesterday, a new character strikingly similar to Serah will be in Lightning Returns. Her name is Lumina, and while her motives are yet to be determined, she appears to be almost a jester of sorts, prodding Lightning on with a very sarcastic demeanor. Noel is also confirmed for the game, though he was fighting against Lightning, claiming that she couldn't be the real thing - story events leading up to the encounter should clarify his motives. Lightning may have to battle former comrades to release them of their burden, likely referring to the immortality of residents of Nova Chrysalia.

Lightning Returns Lumina Screenshot

We asked the team what they wished for players to take away from the overall experience of Lightning Returns and the Lightning Saga upon completion. Toriyama had this to say: This is going to be the conclusion to Lightning's Saga, Lightning's story, so we wanted to give her a sort of happy ending, despite the overarcing theme of the world ending, giving the players the opportunity to think "what if I only had 13 days left, what would I do?"

Lightning Returns has been slated for a Fall 2013 release. More information regarding the title, characters, gameplay, etc. will be released as we approach the launch window. There are currently no plans to announce further titles in the Fabula Nova Crystallis universe. (This question was not answered directly by Kitase or Toriyama.)

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII will be Lightning's final battle, and the end to her journey.

Read more about the upcoming release and new screenshots on our forums.

Check out our Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII for more information, news, and updates.