Square Enix recently hosted a media tour for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. As a part of that tour, Final Fantasy and More (and various other fan sites listed below) were invited down to take part in it. As I mentioned in part 1 of my impressions, I would like to thank Square Enix for this opportunity. In part 1 I covered my thoughts on the demo we were shown, along with a couple other things during the event. In this part I will be covering everything else – the newest trailer, the Q & A session, and other various elements.
Balancing player wishes with creative vision. (via: Final Fantasy Network)
When looking at fan feedback Kitase noted, “It’s important to look back to the first title, which gave players a sense of speed through its use of cinematic cutscenes that wove through the story. FFXIII has been equated to that of a FPS because its goal was to move players quickly from one step to the next. Following its release, the development team received user feedback – most often in regards to the game’s linearity. As we moved on to the second and now third title, we thought of how to implement that user feedback.” Some of the things they strived for included player freedom and the growth of the character while exploring the world. For LRFFXIII, in order to balance that user feedback while forming new elements, they created this expansive world that players would be able to explore, but at the same time, the player won’t be thrown into it haphazardly. To help the player along, the team included the element of time management so that the player would pay better attention to the world, and the burden of having to think about how they will interact with its inhabitants. In a sense, the player must value the time that is left for Lightning – which is one of the strongest elements that was thought of in regards to balancing user feedback.
As I noted in part 1, the world of Lightning Returns is split into 4 continents on Nova Chrysalia – Luxerion, The Wildlands, The Dead Dunes, and one unnamed continent. The player will be able to travel through these places almost completely at will – the only limit being the in-game time controlling the train schedule. This adds into the time management element of the game – taking the train takes time, and you’ll need to find the balance between exploring and progression.
What was the inspiration for the clock-based system? (via: Final Fantasy and More)
The primary source of inspiration for the time element in LRFFXIII was the Doomsday Clock. Toriyama imagined a clock with five minutes left until the end of the world. “For example, let’s say there’s a country that’s developing nuclear weapons and threatening Earth. As they do so, one minute is depleted from that time, yet as other countries pass laws to protect the peace, then they would gain one minute.” By taking this inspiration, Toriyama says you’ll have to spend your time wisely. Much like this scenario, you’ll be able to add time back into the world of Nova Chrysalia by completing certain deeds.
Ability to freely explore in this expansive world (via: Final Fantasy and More)
Aside from the tutorial, the game will be basically free to explore. The player will be able to travel to any of the four continents in the world either by monorail or simply walking to and from them. “Because the time of the world moves in its own 24 hour period, the player might miss some opportunities to explore certain elements,” says Toriyama. The game is setup so players can go back through multiple playthroughs and do things differently through each New Game+.
While we’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out the true size of Nova Chrysalia, the world does seem fairly large. Also, while much of the story remains under wraps, what we do know shows that Lightning will be on a quest to save Serah once again. This will cause her to have her own internal struggles. “We wanted to depict her again in a slightly different light so that people can have another opportunity to get to know her better,” Toriyama explains. “You might be a little bit surprised to see her at the beginning of Lightning Returns because you’re going to find her even more distant and more closed than before, but throughout the story you’re going to find out more about her real emotions, and what goes through her mind. She will be getting more and more human and vulnerable, even as you play.”
The Oracle Drive also seems to be making a return – this time as what seems to be the origin of the crimes in Luxerion.
What is the key experience players should take from Lightning Returns? (via: The Final Fantasy)
As the conclusion to Lightning’s saga, Toriyama wants to present a happy ending for Lightning. The other takeaway is the theme of the world ending. The team wanted to make the players think “what if I only had a certain number of days left until the world ended?” and how would they live their life to the fullest given the little time they’d have.
Courting fans who may have lost interest in the series (via: Nova Crystallis)
“With the Lightning Saga having expanded to three games now, there is a risk that some players have been driven away from the series,” Kitase explains. “At the same time, there might be this impression that people had to play the first two installments to enjoy the third and final installment. With LRFFXIII we wanted to focus on giving it a brand new feel – a brand new game that can be enjoyed regardless of prior knowledge of the series.” By creating this game the team wanted to bring back the players that drifted away from the Final Fantasy XIII saga or the Final Fantasy series. The effort of giving this game a whole new feels shows in their logo – it’s a completely different approach that casts away the traditional Yoshitaka Amano design. According to Kitase, they “wanted to convey to the audience that this is a new game that’s being brought to the table.”
Why continue the Final Fantasy XIII saga instead of creating a new one? (via: Penny Arcade)
“There are two major pillars to this decision,” says Kitase. “The first concerns the development of the concept for Final Fantasy XIII. Lightning was found to be a very attractive character, so we wanted to expand the story of her.” From the beginning stages of FFXIII-2, they had plans to start expanding even more on the world of Lightning and her saga – not only through games, but “the foundation came about for DLC, novels or other various expansions.” In that respect, they drew up the idea for Lightning Returns as the conclusion for the series during the development of FFXIII-2.
“The second pillar is represented by the idea that every numbered Final Fantasy goes through massive revisions for each entry,” Kitase explains. “Because the characters, systems and world would have to be created from scratch, it would be difficult to implement player feedback. As such it might take two or more years between releases. With XIII it was a very rare but great opportunity for the team to take this character and take elements from the game like the battle system and evolve them through the trilogy. By considering user feedback through such a short development time, the player can see that those changes have been applied straight away.”
How will downloadable content be handled? (via: Final Fantasy Union)
In terms of DLC released for FFXIII-2 Kitase says there has been a mixed reception. “One example is the costumes that provided an aesthetic change to Noel and Serah. Feedback suggested that perhaps in addition to a visual change, maybe costumes should have an effect in-game – things like stat boosts, or other battle advantages. This feedback has been taken and applied to Lightning Returns.” As seen in the gameplay demo, Lightning has an assortment of outfits she can change between and Styles that can be assigned that contain different abilities or bonuses.
Another popular piece of DLC feedback the team received was in regard to scenario content. With XIII-2, they had planned DLC from the very beginning – building it with that extra content in mind. To round out the story, Kitase believes it was effective that they had those additional episodes in place. “Following their release, players voiced concerns of confusion and frustration, saying that they didn’t really add anything to the main part of the story,” says Kitase. As a result, the story for Lightning Returns will conclude within the main part of the game already on disc.
Are the costumes trying to appeal to older players with a system similar to the job system? (via: Penny Arcade)
The customization system in LRFFXIII is very similar to the classic Final Fantasy job system, or perhaps even FFXIII’s own Paradigm System. “The new system has been expanded so that players will have more freedom with abilities that they can assign,” according to Toriyama. Unlike the job system in say, FFV, where roles were more specific to each job, the system in LRFFXIII is a lot more expansive. “The player can lean toward a more action-oriented style of battle with commands like Guard or Strike or Dodge-Roll. Or, for those more interested in a typical RPG style, you can customize Lightning to cast magic.” In addition to assigning elements such as commands, Lightning’s actual outfits can be changed, with items like shields and weapons mixed and matched. Her outfits can be micromanaged down to the smallest detail, including custom colors that will appear while exploring the world as well.
Another element of battle introduced is the Amazing Active Time Battle. I touched on this in part one – it is the system in battle where you will have three separate ATB bars. One other change to the battle system is how pre-emptive attacks will be handled. While encounters will still be visible on the field, you will be able to get various effects on pre-emptive attacks (attacking without being seen). While if Lightning strikes first she can take off 10% of their HP immediately, an attack from behind will cause them to lose 25% HP instead.
I would like to thank everyone for reading this, and I would like to welcome everyone to visit the websites of all the other attending fan sites. If you want you can pre-order the game now.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII will be available in Fall 2013. In the coming months expect much more information to be released on the game.
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