At E3, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Producer Yoshinori Kitase announced that the game would feature a special costume reproducing the racial starting gear of a miqo’te from Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. A month later, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida retaliated, by letting us know from the stage of Japan Expo in Paris that Lightning herself would appear in the game with an extensive questline, while players would receive Lightning and Snow’s costumes and weapons from Final Fantasy XIII.
The last chapter of this saga happened yesterday, when we broke the news on the fact that Lightning will perform a rather sexy victory pose while wearing the miqo’te costume. At every single stage of this tale of collaborations and crossovers, heads exploded in the name of immersion, character integrity and simple hate for Lightning herself.
The reactions (or better yet, overreactions) to this whole crossover affair are mainly irrational, so it’s time to take a nice step back and think about it (if the explanation offered by Naoki Yoshida himself wasn’t enough for you).
So, what’s so wrong with part of the internet going up in flames like it was personally slighted by those evil Square Enix developers? Nothing, really, but let’s get one big misconception out of the way first:
As a matter of fact no, not everyone hates Lightning. For instance, I don’t hate Lightning (I’m not head over heels in love with her either, but still), and I’m definitely not the only one. This is the main argument I see every time Square Enix announces something related to her. Those that hate the character for some mysterious reason just assume that their sentiments are shared on a global scale, only to be immediately proven wrong by a number of comments that state the contrary.
“Ok, not everyone hates her, but I’m sure the majority hates Lightning!”
This is another popular misconception that basically applies to every argument on the internet. People seem to love to mistaken their own opinion as a statistic, either just out of some personal delusion or weakly backed up by what their hear from their friends/family/acquaintances or in the local forum or chatroom they use to hang out. Guess what? It turns out to be radically false.
While in the west Lightning is a quite polarizing topic of discussion, the west isn’t the only market that matters. As a matter of fact, the most relevant market for Final Fantasy titles is still Japan, and in Japan Lightning is quite loved by the gaming community. In a poll held by Famitsu in 2010 she ranked 34th between the most loved video game characters ever, bating quite a few other Final Fantasy protagonists and other prominent characters from other series.
Since then her popularity has grown, and in another poll held by Square Enix that ranked all the female Final Fantasy protagonists at the beginning of this year, Lightning managed to win by a hair, beating even the almost universally adored Aerith.
If you go to a Japanese discussion environment and talk about Lightning, reactions are a lot more positive than in the west. So, if you find yourself asking the question: “Why does Square Enix continue to make games starring Lightning?”, the answer is pretty simple. She’s very popular and has a sizable fanbase at least in Japan. Maybe your friends don’t like her, but you and your friends aren’t a statistic.
“Ok then, she isn’t universally hated….but she’s out of place in Final Fantasy XIV!”
No she isn’t. As a matter of fact, between the Final Fantasy protagonists she’s the one that has the best chance of finding herself in a different world, considering that traveling through time and dimensions is part of her backstory in Final Fantasy XIII-2.
“That might make sense for Lightning’s backstory, but what about Final Fantasy XIV? It doesn’t make sense with the lore of the game!”
Yes it does. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is the numbered Final Fantasy where finding characters from other worlds makes the most sense. At the beginning of the game all the old characters from every veteran of the original FFXIV return from a nice five year-long trip through space and time, on which they were sent by the archon Louisoix to save them from the rage of Bahamut. If they can go on that kind of trip, so can Lightning.
“But Lightning’s clothes! They’re totally out of place in Eorzea. They’ll ruin my immersion…”
Final Fantasy XIV‘s world is not your typical pure high fantasy world. Like many other Final Fantasy worlds it has a technological component, and the Garlean Empire is industrialized and advanced. There’s an enormous variety of fashions and styles in Eorzea, and Lightning’s clothes (or Snow’s) aren’t more outrageous than the schoolgirl outfit that serves as the scholar job’s artifact armor for instance, or the bikini sets. As a matter of fact they don’t really look particularly hi-tech or modern compared to most outfits already present in the game.
“But… a Gunblade!
Final Fantasy XIV had gunblades from the very start. They’re a widespread weapon between officers in the Garlean Empire.
“I hate Lightning and I don’t want to see her in Final Fantasy XIV“
Then don’t. The questline will be optional. You can simply skip it. On the other hand, those that like her or aren’t blinded by hate can play it and have fun with it–everyone wins. As a matter of fact the Final Fantasy XIV team has demonstrated to be very good with storytelling, so I’d say they deserve to be given a chance. They might create a story featuring Lightning that could improve her standing even between those that normally don’t like her.
“What about the miquo’te costume and that horribly sexualized victory pose? They sure don’t fit Lightning at all!”
Sure they don’t, pretty much like half the costumes in Lightning Returns. The pose makes sense with the costume, as it’s the racial /pose emote done by female miqo’te characters in Final Fantasy XIV. Ultimately, if you don’t like it, you can simply…avoid wearing the costume!
No one at Square Enix is shoving that costume or that pose down your throat. If you like it, you can have Lightning wear it. If you prefer the usual stoic lightning there are plenty costumes that’ll fit your taste. Options are a good thing, not a bad thing.
The gist of the issue is really pretty simple. If you hate Lightning, you can completely ignore her presence in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. If you love her but you don’t like to see her wearing a skimpy costume or striking an alluring pose, you’re fully empowered with the option to avoid that kind of content in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. It’s fully optional.
This crossover, like all fanservice, is obviously targeted to those that love both games. That’s how crossovers work. Fanservice is nothing new to the Final Fantasy series, and especially to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, that is specifically designed to be a place where fans of the whole series (including Final Fantasy XIII) can feel at home by being exposed to a whole truckload of cameos and easter eggs.
Whether you like it or not, Square Enix made it optional. If you’re so offended by Lightning’s presence in a game in which her appearance actually makes perfect sense, or by her wearing a skimpy outfit and striking a “nyan nyan” pose with cat ears and a tail, you can completely ignore those elements and they won’t affect you one bit.
The power of options is a marvelous thing. Maybe more people should embrace it instead of getting offended by something that no one holds them at a gunpoint to enjoy.