In an interview with 4Gamer, the team behind Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII–producer Yoshinori Kitase, director Motomu Toriyama, lead designer Yujii Abe, and art director Isamu Kamikokuryou–give a little more insight into their newest installment, and why it’s one of the most innovative games you’ll be playing.
The team remind us early that this is not Final Fantasy: XIII-3: Lightning Returns is seen as a completely new type of game, going in a completely new direction. This means that that Lightning Returns can be enjoyed without having played Final Fantasy XIII or Final Fantasy XIII-2, but this doesn’t mean that Lightning Returns won’t reflect the previous games at all. Lightning Returns will certainly be based on the mythology of Final Fantasy XIII, but the team strongly suggested that this new idea–of having a limited time left to live in the world–is what makes Lightning Returns so unique and compelling.
The idea that most games are story-driven or player-driven is powerful, but what the team is going for in Lightning Returns is a game that is “world-driven.” With a world that is constantly counting down to doom, the team believes that time management will add a certain amount of tension–perhaps even panic–to Lightning Returns‘ gameplay. Especially considering that certain attacks and actions will decrease the time Lightning has left.
The story of the game will start with the destruction of the world, Dattari, leaving Lightning 13 days to save it. Everything Lightning does changes the life expectancy of the world itself, so that by day 13, the world may or may not be destroyed. Between the first and last day, players will have an immense amount of freedom in exploring the world, encouraged to make the game their own and discover it at their own pace.
So far, the team estimates that a day in Lightning Returns is approximately 1-2 hours in real time. In that time, players can experience whatever events they come across, but obviously there’s not enough time to partake in all the events the game offers. This–similar to Heavy Rain, the Mass Effect series, and The Walking Dead–is meant to encourage two things: conversation between players on what they’ve experienced, and replayability. Unlike those other games, though, Lightning Returns allows players to replay the game without starting over on a new save.
Similar to The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, players will have the option to bring Lightning back to the first day, although the team haven’t clarified how this works in the game. Nonetheless, they’ve made a distinct comparison between Lightning Returns and the traditional RPG, through literature. A long RPG–we’re talking 100+ hours–would be like a long book: it would take a lot of time to complete it just once, time many people don’t have nowadays. And after completing it the one time, there would be little desire to read it again anytime soon. Instead, Lightning Returns is designed like a short novel, one that can be finished within a relatively short time, but reread for fun and discovery. Like a good book or movie, the team hopes that replaying Lightning Returns will bring new content and experiences for players to discover.
The battle system is the most overhauled aspect of the game, with the team ditching the party system entirely to focus the game on Lightning. In Lightning Returns, the game will focus all on Lightning, with the team saying they wanted to change the way battles felt. They felt trying to control a team tactically in real time was somewhat complex, and wanted to simplify combat structurally while adding in depth and strategy through refinement.
The change in battle mechanics also affects the type of gameplay Lightning Returns offers. The game’s four island locations have development teams dedicated to each section, with each mission offering a variety of new enemies and objectives. Some involve stealth missions, some involve mysteries for Lightning to solve, but each are meant to be unique, and more than what has been offered before in previous installments.
Overall, the team seemed really excited on the prospect of having such a new world to offer players, and hope that creativity and discovery will encourage gamers to keep playing in the Final Fantasy universe.
How do you feel about Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII? Let us know in the comments below, and as always, stay tuned to DualShockers.