Lightning Strikes Thrice; Returning to Happier Times.

So, I’ve already spoken about my heartwarming experience at my recent trip to see Lightning Returns at the Troxy Theatre (courtesy of IGN) in my main blog feed, but how was the actual game? I’m glad you asked…

I sat down for my first demo, on a Xbox 360, in what I presume is a very early portion of the game. After completing a simple tutorial, I’m struck by one thing – there is a LOT happening on screen. I play a tonne of videogames, and I’m certainly no stranger to complex RPGs, but I really struggled to keep up here. It’s not that there was a huge amount actually going on, but I had to keep up with two health bars, the new equivalent of a ‘stagger’ bar, a special meter, and THREE seperate energy gauges. On top of that, these energy gauges are essential, deplete with every attack, and constantly recharge.

That complaint aside, it was actually quite an exciting, action-orientated system – its what Final Fantasy XIII wanted to be. It’s still tactical and strategic, but hack-and-slashy enough to attract ‘casual fans’.

I ran through this fairly simple section, defeated a small boss, and ended the demo. Good enough. The real meat of gameplay, however, came in the second demo.

Now on a Playstation 3, I was really let out in an open, non-linear expanse of the world, reminiscent of XIII’s Gran Pulse. I decided to tackle the main story missions, whilst my friend explored any available side quests. Haters of XIII’s ’20 hours of corridoors’ will be pleased to know there is a lot more choice and variety in this respect.

There were fetch quests in which we had to collect flowers from the area, ask people in the small towns for information, gather medicine for an injured Chocobo and more; all in conjuction with the main story missions. This freedom is sure to go down a treat with more traditional RPG players. And the mini-boss in these story missions was devilishly hard, far more so than most run of the mill bosses I remember facing in the last few ‘FFs’.

The art style and graphics on the other hand are exactly what players of XIII and XIII-2 would expect, complete with some overly quirky characters that dont necessarily translate well to Western audiences. The music, of course, is of the same high standard of all FF titles.

Overall I was left feeling optimistic after my time with the game, but I didn’t expect much else, being a seemingly rare fan of the previous two ‘XIII’s’. But even if you wern’t a fan of the last few entries into the classic Square Enix series, there’s plenty different in Lightning Returns to change your mind, and return fans to happier times.

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