Lightning Returns “Unique Enough” to Drop the XIII-3 Name
A branching of stories within the Final Fantasy games – referred to as the ‘Lightning Saga’ – comes to a close next year, forming the franchise’s first full-fledged trilogy. Despite beginning with Final Fantasy XIII and carrying on to, naturally, Final Fantasy XIII-2, the final chapter shutting the curtains on this saga forgoes the logical, if unimaginative, next step numbering of XIII-3.
Given that Final Fantasy: Lightning Returns is projected for the tail end of 2013, I’d expect even the shittiest basement dwelling ad agency to go nuts with the coincidence and drill XIII-3 in '13 squarely into gamer’s heads. But in explaining why Lightning Returns shirks the numbering scheme in an interview with 4gamer, the game’s creators have shared insights on just how different of a beast this finale is from previous entries.
Yoshinori Kitase, the game’s producer, says the game is, put simply, a “new experience." Calling it XIII-3 would already put the incorrect suggestion into fans’ minds that this sequel’s gameplay launches off of XIII-2’s conceits. Motomu Toriyama, tasked with directorial duties, breaks down each installment as such: the original XIII, at its foundation, was story driven, while XIII-2 opted for a more player driven approach. Lightning Returns revolves around the notion that the game is "world driven,” where the world environment runs in real-time, “24 hours a day” and is dramatically “changing and shifting” whether the player is there to experience it or not.
This design element both instills a sense of urgency in players to seek out events and happenings before they play out without them while also promoting serious amounts of replay value, where going about subsequent playthroughs differently rewards you with new content each time. Slaying monsters or performing miracles (whatever the hell that means; slaying monsters sounds tiring as it is) impacts the flow of time – which is constantly ticking down till doomsday – by either speeding it up or slowing it down. This mechanic plays into the “risk versus reward” nature of the game.
Every little shred of information I hear about this game – and we’re talking very little shreds considering the game’s August announcement – absolutely fascinates me. There was a time in my gaming life when a Final Fantasy release meant that nothing besides a Squaresoft emblazoned disc would be spinning in my drive for weeks straight. XIII brought with it a decidedly mixed era for the franchise, but from what I’m hearing, Lightning’s Saga is attempting to end on a high note.