mark cerqueira well-rounded nerd

Lightning Returns - Demo Review

I’ll come right out and say it – I’m not one of those people who looked at Final Fantasy XIII and saw the series coming to a cataclysmic end. Yes, the linearity of the game sucked. Yes, the story was all over the place – to say the least. But the paradigm shift battle system was awesome and very progressive step forward for JRPG battling. And Final Fantasy XIII-2 was actually pretty good – addressing a lot of the issues of its troubled predecessor. The story, featuring everyone’s favorite plot device – time travel – was decent, yet suffered from that JRPG trope of being “complicated to be complicated.” The ending of XIII-2 was an extremely bold one where the villain, Caius, succeeds and the protagonist, Serah, dies. Square Enix wouldn’t just let the bad guy win, hence the sequel to the sequel – Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns.

Contrary to popular belief on the internets, a sequel to a Final Fantasy game does not automatically make it worthless. Given how good the Bravely Default demo was and how I’m not a member of the “FF13 sucks” hive-mind, I decided to give the demo for the upcoming Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns a go. Let’s see how it went!

  1. The demo opens with video featuring a staff roll. Yet, something’s already off. This doesn’t look like your typical Final Fantasy highlight reel. It looks like an actual scene from the game because characters are talking to each other, but you don’t know what they’re saying because there is no vocal track and there are no subtitles.

  2. I click “Playable Demo” - Let’s do it! Oh wait! I’m being bombarded with a ton of pop-ups about “Otherworld” features. Otherworld lets players share screenshots and sell items to other players. I don’t really care about these features, especially for a demo, so I quickly agree to all the end-user agreements that subsequently pop up.

  3. Moving on, things take a turn for the worst. I have to watch the SAME video I just watched, except this time, instead of a staff roll, I get to hear what the characters were saying to each other. I know I’m playing a JRPG, but seriously, what a huge waste of time.

  4. The demo then introduces the battle system. Lightning battles alone in this game, but can switch between different outfits to change up her abilities. You can switch between 3 outfits in battle. Each outfit has its own ATB gauge that depletes when abilities are used. The ATB gauge for outfits not being used recharges while they are not equipped.

  5. After some tutorial battles, you get to run around and chase a person-of-interest. Nothing new and wonderful here, but you get to jump over obstacles, climb up ladders, and slide down poles. When I first saw this game, I thought they were trying to make an Assassin’s Creed clone. I’m glad that theory was way off.

  6. After some exploring, you face off against a boss. My fear with the one-woman-army battle system was confirmed in this battle: the entire battle was such a drag. A helpful pop-up tells us we should stagger the boss to greatly increase damage by targeting its weakness, Thunder, using the Black Mage outfit. So I spammed Thunder until the Black Mage’s ATB gauge was drained, then switched into the other two outfits and just did plain old attacks until the Black Mage’s ATB gauge recharged. The battle took way too long. In the previous two Final Fantasy XIII games, I would just switch my party into a paradigm that could nuke the boss’ weakness to quickly make short work of it. Even when I was targeting the boss’ weakness, it still felt like I was chipping away fruitlessly. Longer battles doesn’t necessarily mean I’m being challenged; this was just tedious.

  7. After the boss fight, a pop-up tells us we have until 6:00 AM to play the demo. In Lightning Returns, the world is ending in 13 days. Each in-game day lasts about 2-3 hours in “real-life time.” It’s 3:22 AM so I have about a half hour left to play. I continue through the area and then reach a door where the demo ends without any warning! That’s it. No confirmation that I really am done. No pop-up asking me if I want to end the demo prematurely. Nothing. A cutscene and then I’m thrown back to the main menu.

Get it together Square Enix, because this demo was beyond disappointing. Lightning Returns might actually be a decent game, but this demo did a terrible job showing off the game in the best possible light. For some weird reason, Square Enix decided to release Bravely Default on February 7th and Lightning Returns on February 11th. I’ll be picking up Bravely Default on release day, especially given my terrible experience with the Lightning Returns demo. While I’ll likely eventually check out Lightning Returns, I am in no rush to pick up the game.