8 Lightning-Quick First Impressions From the FFXIII-3 "Lightning Returns" Demo.

By Holden Hodgdon in Daily Lists, Video Games
Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 6:00 am
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When I heard the Demo for FF13 - 3 was coming out on the PS3 yesterday, I couldn't help but hop on PSN and download it. This double epilogue of misguided persistence has had a longer hype campaign than its parent title did; with numerous trailers, cinematics, sneak peaks, cross-title promotions, and oh so many avenues for pre-order upsale costume packs. I figured it was going to be a glorious disaster and I had to see it.

I sorta got what I was expecting, but with a few surprises I wasn't: Here are my 8 First Impressions of "Final Fantasy XIII - Part 3 "Lighting Returns" (the Demo)."



(1) Square Is Trying To Leach Fan Love From Final Fantasy 7 & 8.

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Opening shot of the demo is a long range pan into a bleak, industrialized city; black, black, overcast, a highly illuminated building in the center (not unlike ShinRa tower), and oh hey ... It's a train! This is like like Square Enix is begging people to remember when they actually liked Final Fantasy; I admit, my inner child started bouncing up and down chanting "lookie, it's Midgar!" untill I realized that was what Square Enix was after. They probably should have just reused that tech demo remake of FF7's opening sequence from a few years back and saved a bit of cash.

Next shot is of some kind of strip-club-masquerade-ball-rave-thing. Crowded ballroom dance floor, creepy mo-capped stage dancing jester chicks; this feels ripped directly out of FF8. There's probably a little pandering for FF10 - 2 in there also, with its weird ass pop diva opening, but the overall feel is FF8. I really have to question if all this was this really necessary or wise? I mean, understand Square Enix's intent; but it was probably a bit counterproductive, since dredging up old content is just going to contrast how shallow all the new stuff is.


(2) This Game Has Absolutely Nothing in Common With FF13.

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The good news for haters of FF13: this thing no longer has the slightest connection to the first game. Sure, same old characters, but none of them acts (or really looks) like they did in the first one. I think the only reason it's called "Lighting Returns" is because thinking up a new name based on stormy weather was too much work. Plus reusing old character names meant they didn't have to worry about writing actual character introductions. Maybe there is some facet burred in part 2 for why none of these characters have their old personalities, or why the world design is completely disassociated from what it was; but I still can't stand Sarah long enough to bother investigating.

Nothing in this holds a shred of the first game's government conspiracies, sprawling urban sky cities, or civil unrest. Take that as you will; the first game's plot and characters didn't pluck heartstrings on the first go around, so it is probably for the best, even though I myself kinda liked the extended backdrop. It made the game world seem so much bigger than just what the characters were doing. Granted, it also made it really suck when you never got to actually interact with any of it; but I don't think having no expanded lore was the solution people were looking for. They really should have just ditched the old cast and made a new one, but that wouldn't have worked out either, because ....


(3) Square Enix No Longer Has Any Idea How to Make a Final Fantasy Game.

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This whole game (well, demo, and yes I do know that the other zones are more open and bright, but I doubt the rest of the game's mechanics differ that much) reeks of Square Enix not having the slightest understanding of what made the prior Final Fantasy games work. It's like they piled together every bit of classic Final Fantasy iconography they could, dumped it in a pasta bowl, then threw it at the wall hoping something would stick. There are so many little bits and pieces from the old games scattered about, but none of it is used right. My take is that instead of Square Enix actually trying to make homages, they are trying to experiment.

It is like Square Enix is tearing apart concepts from old games, then sticking them back together in weird ways. What I think they are doing is attempting to reverse engineer "the magic" of Final Fantasy, because they have no idea what made the past games work. What they don't seem to get is that without the sense of having a greater world to explore and discover, or any real effort put into minor NPCs having some kind of personality, all they are going to get is dead worlds. It's kinda sad, because you can tell they are trying so hard to figure it out, but they are still so far off the mark.


(4) There Is Social Integration BS.

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I don't know which angle they are going for with this; that Square Enix thinks people are just dying to have Facebook and Twitter integrated into every game, or that Square Enix is so sure people will love this extension of FF13 that they will just have to post their acheivements on social media. Either way, have you ever had that burning itch to meticulously post every achievement to your social contacts, but been too lazy to actually do so? Or maybe you have found yourself too stoned to pull your phone out of your pants and put it on the couch next to you while you play (so that if someone Tweets you, you can Tweet them right back)?

Well, Square Enix has the solution for you! You can now plug your damn Facebook and worthless Twitter accounts into this game, and it will auto announce your every minor achievement to your social contacts for you! There is also some weird thing about blue-capped NPCs showing up with messages from other players...didn't see that part in action, so I don't know if they are hand delivering Twitter twits & Farmville spam scraped from your accounts, or if it is like the graffiti system in Dark Souls with them being static in-game messages. I get that Square Enix is desperate to mine you for social contacts, but what I really can't figure out is why Square Enix even bothered to put it in the demo; this damn thing only lasts about 25 minutes, most of that is FMV, so what the hell does it even have to announce?

(5) The Plot Is Nonsense.

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Lighting is now the female Jesus Christ on a mission from GOD, while "Chaos" is fuzzy black mist that makes the walls go all wobbly; then Anubis monsters crawl through the wobbly walls and eat a waitress. Ok, maybe they don't call her "Jesus" by name, but she is "The Savior" and she works for GOD; I know I was saying "oh lord" every time someone opened their mouth, so maybe that was the angle they were going for. Knowing Japan, combined with the fact that Lighting teleports back to "the Arc" at the end of the demo, I'm guessing that "GOD" actually stands for something like "Guardian Order Defense" and she is a special agent assigned to an inter-dimensional space ship named "The Arc."

Or maybe "The Arc" is where she goes to practice twisting her spine like a snake for her victory poses.

The game is out in Japan, so there are spoilers I could look up to see for myself, but I don't want to. It is more fun to wait for the full release, or not know that my bitterness-fueled snark engine of an imagination just came up with something more creative than what is actually going on; one of those two. Feel free to investigate for yourself; I'm just going to keep myself entertained by being pissed off that we got this thing instead of a new Valkyrie Profile game. Most people will play this for the costumes, some people will play this for the Valkyrie Profile-ish combat system; no one will play this for the nonsense plot.

Oh wait, did I not mention that yet?

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