For almost 20 years, there was a formula: Each generation of consoles would get a Final Fantasy trilogy. The Nintendo Entertainment System had Final Fantasy I – III, the Super Nintendo had IV – VI, the PlayStation had VII – IX, and the PlayStation 2 had X – XII. It was a good system, a reliable way to track the series progress through different creators and technology. You’d think that since this console cycle with the Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 has gone on for 7 years, much longer than average, we might have seen the cycle broken by expansion. Maybe four games instead of three. Nope. Not happening. The PS3 and 360 will have a Final Fantasy trilogy, just not the one anybody wanted—Here comes Final Fantasy XIII-3.
Actually, wait a second; that title isn’t awkward enough. Here comes Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.
During Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary event, the company announced the teased third Final Fantasy XIII entry. Expected out next year, this game puts you back in control of XIII’s moody protagonist Lightning, the lady that was actually on the cover of Final Fantasy XIII-2 but only appeared in the game for about twenty minutes total.
Lightning Returns may seem like the least creative game Square could possibly make at this point in time, but the game sounds quite strange considering its lineage. The game will put you in control of Lightning solo, with no pets or party members to speak of as you explore the world. The battle system is similar to that of the other XIII games, with Lightning taking on different roles specializing in weapons or magic, but it will play much differently with active moves like attack and block assigned to buttons rather than choices in a menu.
The story is also a weird shift. Lightning Returns takes place a few hundred years after XIII-2 in an archipelago called Novus Partus, which has come down with a case of the Majora’s Mask blue. Like in that Zelda game, there’s a doomsday clock clicking down to the inevitable end of the world. Everything Lightning does brings the apocalypse one step closer to reality. That is to say, it’s the feel good game of the year.
It’s not too late for this console cycle to get a proper Final Fantasy trilogy. The PlayStation 3 version of Final Fantasy XIV is set to debut at the Tokyo Game Show and there are rumors that Final Fantasy Versus XIII may be turned into Final Fantasy XV. (If that sentence confused you, I apologize. Blame Square.) The sooner Square stops trying to convince people that Final Fantasy XIII is great, the happier everyone will be.