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Lightning Returns FFXIII: closing the loop

Friday, 22nd February 2013 12:18 GMT By Dave Cook

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 is the final chapter in the Fabula Nova Crystallis saga. Dave Cook speaks with director Motomu Toriyama to see if Square can deliver a fitting conclusion.

Motomu Toriyama

Toriyama is director of the Fabula Nova Crystallis saga, which began with Final Fantasy XIII. The first game launched in 2009 across Japan, and was met with a mixed-to-positive critical reaction.

The trilogy’s second entry – Final Fantasy XIII-2 focused on the concept of time travel, and placed Serah’s search for her sister Lightning as a key plot point.

Toriyama confirmed to VG247 that Square-Enix may compile all three games into one re-pack if fan demand is high enough.

I interviewed Toriyama about the history of the Final Fantasy series, including his work on Final Fantasy VII’s most iconic moments, such as the romance between Cloud and Aeris. Fans simply need to check it out here.

I’m a member of the Final Fantasy XIII sympathisers club, and I’m not afraid to say it.

The first 30 hours of the game are perhaps the longest battle tutorial in existence, but once you descended to the roaming plains of Gran Pulse the game grew epic in scope. For many players though, Hope’s grating attitude and the plot’s linear progression saw them bailing long before the pay-off.

I enjoyed the game, but I still pined for the days where I could explore sprawling world maps at my leisure. There was nothing in there that could match my fond memories of roaming the ocean floor in search of Emerald Weapon, or discovering the village of Wutai long before the story directed me there.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 opened things up considerably by comparison with its time-travelling yarn, and again, I actually enjoyed it. This is a love affair that started when Final Fantasy VII first launched, and while the series has stumbled at points, I keep on returning to it with open arms. I’m firmly a fan.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is the concluding chapter of the trilogy, and it also takes a fairly linear approach. The emergence of Skyrim has showed that RPGs can still offer broad worlds full of limitless freedom to explore, so it’s little wonder that fans of the genre have become jaded by Square’s attempts to fence players in.

As ever, I’m willing to give any game the benefit of the doubt, and I was keen to learn more about how Square tackled the lofty challenge of rounding off Lightning’s story, and why it chose the format it did. The plot focuses on the pink-haired hero 13 days before the end of the world. Morale is low, armageddon looms and time is running out.

Trapped in the city of Luxerion, Lightning – thanks to her efforts in defending the goddess Etro in Final Fantasy XIII-2 – has been bestowed with the title of ‘Liberator’, a divine guardian who will cleanse the souls of humans in the world’s final days and lead them to a more prosperous existence. It’s a bleak, desperate tale, far removed from the giggles and schmaltz of Square’s previous instalment.

“In the ending of Final Fantasy XIII-2, Gran Pulse – the world that Lightning and her friends inhabit – merged with Valhalla, the world of death”, Toriyama told me. “Lethal Chaos energy flowed from Valhalla into Gran Pulse as a result of this merging, thus beginning the deterioration of Gran Pulse into oblivion.

“At this point, the correct flow of time ceased and people stopped ageing. The collapse of the world continued steadily over several hundred years, until only a single tiny continent remained. People created a new civilisation on this continent and it came to be known as “Nova Chrysalia”.

The world has been split into four continents this time. Luxerion is the only major location revealed so far, and it’s a holy city where humans meander aimlessly, essentially waiting to die. It’s littered with gothic architecture wrapped up in a dark colour palette. Toriyama explained that the grim tone is supposed to symbolise what he called the, “Strong awareness of death in a world that has lost its concept of mortality.”

With the fate of humanity on Lightning’s shoulders, this repsonsibility will reveal a more emotive site to her typically po-faced exterior. If that wasn’t enough, the very people she’s saving believe she’s actually the harbinger of the apocalypse, due to facts that have become long-muddied in legend.

“The role of the Liberator is to cleanse people’s souls and lead them to a peaceful existence in a new world,” Toriyama continued. “However, some people think that this act is very much like killing them and view the Liberator as a cursed and sinister being.

“This all occurs against a backdrop of several cults and religious organisations, venerating the deities in the face of an impending apocalypse, turning upon Lightning and becoming tied up in the developing incident.”

This misconception makes Lightning a target for several fanatical groups who hold different beliefs about what the end of the world will bring. Not long after arriving in Luxerion, an attempt is made on her life, triggering the core plot. With foes everywhere, Square needs a solid battle mechanic and from the sound of it, the studio won’t disappoint.

“The battle system further develops the tactical elements of the Active Time Battle system from Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, while changing the basic setup to be more action based”, Toriyama explained. “The battle system makes Lightning the sole player character and lets you control her directly.

“You can set up to three ‘battle styles’ for Lightning to use in combat, and each of these styles allows her to perform the different roles from the paradigm shift system in the previous titles, all on her own. The ATB gauge is different for each style, meaning the player will watch three different gauges on screen during battles.”

The result sounds like something more rhythmic than before. It seems like it will require immense focus and attention to how each of the three ATB bars are progressing during battle. But that’s not all, because Lightning’s outfit also changes up her stats and abilities, which sounds loosely similar to the Dressphere system in Final Fantasy X-2 or the ‘Job’ mechanic from the series’ classic entries.

Toryiama explained the format, “The game will also have many other costumes available in addition to the Liberator’s outfit. These costumes form a central pillar of the battle style system, and affect the player’s combat power and abilities.

“It goes without saying that you can pair the different clothing options with a myriad of swords and shields to form many combinations, and you can also simply and easily make subtle adjustments to the colours of the different pieces of each costume – meaning that every player will be able to create a version of Lightning to suit their tastes.”

But with all concluding chapters – be it the finale of a long-running TV show or movie series – Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII has a lot of plot strands to tie up, and a responsibility to loyal fans in delivering a satisfying conclusion. Between the game’s returning characters and its darker plot, Toriyama is confident Square can deliver.

“The main cast of Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 will of course appear again in Lightning Returns. In much the same way as Lightning herself, most of them feel responsibility for the world and they continue to live out their existences in the build-up to the apocalypse.

“This is in no way limited to the returning main characters, but over the long days of anguish, the mental scars that they bear have come to cloud their hearts in a deep and impenetrable darkness. During the story Lightning will interact with her old comrades in many different ways in order to lift this darkness.

“The concept behind the design of Lighting Returns is that it will be the concluding chapter of the Lightning Saga; and so unlike in the previous title, there will not be multiple possible endings created from differently branching interpretations of history, but instead the story will lead to the one true ending.”

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is slated for a blanket ‘Q3 2013′ release on PS3 and Xbox 360. We’ll have more on the game as it happens. Let us know what you make of the game and Toriyama’s discussion below.

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50 Comments

  1. Zana

    Nice read, thanks. I know it’s not relevant in terms of marketing, but I think Square Enix should admit once and for all that this game is not for all FF fans, but for FFXIII and Lightning fans only. And they are more than some would want everyone to believe. They are just enjoying the games, not posting angry comments everywhere.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. salarta

    So, in this entry Lightning will wear bikinis, bunnysuits and maid outfits that rip when she’s hit, she’ll act utterly terrified of combat, she will say words like “poopy” and drool over guys at several points, people will ogle her and talk about her sex appeal moreso than any other aspect of her, and Hope will become the game’s resident otaku pervert for Lightning.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. Espers

    FFxiii was all about graphics and music of the next-gen console, like many of the FF fans, I bought it and was so excited to play it but alas when reaching the end of the first game, I was really disappointed by how weak the story is, yet S-E didn’t learn , they released FFXIII-2, it was an epic fail, never played it but saw a month ago for 17$ NEW !!! and I live in a country where PS3 games rarely see any price drop no matter how old the game gets.

    yet again S-E didn’t learn and now they released this, I know the graphics isn’t fully done yet in the trailer shown … but I am referring to the story … I can FEEL IT .. Lightning Returns is going to be an even bigger fail

    #3 1 year ago
  4. Espers

    besides it is just me, I do think there’s someone who’s gay behind this title … it is just a feeling

    #4 1 year ago
  5. Gnosis

    @5: …why should it matter?

    Don’t know. Just can’t get interested in a game, that’s purpose is basically to get a character back, that I completely dispize. No. Just no.

    #5 1 year ago
  6. Beta

    @5 I’m sorry but why the hell does that even matter?

    #6 1 year ago
  7. Zohar

    Sorry SE but you lost me. If the best defense people can come up with for your game is “The first 20 hours are boring, repetitive and hardly bearable, but it gets really good after that!” then… well that’s not much of a defense now.

    I played up until the point where the game “opens up” and turned it off, never to return.

    The characters are all insufferable, the story had an absolutely incredible premise but basically collapsed into JRPG/anime nonsense very early on and the simple act of playing the game was uninvolved, repetitive and boring.

    Even the character skill progression mimics gameplay with it’s absolutely linear paths that branch off only occasionally and always make you work your way back to where you continue across the pre-set path.

    The XIII saga didn’t grab me at all and there’s absolutely no way I’d even consider buying the sequel or this Lightning Returns game.

    This is coming from a long-time FF fan. Heck, superfan. I’ve been adoring FF games since the SNES days. I love the classic style FF games just as much as I love the games that break the conventions, like X. I liked XII despite it’s flaws because the gameplay was fun and the story was at least a little engaging.

    FFXIII is a bad game and the fact that they’ve spent so many years beating this horse to death over the course of this entire console generation saddens me.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. deathm00n

    @8 And this is your opinion, nothing you said are actually BAD points. None of them are broken mechanics or anything like that. You don’t like it because it’s different from the other ones.

    For me XIII is the second best game of the series, only behind VIII.

    #8 1 year ago
  9. Darth-Bader

    I will be skipping this one as my way of making my opinion heard about SE, and people waiting for Versus probably should too.

    If people do not buy this game, maybe SE will reconsider its strategy with Final Fantasy and maybe look into the fans’ pleas. People did not “want to know if Lightning was happy at the end of FFXIII” like SE claims while promoting FFXIII-2 — I certainly did not. I felt like the story was done. Lightning was reunited with Serah at the end of FFXIII and the world is saved and we were all ready for the next Fabula Nova Crystallis game, and not an answer on whether Lightning was happy or not.

    Long rant, but my point I am done with FFXIII and will be skipping this one and look forward to a new, fresh Final Fantasy, whether Versus or a new main entry.

    #9 1 year ago
  10. Gnosis

    @10: I know, right? There was no real conflict left open. Nothing that would justify 2 sequels, that evolve around a completely different story. They just invented and forcibly implemented a new conflict, like: “Oh, you know what? All that you saw at the end of the first game wasn’t really there and is all wrong, because fuck it, the first game sold well!”

    #10 1 year ago
  11. deathm00n

    @10 “If people do not buy this game, maybe SE will reconsider its strategy with Final Fantasy and maybe look into the fans’ pleas.”
    Is there really a lot of complaining about the games? Because I think it sold well and who complains as always are the “fans” who want everything to be the same for ever and ever. I’m a fan of the series and I really think they are doing nothing wrong. If a series continues the same for ever it will get to a point where people get sick of it (happening to me with Assassin’s Creed) until the colapse of it. XIII was a shake up in the series, they changed a lot of things to atract people again, and they were successful.

    But the “fans” never see that what developers are doing is for keeping the games alive. They always need to complain about it. Well, at least until a few console-gen pass by and they get back to the game saying “omg this game was so good! how notalgic to play it again”.

    #11 1 year ago
  12. Zohar

    @9 Thank you and yes all my opinion but I need to clarify one thing. I don’t dislike XIII because it’s not like the other games, and nostalgia has nothing to do with my reverence for the older games. I loved X and thoroughly enjoyed X-2. I played the balls off of VIII despite that one being regarded as something of a red-headed stepchild at the time. I liked XII also, except for some of the characters and the random loot stuff and certain balance choices they made with the gambit and license system (which they totally corrected with the International release).

    I dislike XIII because the gameplay is poor. It in no way compares to the depth of any other FF game made since Final Fantasy VI. The vast majority of the game consists of being funneled down linear paths, auto-battling your way from one cutscene to the next. If the story and characters were really, -really-, good then that’s forgivable.

    Example: Asura’s Wrath… hardly even a game, poor God of War style combat, amazing cutscenes, characters and just balls-out fantastic events happening all the time. A joy to watch it unfold.

    Unfortunately for XIII, the story opens with an awesome premise inside the first couple of hours and quickly crumbles into a painfully uninspired theme park ride through the cliches and tropes of late ’90s anime/JRPG conventions. The only barely enjoyable character in that game was Sahz.

    Final Fantasy XIII represents the only game I’ve ever actively tried to sit down and play to completion to find -some- enjoyment in, and failed. It sits on my PS3 and I have no desire to return to it. The fact that this is a main entry in my favorite game series of all time, a series that I have followed and adored through childhood and into adulthood and have always enjoyed… it’s genuinely upsetting.

    #12 1 year ago
  13. deathm00n

    @13 But you said you played until the part it opens up and stopped, if you are being literal then you did not even see the Cieth Stone Missions right? These are where the gameplay shows how it really is, not just auto battling everything. You have to change battle members to get the right combination of class paradigms, and in battle change between paradigms a lot. After you reach Taejin’s Tower if you just used auto-battle all the time you are pretty fucked in this point. I agree that auto-battle is a valid point of criticism, it really dumbs down the gameplay. But the Paradigms system makes up for it in my opinion.

    After 1 year with the game I still play it and I’m far from 100%. When you finish the story you just completed half of the game. So yes, if you don’t like the battle system you will probably just end the history.

    #13 1 year ago
  14. Darth-Bader

    @12, are you really asking if there’s a lot of complaining about FFXIII?

    #14 1 year ago
  15. deathm00n

    @15 Yes and I want to see evidence that there’s a lot of complaining. Not just some random fan forum where people complain. If the game was really this awful, then they would have stopped at XIII. Developers aren’t dumb. If it sells it means people bought it. If it still sells today (and it does) it means people like it.

    #15 1 year ago
  16. Gnosis

    @16: Is it surprising that XIII sold well? Not really. The game is called friggin Final Fantasy and it was the first one ever to be released for the “new” consoles. Of course ppl will buy it. It sold well, because ppl expected a good game, since (at least at that time) Final Fantasy had a good reputation. But riddle me this: if so many ppl thought that XIII was that good and wanted a sequel, then why did XIII-2 sell so badly compared to other games in the series?

    #16 1 year ago
  17. Darth-Bader

    ^ this.

    #17 1 year ago
  18. markus080

    I am disappointed in this preview. From other previews I have read (namely 1up and finalfantasynetwork) the concept behind this game seems to be 1) more action-oriented gameplay and 2) a constantly moving and changing world with freedom to explore and choose how you will spend your time in game with an element of time management. None of this was mentioned in your preview. It does not sound like a linear game at all, and I am actually looking forward to this after reading those previews.

    #18 1 year ago
  19. Clupula

    I actually really enjoyed the cast and characters of XIII, with the exception of Hope, who I had Vaan-levels of hatred for until about the halfway point of the game. Lightning is probably my favorite protagonist, though, out of the entire series. XIII is my third favorite out of all of them (after IX and X).

    All I know is that it was a huge improvement over the self-playing shitfest that was XII.

    #19 1 year ago
  20. Clupula

    Also, using auto-battle is weak. I used it for the very first battle and then switched it off in the options for the rest of the game.

    #20 1 year ago
  21. Dave Cook

    @19 MORE linear than the world map format of older FF games. That’s actually what I said :)

    #21 1 year ago
  22. Beta

    I rather enjoyed FF XIII, after it finally got going gameplay and story wise. I really don’t think it needed 2 sequels though, it was fine the way it was.

    #22 1 year ago
  23. Clupula

    @8 – See I hated the gameplay of XII and found absolutely nothing engaging about it. Every character not named Balthier and Dr. Cid completely lacked personality and the story could barely even be called one. I mean they actually whipped out the evil twin cliche!

    I had actually been hoping Dr. Cid would have pulled a Kefka, because Vayne was about as interesting a villain as a cardboard cutout. Jihl in XIII was more interesting than he was and she isn’t even in half of that game!

    #23 1 year ago
  24. Clupula

    Not to mention, in XII, you could hide in a corner and let the AI fight bosses for you. There was a boss, I distinctly remember falling asleep during, and when I woke up, we had beaten it. That is NOT how gameplay should be done.

    #24 1 year ago
  25. markus080

    @ 17: I may be wrong, but i think XIII-2 probably sold as much as crisis core or DoC, and I don’t think many thought that VII was a bad game. Sure, the final fantasy brand sells itself, but a terrible game would have tanked at 3-4 million like RE6. Yes, there were many that disliked the game, but also a fair number who liked it like me. I haven’t played XIII-2 so I can’t comment, but I will be pre-ordering this.

    #25 1 year ago
  26. Dave Cook

    @24 Penelo added nothing to the table. That said I thoroughly enjoyed FFXII. I racked up over 120 hours by the end when I should have been studying at university :/

    #26 1 year ago
  27. Clupula

    Yeah, X-2, Dirge of Cerberus, and XIII-2 all sold only a fraction of their initial games. There’s always a drop-off in stuff like this.

    #27 1 year ago
  28. Clupula

    @27 – XII is another game like DmC. I remember every single person in the gaming press going on about how it was what the series needed, but it is VERY rare for me to find fans who enjoyed it.

    #28 1 year ago
  29. Dave Cook

    @29 Besides me of course ;)

    I’m not blind to its many faults though, but I overlooked them as a fan. I just told myself that something better had to be around the next corner. For me that was Gran Pulse.

    #29 1 year ago
  30. Clupula

    @30 No, I meant XII, not XIII. The gaming press were pretty harsh to XIII. I liked XIII, but hated XII. I remember XII being treated like the second coming.

    #30 1 year ago
  31. markus080

    @ 22 So its linear because it does not have a world map? I can get that many final fantasy stalwarts swear by the world map, but XII was not any less linear than earlier titles with a world map. This game sounds like its going to be open world-ish, the only limiting thing being the time management. But still, so few games other than Majora’s Mask have been willing to experiment with this, its about time another MM-like game came along.

    #31 1 year ago
  32. Gnosis

    @26: You can’t compare a main FF game that was released on two big home consoles with spin-offs that were released on only one console and a handheld. Aside from that, DoC was a shooter and, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’d guess that what ppl like about FF games is that they’re JRPGs. Crisis Core simply suffered the fate of PSP, which at that time was crushed by way more popular DS. I can imagine that it would’ve sold way better, if it was released on a PS2 or DS.

    I’m not trying to bash on XIII here. I thought it was “ok”. During the years and thanx to an insane amount of bullshit in JRPGs I’ve learned just to ignore most of the annoying parts of the games, as long as they’re not too annoying (it was XIII-2 that just fuckin murdered the series for me), but one game was imo more than enough. That’s all.

    #32 1 year ago
  33. markus080

    @ 24, Ashe had personality, did she not? Before XII came along, most final fantasy girls could either fall into the kind/motherly cathegory or the spunky/cheerful type.

    #33 1 year ago
  34. Clupula

    @34 – Ashe had so much personality that I often forget what her name even was and just refer to her as “Short Skirt Princess.”

    #34 1 year ago
  35. Clupula

    It’s Vaan (whose name I remember because it’s seared onto my brain with hatred), The Rikku Cosplayer, Short Skirt Princess, Cliche Twin Guy, Bunny Girl, Billy Quizboy Fancylad, and Balthier is how I remember the cast.

    #35 1 year ago
  36. markus080

    @ 36: How is Vaan anymore (or less) annoying than say tidus? They are all the same naive/optimistic/hero-type. But the highlight of the game for me was the mark hunting/questing system. OF course you are entitled to your own opinion, I am not forcing you to like the game.

    #36 1 year ago
  37. Clupula

    Are you kidding? Vaan was this annoying twee little douchenozzle who ran around without a shirt and bothered everybody he met about being a sky pirate every four seconds, like he was a 5 year old who just saw Harry Potter and wanted to be a wizard.

    His character was completely useless in every way, shape, or form.

    If they had simply cut him out of the game completely, it wouldn’t have mattered.

    Tidus on the other hand, was sure, optimistic and dressed like a Hot Topic exploded on him, but otherwise, he was also a guy completely out of his element, discovering the world at the same time we were, and just wanting to get back home. I never minded Tidus, at all. I cared about him wanting Yuna to be able to be free from her destiny.

    The only problem I had with FFX was blitzball. If I wanted to play a sport, I’d buy a Madden game.

    #37 1 year ago
  38. salarta

    I think people should skip this game if for no other reason than because Toriyama has repeatedly shown that he is a complete hack with absolutely no respect for already existing IPs, openly lies about content and intentions to suit his needs, and has shown absolutely no indication or desire of trying to actually treat the IPs better and be a better writer and director. The closest he has come so far is giving a bit more of what people actually want with FF13-2 (as I hear; I’m never touching that game), but given how high-profile FF13 was and the level of negativity and criticism toward it, it’s far more likely that someone of higher authority than Toriyama made him make those changes.

    I also think the obsession with Toriyama doing time travel based mechanics in FF13-2 and 3rd Birthday strongly suggests that Toriyama would really like to ruin the Chrono series too, so thank god Squeenix considers that IP too risky.

    I have absolutely zero faith in Squeenix making anything worthwhile where he’s involved, and 3rd Birthday proved to me that Squeenix has neither the integrity nor the class to make respectable spinoffs and sequels of great older IPs. I was a hardcore Squaresoft fan, I bought and enjoyed the few things since 2003 that were worth a damn (FF12 among them), but right now the only thing that ever surprises me is Squeenix making a game that treats their IPs with dignity and respect. There are no depths I do not think they will sink to if they think it will make them a few extra pennies, and it’s all thanks to Toriyama’s work. Aside from Tomb Raider (which is really Crystal Dynamics), he is the sole thread linking every Squeenix project I have ever loathed with a passion in the past ten years.

    #38 1 year ago
  39. Clupula

    I’ll be buying it day one. Might buy two to make up for your lack of a sale.

    #39 1 year ago
  40. markus080

    @ 33: I get your point. And thanks for the civil reply. I recognize XIII had its faults, and I was quite put off by the time-travel concept in XIII-2 so I gave it a miss, but I don’t want to penalise what might be a good game based on my dislike for the previous one. That is, I am hoping it will be a good game.

    #40 1 year ago
  41. Zohar

    @38: Right on brother. I think Square Enix as a company right now has a lot of problems, primarily being that there is no distinct visionary leader that is passionate about doing right by their main IPs. Nomura has been babying Versus for how many years now? That thing was announced early on in the PS3 life-cycle and we’re now still left hoping that -maybe- it’ll show up on the PS4? I doubt that thing is any more of a “game” than it is trailer fodder built upon empty promises. OK we can joke about Yamauchi taking 6 years to make a Gran Turismo game, but this BS with Versus is unforgivable.

    Then they show up at the Sony event and basically re-run a tech demo that’s almost a year old, and announce that they will announce a new FF game at E3. WTF?! It’s actually a perfect juxtaposition that details exactly what is wrong with SE. Tons of devs show up and show -real- games, -real- IP and announce -real- products. Then SE shows up, drops the FF name and walks off stage after showing essentially nothing. They are arrogant. They are comfortable hammering out FFXIII sequels that are poorly rated and follow up what is widely considered to be among the worst FF games ever produced because, inexplicably, they manage to sell enough copies.

    Meanwhile they have nothing to else to show us as a company other than a failed MMO launch, another by-the-book Kingdom Hearts game, an HD re-release of FFX (that’s been in “development” for years but we know almost nothing about due to a complete media blackout) and Versus XIII which has been in “development” since 2005 and announced in 2006. That’s SEVEN years ago they announced this game! Oh and I guess you can say The Unfinished Swan, assuming that’s actually a thing, and some mobile games.

    How am I supposed to be in any way excited or trusting of anything this company says, and why should I care about any product they “announce” when their track record is so abysmal and the only “big” games they’ve released during this console generation are terrible? They don’t say JACK SHIT about their games, don’t release products that are in-line with the quality, consistency and regularity that Square fans are used to anymore. Instead they put out press releases boasting that characters in their vaporware Versus XIII game will be wearing outfits designed by a real life Japanese fashion designer and tweet pictures of cologne based on a character from a game that PRACTICALLY DOESN’T EXIST! Square… NO ONE GIVES A SHIT ABOUT THIS TIE-IN MERCHANDISING GARBAGE!

    Let me re-iterate this to put this into perspective for our younger audiences. In the same amount of time that Final Fantasy Versus XIII has been in development Squaresoft produced Final Fantasy V, VI, VII, VIII and IX. In 9 years Squaresoft produced 5 of the greatest games of all time and basically defined and re-defined the JRPG genre across multiple gaming platforms WHILE making the utterly massive transition from simple 2D SNES sprites to the fully 3D and cinematic PS1 platform.

    Here’s another one for you. FFX went into development in 1999 and was released in 2001. 2 years to make a great game from scratch on a new platform using something completely new to FF at the time – fully voiced characters. FFX HD for PS3 and Vita was announced in 2011. It has officially taken SquareEnix longer to make an up-ressed PORT of FFX than it took them to conceive and develop the game FROM SCRATCH!

    There are people such as myself that can basically define their adolescence and personal journey through gaming history by their experiences with these spectacular examples of gaming nirvana. Now Square can just barely manage to fart out a wholly unsatisfying single FF game during the course of an entire console generation while making empty promises that will never be fulfilled. Gamers that are too young to have played or enjoyed the SNES>PS1 era of Squaresoft will never understand just how soul-crushing the current state of Square is today.

    Something is seriously broken at SE and I’m afraid they will basically never recover and continue to become an increasingly irrelevant company as far as in-house IP goes.

    #41 1 year ago
  42. Dave Cook

    Easy answer for the above mate: gamers demand a high level of technical quality these days or they turn their noses up at games. This drives production costs into the stratosphere and games take longer to make.

    #42 1 year ago
  43. Digital Bamboo

    I’ve been putting off playing FFXIII for a long time, and I’m honestly not even looking forward to it after all the criticisms I’ve heard, which is a shame, because I’ve been a pretty big fan since VI on the SNES. Beat VII(3 times), VIII, IX & X, (pretended X-2 didn’t exist) and was amoung the few who thought XII was one of the best FF games of all.

    I’ll take the plunge one of these days, but I’ll keep an emergency copy of Chrono Trigger on standby, just in case I need a good rinse afterwards.

    #43 1 year ago
  44. salarta

    @41: If Versus doesn’t come out within a couple years of the PS4 launch, it’s safe to call it the new Duke Nukem Forever. The problems plaguing Versus are different though, because while Duke Nukem Forever suffered from the team constantly redoing their work over any incremental change in graphics, Versus is suffering from their team getting hijacked to work on other projects. By the time they’re allowed to actually get back to Versus, things have changed enough to warrant redesigning a lot of elements.

    Though frankly, I’m glad Versus hasn’t come out yet. Being called Versus 13 makes it out to be an offshoot or a lesser to FF13, but Versus actually deserves to be called a main Final Fantasy while FF13 does not. Toriyama tried to gut the soul of the Final Fantasy series by making FF13 out to be all about mech “gods” and a primarily science fiction atmosphere (going to natural places does not make it not science fiction, otherwise Star Wars and Pitch Black are not science fiction), while Versus has actual magic and actual gods. I don’t care how “good” people consider FF13 in its own rights, as a supposed Final Fantasy game, the whole FF13 run is the absolute worst of anything they’ve made. Even non-mainline spinoffs had more of a right to be called FF13 than what became FF13. If I ever buy Final Fantasy games again, which will probably never happen given Squeenix’s refusal to completely undo 3rd Birthday, I’ll be proud of the gap in my collection where FF13 should have been.

    In terms of Squeenix’s PS4 announcement showing, I’m actually pleased with what they did. I think that’s because I have no positive expectations for the company anymore; games like FF13, 3rd Birthday, FFX-2 and FF4:TA destroyed my faith in them. I sincerely expected to see Toriyama take the stage to announce a 4th Birthday, an FFX-3, show off Lightning Returns, or worst case scenario announce that he was going to ruin the Chrono series or FF6 just like he’s ruined everything else he’s touched. Compared to the possibility of that, seeing a year old tech demo and a very vague announcement about a future announcement of a Final Fantasy game is pretty good to me. That doesn’t mean it isn’t pretty sad and pathetic for the company; it says a lot when a presentation from Squeenix with outdated tech and vague promises makes for the best news I’ve heard out of Squeenix in nearly half a decade, but it’s still much, much better than what I expected to see them pull.

    Correction though, The Unfinished Swan isn’t associated with Squeenix.

    #44 1 year ago
  45. salarta

    @42: People say that gamers expect a high level of technical quality, but I do not think that’s really true. It might get more people to buy it, yes, but it’s nowhere near the strong level of focus as it was back in earlier generations. People will talk about how good graphics look, but it’s almost never the whole reason they buy the game. Nippon Ichi has been around for quite a while using graphics that aren’t so highly intense, and the Blazblue series (though I’ve stopped with it for my own fan-based reasons) has been very successful, so much so that Arc System Works got hired by Atlus for that Persona fighting game.

    The obsessive focus on high-quality graphics has more to do with a combination of companies trying to Hollywoodize games and companies thinking that the cock-waving game of who has the best graphics is as relevant today as it was a couple generations ago. Heck, the whole reason the PS4 seems so impressive isn’t really how good the graphics can be, it’s the new features like video capture, streaming games, and watching other people play. Not to mention the success of mobile and browser games; lower quality graphics, but more people play them due to availability and fun factor.

    Companies really need to learn to stop making interactive movies, and start making interactive video games.

    #45 1 year ago
  46. Cobra951

    @15 (deathm00n): For what it’s worth, I stayed away from XIII after loving XII. I was very happy they made XII feel more open and immediate than the previous games in the series, and I hoped Square (now Squeenix) would run much further with that ball. Instead, they went way backward with XIII, into claustrophobic linearity. Huge disappointment.

    #46 1 year ago
  47. salarta

    @46: I never beat FF12, but it had a lot of fun moments, using the terrain as part of your fighting tactic. Granted I still like turn-based combat and wish more RPGs still used it, but being able to use the environment was enjoyable.

    #47 1 year ago
  48. Cobra951

    @47: While I beat 12, I never did finish that ridiculous day-long battle with the optional super-boss (Yiazmat–had to look it up, as I had forgotten). There’s only so much torture I’ll endure for OCD-like completionism.

    #48 1 year ago
  49. Zohar

    @42 You’re right, but that doesn’t explain an eight year dev cycle on VS XIII. The transition from SNES to PS1 was arguably far more impactful on how games were made than PS2 to PS3. Most games have a 2-3 year dev cycle, and established dev studios with big publishers have pushed out multiple AAA franchises this gen with sequels and trilogies among them.

    My observation is that there are PR, managerial and staffing issues at SquarEnix. No functional publisher would announce a game then go dark on it for 7-8 years. Things like DNF and Aliens: CM come out of those pits of development hell.

    Then there’s the issue I stated before about SE lacking any kind of visionary leadership. They don’t have a Sakaguchi, Ken Levine, Cliffy B, Peter Molyneux, Hideo Kojima, Shinji Mikami, etc… and the result is they have people like Nomura who IMO knows how to design cool looking stuff but can’t launch a game to save his life and Toriyama who produced the most basic, boring, cliched, generic JRPG imaginable and called it Final Fantasy XIII.

    #49 1 year ago
  50. salarta

    @49: I think that a glaring internal problem with management is the core culprit. Maybe not the people themselves, but how they’ve been doing things. Management decides who gets promoted, what games get greenlit and ultimately how those games take shape, and the way they interact with employees affects how those employees perform and behave.

    I know I harp on 3rd Birthday a lot, but there’s a reason I do that: aside from it ruining a great IP which is always something I hate to see, every step of that game is like an embodiment of everything wrong with the company. Want to sell a game, reduce it to the lowest common denominator. Aya is a woman, so heavily emphasize her sex appeal and make her act weak and cowardly without men to make her tough (though to be fair, I don’t entirely blame Squeenix for making Aya act that way anymore because as the new Tomb Raider demonstrates, women want to be seen that way). Throughout the propaganda phase, lie about the contents of the game. Aya’s known for being strong and mature? Lie that she’ll be a “cool, mature woman” (Toriyama’s remark) then make her into a fragile little girl in an adult body. Scandal hits over the sexual bent of the clothing damage mechanic? Lie that it’s there for “realism,” then let Famitsu release monthly articles where the central focus is whatever new fetish costume is available for Aya to wear.

    Try to cover it all up with extremely high quality graphics and good gameplay (or so I hear), expect people to buy it in droves. And ultimately, when the game flops… do nothing. Don’t admit the direction you took was a mistake. Don’t try to make a new game starring Aya Brea that treats her right and makes up for what 3rd Birthday did. Just pretend the IP no longer exists. And it’s not like they didn’t have plans for Parasite Eve before 3rd Birthday released. During E3 2011, Parasite Eve was listed among the IPs they hoped to build up to greatness.

    All of that, ultimately, leads back to problems with management. Management decided who worked on 3rd Birthday. Management decided, ultimately, what sort of content would be “appropriate” for trying to sell the game. And it’s management that set a corporate atmosphere where openly lying to consumers about the product’s content and intentions is acceptable. I can complain about Toriyama a lot, because he is the reason for most of these projects sucking, but in the end it’s management that decided he deserved to work on these projects and that the direction he wanted to take them was perfectly fine.

    #50 1 year ago

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