Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII raised the impeccably groomed eyebrows of the entire gaming industry when it was announced in late 2012. While there’s often reason for celebration when publisher Square Enix unveils a new game, the previous two entries in the Fabula Nova Crystallis series proved divisive. As such, not many people expected a third instalment.
And judging by the reviews, the Japanese company may wonder why it even bothered, as its pink-haired protagonist’s latest escapade has not exactly emerged glowing with critical acclaim. Current evaluations are mixed, with the battle system drawing plenty of praise, but the dismal script and woeful characters attracting the wrath of most reviewers’ reports.
In classic round up style, we’ve compiled a number of must read appraisals for your viewing pleasure. Our own verdict is forthcoming, so if none of these tickle your fancy, you may want to wait a little longer for that.
Eurogamer.net - 8/10
It's a strong end to an uneven trilogy, then. There is little consistency across the three games, from the ultra-focused linearity of Final Fantasy 13, to the dimension-hopping skittishness of its sequel and on to this almost entirely freeform conclusion. It's a deliberate demonstration from the team that it's able to deliver on various approaches to game design (and tone) within the Final Fantasy umbrella. From its dazzling battle system to its overarching temporal puzzle, this is the best of the set – even if it's dragged down by an exhaustingly impenetrable plot that its creators will no doubt be pleased to be done with.
IGN - 7/10
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is a strange end to Square's trilogy. Its fresh combat system is a great success, and the well-designed world provides more than enough reason to play through the end of Lightning's journey. At the same time, the incredibly inconsistent tone and underwhelming plot caused any story-based satisfaction to completely elude me. Lightning Returns is a good game, but one that forgets that a big part of what make the Final Fantasy games so memorable is how they created characters we could care about.
Game Informer - 7/10
Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 trained me to look past a bad plot and appreciate good gameplay, but the positives are more buried and harder to see in Lightning Returns. It makes the same mistakes with its narrative, and swaps out systems that worked (like monster collection and the crystarium) for half-baked concepts that don’t hit the same high notes. The conclusion of a trilogy presents the opportunity for an emotional farewell to a beloved cast and world, but Lightning Returns only left me relieved to see this adventure end.
Metro - 5/10
Compounded by the nonsensical script and one-dimensional characters it’s as if the game is specifically designed to feel as shallow and disconnected as possible. Lightning Returns might be an enjoyable enough folly for fans, but there’s very little here for anyone else. And it certainly offers no compelling glimpse of the franchise’s future, just a long list of things it should avoid doing again.
Gamespot - 5/10
This supposedly final chapter of Nova Chrysalia's story leaves me befuddled. It's a collection of ideas and concepts that don't come together in a coherent way, led by a character who has shown no identifiable growth since her first appearance four years ago. The promising schemata system and grandiose cutscenes are solid pillars from which a great RPG could have been constructed, but Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII falls well short of greatness.
Are you disgruntled by the downpour of criticism being pointed at Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, or do you think that the assessments seem fair? Are you glad to see an end to the Fabula Nova Crystallis story arc, or will you be sad to see it go? Whimper like Hope in the comments section below.