At a special event in Tokyo, Square-Enix have revealed the latest piece of Lightning’s story. It’s a PS3/360 game scheduled for a 2013 release, and it’s called Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. In the short video below, producer Yoshinori Kitase briefly introduces the game, stating that it will portray Lightning’s final battle, and end her saga that began in 2010’s Final Fantasy XIII.

The game takes place in Novus Partus, a world of four islands that float in the Sea of Chaos. These islands are surrounded by a blue lagoon that simply drops off into an abyss, lending the world an ethereal beauty. These islands apparently play host to a range of environments; from rocky terrain to desert and ruins, and are said to be full of wilderness and ripe for exploration.

In the video below, XIII-series art director Isamu Kamikokuryo goes into more detail on the world of Lightning Returns, and while it’s interesting that Square-Enix have chosen not to simply call this installment Final Fantasy XIII-3, Kamikuryo points out Etro’s throne and New Cocoon in the environment art of the world’s largest city, Luxerion – two major plot points from XIII-2.

Also of note is the monorail, which allows Lightning to travel between the islands, and I must say, the design of the architecture and the notion of a train system linking the different ‘island towns’ immediately calls to mind the PS Vita’s excellent Gravity Rush – certainly no bad thing. It does make me wonder quite where this new installment takes place, though; is Novus Partus on Gran Pulse? Surely not, but we can see New Cocoon floating in the sky. Is it somehow connected to Valhalla? Considering the placement of Etro’s throne, could it actually be Valhalla, but in a different time? I’m cetainly a little confused!

EDIT– According to IGN, the game is indeed set hundreds of years after the events of XIII-2 (the latter events of which took place hundreds of years after XIII…) and the game features a doomsday clock, which counts down to the end of days; the game itself begins 13 days before the end (didn’t the flashbacks in XIII also start 13 days before the events of the game?).

Ok, the doomsday clock idea I can get behind; it reminds me of Majora’s Mask, and it’ll be interesting to see how Square-Enix implement a similar system – will we be able to undertake actions that set the clock back and give ourselves more time? But setting the game hundreds of years further into the future kind of irks me… Isn’t the time travel getting a little out of hand now? If you want people to care about your world, surely a little consistency is needed? Perhaps the team will address this by allowing us to see inside New Cocoon, thus drawing a tighter thread between Lightning Returns and it’s predecessor?

Some gameplay details were also discussed at the event and detailed in a liveblog on Andriasang. Once again, the game will be directed by Motomu Toriyama, who spoke about how they wish to portray Lightning in this third game. He noted that in XIII-2, Lightning had become something of a demigod and that the team want to show her as she was in the original game… before stating that she will be more powerful than ever before in Lightning Returns. Once again, I am confused.

There will apparently be some scope for customisation in-game, with references made to Lightning’s outfits and weaponry, and the game is being developed with button response in mind, though Toriyama stopped short of declaring it an action game. A trailer was also shown to those in attendance, though photography was strictly forbidden by this point. Hopefully it’ll surface online before too long.

We can expect to hear (and hopefully see) more on September 4th, though for now I remain a little skeptical. My interest is piqued, and I’m glad to see Lightning take centre stage again after the Serah-heavy XIII-2, but I hope Square-Enix have some way to tie this all together, acknowledging the previous games while also giving us something new to explore.

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