A lot of people have asked me for a breakdown of Lightning Returns for people who are still on the fence about buying or playing the game. I don’t usually do this for games I’ve just played, but I’ll make an exception if it’ll help people make the decision about spending their hard-earned money.
Please keep in mind that these are only my opinions! If you’re someone who’s played the game, you’re more than free to disagree with me on any of my points, positive or negative. You might disagree with me after you’ve played the game for yourself, and that’s fine, too!
Things that I believe are inexcusable:
- The schemata battle system, a reinvention of the paradigm system, has no apparent relevance to the plot or to any of the game’s major themes. Unlike X-2’s dresspheres, which evoke “magical girl” themes and are meant to show Yuna’s personal growth since the start of the Eternal Calm, Lightning’s schemata receive no explanation and have no connection - textual or metatextual - to the game’s plot.
- In terms of PoC representation, Lightning Returns is the worst game in the XIII saga. Sazh receives significantly less screen time than any other major character. Gadot, another man of color in the XIII saga, is not so much as mentioned in Lightning Returns.
- In many locations, it’s clear that minimal effort was put into the scenery. Many of the textures used in backgrounds look extremely sloppy, especially in cutscenes. A few graphical errors here and there are to be expected, but so much of Lightning Returns simply doesn’t look good.
Things that I personally dislike:
- The English translation leaves much to be desired and fails to capture many of the nuances of the original Japanese text, especially in the final dungeon scenes.
- Most of the plot twists were easily spotted well in advance.
- In my opinion, none of the four new locations (with the possible exception of the Wildlands) have any significant depth to their lore. Yusnaan’s themes of hedonism in particular fail to make any sort of coherent statement. Furthermore, Yusnaan’s class struggles are extremely unrealistic and extend no further than the poor being denied entry to a popular performance.
Things that I personally enjoy:
- The soundtrack from Masashi Hamauzu, Naoshi Mizuta, and Mitsuto Suzuki is beautiful. Not quite as beautiful as XIII’s, but far better than XIII-2’s.
- Although the open-world exploration creates some minor inconsistencies in the story, I enjoyed the pacing of Lightning Returns far more than that of either of its two predecessors.
- I’m not a perfectionist gamer by any means, but I nevertheless felt a compulsion to complete as many sidequests as possible. Although many of the quests were generic and forgettable, there were a few NPCs whose stories ended up being surprisingly touching.
- It’s a feel-good game. There were silly moments and cheesy moments and references to past Final Fantasy games, but most of the humor came naturally. Some parts did feel forced, of course, but the game as a whole was genuinely entertaining to play.
- The ending and the epilogue were a great conclusion to the XIII saga.
All in all, I enjoyed Lightning Returns. It’s not a masterpiece and it’s by no means my favorite Final Fantasy game, but it was a fun experience and I’m glad that I got to play it so soon after the North American release. Even though I still prefer XIII to its two successors, I’m happy that the story didn’t end after the first game.
For now, I’d advise anyone who’s still tentative about the game to hold off for now. If money’s an issue or you don’t think you’ll enjoy it as much, maybe wait until it’s a little cheaper. But I’d still recommend giving it a try nevertheless! A lot of things about the game surprised me, and it might surprise you as well.
I admit that I was not interested in Lightning Returns at all. But since you started your playthrough I read your posts every now and then and eventually kept watching the progress. Just now I finally watched the final boss fight and the ending and - I never thought I'd say this - I was moved to tears. It was simply brilliant and I am really glad I stayed with you for this playthrough because otherwise I would have never seen it. I cannot even put my feels into words properly. It was beautiful.
I got this message last night and it meant so much to me when I read it. Thank you, anon! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. :3
[COMPILATION] Translated JAP Cutscenes
Here is a master-post containing all of the cutscenes I have translated for the Japanese version of Lightning Returns.
:: Cutscene #0 - The epilogue.
:: Cutscene #1 - The scene after Lightning fights with Noel.
:: Cutscene #2 - The scene when Hope disappears in front of Lightning.
:: Cutscene #3 - The scenes before, during, and after the ritual performed by Vanille (which also includes the part where Bhuni!Hope first appears).
:: Cutscene #4 - The scenes before and after the fight with Snow.
:: Cutscene #5 - The scene directly after the battle with Caius.
:: Cutscene #6 - The scenes before the final battle with Bhunivelze. (This one is a MUST READ. You will notice many, many things that were changed in the English adaption.)
:: Cutscene #7 - The three separate scenes where Lightning and Fang discuss the divine murals.
:: Cutscene #8 - The long scene before the final cinematic. Hope is freed and Lumina’s identity is revealed.
:: Cutscene #9 - The translation for the ending cinematic.
:: Cutscene #10 - The short scene between Lightning and Lumina before the battle with Noel.
:: Cutscene #11 - The scene directly before the battle with Noel.
:: Cutscene #12 - The scene when Lumina cries and tries to stop Lightning from stopping the ritual.
:: Cutscene #13 - The scene with Fang and Lightning, after the Holy Clavis is stolen.
:: Cutscene #14 - The scene where Cid Raines appears before Lightning.
:: Cutscene #15 - The short scene after Lightning defeats the optional boss, Ereshkigal.
:: Cutscene #16 - The scene where Lumina and Yeul confront Lightning about her motives. The following short dialogue with Hope is also included.
:: Cutscene #17 - The scene where Hope and Lightning plan to destroy the tower and infiltrate Yusnaan Palace. I also included the scene where Hope tells Lightning to become an actress in the performance and she freaks out. XD
:: Cutscene #18 - The dialogue between Moogle and Lightning, after Hope disappears from the Ark.
:: Cutscene #19 - The scene with Noel before Lightning stops the ritual.
:: Cutscene #20 - The scene where Lumina asks if Lightning is prepared to kill Hope.
:: BONUS #1 - A compilation of Bhunivelze’s in-battle quotes. I warn you, some of these are rather…suggestive. ^^;
It’s fun (and sometimes frustrating *cough*) to read the differences between the original and the English adaption.
There are still more cutscenes to translate, so I am always open for more requests. Please be sure to read the rules HERE if you would like to place one. Thank you. ^^
Everyone check out tensai-shoujo’s work! I couldn’t recommend it more for anyone who’s playing the English version of Lightning Returns. Their translations are phenomenal and well worth a read!
I’ll start by saying that this is one of the most beautiful cinematics I’ve ever seen, and that it was very much worth the effort it took for me to get it.
The new world has clearly been flourishing for some time, hence the existence of trains and roads and farms. This location was meant to resemble a European countryside, and some text in French can be seen here and there.
We don’t know much about what happened to Lightning or the others since their reincarnation, but we can assume from her inner monologue that the “journey” she’s referencing has something to do with her past adventures.
Lightning’s current journey isn’t entirely over just yet, but it’s more or less made clear that she will have the ending she’s always wanted. There’s hardly any uncertainty throughout this scene, and her dialogue is full of conviction. More than anything else, the statement that she will see her loved ones again is a promise.
But more than anything else, I find it very fitting that the XIII saga began with Lightning on a train in the middle of a battle and ended with her on a train in a peaceful new world.
The credits roll before the epilogue!
These are all the voice actors for NPCs. There are two hundred and twenty-eight of them, and many of them have previously voiced Final Fantasy characters.
The last ten souls arrive in the new world, and the sun begins to dawn.
In which interview did he confirm it wasn’t Earth? I wasn’t aware of this.
It was part of a Siliconera interview with Toriyama!
Q: Some fans who’ve finished the Japanese version have [been] wondering if the final scene with Lightning in this game, actually takes place in the same real-world universe that we live in.
A: … We can’t really go into a lot of detail, but Lightning is seen in a rural town in a world that is quite similar to our own Earth.
And from then on, what happens… we’d like to leave that up to the users’ imagination.
Although the continents on the new world vaguely resemble Earth’s, Toriyama has stated in an interview that the new world is not meant to be Earth.
The movement of souls creating a sort of Lifestream was a nice touch, though.