Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is a title from Square Enix starring Final Fantasy XIII protagonist Lightning. Its title, as well as the basic concepts behind the game's development, were announced at a special press conference timed to coincide with the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Final Fantasy series on September 1, 2012 in Japan (August 31, in North America). The game is to conclude her story arc, which was left on a cliffhanger at the end of Final Fantasy XIII-2. It is currently scheduled for release in North America on February 11, 2014 on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
After awakening from hundreds of years of crystal stasis, Lightning finds herself in a reshaped world; Novus, a world that is comprised of four continents, each with a different theme; Luxerion, Yusnaan, Dead Dunes, and the Wild Lands. The world is doomed to end in thirteen days, and Lightning is tasked with saving as many lives as she can. Despite being set so far in the future, Lightning will also encounter other characters from both Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, including Snow Villiers and Hope Estheim, the latter of whom assists Lightning by dispensing information through wireless communication. Interestingly, Hope has also regressed in physical age, and appears as he did in Final Fantasy XIII, rather than his older appearance in XIII-2.
Lightning will also at points encounter a mysterious figure named Lumina, who despite bearing the appearance of Serah is described as having a polar opposite personality.
Lightning, the sole player character in Lightning Returns, can have her appearance customized by the player. This customization aspect will also affect gameplay. The player can select a separate outfit, sword, and shield for her use, and the color of her outfit can be further customized. Different equipment grants different bonuses and abilities. Lightning will have over eighty costumes in total, including DLC. Some costumes are based on the outfits of other characters from the Final Fantasy series including Cloud Strife and Aerith Gainsborough from Final Fantasy VII, Yuna from Final Fantasy X, and a Miqo'te from Final Fantasy XIV.
Lightning Returns will use a variant of the Active Time Battle system, though it won't be the same as the system that appeared in Final Fantasy XIII or XIII-2. Many specifics of the battle system are not known, aside from the fact that the player will be able to freely move Lightning during battle, and that attacks and techniques are performed by pressing assigned buttons rather than by selecting items from a menu. Lighting can switch between multiple "schemas" similar in nature to the paradigm roles of FFXIII and XIII-2, with each schema providing a different selection of battle commands. Schemas can be switched between on the fly, allowing for combination attack chains. Each schema also has its own ATB gauge, adding an extra layer of depth to the combat and encouraging players to switch between schemas.
World Design and the Flow of Time
Similar to The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, time is always flowing in Lightning Returns, with a set deadline before the end of the world. The game takes place over thirteen days, and each day will span roughly two real-time hours. However, the completion of certain events may add or subtract from the amount of time Lightning has left to complete her objective. It is also being designed with multiple playthroughs in mind, and it may require more than one before the player is able to reach the game's true ending. The development team has stated that it will take players roughly fifty hours to complete the game.