I defended FFXIII against hoards of detractors, and I thought FXIII-2 was a good game. But after watching the trailer for Lighting Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, I feel like my love affair with the series is about to come to an abrupt end. How should I put this – it looks like a hot mess. Hopefully this was just a bad trailer, but here are a few reasons why it doesn’t do a good job at convincing us to buy the game.
The first thing I noticed was the poor framerate. It looks really choppy and unstable, some feel like this could be because of poor video encoding, but I find that hard to believe. If that were the case Square Enix would have just released a trailer with better encoding. The Japanese version looks a little better, but it’s still disappointing when it comes to the framerate. I could forgive the framerate if the city was truly a bustling metropolis. This brings me to my next point – the city is dead.
There’s hardly anyone around, it’s beyond barren, and it looks like there’s no land behind the buildings. Like the city is floating in the sky. Hell, Hekseville (the city in Gravity Rush) was floating in the sky and it looks 10x better, so that’s no excuse. Running and jumping around that city looks as fun as going to the dentist.
During the trailer we’re shown some platforming, Square Enix is obviously trying to sell it as a feature. The problem is it looks too isolated, by that I mean it looks like it doesn’t mesh with the city’s layout. It’s too obvious – “Oh look, there’s a red pole, I guess I should climb on it!” One of the reasons the platforming in the Assassins Creed games works is because it’s seamless. You just run up to a building and start climbing. Here it looks like you’re directed towards a few awkwardly placed poles and ledges.
I brought up Assassins Creed in the last paragraph and that brings me to my next point. The influence is apparent, this isn’t shown in the trailer, but in the screenshot above you see Lightning tailing someone stealthily. I’m not against trying new things, but it seems like Square Enix is trying too hard to appeal to western audiences. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re going to emulate something — make it better than its inspiration. Everything in this trailer makes it look like a poor man’s version of a sandbox game.
Don’t even get me started on Lightning’s outfit, it looks like she raided Ezio’s and Lady Gaga’s wardrobe. Growing up you probably knew a kid who tried to look like a badass, but failed miserably. The outfit feels forced, like she’s trying too hard to be cool. The sunglasses were the final nail in the coffin — it’s just too cheesy. Someone has been watching CSI Miami.
The only thing I didn’t absolutely hate was the combat system; it could be okay. It looks like a mix of the system from the first two games with some added freedom. It’s hard to discern its quality from a trailer, we won’t know how good it is until we get some hands on time with it. You may be thinking, “The same could be said about the rest of the game.“ And while that’s true in some ways, you can basically tell the platforming, city, and story are going to be subpar by watching the trailer.
Sigh, I don’t enjoy being right. Hopefully this was just a bad trailer, and Lighting Returns: Final Fantasy XIII turns out to be one of 2013’s best games. I want to believe this, but it looks like we may have another Dirge of Cerberus on our hands.