Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Developer Interview

Previously detailed here, we now have Famitsu’s full Lightning Returns interview in full.

The game’s lead development staff including Director Motomu Toriyama, Producer Yoshinori Kitase, Art Director Isamu Kamikokuryou and Game Design Director Yuji Abe have assembled to tell all following last week’s reveal of the finale to Lightning’s saga.

Kitase: Including the initial development of novels and FFXIII-2’s DLC, Lightning Returns is also part of this extension [of the FFXIII series.]  This production can be seen as the conclusion of the Lighting Saga which connects back to FFXIII-2. It closes the Lightning saga, but it’s not a game to be held to the rest of the series, and we’re building new gameplay systems for it. The title reflects that, and it is also stressed once again that this is the last game that will portray Lightning.

Kamikokuryou: Kitase has requested the logo to be different from previous FFs, so that’s why we changed it.

Toriyama: The concept this time is the newly coined term, “World Driven.” The first entry (FFXIII) was mainly tied by story and can be called “Story Driven.” XIII-2 was mainly conducted by player’s choices and can be said to be “Player Driven.” The world of Lightning Returns is changing within every moment depending on the action of the player.  This is what we mean by “World Driven.”

Abe: The time passing in game is tied to real world time – you can witness the various changes.  This entry’s story progresses through quest completions.  Actions such as completing quests will increase the timer.  One day in the game equates to about 1-2 hours in real world time. LRFFXIII starts 13 days before the end of the world.  Depending on player’s actions, it is possible that the 13th day may not be reached as each action can alter the time remaining in the world.

Toriyama: If you Game Over, you’ll be able to carry over all of your items to the next play through.  We designed it that way so that the game can be enjoyed many times because of this.
Abe: The game’s clear time for one play through is designed to not be longer than many tens of of hours.

Toriyama: World Driven also means that the game has links to the real world. In an online environment there are devices that users can use naturally to communicate.
Kitase: It’s an even greater experience compared to the Facebook connection found in FFXIII-2.

Toriyama: The world of Lightning Returns came into being at the end of XIII-2 when the Chaos of Valhalla combined with the real world.  Novus Partus – the new world – begins to decay as a result of this. Because of the effects of Chaos, time has stopped for all people.  They do not age nor die, and this has been going on for hundreds of years.

The people in the game are emotionally affected by this sense of immortality, and they’ve grown to see death in a completely different way.

Toriyama: I can’t give out details yet, but the main characters from previous the entries will also make appearances.

Kamikokuryou: The illustration of Novus Partus was designed to bring together all the elements in a single image. The idea behind it is a world formed with Etro’s shrine and the distant celestial bodies.

Toriyama: The former form of Novus Partus was Gran Pulse; however, it is now mixed with the ensuing Chaos which has destroyed most of its original form. The last bit of land left is the stage of this installment.  There are two continents of natural terrain and two continents of urban environments for a total of four pieces that make up the current world.

Kamikokuryou: The city of light, Luxerion, has an unbelievable presentation much like a fairy tale.  I wanted to make something distorted from reality.  The scenario stems from a world going towards its end, and so the design also reflects that by mixing gothic elements into it.

I put the monorail system into the art because you’re traveling freely around this big world, and I thought it would be good if this type of transport could be featured in it. Toriyama and the rest of the team liked the idea enough that they decided to implement it as part of the gameplay.

Toriyama: Lightning’s goal is to figure out how to save the world.
Toriyama: About Serah, let’s just say that she went on journey to “save all” for now.

Toriyama: So far, every installment has focused on a different god.  This time the story is related to the awakening of Bhunivelze. The people of Luxerion worship him and wish for him to return to bring about a new world.

Toriyama: The purpose of this project is to completely revive Lightning as a character, and so that is the reason why she is the only one playable.  The degree of personalization for her will be quite high.

Abe: The game features something known as Styles as part of the customization system. You can set up several outfits comprised of various equipment which create different skills for battle. Players can preset different Styles and change between them in this way. Instead of selecting commands, you will be pressing buttons that correspond to individual abilities.

Dress Spheres from FFX-2 were similar to jobs, but the Styles here are more about deconstructing the individual elements that make up jobs.  Abilities are also different from before. For example, you can’t create a pure “White Mage” – that’s why we are calling it Styles because it works differently from your typical job system. There is a lot of freedom in terms of customization, so you can create a well-balanced character or an all-powerful one.

Toriyama: Even though the battle system is similar to an action game, there still will be an ATB gauge.

Abe: Lightning fights by herself with the focus is solely on her, so the player can move around with a great amount of freedom.  The gameplay will also have timing based mechanics.

Kamikokuryou: This time, the number of organic based monsters has also increased.

Toriyama: Boss battles and tougher enemy types are being designed to be a rich battle experience. The key will be to destroy various body parts on the monsters.

Kitase: Because the motion for both Lightning and the monsters has increased, the variation of battles will be plentiful.

Abe: We’ll try our best to make sure everything we’ve said in this interview becomes a reality.

Kamikokuryou: Most of the in-game assets have been newly designed.  Novus Partus has been created from the ground up out of many drawings.  Lightning herself also looks quite beautiful now.

Toriyama: The game’s development is at about 30% currently. This is the final title with which Lightning can see a happy ending.  She’s going to face a final trial in this battle, one that puts her against the very legend that she spent all this time creating. Even though there aren’t multiple endings, you certainly can run into bad endings if you run out of time – resulting in the world being destroyed.

Kitase: Lightning has been with us since 2006, so we’ve known her for a long time. She will be the focus in Lightning Returns to compensate for the fact that she didn’t see much screen time in the previous game.

About the Author

Erren Van Duine As a self-professed Final Fantasy fan, Erren created Nova Crystallis in 2009 as a place to collect the latest information on her favorite series. As owner and Editor-in-Chief, she also spends her time as a freelance illustrator.