As we draw closer to E3, Square Enix has seemingly slapped a padlock on their lips and thrown away the key in regards to certain upcoming games. One noticeable silence is on the front of Lightning Returns, which saw a short media burst back in March that at the time seemed to be the start of a more open, resource-heavy period of marketing for the game before drying up again just as suddenly.
With just over three weeks left until the event, some of you might be a little starved for details regarding the game. I recently came into possession of an incredibly high quality version of the Jump Festa trailer (sadly not the extended one from January), and would like to do my best to provide some things you may not have originally noticed. To start off with, I’m going to show you a pair of comparisons between the one I’ve got and the highest quality trailer I could find.
Pretty big difference, right? The images are 1280×720, except one shot that is oddly x719.
Texturing and Locations
Next, let’s take a look right at the beginning of the trailer when Lightning first steps off the train and when she discovers the murdered woman. As seen in the gallery above, in this early look trailer the texturing for the wall model stops quite suddenly! It looks as if the marbling has been applied, but everything else still needs doing. The sky appears to be just a gray void (you know, like another lack of texture), but if the two murder shots are any indication this is actually foggy night weather! In the aforementioned shots you can see the dagger or shortsword in the victim’s back pretty clearly, as well as the weapon the Order guards are carrying. It’s definitely at least a gun with a bayonet, but they are constructed similar to Lightning’s gunblades. Since one of the themes of the game is technological decline, perhaps these are a sort of downgraded middle ground between gunblade and ordinary gun?
Behind the body and the Order members, you can see a certain statue inside an unfinished structure…
…A statue which, when coupled with the images above, seems to indicate that this particular murder takes place right in front of the North Station. You should also take a moment to notice the odd thing near Lightning’s foot in the first screenie, which is transparent but definitely has a shape. It’s present the whole time Lightning is up there, but what is it? An unfinished section of the texture? Perhaps a phased-out object, in the style of XIII-2? Possibly so. It’s also worth noting that the golden-white decoration to Lightning’s right (the one covering up the guard you can see in the other shots) bears a vague resemblance to one of the Artefacts. Speaking of that guard, from now on when I talk about the locations of things I may refer back to this image of the North Station gate, indicating ‘left plaza’ or ‘right plaza’ with this view of the gate as the divider. Opposite the guard is Chocolina, standing next to a board of some kind.
Hang on a second, that board looks familiar!
Ah yes, there we go, Lightning is standing right in front of it when examining the crime scene we were just discussing… And it’s also the quest board we weren’t told about until a month after this trailer was released! It’s little things like this that have made me want to come back and take another look at this trailer, to see what other neat little things they quietly teased us with. Other things like the shop signs in the third image for example, which were unclear at the time. The green one is definitely a magic or ability shop, as seen here, whereas the shop off to the left was revealed to be an inn.
Hungry for more shops? Perhaps something from a vending machine?
As it turns out, the shop in that first shot is a café, although in the trailer neither the menu stand nor the decal saying ‘Restaurant’ are present. If I was a betting man I’d say the shop with the red sign further back is a weapon store (because the center bit looks sort of like the hilt of a sword stuck in the ground), but there’s no way to be sure just yet. Either way, you can see both a red vending machine (like in the concept art pictured second) and a treasure chest with another one of those rings of light around it in the background. In the last image of the above gallery, you can see that this little group of shops is just outside the left plaza gate.
Those vending machines are all over the place!
And when I say all over, I mean it! In this first screen, which was meant to showcase dashing and times of day in the trailer, you can see one right there in the left plaza. This gate, funny enough, is the one that leads right to the set of shops in the previous gallery which also has its own vending machine (or two, since they seem to come in black-red pairs). The second screenshot is from the filtered-over scene where Noel follows Lightning around, which seems to take place in a currently unshown part of the city. The last shot, which has a pair of machines, seems to be immediately before the set of stairs which in the trailer is host to a pretty bad framerate (for about 3 seconds) and an NPC glitching her shoe through the floor. In the far right of the picture is a woman with fiery orange-red clothes and seemingly pink hair, which we’ve learned is one of the factors in the Luxerion murders.
You know who’s close by? Choco-boco-li-naaa~
Oh yes, there she is. Standing next to a double-sided sofa which for some inexplicable reason is not only out on the sidewalk, but has heater-like vents in the bottom. This whole little area in the trailer actually serves a purpose beyond just Lightning running around; The various shots give you a taste of time passing in the world of Nova Chrysalia. In the first shot we see Chocolina standing near the sofa and tree, with the vending machines and that woman in the background. In the second you can see Chocolina is in a different place on the same street, although the red-clothed woman is still in the same spot. In the last you can see a second murder victim with long pink hair, and although you can’t see the positions of Chocolina or the other woman from this angle it’s very clearly a different day (or different time of the same day).
Now, a few random shots for you to scrutinize.
There you go! This scaffolding is quite obviously off to the right of the North Station gate, and it does a decent job of showing off the early textures. On to combat next.
Battle and Combat System
There’s a fair amount to cover in the battle section, but to start with here are a few basic shots. The first I chose because that particular frame makes Lightning look pretty cool in my opinion, but I actually took it for the little finger pointer. In XIII and XIII-2 this pointer indicated where you were both in the battle and main menus of the game, whereas it now indicates which monster you’re targeting. To my knowledge manual targeting hadn’t been confirmed yet, but here’s hoping we can wiggle that finger around! The second shot was placed here to work with the third, to display that ‘Wound Damage’ is still in play in Lightning Returns! Unless it has been removed since this trailer was shown, you can still permanently decrease the HP of an enemy. It’s worth noting that there doesn’t seem to be anything in the way of battle information in the early trailers, with no damage numbers or words popping up across the screen. Whether this is because the game was early in development, they’ve got an option to hide this information, or it has been removed entirely is unknown.
Some animation eye candy!
Right off, I’m sure you’ll notice the massive and shiny new Blizzaga animation. I tried to get a clear screenshot of the old animation for you to compare it to, but unfortunately this is the best I could come up with. Animations remained consistent between XIII and XIII-2, so this new switch-up may be a welcome refresh for some. The next two are the before and after of Lightning using her Blitz attack; Notice that a substantial amount of the ATB Gauge is lost, and it does considerable damage to the Niblet she’s targeting. Also, when she starts to use the ability ‘Ravage’ pops up in a blue box. In XIII and XIII-2, ‘Ravage’ was a Commando passive ability that allowed you to deal more damage with Blitz or Ruinga when there was a Ravager in the paradigm with them. Since Lightning is fighting alone and no longer has paradigms in the same sense, it seems there are different ways to get passive abilities and activate them. Any guesses on Ravage? The last image is a simple Attack, but it shows off the residual electric effect of Thunder (or possibly Thundaga).
On the subject of basic attacks…
I discovered from the HQ video that the little windows the commands are in do a little grow-then-shrink animation when you press the button to use the ability in question. I had suspected as much from the original trailer, but it was too low quality for me to be sure. I’ve included a simple comparison of just a few frames so you can see what I’m talking about! Next, we may have actually gotten some early looks at the customization of equipment! The second two images here are of Lightning’s “Shadow’s Dust” outfit, which was featured prominently with a render and more recently a collection of screenshots. As you can see, although the shapes of the sword and shield she’s wielding are almost identical (minus the T-shaped top to the shield in the early trailer), they have very clearly different color schemes. While it’s possible that these are different weapons in the same family (a line of upgrades, perhaps?), it’s also quite possible that they were customized to be the bright red they are in the Jump Festa video.
Boxes, so many boxes!
In this section we’re looking at the new Knockdown system, which hasn’t been explained in much depth yet. As you can see in the shots above, it involves little, funny-shaped boxes that change colors. They apparently start gray and progress toward a deep yellow as seen above. From what little we know it seems like the kinds of attacks you use cause the enemy to get closer to the ‘Break’ or ‘Knockdown’ statuses, which in turn give you bonuses to damage and (if I’m remembering right from an early Andriasang report) possibly a chance to steal from them. In this trailer only the two larger enemies (Reaver and Anubys) were shown to have the squares, whereas the two smaller enemies (Gremlin and Niblet) do not. This could mean that the system is meant for dealing with enemies over a certain size or strength, or that it is unlocked at a certain point.
The colors, man, the colors!
As you can see, when the Reaver stands up it suddenly has quite a lot more than just one box! The colors of the boxes (including the red seen nowhere else so far) obviously change separately, meaning it’s possible it doesn’t matter what order you take on an enemy’s weaknesses. In the second shot we’ve got two blue squares and a sort of pinkish-red one, which have symbols on them like buffs and status ailments. The first square contains a completely new symbol with a down arrow next to it, the second square contains the shield used for Protect/Deprotect previously but has a plus sign instead of arrows, and the last square is the symbol for Pain, an ailment that prevents the sufferer from using physical attacks. In the last image the middle square (containing the shield) has turned blue, but the only difference between these two moments is that Lightning has knocked the Reaver to the ground with ‘Smite’. Since Smite is an ability that deals extra damage when Stagger is about to run out, it’s safe to say this passive skill may also have gotten a bit of a tweaking.
Last one, all about the AATB System!
In the above gallery, you can see a collection of shots that are all very close together. In fact, when using Quick Time Player’s stop-forward function the first three shots are all within one frame of each other in the order you see. Why is this important, you may ask? Because it gives us a look at how the ATB Gauge in this new system works, and it looks wicked to boot! I’ll list the ATB costs I found from the trailer below, but for now I want to talk about the gauges themselves. First, you can see in the first screen that Lightning is in the Enchanter Garb (or Style if you prefer) with the gauge sitting at 50/60 and sitting right on top of her HP bar, which is at 5,186. She begins to cast ‘Firaga,’ and in the second screen her ATB Gauge drops to 16/60.
In the third screen Lightning has switched to her Divinity Garb, and her new commands come flying in offscreen while everything else changes a little. While the HP bar doesn’t move the total changes to 3,660 and a red bar pops up on the end temporarily. The ATB Gauge from before goes mostly transparent, and a new one appears above it that sits at 46/100. The last screen is from a few seconds later, just long enough for Lightning to finish a backflip and land. Here we see that the ATB Gauge of the Garb she is in has risen to 49/100, while the one she just switched out of remains unchanged. If you look closely (and are wondering), the middle bar goes from 47/80(?) in the third screen to 50/80(?) in the fourth. This may indicate a short cooldown when switching out of a Garb before its ATB gauge begins to regenerate, but confirms that the ATB Gauge will continue to regenerate even without switching away.
I observed the abilities as Lightning used them, and figured out the costs for all of you. Here they are!
- Attack: 7 ATB
- Blitz: 16 ATB, no extra for ‘Ravage’
- Light Slash: 4 ATB
- Heavy Slash: 32 ATB, no extra for ‘Smite’
- Guard: 7 ATB, extra 1 ATB cost every few seconds that Guard is held
- Firaga #1: 27 ATB cost [ Enchanter Garb, 60 ATB Max, (Thunder/Imperil/Lesser Guard/Firaga) ]
- Firaga #2: 34 ATB cost [ Enchanter Garb, 60 ATB Max, (Froststrike/Imperil/Lesser Guard/Firaga) ]
From the Japanese video (not pictured):
- Thundaga: 35 ATB
I’m not sure why Firaga has two different costs, but there is a difference in the two different Enchanter setups by one active ability. It’s possible that the ATB costs can be reduced or pumped up by something, maybe specific equipment, learnable passive abilities, or through upgrading abilities somehow? I don’t know, but speculation is what this is all about! Oh, and remember that everything here is obviously subject to change seeing as it’s an in-dev look. If you’ve got any thoughts on this, feel free to discuss below. I hope you enjoyed this re-examination of the First Look SHQ trailer!