My husband doesn’t know this but I’m trading this into GameStop as soon as I get a chance.
Hubby and I finally saw the credits roll on Lightning Returns last night. We clocked in at around 55 hours spent and accomplished pretty much everything you can do without starting a New Game +. Steve-O already did a technical review of this game, so I can delve right into why I think this is the worst console Final Fantasy game, like, EVER. Some handheld ones were pretty bad, but in the main FF line-up and sequels this has to take the cake.
In fact, I think I’d even rate this as lower than FFX-2. I put FFX-2 on my “Most Disappointing Games” list. It was the worst FF game I’d played at the time. It took everything that was beautiful and amazing about FFX (My FAVORITE) and stomped it into the ground after taking a big dump on it. But you know what? At least in X-2 you could explore the world, actually enjoy a good battle system, and expect some RPG game play elements that actually make sense. Playing Lightning Returns was unnecessarily stressful, thanks in part to the stupid time constraints and juggling your one resource with having enough time to do everything you need to do in one day, getting to where you need to go, and getting a leg-up in battles. Due to the fact that we wanted to do all the side quests (There’s one that can’t even be turned in until New Game +), we carefully managed all of our time and stressed to follow the guidelines laid out in the official walkthrough. It was a chore, is what it was.
The side quests were boring fetch and/or kill quests. And most of the NPCs giving the quests would go on vomit-inducing tangents for about 15 minutes trying to find a meaning to their pointless 500-year existence. The dialogue was so bad even Lightning would often say things like, “You can’t be serious,” or, “Let me guess, you want me to go get it for you,” or, “You can’t possibly be that stupid.” It was almost like she was inside of my head and giving voice to my own thoughts about the game. This was supposed to be the writer’s idea of reflecting her having “no feelings” even though she constantly pines over her sister and is quite capable of being annoyed. If this were a better game, I’d say Lightning’s jabs at the NPC’s poor dialogue would have been the game poking fun at itself, but alas… the writers do NOT have that level of self-awareness, I can promise you that. I hope this isn’t a true reflection of what humans would be like if they couldn’t die of natural causes. I’d completely lose the little faith in humanity I’ve got left. After 500 years on Pulse, humans are just as selfish, ignorant and stupid as ever.
So why did we suffer through about 60 painful side quests? Well, unlike pretty much every other RPG in history, Lightning does not receive any type of experience for defeating enemies. The ONLY ways to get any substantial stat increases are to do the 5 main story quests and to do the run-around side quests. The whole “Leveling up” thing in 99% of RPGs is nonexistent here. Plus you need to do like, 40-something quests to unlock the Ultimate Lair and fight every Last One to get amazing equipment. I don’t want to get myself started on the whole “making monsters extinct thing.” I’ll just say that, while it is a neat concept in a couple of ways, it has more cons than anything else.
A strange coincidence between LR and my other most-hated Final Fantasy is the dress-up feature. In FFX-2 you change “dresspheres” to change the girl’s class, essentially. Except Lightning gets the star treatment with jewelry, accessories, and breaking down her schemata down to each ability she can use in combat. You’ll spend a bulk of the game micro-managing her outfits to best suit your play style. And by “play style” I mean what specific elements or abilities you need in order to stagger and kill a mob. I didn’t mind this too much, except while in the heat of battle I often had a hell of a time remembering what I equipped on each of the 3 schematas I was using. There’s a pointless “adornment” you can equip as well. It only offers aesthetic value. I feel weird saying “aesthetic” since half the time they look absolutely RIDICULOUS. I made the best of it and equipped the most obnoxious ones I could find to get a reaction out of Hubby. Case in point: we beat the game with Lightning wearing an effing CHRISTMAS TREE on one schemata, and a super afro with a red chocobo chick sticking out of it on another. Eat your heart out, Sazh.
Speaking of a staple character, none of them have had ANY character growth in 500 years either. Snow is still moping about Serah. Same for Noel and Yuel. Sazh’s kid still won’t wake up, and Fang is still awesome. Hope is still annoying as ever. Don’t even get me started on Vanille. I’ve always disliked her and her stupid voice. I’m glad the scenes when she speaks were relatively limited. Thankfully there’s an option to skip cutscenes and mash a button to get through the crappy dialogue as quickly as possible. But the load screens are so long I found myself opting to mash X instead.
I don’t know how much longer my Final Fantasy fandom loyalty is going to last. With the exception of Crisis Core and Dissidia (which still had gag worthy and downright confusing writing) I haven’t genuinely enjoyed a Final Fantasy since FFX all those years ago. I look at games like this and the recent slew of Kingdom Hearts spin-offs and wonder how anyone can be perplexed about JRPGs falling to the wayside. I’m hoping Ni No Kuni and Tales of Xilia will elevate JRPGs somewhat closer to the pedestal I used to hold them to. When I finally get around to playing them, that is. But I won’t hold my breath. As for the Final Fantasy series itself, I solemnly vow to wait and buy the next installment used.