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Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII’s Battle System Is All About Switching Schema



Siliconera recently saw a slice of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, which took place in Yusnaan, it’s like the Sin City in Lightning’s world. Hope acts as Lightning’s navigator and the two characters continually talk as you walk through the map.


The level designers added obstacles to jump over, a ladder to climb, and a pole to slide down. Since this was a demo I didn’t worry about the clock in the right-hand corner, which reminds players how much time is left until the end of the world. I decided to explore the area hoping to find a secret enemy like in the Final Fantasy XIII-2 E3 demo, but alas I didn’t discover anything of the sort. This demo felt similar to a Kingdom Hearts map where you move through one room of enemies to the next.


As you just saw in the E3 trailer, Snow also returns for Lightning Returns. He appears to be an antagonist since Lightning pursues Snow in this mission. Hope explains that the people in Yusnaan call Snow a “patron” and the two discuss how Snow’s desire to protect others has carried over to an entire city. I spotted Snow twice in the dilapidated castle and tried to catch him, but he always escaped before Lightning could grab him.



That said, the Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII demo was really designed to demonstrate the combat system. Enemies in Lightning Returns appear on the map and will chase Lightning if they see her. You can gain an upper hand in battle by striking first. Hit an enemy and they lose 10% of their HP when the fight starts. If an enemy hits Lightning first you lose 5% of your HP. The trick is to strike an enemy from behind which knocks off 25% of an enemy’s HP right off the bat.


Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII only has one character to play as — Lightning. However, you can change her attacks by switching Schema. You do this by pressing L1 and R1 so it’s kind of like having three command sets. The demo had three Schema to try:



Triangle: Thunder

Circle: Attack

Square: Block

X: Galestrike


Dark Muse

Triangle: Electric Blitz

Circle: Heavy Slash

Square: Lesser Guard

X: Light Slash



Triangle: Firaga

Circle: Ruin

Square: Lesser Guard

X: Blizzara


Stronger attacks like Firaga drain more of the ATB gauge than a simple spell like Ruin. Each schema actually has its own ATB bar, so you can spam Thunder in Lightning’s Divinity form, then switch to Dark Muse and do a Light Slash –> Heavy Slash –> Light Slash combo and finally finish an enemy off with Firaga. By the time you cycle through all three Schema, the first one will have recovered about 50% of its ATB bar. Usually, fights against weaker mobs end before you can cycle through all three Schema. If all of the ATB gauges are completely out you have to wait, but you can still walk around by using the left analog stick. Lightning does not recover HP after each fight and she didn’t have any cure spells in the demo either. Fortunately, Square Enix gave demo players a couple of X-Potions, a Bravery Potion, and a Faith Potion.




After running through the castle, I reached the one boss battle in the Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII demo. Lumina appears and steps out of a shroud of chaos (it was like a black mist). She says to Lightning in a slightly curious, slightly taunting tone that Lightning wasn’t one of god’s usual lackeys since Lightning could see her. Lumina then summons the dragon-like Zaltys from the chaos and vanishes.


Zaltys attacked with a lunging bite and a fireball attack. Lightning can block to reduce damage by pressing square right before Zaltys strikes with its jaws. Not all blocks are created equal, though. Block in the Divinity schema reduces more damage than Lesser Block in Sorceress or Dark Muse schemas. The key is to switch schema back to Divinity to maximize the effectiveness of a block so you have to push either L1 and then square or R1 and then square.


The stagger system introduced in the Final Fantasy XIII series is back in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII with a few tweaks. On top of dishing out more damage, Lightning has a chance to stagger an enemy which will knock it down for a few seconds. Players have to repeatedly and rapidly exploit elemental weaknesses to increase the stagger wave and when it’s full the enemy will be incapacitated. I found the easiest way to stagger Zaltys was to block first (blocking also increases the stagger wave), then spam thunder (it’s elemental weakness), switch to Dark Muse to spam Electric Blitz, and then switch back to Divinity to use Thunder.



Actually, there is an easier way to stagger Zaltys. Lightning can use the Overdrive meter by pressing L2 to slow time. After I activated Overdrive it only took two uses of thunder to stagger the beast. There is a limit to the amount of times you can use Overdrive, so you want to save it for big fights.


After defeating Zaltys, I asked a Square Enix representative where in the game did the demo take place. The rep explained that due to the open ended structure of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII you can visit Yusnaan in the beginning of the game or in the middle.


Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII was bumped back from fall 2013 to February 11, 2014. The game will be released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Siliconera Staff
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