Square Enix today streamed on the Web the first trailer for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, which offers a fairly detailed look at gameplay in the new JRPG – said to be world-driven, as opposed to story and player-driven in the first two FF13 games.

Like we reported earlier this week, Lightning’s sporting a spiffier look in this third instalment in the FF13 franchise, and I have to say: pictures do not do her new costume justice. It just looks that much more stylish in motion, to the point that Lightning looks almost like an anti-hero or even a harbinger of doom rather than a heroine who’s the entire world’s last hope. Just look at that pair of bat-goggles Lightning puts on (image above)!

Apart from a cloak on her back and two straps that attaches the front-body armour to her, it would seem that Lightning’s back and sides are not fully covered, perhaps taking a page from Dante’s Devil May Cry 3 costume (i.e. you don’t need to be fully covered up if your enemies aren’t fast enough to hit you), trading fortification for lightweight mova… oh, what the heck am I going on about, it’s a video game! It looks cool. Period.

From the trailer it’s quite apparent that Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is running on a game engine similar to that in XIII-2, but with a number of tweaks since this time around Lightning is apparently going alone. What I’m liking so far: it would appear that you no longer need to bring out a Paradigm Shift menu in order to switch between your character roles – at one point in the video goes from the “Enchanter” role to “Cerberus” mid-combat after launching a Reaver enemy into the air with Firaga.

Rather than picking commands from a menu, it would also seem that every role now comes with four commands mapped to your face buttons on the PS3/X360 controller. Each button press gradually depletes your action gauge (in blue), which slowly recharges over time. The button-press commands make a lot of sense: in XIII-2 one of the main strategies for surviving boss fights was to switch to the Defender-Defender-Defender (or whatever the role is called in the English version) paradigm whenever you see the boss enemy bring out their one-hit-kill special attacks (usually highlighted to you by means of an indicator up top that tells you the name of the enemy move). Right after that, you’d switch to your healing paradigm to regenerate your health.

What that means was that, in order to allow players enough time to switch to the Defender paradigms, Square Enix basically had to ensure that every game-ending attack had a bit of a wind-up to it, which made them super easy to counter – there were entire boss fights where I just had to blast the boss with everything I had, and then occasionally switch to Defender roles when they bring out the big guns.

With Lightning Returns’s system, instead of changing roles all the time, the guard command is just mapped to a button. Hopefully that will mean that bosses will have some hard-hitting attacks that will come out so fast that it’ll test the player’s reactions. If not, at the very least, the new style of commands will lend an action game feel to the JRPG to match its already-action-game-ish stylish presentation.


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