Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

I bought three new games in February/early March. Well new in the sense that they were new to me. I haven’t put in a lot of time with them yet (damn you, Europa Universalis IV!), but I wanna share a few quick impressions for each. Were they worth my time and money? Let’s find out!

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

The Final Fantasy XIII series and me have a troubled history. XIII broke my original PS3 and was basically shit. The battle system was pretty fun, but the plot was a jumbled mess of fal’Cie and l’Cie, Cocoons and Grand Pulses. Any game that comes with the caveat: “It really opens up and stops being linear after 20 hours” has some deep, deep structural problems.

I took a gamble on XIII-2 and found it rather delightful. It was like Doctor Who meets a JRPG. Weird time travel, end of the world prophecies, an annoyingly charming moogle, and an off-the-wall soundtrack. Even my then-girlfriend-now-wife enjoyed watching me play it, and normally she finds RPGs boring.

Lightning Returns screenshot

Lightning Returns got middling reviews, but I took a chance on it anyway. I liked the idea of playing as Lightning again (I didn’t mind her as a protagonist), and the battle system based on changing outfits (a la Final Fantasy X-2) caught my eye.

Buying it was a mistake. I lasted about two hours before I realized I never wanted to play the game again. See the main conceit is that the world is ending and Lightning has a set amount of time to save souls before the metaphorical lights go out. Problem is, the game’s structure is at odds with that conceit. You can’t level up except for completing side quests, and ones are only available at certain times of day, so you have to wait. And then your precious time is ticking away. And you basically need a goddamn day planner to schedule everything.

It put so much pressure on me–my “do all the side quests mania” against the “explore everything at my leisure.” I hated that I was on the clock. At least with Majora’s Mask you have the ability to redo the three day period if you need more time or mess something up. Lightning Returns doesn’t have that safety net. I think GamesRadar’s review captures my problems with the game (the two hours I played) perfectly.

My time’s too short to waste on a game that feels more like work than play. Later, Lightning Returns.

Verdict: stay away and burn it with fire. Not worth it at all.

Need for Speed: Rivals

Now this is more like it! A game that’s more my (need for) speed. NFS: Rivals looks pretty. It drives well–closer to the arcade side of things rather than the realistic simulation side. And I like that you can play either as a rebel racer or a law-abiding cop. I’m worried that some of the missions might get repetitive, but I’m enjoying playing the game in my spare time.

Need for Speed Rivals

It’s not a game I’d sit down and play for hours on end, eager to power through it, but I can’t deny it’s ol’ fashioned high-speed fun.

Verdict: worth my used purchase.

Strider HD

I never played the original Strider games from the 80s and 90s. I picked the HD reboot/reimagining after watching a Let’s Look At by Northernlion. The game stars Strider Hiryu who I gather is some sort of future ninja with a laser sword thing. Sold!

Strider HD

The game’s fast paced, has a bit of that Metroid/Castlevania exploration thing going on. And I even got to fight a giant robotic dragon-snake thing. Yeah. The game’s cool, stylish, ridiculous, and apparently set in a world where Soviets are still bad guys.

The platforming and controls can be a bit slippery at times where I find myself power sliding the opposite way than I intended or slipping off platforms as I’m trying to climb up some dystopian skyscraper thing. It’s a minor irritation, but one I could see getting worse as the game’s difficulty increases in the later levels.

Verdict: worth buying (so far, could change as game goes on)