Vanille is back in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

Japanese fans got their first hands-on with Lightning Returns today – courtesy of a Sony sponsored Play Community event held in Tokyo – where they were able to preview the beginning of the game. While most of the details shared at the event encompass information we already know, a few new tidbits have leaked out from those who attended the viewing.

Earlier this month, we learned that Fang would be rejoining the cast and it looks like she won’t be alone. Vanille is also back in some form, although details on her reappearance are still largely unknown. It seems she’s being sheltered by the religious group called the Salvation Council, which keeps a tight grip on the city of Luxerion.

The reason for Hope’s appearance as his 14 year old self is also still a mystery – one that will likely be solved during the course of the game. Apparently he went missing 169 years ago from the start of the game’s story, and although he can’t remember how he reverted to his teenage form he still remembers events from the past – just not in an emotional sense. Both Lightning and Hope seem to have thinning emotions. The older version of Hope from XIII-2 will make at least one appearance via a cutscene, but it’s still unknown if he’ll return to his adult form in the end. Snow has changed somewhat as well – no longer referring to Lightning in a casual manner, but now simply as “Savior.”

The fourth and final area in the game – the Wildlands – was shown off to the audience. It’s an open forest sort of area in which Lightning can ride chocobos through. The other three previously detailed continents include: Luxerion – a city with a strong religious atmosphere where Lightning is tasked with investigating a murder. Two play styles are offered here, which the team labels “Detective” and “Tracking.” The Detective part offers a peaceful style of play, while the Tracking part offers a more stealth-based play style. The Dead Dunes is a large desert, and as one might expect, not an area with a lot of buildings or structures. But it’s not just a bunch of sand – the idea was to create a desert that felt realistic. Buried within the sand are ruins and relics along with terribly strong monsters. In the pleasure city of Yusnaan resides the Patron, Snow. There are various points of interest here, but you’ll need to make use of the time limit with great caution here.

As previously detailed, the collaborative costumes from Final Fantasy VII, X and XIV will feature unique sets of victory poses as well as their own victory themes. Color customization will be available on these outfits as well for those wanting to change the look of Cloud’s SOLDIER uniform, however weapons and shields will not have the ability to be pallet swapped. Lightning will also be able to obtain Yuna’s summoner garb – which was initially revealed at E3 and will likely be a part of Square Enix’s Go There campaign.

For those that still have save files from Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, you’ll unlock Lightning’s outfits from each respective game automatically.

Lightning’s other costumes will be available through quests or purchased at a shop, while some abilities can be gathered through enemy drops. Unlike the previous two games, many shops will appear. As time passes in the game, the product line-up available in these shops will change. There are over 100 types of shops. Lightning will only be able to hold six items at the start of the game, but this will increase as you progress.
Initially the range of items available will be limited but it’ll increase as the story progresses – the same can also be said for the number of inventory slots available to Lightning, with only six at the start. She’ll also be able to wear a variety of accessories including necklaces, earings, mascot items (such as XIII-2’s Mog) and glasses. Equipping the right setup is key – by using the right configuration of equipment, the game’s final boss can be felled in under 50 seconds. Players more interested in a less action-based approach need not worry – Lightning can be stacked more on the defensive side of things which will eliminate the need to reply on Guard and Evade tactics.

There are some enemies that even the most skilled test players have referred to as “impossible.” Up until now, Square Enix has talked about the possibilities of New Game Plus, but this is the first time they’ve discussed the optional areas to explore after you technically completed the game. The difficulty level of the enemies in these areas is still being adjusted.

Lastly, the staff took some Q&A time to answer fan questions – one in particular curious if Lightning’s bust size had really increased as indicated in a Japanese interview at E3. It’s true, according to Toriyama and her bust size will actually change depending on the type of Schema she is wearing.