LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII is an action-RPG developed by Square Enix’s 1st Production Department (with some assistance from tri-Ace) for PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360. It is the sequel to FINAL FANTASY XIII-2, the concluding chapter of the FINAL FANTASY XIII series and apart of the FABULA NOVA CRYSTALLIS series of games.
It was released in Japan on November 21, 2013, February 11, 2014 in North America, February 13, 2014 in Australia and February 14, 2014 in Europe.
LIGHTNING RETURNS began development shortly after the completion of the final DLC for FINAL FANTASY XIII-2. The team wished to create a conclusive title that wrapped up the Lightning Saga. They also wished to finish the XIII series before the next generation of consoles were released, next gen versions were not considered. It was also made the last new FINAL FANTASY game for PS3 & 360.
The game was announced at a special event for the 25th anniversary of the FINAL FANTASY series.
The team was mostly the same that had made the first two games with the only notable changes being Yoshiki Kashitani & Yusuke Matsui departing. Developer tri-Ace returned to help with the graphics.
The team re-used very little from the first two games with the game’s four continents made from scratch. The main ideas for the four continents came from Toriyama.
The game was called “LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII” instead of XIII-3 in order to emphasis the “rebirth” of Lightning and attract new players.
Yoshitaka Amano did not design the game’s logo with the team instead making their own. After XIII was story-driven and XIII-2 was player-driven, Toriyama decided to make LIGHTNING RETURNS “world-driven”.
The game’s time limit was suggested by Yuji Abe after he learned about the Doomsday Clock.
The game was inspired by various titles including The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim & Dark Souls.
Luxerion and Yusnaan were inspired by Paris and Las Vegas, while the Dead Dunes and Wildlands were inspired by Cairo and Costa Rica. The location for the game’s final scene was based on southern Europe.
Tetsuya Nomura returned to design Lightning and Snow’s new looks while Lightning’s other outfits were designed by Isamu Kamikokuryo, Toshitaka Matsuda and Toshiyuki Itahana. Matsuda also designed Bhunivelze and Itahana designed Lumina.
Video Game Orchestra, founded by Shota Nakama were chosen by Masashi Hamauzu to record the soundtrack after the two became friends. Toriyama wrote more music lyrics.
Unlike the previous games, a theme song was not created, with the composers instead creating an orchestral piece for the ending.
In 2013 the FINAL FANTASY XIII and FINAL FANTASY XIV teams collaborated to celebrate their respective releases. Toriyama wrote an event which has been available multiple times in FINAL FANTASY XIV which sees Lightning travel to the world of FFXIV before the events of LIGHTNING RETURNS. Her equipment along with Snow’s were released in FFXIV along with monsters from the XIII series which were supervised by the XIII team. Through this event Lightning obtains a costume and equipment which is available in LIGHTNING RETURNS to use.
Following the reception of XIII-2’s DLC, the team decided to only release costumes and equipment as DLC along with Japanese audio. Among the DLC released included ones based on Cloud and Aerith from FINAL FANTASY VII, Yuna from FINAL FANTASY X & X-2 and Lara Croft from Tomb Raider.
As with XIII-2, a demo was released on the PlayStation Store & Xbox Live. Plenty of themes and avatars were also made to use on PSN & Xbox Live.
Toriyama created a new feature for the game called the Outerworld Services, this would allow players from all over the world to post messages and items on NPCs that would appear in other people’s games. It also featured social media sharing and more. Toriyama created this in preparation for the more advanced sharing features in the PS4 & Xbox One.
LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII was released at retail & digitally on day one, the first time ever for a major single-player FINAL FANTASY game and was also able to be pre-loaded in Japan.
In Japan a special box called “Lightning Ultimate Box” was released, featuring all 3 games, a new LIGHTNING RETURNS Play Arts Kai figure, select music from the 3 games, a special stand and an artbook. Various custom PlayStation 3 controllers were also released throughout the world and custom PlayStation 3’s and Xbox 360’s could be won.
Square Enix also released soundtracks, books, t-shirts and more for the game.
A prequel novel titled LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII Chronicle of Chaotic Era was originally set to be released in Japan but following the author falling ill it was cancelled. Content from the novel was later reincorporated into FINAL FANTASY XIII REMINISCENCE -tracer of memories- which was set before LIGHTNING RETURNS’ final scene and was written by Daisuke Watanabe, the XIII series’ Lead Scenario Writer who also planned and supervised all the companion media for the XIII series with Toriyama.
The game sold over a million copies on PS3 & 360 and was critically acclaimed in Japan.
It was ported to Windows PC in 2015 by Kitase, Naoki Hamaguchi and other programmers & artists inside Business Division 1. The Windows PC port was released on Steam worldwide with dual-audio (English & Japanese), up to 60fps support, support for high resolutions and most of the DLC. The PC port has sold about 200,000 copies according to SteamSpy. The port is more advanced and detailed than the XIII & XIII-2 ports.
Broadmedia later used the Windows PC version to make versions for iOS & Android devices in Japan.
The PlayStation 3 version was released on PlayStation Now in Japan but was later removed.
The English version of the game features a star-studded line-up of voice actors including Ali Hillis as Lightning, Vincent Martella as Hope, Jessica DiCicco as Lumina, Troy Baker as Snow, Laura Bailey as Serah, Rachael Robinson as Fang, Georgia Van Cuylenberg as Vanille, Jason Marsden as Noel, Liam O’Brien as Caius, Amber Hood as Yeul, Bailey Gambertoglio as Mog, Reno Wilson as Sazh, Andre Robinson as Dajh, Erik Davies as Cid, Julie Nathanson as Chocolina and Daniel Riordan as Bhunivelze.
Veteran staff who assisted in development in various roles include Hiroki Chiba (Scenario Writer), Toshiyuki Itahana (Character Designer), Yasuhisa Izumisawa (Character Designer) and Koji Kobayashi (Cutscene Supervisor).
Director: Motomu Toriyama
Game Design Director: Yuji Abe
Main Programmer: Naoki Hamaguchi
Art Director: Isamu Kamikokuryo
Graphics & VFX Director: Shintaro Takai
Main Character Designer: Tetsuya Nomura
Music: Masashi Hamauzu, Naoshi Mizuta, Mitsuto Suzuki
Lead Scenario Writer: Daisuke Watanabe
Level Design Director: Takeshi Iwabuchi
Lead Application Programmer: Daiki Hoshina
Lead Planners: Kazuyuki Shindo, Masahiro Ishihara, Daisuke Inoue, Yui Sawada
Battle Design Director: Nobuyuki Matsuoka
Lead Battle Programmer: Satoru Koyama
Character Model Director: Masaaki Kazeno
Lead Technical Engine & Rendering Programmer: Shuichi Ikeda
Gameplay Animation Director: Yoshiyuki Soma
Cutscene Animation Director: Yusuke Tanaka
Cutscene Layout Director: Hidekazu Miyake
Lead Art Designer: Toshitaka Matsuda
Environment Director: Norihito Ueno
Environment Technical Artist: Yoji Iio
Lead Tools & Build Engine Programmer: Hideki Shibuya
Menu Director: Yoichi Seki
Lead Menu Programmer: Yoshikazu Miyake
Lead Social Network Programmer: Takeshi Mouri
Movie Director: Kazuyuki Ikumori
Assistant Movie Directors: Kaori Sato, Shuzo Takokoro
Sound Director: Tomohiro Yajima
Music Administrator: Keiji Kawamori
Lead Marketing & Publicity Planner: Yohei Murakami
Producer: Yoshinori Kitase
The various streaming versions are linked below.