What remains in the original game? What was removed?
Two enigmas have surrounded Square Enix since this generation first began, namely Final Fantasy 13 and Final Fantasy Versus 13. The former was the subject of much controversy since it became the first Final Fantasy to go multiplatform, releasing for the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. Fans immediately cried foul, and stated that the game would be watered down in quality due to the Xbox 360’s lack of powerful hardware.
Final Fantasy Versus XIII, on the other hand, was looked upon as the hero that fans craving a console-exclusive Final Fantasy wanted. The fact that it took a more action-oriented approach, with a darker and mature tone, and was helmed Kingdom Hearts director Tetsuya Nomura was enough to get anyone interested. Nomura himself had just come off the immensely entertaining The World Ends With You, often cited as the last great Square-Enix RPG of this generation.
And then Final Fantasy XIII released. The immediate problem wasn’t with the graphics after all – the entire game was extremely dumbed down. Gone were the towns and open worlds one could explore. Long were the hours devoted to just learning the mechanics of the game. Confusing was the story that proposed this story of La’Cie and Fal’Cie that no one in their honest to goodness sanity could get invested in.
Meanwhile, Versus XIII was nowhere to be found. Gameplay footage released many moons showed us what were in for, along with some other story details. It appeared to be the Final Fantasy game that was needed more than ever. Despite the long gap, including the fall of the Fabula Nova Crystallis project, it still looked as amazing as ever.
Unfortunately, it never materialized and we got Final Fantasy XIII-2. Despite improving on the original, the sequel still told a ho-hum story with boring combat and a severe lack of closure. That players had to purchase DLC to find out what happened to main lead Lightning was only worse, to say nothing of the fact that it would pave the way for a third game.
As rumours began leaking regarding Versus XIII’s cancellation, there was another more credible source that stated how the game wasn’t exactly dead. It suffered a great change of direction, and components of the previous concept were being used to create the next Final Fantasy, assumed to be FFXV.
This was compounded by the reveal of a clothing line in Japan, Roen, which had been contracted to create clothing for Noctis and Stella that listed the game as Final Fantasy XV (this was later changed to Final Fantasy Versus XIII, the earlier name having been a “labelling mistake”.
As Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII was announced and gameplay details emerged, a few odd things stood out. Lightning is the only playable character this time around, and can utilize multiple attacks within the span of a single battle. It’s also been confirmed that monsters can attack towns now, not to mention platforming elements and interactions with the environment. Flash back to Versus XIII protagonist Noctis’s interactions with enemies and the fact that he functioned as a venerable one man army, we can’t help but ask.
Were components of Final Fantasy Versus XIII used to create Lightning Returns?
The games look as different as chalk and cheese, with different visions and storylines. Lightning Returns apparently features a mechanic where players can slow down time while Versus XIII allows for multiple party members.
However, the use of weapons in environments such as towns, offering no segregation from where the battle may be happening – just like Kingdom Hearts – reminds us a lot of the same in Lightning Returns. Of course, there are battle transitions and the latter still uses the Active Time Battle system (apparently).
Nonetheless, the permanent presence of Noctis, who can take on different allies depending on the scenario, and Lightning’s over-whelming power (with some assistance here and there) are too similar to ignore.
As it stands, there could be plenty of other mechanics that may have once been a part of Versus XIII and not revealed to the public, only to resurface in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. Both games sport their own end-of-the-world scenarios, with Lightning racing against annihilation (or a new world being born – as usual, Square Enix is sketchy on these kinds of details) and Noctis fighting an invading kingdom.
With Tetsuya Nomura promising more information regarding the same in the coming weeks, and E3 2013 starting from June 10th, we can only hope this means that Final Fantasy Versus XIII will be coming to us sooner than later.
We can also only hope that it retains the elements that made it appealing in the first place, rather than being a skeleton of former parts now indecipherably nuzzled in inferior games.