Lightning returns, fixing some of the XIII series' problems in the process but unable to truly deliver something special. Tasked with saving the souls of as many humans as possible in 13 days - before the world ends - this setup strips back much of the usual JRPG fat whilst remaining open, unlike the first game in the series. After a short tutorial, the game's beautifully-designed four main locations become explorable. You must ferry between them, completing as many quests and sidequests as you can, thus saving souls, before the end comes.
Because of the time mechanic, multitasking is prioritised. Some areas only open at specific times of the day, so the player has to dip in and out of plotlines organically. Most of the sidequests involve fetching things, unfortunately, but you can complete the majority of them as you tackle the main objectives. Your stats increase with each completed quest, instead of from battles, lessening the grind - although you'll hit the odd difficulty spike.
This is Lightning's story, so instead of switching between characters, you switch between costumes -called Schemata. Initially, it feels like a gimmicky excuse to sell DLC, especially as some of the outfits make Ann Summers' lingerie seem modest. But, as a combat system, it really works. Each face button is an ability and each Schemata can use all of them, so you switch between three setups on the fly, juggling 12 abilities. Even guarding against attacks must be timed. It's frenetic, twitchy and superb.
Although most didn't ask for another Final Fantasy game in Lightning's universe, the narrative threads wrap up nicely in this cameo-filled tale and it's the most interesting entry in the series. On the surface, it's a cutesy curio, but underneath all the dressing up and kicking the shit out of cats, there's a complex and enjoyable JRPG, if not a brilliant one.
Version Tested: PS3. Played for 23 hours.