With the Tokyo Game Show all wrapped up, it's been a busy week for the Square Enix team behind "Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII": trailers, intro cinematics, and new costumes aren't going to create themselves, you know.
First up is "Lightning Returns"' opening cutscene which is -- if you've been following "Final Fantasy XIII" at all -- predictably dense, jargon-heavy, and covered in the kind of gilded rococo patina that's come to typify the series: everything glitters, blinks, and shines in Gran Pulse.
Lightning and Snow Villiers' conversation is unintelligible for anyone not already intimately familiar with the intra-personal relationships of "XIII" (i.e., me), but that doesn't matter much when stacked up against the promise of cutting down a purple, two-story Anubis.
I also don't know where Lightning got those sensible Oakley knock-offs, but the reverse dealwithit.gif look isn't working.
Next up: the "Lightning Returns" TGS trailer. This covers a lot of the same ground as the intro cinematic but with the added bonus of Caius sporting some sort of dream catcher as a headband. It's not particularly different from trailers shown at E3, San Diego Comic-Con, or Gamescom, but I suppose there are only a few different ways to tell an audience that the world is ending at the end of next pay period.
Lastly, some marshmallow puff footage of Lightning in her recently-announced Yuna costume.
I liked "Final Fantasy X" and found Yuna to be a generous, charitable, and resilient protagonist, but Square Enix' cross-promotional costumes aren't tugging at the nostalgic heartstrings. It's worth noting, though, that HD remakes of "X" and "X-2" are in the works if you'd rather go back to the source.
What to make of these various trailers, popping into existence like so much digital confetti? I'm not sure. Pundits and critics have been doomsaying "Final Fantasy"'s demise since, gosh, at least 2006 when the first MMO was released, but the sky has managed to stay right-side up since then. For those who've already written the long-running franchise off, "Lightning Returns"' melodrama and excess is fuel to the fire.
For anyone not interested in an ontological brawl about what a "Final Fantasy" game is supposed to be, "Lightning Returns" is probably a brisk, lighthearted action game that happens to feature Chocobo (Chocobos? Chocoben? Chocoboi?) and Moogles.
We always talk about "Final Fantasy" like its some ossified old dinosaur, conservatively living on the interest accrued by constant remakes and spin-offs. This is true, but Square Enix have also been remarkably willing to mess with its formula, from "X-2"'s rapid-fire chaining to "XII"'s real-time algebra to "XV"'s full-tilt third-person action, the seeds of which were likely planted during "Dirge of Cerberus."
The muddled, mixed-up craziness of "Lightning Returns" isn't new -- it's just one stop on a quickly-expanding spectrum of "Final Fantasy." In any case, all my consternation and hand-wringing will be resolved in February -- which seems so far away! -- when "Lightning Returns" is released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter