Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy Fanservice


Lightning Returns : Final Fantasy XIII isn’t due to be released stateside until February of 2014.  Unfortunately, it already has quite the stigma: it’s a part of the notorious Final Fantasy XIII series.

Despite the black cloud following the series, many fans have been eagerly awaiting this installment of the Fabula Nova Crystallis. “Yep, I’m still excited for Lightning Returns,” said Kotaku’s Jason Schreier, though he admittedly didn’t like the first 2 titles.

To add to the hype, Square Enix released this new trailer today at the San Diego Comic Con.

The words  “13 days until the end” flash across the screen. We see Lightning dueling with Noell. We’re also told Lightning is the savior, chosen to save lost souls. At the end, we’re treated with the knowledge that  you can get  Cloud’s outfit and buster sword by reserving the game. While the trailer does a good job building anticipation for the game, details noticed by fans and other media being circulated has incited public outcry.

One of the most welcome highlights of the clip is, obviously, that Lightning has returned as our protagonist. Her return, however, has received much criticism from fans. We see Lightning, as implemented in Final Fantasy XIII-2, sporting a wide variety of outfits. Shown were colorful, flowing  gowns, many with a Victorian-era feel. This is a far departure from the sleek, almost military-like attire Lightning made famous in the original XIII.


Anyone familiar with Lightning has a hard time imagining her actually stepping out in most of these outfits. Her cool, assertive, almost masculine demeanor clashes horribly with the soft, frilly frocks they’ve shown her in.

Perhaps the biggest insult to Lightning’s image came in the way of a picture published in Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu this week.

The outfit is from MMO Final Fantasy XIV’s Miqo’te people, a feline race very similar to XI’s Mithra. Although cross-promotion between Square games is not a new concept, the clothing and the character utilizing it are causing an uproar. Not only is the choice in clothing completely atypical of Lightning, but the seductive pose looks forced and unnatural. Fans were shocked, even outraged at the changes Square has made to their leading lady’s image.

One is left to wonder why Square would make such a drastic change to the only standout character of the franchise. Some answers can be found by exploring the game’s country of origin, Japan.  Lightning is wildly popular in Japan and the games have been more successful in general with Japanese audiences. Many female game characters are considered sex symbols there, idolized just the same as any real world woman. In addition, Final Fantasy XIV was better received in Japan, where gamers are more forgiving towards Square Enix. Adding the Miqo’te costume was Square pandering to their fanboy crowd, particularly those closest to home.  It doesn’t seem that they care if they alienate other gamers in the process, either. While a little fanboy service is enjoyed now and again (see Mass Effect 3′s Citadel DLC), when it completely change’s a character’s image and doesn’t fit within the game universe, then it seems they’re catering to a select few.

This isn’t the only odd move Square has made with Lightning.  Square recently announced she would be included in Final Fantasy XIV : A Realm Reborn. Many are puzzled as to how they’ll make the crossover plausible in either world.  Producer Naoki Yoshida said in a recent interview, ” I don’t want to destroy the lore. There’s going to be plenty of cutscenes and explanation of the reasons in the storylines of why Lightning can appear in FF14.” Fans of the MMO are hopeful they can pull it off, but are (understandably) skeptical.

Will the next wave of Final Fantasy games achieve a more cohesive,well-thought plot than their predecessors? Or will they be doomed to mediocrity by outlandish concepts and fanboy service? Sound off here at!