It's hard to believe that Final Fantasy XIII spread across three different chapters, starting with the original adventure and expanding into X-2 before concluding with next month's forthcoming Lightning Returns. However, with each title, Square Enix featured distinctive battle techniques to make the individual chapters stand out in their own right – and this game is no exception. We recently took the demo for a spin, which you can get now on Xbox Live Marketplace and PlayStation Network.
When it comes to playing as Lightning, there are three different styles of battle you can use. These are called Schemata, and you can easily switch between the three of them with a press of the trigger buttons. In some cases, you'll want to, as each Schemata utilizes a power bar, known as the ATB. As you proceed with attacks, this'll empty and have to recharge, but you can switch between battle styles as you do this.
The first battle style is the Savior. This is Lightning's general style of battle, in which she can use a basic attack, a Blitz technique or a distant Thunder attack. All three of these deal plenty of damage to an enemy, though they're best used for general opponents, like small winged creatures or lumbering Anubis warriors.
Next up is the Dark Muse. Like the Savior, this is ideal for good up-front attacks, and also dishes out additional ice-like damage to enemies. The ATB drains a bit quicker with these, but you'll be able to take advantage of the heavy slash, general attack and Froststrike. As you might guess, the Froststrike is the most powerful of the three, strong enough to leave an enemy laying on the ground – allowing Lightning to dish out additional damage.
Finally, there's the Black Mage. This is the more traditional role-playing style warrior, as you utilize magic-style attacks to throw an enemy off, including a rapid fire attack, a quick freeze (good if you're surrounded by multiple enemies) and a blizzard, which sends a strong wave towards foes of any size. This is good for those who don't prefer straightforward attacks, as it tends to lean a bit more on the strategic side.
No matter which of Lightning's Schemata you're using, you'll want to make sure to use the guard technique. With this, you'll take less damage from an enemy's strike, and maybe even leave them open long enough to let loose with a counterattack. Something like the Lightning or Froststrike would be your best bet, so make sure you leave plenty of room open on your ABT bar for that.
These battle systems do take a bit of practice, but thankfully, the demo gives you plenty of room to do so on smaller enemies before throwing your first major fight your way. When that time comes, you'll be introduced to the Staggering technique.
With Staggering, you'll need to examine an enemy to find out where their weak points are, then attack. You'll have access to a special Libra tool to do this. Before the start of the fight, press the right trigger button and you'll be able to analyze any given weaknesses. Make note, because these will help you win the battle much quicker than unleashing general attacks.
When you're not in the middle of a fight, you'll be able to free roam through the current level. In the demo, you'll find Lightning having to fight a few foes, then chase after Snow, who's making his way through the castle. During your free running, you'll have access to a couple of options.
You can run by holding down the right trigger button, and while this does get you through a level much quicker, you'll run out of energy as you do so, and need to wait for it to refill before you can do it again.
In addition, if you're in the mood to fight a stray enemy and build up some XP, you can press the right shoulder button to initiate an attack. The first strike is vital, as it can give you an advantage depending on how good the attack is. If it's poor, you'll only have a minor HP advantage over them. If it's good, the HP increases, making the chance of winning the battle that much easier. Keep in mind it's completely optional – some enemies you can run right past.
You'll want to keep an eye on the Doomsday Clock. This ticks in the right hand side of the screen, and shows you just how much time Lightning has left to complete certain missions. Some battles provide her with a time bonus, so don't hesitate to take part in one when you get the chance.
One more thing you might want to do – keep plenty of potions around. Lightning doesn't heal automatically, so you'll want to stock up on a variety of healing and power-up bottles when you get the chance. Black market dealers occasionally make the rounds, so be sure to buy up as many as you can. If you have excess, you can sell them as well.
Potions vary. The big one you'll want to invest in is the X Potion, which gives you full XP back. You can use these during battle, in case an enemy wears Lightning down to the point of almost dying. Other potions include the Warriors Potion, which restores a small amount of XP and powers up Bravery and Faith techniques; the Holy Water potion, which increases Protect and Shell techniques while giving a small dose of XP; and the Enfrost, which boosts freeze attacks and gives a tiny amount of energy. Buy what you can.
The demo only provides a small taste of what's in store for the full adventure, but it will certainly get you warmed up for the end-of-the-world tale to come. Be sure to check out Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII when it arrives on February 11th for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Be sure to pre-order your copy of The Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Complete Official Guide featuring five all-encompassing quest-related chapters, where you can find the conditions, rewards and solutions to all missions and secondary objectives.