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Lightning Returns devs discuss story, battle systems, and Tetsuya Nomura's fashion sense

Over in Japan this week, Square Enix caused a minor furor when it revealed a new trailer and some design images from the upcoming Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XII. Among the shots: A render of Lightning herself wearing an outfit that, shall we say, sets a new standard in unlikely battle armor for female video-game characters.

"Why am I able to see her panties here?" one poster to Japanese forum quipped. "They've turned her into the hero of the next Assassin's Creed game," added another. "Tetsuya Nomura's sense of fashion has been pretty much frozen in time for the past decade or so, so I guess there's no saving it."

Indeed, the new outfit is the work of Nomura, main character designer of the FF series and a guy who loves nothing more than putting extra chrome and belt buckles and such on his game heroes. However, as a preview published in this week's Famitsu notes, you're free to change it out if it's not your bag. All clothing is customizable in Lightning Returns, including color, and you can set up "styles" (sets of weaponry, armor, accessories and abilities) that you can switch freely between during battles.

"We don't have a name yet for the battle system, but it's what I guess you could call a 'really cool ATB [Active Time Battle],'" director Motomu Toriyama told Famitsu. "It allows you to directly input things like movements and abilities in the midst of battle. Depending on the abilities you opt to use, the battles can become almost action-RPG-like, or they can lean toward more traditional command-based fights. You only have control over a single person [Lightning], but in terms of how it feels in action, it feels a lot like you're fighting with multiple people."

But Lightning Returns is about more than fighting and fashion. Although Square Enix deliberately isn't calling this Final Fantasy 13-3, this game is also meant to wrap up every bit of the story that's been explored over the past two titles in the series. "Our focus here is on making Lightning Returns a full game that completes the story in a single package," Toriyama commented. "Even with the characters in the previous games, I can guarantee to you that we'll be completing all of their stories in a way that will really satisfy gamers."

Lightning Returns is due out 2013 sometime in Japan, the 'final' leg of a yearlong campaign to celebrate Final Fantasy's 25th birthday. "The thing that makes FF so fun to work on is how we get to build this grand world from scratch for every release," Toriyama said. "I think every series fan has a particular location from the games that sticks out in their mind the most, and being able to instill these memories in people that are as vivid as anything they've experienced in the real world...nothing could make the FF staff happier. It gives me all the enthusiasm I need to keep on pressing forward into the future."

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