The Lightning Saga Remastered (Coming Soon to PS5!)

This is all hypothetical. I’m sorry if you Googled that and it popped up and you clicked the link thinking maybe I had some news the rest of the games industry didn’t. I don’t. But this year I played through Final Fantasy VIII Remastered and Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age and Final Fantasy VII Remake and the Steam port of the 3D remake of Final Fantasy III and, ya know, I got to thinking. Isn’t it about that time for FFXIII?

The Final Fantasy XIII trilogy was released originally on the PS3 and then later atrociously ported to Steam. I say atrociously because I tried to play the PC version of Final Fantasy XIII-2, but couldn’t, because it installed something that made my controller catch fire. Even after I refunded and uninstalled the game, the garbage it installed caused my gamepad configuration to break in a bunch of other games I’d never had trouble with. So, ah, if you came here looking for a review of the Steam port of FFXIII-2, I guess that’s the takeaway: don’t buy it, because if you do it won’t work, and then you’ll have to spend two hours manually scraping malicious .dlls out of your hard drive.

But here we are with our toes dipped in this new console hardware generation, and while we know FFXVI is looking pretty sexy, it’s probably still a few years out. What’s Square-Enix cooking up to keep us fed in the meantime? I submit to you that the FFXIII series is ripe for the plucking.

I don’t actually care that much about FFXIII-2 or Lightning Returns, but there’s a lot of room for improvement in the original FFXIII.

Package it with FFXIII-2 and Lightning Returns.

Like I said, I don’t actually care about these two games very much, but if I’m paying $60, they’d better be in there. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I will absolutely spend $60 on a stand-alone FFXIII remake, because I am a putz with more money than sense. But I’ll spend $80 on a FFXIII Collection in a snazzy box, even if I don’t like one-third of the games.

Better Replay Options

FFVII Remake and The Zodiac Age both have excellent New Game Plus modes, and there’s no reason FFXIII shouldn’t, either. This was the first Final Fantasy title which split its gameplay into concise numbered chapters, and we seem to be doing that in all of them now, so an unlockable Chapter Select after you roll the credits would definitely be welcome. And let me use any combination of the six characters I want in each chapter, too. Maybe include a “Hard Mode” option that replaces each enemy with the hardest version of that enemy type, so re-visiting old chapters is a good way to stockpile CP and develop your characters.

Can I play on the racetrack, please?

We have a canonically-established grand prix racetrack in this universe, and six player characters whose spiritual monster buddies all transform into vehicles. There’s a dumb mini-game here waiting to happen, and I think we can all agree that FFXIII is sorely lacking in the dumb minigame department. Unlock “Cocoon Circuit” once Lightning defeats Odin, and make the other five characters playable as they receive their own eidolons. Unlock a second “Pulse Circuit” upon reaching Oerba.

The reward structure doesn’t need to be more complicated than just giving me piles of money. We all know I’m going to be farming gil for hours to afford mats for weapon leveling, just give me a second thing to grind at so I can switch up the scenery every so often. Prize stickers I can slap on Odin’s butt will also be acceptable.

Swap Party Leader

This is the thing everyone always complains about in FFXIII. When the party leader dies, you get a Game Over, and there is no mechanism by which to switch party leaders during battle. The final boss in particular has this really nasty combo where he can poison you with one of his regular actions, but he also has a special scripted action to drop your whole party’s HP to 1 upon hitting a certain HP treshhold. If you don’t know about that and these two things happen at almost the same time…

The only reason it seems like we’re not allowed to swap leaders is each hero has a special ultimate attack that must be manually selected. Since your AI partners will never use their ultimates, your choice of leader is also a choice of which ultimate attack you want to have in the chamber. I guess there are balance reasons why we’re not allowed to access more than one ultimate at a time. Maybe the game would crack in half if you queued one up and then switched to someone else to queue theirs.

The game already has a party resource for this sort of thing, though: TP. Techs have to be manually selected and they burn a meter that isn’t tied to any particular character. Make these six ultimate attacks into techs requiring full TP and let me choose between the three associated with my characters, and whatever balance bugaboos you’re worried about are sated.

(If we’re doing this, Vanille should probably get a new ultimate attack, and her existing Death spell should just be rolled into the SAB crystarium.)

FFXII already did this right, fools!

One of the major annoyances in FFXIII is, every time you switch your party (which is mandated at many points during the game) you have to go in and reset your paradigm decks. More than half of your input as a player during combat just boils down to switching paradigms, and the game doesn’t let you save deck favorites. We don’t need to get super crazy with this, just remember what the deck looks like per each combination of three characters, so I can switch around and switch back and end up with something that looks like what I already had.

We also really need some control over our AI partners outside of swapping over to them and inputting their commands manually. (In FFXIII you usually don’t even input your own character’s commands manually.) The way it works currently is each role has a sequence of commands it wants to use, and an order it wants to use them in, and it goes through the list one at a time. This is most noticable for the SYN and SAB roles but every role has some version of it.

All I want here is a page that lists all of a character’s abilities for a given role, and a way to toggle them on and off. I don’t need Veil and Shell in absolutely every random encounter, Sazh. Come on.

New roles!

Adding new character content is a Final Fantasy remake tradition: FFIV DS‘s augments, FFV Advance‘s new jobs, FFX-2 HD‘s new pok√©mon. For better or worse, FFXIII has a unique combat interface focused on macro-actions that no other game has. The trick here is to introduce some classic Final Fantasy jobs which stand out in FFXIII‘s interface.

In FFX, Yuna can summon aeons to fight for her. She does this by issuing individual commands just like the player typically does. However, a couple of her aeons are controlled only indirectly; instead of issuing commands to Yojimbo, she pays him some amount of gil, and then Yojimbo decides what to do. This is kind of a fun little thing in an otherwise complete system, and I think we can pluck at it for FFXIII.

I propose these three new roles, unlocked late in the game: [OPP]ortunist, [COL]lector, and [OBS]erver.

OPP is the new spin on the traditional Gambler. Their AI is limited to Auto-slots, which rolls the tumblers to pull from a variety of effects. When controlled directly, you can specify some amount of gil to get a calculated amount of damage and perhaps special side effects like dispelling buffs or hitting elemental weaknesses. Include a powerful attack called “Go all in!” which spends some preposterous amount of gil, say 10x the average gil value of whatever the enemies typically drop, for a chance at instant stagger.

[COL] is the Chemist. Their AI is Auto-potion, the only function of which is to heal the party with consumable items. (All item use in XIII is otherwise manual.) Give them a passive ability that doubles item effectiveness, and another that gives some percentage chance to use an item without consuming it, and a back-row COL becomes a pretty good party healer. Besides that, XIII has a huge number of individual items, none of which have any function other than their sell value or their XP potential for equipment upgrades. At any time during combat you can switch to your COL and have them mix any of these two otherwise flavorless items together to create some bombastic effect. Low-tier items are already available in shops in large quantities, and the really rare items are so difficult to obtain you could get away with creating truly spectacular attacks.

[OBS] is the Blue Mage. The role does nothing at all except have a passive Learning trait, and there’s a big list of enemy skills to learn. The AI that chooses which skills to use out of the big long list could run on the same sort of logic that the current RAV/SYN/SAB skills do. (Check enemy weaknesses, don’t apply redundant debuffs, etc.) Mostly I just want this in the game to justify an attack called 1,000,000 Needles.

Greg

Spend one million gil in the Gilgamesh, Inc. store and the man himself shows up to yell at you about swords, then you beat him up. Come on, this one’s a no-brainer.

Re-design Gestalt Battles

Nobody knows how these fights work and everybody complains about them. Whatever the devs were trying to do, they failed. Re-design these fights to use the same rules as regular boss battles.

Increase bankable CP from 999,999 to 99,999,999.

You’d think a million CP is enough for anyone, but it’s actually only a fraction of what you need to complete the Crystarium for any given character. You have to fill the jar a few times for each character, and any CP you earn while the jar is filled just gets wasted. Accidentally wasting CP because you don’t want to use Hope in the active party during a long grind session is just a bad situation we should probably avoid.

A Better Post-game

Which is to say, uh, any post-game at all.

(Quick digression: I actually abhor the term “post-game” because [long list of reasons]. I use it here only because we all kind of know what it means. End of digression.)

FFXIII is one of the few Final Fantasy games where defeating the final boss actually opens up new game content; the final stage of your Crystarium is locked until you roll the credits. A few of the remakes unlock new challenges or bonus dungeons or whatever, but FFXIII explicitly tells you “you aren’t done yet.”

Unfortunately that’s all it does. There’s nothing to do with that final Crystarium stage except throw it against the areas you can already reach, to better humiliate the bosses you could already kill. There’s not much a party capable of defeating Barty 3 and Orphan can’t do, and slogging through the millions of CP required to fill the final tier on old monsters just feels like unnecessary hassle.

I already mentioned some stuff we can do with a Chapter Replay option, but there’s no reason we have to stop there.

Revamp Tier III Weapons

Currently, each weapon in the game belongs in one of three tiers, with each character’s “ultimate weapon” being Tier III.

(It’s actually slightly more complicated than that. Each weapon in the game has a Tier III version, and so each character has several different options for “ultimate weapon.”)

To make Tier III weapons you need a rare item called a Trapezohedron. One or two of these drop in your lap just by clearing game content, but the rest have to be farmed for over long hours. Instead of a one-size-fits all ultimate weapon strategy, let’s revamp the system so each character now has an optional endgame sidequest to earn a unique crafting material, instead. Maybe keep Trapezohedrons as a semi-rare resource in the game, used to transform one character’s Tier III into another version, so you can play with it without having to farm it up again from scratch.

And while we’re at it…

Dark Aeons (Except Good)

…maybe we can tie those sidequests into each character’s eidolon, and doing so causes a superboss version of the Gestalt fight to appear somewhere in the world. If there’s one thing FFXIII needs, it’s more giant super-monsters to throw your millions of CP worth of abilities and paradigm decks at. And maybe…

11th Crystarium Tier

…defeating a dark eidolon (or some other superboss) unlocks an 11th tier to the character’s Crystarium. There’s a lot of space to make these characters even more absurdly powerful than they already are, including:

  • a standard “break damage limit” node;
  • a node that unlocks a feature which increases that role’s effectiveness based on banked CP, say a 1% increase in effectiveness (damage output for COM, damage reduction for SEN, buff duration for SYN, etc.) per 1 million CP, up to the new max of 99% increase at 99 million;
  • a node that gives a character some fraction of this role’s bonus even when not in that role (e.g., Lightning could enjoy some percent of her COM damage bonus even as a RAV); and
  • the missing skills from that character’s lower Crystarium levels (e.g., Lightning doesn’t learn Curaja as a MED, even though MED is one of her starting roles, so she could learn it here).

The idea here is, in many Final Fantasy games, there are two parallel “lanes” of leveling up. You gain experience to go from L1 to L99 in Final Fantasy VI, but that doesn’t leave you with the most powerful characters. To do that you need to maximize esper stat growth, which is a totally separate system. Nothing like that really exists in FFXIII, but the game also doesn’t really support a “totally separate system” for parallel leveling. (And it’s a mostly vestigial concept in other games too. Neglecting esper stat growth in VI still leaves your characters way overpowered for any actual challenge in the game.)

Anyway, we need all this extra power because…

Dark Faultwarrens

…we’re sending these super-charged 11-tier 99m-CP-banked characters into the Dark Faultwarrens.

O.G. vanilla FFXIII has a location called the Faultwarrens, which is a sort of branching battle gauntlet. You fight a battle there, and the battle arena has two exits, and each exit takes you to a different path, until you reach one of eight possible exits (each with unique rewards). These are some of the toughest fights available in XIII and it’s a concept I really like.

Let’s leave those in, but at some point let’s open up a second Faultwarrens that works the same way but contains much stronger monsters. The 8 ending fights should be on the level of “maybe 2% of players will complete this content.”

Brick your ideas are dumb and you are dumb.

Possibly!

XIII is rare in this series in that there’s really only one direction for your characters to advance in. Once you level up and equip the best weapon, your work is done except for making the numbers ever more and more preposterous. That’s why my ideal vision for bonus endgame content in this title specifically involves so much “push the numbers as high as they’ll go”.

That said, I’m one of the few dorklingers that actually enjoys Final Fantasy XIII. It’s possible the game doesn’t have enough grip to bother remastering at all, or if it does, perhaps the remastering efforts are better spent bolstering those elements of the game so many people found objectionable.

Mostly, for my purposes, I’m just ready to put the PS3 in the closet.

Thanks for reading!

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