Metal Gear is not the only game series celebrating a quarter century, as Final Fantasy's 25th anniversary celebration is going on this weekend in Japan. The end of July brought word of a big Final Fantasy XIII announcement, and Square Enix has delivered. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII was announced and it will launch sometime in 2013. Lightning Returns features "a brand-new story, world, characters, and enhanced gameplay system," with Lightning as the sole playable character. She can roam freely in the game's world, much like older titles sans a group. Lightning Returns is set hundreds of years after Final Fantasy XIII-2 in a world called Novus Partus, which has four islands connected by a monorail. The art direction draws inspiration from "gothic, mechanical, and fantasy," which fit in nicely with the overall Final Fantasy theme.
The new game features a doomsday countdown in the corner of the screen that is constantly ticking down. The world in Lightning Returns ends after 13 days, and any action Lightning takes, even using the monorail, will speed up the clock. You must be swift in your actions and accomplish all before the clock expires, although it is not known how the in-game time reflects real world time.
Lightning is the only player-controlled character, but we have a nearly endless varity of options to customize her looks and combat style. The combat system in Lightning Returns is a mix of FFXIII and XIII-2, with real-time control of Lightning's movements and attacks, and time-based moves that hasten the doomsday countdown. A real-time blocking system is being added to make battles more active and timing based. Dying during the middle of a battle starts a prompt asking if you want to undo the mistakes, however accepting it will speed up the countdown. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is the final chapter of the Lightning saga that started with FFXIII in 2010 and continued with this year's FFXIII-2.
Another announcement was made during the celebration, although this one may only concern Japan. Square Enix unveiled the Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary Ultimate Box Collection, which features pretty much every numbered Final Fantasy game. The original PlayStation versions of Final Fantasy I, FFII, FFIV, FFV, FFVI, FFVII, FFVIII, and FFIX, the PS2 versions of FFX, FFXI, and FFXII, the PS3 version of FFXIII, and the PSP version of FFIII are all included. The boxset also contains an anniversary celebration montage DVD, an art book titled Crystal Artworks, a Final Fantasy XIV code for an in-game set of "mogu mogu" earrings, a miniature replica of the 25th Anniversary logo, and a two-disc CD collection of some of the series' music. The Ultimate Box Collection will be available December 18 in Japan, but currently no other location is listed.