Ah Final Fantasy XIII, the series that made me go to a video game store and give me a spider sense I wish I ignored instead of buying the game. In a surprisingly short amount of time, it has managed to create three games and delay the other XIII spinoffs, which eventually turned into games of their own, with the one starring Noctis becoming Final Fantasy XV. No matter how you feel about the series, it has managed to gain a large following. Yet something that has managed to get almost everyone angry, from genuine fans to people who loathe the series: the costumes. For those unaware, Lightning Returns allows you to switch costumes to gain different abilities, much like in Final Fantasy X-2. Unlike that game though, you only control Lightning, and several problems and questions rise up because of this.
Some of you might be thinking that since they went the FFX-2 route that that is reason enough to be angry. Not necessarily, as I did find some of the outfits to be quite cool and even a little badass. To be honest, I really liked police uniform she had in Dissidia 012 the most because it showed off something very fitting to her personality. Plus it’s not like Lightning is turning into a pop singer now…I think, don’t quote me on that just yet. No, the problem here is that some are just revealing or VERY questionable. Still, this isn’t the first game to ever do that. Lots of Final Fantasy games in the past had very strange outfits that didn’t make sense or showed off a character’s certain features. So what’s the problem here then, some of you are asking?
It makes no sense from the character’s perspective, in a few ways actually. Appearances can usually tell you a lot about a person. In Lightning’s case, most of them can easily say “Did you hit your head or are you just incredibly drunk right now?” Considering you can booze in this game, I wouldn’t doubt the latter. For those wondering about the types of costumes she has, here’s a link. And to welcome you back from your destroyed brain when thinking about what the hell the developers were thinking, here’s a link to a cute kitten. Now for those who still may not get it, Lightning has been shown and described as a soldier-type, usually cold towards or others and her smiles were rare as all hell. Still, I don’t mean to say she’s completely heartless, just very serious and devoted to doing her job, but can be seen as caring too at times. Wearing a costume that reveals quite a lot of skin and looks like it was painted on you does not resonate with me. True, she didn’t wear the most conservative clothes (mainly pants but her skirt was suitable sorta), but neither the Valkyrie Armor nor her old FF13 outfit revealed quite so much and made you raise so many eyebrows.
Going against a character’s original personality can be incredibly risky, with or without development. An example of this was, according to sources anyway, fans were less than pleased regarding Shaundi’s development from Saints Row 2 to 3. And in the FFXIII series, there was apparently none that could explain this. She gets these outfits through shopping for them at a store and…that’s it. That was literally the only explanation I could get out of those that follow the game, or have played the game, aside from the usual “it’s a gameplay mechanic and doesn’t need an explanation” which I call bullcrap on, because FFX-2, for as weird as hell a game that was, at least attempted to explain this. To add to all of this, the game also further makes it about being mere fan service by not only increasing Lightning’s breast size, but also making them have a jiggle effect, with an embarrassing interview to boot. Not the best first impression regarding this issue. Now, one could make the argument that these are like outfits in other games similar to the likes of Senran Kagura Burst or Lollipop Chainsaw, and it’s not like they change her behavior, right?
You haven’t seen the victory poses then. Take a look:
I’d be willing to be more lenient on the subject if Lightning turned out to be forced into wearing this stuff and absolutely hated it. Granted, I would still find a way to complain about it since she would have been forced, but after some fights, her poses tend to change to be more seductive, or at the very least, follow the rule comics in the 90s used to follow, such as bending over, cocking your hips to the side, etc. Heck, I feel she’s kinda dead inside with the first pose. Moreover, this also drags another problem regarding her attitude and the story itself:
Why do this?
Outside of fan service, what does all of this do? They could have just as easily went with a creature feature in allowing monsters fight alongside you, or have actual party members to fill out the jobs, or even just stick with the paradigm system itself, which seems to be replaced by the outfits. Regardless of your feelings on Final Fantasy XIII, we all know it’s meant to be taken as a serious tale. But I suppose she can’t just take other souls with her into battle despite one of the main features is taking other souls to guide them safely–OH WAIT! Considering her role is very similar to Valkyries of Norse Mythology, or even the Valkyries in Valkyrie Profile, you could easily make a few throwaway characters to help aid her, or at the very least, impart abilities Lightning didn’t have. Or even extend to character development as Lightning observes the world around her and showing just how stron normal people are. Technically they do implement a soul system in this game, or so I have heard, but then why still include this?
…Outside of the creator’s desire for Lightning to be his waifu.
Part of the reason I found Final Fantasy X-2 forgiving with the costumes is because the story attitude seemed to match the dresspheres in being silly and whatever new theme they were going with at the time. From my point of view, this seems to only attract perverts (not saying FFX-2 wasn’t filled with fanservice mind you), which is odd if Final Fantasy XIII series is popular enough to gain such a large fanbase to warrant three games. Not only that, but as I stare at all of them, I realize another thing to be angry at:
Laziness. A lot of these outfits definitely look similar with things added or taken out, and given the option for customizing colors, some of them do feel like palette swaps. I don’t know if that’s just me or not, but even FFX-2 had varying costumes, and the palette swaps were just for the character using the dress at the time. Even other games examples I will mention will have more varying costumes.
One example is Senran Kagura Burst, a game I’ll get to reviewing soon, I promise. Now this game is blatant fan service, there’s no avoiding that. However, at least there, we establish that costumes are rewards and really have no impact at all aside from clothes damage. And given a lot of the personalities with the characters, overall perverted nature of the story outside of a few moments, the fan service at least makes sense there. The whole game is practically built around it with clothes damage and such. Does it bother me? Well with certain characters, but hell, even those characters’ default outfits are conservative, and in the dressing room, they at least protest when being put into stupid outfits sometimes—and wow do I feel like a major pervert and creep right now.
The same thing seems to go for Lollipop Chainsaw based on what few scenes I have seen, given the insane levels of WTF that happen in that game. Just look at the final boss for god’s sake. Heck, even Super Robot Wars OG Saga: Endless Frontier is more forgivable given all the perverted jokes they make, granted the boob jokes get old really damn quickly. While it didn’t have alternate outfits, the ones for Kaguya and the other girls were revealing enough technically.
Yet another example I’ll bring up is a what-if scenario. For those who don’t know about the Darkstalkers series, there’s a succubus called Morrigan—
Ahem, anyway, Morrigan Aensland is a succubus, and her personality has shown her to be very playful and hungry for certain activities, aka sex. Her outfits, which are usually revealing and such, at least make sense according to her character, allowing someone to be fooled or allured by her looks before she drains/kicks their asses up and down the street. Now, let’s say Capcom takes her, puts her in a nun’s outfit and say she is now fighting in that for no explained reason whatsoever or any character development. That would be pretty jarring, wouldn’t it? I don’t think even need to explain in how many ways that is wrong against the character.
And last but not least, I’ll bring up Lady from Devil May Cry series. Lady happens to be my favorite character from the series, if only because she takes so little crap from Dante and manages to kick a lot of ass, as well as having an interesting tale of vengeance against her father that did end with her accepting that there were good demons like Dante out there. She always seemed to be dressed simply, and carried a lot of ammo to boot. Quite frankly, this was one woman you didn’t want to piss off. Then they did this to her in Devil May Cry 4, and while I do like the game, there is a lot that doesn’t make me happy and makes me facepalm. The redesign of Lady was one of them because yes, while she definitely seemed more laidback, I don’t think she would ever wear such an outfit. In the reboot, this was something they definitely could have fixed, had Lady actually been in it.
But then we do have other characters in serious roles that do wear revealing outfits, like Fatima from Luminous Arc 2. Why doesn’t that incite some anger or facepalming given what she wears and how she acts? Well, part of the reason is that we technically don’t know the character and when I did get to know Fatima throughout the game, she quickly became my favorite character despite appearances. This shows something else, in that characters not-established seemed to have a much better chance at being liked for being who they are and not suddenly making insane moves like Lightning is doing. After all, the Final Fantasy has had other heroes who were serious and in a bit of revealing outfits or ones that seem to try and bring out a certain thing about a character, like Rosa and Rydia from Final Fantasy IV, Tifa from Final Fantasy VII, and I think I mentioned enough about FFX-2.
I feel like a broken record, but do you get the main message here? To sum up, interfering with a character’s personality can easily alienate your audience and just make them ask what in the hell was the character thinking. I honestly believe Lightning would sooner beat up the person who suggested/tried to force her to wear the outfit to a pulp than wear it. Also, this goes beyond just outfits, as we have seen in other games where certain actions/attitudes can nearly ruin a character’s likeability or make people wonder what the writer was thinking, like say Metroid Other M. And when trying to make a serious story, this is not the way to go. And keep in mind, Square Enix once said they wanted this game to beat Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. No, I’m not making that up. Look here for more details. I don’t think the way to beat Skyrim is through such means, when Skyrim has a good story, good characters, excellent gameplay, interesting side-quests that turn out to be more interesting than the main quest, dungeon-exploring, riding and fighting dragons (dlc allows to ride dragons) house-building, family-building, and much more that immerse you into the experience.
At any rate, I hope this helps at least in clarifying what is wrong from certain points of view. I can’t stop you from playing Lightning Returns, and quite frankly, I really don’t care. This article wasn’t meant to deter you or say that the game sucks. It’s meant to address a matter that shouldn’t just be swept under the rug. Will this happen again? Of course it will. Hell, if we want to be technical, it kinda already happened with standard outfits of two certain characters in God Eater Burst. There’s a time and place for this kind of stuff: it’s called the internet, where porn is endless and will always be made. Or fanservice games. Those work. Still, at least now you know, and insert tired as all hell G.I. Joe joke here.
I’m Final, and hopefully the New Year won’t be filled with headaches like this one has been. I mean it could be worse. At least they didn’t say how to see Lightning’s jiggle physics-
…Dr. Cox, care to add your two cents?