Last week a hot tip in the Twitter-verse alerted me to the fact that the Lightning Returns demo had leaked via the 360 Marketplace. However MS swept up that mistake before I could paradigm shit into Combat Clinic. I was pretty crestfallen for the next few days, being so close to My Savior and then having her yanked away from me. My desire only grew stronger.

Cut to yesterday, January 21st and the twit-o-sphere taunts me again of LR news but something it new. This time the tweets are from more than one source and have pics of what look like in game locales in them. “SHE REALLY IS RETURNING” I said to no one in particular. And started the download on my 360.

The first thing I see after booting up the game is the greatest and most annoying enemy any RPG maker has ever designed: The “Click Any Button To Continue” screen. The screen that has haunted me since XIII’s initial release. A useless screen that is followed by another 13 unnecessary button clicks to get from  starting the software to loading your save file. Somehow I overcame this foe.

The demo starts right in the middle of the action, jumping into a scene already in motion between Lightning, who is corresponding with Hope via bluetooth, and Snow, who has become the king of an S&M leather fetish club. The visuals are pretty sharp and impressive. Where XIII-2 improved over XIII but used a lot of  blurring and smokey effects, LR has a lot of sharp dynamic lighting.  During the RPG-level witty banter between Light and Snow I get into my first fight.

Battles allow for free movement but Lightning seems to only *walk*  back and forth, never run, so she doesn’t feel as free as the cutscenes make her out to be. She does charge down at the enemy when you press a physical attacking button. 2 tutorials later and I had learned about Staggering an enemy, a familiar concept to XIII vets, and using items to heal since Light is no longer healed between fights.

I was then allowed to change around the Schema (Dresspheres, equipment and abilities) and man oh man talk about jumping into the deep end. Not only can you change  what attacks Light could perform with each dressphere, you could change the armor and weapons for each, steal skills from one Schema to the next or unequip Schemas entirely. The menu is just as dense and bland as XIII-2 Crystarium and Monster ability pages so I was just overwhelmed with percentages and numbers and scrolling text and gray. So much gray. Eight minutes of fiddling later and I had equipped the Dragoon Schema, give the Red Mage’s Deprotect skill to the Heartstealer and give all my magic The Savior for a boss battle I knew was coming from trailers I’d seen months ago.

Just as I expected a Ruby Dragon-looking monster showed up as the next enemy and promised to be a tough one. The game suggested I take her down with magic so I spammed Thunder and Blizzaga as The Savoir and switched the Red Mage to use Deprotect and Ruin. Once she was close to Staggering I moved to Dragoon, popped an enFrost potion and went to town on her. Took the boss down in under 2 minutes and got my  5 star rating! I felt pretty pumped.

Next I kept following the cursor on the map, moved Light down 2 hallways….and the demo ended. Just like that. In front of a door with unseen enemy troops stalking me, the game just stops. I get a nice screen telling me to pre-order the game to get the FF7’s Cloud’s armor (while supplies last!) and then it’s back to the main menu.Image

(Completionists will want to link their facebooks or twitter to the demo and post the pic of their boss kill time to unlock a free Dressphere in the full game. Instructions on how to do this here SquarePortal)

As a mark for seeing how the visuals have advanced this was  great trailer for LR:FFXIII but as a demo..this sucked. Only 2 enemy types to be found in the area, both of which barely attack or put up a challenge. Simply attacking with magic 3x will kill the Fuzzballs and the Cat Demon Things can be Staggered before they attack twice. And before I could blink it was over. I literally spent more time in the menu trying to understand my choices then decide on how to make my Dresspheres do the most for me. This leaves an especially bad taste in my mouth after spending 7 hours in the Bravely Default demo on my 3DS. In that I fought 4 bosses and explored 3 short dungeons.

If I weren’t all ready so goddamned hype for Lightning to Return this demo would not have don’t much for me.

Lightning finally Returns to NA on Feb 11th and EU Feb 14th