When Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII hits the West next February, it’ll be the end of a long road for its main character, Lightning. Our original introduction to her came in Final Fantasy XIII, the first major numbered Final Fantasy title to be launched on the current generation of systems.
At the time, fans of the series had little reason to expect that this latest chapter would turn into the franchise’s first attempted trilogy. For much of its run, Final Fantasy was a series where you could count on each major iteration to be completely separate in story and setting from its predecessor. That tradition changed ten years ago with the release of Final Fantasy X-2, but for many—myself included—that felt more like a bizarre one-off project than a hint at what might be to come.
Now, there’s an obvious question: Can fans expect all future numbered titles in the Final Fantasy series to have follow-ups or sequels?
“We don’t think it’ll be the standard moving forward,” Lightning Returns‘ producer Yoshinori Kitase told me when I asked him his thoughts on such things. “Final Fantasy XIII being a trilogy was something very experimental—a new challenge that we took on. With each Final Fantasy title, we start with a brand new concept with each installment, so if the team who does Final Fantasy XV decides to incorporate some element like a sequel, that’s their decision. We’re sure that with each successive numbered title, each installment will have its own different concept on how they deliver the story.”
The experiment of expanding a numbered Final Fantasy title into a trilogy has certainly been an interesting one, but it’s also one that’s required a lot of time and dedication from the team working on the games. Kitase notes that some members of the team had been around since development first started on Final Fantasy XIII back in 2004, meaning they’ve had an investment in this world and these characters for almost ten years now.
“There may be some people who think, ‘Ahh, I think I’ve had enough of Lightning,'” Kitase said with a laugh. “But maybe that’s just a select few.”
His joking led me into a question I already knew I couldn’t help but ask: If we’ve gone this far already, why not just go for broke and make a Final Fantasy XIII-4? As the translator repeated my question in Japanese, Kitase gave another laugh.
“No, no, we’re not going to make that. There are no plans for a XIII-4; the story will conclude with this third installment. But Lightning, as a character, is a very strong character. So, there may be the possibility that, if other teams were interested, she might make cameos. For example, in Final Fantasy XIV, Lightning will make an appearance in the game, so there might be opportunities for characters to make appearances in other forms.”