I historically won't rent a game with a rating less than 6.5, which almost made me miss Lightning Returns. Fortunately, my need to see the end of a story forced this rental on me, and I'm glad it did!
Everyone's biggest complaint is the clock, so I took my time and wasted days just running around goofing-off, wanting the final day to come... but it never did. The more quests you complete, even the main missions, the more days you gain. The game will go for 14 days, if you just barely help people. And many quests are solved by just playing the main missions and remembering who needed what.
So then I got to the end... to the part where they tell you what the whole story is... AND I LOVED IT! This story is anime-like, over the top, good. In true Japanese form, it builds-up slow and has a fast and furious end. The story is convoluted, psychological, and deep, and it makes no apologies for being so. In that, a lot of people will find it confusing. Kids and those who are used to Hollywood endings won't like it.
For the rest of us however, the story gives all the main characters a complete ending, and there's one extra extended scene after the credits, that again is in true Japanese form. This all adds-up to a very rewarding experience.
Since I goofed-off the first week playing, I then went back and played the game seriously, actually reading the dialogue.. and again believing the GameFly rating led me astray. The story from get-go is pretty good.
I can only conclude that the bad reviews on here did not take the time to actually play the game. They just slammed through a few hours, saw the clock and decided they hated it. They said nope, the gameplay is different, so they hated it. Story moved too slow, so they hated it.
Sorry GameFly kids, but you missed the bus. This story is one of the best, and this is coming from someone who has played every game in the US released series, starting all the way back in 1987.
Let me start off by saying I absolutely loved Lightning returns and believe that every review that gave it less than an 8.5 does the game no justice. Having beaten every final fantasy and having a strong background in playing JRPG's and action-RPG's, I feel as though this game combines all the elements of modern RPG's and classic final fantasy into one.
Visually, the game is stunning. No one argues this as square-enix has always been ahead of it's time with graphics (I.E FFX's graphics were far beyond any other ps2 game when released).
Soundtrack- was strong, not the best, but very strong relative to other RPG's I have recently played
Gameplay- Most people don't like change, and if you are one of these then you may not like the gameplay or fighting style of this game, but I loved it. Making Lighting one character with several classes was a great way to merge the characteristics of the last two, FFXII's open world and a hint of new style together. Learn and it you will appreciate it's greatness.
Story- This is where I think Lightning Returns excels. I know most of the reviews knock the time limited "open world" idea concept of lightning returns, but even mass effect wasn't able to bring together the characters and emotions of all the other games like XIII-3 was. The story is incredible, and when you go back and read the story of the prior two stories, you realize that the entire XIII story was incredible.
Bhunivelzue created Etros, Pulse and Lindzei (the three gods of the series), which in turn created the Fal'Cie, that ruled over humans. Fal'Cie wanted to be closer to god, so they created L'Cie, binding them to their fate. Square-Enix brought this together flawlessly and by the end of the game, you felt complete. Yes FF XIII was mediocre at best, and FFXIII-2 was a better game, but lightning returns brings all the great story elements that were piece-mealed together in the last two, to create one spectacular ending.