'Lightning Returns' strikes out

The clock is ticking as Lightning tries to accomplish as much as possible before doomsday in "Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII" ($60 for PS3; rated Teen). Impressive overall art direction creates striking scenes, but some characters and many of the environmental textures look awful. An unbelievably bad story and phoned-in side quests make it difficult to appreciate the innovations present elsewhere. "Final Fantasy XIII" and "XIII-2" trained us to look past a bad plot and appreciate good game play, but the positives are harder to see in "Lightning Returns." It swaps out systems that worked for half-baked concepts that don't. The conclusion of a trilogy can offer an emotional farewell to a beloved cast and world, but "Lightning Returns" leaves us relieved to see the adventure end.

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