While in recent years opinions have become increasingly divided on the gameplay in long-running video game series Final Fantasy, there’s not much room to criticize the franchise’s artistry. New installments of Final Fantasy are consistently among the most visually and aurally pleasing games at their time of release. Each title has a huge team of designers and software engineers who spend untold hours making sure the cut scenes are gorgeous, the interface slick, and the soundtrack stirring and crystal clear. And also, apparently, that the heroine doesn’t inadvertently flash her panties.

This month video game publisher Square Enix is set to release Lightning Returns – Final Fantasy XIII, the newest chapter in its hit role-playing saga. Lightning Returns is actually the second sequel to Final Fantasy XIII (not to be confused with the still-in-development Final Fantasy XV, which is a different game entirely). True to its name, Lightning Returns once again features the pink-tressed swordswoman named Lightning, who also appeared in Final Fantasy XIII, as its protagonist.

One of the selling points for Lightning Returns is the over 80 costumes players can acquire for Lightning. Some of these are standard knightly garb, while others are based on the armor of historical samurai such as Oda Nobunaga, or previous Final Fantasy characters such as spikey-haired loner Cloud from Final Fantasy VII. There’s even a cat girl outfit, because…

▼ Because this.

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Another new feature is the ability to manipulate the camera during cut scenes, those times when the player isn’t directly controlling the characters on screen. It’s likely this was added as a concession to gamers who for years have been grumbling about not having anything to do during these frequent scenes in which Final Fantasy’s characters chat, debate, and otherwise advance the plot.

Finally, there’s one more change in Lightning Returns that’s got people talking. A few months ago, Square Enix started a bit of a firestorm when it let slip that it was bumping Lightning’s bust up one cup size for her latest adventure. Several gamers criticized the software house for what they called blatant and offensive pandering, while contending that this physical enhancement ran counter to Lightning’s tough, no-nonsense personality.

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But while the development team is indeed giving gamers a Lightning with a more bountiful bosom, that doesn’t mean it’s willing to let them peek at her undies.

Fans may be excited about changing Lightning’s costume and playing with the camera angle during cut scenes, but the combined effect of these two capabilities created a new headache for the developers, particularly Cut Scene Animation Director Yusuke Tanaka and Cut Scene Layout Director Hidekazu Miyake.

For the cut scenes of both Final Fantasy XIII and its first direct sequel, Final Fantasy XIII-2, it was Tanaka and Miyake’s job to look for any clipping errors or other visual glitches wherein the character’s clothing and body collided improperly. And of course, to check for possible panty shots.

Since the first two of the three Final Fantasy XIII games featured cut scenes with entirely preset costumes and camera angles, there were a finite number of places where things could go wrong. Tanaka feels that they were able to find all of them, and were thus able to prevent Lightning from putting on an involuntary peep show.

With Lightning Returns, however, the huge number of available costumes made things much harder. Tanaka says that it took the most time to correct panty flashes on the cat girl costume, for which Lightning needs to slip into a miniskirt because…

▼ Didn’t we cover this already?

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Tanaka explains that the problem of the female characters’ underwear being visible has popped up throughout the Final Fantasy franchise, but Miyake claims that it was more pronounced than ever in Lightning Returns. “This time, it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, you can catch a little peek.’ You could see everything,” he explains.

Part of the problem stemmed from the fact that Lightning’s standard costume in the new game has chap-like cloths that cover her legs and prevent the player from getting an eyeful of her undergarments. As such, Tanaka and Miyake didn’t initially give much thought to how some of the cool poses they’d though up for Lighnting to strike would look after the player switched to a shorter hemline and a lower camera angle.

▼ Lightning’s default costume

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As a result, Tanaka and Miyake had to go back and adjust the way Lightning moves and even the physics calculations in some scenes. Despite their efforts, though, Miyake admits that with the player getting control of the camera, they can’t guarantee they caught everything.

“There may be a few oportunities that slipped by,” Tanaka agrees. But with Lightning Returns about to hit store shelves, there’s nothing more he can do. “If that’s the case, well, then I guess that’s just going to have to be something for the player to uncover and enjoy.”

▼ After all, the excitement of exploration and discovery is what keeps role-playing game fans coming back for more.

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Sources: Hachima Kikou, Dengeki Online
Insert images: Square Enix