Time (時, Toki?) is a gameplay mechanic in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, denoted by an ever-present "doomsday clock" on the right side of the player's screen. The player has a maximum of fourteen days to finish the game. Each day begins and ends at 6 AM; at that time Lightning is automatically returned to the Ark where her HP and EP are restored.
Because the player has a limited time to finish the game, and because certain areas, quests, people, and events are only accessible during specific times of day, time management is an important element of gameplay. If time runs out before all five main quests are completed, the Apocalypse will occur and the player will be given an option to restart the game from the beginning. All stats, non-quest items, garbs, abilities, equipment, and gil carry over to this new playthrough (see New Game+ for further details).
An in-game day lasts one real time hour. Thus, an in-game hour is 2 minutes and 30 seconds, and one in-game minute is 2.5 seconds. If the player idles for three minutes in real time (1 hour and 10 minutes in-game), the game will automatically pause. If the player wishes to advance time they can spend 500 gil at an inn to rest until a specified hour, up until 6 AM. A stay of any length at the inn will fully restore Lightning's HP.
Lightning can spend 1 EP to use Chronostasis to stop the clock for thirty in-game minutes, which is one minute and fifteen seconds of real-time. The effect will end prematurely if Lightning does something that advances time, including (but not limited to) riding the monorail, sleeping at an inn, or participating in an arena battle. NPCs and enemies behave normally during Chronostasis; the effect exists simply to buy extra time. Using Chronostasis can mess up the monorails' schedule as the trains still leave the platform "on time" even if the clock is halted.
Time does not pass inside the Ark, during cutscenes, while on the menu, during conversations, or in battles. Battles fought in the Ultimate Lair are an exception; in this area, time will flow normally during fights, and Chronostasis cannot be used (while in battle, the current time can be checked by pausing the game).
If the player completes enough quests to give enough Eradia to Yggdrasil the lost hours are restored and the player gains another day, postponing the Apocalypse until the fourteenth day. On this extra day, the Ultimate Lair is open, but the player is free to visit other areas as well if they wish.
Times of day
- Morning: 6:00–11:59.
- Afternoon: 12:00–17:59.
- Evening: 18:00–19:59.
- Night: 20:00–6:00.
The time of day affects the lighting of the world, and details such as when the desert lighthouse on the Dead Dunes is lit, and how many NPCs are roaming around.
Time-restricted areas and enemies
Some areas can only be accessed during certain hours of the day. The Warren in Luxerion is open from midnight to 6 AM, and the Moogle Village in the Wildlands is accessible from 7 PM to 7 AM. The player can leave either location at any time. A ladder near the gate of the Warren allows one to exit the area even when the gate is closed; similarly, the player can jump off the tree branch that leads to Moogle Village. Therefore, the player cannot get stuck in these areas if they remain there past "closing time". The Luxerion Cathedral is initially closed for night time, but after advancing in the story the player can obtain a key to visit its premises any time. The Slaughterhouse in Yusnaan is open between 5 PM and 3 AM.
During the main quest Lightning must do some things at specific times. In Yusnaan the "tour" through the industrial district starts at 6 PM. After this, Lightning must collect fireworks that are to be launched at the correct time as well as star in The Song of the Savior that always starts at 3 AM. In Luxerion Lightning can follow the Children of Etro to the Forsaken Graveyard only after midnight. In the Wildlands and the Dead Dunes the main quests do not rely on specific times of the day, but the flowers and mushrooms found in the Wildlands depend on the time of the day and are needed for completing quests, and Lightning can grow greens that take a specific number of hours to ripen. Enemies are more ferocious during night time in the Wildlands, while the opposite is true for the Dead Dunes. In the Temple Ruins some of the doors have a time mechanic determining whether they are open. Many optional quests require Lightning to be at a location at a specific time to undertake them.
Two specific enemies will spawn in any area during certain times of day. Anubyses appear on any continent exclusively between 4 PM and 6 PM, while Meonektons appear on any continent exclusively between 4 AM to 6 AM. Other enemies will not spawn during this time. Each location's enemy encounters also depend on time, such as that Dreadnoughts spawn at the Forsaken Graveyard during the day while Zomoks spawn at night, and Reavers roam the Wildlands at night time.
Behind the scenes
The idea was to create an expansive world, but simultaneously make it so the player wouldn't be thrown into it haphazardly. Thus the element of time management was included so the player would pay attention to the world, and think how to interact with its inhabitants. At the beginning the developers received negative feedback for the "doomsday clock" system, because the original time did not even allow the player to reach the end of the game. Adjustments were made to arrive to a satisfying amount of time. At first there was a countdown running towards zero on the upper part of the screen, but based on player feedback this was changed to a clock.
In Final Fantasy XIII: Reminiscence -tracer of memories- it is revealed Antimatter Manipulation Principle technology can control Chaos, but the research into this use was never completed as the researchers disappeared. Though not directly stated, it may be that the Ark of the manmade Cocoon was where the research took place, and utilizes AMP technology to halt the flow of time.