Today, Square Enix Presents sat down in a brief interview with Ali Hillis, the voice of Lightning, and discussed her journey of portraying the iconic, pink-haired protagonist and how she has evolved within the Final Fantasy XIII saga.
What was the feeling like to be chosen as the English version of Lightning?
Hillis: It was incredible. I did a simple audition. I think I read 3 or 4 lines as my interpretation of Lightning…I got to see a drawing of her just copied black and white…and they liked me! But, I didn’t realize what a big role it was. I didn’t realize the world that I was going to be existing in and the character I was going to be voicing was going to have such an impact. My very first day at work, when I found out I was Lightning, they gave me a book about this big and told me to get to know it. In about 15 minutes, I got to know the world of Final Fantasy XIII…and it was a little overwhelming.
Do you have any insights into the qualities you infuse into Lightning as a character or anything special you try to bring to the table unique to her?
Hillis: Since the beginning, I’ve tried to give Lightning a lot of layers because, even in those first four lines that they gave me, Square is so great about writing really specific dialogue about what they want their characters to be and where they come from, and what their individual fight is. I think that was my main priority, to make sure that Lightning had every single layer of who she was as a person, not just a game character, but a real person with layers and history and relationships to every single character in the game…even the Chocobo!
Lightning has actually evolved quite a bit as a character through the first and second game, and we can see a little bit of that continuing in the future. Has your performance and approach to the character changed?
Hillis: I don’t know…I think so, a little bit because with all the things that she’s experienced you can’t help but be a little hardened after all that. I think as the games have progressed, Lightning maybe has become a little more sarcastic…a little more hardened to everything that’s going on around her and has to evolve into a real warrior.
The Final Fantasy fanbase is obviously incredibly passionate. What has the experience been like being the voice of Lightning…interacting with fans over the past years? Do you have any fun memories or experiences to share?
Hillis: I do. I’m especially fond of anyone who cosplays as Lightning, it’s pretty cool. It’s been overwhelming, I think I don’t even grasp the weight of how Lightning has really affected people over time. A gaming character having such an impact on people is really cool.
Take an Exclusive Look at Lightning Returns
After the mini Q & A, two short clips were shown with the first one featuring the upcoming game’s art director and the creation of this oil painting that was first revealed in fall 2012.
The second clip featured a “developer diary” of the game and showed an exclusive glimpse of Lightning’s new character model and upgrades. From what I can tell, a lot of work and effort has been put into the creation of Lightning’s final chapter. New details were also revealed about the game:
- Compared to Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, this Lightning is built completely from scratch in regards to the polygon ratio and shaders.
- Unlike the previous games, the Lightning Returns event character model and in-game model will be the same.
- About 100 different costume options are available, including weapons, newly added shields and “decorations” (accessories you can customize Lightning with to your heart’s desire).
Before the end of the interview, Ali agreed to read some of Lightning’s most popular lines in-character, including some of my personal favorites:
“We live to make the impossible possible…that is our focus.”
“This is ridiculous…worst birthday ever!”
“It’s not a matter of can or can’t…some things in life you just do.”
And a final one from Lightning Returns for all the fans getting ready for the upcoming game’s release:
“I wouldn’t bet against me.”
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is scheduled for release in North America on February 11, 2014. You can follow Ali Hillis on Twitter @missalihillis.