The combat feels more like an action game
Without other characters getting in the way, Lightning is much more mobile in combat. You can move around freely with the left stick, which brings real-time elements - like dodging - to the series' trademark turn-based Active Time Battles. There are no menus either: all of her abilities and spells are mapped to the face buttons. This gives battles the feel of an action game, but strategy is still important. It hasn't turned into a button-basher, thankfully.
You can play dress-up
Lightning's elaborate costumes are the equivalent of the Paradigm Shift system. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses, and you can switch between them in battle using the shoulder buttons. Knowing which so-called garb to use, and when, is where the core of the strategy lies. You can customise them too, allowing you to create your own bespoke character builds to suit different situations. There will be around 20 outfits to unlock and tinker with.
There are loads of side-quests
If you felt Final Fantasy XIII was too linear, Lightning Returns should win you over. The cities are full of wandering NPCs who dish out quests when you talk to them. There's a day/night cycle too, so some can only be completed at certain times. Compared to the static corridors of the previous games, the towns feel much more dynamic and alive. But with the looming threat of the apocalypse, you'll have to decide which side-quests are worth your time.