Final Fantasy fans needn’t worry any longer as Square Enix has set the record straight on their plans to continue the franchise. It’s not something entirely unexpected, but it’s also heading in a direction some gamers hoped the developer wouldn’t go: back into the Final Fantasy 13 universe.

Speculation about a return to FF13 began first with a domain registration for Final Fantasy 13-3 and then transitioned into confirmation from Square Enix that the next phase of the Final Fantasy 13 story would be announced, and now has culminated in this new title being revealed. If there’s one thing we are happy to report, it’s that the game is not Final Fantasy 13-3, but also, in many respects, is.

Revealed at Final Fantasy‘s 25th Anniversary celebration, this new entry in the franchise-within-a-franchise will be titled Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. As the title suggests this sequel would follow the exploits of 13‘s protagonist Lightning, who was largely absent during the FF 13-2 plot.

Where the developer hopes to take this new title, and more importantly how they plan to justify once again telling a story in the Final Fantasy 13 universe, is unclear, but new pieces of concept art provide early looks at the game’s locations and monsters.

With Lightning Returns, Square Enix is reportedly looking to close the book on Lightning’s story, while at the same time improving its paradigm-based combat from Final Fantasy 13. Its sequel, 13-2, featured a riff on the gameplay that used various types of monsters as third party members, but there is no word on if that will be returning for this third title.

One thing that director Motomu Toriyama focused on in the press conference was customization for the character of Lightning. He specifically talked about the implementation of costumes, something that is sure to prick up Final Fantasy 10-2 fans’ ears.

It was a lot of brief overviews in regards to Lightning Returns with not much revealed as far as solid information goes. The game will be a PS3 and Xbox 360 title, though, so it should be out before we transition into the next-gen.

How do you feel about the announcement of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII? Would you have rather Squre Enix move past this leg of the franchise?

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is targeting a 2013 release date on the PS3 and Xbox 360.

Follow me on Twitter @ANTaormina