Final Fantasy XIII-2's ending obviously begged for a sequel. Just when everything seemed to be wrapping up, the plot threw a curveball to make room for another game. Square has no intention of repeating the downer that ended the previous game. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII will not only end the trilogy, but will also offer a happy ending.
The latest issue of Japanese magazine Famitsu (via Andriasang) shares plenty of new details on the game. It will have just one ending, and it will be a positive one, putting a sense of finality on the whole thing. Square says this game will be "world driven," in that it will involve changing and interacting with the world. Other plot details include the idea that characters from XIII-2 haven't died, since chaos prevents them from getting old. That's a handy trick to bring back characters. Hope will return too, but he'll act as a guide character for Lightning.
From a gameplay perspective, the clock mechanic revealed in the announcement is actually a constantly running clock based in real time. One day equals 1-2 hours of real time, with some variation due to increases or decreases in time. That means it should take somewhere between 13-26 hours to complete a playthrough, though your actions could make the game end before the 13-day limit is up. Sometimes, even helping an NPC could decrease the life of the world. The game is meant to be played multiple times.
In battle, you'll be playing as Lightning alone, and freely moving around the battle field. You'll rely on an ATB gauge for battle, but instead of menu commands, you'll select abilities mapped to buttons. All in all, it sounds much more like an action game than most of Square's previous efforts.
The ending and nonsensical plot were my major points of contention with the prior game, and so far Square Enix is saying the right things. Here's hoping it stays that way.