There is an inherent promise made between video game creators and video game players: that if the players put in hours of gameplay, the creators will ultimately make it worthwhile by creating fun, challenging, rewarding experiences – and most importantly, a story that matters. And one of the most important parts of any story is its resolution – how did the events of the story change the world of the story? I truly enjoyed playing Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2. They were fun, challenging, and rewarding to play. XIII’s story was slow to start, but developed into a beautiful tale of friendship and determination. XIII-2’s story was troubled to say the least, but its fantastically human characters more than made up for it. However, Square Enix did not offer any resolution whatsoever to XIII-2’s (and XIII’s by proxy) story. Square has responded by pointing players to multiple paradox endings and future DLC, but neither of these “solutions” will fix the main problem: the Final Fantasy XIII story has no end. That is why we need Final Fantasy XIII-3.
SPOILER ALERT: The following article discusses the endings of both Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2. I will do my best to avoid specific details, but as some are unavoidable, if you are interested in discovering the story elements yourself, please do so before reading this article.
As you can tell from my reviews of Final Fantasy XIII (which can be found here) and XIII-2 (which can be found here), I am actually a big fan of both games. I thought that XIII had a beautiful story that admittedly took a while to get into, but eventually became incredibly engaging and memorable. And while Lightning and her friends were able to save Cocoon, the end of XIII did leave me wondering: is Lightning really happy? Seeing her smiling on the plains of Pulse at the end of the game was a beautiful moment because of its simplicity. In a way, that smile meant so much to me: it meant that because of the actions of the characters, the world of the game had changed. In this case, Lightning and her friends were able to come together and save their home. In short, XIII offered a resolution: a tangible result by playing through the game. However, there was a touch of melancholy to be found in XIII’s ending – after all, Fang and Vanille are trapped in the crystal pillar, and something seemed to be missing from Lightning. So when Final Fantasy XIII-2 was announced, I was ecstatic. Time to settle some unfinished business, I thought.
Playing XIII-2 was such a wonderful experience. The gameplay was outstanding, the graphics were gorgeous, and the battle system was a wonder to behold. The story could certainly have used some work, but the characters (especially Serah and Noel) more than made up for it. As I journeyed through the worlds of XIII-2, I became incredibly attached to Serah and Noel, and though I was not quite sure what was going on all the time, I cared deeply about what happened to them. There were some incredibly beautiful moments at the end of time, but when “To Be Continued” flashed on the screen, I was still left with some very pressing questions, which I have listed below.
|The final screen of FFXIII-2|
1. Resolution (Major Spoilers)
Final Fantasy XIII-2’s story is based upon 2 core elements: 1) Find Lightning and 2) Stop Caius from destroying time. Essentially, the ending negates both of these elements. You don’t find Lightning. You’re not able to help her. You’re not able to save her. And Caius succeeds in his plan: the timeline is destroyed. All of the actions you have taken throughout the game were for naught. In other words – there is no change in the world, and therefore, no resolution.
2. What happened to Lightning?
It is never made explicitly clear what exactly happened to Lightning. She can’t really be gone, can she?
|Caius on the throne of the goddess - triumphant?|
3. Did Caius really win?
From the secret ending, it seems like the answer is a resounding yes: this was his plan all along. How can the bad guy win?????
What in the world happened to Snow?
5. Fang and Vanille
Will they ever be released from their crystal slumber?
6. Serah and Noel (Major Spoilers)
I have to admit, I have not ever been a big fan of Snow and Serah as a couple. It’s not that he’s a bad guy or anything – he does go to great lengths to save Serah. But due to both XIII and XIII-2’s set-ups, I never really got to see Serah and Snow together. I never got to see them falling in love. And so its been really hard to connect to that, to believe in their love. In contrast, Serah and Noel have an entire adventure together. They share so much and care about each other so deeply that I cannot believe they don’t have feelings for each other. Just before Serah died, I thought something was going to happen that would have made things a little more clear. But alas, we may never know exactly how they felt about each other.
7. Serah (Major Spoilers)
|A truly beautiful moment.|
In response to questions regarding the cliffhanger ending, Square Enix has directed players to future DLC content. Here is the problem with that: they have also explained that the DLC content will feature Lightning’s battle with Caius and Snow’s adventure. Well, even if that might answer a few of the lingering questions, it still offers no resolution. Caius still wins. The timeline is still destroyed. Square Enix has also highlighted the paradox endings to solve these mysteries. I unlocked every paradox ending, and while some were very interesting ideas, none of them offer what players need: and end to the story.
All hope is not lost, however. Along with the “To Be Continued” clue, there are other signs that Final Fantasy XIII-3 may be on the horizon. Square Enix registered the domain name finalfantasyxiii-3.com last fall, before XIII-2 even came out. Perhaps the most compelling evidence for the possibility of XIII-3, however, may be in the game itself. There were two paradox endings that offer brief glimpses into a murky future. Serah’s message fragment seemed to be sent from a time after her death, and yet she was still conscious somehow. She talked of “carrying on” what she and Noel had started, and that she did not have any regrets. Noel’s message had a similar theme in saying that he should not give up, even though things would become very dark and difficult. While the characters were writing these messages to themselves from the future, this could also be Square Enix communicating with its players – though things look dark now, don’t give up.
|Serah chooses to not give up hope - can we do the same?|
I personally think Final Fantasy XIII-3 is a wonderful idea. I loved how XIII and XIII-2 were very different games. There were parts I loved about both, and parts that I could do without. Square Enix has the rare opportunity to take what is best about these games and combine them, while creating a completely new experience at the same time. The game play mechanics are set in place and are incredibly solid. The mythology of the XIII universe is told. We have a world to save, and characters we care about. Square Enix, you have the chance to make something very special. An end to a wonderful story. With all of its ups and downs, its confusing elements and moments of brilliance, the tale of Final Fantasy XIII has been a true adventure. And now, it is time for one last adventure home.
More than anything, the question of Lightning’s happiness is reason enough to return to the world of Final Fantasy XIII. Perhaps Lightning’s last words in Final Fantasy XIII-2 sum up our best chance: “It’s up to you to keep hope alive.” Well Lightning, I will keep hope alive. I will keep hope alive in the promise of Final Fantasy XIII-3.
|Will Lightning and her friends ever truly be happy?|
UPDATE: I have written another article entitled The Promise of Final Fantasy XIII-3: Lightning's Atonement. It continues everything that is discussed here and adds in the final Fantasy XIII-2 DLC "Requiem of the Goddess". If you are interested, please check it out and let me know what you think!