SPOILER ALERT: The following article contains MAJOR spoilers for Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIII-2, and the “Requiem of the Goddess” DLC. If you are interested in finding out the story elements yourself, please play all of these first. I will also mention that there is a secret ending you can obtain by beating “Requiem of the Goddess” twice, which is also discussed in detail in this article.
Throughout the stories of Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, there has been a recurring theme. Lightning will often face incredible obstacles to protect her loved ones. She tries to carry the weight of these problems squarely on her shoulders, but they are too much for one person to bear. So her loved ones help her overcome these impossible obstacles, but in the process something usually goes awry. Lightning blames herself for this, and spends a lot of time beating herself up about it. Finally, she seeks atonement - usually alone at first, but then joined by her friends.
|Lightning: the soul of Final Fantasy XIII.|
Lightning wants more than anything to protect her sister and her friends; she wants them to be safe and happy. And when they are not, she blames herself. I think this is the source of the melancholy that we saw with her at the end of XIII, and it certainly plays a prominent role in “Requiem of the Goddess”. The Chaos that has trapped Serah accuses Lightning of being the sole cause for Serah’s death. It strikes at the very center of Lightning’s heart, of Claire’s heart. And I think it works: Lightning’s guilt is what propels her to sit on the throne of the goddess, becoming crystal until the end of eternity. As she says, this act will be her “atonement”.
|Lightning and Serah - will they ever be truly reunited?|
While “Requiem of the Goddess” does tie up FFXIII-2 well, however, it still does not offer players what they are ultimately searching for: an end to the Final Fantasy XIII story. But despite Square’s proclamations, I really don’t think it should have. DLC should add-on the the experience of the game, not provide a resolution for the entire story. That is simply too much pressure to put on a DLC.
The question then is this: if Square wanted us to look to the paradox endings and the DLC for a resolution, where is it? As I mentioned in my previous article, a resolution occurs when the actions you take in the game change the world of the game. However, this does not happen in Final Fantasy XIII-2: Caius wins, the timeline is destroyed and the world becomes Valhalla. We set out at the beginning of XIII and XIII-2 to save the world, and now ultimately those actions are rendered moot. Nothing Serah, Noel, and Lightning did in the game changed the outcome: the world is destroyed. There is no change as a result of their actions, and therefore, there is no resolution.
|Lightning chooses to turn into crystal to preserve Serah's memory.|
A virtue that I believe nearly all fans of Final Fantasy XIII hold is patience. Patience was required to become engaged in XIII’s story. But if you stuck with it, XIII became a beautiful tale of friendship and determination that taught us to never give up hope. Patience was required to fully understand XIII-2’s story – we had to wait nearly 4 months for the final DLC. And while this DLC offered no resolution, it did offer hope. The action of the DLC mirrors the game’s situation as a whole. Serah is gone, and yet she still urges Lightning to not give up hope. There is no resolution to be found in Final Fantasy XIII-2, but we cannot give up hope. Serah chooses to not give into despair because she knows Lightning can save the world. She believes in her sister. Despite all of the obstacles, all of the questions, all of the missed opportunities, Serah will not give up on Lightning. And we must do the same.
|Will they ever find true happiness?|
As this secret ending unfolds, the prologue music from Final Fantasy XIII plays softly in the background. Lightning speaks of a “world consumed with chaos, in a world where spirits are fading”, mirroring her words of “in a world where I no longer exist” from the beginning of XIII-2. I believe this secret ending is a prologue. The world is consumed with chaos, which leads to a new beginning, as Vanille tells us in the paradox ending “Vanille’s Truth”. There is hope for a new beginning, and Lightning is that hope.
Square has created two games that achieved something truly incredible. No, the games were not perfect by any means. But they offered us something more important than perfection: a world that we came to know and love, a story that enthralled us, and characters that we truly care about. I care about Serah. And Noel. And Fang, Vanille, Sazh, Snow, and Hope. And I care about Lightning. I won’t give up on her. I want her to save the world, and I want to experience her story until the end. I want to play as Lightning again. I want to explore the vast wilderness of Pulse again, the new Cocoon. I want to find and unlock the secrets of Valhalla. I want to see Vanille and Fang again. I want Noel and Hope to find peace. I want to rescue Snow from the Coliseum. I want Sazh and his son to be safe. I want to save Serah. And I want Lightning to be happy. I need to believe that the impossible can happen. That Lightning can find atonement. That she won’t be alone. That she and her friends can be happy. Final Fantasy XIII began with a promise: the promise to save Cocoon. And Final Fantasy XIII-2 ends with a promise: the promise of Final Fantasy XIII-3.
|It's up to us to keep hope alive.
UPDATE: I have written another article for "The Promise of Final Fantasy XIII-3" series, in which I discuss my hopes for the game specifically. If you'd like, please check it out and let me know what you think. You can find the article here).