After Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning quickly became my favorite Final Fantasy protagonist.
So when I heard they were making a new Final Fantasy XIII sequel, I was…less than enthused. Can’t we just let it drop? Didn’t Final Fantasy XIII end on an extraordinarily happy note? Well, I guess it actually ended on a cliffhanger. And Toriyama conceived Final Fantasy XIII to be a sequel. Sakaguchi envisioned a complete standalone Final Fantasy games that wouldn’t need continuation. So then, what if Toriyama envisioned a sprawling epic so massive that three games have to cover it. Fewer sequels, and more so parts.
Well, no they were a series of sequels. Yet, they didn’t share a common theme or plot element. They were stand-alone games that reused the same characters. And Final Fantasy XIII-2 was completely out of left field.
I look at the cover of the PlayStation 3 version of Final Fantasy XIII-2. Lightning’s on the cover. She was on the cover of the first game, and she was the protagonist. She’s on the cover of the first game, so she must be the protagonist. We start the game with her fighting Caius, the main villain. But as for the rest of the game…where’s Lightning?
This is what Serah asks. This is the point of Final Fantasy XIII-2: find Lightning. OK, in Final Fantasy XIII we had to find Serah, save her and defy her fate. Here, we defy our fate in a different sense. Do we try to change the past…by changing the future? OK, a cyclical time structure. But then this means that we have a time travel game. Great. Chrono Trigger did it right, but most games don’t; they’re a field with logical inconsistencies and paradoxes. Here, the paradoxes are physical entities that resolve once you solve puzzles. What?
Final Fantasy XIII’s beautiful ending? Ruined. Somehow what we saw never really happened. Or it did happen but shouldn’t have. Lightning travels through dimensions with physical clocks, through a time portal that would make Lewis Carrol laugh derisively. Etro was behind this, but it’s not clear how her actions at the end of Final Fantasy XIII caused this. Whatever, it’s a game…
So we jump back through time to find artifacts that technically shouldn’t exist. Sure. We jump through Time Gates to resolve paradoxes. What’s Snow doing here? Can he jump through time? How was he smart enough to know how to do this?
Wait. Who cares about finding Lightning? If Lightning exists beyond time and space, why can’t she just tell Serah where is she? Why can’t see find the ultimate paradox from where she is and end the paradox for good? Why can’t I play as Lightning, Serah, and Noel? Well, because using monsters is fun. The battle system is more or less the same, with some improvements.
But…Noel. Noel. What are you doing? What are you and Caius doing? I could understand if they each loved Yeul as a sister. But their devotion to this 14-year-old girl is obsessively creepy.
With all of the paradoxes we solved, our adventure should have never happened. Perhaps this was all apart of the theme. Maybe the sequel for Final Fantasy XIII was never to be. Maybe it was an anomaly in Final Fantasy XIII’s timeline? Maybe that was the whole point of the game? We play as Serah and Noel in an adventure that resolves itself, but really never happens. And in the end, it doesn’t matter. We don’t save the world. Serah dies, negating everything we did in Final Fantasy XIII.
Where’s Lightning? In the next game.