Last week, I finished every bit of Final Fantasy XIII-2. Typically, I don’t play a game for full 100% completion, but this one I did… and I am haunted by it. It has entered my dreams, right there with that embarrassing situation in third grade I don’t want to discuss here.
Final Fantasy games are some of my favorite video games out there. Not because of the role-playing aspect (there is nothing new about roleplaying), no, for me it all about the story. And Final Fantasy, when it is at its best is a torchbearer for Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey (If you don’t know what I mean, I recommend you check out some of his books, here is one, they map out how all great stories and characters follow a “hero” journey and the stages of them. These stages also relate to our own lives when they are lived to their full potential. For my fellow nerds, this is also what inspired Star Wars… No, the good first one). We grow with the characters, we experience their struggles, their realizations, and when the endings come (after hours and hours and hours of play) they can be emotional.
Yeah, they make me cry, so what?
Square Enix, creators of the Final Fantasy series, don’t go for the easy endings either. Characters may die at the end, dreams may be dashed. One of the most moving endings I have ever experienced came from Final Fantasy X (the fact they had to have a sequel to “change” it was completely unnecessary, it was great without it)… but Final Fantasy XIII-2 is different. In many ways, I think of it as their experimental work.
Experimental work? Well, think of it like a filmmaker or an author. There is always that one in their library when you can see they are playing around with their own storytelling skills and seeing if the audience comes along. Well, that is this game in the Final Fantasy series since this game doesn’t follow any of the normal “beats” of a story and many times can be even out of order. (From this point forward there are Massive Spoilers, so if you plan to play this game consider yourself warned.)
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is about time travel. Changes in time effect the future (no surprise), but can also change the past since they argue that time sends waves in all directions. Okay, I love this concept, and you see this play out in different ways in the story.
But here is the great irony of this game: This is a game with an ending, a secret ending, eight “paradox” or alternative endings, and an ending that comes from downloadable content around Lightning (I’ll get to her in a bit)… and the one ending that should count the most doesn’t.
For some reason, Square Enix decided to slap a “to be continued” on at the end, in a way voiding it. Yet, we have no guarantee that there is really going to be another game! One of the creators even explained that the “to be continued” was a reference to the alternative endings in the game. To add some aggravation, there has been no announcement that one is even being worked on, and it’s not like Square Enix doesn’t have a history of changing their minds about the future of a franchise; for example, in Final Fantasy X-2 they had two characters act out a scene that very obviously promised a sequel (to the point one character says to the other something like “Maybe you will be the hero in your own story…” all that was missing was a wink, people!), and didn’t deliver.
So what about the real ending? Well, this is what gets me… It is dark.
The main heroine, Serah, dies and all reality as they know it disappears because of the actions of the heroes. Let me repeat that: ALL REALITY DISAPPEARS.
Yeah, that is a little dark.
So just try having a good night sleep after seeing that… No, I’m seriously. You spend over 30 hours of your life over months working towards the ending and you realize that your actions caused the entire destruction of reality of their world… Yes, I am admitting I felt guilty. Silly I know, but they all seemed so nice on the screen…
Putting aside the paradox endings (which are fun little variations on what could have happened and run the gambit of possibilities), let’s consider the other endings that go along with the destruction of all-known reality. You have a special Lightning game as downloadable content (Lightning was the hero of the first game and plays a background role in this one). In her ending, she discovers that the death of her sister (Serah) is her fault! Yow. And to deal with her grief, Lightning turns herself to crystal so she can preserve her memory of Serah forever.
While the idea of turning to crystal to preserve a memory is kind of a beautiful in a weird sort of way, this only adds to the darkness. And if a player had played both games (Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII-2), it is a little frustrating since one of the main driving forces for the first game was around saving Serah… so now, it seems, that was all done so she could die in the sequel.
So what is the tally at this point in the Final Fantasy XIII series:
- Lightning: (hero from first game, something akin to a goddess in the sequel) Frozen as crystal
- Serah: Dead
- Noel: (hero from XIII-2) Realized his actions destroyed all life everywhere, gets upset and probably dies.
- Snow: (hero from first game, cameo in second) Doesn’t know his fiancee Serah is dead, also is probably dead from the lack of reality.
- Vanille and Fang: (from first game) Sacrificed themselves at the end of the first game by turning into crystal, their crystals are saved at the end of the second from being destroyed… but then reality is gone.
- Sazh: (one of my favorite characters from the first game) His driving force is saving his young son; and as a side note, my son was about the same age as his when I played it and it really made his experience emotional to me. Well, he is probably toast too.
They are all probably toast.
Dead, dead, dead…
Jeepers! It’s right up there with a Game of Thrones book.
Can this get any darker? Well, yes it can- how about a secret ending where the bad guy says that the good guys fell into their trap and did everything they wanted them too. So the world is gone, reality is destroyed, heroes are dead, and the bad guys have won.
If you stop to consider that games like this take years to create by a well-skilled team (Heck, the closing credits by themselves go on for about five minutes), they must have wild office parties:
“So Bob, how is your work destroying all of reality?”
“Pretty good, Sidney, I came up with some really great evil ideas for it.”
“Wonderful! Run them past me while I drink my glass of yummy punch.”
“How about we kill a bunch of the lead characters?”
“Good, good, keep going.”
“And we have the heroes, and by extension the players, realize it is their fault.”
“Then we destroy reality?”
“Yeah, right after Noel is holding Serah’s corpse screaming her name.”
“That is awesome. Have you tried this chip dip?”
Okay, Scott take a deep breath.
So what do I want? I don’t know. I mean, I had fun in the game, and I thought it was satisfying in many ways. I thought the idea of paradox endings to be a wicked concept. Really, I don’t mind a dark ending, heck I still get grief from people I know for the ending I put in my book My Problem With Doors, and I wouldn’t consider it super dark.
Maybe I just needed to vent. Get it out of my system. And hope that there is a sequel someday…
So how is your reality going?
If you liked reading my article, why not check out some of my books? I had two novels published in the last few years, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here. Thanks for reading!