Well, hush my mouth from last week, because there apparently was a pressing need to revisit the happy world of Final Fantasy XIII. Yes, of course Final Fantasy XIII had a sequel; the magnificently named Final Fantasy XIII-2. And this time, it had time travel.
If you paid the slightest bit of attention to the pre-game hype that was going about, you might harbour the reasonable assumption that this game involves previous main character Lightning engaging in some kind of future cosplay wars against Nightmare from Soul Calibur if he had lost his armour somewhere and got really heavily into beads in the intervening time. After all, their face off is the game’s logo, Lightning in her magic knight armour was a major focus of the adverts, and even the box art and manual art are focused on Lightning. Well, it was a reasonable assumption you had, but you would be dead wrong for having it. Lightning is in this game for approximately five minutes for a tutorial fight, a conversation later on in the story, an optional side quest, and to appear at the end as a lump of magic rock.
This is usually the part where I try and summarise the game’s plot to you, and I really, really want to, because this is where the already convoluted plot went through a dozen shots before diving head first into some experimental narcotics. Where we last left off, everything was decent apart from Fang and Vanille’s heroic sacrifice, and everyone in the pampered sky world of Cocoon was preparing to adapt to life in the murderworld that is fantasy Australia. Except – as you would absolutely be one hundred percent aware of if you stopped and read the side story included in the game packaging – the magical intervention that saved everyone last boss fight has actually f*cked the world over. Lightning vanished into the great abyss of nothingness and everyone believed that she was lost in the same incident as Fang and Vanille. So already, people are required to read extraneous material to understand the basic plot of the game.
Lightning isn’t dead, though, instead transported to the magical realm of Valhalla, where resident death Goddess Etro has decided to imbue her with godlike powers, with her own magical abilities which the backstory is adamant she doesn’t have. Lightning must now defend Etro for an unspecified length of time in a realm where time is meaningless against an immortal badass hell bent on Etro’s destruction, despite the fact that said immortal badass is immortal because he has Etro’s actual goddamn heart on his fucking person, and his plan involves destroying this heart, which he cannot accomplish because the heart is the only thing keeping him alive and must be passed on through an oddly specific ritual that requires him to die.
The actual protagonists of this game are Serah, Lightning’s sister who spent the last game as crystal, and newcomer Noel, who I was incredibly ready to hate but found to be the only sane person in this game. Noel is tasked by Lightning to bring Serah to her, and is from a goddess hell scape of a future where he is one of three remaining human beings. Journeying to the past to find Serah, the two use the power of a Moogle, also provided by Lightning, to travel to different points in history, righting temporal anomalies rather than going directly to Lightning, who as already stated is in a realm outside of time, a fact Noel is completely aware of the whole journey. Hope, meanwhile, takes the slow path through the ages, and becomes the leader of the free world and an internationally renowned badass scientist in his spare time with legions of fan girls, a prospect that is already severely straining what little credulity I have left at this point.
I sincerely hope you don’t think I’m exaggerating for comedic effect, because this is the honest to God plot of the game. In fact, I’m short changing you on some of the insanity, since I haven’t even gotten into the infinitely reincarnating girl, the deal with the woman dressed like a Chocobo who is your shopkeeper in every time period, or the goddamn casino at the end of time. This game had no clue what it wanted to be. Serious moments can move almost instantly into comedy. The zombie apocalypse of one time period is offset by relationship drama, for example. In fact, this game’s plot is infinitely more confusing for being familiar with the established backstory of the previous game, which is worth an achievement in and of itself. Characters take actions that make absolutely no goddamn sense, chief amongst these being the Goddess, who it is super important to save. This is despite, again, her giving her living, beating heart to someone who desperately wants to kill her, and giving useless ass psychic future seeing powers that eventually kill you without ever being useful to her devoted servants.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 had some good ideas. The battle system was revised and simplified, the creature capture system is deep and rewarding, and Caius is actually, for all my snark, a decent villain with understandable motives. But what the game had was arrogance. It was undeservedly assured of its success and status, and it proved that in the end game. After spending the entire game trying to thwart Caius, it seems that the party has finally succeeded, only for everything to immediately go wrong. You, the player, might imagine there’s a better ending to get. So you complete all the optional objectives the game has to offer, and the game rewards you by having Caius tell you, the player, to your face, that all your extra effort was utterly pointless because it didn’t count.
Still y’know, this has to be rock bottom for the series so far right? I mean, the next stage would have to have Lightning wildly out of character, dressing up in cat girl outfits for it to be even more divisive. And they wouldn’t be that stu – Oh son of a bitch.