Final Fantasy XIII: the story so far
On Tuesday, the US finally gets a taste of Square Enix's hilariously named sequel to 2010's blockbuster Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIII-2. (I know, right? Like, why?) The first game was great, but most of you probably know about how many of it's innovative departures from the established Final Fantasy formula were considered flaws by some critics. XIII-2 promises to deliver in many of these areas that were skipped by its predecessor, and the plot, which I'm told involves TIME TRAVEL (read "Nerd Boner Sauce Factory") makes me feel like this one's going to be a "go-to-the-store-and-buyer", if you will.
By now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Oh, but Alex! This game sounds fantastic, like, ass-crackingly amazing, and I haven't played the first one because I heard it wasn't really a Final Fantasy!" Well, never fear, you ill-informed Doubting Thomas. You won't have to SUFFER through what's probably one of the three best games of this generation. I've written an incredible story-so-far for you, and here it is.
So many many years ago, on a planet called Pulse, there were these really powerful like, alien beings called fal’Cie, and there’s two things you really need to know about them.
The first is that they can grant people magic powers and superhuman strength on the condition that they complete a task, known as a Focus, on behalf of the fal’Cie. These people are called l’Cie. Depending on where the fal’Cie is from, the l’Cie are known as Pulse l’Cie or Cocoon l’Cie, but they’re basically the same. They do not actually know what their Focus is when they get it and have to figure it out on their own. They track their progress by a weird sort of living tattoo brand that they get, and they have to finish their Focus by the time an eye built into the design of it opens. If they fail to do this, they turn into a weird crystal zombie monster called a Cie’th, which sucks. If they succeed in completing their Focus, they are morphed into a crystal, which theoretically means they live forever, but really just means that they’re sort of continuously sleeping unless a fal’Cie decides to wake them up again and give them another Focus. This also sort of sucks.
The second thing you need to know about the fal’Cie is that in response to the brutal wilderness of Pulse, which is also called Gran Pulse sometimes for no real reason, they created a floating utopia high above the planet surface that has barriers set up against the outside world and is sort of run and protected by machines. This mini-planetoid in the sky is called Cocoon.
Because of their extreme isolation from the rest of Pulse, the people of Cocoon and their government, the Sanctum, are like, SUUUUUUPER paranoid of the outside world. They have this rule that if you are in any way involved with the world below, whether it be actual contact or just artifacts, you are immediately banished from Cocoon and forced to the live down below on the shitty-ass surface. PSICOM, the military enforcers of the Sanctum, make sure this happens.
The game basically picks up in the aftermath of a large-scale banishing known as the Purge, in which a Pulse fal’Cie is found in the little village of Bodhum, and the entirety of its residents are forced onto a train and sent out of the city to live in the world below. The fal’Cie, Anima, is now located on the border of Pulse and Cocoon, inside of it’s Pulse Vestige, and slated for termination.
On this train we find Lightning and Sazh, both of whom desperately want to get to the fal’Cie aboard. Lightning is trying to save her sister, Serah, who was turned into a l’Cie by Anima, and Sazh is desperately trying to kill Anima in order to prevent his young son Dahj, an accidental Cocoon l’Cie in PSICOM custody, from failing to complete his Focus and being turned into a Cie’th. They derail the train and fight their way towards the Vestige. They encounter Serah’s fiancée, Snow, whose group, NORA, helped rescue the other purgees. Snow is also at the Vestige to rescue Serah from Anima.
Hope and his companion Vanille are also at the Vestige after Hope’s mother, Nora, died helping Snow rescuing the purgees, and they decide to track him down and confront him about it.
When they all finally meet, they arrive at the Pulse Vestige and find Serah unconscious, who has just enough time to tell Lightning to save Cocoon before she turns into crystal, apparently having achieved her Focus. Upset, the entire party heads back inside to confront Anima, but just as they do, PSICOM arrives and begins destroying the Vestige. With its dying breaths, Anima transforms all five of them into l’Cie, they all share a dream about a monster called Ragnarok and a city called Eden. They wake up in the aftermath of the destruction in a place called Lake Bresha, which Anima’s corpse has turned into crystals.
At first, they all just want to get out of the lake, but when they come across Serah’s crystalized body, Snow wants to dig it out because he thinks she’s alive, and Lightning wants to move on because she think she’s dead. Snow stays behind and the rest escape in an airship, but it is eventually shot down. They all survive, but in discussing their Focus, which they believe to be the destruction of Cocoon, Sazh and Vanille just want to hide, so they head to the town of Nautilus, but Lightning and Hope want to take the fight to the Sanctum, their leader Galenth Dysley, the fal’Cie called Eden, namesake of the Sanctum capital, by way of Hope’s hilariously named home town, Palumpolum.
While all this is happening, Snow is picked by Fang and Rygdea, members of a sympathetic branch of the Sanctum military known as the Cavalry, who really just want to overthrow the fal’Cie. They take Snow and Crystal Serah aboard their airship and, with the Cavalry crew and their leader Cid on their side, head off to find the others.
While sneaking underground past the PSICOM troops occupying, ahem, Palumpolum, Lightning convinces Hope to let go of his plan for revenge against Snow just in time for Snow and Fang to arrive and save them from a group of PSICOM soldiers, which is cool, but then they have to split up again.
While alone, Fang tells Lightning that he and Vanille are old Pulse l’Cie, and they’ve already completed one Focus. The fact that they both woke up again with Focuses gives hope to Lightning about Serah’s fate.
At the same time, Hope confronts Snow about his mother’s death, they get attacked, Snow saves Hope, and apparently, it’s all good.
They all meet up again at Hope’s dad’s house, are attacked AGAIN by PSICOM, and escape AGAIN, this time with the help of Cid, who takes them all aboard the Cavalry airship.
Meanwhile, Sazh and Vanille are in Nautilus, and Sazh tells Vanille about how Dahj was made a l’Cie at Euride Gorge, and how he just wants to turn himself in so he can see his son one last time. Vanille realizes that he and Fang’s presence at the gorge is what caused the fal’Cie to brand Dahj, and just as he’s about to tell Sazh, they find Dahj, who upon being reunited with Sazh, turns into a crystal.
Sazh is helpless and defeated, and Jihl Nabaat, leader of PSICOM, tells Sazh about Vanille and Fang at Euride Gorge. Sazh tries to kill himself but can’t do it, and he and Vanille are taken into custody aboard the airship Palamecia to be executed in Eden in a public forum.
Lightning and company arrive to rescue them, and they all fight their way to the bridge, where they find Galenth Dysley, leader of the Sanctum. He murders Jihl and everyone else on the bridge, and reveals to the group that he’s actually Barthandelus, the fal’Cie master of Cocoon. He also reveals to them that their Focus is to become the monster Ragnarok, and to destroy Orphan, the fal’Cie that keeps Cocoon in the sky and gives power to all the other fal’Cie.
They fight him and escape, finding themselves in the Fifth Ark, below the city of Eden, where they find Cid, who reveals himself as a Cocoon l’Cie. He tells them about how Cocoon’s destruction would bring back the Maker, the all-powerful creator of everything. He attacks them, loses, and turns to crystal. Bummer for him. This causes them to decide to ignore their Focus, and honor Serah’s desire for them to save Cocoon. They take another airship down to Pulse, and are attacked by a wyvern, which causes them to crash AGAIN.
Hope is knocked unconscious in the crash, and after they all wander around for a while, he wakes up and tells them that they need to go to Fang and Vanille’s home town of Oerba, because it’s the place where everything began. While on their way there, Vanille tries to admit that her last Focus was becoming Ragnarok and destroying the outer shell of Cocoon, but Fang suddenly realizes she’s lying and remembers that it was her who became Ragnarok, and that a goddess named Etro stopped her before she could totally destroy Cocoon. Fang and Vanille have a fight, but they eventually come to terms with each other and decide to confront their fate.
When they arrive in Oerba, it’s in ruins, and infested with Cie’th. Barthandelus appears to them, at first disguised as Serah, and explains to them that the reason Cocoon was created in the first place was to create an enclosed space with enough people in it to provide a sufficient enough sacrifice to bring the Maker back. They fight him again, and before he runs away, he tells them that the Cavalry is going to try and destroy Orphan. They board an airship he left behind, and head back to Cocoon to try and stop the Cavalry.
They find the city in utter chaos, as Barthandelus has been warping wild creatures from Pulse into the city and creating Sacrifice Cie’th by branding people without providing them a Focus. Eventually, after a huge battle, the PSICOM troops decide to assist the l’Cie, and help them into Orphan’s Cradle at the center of Cocoon.
When they finally get to the Narthex, where Orphan is, they find Barthandelus, who destroys Serah and Dahj’s crystals, and tries to get them to destroy Cocoon again. They refuse and finally defeat him for good, but not before revealing that fal’Cie create l’Cie in order to vicariously experience the free will of humanity.
At this point, Orphan, in an effort to be destroyed, causes Fang to become Ragnarok. However, it also causes all the other l’Cie except Vanille to become Cie’th, and they attack Fang and prevent her full transformation. Orphan is disappointed by this and begins to torture Fang, while Vanille is powerless to help.
Lightning, Sazh, Snow, and Hope, meanwhile, through sheer willpower, transform back into l’Cie from Cie’th, and are able to change their Focus from destroying Cocoon to saving it. Orphan, however, reveals that it too wants to bring the Maker, even at the cost of its own life, and leave the l’Cie no choice but to destroy it. They do.
As Cocoon falls, Fang and Vanille combine to create Ragnarok, which creates a column of lava that lifts Cocoon into the sky and crystalizes. The city is left crystalized in the sky, with Vanille and Fang’s bodies in the center, and the rest of the l’Cie are deposited on the surface of Pulse and reunited with Serah and Dajh, who have been uncrystallized with the fall of the fal’Cie. THE END.
So that’s it! That’s the fun, weird story of Final Fantasy XIII, and now that you know it, you may freely go on to play XIII-2, which is out today! Will it be better because it had more Final Fantasy tropes, or will people finally be made to realize that the original XIII was just the breath of fresh air the series needed? There’s only one way to find out! Play it! Or, you know, just read our review when it appears on GameZone.