With the end of Lightning Returns, so too ends the world of Final Fantasy XIII, a world that has been three games and several books in the making. Regardless of what you thought about game mechanics, you have to admit that the world of Nova Crystallis had a beautiful and expansive mythology.
The original Final Fantasy XIII was a pretty open and shut case; however, Final Fantasy XIII-2 gave us so many questions that needed to be answered in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII – which also gave us a few new questions. With so much going on, it’s easy to lose track and get lost in the ‘chaos’. So after much research, I shall answer the biggest questions from this complex series as simply – and completely – as possible. Are you ready, Kupo?
Note: These answers come from not only the game, but also the various books that weren’t released outside of Japan, such as Final Fantasy XIII-2 Fragments After.
*Warning: Spoilers. All The Spoilers. So Many Spoilers, It’s Spoiled!*
What is the Chaos?
Plain and simple, Chaos is a part of the Unseen World that the goddess Etro placed inside each human to give them a ‘heart’. In many ways, consider this a person’s soul. When that person dies, their soul returns to the Chaos in order to get reborn. Those who are more in tune with their inner chaos can control monsters, learn magic, remember things they shouldn’t and even time travel – which all explains why Serah could do what she could.
Bhunivelze hates the Chaos because he cannot see into it, and thus hates humans because he can’t see into their hearts. Though beyond this, Chaos does have many side effects. Aside from burdening people with heavy hearts, “the Chaos has the power to warp the timeline and destroy the past”.
Etro’s original cycle of life and death with the Soul Seeds kept the amount of Chaos balanced between realms until Yuel. Yuel was the first human, and Etro loved her since Yuel was made in her likeness. So that she wouldn’t be alone, Etro decided to allow Yuel to be reborn again and again. Since they don’t possess a chaos seed/ ‘heart’, Etro and the other Gods don’t understand the pain her choices cause – much like the fal’Cie who believe rewarding l’Cie with crystal slumber is a reward.
Each time Yuel was reborn, a piece of her soul fragmented resulting in more and more chaos in the rift. This is why each Yuel was slightly different from the others. Despite starting as the same ‘soul’, each successive reincarnation resulted in a slightly different soul, a slightly different Yuel. It was these overflowing souls that Valhalla – the realm between the Unseen Realm and the Real World – tried to hold back, but couldn’t.
How is Caius still alive?
As I mentioned earlier, Yuel – or rather all the Yuels – are the Chaos that has been getting out of control. Their constant cycles of life, death and rebirth have fragmented her original ‘soul’ and made it multiply in the Chaos. Much like how Yuel’s gift of reincarnation was a curse in reality, so too was Caius’s eternal life. Tasked with protecting Yuel, he would see her die again and again. Even in death – or suicide – at the hands of Noel, he still can’t rest.
When Caius died, his soul returned to the Chaos – as all souls do – but since the Yuels of the past are the Chaos, they were able to restore him to physical form using the Chaos. It is no longer a human body that Caius has, but rather a soul in a body that is one with the Chaos, which explains why he is much stronger here than in past incarnations.
He was able to fight toe to toe with Lightning as the Knight of Etro, but as the Savior she is much stronger and still has a tough time fighting him. Unlike before where he merely could access the powers of Chaos, this time around he is the Chaos. He knows that there is no place for all the souls of past Yuels in the new world Bhunivelze will create, so he will stand by her side forever. Even if he wanted to leave, he cannot for the Yuels wont let him. Some wish for his suffering to end, while other aren’t ready to let him go of him yet.
In a way this is how Caius feels he can atone for destroying the world. In the end, he stays in the Unseen Realm with the Yuels and will act as a shepherd for the souls of the dead. Caius is truly the most tortured soul I have ever seen – video game or otherwise. One must wonder if he is truly happy in his decision to stay behind with the Yuels for all eternity. Is this just another punishment, or will he finally be able to spend time with the young girl he kept letting down?
What’s Bhunivelze’s Goal and Why?
To call Bhunivelze a perfectionist would be an understatement. Like the other gods and fal’Cie – most of them -, he doesn’t understand human emotions nor has any reason to try to understand. In his eyes, everyone is an end to a means, and if you no longer have a purpose you should be replaced. To better understand what he hoped to achieve, you have to know the creation myth.
As you know the world is divided into two halves: the Real World and the Unseen World. Bhunivelze wanted to control the Real World all by himself so he killed his mother Mwynn and banished her to the Unseen World. Bhunivelze soon became paranoid that his mother had cursed him so he sought to destroy her once and for all, but in order to do this he would need to find the doorway to the Unseen World.
He thus created Pulse and Etro. Pulse was tasked with searching the land and thus created fal’Cie to cultivate the land. Etro on the other hand was given no powers when Bhunivelze realized he had created her in the image of his mother. He then created Lindzei to protect him as he went into a Crsytal Sleep until the doorway was found.
Contrary to initial belief, Bhunivelze did not awake on the 13th/14th Day. In fact he had been awake ever since Final Fantasy XIII-2 ended. He awoke to find his world torn apart as he had feared and sought to create a new one. Since humans were the dominant creates, he sought a host so that he could try to ‘understand’ them. This is when he kidnapped Hope and turned him into a child again because this form was seen as “more pure”. Bhunivelze then spent the next hundred + years torturing Hope until he become devoid of any emotions and could serve as a proper vessel for Bhunivelze. When Lightning met Hope’s soul on the last day, that was the real Hope. The one we had been seeing all along was just a puppet.
Initially, Bhunivelze wanted to take only the souls Lightning had saved in addition to those he himself would clense in the Soul Song. By destroying the souls of the dead, they would be erased from existence and so too the memories of those living. Bhunivelze felt that he would be doing mankind a favor in destroying their memories so that they could live happily in a fog. When Lightning interrupted the soul song, it confirmed his belief that humans are just too unruly.
We first saw this in the Final Dungeon where he tortured and experimented with monsters until he created the perfect one to replace humanity – this was Ereshkigal – but when Lightning destroyed it that erased his back up plan. So Bhunivelze’s final plan was set into motion. He would still have the pure world he wanted, but he would annihilate every soul without prejudice and inhabit the bodies of the humans himself. In his mind, being one with God would be the ultimate blessing for humans, but he fails to see this erases what a human is. Bhunivelze doesn’t care for as he sees it, humans as they are still terribly flawed. He still can’t see into their hearts, and that scares him.
How did Snow become a l’Cie and what was his Focus?
When we last saw Snow in Final Fantasy XIII-2 we found that he had once again become a l’Cie. So who branded him and with what purpose? The answer to this is actually quite an interesting one – and is my favorite on the list.
While Snow was searching for Lightning back in XIII-2, he tries to help a lonely Cactuar in Archytle Steppe that seemed hesitant to join his friends. The Cactuar attacks Snow, but oddly stops when Snow asks him too. By time this dispute is resolved, the group of cactuars move on and this Cactuar decided to stay with Snow rather than join his friends.
Snow feels guilty about distracting him and promises to get him back to his fellow cactuars. Over the next few days, the two share many adventures and even fight alongside each other. During one fight with a bunch of rampaging Behemoth Kings, Cactuar defeats them all with a powerful spell. Snow then realizes that this Cactuar is actually one of the Pulse fal’Cie.
The Cactuar offers to make Snow a l’Cie at various times, but Snow refuses because he knows it will upset Serah. After getting stuck in a time gate and traveling to the Coliseum and various other time, Snow witnesses Serah’s death and battle with Caius in Academia. Desperate to save her, Snow asks to be made a l’Cie and is given the focus on fighting by Serah’s side in the final battle.
In a dream, Snow is warned about the Royal Ripeness attacking the crystal pillar where Fang and Vanille are, and so travels to Sunleth Waterscape 300AF – where we meet him in XIII-2. During one of the initial battles, Cactuar is knocked away by the beast and is never seen again. After the time spent here, Snow gets trapped back at the Coliseum and can’t help Serah during the final battle.
When the Chaos breaks through and time stops, so too does Snow’s l’Cie brand. Having failed his focus and saving Serah, Snow feels like a failure. He continues to help people of Yusnaan, but it can’t make up for his feelings that he let everyone down. The Cactuar statues around the city are actually in honor of the fal’Cie Cactuar.
Despite Snow turning into a mindless Cie’th-human-hybrid, he is able to recover his will to live and fight on. When Lightning tells him that Serah still needs him. In many ways, Snow does go on to achieve his original focus by helping Lightning on the final day and then fighting alongside Serah and the others against Bhunivelze. A Loophole to be sure, but with him and his fal’Cie being so buddy buddy for so long, I’m sure Cactuar would have given Snow all the time in the world to achieve his goals.
What was Lumina?
As you saw with Caius, the Chaos can be used to create vessels. Lumina is one such vessel for part of Lightning’s soul – as well as Serah’s. When Claire (Lightning) and Serah were young, their parents died and Claire forced herself to grow up fast – and become Lightning. Anything that she saw as ‘weakness’ – fear, loneliness, etc – she locked away.
When Lightning entered her Crystal Sleep, that part of her she had locked away for so long – the part that was Claire, not Lightning – used the Chaos to create a physical form. When Bhunivelze removed Serah’s soul – and other parts of Lightings emotions – from Lightning, Lumina took on these parts as well so that Serah wouldn’t be lost in the sea of Chaos.
Lumina resembles Serah only because she is a younger version of Lightning. Lumina’s main goal – beyond playing tricks like a child would – is to get Lightning to admit she needs help. When she begs Lightning on the final day to ‘not leave her alone’, it seems as though Lumina doesn’t want Lightning to take the souls away from her. In reality, she is begging Lightning to not leave ‘Claire’ – that side of her she’s repressed to the extent its become a new person – alone. In a sense, that is why Lumina always stood in Lightning’s way, summoned monsters and helped set the stage for the Soul Song. She wants Lightning to accept that she needs help, and that she needs those parts of her she locked away – and become Claire once again.
As you know from the ending, rather than stay her selfless self and remain in the Unseen Realm with Bhunivelze, Lightning asks for help so that she can have her happy ending. We finally get to see Claire Farron in the final fight against Bhunivelze. She’s smiling – which is a rarity – and in the end we see a Lightning/Claire that enjoys life.
There you have it, a close to a truly amazing series. I will miss the Final Fantasy XIII series. Many bashed it from Day 1, but I always thought it had potential, which is exactly why it was the first Final Fantasy series I played ever since Final Fantasy VII. I don’t know how long it’ll be till my next Final Fantasy adventure, but looking back, I couldn’t have been happier with this one.
3 thoughts on “Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII – Answering the Big Questions”
stumbled across your article..loved every bit of it.. as a fellow fan of the FFXIII saga.. i thank you..*salutes GC way*..
I really love the mythology and story behind the trilogy, read almost every piece of information about it, and your article is very accurate, good work.
Thanks Storm! I love the mythology of this series too. XIII-2 was my favorite though. I hope FFXV has a rich mythos like this as well