I was all getting ready to write up a post on Lightning Returns when it suddenly struck me: I never talked about 13-2! Oh golly gee, I feel bad now. I actually finished 13-2 way back in February but was thinking so much about revisiting I never even thought to write a post about it. “Revisit? Surely you don’t mean you actually WANT to play a Final Fantasy 13 trilogy game more than once, do you Vry?” In fact, I do! Especially since both 13-2 and Lightning Returns make liberal use of a New Game+ feature and I really enjoyed them ESPECIALLY 13-2 which is my favorite of the trilogy. But more on the whole new game+ thing later. Let’s get in to talking about the characters first shall we?
While most of the cast of Final Fantasy XIII appears mostly in cameos and DLC, even Lightning who appears front and center on the box as well as the title logo, the game focuses on the always mentioned, sort of present, but only got like three lines Serah Farron- Lightning’s younger sister who spent 99% of the first game as a crystal. She’s on a mission to find her sister, whose story got a bit wonky at the end of Final Fantasy XIII. See at the end of the last game, everyone was reunited thanks to the Goddess Etro’s intervention. Lightning blessed Snow and Serah’s engagement and even smiled for the first time in the game. But here’s the twist: Only Serah remembers this happening. Everyone else seems to think that at the end of the last game Lightning vanished and is assumed to be trapped in the crystal pillar with Fang and Vanille (again from the end of the last game). So is Serah crazy? She starts to think so, until we meet our second main character –
Noel Kreiss. Whose name I’ve started using as a substitute for other exclamations (Noel Tap-Dancing Kreiss on a cracker!) You spend most of the game not knowing a ton about Noel other than a) he’s from the future, b) he’s the last human and c) Lightning sent him to Serah to help her. The future? Yes, the future. You see, Noel here is the one that introduces the primary idea that the entire game spins around: Time Travel. Being a time traveller himself, he guides Serah through the timelines, and to alternate timelines, in hopes of reaching Valhalla (Which is shown as being at the end of time, but is also the unseen realm of the dead. How are these the same thing? Well, Lightning Returns sooort of answers that.) Noel also seems to be very familiar with our villains, but again the answer to how isn’t revealed until the late game when you learn about Noel’s past.
The sort of third main character is little Mog. That’s right, for the first time since… Final Fantasy VI? We have an honest to goodness Moogle party member. NO CAIT SITH DOESN’T COUNT. He’s a ROBOT. Granted, Mog doesn’t exactly occupy a party slot. He kind of is actually Serah’s weapon. Yea… Given to Noel to pass on to Serah from Lightning, Mog has the unique ability of turning into a bow that can also turn into a sword. However, he does provide a lot of utility as you explore the game world. He can reveal hidden items, you can learn to chuck the little guy across pits or up onto ledges to get items for you (You can also throw him into pits if he annoys you. He’ll come back in a bit.) He also has a storyline about where he comes from, and offers a good deal of both comedic relief and cuteness to the story.
Our villains this time are luckily not the insane and poorly scheming fal’cie, but a man named Caius Ballad. Caius is a great villain in my opinion because his goals are relate-able, and for a good long while you can kind of see his point and it can make you question if you are really the bad guy in this story (And honestly, the big divide comes down to methodology and the concept of the needs of the many over the needs of the few.) Caius also doesn’t adhere to the Final Fantasy stereotypical villain that thinks the world is full of suffering so he wants to destroy the world to end the suffering (Logic!) All he really wants is to save the various incarnations of the girl he’s been tasked to protect through all time.
Which brings us to Yuel. Yuel is interesting. You see, Yuel is a seeress who can see the future, but keeps dying for reasons you’ll find out about late in the game. However, there are “Other Yuels”, each with a different personality and Caius guards each of them. Caius differentiates all the Yeuls by their interests or personality: The Yuel Who Liked Dancing, The Yuel Who Loved Flowers, The Yuel Who… etc etc etc. Yuel isn’t really a villain or hero in the story. She’s more of a force, and a motivation. Some Yuels are actually pretty nice. Others see Serah and Noel as a threat since they keep changing the timeline.
Last and probably least is Lightning. Yes, Lightning is in the game. Yes, she’s fairly important to the plot as she is pretty much the instigator for the entire thing. And no, you will not be seeing a lot of her. She spends the vast majority of the game in Valhalla battling Caius to protect the Goddess Etro. If you find yourself asking how she can be fighting Caius while you keep bumping into him, welcome to a time travel plot. Lightning’s main role in this is that she is the one who sends Noel and Mog to find Serah and set them on the path to reach Valhalla, and she shows up at the ending. She also gets her own DLC that explains her fate a bit better after the ending of the game, but I’ll get to that when I talk about the DLC later.
As for secondary characters, you do bump into Snow and Hope throughout the main story. Hope actually shows up multiple time across the timeline trying to save the world in his own way. You also meet Chocolina, the chocobo dressed sales lady who seems to defy time and space and has a bigger tie to the overall plot than she is willing to say. And there’s Hope’s assistant, Alyssa who actually is fairly involved in the plot but requires some reading between the lines to grasp her full involvement. The rest of the NORA team is living with Serah and keeping an eye on her at the beginning after Snow leaves to find Lightning for Serah. And that’s pretty much it for side characters.
The whole thing is a pretty condensed list of characters that mostly gets utilized fairly well compared to the first game in the series, who would introduce interesting characters then do nothing with them followed by just killing them off at some point later which left you kind of sitting there going “That’s it? That’s all they did?” I mean, again I get why they did it, with the whole being told through the main six’s eyes thing, we wouldn’t be privy to a lot of the behind the scenes work. But that and 13-2 both show why that form of story just doesn’t work for those games. 13-2 is perfectly willing to show you things that are not directly seen by the protagonists and it helps immensely flesh out the story. But we’ll get to that more next time when we discuss the plot of the game.