Final Fantasy 13's Ending (and Final Boss)
What Happened at the End of Final Fantasy XIII?
Final Fantasy 13 gives us a classic Squeenix cracktastic-landscape, Die-and-STAY-DEAD ultimate boss fight with a WTF-just-happened mind-bending FMV finale.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who didn't entirely understand what happened in Final Fantasy XIII's ending. I think I've got it all untangled now, so let me share with you the gist. (It made me appreciate this flawed game more than before.)
But before I get into discussing plot: were you having trouble with FF13's ending boss fights? Let's review Final Boss strategies:
My Strategy for the Final Boss Fights of FFXIII
Hit Em Hard and Heal QUICKLY
I didn't really know what I was doing, but I had leveled up on Gran Pulse by going on a ton of Mark, er, Cie'th Stone Hunts, so I blew through all three battles fairly easily. I used the same strategy for Barthandalus, Bartie & Birdie, and Orphan:
- Lightning, Hope, Fang.
- Lightning had Ultima Weapon (upgradede from Lionhart) by this time -- I like Quick Stagger.
- Fang's strength was up in the 2400 range and Hope's magic was up around 2300, thanks to weapons upgrades and crystarium maxing out on Mark, er, monster hunts. Lightning was around 1700/1700 for Str/Mag.
- All three over 10K hit points.
I gave Hope a Diamond Bangle and maxed-out Ribbon to protect him plus the Weirding Glyph, piled my best Sorcerer and Shaman Marks on Lightning to boost her magic, and piled my best strength-maxing accessories onto Fang.
- Started battle with Lightning SAB and the other two SYN (Superiority) to debuff the baddie (Imperil, Deshell, Deprotect) and buff everyone as much as possible.
- If baddie didn't yet have Deshell/Imperil/Deprotect once party was buffed, switched to SAB / SAB / SAB (Infiltration).
- Switched to RAV / RAV / COM (Relentless Assault) to pound boss.
- Switched to MED / MED / SYN (Convalescence, Fang = SYN) every time the boss started to drop some godawful move on us with red letters. Hope had Curaja.
- Repeat 5-8 until boss is dead.
Even before Orphan was staggered, I sometimes hit it with Relentless Assault, because the chain gauge built faster.
Final Fantasy XIII Ending Plot Discussion
Part I: The Cavalry Assault on Eden and Orphan
Final Fantasy XIII's problematic development manifests as choppy, fuzzy continuity in various parts of the game, including the ending. Even after the development teams' frictions were resolved, some non-essential plot had to be removed due to space constraints on the Xbox 360 version.
The first phase of Final Fantasy XIII's ending is our heroes trying to head off the Cavalry from attacking Orphan, the fal'Cie that serves as the heart and power plant of Cocoon. WIthout it, Cocoon's power supply and the gravitational forces holding it aloft will fail.
I suspect there's a small chunk of plot that had to be deleted: a final showdown between Rygdea, leading the Cavalry, and our heroes, before the Cavalry are turned into Cie'th. This is a nasty bit of work on Barthandalus' part: he manipulated the Cavalry into attacking so that Lightning and friends would come to Eden (the city, and the fal'Cie that serves as its administrator/CPU with Barthandalus' assistance). Once the party has been lured to Edenhall, Barthandalus transforms the Cavalry members l'Cie with no Focus, and they turn to Cie'th on the spot.
fal'Cie Discussion: Barthandalus, Orphan, Eden
The Unholy Trinity of Cocoon
These three fal'Cie are the true antagonists of the game, and it's a little difficult untangling them and what they are doing.
From the Datalog we learn:
"BARTHANDALUS: This fal'Cie has long lived under the guise of Galenth Dysley, the Sanctum's supposedly human Primarch. Unbeknownst even to his closest aides, he has kept careful watch on the fugitive l'Cie through the eyes of his rukh, Menrva, forcing them to grow stronger while at times aiding secretly in their flight.
Barthandelus desires only that the l'Cie complete their Focus, which he explained to be transforming into the beast Ragnarok in order to destroy Orphan and all of Cocoon."
Comments: Barthandalus is tired of being stuck in his assigned job. Since fal'Cie cannot harm fal'Cie, he is trying to get a l'Cie to turn into Ragnarok (which I guess to be a sort of Eidolon, but who knows) and destroy Cocoon for him. Barthandalus' hope is that the sacrifice of millions of lives will prod the Maker to return and check on Her creation.
"EDEN: The namesake of Cocoon's capital, this fal'Cie directs the others of its kind who support the world's day-to-day existence. While Cocoon's other fal'Cie do not communicate with humans, Eden does. Presiding over the Sanctum's otherwise human administration, the fal'Cie is known to issue orders to the Primarch and step in to correct political gaffes on occasion.
As the sole operational nexus linking untold numbers of fal'Cie, it is not unthinkable that the loss of Eden could spell the end of Cocoon itself."
Comments: Eden is confusing because it's both the city and a fal'Cie, the strange triple fal'Cie that directs the party through Orphan's cradle (the cracktastic red landscape with all the platforms whizzing around). It is essentially the CPU of Cocoon. The game never states it, but I think that Menrva, Barthandalus' owl-assistant which has what appears to be Eden's face with Orphan's face on its breast, may actually be Eden in disguise. To most of Cocoon, Barthandalus pretends to be Eden's human liaison, Primarch Galenth Dysley, but in fact Cocoon is ruled a duumvirate of two Fal'Cie. Orphan is depicted symbolically as their "child," one which can only be born from its "womb" ("Orphan's Cradle") by killing them.
"ORPHAN: This mysterious being fuels the fal'Cie Eden with the power necessary to maintain Cocoon's complex operational systems, and as such, its death would bring about Cocoon's certain destruction. Nevertheless, its death is what Barthandelus desires, for he seeks to offer the lives of the world's millions of inhabitants in sacrifice to call the vanished Maker back to this realm.
As Sanctum fal'Cie and l'Cie are themselves incapable of harming Orphan, Barthandelus requires the assistance of Pulse l'Cie. If they can transform into Ragnarok and destroy Orphan, Cocoon's demise will be assured."
Comments: Orphan is stuck its its own pocket dimension, "Orphan's Cradle," where it powers all of Cocoon. Essentially, it's in Eden's womb. During the final boss battles, after Menrva fuses with Barthandalus, a new boss named Orphan rises from the pool, but it's really a three-part boss made of three beings fused together: a woman's face (which looks like Menrva's), the sun-disk face of Orphan cradled in her arms, and Barthandalus sticking out the right side. It calls itself "Orphan," referring to itself in the plural. I therefore take it that this three-part being is really Eden/Menrva, Orphan-the-child, and Barthandalus. Once it is destroyed, the "baby" Orphan is freed from the trinity. Once it is destroyed, Cocoon loses power and drops from the sky.
I'm not sure how Barthandalus thought he was going to survive all this, since he seems to have been destroyed in order for Orphan to be "born" in a physical shape.
Trivia: The words inscribed on the blade of Orphan's hybrid form are the lyrics of its boss battle music, "Fighting Fate."
Plot Discussion: Fang and Friends Attack Orphan
Wait, Aren't We Trying to SAVE Orphan?
Here's where things get confusing. The party arrives with the idea of destroying Barthandalus to save Orphan and prevent Cocoon's destruction. They knock off Barthandalus easily enough (they think). Then the three-part monstrosity rises from the pool and declares itself -- themselves? -- Orphan, thanking the the party for freeing it and challenging them to battle.
Why do they fight Orphan, which they were trying to save from the Cavalry? Mostly in self-defense: they really don't have a chance to negotiate before it attacks them. At the end of the boss battle with the trinity Orphan, it knocks out most of the party, leaving Fang and Vanille to deal with it alone.
First it torments Vanille, which it probably did the previous time, too, to convince Fang to turn into Ragnarok. Fang loves Vanille (take it however you will) enough that she'll "tear down the sky," and she volunteers to be Ragnarok to spare her friend's torment. The others try to stop her. There is a confusing moment when Fang nearly hits Vanille -- just as she did back on Gran Pulse when bawling out Vanille for lying to her, but there she stopped herself before the blow fell -- then she breaks free to initiate her own metamorphosis. Before she can turn into Ragnarok, the four from Cocoon turn into Cie'th and attack her. Her despair at this drives her into becoming Ragnarok, but she is not not powerful enough to destroy Orphan. "How many times must you fail?" it sneers, and proceeds to torture her by alternately inflicting Pain and Cura. It announces its intention to torment Vanille as well, seeking any means it can to goad Fang into becoming Ragnarok. Fang pleads with Vanille to run.
Vanille refuses, saying she won't give up a fight. At which point something makes Orphan explode. Some players interpret it that Vanille's own force of will caused it to fall, but I think in fact it was Lightning and Sazh shooting Orphan. Both of them have guns drawn when the camera swings their way.
Snow catches Fang, and Hope heals her. Then they attack Orphan again, and again one must ask: hey, wait, didn't they come to save Orphan? But by this time they've seen that Orphan is even more twisted and dangerous than Barthandalus. And Hope says, "If we have the power to destroy Cocoon, we have the power to save it." Vanille natters about miracles. They're gambling that they'll find some way to save Cocoon even if they take out the corrupt fal'Cie powering it, and they attack on faith.
Plot Discussion: Did They Turn into Cie'th or Not?
Kingdom Hearts I Crossover Time
Here's the next confusing problem: did the four from Cocoon really turn into Ci'eth?
Vanille: You're alive!
Fang: But you can't be!
Lightning: Could be more fal'Cie smoke and mirrors.
Snow: Fang, I'm sorry.
Lightning: We made you go it alone.
Fang: (disgusted noise at self) Second time now, isn't it?
Vanille: But, where were you?
Hope: Somewhere cold and dark, just thinking about everything that happened until now. And then... and then it was like --
Snow: It was like--I had a glimpse of the future. Everyone was smiling and laughing. Even Serah. Even Light.
Sazh: I don't know. It was a new Focus, or something. You know, I'm thinking, didn't really make sense of course. I mean, knowing we were worm bait and all, but...As luck would have it, next thing I know I feel somebody pushing me right along.
Lightning: You were there too, Fang. Same side. All of us. Together, until the end.
Say what? Well, it follows the pattern of Sora (Kingdom Hearts) turning into a Heartless and recovering himself. I think Lightning, Snow, Hope and Sazh did get turned into Cie'th, but their memories of their near-death experiences-- past moments when they absolutely despaired, but then found the hope to go on-- snapped them out of the "cold, dark place." Also, "somebody pushing me right along" may have been Dajh and/or Serah.
Note that when Lightning says, "Could be more fal'Cie smoke and mirrors," she's referring to the fact that they are alive, not that they turned into Cie'th.
When Fang mentions the "second time," I think she's talking a previous scene in which she fell out with the party, closely parallel in staging to this one: back on the Ark, everyone decided they'd defy fal'Cie orders, save Cocoon and refuse to destroy it, and Fang said she'd go on alone. That was when Bahamut came down to knock some sense into her. The rest of the party protects her from Bahamut in gestures exactly parallel to their shielding Vanille when Fang threatens to become Ragnarok.
Of course, Fang could also be referring to her second stint as Ragnarok.
[Update July 2012: After playing Final Fantasy XIII-2, I think the "somebody" is Etro, and she's responsible for the vision of the future Snow mentioned.]
Poll: Did our four friends become Cie'th or not? - I said what I think... what do you think?
Did Lightning, Snow, Hope and Sazh become Cie'th?
Plot Discussion: What Did Fang and Vanille Do?
Sisterhood Power Saves the World...Sort Of
Sure enough, when Orphan is destroyed, Cocoon loses power and starts to fall out of the sky. Its outer shell heats up with the force of reentry and starts turning into lava. (The physics are rather unlikely, but so is every single bit of anime physics.)
As Hope said, if they have the power to destroy Cocoon, they also have the power to save it. Since Fang and Vanille choose to become Ragnarok on their terms, not on orders from Barthandalus and Orphan, they find a way to create, not destroy. First they attempt to hold Cocoon up with their arms. Then they summon all the material they can from the surface below, creating a pillar of support. As they crystallize, completing their Focus, they create a pillar strong enough to support the damaged husk of Cocoon.
We saw something like this happen very early in the game, but it's easy to forget: right after the gang of five got turned into l'Cie in the Pulse Vestige, the whole thing fell. But it wasn't destroyed. It transformed Lake Bresha into solid crystal, as well as the area around it. It's not entirely clear whether that was Anima's doing, to preserve its newly-recruited l'Cie, or whether (as I think) it was Serah's doing. But at any rate, the visuals are very similar, and I think Fang and Vanille pulled off the same stunt.
Another significant quote from earlier in the game: Vanille privately says to herself, "So, Serah, being l'Cie means you can still do the right thing." (I may have the wording wrong.) I think Vanille takes Serah as an role model, mentally addressing her several times throughout the game.
At the end, the four from Cocoon are crystallized, then released (I suppose) when the last fal'Cie are gone. [FFXIII-2 explains this.] Noting how badly damaged Cocoon is, Sazh and Lightning observe that they actually did complete their Focus: "that qualifies as demolition." Cocoon is so badly damaged it can't be what it was before. But most of the people are saved, and are evacuating to the surface of Pulse.
Final Fantasy 13 Ending in HD - Final FMV - Lesbian Power! (Okay, I Said It)
Prophecies Do Come True
As Do Promises
Just as Final Fantasy X played around with dreams, death, and spirals, this game plays around with hope/despair, prophecies, promises and fate.
Ironically, almost everybody is right.
They do have to turn into Ragnarok: but not to destroy Cocoon; they save it -- or at least, most of the population.
They do wind up destroying Orphan and wrecking Cocoon pretty badly.
Serah did tell them the right answer: to save Cocoon. By following her guidance and keeping all their promises, they thread their way through all the lies.
Fang saves her adopted family, as she promised, although she comes near to screwing it up.
She and Vanille wind up saving Cocoon as they promised.
Snow and Lightning keep their promises to Serah.
The fal'Cie laid various prophecies, Focuses and Fate upon them. But as Fang says, when prayers turn to promises -- i.e. when one stops wishing to make it happen and makes it happen-- not even fate can stand in their way.
Final Fantasy XIII is one of the most controversial of Final Fantasy games. It's flawed. It's too linear. It takes far too much grinding, and there's not enough exploring. It's hard to connect with the characters. Yet somehow it grew on me.
That, or I simply forgive it all its shortcomings because I've been pining for lesbians in canon for so long.
What do you think?
...Oh, yeah, please share this page with fellow fans. I didn't write it just for me...
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