Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2: Everything You Need to Know Before Lightning Returns

by on January 30, 2014

The final chapter in Lightning’s story is just around the corner! Fans of the world of Final Fantasy XIII have been giddy with anticipation to see the climax of this saga (I’m not sorry I used that word, king.com) after the cliffhanger ending in Final Fantasy XIII-2. Upon finishing the demo of Lightning Returns (my time against the boss was 51 seconds, in case you’re interested) and watching an exciting preview trailer, I thought it would be helpful to gather all of the lore, mysticism, terms and characters into one, concise document. Let’s face it: stuff happens in Final Fantasy XIII. Hopefully, this guide will be enough to let you keep track of who’s who, what’s what and everything in between. Let’s take a look, shall we? Beware, there are plenty of spoilers.

Final Fantasy XIII: Released March 9, 2010


Lady Lightning’s debut begins in the world of Cocoon. Cocoon is a utopia in the sky and is held up thanks to divine entities known as fal’Cie. The fal’Cie provide natural resources for Cocoon’s inhabitants, while the governmental body known as The Sanctum provide a judicial system. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with The Sanctum. You see, they decide to enact a movement called The Purge to move some of the fine folks in Cocoon via train to the other world of Final Fantasy XIII, Gran Pulse. There isn’t much known about Gran Pulse, but people think of it as a scary, inhospitable place run by monsters and mayhem. Gran Pulse also has some fal’Cie, but they’re (supposedly) unfriendly and don’t provide for the dwellers down under.

The meanies at The Sanctum think that certain people have somehow been in contact with the fal’Cie from Gran Pulse, thus they want their tainted souls exiled from the pureness of Cocoon. This is where Lightning (finally) comes in. Our heroine learns that her sister, Serah Farron, is on one of The Purge trains. While Lightning goes cirque-de-solei on Sanctum soldiers, better known as PSICOM, we get introduced to some more characters. In the train with Lightning is Sazh Katzroy. Like Lightning, Sazh has someone to save from The Purge – his son, Dajh. On the ground below, we meet Snow Villers, Serah’s fiancée and all-around idiot. Snow is the leader of the rebellion group, NORA, and he decides to put a stop to The Purge his way. Well, things don’t go so well and people end up dying, one of which is the mother of our next character, Hope Estheim. Hope feels that Snow is responsible for his mother’s death. He wants revenge, but eventually grows out of it. So, cheers for that. The last character we meet during NORA’s kamikaze is Vanille. With a knack for making uncomfortable battle cries, Vanille is a sunny girl with an air of mystery.

With a derailed train, a rescue mission gone awry, and explosions out the wazoo, Lightning and the rest of the crew I just mentioned end up rendezvousing with Serah. Serah tells everyone that they must “save the world.” They also end up meeting one of Cocoon’s fal’Cie, Anima. Things go from bad to worse when Anima brands Lightning, Snow, Hope, Sazh and Vanille with a tattoo called a… wait for it… Brand. This new ink means that they have turned into l’Cie (not to be confused with fal’Cie). The l’Cie are given an objective to fulfill called a Focus. If they finish their Focus within a certain amount of time, they will be granted eternal life in a crystal. If they fail, they become zombie-like monsters known as Cie’th. The problem with their Focus is that it’s cryptic; Lightning and her new “friends” don’t know what they need to do. And, because things are going so well, Serah reveals that she is also a l’Cie. With her objective fulfilled, she gets encased in a crystal.

So, yeah. Everyone’s bummed about becoming l’Cie. Snow remains with crystal-Serah while the other four attempt to figure out their Focus. As Snow wallows in his sorrow, he gets captured by the Lindblum, an airship. Onboard is Vanille’s friend, Fang, as well as the pilot, Cid Raines. Cid is also a l’Cie and is in charge of a revolutionary group called The Cavalry. Meanwhile, Lightning, Hope, Vanille and Sazh decide to go their separate ways. Lightning and Hope decide to travel to the city of Palumpolum. Sazh and Vanille head to another city: Nautilus. The latter group doesn’t quite make it and, thanks to some circumstances, all six characters end up in Palumpolum. Fang and Vanille give the revelation of the century to the four inhabitants from Cocoon: these two lovely ladies used to be l’Cie from Gran Pulse. Upon finishing their first Focus, they were turned into crystals. Yet, they were removed from their stasis whilst on Cocoon. This unusual incident is what, ultimately, started The Purge.

With some more secrets revealed, the party leaves Palumpolum and ends up in Nautilus. Vanille, being the lady that she is, has yet another secret. She was the one who caused Sazh’s child to get caught up in the Purge. Did I mention his child is also a l’Cie? Well, he is, because things never seem to go well for anyone in this game. Vanille and Sazh end up getting captured by PSICOM and end up on another airship: the Palamecia. Lightning and her friends are on the scene and end up meeting with The Sanctum’s head honcho: Galenth Dysley aka the fal’Cie Barthandelus (aka our main antagonist). Bart explains everyone’s Focus in laymen’s terms: become the entity known as Ragnarok and destroy Orphan, the fal’Cie who holds up Cocoon. If this were to happen, Cocoon would crash into Gran Pulse. In other words, they need to destroy the world.

Things are getting complicated for Lightning and her pals, so they escape to Gran Pulse. From  a gameplay perspective, I will point out that this is where things become less linear. As Lightning’s party discuss their options, Bart finds them (he really is a total jerk-wad) and reveals that he coaxed Cid into leading The Cavalry in an all out attack against Orphan. Lightning and her crew’s response to that is, “Aw hell nah!” and they reenter Cocoon in one of the most bad-ass Final Fantasy methods thus far. After all of the bad-assery is over, more horror sets in: Cid’s Cavalry have become Cie’th. Enough is enough, so Lightning and her friends overpower Bart once and for all. Unfortunately, Orphan awakens. Two become one as Orphan and Bart merge to create a hideous looking monstrosity. At this point, Fang is nearly tortured into turning into Ragnarok by this super-boss all while she witnesses the rest of the team turning into icky-poo Cie’th. Fortunately for all of us, this is not the end. The team reemerges as humans, rescue Fang, and overthrow Orphan.

Focus fulfilled, yay! Lightning and the other l’Cie turn into crystals, boo! Cocoon is plummeting towards Gran Pulse, yikes! Don’t worry guys, Vanille and Fang have got this. In one last act of kindness and love, they turn into a giant pillar of crystal that surrounds the entire world of Cocoon. As Leona Lewis’ song, “My Hands” begins to play, we witness the conclusion of the game. The collision between the two worlds has been prevented and Lightning, Hope, Snow, and Sazh get removed from their crystal stasis. Best of all, both Serah and Dajh have awakened from their crystal slumbers. Dajh runs up to his daddy and Serah is finally reunited with her sister and her oafy fiancee.


Feel free to take a break from your computer screen and get some fresh air. Truth be told, Final Fantasy XIII is a very story-focused (see what I did there?) game and this abridged version doesn’t cover a thing about the combat or some of the other characters. Hopefully this was enough to refresh your memory.

Final Fantasy XIII-2: Released January 31, 2012


Welcome back to the world of Final Fantasy XIII. After the happy reunion, something mysterious happens: Lightning goes missing. Everyone suspects she has vanished. However, Serah is the only one who remembers seeing her and believes her to be alive. But, life goes on and we are taken to the year 3 AF in the town of New Bodhum on Gran Pulse. In the middle of the night, monsters fall from the sky and start wreaking havoc on the town. Serah lacks combat experience, but she ends getting a helping hand by a young man named Noel Kreiss. In a Chrono Trigger-tastic twist, we learn that Noel is from the year 700 AF. He has come from the future to reveal the truth about Lightning: she has become the guardian of the goddess Etro in the land of the gods, Valhalla.

I’d like to take this opportunity to inform you that XIII-2 adds a bunch of new settings and characters that never got any mentioning in the first game. Also, feel free to count the number of potential loop-holes due to the time-traveling theme found throughout the story.

Moving on, Noel explains that Lightning getting transferred to Valhalla’s goddess protection department caused everyone but Serah to forget about Lightning. Since then, the timeline between Lightning’s move to Valhalla and Noel’s time has gone wiggidy-whack. Serah and Noel begin their travels to untangle the timeline and find Lightning by finding items called Artefacts. As a farewell present, Lightning sends Serah the adorable Mog to act as her guardian, good luck charm and weapon. Kupos all around!

Serah and Noel’s journey trough time begins! They start in 5 AF in the Bresha Ruins as they resolve a paradox that’s effecting an excavation. They also meet up with a girl named Alyssa Zaidelle who is a complete bitch. There, America, I said it. Their next destination is (usually) in 10 AF in the Yachas Massif. Yes, I said usually, because unlike it’s predecessor, FFXIII-2 is has a very non-linear approach. In this new time, Serah and Noel meet up with Hope and Alyssa. Alyssa is still a bitch, but Hope has become an awesome, reliable, and dedicated scientist in charge of an organization called The Academy. Whilst everyone researches timelines and alternate eras, the token villain of FFXIII-2 appears, decked out in 1980s glamrock attire: Caius Ballad. Caius and Noel know each other from 700 AF. Along with Caius is a demure girl named Yeul, but more on her later. So: words are exchanged, swords get crossed, and Serah and Noel head to another time. Along the way, Serah somehow witnesses a future event of Lightning duking it out with Caius.

As exciting as that is, Serah has another, more horrific vision. Remember that pillar made by Fang and Vanille? The one that PREVENTS COCOON FROM CRASHING ON GRAN PULSE? Well, Serah witnesses it collapsing and I’m sure you can imagine that would ruin anyone’s day. Serah informs Hope of this, and Hope begins researching ways to prevent this from happening. In the meantime, Serah and Noel end up in the year 300 AF. They meet Serah’s doofus fiancée, Snow. Once they’re finished helping him with some monster/paradox issues, Serah and Noel head to yet another different era. This time, they end up in 400 AF in the city of Academia. Within this massive metropolis, they encounter the dynamic duo of Hope and Bitchface. Since they last saw each other in the different timeline, Hope has discovered a way to prevent end of mankind: a fully automated, mechanically magnificent, floating Cocoon. Crystal pillars and batteries not included!  Even better, they earn another Artefact from Hope. Unfortunately…

…Alyssa (aka Bitchface Magee) sabotaged the Artefact. Serah and Noel try to use it, but they end up in bizarre areas of space-time. We’ll start with Serah, who ends up in the appropriately named The Void Beyond. She learns some fun facts during her stay. First, she learns that young Yeul is able to see the future. Every time Yeul gets visions, her life is drastically shortened. Even worse, she continues to get reincarnated throughout the timeline. Thus, she has to endure the cycle of seeing horrific events and then losing her life. The next fun fact Serah learns is that rock n’ roll Caius is supposed to be Yeul’s guardian. Tired of seeing Yeul die over and over, Caius has decided to destroy Valhalla. Doing this will unleash an entity known as Chaos throughout the world and time, as they know it, will cease to exist.

“But wait, how is it that Caius is able to be the guardian of so many Yeuls?” you might be wondering. Well, Caius is immortal. Within him beats the heart of the goddess Etro. So yeah, all of these revelations have quite an impact on Serah. The worst of it all is that Serah, if you recall, has been seeing visions of the future, too. This means her life continues to get shortened a la Yeul. Ever the optimist, Serah breaks out of The Void Beyond to find Noel. A slight detour occurs where she ends up meeting Vanille and Fang, who guide her to the year 700 AF. Does this year ring a bell? It should; this is Noel’s era. Serah learns that Noel is the last human alive in a land called A Dying World. Serah witnesses Noel relive the events that brought him to Valhalla: the last Yeul perishes and Caius decides to release the Chaos throughout the world.

Serah and Noel finally end up in the year 500 AF. This is the year in which Hope predicted the fully-functional neo Cocoon aka Bhunivelze would be finished. In another totally awesome Final Fantasy movie, Serah and Noel get ready to take on Caius for the last time. They end up defeating him, but Caius does some d-bag behavior as a final eff you to Serah and Noel. Not only does he claim that Lightning has been killed, he destroys his heart of Etro. Things seem fine at first, despite the fact that the goddess of Valhalla has perished. Serah and Noel witness Bhunivelze take flight. But then, Serah has another vision of the future and it ends up costing her life. Finally, the Chaos that they tried to prevent ends up getting unleashed throughout the world. The words, “To be continued…” appear on the screen, enraging gamers everywhere.

That’s all, folks!

We have been left wondering what the heck is going to happen to next, but the wait won’t be much longer. Hopefully, this article helped refresh your memory with all of the fun, finals, fantasies, and fanaticisms that took place before the events of Lightning Returns. The last chapter in the Final Fantasy XIII saga takes place 500 years after the events of XIII-2 and will be released February 11, 2014 for both the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. I hope you enjoyed reading this article (I’m not paid per word, here) as much as I enjoyed creating it.