The collector’s edition of the official Final Fantasy XIII-2 guidebook includes a question-and-answer session with the developers of the game.
Given that this game in particular offers more questions than it answers, the following is a transcription from the guide, in order to help other fans better understand the developers’ perspective. If you were curious about some of the things in this game that weren’t directly addressed by the story or the datalog entries, read on.
Please note: This page contains full spoilers for Final Fantasy XIII-2. If you have not beaten the game in full and collected all fragments, I advise against reading through this page. There are also spoilers for Final Fantasy XIII.
What is the moment in Final Fantasy XIII-2 that the team is most proud of from a design perspective?
Motomu Toriyama, Director: “I believe the continuous battle sequences between Lightning and Caius in the opening sequence is one of the most spectacular scenes in the game. This sequence is a fusion of cutscene, combat, and cinematic action. In a sense, this offers a sample of all the battles to come in the game.”
What gave you the idea of time travel as a main concept in Final Fantasy XIII-2?
Motomu Toriyama, Director: “With Final Fantasy XIII-2, we wanted to design a story where the main characters travel through time to fix the course of a long history, and rebuild the world as they knew it following the events of Final Fantasy XIII. The player has to interact with various people from multiple time periods, and eventually determine whether the events — as they are described by Lightning following the end of Final Fantasy XIII — are real or not.”
Why is Serah the only character who remembers the original events as seen at the end of FFXIII?
Daisuke Watanabe, Lead Writer: “Final Fantasy XIII-2 reveals that the goddess Etro saved Serah during the final scene of FF XIII, releasing her from her crystal stasis. Through her interaction with Etro, Serah acquired certain powers normally non-accessible to humans. This is why she can time-travel when passing through the Gates (like Noel or Snow). This is also how she received the gift of the “Eyes of Etro” enabling her to see changes in the timeline, as does Yeul. It is also for this reason that she has a special bond with monsters, allowing her to tame them in their crystal form and use them as allies.”
Are Atlas and Royal Ripeness the largest enemies you have ever created?
Motomu Toriyama, Director: “In Final Fantasy XIII, we were unable to implement a fight against the giant fal’Cie, Titan, in the Archylte Steppe — he was simply too big. This was an issue we wanted to address in FFXIII-2. As a result, the player is often confronted in this game by very large monsters, such as Atlas, or the Royal Ripeness. As a rule, all of these bosses are just as tough as they are big.”
To what extent did you re-design locations that already existed in Final Fantasy XIII?
Motomu Toriyama, Director: “All regions across all time periods were redesigned with different gameplay concepts and objectives in Final Fantasy XIII-2. The locations as they existed in Final Fantasy XIII have gone through an entirely new level design process in order to offer new experiences to the player. This ensures that those who played Final Fantasy XIII still have a lot to rediscover in this game, both through exploring locale variations in the future and by enjoying the new features in terms of playability.”
Why are there no inhabitants in any time period in Oerba? Is this supposed to be a ghost town?
Daisuke Watanabe, Lead Writer: “Fang and Vanille, who were both born in Oerba, attacked Cocoon in the War of Transgression, which you will remember occurred hundreds of years before the events of Final Fantasy XIII. When the war ended, the environment on Pulse was in ruins and consequently all human survivors had no alternative but to leave. This is how Oerba became deserted — a ghost town. Centuries later, the Academy established a protected zone in and around Oerba, forbidding anyone to enter. This is the reason Oerba was never repopulated, across all time periods.
From a design perspective, Oerba holds a strong symbolic value in Final Fantasy XIII as it signifies the end of the main protagonists’ journey. We therefore felt uncomfortable in populating Oerba or making it busy. We chose to leave it desolate.”
How difficult was it to design a “grown-up” Hope, starting with his younger persona from Final Fantasy XIII?
Daisuke Watanabe, Lead Writer: “At the beginning of Final Fantasy XIII, Hope is an inexperienced and naive youth, but as we all know, he matures throughout the storyline, which essentially depicts his development from child to young man. As a consequence, it was quite natural for us to show how Hope matured from a young man to an adult in Final Fantasy XIII-2.”
Why are the events of the Sunleth Waterscape largely focused on Flan creatures?
Daisuke Watanabe, Lead Writer: “We are aware that most episodes in the game are very serious. So we thought that the Sunleth Waterscape location offered an opportunity to introduce a humorous note and the Flan creatures are perfect for the purpose.”
How can Snow travel through time? Is this related to his new l’Cie mark? What is the story behind this?
Daisuke Watanabe, Lead Writer: “After the events of Final Fantasy XIII and the disappearance of Lightning, Snow firmly believed in Serah’s memory. As a consequence, he set out to save Lightning, Fang and Vanille and intentionally approached a fal’Cie, anticipating this would enable him to travel through time. He then found a Gate and set forth on his long journey.
Snow’s story up to when he met a fal’Cie will be revealed in an official novel to be published soon in Japan. The later part of his journey is detailed in the game in the form of texts made available as the player retrieves Fragments.”
[Note: Snow’s story was detailed in Fragments After, one of the FFXIII-2 novellas released in 2012 in Japan. You can learn more about it on the novellas page.]
The Archlyte Steppe is once again the ultimate hunting ground in the game, and features some very tough monsters. Was this intended as a bonus for Final Fantasy XIII players?
Motomu Toriyama, Director: “The idea behind the Steppe is certainly to offer a large area with many missions and we believe that this will please many Final Fantasy fans. In XIII-2, we introduced an additional factor through the weather, which we believe adds a new layer in terms of hunting and exploration.”
Did you intend for Serendipity to evoke the Gold Saucer in Final Fantasy VII?
Motomu Toriyama, Director: “Yes, it is fair to say that we designed Serendipity as an homage to the richness of earlier Final Fantasy installments. With its wealth of minigames, especially the Chocobo races, Serendipity is intentionally reminiscent of the Gold Saucer in Final Fantasy VII. You may have noticed that we set the camera distance back from the level itself to recreate the atmosphere of the Gold Saucer.”
How do Sazh and Dajh travel through time and appear in the final scenes?
Daisuke Watanabe, Lead Writer: “At some point, Sazh and his son Dajh got caught in Serendipity, but they came out alive having won a gamble of fate. The full details of this story will be revealed in a planned DLC release.”
[Note: This DLC was released in February 2012.]
The Academia map is completely new and certainly looks very impressive. Is there a version (400 or 4XX AF) that you focused on first, or were they both designed in parallel?
Motomu Toriyama, Director: “The large Cocoon as it appears in Final Fantasy XIII was built on fal’Cie technology. In Final Fantasy XIII-2, however, the power of the fal’Cie is no more, and Academia is a futuristic city based entirely on human technology. We have experimented here with some visionary architecture, suggesting perhaps how city planning may appear on earth in the future.
When you first visit Academia, many battles occur under very dramatic conditions. These are designed to take place in the evening and in the rain in order to enhance the sense of tragedy. We consider this setting a visual reference, a symbol of Final Fantasy XIII-2.”
Youji Ito, Environment Technical Artist: “Initially, we started on the day version of the map, called 4XX AF, as this is where you have access to all city areas. We soon realized that a large metropolis with glittering lights and skyscrapers can be very visually impressive in the evening, so we moved on to the 400 AF version in order to work on the lighting. From a production standpoint I think we just continued on and implemented the rain and all of the finer details and features. So in the end, the 400 AF version was in fact finished first.”
Final Fantasy XIII-2 features a tower with multiple floor levels, just like Taejin’s Tower in Final Fantasy XIII, and the Pharos in Final Fantasy XII. Do you see this as a staple of a Final Fantasy game?
Motomu Toriyama, Director: “We believe it is an important process to go through a complex dungeon in the middle of the storyline as this acts both as a trial and a story turning point before the player reaches the climax at the end of the adventure. This takes the form of Augusta Tower in Final Fantasy XIII-2, a futuristic dungeon peppered with puzzles. The player has to search the whole Historia Crux in order to access the heart of the tower. This makes it a difficult challenge, once which cannot be completed by just visiting the area itself.”
Is there one particular monster in FFXIII-2 that the team has a special affinity towards?
Motomu Toriyama, Director: “You can recruit in excess of 150 monsters in the game, each with its unique battle style. Naturally each member of the development team has their own, personal favorite. That said, I think the most popular monster amongst the team — and the one most frequently found in Paradigm Packs — is probably the Flanitor, a Medic.”
Why did Alyssa betray her friends and accept Caius’s offer by booby-trapping the Gate in Academia in 4XX AF?
Daisuke Watanabe, Lead Writer: “Alyssa actually died during the Purge that occurred at the beginning of Final Fantasy XIII. Her “survival” is due only to the course of history having been altered when Etro decided to save those who fought to defend Cocoon. She can only exist in this warped timeline, her very existence being a paradox of sorts. As Serah and Noel solve all the inconsistencies that alter the true course of events, Alyssa feels increasingly threatened. She is aware that the restoration of the timeline will lead to her demise. She eventually chooses to favor her own survival, by accepting Caius’s offer even when this means betraying her friends.”
The “dream” events that occur in the Void Beyond in Episode 5 offer an interesting change of pace. What were the reasons behind this?
Motomu Toriyama, Director: “The ‘dream’ events offered an opportunity to both tell the story via cutscenes and to actually present it, thus enabling players to experience this for themselves. We therefore designed Episode 5 in such a way that the character can experience ‘dreams’ or ‘pasts’ together with the player. We also wanted to give a sense of the true strength of Caius, which Noel is aware of from the start.”
The Oracle Drives seem to have created by the Farseers. If their civilization was indeed so advanced, could they still exist somewhere on Pulse?
Daisuke Watanabe, Lead Writer: “The Farseers do in fact still exist in the days of Final Fantasy XIII-2, and even in the time period that Noel comes from. They live hidden, far away from all other human beings. They are aware of the prophecy that warns of potential conflicts between humans; they therefore avoid contact with modern civilization and chose never again to use technology like the Oracle Drives.”
Is there a meaning to the throne of Etro that is seen at various moments in the Void Beyond?
Daisuke Watanabe, Lead Writer: “The throne of Etro that appears in the Void Beyond is empty for most of the game. This symbolizes the ever diminishing power of Etro. However, in the ending, Lightning is on the throne. This symbolizes that the world’s very existence relies on her to embody the divine will. As Lightning wants to maintain hope, she enters the crystal stasis in order to protect the will of her sacrificed sister, Serah. We are planning a DLC release to reveal the background of this.”
[Note: This DLC was released in May 2012.]
When you decided that the party members could jump in Final Fantasy XIII-2, did you already have the Academia 500 AF “Labyrinth of Chaos” in mind?
Motomu Toriyama, Director: “Once we decided to allow the main character to jump, we knew that we wanted a game location where the level design would allow a unique platform challenge. We believed we could increase this effect by having this occur in Academia 500 AF as this is the final dungeon of the game.”
Why doesn’t time flow in Valhalla?
Daisuke Watanabe, Lead Writer: “Valhalla exists on a different reality plane, one that lies between the real world and nothingness. Time doesn’t flow in Valhalla because it is a timeless, lifeless place. With Etro fading from the real world, Valhalla is her only refuge: it is a “middle world” where she waits where she waits until she dissolves completely.”
Is Caius less objectionable than the classic “bad guys” in order to unsettle the player?
Daisuke Watanabe, Lead Writer: “This is a very interesting question. Caius is a unique villain throughout the game in that his goal is not to destroy the world, but to save Yeul, and nothing will deter him from that objective. He has unshakable willpower. This means that he doesn’t necessarily appear as a “bad” person. This wasn’t so much to confuse players, but rather to put them in front of a bewildering enemy.
Although Caius dies in the final battle, we see him alive in the secret ending. This does not mean that there are multiple versions of Caius that have been manipulating events from a different timeline. Quite the opposite: the Caius that ‘dies’ in Valhalla (a timeless place) is the same one that we see in the secret ending. His is a paradoxical existence that already knows how the battle ends and still will not stop until he reaches that end. His ‘death’ only strengthens his resolve, as even this did not alter the course of events. The goddess died nonetheless, which is what he fought for all along.”