Special mention needs to go to Answers, the main theme, linked here in live symphonic glory. The song is sung by Susan Calloway, the English vocalist from the Distant Worlds concert series, and Uematsu intended it for her from the start. The choral part is a complex layering of phrases and sentiments, and the lyrics manage to be both uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time.
And then... and then they set it to the end of Legacy. See directly below.
And then, they set it to Turn 4 of the Final Coil of Bahamut, where you get to face Bahamut himself.
Could also count as a Tear Jerker toward the end. Even if you haven't played the game.
Keep in mind, this actually played at the shutdown of 1.0. Square Enix, for all their mistakes, weren't going to just shut down the game (until the launch of A Realm Reborn in August 2013), they were going all out with a bang. This sort of flashiness is what you would expect from a new Expansion, not a shutdown. With poor review scores (which are pretty much death sentences for the average MMORPG), they decided to just reboot the game entirely. And they did it in the best way possible with a giant dragon wrecking hell on earth. To quoteJosh Scorcher:
I love how Square Enix basically says, "Whelp, we blew it, but the show must go on! We're not going to just kill it, we're going to kill it and have it be the most amazing thing anyone ever sees."
How about the Extended Trailer, A New Beginning? A True Masterpiece, indeed.
The boss fight with Titan. Ifrit, for all his flashiness, was a pushover. Titan? Is fought atop a platform so high up, falling off means instant death, out of reach of raise spells. He will occasionally target a random player with a knockback attack which may send them falling to their death. He will regularly use an attack which damages everyone in the party, which is a Difficulty Spike for a healer new to the fight. And twice throughout the fight, he will break off the edge of the arena, making it even smaller. All this, and he still has a One-Hit Kill move like Ifrit you have to interrupt to survive. How could this be any more awesome? With the rocking BGM that plays throughout the fight, getting more and more intense along with the fight itself.
And on the subject of primal battles, Garuda's battle theme is something else.
EVERY SINGLE THING IN THE PRAETORIUM. From the Nero tol Scaeva fight, even with his whinging about being in Cid's shadow, reuniting with your sentient Magitek Armor, Maggie, fighting Gaius van Baelsar on a freight lift, and then fighting the ancient Allagan superweapon, Ultima Weapon on another badass elevator reminiscent of the Olga Flow battle from PSO, seeing it use Ultima, confronting Lahabrea, good LORD what a finisher. And that's not even counting the extra lengthy and super-touching ending cutscenes!
"Escape From Castrum Centri". A rescue mission to recover the survivors of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn. Two fun fights, and a show of why the Scions deserve the respect they receive. Everyone shows their own form of Badassery, everyone gets hit with a major shock when they learn who's behind Lahabrea's mask, and the final escape by airship is one awesome moment after another.
At the end of "Return of the Holyfist", Hamon Holyfist goes to confront Weggfarr in a fight that could likely end in the pugilist guild leader's life. Thankfully, he has undergone training with you for this fight. When Weggfarr goes at Hamon with an axe, Hamon moves with such blinding speed that his counterattack was barely perceptible. And For just a split-second, he looks just like his younger self◊!
The Labyrinth of the Ancients. It's the first dungeon to require an alliance of 24 players (3 parties of 8), and the bosses are designed with this in mind.
The Bone Dragon. It seems to go down pretty quick... then the skeleton enemies that you've been killing during the fight get back up and start running towards it. If they reach the dragon, the raid takes massive damage. Then the dragon gets back up. The fight isn't even half over.
Thanatos. He's incorporeal, so he can't normally be harmed. Good news, there are friendly NPCs who will turn you ghostly too so you can hurt him. Bad news, lots of enemies will spawn to kill them, so those who aren't ghostly need to protect them.
The King Behemoth. As soon as the fight starts, the floor becomes electrified. There is no safe place to stand. Instead, players are assigned to the four towers around the arena to keep them active, reducing the electric damage to manageable levels. Sometimes, a comet will land on a player. This is actually a good thing, because the Behemoth's strongest attack, Ecliptic Meteor, will outright kill anyone, unless they cower behind the comets left around the arena.
Phlegethon. The final boss of the labyrinth is actually not that difficult, but the mechanics involved are unlike anything else in the game, making for a very fun end to the instance. He has nonstandard shaped AOE moves, and the Ancient Flare, which will kill everyone unless enough people react correctly.
In the 2.2 story quests, the plan to defeat Leviathan in his own domain. Use a scaled-up version of the same tactic used to fly the Enterprise through Garuda's tempest. None of the Lominsan ships can carry enough crystals to make it work? Lash two ships together to carry them all! How is this thing going to get close to Leviathan in the first place? Tow it with another ship!
Continuing the Crystal Tower quest and dungeons from Labyrinth of the Ancients, we now have Syrcus Tower. Besides being a massive shout-out to Final Fantasy III, it's another alliance raid, with the following four boss fights.
Scylla's fight is pretty much Phlegethon version 2. While she doesn't have any instant death attacks, and her Ancient Flare is toned down (assuming you stand in the puddles of water first), she solves this by having constantly respawning adds call Elder Staves that have various AOE patterns. Additionally, to even use the barrier mechanic for her AOE Stun and Damage Daybreak attack, players have to run orbs of electricity to terminals to power them up, while at the same time, freeing players hit with ice orbs using fire orbs, leading to a frantic fight with everyone constantly on the move. Scylla will also spam a dark version of Holy called Unholy, which comes with a deeper sound effect compared to the normal Holy used by White Mages.
Glasya Labolas requires the alliance to constantly stop various machines that are charging him up for a major AOE attack, as well as to redirect power to special pads that cause the players to jump away to safety. Players either have to have a member rush to Clockwork "Wrights" to have the power diverted to one player, while everyone else destroys the machine, or lure Clockwork "Knights" (based off of Final Fantasy XIII Pulse Machina soldier type machines) in between two terminals to redirect power.
Amon, is a mad scientist who dresses like Kefka with a touch of Kuja's music and theater themes to his attacks, such as Elemental Forte, and Curtain Call. Additionally, he calls various experiments of his to aid him in battle, while confounding the alliance by turning random members into Frogs, planting Pyrotechnic bombs on others that cause periodic explosions and knock away those near them, and tries to inflict Mini on others with special orbs. The alliance has to figure out how to turn these things back on their creator to help aid them to victory. Amon will also speak down to the alliance with polite mannerisms, viewing you and your party as "rude guests".
The final battle, is against Emperor Xande, the first ruler of the Allagan empire, who attempts to take out the alliance using powerful attacks like Ancient Quake, or by summoning multiple comets and a meteor. Xande even boasts how the stars must bend to his will.
The player character is dubbed the Warrior of Light due to the blessing they were given by Hydaelyn. The player character is granted the Echo, a power that lets them see memories of people near them and resist being tempered by primals. But then your blessing is taken away by Midgardsormr and an Ascian senses your light is no longer with you, dubbing you as weak and non threatening. When said Ascian kidnaps Minfilia, you proceed to kick his ass anyway without Hydaelyn's blessing by sheer determination and with your own powers and skills.
The Zeta Zodiac weapons. What started off as a quest to recreate a relic weapon of legend evolved into something much greater. Anyone who stuck with a relic all the way endured a LOT: recreating the relic (base relic), defeating powerful enemies to gather materials so that the relic can be fully reborn (completed relic), obtain special items to enhance the relic's power (Zenith), find 12 incredibly rare items to begin the process of further enhancing your weapon (Atma), slaying tons and tons of monsters and foes to bathe the weapon in their blood and souls to gain even greater power (Animus), collecting a ton of materia and alexandrites so that the soul enhanced weapon will be further boosted (Novus), going around Eorzea on your daily adventures so that the weapon can be attuned to the souls within and power up further (Nexus), spending a fortune of several kinds to obtain special materials while also spelunking in dungeons to find even rarer items while crafting other items so that you can transform your relic into a weapon that was once used by the Zodiac Braves (Zodiac), and finally, going around and adventuring again to fully awaken several different types of sentience within your weapon so that the Zodiac arm achieves its ultimate form (Zeta). For anyone who stuck by their relic through the thick and thin, the moment of seeing your Zodiac Zeta awaken with triumphant fanfare and glory is its own reward.
Not to mention the other reward - it's pretty much agreed that the Zeta weapons are the Best In Slot weapons, period. While the Dreadwyrm weapons are of equivalent ilevel, the fact that the Zeta weapon can be configured to the player's wishes gives them the edge.
At the end of Turn 12, you get a CGI cutscene showing Louisoux's battle against Bahamut. What the rest of the world saw was just a blinding light and then everything was silent. What really happened? Louisoux used the hopes and wishes of the people of Eorzea to turn himself into the primal Phoenix, and using his new power, he proceeded to blow a hole in Bahamut's chest. Had it not been for Bahamut's malice and craftiness, Louisoux would have ended the entire tragedy of Dalamud in a single strike.
The climax of 2.55 has a lot of awesome to go around as well as mixing in some moments of Tear Jerker. Raubahn is in sorrow when he hears that Nanamo was assassinated and Teledji Adeleji, one of the most antagonistic members of the Syndicate, taunts Raubahn by saying that Nanamo would be glad to have her strings cut since she's not in charge anymore. Raubahn, who knows of the schemes that Teledji had a part in and had held back from acting for Nanamo's sake, flies into pure rage and cleaves the Lalafell in half, which makes it doubly awesome for everyone who wanted to see him finally reap what he sowed. Ilberd, who reveals himself as the true assassin, cuts Raubahn's left arm off, but it does little to stop the enraged man as he engages the assassin one-handed and manages to hold his own as the Warrior of Light and the Scions flee for their lives. Sadly, Raubahn lost the fight and was thrown in jail, but it's still a crowning moment of ass kicking for a man who had won 1000 gladiator matches in a row.
The final mission in the Kobold beast quest line has a few but most noticeable is the confrontation with Zo Ga. You don't actually get to confront him. Right before the point where you figure you would, Gi Gu (who until this point was absolutely pathetic and helpless) manages to get back up after being beaten within an inch of his life, blows up Zo Ga's mining tunnels and single-handedly take down the larger and much more ruthless Zo Ga using a bomb to propel himself at him to deliver a flying rocket punch. It's as awesome as it is satisfying.
The quest you unlock after finishing all the ARR beast tribe quest chains has a rather amazing cutscene invloved. The leaders of all the friendly beast tribes band together to fight a powerful enemy while you handle a hostage situation. The fight ends with a sylph-magic buffed amalj'aa shoulder tackling the enemy, followed by a pacifist ixal throwing a sword to a legendary sahagin warrior who then finishes the fight with a kobold-assisted ROCKET JUMP. Also counts as a Crowning Moment of Funny for the five beastman leaders as they perform a sentai introduction complete with Badass Boasts and multi-coloured fireworks.
3.0 has you confronting one of the new primals by pretending to surrender yourselves to the Gnath as a sacrifice to their lord, Ravana. Once he's summoned, Ysayle uses the crystals in the room to transform into Shiva and fights him and even uses most of her moves that she used when you fought her previously. Sadly, Shiva loses and you have to fight Ravana yourself, but it is no less awesome to see a primal that's on your side fighting against another primal.
In 3.0, early in the story quests, you, Alphinaud, and Yugiri team up to save Raubahn by exploring Halatali together as a team. It's awesome in that, prior to this, most NPCs took a backseat in story content, and now they're actively helping you take on a dungeon together. It helps make both characters feel like part of your team in a way that's not been present until this point.
In 3.0, the final dungeon includes a lot of reused mechanics from Crystal Tower and Coil of Bahamut. Soon after in The Singularity Reactor, the final boss's long desperation move does the same with Primals added. The feels of nostalgy are very real. To top it off, the Primal(s) in question is the Knights of the Round summon from Final Fantasy VII. Players get to face off against what is widely regarded as the most powerful summon in the entire series slowly building up to the moment they strike the party with Ultimate End, causing the screen to shatter much like the original.
Midgarsormr, a dragon who mocked you for trying to find sanctuary within Ishgard, mocked you for thinking you could stop the dragonsong war, and mocked you for relying on the light from the Mothercrystal, finally sees your true worth after you overcome so many trials and hardships by the time you reach Azys Lla and declares you worthy of the blessing of light. He rewards you for your efforts by becoming a full sized dragon (though not his original massive form) and allowing you to ride him.
The whole ending for Heavensward is one big awesome moment that will be a part of Eorzea's history books. Ishgard is now united with the Erozean Alliance once more, bringing its people together again. Ishgard is also free from the chains of the church and its people will now be able to make their own fate rather than being born into a societal class. When the Warrior of Light returns to Isghard with Midgarsormr, the knights draw their weapons at the sight of the dragon, but then hesitate when they see the Warrior of Light riding on Midgardsormr. After Midgardsormr introduces himself, Aymeric and the rest of the knights all kneel before him as a sign of respect and change, swearing to him that they'll do everything in their power to reunite man and dragon together. Midgardsormr, while stating that it will take generations to repair the damage done, is also willing to help mend the bond between dragon and mankind once more as long as man keeps their promise to uphold the peace.
In 3.1, the display of magical might put forth by Diabolos as he awakens the Void Ark is incredible and awe-inspiring to behold. Climaxing in him using its main gun to tear open a dimensional gate in the Sea of Clouds.
Heavensward was also the launch of the Mac client so that Mac users can play without using a Windows emulator/wrapper. However, the Mac client had extremely terrible performance, even if the user's computer exceeded the recommended specifications. After players gave their feedback, Yoshida personally apologized for having the Mac client release in such a sorry state and he took full responsibility for it since he was the one who gave the go ahead to launch the Mac client as is. Not only did Yoshida apologize for a broken product, but he actually went out of his way to explain why the problem occurred (mainly due to a chaotic schedule leading up to the release of the expansion and the client releasing early before it was ready) and offered refunds to anyone who purchased the Mac version of the game. Yoshida also had the Mac version pulled down from the store and says it will not go back up until the client has been thoroughly tested and meets the requirements. In an age where major video game companies usually treat their customers like dirt, Yoshida's gesture was a very welcoming sight.
The finale of the 3.1 quest chain, after having endured a riot and a shanking, Aymeric, alongside you, Thancred, Y'shtola, Alphinaud and Artoriel, raid the vault to save hostages that a splinter group of Clergy have taken. Things finally reach a head when you confront one of the priests responsible and he tries to drop a child to her death, only for her to be saved... by Vidofnir, the dragon guardian of Anyx Trine. Try as the nobility might to discredit it, Ishgard's status quo is one step closer to being shattered as commoner and nobility alike see a dragon rescue someone from their death out of nothing more than the goodness of her heart. To make things even more heartwarming, speaking to the child in the Brume after the events has her asking if she could ride the dragon again.
The story of how Thancred spent the interim between 2.55 and 3.1 is this sprinkled with some Crowning Moment of Funny. He emerges from the Lifestream completely naked, alone, no longer able to use magic, and suffering a painful leg injury in an unfamiliar wilderness, infested with dragons and other countless predators. But he wastes no time in trying to get his bearings, sharpening some obsidian into makeshift daggers, and the screen cuts to him WRESTLING A BEAR. WHILE STILL NAKED, INJURED, AND ARMED WITH NOTHING BUT SOME POINTY ROCKS. AND WINNING. And then he skins the bear and wears its pelt until he's able to trade with the Vath for some better clothes. Soon Thancred learns of Ravana and the 'mighty warrior' who defeated him, and realizes that if he were to track the Gnaths' movements, he'll be able to reunite with the Scions. And the Big Damn Heroes reunion in question is another Awesome Moment altogether.
3.2 has a very awesome moment for Thancred. After Emmanellain discovers that his manservant was roughed up by the people that were trying to cause a riot in the Falcon's Nest, he becomes hysterical and starts to blame the people that beat up the poor boy. The Warrior of Light becomes visibly angry at Emmanellain's self pity and is about to punch him in the face, but Thancred stops them and tells Emmanellain to calm down. Emmanellain punches Thancred in the face in a jealous rage and whines about how Thancred always comes out a hero and how everyone fawns over him. Not only did Thancred barely react to the punch, he returns a punch that hits Emmanellain so hard that he knocks him off his ass and follows it up with "I'm not a hero and I have failed people. Learn to live with the consequences. I have."
3.2 also has a spectacle called the Grand Melee that can be described as a massive free for all. With Ishgard needing to instill confidence in its people, Aymeric, Emmanellain, and Hilda all join you in the battle to reclaim Ishgard's honor against the Eorzea Alliance while you wear Ishgard's garb to represent them. After coming close to victory, Raubahn takes you one on one in a Duel Boss moment and uses a ton of ass kicking moves that covers most of the field while the two of you are surrounded by flames. For a man who won 1000 battles in the coliseum in the past and lost an arm, Raubahn is able to go toe to toe with the Warrior of Light. The entire event showcases just how much support the Warrior of Light has from his Ishgardian comrades and how much of a badass Rauhban is.
For bonus points if your character is a member of the Immortal Flames Raubahn will address him or her by rank before initiating the duel.
It can be made even better through the player's own actions. Going into the Grand Melee, your gear is temporarily glamoured to look like House Fortemps Knight chainmail. If you happen to be a paladin, you can go into the melee bearing the shield (or glamour of the shield) of House Fortemps given to players in the previous patch.
When a Cyclops appears out of nowhere and threatens the match, Thancred calmly walks up to it, decks it so hard it gets knocked on its ass, and then tells them to continue on while he takes care of it.
Ser Aymeric's speech managing to rally almost all of Ishguard, even those who planned and attempted to sabotage the peace talks, behind the idea of finally ending the endless war with Dravania. Though Nidhogg's arrival did sour the moment a little, the player can find Emmanellain in the Jeweled Crozier afterwards where he admits that Nidhogg's actions did manage to unite the people of Ishguard towards a common goal to end the strife (redirecting most of the hatred for dragons in general to just Nidhogg, who is actually responsible for most of the current tensions between them).
3.3 sees possibly the crowning moment for the entire game, culminating in a final, climactic battle against Nidhogg. And it begins with you arriving at the Steps of Faith, besieged by Nidhogg's Horde, upon the back of Hraesvelgr, having convinced him to aid in the fight against his twisted brood-brother. What follows is an undeniably epic confrontation between the two great wyrms, both unleashing all their might and magic against one another. And just when it seems Nidhogg has triumphed, his defeated brother reveals himself to be missing an eye...cue the player stepping forward, imbued with half of Hraesvelgr's power, and ready to take Nidhogg down personally.
At the end of the battle, Nidhogg, in Estinien's body, appears ready to continue the fight, only for Estinien himself to regain enough control to throw away his lance and grab his own throat, in order to hold the dragon at bay.
Nidhogg: I am of the first brood! I am vengeance incarnate! I am Nidhogg! Thou wilt die at my hand! Estinien: This is not your hand, wyrm!
With the opening Estinien has created, and in spite of his demand to give him a Mercy Kill, Alphinaud and the Warrior of Light rush forward to tear the Eyes of Nidhogg out of Estinien's body. And in the last moment, when it seems like they might fail, Alphinaud and the Warrior of Light see a vision of Ysale and Haurchefant, helping them to save their friend. With that, the eyes are finally wrenched from Estinien, ending Nidhogg's second life.