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This is a "Wild Mass Guess" entry, where we pull out all the sanity stops on theorizing. The regular entry on this topic is elsewhere. Please see this programme note.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Bhunivelze is the Savior in the prophecy who tries to destroy the world, but is stopped by a hero, A.K.A. Lightning.
  • I mean, THINK ABOUT IT. In XIII-2, the Arbiter of Time said that after the end of time, a great battle with the heroes and gods of history would occur and that Bhunivelze would be the final boss. It was also said that the people trapped in the coliseum would stay there until the day of reckoning(pretty much when time was destroyed), at which point they would be freed so they could join the battle between Mwynn and Bhunivelze.
    • CONFIRMED. Bhunivelze is the bad guy all along and the final boss.

The new world that Bhunivelze created that he wants Lightning to lead souls too, becomes the world that Final Fantasy XV takes place in.
  • It can't just be a coincidence that both titles have the EXACT SAME MYTHOLOGY, and this wouldn't be the first time that 2 Numbered titles lead into each other. One Example being that the people from Spira(the world in Final Fantasy X) migrate to Gaia, the world that Final Fantasy VII takes place in.

Lightning Returns will provide not only a Grand Finale to her own saga, but also to the entire Final Fantasy series

Lightning will become the reincarnation of Etro.
Lightning, in order to restore time, will give her body and soul, becoming the new vessel of the Goddess of Death. She will still exist, in a sense, but she will have to share her body and Ascendtoa Higher Planeof Existence.
  • Turned out to be a Defied Trope. Lightning was planning to become the new Goddess of Death after slaying Bhunivelze, but deep down inside, she truly didn't want to. Things worked out for her as it turned out Caius and the countless dead Yeuls were more than willing to take the job.

Hope/Lightning will finally happen.
  • He's no longer a kid, she was there for him when he needed someone for support, and GODDAMNIT I want some form of a definitively happy ending. Preferably with shipping. And BABIES.
    • Nope, that won't happen. Hope, for reasons currently unknown, has regressed back to his 14 year old self, and even though he still has the mind of his older self, is still psyically 7 years younger than her.
      • Just because he's in his younger body doesn't mean that they can't be together
      • Aside from the general reaction outside of Japan if the game had the adult Lightning start a relationship with the 14 year old Hope - the press would have a field day, and non-gamers would know Final Fantasy as the game that glamorizes pedophilia.
  • Actually it might still happen, it has been mentioned that Adult!Hope will show up at one point, so they might very well hit it off then, and that gets around the pedophilia... though then we have to deal with people calling Husband Husbandry(whether it is or not), or at the very least Jail Bait Wait. This is all of course provided they don't hook hope up with Vanille, which I personally find much more likely, and has already had a bit of teasing.
  • Jossed, to an extent. No one officially ends up with anyone, but there's a lot of Ship Tease for Hope/Lightning and Fang/Vanille. And Noel/Yuel.

This will set up the real Final Fantasy XIII-3, but without Lightning as the main character.
  • Just think about it, the developers have stated that this isn't really part of the main series like XIII-2 was, which is also why Lightning is the only playable character and the introduction of a different battle system, as well as other massive changes in the game. Plus, given that Final Fantasy XIII is the flagship game of the Fabula Nova Crystallis series, wouldn't it make sense that they continue making sequels for it while waiting for the Type-0 sequel and Versus XIII?
    • JOSSED. Toriyama has confirmed this is the LAST game in the Lightning Saga, meaning, its the FINAL, Final Fantasy 13 game. He said the reason that its called Lightning Returns, and not XIII-3, is because this game shows "The Rebirth of Lightning" in that she's different now, and has transcended humanity, unlike in previous games. Its not because he's planning on making another FF game that's actually called XIII-3. Lightning Returns IS FF XIII-3, just it doesn't have that name.

The game will utilize the gameplay mechanics Final Fantasy XIII wasn't able to use
Such as the hack-and-slash gameplay and the gravity-based moves.

Lighting Returns will somehow connect the series to Versus XIII
  • Pretty unlikely now that Versus XIII has been retooled into Final Fantasy XV. Not altogether impossible, mind you, but unlikely.
    • I don't know, you could be wrong. I mean FF X connects to VII, as the Ultimanium for X shows that the people from Spira migrate to Gaia. And they're still part of the same series(Fabula Nova Crystallis) and have the exact same mythology. For all we know, the new world Bhunivelze wants Lightning to bring souls too to escape the world infected by Chaos, is the world that Noctis and his friends live in, in Final Fantasy XV.

This game will only end the Final Fantasy XIII series to a certain degree.
  • It will NOT be the end of the L'Cie's stories, rather, based on the theme of XIII in this game, it will lead-in to certain portions of another long-anticipated sequel to one of Square's series.
    • JOSSED. The FF characters in KH are completely different and not connected to their original personas in their original games. KH takes place is an alternate universe from the FF series.
      • The only exception to this seemingly being Auron in Kingdom Hearts II, which doesn't invalidate the fact that the series has different interpretations of the various Final Fantasy characters, but does bring up the question of how interconnected the alternate universes are.

There will be Multiple Endings
The fal'Cie will be revealed to have been behind the whole Chaos thing all along and depending on how much time Lightning still has after the Final Boss, she will have to choose between two or more of the following endings:

  • Destroying all fal'Cie and restoring the timeline at the cost of her life (though, with enough time remaining, a secret ending will show Hope discovering that she is still alive and embarking on a quest to find her).
  • Merging with the remains of Etro and becoming the new fal'Cie Overmind to restore the timeline.
  • Transforming all of both humans and fal'Cie into a new form of l'Cie unburdened by a focus and immune to becoming Ci'eth, who will then save the timeline.
  • Refusing to choose and being destroyed along with the universe when time runs out. However, thanks to Hope scattering time capsules that would survive the cataclysm earlier in the game, the humans of the next cycle of Creation can prepare and destroy fal'Cie without the whole Cocoon business ever taking place.

In all endings, however, Lighting will technically die and be Together in Death with Serah, so the devs can continue to claim that their games have happy endings.
  • JOSSED to some degree. Square specifically said, although you won't be able to see all the cutscenes in one playthrough, meaning there will be different choices, there will still only be ONE ENDING. Not to mention, due to becoming the Savior, Lightning can actually save Serah's soul and have her reborn into the new world, meaning Serah can return to the world of the living without Lightning having to die.

Caius, Noel, and Yuel will return.
Their stories have ended rather abruptly, considering that Noel failed to save Serah from her fate and failed to stop Caius from successfully stopping time for the sake of keeping Yuel alive, but due to the new danger of time stopping as of FFXIII: Lightning Returns, it would not make sense for Caius, Noel, and Yuel to be completely forgotten.
  • CONFIRMED — Noel has now become the Shadow Hunter, and is a vigilante, and fights Lightning. First because he thinks she's an imposter, and then second, because a prophecy says that a hero is destined to defeat "The Savior" and Noel believes he is that hero. Other main characters such as Fang and Snow will also return.
  • Caius is confirmed to be returning as well, along with Yeul. Apparently, he wants to die, but cannot for some reason. So Yeul wants Lightning to save his soul, since she's the savior. This prompts Light to find Caius and fight him for his soul.

The story ends with a Reset Button back to XIII
At the end of the story Lightning manages to pull off something that effectively erases everything that happened after one of two points related to the first game in the 'Lightning Saga':

  • Just after the end of XIII, everyone (including Fang and Vanille) is thawed out of crystal stasis, reunited with loved ones, and lives happily ever after. Lightning (and maybe Serah) are the only ones who remember the events of XIII-2 and Lightning Returns.
  • Just before the events of XIII (say, a month or so). Lightning can remember the events of all three games and learns from her mistakes by approving of Serah and Snow's marriage, thus keeping the former from becoming a l'Cie and setting the plot of the trilogy in motion. For bonus happy ending points, Fang and Vanille are revived from stasis as normal but neither retain their l'Cie brands. They integrate into Cocoon society and by sheer happenstance become friends with the other protagonists.

In either case, an after-credits scene shows Noel, Caius, and Yeul living peacefully with the rest of human civilization 700 years in the future.
  • I could definitely see the first happening, after all, its right at the end of XIII that the timeline started getting all screwy in the first place, but I doubt they would go the route of the second.
  • Eh, jossed.

Lumina is Serah, or an reincarnation thereof
There has to be a reason why someone resembling her would show up in a game centered on her sister.
  • Yeul does say that Serah is the same. Maybe that extends to more than just the visions.
  • And Serah did have Seer powers, like Yeul. New incarnations of Yeul is born whenever one dies, so this probably applies with Serah as well.
    • The problem with this though, is that after the time crash, no one can be born, and even if Serah was reincarnated right before the time crash, her reincarnation wouldn't have aged at all and would've remained an infant up to when Lightning returns. But that doesn't mean this theory can't be true. Her reincarnation could be unnatural...
  • Maybe Lumina is really bent on messing with Lightning, so she must've absorbed Serah's soul or something to gain her appearance. However, the soul still wants to care about her sister, so the two parts fight with each other like Mulitple Personality Disorder.
  • CONFIRMED. Lumina is actually Lightning's vulnerable side, which was created after Bhunivelze found Lightning and purged it, using the Chaos to create a physical form. However, it also purged Serah's soul, which was resting in Lighting's body after their last meeting, in which Lumina became Serah's safeguard from the Chaos. In order to stop Lightning, Bhunivelze used this replica of Serah as Lumina, who was a vessel to "save all" in Nova Chrysalia. During the final battle, when Lightning is about to sacrifice herself to stop the god, Lumina appears and revealed her true origins, convincing her "sister" to accept her vulnerabilities. When that happened, Lumina becomes apart of Lightning again, allowing Serah to be among the freed souls.

Lightning is not the savior in the prophecy.
In the trailers, Noel and Lightning reference a prophecy regarding a savior that tries to destroy the world, but who is stopped at the last moment by a "hero." Obviously Lightning's not quite devious, so it's probably Serah or someone else instead. That or the prophecy is just outright twisted to begin with, whatever.

Snow (...and probably everyone else) wants to die.
It's been five hundred years without Serah, without getting any older. He asks Lightning if she's going to kill him. Truth is, he's had more than enough of this stuff already.
  • CONFIRMED in the latest trailer. So far only for Snow though, as he wants to see Serah again, who is dead.

Caius regrets what he's done- because Yeul is now all kinds of horribly evil.
The shadowy Yeul trapping Snow in the Coliseum, taunting Lightning about Serah in Valhalla, and various other unsavory things in XIII-2 is one of or even the antagonist in this game. As such, her former guardian has finally realized he did the wrong thing— or is at least pretty pissed that time still exists enough for five hundred years to pass on top of however millenia old he already was at the end of XIII-2.

Hope is dead. The "Hope" we see is a fake.
The new "Hope" that is guiding Lightning on her quest to "liberate souls" is not Hope at all, because he died when Chaos fell. This "Hope" is actually Bhunivelze or a puppet of his and is the real reference to the prophecy Noel and Lightning talk about in one of the recent trailers. The "savior" in this scenario being "Hope" while the "hero" is Lightning. Also makes sense considering the mystery behind "Hope" deaging back to 14 is apparently important in the plot

Hope was deaged as a side effect of giving the Tree of Life fuel.
Taken from a post of Tumblr. Hope lost 13 physical years of his life, one year for each day the world has left? Perhaps Hope gave the tree his life energy to sustain it and buy Lightning time to fulfill her quest.
  • There's a hole in your theory. Hope is back to his 14 year old self, in XIII-2 he was 24, not 27, so he only lost 10 years of life.
    • No. Hope is 27 at the end of XIII-2: 24 in 10/1X AF, then three years later created the artificial Fal'Cie and entered the time capsule, essentially jumping forward 387 years to 4XX AF, then another 100 years to 500 AF. What is screwy, however, is that because Alyssa's paradox is fixed, she wouldn't have been with him at any point by the ending of XIII-2. Hope probably won't remember her at all any more unless Noel told him about things somewhere in the last 500 years.
    • Oh yeah, i forgot about that. You're right, he lost 13 years of his life. But the thing is, The Fal'cie was destroyed due to Hope seeing Serah curse him out for creating it, so that created 4XX AF, and that happened BEFORE Alyssa's paradox was fixed and she was removed from the timeline, so its not all that screwy.

Outfits for Lightning...
A spot to speculate potential outfit choices for Lightning, because some of us actually think about these things.

  • Outfits from every leading Final Fantasy character in existence, including Noctis (as a means to promote XV), which doesn't seem too far off from being possible (outside of time constraints/budget) considering Lightning gets Cloud's iconic SOLDIER 1st Class uniform and Buster Sword, and Yuna's robes.
  • Liara's armour from Mass Effect 3. Noel and Serah got the N7 armour, so why not give a character voiced by Ali Hillis the outfit of another character voiced by Ali Hillis from the same game.
    • Because there's no Mass Effect game to cross-promote?

Lightning has become Goddess Etro
The Japan Expo trailer reveals at the end that Lightning fears that she is no longer human anymore. Preceding that is a conversation between her and Lumina discussing "winds" being the voices of the dead. It is then paired with an FMV of Lightning absorbing the souls of guards she has just killed. At the start Hope reveals that Lightning is the saviour, whom according to Noel intends to bring about the end of the world. Her new Focus upon waking up is to guide the people into the new world after the destruction of the world... which sounds a lot like ferrying the souls of the dead.

The true Ragnarok
Back in XIII, a big deal is made about the party's Focus being to transform into Ragnarok and bring about the end of the world. In the end, Fang is the one to achieve this (much like the first time), and the end of the world is assumed to be the destruction of Cocoon, which was prevented. However, the final 13 days of Nova Chrysalia and Lightning's new role in the game seems to indicate that this was the Ragnarok that the Pulse l'Cie were to bring out. The end of the world mirrors the original Ragnarok from Norse Mythology, and as the Grand Finale to the XIII franchise something akin to the battle of Ragnarok will happen. And just like in the original myth, a new world will be born out of the old.
  • This is pretty much what happens at the end.

Hope was never de-aged
Because the older Hope from XIII-2 was the current Hope from the future (if that makes any sense). After Lightning disappeared, he somehow got involved with the time travel. At the end of the game, he will go back in time to start the Academy in order to keep the timeline stable, but never told Noel and Serah what happened because he didn't want to risk a paradox.
  • Hope wasn't blessed by Etro more than once, like Sazh, Noel and Mog were. Nor does he have a Fal'Cie that can ahem" Jimmy the locks open" for him like Snow did. He is incapable of using the Historia Crux to time travel.
  • A simpler breakdown of this, if my interpretation is correct, is:
    • When the timeline is disturbed thanks to Etro's intervention, Hope gets lost in time like Sazh and Dahj do. He finds himself in Nova Chrysallia, with equipment ready for his use to study and understand what is going on. From it he makes a guess about what is going on and discovers that, by the time he is 24, he will have travelled back to aide Noel and Serah. To prevent a paradox, he keeps his silence...
      • To add to the original guess, the stable time loop could be then used by Hope to find ways to break the cycle. Through the many re-experiences, Hope can then properly aide Lightning in her quest and hopefully fix the world. This would explain why completing quests given by Hope will give Lightning more days, effectively delaying the end.
  • Except that, the only reason the world is given more days, is because Lightning gathers Eradia that Hope gives to the world tree to heal it, and the World tree is what's keeping the World from being destroyed before time is up. Not because Hope is using a time loop to break the cycle.
    • JOSSED. In the latest interview about Lightning Returns, it turns out that Hope is still the same Hope from XIII-2, as he remembers what happened in XIII and XIII-2, he just can't remember how he felt back then. And he also went missing 169 years prior to the start of Lightning Returns.

Hope's de-aging: the timeline was partially fixed
After Noel and Serah defeat Caius, Mog states that the final paradox has been solved and that the timeline was repaired. But then Chaos spilled into the world from Valhalla because of the death of Etro. In the end, Noel and Serah's attempts to fix the timeline created one last paradox: the TRUE final paradox, one in which the timeline has tried to repair itself, but because of all the Chaos, things got even more messed up that time crashed, resulting in anomalies like Hope being de-aged and Fang awakened from crystal slumber.
  • Can't be, Hope was the only person who's timeline wasn't messed up and was the age he's suppose to be.

The end of the world is really just Caius pressing the Reset Button.
Caius' plan didn't really work like he wanted, with neither himself or Yeul being happy. So, he resets the world, erasing everyone's memories and reshaping things in a vain attempt to "fix" things. In truth, this has been going on for well over 500 years. Lightning, having been in Crystal Stasis in Valhalla, was the only person not affected by this.
  • Jossed.

The Final Fantasy XIII trilogy has been a large extended metaphor for the five stages of grief
The five stage of grief in the Kübler-Ross model are generally acknowledged as : 1) Denial 2) Rage/Anger 3) Bargaining 4) Despair and 5) Acceptance. It is a given not everyone experiences all these stages or in this exact order. However, as you look through the FF XIII trilogy, it appears the themes of the game slides through each one of these, almost as if it was about the entire FF XIII world finding acceptance of its coming end.

Final Fantasy XIII deals mainly with the first two stages and a little with the third. Final Fanasy XIII-2 deals mainly with the third stage and ends in the fourth. Final Fantasy: Lightning Returns appears to be about Lightning pulling the universe as a whole out of the fourth stage and into the fifth and final stage, acceptance.

1) Denial - Lightning denies her sister is a L'Cie. Vanille denies her past as a L'Cie. The people of Cocoon as a whole deny there is anything wrong for the first bit of the game, allowing the murder of thousands with nary a protest.

2) Rage/Anger - Lightning spends a good half of the game in a blinding rage, mowing down anyone in her way. Hope has murderous rage for Snow. Sazh is angry at Vanille for being a Pulse L'Cie. The people of Cocoon begin rioting, terrified and angry that their way of life is being threatened.

3) Bargaining - All the L'Cie try to change their fates, from running around Pulse trying to find answers, to trying to fulfill their Focus with an "exact words" scenario (they destroy Cocoon, but they save it as well). Serah and Noel spend all of XIII-2 hopping up and down the timeline, trying to avert the grim future that Noel is from and to find Lightning. Hope and the people of Pulse work as a whole to rebuild Cocoon and save everyone from its eventual destruction. Alyssa bargains with Caius to avoid being Retgonned from the timeline. Everyone seems to believe if they just work hard enough, death and catastrophe can be avoided.

4) Despair - Lightning crystalizes herself at the end of XIII-2 when she realizes all timelines end with the death of the goddess. The entire universe and all time is destroyed, leading all who survived into a never ending now they can never escape from. Early previews indicate this has unhinged both Noel and Snow, and that they will fight against Lightning in Lightning Returns.

5) Acceptance- In Lightning Returns it appears Lightning's role will be to help people find this. The universe is being reborn in 13 days and it is her role to guide people to it, and to make sure the new universe born is a good one. In the end, the L'Cie from XIII really couldn't fight fate. The world is ending, and even we the players will have to accept it.

Noel is not the "hero" in the "stop the Savior" prophecy...
...Caius is. In the video showing off the Aerith outfit/items, we've already seen that at some point Lightning's former rival lands a pretty fatal-looking blow by shooting a bolt of energy (or something) through her chest. This particular instance is what Noel sees in the prophecy he's so obsessed with... and thus is the reason why he's taken up an attack style that involves him repeatedly throwing his charged weapon at her from above - attempting to echo the scene that he knows "kills" the Savior.

If true, then hopefully this is what finally brings Noel back over to Lightning's side again. I can't imagine he'd be happy with Caius screwing things over ''again'.

Someone involved in making LR:FFXIII's story is against shipping Lightning and Hope.
Just think about it, in XIII Hope is too young for Light. In XIII-2 he has aged 10 years and Light hasn't aged at all making Hope a few years older than Light but they don't see each other even once. then in LR:FFXIII they will be alone together constantly but Hope has gone back to being too young for Light for some unknown reason.
  • Actually, the Lightning Returns Ultimania artbook for LR: FFXIII reveals that there's a good chance Hope has gone back to an adult in the ending of the game, as his young self here was something created by Bhunivelze, who has come down with a bad case of "dead" or "in crystal sleep."
  • The above WMG is actually half-correct. It has been noted on Tumblr that if anyone seems to be opposed to shipping Light & Hope, it's not the game's production crew but rather the English localization team. Some significant changes were made to the final boss's dialogue that alter his motivations as well as the atmosphere of the battle (one of the most major changes was that he had Hope's voice for the entire fight in Japanese, but the English version used a second voice actor when he stopped using Hope's body), and there were also some changes in the dialogue between Hope & Lightning in the ending, which was more intimate & personal in Japanese (one major change being his words after her Despair Event Horizon changing from "I heard your voice" in Japanese to "We heard you" in English.

Where Lightning is going in the post-credits scene
Look closely at the top of her suitcase. There's a sealed envelope resting underneath the handle. Could be an invitation to Snow & Serah's wedding.
Final Fantasy XIII-2WMG/VIDEOGAMESFinal Fantasy XV

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