Final Fantasy 13 could be considered an oddball in the series. Whereas Final Fantasy 7 has an entire compilation of games, other media, and more and Final Fantasy 10 got a direct sequel in the form of Final Fantasy 10-2, Final Fantasy 13 is the only game in the series with a full-blown trilogy. Notably, Final Fantasy 10-3 is something that has been planned but never came to fruition.
This may be because Final Fantasy 13 is part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis collection, which contains its series and the Type-0 games. It originally included Final Fantasy Versus 13 as well, back before that became Final Fantasy 15. As with all trilogies, the story grows and expands beyond the first game, with some minor gameplay changes as well. For those curious how the trilogy connects, here are all the details; of course, due to the nature of this article, fans should be aware that this includes major SPOILERS for all three Final Fantasy 13 games.
Final Fantasy 13
The first game sees several characters come together, including Final Fantasy 13's Lightning, Snow, Sazh, Hope, Fang, Vanille, and more—during a journey in which they are all, or become branded as, L’Cie. They share the same vision of a monster called Ragnarok, which boils down to a story about killing Orphan and causing Cocoon to crash into the world below, revealing the Maker. As the story unfolds and Orphan is defeated, Fang and Vanille become Ragnarok to prevent a massive collision between Cocoon and Pulse, while the rest of the party reunite with their loved ones.
For the most part, gameplay involves traveling a linear over-world map from cutscene to cutscene and combat to combat. Combat follows an Active Time Battle system, which is similar to traditional turn-based combat but more involved and faster-paced—very different from systems seen in Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Final Fantasy 15. Character upgrades happen via the Crystarium, which is similar to Final Fantasy 10’s sphere grid, and each character connects to an Eidolon, or summon.
Final Fantasy 13-2
In Final Fantasy 13-2, everyone has forgotten about Lightning except her sister Serah. Joined by the time-traveling Noel, they set out to prevent the time paradoxes from occurring, prevent Noel’s future, and save Lightning. In this tale of time travel and prophecies, the two come into conflict with Yeul and Caius. Yeul and Sera share similar gifts, that being every time the timeline is changed, they risk being killed. After encountering Lightning, Noel and Serah defeat Caius, who claims to have killed Lightning and kills Etro before their eyes. The story ends with Fang and Vanille being freed, a new Cocoon named Bhunivelze replacing, and Serah dying from the changing timeline—Lightning, meanwhile, is stuck in a crystal stasis within Etro’s temple.
The combat of Final Fantasy 13-2 is almost identical to the first game, except with a bigger focus on Noel and Serah (and their monsters). Enemies also appear randomly, not on the overworld like in the first game. Characters don’t have access to the summons, but the Crystarium largely remains the same—just with minor changes to accommodate Final Fantasy 13-2. Overall, the differences are minor as a way to keep the two tonally distinct games together.
Final Fantasy 13: Lightning Returns
In Final Fantasy 13: Lightning Returns, players return to control of Lightning as she tries to save humanity from its imminent destruction in 13 days and bring her sister back. She goes on a journey focused on easing the emotional burdens of her allies of the past, while doing so sees her denying the will of the god Bhunivelze. As it turns out, the god was grooming Lightning to become the new Etro, yet with the aid of her friends, they defeat Bhunivelze. This results in Eidolons, versions of Yeul, and Caius staying in the Unseen Realm, while Lightning leads humanity to a new more “true-to-life” world, thus bringing the entire journey to its end. The same could be said of the Fabula Nova Crystallis series as well, casting aside that mythology for a safe, new world.
Gameplay and combat remain largely the same, though this game introduces a time limit of sorts players have to watch, and its own twists on the formula. Overall, while parts of the game have been criticized independent of the trilogy as a whole, the gameplay keeps its style throughout with just changes here and there, regardless of how well accepted it is then vs. now. This helps the three games feel similar to one another, despite the changes in tone and PCs. It was likely an intentional decision to do so, one that helped define the Final Fantasy 13 trilogy and its connections to Fabula Nova Crystallis as a whole.
Final Fantasy 16 is in development for PS5.