“One myth, countless stories, FINAL FANTASY XIII. The New Tale of the Crystal. Like the Light that shines through the Crystal, the universe shines with multicolored content.”
So reads the online description of Fabula Nova Crystallis, the mythology driving the
Final Fantasy XIII trilogy. It speaks of the heart of mythology: disjointed and fleeting snippets that can be hard to understand on their own, but together make a beautiful whole. That is precisely what a mythology is: a collection of stories.
From childhood to adulthood, my life has always, to a degree, focused on becoming immersed in fictional mythologies, expansive cultured worlds and original encapsulating stories. It led from a love for Emily Rodda’s
Deltora Quest book series to the more recent Xenoblade Chronicles role-playing masterpiece on the Wii.
My life has comprised of fixations with the world of
Pokémon; the multiverse of The Legend of Zelda; the thoroughly-expansive writing of J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythology; and the Biblical account of creation. While they have their place, the engrossing stories of Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter are not on the level of an immersive mythology; whether purely fictional or partly historical.
The best example of a fictional mythology is without question the work of Tolkien, with nothing coming close in scope and execution. The well-known
Hobbit and Lord of the Rings form less than a century in Tolkien’s tens of thousands of years of lore.
What makes great myth is a disjoint between the overarching stories of struggles between the divine and the personal human tales caught up amongst them.
To take examples from the First Age of Tolkien’s mythology, there is the overall framing of the great struggle of the angelic Valar between Manwë and Melkor. Caught up in this conflict are the touching personal tales of Beren and Luthian’s love story, or the tragedy of the Children of Hurin.
Final Fantasy XIII’s Fabula Nova Crystallis hits all these points of delivering a fantastic and engrossing mythology. Where the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy falls short is in conveying this mythology to the pick-up-and-play gamer.
The myth is largely buried in the datalog: a matter of menu text and not cut-scene development. A mere playthrough can fail to convey the wealth of the myth, but those who immerse themselves in the extra-reading are greatly rewarded.
The grand-scale of the trilogy’s myth focuses on people overthrowing the tyrannical deities of the fal’Cie and Bhunivelze, in turn seeing the complete destruction and recreation of the universe. The story focuses predominantly on the consequences of the Goddess Etro’s shortsighted actions. Like every good myth, it also focuses on the individuals.
It tells of a young boy’s rage to avenge the death of his mother turning into the strongest of friendships. It tells of the turmoil of a fatherly relationship between an immortal father-figure and a child who repetitively dies in her teens to then face reincarnation over and over again. Throughout all three games is the struggle of two sisters and their desire to be together.
One of the things that sets Tolkien apart is his mythology’s role as a pre-history. The beginning of the Fourth Age, following the end of the ring-based Third Age, leaves the world without elves and dwarves, and with only men, leading to our world today.
The trilogy of
Final Fantasy XIII ends similarly, with the birth of a whole new universe: ours. Like Tolkien, the pre-historic myth involving gods and mythical beings gives way for the world of our documented history. Gods fade away and human take up the mantra of living their own lives.
For a person enthralled by such expansive mythologies, Fabula Nova Crystallis and the
Final Fantasy XIII trilogy are a triumph of modern myth. Those seeking a black and white narrative will always turn away, but those who delight in digging deeper and understanding the seemingly disjoint find a wholly satisfying mythology.