I previously wrote that a 3-part short novella epilogue to the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy was being released. Now that I've had a chance to sit down and read them all through, I actually like the game series a whole lot more.
The three parts of Final Fantasy XIII Reminiscence -- tracer of memories -- were included with 3 issues of Weekly Famitsu. Written by game scenario writer Daisuke Watanabe, the plot follows a reporter in the world post-Lightning Returns who has been trying to uncover the mystery of memories of another world that are shared by people all over. Her journey to uncover the truth leads her to meet and talk with the various major characters throughout the series, culminating in a final meeting with Lightning herself.
As I previously wrote, the stories are more of a supplementation that help fill in the gaps of the games rather than a story that depicts events and builds a world after the trilogy. The characters are given a general description about where they are and what they're doing, but the main focus is more on what happened in the previous world and why.
While I never disliked the Final Fantasy XIII games, I did find them to be a bit of a disappointment. The player was pretty much thrust into the story where facts were laid out plainly, with no real comparative reference to the real world to help get a better grasp on how the rules of the game world worked. I think I was halfway through the first game before I really understood what a fal'Cie and a l'Cie was. Characters seemed to do things, but with no emotional connection, events had little more impact to me than "well, that just happened."
The sequels were equally jarring, showing how things were at the beginning of the game, but not doing enough in setting things up to make things seem organic. A lot of the storytelling felt like the games saying "this is this and this is this and then this happens" when what I needed was something to pull me into the game world emotionally.
FFXIII Reminiscence was exactly what I needed and exactly what the original games did not provide -- an emotional anchor to the characters and their motivations. Reading the individual characters' recollections of events and their reasoning behind why they did the things they did allowed me to relate to them more and helped to set the stage of each of the games far better than any high quality intro sequence, text scrawl, or voice-over narration could have. I only wish the games themselves had found some way to similarly fill out their stories like this epilogue does.
Interestingly enough, FFXIII Reminiscence barely covers the events of Lightning Returns, focusing more on the setup and end results and only vaguely mentioning the events that happen in between. I suppose all the costume changing does kind of shatter the image of Lightning as a cool stoic heroine.
In the end, the story of FFXIII Reminiscence does not do much to progress the story of the Final Fantasy XIII saga very much, but it does enrich it. All in all, things just make more sense. Reading through, I actually want to go back, dust off my copies and play all 3 games again. It's a shame that it took a supplemental novella released several months after to provide what the games themselves could not have upon their release.
Final Fantasy XIII Reminiscence -- tracer of memories -- was made available only in Weekly Famitsu. No word on a general release or an English version.