Last week I wrote a post recommending that you play, or complete, the Final Fantasy XIII games. Next week, Final Fantasy XIII-3: Lightning Returns comes out; Holly reviewed the Demo for that, which gave a lot of insight into the plot, and also the gameplay, of what is one of our most anticipated games of the year.
That makes this week the right time, I feel, for a nice, spoilery, Time-Travel post about this game, right? Except, this game is two years old now… and the blog is one year old… meaning yeah, we’ve definitely already written that post. Holly actually did a really great explanation of the time travel in Final Fantasy XIII-2 last year. So many great elements – paradoxes, competing timelines, paradox endings, prophecies… good stuff. But she has that covered.
So instead, let’s take that time travel into a philosophical place. The statement from the game is: if you change the future, you change the past. First, I’ll look at what this means in the game or in general as a statement, and then, let’s carry it into the future. It also ties into another concept from the game: the idea of the “True Timeline,” which is effectively, the one that exists before time travel tampering. Or is it the one with the best outcome? Let’s consider these questions, and our own world!
If You Change The Future, You Change The Past
A statement that is not inherently true, except, with time travel, it becomes true. Because if you change future time travel – or prophecies – then any time travel into the past, or knowledge of the future, changes as well. In the game, they would do things like ending a paradox in the future, which was bleeding back into the past – thus changing the past.
Thus creating alternate timeline locations, and you could visit either – the one still affected by the future paradox, and the one where the future paradox was resolved, and nothing happened in the past. There is a time early on when just that happens – you go to the newly created alternate timeline, and the people who were investigating the paradox aren’t there, and you have to get them to come, and explain everything that happened, because they had no idea.
This idea actually makes me think of a lot of larger universes that have time travel – which often introduce time-travel-police agencies, which stop the meddlers. You see things like this happen in comics, or in Star Trek, for instance. If a time-traveling meddler is stopped in the future, before they come back to the past to meddle, then the past is unaffected.
Because once time travel exists, it exists in the whole timeline – from the beginning of time to the end. Assuming it works that way, I suppose. There’s always straight-forward time travel into the future… that’s constantly happening. And is also done in Final Fantasy XIII-2 – a couple of characters go into stasis and wake up 400 years later to help out.
Anyway – time travel seems like it would have a strong chance of being known and noticed. Especially once you pass the time when it is invented – then people know about it. Like in Looper; there are people in the past who know about Time Travel, but then, once it’s invented, more people know about it, and it’s even regulated.
So we know nothing about Time Travel existing today – so can it not exist, or is it heavily controlled and policed in the future?
The True Timeline
So the seeress in Final Fantasy XIII-2, who reincarnates over and over throughout time and can see the whole timeline – and see changes (which usually kills her) – talks about a True Timeline. There’s also talk about a Forbidden History – knowledge of a timeline that ends in ruin. That is rife with paradox, and manipulation, and… seemingly we make it out of it.
In fact, the events of Final Fantasy XIII-2 tend towards keeping things moving towards a good conclusion. Meeting the goal and purpose we set out for, saving the world, keeping a desolate future from happening. Of course, that desolate future is where Noel is from, so… little bit of paradox.
Still, all of the Paradox Endings happen when you do something that perhaps resolves a problem, but doesn’t resolve a paradox – like defeating a large monster without dealing with the Paradox that made it appear in the first place. Like with Atlas, which Holly mentioned in her post. Killing Atlas takes you to the world Atlas came from – a world of giant mechs fighting each other that destroys the land, creating Noel’s future. An interesting look into what happened in the world – but not the True ending.
However, the True ending is still rife with Paradox, so it doesn’t end right still, does it? But I’ll be back to that.
The question is, the True Timeline – the very idea of it – is it the idea that it is the world, fixed of Time Travel meddling? Or is it the one that was being built, by the Seeress, Yeul, and her Guardian companion, Caius? Because the thing they can’t seem to undo, no matter what they do, is to fix the initial change – to get Lightning back at the moment she disappears. Because with no lightning in Valhalla, there’s no one to send Noel back to help, and then no one to find Lightning to take her back. Too much Paradox.
So would a True Timeline be the one with the best results, or the one with no meddling? Let’s consider the game, and then our world.
The End of Final Fantasy XIII-2
I figure the heading there gives you a heavy spoiler hint. Because at the end, you’re all happy. Celebrating. You won. Saved the world. Saved the people. Killed the villain. Who… maybe sort of knew the whole timeline and could build plans based on it. Nah, don’t worry about that, everything is fine.
And then, because our main character Serah had some of the Seeress’ gift and could see the whole timeline, the shock of the changed timeline – past and future by resolving the Paradoxes – removing the influence of Time Travel, for the most part – and, like Yeul before her, she dies.
Well, that’s awful. In Final Fantasy XIII, Serah was the object. Was the damsel in distress. The plot starts because Serah finds the enemy, and the mission begins once she sends you on it – and is frozen in crystal for the whole rest of the game. Giving her life, then, in XIII-2 was kind of nice. She worked as a main character for me. But she’s gone, and we did not see that coming, it did not make sense.
In part, because we did not know that there was going to be a third game. How could we? It’s never happened before, a Final Fantasy trilogy. But why did she die?
Did the True Timeline come to pass? The Paradox Endings would lead us to think so. This was the only one that got all the way to the end, that resolved the Paradoxes. So how will it end up? Because after Serah died, the timeline collapsed, time ended, and everything went to chaos. And, like the Doctor Who episode The Big Bang, there’s a small bit of reality, the eye of the storm, surviving on, and that’s going to be Lightning Returns. Was this all Caius’s plan? Or was this what was always meant to be – the point and purpose of Lightning being fetched away to Valhalla in the first place? Will the events of Lightning Returns reset the timeline, send her back to the beginning point when it’s done?
We’ll just have to see!
Are We In The True Timeline?
So, no time travel yet. None that we know of. So are we living in a world with no time travel? None even in our future? Or no meddling? Or is there someone in our future, meddling with others in our future, to keep them from meddling in our past?
Are we in the Prime timeline, the Prime Earth, the original? After all, differences would be alternate timelines, so is there and would there be a Prime? One that doesn’t have changes. With no changes – are we there?
Are we in the world with no changes, though, or in the one being guided to the future? Like the subtle changes in The End of Eternity? Being shepherded to the “right” ending, the one that plays out the best? Like Final Fantasy XIII-2, can we tell what that would be until we’re there?
What do you think? The effects of the discovery of Time Travel in the future would change our past. Think about the episode Let’s Kill Hitler of Doctor Who. The title kind of says it all – given time travel, what sorts of things would we think to do? Meddle. Try to make things better.
Without that… are we in the original? We’re back to the question. Are we living in the True Timeline? Let me know what you think in the comments below!