I have a blanket “spoilers everywhere” policy for the site (it’s in the FAQ!), but I want to be absolutely clear what’s going to happen in this article: I am going to spoil the finale of Xenoblade Chronicles. There’s no getting around it, it’s what I want to discuss, and it’s going to happen, but you have the choice of reading it or not. You don’t have to have played Xenoblade to enjoy this article (if I’m doing my job right), but if you do want to experience the game clean, I completely understand, and feel free to come back Friday. Spider-Man will be here, it’ll be nice.
So, again, to be perfectly clear, this article will spoil the finale of Xenoblade Chronicles. Additionally, I’ll be swinging through the Final Fantasy franchise, Breath of Fire, and Xenoblade’s ancestor, Xenogears. When I spoil, I spoil rotten.
So, what does it mean to slay God?
First, to be clear, that is exactly what happens during the finale of Xenoblade Chronicles. Riki the Heropon and his vassals climb up into the cosmos, whip out their various ridiculous weapons, and beat God into a fine pulp. God, aka Zanza, is then revealed to have once been an ordinary man, but ascended as he created the world of Xenoblade. He may have been mortal, but Zanza is no false deity, he is literally the creator of the planet and everyone on it (one way or another). This is important.
Most JRPGs end with a battle against “god”, but, more often than not, you’re dealing with a false prophet. Final Fantasy 6’s Kefka was the “god” of his world, but he’d only had that power for a year or so, and it wasn’t like he all-fathered Terra or Phunbaba. Sephiroth might have been held aloft by angel wings, but they were simply heisted from lifestream seagulls or something. In fact, the closest Final Fantasy proper ever gets to slaying a god is the army of “caretaker” gods that show up later in the series: Yu-Yevon is an ascended man who decided to get some statuary to his name, The Undying is simply a god/man hybrid that gets great gas mileage, and Final Fantasy 13’s Space Pope is just another in a long series of “gods” that think they know best for everybody but are merely suicidally depressed. The Pulse Fal’Cie are divine teenagers, nothing more. Lightning finally gets to slay a capital-G God at the finale of Lightning Returns, but even that is sullied by the fact that ye God didn’t even deign to wake up for the 500 years that comprise the previous games, and “the world” is some kind of weird, off-kilter afterlife, and not anything even remotely like a more relatable “Earth” (Do people age? Y/N).
The series that comes the closest to the Xeno franchise’s love of deicide is likely Breath of Fire. Breath of Fire 1 saw a goddess banished during its finale, but given her presence was requested only so she could grant wishes, she was less “goddess” and more “blue fairy” (albeit one with giant snakes under her skirt). The same goddess showed up again in Breath of Fire 3, and here she was filling that “caretaker god” role that is so popular with the Final Fantasy gods. “Don’t destroy me, I’m the only one keeping the lights on! Noooo!” And the world is better after she’s dead, the end. Breath of Fire 2, though, was really firing on all cylinders, as, with all the guile of a Mayhem fan, the final boss and the planet’s greatest threat is Jesus Christ. St. Evan is a human looking fellow with a beard, long hair, and robe who starts a global church filled with priests and nuns who just want to spread the love and peace of their god that happens to be the son of the previously worshipped god(dess). Admittedly, dedicating an entire game to stalking a thinly-veiled simulacrum of the savior of one of the largest religions on Earth is a ballsy move, but it still means that Ryu didn’t hold a sword to his creator-god.
Alright, I’ve spoiled enough games at this point, and you’re welcome to make a list of what I missed in the comments. Point is, despite a chorus of “hur hur, JRPGs kill God all the time,” it’s actually a rarer event than it appears, as most JRPG gods are simply sitting on the throne while the Big Guy is off making a sandwich. It’s a rarity to actually take down God-the-Creator, yet it seems to pop up often for Xeno-dudes.
As anyone who managed to struggle through Xenogears knows, the final boss of that adventure was a space slug god that had managed to promote itself to the capital G spot. Deus was just some science experiment before Xenogears Episode 2 kicked off, but from that point on, Deus became the literal God and creator of every living thing on that planet, give or take a Chu-Chu or two. Then, five millennia later, Fei and his team rolled up in their giant robots and beat the ever loving snot out of the thing like it twarn’t no thang. Twice.
Xenoblade Chronicles similarly revels in its deicide, but to claim the ending is the same as Xenogears is doing Xenoblade a disservice. Xenogears ends with the death of God and Krelian (well, kinda death?), the promise of a “new” god (that was previously hiding in an ice cave? It’s a weird game), and a new world with Fei and Elly and all their friends and… that’s it. Those idiots probably didn’t even get off their hill before they realized that approximately 95% of the population has either been annihilated or become meat zombies, and Maria and Marge better get cracking if this whole human race thing is going to continue. Xenogears Episode 6 “The Next Chapter” is a big question mark for the creators that mapped out a millennia-long tale, likely because there is basically nowhere fun for the story to go from there. Okay, yes, I guess we could stand to watch Midori Uzuki eat Chu-Chu for precious nutrition. It’s not really cannibalism.
Xenoblade Chronicles ends not with the death of God, but with the birth of a world. See, Zanza God had this whole thing going where he just kinda randomly obliterated all civilization on the planet every few years or so because he was like the worst SimCity player ever. That’s just fine for Zanza, but your party is a little nonplussed at the idea of being wiped out just because they finally mastered gem-slotting. Zanza gets slaughtered, because otherwise, it’s the poor -lambs- that are going in the -mutton pile-. It’s deicide, but it’s in self-defense! After Zanza’s fall, the ending isn’t just Shulk ‘n pals standing around space congratulating each other, though. With Zanza gone, conflict between the various weirdo races of this planet finally calms down, and Xenoblade’s finale see giant metal bugs bartering with old hume war heroes and bouncing puffballs alike. God is dead, now we can finally get some stuff done around here.
So what is that supposed to mean to the person holding the controller?
It would be really easy to absorb an Atheist reading. God is dead, religion went down with it, and now everyone is holding hands and singing about peace. It’s a moral, yes, but it’s the kind of limp-wristed, limited moral that haunts other light mortality tales, like always trust in your friends/family (even though the term “enabler” was coined for a reason) or make the world a better place (even though your vision of a better world might be another’s hell). Yes, the concept of God can be a bad thing, and all religion by association, but it’s the kind of fixed, “absolute” moral that absolutely drives Jedi nuts. It’s tempting, but don’t throw the God out with the bathwater; because if you focus too much on the (lack of) God, you miss the people that actually did the deed.
Shulk distinctly chooses not to become the new God after he successfully juliennes Zanza. Yes, that’s pretty much Hero 101: prove you’re the strongest thing on the planet, get offered even more power, but turn it down because you’re just that noble. You will reject the Dragonlord’s offer, because thou must. But even ignoring the offer of godhood, at this point Shulk and his friends have become the undisputed heroes of the world. Dunban was pretty well respected when he wielded the Monado during, like, one war, I can’t imagine the adulation the rest of the gang will receive for single-handedly saving entire civilizations. Melia was already a princess, but even the widow Sharla should never again have to worry about providing for Jub-Jub. She could afford a pair of pants, too!
But what is the gang doing during the ending? Fishing. Trade-negotiating. Necking.
Zanza is God. He created every biological creature. He also, not coincidentally, looks a lot like Shulk. It is eventually revealed (somewhere around hour 75 or so) that Zanza personally saw to Shulk’s survival when he was just a wee Monado Boy. The implication is clear: Zanza is God, but more than that, he’s Shulk’s dad. Shulk just got Zeus-y in here.
But Shulk didn’t become God, and he didn’t become his father. He didn’t just blindly choose to make the same mistakes as his “father”; no, he decided to live his own life, one that was uncertain and scary, yes, but one that was of his own choosing, one that wasn’t fueled by predictions from some magical sword.
You can do your absolute best to go out there and kill God. Be my guest, though I doubt success is an option. But there is something you can do, and that’s change. Change your own prejudices, change your own familial traditions that hurt others, and change beliefs based on a long forgotten ancestral past that would never lead to a better future. You may not be descended from the divine, but you can still see what has helped and hampered previous generations, and while you will never change that past, you can certainly do something about what’s coming.
You might not be able to change the world. You might not even be able to touch God. But you can change yourself. You can be better, and that is what will change the world.
FGC #67 Xenoblade Chronicles
- System: Wii and 3DS. I haven’t played the 3DS version very much, mainly because I’m afraid of really getting into it again and losing another hundred or so hours of my life.
- Number of players: 1. Wouldn’t it be cool if it was Secret of Mana-esque, and you could get your buddies to control the occasionally horrid ally AI? Might make Melia a damn beast… Wait, no, poor choice of words.
- Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: This game really is a MMORPG for people who know that MMORPGs will absolutely destroy them. You’ve got randomly uncooperative allies, more monsters than should ever be allowed, and fetch quests that will keep you busy until the heat death of the universe. You could spend all day just crafting new weapons, and when you do, half the time it’s just cosmetic because you accidentally overleveled and now everything dies in a hit (and can’t hit you). I sunk approximately my entire life into this game at one point, and now God cowers in my presence. Well, I suppose he just kinda floats there… but he cowers on the inside.
- Favorite Character: I have a certain level of affection for Melia as a character, because, like, every scene she’s in, she just seems so… doomed. There’s just this overwhelming sadness to her entire plot that balances wonderfully with the rest of the jokers in the party. On the other side of the coin, Dunban and Reyn barely ever left my battle party. I like to hit stuff.
- A Shape of Things to Dumb: Apparently Xenosaga’s KOS-MOS and Mecha Fiora are partners in Project X Zone 2. I would pay to see an entire series just based on those two palling around, solving crimes, whatever.
- Head Canon Corner: Alright, Xenogears Episode 6? Right? So Citan is concerned about the whole planet, and how is there going to be enough food, and people, and whatever? So he creates a new Deus, Deus Mk. 2, based on the design of the old one. It works well for a while, maybe a generation, but then it fails, as these things always do, and the party has to kill God 2: The Revenge. They can’t really kill it, though, so they seal it up in a shell, and catapult it across the universe, and everyone is just happy to be rid of the thing. Later, that creature crash lands on another human-populated planet across the galaxy, and the people there call the big fiery comet… Lavos. Somebody hand me a microphone, so that I may drop it.
- Did you know? It is physically impossible for me to not strip Shulk and Fiora down to their skivvies for their iconic, often-revisited hill scene. If I could make Shulk wear a giant ice cream cone costume for that bit, I would.
- Would I play again: 3DS version is sitting right there, a poison that is destined to seep into my veins and leave me lifeless once again. Oh, happy cartridge, this is thy sheath.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Spider-Man and the X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge. Oh boy! The X-Men are going to the arcade! That’s gotta be fun, right? Right!? Please look forward to it.