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Predestination is a recurring story element in the Final Fantasy series. Predestination means that events have been pre-ordained to occur, traditionally by the will of a deity or supernatural force, and individuals have a designated destiny they will inevitably meet someday. Many games in Final Fantasy explore themes of fate, free will, and divine influence. Depending on the title, there may actually be gods who oversee the lives of mortals, or predestination may be discussed in a more general manner of people having destinies without a divine force explicitly being attributed.
Aside from the idea of a divine destiny, Final Fantasy uses the idea of fate to more broadly discuss things that seem inevitable or immutable, events that come to pass because they must happen and cannot be averted or changed. Time travel may be involved with this, with characters traveling to different time periods and discussing if the timeline can be changed. Other games explores destiny in the framing of a sense of duty, with characters believing they have a responsibility to do something, possibly because it is something only they can accomplish, and thus they consider this task to be their destiny.
Predestination has been presented as both a positive and negative influence in different Final Fantasy games, both in how the narrative frames the concept and what characters think of it. The games may involve characters either trying to fulfill their destinies or trying to change them; to what extent they can succeed varies.
Garland traveled back in time 2000 years, where he sent the Four Fiends into the future, where they would send Garland back in time, creating a time loop with a predestination paradox, At the end of the game the Warriors of Light defeat Garland and the time loop is seemingly undone.
Divine will is witnessed in the Soul of Rebirth side story. Minwu, Josef, Ricard, and Scott, appear in the afterlife and wonder if there is a purpose their spirits are not at rest. They discover this is true when they find the Emperor of Heaven is the one who summoned them to ask them to forgive him for his sins as a human. The four realize the Emperor is evil and kill him, allowing their souls to be at peace.
Minwu also claims he can see Firion's destiny, and that it was his destiny to unseal the Ultima Tome, but the context in which he discusses these topics is unclear if he is actually gifted with some manner of foresight or is merely speaking of destiny in regards to purpose and duty.
The Mysidian Legend is a prophecy that tells of "one born of a dragon" bearing both light and darkness shall ascend to the heavens. This could refer to either the Lunar Whale's rise from the sea, to Cecil's journey to the Red Moon on the Lunar Whale, or both.
Ghido prophesied the Crystals of Bartz's world would be shattered. However, Ghido is aware of why the Crystals were weakened, thus he may not possess actual foresight and is merely aware that the Crystals will inevitably be destroyed as a consequence of past events.
Kefka adopts a nihilistic fatalism after becoming the God of Magic, and declares that the fate of all things is to be destroyed, since it is inevitable that everyone will die and the things they care about will be lost and forgotten.
Sephiroth declares himself "the chosen one" due to believing he is the last Cetra, and thus it is his duty to take back the planet in their name from the humans that betrayed them. Aerith, the actual last Cetra, considers it her duty to call Holy, the only force that can stop Meteor, since only a Cetra can do so.
Lucrecia had prophetic visions when she was pregnant, causing her to fear what her child would become.
The Whispers exist to preserve the timeline of events and force them to adhere closely to the original Final Fantasy VII, intervening to stop events from unfolding differently. At the end of the game, the party fights the Whispers and receive visions of their future, but by defeating the Whispers, they change their fate. This seems to ripple back in time and undo the death of Zack during his last stand, but the full implications of this development are as yet unclear.
During the game, certain characters seem to have an awareness of future events. Cloud sometimes has hazy glimpses of the future, but does not recognize what he is seeing. Sephiroth has a more extensive knowledge of future events, and tricks the party into destroying the Whispers as part of some unknown plan. He asks Cloud to aid him in "defying destiny together", but Cloud refuses. Aerith has some knowledge of the future, knowing things she should not, such as who Marlene is and that Cloud is a mercenary; on both occasions, she was not told these things beforehand. The Whispers attempt to remove these memories from her.
Ultimecia believes that her fate at the hands of the "Legendary SeeD" is unchangeable unless she can control all of the universe through time compression. She thus reaches across time to possess sorceresses from the past to bring about her chance to cast the time compression spell in various timelines at the same time. However, Ultimecia's time compression spell is what allows Squall Leonhart, the so called "Legendary SeeD", to travel to her era and kill her before she is able to finish casting the spell.
After felling Ultimecia amid the time compression spell, Squall must find his way back to his own era, but ends up going too far back in time and inadvertently imparts the knowledge of the SeeD organization and the Garden establishments that train them to Edea Kramer of the past. Edea comes to believe that Squall, a young boy from her orphanage, will grow up to become a SeeD and will kill an evil sorceress, and thus has her husband Cid Kramer start the SeeD and Garden while Edea herself went into hiding with some of the other orphans.
The provenance of SeeD is thus a paradox, known as a causal loop. This has led to fan speculation on whether the events of Final Fantasy VIII exist in perpetual time loop, where a new incarnation of Squall repeatedly travels back in time to impart knowledge of SeeD to a younger Edea so that a new Squall can be trained to become a SeeD to again defeat Ultimecia in the future. However, the existence of multiple realities is not explored in the game itself, and another explanation would be that SeeD is simply predestined to exist, and was birthed by the universe itself to avert a catastrophe.
The opening song for the game, "Liberi Fatali", refers to the game's theme of predestination, the name being Latin for "fated children". The battle music for fighting sorceresses is called "Premonition" on the soundtrack, being a precursor for when the SeeD would face the ultimate sorceress, Ultimecia. Cid and Edea knowing of Squall's destiny in one day killing a sorceress also explains his special treatment, of how he was made the leader of SeeD at such a young age, and Cid insisting that the Garden return to their "true purpose" of opposing "the sorceress" in his feud against NORG, though much to Cid's dismay, it looked at that time that the "evil sorceress" was to be his wife. Squall himself remains oblivious of his grander purpose, protesting to Cid that everyone is treating his ascension to SeeD like it was decided before his birth.
Another facet where predestination is explored is through the Laguna dreams. Squall's estranged sister Ellone keeps sending Squall and his friends back in time in a dream in an effort to change the present by altering the past, but learns that it is not possible. The destiny theme could also be seen in the game's romances, as though Laguna at first was in love with Julia Heartilly, he ended up falling in love and marrying Raine; Julia's and Laguna's children, however, Rinoa and Squall, appear "fated" to be together, as Squall's mission is driven much more by his personal desire to save Rinoa than it is to fight Ultimecia, a sorceress from the future he has never met. After getting lost in the compressed time, Rinoa's connection to Squall is what allows her to guide him home.
In Eos there exists a prophecy: In a time unknown, only a prophecy keeps hope alive in people's hearts. "When darkness veils the world, the King of Light shall come."
The "King of Light" is the king who wields all of the Crystal's power who can banish Starscourge from Eos. The kings of Lucis work tirelessly across generations to see the destiny come to pass in a mission given to them by the Astral Bahamut. Final Fantasy XV shows the events of Price Noctis and Oracle Lunafreya trying to follow their destinies to eradicate the Starscourge from the world. Final Fantasy XV: Episode Ardyn shows Ardyn Izunia's role in the gods' plans as also being pre-ordained as a "sacrificial lamb" for True King to fell to banish the darkness. The Final Fantasy XV -The Dawn of the Future-, meanwhile, explores an alternate course of events where Ardyn, Noctis and Lunafreya all decide to rebel against their god-given destinies.
The world of Orience is stuck in a loop where the events of the war keep recurring until the Sanctuary appears where the Judge is to make the final decision on whether Agito has been born into the world, the collection of souls able to open Etro's gate, the barrier between the mortal world and the afterlife. The world is the gods' experiment to find the Agito, and though world events diverge, they are always doomed to culminate in the ultimate war where one nation triumphs over the others and whose victory calls forth the Sanctuary. To ensure that the war never ceases, the Crystals of Orience remove the memories of the dead from the living. However, the process is implied to be imperfect, as though the mind forgets the soul remembers. Living through countless lives in this manner and going through the war over and over again, the souls grow ever stronger, the gods hoping to use them to birth Agito this way.
The one person in Orience who sets out to rebel against the pre-ordained path is Cid Aulstyne whose goal is to free Oriencians from living under the Crystals' "enslavement". However, at the end of his path he discovers that he has been used as another cog in the gods' plans. The events that recur across different spirals include the same set of Agito Cadets being formed into Class Zero in Arecia Al-Rashia's plan to cultivate them into Agito, Machina Kunagiri and Rem Tokimiya being childhood friends and falling in love, and the same people being chosen as l'Cie and trying to become Agito as per instruction from their commanding Crystal.