Time is our greatest obsession. Who has not dreamed of returning to the past, of changing the future? Imagine the power. To see how our choices affect our lives, and then return to undo them. Endless possibilities. Imagine the freedom to cross time and journey through the ages. The freedom to change the past, and bend history to your will.
Time travel is a recurring motif in the Final Fantasy series, which focuses on carrying people through time and possibly allowing them to change their fate.
The Four Fiends, created from the power siphoned from the four elements, are tasked with sending Garland 2000 years into the past every time he is killed by the Warriors of Light. Once Garland is sent to the past, his fiends transfer what is taken from the four elements back to their master. After he has absorbed enough power, Garland sends the fiends, whom he has created in the past, to the future, where they drain from the four elements in the first place. This creates a time loop that allows him to live forever.
The Warriors of Light follow Garland and his fiends 2000 years back to the past and sever the time loop by defeating them in battle. This creates a new timeline with a Garland of a new reality awaiting the heroes.
The ability to time travel revolves around the desire to change the past and the wish to preserve a single moment in time and avoid an unwanted future. Ellone is a young woman with the power to transfer people's consciousnesses into other people's from the past. Although limited to people she has had contact with, Ellone hopes to change the past and prevent a series of events from happening. She discovers, however, that her attempted manipulations were a part of the causes that led to the events she wishes to erase, and learns that attempting to change the past in such a way is futile. She acknowledges that the information and new perspective gained by witnessing the past events can help one to alter the present and future.
Ultimecia, a sorceress who lives far in the future, knows of a coming "prophecy" of her being defeated by a "Legendary SeeD". To prevent this, Ultimecia intends to compress time into a singularity with a form of magic known as time compression and absorb all that ever had and ever would exist, including all time and space, to become "a living god".
Using the Junction Machine Ellone, Ultimecia sends her consciousness back in time to possess and control past sorceresses. She controls Edea Kramer to pursue Ellone because the Junction Machine has a limit; she wishes to get even further back in time to start the time compression. After Edea is freed from Ultimecia's control, the latter possesses Rinoa Heartilly and then Adel. Adel is killed and Ultimecia possesses Rinoa, at which point Ellone sends Ultimecia's and Rinoa's consciousnesses back into the Adel of the past, and then brings only Rinoa back.
Ultimecia casts the time compression spell, but when Ellone severs the mental link she cuts Ultimecia off from the earlier time periods and leaves the spell incomplete. This allows a group of SeeDs from the present to travel through time, encounter Ultimecia in her realm, and kill her. As the time compression spell is broken and time begins to revert into its original form, one of the SeeDs, Squall Leonhart, ends up too far back in time and meets himself as a child. He plants the idea of forming the SeeD organization that would one day defeat Ultimecia, thus becoming the "Legendary SeeD" Ultimecia plans to avoid facing in the future.
Tidus initially believes that he has traveled 1000 years into the future after coming into contact with Sin and being taken to Spira. He later learns that the time travel was an illusion, as the city from which he hails from is a dream of the fayth.
Scattered throughout Vana'diel are numerous statues that resemble Atomos, called the "Cavernous Maws", which act as portals to twenty years into the past, around the time of the Crystal War's end. Lilisette uses the portals to prevent the events that would lead to her father's death, while Lady Lilith, a version of Lilisette who hails from a reality in which the Crystal War never ended, uses them to ensure the continuation of her future by erasing Lilisette's future.
Despite their efforts, neither erase the other future, and instead achieve a balance between the two realities. The goddess Altana had once rewritten the timeline to prevent its ruin.
The universe is divided in two halves; what could be called the mortal world, or the world of Gran Pulse and Cocoon, and the world of the dead, the unseen realm. Valhalla is the middle realm. Whereas beings are born, live, and die in the mortal world, Valhalla is a world of entropy that exists outside the timeline, a world without a past or future. Those who reside in Valhalla can see the span of the entire timeline by gazing into the mortal world.
The ability to travel in time originates from Goddess Etro who resides in Valhalla. The legends state that she places a piece of chaos, energy that seeks to return everything to entropy, into every human, giving them a "heart". Certain people possess more "heart" as a gift from the goddess than others, giving them greater affinity to chaos, and can enter the Historia Crux and travel in time. As Seeress Yeul explains to Serah in the Void Beyond: "The power to step outside the timeline. The power to witness the future. These gifts come from Etro. Her servants are known by her blessings."
Lead scenario writer, Daisuke Watanabe, has explained in an interview that because the goddess Etro saved Serah by releasing her from her crystal stasis she acquired powers normally inaccessible to humans, and this is why she can time-travel when passing through the Time Gates. Other people, namely Lightning, Sazh, and Snow, who were also saved from crystal stasis by Etro, also have the power to use the Historia Crux; however, Hope appears not to have this power.
Noel Kreiss hails from 700 AF, an era where humanity is extinct except for him. He prays for the goddess to grant him the gift of chaos so he may follow Caius Ballad to Valhalla. His prayer is answered and he is taken to Valhalla where he meets Lightning, Etro's champion who protects Etro's temple from Caius. Lightning asks for Noel to find her sister Serah, and sends him through a Time Gate to New Bodhum 3 AF.
For Noel and Serah to travel in time they use Time Gates and artefacts to open them. The Historia Crux is the crossroads of history, "the ability to step outside of the timeline" as Yeul puts it. Whenever a Time Gate to the Historia Crux is opened with an artefact writing in Etro's script briefly floats in the air, indicating a link to the goddess.
It may well be that the Time Gates are consciously created by the goddess, rather than things that arise out of paradoxes, as Snow Villiers is unable to follow Serah and Noel through a Time Gate despite being a time traveler himself, because the gate in question was not "meant for him". Because Lightning resides in Valhalla she can keep an eye on Serah and Noel's journey to solve the paradoxes in the timeline, and eventually leaves Valhalla through a Time Gate to meet them in New Bodhum 700 AF, although their encounter is brief.
Caius, who possesses the Heart of Chaos, wants to bring about the end of history. Because of the Heart of Chaos Caius can travel to Valhalla from where he creates paradoxes in the timeline to set the stage for a mass sacrifice to open Etro's gate. This would allow chaos seep into the mortal world, and transform the world into Valhalla. Caius cannot travel in time like Noel and Serah do, but he sends messages from Valhalla to his past self; this is why the Caius of 200 AF knows Noel.
After manipulating the timeline to suit his needs, the city of Academia in 500 AF becomes so affected by chaos Caius is able to enter there from Valhalla. When he is about to destroy both the old and New Cocoons his plans are foiled by Serah and Noel and he opens a portal to Valhalla. After a gruesome battle on Valhalla's shores Noel's sword pierces Caius's Heart of Chaos. The paradox ends and the Time Gates vanish, marking the end of Serah and Noel's time-traveling journey.
Another method of time travel is invented by Hope Estheim who is unable to use Time Gates: a suspended animation capsule that can be used to travel forward in time.
In Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward the Illuminati's ultimate goal in the Alexander raid series is to take full control of the machine primal and utilize its time manipulating abilities to alter the flow of history and take control over the world. Alexander itself used these powers to see the best course of actions that would avoid it falling on the hands of evil, and manipulated events in such a way that he would ultimately be defeated by the Warrior of Light and be sealed away in the flow of time.
The battle against Alexander includes an intermission wherein the party members have to divert machinery that is readying to fire against them in the past; if the mechanic is not correctly executed, the shot wipes out the party,; succeeding makes the shot miss. This was seen in a previous cutscene, in which they miraculously dodged said attack, to the surprise of Quickthinx Allthoughts.
In Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers G'raha Tia travels from the future to avert the coming of the Eight Umbral Era. In the original timeline, after the events of Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood, the Eorzean Alliance, with the aid of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn and the Warrior of Light, continued to impose defeat after defeat upon the Garlean Empire, forcing Emperor Varis to unleash the powerful chemical weapon known as the Black Rose. Due to the Flood of Light bringing a Rejoining of the First, the weapon's effects were vastly amplified by the overflowing light, turning it into a planet-wide catastrophe that nearly wiped out all life on the Source, even killing the Warrior of Light.
Two hundred years later later, remnants of the Garlond Ironworks, guided by historical documents detailing the Warrior of Light's exploits in the past—in particular of their actions in ending the Dragonsong War, as well as their battle with Alexander and Omega—found a way into the Crystal Tower.
The expedition group unsealed G'raha Tia, who was previously sealed within it. With their combined efforts, they build a time machine based on a design passed down by Cid Garlond. The machine, known as The Tycoon, is an artificial recreation of Alexander that combines its time-manipulation abilities with Omega's dimension-hopping capabilities. Using the Crystal Tower itself as a power source, they send G'raha Tia, and the tower itself, back into the First, one hundred years before the deployment of Black Rose, giving G'raha sufficient time to master the magics required to ultimately summon the Warrior of Light into the First and alter the course of fate.
This new timeline has three main differences over the original timeline that avert catastrophe. The absence of the Scions in the Source means that the war against the empire remains in a standstill, and forces Tataru Taru to call upon the aid of Estinien Wyrmblood, leading him into meeting Gaius van Baelsar and joining forces in sabotaging facilities producing the Black Rose chemical, further delaying deployment.
The Warrior of Light's triumph in pushing back the forces of light prevents the Rejoining of the First, weakening the Black Rose's effects even if the weapon is eventually used. Finally, Zenos yae Galvus recovers his original body from Elidibus and kills Varis, becoming the de facto ruler of the Garlean Empire.
Ahead lies a future uncertain, yet sure is the astral memory, wherein the King may walk.
From Chapter 9 onwards, the party can use Umbra to "relive astral memories" of Lucis or, later, Altissia. This is purely a gameplay feature, however. If the player is having Cid upgrade their weapons, Cid will not call the party to come pick them up if they "travel to the future" to rest. When returning to Lucis, the day and night cycle is restored to what it was at the beginning of the game.
In the The War of the Lions version, Ramza Beoulve encounters Balthier from Final Fantasy XII. As Balthier explains he needs to return to the Cache of Glabados to put things back as they were, it can be assumed he was displaced in time. Ramza also meets Luso Clemens from Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift, still with his Gran Grimoire.
Luso Clemens finds the Grimoire of the Rift that enables him to travel hundreds of years into the past to a time where Ivalice possessed all sorts of magicks, different races and technologies. Luso joins a clan and makes several friends in this magickal time, doing errands in every location and saving Jylland from the supremacy of clan Duelhorn and the dark ambitions of the Khamja organization. Every time an important event occurs the Grimoire writes down, in itself, the essential facts, creating something of a journal.
The great sage Lezaford tells Luso the only way he can return home is by completing his story at the time he finds himself in; he should live life to the fullest while in this Ivalice until his "job" is done. Upon defeating Illua and the monster from the Rift, Luso returns to his era, keeping the Grimoire.
The party can travel through time with the Talon and possessing the correct Talon Units, but they can only go to a specific eras. The effects of the flooding and its threat can be seen upon the world of the past, present and future.
After the Heroes of Light meet up with Rolan in Spelvia they find him consumed by monsters. They release him, but along with it the darkness trapped within Rolan is unleashed upon the world and the party is sent over a decade into the past to a time where they are just being born.
The party travels the world uncovering many mysteries that explain the events that took place in the original world, and the reasons the cities were tainted. The heroes defeat Chaos's minions, and Chaos himself, reverting the timeline into normal, and the heroes are sent back to their own world.
Time travel can be performed using the Compass of Space and Time invented by Altair. Kaiser Oblivion attempts to use the Compass to travel into the past and undo his own family's history, but is tricked into being sent into the distant future. In the second timeline, he uses the Compass to go to the future again, this time to banish the immortal Diamante.
The Adventurer and the player can both travel through time without any visible form of aid, manifesting as the player's ability to save and load the game. At the end of Chapter 4, the player travels back in time using the New Game Plus feature, allowing them to repeat the first four chapters for any missed asterisk jobs or to alter the timeline. At the end, the Adventurer travels back in time to give Tiz the hourglass at the start of Bravely Default and returns to the present afterward, forming a stable time loop. While traveling into the past, the Adventurer's clothes temporarily become green instead of their usual red.
Time is suspended while Reynn and Lann are within Nine Wood Hills or the Coliseum connected with it, allowing them to spend as much time there as they like before returning to the world of Grymoire with no time having passed there since they left. By visiting The Girl's Tearoom, Reynn and Lann may travel throughout time to intervene in battles, taking the place of those who would normally fight them. Following the battle, those whom the two intervened for might have limited awareness of the aid they had been granted, though the opponent will have no knowledge of anything unusual having happened.
Following the release of the Cogna into Grymoire, Reynn and Lann use this ability to great effect, intervening repeatedly throughout Grymoire on mass scale before the Cogna can wreak devastation upon the world. Following the game's ending, a shouted "No!" from Reynn reveals that she will not accept events as they happened and the sacrifice of her brother, Lann. Tama uses her remaining power to rewind time to the party's entry in the final dungeon, in the process altering events to a timeline in which she was never a part of their journey and Serafie handles all of the tasks that were set to her in the original timeline. The player then continues events in the altered timeline, working towards a better resolution for the world of Grymoire. The party is later able to restore Tama with the aid of the Girl Who Forgot Her Name from The Girls' Tearoom.
- Although not strictly time traveling, the Phantom Village in Final Fantasy V can be visited in the present time even though the point of view of the inhabitants is 1,000 years in the past due to being locked between dimensions for that long. In the Interdimensional Rift, the same village appears frozen in time altogether.
- ↑ Final Fantasy XIII-2 Ultimania Omega Scenario Interview with Toriyama and Watanabe