nora estheim

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hope’s character arc begins with a woman he loves letting go of someone’s hand and falling into darkness and disappearing forever

and hope’s character arc ends with a woman he loves falling into darkness, disappearing forever — and then he reaches out and grasps her hand and stops her fall and pulls her back [x]

Why Hope Estheim is ‘accidentally’ one of Final Fantasy’s most well developed side characters

I was with a couple of good friends of mine that visited during the summer. We hanged out and played soccer and went fishing, as much as I hated it. We also played some games and then the other day one of them asked me what I thought about the new games coming out. Final Fantasy XV was part of that subject and before I knew it we started talking about Final Fantasy as a whole.

Then FF XIII was brought up and two of my buddies asked me right of the bat if it was as terrible as people said it was. I had to say I was shocked that they didn’t even try to play it, but I suppose when people exaggerate and it catches on, it becomes a consensus that whatever reaction is given must be the absolute answer. I told them that they should play it especially since it’s so cheap now. I talked to them about the game structure and was honest about the linear 2-3 hours that goes on to a traditional style FF overworld you can explore.

They asked me about Lightning and I told them they should play the game, again experiencing and talking about a game are two different things. But as things went on I started talking about Hope and before you start thinking that I hyped this character up to my friends I found myself having difficulties. Because truthfully I hated Hope when he was introduced. Not disliked, hated.

Powerful words for a video game character, I know. But that got me thinking, did Square Enix create this character as a typical reluctant hero/tragic innocent youth quota that they seem to like to have in every FF game. I mean for goodness sake Rydia mother was killed when Cecil Harvey followed the commands of the King that ordered for Rydia’s village to be destroyed in FF IV.  Rydia then becomes one of Cecil’s trusted partners after he tries to become a white knight. But Hope Estheim is different than any other side character. In fact I’m convinced Square Enix accidentally made Hope become one of the most unique developed characters in the lore of Final Fantasy. Before you roll your eyes at my wild statement I want to remind you that I hated the brat the first few hours into the game.

With that being said you’re going to have to forgive me if I go into details that may (or may not) change your mind about Hope Estheim. So what all Final Fantasy games consist of and what we as fans expect out of the series are always the same 2 or 3 things.

  1. A unique universe that grabs your attention
  2. A cast of characters that you want to get behind
  3. (OPTIONAL) Luxurious hair For number 3 it’s kind of a thing with newer games and I’ll be honest everybody looks mighty fly in those cut scenes. So how did Final Fantasy XIII do? (According to me)
 


A unique universe that grabs your attention?

VERDICT: YES! OH GOD YES!!


A cast of characters that you want to get behind?

VERDICT: Hmm…lets dig in on that one…


Claire Farron AKA Lightning the main protagonist who is a guardian corps soldier who is stoic and strong. On a mission to save her crystalized sister.


Snow Villiers a renegade member of NORA that wants to fight against the acting government known as the Sanctum. Also trying to save his fiancée Serah Farron the younger sibling of Lightning.


Sazh Katzroy a pilot who is forced to walk a path to save his son, and well-armed with pistols.


Oerba Dia Vanille and Fang are two Pulse inhabitants that are trying to save their people and fates after being crystalized. Gifted in magic and used to fighting.


Then there’s Hope Estheim Here’s the official description from the game.


“Hope is a normal boy from a normal family whose childhood on Cocoon can best be described as uneventful. Inexperienced in the ways of the world, and won’t turn to his mother for protection, he is completely unprepared for the turmoil into which his life is thrown when he is unexpectedly caught up in the Sanctum’s brutal Purge.”


    He doesn’t fit in with the rest does he? In fact there is no indication that he can fight or has any real reason to worry until his mother dies. Then that’s when the magic happens… From the beginning you have your standard 14 year old Hope Estheim that about 24 hours ago was just another teenage boy with first world problems. In fact you might even go as far as to call the boy selfish and self-centered. I know I did.

    But as the Purge occurred and innocent people were hauled away by PSICOM soldiers to execute them to cover up their mess; Hope and his mother are caught up in one of those buses. When Hope is trying to escape and Snow saves them all before Nora Estheim decides to lend the resistance team N.O.R.A (I know) something terrible happens. Nora (Hope’s mom) dies saving Snow. I don’t remember how many seconds Hope had to mourn his mother. I think it was 1.85455 seconds, because you know; there’s fighting going on. I’m not going to go through all the details for Hope just enough to make it easy to understand how interesting he is at this point.

    If you said ‘meh’ don’t worry you were the majority of people (myself included) that felt that way.Here’s the awesome part. The way the game is designed characters can level up by using your CP to learn different abilities. How you choose to spend your CP is up to you, but Hope right off the bat is the weakest character in terms of HP. (He’s just a kid with no fighting experience after all) However if you think, well with any final fantasy game you can always tweak weapons and armor to make up for the weak points you would be half right. This is a character that is impressionable and is constantly running away from trouble. When Lightning takes him under her wing one of the coolest and most adorable partnerships is formed (that’s for another time though) and they play on each other’s strengths.

    YOU: Wait I thought you said Hope sucks? What strength does he have?

    Well he happens to be the strongest character in terms of magic. People argue that Vanille is better, but out of experience of the two Hope seems to be more versatile, and I swear that his magic attacks do much more damage. But that wasn’t what I consider to be Hope’s real strength. No his secret weapon is a subtle one. Something that probably many players missed out on. He’s normal. Yup that’s it, the fact that he is a normal person makes him strong.

    Case and point, Lightning the main character has a will that won’t be stopped. Although she is very strong physically her ability in strategy is more instinctive than anything. But she is also conditioned to trust no one other than her sister. At one point in the game she is stranded with the other characters and goes on her own to find a way out. She happens to bump into Sazh, Vanille, and Hope later on. In a span of 30 seconds she goes from wanting to hurt Snow, to fighting Sanctum while starring daggers at Cocoon (the world they live in) and finally leaving the three characters while turning to Hope and Vanille and saying next time they meet they may be enemies.

    I know. The girl can’t help it. Here’s where Hope’s first sign of strength kicks in. While he is using a rationalization for his mother’s death he traces it all to Snow. Being a character that is cocky and loud Snow doesn’t make it easier for Hope to dislike the man.

    If anything Hope is dealing with the trauma that he didn’t have proper time to get over. He didn’t even cry when his mom died (sadly when he tells his father later about Nora’s death Hope’s father cries). Hope doesn’t when his mother died, that is terrible and honestly something that no kid should go through.

    Throughout their adventure Hope is paired up with Lightning out a mutual relationship. Hope’s hometown is where Lightning wants to go so he agrees to take her there. While Hope wants to follow her so he can learn how to toughen up. He wants Snow dead because that’s the way he wants to shift the blame. When Lightning and Hope are teaming up two things happen that change both characters.

    For Hope: He learns how to control his emotions better. Focusing on a task is easier if you have your feelings in check. It also helps him direct his plan to kill Snow. Operation NORA is what he calls it.

    Secondly there is an unknown ability that he has. He is very smart, using information given to him to sort out logical approaches for solutions. In a funny way he does sort of become the spirit leader of the group where in two cases has all party members just stare at him in awe. 

    There is also a sixth sense that he has, but I think that may have to do with his magic ability. Basically he is (adorably) taking point while Lightning watches the rear and Hope stops and randomly grabs Lightning to hide behind shelter as PSICOM patrol units hover over them within seconds.

    Impressive and it happens a few times in the game as well. For Lightning she gets more things out of their partnership. First is the fact that Lightning learns how to look at things from a broad perspective. Trust me she’s smart, in fact she’s always prepared for all random encounters. However whenever she is on ‘Serah’ mode she gets tunnel vision and focuses only in the here and now. This isn’t all bad, but in a key moment of the game Hope finally brings her to Palompolum the location Lightning wanted to go to.

    While they are hiding from PSICOM through an underground facility she and Hope encounter a Fal’Cie called Carbuncle, which is responsible for the food distribution of the people. Hope and Lightning stare at the thing and Lightning makes a clear cut statement about how she sees these Fal’Cies as conveniences. Hope casually brings up the thought that really all Fal’Cies do is keep them (people) as pets. This makes her open her eyes (literally) and suddenly has a clear vision of who is really responsible for all this.

    Also this is the first time she willingly admits that she doesn’t know what to do. That is the second thing she got out of Hope.

    Being honest with herself and with others.

    Usually she would make an off remark about how things were in her way. Or if somebody complained she would dismiss it and move on. But with Hope around she is more open about these things and in terms of character development makes her better for it. Thirdly Lightning makes a friend. Which isn’t a joke by the way it’s actually really touching, because within a moment of almost abandoning Hope in the beginning of the game she unleashes Odin.

    Quickly after that she and Hope work together and tame Odin. Within moments she tells him to call her ‘Light’ and as the two venture off they become closer. My favorite moment with these two is actually during a time Hope is resting and Lightning gets asked about Snow. She goes on a tantrum about the guy and the way the camera positions Hope listening on the ground makes it look like two kids talking about what’s bothering the other.

    Its adorable is what that is. But enough about that because there is another thing Lightning learns from Hope. Hope in many ways becomes Lightning’s substitute for Serah. Even if people don’t want to admit it, she tries to not repeat past mistakes from Serah with Hope; who again is a 14 year old kid that doesn’t belong in this mess. It also makes it more important for her to keep him safe since she later reveals to him her personal life.

    About her parents deaths and how she had to be tough as Serah’s only remaining guardian and family. The Lightning nickname is also explained to him, again vital information that for whatever reason she only tells him about. So there are similarities in their back story already and yet they couldn’t be much further apart in characters.

    Good stuff huh? It’s called character development.

    So what does all this have to do with why Hope Estheim is such a unique developed character? Ah well then I hope you took notes, because I just established how crucial and how (at this point) motivated he is to avenge his mother’s death by killing Snow. The gift that Serah gave Lightning on her birthday was a survival knife.

    Lightning let Hope ‘borrow’ it to help him get stronger. There comes a time when Hope does give the knife back to her after realizing that killing Snow was not the way to go. There is a hug yes, but I honestly don’t see much from that other than relief. As far as the story goes after that, its Hope’s world essentially. You see him lead the group into Grand Pulse. Point out facts that would make the party members realize how strong they really were.

    And probably the most crucial part is he becomes (get ready to roll your eyes) the guidance of ‘hope’ through their battles.

    YOU: Okay so maybe Hope is a little bit better than I thought he was. So he improves a bit too. I still don’t see why he’s such a big deal though.

    There is a scene where Hope is by himself looking out at Grand Pulse and Vanille joins him. She asks him if he’s thinking about something. They have a nice conversation about cause and effect and this is where Hope shines through.

    He explains that up to this point, he’s had to accept that sometimes what you know to be true ends up being a lie; (maturity coming through) but maybe if you work hard enough you can make that lie become truth. That is called hope.

    And that sense of idealism follows Hope through his adulthood where we all know he becomes a director with God like ambitions. (He builds a planet) Imagine putting that in your, “Hello my name is,” name tag.

    Final Fantasy XIII-2 is essentially a time traveling adventure game with Hope Estheim being the John Connor of humanity. I’m serious, the guy is fixed on getting assassinated in 3 days in one the many paradox endings. That and the fact that Hope seems to be the only one who doesn’t screw up royally, and typically is left with fixing the mess Serah and Noel make. I would also like to add that Hope takes up Lightning mantle as Serah’s guardian.

    From the moment they meet up again he is very affectionate and constantly cheers her up. It’s only more adorable when you realize that how Lightning was Hope’s protector in the first game. Hope is returning the favor with Lightning being gone in Valhalla.

    YOU: Ah wait a second Lightning chose Noel to protect Serah though? Isn’t that a bit farfetched to say that Hope is the one doing the job?

    Well I’ll put it to you this way, Hope made sure Serah was safe with every step of the way. There is even a moment where Serah and Noel are finally united with Lightning in Valhalla and somehow Hope guessed the road these two would meet was in fact Valhalla and sends an item capsule with a personal message to Serah.

    The last two gifts in that area are from Lightning and Hope. The recipient in mind? Serah. That and the fact that Hope becomes the gamer’s representation at how frustrating it is to see Serah go through so much to find Snow and he’s off doing his hero act. (Yes he had one or two valid points) but he could just ask for help and gotten it done more effective. Anyways Hope tells him off and I remember doing this…

    Keep that sass strong Hope! Lightning would be proud.


     Anyways besides the ambition and the guidance that Hope provides to the game there is one thing that remains constant. He still misses his mother, as he should I suppose. His father passes away after a while, but it’s implied that Hope and his dad lived together in peace. Traveling 100 years into the future Hope still had the idea that maybe he could bring back his mother along with Fang, Vanille, and Lightning.

    JUST REMEMBER THIS ONE THING: HOPE AT THIS POINT WOULD DO ANYTHING TO BRING BACK NORA.

    Remember this! It’s going to be on the test!

    So we all know what happens at the end of the game right? Serah dies and Lightning is put into a state of crystallization or something like that. What about Hope? Still has to keep his job along with the other guys. There is a novel now that explains the details of what happens between XIII-2 and Lightning Returns. It’s very cool and interesting to read, since its canon and it involves Hope a lot.

    There is some very heartbreaking moments that the poor guy has to go through, but I don’t want to include that stuff since it’s not what most people can experience anyways.

    The novel is called Tracer of Lost Memories and it’s only printed in Japan. English translations are available online, but if you’re not into that just stay with me.

    So the final game we have Hope Estheim alone in the abandoned Cocoon Hope named “Bhunivelze”. Also curiously the name of the God of all Gods, the Mighty Bhunivelze. (Its foreshadowing)

    For a lack of a better term Bhunivelze is an asshole.

    Especially after what he made Hope go through. Not going to bother going into specifics just know Hope was practically tortured for 169 years. In this final game Lightning Returns, Hope is tasked with giving Lightning the savior of the world; the missions to save as many souls as possible.

    With both characters a shell of their former selfs, not having any emotions nor being able to understand why they have been picked by Bhunivelze himself. (You don’t want to know by the way, this God is sick and twisted) Hope is physically regressed into his 14 year old self again. Although still an adult in mind, he explains later on that Bhunivelze is using his body as a vessel.

    So through Hope, Bhunivelze is watching Lightning’s every move. To give Hope a bit of credit he plays some 3D chess with Bhunivelze and makes sure that he knows enough to help Lightning with her mission to find Serah, without knowing too much just in case Bhunivelze is hearing in.

    There is a lot of moments Lightning and Hope share, that I would not like to spoil for the most part.

    But the highest point is when Hope is finally done with his job and Bhunivelze is ready to use him as a vessel. Hope manages to say his final goodbye to Lightning. In the entire conversation Hope is the one assuring her that she’ll be fine and that she will succeed. He leaves her saying he’s glad that he met her all those years ago and expresses that he’s not afraid anymore. This right here is an important moment. Because there is a comparison of two similar moments that symbolize the beginning and the end of Hope’s growth.

    Here is Hope taking point for Lightning for the first time in Final Fantasy XIII. The beginning of his development.


    Finally the adult mind trapped into his youthful body in Final Fantasy Lightning Returns. The ending of his journey in this world.

    Notice anything at the last two images? He’s grown up. He went from being a scared youth that depended on others for help. To a person that did whatever it took to keep people from losing hope.

    He kept his namesake alive to the end. And here is where I will tell you I’m a sucker for characters that welcome death in happiness. Something about that mentality is just powerful to me. I’ll tell you right now, if I knew I was going to die in 10 minutes I would be scared shitless. So many things left for me to do, and even a few regrets I’d like to clear up. So to have the mindset of finding peace with yourself till the end to me, is the definition of strength.

    YOU: Alright, I get it Hope is awesome. But uh didn’t you say there would be a test or something?

    AH! I’m glad you remembered! Why yes indeed, because the last part is coming up. Like I said before, up until Lightning Returns Hope was restless to bring his mother back.

    So guess what happens?

    Lightning makes the choice to give up her life in exchange for her friends to be united together in a new world. With Hope being the last soul she saved, they have a faceless exchange where Lightning tempts Hope with….you guessed it!

    There she is! Hope’s wish right in front of him. Hope takes his mother’s hand and guides her to-

    I rest my case.