Once you complete the five main quests in Lighting Returns: Final Fantasy XIII - one in Luxerion, one in Yusnaan, two in the Wildlands, and one in Dead Dunes - you'll have fulfilled all the necessary prerequisites for seeing the end of the game. The stage is set, the players are ready... all you have to do is let the countdown dwindle to the last day. Normally this would lead to a Game Over, but in this case you'll be shunted to a special sequence that heralds the beginning of the end.
Should you go to this immediately? Or should you wait? That depends on your progress. If you've been completing a lot of side quests in preparation, then, sure. Hop in an inn and sleep away the remaining time until doomsday. If you haven't... well, you may want to spend the rest of the time completing some more. There's lots to do in Nova Crysalis, and every event you complete with make Lightning ust a bit stronger in preparation for the showdown with the bad guys.
- Progress to the final day. You'll be shunted back to the Ark, as usual, but Hope is acting strangely. A cut scene will explain why.
- After it's done, talk to... the person who shows up... if you want to refill your items, and check around the Ark for freebies one last time. Then zip back down to Nova Crysalia. There's no choice of destination this time - you're going straight to Luxerion.
- Epic cut scene. Things are not going well in Luxerion.
- Once you gain control you'll be in front of the Cathedral. To your left are an Outfitters and a General Store, the last in the game. The Outfitters has Innocence, Candy Raver, Sand Fox, Urban Outlaw, Champagne Gold, and Nightmare in stock. Watch out - Anubyses abound here, and they're as strong as they'll ever be.
- Check up the nearby ladder on your right. There's one final Adventuring Essentials up here.
- Further up the walkway and to your right is a Sorcery Shop and a Forge. The Sorcery Shop is the same old same old, but the Forge has some of the best equipment you can ever buy. Hopefully you saved up lots of gil.
- Equip as necessary, then charge headlong into the Cathedral. I don't recommend getting into fights, if you can help it. You'll have to fight a few Cathedral Guards to get in, but they're not that bad - just keep hitting them to avoid being peppered by their annoying machine guns. Area attacks really help.
- Cut scene ahead. Hey, that doesn't look good at all. But, hey, you got past.
Temple of Light
- Plow on forward through the hallways. The enemies in here are new to you, so be prepared for formulating some new strategies. (Honestly, though, they're not that bad on the whole.) Note that you can now run without penalty, as there's no more timer. Yay!
- Eventually you'll arrive an an intersection. Go left to find a Warrior's Plume, then turn back and go south.
- Follow the path all the way south, past the next intersection. It'll lead you to a copy of Holy Revelations. Backtrack and take a right; soon you'll see evidence of someone else running 'round these parts.
- Follow the path as far south as you can go to find a Samurai's Comb. Then backtrack one room and go right. Follow this path to find Fang fighting a Chimera. Help her out and she'll join your party; then you can continue onward, into the next room. A cut scene will intervene, and you'll have to face a pair of Sets to proceed. Let Fang take the lead to they concentrate on her, then stagger them from afar with magic.
- Loooong cut scene follows. Danged Bhunivelze.
- You're back in control again. Go down the staircase behind you for another cut scene. You'll unlock another vendor, of sorts, and the path to Bhunivelze will be beside him...
- ... but hold up. There are four other doors here, as well, each leading to an optional trial Lightning can undergo to empower herself in preparation for the final battle. We'll start with those, because power is awesome.
Bottom-Left Door - Altar of Atonement
- Run through the passage. (Note the crazy world outside!) In the next large room you'll find a massive number of Neelas and Wendigos, as we as a Sugriva, and, yes, you have to kill them all. I recommend pulling out all-hitting elemental spells such as Firaga or Blizzaga, frying the whole group with one, then freezing the rest. Leave the Sugriva 'til last, as it acts mostly as a buffer until it's running solo.
- Keep going. In the next large room you'll be facing two Ectopuddings. Maximize your fire resistance, block when Fira's incoming, and use Blizzaga on both at a time. Try to double up with ice spells so you can swap ATB gauges and still be firing off chilly magic without halting.
- And... next... you may have guessed it... an Earth Eater! Difficult, but it's the same as they've ever been... just with more HP. Block the punches, pour on the aerial magic, stagger it before it can gulp down Lightning and rejuvenate its health, and just generally demolish the thing. You may want to return to the vendor and fill up your items again if you came into this weakened.
- Beyond the Earth Eater you'll reach the prize: Surge Lv. 1. Not bad, not bad.
- (And yes, this is probably the most difficult path. Get it over with first. If you can kill the Earth Eater, you can decimate everything else.)
Bottom-Right Door - Altar of Birth
- Same deal here, more or less, just with different enemies. This time you'll face two Sets...
- ... a horde of Niblets (seriously, Square Enix?)...
- ... and a Cyclops. This last one is especially brutal; chew through its HP once it flicks on Rage as quickly as you can, or it will do the same back to you in no time. Ouch.
- At the end of this passage you'll find Tornado Lv. 1.
Top-Left Door - Altar of Judgment
- Aaaaand next. First up are two Arcangelis, one of which you may want to consider Overclocking just to survive relatively intact...
- And then five Goblins... they put on a sad, sad showing...
- Aaaaand then a Zomok. Tricky, but nice and slow.
- And at the end? Chill Lv. 1.
Top-Right Door - Altar of Salvation
- Last one! First up are Meonektons.
- Then Gremlins. Poor little things.
- Aaaaand a Chimera, which is the same as what you faced earlier, only sans Fang this time. This makes the fight a bit tougher, but it's still nothing compared to the Earth Eater.
- And past this, the final treasure: Flare Lv. 1.
- Or perhaps it's not the final treasure! If you manage to complete the four Altar trials, a fifth prize will appear in the middle of the central area. It will power up your starting weapon and shield, turning them into the Ultima Weapon and Ultima Shield. These two pieces of equipment are almost laughably strong, and will put everything else in your arsenal to shame.
- Go through the central door. Watch the cut scene, prepare for teh shocks, and get ready to face the almighty himself.
The big man, at long last. Bhunivelze is a multi-form opponent, easily one of the strongest in the game, and he'll sap your stamina as readily as he steals away your HP. This is a looooong fight, especially on your first go through the game, and without proper preparation (a full contingent of healing items, properly equipped garbs and maximum EP), Bhunivelze may well prove impossible to beat.
Bhunivelze's first form is also his easiest, and will help ease you into the rest of the fight. He has the following moves at his disposal:
- Doom. Bhunivelze will cast this at the beginning of the fight, and every time Lightning dies he'll cast it again. If the countdown above your head runs out, Lightning is toast. (Fortunately, he'll give up on Doom after this first round.)
- Almagest. A straight beam attack, Almagest hits you for continuous damage. Guard once his arm goes into the air and keep it up until the beam abates.
- Boomerang. Not a named attack, Bhunivelze will throw his massive scythe-like weapon as though it were a boomerang. Guard to block the first hit, then keep the guard up to block the return.
- Giga-Graviton. A large, expanding ball. Wait for it to expand significantly before guarding.
- Ruinga. A series of smaller shots will fly out to hit you. Wait for them to get close before blocking.
The first form of Bhunivelze is tough, but no tougher than most bosses. The one big advantage you have here is that Bhunivelze telegraphs his attacks with obvious hand gestures, allowing you to prepare your defenses accordingly. He's only quick in his attacks when Lightning is up close, in which case he'll use swifter physical attacks to knock her away. Stay back and use magical attacks to build Bhunivelze's stagger gauge, particularly just after he attacks, then sweep in and give him a nice set of beats once he's stunned. High magic damage is preferable here, as you want to whittle him down before Doom does its thing and kills you. Bhunivelze does not move in this form, so at the very least it's easy to keep an eye on his actions.
Do enough damage and Bhunivelze will swap to a new form. He now uses the following attacks:
- Elemental spells in the predictable range. Block as necessary. These will get stronger as you lower his HP.
- Moned Biget, which places three inactive bombs on the field. These mainly just get in your way - at least until he uses Wings of Destruction to blow them up. Ouch. Try to stay away from these, if you can.
- Elemental change. Bhunivelze will swap elements, granting him new resistances and weaknesses. Take advantage of the change to deal extra damage, but be careful not to heal him by accident.
- Genelythic Hym. This is a high-defense charging move that leads into a freakishly powerful attack. You won't do much damage while Bhunivelze's in this form, but you can build his stagger gauge quickly. Take advantage of the lull and launch an all-out assault to prevent him from killing you.
This form swaps it up from the last in that you should now change to largely physical attacks. Magic is still good for picking at weaknesses, but in general Bhunivelze has less physical defense. Try to wipe him out quickly by applying debuffs that further debilitate his poor defense and chew through his HP quickly.
Almost done? Nope, not yet. Bhunivelze now takes on a third form, one that sticks largely to a small number of attacks. Almagest makes a return, but most of the time he uses that annoying boomerang sickle to whack you from the front and the rear. Watch his arms carefully, as this attack stuns Lightning rather badly and gives Bhunivelze lots of time to set up for his next attack. He'll also use Ultima and Hypernova during this form, both attacks that you can't really dodge or guard against, so be ready to heal at a moment's notice. Careful timing is critical in this form, not only in putting your shield up, but in knowing when you can put it down again.
One more form once you're done with the third. Bhunivelze gets some new attacks here:
- Divine Efflux. Bhunivelze charges up for a second, hands over his face, then launches a beam at you. Guard as soon as he pulls his hands away. Bhunivelze may use this once, or he may use it three times in quick succession.
- Damnato Memoriae, which is quite similar to Divine Efflux in execution... but which hurts a lot more. It hits three times each time it's used.
- Elementaga, which hits most of the field for severe damage. Block just before it goes off. (Duh.)
- Heartless Angel, which, after a looooong casting time, instantly reduces Lightning to 1 HP. This is easily Bhunivelze's greatest weapon... but it does nicely for you, as well. Guard as soon as the camera pulls in close on Lightning to negate the effect.
This form of Bhunivelze is almost completely immune to your hits, and it has a ton of HP. Consequently, your goal here is to pelt Bhunivelze with spells that will, ultimately, stagger him. This is a steep goal, as this form of Bhunivelze is near stagger-proof, but you can do it with a lot of successive uses of Overclocked. Wait for Heartless Angel, pull out any multi-hitting spells you have (Aerora is my favourite), and use Overclocked... and again... and again. Maul Bhunivelze with your spell of choice, and keep using it until Bhunivelze hits stagger status. He'll become defensively impotent at that point, and you can demolish him with your best moves at your leisure. Don't wait too long, though, or you'll have to go through that process again to whittle away what little is probably left of his HP.
Trounce this form, and, hey! You're done! You can now watch the ending sequence, enjoy the credits, and begin a New Game +! Your new game will allow you to access Hard Mode, a big step up from even Normal Mode, so if you're feeling confident in your mad skillz you might want to give it a try. Be warned - the change is substantial. Upon reentering the Ark for your new game you'll also find the Proof of Overcoming Limits item waiting, which will allow you to break your normal damage capacity and deliver hits up to 999,999 worth of HP in damage. Yeesh.
Having trouble with Bhunivelze? Don't know what to do? Don't despair. If the big bad beats you into the ground, return to Mog. There will be a new Crystal of Atonement by Bhunivelze's door, acting essentially as a New Game + without some of the extra perks. You can use it to rewind time to the beginning of the game, while retaining your current strength and equipment. If you feel overwhelmed and don't think you can win, this is always an option.