The Greatest Final Fantasy Characters
Final Fantasy is all about storytelling, and of course about the characters. The characters drive the story forward, and there’s no good story without great characters. It is the characters who you fall in love with, who you care about, who you emotionally engage with. It is the characters, their design, personalities, and, of course, kick ass special attacks, that make Final Fantasy so beloved. Here at Dumage we thought we’d cast our mind back and recount our favorite characters from Square Enix’s fantasy universe. Some are easy to predict. Some… less so. And yes, even some FFXIII characters make the cut.
Vivi – FF IX
Vivi was a throw back to the original black mages form the first Final Fantasy. He was a kind-hearted little magician who was scared of his powers and wanted to know who or what he was. Much of the plot of Final Fantasy 9 is based on this idea, and eventually leads to Vivi learning he was designed to be nothing more than an evil weapon. His brethren are mindless machines of destruction who followed orders blindly and killed indiscriminately. We here at Dumage liked the simple throwback this game offered, and truly loved the character of Vivi. Squaresoft took one of the simplest and oldest character types and added a depth not seen in FF games previous to this one. You couldn’t help but feel bad for Vivi, you wanted to reach through the screen and give the little bugger a hug and tell him everything will be all right. Not only that, but once he was leveled up he was one of the best characters in the game. Vivi may be overlooked, but he was one of the best characters SS introduced into the FF series.
Aeris Gainsborough – FF VII
Aeris’ enduring appeal owes much to her shocking death halfway through FFVII. She’s been martyred, in a way. Up to that point, she was a likeable, inoffensive love interest in the stereotypical Japanese fashion; a flower girl with secrets and a talent for spell casting. But she was valued more on a pure gameplay level: she was also extremely useful in combat, and one hell of a healer. After her heartbreaking death, and subsequent burial, players felt a hole not only in their hearts, but in their balanced front line party makeup. Still, her death ranks as one of the most memorable video game scenes of all time, and one of the bravest moves on the part of a game developer. Watching it on YouTube now, it’s hard not to feel tears well up. Well, sort of.
Kain Highwind – FF II
Cain was the brother of Abel in the Bible’s book of Genesis. He became the first murderer by killing his brother out of jealousy stemming from the fact that God chose Abel’s gift over that of Cain. Kain’s name, thus, is a reference to the events that happened between him and his adoptive brother, Cecil. Kain is a Dragoon Knight in training who one day dreams of becoming a true Dragoon Knight just like his father was and he remains one of Cecil’s most true and loyal friends. However, Kain is the source of FF2’s biggest plot twists, as he is constantly under the control of Golbez, who is the leader of the Red Wings after Cecil’s dismissal by King Baron. He betrays Cecil and his friends several times throughout the game. Another interesting fact about Kain is that he secretly shares Cecil’s love for Rosa and the three have great love triangle. But still, Kain is a good friend and a useful member of Cecil’s party during the course of FF2. Like Cecil, Kain hopes to restore peace to the world. Kain’s special battle command is the “Jump” command. It is quite effective for the most part and while it takes a few turns, Kain’s Jump is quite powerful and can be at least 2X more powerful than his regular attack in most cases.
Zidane Tribal – FF IX
After dealing with a long stretch of uptight anti-heroes (namely Cloud and Squall), the refreshingly hyperactive Zidane was a welcome change of pace. Instead of silently brooding, he always seems to be up for a fight or eager to flirt his way through a party. Sure, his strange design (complete with monkey tail) is childish when compared to the no-nonsense protagonists of earlier games, but it’s this forest-fantasy appearance that makes Zidane, and all of IX’s colorful world, so exciting to see. It does turn out that he’s a doppelganger to the game’s villain, Kuja (and meant to replace him in an otherworldly invasion), but Zidane’s soul-searching after learning his true nature proves he has a heart and isn’t bound to repeat the same evil mistakes his “brother” has. If you can embrace his bouncy, playful attitude, it’s easy to view Zidane not as a step backwards, but rather as a breath of fresh air and a fitting tribute to cheerful, non-pissy leads.
Vincent Valentine – FF VII
Vincent Valentine makes his first appearance in FF7. A former Turk with a mysterious past, Vincent’s hidden secrets tie him directly to several of the main antagonists of the game. At one time, though it has now been proven false, it was even rumored he was the father of Sephiroth. Although I’m not as big of a fan of his subsequent appearances, in FF7 he was a great character. His weapon of choice was a handgun and his Limit Breaks would cause him to shapeshift. He was a pretty minor character in the game, with very little of the story actually focused on him. But much like many other minor characters who would become fan favorites, it was inevitable that new games and books were released about him, ruining any mystique that he once had. This is the same thing that George Lucas did to Boba Fett, all because they wanted to make a little extra money. Nevertheless, he is still a great character, and one of my favorites from FF7.
Tifa Lockhart- FF VII
Let’s talk about love triangles. Cloud clearly fancied Aeris, but she was more interested in Sephiroth, or was that Zak? Anyway, she died, so that left Tifa, owner of the 7th Heaven bar and member of terrorist group Avalanche. She quite obviously fancied Cloud but wasn’t really doing it for him. Got that? Good. Tifa’s no-nonsense approach and brutal punches endeared her to those who found Aeris too sickly sweet to swallow. She didn’t suffer any of Cloud’s emo crap, and wasn’t afraid to tell him to get over himself when he was sulking. She was as sexy as she was confident, too. She had nice legs and big breasts. What more could we ask for?
Cecil Harvey – FF II
Cecil is an epic character, as his transition from an evil Knight to a heroic Paladin causes him to be one of the most developed characters in FF2, and one of the most interesting characters in the Final Fantasy series as a whole, because his changes are realistic and actually make sense. From commander of the evil Red Wings to a celebrated hero, Cecil undergoes very significant changes in throughout the course of the game. As a Dark Knight, Cecil’s stats are heavily weighted physically, and he has barely any Magic Defense. He can only equip special swords, shields, and armor designed specifically for Dark Knights. His weapons are ineffective against Zombies, Ghouls, Revenants, and Skullnants. His most powerful Dark Sword, the Deathbringer, can inflict instant death on his opponents. As a Dark Knight, Cecil also possesses the Darkness ability, which damages all opponents, but he takes a small amount of damage whenever he uses this attack. Once Cecil becomes a Paladin, he can use the Cover ability, which allows him to intercept physical attacks against the ally Cover is targeting. Cecil automatically uses this ability to protect any ally whose HP is low, making him not only one of the most interesting FF characters, but one of the most useful as well.
Kefka Palazzo- FF VI
Kefka may be the most evil villain in any of the Final Fantasy games. He is a raving madman who actually delights in murdering mass amounts of people. If you really think about it, no game previous to this one shows an entire city of people drinking poisoned water and dying. Not only that, we have to watch as one of the heroes of the game watches his wife and child die, then later in the game he has to go back to said city and face his demons. Which, if you’re not paying attention, was watching his wife and child die of poisoning. In most video games, the heroes work hard to stop the villain from destroying the world. Kefka actually destroys the world. Granted in the end you kill him, but for what, what’s left? The world is shattered, most people are dead, crazy mutant monsters are running around everywhere, and most people belong to a cult worshiping the very guy who destroyed the world. Is this really a victory? Doesn’t Kefka sort of win? Granted he dies in the end, but he accomplishes all of his schemes. At one point this lunatic pushes the emperor off a floating continent, which we can only assume leads to a rather terrifying death. Imagine the fear while falling, for what is probably several minutes, knowing that you are going to smash into the ground or water and die. Squaresoft out-did themselves with Kefka, if this game was made with today’s graphics the entire game would be terrifying, don’t let the 16-bit graphics fool you. Finally, we can’t help but make the comparison with Ledger’s Joker in the Dark Knight. If this game were to ever become a movie, late Heath Ledger was the only man who could play Kefka.
Lulu – FF X
Mysterious, calm, and sultry, Lulu is one of the best-designed Final Fantasy characters ever. Her dress, made up entirely of belts strapped to each other, was a work of art, and, occasionally, allowed you a thrilling glimpse at the wonder it concealed. On the battlefield, she excelled as a damage dealing spell caster. Physical attacks weren’t her strong point – and it was easy to know why: her basic attack involved laying a doll on the ground and have it trot over to your enemy and smack them – a hilarious sight. But that was the only hilarious thing about Lulu. She was a serious, scathing girl, a bitch witch with an attitude. Square Enix, as it likes to, never missed an opportunity to exploit her lovely figure; when she cast a spell, she’d often provocatively lean forward, showing her ample cleavage to all. She was easily the most interesting character in Final Fantasy X. But that’s not saying much: Tidus and Wakka, two of the most annoying characters in Final Fantasy history, were in that game.
Squall Leonhart- FF VIII
No hero in the history of Final Fantasy has divided fans quite as much as Squall. A bitter, cynical and unfriendly young warrior, his number one line throughout the game is “whatever.” But as he begins to unravel the mysteries of his past – and thanks to the support and ultimately the love of heroine Rinoa Heartilly – his personality becomes much more rounded and likable. Paradoxically, Final Fantasy VIII is one of the most genuinely amusing games in the series; the lynchpin for this is Squall’s defective personality and the way the other characters play off of it. Even though he may be stoic and fairly unpleasant to hang out with for 40 goddamn hours, the other cast members make the most of Squall’s emotional deficiencies and make his eventual change of heart all the more meaningful.
Cloud Strife – FF VII
Spiky-haired emo with a big sword. That’s all Cloud was. Now, the JRPG front man is a cliché, but in 1997, Cloud reverberated around the gaming universe. He was so cool – so cool! His sword swipe attacks looked incredible on the PlayStation, and his confused, dour personality struck a chord in the heartstrings of millions of teenagers across the world. We all loved him as much as we wanted to be him. He remains the series’ most popular character, a poster boy for the entire JRPG genre. The entire gaming world awaits his return. Surely it must come? But will it be via a Final Fantasy VII remake, or something new entirely?
Faris Scherwiz – FF V
Yoshitaka Amano does a fine job selling the secret identity. Character is not usually regarded as one of Final Fantasy V’s strong points. Marked primarily by the famous Job system, this one is the gameplay-driven Final Fantasy, the title that appealed most to hardcore types who were more interested in statistics than stories. Nevertheless, it has its moments, though, many of them involving Faris, the tough-as-nails sky-pirate who eventually reveals herself as the Princess of Tycoon in disguise. To her credit, Faris conforms to no princess-ey stereotypes – she’s as lean and mean as any of her fellow pirate captains, despite her young age and unusual origins.
Yuna – FF X and FF X-2
Gratuitous exploitation has rarely worked better. Note the designation of the sequel there. In Final Fantasy X, Yuna makes for fine eye-candy – her famous “sending” scene near the beginning of the story is one of the best in Square Visual Works history. But she didn’t really come into her own as a personality until she got to take on a leading role. Final Fantasy X-2 gave her a little more confidence, a little more attitude, and yes, it must be said, a gratuitously exploitative costume that ranks among the series’ finest bits of fanboy-baiting.
Balthier – FF XII
He may or may not be the “real” hero of the story, but he says he’s the hero, and he makes a pretty convincing case for it. The sky-pirate gunslinger of Final Fantasy XII routinely upstages most of his fellow cast members, thanks to a combination of sharp looks and even sharper wit. The game has a well-written script all around, and plenty of the exciting plot twists that tend to mark Yasumi Matsuno’s games, but as far as memorable lines go, Balthier gets almost all of them. It almost seems unfair sometimes, watching him deliver the best bits of dialogue. Such are the advantages of being the leading man.
Sephiroth – FF VII
Ask most fans of the Final Fantasy series who their favorite character from the franchise is, and they will probably tell you that its Sephiroth. While he’s not my personal favorite character, he definitely deserves a #1 spot on our list. After all, how can you not like a lunatic whose main goal is to become a god and control the planet? While he may be delusional and arrogant, its not without reason. A prototype SOLDIER and the strongest one alive, Sephiroth is initially revered for his strength and hailed as a hero. Even after his fall into insanity, he is still a lethal and highly intelligent warrior. But he is also cruel and delights in mentally torturing Cloud. In Advent Children, in one of his iconic lines, he asks Cloud what he cherishes so he may simply take it from him. With lines like that, how could he not make this list?