Final Fantasy: The Legacy

[Currently listening to: Mannheim Steamroller. It’s Christmas, yo!]

Final Fantasy is a Goliath in the video game industry; that goes without saying. This month marks its 29th anniversary, so I figured it’s only due that I give it proper homage.

But I must confess a sad truth: Final Fantasy hasn’t aged well for me. I only ever enjoyed VI and IX growing up, and now even those stories have mostly lost my interest. As for other releases in the series…well, there’s only so many reiterations of K-pop hair that I can take.

But for many, these games are pure gold, even with all the changes they’ve undergone through the past three decades. I’m hardly here to bash any series that’s had an impact on gamers, so instead let me do my best to talk about some of the characters I loved best from Final Fantasy, and why they’ve left a lasting impression on me.

(I caution you, my scope will be limited.)

Cecil Harvey – Final Fantasy IV

This lead protagonist embodied “light vs. dark” in his own journey, from serving a corrupt kingdom to accepting his ultimate role as paladin. I remember when I first played Final Fantasy IV how much I appreciated Cecil’s story. How his questions of right and wrong led him to seek the truth. How the pain he witnessed (and caused) turned him on a redemptive path. He’s no Frog from Chrono Trigger, but his character growth is admirable in its own right.

Locke Cole – Final Fantasy VI

Dashing, chivalrous, clever – Locke knows what the lady gamers love. His character was even pretty much carbon-copied in Zidane six years later, but Final Fantasy IX‘s lead male didn’t have quite the depth of Locke’s character. Why? Well, while Zidane’s helpful nature was based in…pretty much nothing, Locke desperately sought to protect his loved ones because his own past mistakes caused suffering for his beloved, Rachel.

For a game to address relationship “baggage” like that – I think Locke was a pioneer in exploring such themes. Watching him move from loving Celes as a means to clear his conscience to loving her in a way that could let go of past mistakes was a moving story arc.

Kefka Pelazzo – Final Fantasy VI

THE best Final Fantasy villain, hands down. (Suck it, Sephiroth.) Kefka wanted all the clichés: power, destruction, absolute authority – but his motives were so wonderfully…ambivalent through it all. He didn’t have any deep or personal reason for his actions; he just enjoyed manifesting chaos.

Plus, that outfit is outrageous, and I love it.

 

 

Vivi Ornitear – Final Fantasy IX

I had so many feels for this cutie. I loved Vivi for his mix of childlike wonder and grown-up understanding of the world – which makes me realize that I hated Eiko (his six year-old female counterpart) for almost all of those exact same reasons. (I don’t know, man. I can’t make sense of my preferences.)

Looking back at the game recently, I was amazed at how almost nothing goes right for this poor boy. I might even say the game pushed that point a little TOO far to make sure its audience properly sympathized with the little black mage. Still, Vivi was one of the first characters whose psyche I really enjoyed exploring, so I suppose he’ll always have a special place in my heart.

Freya Crescent – Final Fantasy IX

The first of a couple strong female characters to round out the list. You might wonder why I’ve picked the rat woman instead of one of the many leading ladies of the franchise. What about Terra, who’s technically the main protagonist of Final Fantasy VI? What about Aerith, Rinoa, or Garnet?

Here’s the thing: leading ladies in Final Fantasy don’t typically have much control over their own story. Even when they try – like when Garnet sets out to stop her mother on her own – the plot tends to move them instead of vice versa.

I like Freya (and Beatrix, as we’ll see) because she enters the picture with a pre-established quest that has nothing to do with the main storyline as we understand it so far. She has her own drive, which, to me, makes her far stronger as a character.

(And she does it all without flaunting a large/barely-concealed chest.)

Beatrix – Final Fantasy IX

(Speaking of large chests…) Beatrix is like the female version of Cecil, in that her questions over whether she’s acting in the right eventually lead her to abandon a path of destruction. She is also the master of her own destiny and makes her own choices, living by fealty to Alexandria’s royal family.

And her romance with Steiner is more frickin’ adorable than any lead romance of any Final Fantasy ever. Try and prove me wrong.


Of course, there are numerous characters I haven’t covered in this post, so if you’re a FF fan, feel free to add some of your own favorites in the comments below.

(Wow, I think I chose a picture from every Final Fantasy art style out there.)

 

Final Fantasy belongs to Square-Enix. I can’t even condense the many ways you can play these games…

Release Date: August 27, 1994

Earthbound logo

Happy anniversary, you crazy game, you!

I didn’t play Earthbound all the way through until probably five years ago. The main reason for that, I can tell you right now, is because it was too. Frickin’. HARD.

But now, more than twenty years after its release, it’s on my list of games I play at least once a year. It taught me the power of humor in a story, and how to evoke emotion through simplicity. It captures my imagination and brings back childhood wonder like very few stories can.

So take THAT, all you naysayers who think video games turn your brain to mush. This game has reshaped the way I view writing, and that is something not even some of my favorite BOOKS have accomplished. “Video games only teach violence” indeed.

Now let’s go beat up some New Age Retro Hippies!

Earthbound Hippie

Release Date: April 20th, 2006

Mother 3

Happy 10th anniversary, Mother 3! If you had an official English release, I’d throw so much money at you.

For now, I’ll just have to be satisfied with my Lucas Amiibo:

Lucas
Triumphant in front of the Smash Bros. roster!

And now, for a celebratory dance! …But I’m not gonna stick my butt out or anything like that.

Wess dance

(Stay tuned for a Mother-related storytelling post this weekend!)

Release Date: March 9th, 1996

super_mario_rpg_logo

Happy 20th anniversary, game of my childhood!

When I was a kid I had these stickers of all the main characters, and I thought they were meant for glass so I slapped ’em up on my bedroom window.

As it turns out…they were regular stickers, not window clings. And man, they were tenacious little suckers. I couldn’t even peel them off to take with me when I moved out for college.

They might still be on that window down in Wyoming, perplexing some new 10 year-old girl who wants to know why she’s got the Mario crew plus a cloud kid and blue-caped wooden doll obscuring her view outside.

(No doubt my mom scraped them off during the move. But it’s a romantic thought, okay?)

Geno-real-name
My main team forever.