If there was one video game series I could always rely on for hours of entertainment it was SquareEnix’ Final Fantasy. Back in the days before Skyrim and the ‘open world’ these games would keep me busy for weeks if not months, just what you needed when games only came on birthdays or at Christmas. Entries such as 7, 8 and 9 had completion times of well over 40 hours and that was solid play time, none of that aimless wandering around between objectives like today (well not all the time anyway). Each of those hours was filled with imaginative locales, awesome music and interesting, if often quirky, characters to interact and engage with. It was these characters and their storylines that kept me sitting in front of my tv for hours on end, so just as personal thing I’ve decided to list my top ten Final Fantasy Heros. In order to keep it simple I have decide to only include characters from the main game series, so no spin-offs or sequels. They also they have to be playable in the main game. Here is my party of choice;
Number 10. – Sazh Katroy (FFXIII)
Final Fantasy XIII is never going to be my favourite Final Fantasy. When the trailer came out showing its fluid combat system and awesome theme music, I was really excited. Unfortuantly the rest of the game was no-where near as thrilling. The story was buried in a pile of terminology and half-baked mythology whilst the massive explorable worlds were reduced to a bunch of corridors and a single big field. Maybe because the story was weak, or maybe visa-versa, the characters themselves where not particularly interesting either. The one notable exception was Sazh Katroy. On first appearance he came across as the typical Japanese stereotype of a black person (with all that implies) but as the game moved on I found him to be the most human and well developed of all the party members. Sazh’ plot is centred around him searching for his lost son and doing everything he can to get him back. He acts as the main comic relief, refreshing in a game which really needs to lighten up, but is also well developed as a believable person. When he finds those responsible his reaction is wide range of emotions including anger and depression, however he refuses to let this get the better of him choosing to do what is right instead of giving up. As I played through 13 I was more interested in this guys quest then I was in Lightnings and in feel Square should have made this man their main lead. Also he has a baby Chocobo living in his afro. Thats cool.
Number 9. – Auron (FFX)
Auron is a badass. Stoic and gruff, his personality is defined more cleaving enemies in half then it is with edgy dialogue. Whilst that is not a new thing in video games, or even in a Final Fantasy game, Auron is an example of an archetype done well. Unlike other such characters, he has enough to say to keep him interesting and give him a firm standing in the games plot. Rather then having any strong personal development, he instead acts as the mentor, leading the main character Tidus through his journey and protecting the summoner Yuna as he did her father. The main reason I enjoy Auron is his design. With his pony tail, sunglasses and jar of booze hanging from his belt (which he uses as part of his attacks, yay) he looks like a cyber-punk warrior monk gone bad. His theme music is also pretty cool, with its thumping beat making everything feel more manly as soon as it starts playing.
Number 8. – Cecil Harvey (FFIV)
Cecil is a favourite of many a Final Fantasy fan, mostly due to fact that this was the first of the well written video game hero they encountered. Whilst I personally did not share that experience (Final Fantasy 7 was my first) I can at least appreciate why the Dark-Warrior-turned-Paladin is so well regarded. Final Fantasy IV was the next game to be released outside of Japan following the original NES game, creating a massive impact with its well told story and varied characters. Cecil was the games main character, who we follow on his path from servant of evil too redeemed hero. The interactions between him and the other characters, including his lover Rosa, show a man confused about his destiny and what he should do with his life. Everyone has these doubts at some point in their life, and so too see such a relatable figure in a time when video games were all about jumping on things was truly exceptional and worth remembering.
Number 7. – Sabin Rene Figaro (FFVI)
Final Fantasy 6 had a large roster of memorable characters, but out of all of them Sabin is the who who stands out the most to me. This is partly down to the amount of funny scenes that are centred around him (there is something inherently hilarious about watching 16-bit sprites bouncing around a screen) and his Street Fighter style special attacks. It is also down to the story arc he shares with his brother and the relationship between them. Despite being heirs to the throne of Figaro, both him and Edgar are reluctant to accept their responsibility and so settle it with the toss of a coin, the outcome of which means Sabin is free to go live his dreams but must leave his brother. The encounters between them are both funny and touching, and are something I always enjoy about playing the game.
Number 6. – Red XIII (FFVII)
Red XIII is the child who wants to be a man, or in this case a puppy trying to be a wolf (which is far cuter). When he is first met in the Shinra tower it seems as those he will become the old wise man of the team, providing wisdom and guidance. So when later it turns out he is not as old or as wise as he was making out, things get a lot more interesting. Sudden having to reassess a character is great little plot twist which gives Red XIII much more depth then he initially appeared to have. The way in which it is revealed, a side-plot involving his disgraced father, is well done and does not feel like it is just being forced in just for the sake of it, instead creating a lot of sympathy for the young pup. Red XIII is a hero who would have been an unique addition simply because, well he’s a dog, but instead is give a wealth of personality because the writers put that extra bit of effort in.
Number 5. – Laguna Loire (FFVIII)
Although he is technically more of side character than a main one, Laguna does play a vital role in the storyline of Final Fantasy 8. There are three main reasons why this man is on my list. First, way in which his life is told through a series of flashbacks, ranging from his life as solider and then as a journalist, is an interesting way of revealing it. Secondly he looks like a fun guy to hang out with. He is easy going and relaxed, if sometimes a bit too relaxed, thus is just the sort of man you could have a few drinks with. Especially in a world everyone has some heavy emotional baggage about being an orphan they have to deal with. Thirdly his battle music is awesome. The Man with the Machine Gun is a fan favourite and the perfect piece to get you ready for that up coming boss battle.
Number 4. - Balthier (FFXII)
Much like Sazh in Final Fantasy 13, Balthier is one of the few things that lifts Final Fantasy 12 slightly above being mediocre. In a plot that bares a strong resemblance to Star Wars, he is the Han Solo stand in; complete with furry sidekick. He is the dashing rouge of the party, self-assured and confident but becoming increasing likeable as things progress. As the son of a disgraced scientist, Balthier has spent most of his life trying to sever his ties with the past. During the game tries to help the Princess Ashe from repeating the same mistakes, eventually giving his life (apparently) to save everyone else. I have always liked roguish protagonists and Balthier’s character is supported with some brilliant written dialogue which is often comedic and poetic at the same time, showing that a hero can be intellectuality without loosing the humour. As with Sazh, Balthier stands out as being much more unique then the others in 12, so when he refers to himself as the leading man I cannot help but feel the whole game would have been better if he was.
Number 3. – Vivi Orunitia (FFIX)
Everyone who has played Final Fantasy 9 loves Vivi. Especially girls. Even though he is filled to the teeth (if he has them) with black magic and explosions, his shy disposition and innocent outlook make him a defining and huggable entry in the series. But despite his cute, childlike personality, Vivi actually has one of the most interesting and thought provoking sub-plots of any Final Fantasy character so far. Discovering he is little more than a mass produced (and weaponised) doll, Vivi’s quest is about finding meaning in both his life and his inevitable death, all of which is portrayed through his childish innocence. This often leads to a lot of moments that are either, funny, touching or tragic but always endearing, adding a whole new layer of depth to what would otherwise be a fairly simple story about a princess and thief. From a gameplay point of view, Vivi is also one of the best people to have one your side in a fight, with a vast collection of black magic ranging from simple fire spells to summoning huge meteorites of doom with enough destructive power to have Michael Bay dribbling down his shirt.
Number 2. – Yuna (FFX)
Most Final Fantasy girls seem to fall into one of three types; the strong, empowered (and often large chested) warrior, the helpless princess (traditional) and the quirky, feisty teenager who is there mostly just to look cute. The reason I like Yuna so much is because she is a bit of all these things, without becoming another stereotype. She needs the help of the hero but is also capable of acting on her own. She is quiet and demur but is also brave and determined. She is cute but does not exist purely for that reason. Yuna is a well balanced heroine who I like for many of the same reasons I like Vivi; she is nice without being a wimp. Also she can summon flame demons and looks good in hot pants. That always helps. The love story between her and Tidus is also kind of sweet, but I would never admit that in public or on the internet.
Number 1. – Cid Highwind (FFVII)
Cid Highwind is without doubt one of my favourite characters of all time. When I was a youth, Final Fantasy 7 was one of the first games I played after Mario, Metroid and Zelda; so when me and my friend encounter this foul-mouthed pilot he instantly became our favourite. A video game character that smokes, drinks tea and swears like a sailor? It was an amazing thing to see. But that was not the only reason I like Cid so much. He his dream to becoming the first man in space and desire to make something of his life is something we can all relate too. Watching the Shinra rocket crash back to the launch pad and then finally launch into space still packs a lot of emotion; it reminds me of a time when all you need to complete your dream was to believe hard enough. And defeat Weapon. Without Cids wisecracks and little censored rants I would not have loved Final Fantasy 7 as much as I did. Without Final Fantasy 7 I would not have got into video games as much as I did, and without video games I would not be the person I am today. So thanks Cid, you foul mouthed old %!X#%$.
So now that I have finally joined the internet, or ‘net as I believe the young people are calling it, I thought it would be a good idea to look back over everything the web has given us and assign each aspect a numerical position based on how highly I choose to rank it.
Heres some things I like and don’t like about some stuff.
Thank you internet for giving me:
5. Online multiplayer: Like most gamers, I like me some mulitplayer. While I don’t believe modern gaming is quite everything I hoped it would be when I was 12 (see future post), one of the things this new age has brought us is the ability to fight out our differences over a long distance. Its all of the fun/abuse of playing with friends, but with strangers! All those who complain about said abuse are a load of nOObs and Nazi’s who fail to realise that the exchange of hatred is the core of a good failed life. Playing over the global network also removes the need for all that difficult socialising… Not that socialising is a bad thing, its just a lot easier to get friends together when you are 12 then when you are 24 and in full time employment for the next 45 years…
4. The unification of our world: Its a simple one, but king of a biggie. The internet allows us to talk to people anywhere in the world… Okay, most parts of the world. Certainly people in the more developed nations. The good developed nations who don’t use it as a form of repression (please don’t kill me). For every foul mouthed teenage wanting to make your online experience a living hell (see online multiplayer) there is at least one good person who its worth getting to know, the type of person you could happily discuss the the state of public transport with in a railway waiting room. The internet allows us to get to know our furthest neighbours, and makes us realise that no matter what our beliefs or skin colour, we all hate railway waiting rooms.
3. The answer to every question ever: What’s the fastest route out of Birmingham? How much does Uranus weigh? Where can I buy a grenade launcher? Why does that Velociraptor keep throwing bananas at me while I’m trying to study? Why is my *body part* gushing/ozzing *fluid*? Just what is wrong with me? All these questions have answers, and the internet knows them all. It just has a habit of presenting the wrong answer to the even more wrong question. But what does the odd factual inaccurate matter when you can access the entirety of humanities wisdom at the click of a mouse? Its not like everyone uses Wikipedia for writing their thesis or anything… not more than once anyway.
2. Youtube: Youtube grants us access to every kind of video mankind has every created (At least it would if it got rid of all those pesky ‘suitable content’ policies) Chances are good that you have been on Youtube at least once already today. If it did not exist, where else could we go to see babies laughing at lolcats or grown men inflating condoms by hanging them out of car windows? Nowhere that does not require standing up or moving around. On a more serious point, its on of the best archives of information future generations could hope for. Also this:
1. My girlfriend: Awwwwwww <3 Yes indeed, imaginary voice I hear when I read, you are right to aww. What I forgot to mention in my unification of the globe bit was that not only do you get to meet new and interesting people on the internet, occasionally you get to kiss them too. Me and my girlfriend would never have had the chance to meet up if it had not been for the internet, and we certainly would not have been able to maintain our relationship for so long if it had not been for the good people at Skype (she lives waaaaaay beyond shouting distance). So if getting it together with a wonderful girl (a physical one) is not the best thing about the internet, then I don’t know what is.
So too summarise the best bits of the internet: Girls and shouting at strangers from thousands of miles away. Now some stuff I do not like.
I would not like to thank the internet for:
5. Justine Beiber: Not just for Justine Beiber. Okay mostly for Justine Beiber. Originally I felt it was not fair to start hating a child I barely knew just because it was fashionable, but seriously now that I’ve seen videos of him, I just want to punch him in his smug child face. On his own, he would not be such a problem, except he seems to formed his own personal army of equally punchable tweenagers who insist on ruining every good anti-bieber thread with their pro-bieber insanity. If this tide of insipid squealing continues growing I have seriously concerns about the Earth future survival.
4. eBay: The freedom to buy anything you can think of at a reasonable price? Why would I dislike that? In principal I don’t, I love eBay. Thats part of the problem, its like cyber candy. You try desperately to resist but you just have to put a bid on that one thing you have really wanted for the last 5 seconds; but just can not help yourself. And then someone puts on a higher bid and all hell breaks loose. The whole purchasing of an item because a war, with military precision timing and terms like ‘sniping’. Loosing results in the grim despair of defeat, victory results in an empty wallet and letter box full of crisp shaped like Ringo Starr. (By the way, where that grenade launcher?)
3. Stealing all my free time: This blog has entry has taken me nearly 3 hours to write. Not including time spent on YouTube, Googling myself (giggity) or watching that Japanese Fanta commercial. From slow connection speeds to Captcha tests, everything on the internet steals my time like some giant time stealing thing. I had some other point to make but I want to watch that commercial another five or six times before bed.
2. The ‘cloud’: This is something I have been hearing a lot about recently… But just what is a cloud really and why is it so important that all my stuff gets kept on it? Maybe I like my stuff kept where it is thank you. Where I know it will not all disappear if the operating company goes bust or gets hacked by North Korea. Maybe its just my nature as a hoarder, or some ancient squirrel like nature that has yet to be evolved out of me, but I feel much more comfortable knowing all my digital nuts are stored safely on a hard disk or dvd. Personal files can, at least for the moment, can still be backed up in these more traditional ways but soon movies (possible games too) are likely to exist only in the ether and will only be ‘streamed’ down to you… Thats like if Ikea kept all their furniture in store and just sent it out each time you wanted to go to bed or sit on it. What if the delivery truck breaks down in transit? You would have to sleep on the floor like a common animal. Thats what your making us do, cloud!
Actually that’s a pretty big sword… you know what? Keep my stuff.
1. Invading my personal space: The creation of the internet has been the biggest invasion of privacy since some perverted (probably) architect started putting windows in bathrooms (why would I want to be able to see myself all naked in anything other than complete darkness?). Now it seems that everything you every do on the internet is being monitored, and this is not something new. People will say its not a problem as long as you are not doing anything wrong… but what if its a corrupt government who decides right and wrong for you? What if Hitler could monitor your internet usage? All those spoof bunker videos do not seem so funny now do they? And this does not even taking into account internet advertising, which arguably even worse then Hitler. (A Super-Hitler?) The most worrying part is how readily the we surrender are personal lives to the internets inviting candy-house. Remember all those pictures from that party? Everyone and their friends can see those on Facebook if they really try hard enough. My point is things leaked onto the internet are very hard to forget about, and big brother is always watching. Especially that which you Googled last night… no matter how hard you scrub your history. In fact, if we imagine the natural progression of things, your webcam is probably already watching you right now….