#9 – Colonel Jade Curtiss
At the young age of 9, Jade Balfour used his knowledge in the field of fonic artes to co-create Fomicry: a new type of science that allowed for living entities to be replicated. Recognizing his excellence in the field, Jade was adopted by the Curtiss family: a high-ranking part of Malkuth’s military. However, Jade’s failure to create a replica of his beloved teacher Gelda Nebilim caused him to give up the craft for good. He then earns the position of colonel of the Malkuth military due to his ability to utilize powerful fonic artes. He eventually meets up with Luke fon Fabre, who’s very existence once again forces Jade to face his past mistakes as the Father of Fomicry.
Despite his dark past, Jade appears to be rather cheerful on the surface. He’s constantly sporting a smile on his face, and likes to use his superior intellect to pick on the other members of the party. He’s often very sarcastic, and uses his snide comments as a way to get his points across. Sometimes he comes off as a bit cruel, but his harsh words are often used as a way to help other characters develop. He’s always streets ahead of his companions, and is usually the one to offer the explanation as to why something happened/is going to happen.
Jade’s sarcasm leads to a lot of the game’s best moments. He is the primary comic relief character, despite the fact that he also has one of the deepest and darkest backstories in the group. He constantly makes fun of his companions, but in a way that makes them, and us, love him even more. Jade is a completely serious character with a hilarious personality that brings out the best in the characters surrounding him.
The one thing I don’t like about Jade is that his character development is kind of hard to find. He never really develops through the game’s main plot, and instead develops through various side quests and optional dungeons. In a way, this make’s Jade’s development a bit more rewarding to experience, but also very easy to miss. I was lucky enough to find it during my first playthrough of Tales of the Abyss, which is one of the reasons why I found him to be such an interesting character.
Unlike most Tales characters, Jade is a very despicable person. He’s guilty of some pretty heinous things, and covers them up with a smart-ass attitude that sometimes borders on the line of being down right cruel. He’s kind of hard to sympathize with due to the fact that most of his sins were a result of his own overconfidence and carelessness. While he does feel sorry for them, he tries much harder to cover them up than he does to actually atone for them.
But it is Jade’s lack of likeability that makes his development that much more meaningful. The rare moments in which Jade is sincere are some of the best moments in Tales of the Abyss. When we finally see him cast away his snarky persona in the face of his sins, we finally begin to sympathize with him. He spends such a huge amount of time hiding behind his intelligence, which makes the few moments where he acts like a normal human being that much more meaningful.
Why does he deserve the #9 spot?
I’ve never seen a character who was both the most and least likeable character at the same time. Jade is likeable because his crass personality leads to some of the funniest moments in the entire Tales series. The way he makes fun of the other characters, Luke and Guy in particular, just never seem to get old. But the way he tries to sweep his terrible past under the rug makes him a pretty detestable person.
While I wasn’t necessarily moved emotionally by Jade’s past, it is still one of the most powerful stories I have ever seen in gaming. When we finally see someone as egotistical and borderline narcissistic as Jade acknowledge the kind of person he actually is, we can’t help but feel something. The way his development is structured in Tales of the Abyss makes it that much more powerful. We must work hard to find the truth behind Jade’s past, just as he himself must work hard to finally admit what kind of person he truly is. All of this makes Jade Curtiss one of the most well developed characters I have ever seen.