Top 10 Final Fantasy Characters – #4

WARNING!!! WARNING!!! CONTROVERSIAL OPINION ALERT! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! WARNING!!! WARNING!!!

#4 – Tidus

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

YES!!! I am going there! And you can’t stop me!

My fourth favorite Final Fantasy character is, in fact, one of the most hated characters in the history of video games. Hell, maybe even the history of entertainment. Surely, I must be trolling. How can Tidus be higher than Kefka? Squall? CLOUD?!

I’ll admit, Tidus is everything that his haters say he is. He’s a whiny, obnoxious little brat with daddy issues. So, how can he be this high on the list? The answer is simple, my irate friends. Tidus is this high on my list because of these things! Tidus is burdened by all of these things, and eventually pushes through them to become one of the most well developed Final Fantasy characters of all time.

At the beginning of Final Fantasy X, Tidus was completely unlikeable. He let his own personal problems effect him and the people around him way too much. Unfortunately for him, he holds on to these traits for a good 85% of the game, and still never gets over them completely. But when he finally does make progress as a character, it makes for some of the most emotional and powerful moments in the entire Final Fantasy series.

Even though Tidus is annoying, and is comprised of traits not befitting of a hero, he is one of the most human characters I have ever seen. I never felt a very strong connection to characters like Cloud, Squall, and Lightning, because they were nothing more than  idealized “bad asses” who’s sole purposes were to look cool. I could never identify with these people, because they were completely unlikeable and unrealistic. While they do develop in their own way, they don’t receive anywhere near the amount that Tidus does. It’s Tidus’ whiny persona that allows him to transform into a very realistic and memorable character.

Aside from his crybaby nature, Tidus is very kind and compassionate. He does everything in his power to protect those around them, despite the fact that he isn’t very strong. He knows that he’s weak and useless, but he doesn’t let it bother him (for the most part). He functions as a different type of hero; a hero who’s own humanity and feelings give him strength. What he lacks in physical strength, he makes up with compassion.

The ending of Final Fantasy X shows just how far Tidus has come as a character. He knows that defeating Sin will end his existence, and prevent him from living a happy life with Yuna and his new friends. However, he doesn’t waver one bit, and is completely willing to sacrifice everything for the greater good. The final scene is absolutely heart breaking: Tidus is shown hugging Yuna after she has told him she loves him for the first time. Even though this is the last time he will ever see the woman he loves, he, for the first time in the game, does not cry.

Tidus may not be crying, but I sure as hell am ;_;

The transformation that Tidus undergoes in Final Fantasy X is beautiful. He changes from a completely unlikeable and selfish crybaby into one of the most well rounded characters I have ever had the pleasure of seeing.

The fact that Tidus is almost universally hated by the Final Fantasy fan base really bothers me. The only reasons they cite for him being a bad character is “lol laughing scene,” and “lol he cries a lot.” So what? Almost every Final Fantasy protagonist is highly flawed. The fact that Tidus is even more flawed than the rest is what makes him unique and memorable. Just because he doesn’t have the 24 foot sword and the angsty personality doesn’t make him a bad character. Because he was able to change from such an unlikeable wuss into such a well rounded character is why he deserves this spot on the list.

Now, we are finally down to the three best Final Fantasy characters of all time. With all three main protagonists from the three most popular games already listed, who can possibly be left? Sephiroth? Lightning? Frocobo? The shoopuff guy? I guess we’ll see ;-)

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Top 10 Final Fantasy Characters – #5

#5 – Jecht

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Look at that guy. Look at him. That dude OOZES manliness.

Writing about why Jecht is a good character is a bit difficult due to the fact that most of his development happens off screen. He isn’t a playable character, and he’s only third on the list of FFX’s villains at best. That being said, the stories we hear about Jecht, paired with the small amount of screen time he is given tells us the story of a very realistic, albeit somewhat despicable, character.

What makes Jecht so memorable to me is that he is highly flawed, just like any real person would be. However, his flaws are different than those of most other Final Fantasy characters. Instead of being an endlessly depressed man with a dark past, Jecht’s flaws are more comparable to those that a real person might have. His status as a star athlete gives him a larger-than-life ego, which then results in him becoming a careless alcoholic who neglects his own son. In a series full of characters with somewhat silly motivations, the realism behind Jecht’s character is what makes him memorable.

When Jecht is transported to Spira one day while training at sea, he loses his fame and is forced to become just a normal guy. However, his ego and love for alcohol is still there, which results in him getting thrown into prison. Humbled by his experiences in Spira, Jecht teams up with Braska and Auron in a journey to defeat Sin and restore peace to the world for a short period of time. As his journey goes on, Jecht begins to see just how bad of a person he was back when he was in Zanarkand. He finally realizes that his son Tidus is justified in hating him, and hopes to find a way to redeem himself. He takes one last shot at redemption by sacrificing himself in order to become the fayth for the Final Aeon needed to defeat Sin, which results in Jecht becoming the very essence that allows Sin to live.

In an attempt to atone for his sins as a horrible father, Jecht uses his power as Sin to bring Tidus to Spira to embark on the same journey that he did a few years ago. When father and son are finally reunited, Jecht acts like the asshole he used to be on purpose in order to motivate Tidus to kill him along with Sin. Knowing how his son truly feels about him, Jecht walks away, leaving the most memorable image in the entire game:

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But Tidus never sees the sadness on Jecht’s face. Jecht then turns around to face his son, and reverts to his asshole persona to once again motivate his son to kill him.

Jecht went from a complete asshole to perhaps the most likeable character in the game. He sacrifices himself twice in order to save the world, and jeopardizes his relationship with his own son in order to do so. Jecht deserves the #6 spot on my list because of his realistic flaws, solid development, and honorable sacrifices. Also… manliness. Lots of it.

Top 10 Final Fantasy Characters – #6

#6 – Noel Kreiss

When compared to other male characters in the Final Fantasy series, Noel stands out as being unique and surprisingly realistic. Even though he comes from a horrible future in which he is the last human in existence, he still acts in a very respectable and honorable manner. Instead of being the typical “angsty” Final Fantasy character, Noel actually has a very admirable and unique personality.

Noel has the perfect combination of “level-headed” and “bad ass” qualities. Instead of using his tragic past (future?) as a reason to mope, he remains cheerful for the most part. He actually uses his knowledge of the future as a tool that allows him to effectively deliberate over his own actions. He remains cheerful, despite the threat looming over his head. Yet, he is also a skilled hunter capable of taking out anything thrown at him. He only fights if he has to, but he has the strength necessary to win in any situation.

Noel also has his flaws, which contribute to the realism surrounding his character. Even though he is smart and level-headed, there are some times when he can be somewhat cocky and overconfident. He has his share of “eye roll” moments when he talks trash to some of the monsters you are fighting. Even though it’s cheesy, it can be charming at the same time. His cheesy taunting is completely justified because he can actually “walk the walk,” which  makes him funny and entertaining at the same time.

Noel is also a very compassionate character. His desire to protect Yeul, and later, Serah, is what motivates him. Even though he does not know Serah very well, he is willing to do anything to protect her. Due to the nature of the future he grows up in, Noel knows the value of human life. He refuses to kill Caius, even after all of the horrible things he does to Noel and Serah. His high regard for human life makes Noel one of the most human characters in the Final Fantasy series.

Noel’s compassionate personality holds him back from killing Caius

Most people are unwilling to put anyone from the Final Fantasy XIII series on their lists because of the nonsensical story they are acting in. Even though silly and poorly explained things are happening to them, I still find their personalities endearing enough to care about. Noel is pretty much just a regular guy thrown into a very, VERY bad situation. He acts as a normal person would, which is why he deserves a spot on this list.

Top 10 Final Fantasy Characters – #7

#7 – Balthier Bunansa

First of all, I should say that I really did not like Final Fantasy XII. It is by far my least favorite Final Fantasy game, and is probably the most disappointing and underwhelming game I have ever played in my entire life. That being said, the general lack of anything interesting happening in the game’s story allowed for one character to shine through the darkness: Balthier Bunansa.

Similar to the rest of FFXII’s cast, Balthier is by no means a deep or complex character. He receives little to no actual character development, which is disappointing considering his likeable personality. He’s a cocky jerk with a huge ego, and he is given the best dialog in a game where plot and character interaction is almost nonexistent. Despite his cocky attitude, he’s still a good man, and is the true hero of Final Fantasy XII.

Balthier is on this list because I like characters who get things done. Pretty much every character in Final Fantasy XII just sits there with their thumbs up their ass the entire time. That is, until Balthier says or does something that motivates them to take action. He serves as a mentor-like figure to Vaan, a loyal and close friend to Fran, and a motivator for Ashe. Even though Vaan and Ashe are the two main protagonists, Balthier is constantly referring to himself as “the leading man.” He’s the only character in the game who has the capacity to think and act for himself.

“I just risked my life to save all of your asses, and I have to carry this bitch out of here by myself. Shouldn’t, I dunno, the main protagonist be doing this stuff?

Unfortunately, there really isn’t much else to say about Balthier. Even though he lacks much needed development, his likeable personality and willingness to actually do things that other characters aren’t is enough for me. Thank you Balthier, for being the only bright spot in a rather bad game.

Graceful Charity

At long last, Tales of Graces f is set to be released this Tuesday, and I am HYPPPPPPPPPEDDDDDD. The future of the Tales series in the United States is upon us, and its fate lies in our hands. Namco Bandai has finally given American gamers one final chance to prove its dedication to the series who’s lack of U.S. releases has caused so much anguish and dismay amongst dedicated fans. Will the crusade to revive interest in such a niche series be successful, or will Bamco’s good graces go unnoticed?

Given how Namco Bandai handled the 3DS release of Tales of the Abyss, I would say that things are looking up. Let’s face it: Tales of Graces f isn’t going to be a big seller, especially since RPG juggernaut Mass Effect 3 was released only one week prior. However, Bamco has taken the necessary steps to maximize their potential profit. While Tales games have always been printed in short supply, Bamco printed even less copies of Tales of the Abyss than usual. While this may sound like a bad thing, printing less copies means less money spent on Bamco’s end. Instead, they print enough copies to allow the dedicated fans to pre-order their copy, as well as provide 1-3 extra copies for each store to have just in case someone without a reservation may want it. This also prevents used copies from saturating the market. For a series as niche as the Tales series is, this is a very smart business tactic that may result in the growth of the series. Using this same tactic with Tales of Graces f would be a smart move on Bamco’s part.

Over the last couple of years, it has been increasingly difficult for JRPGs not ending in “antasy” to survive in the video game market. Less JRPGs are being made, and even fewer are being brought over to the North America. This also works in Tales of Graces f’s favor, because the bar has been lowered to a reasonable height. This, combined with the smaller shipment strategy mentioned above, will result in a much more reasonable profit projection from Bamco. Also, fans of the JRPG genre are starving for a new experience. While releasing the game along side Mass Effect 3 may have been a small mistake, avoiding the release of Final Fantasy XIII-2 was a brilliant decision. For the next few months, maybe even a year, the only new console JRPG out there will be Tales of Graces f, which will also help contribute to sales figures.

For the first time in a long time, things are looking up for one of the most dedicated fan bases in all of gaming. If Tales of Graces f is as successful as it should be, we should finally start seeing more games brought over to North America. Now, I must call upon all of my JRPG brethren: BUY THIS GAME! This isn’t just the Tales series we are talking about here, but the genre as a whole. If we want to see JRPGs have a future on consoles, this game is going to have to do well. Something needs to prove that there is still a demand for JRPGs that aren’t developed by Square-Enix, and this game is probably our best shot.

My Favorite Video Game Series – #10

#10 – Kingdom Hearts

KINGDOM HEAAAAAAAAAAARTSS!

Favorite game in the series: Kingdom Hearts II

Least favorite game in the series: Kingdom Hearts Re: coded

Kingdom Hearts is… something. I seem to find my opinion towards the series shifting almost by the minute. One day, I might think it should be in my top 5, while on another day, I want to kick it off of the list entirely. The series has so many great high points, but an equal amount of disappointing low points as well.

Kingdom Hearts was the second game I ever played on the Playstation 2, which certainly adds nostalgia into the equation. Even though I was never that interested in Disney when I was growing up, I was still drawn in by the Final Fantasy cameos. Kingdom Hearts does an amazing job at providing fan service while also building upon its own legacy.

At its core, the Kingdom Hearts series is great. It provides a compelling story, a unique and enjoyable battle system, and a wide world of both new and old characters who are fun and interesting. However, the problem with Kingdom Hearts is that it refuses to evolve. It has been almost SEVEN years since the last numbered entry in the series was released, which has turned me off of the series quite a bit. Instead of expanding the core storyline introduced in KHI and KHII, Square-Enix continuously releases spin-off games with very little impact on the overall plot. While I can’t call these games bad, they don’t really add anything new or interesting to the series. Because of this, the Kingdom Hearts series is beginning to become increasingly stale, which is truly a shame for such a unique series.

The story in the Kingdom Hearts series is solid, but can sometimes be nonsensical and confusing. Due to the large number of spin-off titles, Squsre-Enix has introduced tons of new characters who are often paired with confusing storylines. For example, the main villain in the series, Xehanort, seems to have 5+ different forms of existence in 5+ different time lines (I’m exaggerating, but it really is something crazy like that). I, for one, welcome these complicated storylines. A deep and complex story allows for the characters within them to grow and develop in a way that other characters cannot. But the problem with Kingdom Hearts is that it hasn’t fully resolved any plot line in the entire series. Each new spin-off has a new protagonist, while the others may make a cameo appearance if you’re lucky. This is really frustrating for people like myself; people who have been invested in the series since the beginning. We crave answers to a storyline that is complex and interesting, but sadly, we get nothing.

The potential for Kingdom Hearts to become an all-time great series is all there. Maybe Square-Enix is just preparing to make Kingdom Hearts III a super-game that finally brings the series full circle. When and if that happens, the series definitely will be moving up on my list. But for right now, I can’t help but voice my frustrations with the series. I just hope that they don’t waste the enormous opportunity they have at making something truly special just to squeeze more money out of me in the form of spin-off games.

Top 10 Final Fantasy Characters – #8

#8 – Cloud Strife

Despite the crap that I often give Cloud and his boatload of fans, I really do think he’s a pretty good character. He obviously has the ever-so-important “coolness” factor, and actually does go through a transformation of character throughout Final Fantasy VII.

Cloud gets a lot of flack for being a generic JRPG protagonist. He’s got the crazy hair, the big-ass sword, the dark past, amnesia, the “I’m all alone” mentality: all things that make up a ton of JRPG protagonists. However, what people forget is that Cloud is the one who MADE these things generic. He may not have been the first one to possess these things, but his popularity is the reason why they became so widespread. Therefore, I find it rather unfair to bash him for having these certain traits, because his popularity is the reason that they became so generic.

In Final Fantasy VII, Cloud’s stubbornness and “I’m all alone” mentality transforms completely. With the help of Aerith and Tifa, Cloud is able to see the error of his ways, and begins to put faith in the abilities of his friends. He becomes a loyal friend to those around him, and gains the maturity he needs to defeat Sephiroth.

But… the reason that Cloud isn’t higher on this list is because all of this development is destroyed in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.  Cloud reverts back to his previous state of mind with little to no explanation. He says that he feels guilty for not being able to protect Aerith and Zack, but why didn’t he let if effect him in Final Fantasy VII? Sure, he felt the guilt for awhile, but he eventually put it behind him in order to focus on what was truly important. Why would he suddenly let it start influencing his behavior again? It’s this kind of inconsistency that can really diminish the quality of a character.

What happened to the “Let’s Mosey” Cloud from the end of Final Fantasy VII? Why so serious, Cloud?

If I were judging Cloud based only off of Final Fantasy VII, he would probably be around #4 or 5 on this list (hell, I even liked him in Crisis Core). But Advent Children was used only as a way to make Cloud look cool, which destroyed the development he received in FFVII. Despite this, his development in Final Fantasy VII alone is enough of a reason for me to put him on the list at the #8 spot.