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We love Final Fantasy, but the stories aren’t always centered on the best or most interesting character in the cast. Come see who the protagonist of your favorite game should’ve been as I fix Square Enix’s flagship franchise with the benefit of hindsight.
Final Fantasy XIIIThe Putative Protagonist: LightningWho It Should’ve Been: Lightning
The most recent main entry finally gets it right, putting its best foot forward with a heroine who is a leader in word and in deed. Lightning fights for what she believes in (which isn’t stupid, for once), instead of slaughtering hundreds of guards and monsters for ill-defined goals that could only make sense in a video game. More importantly, she takes care of business rather than whining about how the world isn’t fair.
Final Fantasy XII
The Putative Protagonist: Vaan
Who It Should’ve Been: Basch
Vaan is an orphaned street kid who rocks a little chest-baring vest and hammer pants, and spends the first few hours of the game complaining about boredom instead of helping out the kindly shopkeeper that keeps his ungrateful self from starving. Basch is a disgraced knight who takes the fall for a traitorous twin brother in the incident that sets Ivalice on the path to world war. It’s no coincidence that FF XII picks up when Vaan and company rescue Basch from the oubliette he was left to die in – but to the game’s credit, it becomes an ensemble cast in the vein of FF VI around that point instead of continuing to focus on Captain Whinypants here.
Final Fantasy XIThe Putative Protagonist: XxdudekillerxxWho It Should’ve Been: Anyone Else
No, Square Enix, we didn’t want EverQuest: Moogle Edition. At least the company didn’t make this particular mistake again.
[cue sad trombone]
Final Fantasy XThe Putative Protagonist: TidusWho It Should’ve Been: Auron
Making the one-eyed ghost samurai – a fighter with no equal who is on a mission to bring peace through ultimate violence to his former-best-friend-turned-world-devouring-monster – into the main character for this seminal PlayStation 2 showpiece must have been the easiest decision Squaresoft ever made.
[you know the drill, sad trombone guy]
Final Fantasy IXThe Putative Protagonist: ZidaneWho It Should’ve Been: Vivi
After playing FF IX to completion multiple times, I’m still not sure what Zidane’s deal is except that he has a tail, a stupid haircut, and gives the worst pseudonym advice possible. (Dagger, seriously? Ugh. Next time you play FF IX, give Princess Garnet the secret bandit handle of Garnet for unintentional dialogue hilarity.) And who didn’t cheer when Vivi appeared, reviving the old and much beloved faceless black mage stylings from the NES games? Does he come from a tribe of diminutive spellcasters? Is he a war golem created to harness the chaotic energies of the elements? I have no idea, but finding out would’ve been awesome.
Final Fantasy VIIIThe Putative Protagonist: SquallWho It Should’ve Been: Seifer
Squall is aptly named. That amorphous blob of tired high school boyfriend clichés is indeed reminiscent of the irritating bawling of a newborn or a non-threatening minor bit of rain. Seifer may be the least boring character in a dull cast, but at least he does something interesting by kidnapping Rinoa and seeing himself as a hero while working for an evil sorceress. Next time you replay FF VIII…ah, just kidding. Don’t replay FF VIII. The Draw system has got to be my least favorite Final Fantasy magic system ever.
[Next up: The Final Fantasy VII pick is totally not who you think it is. Also, Final Fantasy V actually did have characters underneath the job system. Trust me, I double-checked.]