The Final Fantasy Heroes That Should Have Been
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 XIII
The Putative Protagonist: Lightning
Who 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 XI
The Putative Protagonist: Xxdudekillerxx
Who 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 X
The Putative Protagonist: Tidus
Who 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 IX
The Putative Protagonist: Zidane
Who 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 VIII
The Putative Protagonist: Squall
Who 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.]
Final Fantasy VII
The Putative Protagonist: Cloud
Who It Should’ve Been: Aerith
Imagine how much better Final Fantasy VII would have been if instead of trying to figure out if Cloud was a real boy or dead…or a clone…or a dead clone…or whatever, we fought against the evil corporation bent on world domination and the insane supersoldier trying to destroy the world itself. Wouldn’t that have been great?
Also, with Aerith as the main character we wouldn’t have been subjected to discs two and three. That would be worth it by itself.
Final Fantasy VI
The Putative Protagonist: Terra/Celes
Who It Should’ve Been: Edgar/Sabin
Terra and Celes are solid characters, and I’d be cracking wise about their superiority to most of the other entries on this list. What they don’t do, however, is sacrifice their own happiness so their twin brother can live out his dream to become a powerful enough martial artist to suplex a freaking train. We could have suplexed so many more things with more screen time for Sabin and Edgar. Tanks? Suplex! Mechs? Suplex! The Sabin of our dreams would have turned Kefka’s final ridiculous form sideways, thrown it over his shoulder, and cracked the whole damn thing in half with a drop that knocked a second continent loose to drift free through the sky for the rest of history.
Final Fantasy V
The Putative Protagonist: Bartz
Who It Should’ve Been: Galuf
Bartz the mercenary is the lamest character-free cipher of a protagonist in the entirety of Final Fantasy. Galuf isn’t much better, but at least his sacrifice might have meant something instead of having its entire impact be predicated on the cool grumpy old man replaced by an annoyingly positive teenager.
Final Fantasy IV
The Putative Protagonist: Cecil
Who It Should’ve Been: Kain
Final Fantasy IV boasts arguably the second-strongest roster of characters in the whole franchise, and Cecil is right behind Lightning in terms of protagonists. A game about Kain, though, could have explored the idea of working for the enemy, questioning your own convictions, and carrying out ill-advised kidnappings of your best friend’s special lady. Also, we would have kept Kain’s awesome Jump ability instead of Cecil’s crappy nothing (or Dark Sword in the Japanese original or the better re-releases) and later Cover specials.
The Putative Protagonist: FIGHTER
Who It Should’ve Been: NINJA
Don’t lie; you totally picked a flaming red FIGHTER to head up your party of intrepid adventurers, backed up by THIEF and probably WHITE MAGE and BLACK MAGE. THIEF sucked so bad for so long, doing half of FIGHTER’s damage with none of his durability. When THIEF finally emerges from his cocoon of mediocrity into the unstoppable force that is NINJA, though, FIGHTER can’t do anything but cry himself to sleep out of jealousy.