It's been a while since I did a good nerd post/list. What better way to ring in the new year than to take a look at the greatest video game series of all time, Final Fantasy, and pick the 10 best characters these great games have given us?
Before we get to the list, I need to share that this list is not just looking at good guys/heros. Eevery character, from evil to just, is in play. Also, I played most of these games when I was a kid. I say this because I was a bit sexist back then and never used the girls/women unless I had to. Finally, this ranking isn't really looking at the usability of the character in the game. It is looking at the depth of that character and the emotions they brought out in the player.
Honorable Mention. Aerith/Aeris (Final Fnatasy VII) - She is the star of maybe the most memorable and shocking scene the series has ever seen. She is this cute, seemingly harmless girl who just wants to save the planet and who also breaks through Cloud's incredibly cold outer shell. She is the last person you would expect to be impaled and killed less than halfway through the game! Without this death, Sephiroth would not be nearly as hated a villain as he ends up being. She would be higher, but she almost seems too flawless a character to relate to.
10. Yuna (Final Fantasy X and X-2) - I never really got into Final Fantasy X-2, but Yuna was a very interesting character in X and deserves to be mentioned. She is so young and innocent. You could picture her as the girl next door or that pretty, but shy girl you went to school with. But she also had more strength than anyone gives her credit for. She was willingly going on a suicide mission to give the world a break from the monster known as Sin. Maybe she didn't know that one of her friends had to become the monster, but she knew that she would have to sacrifice her life in order to stop Sin for a few years. She knw that yet still went on her pilgrimmage willingly. Bascailly, she was a better person than all of us!
9. Zalbag (Final Fantasy Tactics) - Our first Non-Playable Character (NPC) to grace the list. If Zalbag joined with his evil brother, Dycedarg, he would have been pretty much unstoppable. He was supposedly one of the greatest knights to ever live. The player never really witnesses this, but it is alluded to by game dialogue and his rank of Ark Knight. But he threw that power away to try and dish out justice on his brother, who had poisoned their father. Zalbag is also one of the most tragic characters in the Final Fantasy Tactics world, because right when he finally opens his eyes to the conspiracy around him and you think he is going to join you, he is turned into a friggin' vampire and the player has to kill him. I spent an hour on that battle trying every possible way to save him. Never had I wanted a video game character to live so much since General Leo got offed by Kefka in Final Fantasy III (Or VI).
8. Vivi (Final Fantasy IX) - Cloud from Final Fantasy VII gets all the attention on his journey to find himself, but Vivi's story was more touching. He knows he's not human, but has no idea what he is. Then he finds out that he was manufactured and others like him were weapons of war and had short lifespans. That is quite a lot to take in for the equivalent of an adolescent. Yet he plowed forth and helped save the world, even as so many feared and hated him.
7. Balthier (Final Fantasy X11) - It was really hard to put your finger on the main character of Final Fantasy X11. Vaan was on the cover and the first character you meet, but Ashe was the princess fighting for her country's freedom. Then there was a the former judge/sky pirate Balthier. He proclaimed himself the hero of the story and I agree. He had the best lines and his story was the most intriguing. His father was one of the main bad guys, and we learned throughout the course of the game that Balthier used to be one of the hated judges, but left to become a sky pirate.
6. Kefka (Final Fantasy III) - OK, there are some that think his clown/jester get-up makes him less scary and there are those that thinks it makes him more menacing. I look past the clown appearance and look at the pure evil that was Kefka. He is the one Final Fantasy bad guy who actually succeeds in destroying the world, kind of! He killed countless people when he used the Light of Judgement and basically created a post-apocalypse environment for the whole second half of the game. And while there are some Final Fantasy bad guys who are evil because they are possessed by demons, are demons, aliens that want to destroy the world, gods that want to destroy the world, etc... Kefka was a human who just took pleasure in the suffering of others. He poisened the Water supply of Doma, killing women and children. He left whole towns of orphans by casting the Light of Judgement for no other reason than to show off his power. He assassinated General Leo, the Emperor and a ton of Espers. He was probably the most naturally evil character the series has ever seen.
5. Auron (Final Fnatasy X) - I get goosebumps every time I watch the cut scene where the group learns that Yuna must die to stop Sin and Auron makes his grand speech. Even without his general badassdom throughout the game, this would have locked him into the Top 5. Forget that he carries a big sword and dominates enemies, it's that moment where Auron shines. Throughout the game, he has cool lines, but never says a lot and we don't know how he died. Then we see that he was trying to avenge his friends when he was struck down. And then he makes the appeal to fight against sorrow and pain, rather than settle for false hope. It was one of the greatest scenes the series has and will ever see. It also illustrates how strong of a character Yuna is, cementing her place on this list.
4. Locke (Final Fantasy III) - The most useful and powerful character in Final Fantasy III is without a doubt Sabin. With his blitzes, he dominates enemies throughout the game without using any MP, and then he can always learn Ultima and be unstoppable. But the strongest character is the treasure hunter known as Locke. He is a knight in shining armor without the knighthood or the armor. When Terra is going to be taken by Narshe guards, Locke saves her, as he has this thing about never letting woman down again. He saves Celes on several occasions and is just an all around good guy.
When the world crumbles, he's not out drinking or crying, he is trying to find the magicite that can bring his past lover back to life after she died saving him. He always put others first. He also had that really neat Steal/Mug command.
3. Cloud (Final Fantasy VII) - He is kind of a dick in the beginning. All he wants is money. Then you learn all the crap he had to endure. Sephiroth brutally murdered his mother, nearly killed his best friend from childhood and torched his home town. Later, he is genetically altered, his best friend from later on is life is pumped full of lead and he has no idea who he is. You are really rooting for this guy! His spiky hair and giant Buster Sword have become the symbols of the series.
It's quite an experience watching Cloud grow from bitchy mercenary to respectable hero. While he still holds the old grudge against Sephiroth, at the end he is in the fight to save the world and puts that above his own vengeance. But even then, the man is tormented by letting Aerith die (Go watch Advent Children... Now!). Seeing him find that inner peace is incredibly rewarding.
2. Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII) - Yes, the dude seems to be pure evil. He has done some terrible things in the past, like torching Nibelheim, but that whole scene is done under the premise that he is going insane because he thinks his mother was the evil god, Jenova. But the moment you really come to hate Sephiroth is when he impales Aerith. This was the first time I recall in a video game where one of the main characters is killed off. He fell from the sky, like his mother when she came to the planet, and killed Aerith like his mother did to the other Cetra.
The thing is, while Sephiroth is a very bad man, he is also a tragic villain. He is the victim Dr. Hojo's lab experiments. Sephiroth actually had a human mother, Lucrecia, but Hojo infused her with Jenova cells, making Sephiroth all powerful and thinking he is a god destined to destroy the planet. I mean that is no excuse for mass murder, but still makes you wonder what would have happened if Hojo didn't make Sephiroth an experiment.
1. Ramza (Final Fantasy Tactics) - Ramza is probably the weakest protagonist the series has ever had. Cloud was a master swordsman and Omni-Slash could take out some of the final bosses by itself. All of Final Fantasy III's characters could learn Ultima. Tidus was a dream that could kill people. Ramza was a squire turned hero. His default class was a squire and the best thing he could learn was Ultima. There was no Holy Sword skill like Agrias and Orlandu. He was not a Temple Knight like Beowulf. He is the character in the series you can relate to more than anybody.
For the most part, he fights because it is the right thing to do. Whether it is defying his brothers to try and save Teta, or working to stop a war that will kill tens of thousands, he is doing it out of morals. He could have walked away at any time. The world was not facing a calamity like Meteor or a crazy clown with a laser beam. But he fought on to protect those he cared about and those who could not fight for themselves against a corrupt government and church (and demons). In the end, he received no recognition for his heroics. Instead he remains labeled a heretic. While some might storm the castle to clear his name and oust his former friend, now king, he just walks away, knowing he did the right thing and his sister is safe.