Like so many other gamers out there, the Final Fantasy series holds a special place in my heart. My first Final Fantasy game was IX, which I beat around the time I was ten years old. I was totally mesmerized by it. Until then, no other video game I had played had captured my imagination the way that a book or a movie was capable of. Apart from the story, I found the battle system challenging, but once I was able to master it, no other game could fill me with greater satisfaction. The game's effect on me was almost drug-like. Since then, I have played Final Fantasy VII, VIII, X, X-2, XII, XIII, and Tactics, though I am ashamed to admit that aside from IX, I have only beaten X and X-2--but not because I didn't want to. After I got to the 3rd disc of VII, my game file became "corrupted". Tens of hours into both Tactics and VIII, I got stuck at a boss...While playing XII (around 70 hours or so), our PS2 died, and a month or two ago, a storm completely fried our PlayStation 3 before I got the chance to beat XIII.
WTF, right? Mine is a cursed gamer's fate.
Regardless, there are many things about the Final Fantasy series that make it great, but not the least of which is the characters. Each game has a distinct cast of characters who move the game forward and whose personalities draw you in, so for this post, I have created a list of my top ten favorite characters from the series (of the games I've played, so far). I'd like to think that mine is a diverse list, consisting of badasses, comic reliefs, and old-fashioned heroes, among other character types. So here, I present to you my top 10 Final Fantasy characters...
#10: Red XIII from Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII was an excellent game and an undeniably groundbreaking one for the series. However, it is far from my favorite (I know, crazy, right?). Regardless, the character that stood out the most to me was Red XIII or "Nanaki". Along with his fiery, lion-like fighting abilities, Red XIII possesses a wisdom and intelligence that surpasses that of all the other main characters, contrary to what one might expect. Not to mention, his value of nature and devotion to the planet, which are reminiscent to the Native Americans', is a nice change of pace compared to the rest of the game's grungy/sci-fi cityscape atmosphere.
#9: Balthier from Final Fantasy XII
He's a suave, witty sky pirate--what more could a girl ask for? While the battle system and atmosphere of Final Fantasy XII were purely awe-inspiring, the story line and character development weren't quite as engaging or memorable as other Final Fantasies' and often left me wanting more. The game's humor and emotional intrigue rested almost exclusively on Balthier and his respective partner in crime, Fran, making him my favorite character in the game by far. If you level him up correctly, he's a very useful character in battle, and his amusing one-liners make you want him in your party as much as possible.
#8: Selphie from Final Fantasy VIII
Okay, so I definitely have a thing for the cute, clutzy, but immensely useful girls of the Final Fantasy series. I suppose they're the ones that I usually relate to more than the others, and for the most-part, they're just downright entertaining. Selphie, the nunchaku-wielding mercenary, is a perfect example of such a character. With her short, yellow dress and her goofy, flipped-out hair, she may appear cute and harmless, but she can be a very valuable asset on the battlefield. She also pilots the Ragnarok, the characters' main mode of transportation across the FFVIII world. All things considered, Selphie is a very charming and solid character of the Final Fantasy series.
#7: Sazh from Final Fantasy XIII
With what I believe to be the best voice acting in the series (which isn't saying a WHOLE lot, to be honest), I found Sazh immensely likable as soon as he came onto the screen. Acting as the comic relief of a game that carries the weight of a very serious storyline, Sazh still possesses a fascinating depth to him. Though he does his best to keep a clear, optimistic view of things, we find him caving in from time to time. And with a past like his, who wouldn't feel a little hopeless every once in a while? As a multi-purpose, pistol-toting Ravager, Sazh is a frequent member of my battle party. Also, have you seen that baby chocobo he stowes away in his afro?! It's adorable!
#6: Kuja from Final Fantasy IX
In general, I have a hard time fully appreciating Final Fantasy villains. Kuja, however, is nothing short of an evil bastard, and yet I couldn't help but feel sorry for him (yeah, that's a guy). I can't say that for any other FF baddie that I've gotten familiar with, so far. What I find so interesting about Kuja is that in the end, he doesn't have much of a motive driving him, just raw emotion. Fear, to be exact--the fear of death. Created to be an Angel of Death himself--and a prototype, at that--Kuja is robbed of any sort of real, meaningful life and falls to pieces at the discovery of his own immortality. It is this violent despair that is meant to incite a strong dislike for him, while at the same time, undeniable pity. Aside from all that, he's one BAMF to have to fight against, but damn, do you feel good once you beat him (for the last time)!
#5: Auron from Final Fantasy X
Unlike so many of the other acknowledged badasses of the Final Fantasy series, Auron stands out in that he doesn't carry all that moody baggage sort of crap. Yeah, he's had a tough past, but even in death, he's true to his cause in that awesome, no-nonsense sort of way. And yet, he's far from two-dimensional. Quite the contrary, I think. Rather than fighting and acting tough to cover up his emo tears, he is the way he is because he has a purpose, and I like that in my characters. As far as battles go, Auron is an incredibly awesome tank character, boasting the highest HP, defense, and attack stats. He's essential for nearly every boss battle throughout the game, and if you can find a way to buff his weaker attributes (through friend spheres, equipment, etc.), you'll find yourself with an extremely powerful character.
#4: Freya from Final Fantasy IX
Freya is a very unique Final Fantasy character in my eyes. She's tough in a practical, compassionate sort of way...but make no mistake, she's really tough. I can't tell you how many times most, if not all of my other characters on the field were KO'd and I very narrowly avoided defeat by using her "Jump" move. Aside from her powerful physical attacks with her Dragoon lance, Freya has a number of white magic abilities that come in plenty useful as well. As a female character, I found her strong personality--burdened by a tragic romance of the past--really refreshing alongside her serious attitude. Definitely an interesting touch to Final Fantasy IX's fantastical, old-school setting.
#3: Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII
As Final Fantasy's first official female lead character, Lightning does not disappoint. Nomura has been quoted a number of times saying that he wanted to essentially create a female version of Cloud when he came up with her, but quite frankly, I think she's less of a little bitch than Cloud. While she has plenty to be emotional about, Lightning is ultimately a soldier in the truest sense who takes matters into her own hands when the occasion calls for it. Though she tends to fight first and ask questions later, Lightning is far from heartless, but she doesn't let that get in the way of staying strong. A very fun character to play during battles, Lightning excels as a Commando and Ravager, dealing a mesmerizing combination of physical and magical damage with her gunblade (okay, it might sound stupid, but that thing is f*#&@ing sweet). She is also a decent Medic when things start to get ugly. Her remarkable physical prowess on the field is super fun to watch, if nothing else.
#2: Zidane from Final Fantasy IX
Okay, so you may have figured out by now that I really like Final Fantasy IX--especially the characters. Zidane is no exception. In fact, he's the prime example. A very close runner-up to my most favorite Final Fantasy character, I love everything about Zidane, from his personality to his fighting style. He's a charming and mischievous womanizer but that doesn't stop him from being a genuine hero with a heart of gold. As a thief, Zidane relies on his speed and daggers in battle, along with a number of valuable abilities such as Scan. Though his perseverance and courage are something to behold, even Zidane has his moments of self-doubt, but that makes him all the more captivating as a character in a game that achieves its greatness primarily through character development.
#1: Rikku from Final Fantasy X
What can I say? I absolutely love her and I knew that I did the very first moment that I realized she would be joining the battle team. An adorable and feisty blonde who has a way with machines, Rikku packs a powerful punch in the form of any number of explosives. A sort of jack-of-all-trades character in battle, it nearly breaks my heart to hear people say that they've played FFX but never used Rikku, so long as they didn't have to. In my experience, once you've acquired enough items for her to use, Rikku is just as valuable in battle as Auron--and that's pretty darn valuable. Her thief abilities allow her to steal items from enemies which she can then use later to deal damage, inflict status ailments upon enemies, restore HP/MP, or bestow buffs on her teammates. When her Overdrive gauge fills up, she can mix items together to create an even more powerful effect. Rikku treats her tragedies as learning experiences and tries to maintain a perky and sincere attitude throughout the game. She is incredibly determined and loyal to the rest of her party, and has nothing but good intentions. While she was herself enough in X-2, I felt that like a lot of other things in the game, she lost a considerable amount of her charm. The original Rikku will always be the one most dear to me.
Honorable mentions include: Irvine from Final Fantasy VIII, Fran and Basch from Final Fantasy XII, Yuna from Final Fantasy X, and Beatrix from Final Fantasy IX. I would love to hear who some of your favorite Final Fantasy characters are, so please feel free to comment below! Thanks for reading.
Images were found in several different places around the web and are (presumably) the property of Square Enix.