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The women of Final Fantasy
I have been loyal to the Final Fantasy series since FFIV. I have played many a great game, but the thing I noticed since those days was that my favorite characters were women. I’ve been unimpressed with Square’s latest FF girls (in 12 and 13), but I felt I might give the girls from previous games their due after a brief introduction.
Square’s early Final Fantasies were rather neglectful of the ladies. FFIV for instance has no combat females at all (they’re all mages) who generally have to have the guys in front to defend. Magic points are very difficult to come by which makes the women irrelevant in most fights. Later Final Fantasies put females on par with males as far as fighting is concerned, but it wasn’t until FFVIII that the gender mix was 50/50. But despite their numbers, I still felt their characters were more compelling anyway.
I have two general ideas about why this be the case. First, Final Fantasy mages are predominantly female. However, as each Final Fantasy takes place in a new world (excepting X-2) and the impending doom in the world is almost always magical, the female characters are often central to the story. It also seems to me that women are the characters that make the tough decisions that make the plot so compelling. What that in mind I turn to:
Final Fantasy IV: Rydia, the exile
Rydia’s character is a child in a town of callers in the Valley of Mist. The main character Cecil is asked to deliver a package to the Valley by his king and this package is full of fire monsters. Rydia is the only survivor. Cecil’s king has marked the callers for extinction and hunts Rydia down. Rydia knows Cecil is the one who brought the package but fights along side him anyway, because she understands that he is not the enemy. Her inner strength keeps her from seeking the revenge that would be sought forth by most of us. Plus there’s this mystique about being the last caller.
Final Fantasy VI: Celes, the repentant general
Celes was an imperial general who possessed all the ruthlessness which that title commands. She is born with magic which must have come at the cost pain or death of an esper. When the game meets up with her, however, she has rejected that life even if it means death. What leads up to her betrayal of the empire, or what act constituted that betrayal is never really stated. One could imagine her rejection of the Emperor’s dangerous ambitions but one is never too sure. Regardless, she joins the side of the Returners, the side of good.
After the party is cornered in the imperial capital, however, she returns to the empire (though this is not permanent). This switch affects her love interest, the “treasure hunter” Locke. Celes works through some difficult trust issues and the consideration that the best one can do for loved ones is to push them away, but she works through these issues. Her final chance for betraying the party and siding with Kefka is forgone with her stabbing Kefka with the very sword she’s offered for betrayal
Celes is a character of redemption, and therefore hope. Unlike so many video game characters, she falters, even to the point of a suicide attempt. But the second part of the game sees the woman, for whom hope has been such a struggle, gather the troops for a final assault on Kefka’s tower.
Final Fantasy VII: Aeris, last of the ancients
Aeris is the last survivor of an ancient war. The war between the Cetra, mystics deeply connected to the planet’s life stream, and Jenova, a foreign creature from a meteor that crashed into the northernmost region of the planet, the creature from which Sepiroth draws his powers. Aeris is the last of Cetra.
I won’t lie about this: Aeris is my favorite final fantasy character. While not immature she is one of those rare few that doesn’t let their inner child die. Aeris, like all her kind, is quite attuned to the planet’s life stream, greatly intuitive, one might say wise. Her nature seems to have an air of mysticism and mystery around it, and she is also the only character that understands how to stop Sepiroth (with Holy) though she is impaled on Sepiroth’s sword in her attempt
Personal note: why square had to kill my favorite FF character ever is frustrating, and I don’t expect to find a character like her ever again
Final Fantasy VIII: Edea, the dark mother and Final Fantasy X: Lulu, the dark mother part two
In short, here is the dark mother archetype. The women who is self-possessed, introverted, has great emotional strength and a fierce maternal instinct. (For some reason these women seem to prefer all black clothing and black hair down to their knees.)
Edea starts FFVIII as an enemy, but is revealed to be possessed later in the story, around the time when Irvine reveals that everyone but Rinoa was part of the same orphanage, and that Edea was the Matron of that orphanage. Thus she is the backbone of the group, the strength on which everyone else learns to depend. Her decision to become a sorceress hinged on the fact that despite the problems it might cause (which it does cause), it was best that she accept the sorceress power over another.
Lulu (who does become a mother in X-2) maintains that maternal side but with some interesting differences. Lulu has that same instinct of protectiveness but it often comes out in anger. It is a difficult anger, not born of a short fuse, but rather from an impatience with people who do not live up to their best. This maternal anger as a positive force is an interest to me.
Some concluding remarks: sorry not to go over a few more gals, but this is just an introduction to my favorites. Given Final Fantasy XII’s lackluster girls and my limited experience with XIII, I hope Square can live up to its previous women with characters I love. I don’t want to be on those fogeys talking about the glories of old Final Fantasies. Perhaps I’ll try V rather than get a new gaming system just to play more Final Fantasies.