Due to their longevity, which is great even by pornography standards, and quality, which is great even by Square standards, Final Fantasy games have had a huge impact on gaming. They are praised for their depth of plot, well-designed battle systems, and believable characters. However, as anybody who has played more than about two knows, the games have archetypes and recurring themes out the old wazoo. Whether these are airships, moogles, or villains in mascara, a Final Fantasy fan expects and receives his or her fair share in every game played. What follows is a brief guide to some of the more common archetypes found in characters in Final Fantasy games, and some examples. Enjoy. (If somebody could fill me in on which characters fulfil these in Final Fantasies 2 & 3, I'd be grateful.)
The Amnesiac — Tellah, Galuf, Terra Branford, Cloud Strife, the entire cast of Final Fantasy VIII, Princess Garnet, Tidus
Who am I? Where did this sword come from? Am I really trained to be a psychotic killer? Will I ever remember anything again? You'll probably be asking yourself these things as you wake up from the event that either took away your memory or began the road to recovery. All things will be revealed in time, so just suspend your disbelief for now.
The Monarch in Hiding — Edward Chris von Muir, Faris Scherwiz, Edgar Figaro, Sabin Figaro, Princess Garnet, Ashe Dalmasca
Monsters on the loose? Strife at home and abroad? Why not dress yourself up as a commoner and go roam the countryside for a while? You just might stumble across the one band of peasants capable of helping you! Make sure to reveal your identity at a dramatic moment, or not at all.
The Bruiser with a Heart of Gold — Cid Pollendina, Yang Fang Leiden, Sabin Figaro, Barret Wallace, Zell Dincht, Adelbert Steiner, Wakka, Kimahri Ronso, Basch fon Ronsenburg
Because of a trauma earlier in your life, you went into serious training and are, for all outward appearances, a big butch meathead. But that doesn't mean that you're not a softie on the inside — where it matters. You treat all sexes fairly (even if you are a bit gruff and unsure of yourself around women), love animals, and dream of becoming an opera star. Well, maybe not that last one.
The Mysterious Stranger — Edward “Edge” Geraldine, Faris Scherwiz, Clyde “Shadow” Arrowny, Vincent Valentine, Amarant Coral, Fran
You join the party for reasons of your own. You prefer to travel by cover of night. Maybe you study ninjitsu. You'll slit the throat of anybody who tries too hard to pry into your past. If they are ever revealed, your secrets will be dragged out of you only in a time of greatest need. Will the pressure of maintaining your secrecy make you crack? Only time will tell.
The All-American — Cecil Harvey, Parom & Polom, Butz Klauser, Locke Cole, Edgar Figaro, Tifa Lockhard, Selphie Tilmitt, Zidane Tribal, Wakka, Vaan, Penelo
You represent everything that is good in the world. Either you had a happy, privileged past that included training in fighting for one reason or another, or a troubled childhood that taught you to see the good in everybody, and you're now on the side of right in this topsy-turvy world. You keep your shoelaces tied and have a goofy sense of humor. Wouldn't it be awful if it turned out you've been helping the bad guys?
The Last of His or Her Kind — Krile Baldesion, Terra Branford, Mog, Umaro, Aeris Gainsborough, Zidane Tribal, Eiko Carol
What a burden to carry. You are probably the only person in the entire world remaining of your ancient, honorable, and moreover learned group. Because of this, it's more than likely that you have powers beyond the imaginations of
what? You forgot/never knew of them? Well, that's a shame. Now you won't be able to defend yourself when the big scary guys come to carry you away and run tests on you.
The Poorly Translated — Tellah, Quina Quen, Yuna
You are adventuring type, with many probrematics of the past. Maybe you now take up sword of ancestors and kill the many monster with help of friends! In language before translating, you are poultry and dance. This is good. Now all making the taunts of your wording, and perhaps for voiceing actors too? Your words are trunculated for the sakes of fitting in the text boxen.
And the minor archetypes.
The Wimpy Healer — Yuna
The Comic Relief — Zell Dincht
The Recovering Ice Queen — Celes Chere
The Dealing with a Dark Secret Past — Auron
The Token Other Species — Quina Quen
The Babe in Arms — Relm Arrowny
The Ladies' Man — Zidane Tribal
The Genius Inventor who Fights with a Wrench — Cid Pollendina
The Probably A Villain — Seymour Guado
The Cloned Townsperson
The Cloned Townsperson and his ancestors have lived in the same town for generations and generations now. Unfortunately, Mother Nature and Darwin, working in tandem, have cursed his town with some excessively lazy genetics. The only way you can tell people apart now is by paying attention to where they live, which isn’t such a problem in a town of thirty people.
The Petty Tyrant — the King of Baron
The Petty Tyrant isn’t all that bad; he just wants attention. Unfortunately, he’d sell his own mother to the Empire for a bit of attention. Petty Tyrants usually control one (and only one) important thing, be it a port town or a magic cave. They’re also the first up against the wall when the revolution comes.
The Helpful Stranger
The Helpful Stranger is an odd cookie. He possesses secrets of metaphysics beyond everything that his world’s philosophers could understand (namely, what the “B” button does), and instead of using it to better the world, or at least turn a quick gil, he hangs out in a dojo in some backwoods shanty town, dispensing advice to passing strangers in the hope that it will help them.
The Archrival — Gungho
With a party of thirty people, somebody’s gotta have one. The Archrival has known at least one party member since they were knee-height to a chocobo, and keeps their rivalry fresh with an intensity that would embarrass Catullus. Often last seen walking into a cave that doesn’t have any monsters in it.
The Random Encounter
Death on wheels!
Biggs and Wedge
Notable for being Final Fantasy’s sole Star Wars reference.
And the minor archetypes:
The Nuclear Technician with a Loud Mouth
The Cute Fuzzy Thing — Bobby Corwen, Montblanc, moombas, the Shoopuf guys, the Nu Mou
The Guy Selling Trinkets at the End of the World — O’Aka
The Walkway Blocker
The Ex — Sir Fratley
The Overly Helpful Royalty Figure — Regent Cid Fabool
The Morally Pure Underground Resistance Movement — the Returners, AVALANCHE, the Forest Owls, Tantalus, the Resistance
The Old Friend — Seifer Almasy
These villains have been made into bad guys. It's most likely that they will be converted back to good at some point in the game, but until then, they will be able to anticipate your every move and harangue you at their disposal. They are most frequently found at the side of Real Villains, as there is nobody that a hyperintelligent evildoer with aspirations of controlling the power of the gods trusts more than a turncoat. The Old Friend is around to make you think about the nature of evil and make the plot seem very deep. If it doesn't happen earlier, there will be a touching scene at the end of the game wherein the Old Friend will wake up and realize that there has been much evil done. Much hugging will commence.
The Little Annoying Guy — Fujin
These villains are everywhere. They usually have one specialty, and capitalize on it as best as they can. This might be one single weapon, an unusual or interesting way of talking, or perhaps a very flashy hat. Big Scary Guys are hugely fond of Little Annoying Guys, as Little Annoying Guys are very good at vastly overestimating their strength and covering for big scary guys a lot longer than somebody who values his or her hide really should. They are also very good at identifying who the protagonists/heroes are and tailing them for years, if need be.
The Big Scary Guy — Raijin
Known for their tendency to hide behind a series of little annoying guys, Big Scary Guys are real pushovers by the time you get to them. It is not unusual for Big Scary Guys to be partnered with Little Assassin Women or Yes Men. The purpose of Big Scary Guys is to provide comic relief and distract you from the fact that you've been through six final dungeons and haven't fought the Real Villain yet. Big Scary Guys are, generally speaking, about 8 feet tall (2.44 meters), coated in rippling muscles, and fond of armless shirts.
The Evil Royalty Figure — Queene Brahne
Completely expendable. There. I said it.
The Real Villain — Zeromus, Exdeath, Kefka Palazzo, Sephiroth, Kuja, Seymour Guado, Vayne Solidor
This villain is slender and relies on magic and backstabbing instead of outright force. He has a taste in silken white robes and mascara. He dreams of conquering the world and finding a handbag to match his sable wings*. The Real Willain will probably not be revealed until halfway through the game. Until that point, he will enlist the help of a Big Scary Guy or an Evil Royalty Figure to fool you but good. The purpose of the Real Villain is to destroy the world, and then attempt to destroy it again right before you finally kill him.
And the minor archetypes:
The Fashion Disaster — Sorceress Adel
The Turns Good Two Minutes Before Being Murdered — Emperor Gestahl
The Unstoppable Force of Nature — Sin
The Generic Foreign Soldier
The Prettyboy Turned Evil — Vargas Harcourt/p>
The Cyborg — Dr. Cidolfus Bunansa
The Zombie in Disguise — Maester Mika
The Ice Queen — Sorceress Edea
The Holy Shit
Genocide is Wrong? — General Beatrix
*I have been told that these character traits are not a coincidence, but rather a reflection of traditional traits of evil people in Japanese symbology; however, I can neither credit nor discredit this.