After my contentious Final Fantasy Ranking article I was feeling the Final Fantasy love, and so I thought what better way to celebrate than define my favorite protagonists from the entire franchise.
Since there are so many heroes across the series to choose from I thought it could be interesting to pick my favorite of the bunch; not necessarily from a gameplay perspective, but mostly from a character perspective. To make it a little easier on myself I decided not to rank them in order, mostly because I found myself paralyzed by indecision. To challenge myself a bit more I decided to narrow them down to five, but couldn’t bear to cut anymore and ended up with six.
These are just my personal choices, but I would be happy to learn who your favorite characters are as well, so let me know in the comments below.
While the general explanations of who the character are and why I like them won’t spoil the whole game of which they star, there will be spoilers within.
Ramza Beoulve (Final Fantasy Tactics)
Of all the characters of the Final Fantasy series and its spin offs, Ramza is the only one that is ultimately viewed as a villain as the larger world instead of a hero. The entire story starts as a scholar attempts to set the story straight.
Ramza is born into a noble family, though he struggles as he feels lesser than his brothers and wants to be a hero. After discovering his countries intentions aren’t very noble he goes rogue in an attempt to set things right, and instead finds out that in the current political climate there is no justice. The rich use the poor to further their own ambition, regardless of who gets in the way.
After tragedy strikes, Ramza turns his back on his family and country, refusing to just be wealthy and affluent with the blood of innocents on his hands. Over the course of the game Ramza solidifies his goal: to fight for the justice of everyone, not just a select few. In the course of his actions he is labeled a heretic and villainized by the church, which he accepts in order to accomplish his end goal.
The end isn’t a happy one, good characters don’t always get what they deserve in this game, but Ramza shows virtue and honor are worth it regardless of whether you are viewed as hero.
Kain Highwind (Final Fantasy IV)
Let us state the obvious: dragoons are just flat out cool. One look at that armor and I was on board; I wanted to know everything about this guy. Then his awesome ratchets up a notch as you find out that he is taking care of his father’s dragon that is growing weaker waiting for his previous companion, Kain’s father, to return. Kain single handedly brings the dragoon core back from extinction by inspiring the others around him.
When we first meet Kain we realize he is the commander of the revitalized order of dragoons, a legion of knights that fight alongside dragons. Kain and his best friend Cecil are sent to the village of Mist to deliver a ring. They are also to defeat a Mist Dragon, and over the course of the fight come to find that they are on the wrong side. Both commanders turn against their former kingdom, but are separated by a catastrophic event.
Kain disappears and is thought lost, only to reappear later on as an adversary under the control of the main villain Golbez.
Over the course of the game we find out that Kain has real faults, and that mind control was only preying upon feelings already there, but in the end he redeems himself and rejoins the party to strike down the final boss. Though Kain is forgiven by Cecil and others for his deeds, he continues to seek to make good on his vow to make up for the harm he caused, and ultimately redeem himself.
Vivi Ornitier (Final Fantasy IX)
Vivi has one of the saddest stories of any Final Fantasy character, and it is one of the reasons he becomes such an inspiring figure by the conclusion of the game. He appears to be a young child, but is actually a black mage who is created by the Kingdom of Alexandria to be used as a weapon.
As Vivi is a prototype there are many others of his kind that are slaves to Alexandria and the main villain Kuja, used for nefarious purposes. Due to falling overboard off an airship and being lost to a forest, Vivi isn’t subject to the same brainwashing his brothers are. Instead he is raised by a strange being called Quan, and after he dies, Vivi sets off into the world.
After he finds the truth of himself it sends him into an existential crisis, especially once he finds out that he likely only has around a year to live. In questioning his purpose in life and the finite nature of it, he comes closer to humanity than most of us ever do. Vivi eventually realizes that the quality of life is always more important than the quantity of life, and regardless of why he was made he would follow his own destiny.
This leads him to use his last months he has left to bring down Kuja and save the world. In a tear jerking finale we realize that Vivi did indeed die, as the monologue during the end is his goodbye to his friends. As an individual that suffers from anxiety and questions of mortality, Vivi’s story is an inspiring one.
Edgar Figaro (Final Fantasy VI)
When I first met Edgar I thought he was the simple flirting archetypal male, but before the end of the game we would find out that wasn’t the case. Edgar and his brother Sabin are both princes to the throne of Figaro. From an early age Edgar was always a flirt and it often got into trouble involving women, though his frivolity wouldn’t continue for long.
At the age of seventeen the Gestahlian Empire poisoned his father who died, imploring his two sons rule the kingdom together. Sabin was desperate to run away from the kingdom, not suited to the life anymore than Edgar was. In one of my favorite scenes in Final Fantasy history Edgar flips a coin, on heads Edgar would be king and on tails Sabin would.
Little did Sabin know that both sides were actually heads, and his older brother made a sacrifice to be King of Figaro, giving Sabin the freedom he desired. Though he was formally aligned with the empire, he never forgot who had killed his father, and secretly worked alongside the resistance.
The underlying story of brothers is impactful to me, because as I shared in a previous article, me and my younger brother deepened our bond while playing Final Fantasy VI together.
Sazh Katzroy (Final Fantasy XIII)
It is no secret that I’m not a huge fan of Final Fantasy XIII, but he same can’t be said for Sazh. In my youth there is no way I would have liked Sazh: he is goofy, doesn’t have an awesome sword or martial ability, and is basically just the heart of the team. Basically he is the Xander to Lightning’s Buffy, and that isn’t something that would have appealed to me back then.
As a father and an older gamer though it was refreshing to play as a character that wasn’t a baby faced androgynous teen. Sazh’s bright disposition, partnered with the fact that he keeps a baby Chocobo in his hair, goes a good way to ingratiating him with me. However, it is really his motivation to fight that I identify with.
Trying to explain the horribly confusing concept of l’Cie isn’t something I’m going to attempt here, but suffice to say, he fights to protect his son. As a father myself I can relate, and I think it is one of the most compelling reasons for any of the characters in Final Fantasy to fight.
Auron (Final Fantasy X)
I’m a fan of eastern culture and especially samurai, so it should be no surprise that I found Auron immediately intriguing. A no nonsense warrior who is sworn to protect Yuna he thrives off loyalty and honor, maintaining many of the virtues you would expect from a samurai. Though he has become cynical and lost his faith in the religion he once served, he still is driven by a sense of duty.
As the game progresses we find that Auron had actually protected Yuna’s father and feels as though he failed to save Spira; letting his friend be sacrificed instead. Because of this he despises his status as a legendary guardian, and seeks to protect Yuna on her pilgrimage to stop Sin despite knowing what would happen at the end of it.
When we learn the truth about Auron it takes everything up a notch, making him one of the most interesting characters in the entire game. If there was ever an opening in my party, Auron was there, all the way ’till the end.