There’s no denying that Final Fantasy VII on the PSX, despite being a huge departure from the 2D sprite-based format of the series, is the one title that brought the series to people who might not otherwise play a JRPG, much less enjoy one. However, the PSX era also started some sort of a trend: unlikable protagonists.
This is not to say that the characters themselves are universally disliked (many people, me included, actually like Squall) or that the old games had no annoying characters (Edward Chris von Muir, why did you even bother showing up?) but ask any Final Fantasy fan to list his 10 most hated Final Fantasy characters and chances are all of them will be from the Sony era, and chances are most of them will be protagonists – I mean, what the hell, we’re supposed to root for these guys, right?
So on that note, because we love blogging about things that everybody already knows but don’t care enough to blog about, here are 5 modern Final Fantasy protagonists that deserve your love and affection (spoilers galore, so proceed at your own risk):
#5 Cloud Strife – Final Fantasy VII
Cloud is the poster boy for the silent stoic hero that has become a staple of the series and he has his fair share of haters because of that, but he’s actually one of the modern protagonists that we can easily relate to, or at least deserve our sympathy. Sure, he’s currently the most powerful human in the story and has saved his world countless times from world-breaking evils, but he wasn’t even supposed to be there. He’s just there because he wanted to impress a girl back home. And then Crisis Core happened and instead of being just another random Shinra soldier lying face down in the dirt – he gets his memory wiped out and has to carry the Buster Sword, along with all the things it represents.
#4 Zidane Tribal – Final Fantasy IX
It’s a shame that Final Fantasy IX was the least successful Final Fantasy game (at least, from the main numbered series) on the PSX, because it’s the one that actually brought the series back to its roots. From the heavier medieval fantasy influence to SD character designs. Its main protagonist, Zidane Tribal, deserves a spot on any “Best Final Fantasy Protagonist” list because he’s the type of person you want to root for: unlike his two predecessors, Zidane is optimistic, friendly, and a natural ladies’ man (or genome, to be more accurate.)
#3 Nine – Final Fantasy Type-0
All of Class 0’s cadets were given their own distinct personalities, with Ace, Rem, and Machina groomed to be the main protagonists from the player’s perspective. However, none of them stand out more than the class’ resident bancho, Nine. The rude, impulsive behavior, the slow wit, and the tendency to roll his Rs while speaking may seem like a cheesy stereotype, but they’re exactly the qualities that make Nine’s scenes memorable, providing a large number of comic relief during the classroom sessions. Additionally, Nine is also one of the 3 main characters (alongside the long ranged Ace and the well-rounded Queen) that are designed to be easy to pick up and play if you’re new to the series, he’s the group’s de facto tank. Tons of HP, slow but heavy-damaging melee attacks, and the ability to close midrange distance easily via the Jump skill.
#2 Wakka – Final Fantasy X
I have to admit that I personally don’t like Wakka – I don’t like his costume and I find the concept of fighting giant dragons with a ball seems too silly, even for a game where you are just a dream of a giant reptilian monster island thingie who’s actually your father. But as a character, Wakka is one of the most developed in the game. At first glance, you’d imagine him as the Zell Dintch of the game – the slow-witted, temperamental sidekick who’s got a mouth faster than his brain. But as it turns out, Wakka is mature, deeply religious (as well as tolerant of other people who accidentally blaspheme his religion due to *cough*Sin’s toxins), and not above playing the part of the idiot if it meant saving the face of his friends. He’s exactly the kind of bro that you want to be your bro. And speaking of bro, there’s probably a lot of feels going around once people found out that he’s so nice to Tidus because he’s been making up for his guilt over Chappu’s death.
#1 Balthier/Ffamfran mied Bunansa – Final Fantasy XII
Final Fantasy 12 also gets its fair share of haters because of the changes to the game mechanics and because a lot of people hate Vaan as the main protagonist. Technically, it’s safe to assume that people who consider Vaan as the main protagonist haven’t played much of the game, or missed out on the whole story – because it becomes clear past the 1 hour mark that Vaan and Penelo aren’t the focal points. In fact, they’re side characters serving as surrogate viewpoints for the player. The true main protagonists of the story are Ashe, Basch, and Balthier. Out of the three, we like the self-proclaimed leading man the best.
Most people liken Balthier to Han Solo, and the comparison is understandable. Sky Pirate/Smuggler, Fran/Chewie, Strahl/Millenium Falcon. But beyond those superficial similarities, there’s nothing else. Based on the original trilogy, what else do you know about Han Solo? Nothing much, right? He’s just a cocky, handsome smuggler with a heart of gold and a tendency to shoot first. Balthier, on the other hand, is the goddamn doctor.
Ffamfran was the son of a high ranking scientist in the employ of the Archadian Empire, and was a prodigy of sorts – being accepted as an Archadian Judge at the tender age of sixteen years old. After being disillusioned with his father’s obsession with power and the Archadian government’s political maneuvers, Ffamfran abandoned his post as a Judge, stole one of the new prototype fighter ships, and ran away in order to build a new life as the sky pirate Balthier, gaining notoriety and a large bounty on his head along the way.
What about you, which of the Sony era Final Fantasy protagonists do you consider your best? You can voice your opinions, suggestions, or corrections at the comments section or chat with us directly at the Toonbarn forums!