Folks, as many of you know, I enjoy a good video game. More accurately, I enjoy a good video game made by Square Enix (formerly Squaresoft). Most accurately: I am a fan of the Final Fantasy Series. I've played every installment (except for XIV - MMORPGs are not my thing, and my attempt at XI didn't do it for me). That includes After Years (fun!), X-2 (love it!) and Revenant Wings (it's alright).
Recently, while playing FFX (HD Remaster), my kid (Logan) and I were discussing how goddamn annoying Tidus is. (Tee-Dus, for those who wonder how I say it). I sent a Tweet to that effect, and folks were indicating that the isn't the worst in the entire series, and one person had to the gall to imply that the entire case of IX was the worst. I was seeing red, folks. IX is one of the best in the series, and the characters have more depth than any set outside of VI.
Today, Washington Department of Transportation reminded us all that it is #VideoGamesDay. So, I am going to go out on a lark, and dispense with the typical political and policy-centered focus on the #Hashtag, and instead do a mother-effing list. A top 5 Most Annoying Final Fantasy Characters, and a top 5 Best Final Fantasy Characters. These are objective findings, having played every game in the main series, and having completed most of them (still haven't beat V, XV, After Years, Revenant Wings, or the sequels to XIII...which means I have completed I, II, III, IV, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, X-2, XII, and XIII).
5. Zack Fair. Zack is part of the VII universe, and is the main character in Crisis Core. I am a fan of this game, but I find Zack to be pretty goddamn annoying. His overreaction to just about everything, and inability to chill (unlike Angeal) is not endearing. Sure, he is crucial to the whole Cloud becoming Cloud and saving the world from Sephiroth, so on and so on, but he could be a little less douchey and still get that important task done. He gets better as the game goes on, but I can't help but think that Angeal would have been a much more interesting character from whose eyes we could witness the events of Crisis Core.
4. Squall Leonhart. From FF VIII, Squall starts out as a brooding teenager...and doesn't really get better from there. The thing is this: I already live with a brooding teenager, I don't need one entering my life through a video game. Now, I get it - none of the kids in this installment seem to have parents. It's like all children are orphaned, and all of the adults are playing in Deling City, having a grand old time. But let's suspend the emotional trauma that would have for a moment: this guy is just the worst. He's rude, constantly bringing the mood down for everyone, and is unable to say a single nice thing to his compatriots when their spirits have been brought down by his general dickishness. He gets better on the third disc, I'll give him that much (finally realizing that Rinoa is a human being), but that's not enough to save him.
3. Kain Highwind. Going back to FF IV, Kain is the worst. He's never actually controlled by Golbez, he's controlled by jealousy because his purported best friend (Cecil) is in a relationship with a woman (Rosa) he wants to be in a relationship with, and then becomes a paladin, so more jealousy, which leads to the only rationale conclusion: hunker down with the bad guy who is hell-bent on destroying the entire planet, including the dwarves. Seriously, dude - she's not into you. This stalker behavior is really inappropriate. A game that introduced us to the terms "Spoony Bard!" and "Lali-Ho, motherfuckers!" is only a game because this annoying dude puts his junk ahead of being a decent person. And it's a good game, so I guess that's his one redeaming quality. BOOOOOO.
2. Snow Villiers. FFXIII introduced some badass characters into the mix. Snow was not one of them. Instead, he spends the entire game whining about how unfair things are, while dragging kids and untrained civilians into his battles - leading to the death of Hope's mother. There really isn't anything special about him, and his character has about as much depth as the Red Mage from FFI. See, Hope had a reason to be kind of whiny. And Sazh had every right to be angry. But Snow? He basically is a misogynistic douche that you expect to be hanging out at shopping mall food courts when he's 40.
1. Tidus. This shouldn't come as a shock to anyone. The main protagonist from Final Fantasy X is the most god-awful character in the entire series. From the most embarrassing laugh in the world, to his in-battle commentary, this guy is just obnoxious. Logan has it right: it should be Tedious, not Tidus. That would be much more accurate. His whole thing throughout most of the game is being a self-centered d-bag who uses everyone around him to get what he wants. Even his rationale for going after Yunalesca and saving Yuna isn't so much about saving Yuna as it is hopefully having someone to make out with when all of the carnage is done. X-2 has its issues, but one that it doesn't have: Tidus. Not his whiny voice, not his dumbass outfits, not his self-centered mannerisms. And that is, frankly, for the best. Christ, no wonder the Fayth wanted to stop "dreaming". Tidus really could only be classified as a nightmare, after all.
So there you have it. Five characters that are just annoying and terrible. But I would hate to celebrate #VideoGamesDay (and my favorite series) with negativity. So -
Best Final Fantasy Characters
5. Ashelia B'nargin Dalmasca. Final Fantasy XII was a major departure from the rest of the series - no more random encounters. You could see them, run from them, and had to use Gambits to ensure your whole party was prepared for them. It also brought a pretty fantastic storyline, expanding on the Ivalice we came to know in Tactics, told primarily through the eyes of an orphan teenager named Vaan (who always sounded like his sinuses were congested). But it also gave us Ashe - a young woman whose father and husband were killed by the Archadian Empire, and who was determined to retake her throne, and return freedom and peace to Rabinastre the surrounding lands. Her focus was on the people, and her refusal to wield unfettered power to destroy the Empire speaks volumes to her character. She wasn't in this to destroy Archadia, or to allow Rozarria to use Dalmasca as a means to a violent war. She was poised to use a scalpel to excise the leaders of the enemy, and cause the least amount of damage possible to regular folks. A+, Ashe.
4. Faris Sherwiz. Final Fantasy V didn't find its way to North America until the late 90's. While it is often remarked as better than IV in graphics, but not quite VI in story, it did include the best Job system of any title in the series. It also had some pretty great characters, notably Faris Sherwiz. When we first meet Faris, they are the captain of a pirate ship that can sail when the wind stops - thanks to a hiryuu that swims. Faris provides transport, and joins the party seeking to save the remaining crystals, and keep Exdeath from destroying the main world, the second world, and, ultimately, the combined worlds. During this, we find out that Faris was born Sarisa Scherwil Tycoon - a princess of the Tycoon kingdom. She presents as male, though, and following this discovery, the remaining characters agree: Faris is Faris. Faris continues to plod on, and is an invaluable member to the party, with a focus on doing good for all of the worlds, showing a selflessness that is very welcome.
3. Final Fantasy VI. I'm cheating here. Every gd character in this game is basically tops bloopy. The good guys: Locke, a thief who looks out for everyone. Celes, a former Magitech knight who joins the good guys. Relm, a young girl who wants to fight rather than sit back and just wait for the enemy to strike. The bad guys: Cid, the head of magical research who maintains a soft spot for Celes. Ultros, who is ridiculous and amazing all at the same time. General Leo, who wants a clean fight each time. And, of course, Kefka, the greatest villain in all of the series - a pure sociopath who goes on a killing and destruction spree just because he finds it to be fun. Most characters are given a backstory, and have growth throughout this epic game, and the end result: one of the greatest JRPGs ever made. If ever there was a game deserving of a complete remake in full HD with voice acting, it would be this one.
2. Tifa Lockhart. Tifa is a badass. When she's not tending her bar, she's taking care of Barret's daughter (who is really Dyne's daughter), or giving uplifting advice to Cid, or helping Cloud figure out who he really is. Or, of course, kicking ass without any weapons. Cloud has a sword, Barret uses a gun-arm, Cid has a spear. Tifa? She'll kick your ass with her fists and feet. And if you fuck with kids, or try to destroy the planet, she's going to make it especially painful. And even when Cloud goes on his pouty tour in Advent Children, Tifa is the one protecting the kids with geostigma from the Sephiroth worshipers. Because she knows that she doesn't have time to self-pity if she wants to protect the neighborhood. That's what the men are doing. And she's better than that.
1. Vivi Ornitier. What is Vivi? That's the question that he's trying to figure out throughout all of Final Fantasy IX, all while being upbeat and helping out the team as they battle a manufactured warrior who has experienced a psychotic break, and has determined he will kill everyone on the planet, and everyone trying to take over the souls and bodies of everyone on the planet. Vivi is a character who was manufactured and determined defective, and that's what makes him great. His refusal to accept that he is trash, his genuine curiosity about the world around him, and his refusal to give up when he sees other black mages "stop" at an early age. Rather than succumb to the terror of knowing that his lifespan is less than everyone else's, he chooses to fight to protect the people of the planet, the other black mages, and really becomes the most likeable - and one of the most useful - characters in this game.
So, folks - there you have it. The five most annoying characters, and the five best characters, in the entire Final Fantasy series. These are objective findings, and if you disagree, I'm afraid that you are just wrong. Happy #VideoGamesDay!