Our look back on gaming’s most-massivest RPG franchise continues with a shakedown of the coolest, most capable or selflessly tragic heroes the series has to offer. Yesterday we sorted out which game was at the top – today it’s all about the man who ties it all together.
Above: NOT HIM
As with yesterday we’re only considering the “true” games – the ones with numbers attached. No spin-offs, no side stories, just the main games and their dashing, troubled or likable saviors.
Includes contributions from Brett Elston and Christian Nutt
Squall Leonhart (Final Fantasy VIII)
No hero in the history of Final Fantasy has divided fans quite as much as Squall. A bitter, cynical and unfriendly young warrior, his number one line throughout the game is "whatever." But as he begins to unravel the mysteries of his past - and thanks to the support and ultimately the love of heroine Rinoa Heartilly - his personality becomes much more rounded and likable.
Above: Don’t you dare smile! Not until the credits, buddy!
Paradoxically, Final Fantasy VIII is one of the most genuinely amusing games in the series; the lynchpin for this is Squall's defective personality and the way the other characters play off of it. Even though he may be stoic and fairly unpleasant to hang out with for 40 goddamn hours, the other cast members make the most of Squall’s emotional deficiencies and make his eventual change of heart all the more meaningful.
Tidus (Final Fantasy X)
One of the most complex and bizarre heroes yet seen in the series, the insecure Tidus is a mere figment of the imagination - or is he more? A superstar athlete with a childish outlook on life, he's thrown into a world completely outside of his experience, where he's forced to quickly learn how to deal with people who couldn't care less about his achievements in sports. This one acceptance opens the door to true character growth, making Tidus a changed man by the end of the game.
Above: Tidus begins as a naive, careless athlete. Revelations change his entire outlook on life… including what “life” even means
He becomes determined to live up to his new friends’ expectations, and his transformation from whiny, privileged bitch to spell-slinging badass is one of the most believable character arcs in gaming. Soon, he's found love and learned terrible secrets, but he accepts his grim fate with grace and dignity. It’s easy to hate his grating behavior early on and dismiss both the game and Tidus himself, but anyone who played through knows how far and deep his journey really is.