Many developers have been going darker with the tones of stories lately. It's time we stop asking definitively if this is a good or bad thing and consider the artistic value at hand.
Ranking The Final Fantasy Villains
Yesterday I ranked the main characters for Square’s epic RPG franchise. Today, we do the same but for the antagonists that plague worlds, realms, time, and our heroes. To be honest, it was tough to populate the list since so many of these evils are influenced by larger forces that hide behind the shadows. However, the harder part was fitting them all into the right slots on the list. Who was the most sinister? Why were they doing these terrible things? How did they go about it? Did it make sense? These are all questions I asked myself when ranking these terrifying beings.
The dude’s a tree. Not only does Final Fantasy V have a shallow main character, but it also has the worst villain of the entire series. His name is stupid. His origin was not menacing at all. He wants to control a malevolent force and crush existence under his boot. The problem is, once he realizes that he isn’t immortal, he gets all upset and decides that he’ll just destroy everything and himself. This is why I laugh when people say Cloud is emo. Exdeath’s reason, mission, and existence just don’t scream out viable villain. Sure, he’s powerful and knows magic but against some of the other names on this list, Exdeath wouldn’t stand a chance.
You know what my biggest problem with Final Fantasy XII is? It doesn’t feel magical or fantastical enough for the series. It is largely humanistic and realistic. The problems and situations we come across in XII just don’t make me feel like I’m playing a Final Fantasy game. Vaan made me feel like a normal human, not a hero. Vayne makes me feel like I’m fighting some tyrant, not an evil mastermind or creature from the deep. Vayne gives a good speech but beyond that I felt very underwhelmed by this guy. Then again, I felt underwhelmed with the entire game.
The problem with Xande, the mad sorcerer from Final Fantasy III, is not his motives or his mission but the fact that we barely ever see him. He wants to drain the power out of the four crystals in order to reach immortality again. He had it once but was “gifted” mortality from his master. I don’t know why he would even accept that gift but nevertheless, Xande goes insane with the revelation that he will one day die. He sets out to find the crystals and steal their power. This upsets a being called the Cloud of Darkness which appears whenever there is an imbalance of light and dark. The Cloud wanted to destroy everything and wipe the slate clean so things can start anew. This hurts Xande’s story badly. We think that this guy is the main villain but his actions only bring about more chaos — naturally. However, Xande looks like a huge chump compared to the Cloud of Darkness. It puts him back into the shadow of the game and voila — new focus.
The Emperor of Palamecia is a jerk. The guy the heroes are all fighting against is corrupted by demonic energies and eventually reaches a place of power where he transforms and takes all the powers of Hell. The Emperor of Hell is his final form and his goals are imagined but they quickly are dashed by Firion and the others. Mateus is a worthwhile villain as you learn to hate him over the course of the game but his ambitions are never fulled realized as he never gets to use Hell’s powers. We don’t get to see what Mateus would have done. We reach him, he gains power, we end him. Game over.
Galenth is the the Primarch of the Sanctum in Final Fantasy XIII. One glaring problem that XIII had was that there was a ton of terms that weren’t really explained very well. The Sanctum rule over the citizens of Cocoon. Cocoon is a floating paradise that is away from the dangers that Gran Pulse, the surface world, holds. There are entities called fal’Cie which are supernatural and could be also like demigods. There are two different kinds of fal’Cie. You have Pulse fal’Cie and Sanctum fal’Cie. The difference is where are governing — the surface world of Gran Pulse or the floating Cocoon. The fal’Cie are indirectly ruling over humans and they sometimes use them as tools. Humans who are giving special missions from fal’Cie called a Focus are labeled as l’Cie. Unless a l’Cie fulfills their Focus in the allotted time, they will turn into horrfying things called Cie’th. This is a punishment. Those who achieve success are granted eternal life in the form of crystals.
Why is this important? Well, Galenth isn’t exactly what he looks like. His true form is of a very powerful fal’Cie called Barthandelus. Barthandelus has infiltrated the governing ranks of Cocoon in order to summon Ragnarok, a legendary l’Cie destined to destroy. When Pulse, one of the most powerful fal’Cie brands Lightning and her comrades as l’Cie and takes their Focus as destroying Cocoon, Barthandelus ensures many times that they survive in order to complete their mission. He wants to see destruction and he is using the main characters as his tools of doing so indirectly — the very nature of fal’Cie.
This can be confusing but once you figure it out, XIII has one hell of a story that could have been if only the writing and player character focus were more defined and stable in the game. Square-Enix dropped a few balls here with Final Fantasy XIII but Barthandelus is a terrifying villain as he is not only using the characters and bending them to his will but is also a demigod of sorts.
We start out with Zemus, a Lunarian with an extreme hatred for humankind and a wish to see his brethren awake and take over the world. Manipulating Golbez, a master soldier, Zemus was able to break free of his chains and be set loose on the world. When he is killed, his hatred lives on and consumes his very being into a new creature called Zeromus. Using everything Zemus had, including the fearsome Four Fiends (or Archfiends depending on what version you are playing) he tried everything to bring back the glory of his people and claim a new world for them.
Ultimecia is a very powerful sorceress who had traveled back through time in order to manipulate the world to her liking. Her goal is to restructure the universe into her own paradise using an extremely powerful spell called Time Compression. She needs more then just herself to perform the act, however. Ultimecia torments our heroes, especially Rinoa, in order to achieve her success. She manipulates Seifer and makes him her bodyguard in order to combat Squall’s advances on her plan. Ultimecia does succeed in casting small bouts of Time Compression over cities and areas around the world which result in time fractures which changes the world. Her power is unreal and combating a time traveling sorceress is one of the more dangerous situations players of this series have been thrown into.
I, Garland, will knock you all down! Garland is a knight who betrays Cornelia, captures the princess, and is the reason why the Warriors of Light set out on their adventure. It doesn’t take long for them to reach Garland. However, just as they seemingly stop Garland and rescue the princess, another threat arises. Four elemental beasts scour the world and drain the legendary crystals of their power. Our heroes must travel the world and stop them, too. We find out that Garland has mastered time travel and is nearly invincible. Garland comes back and eventually merges with the Four Fiends and the power of the crystals to become a gargantuan beast called Chaos. He is the epitome of evil and houses the elemental powers of some of the most legendary and powerful artifacts on the world.
One cool thing about Seymour in Final Fantasy X was his political stature. He is a revered person in the world of Spira and loved by many. He sets his eyes on Yuna and even gets her to accept marriage to him. However, this never reaches the light of day and Seymour’s true colors come out. He believes that the only way to stop the legendary creature called Sin is to destroy everything. Sin is slowly doing this and the only way to stop the people’s suffering is to destroy faster. He wants to become Sin and obliterate Spira. When you “kill” him, the heroes are branded traitors for killing a maester of the Church of Yevon. This is a great way to incorporate a villain and have his politic ties effect the game’s plot greatly.
As perhaps the greatest experiment from the Jenova project, Sephiroth was created to be the ultimate solider. He was in fact that. However, when he figured out everything, he became furious with what was done to him and his “mother”. Sephiroth became the catalyst for the planet’s destruction by summoning Meteor and dooming the world. Sephiroth’s actions are the reason why the Weapons were activated and why Avalanche, the heroic group, launches a mission to stop him. He wishes to destroy life on the world and use it a vessel to traverse the heavens just like Jenova did. He wants to be with his mother and be exactly what he was created to be.
The people of the world of Terra have been through terrible things. They have had to assimilate planets in order to keep their existence due to multiple tragedies. Garland, an unfathomably powerful sorcerer creates Angels of Death in order to speed up the process of draining worlds of their populace and bringing over the Terran people. When Terra needs to do this again, Garland created Kuja but deems him a failure due to not having a childhood. He believes this error would keep Kuja from understanding life and his mission. Garland then creates another Angel of Death, Zidane, and this angers Kuja greatly. He dumps Zidane off on the targeted world of Gaia and leaves him for dead.
However, when Kuja begins his mission, he finds out that he is not immortal and his main purpose now is to exist until the real Angel of Death comes of age. Obviously, this angers Kuja even more and he insists on destroying all life. Kuja destroys Garland and the world of Terra and sets his eyes on Gaia. Zidane comes into his purpose as the Angel of Death but instead of follow his mission, he saves Gaia and ends Kuja’s reign of terror on his adopted homeworld.
Kuja was able to manipulate powerful summoned creatures such as Bahamut and use a powerful weapon called The Invincible. He destroyed landmarks and towns all over Gaia and caused massive damage to the world which awakens a spirit called Necron. Kuja is one of the most powerful and successful villains in the entire series.
There is no other villain that deserves this spot. Kefka is a mad, sadistic monster that wanted so much to just destroy. The thing is, he actually did it. He succeeded in destroying most of the world, absorbing most of the magic in existence, and killing the mystical Espers (summons) and stealing their power. The great thing about Kefka’s rise is that he did it in the shadows while serving a lower being. He let himself look like a puppet and he acted the fool for appearance’s sake. Kefka is an obnoxious, loud-mouthed psycho with a penchant for morbidity and destruction. Correctly nicknamed the Psycho Clown, Kefka’s mastery over magic made himself into a god when he took out the Warring Triad. His World of Ruin is the greatest example of success from any Final Fantasy villain. Kefka is the most diabolical being in the series and rightfully so. His laughter brings his enemies to their knees.