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The 13 Greatest Females in Final Fantasy
With Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII releasing to the Western world next week , I thought it would be fun to reminisce on some of the greatest characters in the Final Fantasy universe. Yes, I’m aware there are a billion lists across the Internet just like this, so I’ve added some stipulations. Firstly, since the Final Fantasy XIII series features a female lead protagonist, this list is going to highlight females. Second, no more than two characters per installment. As much as I love most of the females in both Final Fantasy VII and X, we need to share the wealth. Of special note, spinoffs and non-numerical entries are game, as are non-playable characters. With that, let’s dive in, shall we?
We start our list off with a more peculiar entry (the first of several). Though Dissidia 012 reveals that Cosmos is a glorified manikin rather than an actual goddess, she still possesses immense power, including the ability to summon warriors to fight for her cause. Not to be deemed an ignoble deity, she willingly sacrifices herself in the thirteenth cycle of the war against her archnemesis Chaos to provide her warriors with the strength to see the war to its true end. Her resurrection probably wasn’t anticipated by her, though maybe it had been by Cid of the Lufaine, who created her.
Rosso isn’t typically the first (or second, or third, or…) name to pop up on a popularity list, but she was easily one of the strongest characters in what was otherwise a pretty insipid and pointless game. Her insatiable bloodlust, vehement insanity, and overt maleficence make her a simplified but intriguing character, and the boss battle against her is one of the toughest encounters Dirge of Cerberus has to offer. What little is told of her backstory adds to her credibility and solidifies her inclusion on this list.
Another lesser thought of character, Agrias always stuck out in my mind despite playing a fairly minimal role as the game progresses. Her rank among the colossal party of Final Fantasy Tactics is certainly not negligible. In fact, I usually found myself bringing her along in battles. Her skills as a Holy Knight create a nice balance of power and mid-range attacks that assist the player tremendously in many situations. On a story-related note, the PlayStation Portable port included a side-story where Agrias provides Princess Ovelia (whom she is tasked with protecting) the knife she uses to kill Delita at the end of the game. Very cool tie-in, and clarifies that Agrias indirectly succeeded in her duty.
I struggled with whether Jenova actually qualified for this list. Technically, Jenova is asexual. However, she is consistently regarded as a female within the game and even referred to as “Mother” by Sephiroth, so I count her. She is unique among the other candidates in that the player has very little contact with her, except in four boss battles of varying difficulty (most of them aren’t hard). Rather, she is a presence that haunts the game’s story and serves as the motivation of the antagonist, Sephiroth. Though he is not controlled by her (as clarified by the developers), her desire to infect the planet and wipe out all life before moving on is conferred upon Sephiroth, who fights to achieve her ends. Her status as a female is garnered by her being captured while possessing the body of a female Cetra (she is actually a parasitic, alien lifeform).
While Final Fantasy V might not stand among the best of the Final Fantasy series, Faris is by all accounts an interesting character. Sailing the seas as the world’s youngest known pirate captain, she captures Bartz and his companions and eventually joins them on their quest. It is not until Bartz and Galuf watch her sleep (in a hilarious scene!) that they discover she is, in fact, a woman and not a male pirate captain as she feigned. Even later, she is revealed to be the elder sister of the game’s other playable female character, Lenna, and thus the rightful queen of Tycoon. Because she’s so cool, she relinquishes her birthright.
Most people seemed to hate Vanille; I loved her. As the narrator of Final Fantasy XIII, the player is given insight into her perspective and ensuing guilt over inadvertently putting into motion the events of the game. Despite that, she possesses a sense of innocence that may at times be incorrectly perceived as naivety. Her quirkiness deterred many a gamer, but for my money, it didn’t get much better than when she and Fang sacrificed themselves to save Cocoon and its denizens from destruction.
I’ll admit outright I wasn’t a huge fan of Final Fantasy VI. I thought it was good, but not as great as many deem it. That being said, Celes stood out in my mind as a great character. One might even contest she’s as much a lead character as Terra. While she isn’t introduced immediately, it is her the player is initially given control over in the game’s second act after Kefka turns the world to ruin. Even today, she stands out as one of the strongest and, in my mind, most independent female characters in Final Fantasy, without losing any of her feminine charms. And let’s not forget about the opera scene.
That’s right: Lightning does not make my list of favorite Final Fantasy XIII females. While she is a solid character, I don’t find her unique enough. Fang, on the other hand, is headstrong without being stubborn or too ornery, possesses a fairly level head, and has a great accent! Along with Vanille, her sacrifice to save Cocoon is the redeeming scene in the original game, and her obvious compassion for her friends makes her all the more lovable.
At this point, this list could almost go in any order. Lulu barely edged out Yuna for a spot on this list, but with her dark countenance and stern attitude, I had to go with her. Strong black magic makes her a staple in the party, and at higher levels she is definitely a force to be reckoned with. Sadly, she has no physical attack power, but with Auron, Tidus, and Kimahri in the party, it’s hardly needed. As one of Yuna’s first Guardians she seems kind of like the big sister, though afterward she shacks up with Wakka and gets pregnant, sadly negating her from being playable in Final Fantasy X-2.
Easily one of the most cosplayed characters in gaming, Rikku’s popularity is well-earned. While never brooding or cringingly serious, Rikku is still no stranger to hard times. Subject to persecution as an Al Bhed, she nevertheless bears her burdens with a smile and buoyant attitude. As the party’s thief she is invaluable, and her agility makes her a formidable attacker, even if her physical prowess is nothing to brag about. Surprisingly, she seemed to be perfect in both Final Fantasy X and X-2, which can’t be said for her half-Al Bhed cousin Yuna, who seemed to lose much of her essence in the sequel.
If you played either Dissidia title but not Final Fantasy VI, Terra may be a bit underwhelming. Suffice it to say, in her own game she was not only a lovable character but a creature so powerful the empire sought to utilize her as a weapon. Cliche though that may be, Terra is wonderful both for her charming and timorous personality as well as her abilities in battle. Her magic is one of the greatest assets to the party, which says a lot given the sheer, ridiculous number of characters that can be earned throughout the game. Though (as stated) she was a bit disappointing in Dissidia, her struggles against becoming a tool for Kefka really captured the essence of her character.
I was sorely tempted to place this character as my top choice. In a game brimming with such bravura and so many majestic characters, Rydia still stands out as a highlight. The player first meets her as a child with exceptional powers, and after departing from the party when they reach the Feymarch, she later returns as a young woman and full-fledged Summoner, having honed her powers in the home of the Eidolons. Her growth is stunning for a game of its time, and her return as a confident and caring young woman is easily one of the strongest arcs in the entire game. As a Summoner and Black Mage, she is also one of the best characters to use in the game.
I’ll admit a large reason Tifa takes my top spot lies with my undying love for Final Fantasy VII. That being said, Tifa still embodies the spirit of the Final Fantasy femme. Simultaneously compassionate and formidable in battle, Tifa’s one flaw may be her mild insecurity—but it’s what makes her more human. Though she’s kind-hearted, she can be tenacious almost to a fault. It is also because of her that Cloud’s memory was pieced back together and he was able to face off against Sephiroth. In the movie sequel, Advent Children, she displays her affinity for hand-to-hand combat against Loz and her maternal side shows in her relationship with Marlene and Denzel. With so many aspects to her character, Tifa takes the top spot on my list.
What characters would be in your list? Who wouldn’t make the cut? Let us know, as ever, in the comments.