Final Fantasy Archetypes

I’d like to start this blog off by dating myself: as of this year, it has been a decade since I played a Final Fantasy game for the first time. I was amazed with its wonderful story, bowled-over by its beautiful graphics, awed into ignorance of its terrible voice-acting. After a video game hiatus brought on by console evolution and limited funds, Final Fantasy grabbed hold of my heart and pulled me right back into the gaming world. Though things have changed since then, and FPS and adventure games have appropriated the majority of my game shelf, Final Fantasy has embedded itself into my very soul like an emotion-producing parasite. Despite any disappointments I may have with the direction of the series, or any flinching I do at scenes that still haven’t given up the cheese after ten years, it is a series that will stick with me always.

Did . . . did you have to?
Did . . . did you have to?

As such, it’s about as surprising as finding bingo hall in Florida that that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about these games. Their various plots and story lines, the ways in which the characters interact and, yes, the paths that the series has carved by treading the same ground over and over again. Over time, I began to ponder something that stuck in my mind for a while, so nerdy and odd that even I worried it was too much. But I am nothing if not really nerdy, so eventually, I decided it was time to undertake the project that I had become so interested in: Final Fantasy Archetypes.

Yes. While it is true that Final Fantasy happily utilizes many archetypes familiar to the full, mammoth range of storytelling—the wizened old guide, the prodigal child, the comic relief—it has also done something very interesting over its extended run. Consistencies have arisen that reoccur in patterns unique to Final Fantasy, and series-specific character structures repeat in its various incarnations of the Main Party. I would go (and, well, have already gone) so far as to call these archetypes—and they are more peculiar, deep-seated, and detailed than one might expect. That’s not to say that every character fits into a archetype, or that every entry in the series has a full set, or that Square is somehow bad bad bad for using them instead of being “original.” The use of these archetypes simply follows a long-lived storytelling tradition, one I find fascinating and, to the point, worth exploring. That said, my project is thus: a multi-part series of essays detailing each of these unique archetypes: the cleverly named Final Fantasy Archetype Series. While some of these archetypes appear as early as Final Fantasy IV, they really start to solidify with VII, evolving as they approach the present installments. For that reason, these essays will primarily focus on what Square terms the “Golden Age” of Final Fantasy, with additional examples from Final Fantasy XIII to see how these archetypes fare in the “Modern Era.” Also, while they won’t be the focus, additional examples from the classic years—or “Old School” as our homeboys at Square have termed it—will be noted where appropriate.

Ouch. That’s gotta sting.

Tl;dr: it’s an essay series on Final Fantasy archetypes, it’s as nerdy as it sounds, and it is going to be fantastic. I hope it’s as good for you as it is for me.

A Tentative List of Archetypes:

Archetype I: The Perky Refugee

Archetype II: The Jaded Beauty

Archetype III: The Sad Clown

Archetype IV: The Failed Hero

Archetype V: The Pipsqueak

Archetype VI: ???

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