Tag Archives: archetypes

Archetype IV: The Failed Hero

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: ???

Well here’s a series I haven’t worked on in a while. With so many things to focus on, time gets away from you–something these gentlemen know a lot about.

Let it never be said that Square-Enix doesn’t know its literary canon or character tropes. The wise old mentor is a stock character seen throughout world literature, a prominent classical figure and a recognized Jungian archetype. This elderly man uses his years of experience and wisdom to guide the heroes in their journey, and direct them to the lessons they need to learn in order to survive and prosper. While this archetype appears in Final Fantasy less often than some, it has had definite staying power, first emerging in Final Fantasy V and subsisting through Final Fantasy XII.

However, Square-Enix’s version of this character deviates from the standard. While he does have an aged wisdom (despite the fact that he rarely tops 40) that comes from a vast wealth of experience, it is a solemn knowledge that arises from one place: his own story, where he acted as the young hero and ultimately fell. He then returns as the Failed Hero, helping and guiding the next generation to do what he could not—but with a hint of something less solemn to him. Prominent characters in this archetype are Vincent Valentine (FFVII), Auron (FFX), and Basch fon Rosenburg (XII). Other notable examples include Galuf Baldesion (FFV); Cyan Garamonde (FFVI); the non-playable Cid Kramer (FFVIII); and Sazh Katzroy (FFXIII), who shares similarities with the Failed Hero but better fits the Sad Clown archetype.

Continue reading Archetype IV: The Failed Hero

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Archetype III: The Sad Clown

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: ???

You can’t escape him. No matter where you go—what classroom full of tired students, what business meeting of bored workers, what overly-packed subway distinctly lacking in personal space—there is always that one guy who has to be funny about it. He is always ready to make a joke, never accounting for appropriateness or good taste, and no matter how serious, stressful, or focused a situation is, that joke is going to happen. You could be dangling off a cliff face together and he’d be making jokes about you leaving him hanging.

Has anybody ever told you you have a really punchable face?

In all likelihood he unwittingly got the idea from storytelling in general: the comic relief character is a trope pulled straight from the quartos of Shakespeare, where guys like this one traipse about tormenting nobles and making clever, genital-based jokes between death scenes. (Nobody likes your Conan jokes, Feste.) Different versions of this prankster thrive in pop culture to this day, from the snarky sitcom bachelor to the quick-witted class clown of cartoondom, so it comes as exactly no surprise that a version of this character appears in Final Fantasy as well. Think of any bad joke that’s made at the wrong moment, any awful and intentional pun, any moment of comedy meant to break of the seriousness of a situation by making us laugh in any Final Fantasy under consideration, and I can almost guarantee you are thinking of that guy.

Goddamnit Wakka.

However, Final Fantasy has done something interesting in making the archetype their own. While this always-male character is a jokester of the highest (or lowest) caliber throughout the entirety of the game, it doesn’t take long for the audience to realize there’s something else going on. Maybe his humor becomes self-deprecating, maybe that clown-paint veneer starts to crack, maybe the party stumbles on just the wrong place at just the wrong moment and it hits him like a freight train—but eventually, it becomes clear that there’s something vulnerable about this funny man, something that turns him into a Sad Clown. Interestingly, it almost always has to do with something as close to his heart as his terrible puns: family, and how he has lost them. Characters that fit under this archetype include Barret (FFVII), Irvine (FFVIII), Wakka (FFX), Balthier (FFXII), and Sazh (FFXIII). Steiner (FFIX) is also a notably clownish character, but does not fit with the archetype on more than a superficial level; several early-entry characters, such as Locke (FFVI), Edgar (FFVI), Setzer (FFVI) and Bartz (FFV) display traits characteristic of the archetype as well, if only partially.

Continue reading Archetype III: The Sad Clown

Archetype I: The Perky Refugee

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: ???

I am going to kick this series off with perhaps one of the most easily recognized archetypes in Final Fantasy—one that is often brought up with no reference to archetypes whatsoever, and regarded, as often as not, with a certain amount of ire: the Cute Girl. A perky and somewhat obnoxious teenager, she maintains a cheery disposition despite any trials she and the party face. She is always there with a smile and a silly phrase, singing about trains, skipping through a desolate ruin, or writing cutesy love letters to the male lead. She is something of an emotional compass for the player—more than any other character, if something dampens her mood, it’s meant to be nothing short of a tragedy. Famous and infamous examples of this archetype include Yuffie Kisaragi (FFVII), Selphie Tilmitt (FFVIII), Eiko Carol (FFIX), Rikku (FFX), Penelo (FFXII), and Oerba dia Vanille (FFXIII). This archetype is also one of the longest running, and can be found as far back as FFIV with Rydia, and FFVI with Relm.

However, it seems disingenuous to suggest that the Cute Girl’s titular cuteness is the limit of her impact, or the extent of the commonalities between these characters. There are additional common threads that bring these girls together, specifically similarities of foreignness and large-scale oppression. That in mind, I believe a better moniker for this archetype would be the Perky Refugee.

Hear me out.

Continue reading Archetype I: The Perky Refugee