Hello again, readers! It’s been some time, but we have the second-to-last entry in the Final Fantasy Archetypes series: the Pipsqueak.
“Youth is wasted on the young.” Typically, this phrase is meant to express how the physical capabilities and opportunities of youth are squandered, due to the immaturity of one’s early years. The phrase applies well to one of Final Fantasy’s favorite archetypes—the Pipsqueak—but only after a slight reinterpretation. One could say youth is wasted on the kids who fit into this archetype, but not because they are juvenile. Quite the opposite, in fact—they are so anxious of the present and concerned for the future that they don’t actually act like kids, and can be their party’s number one downer. The purpose of their journey, then, is to learn how to conquer their fears—and to realize that maybe being a kid isn’t so bad. Characters who fit into this archetype include Red XIII (FFVII), Vivi (FFIX), and Hope (FFXIII). Other examples include Gau (FFVI) and, by some degrees, Vaan and Larsa (FFXII).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: ???
Today we have part two of the Final Fantasy Archetype series, and this time it’s about every fanboy’s (and some fangirls’) favorite Final Fantasy character: the Femme Fatale. She’s sultry, she’s gorgeous, she’s scantily clad! Every Final Fantasy in our scope has some version of this woman it, busy getting everyone hot and bothered. She is always one of the older members of the cast, flaunts her sexuality through revealing clothes and suggestive props, and is the epitome of no-nonsense. Her age also gives her a mark of maturity, and she is one of the most grounded members of the party.
But that maturity doesn’t just come from anywhere, and it goes deeper than some nicely rounded pixels: this archetypal woman has seen tragedy that has left its mark on her. However, where the Perky Refugee’s tragedy involves large-scale oppression, this character’s struggle is more personal, and her past often goes unmentioned until the story demands she reveal it. The revelation itself is nearly always the same: for all her beauty and desirability, the Jaded Beauty is also pointedly unlucky in love. Simply calling her a femme fatale doesn’t cover that sense of maturity and loss—she is the Jaded Beauty, in all her mystery and mystique, and she is here to give you a cry-boner. Characters that fall under this category are Tifa (FFVII), Quistis (FFVIII), Freya and Beatrix (FFIX), Lulu (FFX), Fran (FFXII), and Fang (FFXIII). Like the Perky Refugee, this archetype is old enough to find incarnations in the classic set: Celes from FFVI, and Rosa from FFIV.