VICE vs Video games

The Greatest Moments of ‘Final Fantasy’, Part 2

More selections of memorable excellence from the vintage role-play series.

by Aoife Wilson
26 March 2015, 4:15pm

Squall illustration by Stephen Maurice Graham

Looking for part one of this piece? It's over here, where the selections are explained. So before you head to the comments to complain about your favourite scene being absent, maybe click that way, first.

Squall in limbo – Final Fantasy VIII

Final Fantasy VIII gets a bit weird towards the end when everyone starts talking about time and space and all sorts of plot points that start to fall apart if you think about them for too long. The party wilfully manipulates Ultimecia to compress time and space so that they can jump to a point where they can confront her in person. They defeat the sorceress, the game's primary antagonist, but this creates circumstances that set new events in motion, as the main player character Squall and Ultimecia are sent to our hero's childhood where he watches her pass on her powers to Edea. Out of time, however, Squall is stuck in some weird parallel-dimension limbo, where his memories begin to fade away, Rinoa's face gets all blurry and he's left alone in the darkness.

Things start to get freaky and he begins to glitch out and fall down a lot, all alone on a big rock. Thankfully Rinoa, using her own magical powers, is able to find him and bring him back and everyone lives happily ever after. Except those of us that have seen those horrible hallucinations, because there's no going back from that.

Kefka destroys the world – Final Fantasy VI

VII's Sephiroth may be the iconic villain that most FF fans remember, but he never even came close to achieving his goal of total global domination. Creepy-ass clown Kefka Palazzo did, however.

It's impossible to take Kefka seriously in the early stages of FFIV. In the service of Emperor Gestahl, he cuts a ridiculous figure with his painted face, colourful robes and whooping laugh, and he's often quite funny, like when he berates his subordinates for allowing sand to get in his boots – while they're in a desert. It's only when he poisons an entire village's water supply and doesn't even bat an eyelid at murdering scores of innocents that you realise he's rather more sinister than you first suspected. Then he kills a bunch of other people, steals the life forces of a load of espers, and usurps the power of three gods (known as the Warring Triad) and becomes an all-powerful one himself. What happens then? Only what pretty much every other Final Fantasy villain has dreamt of but never quite pulled off. Kefka destroys the entire world.

The land becomes a ruined husk, people die horribly – the monster even wipes out almost all the moogles. The party that you've spent so long getting to know and putting together is utterly scattered, and hope is lost so completely that Celes even attempts suicide. Things get dark, is what I'm saying, and even though your party will (of course) get back together eventually, overthrow the mad clown god and save the day, they can't erase the fact that, well, Kefka won, and he remains one of the most dangerous and memorable villains in the entire series. That laugh isn't so funny now, eh?

Fran's mist rage – Final Fantasy XII

XII was a bit forgettable. I actually had to Google a few of the main characters' names for this feature. In case it comes up in a pub quiz, Vaan was the main protagonist in the stupid vest who just stood there gormless while everyone else saved the world around him; Penelo was his best friend with the unfortunate fringe and badass boots; and Ashelia B'nargin Dalmasca, or Ashe, was the kind-of cool but ultimately not cool princess who wasn't scantily dressed enough to remember.

The two characters I never forgot, however, were Balthier, the dashing, roguish sky pirate, and Fran, his accomplice who also happened to be an anthropomorphic rabbit dressed in a cross between armour and lingerie. They were fun, they stole the game's best lines, and they kind of reminded me of Han and Chewbacca. If, you know, Chewbacca was really lithe and sexy. Which I guess depends on who you ask. Despite being a bunny in a teddy and completely ludicrous stilettos (which are justified because of her race's physiology – whatever you say, Squeenix), Fran was so far above everyone else in that game I had to have her in my party all the time, even though her stats were, for want of a better word, shite.

The physiology of the Viera also makes them involuntarily freak out when exposed to Nethicite, a magical substance that everyone wants control over because of reasons. One enemy of the party, Judge Magister Ghis, finds this out to his detriment – though he deserves nothing less when he spouts nonsense like, "Ah, we've found it at last – true deifacted nethicite. The power of the Dynast-King in my hands!"

Despite being tied up, Fran goes berserk, breaks free and fly-kicks a bunch of soldiers in the face, and it's totally awesome. It also prompts Balthier to tell a filthy S&M joke to a princess. Told you they were like Han and Chewie.

Vegnagun destroys Spira – Final Fantasy X-2

I expected to hate X-2, so much so that I avoided it for many years after it launched. I mean, they gave Yuna guns and a short skirt and turned her into a pop star for crying out loud – and then they teamed her up with a sassy blonde best friend and a new totally emo chick who wasn't so much a character as an aesthetic counterpoint to the other two and a stand-in for Lulu, who for some reason decided that her adventuring days were over and that she'd have some redhead's child instead. Essentially I found the entire concept of dresspheres vaguely insulting in a Final Fantasy with an all-female cast.

But, it turns out, X-2 was awesome, the songs were dope, and the storyline was surprisingly dark. The whole adventure begins because Yuna believes she has seen Tidus in a really old sphere, but it turns out to be the spirit of a young man resembling him named Shuyin, who was the lover of a songstress and summoner named Lenne. The two were gunned down over 1,000 years ago, an event that made the unsent Shuyin mad with grief and which is recounted during Yuna's performance of "1,000 Words" in Thunder Plains, due to her dressphere somehow holding Lenne's essence. "1,000 Words" is a pretty good song, but the way. Yes it's cheesy as hell (then again, so was "Eyes on Me"), but hey, it's better than Leona Lewis' "My Hands".

Anyway, one of the best, or at least most dramatic moments from X-2 is one that the majority of players will never even see. Angry and vengeful, Shuyin wants to destroy the world and with it any fear of people dying unnecessarily in war (that's some good logic there, sport) and so he unleashes Vegnagun – basically a sort-of-sentient weapon of mass destruction. You face it down at the end of the game and, if you lose, X-2 actually shows the destruction of Spira instead of just going to a simple "Game Over" screen. Watching the blasts rip apart the Calm Lands is pretty horrific, to say the least. And yet most people were more horrified over the game's unbelievably kitsch opening, which was fuckin' A if you ask me. Lasers! Flying guitars! Magical costume changes! Sexy male back-up dancers! What's not to love about that?

Cyan sees his wife and child cross over to the afterlife – Final Fantasy VI

Cyan's a bit of an eejit. He's one of those party members that people always just tend to gloss over in favour of a more powerful or more interesting character (hey there, Cait Sith), and who's going to choose some faux-Shakespeare spouting nincompoop like Cyan when they can have Edgar, who's basically Batman? When the game forces you to, of course.

Events early on in VI see Cyan join the party after he sneaks behind enemy lines during a siege on his home of Doma. This infiltration means Cyan alone escapes death after Kefka poisons Doma's water supply, killing everyone including Cyan's wife and son, Elayne and Owain. In his grief, Cyan tries to take on the Empire's forces alone but meets up with martial artist Sabin, and they escape into a nearby forest.

Here they accidentally board a ghost train, transporting the souls of the dead to the afterlife. After Sabin actually suplexes the entire train, and it agrees to let them off at the next stop, they disembark just in time to see the souls of Cyan's wife and son boarding for their final destination. It's a sobering, heart-wrenching moment that you feel all the more because it comes right after a downright ridiculous one, and after an hour spent buying goods from ghosts and eating at a little phantom restaurant. As he runs alongside the train to the end of the platform and they say a few last words of love and encouragement and you're fairly sure you see the moment his heart actually breaks, you find new empathy and respect for a man who previously you'd only seen as kind of a loser.

Ramuh summon – Final Fantasy XV

I haven't been one of Final Fantasy XV's biggest supporters – I've complained about it on this very site in the past – but the recent "Episode Duscae" demo of the game has given me cause to eat my words, and I couldn't be happier about that. Not only did playing through the demo instil me with a sense of wonder and intrigue that, for me, has been missing from the series ever since X-2, but it even made me care less that all the party members thus far could have been picked out of a sample chart of J-pop boyband clichés. I'm slowly beginning to hope that this game might not suck, but I'm still wary – I've been hurt before.

One of the most mind-blowing aspects of the demo, however, is that you can actually hunt down a summon hidden somewhere in Duscae – and bloody hell, it's pretty. It's a fairly well-known summon – Ramuh has been present in almost every Final Fantasy since III – but it's probably safe to say he's never been a massive favourite. You wonder if that's why Squeenix chose him specifically for this moment, because if this is how good they make an old dude with a staff look (I love the fact that X's Ixion makes a cameo appearance in the staff's carving), just imagine how badass Shiva or Ifrit or Bahamut will look. Actually, don't, because I'm not sure we're ready. But honestly, everything about this looks amazing – from the sheer scale of Ramuh himself, to the destruction caused to the landscape by Judgment Bolt, to how you can still see him on the horizon after the battle ends, before he slowly dissolves out of sight. My body is ready.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I had to stop typing at some point. Shout-outs to the Opera, the coin toss and Rachel's temporary revival from FFVI; the motorcycle chase, leaving Midgar, the destruction of Nibelheim and cross-dressing in the slums in FFVII; Kuja destroying Terra and leaving Burmecia in IX (actually, Kuja doing anything in IX – his "Later, bitches" hair flip is everything); changing classes in the first FF; the petrification of Palom and Porom in IV, the ballroom dance and Sorceress Edea's parade in FFVIII; the sending, the wedding and anything Kimahri or Auron are a part of in FFX, and Balthier and Fran's eventual fate in FFXII.

Oh, and this obviously.

Great, now I've got to go back and play them all again, don't I?

Find Part 1 of this piece here

@aoifelockhart / @400facts

Previously:

A Short History of Video Gaming's Most Gratifying Destruction

'Jedi Power Battles' Is the Game That Made Me Somebody's Best Friend

'Deadly Premonition' Remains the Weirdest Video Game of the Modern Era