There is certainly no shortage of female characters in the Final Fantasy universe, and some of them might inspire the sort of feelings that usually result in the continued existence of life on earth. The determination of which of the lovely ladies of Final Fantasy are most deserving of one’s affection may seem pointless to the uninitiated, but there is an obvious need for this sort of article other than satisfying a weekly writing commitment. To debate the superiority of any of these fictional characters will no doubt seem inane to some, it is still vital that we do so today because these things matter. What specifically is at stake here? Obviously, which Final Fantasy girl is best. This might sound subjective, but rest assured that what follows is based on compelling and 100% factual opinion-based research. Also, shouting. And angry text messages.
We should really start at the beginning. This is more than a beauty contest, because we all know what is inside matters more. Or whatever. Looking at the graphics from the original version of the first Final Fantasy for the NES probably won’t result in any amorous feelings, but there were certainly women in the game. Party members were not the defined characters of later Final Fantasy games, so the characters we can reference are in the main story line. Rescuing the princess Sarah is the first objective in the game, but I never really connected with her. Without looking at concept art (which would be cheating) I can only say that she was as lovely as an NES sprite can be, probably. But we need more than that. The last of the classic games, Final Fantasy VI (or Final Fantasy III in North America) is – in stark contrast to the first title in the series – loaded with sex appeal. Not only are there defined characters, but there are some pretty hot ones, too – by SNES sprite standards, I mean. Speaking as someone who is meandering through the game LIVE on Sunday afternoons (check the streaming schedule) and has only covered about 10 hours of the game to this point I can only speak of my experience with a few of these ladies. Terra is the first we encounter, having been controlled by the military for use as a killing machine thanks to her special powers. It is a tragic story that makes me feel feelings, but Terra just is not the one for me. Am I alone here? When Celes enters the picture she is quite reminiscent of Terra, which I am reliably informed is no coincidence. There is also an opera singer named Maria who is the spitting image of Celes, enabling Celes to impersonate her in the thrilling opera scene that this author bested easily on his first attempt. (That is my official stance on the matter.)
I will point out one important thing at this juncture: we live in a three-dimensional world. While Nintendo Final Fantasy games offer timeless gameplay and charming 2D visuals, there is something to be said for realism when you are ogling on-screen characters. To this end Final Fantasy VII, the first 3D series entry when it debuted on Sony’s PlayStation in 1997, featured a host of legendary characters, from Cloud and Barret to Aerith and Tifa, with more available to add to the party later on. For their part Aerith and Tifa provided the most alluring Final Fantasy characters to date, with the former a wholesome beauty as pure as snow, and the latter a rough-and-tumble fighter who clearly believed that wearing an excess of clothing inhibited movement in battle. The character models in-game were not necessarily a step up from SNES era sprites, being rather simplistic polygonal representations, but the in-battle models certainly were – and the cinematic sequences took this to another level entirely. If you played the entire game without falling for at least one of these characters (even Cloud dolls himself up in a very nice dress at one point) then you might have a heart of stone, for there is something for everyone here. But I am getting off track. The best girl from FFVII has to be Tifa or Aerith. Which one is better? Who would you date? There is actually an easy way to find out, as there is a dating component within the game itself. Depending on how the player answers questions throughout earlier interactions with the characters, a different person will be selected for a date later in the game. Play your cards just right, and Cloud with spend a romantic evening with…Barret? Wait. That can not be right. How did I do that?
We next come to Final Fantasy VIII. OK, moving now to Final Fantasy IX, there is not a FFVII-like rivalry to worry about, as Princess Garnet is pretty much the only eligible female character…and no sooner do I type this than a legion of Quina fans swoop down and carry me off. Probably to be eaten alive. For her part Freya is fine, but not a match for the charm of the lovely princess, who captures your heart as she comes to terms with the reality of her situation and helps defeat evil once and for all. Or not. Maybe you are into Beatrix (and why not?). There just seems to be less at stake in the charming FFIX universe than within that of the tense FFVII, where Tifa and Aerith fans collide in wars that the bards sing of ever after – but perhaps some fans might have their own ideas about this. For my part, I choose to move on to the first of the PlayStation 2 Final Fantasy titles, with the oft-maligned Final Fantasy X. How much of the vitriol spit upon this game is directed at an admittedly lousy localization is unclear, but the cast does include some lovely characters, looking better than ever with the advanced graphics of a new game engine.
One thing FFX provides is some eye-candy for the ladies, as well. My favorite is Auron – the tall, dark, and handsome sword-wielder with a mysterious past. And while Blitzball is like nails on a chalkboard I can not really dislike the affable Wakka; though being good-natured is hardly enough for true love. The same can not be said for Tidus, who is terrible in every way as he is essentially the game’s Mickey Mouse; an obnoxious mix of laughter and naivety that the player is forced to stomach for the duration of a typically long Final Fantasy game. What might break up the monotony of this experience? How about some pin-up quality 3D women?! (Finally!) To this end we certainly do not have Yuna, who is seemingly uninterested in anything other than fateful pronouncements and self-sacrifice, all the while telling everyone around her to smile. Nope. The real fun starts with Lulu, who seems to be the game’s femme fatale in a low-cut dress that defies gravity. Rikku might be a popular choice, but her apparent youth in this game precludes that. The less perverted will have to wait for the sequel: the girl-crazy Final Fantasy X-2! Here Yuna has decided to shed about 65% of her clothing, Rikku is legal, and some other women also exist, probably. I think I have said enough about FFX-2.
Skipping to the next non-MMORPG title in the series, we come to Final Fantasy XII, and immediately skip it as this author has yet to play it (but has the HD remaster preordered and will rectify this situation later this summer – honest). Final Fantasy XIII followed, and took graphics to the next level on the PlayStation 3. Even if Lightning might not do it for you, there are other options in the game with which to shower your admiration. To this end how can anyone fail to fall in love with the endlessly-positive Vanille? She is beautiful, pure, and has red hair. She also features a somewhat controversial Australian accent in the English localization for the game, which is not for everyone – though a certain someone would disagree. Another young lovely can be found in the immediate sequel, in Final Fantasy XIII-2’s Serah; a pretty schoolgirl who packs a punch and might just end up paying a terrible price for her good intentions in the end. She also seems to suffer from FFX-era Rikku’s age problem, which means hands-off, you perverts. Skipping past another MMORPG we have Final Fantasy XV, the regrettable first entry on the PlayStation 4. It is terrible and will not be discussed, regardless of the trucker-cap-wearing hillbilly that people seem to enjoy.
It is hard to say that one character, specifically only one female character, is “best” in the history of these mostly-great games, and to this end I will leave it up to the reader to decide. Let me know in the comments who the BEST woman in Final Fantasy is! Don’t hold back! (Or, in the case of FFX-era Rikku, DO hold back. Please.)