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I decided on an unorthodox choice and medium in picking a story that helped inspire me as a writer. Final Fantasy 4 is a story that I enjoyed since I was 14 and have come back to on numerous occasions. A tale of good versus evil, the plot is filled with fantasy lore, magic, love, redemption, and revenge. Oh yeah, it’s also a video game.
I’ll refrain from talking about the gameplay and only discuss the game’s story and characters. However, I should briefly mention that all Final Fantasy games are self-contained stories, with storylines that barely connect (in fact all of the games take place in different universes).
Final Fantasy 4’s story follows Cecil, a knight from the kingdom of Baron, who, after committing atrocious crimes under his liege’s orders, starts to question his King. Aware of Cecil’s wavering loyalty, the king strips him of his rank as captain and sends him on a seemingly meager task of delivering a simple package to the village of Mist. However, after unwittingly causing massive destruction and death to the inhabitants of Mist because of the package, Cecil decides to oppose Baron and its mighty military.
While the adventure itself is a fun and intriguing tale, it’s the characters themselves that make the story memorable. On the surface their motives may appear simple or single-minded, but there’s depth, charm and character development underneath their actions. For example, the protagonist Cecil initially looks more like a villain and has in fact killed innocents for Baron’s gain. But we can see that guilt wracks at him for performing those deeds. Cecil’s conscience gets in the way of his loyalty, making him unsure of himself. This inner conflict and shame prevents the knight from achieving his full potential.
Rydia, a young girl and the sole survivor of Mist, is forced to overcome her fear and grief in order to become a powerful sorcerer. Palom and Porom, twins who are also wizard apprentices, complement each other’s personalities and skills and prove to be a good example that kids can work side by side with adults and not be aggravating. Edward the Bard and his unique singing have inspired me in weaving some interesting concepts for one of my novels. Goblez, a dark warlock, plays the villain role well, with his mischievous machinations and his eerily organ theme song that plays whenever he crosses our hero’s path. But my favorite character is Kain, a warrior from Baron and Cecil’s best friend and rival. What makes Kain stand out (besides his awesome ability to jump great heights) is that he was hypnotized into turning against Cecil because Goblez twisted his hidden desire for Cecil’s love Rosa. I sympathized with Kain and how sad it was for him to harbor those feelings, but refuse to express them until they were released by Goblez.
Another reason why these characters are so memorable is because the plot is very connected to the gameplay. Different people with varying skills come and go throughout Cecil’s quest. These events are usually heightened by exciting plot points. Suffering a betrayal by Kain, coming to the aid of a besieged warrior, or finding help in my darkest hour from an unlikely person; these events drew me deeper into the game’s story.
While Final Fantasy 4 isn’t my favorite video game story, it’s one of the most influential one as for being the writer I am today. The story has it flaws, but also possesses a certain kind of charm. It’s a fun adventure, but still covers serious issues and doesn’t come away being too goofy or morbid. A game made for the Super Nintendo, Final Fantasy 4 is an old game by today’s standards, but is still considered fondly as a classic by many gamers and myself included. It really shouldn’t matter what medium of stories one enjoys; if they tell great tales, then that method of storytelling should be encouraged. I suppose that’s the point of this post, that a video game can tell an engrossing tale and help inspire your imagination just as much as any novel or movie.