by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
“Heard joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor…I am Pagliacci.” – Alan Moore, The Watchmen
Clowns invoke a variety of emotions in people, ranging from jovial laughter to the terror that makes our skin crawl. Panic, nausea, fear, you name it. Clowns have been used as villains, antagonists, and fear-inducers for decades, that’s not a new trend. Steven King’s IT anyone? But what about in video games? There have not been quite as many Clowns as I originally thought, but boy were there some good ones! Harle from Chrono Cross is a fine example of a clown-style character or the various iterations of Batman games, with The Joker. The Joker’s the epitome of what an evil clown is supposed to be. Chaotic, destructive, awe-inspiring, but also pants-wetting fear. I wanted to pick a few obvious clowns, and probably a few lesser-known, interesting clowns. Seldom are clowns used as the main foil for our heroes – but that’s not always the case. So, let’s send in the clowns!
Goof Off (Dragon Quest III): The Goof Off counts! In Dragon Quest III, there’s a joke class called the Jester/Goof Off, and I know I’ve talked about it at least once on this website. If you manage to get this worthless jerk to level 20, you can turn him into a Sage. Goof Offs have incredible luck, but are basically useless in battle, just clowning around and giggling like dorks. However, the pay-off is huge. Sage is a powerful spell caster that has access to the most magic in the game. They’re silly, wacky, but definitely a worthwhile investment in casual playthroughs of Dragon Quest III.
Zorn & Thorn (Final Fantasy IX): The Final Fantasy wiki lists Zorn and Thorn as “possibly human”, but I’m not so sure I believe it. These two are far and away the creepiest, weirdest clowns/jesters in any video game I have personally spent time with. Zorn and Thorn wear red and blue (paired with white) and are the attendants/advisors to Queen Brahne of Alexandria. They also have the power to draw Eidolons from a person, making them indispensable to Brahne’s overall evil plans. You also do battle with them, when they take on the form of Meltigemini, but that’s not the weirdest part about these little clowns. They use a type of speech called Antimetabole. In Antimetabole, speech is mimicked by in reverse order. So what one says, the other says in essentially reverse, and is very unnerving, even in text.
Pierre & Danielle (Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals): This was a brief, often forgettable encounter in Lufia 2, within the Treasure Sword Shrine. This is the first major battle for Selan, and there’s a lot that made this fight sort of interesting. Pierre & Danielle are technically immortal, only able to be killed if they die at the same time. So when they go into battle, so if adventuring parties want to defeat them, they have to split up. That puts any party at a distinct disadvantage, and these two hit hard. In a world as serious and dark as Lufia, having immortal murderous clowns just felt right somehow. My only gripe is that they appeared so early, and never returned to the limelight again. This fight also added some depth to the implacable Magical Girl Selan; she was a career military woman, and ultimately recognized that Maxim’s idea was a solid one, and went along with his plan to defeat these two clowns.
Traveling Performers (EarthBound): This one’s kind of a gimme, because you know if I can find a way to talk about EarthBound, I probably will. But EarthBound is a game that hides a lot of darkness and despair behind such a bright, cheerful exterior. One of the first examples of this were the traveling performers. Whether they were hobos or clowns remains to be seen, but you unlock their shack for them, which was locked off by the Mayor of Onett. It seems like such a nice, friendly town, but it has corrupt cops, a corrupt Mayor, and Mayor Pirkle even locked off the Touring Entertainers Shack so those clowns had nowhere to live. Is that even living? When you enter the Shack, it’s even worse than the house that Lier X. Agerate offers to sell you. You never fight these Clowns but instead make their sad lives a tiny bit better, and they give you the only thing of value they have other than their gratitude. Man, EarthBound’s a dark game, the more you think about it.
Kefka (Final Fantasy VI): Come on, is this a shock to anyone? Now, I know what you might be saying – Kefka’s basically a god, how can he be a clown? Look at his sprite/artwork! How could he be anything but a clown? The jester-turned-advisor is not a new trope, but it’s one of my favorites. Kefka’s a murderous, chaotic evil psychopath. He has delusions of godhood, but are they really delusions? He’s the one Final Fantasy villain I can think of that not only had a plan, but it succeeded! He destroyed the entire world, killed his boss, and reshaped the land in his image because he could. Because nobody could stop him. He all but erased hope in the World of Ruin and drove Celes to attempt to take her own life (or so it seemed). He looked like a joker, made clever quips and ran away like a coward when the chips were down, or at least it seemed that way. It seemed like Kefka always knew what he was doing. He poisoned a town because he could, he destroyed Thamasa, murdered General Leo, all behind that hideous smile. If there’s a better clown in an RPG than Kefka, I simply don’t know who it could be.