by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Spoilers, Spoilers Everywhere. You’ve been warned. Spoilertown!
This piece was actually a lot of fun to put together. You know what everyone loves? A good, tragic villain. Someone who is evil, and does horrific things, but it’s not really their fault that they’re in that position. Whether it is by birth, driven to madness, driven to despair, everyone loves a tragic villain. That’s what makes an interesting foil, someone who isn’t just “Lol I’m evil! Tee hee!”, except for Kefka. He’s the exception that makes the rule. So I sat down with my council, my trusted advisory board (RE: Kenny, since he’s the only person awake at the hour I write these to bounce ideas off of), and a list has been created. I’ll do what I can go to go into the motivations and what makes these villains worthy of note in their backstory. Though there are a few runner-ups that I thought might make a fun mention. Queen Zeal (Chrono Trigger) for her lust for power, drunk off of the immortality of the Mammon Machine. But she ties too much into someone else, so she didn’t make the cut. Golbez (Final Fantasy IV), for being controlled by Zemus/Zeromus, to do all the horrible kidnappy/murder/summon the Four Daevas stuff he did. He was kind of one-dimensional, but a fun character/villain anyway. Edge’s Parents (FFIV) almost made the list as a kind of comical note. The Generic, Random Hero from 7th Saga Who Has The Star Rune (7th Saga), because they wind up fighting against you when you come upon them. But all of the other heroes are fighting against you anyway, so it doesn’t quite work out.
5: Delita (FF Tactics): Delita is a character of circumstance. He is best friends with one of the noblest, royal bloodlines in the whole of Ivalice (Ramza Beoulve). He’s constantly belittled by another noble and desperately wants to rise above his station. It’s like Hamilton, only Delita sets up an entire course of bloodshed, violence, kidnapping, betrayal, all so that he can be King, only to be betrayed by the Princess that he foolishly falls for. Delita’s need to not be scum, to be a peasant is so great that he will go to any lengths to do so. And once his only family, his sister is killed by the nobility, he no longer has a reason to hold back. Delita is such a fascinating character. He could have been a hero, he could have been the hero. He could have been a hero, but instead, overwhelmed by his circumstances, became the villain.
4: Ray (Breath of Fire 2): Ray is a shining example of religious indoctrination. When we first meet Ray, we’ve already basically learned that this new Church, Eva, has taken over the land, swept over huge portions of the land that once revered the Dragon God. But there’s this new religion, basically a cult. But Ray is not like them. He doesn’t transform into some hideous devil and attack us. Hell, he helps us rescue an entire town from falling victim to a flood, and risks his own life to hold back the water. He even teaches us useful magic in thanks for saving the people. He stands out in the St. Eva church, because he’s genuinely a good person, and thinks the church is right. So he spends much of the game trying to convert Ryu, or at least show him the light that he knows is there. They come to blows, Ray reveals he can transform into a Dragon too, showing that perhaps Ray is an apostate, or was lured away from the Dragon Clan at a young age. Another would-be-ally turned into a horrific, powerful foe. He was brainwashed early and didn’t stand a chance.
3: Magus (Chrono Trigger): Magus/Janus Zeal is another seriously interesting character. When we first meet him, he’s basically Satan. Worshipped by a village of monsters (literally worshipped), a cult took over a church for him, and he has undead monsters laying siege to Guardia Kingdom. But why? He’s trying to summon Lavos, the Destroyer of Worlds, in order to kill all humans, right? Right? Of course not! That’s too simple. When he was a young man, his mother, Queen Zeal fell in lust with the Mammon Machine’s power and coveted the immortality it could grant. The Mammon Machine was tapped directly into Lavos, who slumbered peacefully under the sea. Magus was furious at what Lavos did to his family, his kingdom, his entire timeline. So, he was trying to summon Lavos/awaken it so he could slay it. This of course, fails, because it’s Lavos. All of his work hidden as the Prophet was undone when Chrono was murdered, and he winds up coming upon the party again, who he asks if they want to fight. You can fight him there, and get revenge for Chrono, and for Frog, who was turned into his new form thanks to Magus’ magic. Or you could bring him along and set things right. Fueled by rage, anger, and the need for vengeance, Magus fights to defeat both his mother and the great devourer, Lavos.
2: Erim/Iris (Lufia and the Fortress of Doom/Lufia 2): Lufia and the Fortress of Doom and its Sequel/prequel, Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals had some very deep storytelling and you didn’t have to go far to find it. One of the key points is that Erim, the Sinistral of Death is the key to the Sinistrals rebirth. As long as she lives, so do they. They will inevitably arise again. In Lufia and the Fortress of Doom, we learn that Lufia is actually Erim, and her birth is the reason the Sinistrals came back, 90 years after their first rise to power. She chose to rebel against her brothers, and save the world, at the cost of her memories and powers, never to cast magic again. She gave up everything for the descendant of Maxim, which really isn’t that unbelievable if you look to the next game. In Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals (the prequel), a mysterious seer/prophet named Iris continually interrupts the adventure, giving Maxim a bit of advice, guiding his way and even occasionally helping him. She challenges the love that Maxim has for Selan, as if she were trying to cause a rift between them. We learn late in the game that Iris is Erim, the Sinistral of Death. It’s often theorized that her time as Iris helped develop that compassion that had her save Maxim, and again in the first game. Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals really builds upon Iris/Erim’s relationship with the humans and her torn nature between being the Sinistral/God of Death, and helping Maxim. She’s so damn fascinating, for not having tons of screen time (except as Lufia).
1: Jecht (FFX): Ah, Jecht. The dad of the year. Jecht was just a Blitzball star, probably an alcoholic, and the most macho, charismatic man in all of Zanarkand. He was the best Blitzer in the world, and he had a family. A wife and a son, who was named Tidus. He was a terrible father though, dreadful at showing love and compassion, despite wanting to. So he gets sent to Spira to help Auron and Braska do battle with Sin. As they try to decide who should become the final Aeon, Jecht decides that it should be him. He’ll never go home and see his son again, and it’s then we see that he loved his family, but could not show it because he was a macho jackass. He carefully hid spheres all around Spira, in the event his son would find his way there because somehow, it seemed like he knew it could happen. When he became Sin, he found he could bring Tidus there to see him, to stop him. He wanted to be a hero, to stop Sin, and in doing so, became Sin. His desire to set things right with his son was so great that he drug him 1,000 years through time and did everything he could to gain even a sliver of control to glimpse his son. The ending is especially poignant when you finally confront Sin and see Jecht in his human form. “I can’t hear the hymn so well anymore…” is one of the last lines he has in the game. That hymn seemed to calm him, let him have a measure of control. He was a villain because of his desire to be a hero. It took his son deciding that this spiral of death had to end, to completely save Spira, and finally make his dad proud.