Originally published May 2015.
I don't care how much of a Star Wars nerd you may be. Even if you spend your weekends cosplaying in the 501 Legion and can't enjoy marital relations unless your partner wears a red metal bikini, you need to step up your game if you ever hope to match the sheer dorkery of Square Enix's Final Fantasy games.
Look, Star Wars happens pretty much everywhere in geek culture. It's a kind of life blood. But the Final Fantasy games have taken it to an incredible extreme through the years; the entire series sometimes feels like a giant Star Wars fan fiction.
Sure, Final Fantasy started off as a giant Dungeons & Dragons ripoff back in 1987, but beginning with the sequel you could tell that creative leads like Hironobu Sakaguchi and Akitoshi Kawazu decided they should cast their nerd nets wider and pilfer from other sources. And Final Fantasy II felt equally stolen from the Star Wars films and Hayao Miyazaki's "Nausicäa of the Valley of the Wind." Eventually, Nausicäa's influence faded, but Star Wars remained. If anything, it's only become stronger over the years. And that's why we say: Every Final Fantasy is actually Star Wars.
Point I: The Empire
Sure, evil empires are hardly unique in fiction, but they're the trademark of Star Wars. And they're a fixture of Final Fantasy, too.
The series' first empire, from Final Fantasy II, seemed to have more in common with the Torumekia Kingdom from Nausicäa, but by the time we got to Final Fantasy VI, the Star Wars influence was unmistakable. Of course, FFVI was the Star Warsiest of all Final Fantasies.
But the part where the Emperor was thrown to his death by his right-hand man at the precise moment of his greatest triumph really drove home the fact that, yeah, these guys love them some Star Wars.
Point II: The Force
Maybe this one's a little bit of a gimme, since the Force is basically magic and, as a fantasy RPG series, magic is Final Fantasy's stock in trade. But sometimes the connection is more obvious than others.
There are the times where magic is a secret hereditary power, as with the summoners in Final Fantasy IX.
There are times when some unassuming kid in the boondocks aspires to be a hero and becomes swept up in a grand scheme and must learn to master his new powers, as with Cloud in FFVII.
And then there are the times that magic is the binding force of the universe that must be put into careful balance, as in FFXII... incidentally the second Star Warsiest of all Final Fantasies.
Point III: Darth Vader
Star Wars would be nothing if not for the intimidating presence of its greatest on-screen villain, Darth Vader.
There are three things that define Darth Vader: He wears cool samurai-inspired armor, he has the power to back up his looks, and he's actually the hero's father.
Well, Final Fantasy has that in spades. First, there was FFIV's Golbez, who had the same dark armor thing going on, wielded infinitely more power than the heroes, and turned out to be protagonist Cecil's brother.
Final Fantasy X gave us Sin, a primal force that lacked the rad armor but more than made up for it with power and, oh yeah, turned out to be Tidus' father.
And then there was Judge Gabranth of FFXII, whose armor was pretty much a Darth Vader copyright infringement, who commanded extraordinary power, and who was actual main character Basch's twin brother.
Point IV: Obi-Wan Kenobi
You can't have a Vader without an Obi-Wan, the elder statesman of the Force destined to be turned into a ghost by his former apprentice turned evil.
FFIV had Tellah, the aging wizard who was destroyed himself in his zeal to destroy Golbez.
FFX had Auron, the ghost samurai who was best buds with Tidus' father Jecht before Jecht became Sin.
And FFXII... well, surprisingly, it doesn't have an Obi-Wan analogue. But it is part of the same universe as Final Fantasy Tactics, which gave us the amazing Thunder God Cid, a powerful warrior with a white beard, brown robe, and unstoppable holy sword.
Point V: Stormtroopers
Since Final Fantasy usually has you fighting goblins and behemoths instead of human shock troops, the series has actually been relatively low on bad guys who look like the Empire's white-clad legions.
There's definitely a lot of that going in Final Fantasy XIII, though — PSICOM forces are equally vast in number to Stormtroopers, equally intimidating in their masked armor, and equally easy to put down (except of course when the story calls for them to show a sudden burst of competence).
Point VI: Yoda
Not often a parallel to the wizened Jedi master in Final Fantasy do you see. Perhaps Final Fantasy V's Sage Ghido would be the closest thing to Yoda:
An ancient green creature living in a cave, whose humble form belies his power.
Either that or FFVI's Mog, another diminutive cave-dweller capable of controlling the very environment with his unique magical powers.
Point VII: Chewbacca
Han Solo's towering Wookiee copilot, on the other hand, gets riffed on a lot.
Physically, no Final Fantasy character resembles Chewy as much as FFVI's yeti berserker Umaro.
On the other hand, FFX's blue-furred Ronso warrior Khimari not only looks the part, but he's also the most reliable and intimidating of summoner Yuna's protectors on her pilgrimage.
And let's not forget FFXII's Fran, who as a barely-dressed bunny woman comes off as nothing so much as a Rule 63 version of Chewy: She's tall, brown, a great pilot, and weirdly loyal to the game's brazen Han Solo ripoff, the air pirate Balthier.
Point VIII: The Millennium Falcon
Speaking of Han Solo, you can't forget his battered hot rod of a space ship, the Millennium Falcon. Airships have been a mainstay of Final Fantasy since the beginning, but sometimes the Star Wars influence is more obvious than others.
Like in FFVI, where the airship is actually called the Falcon... and you end up winning it in a wager from the gambler Setzer, just like Solo won the Falcon "fair and square" from gambler Lando Calrissian.
Point IX: R2-D2 and C-3PO
Final Fantasy doesn't deal much in androids, but you can still see analogues for Star Wars' oddest couple if you look hard enough —
the odd friendship between artificial humanoid Vivi and priggish knight-errant Steiner in FFIX, for example.
But the truest counterparts to Artoo and Threepio come in the form of FFXII's Vaan and Penelo. Yeah, they're kids rather than robots, but as outsiders swept into someone else's grand adventure despite lacking any real importance to the plot, they provided the same grounded point-of-view into the story for viewers that Star Wars' droids served.
Point X: Biggs & Wedge
And finally, just in case you think this is all a bunch of tenuous trainspotting, consider exhibit C: Biggs and Wedge.
First appearing as a pair of Imperial soldiers in FFVI, this recurring duo has made appearances in almost every Final Fantasy game of the past 20 years. And, of course, they're named for two of Star Wars' supporting characters: Biggs Darklighter and Wedge Antilles.
Wedge, of course, was the X-Wing pilot who appeared in all three episodes of the original trilogy... but it's the Biggs reference that really shows the devotion Final Fantasy's creators have to Star Wars.
FFVI's writers dug deep for that one, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that they're just as much Star Wars nerds as the rest of us.