In a devastating one-two whammy, we're following up last week's Community Question - What's Your Favorite RPG? - with a more specific one about your favorite RPG character.
It could be a hero, it could be a villain. Perhaps it's someone who made a brilliant cameo. It could even be a character of your own making should you be so inclined. All we want to know is - who is it, and why?
While you ponder the imponderable choices available to you, here are Team USG's favorite RPG characters of all time.
Sorry to go all dark horse here at the start, but dammit, Selphie is the best. I would go so far as to call her the first video game character I could ever really relate to as a convincing human being; Selphie broke the mold for RPG characters as either grim heroes or blank slates or a combination of the two.
Like the rest of Final Fantasy VIII's cast, Selphie was a high school student (or fantasy equivalent) first and foremost, and she played the part moreso than any other character in the game — well, except the mopey and morose protagonist Squall, whose perpetual sulk made him a dead ringer for that dude who sat in the back row of homeroom with his hair flopped over his face while he discreetly listened to The Smiths on a contraband tape cassette player. Selphie was the exact opposite: A buoyant, upbeat young woman who reminded me of several of my high school friends. The kind of girl I enjoyed having as a friend thanks to her positive outlook and sincere enthusiasm for life and her friends.
I know the idea of high school RPG protagonists is practically cliché these days, and no one does it better than Persona, but in 1999 it was still a novelty… especially here in the U.S., where most intensely Japanese games never made their way. And even so, it's rare to have one who stands out in such sharp contrast to the rest of her crew. FFVIII saw Final Fantasy well on its way from becoming goofy melodrama to Very Serious Epic Soap Opera, and Selphie was a welcome sign that this transition didn't mean the series had to go all-in with its solemnity. And unlike other characters in the franchise who occupy the same "genki girl" niche (See: Yuffie, Eiko, Vanille, Rikku, and Penelo to a lesser degree), she never seemed overbearing or forced. I think a big part of the appeal came from how grounded the cast seemed despite the game's bizarre magic academy home — Selphie was always trying to rally school spirit, convince her friends to join a band, and skulking the school's intranet. Just like a real teenager. It set her apart from other game characters and made her one of the most appealing parts of FFVIII.
I'm going to have to cheat here and cite my very own World of Warcraft characters as my favorites. Another World of Warcraft character, the Lich King, almost made my nomination, but while I fought that ultimate bad guy tooth and nail throughout the Wrath of the Lich King expansion - and eventually vanquished him after a huge amount of effort - I have to go with the avatars who represent me in the game.
My motley crew has varied over the years, but I've usually had three or so top-level characters for each expansion. Every time my priest has been my main. I just love playing a healer. Particularly a discipline spec priest, which relies on damage-absorbing bubbles and rapid small heals to save the day. It just perfectly matches the way I like to play the game - a combination of foresight and quick reactions.
I used to run with a warrior too, but during the Lich King expansion, I leveled up a death knight and never looked back. I'm not the greatest melee player to be honest, but there's something about the way that the DK works that suits my style, especially in PvP. Plus she has cool blue glowing eyes.
Rounding out my regular trio of heroes is my hunter, who is my ranged offensive character of choice. Highly mobile, and packing plenty of tricks up her sleeve, the hunter is another fun-to-play character in PvP. I tend not to raid with her, because I find the rotations somewhat boring, but out in the wilds, and against human players, she's an absolute blast.
So why are these three characters my favorite? Well, ultimately they represent a decade of adventuring. Between them, they've killed some 400,000 enemy players, dished out billions of points in damage and healing, and despatched pretty much every raid boss in the game. All that time, and all those memories simply crush any player-character and NPC I can think of in any other game.
My first guess was going to be Revan from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, but I don't think that's particularly fair, as Revan is the sum of the player's choices. Yes, the character exists prior to the player taking control, but that Revan doesn't really factor into who you play at the end of the game. Balthier from Final Fantasy XII is probably the character I most want to be like, but I'm not sure that makes him the "best".
That said, I'm still going to cheat. My favorite RPG character is actually a pair: Ramza Beoulve and Delita Hyral. Together, both characters from the thematic core of Final Fantasy Tactics. Ramza with his quiet devotion to his own brand duty and Delita's decision to do whatever it takes to end up on top of the food chain.
Both characters ask a singular question, "What can I do to most help Ivalice?" and both go about it in completely different ways. The noble-born Ramza works as a sellsword, fighting the wars that need to be won, though no one knows who saved them. The commoner Delita, fighting his way to the top of the noble world through deceit and guile. Together, their efforts build on one another, with Ramza helping to remove those in Delita's way and Delita filling the power vacuum with what could be considered a just ruler.
So many call Delita a villain, but he's really not. Delita isn't right in his actions, but the consequences of those actions are mostly positive. Is there a wrong way to do the right thing? Probably. Ramza and Delita save Ivalice together; Ramza leaves a healthy body, while Delita cuts out the worst parts of its soul. So yeah, together they're my favorite RPG character, as you can't have one without the other.
It's honestly a toss-up between Lenneth Valkyrie and Persona 4's Chie Satonaka. But since I used last week to extol the virtues of Valkyrie Profile, my personal favorite RPG of all time, I'll take this opportunity to talk about Chie—a character I deeply identify with.
In Persona 4, Chie is a high school student in rural Japan—a society where gender roles are deeply ingrained. She's the opposite of her friend Yukiko, who being shy and feminine is the archetypal Japanese woman (though also a bit of a weirdo, which I appreciate). By comparison, Chie is a loud tomboy with a massive appetite and a big personality who loves kung-fu movies. She's also fiercely protective of her friends, especially Yukiko, whom she treats almost as a younger sister.
But of course, this being Persona 4, Chie is also deeply insecure about both her identity and her relationship with Yukiko, whom she feels is more desirable in some way. It's probably not any great revelation that a tomboyish gamer like myself would feel much the same way at various points in her life, particularly in high school, which is a grinding crucible for teenagers of both genders. Chie's eventual revelation that it's okay to be herself may seem trite, but it's also necessary. I've known girls like Chie, and in some ways I've been Chie, so it's heartening to know that it's theoretically possible to put aside petty insecurities and love thyself.
Chie, it should be mentioned, is perhaps the most popular character in either Persona 3 or 4, so she obviously strikes a chord with a broad range of people. There's something infectious about her bright personality, her lack of pretensions, and her appetite for life, all of which are splendidly brought to life by the voice acting of Tracey Rooney (Persona 4) and Erin Fitzgerald (Persona 4 Arena, Persona 4 Golden). She's a wonderful role model, and yet one more reason why Persona 4 is just the best.
Man, what a tough question. I've been searching my brain for a definitive answer, but no matter who I choose, I still have reservations. So I guess I'll bite the bullet and say Mog from Final Fantasy VI.
To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what makes Mog so appealing to me. But, since encountering him for the first time in Final Fantasy VI 20 years ago, he's always managed to find a permanent spot in my party during subsequent playthroughs. And if my middle school notebooks could somehow be recovered from the hundreds of feet of landfill they're currently buried under—R.I.P. algebra homework—you'd find a few too many drawings of Final Fantasy VI's mascot doodled into the margin. (Of course, it helps that he's pretty easy for a 12-year-old to render.)
You kind of have to be on board with Mog as a character before letting him occupy 25% of your party because, in terms of pure game mechanics, other members of Final Fantasy VI's cast prove far more useful. Mog's "Dance" ability has its interesting effects, but the fact that said effects are randomized and based on your current location makes him not as reliable as, say, Edgar or Sabin. And then there's the fact that you can essentially waste a turn in battle if Mog screws up and falls flat on his face. I really expect more from a moogle.
When revisiting the game later in life, what appeals to me the most is that Mog is a subversion of the cuddly mascot. Sure, he's a force to be reckoned with, but the second half of the game make him an entirely tragic figure, without calling too much attention to it. Essentially, his entire race is snuffed out, meaning he'll never have true companionship outside of his yeti friend. Perhaps if there's ever a Final Fantasy VI-II we'll find out if—as in Jurassic Park—"life finds a way," but until then, Mog will remain a cute and cuddly little dude who sees his entire race wiped out by the halfway point of his game. That's pretty dark for a character that amounts to a teddy bear with bat wings.