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It Worked the First Time, So Let's Do It Again!
As an avid Final Fantasy gamer, you've probably noticed that Square follows certain archetypes when creating their characters. The main character falls into one of two categories: either he is a quiet, cold and seemingly uncaring person who slowly comes out of his shell as the game progresses (usually as the result of a woman's affections); i.e. Cecil, Cloud, and Squall, or he is a bright, cheerful, perky type who keeps the team together and speaks his mind; i.e. Zidane and, probably, Tidus. Oh yeah, and the main character ALWAYS uses some kind of sword, whether it's your standard weapon with a long steel blade, or has a gun grafted into it, or the blade is made out of water (you could claim Zidane is an exception, but really, daggers are just shorter versions of swords). Then the supporting females fall into two general categories as well: the gentle healer type, usually quiet and shy, and the fighting kind, who is usually more perky and outspoken. Perfect examples of the former are Rosa, Terra, Aeris, and Princess Garnet/Dagger, while a perfect example of the latter is Faris or Tifa (incidentally, the fighting kind is a lot rarer than the gentle healer kind). Rinoa is a bit of a cross between the two but mostly falls more into the gentler healer-type category. Oh, and let's not forget the mandatory bratty, annoying character who is either loved or hated by the player (most often hated), perfect examples being Yuffie or Eiko. More minor supporting characters are a little more varied, but there's usually a really angst-heavy character, a really stupid character that can't talk right, and a character who almost never talks at all (hmm, Gogo, anybody?).
These archetypes have been prevalent throughout Final Fantasy games almost from the beginning, but because there is a small amount of variety in the characters' more minor personality traits, the games continue to be interesting and the characters likable despite the predictability. But most of us, I think, are ready for a change. And since so much is new in Final Fantasy X -- an Asian rather than European setting, voice acting, and a new battle system being but a few examples -- there was hope that the characters would be fresh as well. But it seems this is not the case. We have the typical sword-wielding hero, who, like Zidane, looks to be a more cheerful type of main character, falling into the slightly less common category for heroes. Then there's Yuna, who's a bit up in the air, but seems like she'll be the typical shy-type heroine, although there have been comments by the developers that she is "independent." And Rikku, a perfect candidate for the annoying, bratty character if I ever saw one.
So what does all this mean? That depends on you. If, like me, you don't really mind the characters falling into generalized archetypes, FFX will probably still be an enjoyable experience. But if you find yourself growing a little tired of the predictable character formulas -- especially any female gamers who get sick of the helpless girl relying on the hero to save the day -- then maybe you'll be disappointed with FFX's lack of originality in the character department.
But don't get me wrong. I love most of the characters from Final Fantasy. Cloud and Squall may both fall into the quiet, depressed-demeanor style hero, but they have enough differences that they're still very interesting. I have no doubt that Tidus will be an interesting main character even if he does have some of the usual "cheerful hero" qualities. And, being the typical guy that I am, I'm always eager to see what the female leads are like (read: "how cute is this one going to be?"), even if they are a bit archetypical (: And personally, I think that the characters in FFX will be every bit as interesting as the ones in all the past games. There are times when tried-and-true formulas work just as well -- or better than -- new, experimental styles. But I can't help but wonder, can Square really pull it off again? We'll all find out once we play the game!