Alex, TUG, Iggy (behind_the_word) wrote in enix_exiles,
Alex, TUG, Iggy

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Square's Obsession with Cecil

Ok, due to the fact that it's Squenix now, I feel it's ok to speak of Final Fantasy.

***********Spoiler Alert*************
***********Spoiler Alert*************

Cecil, Final Fantasy IV, the archetypal badguy who doesn't like to be bad, turned traitor to his former alliegance, turned hero of the world.

Now, Final Fantasy loves to play with archetypes. We have super villian archetypes - Chaos, the evil dude from FF3 that I can't remember the name of, Zeromus, X-Death, Sephiroth, Sorceress, Kuja. We have the Emperical Religion already in place and power - Yevon, Shinra (oh they count, science is a religion), Goddess Statues (oh yes, though it was suppressed it still functioned as the underlying control point of the world). We have evil empires trying to take over the world, but seem to be using magic, a once lost and ancient tradition, or generaly suppressed over time tradition now in an explosive and terrifying comeback - The evil empire of FF2, same with FF3, Baron, Gestahl's Empire, Galbadia under Sorceress rule, Alexandria. Though, each FF is a consortium of mixes of each type, some, like FF5 are a single archetypal villian, a super villian known as X-death, others like FF9 are a complete mix, with Kuja being an ultimate being of destruction, specificaly engineered to destroy the world in preparation for Garland to recreate his people and old way of life, and the usage of Alexandria by manipulating her queen into wanting to take over the world, and succeeding grandly at the task until her ultimate demise by Kuja.

There are other staple characters in Final Fantasy and themes, that retain themselves through most of their games. The two consumate soldiers on the wrong side, with one of them always in a slight mood to dissent from the mission, usualy out of a forshadowing that they will lose and die - Vicks and Wedge, Vicks being the dissenter, Wedge being the commander that keeps him inline and ultimate leads to the demise of both. Then you have Cid, the technical genious, who has respawned since FF2 - both as a playable character, FF4 and FF7, and either as the technical genious of the badguys, FF4, FF6, FF7, or as the leader of resistance, FF3, FF8, FF9, or as a simple genious who happens to be around, FF2, FF5, FF10 (granted he's a leader in 10, but he's not in a resistance persay). Then you have Chocobos, the birds you ride until you get an airship. Weapons like Masamune and Murasame, Atma/Ultima Weapon, Greadus, etc.

Now, we come down to what I'm talking about, Cecil. Or rather the desire to recreate Cecil. Final Fantasy has been a staple rpg in both the US and Japan for decades. Japan took to it fast, as did the US with Final Fantasy 1. But Square was shortcoming in understanding how to properly reach the American market. By the time Final Fantasy 4 easy-type-dulled-down-for-USA came out here being called Final Fantasy 2, we had mostly forgotten the glory days of the NES, and where looking forward to the next action from a new Metroid and the upcoming Zelda - which recieved over 8 postponements. We had a couple of pictures of Final Fantasy 2, and NP made a slight deal about the games merits and how much they were looking forward to Squaresoft translating the game. Yet, we weren't hyped enough to get into it. Final Fantasy 2 sold well, but 300,000 copies in the first month doesn't even compare to 800,000 copies sold of Final Fantasy 1, of which 500,000 where sold in the first week - to the point where Nintendo was backordered for awhile not quite expecting their hype would draw in crowds.

Final Fantasy looked to turn a spiral for destruction. Square though, wsa smart. Square understands that Americans are, for the most part, ignorantly stupid gamers, fascinated with the prettiest colours possible, rather than the best games possible, so rather than opt for their best and most difficult Final Fantasy yet, FF5, they decided to wait till Final Fantasy 6 came into play, with graphics that would indulge even the most gameplay savy player into buying it. Oh and Final Fantasy 6 was pretty, and very smooth looking, smoother than any other rpg to ever come out on the snes, though others came with flashier graphics. Final Fantasy 6 drew in crowds, thanks mostly to Squaresoft's marketing department, who, unlike Enix, took a note from Nintendo, and paid attention to what made the largest difference in sales between Nintendo's entry strategy, and their first go. Square advertised like fucking crazy, starting with the first screens of Final Fantasy 6, and always giving us tantalizing news about how they "might" bring it our way - giving Square is a money powerhouse, they would have been complete idiots to think FF2 didn't sell well enough to merit no more FF's here. They pushed add campaigns, showing monsters and moogles, oh yes, a badass little fury fellow kicking ass - that's what America seemingly wants, why, because it's fucking comical and it makes you smile, plus turns your curiosity around to wanting to try it out. FF6 is released as FF3, and sells over 1 million copies here, I think 1.2 million overall - about 600,000 short of Japanese sales. Final Fantasy 3 also comes with a built in add campaign for Square's older games, namely Final Fantasy 2, and thusly 2 begins to sell again, though not more than 200,000 more copies.

Now, you think that with 6's popularity on both shores (even though FF5 sold more over in Japan than FF6), and the especialy given popularity of FF5 in Japan, that Square would repeat that formula of one or the other game. Alas no. These are just guesses, but I think Square and Squaresoft paid very very very very close attention to chatrooms, message boards, and any other public forum wherein Final Fantasy was being discussed, especialy in magazines - in this case NP. You see, Japan had a semi-fixation with FF5's ability to class out, and allow anyone to setup their characters however they wished, whereas in America, story is the most important function, gameplay is a distant 3rd, graphics coming second (at least in the rpg community of the time). Final Fantasy 4's story revolved around a tortured individual and his quest to prove himself, which becomes a quest to help his friends and ultimately the world, which turns itself on its head (ya like anyone really expected to find that Golbez and Cecil are brothers, there were three hints, all of them insanely vague, not forshadowing but, I forget the technical term for it, it was designed to allow you to accept the fact that they were brothers and make sense of it). Final Fantasy 6, was mostly popular to the people who did NOT play Final Fantasy 4, and only a select few of those who did. You see where I'm going with this. America, from what Squaresoft would be reading, likes a tortured soul to be the heart and soul of the story, going from cast down to uphigh. Japan likes a gameplay variance by where they can customize their characters - the states thinks otherwise on this aspect, I don't care which so long as it's well implemented.

So, we come to Final Fantasy 7. A perfect combination of both. You have Materia, a substance that gives you abilities beyond the boring attack, defend, switch front/back, item. Materia being equiped to a slot in weaponry and armour, with linking abilities with different types allows for multiple types of customizing. The Japanese are fucking creative with this aspect....fuck they're creative - just search for videos on what they've come up with, much more intricate connections and battle setups than any American. Now, you also have Limit Breaks - special attacks solely set to each individual character. While Limits are cheap and make the game easier, it allows the American gamers who loved having specialized skills specific to each character come true, now with even flashier graphics. But what this is really about is Cecil.

Cloud = Cecil. Cloud starts as Cecil just after losing Kain and gaining Rydia. Like Cecil he was once a soldier of the enemy, like Cecil's past, we are led to believe Cloud was a high level Soldier, a master of magic, weapons, and special skills, the best of the best - just like the Red Wings were barons best of the best. Cloud has already decided that he has to fight against the power, he doesn't know how, so he joins as best he can. Unlike Cecil it's for the money, but at the time Cecil is only concerned with convincing Baron of his evil ways and hopefully making things right without need of killing. So both aren't fully set on their ultimate mission of saving the world yet. Cloud though, unlike Cecil has two love interests, Tira and Aeris, but Aeris is the lighthearted kindness and denseness of character that you sometimes see in Rosa in her staunch I will never leave you even though I've been beaten down and battered trying to get to you. Yet, Tifa represents Rosa's ability to fight and tough it out, unlike the weak Aeris, so Tifa/Aeris = Rosa. Rosa isn't stupid like Aeris either, and draws out Cecil's kinder and gentler side like Tifa can. Like Aeris she buckles his knees and makes him want to kiss her - I still hate Aeris though.

Now, in fighting style, both are identical, they both use the ultra powerful swords. Both are protective of the other crew members, both feel they can handle every situation alone, though Cloud is more arrogant than Cecil. Like they decided to make Cecil's Dark Knight complex a part of his personality rather than simply his job. So when Cloud turns a head and decides he really wants to save the world and get back at Sephiroth his "brother" - genova cells make everyone affected siblings, always interconnected, also they're from outerspace so now Jenova infected people are both alien and human, just like how Cecil and Golbez are half-half human/lunarian - rather than just become the paladin, he retains his darkside a slight touch, and his arrogance, unlike Cecil who cleanly goes to the other side, which in retrospect is his personality - another facet, even when they change their quest to something grandier, they both retain their personalities.

Each subsequent FF after this, and I could go on but I'm tired and I have a shitload of things to do today, has been another rendition of Cecil. Cloud is more detached and Squall is even more detached from the world at large. Each though, is an archetypal hero based on the sheer popularity of Cecil in the US. Each is infinitely more complex than the next, and as we see, Squall's near complete detachment from the outcome of his missions and the ultimate conclusion of them pisses people off over here - we like a moral guy, someone who has a willing understanding of consequence and cares about those consequences, why Cloud is still loved. Thusly Zidane is born, the opposite direction from Cloud, detached, but not by a lack of spirit, rather by too much spirit, he feels the world is his joke and toy, yet he's also very much aware of his actions and their consequences and does care, though he lets his mouth waggle too often. Zidane is also another copy of Cecil - if you noticed what Garland says about the clones and their origin, he's reffering to Cecil of FF4. Oh ya, if you also didn't notice......that dumbass from FF10, Tidus, is yet another archetype, based on a mix of Zidane and Cloud...he's both aloof in a comical and serious manner, not knowing where he's going, what his ultimate mission is, not really caring, yet joking around constantly and always making light of all the horrible things they've seen, even after he's accepted his ultimate mission. Also, he's part of another type of brotherhood, like with Zidane, like with Cloud, like with Squall, that's alien to the world and also not.
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