Final Fantasy VI is a tale of two sides, a common theme in the series, those sides being Celes and Terra; ice and fire; general and slave. But deconstructing the dichotomy shows how even the former was in bondage long before she was imprisoned in South Figaro.
Final Fantasy VI has long been lauded for numerous things, but a major facet of this praise centered around it being one of the few games of that era to have a female MC, and VI boasted two. While it can be argued there is no main character, since VI allows the player to pick and choose who to include (within reason), rewarding them with extra scenes if certain people are brought along, the World of Balance and World of Ruin beginning with Terra and Celes respectively is not mere happenstance.
Both parts of the game begin with protagonists whose names mean “earth” and “heaven” with the first focusing on the mundane realm of war and political machinations until it culminates in the heroes literally miles above the ground on a floating continent. The second half then features with a character whose moniker refers to the celestial realm gathering everyone together in order to cast down a false god and restore the balance of earth and heaven.
As above, so below.
As fore mentioned, Terra’s given name is the Latin word for “earth,” which follows for overarching Final Fantasy symbolism. She’s of the same archetype as Aerith (anagram for “I earth.” I haven’t come up with set names for the Final Fantasy archetypes, which I intend to write extensively about at some point, but they’d be in the category of “magic girl by birth,” which is also, of course, a trope in its own right). Though Terra doesn’t have that connection with the planet, her abilities are very much grounded with a universal source: the Warring Triad. Her innate ability is fire, and, along with the earth reference in her name, completes her half of the elemental puzzle shared with Celes.
Like Aerith, Terra is half-human, half-other.
Note: While there are several other potential meanings of the term (including a type of instrument or a shield), “Cetra” also references to the Latin word for “other” i.e. “et cetera” “and others.”
Like FFVII’s magic girl, Terra, too was kidnapped by an evil organization as an infant, raised by them, and forced to do their bidding with the hopes she’d lead them to a place of ultimate power with the Esper World standing in for the Promised Land in this regard. They are both reminiscent of the fey/sidhe with the former bearing resemblance to a fairy mound.
Síd-mounds are usually synonymous with the otherworld, an intermittently accessible parallel dimension.
The entities of the síd-mounds are numerous and human-like. They’re not separated from humanity by full deification like other classical gods, but rather are closer and lower. It’s possible the entities of the mounds were imagined by Roman visitors to occupy a similar role to numina in their beliefs: numina being vaguely personified divine presences immanent to the landscape or tied to a particular place. Irish síd beings resemble the elves of Old Norse and (to a lesser extent) Old English literature, which may be evidence for a widespread northwestern European belief in a parallel, supernatural race, something common to both Germanic and Celtic cultures.
-Mark Williams “Ireland’s Immortals: A History of the Gods of Irish Myth”
Given these similarities to Irish mythology, it seems brutally ironic that Terra’s father Maduin’s name isn’t from the Máel Dúin of “Immram Maele Dúin” (“The Voyage of Máel Dúin”), a tale of a sea voyage written in Old Irish, but according to the Wiki the characters don’t match. I don’t want to speculate too much; however, the name was created by translator at the time Ted Woolsey, so it’s not impossible it was based on the Irish hero. We don’t know “authorial” intent here, and I can only point out what I see. Whether it was intended to refer to Celtic folklore is unknown, but the similarities to the sidhe are pretty solid, and also “Tara” is a hill/mound and ancient ceremonial burial site in Ireland, but I’ll shut up about this now. One final point in this regard is Maduin, the very reason she’s half-Esper i.e. part fey, naming her Terra ties her more to the earthly plain, which is what ends up saving her in the end. There’s an irony to the literal mundane nature of such a name for an otherworldly being.
Note: I am, of course, aware that her name was Tina in Japan due to the foreign sound of the moniker in that locale, but someone still made the choice to call her Terra in the English version, and there’s nothing wrong with discussing the potential symbolism behind that.
The wiki provided other interesting information about the game’s development. Maduin was the Esper originally found in the cave, not Tritoch, which would’ve lent another parallel to Final Fantasy VII with the “half-breed/hybrid” discovering their otherworldly parent in a static/catatonic state.
Though even without the parental angle, the Esper unearthed in Narshe still fulfils the motif of something powerful, ancient, and “other” buried in the north that humans attempt to use for their own benefit but instead leads to their rue.
Foregoing such a parental paradigm in Final Fantasy VI creates a nuanced difference to Terra’s reaction to the esper in the mine as opposed to the above encounter referenced in Final Fantasy VII. Terra’s situation didn’t require her to have another connection to Tritoch other than “esperhood,” whereas Sephiroth a Jenova…well that’s another essay. And while it would’ve been yet another fascinating juxtaposition between how such “other/othered” characters react to such situations and the reasons behind why they do, I like similarities with Terra’s pendant and Aerith’s White Materia more since they are the better parallel characters. Maduin gave the piece to her mother Madonna who passed it on to her infant daughter. It’s in the same vein of Ifalna giving her daughter the White Materia, a powerful heirloom from the “other” side. Granted, Terra’s doesn’t do much besides offer this symbolism whereas the White Materia is one of the two most powerful MacGuffins (arguably the most powerful), but it’s still a commonality to point out.
Speaking of Madonna, the wiki has her “official” name as Madeline, which turns out to be symbolically similar to the former even though they refer to two different Marys. “Madeline” is a form of “Magdelene,” and Madonna or the Madonna is a common name for the Virgin Mary whose storyline Terra’s mother parallels. She’s impregnated by an otherworldly being (though in her case it was voluntary I said what I said *shrug*) and gives birth to a child with special powers that everyone looks to to save the world. The parallels aren’t exact, but it’s a cleverly woven in reference.
Madonna and Maduin have a nice little “Beauty and the Beast” paradigm, though of course that’s his true form, which she never had a problem with. Considering she was wandering near the Sealed Gate due to humanity’s cruelty, it was probably a welcome respite to fall in love with someone not human or even human-looking, though Maduin was clearly enough to “pass” (a concept whose real world implications I am not going into here) or change his appearance enough to fly under the radar, since he, too, spent time in the human world but soon grew tired of it. The Monster Boyfriend trope is always fascinating, and I love Abigail Larson’s artwork to the same.
Madonna was going to return, but Maduin convinces her to stay, giving her his pendent that “protects the Esper world.” It seems only fitting that tragedy befalls after it’s in the possession of a human, lending credence to the argument that humans and Espers aren’t compatible, though Terra’s very existence, a unity of opposites, negates that. Also, the only reason Madonna and Maduin were in the path of the sealing spell was due to that one jackass, wolf-looking Esper saying that she must’ve helped the Empire find them. That one comment cost both of them their lives and Terra her parents and freedom.
With a little bit of consideration, the fate of the Espers including Maduin, is nothing less than horrifying. It took the Empire almost two decades to figure out how to extract the magic from them, which means they were probably put into those tubes, allowed to “recuperate’ and then put in again. It’s not until Ramuh voluntarily gives up his life to concentrate his power into Magicite (this is where I believe the “crystal” reference comes in. I’ll write a full essay on that one day, too) that they understand what I like to call alchemical necromancy i.e. just killing them is the “best” way.
An esper/human union is initially presented in the World of Balance as an unheard of anomaly, but Final Fantasy VI is clever in showing another situation much later in the World of Ruin where it happened before during the War of the Magi a thousand years ago. Square Enix, then Squaresoft, likes to present possibly significant paradigms as side missions and possible throwaways (re: Lucrecia’s Cave in Final Fantasy VII, an optional quest with monumental implications for the entirety of VII’s narrative and foundation). The Ancient Castle is a missable while using Figaro Castle to travel from the desert kingdom to Kohlingen. You have to choose to stop and investigate, finding a cavern to the crumbling structure through Figaro’s dungeons. From one kingdom to another, you pass through a thousand years, finding a castle once home to a queen and several espers where only their petrified forms remain. The queen had fallen in love with Odin, but hid her feelings as romance between the two kinds was forbidden. When the castle came under attack, Odin was the last esper left standing, but he was turned to stone by a great sorcerer immune to Zantetsuken, his killing strike. The queen was petrified, too, and upon “speaking” with her, she sheds a single tear that transforms the gleaned Odin Magicite into Raiden.
There are some interesting head canon pathways that could be traversed with the above, but I like how it reveals a precedence for humans and espers. Though there’s neither issue nor union, it lays the foundation, both after and before the fact for Terra’s existence.
I also do not believe Terra’s supposed “inability” to love has anything to do with being part Esper, but rather the fact she was kidnapped at the age of two when her parents were murdered and raised to be a weapon. It’s not nature; it’s trauma, and even if we don’t consider the relationships of Maduin/Madonna and Odin/Queen it’s also patently untrue. Terra loves the children of Mobliz, but non-romantic love is too often considered lesser. While I’d never judge anyone’s shipping preference, any involving Terra comes off as awkward or forced (or I haven’t found a good one, which is absolutely possible), because to me Terra is the ace icon we all deserve.
Terra is used by the Empire, her very will stripped from her so that she can be a literal WMD, and, similar to FFVII, the people you follow (and control) at the start may not be on the side you would choose. War is complicated, and citizens of imperial states are often as much victims of that state as those it conquers *waves from America* An individual person has as much control over what their government does as an ant in a colony, and if state action leads to the literal total destruction of the world, well *stares harder in American* Terra and the two soldiers, the famously reference Biggs and Wedge, are the bad guys,
the latter obviously more so since slave-crowned Terra clearly has no choice in the matter. I’m aware there’s a massive and controversial argument I could make here about Biggs and Wedge also having no choice insofar as they were “just following orders” (see the meme above), but I’m already touching on that with the idea of citizens of an invading nation having little to no say in what those governing the nation enact.
At a pivotal point in the story when all of the current characters meet back up in Narshe, there’s almost an altercation between Cyan and Celes, the former rightfully furious at what the erstwhile imperial general represents in the wake of his family’s demise. Edgar steps between them insisting that just because the Empire itself is evil, it doesn’t mean that all of its citizens are, and this is such an important and salient point to remember especially now. You cannot judge individual citizens of a nation by what the government of that nation does, because they have little to no control over such things. It’s similar to the difference between being a part of a privileged group and supporting the system that gives said group the power to oppress. You cannot help what or where you were born, but you can choose to actively work against unfair regimes, which s exactly what Terra and Celes do. Considering we know Terra’s situation wasn’t remotely voluntary and we later find out Celes’, they’re less citizens and more pawns (Terra obviously more than the general, but I’ll talk more about her soon); however, like in every oppressive system, there are always those who profit from the suffering even if they don’t directly cause it. At the initial meeting with Setzer, he admits the empire made him a rich man, but gives no details as to how. While the gambler is one of the more neutral characters prior to joining the party, caring more about his hedonistic lifestyle, I still don’t think that statement makes him a “bad” person. It’s just another example of how decent or at least neutral people can benefit from powerful and corrupt organizations, which does nothing but make a statement for how empty the concept of “neutrality” is.
Leo would be the best example of a good person working for an evil regime, and what happens to him and Celes (though Leo to the extreme) is a remarkable parallel to the myth of the “good cop” discussed below. This is also an integral part of what The Good Place points out in that it’s nigh impossible to succeed in a system set up for your failure, but we can only utilize the systems we have even as we try to dismantle and replace them for those that are more fair. Powerful nations invade and conquer others in order to further their interests (*cough cough* oil *cough*), and the Gestahlian Empire is no different in its conquest and search for the ultimate power in FFVI’s world: magic.
The story begins with the Empire invading Narshe, a peaceful mining town. This is made all the more malicious because Narshe is neutral, which serves as more proof for the nature of neutrality: it doesn’t exist. The Empire doesn’t care that Narshe wants nothing to do with their wars; Narshe has something they want, and they’ll do anything to get it. A more egregious example occurs with King Edgar, a Imperial ally, but Figaro has “something” they want (Terra), and the Empire has no qualms burning his castle down to get it. If they’re willing to attack their own allies to secure and retrieve their “property,” a small , mountain town with the paper shield of neutrality doesn’t have a prayer. Narshe has the Esper Tritoch. The Empire wants it. It doesn’t matter that it was found on non-Imperial land; it serves the Empire’s interests.
Regardless of their reluctance and even their possession of the Esper, Narshe will be affected by the Empire’s actions, because the Empire’s actions eventually lead to the destruction of the entire world just as Banon, the leader of the Returners, later warns. The Narshe elder even brings up the War of the Magi, a conflict that occurred a thousand years ago that set humanity back a millennium.
History always repeats, a depressing fact we’re currently watching in real time, and while Final Fantasy VI is set in more of a steampunk/Victorian emulation era, it still doesn’t miss the mark with questioning whether or not those in power are on the verge of making a big mistake (they are), which is of course what we’re seeing right now (they continue to do so…), and yeah, sorry-not-sorry to any of you naysayers but everything is political. If you’re just realizing that now it’s because the media you’ve consumed has aligned with your political views, or you thought it did (Star Wars is not for you fascists fucks). You can ignore the implications all you want but you can’t make them disappear.
Speaking of the Magi, we first hear about them in Thamasa, and, while important to the surface of the narrative at the time, they almost comes off as a side note. They were humans who learned how to use magic and fought in the War of the Magi a thousand years ago. Afterwards, they were persecuted by non-magical humans and so fled to Crescent Island in order to found a village there. Though the blood has thinned, it still remains. With the usage of Magicite, the entirety of the party essentially become Magi; however Terra, Celes, Kefka, and some others who can wield magic without, are functionally no different from the Magi of Thamasa, though Terra is a bit of a wild card as she’s not fully human, but this reveals a false dichotomy. If humans can’t use magic, but there are humans who can (Magi) then are they humans who can use magic or something else entirely? In such a case how non-human would Terra actually be? Whether you find a natural source of water or make H20 in a lab, it has the same chemical qualities.
Magi, which is the plural of “magus” and Strago’s surname for emphasis, means “wizard. It also denotes a follower of Zoroaster (per the FFVI wiki), but I always think of it in terms of the Three Kings/Wise Men story where it’s usually translated as “kings,” but this sounds like either a translation issue or Evangelical Christian whitewashing, something they love to do.
There’s an argument to be made that the Empire (or Kefka, but I’ll go more into that intersection later) included Terra with the retrieval party for the Esper not only for extra fire power (pun intended), but also because she is part Esper. While it initially appears that she is the expendable one (wearing a slave crown that gives the others complete control over her), in retrospect, it’s Biggs and Wedge, the common soldiers, who are replaceable. The light beam Tritoch emits destroys both the slave crown and them, and while this of course allows the young woman to escape the Empire’s clutches, no one had any way of knowing that would occur, and her main purpose could’ve been a more favorable interaction for the Empire’s interests with the other two there to observe and report.
Something of note. The first time Terra encounters Tritoch it frees her mind; the second time it frees her body, enabling her to take esper form.
Terra’s flashback after her liberation reveals what her place was in the imperial machine. Generals Cristophe and Chere (Leo and Celes respectively for clarification) along with Kefka stand side by side with Emperor Gestahl in front, showing they’re on equal footing not far behind dear dictator. While Terra is relegated to the back and slightly behind the Magitek Armor, which blatantly and twofold shows her place: lesser and as linked to if not functioning as a WMD. Gestahl’s speech in the flashback is pure Manifest Destiny, the “might makes right” fallacy: if you have the biggest army and the most power, you should subjugate the world *stares again in American* I also don’t think it’s an accident that Gestahl sounds like “gestapo,” but there’s a lot to unpack there, and I haven’t done nearly enough of the assigned reading for it. There’s a massive amount of research necessary before I can even begin to talk about such in a way that wouldn’t be wrong or potentially offensive, so I’ll only say there’s a similar fascination with (what’s perceived as) occult power that’s a tying thread throughout games in the series and a group whose members should always be punched.
In prior paragraphs I brought up how the Empire had no qualms torching its ally’s castle in order to get back what it wanted, but its needs be remarked that Figaro had its own political machinations that were almost as intricate as the ones that move the castle. King Edgar was an Imperial ally on paper while secretly funneling funds to the rebellion. It’s the clever ploy of “keep your enemies closer,” and while some could critique the deception, it’s a good example of a militarily weaker nation doing what’s necessary to survive while still fighting for what’s right. If Edgar had come out publicly as a member of the rebellion, not only would Figaro Castle have been attacked sooner, but South Figaro would’ve borne the brunt of his “honesty,” as well. Edgar is a great example of understanding what power and privilege you have alongside your limitations and using the former accordingly as you mitigate the latter. There is an irony in the name “Returner.” Returning to a mythologized past is one of the tenets and warning signs of fascism; however, the Returners are the clear cut antifa of FFVI.
In order to convince Terra to join their cause, Banon the leader of the Returners, tells her the myth of Pandora in all by name only.
Pandora’s myth is the classical equivalent to Eve insofar as patriarchal blaming of women for all the evils in the world. She, herself, was created to neutralize the blessing of fire Prometheus (meaning “forethought”) stole from the gods for humanity’s sake. With her box or rather jar in tow (translation issues), she was given in marriage to Epimetheus (meaning “afterthought”), Prometheus’ brother. Of course Pandora opens the jar, unleashing all of the evils in the world and, like her Biblical counterpart, condemns women to be the harbingers of sin *insert eye roll here*, but Terra doesn’t play the part of Pandora in Final Fantasy VI: she’s the hope left in the box, which is fitting since she’s half-Esper, and “Esper” literally means “hope” in French.
It was humanity that unleashed all of the “evils.” The Empire literally opened a Sealed Gate, causing the Espers to flood into the world, but they weren’t invading due to their malicious intent. They wanted to free their brethren captured and tortured by the Empire. Pandora at least opened the jar out of curiosity and not malevolence; the same cannot be said for Gestahl.
The Lete River the party escapes down is a smaller but still clever reference, and it’s called “Lethe” in remade version (the original would’ve had character limitations. Lethe was one of the five rivers that flowed through the underworld, and whoever drank from its waters forgot everything per the goddess of the same name who personified the phenomenon. It’s fitting that Terra, who begins the narrative without identity and who still doesn’t know who she really is, would be forced to escape down such a tumultuous flow.
When all of the groups with additional members finally converge, there’s a decisive battle for the frozen esper, after which we see Terra’s surprising transformation and (literal) flight from the cliffside. While it’s never shown in the mise en scène of the narrative itself (only in that one flashback), we know that Terra and Celes had to have interactions both being residents of Vector in some capacity or another (this is almost the exact same head canon theory as Aeris and Sephiroth even down to their FF Archetypes, but that’s for a later examination) . However; it’s almost like the story wants to avoid (at least initially) putting them in the same place to perhaps represent their dichotomous nature. If it was just this one instance, I could possibly brush it off, but Celes leaves in Vector right before Terra rejoins the group. This could also be more evidence pointing towards the two of them as the definitive main characters of Final Fantasy VI.
With the two sides revealed, it’s time to flip the coin and talk about Celes, our story’s “good cop” in not only the whistleblowing sense, but also the consequences.
Celes was artificially augmented with magic at a young age to make her a Magitek Knight. Nothing is known about her life prior, neither parents nor anything else. Artificially infusing people with magic in order to make them into living weapons is a common theme with Final Fantasy (nor do I think it’s a coincidence that Celes has the rank of general and that’s everyone’s head canon for Sephiroth). Per the wiki, Cid forced Celes to undergo the procedure, adding to the trope of fathers/father figures experimenting on their children.
Kefka was Cid’s first experiment, but the process was unperfected, and something went wrong. It’s safe to assume that despite Cid’s feelings for Celes, he put his priorities as a scientist first (not to mention certain pressure from the emperor) and managed to make an ice queen.
Similar to how Steve Rogers remained a boy scout with the super soldier serum, but Johann Schmidt became the Red Skull, Celes and Kefka follow the same respective pattern. Cap was ultimately a success, though it was due to his nature and not a problem with the procedure. Same with Red Skull who was, well, a Nazi. FFVI doesn’t delve into the potential natures of Kefka or Celes prior to their augmentations, leaving that for fans (and fanfiction) to speculate upon, though Celes’s formal description in the game says she has a “spirit as pure as snow.” This, while giving her even more similarities with Elsa (they’re both altos, too), also serves to lead her conscience against her better interests.
Celes fallaciously believes the system (in this case the empire) cares about right and wrong, instead of what authoritarian institutions always have and always will care about: power. As shown in the testimonials of cops in the real world, Celes is the one punished for doing the right thing. Her actions do nothing to change the system, and the only thing she can do is escape it. A corrupt system cannot be changed not even from the inside. It can only be dismantled.
These self-sacrificing actions reveal who Celes really, as well as one of the reasons she’s my favorite character in Final Fantasy VI and arguably my favorite main FF character (it’s a toss up between her and FFIV’s Cecil Harvey). She’s not so much genetically engineered like another “general.” but she still fits the mold of artificially enhanced human misled by her “creators” even down to the reversal of loyalties only in the opposite direction.
But as much as I love her, older me can’t ignore what younger me was too naïve to miss. Like quite a few female characters before her (maybe not as bad as Rosa), the game does Celes a bit dirty. Her biggest fear is whether or not Locke can protect her. She was a general for god’s sake! I really doubt a highly trained soldier would be worried about some scruffy rapscallion’s ability to protect her once she regained her bearings.
I loved their pairing when I first played, and I still love their combined leitmotif, but now that I’m older, I much prefer the non-canon pairing of her and Setzer (and no it’s not because Setzer has silver hair…okay maybe a little bit because of that).
This is thanks in part to runicmagitek’s writing about them, though I do have some serious problems with how their dynamic presents in the game. Celes is treated like a sexy lamp and denied any choice in the matter of whether or not she’s going to do the opera scheme. I know it’s played for laughs and is used as a special bonding moment between her and Locke to solidify their relationship, but that doesn’t make it above critique. Celes and Locke are a Han and Leia paradigm; the upper class lady with the lowbrow/scoundrel guy (not that Star Wars created that paradigm, but given Final Fantasy’s history of referencing that work, it’s not much of a stretch).
There’s not any significance to Locke’s name other than him being a thief (sorry TREASURE HUNTER *rolls eyes*) and “locke” being a name for a locksmith. During the return to Narshe when all the doors are bolted, he does make himself useful by being able to open them. I thought maybe there was a reference to John Locke, an English philosopher, but I found nothing that important in my research.
Using the theater as a ruse is exceedingly common in narratives. Within the series itself we have the Tantalus Troupe of FFIX, literally a band of thieves posing as actors, which is similar (in theory) to the false musicians of the Red Wedding in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Though one group was for kidnapping and the other for murder, they still both pretended to be performers and not rogues. Then, of course, there’s Final Fantasy VII, which has the potentially even more famous Cloud cross-dressing scene in order to obtain information from the sleazy Don Corneo. This doesn’t use the theater, but it is a pageantry switch where a deceptive replacement is used to the protagonists’ advantage. There’s also the Theatre des Vampires in Anne Rice’s Armand where they use the deception of performance to literally devour helpless victims on stage. The closest parallel to the scene in FFVI, though, would be The Phantom of the Opera. Celes’ stint as a prima donna is one of my favorite parts of the game, nor does the propensity of this motif make it any less endearing. While I, of course, can’t prove Squaresoft took inspiration from Phantom, the fact that the characters are attempting to catch a mysterious man with a scarred face using an ingenue as bait is pretty good evidence.
My head canon was that Setzer got the scars from bar fights (before he had his own flying casino) and airship accidents.. According to the FF wiki I’m half right: it was that and gambling fights. He’s also another “Targaryen” lol with purple eyes to go with that silver hair.
Kidnapping as romance is a shitty trope, and the only reason the plan could even go ahead was because Setzer is constantly threatening to abduct Maria, the actual opera diva Celes replaced. Adding this to the fact he’s attempting to use the general as a bargaining chip reinforces my issue with her as a sexy lamp, nor is Locke much better. Neither he nor anyone else even fucking asks her if she wants to go along with this idea; they all just assume. She can’t get a word in edgeways as the thief speaks for her and just cuts her off. In replaying this, I noticed Locke shared similarities with Edge from FFIV (one of my least favorite characters), as well, with none of the redeeming qualities that Edgar at least possesses.
Celes is so diminished as a character despite her preceding reputation. She’s known as the general who burned Maranda to the ground yet we get no glimpse of this in presentation, and I get it to a point. She’s supposed to have been changed by the atrocities she saw Kefka commit and broken by her imprisonment, but they take it to a level that’s a bit too farfetched. She’s portrayed as so much less capable than we’re initially led to believe, and of course this could’ve been a limitation of the medium at the time, and if they do remake FFVI I hope it’s something they correct (sadly they did not do so in the Pixel Remaster). It’s also a common paradigm in the era Final Fantasy VI was made (I absolutely adore Futurama, but woof, some of the relationship tropes are so toxic), so I don’t want to be too harsh on the game itself. It’s an example of an issue, not the cause.
Celes is “heaven” to Terra’s “earth,” a unity of opposites, but all dichotomies are false and Final Fantasy VI is not remiss in dismantling this one. Terra’s “ascension” to esperhood literally sends her flying through the sky, while General Celes falls from grace more than once. In rebelling against the empire, which could arguably be called her creator (it’s how she received her ice powers and position) to warn the people of Doma, and then in the World of Ruin if Cid succumbs. she gives herself to the sea. The tonal shift in the game goes from the symbolic and seeming stability of earth with Terra forefront to the ruins led by a broken Celes. From the balance of earth to the wild chaos of a false god.
Celes story is hamstrung by Locke who is supposed to represent the “every man” character of the story. Owing to Final Fantasy’s propensity to use thief/adventurer characters as their mains (FFV & FFIX) in addition to ones with a guilty death on their conscience (FFVII), it’s once again impressive how Final Fantasy VI managed to give all the characters the properties of one without the full status. Though I’ve argued for Terra and Celes above, I still think the role is both open, fluid, and debatable, which takes storytelling talent. FFVI was doing the ensemble cast before ensemble casts were cool.
The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.
Terra and Celes are presented as the feminine two sides (as opposed to the male version with Edgar and Sabin), and what’s even more surprising (for the era FFVI was released) is they could both be considered the MC with little argument. The dichotomy between them isn’t so simple and even within each character there is a divide. Terra’s very nature as half-human/half-esper puts her at odds with herself, and Celes’ struggle to choose where her loyalties should lie is a battle that’s only resolved because the world literally ends.
Locke has a “damsel in distress” problem, which, while advantageous to Terra and Celes in their time of need, reveals something wildly disturbing later down the line. It also explains his strange and near overreaction to Terra’s amnesia. It’s a major trigger for him due to the fate of his former girlfriend Rachel.
Rachel was a girl from the town of Kolinghen who used to accompany Locke on his “treasure hunting” adventures, though I think at the time, he was more treasure hunter than actual thief. One day he found something in a cave near the town (we never find out what), and he excitedly leads her there to show it off, but unfortunately she never sees it. As they’re crossing the rickety bridge it collapses, and Rachel pushes Locke to safety before falling into darkness herself. She does survive…but has amnesia and therefore doesn’t remember him. Ignorant to whom he is with only the knowledge he makes her parents upset, Rachel asks him to leave to which Locke, with heart broken, can only oblige. Later, he finds out she was killed in an imperial attack, but her memory returned right before, and the last thing she uttered was his name.
It is heavily implied that Locke proposed to Rachel prior to the accident, because as her father is kicking him out, the thief insists she said “Yes” to something. Like Freya with Fratley, it is far worse to have someone forget you than to just die, and it’s why Locke can’t let go. Because Rachel did remember him in the end, and that gives him that germ of hope…and it’s pretty horrifying.
In summarizing this part, I actually feel more sympathetic to Locke’s plight. Maybe because it reminds me of Vincent and Lucrecia in her suspended state, which I believe may be the same archetype: man has guilt over a perceived wrong done to the woman he loves that contributes to her catatonic/liminal state. Because of his guilt and their unfinished business, Locke can’t let go and pays an eccentric, old man to keep Rachel in suspension until he can find a way to revive her. While both creepy and horrifying, it’s not dissimilar to Mr. Freeze’s tragic situation with his wife Nora.
Later and unbeknownst to him, Celes, too, lies comatose with Cid on the lonely island, but the she awakens without need of magical revival. Locke seems to have a history of unconscious women. Even Terra is in such a state when he first meets her, followed by her admission of amnesia.
The game throws Locke and Celes together as a Rescue Romance. I’ve already mentioned they have a similar status to Han Solo and Princess Leia insofar as Locke is “the scoundrel” type and Celes is “nobility.” Hell, now that there are three new Star Wars movies I have more support for this idea since Leia became a general. Setzer would actually make a better match, and it’s not because I’m an elitist (nor is it because he’s prettier with silver hair). Locke is still clearly pining for his old girlfriend even in the ruined world, as he’s found in the Phoenix Cave looking for the esper of the same name.
The only reason he doesn’t return to Rachel is because the Phoenix only revives her enough to say goodbye.
Setzer had to bury his girlfriend…and that’s really the operative word: bury. The gambler was able to let go even as he grieved, and while he did return to her grave, it was for a different type of resurrection. Bereft of airship after the collapse, Darill’s Tomb held her ship the Falcon (which is possibly a reference to the Millennium Falcon, speaking of Star Wars, which Final Fantasy does…a lot), as well as proof Setzer was the more emotionally mature of the two.
FFVI deserves credit for showing the different ways male characters deal with their emotional loss. Locke literally refuses to let go; Shadow (by his own admission) killed all of his feelings off (though by the end we see that’s not entirely true), and Setzer buried his own with Darill’s ship and chose a life of uncaring distraction. Once again the series proves its psychological acumen in regards to grief.
There could be an extremely subtle if utterly non-existent connection between Setzer and Celes in the latter’s name and the former’s origin. Celes’s last name of “Chere” means “dear” in French and Jidoor sounds just like “j’adore,” which means “I love” in the same language. I’m not making any argument here; I’m just pointing this out.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the Darill/Gogo theory, though there’s scant basis for it. It predates the internet and there’s a reddit thread that lays out the bullet points. The idea is that Darill didn’t die in the Falcon crash but wound up in the belly of a Zone Eater and was taken in by the mimics who dwell therein. I don’t really buy into the theory (if it can even be called that) since there is literally no evidence for it, and I honestly just think Gogo is an aesthetic reference to Gilgamesh from Final Fantasy V, and a way to have the mimic maneuver in the game.
Of course now that I’m looking at the picture of Gogo (left) I might have an inkling of where the Setzer connection came from. The patch of clothing on their left (our right) looks strangely similar to the bottom of the gambler’s cloak.
And now that I’m looking at Setzer’s picture, even the left side kind of matches, too. Hmmm, I always thought the Gogo/Darill theory was the product of Epileptic Trees, but the aesthetic choice of Gogo’s clothing being similar to Setzer’s gives me pause. Since they were a couple, it’s reasonable to expect they left items of clothing on each other’s respective ships, and maybe after the crash (given she survived), she might have cobbled together the mimic coverings with that. It’s not a great deal of evidence, but I could write a one shot fanfiction about it :p
One of the great things about Final Fantasy VI is how the story expands depending on who’s in the party. It offers the potential for different discoveries with each playthrough, because there are quite a few missable scenes such as ones that concern the royal twins. Every trip to Figaro Castle should include both of them, though bringing just one will result in Edgar being melancholy and Sabin being aloof.
Edgar Roni Figaro’s given name means “wealthy spearman,” which is such an appropriate moniker. He’s a king who uses spears and pikes as weapons. As the game’s “humorous,” womanizing character, one would think Edgar would be on my shit list, but he’s actually one of my favorites…probably second favorite male character after Setzer who is arguably more problematic (treating Celes like a commodity/sexy lamp and all). Edgar is in the same character archetype as Edge from FFIV whom I couldn’t stand, but I think the king of Figaro uses it as a cover for his grief.
Neither he nor his twin brother Sabin had any interest in the throne, as a clever subversion to the typical trope of the greedy, power hungry royal willing to do anything, even kin slay, in order to get what they want. They were fighting over the throne: who would be stuck with it. Edgar lost both the coin toss and his brother, after he’d already suffered the sudden death of their parents. He was left with an empty throne and an even emptier heart. It makes sense he’d adopt a flirtatious persona in order to fill that void. Making him more complex than just a spoiled prince (re: Edge) does quite a lot to broaden Edgar’s character, and the king of Figaro is less melancholy when his more jovial brother is around. I do have to question the judgement in having both the king and the prince of the desert kingdom gallivanting around the globe in potentially deadly situations. If either of them die, who inherits the kingdom? I suppose the fact that Edgar can putter around the world at all speaks to the self-sufficiency of the people of Figaro (though of course this brings up the bigger question of why have a king anyway?), nor is he being overly careful in his endeavors. The first time we arrive in South Figaro, the guileless monarch nearly runs afoul of a (literal) shadowy figure whose reputation proceeds him.
With his aura of danger and spaghetti western music, Shadow wants nothing to do with the trio. Not until later when the Returners are scattered do we have the chance to find out anything about him. It is interesting to note that Sabin meets him at the house of another man who (for good or ill) abandoned his child, though there are profound differences between their motivations.
Shadow’s dreams are another example of Final Fantasy VI paying off in additional story if you take the right steps. I believe they’re always in the same order, but their appearance is random whenever you stay at an inn, and the final one requires certain party members to be present. There are also some marked differences between the original and GBA (and now Pixel Remaster) versions, the latter having a more direct translation whereas the original is more vague probably due to Nintendo’s draconian censorship rules. I watched both, and there are some very interesting implications and at least one wild theory I came across in the comments.
I don’t know if I ever saw all of the dreams when I played this as a teenager, but I do remember being scared out of my gourd by the creepy “music” in the initial one, which means it did its job well. Shadow, who was once known as Clyde, is confronted by the “ghost” of his former partner Baram. Baram tells his friends he’s “done for” and begs him to “find me here” (sounds like the precursor to the request at the beginning of FFVIII). We see what Shadow looks like beneath his ninja gear, which is a rare find in fan art so I have none to present.
The second dream is chronologically before the first as Baram is alive and well with Clyde in what appears to be the Phantom Forest. They are celebrating their successful million GP train robbery. Clyde boasts about them being the “greatest train robbers of the century,” leading Baram to suggest they change their name to “Shadow” as all great bandits need a good name.
The third dream is where it all goes bad. Baram and Clyde are on what appears to be the edge of the Veldt, the same place Sabin washes up after he’s swept down the Lete River (which is why it’s so interesting that the prince of Figaro is the first person Shadow teams up with). Baram is badly injured, and as he’s not sure if it’s his blood, it implies they had some sort of altercation before ending up there. Clyde tells him a town isn’t far away, and they can make it, but Baram knows the situation is far more dire. He begs Clyde to “use his knife” before making his escape, which is an obvious plea for death’s mercy, but his friend is unable to give him that gift. Baram is terrified of what will happen if he’s caught alive, but Clyde can’t kill his partner and flees without fulfilling his last request.
Somehow or another Clyde winds up in Thamasa. He seems disoriented and it’s not clear whether he’s injured or still reeling from what happened to Baram. In the town square is where he first meets Interceptor before a Thamasan woman approaches to see if he’s okay.
In the final dream Clyde leaves the town even as Interceptor tries to persuade him to stay, but Clyde tells the loyal hound that he “wants him and the girl to live in a peaceful world.” Interceptor, however, makes his choice, hard though it might be, and follows Clyde into the shadows.
The differences between the original and GBA versions are fairly significant with the latter both clarifying and fleshing things out. In the initial dream, Baram is way more accusatory. He demands “How could you?” of Clyde, says, “You were my partner,” and “You should be here with me.” The name Baram suggested for them was “The Shadow Bandits” in full, which makes a lot more sense. I think the original game stuck with just “Shadow” to make it blatantly obvious how the former thief chose his name, as a guilty homage to his dead friend.
In this version the third dream is far more direct. Baram begs, “Finish me off with your knife,” and when Clyde refuses, he desperately says, “You know what they’ll do to me if they catch me alive,” which could mean they’re running from the empire after a job gone bad. But then Baram says he doesn’t want to die a coward, which is the opposite of the original where he calls Clyde the coward.
The fourth dream doesn’t change much with the only difference how the name of the village was distorted. In the SNES version, it looks like it was cut off because the woman stopped saying it. Given Thamasa’s need for secrecy that seemed a valid supposition, but in the GBA port, it just seems like the name is garbled because Clyde is so disoriented. In the final dream, he literally says “my daughter” to Interceptor, leaving no doubt or question to who Relm is. The poor dog is torn between staying to protect the child or chasing after Shadow, but I think the broken thief needed him more whereas Relm, despite eventually being orphaned, had Strago and an entire magical village to raise her. Shadow says as much to the character who checks up on him after the final vision: that Interceptor is “watching over him.” Such a good boy.
It’s pretty easy to surmise Clyde and Baram were running from the empire, though there’s no direct proof of this. However, the latter’s terror of being “caught alive” and “what they would do to him” lends some credence to this theory. Someone in the comments of one of the dream videos had a theory that Baram was actually Kefka, and the empire found him, experimented on him, turning him into the creepy clown but that sounds like Epileptic Trees talking. While I could accept they were being chased by the empire, there’s literally no evidence that Baram has anything to do with Kefka’s origin story, and the tale of him and Clyde is tragic enough. At the end of the game Shadow makes a promise to Baram that he’ll stop running, which most have tragically interpreted to Redemption Equals Death.
For Relm herself, she obviously inherited magical powers from her absent, unnamed mother (presumably the woman Clyde met in his flashbacks). She can create art so realistic it can come to life and mimic its inspiration. This manifests in battles as a way to use Blue Magic i.e. an enemy maneuver against your foes. It’s particularly important to the narrative when Ultros turns up at the Crescent Island statues, accosting the party again until Relm shows up to save the day. She paints his portrait, which smacks him in the face, but more importantly reveals to the big cephalopod he’s “nothing but a silly octopus,” causing him to flee in shame.
There are numerous stories about artists who can paint literal life, but I specifically remember this one where the painter would purposely not finish his images because he knew they’d do so, and diving into the TV Tropes page, it becomes quickly apparent that this idea is the foundation of most religions. A deity sculpting their creation and imbuing it with “the breath of life” e.g. God in the Old Testament. There’s of course Pygmalion, which sounds like a more romantic version of the Golem legend, though hopefully in the former case, the entity can do more than just follow orders *shudders*
Relm is granddaughter to Strago who must’ve adopted her after she was orphaned, allowing the pictomancer to fulfill the role of “adopted magic girl” shared by Aeris (VII) and Princess Garnet (IX). There’s a quick line about how he’s not her biological grandparent, though since she’s the daughter of a village woman, she still has the magic of the Mage Warriors. What’s fascinating about Thamasa is it’s a town full of what the Empire literally killed to achieve, so once again we have this dichotomy of natural vs. artificial that’s presented in FFVII with Aeris and Sephiroth, as well as the other games to mixed results. VIII has the paramagic of the GF used to imbue teenagers for war, which is…not remotely ethical, but the waters are muddied in that there’s not even a subtext of critique related to magic imbued teenaged soldiers (artificial). This is opposed to the Sorceresses who literally inherit their powers from the prior one (natural). Then in IX you have the summoners and the Black Mages as the natural vs. artificial dichotomy. This could be it’s own essay (and will), but it’s worth mentioning. Granted the Mage Warriors or Magi are still humans who used Magicite to gain magic powers, but they did it in a less technologically invasive way than the Empire, which essentially makes them the Cetra/Ancients of this story hidden away due to the witch hunts that followed the war 1000 years ago. So you have this other dichotomy of a peaceful village full of people who can wield the very power the Empire coveted so much they were willing to do horrific experiments on humans and other entities. It’s no wonder the mayor refuses to allow magic until the fire breaks out and he has no choice (not that it does much good by that time).
There are two conspicuous graves in the village, one of which must belong to Relm’s mother with the other General Leo’s. I initially noted it could be Baram’s, Clyde’s old partner, but that requires a lot of assumptions, and you literally see them at the grave after Leo’s demise.
Crescent Island and Thamasa are so integral to the foundation of the story (once again the “crescent” name and moon theme are foundational but presented as side stories re: FFVII), yet it’s easy to miss the significance. It’s also a little bit confusing because you find statues in the Esper Caves where it’s said the espers were created. The statues found aren’t the statues, but rather just a shrine to the ones they took with them to the Esper World beyond the Sealed Gate. It would make sense for the espers to have been created on Crescent Island for both logistic and symbolic reasons. One, it stands to reason the persecuted Mage Warriors would build their village near the fount of their magic power; and two, every Final Fantasy places some paranormal significance on the term “crescent” and/or the moon. That will be explored in later essays, but have a smidgen of context here.
*sigh* I guess I should talk about Kefka.
Like the playable characters in the game, Kefka’s backstory has to be encountered through certain actions or conversations. In the motley dressed mage’s case it’s the latter. There’s a man in a bar in Tzen (?) who talks about how he came to be. Kefka was the first experimental Magitek Knight before the process was perfected. It gave him the ability to cast magic, but warped his mind. That general era of media was rife with maniac villains and Final Fantasy VI was no different. Other series installments, prior and after, had much more compelling and sympathetic backgrounds for their villains, and all current media is much better at depictions of mental health, but the appeal for Kefka aligns with the tendencies he borrowed from the Joker, which is something I’ve written about before. There’s a lot that can be said about the “deranged villain,” how it’s fallen out of favor due to a cultural shift towards less ableism, or, at the very least, calling it out when it presents. We are no longer quietly accepting mental disorder stigmatization when it comes to things like mass shootings et al, and the stories we tell have reflected that. However, Kefka is fun and funny to numerous fans (even if I find him annoying replaying as an adult, but then again I have some weird and unpopular Final Fantasy opinions just wait until I get to FFVII and Zack), and he’s an integral part of the World of Balance’s political intrigue.
It’s fitting the story begins in Narshe, a town that claims neutrality, in order to show how worthless such a stance is.
The Empire, as headed by Gestahl and de facto Kefka, couldn’t care less about neutrality. They just want the Espers’ power and will do whatever it takes to obtain it at any cost. The most ludicrous and yet realistic thing about the aftermath of that attack is the Narshe elders are still attempting that stance as if remaining neutral kept the Empire from their door. This is what needs to be remembered: imperialists will do anything to gain more power at whatever cost.
After the Espers break through the Sealed Gate and wreak havoc on Vector, Gestahl declares what’s eventually revealed to be a false armistice. He imprisons Kefka to make it appear genuine, but it was all part of a plan to manipulate the Returners into convincing Terra, who is of course an esper-human hybrid, to negotiate what they believe is a peace treaty between Esper and humankind. In a relatively brief time, it’s revealed Gestahl was more than equipped to play a power gambit. He used the Espers’ (justifiable) attack on Vector to garner sympathy to their advantage and even had the Returners go around “persuading” the holdouts it was time to lay down arms.
However, not even the emperor, shrewd as he was, could see Kefka’s murder-betrayal coming. Gestahl thought he was the mastermind, and though there’s no solid evidence, I believe one of the deals Kefka received from him was permission to kill General Leo who never would’ve gone along with such a heinous and deplorable plan. At least Darth Vader killed the emperor for his son; Kefka did it for power and eventual godhood, later reprising the FF archetype of “corruption in the tower” that of course has its foundation in the Major Arcana card of the same name.
I won’t go too deep into this since I have a whole presentation about Final Fantasy archetypes planned (and I’ve done a series on FF Tarot, too), but there’s a lot of “fire from heaven” and “corrupting of the order” symbolism in the card alone, as well as potential and ironically positive ideas of casting down those on high who don’t belong where they think they’re entitled.
When the party confronts Kefka, he declares all life is meaningless, which…well,
the older you get, the more the villain’s viewpoint makes sense, because, if you’ve learned anything from your life’s experience it’s that all dichotomies are false, and there’s a grain of truth to almost any philosophy. This of course presents a very dangerous paradigm in that some people are often half right (a phenomenon that’s brilliantly explored in this video by That Dang Dad who perfectly explains a concept on which I’d been ruminating, but could never quite put words to), and they fail to follow through with all the implications. Life is meaningless taken from the viewpoint that the universe will one day end and nothing, no human invention, no scrap of consciousness, no monument will be salvaged. None of us will be memories when the last proton decays.
There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught.
-John Green “The Fault in Our Stars”
But in the same vein, now is the only time that matters. We are all alive now. We all feel now. We all have thoughts and emotions, love and obsessions now. It matters because emotions are as real as our perception of them. Even if reality is an illusion, we are just as illusory experiencing it, and it matters as much as it will not matter in the end. This is the philosophy I call compassionate nihilism. There is this ironic interplay because life is meaningless or rather devoid of absolute meaning. What you do matters all the more both because of and despite this, because not only your life, but all of existence is but fleeting, so enjoy it now.
This isn’t so much a way of distracting yourself from the inevitability of nonexistence, which aligns with Mr. Peanutbutter’s modus operandi in BoJack Horseman,
This is less of a “things have meaning because eventually they won’t” paradox, and more of a “distract yourself from the fact that there is no meaning..” Initially, I would’ve argued that Mr. Peanutbutter is better at performing happiness than someone like me, but while he definitely has a dark streak in him, he’s not performing. Like the golden lab he is, his happiness is simple and genuine, and he is simply unbothered by the fact he’s using bullshit and nonsense to get through life. This isn’t a malicious philosophy, but it’s not benevolent either. It confers no meaning on anything, and the best that can be said is that it’s neutral with no malicious intent, but just because someone doesn’t mean to be malevolent, it doesn’t mean they can’t and don’t cause harm.
There’s far too much to say about nihilism, and this “review” is already bloated enough to burst into a myriad more analyses, but Wisecrack hits all of the points I wanted to make and more with the below.
Kefka desires to continue destroying the world until humans no longer have hopes and dreams, not understanding that the more he destroys, the more people will hope for better and fight for it as well. The more you attempt to stop people from doing something, they harder they’ll strive to accomplish it. Look at any marginalized group in history for proof of this concept.
Also, humans will always have hopes and dreams regardless because we all drink that dumb bitch juice.
There is a paradoxical interplay between the idea that life is devoid of meaning and how the things you do matter all the more because of this.
While Kefka isn’t Final Fantasy’s first “bad angel” boss; Emperor Mateus from Final Fantasy II arguably holds that position. FFVI’s greater popularity, especially as compared to FFII, make Kefka the more influential, setting the stage for later discourse on religious disdain in the series.
With FFVII following and continuing the trend even more so with Sephiroth, this set the foundation for debates between sub-fandoms, which I discuss more here.
Considering Kefka and Sephiroth are fallen angel, Squeenix could merely be continuing their reference to Milton begun in Final Fantasy II. Combining this with the almost His Dark Materials level of excoriating of the church/Christianity we find in Final Fantasy X, and the above linked video about religious critique in the series holds even more credence..
After his defeat, Kefka’s tower crumbles around them (he was a Load-Bearing Boss), but the game is kind enough to not require the player to escape the ensuing collapse (unlike in Link to the Past where they give you three minutes and Zelda has to unseal all the doors), rather making it part of one of the best ending sequences in video game history.
Because Kefka absorbed the powers of the Warring Triad to become the sole God of Magic and was destroyed, the three gods themselves and more importantly their magic, were also ousted from the world. He should’ve taken the Twilight Sparkle route and become the Princess of Magic, which would’ve been way cooler.
The Warring Triad’s function is antithetical to the Three Golden Goddesses of Hyrule in the lore of Legend of Zelda. Though the former do balance each other, it is through antagonistic means as opposed to harmonious ones (re: the term “Warring”). With Kefka absorbing them, he becomes a fourth deity, which fits with the non-canonical “Tetraforce” Zelda theory, but also does another opposing alignment with Princess Zelda as the embodiment of the Goddess Hylia (see, he should’ve just been a princess like I said). While the Tetraforce theory is clearly just fan speculation, the Triple Goddess motif involving the moon and its phases does indeed have a fourth and literally darker face (something I discuss extensively here), which could be what the empty or null section of the Triforce shows. The fourth aspect being darker and more destructive would fit with Kefka’s power hungry motif, and while this analysis is already long enough without going too deep with Legend of Zelda comparisons, it’s something I intend to explore later.
In terms of the statues and then Kefka being a sort of magical hive mind insofar as all of magic is embodied in them and their (the statues) alignment being paramount to the balance, this is a similar paradigm to Anne Rice’s Akasha and Enkidu in her novel Queen of the Damned even more so considering Akasha absorbs Enkidu’s power becoming the sole progenitor of vampire kind, and then *spoiler for QOTD* Mekare does the same to Akasha in the story’s climax. *end spoiler* It is a bit disappointing that FFVI is a “magic goes away at the end” narrative like Lord of the Rings, though seeing all the harm humans caused with magic, it’s probably for the best.
Terra leads her friends out of the crumbling tower, while she herself is literally crumbling from within as her esper half dissolves. But it is her connection to this ruined world that keeps her alive, and FFVI manages to pull off the “Power of Love” trope in a non-cringy way. Terra not only has her friends, but the orphans of Mobliz who, at the same time their adopted mother is guaranteeing that life continues, are helping Katarin do the same as she gives birth.
It is nihilism’s antithesis that keeps Terra alive, because with half of her gone, the only thing tethering her to life is the meaning she has found in it. In the World of Balance she was a tool for both imperialism and the resistance towards such (even though the latter gave her a choice of sorts), not even Pandora, but rather the hope left in the box due to her esper half, but in the ruined world, she found meaning in Mobliz’s orphaned children. Now there is a lot I can say about a woman finding meaning in a maternal role, especially since Squeenix (like many other devs) doesn’t have a stellar track record with how they treat female characters. They’re not nearly as terrible as some, obviously, but the bar is pretty low. This is not to take away how well developed their characters are, but that doesn’t erase the clichés, stereotypes, and “fridging.”
Final Fantasy VI has one of the singular most hopeful endings of any of the series, which again showcases the talent of the creators for metatextuality. FFVI is about hope. Hope not just personified in Terra, per Banon’s Pandora adjacent tale or as the very definition of “esper,” Terra’s magical half, but also in Celes’ relentless pursuit of her lost friends, Katarin’s birthing of a new generation in a hitherto ruined world, and the general nature of humans to survive despite the utter desolation of a reality oppressed by “god’s light.” It is not a deity, magic, or any other supernatural phenomenon that saves us in the end, but rather a collective and collaborative effort along with the hope personified in one.