What makes an RPG character memorable?
For a character to be memorable, he - or she - must actually rise above the game and stand out. He must also provoke some kind of feeling within us, the players, whether it’s admiration, envy, respect, or even loathing. But above all, the character must be believable. If you believe in him and understand his motivation – even if you don’t agree with it - you invest in him and then you remember him.
The Final Fantasy series is especially notable for its well thought out and memorable characters, regardless if they’re the star of the game or not. In fact, almost every FF has at least two or three characters that stand above the rest, whether it’s for their personality or for the colour of the hair, they’re noticeable and they’re memorable. And it’s for this reason that FF characters occupy the top slots.
The twin blade Kite from the .Hack series (PS2) is a cheerful and kind character who goes out of his way to help others.
Kite’s friend, Yusuhiko/Orca, introduces him to the MMORPG ‘The World,’ but while he is being shown around the field they are in it suddenly becomes corrupted, and an angelic-like character, Aura, appears and gives Orca a book. But before he can take it another character, Skeith, appears and Orca battles to protect Aura. During the fight Skeith ‘data drains’ Orca and he disappears. Kite later finds that in real life Yusuhiko has fallen into a coma so he returns to ‘The World’ looking for answers where he draws others to him with his willingness to listen and to help.
9: Albel Nox
Although we don’t see much of Albel Nox in Star Ocean: Till The End of Time (PS2), you fight an incredibly fast and strong Albel as an enemy before he becomes an ally.
At an early age Albel lost his left arm and had it replaced with a clawed gauntlet, which he uses in battle along with a katana. Albel’s nickname, ‘Albel the Wicked’, is thoroughly deserved, as he is vicious and cruel, both in and out of battle. He is filled with self-loathing and as such is incapable of forming social attachments. Although Albel recognises strength in others he isn’t a person to be intimidated and he insults people of all standings, calling them ‘worms’ and ‘maggots.’ Formidable in battle, Albel is one of the better fighters in your party.
8: Lezard Valeth
The Valkyrie Profile (PS1/PS2) series brings us Lezard Valeth, a skilled and brilliant alchemist and necromancer. After discovering the Philosopher’s Stone, Lezard, a man with no conscience, becomes the most dangerous man in Midgard. He thinks nothing of using people for his own amusement and in his quest to possess Lenneth.
Lezard is the ultimate megalomaniac in that he wants to become a god and after capturing Lenneth’s soul in VP: Silmeria he sets out to do just that. Near the end of the game Alicia, with the fused souls of Hrist and Silmeria inside her, attacks Lezard, but in doing so the crystal that houses Lenneth’s soul is shattered and she too is absorbed by Alicia/Hrist/Silmeria. An incredibly powerful Lezard is finally defeated, but as a time-traveller we know that’s not the end of him.
7: KOS MOS
From the Xenosaga (PS2) series, KOS-MOS is an armoured female android built by a Vector Industries team lead by Shion Uzuki. Kevin Winnicot, Shion’s fiancé, built the original KOS-MOS version but it went out of control and killed him. Although primarily made as a weapon to fight the Gnosis, Shion’s involvement with her creation, and a black box installed by Kevin, has resulted in a blue-eyed KOS-MOS who is more powerful than normal and protects Shion, as well as speaking in a more human voice.
Being primarily a fighting machine, KOS-MOS’s functions are logic, probability and the completion of her mission to the exclusion of all else. Through the series new abilities and personalities surface from time to time although KOS-MOS is extremely secretive of what else is locked inside her, as well as her true mission.
6: Ashley Riot
Ashley Riot, and by default Vagrant Story’s (PS1) plot, is the most theorised and debated of all time, because what we are not told is as important as what we are.
Ashley is an agent in the ‘Risk Breaker’ squad, an elite branch of the VKP militia, who has been given the task of locating Sydney Losstarot, the charismatic leader of the Mullenkamp religious cult. Ashley finds Sydney in the House of Duke Bardorba and lures him into the haunted halls of Lea Monde where Ashley’s memories, partly blocked and partly jumbled before now, begin to surface. And it is Ashley’s memories that fascinate us because we are shown differing versions of the death of his wife and child. We are also left to ponder the murder of the Duke and Ashley’s possible involvement in it as well as his subsequent disappearance.
5: Yuri Hyuga
Shadow Hearts’ (PS2) leading character, Yuri Hyuga, is the son of a Japanese Army Colonel and Russian mother. As a person, Yuri is brash, sarcastic and impatient and he loathes people that are liars, two-faced and sly.
Yuri was on his own at the age of 10 after his father was killed and his mother died trying to save him from a zombie attack. He inherited his ability to fuse with the soul of a demon and acquire its powers after killing it – a Harmonixer - from his father, along with it an unknown voice telling him what to do. This voice led him to protect Alice Elliot, who becomes the love of Yuri’s life. But although Yuri loves Alice he is not immune to the charms of attractive, and busty, women.
4: Luca Blight
Suikoden II’s (PS1) Luca Blight – The ‘Mad Prince’ - is arguably the most unhinged RPG villain of all time. Due to an incident in Luca’s early life there’s a valid reason why he has toys in the attic. One day, while the royal family was out riding, they were attacked by bandits. The King fled, but Luca and the Queen were caught and Luca was forced to witness her rape. From that day on Luca nursed a hatred for his cowardly father and that made it easy, several years later, to butcher him so that Luca could ascend the throne.
There is only one fight with Luca in Suikoden II, but three parties battle him one after the other, and because he is incredibly strong they all lose. But what makes Luca memorable as a Boss is that he doesn’t morph into a grotesque creature, he stays as he is – a human. And because he makes no call on supernatural powers it makes him all the more formidable – and memorable.
In Final Fantasy X (PS2) Auron watches over the two main characters, Tidus and Yuna, after making a promise to their fathers to do so. Auron is the quintessential gentleman; tall, dark and handsome, and he also has a killer way with a katana.
Originally a warrior monk who then became Summoner Braska’s Guardian, Auron knows exactly what will occur later in Yuna’s pilgrimage, yet rather than telling her outright he offers insightful guidance. While he waits for Yuna to form her own opinion about both the church and Sin, Auron helps Tidus to reconcile with his father. All in all Auron is the friend and father we all wish we had.
2: Cloud Strife
Without doubt the most memorable RPG character of all time is Final Fantasy VII’s (PS1) Cloud Strife. Even though he appears in at least half a dozen other FFVII spin-offs, his spiky blonde hair and gigantic Buster Sword make him instantly recognisable.
Cloud, full of angst and self-doubt, isn’t the type of character that one usually associates with demigod status. But perhaps it’s precisely because of these flaws that Cloud is such a memorable character; he’s ‘human’. Underneath the cocky exterior is a genuinely nice guy who respects women, loves children and treasures friendship.
Cloud Strife’s nemesis and the most recognisable RPG villain of all time is Sephiroth, from Final Fantasy VII (PS1) and its offshoots. The silver-haired, leather clad Sephiroth is anger personified.
Before Sephiroth became a rage-filled crank he was a respected and revered member of SOLDIER who had a gentle manner and a love of poetry. When he discovered that he had been lied to and experimented on by the company he worked for he began searching for answers. Unfortunately, the information he found merely fuelled his quest for revenge and pushed him up to, and over, the edge of sanity, where his overriding thoughts of total world domination were given free rein.