|Cast Image, courtesy of Kotaku.com|
"The party members being all men was something that [former director] Tetsuya Nomura had kept as a very important element of this journey. He wanted to depict a story in which a group of men, a group of friends, journey throughout the world. So that’s something that I kept in Final Fantasy XV."So you might be wondering, why the double standard here? Why does Square Enix get a pass from me, but Blizzard does not?
Blizzard has struggled mightily with representation of female characters in their franchises. They've done some good work--Warcraft 3 Jaina comes to mind, and Sylvanas is particularly interesting despite the lack of clothing--but the bad and non-existent outweighs the good. There are other examples, but not many that are anywhere near as prominent.
When you look at the Final Fantasy series, though? Interesting, strong, respectful, and different representations of women abound. There's fanservice-y moments--Tifa from Final Fantasy VII comes to mind immediately--but she's still a good, rounded character alongside that aspect, which makes her a better character still than most.
(WARNING: SPOILER ALERT FOR PRETTY WELL EVERY FINAL FANTASY GAME)
Final Fantasy III (1990) is the only game in the primary series with no playable ladies.
Final Fantasy VI not just has playable women, but Terra is the primary viewpoint in the first half of the game, and Celes is for the second half. Not only that, but Terra is shown in a mother-role in the second half and clearly struggles with the question of running off to be a hero, or staying and protecting her children. Celes struggles with loyalty and authority. Both characters are extremely powerful and have great development.
|Aerith, Final Fantasy VII|
Final Fantasy VIII has Quistis Trepe, an instructor who's incredibly gifted, but has issues handling her success correctly. While Squall is the defacto leader, Quistis is the one with her head screwed on correctly and handing out good advice on what to do.
|Quistis, Final Fantasy VIII|
Final Fantasy X, while Tidus may look like the main character, it's really a story about Yuna's pilgrimage to save the world from an ever-regenerating monster. A young woman who marches off to her death with a smile because it will bring joy to the people of Spira, and how she wants her journey to be one full of laughter. While Tidus helps shake up her worldview, ultimately together they triumph without sacrificing her life. Not to mention Lulu's big sister role--and while the belt dress is classic Nomura-fanservice with the fur bra line that would have to be taped to her breasts to stay up the way it does, she's still a great character who has her own worldview changed over the course of the game as well.
|Yuna and Lulu, Final Fantasy X (image from http://finalfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Mushroom_Rock)|
Final Fantasy XI, an MMO like WoW, has a number of prominent female characters, but by far the most popular and representative character of the game is Shantotto, the Tarutaru Black Mage and hero of a number of wars. Actually, you'll notice that the most popular NPCs in FFXI are primarily women.
|Shantotto, Final Fantasy XI|
Final Fantasy XIII has a cast that's split 50-50 between men and women, but arguably the ladies play the much bigger roles. Lightning, a soldier who's actually pretty badass; Vanille, who apparently grated on a lot of people with her happy go-lucky ways; Fang, Vanille's elder compatriot. The series revolves around Lightning mostly, but Fang and Vanille are integral to the plot, and we learn a lot about them as the game goes on, about how Vanille is compensating for a difficult past, and Fang is there to help her along the way, feeling somewhat responsible for the situation. And even moreso than FFX-2, FFXIII passes the Bechdel test and then some.
|Lightning, Final Fantasy XIII|
Final Fantasy XIV, another MMO, has ladies in a number of prominent positions. The rulers of all three kingdoms are female, and one of the primary NPCs that you interact with throughout your quests, Y'shtola, is a capable White Mage in a very exclusive group of adventurers investigating strange occurrences throughout the land.
|Y'shtola, Final Fantasy XIV, A Realm Reborn|
It's both an argument that having female characters is excellent for your game, and also that if Square Enix wants to put out a game with only male characters, I feel like they can do so because they've done pretty well. As a company, they're clearly more about the story and great characters than just having women as props, so I'm less concerned about the prevailing attitude behind the Directors' words. It's not a pattern.
Granted, their timing kind of sucks, given all the issues cropping up recently. But then again, this is a game like seven years in the making so far, so one can't really predict that sort of thing anyhow. All in all, I think I'd rather use the opportunity to highlight places where they've been great, because Square Enix has some awesome characters. Were there any I missed that should be on that list?