Recently, I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about the Final Fantasy series’ character designs. You’re probably familiar with them. Strange looking characters with huge hair designs and crazy looking clothes.
They are quite frequently the laughing stock of the video game world, and almost every review I’ve seen of Final Fantasy always picks on the strange looks that all the main characters sport. But, believe it or not, there is actually a good reason for this.
Many Final Fantasy games feature one of the main characters wandering around an over-world, generally interacting with other characters, and all of these NPCs look relatively normal. But why not the main characters? If all of the characters looked alike, then some of the more incompetent players might not be able to figure out which character is theirs. This more than likely stems back to the times of earlier consoles (like the NES) on which most birds-eye views of maps were, shall we say, sub-par (at least compared to today’s standards). If the main character were dressed like all of the other characters on the screen, it would be difficult for many players to be able to determine who they were, and especially to try and leave towns with a 1 space wide exit.
This isn’t just the case for Final Fantasy games. Many other games featuring over-worlds feature a main character who looks remarkably different from all the other non-important characters. The developers of The Legend of Zelda garb their character in bright green to make him easily picked out in a crowd of NPCs. All Pokemon trainers wear a hat that allows them to be distinguished from above, especially when in the Union Room, and they are interacting with many other trainers in a small space.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve played quite a few games where they don’t make it blatantly obvious as to which character you are playing as, and that can sometimes create chaos, especially in busy towns and cities.
Perhaps another reason for this is for some of the younger gamers. Many times, the hair is able to help distinguish whether someone is a bad guy, or a good guy. Maester Seymour in Final Fantasy X is a perfect example of this, with his vibrant blue hair just screaming “EVIL” at the player. Sephiroth is another prime example of this, with his slicked back, 4 feet longmane cascading down his back being the perfect example of evil. His style is akin to Draco Malfoy’s (from the Harry Potter series), who himself harks back to the “bully jocks” from 70’s films. The hair is the most defining characteristic of characters in video games, and often sets the tone from your first encounter with them.
The clothes that characters wear are usually more tame than their hair, but are, more often than not, simply fan service (I’m looking at you Rikku). By putting their main heroines in skimpy clothing, the developers are appealing to the age old adage, “sex sells”. Plus, it is almost guaranteed to increase sales, given that the majority of gamers are men.
Now, I’ve examined this from a western point of view, but I’m sure that someone from, say, Japan would have a different point of view on this matter. Maybe it relates to a cultural identity, or maybe it’s just how they were raised, but the majority of wacky designs are created in Japan, so I’m sure that they view this matter differently.
Remember to keep an eye on people’s hair. You never know what it will reveal about them.