Welcome to the first in a three-part series looking at Christian imagery and lessons in the Final Fantasy franchise.
Final Fantasy is my favorite video game franchise, and it is one of the most well-known RPG franchises. Each entry presents unique characters, a wonderful soundtrack, and complex stories. Very few of these games have a religion or religions in-game, but they all take advantage of names, places, and concepts from Earth’s religions and mythologies. Over this series, I’ll walk you through the general arcs of the series and focus on several games that give specific attention to Christianity or Christian lessons.
The Early Games
Final Fantasy I-VI are grouped into a block together before the ‘3D’ games of Final Fantasy VII and forward. Only three were released in America along with their Japanese release, but they were more or less successful. Usually, the themes of these games involve a need to maintain balance–often via crystals–to stop Chaos or some destructive force.
But Final Fantasy II presents a game with an openly Christian structure: the Emperor makes a deal with Hell to take over the world. Later in game, the Emperor becomes the actual ruler of Hell. He even brings to the world ‘Pandaemonium’ (lit. ‘all the demons’), the Palace of Hell. The producers’ notes in the Ultimania make reference to ‘Holy Knights’ among the good guys, the Emperor’s mother as a fortune teller, and ‘priests of deconstructionism’ in an early draft of the game. Princess Hilda is also named “this world’s Joan of Arc.” Let’s take a look at some Christian lessons we can take from this Christianity-inspired game.
Note: Spoilers for FFII follow.
- There will be a Final Battle.
- I can’t say I’m a Catholic who focuses on the endtimes, but RPGs tend to deal with the biggest questions in life. Although we can be sure that this game isn’t faithful to any particular doctrine, the fall of humanity has already happened in-game. The powers of Hell have been to this world before, and the Ultima spell already exists to defeat it. The heroes are in essence facing Armageddon. Although there is no Christ to return to stop the strife and the Emperor believes that war will continue, the heroes in the sequel Rebirth believe that the protagonist Firion has ended the Final Battle.
- Death is not a complete separation.
- The Catholic idea of a Communion of Saints can be confusing, and yet I see the idea appear in FFII. The main characters are able to ‘see’ characters who have died from time to time, and in the sequel Rebirth, several dead characters fight together against a part of the Emperor. Although the Saints are not at risk of meeting a bad end once they reach Heaven, they still assist us in our struggles against temptation.
- Force alone cannot defeat evil.
- One of the most interesting characters is Leon, the brother of protagonist Maria and a knight for the evil Emperor. Having lost his home, he believes that only strength matters. His mind gets so corrupted that he names himself the Emperor’s heir. But pure strength isn’t good enough: it is the friendship and sacrifice of the heroes that conquer.
- Reconciliation is a process.
- When Leon joins the rebellion against the Emperor, people still suspect him. He even excuses himself at the end of the game to come to terms with himself. I, for one, appreciated someone feeling conflicted about their own actions. After all, I know my own journey of repentance from sin. Confession and reconciliation are central to Christian life. While the forgiveness of God is immediate and complete, we still have to live our life according to our principles. We owe it to God and others.
While the game is certainly far from being Catholic doctrine, I nevertheless loved its Paradise Lost meets Faust feel. Giving into your pride and making deals with the devil for strength are always bad ideas. Thankfully, redemption is possible, and we have the help of all believers.
Come back next week for more Final Fantasy Lessons!
-Ann Moser, @interceptorismy on twitter. Lissa and I play through FFII on her YouTube channel.