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The Final Fantasy Forums Mythology Manual article series seeks to explore the mythological and historical origins of many of the Final Fantasy franchise's most popular monsters, summons, characters, and concepts. Earn Mako Points for posting comments at any time!
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While usually understated, the Greek goddess Gaia has impacted the overall mythic landscape of Final Fantasy, having been a familiar presence with the franchise from the very first game in some form. At the most basic level, various Earth element aligned items and abilities invoking Gaia stress her control over nature (although many, including Gaia Gear, Drum, and Hammer, are only branded with ‘Gaia’ in English localisations). It is as a location and character that she fully blossoms. This article shall explore how Gaia took root and grew in the Final Fantasy franchise.
Not many mythology-based metaphors possess an impact quite as powerful as the Phoenix rising from the ashes. The imagery of a rebirth following hardship is attractively therapeutic, encapsulated perfectly by the self-engendering mythical bird which upon death is reborn anew.
Final Fantasy’s uses of the Phoenix have typically focused on these qualities of revival. In a way the spirit of the creature has been present with the player throughout the whole franchise. Even when the Phoenix itself does not appear, the common inventory items 'Phoenix Downs' (undercoat feathers) are a permanent staple, literal lifesaver in the franchise and revive fallen characters. The Phoenix entity itself first appears in Final Fantasy V as a summon and has recurred frequently since. It is often depicted as a beautiful fire-bird, usually with peacock-style tail feathers, which can cause fire damage and/or...
DISCLAIMER: CONTAINS SHADOWBRINGERS SPOILERS THROUGHOUT. IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT THE READER SHOULD COMPLETE THE GAME BEFORE READING THIS.
FFFMM - Hades: Shadow Lord
Hades, Greek mythology’s god of the Underworld, regularly emerges in modern popular culture. Often he is depicted as a hellish villain (consider Disney’s Hercules for a memorable example) yet, in antiquity, Hades was not necessarily evil; he just served a vital, albeit unsavoury, duty.
Although debuting as a summon in Final Fantasy VII, most frequently Hades’ Final Fantasy appearances range from fightable enemies to fleshed out major villains. Square Enix depicts Hades as either skeletal or human, depending on how prominent he is in a particular game’s story. Let’s open the gates and descend deeply into discussion.
The Sirens are amongst Greek mythology's most characteristic monsters. Usually envisioned as half-bird, half-woman, Sirens lure distracted sailors with sweet music causing them to ruin their ships on the rocks. They embody the treacherous zone where sea meets land and signify anxieties surrounding temptation.
In the Final Fantasy franchise the recurring character known as ‘Siren' is sometimes friend, sometimes foe. As a musician capable of silencing her prey, Siren is typically characterised by Square Enix as a humanoid with varying degrees of feather coverage. As we shall see, the particular uses harmonise with the source myths. So strap yourselves to your seats and soak in the knowledge of the Sirens.
Sometimes siblings can seem oddly matched. Proximity means they may often have beef with each other, yet during both their lows and their prime they remain tethered by tight familial ties.
This is apparent in what is arguably one of the most unusual, yet charming, summons in the Final Fantasy franchise: ‘Brothers’ from Final Fantasy VIII. These comical, purple-furred humanoid bulls, individually named Minotaur and Sacred, are first fought as bosses and, once tamed, you can take your cattle into battle as they become summonable Guardian Forces.
FFF Mythology Manual - Faris: The Cross-dressed Captain.
Pirates Ahoy! Contextualising Piracy.
When the player encounters Captain Faris and her crew in FFV, it is immediately evident that she is a pirate; Faris possesses many of the signifiers which usually express 'pirate' in popular culture.
Like most classic-era Final Fantasy characters, there are conflicting representations of Faris: her character artwork designed by Yoshitaka Amano (blonde and wearing a long ornamental black coat) and her in-game sprite (purple hair and green clothing). Faris' Amano appearance is preferred for the cinematic segments introduced in FF Anthology, but her sprite form is chosen for her World of Final Fantasy counterpart; both representations adhere to popular perceptions of piracy.
Clockwise from left: Amano artwork; field sprite; cinematic...
FFF Mythology Manual - Ixion: The Dark Horse of Djose!
Introduction: The Equine Experiment.
Within the pantheon of Final Fantasy’s summonable creatures Ixion does not often show himself (his first and most notable appearance being in Final Fantasy X); yet he’s clearly made an impression and maintains a modest fanbase. Unless specified, this article shall mainly be discussing the Final Fantasy X summon which set the standard on which other depictions of Ixion were based.
Ixion is presented as a robust unicorn possessing an elemental affiliation with lightning. When Ixion was introduced for the first time in Final Fantasy X he represented the element of lightning among the pantheon of Aeons (summons) which the summoner Yuna collected. Lined up next to popular fan favourites (Ifrit, fire; Shiva, ice; Bahamut, non-elemental) it becomes apparent that Ixion has replaced Final Fantasy’s staple lightning...
Only a handful of summoned creatures are as ubiquitous within the Final Fantasy universe as Shiva. Since her first appearance in Final Fantasy III this mysterious female ice spirit has grown into a popular fan favourite and is a regular member of the FF pantheon (appearing in 11 of the 14 main numbered games released so far, and with numerous spin-off and sequel appearances).
Shiva usually takes the appearance of a young woman with light-blue skin. Her hair is often green although sometimes it is blonde, blue, or white. As an ice...
FFFMM Halloween Special -
Phantom Train and Doomtrain: Spooky Trains on Separate Tracks.
Ghost trains have captured the imaginations of many people. Not only are there real-world reports of haunted trains, but they appear in literature, and dark rides in theme parks and fairgrounds labelled as ‘Ghost Trains’ are a popular feature.
There are two minor recurring ghost train characters in the Final Fantasy franchise: Phantom Train (first appearing in Final Fantasy VI), and Doomtrain (first appearing in Final Fantasy VIII). The two trains may share the same general concept of eerie, supernatural sentience, and the Doomtrain may have been inspired partly by its predecessor, but they remain separate in that they do not share the same designs, and play very different roles. Phantom Train is usually a boss, whereas Doomtrain is a summon.
FFF Mythology Manual - Red XIII: Nanaki the Native.
Red XIII is truly a contender for the most unique of playable characters in the Final Fantasy series. Appearing in FFVII and related compilation material, Red XIII (or Nanaki) is not only a member of a species other than human (a rare treat in a Final Fantasy game), but he is not even bipedal or humanoid. Perhaps one of character designer Tetsuya Nomura's most creative designs, Red XIII is a talking, red-furred, quadrupedal, feline-lupine hybrid with a flame at the tip of his tail.
Red is no beast, however, but a civilised, sentient, and well-spoken animal who proves to be far less bestial in action than many of the human inhabitants that he shares the world with. Red XIII is, instead, a beacon of moral wisdom.
Despite his originality, Red XIII is not regarded as a 'silly' comic relief character (unlike other...
FFF Mythology Manual - Wedge and Biggs: Opposing Forces.
Wedge and Biggs (also mistranslated as Vicks) are recurring names used for numerous characters in the Final Fantasy universe, most (though not all) of whom share the same standard traits. In any instalment of the franchise one might expect at some point to encounter a Wedge and Biggs (always appearing together). Most portrayals of Wedge and Biggs have the characters appear as a pair of guardsmen or soldiers, sharing an interest in technology or engineering, sometimes hopelessly pathetic at their jobs, and forming some of the game’s comic relief. In appearance the characters are typically generic guards, with no individualised character design (save for occasionally making Biggs taller and slimmer, and Wedge shorter and bulkier, or sometimes vice versa). At other times, however, Wedge and Biggs are given more important roles as a part of organisations that oppose the oppressive...
Alexander is a very popular recurring summon in the Final Fantasy series. His appearance is that of a gigantic robot and often doubles as a mobilised fortress. Alexander is usually quadrupedal (or, more accurately, tripedal as his body sometimes serves as a third ‘leg’ in place of hind legs), and by his posture it is assumed that he moves about with his weight on his front limbs like a gorilla or some sort of a Mecha King Kong.
Alexander’s signature ability is ‘Divine Judgement’ (also sometimes named as ‘Holy Judgement’ or ‘Justice’), and he casts Holy elemental damage on the enemies of the party. Amongst the pantheon of summons in the FF universe Alexander is one of the characters whose origins, and the logic behind his design, are most difficult to unravel. This article discusses some of the themes associated...
FFF Mythology Manual - Ultros: An unorthodox adaptation!
Anyone who has played Final Fantasy VI will be aware of a certain talkative, loveable, and yet terribly perverted purple octopus. The creature’s goofy teeth and mischievously sinister eyes make him one of the funniest, most iconic and expressive monster designs in the series. Although the party fights Ultros four times in the game, his role serves more as light comic-relief than as true sub-villain material for plotline importance. Whilst there will surely be some fans who are frustrated by the goofy character, Ultros has been so warmly received by other fans that he has since made several cameo appearances (and has even been retroactively inserted into remakes and re-releases of earlier FF titles). Ultros is something of an oddity within the FF franchise, and it isn’t always obvious where he hails from. Ultros has his namesake origins in Greek mythology, but other than a...
There are many familiar recurring creatures in the Final Fantasy universe whose return fans welcomely embrace. One of these creatures is the Carbuncle. Since its first proper appearance as a boss and summon in Final Fantasy V it has popped up numerous times as a helpful ally, usually known for casting the (sometimes) useful Reflect status effect on the player’s party, bouncing magic spells back towards the opponents. Final Fantasy XIV (and similarly FFXI) give the creature more attention, and it is gifted to the Arcanist class as a personal pet-companion (becoming Final Fantasy’s answer to Pikachu). Regardless of the varieties of the...