FFFMM IV - Wedge and Biggs: Opposing Forces.
The names Wedge and Biggs might at first seem strange to a gamer when considering Final Fantasy in isolation, and it might seem as if they never outgrew their high school nicknames. However, when considering popular culture at large it becomes clear that Wedge and Biggs are in fact lifted from Star Wars. Wedge Antilles and Biggs Darklighter are both pilots and important members of Red Squadron, fighting alongside Luke Skywalker against the Galactic Empire.
It is important to consider these characters in their Star Wars contexts before contemplating the ways in which they have been adapted for the Final Fantasy universe.
Biggs Darklighter: A deleted friend.
Biggs Darklighter originally had a more meaningful role in the original Star Wars film (since retitled Episode IV: A New Hope), however most of his scenes never made it to the final cut of the film (surfacing as deleted scenes afterwards). As a result, most viewers of the movie may be unaware even of the character’s name, to say nothing about a backstory which actually does much to develop the motivations behind Luke Skywalker’s joining of the Rebel Alliance.
Biggs is a native of Tatooine and the best friend of Luke Skywalker. Both of them had ambitions of attending the Imperial Academy to become pilots, but Luke was held back by his moisture farming responsibilities working for his uncle, Owen Lars. In one of the deleted scenes Biggs, having recently graduated from the Imperial Academy, meets with Luke and discusses Biggs’ plans to defect and join the Rebel Alliance against the Empire, promising Skywalker that he shall look out for him if he himself decides to join the rebellion.
After joining the Rebel Alliance Biggs does indeed meet up with his friend Luke (who himself had joined the Rebel movement shortly after his conversation with Biggs). Together, as pilots, they battle the Empire as part of Red Squadron. Biggs participates in the Battle of Yavin IV, where the Rebels attempt (and ultimately succeed) to destroy the giant Death Star battle station, riskily manoeuvring close to the battle station itself in order to fire torpedoes down a shaft (its weak spot) to blow it up. Towards the climax of this mission Biggs was one of the last remaining pilots, alongside Wedge Antilles and Luke Skywalker, but Biggs’ X-Wing was shot down by Darth Vader as the squadron approached the shaft, killing Biggs before he could see his comrades complete their mission.
With the way that the film was edited, many viewers of the movie may merely have noticed that the ‘moustached pilot’ had died, but with Biggs’ deleted scenes considered his death is much more significant, and the original movie suffers from the loss of them.
Wedge Antilles: A background hero.
Wedge Antilles is a luckier man than Biggs Darklighter and appears in all three movies of the original trilogy. Perhaps Wedge picked up this luck from his homeworld, since his home planet is Corellia (the same planet that Han Solo hails from, and so this planet appears to cough out badasses). His surname, Antilles, if imagined as a reference to the Antilles islands in the Caribbean, whether intentional or not it can draw associations with the famous historical pirates of the early 18th Century, many of whom had political motivations for piracy, acting as rebels against an oppressive governing power. Considering that the Corellian system is known for smuggling and piracy, the name fits.
Wedge Antilles has an impressive career amongst the Rebels, actually participating in the three major battles of the original movie trilogy. Wedge survives two assaults on the Death Star (the aforementioned Battle of Yavin IV, and also the space aspect of the Battle of Endor in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi). Wedge also actively participated in the Battle of Hoth (where he was one of the most distinguished combatants), and he is the pilot of the first craft which manages to wrap its tow-cable around the legs of the gigantic AT-AT, tripping it up, before firing at its exposed weak spot.
Wedge is even honoured with screen-time during the celebration sequence on Endor at the very end of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.
Despite being minor characters, Wedge Antilles and Biggs Darklighter have fairly significant roles in the Star Wars movies, and they have gained respectable fan followings.
Final Fantasy’s Wedge and Biggs: These are not the men you are looking for…
Having considered the roles of the Rebel Alliance pilots Wedge and Biggs in Star Wars we are confronted with a serious discrepancy when encountering their Final Fantasy counterparts in the majority of their appearances; Square has reimagined them as Imperial soldiers. Are Wedge and Biggs Final Fantasy’s turncoats, or is something else happening here?
The Imperial March: Wedge and Biggs as stormtroopers.
In FFVI, Wedge and Biggs’ first appearance, they are the first speaking characters in the game and are temporarily playable. They appear on a mission alongside Terra Branford (who is forced to do the Gestahlian Empire’s bidding via a slave-crown). Our duo are tasked with raiding the mining town of Narshe and extracting a frozen esper which had been reportedly discovered there (Valigarmanda, or Tritoch, depending on the version of the game).
Despite Wedge and Biggs having doubts about the validity of the reports, the three set off to attack the snowy town in Magitek armour, and when the Narshe guards step out to fend off the Empire’s forces, something interesting can be noticed. Is this, very loosely considered, the Battle of Hoth with reversed loyalties? Wedge and Biggs are Imperial soldiers marching through the snow in metal war machines, fighting locals wearing clothing not unlike the practical snow-environment gear that the Rebels wore during the Battle of Hoth.
After storming through Narshe and encountering the frozen esper, the esper responds to Terra’s presence and Wedge and Biggs are engulfed in light. Their fates (presumably dead) are unconfirmed. The player, it is presumed, has no reason to care about these soldiers beyond this point, and the game begins properly.
FFVI’s Wedge and Biggs in-game share the same generic sprite representing an Imperial soldier. In the cgi movies created for the PSX version of the game they are distinguished by varying their body types (Wedge being shorter and bulkier, and Biggs being taller), but the fact remains that nothing really stands out about them, and even their faces are concealed by their helmets.
FFVI set a trend for depicting Wedge and Biggs as unremarkable common soldiers. In FFVIII Wedge and Biggs are given a similar role as a pair of bickering Galbadian soldiers, and generic Galbadian soldier character models are used for them. Rather than being killed off, these counterparts of Wedge and Biggs are met three times, acting as comic relief enemies; each time their plans are foiled they find themselves demoted, and holding a grudge against the party.
In the English version of FFXII two Archadian soldiers are named Gibbs and Deweg (painfully forced anagrams of Biggs and Wedge, respectively). Their role here is only very minor, merely being guards who are frustrated with the location of their post, and they prevent the party from entering the Mosphoran Highwaste. Again, although the pair regret their situations, they are serving for the evil Empire of the game, not acting against it.
Various other versions of Wedge and Biggs exist who are not quite with the Imperial Guard of their respective universes, but act as generic guards nonetheless. In FFX they guard the blitzball stadium in Luca, and can be recruited into the player’s blitzball team. Likewise in Lightning Returns: FFXIII they guard and host death games. The rebel identity of the Star Wars characters, it seems, has been stripped from the majority of the portrayals of them in Final Fantasy.
Barret shot first: Wedge and Biggs as rebels.
Wedge and Biggs are not always reduced to lowly guards working for the antagonistic force in the Final Fantasy franchise. There exist distinctive deviations from this format where the pair are used more correctly (with respect to their Star Wars counterparts) as members of their own rebel alliances against evil regimes.
In FFVII Wedge and Biggs are active members of the eco-terrorist organisation named AVALANCHE, acting under the leadership of Barret Wallace. This group opposes the Shinra Electric Power Company (a mega-corporation which has effectively taken control of the entire planet). The main issues that AVALANCHE have with Shinra are the corruption, needless killing of innocents, and more particularly that the Mako energy which Shinra pumps and refines for electric power (amongst other things) is literally killing the planet.
In their roles as rebels Wedge and Biggs can easily be distinguished as individuals. Wedge is chubby, Biggs tall and slender, their clothes are distinctive and personalised, and their faces are no longer obscured.
AVALANCHE’s Wedge and Biggs participate in terrorist attacks on Mako Reactors in Midgar, Shinra’s capital city, and FFVII’s game begins with these attacks. Their own rebel base is located right underneath Shinra’s nose, in Midgar’s Sector 7, and they operate secretively within the city itself utilising tactics of subterfuge and sabotage. Being so close to their enemy had its advantages, but it proves to be their demise. In a heinous act comparable to Darth Vader’s destruction of Alderaan by the Death Star in Episode IV: A New Hope, President Shinra drops a large section of the upper Midgar plate on Sector 7, having suspected the AVALANCHE hideout to be there. Wedge and Biggs fight to prevent the pillar supporting the plate from being destroyed, but their efforts prove futile and they are killed moments before the plate itself plummets and crushes the entire sector.
FFXIV also sees Wedge and Biggs as part of a rebel group. In this case they serve as engineers with Garlond Ironworks (named for Cid nan Garlond, their leader), and they are allied with this universe’s rebel movement, The Scions of the Seventh Dawn, opposing the evil Garlean Empire. This time they do wear a uniform (that of the Ironworks company that they represent), but their appearances are still distinctive (albeit within the parameters of the game’s character creation system, rather than using unique character models). This time they are actually different species as Biggs is a hulking Roegadyn and Wedge is a diminutive Lalafell.
Most representations of Wedge and Biggs appear to be associated with technology to some degree (either piloting various machines, or being able to program or control them), but FFXIV’s pair are actual engineers working for Cid. In this way they also share this characteristic with their Star Wars counterparts. But why use Wedge and Biggs?
The wider context: Final Fantasy and Star Wars.
Star Wars is a very significant contribution to popular culture, arguably the most successful ‘space opera epic’ film franchise. Its success and strong fan following is partly owed to its extensive lore; possessing its own mythology, cultures, and detailed backstory which never needed to be seen in the films, but all helped to create a universe which appears organic and believable.
Casually referring to Star Wars today comes naturally to many people. Considering this, Final Fantasy’s nods to Star Wars are understandable. The FF references to Star Wars are mostly subtle and esoteric, as typically only fans of Star Wars will notice the references. Wedge and Biggs, for our example, can afford to be namedropped directly as they are minor characters.
Final Fantasy games in general are not shy of Star Wars references. FFIX’s Necron quotes Yoda’s ‘Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate…’ sentiment from Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Final Fantasy is often fond of creating villains resembling Darth Vader (or drawing from the same stock archetype of the fallen knight which made Vader so imposing in the first place), and alongside these dark knights sometimes exist familial ties with the main protagonist, and a chance for redemption for the villain. Golbez and Gabranth follow this trope.
FFVI (equalled perhaps by FFXII) is the most Star Wars-like of Final Fantasies. Wedge and Biggs and the circumstances surrounding them are not isolated references. The Gestahlian Empire itself has more in common with Palpatine’s Galactic Empire than it does with Hitler’s Nazi Germany, or any other powerful Empire. The Gestahlian soldiers look very much like brown, steampunk stormtroopers.
This resemblance seems deliberate and is played on explicitly when Locke (dressed as a Gestahlian soldier) enters the prison cell of Celes Chere. In English translations Celes quips ‘Aren’t you a little short to be an Imperial trooper?’
This is an adaptation of Leia Organa’s line in Episode IV: A New Hope, as Luke Skywalker (dressed as a stormtrooper) enters her prison cell to rescue her. Locke’s reaction of ‘Huh? Oh, the uniform!’ is also very similar to Luke’s reaction to Leia, and the parallels are intended.
The rebel group which Locke is a member of, the Returners, plays the same role in FFVI’s universe that the Rebel Alliance (or the Alliance to Restore the Republic, to give its full name) played for Star Wars. Like the Rebel Alliance, the Returners have hideouts, have acquired the financial backing of influential members of the elite (i.e King Edgar Figaro), and work towards undermining the grip that the Empire has on the planet in order to restore the world to its former peace and freedom. The rebellion is a major part of the plot of both Star Wars and FFVI.
Most interestingly, the way that Kefka betrays and kills Emperor Gestahl by kicking him off the Floating Continent is vaguely reminiscent of Darth Vader picking up Emperor Palpatine and throwing him down the shaft of the second Death Star. The reasons for overthrowing the Emperor are distinctly different, with Kefka surpassing Gestahl rather than redeeming himself, but the scenes remain comparable.
Kefka’s Tower, the platform that Kefka constructed from which to unleash his devastating Light of Judgement beam with the potential to destroy whole cities (or even the planet itself if he so desired), is to Kefka what the Death Star is to Darth Vader. Kefka wields his Light of Judgement in much the same way, threatening to smite the oppressed people should they decide to rebel against him.
For a smaller, probably insignificant borrowing from Star Wars, the Ultima Weapon in FFVI has a glowing blue blade, resembling light more than metal or mineral, and thus looking very much like a lightsaber!
Defecting duo: A message about war?
Given the wider appreciation of Star Wars that various Final Fantasy developers appear to have held, why, then, are the characters of Wedge and Biggs so confused with their loyalties?
Final Fantasy uses Wedge and Biggs in curiously contradictive ways. Sometimes they are used correctly as rebels, but at other times they are used to represent the very thing that the original Star Wars characters dedicated their lives to fight against: the Empire. If Star Wars was a Final Fantasy game, Wedge and Biggs may have found themselves as stormtroopers!
The impression a player may develop of Wedge and Biggs in most Final Fantasy representations where they are Imperial guards is not an impression of evil scheming but, perhaps, compliance. The characters are usually relatable, perhaps representing the common voice amongst the soldiers of their respective ‘evil’ armies. They are soldiers fighting on the wrong side of the conflict from the player’s point of view, but perhaps they are ‘normal’ people within their respective roles, following the lifestyle paths that offer the least resistance (as joining a rebel minority could be considered suicide).
Considering that many versions of Final Fantasy’s Wedge and Biggs express unhappiness with their roles, it is possible that we meet the multiple counterparts of the duo at various stages of defection. FFVI’s Wedge and Biggs are killed before we see any transformation with them (although they express doubts about their mission), but other versions of the characters do begin to change.
FFVIII’s Wedge and Biggs are very much Empire men when the party first encounters them, and the pair follow orders to fix a communication tower in order to broadcast Galbadian propaganda. However, the party continually discovers that Wedge and Biggs are frequently demoted after each of their unsuccessful battles with the party. By the time of their final appearance the pair decide to retire from the Galbadian army and they abandon their posts. FFXII’s Gibbs and Deweg likewise also abandon their posts when the player travels near them with a chocobo, although this is stated to be due to the stench of the birds rather than a defection from the Archadian Empire.
In the FFIV sequel, FFIV: The After Years, it is revealed that Wedge and Biggs are the names of the Red Wings soldiers in the original FFIV who questioned the orders of King Baron to raid Mysidia for the Water Crystal. In the original game these soldiers are unnamed, and they quiz Cecil Harvey about the morality of attacking a peaceful town which offers no resistance. That the names of Wedge and Biggs have now been attached to these soldiers is very interesting for our purposes. Again, this version of Wedge and Biggs fits with the generic Imperial soldier identity, but in the act of questioning authority the seeds of the rebelling aspect of their characters (which are realised by the FFVII and FFXIV depictions) are sown here.
Whether intentional or not, Square(soft/Enix)’s handling of Wedge and Biggs leads us to think about enemy soldiers in a different light, in that they are working within the framework of the political systems in place in their universes, but they are not necessarily bad people. Soldiers in uniforms are no longer individuals, and they become disposable, and a person can forget that a real person is underneath the helmet. A person fighting a uniformed soldier may likely assume that the soldier holds the same ideals as the political power which gives them their missions, which is not always the case. There is an element of reformation involved with some versions of Wedge and Biggs. Like Biggs Darklighter in Star Wars (who joined the Imperial Academy but then shortly defected for the Rebel Alliance), Wedge and Biggs in the FF franchise do occasionally fight against the oppressive systems of their worlds and set themselves on a more difficult path in becoming rebels. Having made their own choices, and shaking off their stormtrooper garbs, Wedge and Biggs are free to be themselves.
Wedge and Biggs remain some of the oddest and most curious of characters adapted for Final Fantasy, and have become staples for the series. They likely began as a loose Star Wars reference which nobody thought through, but they perhaps came to represent the relatable human aspect (albeit as comic parodies) of enemy soldiers, disaffected with the regimes in power, and sometimes finding the strength from the inner Antilles and Darklighter within themselves to rebel.
What are your opinions on Wedge and Biggs? Do you have a favourite Wedge and Biggs pair? What do you make of the Star Wars references in Final Fantasy? Know of any others? Discuss!