“In the end, it boils down to two simple choices. Either you do or you don’t. You’d think with all the problems in this world, there’d be more answers. It’s not fair… but the way things are. The choice is yours.”
We’re now into the final stretch as the top 25 rolls along with our top 10 characters. Tomorrow, our list continues the countdown to the #1 male video game character of all-time on Aug. 31.
4) Zidane Tribal (Final Fantasy IX) – 3 votes/262 points
Shaun: Zidane: “You don’t need a reason to help people.” (Actual quote)
Cloud: “My life is so hard because I don’t even know who I ammmm.” (Approximate quote)
Squall: “My life is so hard because my mentor is a douche and my hair takes so long to get ready in the morning.” (Actual quote — needs citation)
And THAT, right there, perfectly encapsulates why Zidane is such a great character. But I’ll elaborate.
At first glance, Final Fantasy IX’s Zidane reaching number 4 on our list is a little high. Like crazily so. But if you break it down, being the most well-rounded, dynamic, interesting character of what I think is one of the best entries of the series should count for something. I was invested in Zidane’s story from the word go, and in large parts because he represented something so starkly different from the series.
First, he was upbeat, talkative, and fun-loving. Personally, I had had enough of Cecil, Terra, Cloud, and Squall, and I felt like it was refreshing to have a hero who didn’t have to kill the vibes every time he walked in the door. “Oh great, Cloud is here. Someone fetch the vodka and kill the music — it’s about to get ANGSTY in here.”
Secondly, he possesses a flawed-yet-still-heroic attitude, what with leading a gang of thieves. The guy has honor, and will fight to do what’s right, but he’s not bound by some rigid moral compass (which is actually responsible for some great interactions with the more stodgy companions in the party).
Hell, even his weapon choice is unique for a main Final Fantasy character. Two daggers is starkly different from a sword (IV), a huge sword (VII), a huge gun sword (VIII), a water sword (X), and a Transformer sword (XIII). Apparently FF main protagonists have a club, and entry is only administered for people with swords.
That’s not to say I only like Zidane because he’s unique — I actually find his character arch and journey extremely compelling, and it builds to some of the most poignant moments and emotional payoffs in a series that I quite enjoy.
Zidane, you were the breath of fresh air that I needed from Final Fantasy, and you kicked ass almost as well you rattled off jokes. Congrats on number 4.
Chris: I’m guilty of selling Zidane short before I even gave him a chance.
After the disaster that was Final Fantasy VIII, I found myself a little burnt out on the series. While VII was enjoyable and iconic, the game was a bit of a slog at the end. Sitting through hour-long Knights of the Round animations and trying not to pull out my hair getting a Gold Chocobo wasn’t exactly what I would call fun. Then VIII happened, and I had to draw spells from enemies for about 12 years, and I was done. I skipped IX entirely, and only got into X because of the battle system, the sphere grid, and the Auron.
Years later I finally went back and revisited IX, and while I don’t think it’s as great as some of its most devoted fans do, I can see why it’s cherished.
Zidane doesn’t want much from life, other than every girl he meets. His interactions with Garnet prove to be both amusing and touching. While he goes through a bit of existential crisis, like the aforementioned Cloud and Squall, it enhances his character instead of defining it. And the ending…so good. #4 might be a tiny bit high for Zidane, but I don’t think it’s far off.
Joseph: I regret not getting farther into FF IX. Apparently, it is a very good game. Sadly, I won’t find out for a while, if ever. I hope Zidane got better later in the game, because what I saw of him wouldn’t warrant the honor he has received here.
Michaela: I’m willing to argue that Zidane is the most compelling, interesting, and unique protagonist in the entire Final Fantasy series. He’s not bogged down by brooding or angst, but instead maintains a positive outlook in everything he does. His blank past doesn’t hinder him, and he looks to help everyone he can – especially the ladies. He’s funny, kind, and never afraid to do what’s right. And when he does discover his true origins and turns his back to his friends, he doesn’t dwell on it. He falters, but picks himself right back up. Zidane’s characterization was a breath of fresh air after games with the brooding heroes, and it’s a shame that there aren’t more protagonists like him.
2 thoughts on “ATB’s Top 25 Male Characters: (4) Zidane Tribal”
I agree Zidane is a wonderful and refreshing protagonist. He was cool in a very different way: he was small, non-human with very human morals and characteristics, roguish, and empathetic. He’s a great protagonist, and was (mostly) supported well with the supporting cast.
I’m going to have to disagree with the Cloud bashing though. Outside the moment he was literally losing his mind, he wasn’t terribly angsty. A think a lot of his tone is painted angsty, but should be read more angrily (like his early recollection of Nibelhielm or after Aerith’s death) or when he’s /deliberately/ trying to be cool (like the entire time in Midgar). After he realizes who he is, and accepts his shortcomings in life, he becomes a very honest and optimistic character who relies on his friends. Hell, right before the final battle, when they are going to fight Sephiroth who has obtained a shitton of lifestream energy and is as close to God as he could be, and facing certain death, Cloud gives a speech that ends in “Lets mosey”. I don’t know what I would say when facing death against a demi-God, but it likely wouldn’t be as cool as an outdated term like “lets mosey”.
Squall was meant to be brooding, so I don’t find that criticism so… insulting? It’s apart of his character, he was balanced out by the excited Zell, Sophie, and ladies man sniper cowboy. And the battle system was completely broken, but you can’t praise any JRPG if you felt VIII’s draw system was grindy. It was a system that explicitly increased your stats without grinding enemies.
I mean, I think there’s still room to praise JRPGs in comparison to VIII. Ex: The Tales series, for its faults, has never once been accused of being grindy. I could be doing battles like a fighting game, or I could be drawing spells from enemies! Hmm.
This is only my opinion and I don’t expect to sway others with it, but one of those two activities is fun and one is not.