Let’s face it: when you ask someone, “Who’s the most badass Final Fantasy villain of all time?”, you’ll probably get one of two answers: Kefka or, far more likely, Sephiroth. If the person you’re asking is from the Jurassic period, they may say something like Exdeath or Zemus, but most likely, even these geezers will be saying Sephiroth, as they rant about the better days of gaming, back when Pong and Missile Command ruled the arcades, when they listened to Pinball Wizard as they… You get the idea.
This is not a “hate-on-Sephiroth” post. Far from it. I love Sephiroth, and his badassery has shaken hardened gamers to the core since they first heard “One Winged Angel”.
All I’m saying is that Kuja doesn’t get enough credit, and I’m going to outline the reasons why I think that, even if Kuja isn’t the most badass FF villain, he’s definitely the most underratedly-badass FF villain.
Reason #1: He Finishes Off the First Big Baddie that was Ever In the Series
(If you want an explanation for the above image, follow this link and check out a really cool site about localization of video games.)
Garland, if you remember, was the first boss that was encountered in Final Fantasy I. (There are spoilers starting in the next sentence, so if you really don’t want to see spoilers, I’d skip ahead. I’d also get going on playing FFI – it’s well over 20 years old at this point. C’mon.) You defeat him, but he manages to become immortal by creating a crazy time loop and becoming the god, Chaos. In Final Fantasy IX, he even references the events of the first game in the series, saying that he tried to assimilate Terra into Gaia by force five thousand years before, but he failed.
Pretty badass, right?
Kuja didn’t seem to think so as he KICKED HIM OFF A PLATFORM TO THE NOTHINGNESS BELOW.
Granted, Garland had just finished fighting the heroes of the story, so Kuja didn’t exactly kill him in one-on-one combat. Still pretty cool, though.
Reason #2: He’s the only Final Fantasy Villain to Successfully Annihilate a Planet (In the Scope of the Game, at least)
Garland tried to take over the world and failed. Kefka gained powers of a god and shifted the World of Balance into the World of Ruin. Jenova, well, Jenova goes around annihilating planets like it’s her job, but you never see it happen in-game.
Kuja gets pissed off and decides to blow a planet up, and within minutes, it’s gone.
Reason #3: Let’s not Forget, He was this close to Destroying the Entire Fucking Universe (And You Could Even Argue that He Succeeds)
Not impressed yet? Check this out:
See that cool-lookin’ crystal in the center of all that craziness? Yeah, that’s the Origin. You walk through Memoria, get to the Edge of Space, cross the Bridge to the Origin, and it leads… here. The first Memory. The Source of all life. The memories of every living being in the universe, when they die, return here.
Kuja uses Ultima, the most powerful black magic in the world, and blows it up, along with the entire party (I’m not sure if it’s officially true, but I’ve got a theory that the party dies after the Trance Kuja fight, which causes a lot of metaphysical craziness for the rest of the game; I’ll probably write a post about it at some point. Very interesting how they handled that part).
I hear a lot of complaints, saying that Kuja’s super emo with his whole “if I can’t live, neither can anyone else” spiel. I agree with this. You gotta admit, however, that if someone’s powerful enough to almost turn that statement into a reality… That’s pretty badass, regardless of intention.
Reason #4: Anyone Who’s Able to Fool People into Thinking that He’s a Woman for Discs at a Time Deserves a Medal
Another complaint I hear about Kuja is his effeminate, unthreatening appearance. While he certainly doesn’t have the giant-sword, brooding badassery of Sephiroth or the maniacal, creep-inducing psychosis of Kefka, I think that this complaint is more a cultural difference than an absence of a threatening appearance; it just didn’t translate very well into American audiences.
Y’see, there’s this cultural thing in Japan called bishōnen – it’s a cultural aesthetic that “provide[s] a non-traditional outlet for gender relations… it breaks down stereotypes surrounding feminine male characters. These are often depicted with very strong martial arts abilities, sports talent, high intelligence, or… flair”. Wikipedia goes on to add that these bishōnen are normally androgynous in appearance.
Sound like someone you know?
He may not have (apparent) martial arts abilities, but Kuja is an extremely powerful mage, intelligent enough to manipulate a queen into war with peaceful neighboring countries, and flair for days.
Check, check, and check.
While he may not be the normal American flavor of badass, his appearance and his mannerisms shouldn’t take away from the fact that he is, indeed, a pretty scary dude to his enemies.
I love Kuja, man. Such a baller. Great villain. Great badass. Hope this post illuminated some things for you. Feel free to argue with me! Thanks for reading.