Kuja: The Most Underrated Final Fantasy Villain of All Time

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”.

Remember this?  Yeah you do.  Everyone else does, too.  Why?  CUZ IT'S FUCKING BADASS.
Remember this? Yeah you do. Everyone else does, too. Why? Cuz it’s fucking BADASS.

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)

He… Doesn’t look happy.

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.


Pretty intense.

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

Yo girl, how you doin' tonight?  Lemme buy you a-   wait, what
Seriously, though.  My girlfriend just played through the game, and she saw Kuja referred to as “he”… in Disc 3.  She had no idea.

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.

“From the old Backup File” – A .txt file from the Hard Drive of Hironobu Sakaguchi Himself

My Let’s Play may not be working at the moment (which I will work on in about an hour, when I get outta work), but I have found something really, really cool on the internet today.

Hironobu Sakaguchi, in case you didn’t know, was the main writer for Final Fantasy IX (and a bunch of other FF‘s besides).  He has said before that IX is his favorite of the series, which, admittedly, makes me pretty happy, since, well, it is the best 😉

Anyway, I was snooping around, and I found this article on his Mistwalker blog.  This post was apparently a .txt file that was on a backup hard drive of his, and it details the very beginning of FFIX.  I had never seen it before, and I thought I’d share it, cuz it seemed super cool!

Arguments For And Against A Remake of Final Fantasy IX

For:  The Artwork Can Only Get Better

One of my friends posted something very interesting to my Facebook the other day:  a link to some “lost” Final Fantasy IX artwork.  I’ve owned The Art of Final Fantasy IX for years, so when I saw the link, my first thought was “yeah, okay, but I’ve definitely seen this before”.

Boy, was I wrong.

(Before I go any further, I’ll give y’all the link:  http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=551612).

My jaw dropped.  There were about 100 pictures here that I had never seen before, all in a resolution about three times what the original PlayStation disc could handle.  As Mama Robotnik, the author of the above forum post, said, “The ‘lost art’ referenced in the thread title isn’t meant to describe this content as having been lost and found – it refers to the art details that were lost when the graphics were downconverted to a limited 32-bit console”.

Ruby's Mini Theater Never Looked So Good.
Ruby’s Mini Theater Never Looked So Good.

Needless to say, I was amazed.  After purely enjoying the artwork for a while, a thought popped into my head:  if they’ve got these really high-resolution backgrounds already, that must make it easier to craft a remake, should they choose to do so.  They’ve already got a bunch of great work already set up for them, for cryin’ out loud!  So why won’t they do it?

At first, I was against a remake of FFIX;  I thought that the original was perfect, and that they needn’t do anything else.  However, when I watched Yu Yu Hakusho, my favorite anime, in 1080p Blu Ray, I realized that making things look prettier given newer technology could, if not increase my enjoyment, give me another, more detailed look at exactly what the artists were going for when they created the work.

Against:  Final Fantasy VII Fans are Mad Enough

Seriously, though.  They thought they were getting a PS3 makeover for the franchise’s most popular game years ago.  Square Enix has said that they won’t remake it until they make a new title that surpasses the original, both in sales and in quality (see this GameSpot article, if you haven’t heard this already).

Look, Square Enix:  it’s just not going to happen.

It’s a vicious cycle:  basically, they’re trying to make a game that is so good that it will make people forget about VII as being considered “the best”.  However, people can’t get the idea of a VII remake out of their heads.  They won’t give Square Enix a chance until it’s done.  Look, Square Enix, it’s not all your fault that you won’t make a game that’s better;  it’s equally the fault of the gaming community for being really bad at looking at new games in the same nostalgic light of the old classics that they hold so dear.  That’s just a part of human nature, though, I think – there’s a reason they’re called “the good old days”.  Part of business is learning when to stretch for something new, and when to shut up and give your diehard fans the content they have waited so patiently for.  I don’t think Square Enix has learned that yet.

So yeah, they won’t remake VII…  But they’re remaking FFX in HD, which was already made with quite-sexy PS2 graphics.  Way sexier than “the-first-PS1-FF” graphics, for sure.  They’ve remade I and II for the GBA, and III and IV for the DS.  I just get the feeling that if they remake any more Final Fantasy titles before FFVII, there will be pitchforks sharpened and torches lit.  Even I, who thinks that FFIX is one of the greatest pieces of media ever created, far more philosophically and artistically intriguing than VII, am waiting impatiently for Square Enix to remove their craniums from their posteriors.

I think I can sum up most everyone’s opinion on this with three simple words:

God dammit, Squeenix.  (Cute nickname, right?)

For:  It Will Remind Square Enix About What Squaresoft was Doing Right

This may be a bit of a radical opinion, but I honestly think that if the next FF were released without the use of voice actors, the overall opinion on the quality of the game would rise.  I’m not going to spend much time on defending myself here;  just check out Ian’s blog post, “Hearing Voices”, and you’ll basically have an idea of what my argument is behind this.

I think that, recently, Final Fantasy has gone the way of most game companies, focusing more and more on realismreal-looking people, dynamically-rendered, interactive worlds, and the like.

Realism.  When the title of the game is Final Fantasy.

I feel like they’ll get the idea when they’re in the middle of an HD makeover for, say, Hippaul.

Final Fantasy IX, like most of the great Final Fantasy titles before it, has an expansive, colorful world.  There were many different, non-human races that looked distinctly fantastical (again, Hippaul).  Even the main characters aren’t supposed to look real;  they’re chibi to the max, and I love it.  There was always something new to discover, to explore.  By the third disc, you’re basically let loose, able to take care of most side quests, etc. in the game.  No more rails.  The game designers had enough faith in your intelligence to let you go do your own thing, make your own mistakes and get out of them.  This is getting ever rarer in the big-name game companies, and it’s something that they could take a lesson in if they look at their old games.

Against:  Square Enix Has to Let People Know that They Can Craft Good Games

Personally, I enjoyed FFX:2 (I will understand if you stop reading now).  FFXII was a solid game, to the point of MetaCritic giving it a 92 out of 100, which is equal to FFVII’s score.  However, it was nowhere near as popular as VII was (to the chagrin of many a XII fan).  There was one thing that VII had more of than most other FF titles:  a giant North American marketing campaign.  I don’t ever remember seeing any pre-release brouhaha for XII.  While it proves that Squeenix can make a solid game, they need to promote it more.  A remake of FFIX now could create the image that all they’re good for is remaking the games of their predecessors, basically admitting defeat and saying they can’t surpass the classics.

Poor Squeenix.

My Opinion:  If You’re Gonna Use It, Keep It; If Not, Give It to Someone Who Will

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that characters from FFIX have been used only a handful of times since its release (Zidane/Kuja in Dissidia;  Zidane in Theatrhythm;  Vivi in KH2 are the ones I can think of immediately).  Because VII is still making money off of its spin-offs and movies and such, keep those rights;  however, if you’re not gonna use the characters, art, etc. from other franchises… why not give these to the public?  FFIX may not be popular enough to make much money off of anymore, but from my experience, it has a cult-like following of rabidly dedicated players who would love to sink their teeth into community-made remakes/sequels/etc.  While unrealistic, I think that would be a great thing for Squeenix to do.  Even if it’s just the engine.  Look what happened when Valve released Source SDK:  it spawned some of the best games of the past decade.

Like the people waiting for a VII remake, however, I won’t hold my breath.

Questions?  Comments?  Opinions?  Put ’em in the comments!