The Secret Lives of Funko Fantasy (Part 2)

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Hey there, welcome to Part 2 of this rundown of all the cameo appearances in Square Enix's crossover JRPG, World of Final Fantasy. (Part 1 can be found here.) My goal with this feature is to look at how a crossover game, which often has to create new context and backgrounds for its many guest characters, takes the rich character development of those with an entire 60+ hour adventure to grow and evolve and condense that sufficiently for a brief yet recognizable cameo appearance, seeing how much of the character's core is retained, what was felt to be the most integral facets for their personality and attitude towards others, and how that character functions in this new setting. It's one thing for a famous face to drop by just long enough for a catchphrase and a signature limit break, but something else when they've been woven into a new story on a new planet.

I got a little too mired in plot details last time, so I'm going to redouble on the character work and how it's been necessarily crystalized for each character's relatively succinct screentime in WoFF. It shouldn't be a problem with the back half of the Final Fantasy characters; we're approaching those that took part in much more elaborate games with more character development to draw from. This second part will focus on guest characters from Final Fantasy VIII onwards.

Squall Leonhart (Final Fantasy VIII)

Role in Final Fantasy VIII: The default leader of the SeeD group that finds itself fighting the nebulous plans of the Sorceresses for much of the game, Squall is an antisocial, uncommunicative, yet highly skilled warrior that his peers look to for guidance almost in the hope that being depended on will suddenly shape him into a commanding presence and not a temperamental loner with abandonment issues who has no idea what he's doing. It's amazing what a little faith and a tryst with an impulsive resistance fighter will do for a querulous teenager.

Role in WoFF: Squall has a more germane role here working as a solo agent for the League of S (which, I found out, is what they called the merger of FFVII's Shinra and FFVIII's SeeD). The party first meets him in the underground prison beneath Figaro, explaining the situation they're in and guiding them through the perilous locale at the behest of King Edgar. This Squall is a lot more inclined to toss his life away to defend his beliefs and his friends; something he traditionally finds a lot easier than simply being earnest with those around him. Despite being surrounded with similarly brusque characters - Lightning, Shelke and Cloud in particular, at least one of whom gave him his iconic face scar since there's no Seifer in this world - the game finds a way to give a distinctive edge to Squall by playing his social awkwardness, too often mistaken for a stiff-lipped heroic stoicness both in FFVIII and here, for comedy.

Surprising Factoid: Squall is voiced by Doug Erholtz, who is another seasoned VA who has been latched to this character since the Dissidia games. David Boreanaz, who voiced Squall in the first Kingdom Hearts, is evidently long gone. Dude has skeletons to look at with Emily Deschanel somewhere, after all.

Quistis Trepe (Final Fantasy VIII)

Role in Final Fantasy VIII: Quistis is a character that goes through a few shifts as the game progresses. She's an instructor at Balamb, and technically Squall's superior, but she's only about a year older. While I think the idea is that she starts as this hardass disciplinarian that the player gradually warms up to after a few moments of vulnerability, you see the latter side of her almost from the jump as she flirts with an oblivious Squall and opens up to him during the game's early hours. She's then relegated to a supporting role for the rest of the game; her relationship with Squall and the other characters, both in the present and in flashbacks when they were all kids in the same orphanage, eventually defined as "big sister" like - maturing faster than the rest so she could be seen as the reliable one.

Role in WoFF: Which is why her WoFF inclusion is so interesting. Not just because she's the only other Final Fantasy VIII character to make the cut - where most of the rest of that cast play much larger roles - but because we see her here in her initial chilly, reserved, authoritative persona in her role as the overall commander of Balamb Garden and the League of S. The designers in particular double-down on her oft callous and calculating nature - an aspect of her Final Fantasy VIII personality that the game immediately softened. I might prefer her here, as a pint-sized political deal-maker and risk-taker who is the true power behind the good guy organization. And all at the tender age of 18, too.

Surprising Factoid: Quistis's VA is Kristina Pesic, an actress better known for roles on the TV show Defiance (which was sorta based on the Defiance game, but also sorta created to work alongside it?) and in Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World movie. Curiously, in SPvtW, she's one half of a pair of background characters (Monique and Sandra) and it's the other actor that plays the quiet mean one in glasses. Additionally: everyone in this game pronounces her name as "kwiss-tiss", when more recently I've heard people pronounce it "kiss-tiss" or "kees-tiss". Could just be how this particular Quistis prefers it.

Vivi Ornitier (Final Fantasy IX)

Role in Final Fantasy IX: Vivi's easily the emotional center of Final Fantasy IX, frequently contending with who and what he is and his role in the world from the perspective of what is essentially a newborn. An automated black mage doll that was mass-produced for destruction, Vivi instead finds himself separated from his kind and raised by an unusual being (one of the Qu; voracious eaters and occasional philosophizers) first as a potential meal and then as a curious child. Vivi's journey towards sapience and self-discovery is all about identity, destiny, and mortality, and his earnestness and wide-eyed innocence makes him hard to dislike.

Role in WoFF: It's no big surprise that his arc is more or less replicated here, just with different circumstances and people guiding his newfound sapience. In this case, King Edgar of Figaro takes it upon himself to adopt Vivi and his fellow black mages as new citizens after the party finds them guarding the Mako Reactor underneath FIgaro Castle. The game is cagey about whether or not they're simply mirages - the in-game term for regular monsters that the player can recruit for their Pokemon style party composition - or something more akin to the late-game antagonists of the Cogna: artificial machine beings that lack the "souls" of mirages but retain a keen and deadly intelligence. Either way, the awakened Vivi takes to Figaro's defense with grateful enthusiasm.

Surprising Factoid: Vivi's first ever voiced appearance is performed by cartoon VA veteran Kath Soucie, who channels the similarly innocent and young Phil (and Lil) DeVille of Rugrats fame for her take on Vivi's naiveté. I wasn't too sure about "Rugrats Vivi," but something about his "gee whiz Mr. Edgar, I'll help out for sure" eager attitude resonates with that voice. Especially as Vivi was adorable enough already before becoming one of WoFF's many melon-headed chibi Nendoroids, upgrading his cuteness level to "weapons-grade".

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Eiko Carol (Final Fantasy IX)

Role in Final Fantasy IX: Eiko, meanwhile, was I think meant to be cute but really just came off as grating. An orphan and the sole-surviving member (or so she thinks) of the Madain Sari tribe of summoners, her brusque and demanding attitude is simply how she's managed to survive alone as a child since her family was massacred, and occasional lapses in her prissy little madam demeanor serve to demonstrate just how lonely she is. A tragic character that steadfastly refuses to be treated like one. Man, I could really use fewer games that give their six-year-old heroines romantic side-plots though.

Role in WoFF: Eiko's really only around because the game needed "summoners" - those people able to form bonds with mirages, if not to the same extent as the protagonists - for a late-game twist. She's accompanied by her original summoned eidolon, Fenrir, like how Rydia's teamed up with Mist Dragon. Due to the odd way the game combines elements from different games, Eiko is first met guarding the Big Bridge of Final Fantasy V fame, which is actually the incognito form of Alexander, a mechanical eidolon the FFIX Eiko is familiar with. This also puts her in a position where she's alone most of the time, bringing out that part of her character.

Surprising Factoid: Her VA, Michaela Murphy, is also known by the stage name Jessica Flower. She's best known for Avatar: The Last Airbender's Toph. Eiko also isn't an orphan in this game: she simply wandered away from home to have an adventure. There's certainly way more levity in this particular world.

Tidus (Final Fantasy X)

Role in Final Fantasy X: Drownball champion Tidus is the audience surrogate for most of Final Fantasy X, asking questions about Spira's rich if self-defeating culture and prompting whole cutscenes full of exposition by Yuna's exasperated guardians as he accompanies them all on a holy pilgrimage to rid the world of its metaphorical and literal sin, which frequently manifests as a big whale monster that kills everyone. Tidus first appears as a fish-out-of-water outsider, with the story mostly happening around him rather than to him, but it becomes clear before too long just how connected he is to everything.

Role in WoFF: Oddly, Tidus is still known far and wide as a star Blitzball player even if Blitzball doesn't exist in Grymoire (thank god). Instead, his incredible ability to hold his breath for hours - not explained well in the original FFX or here, though in the latter case it's played off as a joke - makes him an ideal guide for showing the protagonists around a sunken temple dungeon. Still has an infinite supply of Blitzballs to kick at people.

Surprising Factoid: Final Fantasy X was the first core game in the series to get voice actors, and those voice actors return here. Fortunately, they have better direction in this game, so their voices come off a lot more naturally. Tidus is voiced by James Arnold Taylor, who since Final Fantasy X has gone on to do dozens more voice roles, the most famous of which include Ratchet (of "and Clank") and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Yuna (Final Fantasy X)

Role in Final Fantasy X: "Lady Yuna" is celebrated as the summoner most likely to defeat Sin, as her father was the last to do so, which puts a lot of pressure on her shoulders. This creates some nice parallel character development between her and Tidus, as both are trying to live up to the high standards of an absent father figure. There's also some dramatic tension between how serious Yuna takes her objective - which will ultimately kill her and likely those who travel with her - and Tidus's relative insouciance borne of ignorance, though this lightheartedness does make Yuna's pilgrimage less morose. Though soft-spoken and accommodating to a fault, Yuna's the real protagonist of Final Fantasy X: selfless, highly motivated, and the whole game's really about her journey.

Role in WoFF: Yuna's not the chosen one destined to save the world at the cost of her life here, but her sense of duty and self-sacrifice are still as potent as ever. Attacking the twin protagonists due to a misunderstanding, Yuna's revealed to be on edge because she's being targeted by the antagonists, as well as how much the younger summoners Rydia and Eiko rely on her.

Surprising Factoid: Yuna's VA is Hedy Burress, whose delivery as Yuna was a bit stiff in her first appearance but has spent enough time with the character since to fine-tune the performance. Yuna shows up with Valefor, her first aeon in FFX, and the game also features Valefor's stronger evil doppelganger from the International Version of FFX.

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Rikku (Final Fantasy X)

Role in Final Fantasy X: The feisty Rikku flits in and out of the narrative of FFX, first presented as the unlikely savior of Tidus and later popping up to help her cousin Yuna out, albeit with some light kidnapping involved. Her Al Bhed upbringing, which promotes technology and science over the dogma of the Yevon church, puts her at odds with some of the more pious members of Yuna's entourage, but her perky little sister act eventually wins everyone over.

Role in WoFF: Most of Rikku's later appearances build on her free-spirited nature and unrelenting positivity, which even starts to influence the quiet and solemn Yuna. In WoFF she's no different: she's barely involved with the focal good vs. evil battle of the story, instead wandering off to go treasure-hunting whenever possible. Her search for "trejjies", as she calls them, take up the entirety of her undivided attention.

Surprising Factoid: Rikku's still voiced by Tara Strong, who is certainly one of the more prolific voice actors in this cast. Ms. Strong's best known elsewhere as Raven from Teen Titans; Bubbles from Powerpuff Girls; and Harley Quinn in almost everything she turns up in. This Rikku is apparently still 15, like she was in the first FFX, but wearing the ludicrous bikini combo from FFX-2. I dunno, I think I preferred that armless turtleneck and goggles ensemble.

Shantotto (Final Fantasy XI)

Role in Final Fantasy XI: From what I can tell, Shantotto is one of many NPCs that populate the vast world of FFXI's Vana'diel, and is a member of the diminutive (but very smart) Tarutaru race. She was the token representative for Final Fantasy XI in the Dissidia games, which originally took the "main character" of each mainline game but started expanding the roster further in sequels, seemingly because her distinctive method of rhyme-talking, her "evil" laugh, and apparent near-godlike magic powers won her a lot of fans.

Role in WoFF: Shantotto's still rhyming, still messing with powerful spells, and still kicking people's asses when they get out of line. She fights the protagonists twice: both times they're expected to lose, though I've read that it's actually possible to beat the second fight with enough persistence (you need a lot of power to get past her high defenses though). Though she had less than noble reasons for doing so, she helps the protagonists reach the sunken temple with a water-breathing "curse".

Surprising Factoid: Candi Milo, Shantotto's VA, is best known for voicing the titular lead of Dexter's Lab. Pretty fitting for a character known for her mad experiments.

Sherlotta (Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time)

Role in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time: Hey, remember that Crystal Chronicles sequel from 2009? Square Enix sure hopes you do. Honestly, the Crystal Chronicles games weren't so bad: I see them as being the Four Swords Adventures to the core FF series - something a bit lighter and multiplayer-focused. In Echoes of Time, which was released on both Wii and DS, Sherlotta is a cat changeling and an immortal who raised the hero in hopes that they would provide a solution to a rather tricky problem.

Role in WoFF: Reading up on Echoes of Time plot details, it seems like WoFF's Sherlotta isn't too different from the original. She's immortal, she has a habit of taking in lost children like Refia, and she has almost zero patience for schemers and troublemakers. The party meets her at an inn she operates in the middle of the frozen tundra, and Sherlotta frequently pops up later to help out. Either out of compassion or boredom, the game doesn't make clear.

Surprising Factoid: The Undead Princess, who appears in a few of Sherlotta's skits, was also a boss-turned-comic relief character in Echoes of Time. She and Sherlotta are destined to annoy each other no matter where they end up. Sherlotta's voiced by Stephanie Sheh, a seasoned VA best known for breathy anime roles like Naruto's Hinata, Bleach's Orihime, and Fire Emblem's Tharja. The last of those is maybe the most relevent, tapping into Tharja's world-weariness and sarcasm for the equally "seen it, done it" attitude of the immortal Sherlotta.

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Claire "Lightning" Farron (Final Fantasy XIII)

Role in Final Fantasy XIII: My fellow moderator ZombiePie is currently exploring just how far the Final Fantasy XIII rabbit hole goes with its second-craziest sequel, the time-travelling Final Fantasy XIII-2. That game establishes that Lightning's more than simply a recalcitrant soldier that eventually warms up to her companions; she's also the chosen champion of the Goddess of Chaos, Etro. Lightning Returns, the third game, gets even wilder.

Role in WoFF: Like Cloud and Squall, she shows up briefly to help the heroes out of a jam. Needless to say, this Lightning isn't some immortal death-dealing goddess - I think that might be a bit much for a supporting fighter - but she's still handy with that weird cybersword of hers.

Surprising Factoid: VA Ali Hillis is still providing Lightning's trademark tone of barely concealed disgust and irritation. Sorta sounds like she's channelling Jennifer Hale a bit, even. The reason I brought up Lightning's bizarre evolution is that she's wearing the "savior" costume from Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII-3, despite her personality being based more on her original Final Fantasy XIII appearance. She has the teleporting powers seen in FFXIII-2 too, so maybe this version of Lightning is supposed to represent all three of her roles?

Snow Villiers (Final Fantasy XIII)

Role in Final Fantasy XIII: If Lightning was meant to be a riff on more recent FF heroes like Cloud and Squall, Snow is a riff on the earlier heroes of the franchise. An optimistic buffoon whose "justice sense" is a lot more attuned than his common sense. Snow's best intentions nonetheless create a rift between him and most of the party, in particular Hope - whose mom ends up dying due to Snow's inspirational charisma - and Lightning, who has been barely tolerating Snow's nonsense ever since he started hitting on her teenage sister.

Role in WoFF: This particular Snow is based on his first appearance in Final Fantasy XIII-2, where Serah and Noel meet him in some distant future fighting off an enormous flan enemy. They think he's been distracted by another random campaign of heroism, but Snow's actually intuited that these flans are responsible for the collapse of Cocoon and the crystal pillar holding it up: the remains of his friends Fang and Vanille. He's fighting another giant flan in WoFF to protect some unnamed village, but it could be more some residual cross-world memories prompting him forward. The idea that these FF guests are half-remembering the events of their origin games is an intriguing way to tie WoFF into the greater FF universe, though also one that provides a convenient excuse for characters to fall into old habits.

Surprising Factoid: Snow's still voiced by Troy Baker, who - along with his similarly ubiquitous VA chum (and fellow Drake brother) Nolan North - is putting on an entertaining Let's Play show that lets them goof around with their many famous voice roles.

Chocolatte (Final Fantasy XIII-2)

Role in Final Fantasy XIII-2: Chocolina is the mysterious shopkeeper that Serah and Noel keep meeting across various timelines, as she is seemingly able to travel through the game's "Historia Crux" interdimensional nexus as well. Despite looking like a dancer from some Final Fantasy-themed Las Vegas burlesque, she has a long history with Serah and her friends. I'm spoiler-blocking this because ZP's still playing FFXIII-2: She's the same chocobo chick that lives in Sazh's hair! Her earnest wish to Etro to help her friends made her a real woman, or real enough at least.

Role in WoFF: Though the character in WoFF is named Chocolatte, it's the same person. In fact, this is the only situation where it literally is the same person: Chocolina's been known to wind up in all sorts of places due to her unusual mode of travel. For personal reasons she reinvented herself as Chocolatte, sticking on a pair of glasses with clear lenses and hawking her goods like she always has. She still instinctively understands the chocobos of this new world, including Bartz's partner Boko.

Surprising Factoid: Chocolatte/Chocolina's VA is Julie Nathanson, who started voicing Final Fantasy characters with Prishe (another major Final Fantasy XI NPC) in Dissidia Duodecim. I have no idea where she found that voice. Chocolatte also has a chocobo chick on her head everywhere she goes: that's her original body, which manifested in this world alongside the human version and are now two halves of the same entity. Somehow they found a way to make Chocolina even weirder.

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So I want to leave this next section a little open-ended until after I've completed the game, because I have a theory that the game's conclusion will talk a little more about the nature of the world of Grymoire and the connection all these characters have to it. Final Fantasy's never been afraid of getting a little meta with their crossovers after all.

Even if nothing comes of it from the game's ending, however, I commend the developers of this game for translating the motivations and personalities of these characters effectively for this new world, even if there aren't quite as many cameos as I would've preferred. On the other hand, having some familiar face show up every five minutes would distract too much from the story this game wants to tell, and I'd rather preserve that than wallow in fan-service. It's a tricky balance that I think the game handles well, even if the rest is a little uneven.

I'll have a more detailed review towards the end of the month, but I hope this rundown of the guest characters and the way the game integrates them into a new narrative and setting without losing too much in the transition was of interest. Even if it is glorified fanfiction of all the favorite Final Fantasy characters, World of Final Fantasy can stand on its own too.

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