Cidolfas (author of the fantastic blog, The Role-Playing Jew) has been an online chum of mine for quite some time. We did some work together back when he was still updating the crazy-expansive Final Fantasy Compendium, and I have always admired his writing and his in-depth knowledge of seemingly every JRPG ever produced. He was kind enough to contribute to our Ultimate Fantasy Party Write-Up, and has assembled a diverse group of combatants from across several genres and media. Enjoy!
My friend Mike Iantorno, of The World Is Square, came up with an intriguing idea – a monthly challenge to “write up” (harhar) a topic of choice. The most recent undertaking is to posit one’s “ultimate fantasy party“. Now, I’m not much of a Dungeons and Dragons fella, and neither am I the biggest proponent of classic swords ‘n’ sorcery fantasy, but hell – I’m a geek, and was intrigued by the notion.
The requirements are the classic fantasy group of five roles or classes: Warrior, Wizard, Rogue, Priest, and a wild card for kicks and giggles. The rules boil down to: fantasy characters only, from either mythology or actual media, without cheating by using someone with godlike powers. My thought process was long and meandering. I quickly tried and discarded probably a dozen characters who flitted through my neurons (Gandalf? Too boring. Conan? Already taken. And also boring. Sora? Too jack-of-all-trades.) until Vaarsuvius from Order of the Stick, above, jumped into my head. Of course, I immediately realized that I could just list all the characters from that genius of a comic and knock off for a beer (if I drank beer, that is); I thus categorically denied any of them a place in my party, with admitted sadness in my heart. Now, the question that occurred to me was: what exactly does an “ultimate” fantasy party mean? Sure, they need to hold their own against monsters and dragons and demons from the deep, and they’ll probably also need to get into locked doors and treasure chests and all that sort of jazz, but more important to me, they have to mesh as a team. They need to have strengths and weaknesses that complement one another, they need to have personalities that won’t involve them killing each other and above all, they need to be entertaining to be around. I could put together a bunch of bland, powerful, brilliant characters (see above) but I wouldn’t want to spend any time around them. As it turns out, all of my choices are from Japanese sources (anime and video games); like I said, I’m not much for classic fantasy.
Forthwith, then, my choices for Ultimate Fantasy Party: Warrior: Lenneth Valkyrie, Valkyrie Profile series
What makes a good warrior? Simply put, someone who can pound any material creature into submission. Lenneth is a classic warrior archetype; she is bound by Odin to fetch the souls of the deserving dead and bring them to Valhalla, where they join the eternal war between the Aesir and the Vanir. However, Lenneth chafes at his rule over her, and her memories of her youth as a human begin to weaken his control.
In battle, Lenneth brings not only power but variety. She’s a master of sword, spear, and bow, wears magical armor at all times, and can even fly when needs must. What’s more, she can essentially summon the souls of any dead warriors she’s encountered until that point, so you’ve got yourself a theoretically limitless party limit. She’s no slouch, either: she can take down full-fledged gods, and her desperation attack, Nibelung Valesti, utilizes a shining spear of light and some serious firepower. More importantly, Lenneth is an imposing character. Tall, imperious, no-nonsense and with a flair for the dramatic, she can easily quiet down the raucous tendencies of some of the other party members I’ve chosen. Her divine nature offers the possibility of hubris, but Lenneth has shown care for humanity, and is a proven leader.
Runner-Up: Cohen the Barbarian, from Discworld. Cohen is an unusual barbarian hero, since when we first meet him he’s eighty-seven years old. But he’s managed to survive this long by simply not dying, which means he has more experience than four young hotheads with big swords. His long years have also given him plenty of perspective, not to mention ambition. Ultimately I decided against him since I needed someone with a very firm hand to offset a few other characters.
Wizard: Lina Inverse, Slayers Depending on what you’re doing with your fantasy party, wizards may need to be gentle and multi-capable, with spells that can do anything from opening doors to levitation to imparting speed or strength, or one can opt for sheer firepower against those troubling magical enemies. Because the more finicky stuff is handled by my wildcard, I opted for straight-out destructive mojo. Lina, star of the anime Slayers, is a firebrand who causes terror and mayhem wherever she goes. Lina overeats, stiffs her waiter, then accidentally blows up the entire town when the city guards come after her. She can be shrill, rude and petulant (and is constantly insecure about her figure, or lack of it) and lusts after money, but she is fiercely loyal to her long-suffering friends, and fully determined to protect the innocent and kick some serious evil ass. Lina has been shown to be capable of the most powerful magical feats in her universe, multiple times. Demons and gods have fallen before her, with some help from her coterie, of course. She is shrewder than she looks, and has some skills with lesser magics and short swords as well. Her biggest shortcoming, her unpredictability and lack of control, will need to be handled carefully by her teammates, but she’ll ensure that their adventures will never be dull. Runner-Up: Jade Curtiss, Tales of the Abyss. Jade is an experienced and powerful magician, an accomplished magical scientist, and can wield a spear, to boot. More importantly, his sarcastic grin and razor-sharp wit make him an awesome character to be around. In the end I realized his various traits were copying my wildcard a bit too much, and he wasn’t quite the blow-away punch I needed for my magic user.
Priest: Yuna, Final Fantasy X Priests are kind of the sissy boys of fantasy parties. Really, all they can do is protect and heal you, and who wants to sit around all day doing that, at least without being a total Pollyanna and waxing lyrical about their love for all living things?
Yuna, that’s who. The daughter of High Summoner Braska, Yuna lives in her late father’s shadow and dreams about following in his footsteps: completing her pilgrimage to become a summoner and defeat Sin, the giant monster terrorizing her world. Along the way Yuna falls in love and begins to question her Yevon faith, realizing that the priests are not the benevolent forces they appear to be. Yuna is one of the most well-balanced personalities possible to fall into this role. She is selfless and moral, with a surprising well of inner strength. She also has a hidden mischievous streak, and part of her longs for freedom from her sacrificial status (which she eventually obtains in Final Fantasy X-2). Yuna is quick to smile and knows how to have fun, but when the pieces are down she will show her mettle. She is the natural second-in-command and has a level head on her shoulders, without being aloof. Capability-wise, Yuna can not only heal, revive and protect, but also has the usage of several extremely powerful Aeons, summoned creatures whose abilities range from elemental spells to instant-kill attacks. She can more than hold her own in battle, though when the aeons are summoned they seem to chase away everyone else and fight the battle alone. Runner-Up: Nobody. Seriously, I had real difficulty thinking of another healing character I didn’t want to punch in the mouth. I briefly entertained Billy from Xenogears, but the sci-fi aspects of the game wouldn’t qualify him.
Rogue: Zidane, Final Fantasy IX Yes, another Final Fantasy character, but one that fits the job perfectly. Rogues need to be able to be stealthy and sneaky, quick on their feet and dextrous. Zidane works for all the right reasons.
Zidane is a member of the famous Tantalus troupe, a set of traveling actors who have more talent than just thespianism: they’re a crack group of thieves. Zidane himself has a much more layered past, but going further into it is unnecessary and spoileriffic.
Zidane’s advantages as a rogue are numerous. First, he’s under five feet tall, allowing him to squirm into small spaces and hide easily. He has a prehensile monkey tail, too, giving him an added boost of agility. He’s an accomplished thief, being able to steal items from enemies he’s already fighting, and can wield both dual daggers and a double-bladed staff. His Trance ability significantly boosts his power and can do major damage in battle.
Personality-wise, Zidane is cheerful and a bit of a womanizer, with a tendency to chat up any female in the vicinity. He is quite the charmer, and his acting chops give him an edge in talking his way out of situations. What’s more, his small size means people tend to underestimate him. He is unwavering in his devotion to his friends and never gives up in his quest to protect them. He does have a tendency to strike his own path, with a disdain for authority, which is why party members like Yuna and Lenneth will need to keep him in check. Runner Up: Edge, Final Fantasy IV. Edge is both a ninja and a thief, and what rogue can beat that? The combination of stealing, throwing ninja items, casting ninja spells like illusions, fire blasts and smoke bombs, make him a force to be reckoned with. However, I never felt that Edge’s character got much development, so he was voted down.
Edward Elric is a brilliant young alchemist. A fatal mistake early in his career, in an attempt to commit the taboo of human transmutation in resurrecting his mother from the dead, cost Edward one arm and one leg, and his brother Alphonse his entire body. A quick-thinking Edward bound Alphonse’s soul to a suit of armor, and he later fitted himself with an “auto-mail” prosthetic arm and leg. Together, they search for the Philosopher’s Stone, in an attempt to get their real bodies back. Edward’s alchemy makes for an almost limitless source of solutions. He can transmute any non-living substance into any other: transforming water into steam, rock into glass; he can blast doors in the middle of a two-foot-thick wall, instantly fix mechanical items, close chasms or create staircases. What’s more, he can do all of this almost instantaneously. He can also transmute his own arm into a sword, and his physical training allows him to easily hold his own in a fight. With all that power comes a bit too much pride. Ed’s strong personality is disdainful of any kind of faith or religion, and he absolutely refuses to take orders from anyone. He will often go on his own path regardless of logic or reason. He also has a tendency to get on people’s nerves, especially when anyone comments on his short stature, which generally prompts a tantrum. He has a short fuse (har har) and needs a strong friend to keep him on the straight path. Still, he has a strong sense of ethics and an insouciant grin, both of which he inflicts with terminal strength on anyone who he deems to be on the wrong side of his principles.
Luckily, he’s accompanied by Zidane, who has a more easygoing personality but who shares his sense of humor and independent streak. Yuna and Lenneth can shepherd both of them; Edward is powerful, but even he would hesitate to cross a goddess unless absolutely necessary, while Yuna’s gentle, motherly touch can sooth him. He and Lina together could probably cause some serious strife in taverns and such, but they’ll likely annoy each other so much their plans will never get past the starting stages. Runner-Up: Westley, The Princess Bride. A Renaissance man of staggering talents, Westley is adept at the sword, being able to disarm a man who has spent decades honing his talent; he can beat a giant at wrestling and a genius at a battle of wits. He is romantic, dashing and can be coldly efficient or breezily witty at the drop of a hat. He was tempting to use, but Edward was just too tantalizing a catch.
So there you have it: my own fantasy dream team. I dare someone to start a fanfic right now!