Okay, so I was reading this thread on reddit today, asking people to submit games they would want to have their memories wiped of so they could "play them again for the first time." As I read the games listed, I came across a game that I love to dwell on: Final Fantasy VI (or III if you played the US SNES cartridge version). It's such a good game, and I account the characters for their lasting impact.
I'm curious what characters have really shaped the way people have viewed the world. I know that one character in particular in Final Fantasy VI had that kind of impact on me (which I will share below). What characters from games, old or new, have really shaped the way you view the world, and view fictional characters?
Seriously, the more I think about the character of Celes, the more I view her as a more tragic character than the iconic Aeris/Aerith of Final Fantasy VII.
Celes starts out as a general serving the evil Empire. When she decides she can't serve them anymore, she is locked in a cell and beaten, left to rot quietly. And she accepts this fate. Only the intervention of a playable character gets her out of the cell, but even then, she doesn't immediately join the forces of good against he Empire.
Sure, she eventually decides to join the resistance and do what she can to save the world, but she's not a hero. She has to be convinced to act against the Empire that raised her, taught her to fight, gave her magic, gave her a place and a purpose in the world. And for me, I think that is what made her have such an impact on me. It made sense that she would not immediately act against them, even as she refused to act for them. But more importantly (and more tragically) is what happens at about the halfway point of the game.
Celes is the first character I ever encountered in fiction that very seriously, and unheroically, tries to kill herself. She doesn't do it out of love, or as a sacrifice to a greater good. No, she does it in a moment of utter despair, believing herself to be the last person alive in all the world.
This is not a heroic action. This is perhaps the very antithesis of heroic.....but it is so Human.
She's stranded on an island with only one other person, the person who saved her life and nursed her through a coma. When that person dies (no, he doesn't have to, but as a little kid, I wasn't skilled enough to understand how to save him), she's utterly alone. She's alone, and she feels she failed to save him.
This, after it's clear all the actions taken leading up to this point were also utter failures. The world ended.
Even as a little kid, this moment was so hard to play through. The shock of it all. Trying to save the world, and failing. Trying to save Cid, and failing. The moment of belief that Celes really is all that's left in the world, and she is alone. So, broken, unable to fight any longer, she throws herself off a cliff. Not a little one mind you. A very large cliff.
Only the power of plot saves her at that point, as she washes ashore again, only this time she sees a bird. A bird with a very familiar bandana bandaging its wing. Celes realizes that others survived. And Cid left a note before he died that Celes didn't see in her despair, saying that there was a raft and that she needed to try to find others.
The way that the game handled the issue of despair, depression, and suicide through this one character was nothing short of masterful. Celes was not a hero in that moment, but she was so much more a believable character in a believable situation, that that moment always stuck with me. I cry every time I watch that sequence.
But I have always thought about Celes when I think of tragedy. Everything she tries to do in the game, in some way, seems to come out as failure, and she has to cope with mounting failures, mounting tragedies, and she has a moment where she breaks.
Lest I make it seem like Celes is a weak character, I should also note that she becomes much stronger, emotionally, later, and is very much a key figure in reuniting all the hero characters and getting others out of their own personal despairs. A function she could not serve if she had not had her time on the island.
So yeah, there you go, my wall of text on why Celes Chere might be the most tragic character in any Final Fantasy game, and personally the most influential character I personally have encountered in the video game medium.