What makes a hero? Why do Final Fantasy characters put themselves on the line to save the world? Personally, I think it’s who they are as people. Heroes are:
person or main character of a literary work who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, bravery or strength; the original hero type of classical epics did such things for the sake of glory and honor.
Zack Fair is a hero in the classic sense, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t done the right thing because it was the right thing to do. Why do heroes do what they do? They’re compelled to act based on who they are as people. So then what sets a hero apart from another human being? Aristotle identified a list of moral virtue, characteristics a person has to function well in society:
- Courage in the face of fear
- Temperance in the face of pleasure and pain
- Liberality with wealth and possessions
- Magnificence with great wealth and possessions
- Magnanimity with great honors
- Proper ambition with normal honors
- Truthfulness with self-expression
- Wittiness in conversation
- Friendliness in social conduct
- Modesty in the face of shame or shamelessness
- Righteous indignation in the face of injury
This is only of the earlier forms of Virtue Ethics., in which a character’s moral character enables them to do good deeds. All heroes have a general sense of courage. Each one decides to fight, even faced with the possibilty they may die in battle. It also takes a lot of courage to go against a seeming unsurmountable foe. But each of our heroes do it because it’s the right thing to do, despite the fear they feel.
Throughout the series, Final Fantasy Villains are missing most of these characteristics, which explains why they’re imbalanced. But some villain posses a few traits. Kefka and Kuja show sharp wittiness. Seymour and Vayne are mostly friendly in social settings. And Ultimecia shows righteous indignation with sorceresses’ past treatment. However, they lack a majority of the moral traits our heroes have.
Likewise, not every Final Fantasy hero has these traits. Usually, this is for the sake of the narrative; for example, Edgar’s arc involved gaining the courage to fight alongside the team. One he overcomes this difficulty, he fulfills his arc and performs acts of heroism.
So what is it about our characters which compels them to act on their inner moral code? Most probably have an supersense for justice, in which our characters are swayed by reason rather than emotion. An inner set of rule and values inform the moral code our characters possess.
Barret displayed righteous indignation towards Shinra for destroying the Planet. We’re led to believe it’s due to sentimentality. But instead, it’s based on rationality. He wishes for his daughter Marlene to grow up a self-sustaining environment, and that can’t happen as long as Shinra drains the Planet of its resources.
And if our character were driven by emotion, they’d give in to a wide range of fleeting mental states. They could succumb to fear. Many of them do. But in the end, they do what’s right because they reason their actions will have wide-ranging positive consequences for the world.