Thanks to Schwahn for the inspiration!
The common narrative is Final Fantasy VI has no main protagonist. But where did this idea come from?
“We began work on Final Fantasy 6 with the idea that every character is the protagonist of the story.”
Which doesn’t sound right. Kitase said the protagonist of the story. Every character can’t be the (i.e. singular) protagonist of the (i.e. singular) story. Not unless each character represented a meta character (or he just misspoke).
Besides, we each know Kitase’s idea is false. For example, take Shadow who is optional half of the time and you have the opportunity to lose him forever before the World of Ruin; he can’t be the protagonist and several other characters can’t either. The community understands this faux-pas and saves face for him.
Since they can’t all be the main character, there is no main character.
“Maintaining a careful equilibrium between all the characters was probably the greatest challenge I faced. However, I ended up so involved with each personality while scripting the scenarios that there were points where, looking back at the game today, it’s clear that I somewhat lost this balance. For example, as the scenes featuring Celes and Kefka progress, these characters (while not directly playable in the game) became far greater and more influential than originally intended when development began.”
Making each character equally the protagonist could mean fourteen separate yet equal sections. Each would need a direct connection to the main villain and the plot. That would have been awesome. But for as good as the story truly is, Final Fantasy VI doesn’t do this. Maybe Kitase could change the story to give more focus to the characters in the story. This still isn’t present in the story. This could be possible in a future remake of Final Fantasy VI, however…
So then, Final Fantasy VI has several supporting characters of unequal weight in the story. The character with the most weight is the protagonist. But who is it?
First, let’s get the optional characters out of the way. Mog, Umaro, and Gogo are not anywhere near being the protagonist. Shadow is optional too if you feel the need to hire his services. You can leave Gau on the Veldt if you want. Now for the other characters. You meet Cyan around the time you meet Celes, who clearly support Sabin. We recruit Sabin later after you meet in Figaro. Celes Chere, also a supporting character in the World of Balance, only a bigger part towards the World of Ruin. Setzer’s main role in the story is to provide an airship for the party. Relm and Strago come into play during the middle of the first half in the World of Balance. We only need Sabin, Setzer and Celes for the final battle. If any of these characters are the main characters, so are General Leo, Bannon and Maudin. But they’re not.
So then who do we have left? Terra Branford, Locke Cole, and Edward Figaro. Before we go on, what makes the protagonist? What does it mean to be the protagonist?
The protagonist is at the center of the story, should be making the difficult choices and key decisions, and should be experiencing the consequences of those decisions. The protagonist should be propelling the story forward. If a story contains a subplot or is a narrative that is made up of several stories, then there may be a character who is interpreted as the protagonist of each subplot or individual story.
In this sense, the main character/protagonist is Terra Branford. Definitely. Her actions, in the beginning, start the game. She has the biggest story arc, where the Espers and magic put her in the focus. Her decisions move the story along in the beginning. The characters take actions that put her in the center of the action. She has the most lines. She shows up at the end to help the characters out, whether the player recruits her or not. But we all secretly knew this. Locke tried to be the protagonist, but he kinda just butts his way in. He’s just there because the story wants him to be. He has a conflict of his own, but it’s not always relevant to the plot. We could switch him out for Edward at this point. Terra arc connects to the plot AND the theme of Final Fantasy VI…
Now, let’s take a look at that last sentence:
If a story contains a subplot, or is a narrative that is made up of several stories, then there may be a character who is interpreted as the protagonist of each subplot or individual story.
For the subplot, the protagonist is Celes Chere, going around the world trying to get the gang back together, right? Well, it could be all of them. Along with the theme of Nihilism, maybe there is no main plot. If there’s just a bunch of subplots, then everyone can be a protagonist to help move the story forward. And at their final showdown with Kefka, they all have grown to learn the meaning of life. Kinda puts a new spin on the World of Ruin, eh?
Kefka ties all the subplots together in one main plot with one goal: stop the madness. So there is actually one story with several subplots without a narrative of several stories. If this is what Kitase meant, it’s innovative but he said it poorly even in Japanese. And Terra’s impact on the plot is undeniable. And this still doesn’t mean Final Fantasy VI has no main character.
If you want to, you can pretend any four of your 14 characters could have a final showdown with Kefka. You can do this since there’s not always an mandatory character you have to have in your party. Mandatory is probably what they meant by the main character. Once you get everyone, you can choose your main party of four (or less). You can’t switch out Cecil, Bartz, Cloud, Squall, Zidane, etc.
But in Final Fantasy VI, you can switch out even