I like unlikable characters.
I don’t want to play a game where I can get comfortable with the cast. I’m comfortable around my friends, who I like. I don’t need to like the characters to understand them. But I do want the characters to gain perspective.
Is Kefka flawed? Yep. Does he transform? Of course: physically, into a god. Does he learn anything? Nope. And everything that he already was as a person, was upfront and center. There’s nothing more to learn from him. He’s quite a character, but a safe one. And safe is quite boring.
Meanwhile, Cloud, Squall, Tidus, and Lightning weren’t safe because they weren’t particularly likable. Cloud is a cocky jerk. Squall is an emotionless cringe. Tidus really is a crybaby. Lightning is complete…
But their stories carry their respective games. They harbor a degree of darkness. They’re flawed and complex. They fought a hard battle and are working through their demons.
Likable characters are great, but they wear thin after a certain amount of time in the story. Vivi and Zidane are extremely likable. I sympathize with the former, admire the latter. But unfortunately, their characters arcs end quickly. Kuja is very unlikable, yet he sets up many of the events in the game. I can never relate to a villain, but I can attempt to understand them to broaden my perspectives. By the way, maybe it’s the story which is unlikable. Final Fantasy IX is excellent for the existential story.
Life is a meaningless place where we make our own meaning. Once characters overcome their selfishness, we have another reminder of people overcoming nihilism. Once they become likable, they fulfill their character arc.
Is Noctis a likable character? Yes, because they stripped away much of his depth. Gone is the “royal brat”. No more of the “prince who doesn’t want to be a prince”. The “helpless vulnerable kid under a hardened exterior” angle that Brotherhood built collapses under its weight. Gone is “brooding borderline nutcase” angle that Versus XIII was hinting.
You might say, good riddance to those clichés. A shy good guy gamer who likes to fish. Cool, I can relate. Towards chapter 13, he grows into an adult and experiences certain character development. But Noctis doesn’t grow much. He’s hollow in a sense. The story never really feels about him. He’s cool and I like him, but he’s fairly safe. And I haven’t learned anything from him that I already know myself.