I have a favorite character in every Final Fantasy game. I think everyone who plays a Final Fantasy game has a favorite character. They stay in the party all the time, they get the best weapons and armor, and they get all the top abilities. Your least favorite character is lucky to even get a seat on the airship before you take off, let alone get in the active party. If you look carefully at that picture, you might be able to figure out which of those characters I like and which I hate.
After the jump, maybe he’s a lion.
Squall Leonhart is the main character in Final Fantasy VIII, formerly the bastard child of the Final Fantasy series before Final Fantasy XIII came along. Since this is a Dissidia game diary and not a Final Fantasy VIII game diary, I won’t talk about his original game too much. I already talked listeners’ ears off in a Quarter to Three games podcast about Final Fantasy XII; I don’t need to try for an equivalent amount of reading time.
Dissidia 012 describes Squall as a Relentless Revolver, which probably means something. He plays best as an up-close fighter, punishing every misstep with a flurry of stabs from his signature gunblade (a marvelously silly weapon). Almost all of his attacks hit multiple times, so instead of one powerful swing that slams his opponent into a wall, Squall is going to knock his opponent into the air, jump above him, and stab him repeatedly before kicking him to the floor. He actually does that more than once.
Unlike Cloud, the other signature swordsman from the Final Fantasy series, Squall also has a good mid-range game. Paying homage to the fact that every character in Final Fantasy VIII could be set up as a magic user or a physical fighter, Squall can use elemental magic to draw the enemy in close with a blast of thunder, harass them from afar with a long-range ball of ice, or annoy the mid-range fighter with three tracking fireballs.
His HP attacks each have a bit of a delay before executing them, so timing is key with using Squall. Blasting Zone has become Squall’s iconic ability, a massive beam of light extending from his gunblade that then slams into his opponent, even dragging him out of the air if he’s foolish enough to try and jump over Squall. Fated Circle draws the opponent in before blasting him back out, even if he’s behind Squall. Rough Divide jumps Squall back a few steps before dashing forward in a ball of blue light.
Of course, if someone else plays as Squall, he might have a different set of abilities equipped. Dissidia lets you equip a total of 12 attacks: three Brave attacks on the ground, three Brave attacks in the air, three HP attacks on the ground, and three HP attacks in the air. Almost every character has more options than 12 options to choose from. The key is picking abilities that suit how you want to play. For me, the eventual goal is judicious application of gunblade to face, so I tend to skip the ranged attacks to focus on the melee action. I’ve fallen in love with the Mystic Flurry ability, though, which is a series of flaming ice projectiles that then are electrified. I never hit with it, but it’s damn pretty.
Squall is my favorite Final Fantasy character. When I first played Final Fantasy VIII when it came out in 1999, I was entranced by how cool this guy was, this 17-year-old soldier with a badass sword, amazing battle prowess, and an antisocial attitude. It probably helped that I was also 17 at the time. I’ve since played Final Fantasy VIII a few more times, and my admiration of the character has not diminished since then. Now I marvel at the intricate subtleties of characterization in the game, and how successful it is at showing a love story that succeeds despite both people being fundamentally damaged in different ways.
None of that matters in Dissidia. There’s no love story, characterization takes a hit when 60 hours of development is distilled into ninety minutes of story mode, and there’s really nothing subtle about shooting and stabbing someone with a gun-sword and then kicking him in the face. But that’s fine. That’s how I prefer things to go in a fighting game. Fortunately, I’m not the only one. Squall spends most of his story mode wanting everyone to shut up, go away, or both. His final encounter with Ultimecia in the original Dissidia’s story mode is entirely too badass for me to spoil here. He doesn’t waste motion, words, or time, making him unique across Final Fantasy characters, and the best choice for when you absolutely have to kill everyone in the room.
Matt Bowyer lives in Kansas City with his wife and two ferocious guard cats. He plays entirely too many videogames, especially when he should be working on his novel.