Well it's about damn time. I've been meaning to do one of these character rant dealies for Final Fantasy Mystic Quest since I started this damn blog.
Benjamin: Some heroes are known for their courage. Others are known for their noble spirit. Some for their relentlessness, some for their self sacrifice, some for their love, some for their pure beliefs and sacred regard for life, some for their desire to protect, and some for their ability to better the lives of all the people they connect with. There are heroes known for their quest for redemption, heroes known for their burning sense of justice, heroes known for their great mercy, heroes known for their desire to build a better future, and heroes known for their belief in humanity’s better nature. There are heroes known for their ability to inspire, and heroes known for their ability to go it alone. There are heroes known for the small, meaningful acts of good they do, and heroes known for overcoming impossible odds.
Benjamin is not one of those heroes. Benjamin is a different kind of hero. Benjamin is the kind of hero who is remembered for the way he shrugs his shoulders.
Really, that’s pretty much the only claim to fame this guy has. Sometimes he shrugs his shoulders in a sitcom-esque “What are ya gonna do?” fashion. And that’s it. That’s all Benjamin has. I mean, you can say that he has a slightly flippant personality which the shrug accentuates, but I don’t think that’s correct. I don’t think that’s what happened. FFMQ’s writer didn’t say to a spriter, “Hey, I’ve made this mildly comic and detached little guy, let’s have him do a little shrug to sell the point,” and the spriter didn’t reply, “Okay.” No, the way this character feels, I’m pretty sure it was a spriter who said to the writer, “Yo man check it out, I can make this little dude shrug his shoulders,” and the writer replied, “HOLY SHNIKEYS, I have never seen anything more amazing than that. LET’S BASE HIS ENTIRE CHARACTER AROUND THIS.”
Kaeli: Kaeli is a bit contradictory. I mean, on the one hand, when Benjamin shows her a random withered stick that he could have just picked up from goddamn anywhere and might just belong to a single, atypical plant that wasn’t doing so well because a gnome farted on it or something, Kaeli gets in a tizzy about how the forest must be dying and she needs to do something to save it. On the other hand, not 3 minutes before that moment, Kaeli had been talking about how there’s a tree blocking the northern exit of the nearby forest, and her first and only proposed method of fixing this problem was not “just have people walk around it,” but rather, “Chop that sucka down!” So I guess Kaeli is an environmentalist, up until the point where nature is in the slightest way inconvenient?
Tristam: Passed off as a member of the legendary assassins iconic for their skills in stealth and avoidance, Tristam the “ninja” dresses up in a bright white outfit, is a forthright and brash personality, and has a punchy, upbeat theme song playing every time he enters a room. He is pretty clearly a result of Squaresoft assuming that the people of the United States, whom this poorly-written, dumbed-down RPG was primarily designed for (just how insulting is that, huh?), knew absolutely goddamn nothing about what a “ninja” is. I’d be angry about that, but it turns out that this assumption was proven completely correct the following year, when the movie Surf Ninjas assaulted and brutalized movie theaters countrywide.
Phoebe: “I really, really wish nursing homes existed in RPG fantasy worlds.”
Reuben: Reuben has a mild case of Unnecessary Paternal Ties Syndrome, but I think what most people remember him for is that he’s part of a band that you can see rocking out at the end of the game. He’s not exactly a deep and rich character, but I guess I’ve seen worse RPG band members. At least he’s nothing like that whiny git Nikki from Chrono Cross.
Captain Mac: He’s not actually a party member, but Mac puzzles me enough that I have to mention him. Mac is a captain by trade, the owner of a seafaring vessel--possibly THE seafaring vessel of this world; we never see another. The thing is, he lives with his family in Foresta. What puzzles me is this: why the hell does Mac live in Foresta?
See, Foresta is situated on the lower left quadrant of the FFMQ world map, and as such it, like the upper right and left quadrants, is on a raised continent of land whose borders are all extremely sheer cliffs that are clearly like 50 miles above the sea below. There’s no port visible at or around Foresta, nor does it appear that such a thing would be possible, given the huge drop from the edge of the land to the sea. This means that in order for Captain Mac to get to his ship to do whatever sea things he does to earn his living and title, he has to go through a forest, and then follow the edge of a desert until he gets to Focus Tower. Then he needs to go in, take the door on the right, and follow it out to this huge rope bridge roughly six towns long, after which he travels through another forest. Once he gets out of that, Mac will have to cross a few smaller, yet still comparatively long rope bridges connecting several small raised islands, until finally, finally, he reaches the town of Windia, the only settlement on the map by the sea where his boat could dock. And this is assuming, assuming based on no evidence, that Windia actually has its own functioning port. If, as is suggested by looking at the town, there is nowhere actually at the town for Mac to dock his ship at, then he must take the extra step of breaking into 1 particular residence in town, heading down to its basement, and stepping onto a glowing magic tile, which, provided he is carrying an extremely rare magical crest, will teleport him to the only docking area seen in the game.* Here, I’ve reconstructed the course he must take below:
Mighty MS Paint Skills!
And you thought your commute to work was bad.
Dark King: The main villain is about what you’d expect for a dull, pointless little time-waster like Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. Sits in his Main Boss Room all day, does absolutely nothing for himself, is only introduced to the audience in the game’s last few seconds, no back history, no depth, no goddamn anything. Of course, with Final Fantasy, that's about par for the course. I know this game is very strongly separated from the rest of the FF series, but you sure wouldn’t know it from the villain--he’s only a little worse in this regard than Zemus, Ajora, Yu Yevon, and Ultimecia, and hell, the Dark King’s on equal footing with Raem and Necron.
Still, as crappy as this guy is as an antagonist, I can’t help but have a certain soft spot for the Dark King. First of all, he’s got 1 of the greatest final boss themes of all time. Listen to it and try to tell me it’s not awesome: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMYXYewC0Y0. And secondly, he does have a moment of serious coolness despite his limited time and depth. Benjamin’s entire quest has been prompted by the idea that Benjamin is the hero spoken of in legend, a chosen hero to save the world and heal the sick and turn water into puppies and all that generic drivel. Well, when Benny comes swaggering up to the Dark King, ol’ Kingy tells him gleefully that this legend around which Benjamin’s destiny-protected heroism is based was nothing more than a rumor the Dark King himself started ages ago. Though Benjamin predictably (due to the lousy and lazy writing of the game) shows no reaction to this truth bomb, I like to privately imagine that his pants abruptly become a few ounces heavier at that moment. So, lame and otherwise forgettable as the Dark King is as a final villain, I gotta give him props for his kickass battle theme, and for putting an unexpected, creative little spin on the tired old destined hero cliche.
* Said docking area is a small, uninhabited island only a little bigger than my backyard which is completely isolated from any other piece of land, so don’t go thinking there’s any other land-based method of reaching it but the magic crest.