I was having discussion recently with one of my coworkers regarding our favorite SNES-era RPG’s. She mentioned Chrono Trigger, which was all that was needed to get the nostalgia train rolling. While I did put some serious time in on Chrono Trigger, there was one other RPG from that time frame that stuck with me. Those that know me understand that I have a hard time picking a favorite anything; I’m indecisive and noncommittal like that. Not so in this case. If you were to ask me what my favorite game in the Final Fantasy series is, without hesitation I will tell you Final Fantasy 6. And a lot of that love is due to one demented villain, the infamous Kefka Palazzo.
Usually the first name that springs to mind when discussing villainy in the Final Fantasy universe is Sephiroth, and for good reason; between summoning meteors, the awesomeness of the Masamune and making millions of boys and girls cry with a single act, Sephiroth deserves his props (even if he is a bit of a momma’s boy). With that being said, however, we can’t discount the sheer evil that was Kefka. Heroes are only as interesting as the villain that they’re up against, and boy howdy did Kefka make things interesting. To me, there were three things that made Kefka the ultimate bad guy.
** Spoilers Obviously Follow! **
1. Nobody Expected Him To Be The Main Antagonist
The first time we meet Kefka he’s complaining about having to visit Edgar Figaro, who’s castle is in the middle of the desert, which is causing him to get sand all over his boots. He then demands that one of the soldiers accompanying him clean them off before they arrive. At first you assume that he’s the comic relief of the story, a thought that stays with you as you thoroughly trounce in several early fights in the game. But as his actions escalate and become more and more terrible, it soon becomes apparent that he’s not playing around. And when he has his Darth Vader Moment with the Emperor, all that’s left is for you to sit back and go “Aw crap…”
2. Kefka Don’t Give A @*%$
From poisoning an entire city, to literally kicking Espers while they’re down, to WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO GENERAL LEO, it became abundantly clear that Kefka, in no way, shape, fashion or form gave anything even remotely resembling a rat’s ass. It’s been said that characters that are totally evil are boring, that it helps to give them some aspect that makes them just a little more human. I generally agree with this sentiment. But sometimes, you just need an all-out unrepentant bastard to root against and want to see go down. Kefka filled that role nicely, and as a matter of fact…
3. KEFKA WON (or, at least won the first half of the game)
I was about 16 years old when I played Final Fantasy 6. I don’t know if you remember being that age, but 16-year-old-me thought he knew everything about everything. Of course I knew exactly how this was all going to end! Yes, there’s going to be a big battle on the Floating Continent, where good triumphs over… ok wow, I wasn’t expecting that to happen with the Emperor. No matter! We can surely… whoa, dude just absorbed like, ALL of the power from those statues. Oh, we’re running away because the Continent is about to crash land? Ah, so the climactic battle is to take place OH I KNOW THIS MUTHA@#$A DID NOT JUST DESTROY OUR AIRSHIP!
If Final Fantasy 6 would have started at that moment where Kefka is ruling the world and you had to reassemble your party to take him down, it still would have been an awesome game. But getting to witness the villain’s rise and have him take you down at your most powerful, and having to prepare to fight him again as he rules the world like some malevolent god? That’s when you get to toss around words like ‘epic’.
Honorable Mention: ‘Dancing Mad’
Again I’m not trying to take anything away from Sephiroth, because ‘One-Winged Angel’ is exactly what a final boss theme should be; it’s epic, menacing, and has a choir singing about how Sephiroth is about to whup ‘dat ass. But that doesn’t mean that we should ignore ‘Dancing Mad’, 17 minutes and 35 seconds of symphonic metal awesomeness. A final boss so massive that you have to fight him in tiers, only to face-off at the end with an even more powerful Kefka than before, a man with the sheer unmitigated gall to look like some sort of freaking angelic being.
This man earned and deserved every bit of our ire. Thank you, Kefka Palazzo, for your role in one of my all-time favorite games, for it truly would not have been the same without a villain like you destroying, burning, and telling us that we sound like pages from a self-help manual. Final Fantasy 6 was awesome, but you helped make it epic.