MatPat uploads video. Final Fantasy fan becomes
defensive. MatPat uses disclaimer. Final Fantasy fan pauses the video to read it. Final Fantasy
fan uses rage comment. MatPat puts up flame shield. Rage comment has no effect. MatPat
uses evidence. Doubt is terminated. Hello Internet. Welcome to Game Theory, the
show that, to put it bluntly, takes your favorite childhood video games and kicks them in the
groin. And the crotch in our crosshairs today is none other than…well you can read the
title, it’s Final Fantasy. Now, I don’t think it’s news to anyone to say that the Final
Fantasy games use a lot of religious references, but I doubt many gamers have actually taken
the time to analyze the patterns and symbolism of the way the games use those references.
So I went back to revisit Zanarkand, the White Mages, Squall, and all the rest, and let me
tell you, the patterns that started to develop were quite shocking. Final Fantasy games are
not only against organized religion, they often take a stand against the idea of God
Himself, to the point of advocating deicide, or god killing. Don’t believe me? Watch as
the pattern unfolds. Let’s start with my favorite in the series,
ten. If there’s one thing that stands out while playing Final Fantasy X, it’s that awkward
laughing scene. HAHAHAHA! That scene always makes me ROFLCOPTER. If there are two things
that stand out while playing Final Fantasy X, it’s that awkward laughing scene, AND the
extreme distrust the game has towards organized religion. Long and complicated story short,
a large part of the game’s plot revolves around the church of Yevon, a religion named after
and honoring a corrupt ruler who asked innocent civilians to kill themselves in order to give
him more power. He then used their sacrifice to take the form of Sin, a giant whale monster
that destroys attacks heavily populated areas to prevent them from advancing in technology.
The rest of the world, scared of the wrath of Sin, agreed to create a religion based
around Yevon that swore to reject industrialization, believing that this would keep Sin away.
So, let’s unpack that symbolism for a minute. The people of Final Fantasy X are worshipping
Yevon, a corrupt ruler who killed civilians, became the physical embodiment of SIN (really
subtle there), and then started destroying cities so that people would worship him. And
this religion based on lies actually holds back the technological progress of the world!
I think that sends a pretty clear message. And all that happens BEFORE the game even
starts. While you’re actually playing, you repeatedly see leaders of the church of Yevon
killing each other to rise through the ranks. Oh, and let’s not forget that the game’s recurring
antagonist is basically the pope, minus the funny hat but with an awesome set of hair.
And as one final nail in this cross of corruption, his goal is to end the cycle of death caused
by Sin by becoming Sin and killing everyone. The last time I saw logic that backwards,
I was talking to the Star Child at the end of Mass Effect 3. Needless to say, FFX might
not have the most favorable opinion of organized religion.
But maybe Final Fantasy X is just a one-off thing, right? I mean, what long-standing video
game franchise hasn’t had a storyline exploring the corruption of organized religion? Well,
Mario and Sonic at the cross-burning crusade aside, religious corruption is also the central
theme of Final Fantasy Tactics, where the Glabados Church has been using ancient legend
to fuel a war between two factions competing for the throne. This war is meant to distract
everyone from the Church’s main goal of resurrecting their savior St. Ajora. Ajora was a prophet
that predicted the coming of Paradise, a move that angered the church of Fara, the dominant
religion at the time. The Pharist priests then had Ajora declared a heretic and executed
at the Golgollada Gallows. Before we move on, can I just point out the Christ imagery
here? Jesus predicted the coming of Heaven, was declared a heretic by the Pharisees, and
was crucified at Calvary, also known as Golgotha. Coincidence? I think not. In the end, your
team kills the resurrected saint, your character goes down in history as a heretic of the church,
and anyone who tries to get the truth about the entire situation revealed gets burned
at the stake in order to keep the truth hidden. Need I say more?
But it’s not just organized religion that’s come under fire in these games. It’s the idea
of God himself. Take a look at the final battle from Final Fantasy VI. At this point in the
game, the main villain Kefka has destroyed the world as we knew it, reducing it to a
wasteland of ruin. He is now the source of all magic in the world and lives atop a high
tower where he casually kills survivors with his Light of Judgment. Then comes the final
battle, an epic four-part masterpiece loaded with religious imagery. The battle itself
actually follows the journey depicted in Dante’s Inferno, starting in Hell with a Devil-like
creature, then ascending to Purgatory, where, according to Christian teaching, souls are
kept while they atone for their worldly sins, finally rising to Heaven or Paradise where
Kefka descends from the Heavens, appearing in the form of an angel. Notice, though, that
Kefka hasn’t just become like a god. He has become the embodiment of God, specifically
the Christian God. For proof, check out the third round of the fight where the party fights
against “Lady” and “Rest,” two figures clearly inspired by Michaelangelo’s Pieta, which depicts
Jesus being held by his mother Mary immediately after his crucifixion. This connection is
made even more clear in the Japanese version, where “Lady” is actually named “Maria.” Even
the music backs this up as it is a take on Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, one of
the most famous organ pieces in music, and in church history. Kefka has incorporated
both souls waiting to be purified as well as Jesus and the Virgin Mary into his being,
and it is your job, as the player, to kill him.
And lest you think Final Fantasy is only against Christian religious structures and beliefs,
let’s go all the way back to the Gameboy, and Final Fantasy Legend, a game few people
have heard about and fewer have beaten due to its extreme difficulty. As the player,
you must climb to the top of the Tower of Paradise, only to be confronted with Ashura,
a deity appearing in both Hinduism and Buddhism. Remember the game Asura’s Wrath? There you
go! In Buddhism, the asuras are low-ranking demigods overly attached to emotions like
pride and wrath. They are usually depicted as having multiple faces with four to six
arms. Well will you look at that! At the top of the tower, he offers your party control
of one of the worlds you passed through on your journey. You refuse and kill him. In
an epic twist years before Aerith met the wrong end of Sephiroth’s sword, you fall through
a trap door and must climb the tower again, this time to confront the true villain and
mastermind, the CREATOR of everything, who devised the demon-filled Tower of Paradise
as a game to test humanity. As a reward for winning the game, your characters will be
granted one wish. Instead, the characters are angry at being manipulated and kill him,
only to return back down to earth, with the world’s god dead.
And this is only surface level stuff. There is so much more to explore, from Sephiroth’s
religious connections, in fact, the wealth of Norse beliefs throughout Final Fantasy
VII, the symbolism of using magic and pagan summon monsters to slay god-like villains,
the actual connections between FFX and the Christian/Gnostic debate. The list goes on,
and I’d be happy to cover them in future episodes if you let me know you want to see those things
covered, but for now I want to get to the question of why. Why would so many of these
games have you actively fighting against church conspiracies and god-figures? Well, luckily,
I’ve called in our resident culture expert to give us the lowdown. What say you Gaijin
Goomba? No. You’re not imaging things. There’s definitely
some truth behind this theory. Now, by all means, I don’t want anyone thinking that Japan
just hates religion. They don’t. First of all, to make a very long story short, in 1857
Shogun Hideyoshi outlawed Christianity. After all, how can you serve the emperor if you
put God first? Two and a half centuries later, Christianity was a massive minority in Japan.
But also keep in mind that Christianity fundamentally says that humans are sinful by nature. The
Holy Spirit is essential to go beyond that sinful nature. Most Eastern religions, like
Buddhism on the other hand, focus on bettering one’s self so you can transcend your own human
evils and enter into Nirvana. So, not only did Christianity not work on a political level
in Japan, its very nature defied centuries of religious belief. The other thing to keep
in mind is that while the Japanese claim to be of one religion or another, they often
practice a mixture. For example, many Japanese are born Shinto, meaning they go to Shinto
shrines to be blessed at young ages. When they marry, they have Christian weddings in
churches complete with preachers. And when they die, they go through Buddhist rites with
their remains staying at Buddhist temples and being over annually by monks and families.
So in a very real way, Japan is not against organized religion, they just interpret and
practice religion differently than the West. Thus, it can make sense to make organized
religion the “Bad Guys” because absolute focus in one religion isn’t common there. Back to
you, buddy! GG GG, GG.
So there you have it loyal theorists. With the help of our phallic-shaped friend, we
now know the how, and more importantly the why, of Final Fantasy being antireligious.
And, while many anti-gaming advocates may point to this saying it leads to the corruption
of gamers, we know the truth. Through FF’s plots, we learn just a little bit more about
new cultures. We’re educated simply by playing some of our favorite games, and who doesn’t
like to learn AND have fun at the same time? And that, loyal theorists, is why this show
exists. But hey, that’s just a theory. A Game Theory.
Thanks for watching.