The character designs of the old Final Fantasy games were a lot more ambitious than what could be recreated on a computer at the time. Final Fantasy VIII was the first game in the series to even begin to have detailed character models. The first six Final Fantasy games were restricted by old Nintendo hardware, which meant that every character was composed of a few pixels each. Final Fantasy VII took the series into the 3D realm for the first time, but the models still resembled the sprites of the 16-bit era.
There have been a lot of character designs for the heroes and villains of the Final Fantasy games that have been scrapped and abandoned. The numerous pieces of concept art and guide books that have been released over the years have helped us to take an intriguing glimpse at what the characters could have looked like.
We are here today to look at the people that almost starred in our favorite video games of all time. From Cloud's original connections to Zack, to the familiar looking male version of Terra Branford.
Here are 15 Final Fantasy Characters Who Almost Looked Completely Different!
15 Zack Was The Original Cloud
One of the main plot twists in Final Fantasy VII is the revelation that Cloud Strife isn't who he says he is. When Cloud and Tifa are dragged into the Lifestream, the truth of his identity is revealed. Cloud was not a member of SOLDIER, as he never made the cut. Instead, he became a Shinra infantry trooper. Cloud's memories had been tampered with, causing him to believe that he had lived the life of Zack Fair, who was an actual member of SOLDIER and a former friend of Cloud's. In many ways, Zack is the real hero that Cloud had been pretending to be, which became even more apparent in Crisis Core.
Zack's design is very similar to Cloud's, which is especially true in the primitive 3D world of Final Fantasy VII. The design of Zack was actually meant to be Cloud's as he was originally intended to have slicked back black hair. This was changed, in order to make Cloud stand out more visually as the main character of the game. When the concept of Cloud's identity problems was introduced to the story, then this original design was repurposed as Zack.
14 Exdeath The Centaur
Exdeath from Final Fantasy V might have the most peculiar final form in video game history. In his original body, Exdeath looks like a dude who is covered head to toe in armor. When he transforms for the first time, he turns into an evil tree that manages to stretch across the cosmos. His final form is called Neo Exdeath and it is... hard to describe. Neo Exdeath's body appears to be an amalgamation of all of the other bosses you have encountered in the second half of the game.
It seems that Neo Exdeath's original design was going to be a lot simpler. There are several pieces of concept art for Final Fantasy V that depict Exdeath as a centaur. The reason for this change is unknown, but it may have been that it was too simple for a Final Fantasy end boss. This might explain why the version of Neo Exdeath that made it into the game is so visually complex.
13 Cecil The Fighter
Cecil Harvey's journey through the world of Final Fantasy IV involves one of the biggest transitions in the whole series. He starts out as a Dark Knight, who drains his own life force in order to power his attacks. Once Cecil travels to Mount Ordeals, he must defeat his own dark side, in order to complete his transformation into a Paladin. He trades his black armor for silver and white, as he sheds the darkness in his own soul.
The Paladin design of Cecil was originally going to be different. According to the original artwork for the game, Cecil's Paladin form would resemble the Fighter job sprite from Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy III. This sprite was also similar to the one used by Firion in Final Fantasy II. Cecil would have worn red & white armor, which resembles the first warrior ever seen in a Final Fantasy game.
12 Fang Was Originally A Man
The Final Fantasy series hasn't had many gay or transgender characters. One of the concerns about the Final Fantasy VII Remake is whether it will faithfully recreate the Honey Bee Inn sequence from the original game, as some of its content may now be seen as offensive. This isn't to say that Square Enix have never included gay characters in any of their games. Bahamut Lagoon for the Super Nintendo featured a gay character, named Sendak, who was one of the protagonists. This game never left Japan, however, which means that Sendak's sexuality would likely have been censored if Bahamut Lagoon had come to the West.
It was highly implied in Final Fantasy XIII that two of the female party members were in a romantic relationship. This is the closest that the Final Fantasy series has gotten to including gay protagonists. Fang and Vanille have a physically intimate relationship that has suggested to many fans that they are lovers. The reason for this may be due to the fact that Fang was originally planned to be male but was changed into a woman at a later point in development. Fang's affection for Vanille might be a holdover from the original plans for both characters.
11 Unei The Beautiful
In Final Fantasy III, a large part of the story involves the three students of a wizard named Noah. One of these students is Xande, who is also one of the main antagonists of the game. The other two are Unei and Doga, who assist the player in defeating their old friend. Unei is an old woman, who was granted the ability to control dreams from her old master. You need to awaken Unei from a magical sleep, in order to acquire her help. She perishes before the end of the game, but her actions are instrumental in defeating Xande and the Cloud of Darkness.
Unei's design was originally going to be totally different. According to her concept art, Unei was going to be a beautiful young woman. This design didn't go totally unused, as it appeared in Yūkyū no Kaze Densetsu: Final Fantasy III Yori, which was a manga series that was based on Final Fantasy III. The manga has become infamous, due to the amount of gore, body horror, and nudity that it contains.
10 Locke's Look
Locke Cole is the 2nd character to join the party in Final Fantasy VI. He is a self-proclaimed "Treasure Hunter", who works as a spy for the Returners. Locke befriends Terra early on and he remains an important character throughout the first half of the game. Things turn sour for Locke in the World of Ruin when you discover the fact that the only reason he became an adventurer was to look for a way to revive his dead girlfriend, whose embalmed corpse he still keeps.
The original design of Locke was a lot older and more grizzled than the character that made it into the game. He was supposed to be more of a rival towards the other characters and had a mysterious past that he never discussed. A lot of these elements were moved over to Shadow, as Locke was made more relatable and approachable as a character.
9 The Weird Warriors Of Spira
Final Fantasy X changed a great deal over its development cycle. The original premise of the story was that everyone in the world died at the age of seventeen, due to an incurable disease. Yevon's church was dedicated to finding a way to stop the disease, with Yuna as a key member of the faith. While the full details of this story are unknown, it is possible that Yu Yevon uses the disease to keep himself immortal, similar to how he uses Sin in the final version of the game.
The cast of Final Fantasy X looked very different to their counterparts in the finished game. Tidus mostly resembles his later design, though even this was in doubt, as he had black hair at one point during the game's development. Yuna was going to have blue & white hair, which slightly resembles Seymour's look in the final game. Auron was going to have short blond hair and a massive pair of earrings. Khimari had green skin and red hair, like Blanka out of Street Fighter, and Lulu lacked her signature gothic Lolita outfit.
8 The Lost Dresspheres
The job system was a popular feature in the early Final Fantasy games. After taking a long break after Final Fantasy V, the job system returned in Final Fantasy X-2. It was now referred to as the dressphere system and it took a lot of inspiration from the costume transformations seen in shows like Sailor Moon. The main characters could change dressphere in the middle of battle, which would allow them to switch jobs at the beginning of their turn.
Final Fantasy X-2 included lots of dresspheres for the characters to find. There were some awesome concepts for dresspheres which never made it into the game, such as the Bridal Apprentice, the Matador, the Horror Movie Icon, the Pictomancer (which resembled Relm from Final Fantasy VI), the Cook, and the Mermaid. It's a shame that these interesting and awesome ideas were left on the cutting room floor. We also wonder how the Bridal Apprentice would have worked in battle? Would she scare monsters to death by showing them how much wedding flowers cost?
7 The Retcon Of Stella
Final Fantasy XV had one of the most troubled developments in video game history. It was originally announced in 2006 as Final Fantasy Versus XIII and was intended to have thematic links to Final Fantasy XIII. When XIII was poorly received, Versus XIII was put on the back burner. The game would eventually be revived as Final Fantasy XV and would see a release in November of 2016.
The designs of the cast of Final Fantasy Versus XIII would go through numerous changes before they made it into XV. One of the biggest changes between versions is the total revamp of the female lead. In Final Fantasy XV, Noctis goes on a road trip in order to meet Lady Lunafreya. In Versus XIII, he was supposed to meet a girl named Stella.
Stella Nox Fleuret was going to have a totally different role in the story than Lunafreya did. As such, the developers felt that an entirely new character should be created to fill the role. Lunafreya and Stella share some visual similarities, but we didn't get enough of a chance to know Stella in order to give a definitive answer on whether she had the same personality as her Final Fantasy XV counterpart.
6 Faris The Gambler
If there was ever a case of a Final Fantasy character being overdesigned, it's Faris from Final Fantasy V. The official character artwork for Faris has incredibly vibrant colors and elegantly designed clothing for her. Yoshitaka Amano has a clear affection for Faris, as he has drawn numerous pictures of her over the years. The problem with Faris is that she was appearing in a Super Nintendo game. All of the incredible design elements of Faris could not hope to be recreated on a 16-bit machine.
Faris' original design was a lot simpler. She started out as a gambler, named Eva Scherwil, who wore an elegant dress as her regular outfit. This character originally had no connection to Lenna and was not a pirate. Her design was overhauled, when her connections to the other party members were established. Faris's early design would later go on to inspire the creation of Setzer in Final Fantasy VI.
5 Basch The Knight
Basch fon Ronsenburg of Dalmasca was originally planned to be the protagonist of Final Fantasy XII. He got screwed out of this position, due to an attempt to appease the tastes of the Japanese people. The creators at Square Enix had determined that Japanese gamers prefer male leads who are more androgynous in appearance (like Link from The Legend of Zelda). As such, the annoyingly precocious Vaan was chosen to be the main character instead, despite the fact that he has almost no real involvement with the events of the story.
The original design of Basch (for when he was going to be the main character) was based on that of an English Knight. He was originally younger and had a haircut that kind of makes him look like a blond Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. Basch's original design is reminiscent of the characters from Vagrant Story and Tactics Ogre, which makes sense when you consider the creative team behind Final Fantasy XII.
4 The Bald Chocobo
The Chocobo is the most iconic creature in the Final Fantasy franchise. It is the Final Fantasy equivalent to Pikachu or the Slime from Dragon Quest. Chocobos have starred in their own spinoff games, which have ranged from racers to full on epic RPGs. There have also been Chocobo who have cameoed in other Square Enix games, such as Parasite Eve and Tobal 2.
If Yoshitaka Amano had gotten his way, then the Chocobo would have looked a lot different and likely wouldn't have been as popular. In Amano's original artwork for Final Fantasy III, he depicts the Chocobo as bald. We might have been treated to numerous Final Fantasy games where the main characters rode around on big pink chickens.
It wasn't just Amano who envisioned the Chocobo as bald, as they also appeared featherless in Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals.
3 Zidane The Dragoon
Final Fantasy IX was in development at the same time as X. While Final Fantasy X was primed to be the next evolution of the series, IX was going to be a tribute to the original games in the series. It almost never became an official Final Fantasy, as Squaresoft were worried that the fans who had been introduced to the series through Final Fantasy VII/VIII may not have been interested in a game with a fantasy setting.
During the initial stages of Final Fantasy IX's development, the game was planned to have two main characters. One had a design which clearly evolved into that of Zidane (the protagonist of the final version of the game). This character was going to be a Dragoon, who served Bahamut. The game was also going to feature a female lead, who bore no resemblance to Dagger. This character was a young black girl, who was also a Dragoon, who served Leviathan.
2 The Weird Weapons Of Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII went through numerous changes throughout its development. It was originally going to be a New York City detective drama before it moved to a fictional setting. The game was originally going to focus on Jenova, which was not an alien creature, but rather a part of human DNA which could be awakened in order to grant supernatural powers to its user. There would have been a powerful cult of Jenova, which was led by Edea from Final Fantasy VIII. Some of these ideas would later be reworked into Parasite Eve for the PlayStation.
When Final Fantasy VII was first being developed, two of its characters would be shown wielding unusual weapons. Barret Wallace was one of the original three characters designed for Final Fantasy VII (along with Cloud and Aerith). In his original design, Barret was shown to be wielding an automatic rifle, along with his regular gun arm. This kind of seems like overkill, which might be why he lost a gun in the final version of the game.
Vincent Valentine was shown to be wielding a scythe in his early concept art. This is linked to the fact that he was originally going to be a "Horror-Researcher" (that was his actual job), which might explain some of the forms he transforms into when he uses his limit break attack.
1 Terra Almost Looked Like Squall
Terra Branford was the first female protagonist of the Final Fantasy series. She has remained popular with her creators, as Yoshitaka Amano has created more artwork of her than any other Final Fantasy character. Terra still shows up in the Final Fantasy crossover games from time to time, as the representative of Final Fantasy VI.
When Final Fantasy VI was first being developed, it was originally going to feature a male protagonist. This design was quickly abandoned, in favor of a female lead character. The fans had assumed that nothing remained of the original male design of Terra.
In 2013, Aki Takashi (a scenario writer for the Final Fantasy series) posted some of Tetsuya Nomura's original artwork that he had found in his house on Twitter. One of the drawings includes the first picture of the cast of Final Fantasy VI, which shows an image of the male version of Terra. The most surprising thing about this character is that he looks just like Squall Leonhart, who is the protagonist of Final Fantasy VIII. It seems that Nomura was fond of his original Terra design and saved it for a later game, in which he had more creative control over the project.