Since the Final Fantasy series has been around for longer than most of us have been alive and will probably still be chugging along until the sun goes supernova, there's a lot of great stuff to be found within its many and diverse tales. Scenes of wonder and majesty, stories of romance and heroism, and sometimes there's just a big purple octopus who wants to cause havoc tossed into the mix, because when you have a series currently on its fifteenth entry (not including spin-offs, sequels and all the other media), you have to let off steam somehow.
There's also a lot of trash. Whether it's mixed in among great and iconic scenes or just sheer facepalm material, FF has given us a lot of cringe over the years, sometimes crammed into a single, ill-thought-out game. With XV on the horizon, here are 15 Cringe-Inducing Moments Through Final Fantasy History.
15 X- Tidus and Yuna Have a Laugh
James Arnold Taylor caught a lot of flak for his performance as Tidus in FFX, with many a gamer turned off by the constant whining and inexperience. Check out Dissidia if you want a progress update on the latter (it’s much better), but there’s no denying that Tidus- at least at first- is right up there with Vaan on the list of protagonists you want to punch in the face.
Infamous in a series full of narm and cheese is a scene that takes place on the tail end of the party’s time in Luca. Tidus isn’t quite his chirpy, grating self, and Yuna shares with him the secret of always staying positive: laughter. Even when you don’t want to. Even when you have to force it.
And boy, is it forced. Of course, the scene was always meant to be copious amounts of terrible, and it’s not like the voice actors were going for natural. The rest of the cast even respond with appropriate bemusement at Tidus and Yuna cackling into the void, but somehow, all of this doesn’t make the scene much easier to watch. It’s less ‘laughter’ and more like they’re both being repeatedly stung by wasps. Go ahead and imagine that scenario if it makes this any easier to bear. Somehow, we don’t get the impression that James Arnold Taylor added this to his highlight reel…
14 VII - What Happened at the Honeybee Inn
FFVII has taken its place at the top of the pile, being the first to make major waves outside of Japan and forever causing furious FFVI fans to clench their fists as they see everyone fawning over the wrong game.
It might have started a massive saga culminating in a full-remake, but VII is seriously crammed with bizarre moments that might just be due for an update, if they’re not sliced out entirely. For example, here’s a scene we’re waiting to see reproduced with glorious Ps4 technology: the Honeybee Inn. Cloud and gang have to infiltrate Don Corneo’s mansion, with the problem being that only a pretty girl has a chance of getting inside. Cloud utilizes his SOLDIER training and expertise to… scurry around the slums, collecting items such as ladies’ underwear, a tiara and a pretty purple frock. This involves a disturbing set of events at the Honeybee Inn that cannot be properly described on a family-friendly website.
The end result: Cloud cross-dresses, aided in no small part by his intense quantities of bishie, and passes for a girl. Even worse, if you did all the side missions correctly then he’s specially chosen by Don Corneo, who takes him to the bedroom and engages him in… well, bedroom talk. Luckily for the hordes of players who had to experience all this, that’s where it stops.
And yet, it still leaves us with the question of why Cloud felt the need to wear ladies’ underwear in the first place. Y’know, since the rest of him was covered by a pretty dress.
13 VII - Palmer and Scarlet Leap into Battle
Not to rag on FFVII, but there’s enough material in there to make a list by itself. Here’s two in one go, coincidentally both involving high-level Shinra employees.
For reasons known only to the developers, while the party is in Rocket Town they get into a boss fight with Shinra’s head of Space Exploration, Palmer. That is, the immensely overweight and grossly incompetent man in a suit who thinks he can take on a party of around eight people including a mercenary with a sword that defies weight physics, a savage red wolf-dog, a martial arts master and a man with a Gatling gun for an arm.
To no one’s surprise, the entire fight involves Palmer shooting at you with a pithy little pistol while pausing every few moves to smack his overly-large behind in defiance. The fight ends in the only way that would’ve felt rewarding: Palmer tries to run away and gets hit by a truck.
Later on we have Scarlet, the cartoonishly-evil Shinra executive who has Tifa cornered at the end of the Mako Cannon, with only a sheer drop below. Tifa immediately engages her mastery of bare-fisted fighting to…no, hang on. The two of them get into a slap fight. And you have the press the button to make the slaps happen. Someone programmed this into the game, and we’d really like to know what they were thinking.
12 XII - I'm Captain Basch!
Vaan sits right at the bottom of the pile when it comes to Final Fantasy protagonists, mostly because it’s almost like they were trying to make him utterly unlikable. Others may have their flaws, but Vaan was made of them: a poor character design that made him look oddly-inhuman, an abysmal voice performance and a lack of any sort of relevance to the story. There’s no reason he should be part of the story; he and Penelo are just there. Because reasons.
Vaan’s shining moment comes on the Sky City of Bhujerba, as the party are looking for a way to meet with the town’s head honcho. Always (never) the brains of the group, Vaan comes up with a daring plan: run around the streets, proclaiming himself to be a really important guy who’s supposed to be dead: Basch.
So that’s what you do as the player, guiding Vaan around the streets on a bizarre quest to yell in the faces of as many people as possible and stir up dissent.
“I’M CAPTAIN BASCH! DON’T LISTEN TO ONDORE’S LIES! I’M THE BASCH FON RONSENBURG!”
There are specific targets to yell at- the tour guides, who are all apparently secret agents- but spew your rhetoric in the wrong crowd and you get a humiliating on-screen message: ‘No one heeds your words’. So just like most of the things Vaan says over the course of the game.
11 X-2 - Leblanc's Massage
Some people were completely put off by the premise of X-2, which admittedly seemed like an exercise on cringe. Three scantily-clad girls travel all around the world, playing mini-games, giggling at everything and changing clothes constantly in the midst of battle. There was a serious story buried underneath all of that, and the game itself wasn’t too shabby if you decided to give it a go. Besides, most people never even found the multiple scenes involving the hot springs. That’s probably for the best.
But still, there was cringe by the boatload. One mini-game (why is it always the mini-games?) had the trio infiltrating the lair of the Leblanc Syndicate, with a disguised and panicking Yuna drafted into giving the head lady herself a massage. The game has you pressing buttons to give maximum pleasure, with wrong button presses producing painful results. Get it right? Leblanc makes noises. Really, really disturbing noises. The main goal is to make the massage as enjoyable as possible, but the moans of exaggerated bliss are enough to make you mash the controller just to make the whole thing go faster.
Fortunately you later get to take on the Syndicate leaders in boss fight, where you can unleash a whirlwind of pain on Leblanc as payback for what she just made you do.
10 Lightning Returns - All Those Ridiculous Garbs
Speaking of playing dress-up…Lightning Returns. Not a bad game, plus the ending is so complete and heart-warming that it makes the entire trilogy worth it. Still, the whole thing reeked of missteps: making sequels where no sequels were due, pushing a main character that everyone was tired of and redoing the battle system to turn Lightning into basically Monster-Slayer Barbie.
Once again you can change garbs in the middle of a fight to give yourself a tactical advantage, all story connections to such a power be damned. You can also add accessories to make the Lightning you really want, and since a huge majority of the game’s cutscenes are in-game and not pre-rendered, that means that Lightning will always appear with what you’ve given her to wear.
Thrill as Lightning has serious heart-to-heart conversations with her former allies, all the whole wearing a hat shaped like a Chocobo and a tiny bikini. Watch in awe as the savior of the human race takes on a massive behemoth whilst decked out in a cocktail dress and an afro. Bear witness to Lightning fighting the god of all creation for the sake of the universe, with an actual pumpkin on her head.
You can come up with some immensely fun combinations, but there’s also so much potential to smash the drama of the game into a thousand hilarious pieces.
9 Dissidia - Cloud and Sephiroth Shippers Rejoice
The rivalry of Cloud and Sephiroth has reached memetic levels, to the point where no one seems to remember that it wasn’t all that strong in the original game. In fact, the two didn’t even have that much to do with each other on a personal level, particularly after it’s revealed that most of Cloud’s past interactions with the guy were actually those of Zack Fair.
That doesn’t stop Dissidia from pushing the tension between the two for no good reason, to the point where they act exactly like a pair of jealous lovers every time they meet and it’s like the developers absolutely knew and were encouraging it. In case you didn’t catch it the first time, Sephiroth just loves seeing Cloud, every time. The bond they share really is something special, all those lingering gazes broken only by the intense bishie sparkles produced by the two of them being in the same room. At least, until Cloud states that he’s not interested. Cue Sephy responding with a heartbroken look of sheer disappointment, mirroring the shattered hopes of shippers everywhere.
The game even tosses Firion into the mix to create some kind of weird, invisible love triangle. The fact that Firion is prone to pulling out his sparkly rose and sharing his feelings with all his closest friends really muddies the waters, especially when Sephiroth steals the aforementioned sparkly rose and presents it to Cloud. Guys, you can either get to hitting each other with your massive swords or start kissing. Pick one, we don’t have all day.
8 V- Exdeath Battles a Turtle
Exdeath stands out among FF antagonists, not because of his complex motivations or characterization, but because he’s just incredibly over the top. There’s barely a speck of motivation behind anything he does, with a villainous plan that equates to ‘make the world go away’, but he’s so deliciously hammy that he still stands out regardless. There was also that one time when he had a full-on DBZ fight with a turtle, preceded by the now-infamous line of “Turtle!”. Kind of an appropriate thing to say when a giant turtle stands in your way, to be fair.
Not that the context matters all that much, but the showdown happens while the party is visiting Ghido the Turtle sage. Exdeath makes a grand and unexpected entrance, trounces the party in battle but is stopped from finishing them off when the ancient turtle sage jumps into the fray. Stating that he hasn’t spent the last seven centuries “munching on pizza!”, the sage and Exdeath engage in a pitched battle using all the technical wizardly the Super Famicom could provide. So basically, they teleport around the screen while bouncing off each other, like we’re watching Goku vs Frieza all over again. It’s not exactly what you’d expect from a turtle whose concept art makes him look about seven minutes away from dying of old age, but that’s Final Fantasy. Full of surprises, and also actual ninja turtles.
7 II - Guy Speaks Beaver
FFII is an example of the fledgling series still taking some baby steps into the big, wide world of RPGs, and also the first game of the series to have actual characters. Well…just about. Our four heroes are pretty threadbare when it comes to actual characterization: Firion is a blank slate leading man, Maria is ‘the girl’, Leon is absent for most of the game and Guy is just sort of…there.
As the strong, silent type, Guy barely gets a word in edgeways and can hardly string a sentence together anyway. His single shining moment over the course of the game is where he reveals an amazing talent: he speaks beaver. The party are on the hunt for the latest plot MacGuffin- this time it’s the Goddess Bell- and are wandering around in a cave, getting no closer to their goal. Well, thanks be to goodness there’s a cluster of beavers over there in that corner, because they just so happen to know where the Goddess Bell is. Such insightful beavers. Guy goes over and has a chat with them while the rest of the party silently berate themselves for forgetting that he was tagging along, and then they’re on road again with nary a mention of what the heck just happened.
The novelization reveals that Guy was raised by monsters, and can thus speak their language. Too bad it never comes into play for the rest of the game, ever.
6 VIII - Laguna Tries Romance, Gets Cramps
FFVIII toned down the cringe of its predecessor, giving us a more coherent plot, more realistic character models and a protagonist who desperately just need to chug a bottle of Prozac and watch a few kitten videos. To counterbalance Squall’s early-game brooding, the party is periodically plunged into dream sequences where they take the roles of three soldiers from another nation: Laguna, Kiros and Ward and their utterly badass battle theme.
Laguna is the leader of the merry, ragtag band, but it quickly becomes clear that he’s not exactly the brains as he fumbles his way through map-reading, social interaction and romance. The first dream sequence has you taking control of Laguna as he tries to approach a beautiful pianist with whom he’s completely smitten. This little mission quickly goes south as the guy cramps up mid-stride, forcing you to awkwardly limp back to your seat in front of the entire bar.
If you manage to get your head out of your hands after that, Julia will (somehow) invite Laguna to her room, where he continues to demonstrate why he should never be allowed near the opposite sex as he flusters and practically dashes for the door any time she suggests something vaguely tender. They eventually manage to strike a chord and dredge up some semblance of a conversation before he’s called away…but as we see from Dissidia, old habits die hard. Lady killer indeed.
5 IX - Kuja, All the Time
If you thought Sephiroth was Final Fantasy’s prime feminine, silver-haired antagonist…well, he’s several rungs down that ladder. You may not have met Ultimecia, or Yunalesca. And towering above them all is Kuja, the thong-wearing emperor of megaton explosions with a dramatic streak several miles wide. The whole thing culminates in a package that makes you cast a suspicious glance at Tetsuya Nomura’s character design, if only because it saves you having to feel uncomfortable looking at Kuja’s inexplicable codpiece. What’s the chest armour even for if his midriff and legs are completely exposed? Did he hurriedly get dressed in the dark that morning and is kept too busy by the events of the game to glance in a mirror?
His entire appearance generates enough cringe as it is, with the oddly-shaped sprites in FFIX not exactly helping matters. A good number of players mistook Kuja for a lady the first time around, and with his giggling flourishes it’s not hard to see why. Things are truly amped up during his appearance in Dissidia, where he’s given a crooning voice actor and every line is punctuated by some kind of theatre allusion. Once Zidane joins in their little metaphor battle their rivalry starts to seem more like a couple of backstage prima-donnas trying to outdo each other.
And then there’s Kuja in-game. Try playing him for a single battle and not getting tilted by hearing “Well now! Well now! Well now!” every single time you dodge.
4 Crisis Core - Genesis, All the Time
Did somebody say drama?
Once upon a time, there was a Japanese visual kei singer going through a phase that made him dress like a JRPG character. A certain game designer wasn’t about to let that visual splendour go to waste, and so Gackt became a full-fledged character in one of the most famous video game series in the world. That’s how we got Genesis, who possibly takes the cake for THE Final Fantasy character who just cannot shut up.
Bear in mind that Genesis exists in the same universe as (and sometimes even shares scenes with) Sephiroth, who by that point had long cornered the market on long-coat-wearing, big-sword-wielding, one-wing-having bad guys who want to wreck everyone’s day. Sephy just manages to get the job done without quoting mushy teen poetry. Nary a scene will go by without Genesis quoting a choice line or seven from Loveless, an in-universe play that’s apparently supposed to explain the guy’s character and all his villainous motivation, because the plot of Crisis Core wasn’t confusing enough.
Genesis was essentially a wild shot at a second Sephiroth that fell far short, since the two of them shared a game and it doesn’t take a genius to see how that was going to pan out.
3 VI - The Barking Opera
The opera scene from FFVI is fondly remembered by fans, and for a good reason. It’s an iconic piece of storytelling accompanied by an amusing minigame, plus you can now listen to the opera recreated with a full orchestra (and it’s awesome).
That is, as opposed to when it was given to us with all the sound quality that typically accompanied 8-bit graphics. It doesn’t even come close to ruining the scene, but it’s a tad cringey nonetheless as you mash a button to make Celeste sing her lines and what comes out of her mouth is a muted “owf! owf! owf!” noise, as if she were literally barking the notes like an angry Chihuahua.
And then this super-serious emotional opera is interrupted by a lecherous purple octopus dropping from the ceiling and trying his hardest to ruin everyone’s day. The entire thing is such a catastrophe that you can’t help but feel the burn of second-hand cringe as you wonder what it’d be like sitting in the audience watching this happen. It all comes together in the end, however (the battle with Ultros is seamlessly woven into the tale, sort of), culminating in a scene that’s right up there with the greatest moments of the franchise.
2 X-2 - Al Bhed Family Relations
We’re back to X-2, because just one entry wasn’t enough for what goes on in this game. Freed from the threat of Sin, the people of Spira are free to get back to their various interests without fear of being spontaneously wiped out: using machines, building cities and hitting on their attractive cousins.
Yeah, that happens. Brother, the Al Bhed pilot of the Celsius, is Yuna’s cousin and a source of a lot of the comic relief. This often comes in the form of him using all his wiles and charm (which equates to not much of either) to woo Yuna. Who, as we’ve mentioned, is his cousin. Maybe things are different over there in Spira, but we doubt that kind of thing is really encouraged.
It could just be an Al Bhed thing, because later in the game we get Rikku- also Yuna’s cousin- making a few choice, intimate remarks about Yuna’s appearance. One part of her specifically. This one was more than likely thrown in for fanservice, sort of like most of the character designs, 90% of the garment grid and practically the entire game…but seriously, cousins hitting on each other? So many eligible bachelors hankering after the famous High Summoner Yuna and a dead-ish love interest who comes back after the credits (spoilers!), and this is the extent of X-2’S romance.
1 IV - Cid is Vaporized...and Bedridden
Final Fantasy doesn’t exactly have the worst reputation when it comes to dead characters staying dead. Generally if someone kicks the bucket on-screen, that’s it for them. Feel free to list literally every exception to this in the comments, but every game has its prominent deaths and they’re mostly permanent.
That is, except the resident Cid of FFIV, who like most Cids is an engineer who provides the party with an airship to fly around the world and have adventures and stop bad guys and so forth. Also like most Cids, this version is older than most of the party, cantankerous, proud and really a softie underneath who’d do anything for his crew. This extends to securing the party’s escape from the Underworld by sealing the entrance with a massive bomb, with himself at the epicentre. Naturally, this leaves him…sick and bedridden. Alright then!
His sprite quite literally dissolves on-screen as he’s caught in the blast, but Cid must’ve been wearing his explosion-proof vest that day as he later show up with no explanation besides ‘stuff it, megaton explosions aren’t that bad’.
Given that later games just love to hammer in the certainty of death, we’re guessing this one was a storytelling fumble.
Any more cringe-inducing moments we missed? Let us know in the comments!