Final Fantasy XIII’s Hope

Hope Final Fantasy XIIIThis past semester I’ve been super busy—I’m a full-time student with two jobs and an internship—and since I don’t have time for much of anything anymore, I decided it was a good idea to start procrastinating what I need to get done by replaying Final Fantasy XIII. I never really went into a full review for the game, though I did talk about its sequel a while back. To recap what I’ve already said, FFXIII doesn’t have the best storytelling. The plot itself is fine and rather compelling, but it wasn’t told in the best way. Additionally, the game is very linear until Chapter 11—you are quite literally on a single path that you cannot deviate from for the first ten hours or so of gameplay, and you are also incapable of returning to earlier parts of that path once you’ve moved on—which a lot of people didn’t like, including me.

However, one thing that I really think this game excelled at, and which helps me forgive a lot of its shortcomings, is the character development. There are still problems in this regard—I like Lightning, but she’s still just a carbon-copy of Cloud from FFVII—but for the most part, I really enjoyed the characterization here. One character that I was particularly pleased with is Hope.

Hope seems to garner mixed reactions among the fans. Sometimes, I also find myself on the fence about him. On the one hand, he is a whiny twelve-year-old boy who can’t take care of himself and needs to rely on the other characters for support, both physically and emotionally. On the other hand, I find that very realistic. He’s a twelve year-old boy who just watched his mother be horrifically killed and who is then hunted down by the military for something that isn’t his fault. The other main characters are all much older and experienced, and as such, they have a much easier time handling the situation.

ffxiii hopeBecause of this, in comparison to the other characters, Hope can come across as needy and self-centered. He also doesn’t think things through as well as the other characters, which, considering his age, I also find realistic. Unfortunately for Hope, realism doesn’t make him less annoying to some people, but it does for me. Yes, I will agree that twelve year olds, especially ones who have grown up in a more pampered environment, can be annoying, but I always found Hope’s story compelling.

When we look at Hope, his life before the start of the game, and his reactions to the tragedy going on around him during the game, I thought he ended up being one of the more interesting characters. In the first chapter, Hope witnesses the unfortunate demise of his mother, and he consequently blames another character, Snow, for her death. Snow himself isn’t the one truly responsible—that would be the Sanctum, the oppressive government—but Hope’s mother still followed Snow into the battlefield. Sadly, Hope, unable to handle what had happened, needed someone to blame. Hope loved his mother dearly, while having a more strained relationship with his father, and it was entirely natural that he would want revenge of some kind.

ffxiii hope and snowHis dislike of Snow makes sense. Snow is a face, a person, that he can latch all his hatred onto, while the Sanctum is made up of people—it is much more distant and far less personal to Hope. It doesn’t help that Snow, who spends the first part of the game unaware of Hope’s anguish, tells him things like, (paraphrasing) “fighting’s only stupid if you get killed”. I also found the confrontation between Hope and Snow regarding his mother very well done and emotional—Hope learns that Snow is not the one at fault, while Snow comes to realize that he needs to start taking more responsibility for his own actions.

Throughout most of the game up until this point, Hope is a fairly dependent character. He has to rely on the others to get by. Realizing his own inadequacies in this regard—his inability to be strong enough to handle the situation both physically and emotionally—he attempts to improve himself. This was another reason why I enjoyed his character. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that he needs help—he’s still a kid—and even when he gets tougher, he never really reaches a point where he is entirely independent from the other characters.

Additionally, through Hope’s inabilities, the other characters, especially Lightning, learn to be more compassionate and caring. Until she spends a good deal of time with Hope, Lightning views him as a burden, because he cannot keep up with her; because he doesn’t have awesome fighting skills like she does; because he’s “just a kid” and she’s “not a babysitter”. As they continue spending time together and start to care for each other, she stops seeing him as a burden. I think that this was a good message to send. Sometimes, some people just need help, and other people shouldn’t treat them like they’re a problem because of it. It’s not as though Hope is just on this journey for the hell of it, or that he doesn’t try to pull his own weight. He ends up being valuable to the team, not just dependent on that team.

ffxiii hope and noraThe only thing that I really dislike about Hope’s storyline and relationships is his mother, Nora. She essentially just exists to further Hope’s arc. In some ways, Nora doesn’t even seem like a real person. When we first meet her, and when we see her in flashbacks, she doesn’t have flaws or shortcomings. The only time she and Hope ever get close to having an argument is in a conversation about his dad. Nora is just the perfect mother figure who dies tragically to fuel her son’s quest for revenge. I still think Final Fantasy XIII did remarkably well with Hope’s character, but I would have preferred his motivation to not revolve around a dead mother shoved into a refrigerator.

In regards to Nora, I can’t say that I expected more from the Final Fantasy franchise. It’s had problems with female portrayal in the past. In this case, though I don’t like it, I’ll forgive it, if only because the other female characters are fleshed out and well-developed. It’s still a shame that this is how Hope’s story starts. Because we don’t know Nora all that well, it can be hard to relate to Hope’s desire for revenge. I also find, when talking to other people about this game, that it’s Hope’s anger at Snow over Nora’s death that they dislike the most. As such, I’ve been told that the game spends too much time on this issue. However, I believe the problem is not that Hope is too emotional about his mother’s death, but that the game doesn’t let us see more of their relationship beforehand. I kind of felt the need to bash my own head into a wall when someone first told me that Hope was being whiny and annoying because of his angst, as if a child who’s been through everything he has doesn’t have any right to complain.

The more times I play this game, the more compelling and relatable I find his character. I do wish that we had gotten to know Nora a little better, but I still found Hope’s characterization realistic and his reactions well-founded. As of currently, he’s one of my favorite video game characters out there, and I wish there were a few more like him.