Colette and Evaluating White Mages In Tales of Symphonia

A little more than a month ago, I brought to light my dislike for the white mage trope in RPGs and my wishes that such lazy tropes would be re-worked into more dynamic characters in the future. I still very much think this, but in writing said article I made myself consider the white mages that I had already come across in my gaming life. Unsurprisingly, the character that I automatically think of when considering this trope is not, in fact, Yuna from FFX, but Colette from Tales of Symphonia.

This is an obvious choice in my case because, while my brother certainly is a fan of the Final Fantasy series, I never really got into it until X-2 and honestly, I’m still not really into the series beyond that specific game. Instead, my first true foray into the JRPG scene, and probably the RPG scene as a whole, was Tales of Symphonia. Its story focuses on a religion that has been perverted to the point of sacrificing someone in waking up the goddess that will bring mana back to the world, and it just so happens to be Colette that has been chosen to—rather, has been bred to—become this sacrifice. However, most people aren’t aware that this ‘chosen’ will end up giving their life, and instead believe that they will become an angel. As such, it makes sense for Colette to carry the typical angelic-healer looks and personality: blonde hair, blue eyes, white clothes, and a sense of self-sacrifice that could make anyone around her feel ashamed.

Tales of Symphonia Colette Mystic ArteYet Colette isn’t the healer/white mage of the group. In fact, Colette gets no healing abilities and is actually more aggressive in her play style. The healer in Symphonia is Raine Sage, a somewhat bitter half-elf who has more fondness for ruins than for the people around her. I bring these two up not because Colette is exempt from the white mage trope due to her lack of healing skills (she’s still a “white mage” in terms of motivation), but because the game actively presents opportunities in which the audience can re-evaluate the inherent tropiness of having someone be a “white mage” in the first place.

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Esuna Rather Than Later: A Plea to End the “White Mage” and How Xillia Works at Dismantling the Trope

Recently I’ve been watching my brother run through another round of Final Fantasy X. Personally, I’ve never been very into the series (except for X-2, but I think I’m in the minority there). However, seeing as it’s hailed as one of the masterpieces of the franchise, I’m more than willing to watch my brother go from temple to temple gaining summon spirits (or “aeons”, I guess) until the final summoning. It’s all very interesting and Tidus isn’t nearly as annoying as I imagined him being, but as he continues fighting through Sin spawn and other various baddies one thought has been ringing through my mind: being a white mage sucks. Not only in Spira—in many Final Fantasy games it seems as though if you’re a practitioner of the healing white magic you’re stuck healing and only healing—unless you’re also a summoner (which only aids this trope, but I’m getting ahead of myself).

Most. Boring. Class. Ever. Except maybe Alchemist... (x)

Most. Boring. Class. Ever. Except maybe Alchemist… (x)

Of course, this isn’t anything new; these limitations of the white mage far extend outside of the world of Final Fantasy into other JRPGs. A white mage, in addition to replacing combat expertise with that sweet healing magic, is almost always a woman. A “pure”-seeming woman (aka virginal). Ace spoke about one of the outliers (who just so happens to be in another Final Fantasy game) in a previous article, but the trend at large still stands. Yet, in more recent titles, it seems as though developers have taken it upon themselves to finally twist this trope for the better.

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