Final Fantasy VI and Suicide
“Those others who were here… when they were feeling down they’d take a leap of faith from the cliffs up north… perked ’em right up!”
Suicide comedy in a videogame for children in 1994.
(Content warning about suicide)
Final Fantasy VI (Final Fantasy III in the United States until it started to be re-released) is one of the most important games of my life. I’ve written in the past of its importance for me, calling it my Star Wars. I wanted to write more about it back then but I didn’t. But all of the things I wanted to write are always in my mind. Kind of like this. It comes up because we’re pretty close to the time that seasonal affective disorder gets me.
A little bit of background for those who never played. You play as a rag tag group of rebels fighting against an evil empire trying to collect crystals known as Magicite. This magicite is actually the dead remains of magical beings who live just outside your world. They think, they breathe, they love, they hate. Just like you. But you can take their essence after death and cast magic spells with it.
So in this fight against the Empire, the Emperor is the big villain. And then he isn’t because his right hand, the psychotic Kefka murders him in a power grab. And in murdering him, he takes over the world. He takes statues that keep the world together, goddess statues, and takes control of them. With that, he wins the game. The world goes from balance to ruin. You watch the planet break and crumble. You watch non playable characters fall to their death. You watch the world on fire. The fire you couldn’t stop.
Eventually the black fades back on the world. The sky is scorched. The water poisoned.
Celes, a former soldier for the Empire, wakes up in a bed watched by Cid, another former member of the Empire. She’s been out cold for years and finally waking up. They are on a solitary island, and the last ones alive. Cid has been doing his best, but he’s sick. As Celes gets better, she can run to the beach to get him fish. It’s a little minigame which if you know what you’re doing isn’t difficult. But the first time you play, you likely lose the minigame. And honestly, it’s best to lose the minigame. If you win, Cid lives. And stays on the island forever. You eventually come in control of an airship that can fly anywhere at any time but Cid just stays on the stupid island. It’s an unsatisfying ending, even if someone lives. If you lose, Cid dies. Celes cries in despair. That’s when she goes to the cliffs up north.
“Perked ’em right up!”
You just watched the world get destroyed and Kefka win. You woke up from a coma only to have your last companion from your past die because you couldn’t feed him fish fast enough. You’re a failure. You lost. Why are you still playing a game you lost? Celes goes to the top of the cliff and thinks about how everyone is gone. Everyone. Including Locke, who once promised he would protect her. Losing hope, Celes jumps off the cliff. The screen goes black and she slowly falls to her death.
Except she doesn’t.
She hits the beach, where a seagull with a curious bandanna pecks at her face. Celes wakes up, and recognizes the bandanna. That was Locke’s. The bird flies away but gives Celes the hope she needed. She finds a raft that Cid built for her to one day leave the island (you get it if he lives as well) and she leaves the island to go and find her Locke and everyone else.
There is a lot to unpack here. I get that.
But this scene isn’t just an incredibly mature scene in a children’s videogame. It’s why I’ve never become so depressed I wanted to die. No matter how hard things I got I had hope. Celes made a mistake in jumping off at that cliff. Close by was a seagull with the sign to keep going, and in the basement was a raft to leave the solitary island and find her friends. She almost lost it all because she wasn’t willing to continue. Here was a videogame saying the end isn’t when someone wins and someone loses. There’s still more to go. The world is over, but there’s still a world worth fighting for.
I believe that in life too. No matter how bad things get. No matter how many friends you lose. No matter how lost you get. No matter how far love gets. No matter who wins the battles. No matter how much the world is dead. There’s still something worth fighting for. There’s still days ahead. There’s still friends to make. There’s still old friends to connect with. There’s still a way to be found. There’s still a way to get love close. There’s still a war to win. There’s still a world living.
Maybe that’s a bunch of words to you that you’ve read on an inspirational poster. I get it. But for me, I played through someone dealing with that when I was nine years old. And it’s an experience that’s held with me since then. It shaped how I thought about depression and how far it could go for me, even if that’s not something you can really control.
She rode the raft. She found her friends, all struggling with their own issues. Locke lost his friends and in losing his friends, chased the hope of reviving his dead girlfriend from years back. And he gets that ability, and she wakes up to tell him to move on. Terra tries to stop fighting to become a mother, only to realize that if you stop fighting, there won’t be any children left. Strago joins a cult and it takes his daughter to push him out. And so on. Everyone comes together, and they come together to stop Kefka. The world is saved, the skies turn blue, and the water as well.
I got to see when I was a kid. So no matter how hard it gets for me, I think about Celes. And how she could have saved herself a leap.