I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t the question: Is Kefka or Sephiroth the better bad guy? I love both Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy VII. They’re both two of my favorite games, but I’ve always been kind of irritated by what seemed to be a blind fanboy love of Sephiroth. Kefka was a madman! He poisoned a whole kingdom because HATRED is COOL! I’ve been joined by many other like minded people who hold Final Fantasy VI on a pedestal, where Kefka is the better character, and Sephiroth’s popularity is the product of bandwagon Final Fantasy fans that were only around because of Squaresoft’s incredibly aggressive marketing campaign.
With the remake of Final Fantasy VII announced at E3 this year, I figured now was as good a time as any to check out these two beloved… or hated characters. While I still love Final Fantasy VI more than Final Fantasy VII, I’m pretty sure that Sephiroth is the better character between himself and Kefka. There are a few differences between the two that really led me to this conclusion. We’ll start with the mad clown prince, Kefka.
When you first see Kefka in game, he’s putting a slave crown on Terra’s head. He takes joy in having his new slave, Terra, fry the Empire’s own soldiers with her abilities using a Megitek Armor Suit. Kefka is narcissistic, as evident by his superiority complex (he has soldiers dust off his boots), and is not above manipulation, torture, and murder to further his goal. Kefka seems to only want to obtain more and more power, giving him the ability to oppress people for personal pleasure. Kefka is the very definition of an evil psychopath. Every time he shows up, you know he’s going to do something incredibly evil, like poison an entire population, murder his allies, or burn villages at the slightest provocation.
Kefka is the archetypal evil madman. Unfortunately, we never see any real reason for Kefka’s behavior. He is essentially just being evil for evil’s sake, so there’s no motive other than wanting more power. Kefka never changes throughout the story, other than finding new and interesting ways to hurt people due to his growing power. This makes him a static character, or a character that does not go through any kind of character development or change throughout a story. Kefka gives you absolutely no reason to relate to him or empathize with him, you know, unless you are a genocidal madman. All of these flaws make it hard to really categorize Kefka as an interesting literary type character.
Sephiroth is first mentioned by Cloud and Tifa during a shared flashback sequence as a hero, someone to be emulated. Cloud wants to grow up to be just like him. Sephiroth is an admirable figure, when he is seen during Cloud’s big flashback after the party’s escape from Midgar, he’s not a bad guy. He’s a soldier who is doing his job. He’s cold and a bit aloof, sure, but he doesn’t come off as evil. You see him kind of unravel a bit when hometowns and parents are mentioned, and he laughs uncontrollably at the fact that Jenova was his “mother.” Sephiroth continues to show a cold, but dutiful, attitude until he finds out that Hojo has been creating monsters in the mountains of Nibelheim. He starts to believe that he is little more than a weapon created for Shinra. Sephiroth hides away in the basement of the Shinra Mansion and obsessively pours over books, trying to find out about his and Jenova’s origins. Finally, when Cloud checks on Sephiroth in the basement of the old building, Sephiroth declares that he’s a member of the ancient Cetra tribe and wants to seek revenge on humans for killing off his people. Sephiroth snaps and murders villagers and burns Nibelheim to the ground. This is the point where Sephiroth’s evil side is finally revealed.
Sephiroth isn’t just being evil for evil’s sake, like Kefka is. Sephiroth has a motive beyond wanting power. Sephiroth wants vengeance. He wants humans to pay for killing his people but he also changes during the story. The change happens relatively quickly within the game, but you see it. He isn’t just evil beginning to end like Kefka is. This makes Sephiroth a much more dynamic character than Kefka. Additionally, Sephiroth makes mistakes. He is completely mistaken about being a member of the Cetra. He was born of a normal woman, but experimented on by Hojo using Jenova’s alien cells while he was still in his mother’s womb. Sephiroth is also flawed, as well as multi-faceted and complex. He isn’t just an archetypal character like Kefka is.
After analyzing Final Fantasy VII recently, I can honestly say that Sephiroth is the more interesting literary character. The question that remains, though, is Sephiroth the better and more entertaining VILLAIN? Is he someone you love to hate? Someone you just want to lay the smack-down on as soon as possible? I think that’s largely up to opinion. Sephiroth may be the better character, but given the chance to punch either in the face, I’d definitely go with Kefka.
Kefka is irritating, he shows up and you just know he’s going to do something that’s going to irk you, or make you angry. Sephiroth shows up and does some dastardly things, but I always feel more determined to defeat him rather than going into full on angry gamer rage at his actions (I wasn’t that attached to whats-her-name… sorry!). Kefka also has more entertaining, and even darkly humorous dialogue. Sephiroth’s dialogue sometimes leaves you thinking instead.
So who is better between Kefka and Sephiroth? Well, if you’re going with a literary type analysis of characterization, Sephiroth is your man. He evolved during the events of the game, and has more motivation and backstory than the static villain, Kefka. Although if you are just looking for an entertaining bad guy that you want to beat the crap out of as soon as you can? I’m going with Kefka. I HATE that guy, and I love hating him.