Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Character Spotlight: Vincent Valetine

(Guest post by Rob)

The popularity of video game characters is a funny thing. Some fans get a kick out of trying to argue who is the best character in the party, why their favorite is stronger, more relevant to the plot, cooler than the others. I’m personally not one who can stick with any single character for long. It depends on the day who I’ll answer is my favorite.

Today I wrote about Vincent Valentine because, well, he is cool enough to be in the top three most days.

Vincent Valentine is one of the nine-member cast of playable characters from the original Final Fantasy VII video game, released in 1997 on the PlayStation. This game included two optional characters, Vincent Valentine being one. To recruit him, the player must complete a side quest involving hidden combination lock numbers, a bipolar boss, and a locked dungeon tomb. Despite the fact that one could complete an entire playthrough of FFVII without ever recruiting him, Vincent has become notable within the franchise as the only character from FFVII to be featured in his own release, a (rather poorly reviewed but nevertheless worthwhile) first-person shooter called Dirge of Cerberus

Like everybody else in the party, Vincent can divide his life into the time before, and after his life was ripped apart by Shinra Corp. The main quest of the game for a time revolves around stopping Shinra from destroying the entire planet. Vincent joins the team when it is revealed that the devious scientist, Hojo, is still running amok, along with the infamous Sephiroth.

Vincent is unique because long before his downfall he held a high rank as an agent of Shinra. Things went south when he was rejected by his love interest, Lucrecia, and the devious and extremely unethical scientist, Hojo shot and then experimented on him. Vincent recovers due to Lucrecia’s intervention. But when Vincent awakes, he discovers that not only has Hojo impregnated Lucrecia, but injected the fetus of their child with an experimental serum. 

When the player recruits Vincent, he awakes from thirty years of slumber beneath the Shinra mansion. He stayed in this sleep state intentionally (because, you know, fantasy game) as penance for not saving Lucrecia from her sorry fate. Incidentally, the player can find Lucrecia hiding in a crystal cave, and experience dialogue between the former lovers if you find her at the right time. Vincent, however, withholds the sad truth about Lucrecia’s child (and I’ll withhold the truth about the major spoilers here too).

The side effects of Vincent’s non-consensual lab testing result in him transforming into monsters during battle. It occurs as part of the mechanic FFVII terms ‘limit breaks’. Once Vincent receives a set amount of damage in battle, he shape-shifts into various different creatures who use overpowered attacks and are out of the player’s control until Vincent dies, or the battle ends. As an additional aside, Vincent is the source of two important glitches for both speedrunners, and other enthusiasts of FFVII, an overflow glitch, and what FFVII expert @deathunitesus calls the Vincent Muglitch.

At the core of Vincent's psyche is his fractured nature. He is both a man consumed with regret and a recovering lab test subject. Despite being an optional character, his actions and history are pivotal to the story of FFVII.

The primary theme in Vincent’s life is somewhat of a cautionary tale about holding on to past mistakes, or failures. The critics of Vincent are usually perplexed by his 30-year sleep in a tomb. The real-life effects of trauma, broken dreams, or dashed hopes can be devastating to the point that we can become a shell of our former selves. Forgiveness, it turns out, especially self forgiveness, can be so hard we literally spend years trying to avoid the past rather than facing it, and moving on. A counterpoint to this plotline can be found in the relationships of other characters in the main plot, when Tifa and Cloud work together to reconcile conflicting memories of the past that result in a dramatic healing that revives crippled-and-bedridden Cloud.

And despite the mixed reputation of Dirge of Cerberus, Vincent’s journey through that game provides yet another dramatic transformation, this time with Vincent as a one-man army preventing a fantastical apocalypse. And I would have to mention the very satisfying scene available to players if they include Vincent in their party at the final showdown with our favorite corrupt researcher, Hojo.

Like I said, I don’t name Vincent as my all-time favorite character from FFVII’s cast, but I can appreciate the rationale of fans who do. His mystery, broodiness, and numerous characteristics reminiscent of a vampire all mix together in a very memorable and fun way. It will be even more fun to see how he is treated in the approaching installments of FFVIIR, and other additions to the franchise. 

Thanks for having me on the blog, and feel free to shoot me a message if you ever want to geek out about FFVII, VIII, IX, or the Chrono series! Later!

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