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1. Terra Branford ('VI') vs. 16. Locke Cole ('VI')
Again, I swear these match-ups just happen. Besides, any sensibly rigged bracket would pit Locke against Celes. As mentioned with Zidane, Trance is among the best abilities to possess in this tournament. Terra’s Morph is no different. Espers have shown the ability to wreak havoc on VI’s world, making the game’s protagonist at least halfway cataclysmic. I don’t imagine the underpowered, heavily sentimental thief can do much against Terra in any form. Her abilities are initially mythical to other members of the cast, placing her a cut above most of her peers. When she’s not running away from her problems, that is. Terra wins this one against her teammate, overcoming little more than guilt.
8. Vivi Ornitier ('IX') vs. 9. Maria ('II')
Maria definitely wields an advantage in quickness over the adorable fan-favorite. Some clever utilization of the bow to supplement magic could work out in her favor. But this is ultimately a good old-fashioned mage battle, and Vivi’s magical proficiency is one of IX’s many focal points. The little guy’s ability to fire off powerful spells in rapid succession can overwhelm most mage opponents in this tournament, as is certainly the case against one of the series’ more primitive progression systems. I don’t imagine Vivi’s out for much blood in these fights, but he has more than enough power to win this one.
5. Ingus ('III') vs. 12. Tellah ('IV')
In the grand scheme of childish III characters, Ingus is the best suited to enter a tournament of FF champions. He’s a knight in his prime, as well as a leader of sorts within the party. Oddly enough, the youngster has a significant advantage in temperament over his elderly competitor. Tellah’s a bit…dotty, to say the least. His once-potent magic (I assume) has a tendency to come and go in a potentially useful, potentially useless fashion. In the grand scheme of dangerous mages, this one may pose a greater threat to himself and others. I’ve got Ingus for the decisive win here.
4. Sabin Figaro ('VI') vs. 13. Adelbert Steiner ('IX')
Remember when Guy’s thing was strength, but he wasn’t stronger than Auron? We’ve got a similar dynamic here as Steiner’s hard-hitting methods take on the hardest hitter in the game. Steiner, while most think more highly of him than I do, is somewhat bumbling in his knightly duties. He’s the definitively inferior protector of IX’s crown. He dedicates much of his anger and attention to the wrong things. And he’s most powerful alongside his little mage friend who’s too busy beating up Maria at the moment. Sabin’s blitz techniques offer a superior punch. I can’t promise I’ll only say this once, in fact I’m certain I won’t, but the guy suplexed a train. That hilariously legendary feat only scratches the surface of the younger Figaro’s power. Sabin was made for this tournament, and gets the win.
6. Vincent Valentine ('VII') vs. 11. Ashe B'Nargin Dalmasca ('XII')
As mentioned earlier, the XII cast doesn’t mess around. War and large-scale conflicts are all they know. That’s certainly a more formidable training than some family drama between scientists. She’s also among the more quietly vicious figures in Final Fantasy’s history. But Vincent wields the ever-important advantage of being genetically superhuman. His Chaos form ends this fight in an instant, as he’d be comparable to a XII boss fight that requires the entire party. In his standard form, he still edges out the competition and ends things before we see too much. Vincent wins with the fire of a thousand tragic backstories.
3. Squall Leonhart ('VIII') vs. 14. Rikku ('X')
I think I’d pay as much to watch this conversation as I would to watch this fight. What happens when an unstoppable conversational force meets an immovable conversational object? We may never know. But unless Rikku plans on irritating the lone wolf to death, I don’t imagine she’ll do much damage here. Without a party, Rikku only very occasionally does solid damage. And I don’t think all the materials in the world can outmatch such a versatile protagonist. Maybe she rigs the Gunblade? She sets it to blow up in Squall’s face for a minor inconvenience. Squall wins, and the merc without much of a mouth moves on to the next round.
7. Gladiolus Amicitia ('XV') vs. 10. Refia ('III')
Gladio is a beast, and has the pride necessary to take these tournament matches very personally. But the lack of magic proficiency in XV’s universe is practically crippling. The big guy wouldn’t even know what to do with himself upon seeing a proper black mage aimed in his direction. Refia is loosely considered a healer herself, a less than ideal role here. But III’s flexibility as a game does rectify any perceived gaps in the cast’s skillset. The only reason I say Gladio manages to squeak by in this one directly stems from his tenacity in battle. Gladio takes his failures very personally and is a fierce competitor. I don’t see his lack of versatility as enough of a glaring flaw to ruin this laughable mismatch in physicality. Gladio earns himself a narrow win.
2. Cecil Harvey ('IV') vs. 15. Cid Highwind ('VII')
This tournament has placed a great amount of stock in battle experience. With gameplay only providing the basics of character styles, Final Fantasy lore decides all else. So it’s safe to say the difference in relevant combat experience between these two characters is noteworthy. Cecil is an elite knight, world renowned in his abilities. Cid is a plucky pilot with a bizarrely endearing brand of verbal abuse. Cecil probably understands dragoons as well as one possibly can without actually playing the part, and he’s seen much more dangerous examples of the class than our man Cid. We’ll of course use Paladin Cecil for these fights, but it should be noted that either form grants Cecil an easy win.
Not one upset? Fair enough. I’ll attribute these results to the brilliant seeding committee instead of my lack of imagination. Next time, we’ll close out our first round and set the next stage for Final Fantasy March Madness.