Final Fantasy III

Dualism is a common theme in adventure and fantasy literature. It is often used by authors to quickly set up an uncomplicated dichotomy between two opposing forces. Most examples are merely some variation on good vs. evil. This classic pairing left to its own devices is often vague and unappealing. Characters that are “evil” are simply motivated by a destructive urge, and vie unendingly with “good” characters.

In many cases, this dichotomy is expanded slightly to give some motive to the opposing forces. Common examples are Heaven and Hell, the Force and the Dark Side, or Freedom and Oppression. New media formats like television, film, and video games make frequent use of this device. The Final Fantasy series has dualism built into its mythos. The series features both “white” and “black” magicks. While they are not necessarily good or evil, these powers are merely defensive or offensive.

A Classic Example

Like its parent series, Final Fantasy III has many dualistic elements built into it. The game speaks of an unending conflict between light and darkness. Though precariously close to being “good vs. evil,” this dichotomy is not so banal. The two forces are merely opposites, or reflections of one another. They are more like male and female than good and evil.

The game starts out with the world of light, which is under siege by the powers of darkness. At this early point in the game, it is easy to confuse light and darkness for good and evil. Soon the four main characters are revealed to be chosen ones selected by fate to fight off this incursion and restore balance to the world.

A Disturbance in the Force

Balance is a key element in this game. It is only when the balance between light and dark is disrupted that hostilities between the two factions arise. Eventually, it becomes known to the heroes that the world of darkness has four heroes of its own, and four crystals of power– the counterparts of those which exist in their world. These dark heroes tell of a great battle a thousand years ago, when the powers of light sought to overrun the darkness, and had to be placed in check. While a sense of balance is not alien to dualism, especially eastern varieties, it is unusual to see “light” portrayed in an aggressive way.

In the end, the cost of allowing darkness to overrun the light is not simply the end of light, but rather the end of all things. The heroes of darkness say that if one side or the other is destroyed, all is lost, as the two entities cannot exist exclusively. This compelling twist is in contrast to western ideas on dualism. In these largely Christian philosophies the destruction of evil would mean the coming of the kingdom of Heaven and is a singularly good thing. It is interesting to note, however, that in Christian mythology specifically this would coincide with Armageddon itself.

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