|Final Fantasy character|
Squall Leonhart artwork from Final Fantasy VIII
|First game||Final Fantasy VIII (1999)|
|Created by||Kazushige Nojima|
|Designed by||Tetsuya Nomura|
|Voiced by (English)||David Boreanaz (Kingdom Hearts)
Doug Erholtz (other appearances)
|Voiced by (Japanese)||Hideo Ishikawa|
|Limit Break||Renzokuken (連続剣?)|
Squall Leonhart (スコール・レオンハート Sukōru Reonhāto?) is a fictional character and the primary protagonist of Final Fantasy VIII, a role-playing video game by Square (now Square Enix). He was designed by Tetsuya Nomura, with heavy influences coming from game director Yoshinori Kitase. Squall has appeared in several other games, such as the Kingdom Hearts series, where he appears under the name Leon (レオン Reon?); Chocobo Racing; and Itadaki Street Special. His weapon, the gunblade, also appears in other works.
In Final Fantasy VIII, Squall is a 17-year old student at Balamb Garden, a prestigious military academy for elite mercenaries known as "SeeDs". As the story progresses, Squall befriends Quistis Trepe, Zell Dincht, Selphie Tilmitt and Irvine Kinneas, and falls in love with Rinoa Heartilly. These relationships, combined with developments in the game's plot, gradually turn him from a loner to an open and caring person.
Squall amassed varied reactions from critics with some ranking him poorly among other Final Fantasy heroes due to his coldness and angst, whilst others praised his character development and rated him highly among others from the franchise.
Development and appearance
The first character Nomura designed for Final Fantasy VIII, Squall was inspired by actor River Phoenix, though Nomura noted "nobody understood it". Squall is 177 cm (5 ft 10 in) tall, and was initially given longer hair and a more feminine appearance. Due to game director Yoshinori Kitase's objections, Nomura modified the design to be more masculine. Nomura added the scar across Squall's brow and bridge of his nose in a spur of the moment manner, intended to make the character more recognizable and left it up to scenario writer Kazushige Nojima to describe its origin. Squall's design was complemented by a fur lining along the collar of his jacket, which Nomura included as a challenge for the game's full motion video designers. With Final Fantasy VIII, scenario writer Kazushige Nojima worked to give players actual insight into what Squall was thinking; a direct contrast with his handling of Final Fantasy VII, which encouraged the player to speculate.
While developing Squall's weapon, the "gunblade", Nomura wanted to include silver accessories, and created it with this in mind. The gunblade is a sword that uses components of a revolver, sending vibrations through the blade when triggered. This manifests in additional damage being dealt if the player presses the R1 trigger on the controller as Squall strikes an enemy. This weapon was intended to offer a new way for players to control weapons in battle. When looking back at the game, Nomura noted he feels that the weapon has an odd appearance.
Final Fantasy VIII
At the beginning of Final Fantasy VIII, Squall is known as a "lone wolf" by his peers because he never shows his feelings and even comes off as cold to his allies. His superiors, such as his teacher, Quistis Trepe, consider him difficult to deal with but greatly respect his natural talents. He is also known to be stoic in many situations. His taciturn attitude is also used for comic relief. In the cutscene where he first meets Rinoa, she coerces him into dancing with her at the SeeD graduation ball. He awkwardly bumps into other party-goers while staring constantly at his feet with a look of confusion. Rinoa, however, perseveres in partnering him, and Squall eventually reveals that he is quite capable of dancing, as it is a mandatory aspect of his training.
Squall is unwillingly dragged into the role of the hero when Cid, headmaster of Balamb Garden, appoints him as leader of the academy midway through the game. During a late battle against Galbadia Garden, Squall demonstrates some leadership difficulties, which are tied to his lingering isolationism. Likewise, other characters make efforts to pull him out of his isolation and Rinoa expends a lot of energy to pursue a relationship with him. It takes considerable time for him to accept the others' offered friendship and fall in love with Rinoa and care for her. As time progresses, he grows more comfortable with the leadership role, especially when it comes time to defeat Ultimecia, the antagonist.
Throughout the game, he has a distinct rivalry with Seifer Almasy. The opening sequence depicts the duel in which Squall obtains his characteristic facial scar (and subsequently gives a mirrored one to Seifer) and scenes in which Squall and Seifer are supposed to be cooperating are characterized by squabbles between the two cadets. Later, Seifer allies himself with the Sorceress, requiring Squall to battle him several times. Nevertheless, despite their conflict, Squall still feels an underlying camaraderie for Seifer.
According to flashbacks in the game, Squall grew up in an orphanage, along with the other playable characters with the exception of Rinoa. There are strong indications in the game that Laguna Loire is Squall's father. Toward the end of the game, aboard the Ragnarok, Kiros and Ward comment on Squall's resemblance to his mother and his dissimilarity to his father; Nomura designed Squall to intentionally contrast with Laguna. The orphanage's children were looked after by Edea. Though he remembers little of this past, it causes him to develop into an emotionally detached, highly cynical and introverted boy; his original goal is to go through life without any emotional links or dependencies. However, Squall gradually warms as the game progresses, and it is later revealed that his deliberate detachment from his companions is a defensive mechanism to protect himself from emotional pain, like he experienced when his older sister figure at the orphanage, one of the sole emotional supports in his early life, was forcibly separated from him.
Upon defeating Ultimecia, as his comrades are pulled back from time compression into their own respective places in the timeline, Squall takes a detour back to the orphanage, where he encounters a younger Edea. Since she does not want to involve any of the children, Edea absorbs the dying Ultimecia's powers as part of the cycle of sorceresses (a sorceress must pass on her powers to a successor before she is allowed to die peacefully). Squall plants the ideas for Garden and SeeD in her mind, creating an origin paradox in which he must become the leader of Balamb Garden so that he can make it to this point again.
Squall appears as a non-playable character in Kingdom Hearts. He wears a short leather jacket with red wings on the back, resembling the decorations on Rinoa's duster, but he still wears his Griever necklace and has the scar on his forehead. He assumes the name Leon because "Squall" was shamed for being unable to protect those he cared about from the Heartless when his home world, the Radiant Garden, was consumed by darkness. Leon is voiced by David Boreanaz in the English language version of the game and Hideo Ishikawa in the Japanese version. Squall's role in Kingdom Hearts is to help guide the protagonist Sora in his battle with the Heartless, alongside various other Final Fantasy characters. While his appearance and age change (in Kingdom Hearts, he is 25, whereas in Final Fantasy VIII, he is 17), his personality remains the same. A memory-based version of Leon appears in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, tutoring the player about the gameplay. He returns in Kingdom Hearts II, where he is voiced in the English version Doug Erholtz. Doug stated in an interview that he has had a "fun journey" voicing Leon also commenting that it is a "really fun role to play". Leon's outfit gains the fur lining along the collar of his jacket that did not appear in the first Kingdom Hearts game. During the game, Leon works alongside his friends to restore their world. He also appears as an opponent in various tournaments in Olympus Coliseum, often paired with other Final Fantasy characters. A virtual replica of him also appears in Kingdom Hearts coded meeting Sora's virtual replica.
Squall also appears as a secret character in Chocobo Racing and Itadaki Street Special, and a sprite version of Squall occasionally makes an appearance on the loading screen of the PlayStation version of Final Fantasy VI (part of Final Fantasy Anthology). Squall is the hero representing Final Fantasy VIII in Dissidia: Final Fantasy. His personality in the game was designed to reflect his one from Final Fantasy VIII. Along with the entire cast, Squall appears in the prequel Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, game in which his Kingdom Hearts design appears as downloadable content. He also appears in Itadaki Street Portable as a playable character. He is also featured in the rhythm game Theatrhythm Final Fantasy as a the main character representing Final Fantasy VIII.
Reception to Squall as a character has been mixed. Journalist Jack Patrick Rodgers of PopMatters argued that Squall's cynicism and frustration with those around him made him a strong character, though also "coldly inhuman". GamesRadar listed Squall as the fifth best Final Fantasy hero of all the time with praise on his personality's development and his interactions with the other characters. GameZone listed him as the fourth best character from the franchise, stating that while fans "either love or hate this guy", he became the "ultimate anti-hero" as a result of the entertaining journey he makes despite his little dialogues. The site listed him and Rinoa as the best couple created by Square Enix, commenting on the differences between both characters and the fact their relationship was the first one in the series to drive the plot of a game. Similarly, the two were in The Inquirer's list of the most memorable video game love teams with comments focused on the differences between the two characters' personalities. GameSpot said that while the character could be regarded as simply a "jerk", he could alternatively be viewed as "standoffish because of some repressed Wagnerian broodiness, in which case he was kind of interesting". Allgame stated that while initially hating his character for coming across as "cold and uncaring", the character's romance caused him to change in a positive manner. RPGamer labelled him as "everyone's favorite orphan" and joked that although he tries to distance himself from others, "he can't help but draw people to him, be it sorceresses or gun-slinging ladies men." GameDaily ranked him sixth on their list of the "Top 25 Gaming Hunks", stating that while critics described the character as a "jerk", his character design, notably his scar, made him visually appealing. Arnold Katayev from PSXextreme praised Squall's redesign from Kingdom Hearts as the best one from the game. In an Oricon poll from 2008, Squall was voted as the tenth most popular video game character. During February 2010, Squall was voted by Famitsu readers as the 29th best video game character.
IGN, on the other hand, stated that "the problem [with Final Fantasy VIII] is that the character at the heart of everything, Squall, is basically a pouty jerk", adding "when your story is character centered, you'd better center it on a character the audience can care about. Squall... just doesn't fit the bill". 1UP.com ranked Squall second on their list of the "Top 5 Most Irritating RPG Protagonists", stating that while Squall was an attempt to "cater to the fedora-wearing, trench-coat clad folks", his lack of social skills tends to alienate players towards the character. Cheat Code Central included him in their list of top ten lamest video game characters of all time, criticizing his personality. Edge compared his character with the Final Fantasy VII protagonist Cloud Strife, criticizing that Squall's anger "didn't seem to have any context" unlike Cloud's angst which was developed by one of the central events from Final Fantasy VII. His relation with Rinoa also received negative comments, as Edge states "he [Squall] suddenly falls in "love" with [Rinoa] at the end [of Final Fantasy VIII]." A more comical comparison was made by GamesRadar in their "RPG Emo-Off", in which Squall was defeated by Cloud due to their reasons for their angst. Squall was also featured in 1UP's article "Top 5 Final Fantasy Character Types" in which he was in the second category, "The Sullen Asshole", alongside with Cloud and Cecil from Final Fantasy IV. GameSpy featured him in their comical feature "Videogame Characters Who Would Suck in Real Life" in which they stated Squall would be a terrible soldier in real life.
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- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Rinoa: That's it! Just let out anything! Anything... We want you to talk to us a little more. That's all. Y'know, if there's anything you want to tell us, or anything we can do, don't hesitate to let us know. I know it's not easy, but I wish you would trust us and rely on us a little more."
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Rinoa: Don't you ever worry about or even think about the well-being of your comrades!? / Squall: (I don't believe in relying on others.) / Rinoa: Don't you understand!? / Squall:(...Whatever.)"
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Quistis: I guess I was right. You and Seifer are in a class of your own. You both have amazing strength and potential."
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Quistis: Aren't there times when you want to share feelings with someone? / Squall: Everyone has to take care of themselves? I don't want to carry anyone's burden."
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Quistis: You know, the boys often choke on this test when I come with them. I guess my charm makes them nervous. / Squall:(...Whatever.)"
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Rinoa: You're the best looking guy here. Dance with me? Let me guess... You'll only dance with someone you like. Ok then... Look into my eyes... You're-going-to-like-me... You're-going-to-like-me... Did it work? / Squall: ...I can't dance. / Rinoa: You'll be fine."
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Squall: Approach your target inconspicuously at a dance party... There may be missions requiring this sort of subterfuge. It's expected of SeeD to learn various skills."
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Headmaster Cid: Squall, we're under your command from now on. This is your fate. It is your destiny to lead the way in defeating the sorceress."
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Squall: (I've had it up to here with this leader thing... Alright, alright... I'll choose.)"
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Headmaster Cid: Squall, I understand how you feel. But you are in a position of leadership. The other students at Garden have a right to know about the outcome of the battle and what's to come."
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Squall: Pandora whatever and Sorceress Adel are out of my hands. I don't know where to look for Sis. The only thing I know is Rinoa. The only thing I want to do for sure right now is for Rinoa. We're going to get Rinoa back!"
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Squall: I don't know what's going on. But since we're still here, I think we still have some time to finish our job. / Quistis: What are we going to do, Squall? / Squall: We'll divide into two parties."
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Seifer: Well then, Squall. Go see what's going on outside. / Squall: ......Ok. / Seifer: Good. Because it's MY order."
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Squall: (I liked him... wasn't really a bad guy... He was one of us...) (Seifer... You've just become just a memory.) (Will they... Will they talk about me this way if I die, too?) (Squall was this and that. Using past tense, saying whatever they want?) (So this is what death is all about...) (...Not for me.) (I won't have it!!!) / ... / Squall: I'm not having anyone talk about me in the past tense!"
- Maciel, Joshua. "Rebuttal to FF8 FAQ Part 2". RPGamer.com. Retrieved 2007-03-21.
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Kiros: You look a lot like your mother. / Ward: ..... / Kiros: Ward says its a good thing you don't look like your father."
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Squall: (I don't believe in relying on others.)"
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Young Squall: ...Sis... I'm... all alone. But I'm doing my best... I'll be ok without you, Sis. I'll be able to take care of myself."
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Squall: I worry too much about what others think of me. I hate that side of me... That's why I didn't want anyone to get to know me. I wanted to hide that side of myself. I hate it. Squall is an unfriendly, introverted guy. It made it easy for me when people perceived me that way. That's a secret between you and me. Got that?"
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Edea: It's ok. There's no need to fight. That sorceress is just looking for someone to pass her power on to. In order to die in peace, a sorceress must free of all her powers. I know... for I am one, too. I shall take over that sorceress' powers. I do not want one of the children to become one."
- Square Co (1999-09-09). Final Fantasy VIII. PlayStation. Square EA. "Edea: SeeD? Garden? / Squall: Both Garden and SeeD were your ideas. Garden trains SeeDs. SeeDs are trained to defeat the sorceress. / Edea: What are you saying? You're... that boy from the future?"
- Square (2002-11-15). Kingdom Hearts. PlayStation 2. Square Electronic Arts. "A swordsman who wields the gunblade. His real name: Squall Leonheart. He escaped to Traverse Town when the Heartless raided his home world. To part with his old self, a man who had been helpless to stop them, he changed his name."
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- Jupiter (December 7, 2004). Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. Game Boy Advance. Square Enix U.S.A., Disney Interactive. "Leon: Well, let's get on with it. Come on, follow me. Be careful, though. There are still Heartless wandering around town. I'd better teach you how to protect yourself in battle."
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- Square Enix, h.a.n.d. (January 11, 2011). Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. Nintendo DS. Square Enix. "Leon: The name's...Leon. I wanted to help with the blocks, but something else needed my attention first."
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