Let’s talk about moogles. Kupo.
… Spoiler Alert: Final Fantasy.
I recently finished Final Fantasy XV, instead of raging about my myriad of problems, concerns, general angst, and annoyed love with it I’m going to talk about moogles. No, I have to say something about XV. I’ll inevitably have a cat named Prompto. What a dork. I promise this has something to do with worldbuilding. I’ll get there.
On that note, back to moogles. I’m not going to give you the full History of the Moogle. If I ever went back to school that is the name of my dissertation. The History of the Moogle: Foundations of Fluffiness and Folklore. An entire chapter would be dedicated to the “-mog-” naming system. Note: Worldbuilding discussion about names… coming to a computer screen near you soon(ish). Instead, here are some brief highlights from the games:
First playable character: Final Fantasy VI. This cast is huge and includes a Yeti. It would make sense this is when we first get to play a moogle ourselves. There is an entire moogle army/invasion section.
Final Fantasy VII: Cait Sith. Ummm… Cait Sith. I don’t know what to add. Who is looking forward to that in the remake. Raise your hands! Most importantly, there are no living moogles here!
They are practically nonexistent in Final Fantasy VIII, only appearing as a pseudo Guardian Force available through the Pocket Station and a few dialogue mentions across the game.
Mog as a summon in Final Fantasy IX. Eiko’s little buddy turns out is not so little and is a Eidolon disguised as an orange pom pomed moogle named Mog. Additionally, moogles function as your save point and you in turn run their mail around for them. I love you so much, IX.
In Final Fantasy X we see them pass into legend again. Rather than a living being, they are an equippable doll for Lulu to use as a casting weapon. They reappear in X-2 as Yuna’s mascot dress sphere.
XII brings us full circle to see them once again as a race incorporated into the world, not as a legendary creature.
They return to creatures of legend in XIII. An exception might be made for XIII-2’s moogle who is also a weapon and can speak. Much like the rest of XIII-2, that was unclear and a little bizarro.
That was not as brief as I planned.
In the list of things Final Fantasy fans expect in their games, moogles rate up there along with chocobos, summoning, and crystals. Chocobos are an easy thing to incorporate, they often operate as the Final Fantasy equivalent of a horse. Side note: In XV there is a line of background dialogue of “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.” Are there horses in this world? I don’t think we ever see horses. Have horses fallen into legend as chocobos took over their role? Is this a hint that the world is much larger than we see, are there horses on the other side of it? Or, would it simply be more appropriate to say “I’m so hungry I could eat a chocobo.” It is a translation/idiom error? Why does this line exist?
Anyway, chocobos are not a problem to work into a game of varying levels of technology and magic. Moogles, however, have a particular aesthetic. How do you work in a fluffy white creature with a pom pom delicately attached to their head and sharp bat wings protruding from their back into a game like XV?
Moogles are painted in two different ways: real and legendary. Looking across the games, those with the most advanced tech and greatest focus on humans have passed their moogles on into legend. Mainly: VII, VIII, XIII, and XV. I cannot imagine what hyperrealistic moogles would have looked like in XV. Perhaps they could have gone with the demon route and made them into enemies that only came out at night? That could have been frightening.
In games that include moogles as living beings such as IX, there is less of a focus on humans as the dominate race and realism. In XII, where technology is often seen in browns and bronzes and given a more naturalistic look, moogles are real. While humans seem to be the majority, the world also is home to viera, bangaa, seeq, and others. Keeping moogles as living creatures with their own culture makes sense here, in worlds where magic and technology operate together.
The game that plays with this divide is IV. While IV has an almost steampunk aesthetic, the technology is in general not comparable to what you see in VII, VIII, XIII, or XV. However, technology plays a major role in the game, and humans are dominate. This is a case where magic is a legend, while moogles are not.
How do you make your worlds make sense? How do all of your little bits and pieces come together to make something that makes sense as a whole? When we are working on our own stories, we usually don’t have 30 years worth of narrative history and expectations to work with. However, we can learn from the multiplicity of ways similar elements are morphed and altered to create a world.
Ask yourself: Would a moogle from IX, book in hand muttering about kupo nuts, traipsing through the background of a gritty, electric Midgar break a bit of carefully built world?