AKA: Luneth, Refia, Arc, Ingus
As seen in: Final Fantasy III (Famicom)
Also in: Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions (PSP)
Distinguishing feature: High plumage which in no way resembles an onion.
Strengths: Potential to be anything they want to be, as long as they believe in themselves (and have a few magical crystals on hand).
Weaknesses: Practically the entire Final Fantasy bestiary, save the odd land turtle.
While some of the protagonists in the Final Fantasy series may be vapid and one-dimensional, none of them reach the state of pure nothingness that is the Onion Kids. The heroes of Final Fantasy III are the embodiment of tabula rasa. They have no personality, no history, not even names. We’re not even given a real introduction to them at the start of the game, instead joining them in mid free-fall as they tumble into the first dungeon. They drop into an underground cavern, take a few tentative steps, and are assaulted by goblins. The game has begun and we know nothing about them except that they are four slightly fat and extremely weak toddlers wearing a rainbow of colored armor. The question of why four children would be wearing identical neon armaments is never answered. We only know that they share a job class: The Onion Knight.
The magic of Final Fantasy III’s job system is that from this pudgy beginning, any number of powerful and specialized jobs can be learned. By the time that the kids have escaped from the dungeon they have learned to transform into the classes from the original Final Fantasy: Warrior, Monk, White Mage, Black Mage, Red Mage, and Thief. At any time, these kids can change their job, resulting in a nearly infinite number of party combinations. As the game progresses, the kids learn more jobs and the combinations become even more varied and strategic. As players, we care about these kids not because of any personality or history or character arcs, but because we’re invested in their growth as ways to kill monsters. This is a fact that Square Enix forgot when they gave the kids clichéd personalities and uninteresting back stories for the DS remake. I don’t care that one of them, now named Arc, is shy and gets bullied. I just want to turn him into a Black Mage and get on with the ass-kickery.
The DS remake also dropped the Onion Knight class from the starting line-up and replaced it with the generic “Free Lancer,” a kind of catch-all class that didn’t excel in any one area but could equip all possible equipment. The Onion Knight had been transformed into a secret class that could only be accessed through an annoying side quest. These new Onion Knights started off as very weak but became increasingly more powerful when they reached the highest levels. This behavior was echoed in Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, where the Onion Knight job was initially terrible yet became unrivaled in power through excessive grinding. In this way, the Onion Knight has become Final Fantasy’s Magikarp: a seemingly useless class that through time and effort and love becomes a powerhouse. This is a throwback to the NES Final Fantasy III where hard-to-find Onion Equipment would turn the Onion Kids into chubby little god-warriors.
Alas, the charming little tub balls would not survive unaltered into the present day. While it’s endearing to see an Onion Kid as a playable character in this year’s Dissidia: Final Fantasy, he’s been transformed beyond recognition into a bishounen moppet, more kewpie doll than boy. Any enjoyment from the fact that his special ability allows him to transform into either a ninja or sage (the two strongest jobs from Final Fantasy III) is quickly abolished as soon as one meets those beautiful yet lifeless eyes.