Head of the underground resistance movement AVALANCHE, Barret depends on brute strength and his ‘Gun-arm’ to see him through…
Barret Wallace one of the most memorable characters from the beloved Final Fantasy VII. He Stood out to me as leader of an eco-terrorist group and a black man! Back in 1997 when the gam was released you just didn’t see too many black faces much less leader of a rebellion. Despite his brash and sometimes violent attitude, Barret has a good heart and is torn between fighting and caring for his daughter Marlene. The father daughter aspect of this character hit home for me on several levels, being a father figure myself for a time I connect with Barret’s desire to protect Marlene.
In his original appearance, Barret is a heavy-set, muscular dark-skinned man with a dirty brown vest, green pants and large brown boots. His right arm was mangled in the loss of his hometown, and has been replaced with his weapon, the gun-arm, which lets him interchange various weapon attachments to it. Barret has several bands of metal around his waist and his remaining arm, and a tattoo on his left shoulder. His hair is cut similar to a hi-top fade and he has a thick beard, with a dog-tag hanging around his neck. He has three scars on his right cheek. This appearance has humorously been compared to actor Mr. T, a comparison also somewhat shown through Barret’s character.
In Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and Dirge of Cerberus -Final Fantasy VII-, Barret’s gun-arm has been replaced by a transforming steel hand that can turn into a large gun. His vest has been replaced by a puffier, off-white one and he wears a fish-net shirt, and retains the green pants. His hair is differently styled, and is now arranged in cornrows. Tetsuya Nomura has commented that Barret’s character was redesigned largely due to the comparisons to Mr. T, and when instructing the animators on what Barret’s gun-arm should be like, he told them to make “a big, over-the-top gun that transforms in a huge, over-the-top way”. Barret’s skull tattoo was altered from his original artwork in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children; originally a skull with wings, it was changed to a rounder skull with extending wisps.
You gotta understand somethin’… I don’t got an answer. I wanna be with Marlene… but I gotta fight. ‘Cause if I don’t…the planet’s gonna die. So I’m gonna keep fightin’!
- —Barret in Final Fantasy VII
Barret describes life with train metaphors, including one of his more well-known phrases, “there’s no gettin’ off this train we on ’till we reach the end of the line”, which he adopted from Cloud during the train ride after their first successful AVALANCHE mission. Late in Final Fantasy VII, when Cloud and Tifa are absent, Barret first says he ought to be the leader, but then says he has come to realize he is not suitable, and elects Cid in his place.
In the novella On the Way to a Smile, Barret’s character is examined on a deeper level, revealing his isolation due to viewing himself as a monster because of his gun-arm, and his search for a new meaning to his life after his vendetta with Shinra is settled and the company destroyed. Still guilty over the chaos AVALANCHE caused, particularly the death of the group’s members under his leadership, Barret seeks both a normal life and a way to atone for his “minefield of mistakes” as the faction’s leader.
Thanks to great writing and character development Barret grew from a guy that could be dismissed as a side character/token black guy to an enduring and memorable hero.
Thanks for taking the time to read about another black character from video game history!
Picture and Information via FinalFantasyWikia