A running theme through the series (and these articles) is that simply reusing a character’s name doesn’t really mean that character in question has to be similar to those that came before them. While a name may indeed have power, the series has proven that there’s a ton of different ways to use a template of a character (ie, Cid, Bigs + Wedge, and all the instances of a summon creature).
But what if, just once, there was a name that appeared to be attributed to a very similar kind of character throughout the entire series? What if, indeed, that character was just straight up the same character every time you see them?
As my ham-fisted foreshadowing and the title might tell you, today we’ll be taking a look at Gilgamesh.
Gilgamesh is a reoccurring character throughout the series, appearing most often as a mini-boss, or maybe as a bonus boss. He shares many traits with another reoccurring mini-boss, that of Ultros: he’s pretty comedic in nature, is never really an ‘evil’ character, and is perhaps one of the few reoccurring characters that is the same character in each appearance. While Ultros’ constant appearances aren’t really explained, Gilgamesh might actually have something of a justification for how he keeps showing up. In FFVIII, Gilgamesh will show up to help the player during one of the game’s late boss fights as long as the player has obtained Odin before that point: during the battle Gilgamesh will mention he’s looking for the “dimensional interval.” While there’s no mention of what the heck he means by that, it definitely sounds like something related to dimensional travel or jumping to different dimensions. And while the game’s state of canon might be questionable, it is stated plainly several times in Dissidia 012 that Gilgamesh can indeed jump between different dimensions and planes of reality.
So now that it’s (mostly) confirmed that Gilgamesh is the same being each time he appears throughout the series, the next question becomes why exactly does he do it? Rather impressively, it seems that the guy just really loves collecting rare weapons and fighting worthy opponents, and thus sets out to find the strongest examples of both in each dimension he jumps into. In particular, it seems that each dimension has a sword by the name of Excalibur, which will inevitably be one of the strongest blades in that world, that Gilgamesh is looking for. Though unfortunately for Gilgamesh, it seems each world is also destined to have a knock-off of the Excalibur by the name of the ‘Excalipoor,’ a completely useless weapon that Gilgamesh inevitably ends up with. Still, the guy perseveres and simply jumps into the next world in order to continue his search. I sort of wish I loved my hobby enough to jump through time and space just to expand on it.
In any case, Gilgamesh himself has a mostly consistent appearance throughout the series, appropriate for one of the few reoccurring characters. His skin tends to be an extremely pale colour, pretty much gray in complexion, though he has some red highlights along his features. This MIGHT be a reference to a fairly common style of face paint in Kabuki theatre, but I’m not familiar enough with the culture to make the comparison. Gilgamesh tends to wear some fairly heavy armour that comes in various shades of reds and orange, and is usually seen wearing some kind of red cloak. Most famously, however, Gilgamesh tends to reveal that his true form (if he had been hiding it up until that point) actually has several sets of arms, ranging from six arms up to freakin’ eight. Naturally for a weapon collector, when employing these many limbs he tends to wield a different weapon in each hand, and becomes much more deadly for it.
In most of his appearances, Gilgamesh is accompanied by a character named Enkidu. Unlike Gilgamesh, Enkidu doesn’t really have a consistent design beyond the fact that he’s associated with the colour green and has wings. In his first appearance, he was a winged demon, but he’s taken the form of a winged-dog, an actual bird creature, a non-winged human, and most perplexingly a weapon…with a wing design. You can likely see the running theme, right? Other than that, there’s not a huge amount to say about Enkidu since his one character trait is that he’s eternally loyal to Gilgamesh, though it is interesting that Enkidu seemingly can’t maintain a consistent form across the dimensions, unlike his boss. In most cases he simply helps out in boss fights, though there are a few games where Enkidu doesn’t make a significant appearance. To that end, we’ll only talk about Enkidu if there’s something interesting to say, otherwise we’ll mostly be skipping over him.
Unlike the previous entry, we won’t be going over every instances of his appearances (we mostly did that because each game in the series had featured some kind of airship, while Gilgamesh doesn’t appear in every game). That being said, the guy makes plenty of appearances, and there’s definitely plenty to talk about. So put however many hands you have together, and let’s take a look at Gilgamesh’s storied involvement throughout the series.
Gilgamesh doesn’t actually appear in the original version of FFI, but like many reoccurring elements in the series, the remakes of the game tend to insert ideas that would become staples of the series into it. For instance, the remake ‘Dawn Of Souls’ has Gilgamesh confront the party after they come across an odd sword. Since the Excalibur is found in a different dungeon, it’s likely that the sword they came across was actually the Excalipoor, which makes Gilgamesh’s indignant accusation that they’re after ‘his’ sword pretty amusing. True to his more comedic side, his battle cry also leaves a lot to be desired, being “Let’s see how you handle the mighty me! And by me, I mean Gilgamesh!! And by handle, I mean DIE!!!” To his credit, he can wipe out an unprepared party, though beating him nets you the Genji Gloves, a set that can often be obtained by defeating him throughout the series. His makes a similar cameo in Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, though this time he actually drops the Exaclipoor, a weapon that deals next to no damage, though does have some good accuracy.
For his first actual appearance, we need to jump all the way to Final Fantasy V. This does make him something of a late addition to the series, at least as far as series staples go, but this first appearance was a pretty memorable one. Gilgamesh presents himself as the right hand man to the main villain, ExDeath, but it’s clear from the get go that Gilgamesh is more concerned with fighting tough opponents than actually committing evil deeds. Likewise, despite being a supposedly peerless warrior, each time he is defeated in combat he makes a lame excuse before running away. This is all without mentioning that his idea of ambushing the party involves simply waiting on the other side of a door before jumping through when they’re about to open it. It’s likely that this more light-hearted and amusing portrayal is what cemented Gilgamesh as a fan favourite, being a memorable and unique character in his debut appearance. The fact that he had become associated with one of the series’ more catchy tunes, ‘Clash on the Big Bridge,’ probably helped, and the song as become his theme ever since. Just to cement this strong early appearance, his true-form boss fight is pretty memorable, and he even sacrifices himself to help the party defeat a tough boss after ExDeath’s plans start to get a little out of hand. Not bad for a minor reoccurring mini-boss.
Having well and truly cemented himself in the hearts of the developers and players, it was only natural that he would make an appearance afterwards. His next appearance (that wasn’t in a rerelease or remake) would be in FFVIII, wherein he was a secret Guardian Force the player could obtain. As stated above, the method to obtain him was something of a secret, and would require the player to gain the help of Odin before the end of the third disc, otherwise they would permanently miss Gilgamesh. His appearance in this game was slightly more serious than his previous one, with a more badass design and the fact that he doesn’t spout as many amusing lines. He’s portrayed as being more competent too: the reason the player needs to have Odin is because the boss at the end of the third disc actually slices Odin in half, causing Odin’s famed blade Zantetsuken to go flying off into the air. Gilgamesh grabs the blade, before descending down and kicking the ever living hell out of the boss before aligning himself to the player. From that point on, Gilgamesh fills out Odin’s role, appearing randomly in battles to attack enemies with one of four famous blades. This is also where we see a little of Gilgamesh’s humour come through, however, as one of the four blades is actually Excalipoor. Unlike Zantetsuken (instant death to enemies), Excalibur (heavy damage to enemies), and Masamune (heavy damage, and a reference to the reoccurring weapon) the Exaclipoor only deals a measly one point of damage to enemies. I guess some things never change.
Interestingly enough, Gilgamesh would get a consecutive appearance for Final Fantasy IX, though it would be quite unlike any of his other appearances. For one, he looked radically different: he keeps the multi-armed aspect of his design and his bright red hair keeps his signature colours, but he notably isn’t wielding any swords, or indeed any of the spear weapons he used to wield in his early appearances. Indeed, he doesn’t even reveal his true name for a long time, instead operating under the alias of ‘Alleyway Jack.’ His usual form of humour returns in full force, however, with many of his appearances being marked by him being scared by one of the party members before running off. Likewise he returns to his shtick of being a non-antagonistic antagonist, since while he tries to steal and scam the party, he also takes the time to teach Vivi how to play FFIX’s optional card-game. Really, he’s pretty helpful to the party, since he helps them during the treasure hunting mini-game. Overall, this is one of his more sedated appearances, and one of the few where he isn’t involved in combat at all. Though, for one final bit of Gilgamesh in the game, if you speed run like hell and get to the final zone in less than twelve hours, you can find the Excalibur II. The sword is the strongest in the game, and comes with a note addressed to Gilgamesh from Enkidu, saying that he found the weapon for Gilgamesh and are now looking for something called ‘Tin Amour.’ While this Tin Armour isn’t really elaborated on, it’s pretty neat how Enkidu calls Gilgamesh ‘bro.’ If Biggs and Wedge hadn’t already cornered the market for reoccurring bro characters, Gilgamesh and Enkidu could have been strong contenders.
Gilgamesh would return to his more recognised design for his later roles in XII and its sequel, though his boss fight in a DLC for XIII-2 would be his next most stand out appearance. Featuring as a bonus boss in the DLC’s coliseum, Gilgamesh appears with the rather fourth-wall breaking line “I was starting to worry that you will never download this part of the game, and I’d be stuck in digital limbo!” Between that, his rather hammy voice acting and poses, and the fact that he starts the fight off by wielding a set of god damn machine guns and rocket launchers, it’s fairly safe to say this is one of the series’ more light hearted appearances of the muli-armed menace. The whole thing can be watched here, which also includes an NPC giving Gilgamesh a pretty funny description. It’s worth noting that when he switches to melee weapons for his boss fight, each of the swords he wields is actually reference to another point in the series. In turn, he’s got: Excalibur and Excalipoor (the running joke with Gilgamesh), the Muramasa (a minor reoccurring katana, probably most well known as a weapon for Auron in FFX), the Masamune (the more famous reoccurring katana, infamously used by Sephiroth in FFVII), the Zantetsuken (the blade used by Odin, although it’s implied this version is a fake), and finally a completely new weapon called the Bashosen. While the Bashosen is completely new, it’s green colour scheme and wing style blades are clearly meant to resemble Enkidu. Once again, you gotta admire the guy’s persistence to back up his boss, even if it means becoming a piece of metal to swing around.
Gilgamesh would continue the trend of being an optional boss in his next two appearances, as an enemy the player and company would have to fight in FFXIV, and in an extremely unusual appearance as the final boss to the first FFXV DLC. In the former example, he appears in a series of quests mostly involving comical escapades, such as the fact that player is set to find a weapon thief that is so obviously Gilgamesh, despite the fact that the NPC helping you can’t actually see it. This eventually culminates in you clashing with him on a bridge in a reference to his famous ‘ambush’ in FFV, complete with a remix of ‘Battle on The Big Bridge.” This hilarious tone is completed by the fact that Enkidu is a green chicken for the entire thing…well, actually Gilgamesh admits he just painted a chicken green because he couldn’t find the real Enkidu. Just to finish things off, when Gilgamesh tries to beat a retreat, he does so by grabbing onto “Enkidu’s” legs and jumping from the bridge, with predicable results. All in all, a very well executed inclusion of Gilgamesh, complete with his usual comedic tone. Weirdly enough, Gilgamesh’s next appearance would go for the exact opposite tone: his design in FFXV is a radical departure for his usual light-hearted style, being a much more serious and actually intimidating individual. While it’s varied, Gilgamesh is usually pretty muscle bound and dressed in strong armour as a show of the physical power he possesses; FFXV’s Gilgamesh meanwhile is actually wiry, with tattered and frayed armour. Most pressingly, he’s lost all of his spare arms, and he even lost one of his normal ones, making this the first time he’s even been see with just a single arm. It even puts his weapon collecting in a grim light, since all the swords that are scattered throughout his domain come from fallen warriors who have tried and failed to defeat him, and it quickly becomes obvious that there are thousands of swords. Even freakin’ Enkidu is a crazy monster bird rather than anything comical. Though it is worth mentioning that the final battle with Gilgamesh occurs on a bridge, since I guess old habits really do die hard. Having two such contrasting examples of how to use Gilgamesh as a character back to back is quite interesting, and shows the kind of fluid position that the old weapon collector is in. However, it’s worth considering that this might not actually be THE Gilgamesh: this entry was apparently a guardian to one of the old kings of the world, and makes no mention of the Excalibur. It’s possible FFXV’s Gilgamesh is more of a reference, since it’s hard to believe that he would stick around in one world long enough to find employment with a king, and to give up on his dimension spanning adventures. Maybe it’s just a mystery for the ages.
For a final mention, it’s worth bringing up Gilgamesh’s role in FF Type-0. This is another quite unusual appearance for the guy, mostly because it’s another of his more serious appearances, but also because this could be his origin point. Gilgamesh was a l’Cie and a ruler for a nation that gets pretty much fantasy-nuked out of existence towards the start of the game, but Gilgamesh managed to survive the explosion. However the blast caused him to lose sight of his “Focus,” which is basically a divine mission to a l’Cie, causing him to become a little…confused. Because being a l’Cie gives him incredible powers, when he shows up later during the events of the gaming kicking the ass of anyone who would dare stop him it’s quite rightly treated as a real problem. Thankfully Class-Zero aren’t pushovers, and manage to repeal his attack. However the real interesting stuff happens later, when he appears as a bonus boss. For one, the boss fight against his is really bloody difficult, since by this point he’s used his l’Cie powers to grow out his signature extra arms. For a second, we learn around this point that Enkidu was actually Gilgamesh’s childhood friend and most trusted general, and promised to stick with him for as long as he could. However, being a mere mortal man compared to demi-god-like l’Cie, Enkidu passed away, leaving Gilgamesh very much alone in the world. For a final point, Gilgamesh opens up portals in the third play through of the game, and challenges others to try and best him: if we take the theory that this is the original Gilgamesh, this could be a show his original power to jump between worlds. While it’s not confirmed if this is the original Gilgamesh, the points do line up.
Forgive me for a moment while I craft a theory, just because it’s close enough to logic that it MIGHT be possible. Things get really screwy towards the end of FF Type-0, and Gilgamesh (who by this point was starting to get a little screwy himself thanks to the fact he’s suffering from amnesia in addition to losing his Focus) might have either jumped ship or simply wandered out of the universe. After a while, he starts collecting weapons, since that is what he sort of did back in his original world, albeit from fallen enemies. In particular, he finds the sword Excalibur to catch his interest, perhaps just because of its power. During his wanderings, he comes across animals, creatures, weapons, or even individuals whom he gives the name Enkidu, as it is a name that even the amnesiac Gilgamesh recognises as important, even if he can’t remember why. At a stretch, it might even be the spirit of the original Enkidu had followed his friend into the void, and simply waits to make himself useful in whatever capacity the current dimension they enter allows him. During all this time, his l’Cie powers fade, meaning he is closer to being just a very strong warrior, but he retains the power to grow out extra arms, and he presumably can’t die due to old age. This lets him wander across the many worlds across many years, never losing his strength, and also allowing him to put his mind back together. At some point during these wanderings, he runs into ExDeath, a man who can also use the space between dimensions. Finding ExDeath to be a strong fighter and with similar powers, Gilgamesh, now in balance if still missing his original memories, pledges himself to serve ExDeath. During the events of FFV, Gilgamesh ‘sacrifices’ himself to help the heroes, though unbeknownst to them had survived, and continues his wanderings. While no longer the powerful ruler he once was, Gilgamesh finds this style of wander suits him well, and quite happily continues his travels, always on the lookout for Excalibur, and the next Enkidu.
….Yea it’s bullcrap, but you got to admit it makes a good theory.
And, that’s pretty much it for Gilgamesh. While he’s had some serious moments, he really has cemented his place as the franchises comic relief character, though who knows what kind of roles the guy will get in future titles. The guy has seen a lot of different looks and designs over the years, but continues to be pretty much the only character to have canonically jumped into the different universes that the FF games take place in, with the only other example being MAYBE Ultros.
Per my running obsession with the idea, I half pondered on whether the fact that Gilgamesh can jump dimensions disproves the idea that all of the Final Fantasy games take place in a single world: if even he says that all of his appearances take place across different worlds, then surely there can be no doubt that each game takes place in its own continuity, right? After some thought, though, I wondered if maybe it actually doesn’t necessarily prove anything one way or the other. It could be possible that Gilgamesh, not being the brightest bulb in the packet, is actually jumping through time and simply thinking it’s a different world when he emerges. Likewise, it could be possible that each Excalibur is actually a different sword that shares a similar design and the same name, which would explain why so many knock-off Excalipoors exist. One of these days we’re going to have to sit down and really hash out this whole theory.
In any case, I hope you enjoyed this look at one of Final Fantasy’s more light hearted characters. We can only hope that Gilgamesh’s ongoing adventures across the mutli-verse continues to be a subject of much hilarity and hijinks, and that we’re there to both witness them, and probably steal Excalibur out from under the guy. See ya next time!