The FFIV cast features a grand total of 12 characters, and, compared to the previous games in the series, their development and interaction have both been significantly beefed up. The only gripe I can think of is that you still can’t pick your team freely: the game events determine your party setup, and you’re never given a say in the matter. The final party setup is Cecil, Rosa, Cain/Kain, Rydia, Edge and FuSoYa/Fusoya. Everyone else will eventually leave the party for good, for various reasons. Since everyone has a fixed job (barring Cecil and Rydia, who both undergo some changes), you’d think that this might cause a problem, but that issue is usually intelligently solved, and when you do find yourself with a somewhat iconoclastic setup, it’s usually a short-lived challenge.

On a different note, the game is notable for including two shirtless (or almost) male characters alongside the unfortunately traditional scantily clad female ones.

Cecil: Adopted by the king of Baron when he was a child, Cecil trained to become a Dark Knight and occupies the position of commander of the Red Wings. His girlfriend, Rosa, worries that his latest missions might have a bad influence upon him. Since, you know, he’s being sent to ransack peaceful towns and all that. But Cecil has a conscience, which serves as a trigger to the story. As a Dark Knight, he’s a heavy-duty melee character in scary black armour with a command called DWave/Darkness, which uses some of his HP to damage the enemy. However, being a  hero and a warrior of darkness isn’t exactly compatible, and so, a couple of hours into the story, Cecil becomes a Paladin. Off with the black armour, on with a shiny white one, and tadaaa! Cecil can now flaunt his silver hair and blue-green eyes (and purple lipstick, in the DS and PSP versions…). As a Paladin, he’s even more powerful than before, has access to low-level White Magic and can use the Cover command to take damage for another party member. He’ll also do it automatically if someone’s critically injured. He can equip swords, daggers, axes, bows and staves. But swords and shields are his usual fare. Cecil is a fairly standard good guy, even before his transformation. He’s not proud of what he’s done, which causes some moping, but overall, he’s dedicated and honourable, although not the brightest bulb in the box. Not a particularly exciting personality, but it gets the job done.

Cain/Kain: There’s a reason this guy hogs the game’s original logo. Cecil’s best friend and captain of Baron’s Dragoon corps, Cain/Kain has long blonde hair and purple eyes (and the same purple lipstick as Cecil in the DS and PSP versions), and is proud to carry on his father’s legacy, which is why he refused the Dark Knight training. When Cecil gets demoted, Cain/Kain supports him, and they are both sent on an errand to the summoner village of Mist. After the incident there, Cain/Kain inexplicably disappears, but returns some time later in a rather unexpected guise (or maybe not all that unexpected, considering his name). Cecil and Cain/Kain have had an ongoing friendly rivalry since childhood. To make matters worse, Cain/Kain is also secretly in love with Rosa, who only has eyes for Cecil. And it’s not that he hates Cecil or even dislikes him, but…well, you know all that emotional baggage is going to cause trouble. This is probably what makes Cain/Kain popular: his flaws make him easier to relate to than Cecil, who is a bit too much of a goody-two-shoes, once his initial soul-searching is over. Being a Dragoon, Cain/Kain uses lances. He can also use swords and axes, but lances are his best option. He also has the now-trademark Jump command, which removes him from combat for a turn and brings him crashing down on an unsuspecting enemy’s head a little later. That’s all he’s got, but he will be one of your best damage dealers throughout the game. Personality-wise, he’s generally calm, discreet and dignified, but also feels very guilty over the stuff he goes through.

Rydia: Another highlight of the cast. When they arrive in Mist, Cecil and Cain/Kain realise with horror the exact nature of their mission there. They also realise that they were unwittingly responsible for the death of Rydia’s mother. Rydia, a little girl of seven, is obviously traumatised and summons an unaccountably powerful Titan to defend herself. Cain/Kain disappears after the resulting earthquake, but Cecil takes care of her, and she eventually forgives him when she realises that he hates himself for what happened. They travel together for a while, but, during a shipwreck, Rydia is lost at sea. She’s still alive however and rejoins the party later on. Only thing is…she has mysteriously aged by 10 years. Don’t worry, it’s all explained. Rydia is a lovely girl with messy green hair and blue eyes. She’s technically a Summoner, except that, as a child, she only knows one summon, the rest of her abilities consisting of White and Black spells. As her adult self, which is the form she’ll spend most time in, her White Magic is gone, but her summoning abilities have kicked in and her Black Magic is still intact. So she’s a package deal of Summoner + Black Mage, which equates to a lot of firepower, but unfortunately, some of her summons are redundant with her spells. It’s probably why all subsequent summoners in the series have White Magic instead. She can equip rods, staves, bows and daggers as a child, and trades staves for whips as an adult, the latter being her trademark weapon. Rydia shows great maturity for a child in managing to forgive Cecil and is a much more striking female character than Rosa, even though her adult outfit is just as fanservice-y (and her child outfit in the DS and PSP versions makes me uncomfortable). She also has a quick wit, which results in some entertaining verbal sparring with Edge (think Much Ado About Nothing). All in all, one of my favourites.

Tella(h): Cecil and Rydia run into this old geezer on their way to Damcyan, where they hope to find a cure for Rosa, who has contracted desert fever while trying to find Cecil after the mission in Mist. Tella(h) is a sage from Kaipo with dishevelled white hair and round glasses, and he’s trying to find his daughter, Anna, who has eloped with a bard from Damcyan. Since they’re also headed there, Cecil and Rydia readily agree to help him out. He’s a friendly, if short-tempered old man, prone to rash decisions. When the party gets to Damcyan, the castle has been raided by the Red Wings, and not only does Tella(h) discover that the bard was none other than the prince of Damcyan, but also that Anna died during the raid. This fuels his rage against Golbez(e), and he storms off to look for the Meteor spell to bring him down. Tella(h) can equip rods and staves, and has a wide selection of both White and Black spells to his name. Sadly, he has two major flaws. He has a fixed amount of 90MP, and some of his stats will actually decrease when he levels up, probably to reflect his age. Moreover, he’s started to forget some of his spells, which is why he needs the Recall command. However, it’s unreliable Truer words have never been spokenat best and thus doesn’t really play in his favour. He does manage to remember his spells when he rejoins the party later on, but it still doesn’t save him. Good thing you don’t keep him for long, even though he does leave in a rather dramatic fashion. There’s one thing that makes Tella(h) special, though: he is the author of the infamous “you spoony bard!” quote (a shining example of a legendary mistranslation).

Gilbert/Edward:  Oh boy. He’s the heir to the throne of Damcyan, but also has a talent for music, as well as a complete lack of confidence. If you remember Gordon from FFII, Gilbert/Edward is his spiritual successor. Not having much of a taste for politics, he prefers to travel in the guise of a simple bard. This is how he meets and falls in love with Anna, Tella(h)’s daughter. He takes her with him to Damcyan, disregarding Tella(h)’s objections, but, as luck would have it, Damcyan also houses the Fire Crystal, which means that Golbez(e) doesn’t wait long before attacking. Anna dies while trying to shield Gilbert/Edward from some arrows (…), and he is so devastated that even Rydia, a seven-year-old child who has just lost her mother, calls him a weakling. Tella(h) then proceeds to bash some sense into him, and he eventually decides to help Cecil. Gilbert/Edward is a melancholy young man with long blonde hair and green eyes (and yet again the same purple lipstick and Cecil and Cain/Kain in the DS and PSP versions…). He’s very gentle and kind…but also a terrible coward. As soon as his HP drops into critical, he will spontaneously hide. He also has a specific Hide command, if you feel the need to save his butt. Once he’s gone, Hide becomes Show to make him return, but if his HP is low, he’ll just hide again afterwards. Other than that, he can use Sing/Bardsong to inflict a random status ailment on the enemy. His other special command is Heal/Salve, which makes him use a Potion and split it between the whole group, resulting in minor healing. Gilbert/Edward can equip harps, daggers and bows, but harps are his trademark. Thankfully, you don’t keep him for very long, and although he does help the team out later on, you’re much better off without him.

Rosa: Cecil’s girlfriend trained in the healing arts to be helpful to him, just as her own mother became a White Mage to help her father, a Dragoon. All together now: aww…*gags* It breaks poor Rosa’s heart to see Cecil’s job slowly changing him, and when he is reported missing after the mission in Mist, she rushes off to find him, only to get lost in the Kaipo desert and to contract desert fever. Cecil finds her in this sorry state, cures her and decides to let her tag along, so that he can protect her (again: aww…*gags some more*). Rosa is a kind and gentle blonde and green-eyed girl in a white and pink outfit (green on her SNES sprite). Being a White Mage, she’s your main means of healing, and she also has the Pray command, which attempts to restore a small amount of HP to the party, but has a nasty habit of failing. Unlike former White Mages in the series, however, she can use bows and has the Aim command, which increases the accuracy and damage of her attacks. She can also use the more traditional staves, but that Aim command is there for a reason. Rosa is mostly presented as a stereotypical, helpless damsel-in-distress type, overly caring and kind. There’s a not single moment in the game where she thinks of herself before others. Yes, there’s something to be said for her being Cecil’s emotional anchor, and it is refreshing to have a story where there’s a couple that’s already established at the outset, and which both characters clearly draw strength from (this won’t be done again until Balthier and Fran in FFXII). But everything from her fanservice-y outfit to her withdrawing and demure behaviour just screams “cliché”. And that’s deeply annoying. 

Yang: This burly, brown-eyed man with a shaved head (except for a blonde moustache and Cossack’s ponytail) is the leader of the Monks of Fabul, the kingdom that houses the Wind Crystal. Cecil and co. meet him while crossing Mt Hobs on their way there. While out on a training excursion, his entire division got decimated by monsters, and he is in sore need of help when the party finds him. When they inform him of the impending attack by Baron, he decides to take them to the king of Fabul, and the party ends up assisting him in defending the city. Once he’s seen what Golbez(e) is capable of, he joins the party to help stop him. Yang is dignified, disciplined, devoted to his country, and has a wife who supports him through thick and thin (and who didn’t have a name until the PSP version of the game…). As behoves a Monk, he uses claws – one per hand – and attacks twice per turn. He has the Kick command, which makes him target the entire enemy party, the Build/Focus command, which makes his next attack more powerful, and the Endure/Brace command, which raises his defence for one turn. He’s also a rare example of fanservice involving a male character, due to constantly being shirtless. Yet, with all that, he somehow fails to make much of an impression on me. Sure, he kicks butt, and he’s a good guy, but that alone does not a compelling character make. There’s a startling episode involving him when he is reunited with the party after Cecil’s transformation, where no one really makes a big deal of something that should be (c.f. Cain/Kain). He also gets a later sidequest involving some fairies, his wife and the Frying Pan of Love. But apart from that, he’s pretty forgettable.

Palom: After trying to defend Fabul, Cecil & co. decide to go back to Baron by sea, but their little expedition is cut short when Leviathan attacks them. Cecil wakes up alone on a beach near Mysidia and decides to seek help there. Of course, the memory of the Red Wings’ raid is still fresh in the villagers’ minds, and Cecil is less than welcome. However, he is profoundly repentant and wishes to be rid of his sins, which is why the Elder of Mysidia sends him to Mt Ordeals: if his regrets are genuine, he will be able to become a Paladin there. He doesn’t entirely trust Cecil though, so he assigns Palom and Porom, twin little mages-in-training, to spy on him. Palom is the boy. He has brown hair with a small ponytail and brown eyes and can be distinguished by his green-striped outfit and red cape. He’s a Black Mage and can equip daggers and rods. His special command is called Boast/Bluff and doubles the power of his next spell. He also has a joint command with Porom called Twin(cast), which makes them coordinate their casting to produce a powerful spell. The problem is that it takes quite a long time to charge, and you’ll probably get more damage out of Palom’s regular spells within the same timeframe. Personality-wise, Palom is rude, unruly and thinks he’s the greatest mage in the world. Well, aside from Tella(h), whom he idolises, dreaming of becoming a Sage like him someday. Seeing Cecil’s genuine wish to atone, he gradually warms to his cause and, together with his sister, helps to save the party in a rather momentous episode.

Porom: Joining the party alongside her brother, she has the same brown eyes and brown hair as he does, except that her ponytail is longer, and her outfit colours are the reverse of his (red stripes and green cape). Porom is a White Mage, and uses staves in combat. Her rather humorous special command is Tears/Cry, which makes her pretend to cry in front of the enemies to startle them. This makes them lose a turn and can also help the party run from battle. And, of course, she also has her joint Twin(cast) command with Palom, but you will also be better served by just using her regular spells or attacks instead, as a) it will tie Palom up unnecessarily and prevent him from dealing damage and b) it will also tie Porom up and prevent her from healing anyone should things get dicey in the meantime. Personality-wise, Porom is diametrically opposed to her brother: quiet, respectful and dutiful (because girls are sweet and boys are bratty, yeah?). She even smacks Palom on the head every once in a while to keep him in line. She also believes that Cecil’s repentance is genuine, even though she’s always more polite to him than her brother. Unfortunately, both of the children will leave the party rather soon after joining, which is a pity, because they’re pretty lovable, unlike most children in videogames.

Cid: As both of his predecessors (and most of his successors), Cid is the airship guy. Short-tempered, foul-mouthed and hard-working, he’s the brains behind the Red Wings. However, he doesn’t quite appreciate that they’re being used for military purposes (which begs the question: what did he think they’d be used for? tourism? air freight?) and sympathises with Cecil’s doubts. When the latter falls in disgrace, Cid decides to give the king a piece of his mind and ends up in jail. Cecil and co. eventually come to rescue him, and he joins the group, eager to help out. This Cid is somewhat reminiscent of a dwarf: short, pudgy, with a huge bushy brown beard (blue on his menu portrait), pilot’s goggles and a big toothy grin. He can also give FFVII’s Cid a run for his money in terms of colourful expressions. Sadly, besides the comic relief and the fact that he’s the reason the party has an airship, Cid isn’t very useful. He’s very slow, and his only special ability is the Peep/Analyze command, which involves him looking up the enemies’ stats and weaknesses. In other words, it’s pretty much pointless. His trademark weapon are hammers, but he can also use axes, bows and daggers. His enthusiastic, energetic personality somewhat makes up for his lacklustre combat performance though. He also has a daughter who keeps worrying about him overexerting himself (and who never gets a name…).

Edge: He’s not actually called that, it’s a contraction of his first and last names, Edward Geraldine. I’ve always wondered why the later versions of FFIV insisted on renaming Gilbert to Edward, considering one of the main characters was technically already called Edward. Was there no other name they could’ve picked? Anyway, this silver-haired, blue-eyed Ninja is the crown prince of Eblan(a). He decides to battle one of Golbez(e)’s minions, Rubicante, the Fiend of Fire, after the latter lays waste to his country and takes his parents hostage. He can’t do much on his own, however, and Cecil’s team arrives just in time to see Rubicante hand his butt back to him. They convince Edge to join them, because it would clearly be more effective for both parties involved. Unfortunately for them, Edge also brings his ego along, which can prove a little overbearing at times, especially for Cid, who develops a cordial dislike for him. Brash, boastful and very quick to anger, Edge is also the first of the playboy characters in the series, and Rydia immediately catches his fancy. He spends the rest of the game hitting on her, which makes for some entertaining scenes (and, unfortunately, one very questionable one, which involves Cecil and him being horrid to both Rosa and Rydia). Edge is also a very competent fighter. As a Ninja, he’s the fastest member of the party and dual-wields katana, boomerangs or claws, the first being his trademark weapon. He has some magic at his disposal with his Ninja/Ninjutsu command and can use Dart/Throw to throw weapons or Sneak/Steal. Sometimes, when the steal is unsuccessful, he will take a tiny bit of damage. His only real flaw is his rather low defence. So, overall, he’s a welcome addition to the party, not least because he brings some much-needed comic relief in a story that looks a little bleak at that point. He’s also the game’s second fan service-y male character, as he’s not quite shirtless but very nearly so.

FuSoYa/Fusoya: Last, but not…wait…yeah, least, we have FuSoYa/Fusoya. You’re probably wondering what the deal is with his name. You see, FuSoYa/Fusoya is a Lunarian: he lives on the Moon. Pretty much everything concerning him is a spoiler, so I won’t go into too much detail. Suffice it to say that he is the last character to join the team and that he supplies crucial information about two other characters. Apart from that, he’s not particularly memorable. He has teal eyes, very long white hair and a beard, and is your usual wise old man: perceptive, benevolent…and also hopelessly bland. As far as abilities go, FuSoYa/Fusoya is basically an upgraded version of Tella(h). He knows every single White and Black spell in the game, but he also has the same MP handicap as Tella(h): 190MP is his maximum. He also has an ability called Regen, which allows him to regenerate the party’s HP. The problem is that he won’t be able to do anything else for the rest of the battle, and that the Regen effect is puny anyway, especially considering how hard enemies hit at that point in the game. He can equip rods and staves. The only other noteworthy thing about FuSoYa/Fusoya is that he turns into a puddle if he gets KO’ed in combat, which is pretty creepy. In the DS version, he evaporates instead, leaving only his robe behind, which is a different kind of creepy. Good thing he revives inside his robe and not outside of it…

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