As I’ve said before, the cast is plagued by blandness. It’s smaller, as is usually the case of any FF game with a job system (except Tactics and its siblings), but even though it’s a unique case in the series where the female characters outnumber the male ones (barring FFX-2 which has an all-female party), something is off. Perhaps it’s the absence of a romantic subplot. Perhaps one of the developers had indigestion when he created these guys. Whatever the reason, the result is underwhelming. There is however, one neat little detail: each character corresponds to one element and one particular quality, which gives them a stronger connection to the elemental crystals (Galuf and Cara/Krile count as one character for this purpose, you’ll see why shortly). This was later reused in the DS remake of FFIII, albeit to a lesser extent. The other notable fact about the cast is just how different their in-game sprites are from their Amano concept art (N.B. Yoshitaka Amano, one of the main artists for the FF series).
Butz/Bartz: As you can see, this is a case where a character has benefited immensely from the retranslation of the game, as his original name was extremely unfortunate. Not only that, but his CG render and Amano art depict him with white hair, purple eyes, weird grey undead-looking skin, a black-and-white jester’s outfit, earrings, a coronet and purple lipstick…Yeah. His in-game sprite looks a lot more normal: brown hair, blue eyes, blue tunic, white trousers (and, judging by Dissidia, this is his canonical appearance). Butz/Bartz is an adventurer, consequently representing pursuit, or the wind. Hailing from the little town of Lix (insert mandatory jokes about “Butz”, “Lix” and “wind” here), he travels the world on his chocobo, Boco/Boko. He happens to be near Tycoon when the meteor crashes, and thus meets Lenna and Galuf. At first, he just tags along to ensure their safety – because, let’s face it, you probably wouldn’t let a girl and an old geezer who both just took a meteor to the face travel alone either – but later comes to realise that he has ties to the whole Exdeath business. The problem with Butz/Bartz is that he’s just not hero material, despite somehow being the leader of the party. Nothing about him stands out. He doesn’t have much of a personality, apart from being a bit of an airhead, isn’t a studmuffin (only one female NPC in his hometown seems to be interested in him), doesn’t perform reckless feats of bravery…unlike just about everyone else. And he’s afraid of heights. What’s more, everyone else seems to be making the important decisions, while he just goes along with it all. Combine all that, and I’m getting more of a goofy guy-next-door vibe than an action hero one. However, combat-wise, Butz/Bartz is the strongest character of the lot and the second worst mage, making him naturally suited for melee jobs. You can give him some magic as support, if you really want to, but you’ll get much better results from the girls. Typical.
Lenna: There’s at least one of these in most games. Lenna is the princess of Tycoon and the resident stereotypical girl. Her CG render and Amano art depict her with strawberry-blonde hair in a bun, green eyes and a rather alluring semi-transparent white dress. Her sprite is a lot less flattering, with bright pink hair and a nondescript orange tunic. She starts the game by almost getting flattened by a meteor while out looking for her father. Butz/Bartz happens to be nearby and rushes to the rescue, bumping into Galuf in the process. Since Butz/Bartz then decides to accompany them, Galuf suggests that the youngster be findin’ Lenna damn fiiiine, but either Galuf needs to get his eyes checked, or Butz/Bartz is too much of a chump to try anything, as nothing ever ensues. Be that as it may, you’d think that Lenna would fit the role of heroine better than Butz/Bartz, considering she’s the princess of the kingdom that guards one of the crystals, but I guess that having a bona fide lead female character was unthinkable back in the day (even though Faris comes very close). She has the spotlight for a short while at the beginning, then progressively blends into the background. Her main purpose is to be rescued, get sentimental about things and have strong empathy for dragons. Unsurprisingly, she represents kindness, or water. Her other outstanding feature is her frightening readiness for self-sacrifice. It’s a good thing the others are there to help her, because she’d be long dead otherwise. Still, her uselessness as a character is compensated by the fact that she’s the best mage of the party (and, conversely, has the worst strength, tied with Cara/Krile). So any magic jobs will do. There’s not much point in giving her melee training, unless you want to tackle the optional bosses.
Galuf: Much like Butz/Bartz, his CG render and Amano art are a tad…disturbing, depicting him as a brown-eyed old man with a moustache, a ponytail, and an unnecessarily tight black and gold outfit. His sprite is a lot more reassuring, sporting bushy greyish-brown hair and a beard, a yellow tunic and green coat. The beginning of the game shows him jumping into a strange vortex, and, next thing you know, Butz/Bartz and Lenna find him unconscious next to the meteor, incapable of remembering anything besides his name and the fact that he needs to go to the Wind Shrine. Ahh, amnesia, the queen of plot devices. As you may suspect, there’s more to Galuf than meets the eye, and he is actually central to the story. You’ll discover his true identity in due time, but meanwhile, his amnesia will actually save the party’s lives. Together with his granddaughter Cara/Krile, Galuf represents hope, or the earth, and he’s an upbeat, goofy old codger. Never one to despair, he also has a strong tendency to act first and think later. Galuf has the most HP of the team and the second-best strength, which makes him a prime front-liner. Conversely, he’s also the slowest character of the lot and the worst mage. This isn’t much of an issue per se, but Galuf will permanently leave the party about halfway through the game to be replaced by Cara/Krile, who has very different stats, yet will inherit all of his abilities. So you might want to give him some magic training to anticipate the transition.
Faris: My personal favourite; if you remember Layla/Leila from FFII, Faris is her spiritual successor. There are two spoilers about Faris, but the first one is revealed early on, and besides, it just takes one look at the character art to kill it, so here goes: Faris is a woman. The problem is that she was rescued from drowning by pirates as a child, and since pirates aren’t known for gender equality, she was raised as a boy and subsequently became their captain by upholding the pretence of being a man. She’s also quite the looker, as the game itself suggests several times, turning the gender confusion into something of a running joke. Her CG render and Amano art portray her with brown eyes, long blonde hair in a ponytail, a sweeping black pirate coat and a short red tunic. Her sprite, on the other hand, has green eyes, long purple hair, a blue tunic and a green scarf. After leaving the meteor crash site, Butz/Bartz & co. spot Faris’ ship sailing merrily along, regardless of the lack of wind, so Galuf suggests stealing it to get to the Wind Shrine. Except that Faris catches them red-handed and throws them into the brig. However, she then notices that Lenna has the same necklace as her, which makes her change her mind and agree to help them. Brave, tough and outspoken, Faris represents courage, or fire, and, as a female character, is light-years ahead of both Lenna and Cara/Krile. She also has a pet sea dragon called Syldra (the reason her ship can sail without wind), whom she’s very fond of. Faris is the most balanced and versatile character in the party. She has the same strength as Galuf and strikes a happy medium between the rest in her other stats, so don’t be surprised if she ends up learning the most skills. Melee, magic, support, healing: you name it, she can do it and do it well.
Cara/Krile: Galuf’s blonde and blue-eyed granddaughter is yet another victim of disturbing CG rendering and Amano art. Considering how young she is (14) and how much younger she appears physically (about 8), the rather revealing brown/pink swimsuit she wears might be a tad risqué. Like Butz/Bartz and Galuf, her sprite is much more reassuring in its blue dress. Cara/Krile pops up pretty early in the game to help her reckless grandfather and jolt his memory. But she only joins the team later, once Galuf bails out. Detailing her backstory would spoil his, so I’ll just say that both her parents are dead, hence why Galuf has to take care of her. Cara/Krile is lively, peppy and affectionate, and can apparently communicate with moogles. She also shares her grandfather’s symbolism of hope and elemental affiliation to the earth. And while she’s definitely optimistic, she’s also very childish: not only does she not look her age, she certainly doesn’t act it either. As has already been mentioned, she will inherit all of Galuf’s abilities when she joins, but her stats are very different from his. She’s the weakest character of the lot, having the lowest HP and the same strength as Lenna. Conversely, she’s also the fastest and the second-best mage, so she’ll be much more at home in the back row. This is why it’s important to give Galuf some magic training while he’s still with the party. But I’d much rather have kept him than gotten stuck babysitting.