I think the main word to describe this motley crew is “skewed”. The team is formed of two kinds of characters: four immortals and five mortals. Although each character gets her or his own sidequest, it’s the immortals who receive the lion’s share of character development, simply because there’s more there to explore. As they recover their memories, dream sequences serve to fill in the blanks of their very long lives. Even here, though, there’s a huge disparity in Kaim’s favour: he gets 30 sequences, whereas Seth only gets two and Ming just one. Sarah is the exception of the lot, as she never recovers any memories at all. Look, I get that Kaim is the hero and all, but this is also a case of a male character getting more development than three female counterparts combined. Sure, a thousand-year-old mercenary will have seen a lot of stuff, but don’t tell me a thousand-year-old pirate would’ve seen less. In fact, I was more interested in finding out about Seth’s life than Kaim’s. I really hope this was a case of the developers running out of time.

On a related note, I have very strong reservations about the female characters’ wardrobes. Sarah is the only one wearing anything remotely reasonable (albeit painfully ugly, IMO), but even there, it seems the designers just couldn’t help themselves from slapping a massive cleavage on her. *disheartened sigh*

Kaim: The Thousand-Year GrumpThe hero of the story, for better or for worse. This black-haired and blue-eyed mercenary has lived for a thousand years, married several times, fathered several children and witnessed countless deaths. All this has made him thoroughly jaded, even without factoring in the amnesia. His latest marriage was to fellow immortal Sarah, even though that too was marred by a tragedy he is very reluctant to remember. He will be forced to face it, however, in what is, for many, the heaviest-hitting emotional sequence in the game. His memories gradually return, whether he likes it or not, and he eventually takes a stand against Gongora’s schemes. Kaim is the physical powerhouse of the game: he has the best strength, HP, vitality and magic defence, meaning that he can both dish out the hurt and take it like a champ. Conversely, he has the second-worst magic and casting time, tied with Sed, and the worst attack speed of all the physical attackers, tied with Tolten. He fights with swords, some of which he shares with Seth. Their best weapons (excluding the use of the Royal Equipment skill) are mutually exclusive too, as they’re crafted from a single piece of ore. The best strategy is probably crafting the sword for Seth and letting Kaim use Tolten’s best sword (which also happens to be the overall best sword in the game) with Royal Equipment. Kaim’s “sidequest” – if you can call it that, as there’s no reward for it – involves finding all of his dream sequences. He’s also a mandatory party member for Sarah’s sidequest, as befits a married couple, I guess. Personality-wise, Kaim is a grim, taciturn, dismissive fellow, and the amnesia only exacerbates that. However, as already mentioned, he’s privileged by comparison with the other characters, as you get a lot more insight into his past from his dream sequences. Recovering his memories, meeting Cooke and Mack, and reuniting with Sarah all have a positive influence on him, getting him to open up more, but he always remains a stoic to the core, which makes him an idol in Mack’s eyes. Oh, and he shares his voice actor with fellow stoic Basch from Final Fantasy XII.

Seth: Wild at heartThis former pirate captain has blue eyes, bluish-grey hair that looks like something exploded in her face, and an unquenchable spirit. It’s never explained how she came to join the Uhran army, but before she did, she used to sail the seas with her crew and her best friend, a sapient winged beast named Aneira. Seth also bore a son called Sed, although his father’s identity is never revealed. Just like Kaim, her memories disappeared after a tragic event which led her to believe that Sed was dead. Despite that, she always remains optimistic and is later overjoyed to discover that her son is actually alive. She’s suspicious of Gongora from the start and is probably the most overtly determined to take him down. Seth is weaker than Kaim. She has the second-best strength, tied with Mack; the second-best HP and magic defence; and the second-best vitality, tied with Sed. However, she has the fastest attack speed in the game and the third-best casting time, tied with Mack. So, although her magic is worse than his, she’s better suited for the front row than he is, and better suited to providing emergency magical backup than Kaim. She also fights with swords, some of which she shares with Kaim. You notably have to choose who between them gets their best weapon (barring the use of the Royal Equipment skill), as they are mutually exclusive, and Seth is probably the best candidate for it. Her sidequest involves exploring a cave where you can’t use any items and fighting a giant worm, which rewards her with a sword, ring, accessory and dream sequence. Personality-wise, Seth is best illustrated by one of her own victory quotes: “leap before you look, I always say”. She’s fiery, energetic, sarcastic and impatient, and while she enjoys freedom, she’s also devoted to her friends and her son. She notably used to be close to Ming, before both of their memories disappeared. Just as Kaim is a role-model for Mack, Seth is a heroine for Cooke. She also briefly serves as a mentor to Tolten, when the two of them are separated from the rest of the team for a while. On the other hand, she’s not too fond of Jansen and tends to take it out on his shins, something which Cooke is only too happy to emulate. Seth shares her voice actress with Rikku from Final Fantasy X and X-2. And, considering the camera angles in combat, I’m very happy she’s wearing shorts under that skimpy little dress of hers. Now if she had only put a bra on as well…because it looks like she’s permanently cold, if you catch my drift.

Jansen: Ladies bewareTo me, the most compelling argument in this game’s favour. Jansen has brown eyes, brown hair in a ponytail, and seems to be a bit of a drifter, since we never really learn what he got up to before working for Gongora. He first appears when he’s tasked to spy on Kaim and Seth during their visit to Grand Staff. Then several things happen: the situation takes a turn for the worse, and Kaim’s and Seth’s memories start returning, making them question Gongora’s motives. Most importantly though, they meet Ming, who makes Jansen’s heart go ‘zing’ *shots fired* Combine all that, and Jansen starts having serious misgivings about his loyalties, finally deciding to throw in his lot with the immortals. Jansen is the first mortal character you obtain and, as such, is a weird combination of a mage and a thief *flashbacks to Baldur’s Gate*, just so that Kaim and Seth have some worthwhile beginner skills to learn before other mortals join the group. His speciality is Black Magic, but he also has a smattering of low level White spells, can equip two accessories and use two items per turn, as well as being able to steal. This actually fits his personality and makes him the most viable mortal character to keep on the team throughout the game, until Sed shows up. Jansen has the second-best magic, tied with Ming and Cooke; and the second-best MP and casting time, tied with Cooke. Conversely, he has the third-worst HP, vitality and strength; the second-worst magic defence, tied with Ming and Sarah; and the second-worst attack speed, tied with Cooke. He uses staves, most of which he shares with Cooke, Ming and Sarah. His sidequest involves finding your way through a maze and fighting a dragon for the final Black Magic spell and an accessory. Personality-wise, Jansen is a coward, a womaniser and a blabbermouth, but his dialogue is peppered with comedy gold, such as his imitation of General Kakanas, his exceptionally apt nickname for Gongora or the reason he gives Tolten for why Kaim is so dour. He’s also a good guy at heart and has some genuinely emotional moments, especially where Ming is concerned. No one is more surprised – or confused – than he is when he realises that she returns his feelings, and the resulting romance is both adorkable and melancholy, when you pause to think about Ming’s circumstances.

Cooke: Pirate-in-trainingKaim & co. meet this brown-haired and green-eyed girl alongside her little brother, Mack, in Numara’s Ghost Town: a part of the city that got destroyed during a monster attack several years prior to the game’s beginning. They live there with their ailing mother, but it’s never really explained why they’re the only inhabitants in that part of town, or what happened to their father. The episode that follows this encounter is a gut punch and results in Mack running away into the nearby forest, which prompts the party to go rescue him. The children then join the team. Cooke is a White Mage, and her primary function is to allow the immortals to learn the full arsenal of White spells. She has the second-best magic, tied with Ming and Jansen; and the second-best MP and casting time, also tied with Jansen. Conversely, she’s the most fragile member of the team, as she has the worst HP, strength, vitality and magic defence. She also has the second-worst attack speed, tied with Jansen. Basically, once all the immortals have sponged off her, there’s very little incentive to keep her on the team, as she’s pretty much a one-trick pony. She also can only equip one accessory. She uses staves, most of which she shares with Jansen, Ming and Sarah. Her sidequest is probably the cutest one of the lot, as it involves a magic contest in the Kelolon Village for the best White Magic spell (never mind the fact that the Kelolon King states that he wants to marry her if she loses…*shudder*). Personality-wise, Cooke is clearly the dominant sibling in the pair. Not only is she older than Mack, she’s also far more outspoken, energetic and decisive than he is. She idolises both Seth and Sed, due to them being pirates, and gleefully imitates Seth when she kicks Jansen in the shins for being annoying. Surprisingly enough, Ming was also apparently close to their mother, as the children refer to her as “Aunt Ming”. And now, take a pause to consider: Cooke can’t be more than eight or nine years old. Do you really think that dressing her in a slit mini-skirt, halter-neck crop top and thigh-high boots with heels was absolutely necessary? I’m so glad she at least has that red coat to prevent any camera angle mishaps from the back. I was also surprised to find out that she shares her voice actress with Aerie from Baldur’s Gate II, because they sound nothing like each other.

Mack: Urgent haircut neededI’m pretty sure that the resemblance between Mack and Cooke, and Palom and Porom from Final Fantasy IV was not accidental. Mage siblings? Check. Healer girl, attacker boy? Check. Similar hairstyles? Check. Same colour palettes? Check. It’s just their personalities that are reversed: Cooke is more like Palom, while Mack is more like Porom. Anyway. Mack shares his sister’s green eyes and brown hair (although the pigtails look ridiculous), and the party encounters both of them in Numara’s Ghost Town. The ensuing events affect him deeply, and he runs away into the nearby forest. The party rescues him, but lo and behold, the ordeal allows him to develop an aptitude for Spirit Magic and thus to conveniently become the main source of said magic for the team. Mack can best be described as a hodge-podge, even more so than Jansen. It’s as if he was specifically designed as a source of abilities for the immortals, rather than as a functional character in his own right. Aside from his magic, he has an arsenal of melee skills, which are very useful for actual melee characters, like Kaim or Seth, but far less so for Mack himself. His best stats are his attack speed, where he ranks second-best, and his strength, where he also ranks second-best, tied with Seth. He also uses melee weapons, in the form of frisbee-like discs attached to his arms, with which he slices the enemies. Which would be fine if he didn’t have the worst HP and magic defence, and the second-worst vitality of all the melee characters, meaning that he’s very fragile on the front lines. Making his frisbees into ranged weapons would have helped so much in this respect (as well as being more intuititve). Unfortunately, Mack’s magic abilities are nothing to write home about either, as he has the worst MP and magic attack out of all the casters. He can also only equip one accessory. So once the immortals have finished leeching off him, there’s literally nothing he can do that someone else can’t do better. His sidequest, however, is the most involved and difficult one of the lot, as it involves exploring the Temple of Enlightenment, which is huge, annoying to navigate and full of nasty enemies. At the end of it is an equally nasty boss, who yields the final Spirit spell, and, once he’s down, Mack’s best weapon is right nearby. Personality-wise, Mack is a shy, soft-spoken and thoughtful little boy, but he does have an adventurous streak as well, and can be both determined and stubborn when he feels strongly about something. Most of the time, however, he defers to Cooke and to Kaim, whom he sees as the ultimate role-model.

Ming: Urgent haircut neededI…I just…*sigh* Look, I don’t know what the developers were thinking when they decided that a queen should be dressed like a stripper. Not only does the whole outfit look extremely uncomfortable and impractical (two words: battle thong), but her top also defies the laws of physics, because there’s no way it should be able to stay on her with the way Mother Nature has endowed her, barring some ingenious use of body tape. Anyway. Ming has red hair and green eyes (although they appear purple at first…long story), plays a mean harp and is the immortal – and amnesic – queen of the kingdom of Numara. The party first meets her when they are imprisoned by the Numaran army while investigating Grand Staff. Jansen twigs that Ming, who is a pacifist, is being manipulated by her General, Kakanas, and turns on the charm, which results in her setting the party free. This is not the end of the story, however, and Ming eventually joins up for good, in a bid to try to restore political stability and also to find out how she’s connected to the other immortals. Ming is the first immortal caster you get, and she’s a magical powerhouse. She has the best MP and casting time, tied with Sarah; and the second-best magic, tied with Jansen and Cooke. She also comes with some Composite Magic already learned, which rounds out your party’s spell arsenal. Conversely, she’s either worst or second-worst in all physical stats, tied with Sarah. She uses staves, most of which she shares with Sarah, Cooke and Jansen. Her sidequest involves battling a sea serpent for a nifty accessory. Personality-wise, Ming is rather low-key and understated. She may appear a bit clueless and naïve at first, but this is only a result of her amnesia. Her real self is poised, sensible, perceptive and gently teasing. The game also clearly presents her as the most magically attuned character in the group, but somehow, Sarah beats her in raw stats. Go figure. She’s the only character who sees Jansen as more than just a nuisance, and her willingness to look past his bumbling façade results in an endearing romance. She was also good friends with Seth, when both had their memories intact, and seems to have been close to Cooke’s and Mack’s mother as well.

Sarah: Vacant stareEverything about Sarah is designed to be bookish, meek and motherly. From her glasses to her perpetual half-beatific, half-vacant facial expression; to her demure, goody-two-shoes behaviour; to her childish posture with her feet turned inwards; to the fact that she’s working on a book to chronicle the history of magic; to the generous cleavage the developers saw fit to endow her with; it all fits the ‘nerdy hottie’ trope. The rest of her outfit, however, is surprisingly modest (albeit really ugly, IMO), and for that, at least, I’m thankful. Anyway. Sarah has light brown hair and green eyes and is conspicuously absent at the beginning of the game, considering that she and Kaim are married. After he recovers his memories, he decides to track her down, but persuading her to join the party takes a bit of work and a visit to a creepy abandoned house. Much as it pains me to say it, Sarah is the most powerful mage in the party. Her stats are identical to Ming, except that she trumps her in actual magic power, despite the fact that Ming is invariably presented as the most magic-savvy of the two. The power of research, I guess. She also uses staves, most of which she shares with Ming, Jansen and Cooke. Her sidequest (for which Kaim is also mandatory) involves fighting a tough optional boss for an accessory. Sarah’s magical prowess is especially grating for me, because she’s a waste of character space. She has the personality of a wet dishcloth and spends most of her time fussing and worrying about either Kaim or the children, or both. So she’s essentially stuck with the cliché female role, whereas Seth, Ming and even Cooke are allowed to have independent personalities and agency. It’s also very telling – and painfully ironic – that, despite being presented as entirely devoted to her family, she’s the only immortal who never recovers her memories. Everything she knows about her past (or about anything, really), she’s read in her journals. She never even properly remembers her own husband or child. To me, this undermines the entire basis for her personality, which leaves you with a hollow shell of a character who can’t even do cliché right. She shares her voice actress with Mei Ling of Metal Gear Solid fame, but while the tearful, tremulous note she strikes is very fitting, it’s also very irritating.

Tolten: Blingin'Well, at least, Sarah isn’t alone in the “waste of character space” category. Which isn’t really a good thing, but there you go. Tolten – or, as I like to call him, Dolten, since he’s not too bright – is the blonde and blue-eyed heir to the Uhran throne and packs more bling than your average rapper. The problem is that the country is actually governed by a Council, and the king only has a ceremonial role, if even that. Nevertheless, Gongora sees potential in all this and proceeds to play Dolten like a fiddle in his bid for power, restoring him to the throne only to usurp it from right under his nose. When the hapless prince finally realises what’s going on (and it takes quite a while), he decides to join Kaim & co. in opposing Gongora Or, well…maybe “decides” is too strong a word. He kinda just tags along by default, since he has no better ideas for what to do with himself. Dolten’s combat skills…suck. He has the worst strength, vitality, speed (tied with Kaim) and the second-worst magic defence of all the physical attackers. He also has the worst MP (tied with Kaim), magic and casting time of the entire party. Which just leaves HP, and his is only third-best, tied with Sed. And on top of all that, he can only equip one accessory. The only good thing about Dolten are the Skills he can teach the immortals. This includes Royal Equipment, which allows them to use the gear that would otherwise be exclusive to him. This includes the best sword in the game, which is a perfect fit for Kaim. Once the skill leeching is done, ditch him and never look back: he is, by far, the worst of the mortals. His sidequest involves breaking seals on a number of statues, culminating in a one-on-one duel for his best Skill and the aforementioned best sword in the game. Which might sound worrying, considering how terrible Dolten is, but don’t worry: it’s easy enough for him to manage. Personality-wise, Dolten is a clueless, insecure, indecisive wimp who starts out trusting Gongora for some absolutely unfathomable reason. It’s only towards the very end of the game that he develops some semblance of a backbone (or another word that starts with ‘b’). Seth takes him under her wing when they’re separated from the rest of the team for a while, and then Sed takes over for her once the crew reunites. Everyone else just sort of ignores him. As well they should. With that in mind, I have no idea why he plays the part he does in the ending sequence.

Sed: Crusty ol' sea dogDue to the quirks of immortal biology, any child they bear, be it with a mortal or an immortal, is automatically mortal and therefore ages at a normal rate. The end result is that, by the time the party meets him, Sed is a grizzled old man with grey hair and blue eyes. He and his pirate crew are captured by Gongora and about to be executed as part of his coronation ceremony when Seth and Tolten happen upon them. They manage to break them out, and Sed then helps them escape with the help of his airship/boat/submarine, the Nautilus, which serves as the party’s main form of transportation from then on. Sed is the only ranged physical attacker on the team, as he uses a rifle. His stats are fairly middle-of-the-road, but he’s still better than Tolten. He has the third-best strength; the third-best attack speed; the second-best vitality, tied with Seth; and the third-best HP, tied with Tolten. Conversely, he has the second-worst MP, tied with Seth; and the second-worst magic and casting time, both tied with Kaim. So he’s ideally suited to being a ranged supporting character, especially considering the skills he brings to the table. In that respect, he’s an upgrade of Jansen: he can equip three accessories and use three items per turn. He also has skills that double the party’s experience, Skill Points, money and loot earned from combat. His sidequest involves rounding up his pirate crew, who all went separate ways after escaping Uhra, and once they’re all back together at their hideout, they give him his best rifle and a ring. Personality-wise, Sed is a grumpy old codger. A lifetime of pirating has made him tough, resourceful and wary. However, he’s also a big ol’ mama’s boy, and the fact that he keeps addressing the much younger-looking Seth as such throughout the game sounds wildly incongruous (and Dr Freud probably would’ve had a lot of things to say about that). He’s also fond of the children, who idolise him, and takes on a mentoring role with Tolten. He shares his voice actor with Haer’Dalis from Baldur’s Gate II and The Fear from Metal Gear Solid 3.

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