The cast consists of two different kinds of characters. First of all, you have the unique characters, like Ramza or Agrias, who have a role in the plot and their own unique job (this doesn’t prevent them from learning other jobs though). There are 12 of those, and you can recruit them by simply following the storyline or sidequests. Secondly, there are mercenaries that Ramza can hire to fill the ranks of his merry band. They have their own names, but no role in the story and no dialogue. They also don’t have unique jobs. You will start the game with a few already on your team, but you’re free to dismiss them if their stats are not to your liking and hire new ones. Also, bear in mind that there are powerful, female-exclusive accessories available later in the game, meaning that female units end up having an edge over male ones, which is a refreshing novelty. In the original game, the maximum number of party members is 16, which is a bit restrictive, considering that you can also capture and breed monsters.
Due to the nature of the combat system, any character can die permanently in combat once they join the party. This doesn’t apply to guest characters that temporarily help you out throughout the game, as the storyline requires them to be alive. Apart from adding some challenge to fights, the ‘permanent death’ element has a major disadvantage, in that unique characters lose all input in the storyline once they join the team: since they can all die, there’s a chance that they won’t participate in subsequent story events, so the game simply omits them. This is probably my single biggest beef with FFT, as people like Agrias or Orland(ea)u genuinely deserve more screentime. Each unique character has their own–sometimes amusing–quote if you select them in the menu, but that’s a meagre compensation.
Ramza: The hero of this ‘merry’ tale is a serious, earnest blonde and brown-eyed chap. His father, Balbanes/Barbaneth, originally married a noblewoman, with whom he had two sons, Dycedarg and Zalbaag. At some point, either before or after her death, he had a liaison with a commoner, which resulted in two other children, Ramza and his sister Alma. He recognised both of them, but the two eldest sons never really lived it down. Balbanes/Barbaneth also eventually took in Delita and his sister Teta/Tietra when their parents died of a plague, just to prime the familial time bomb even more. Anyway, Ramza is your typical good guy. He gets dragged into the conflict almost by accident, witnesses some terrible stuff which initially dampens his spirit, but eventually stands up for justice and protecting the defenceless, remaining humble, altruistic and boring brave throughout. Excuse me while I yawn. But I guess you need an honourable hero with so many duplicitous scumbags around. Ramza’s unique job is Squire, but the name is its only similarity with the eponymous generic job. It has a far better stat gain and a much better Action Ability called Guts/Mettle. New skills become available in every Chapter, as well as better equipment (such as heavy armour, shields and knight swords). Moreover, it’s the only job in the original game that can learn the Ultima spell: Ramza needs to survive it during a storyline battle in Chapter 4 to do so. Other than that, Ramza starts with an equal amount of Brave(ry) and Faith, making him very balanced. By default, he’s a Capricorn, but you can pick his birthday, thereby changing his sign. In Chapter 2, he’s accompanied by a relative of his–a male Squire called Rad/Ladd–, whom you can recruit as a generic unit. Ramza is also the only unique character that changes outfits throughout the game.
Mustadio: The first unique character to permanently join the team, Mustadio is a blonde and brown-eyed fellow from the city of Goug. Archaeology and engineering seem to be popular occupations for the locals, including Mustadio’s father, Besrodio/Besrudio, as there are abundant ancient ruins in the area. During an excavation, the two men find a Zodiac Stone, which immediately attracts unwanted attention from the Ba(e)rt Trading Company. They capture Besrodio/Besrudio, but Mustadio manages to escape with the Stone and some help from Ramza. However, the kidnappers coerce them into exchanging the Stone for Besrodio’s/Besrudio’s life, and Mustadio then swears to retrieve it (having discovered its nature in the meantime) and to help Ramza in his cause. Mustadio comes across as a friendly, easygoing, loyal chap. He is also instrumental in obtaining no fewer than four other characters (i.e. you have to keep him on your team to get them), so he’s basically the gift that keeps on giving. His unique job is Engineer/Machinist. It can equip light armour and guns, and has a very useful–if limited–Action Ability called Snipe/Aimed Shot, including the great Arm Aim/Arm Shot, which Disables the target. His Faith is slightly higher than his Brave(ry), which helps his effectiveness when armed with elemental guns. He’s a Libra.
Agrias: Can you say ‘girl power’? Agrias is a blonde and brown-eyed–notice a pattern here?–knight of the Lionsguard, who serve as protectors for the royal family. Agrias’ charge is Princess Ovelia. When Ramza becomes a mercenary, she hires his band to help her protect the Princess, but the latter is nevertheless abducted by Delita. Realising that Ramza knows him, Agrias enlists his help once again to rescue Ovelia, which doesn’t quite go according to plan. Eventually, Ovelia remains under Delita’s protection, while Agrias stays with Ramza to help him stem the tide of chaos that threatens Ivalice. Agrias is brave, earnest, dutiful and tough as frickin’ nails. She’s devoted to Ovelia, but is also unable to ignore the evil she sees around her. Until you recruit Cid, she will be your buttkicker-in-chief. Her unique job is Holy Knight, with an Action Ability called Holy Sword: a selection of powerful attacks that can cause negative status effects, such as Stasis Sword/Judgment Blade (inflicts Stop). She can equip heavy armour, shields and swords, but also female-exclusive accessories, which can give her an extra edge. However, her stat growth is geared towards magic, for some reason, so consider levelling her as a generic melee job like Knight for a while to even things out. Additionally, when she first joins the team as a guest, she is accompanied by her relatives, Alicia and Lavian, two female Knights, whom you can recruit as generic units. Agrias is a Cancer.
Rafa/Rapha: The source of the most controversial plot point in the game, Rafa/Rapha is a brown-haired (finally!) and brown-eyed girl who shares some special powers with her brother, Malak/Marach. When they were children, their village was torched by Duke Barinten/Barrington, who coveted these powers. He spared the siblings and convinced them that he had rescued them from the fire. He then trained them as assassins, but Rafa/Rapha eventually discovered the truth. As punishment, he raped her; FYI, she’s 13 in the original game and a barely-better 16 in WotL. Rafa/Rapha tried to warn Malak/Marach, but he refused to listen to her. When Alma is eventually kidnapped by Barinten/Barrington, the siblings are sent to bait Ramza to come rescue her. Rafa/Rapha uses the occasion to defect, even though Malak/Marach remains hostile. Rafa/Rapha is a brave, strong girl, but, despite the tragic mess they cause, her powers…suck. Her unique job, Heaven Knight/Skyseer, has rather poor stats. It can equip robes and staves or poles, and its Action Ability is called Truth/Sky Mantra, a set of MP-free elemental and status attacks that ignore the target’s Faith (and Rafa/Rapha’s Faith as well, which means you can’t boost their damage). The problem? Each attack strikes one to six times at random within a five-panel area. Meaning that, unless you’re targeting a group, it’s likely that you won’t even hit your mark. On top of that, they have long CT. Fortunately, Rafa/Rapha does have some redeeming qualities: her high Faith means she’ll do well as a mage, and her very low Brave(ry) makes her ideal for finding treasure. She’s a Pisces.
Malak/Marach: Ugh, this guy. Malak/Marach shares his sister’s brown hair and brown eyes, as well as her special powers. After being ‘rescued’ by Barinten/Barrington, he was also trained as an assassin, but brought up separately from Rafa/Rapha, meaning that he had no idea of what she was subjected to and still believed him to be their benefactor. So when she springs the truth on him, he refuses to believe her and turns on her. Rafa/Rapha joins Ramza, and when the party finds Barinten/Barrington, she confronts him once again, this time in Malak/Marach’s presence. Barinten/Barrington attempts to shoot her, but Malak/Marach finally intervenes and gets killed. Rafa/Rapha is devastated, but the Zodiac Stone Barinten/Barrington had in his possession resurrects Malak/Marach, and, repentant, he joins Ramza as well. I hope he spends the rest of his life making it up to his sister. He is a Hell Knight/Netherseer, basically a mirror image of Heaven Knight/Skyseer. It can also equip robes, staves and poles, and has the same poor stat growth. Its Untruth/Nether Mantra Action Ability includes the same attacks as Truth/Sky Mantra (with ‘mirrored’ names), but deals more damage the lower the enemy’s Faith and the lower Malak/Marach’s Faith. However, it also benefits from high Magic Attack. It’s more useful and more powerful than Truth/Sky Mantra, as it can deal a lot of damage to enemies that are resistant to magic, but suffers from the same randomisation issues. Moreover, Malak/Marach’s low Faith is problematic, as the only reliable way to cure/revive him are items or a Monk. On the other hand, this makes him pretty resistant in fights against mages. But considering his backstory, I’d rather forget he exists. He’s a Gemini.
Beowulf: The first optional character you can obtain by keeping Mustadio on your roster, Beowulf is one of the better additions to the team. Before you ask, no, his story doesn’t involve Grendel in any way, shape or form. This blonde and brown-eyed (…) fellow was formerly a knight of Lionel. Unfortunately, he attracted the jealousy of High Priest Buremonda/Celebrant Bremondt, who was smitten with his fiancée, Reis. Attempting to drive a wedge between them, Buremonda/Bremondt branded Beowulf a heretic and stripped him of his knighthood. This didn’t deter Reis, so Buremonda/Bremondt attempted to curse Beowulf, but she interposed herself and was transformed into a dragon. She fled, and Beowulf now wants to find her and restore her to her human form. He appears during a side-event in Lesalia, asking Ramza for help to explore the Goland Coal Mine/Gollund Colliery. The party finds dragon Reis inside, being attacked by monsters. After the battle, both join the party, although restoring Reis is still on the cards. Beowulf is a kind, calm and honourable man. His unique job is Temple Knight/Templar, with the Magic Sword/Spellblade Action Ability, which includes the Chicken spell (lowers a target’s Brave(ry) by 50; if that takes it below 10, the target literally turns into a chicken). Think of it as a beefed up Oracle/Mystic: although the spells are single-target, they have no Charge Time (CT) and generally higher success rates than those of a generic Oracle/Mystic. Beowulf’s high Faith also helps in that department, although his Brave(ry) could do better. Equipment-wise, he can wear the usual Knight gear: heavy armour, shields and swords. He’s a Libra.
Cidolfas/Cidolfus Orland(ea)u: Nicknamed “Thunder God Cid”, this grey-haired and brown-eyed man is one of Duke Goltan(n)a’s most valued generals and a long-time friend of Ramza’s late father. However, he eventually falls out of favour with the Duke, for which he is branded a traitor and imprisoned. By chance, Ramza happens to save his adoptive son, Olan/Orran (Alazlam/Arazlam’s distant ancestor) from some thieves, and they then proceed to rescue Cid, who happily joins Ramza’s party. Just disregard the fact that an experienced general would accept to follow orders from a 20-something lad, even if he is the son of one of his friends. As you can probably guess, Cid didn’t earn his nickname by picking flowers and playing with kittens. He is butt-kicking made pixel; the only character who can hope to compete with him is Reis, and even that requires some work, whereas Cid is awesome from the get-go. He has amazing stats, and his unique job, Holy Swordsman/Sword Saint, combines the skillsets of Agrias, Gaf(f)garion and Meliadoul (before you even obtain her) under its All Swordskill/Swordplay Action Ability. In other words, he can inflict status effects, drain the enemy’s HP or MP, bust their equipment if they’re human, or just deal a whole lot of damage. Oh, and he comes equipped with the Excalibur sword, which grants him permanent Haste. On top of the traditional Knight fare–heavy armour, swords, knight swords and shields–he can also equip katana and ninja swords. Despite this swag overload, Cid is sensible, honourable and self-possessed, as befits a man of his stature and experience. Really, his only downside is that he overshadows the rest of the team and may make the game too easy for some. He’s a Libra.
Meliadoul: Poor determined, steadfast Meliadoul embodies the concept of ‘too little, too late’. Sister to Islude/Isilud and daughter to Vormav/Folmarv, a Knight Templar in service of the Church, she has brown eyes and, if her brother is anything to go by, brown hair, although hers is hidden under a hood. At first, she supports her father, only seeing Ramza as an enemy. When the real intentions of the Church are revealed, Ramza attempts to make her see reason and join him. She refuses to listen at first, but follows the party on a hunch and witnesses some disturbing events that change her mind. Meliadoul is a Divine Knight, but her Mighty Sword/Unyielding Blade Action Ability is part of Cid’s skillset, which, unfortunately, makes her obsolete before she even joins. Sure, an extra helping of equipment-busting moves with a 100% success rate never hurt anybody, but, in the original game, this only works on human enemies. WotL makes these abilities deal damage to monsters as well, thus raising her usefulness, but since this also applies to Cid, it doesn’t really solve the underlying problem. Meliadoul can equip bows and polearms as well as swords, heavy armour and shields, but she won’t be able to use her unique Action Ability with a bow or a polearm. However, she does have access to female-exclusive accessories, which gives her a bit of an extra edge, and is a good addition to the party, in and of herself. She’s a Capricorn.
Worker 8/Construct 8: Now here’s an unexpected party member. The second optional character you can obtain by keeping Mustadio is…a robot. During his excavations, Besrodio/Besrudio unearths a large metal ball that has the Aquarius sign engraved on it. Once the party gets their hands on the Aquarius Zodiac Stone, they can bring it back to Goug, where it will activate the sphere and awaken Worker 8/Construct 8. In a rather amusing scene, the robot will acknowledge Ramza as its master and tag along with the party, but don’t expect any storyline input from it. Worker 8/Construct 8 is an interesting addition to the team, even though it does have its flaws. It’s considered as a monster and thus cannot change jobs or equip anything. It’s also rather slow, has limited mobility and can’t enter water. Its Action Ability, Tasks/Work, is a set of tremendously powerful moves–with Dispose taking the cake due to its obscenely long range–but Worker 8/Construct 8 takes some damage each time it uses one. Due to being a robot, it can’t understand the concept of religion, and therefore has 0 Faith, which means that it can’t be affected by magic. This makes it a genuine asset against enemy mages, but it also means you can’t cure it with magic either, only items. It also has an innate Defense Boost and is immune to every element except lightning, since it’s made of metal. Finally, due to its size, other party members can climb on top of it to reach high places. This notably comes in handy in Nelveska Temple. Surprisingly enough, Worker 8/Construct 8 has a sign: Gemini (and not Aquarius, as you may have expected).
Reis: Beowulf’s fiancée has long blonde hair and–*gasp*–brown eyes. When she refuses High Priest Buremonda/Celebrant Bremondt’s advances, he demotes Beowulf, then attempts to curse him. However, Reis interposes herself and gets turned into a Holy Dragon. She then flees, and Beowulf sets out to find her. She somehow ends up inside the Goland Coal Mine/Gollund Colliery, where Beowulf and Ramza rescue her from a demon. Reis then joins the team in her dragon form. She has three elemental breath attacks and a very high magic stat–which is a big advantage over regular dragons–as well as a good movement range and a lot of HP, but it gets better. In order to restore her, the team needs to visit Nelveska Temple and do battle there for the Cancer Zodiac Stone. Reis then becomes human again and pledges her support to Ramza alongside Beowulf. She appears caring and resolute enough, but she barely ever speaks and has no backstory besides her relationship with Beowulf (harrumph!). And yet, she’s still one of the best characters in the game. Reis’ unique job is Dragoner/Dragonkin, and while it can only equip female-exclusive accessories and handbags, it’s the fastest job in the game and has the best stat growth. It also has innate Two Weapons/Dual Wield (will only work with her bare fists, and she needs Brawler to make the best of it). Its Action Ability, Dragon, includes four elemental breath attacks, as well as some support and curative abilities for any Dragons or Hydras in your party. Moreover, it also has innate Monster Skill/Beastmaster, meaning that any monsters in the party will temporarily gain new abilities while near it in combat. More importantly, Reis’ stats make her an ideal mage. Just teach her Math Skill/Arithmeticks and watch her annihilate things. She’s a Pisces.
Cloud: Yes, this is Cloud from FFVII–blonde, spiky-haired, blue-eyed and purple-pyjama’ed. Incidentally, he’s probably the only blue-eyed character in the game. His presence is clearly fan-service, coming hot on the heels of FFVII, as he has absolutely no business being in Ivalice, and the reasons of his presence are never addressed or resolved. Annoying, but there you have it. Cloud is the fourth and last optional character that requires Mustadio’s presence in the party. You also need to buy a flower during a certain storyline event. By that point, Besrodio/Besrudio will have unearthed another device, this one with the Cancer sign on it. Once Ramza & co. retrieve the Cancer Zodiac Stone, they can return to Goug and operate the device, which makes Cloud pop out of thin air. He has one of his trademark nervous breakdowns and runs off, but the team finds him again in Zarghidas/Sal Ghidos, where he attempts to rescue the flower seller from thugs. Helping him makes him join, for lack of anything better to do. Cloud has decent potential, but takes a lot of work to reach it. His unique job is Soldier, and his Action Ability is called Limit Break, bringing back his FFVII moves plus a new one…but he can only use them with the Materia Blade equipped, which you have to go find in Bervenia Volcano/Mount Bervenia. What’s more, Cloud starts off at Level 1. Yup, you need to level him all the way up from scratch, and while it’s less tedious than you might expect (he gains a lot of EXP from higher-level targets), it’s still a hurdle. Add to that the fact that he’s stuck with one weapon, can only equip light armour, has only decent stats, and that most of his Limit Breaks have long CT (except the excellent Finishing Touch), and cons start piling up. He’s not a bad character, but there are plenty of better ones. He’s an Aquarius, which doesn’t actually correspond to his birthdate in FFVII lore. Also, as a Soldier, he’s the only male character who can equip a Ribbon, in reference to his cross-dressing antics in FFVII.
Byblos: The last character you can recruit and a very well-hidden one. Byblos isn’t actually its name–that’s picked randomly when you encounter it, along with its Zodiac sign–but its race, although there aren’t any other “Byblos” in the game (it’s actually a reference to the eponymous boss from FFV). Physically, it looks like a purple palette-swap of an Apanda/Reaver and can be found on the very last floor of the Deep Dungeon/Midlight’s Deep, where you battle Elidib(u)s. It will help out the party in the battle as a guest, and you may recruit it if it survives until the end. Although why it would want to join is a mystery, and since it can’t speak, no explanations are forthcoming. The Byblos is a monster, and therefore can’t change jobs or equip anything. Its Byblos Action Ability includes some useful skills, like Difference/Manaburn, which deals damage proportional to the target’s MP, and is thus lethal to mages, or Parasite, which inflicts a slew of negative status effects, and even a curative move called Energy/Energize. However, by the time you obtain it, there are many other, better characters. It does have Secret Hunt/Poach as an innate ability though, if you still need to poach anything this late in the game.