This is the largest cast of unique characters in a Final Fantasy game (the generic units in Tactics and Tactics Advance don’t count), but, unfortunately, quantity doesn’t equal quality. Each member of the original cast (barring Cecil, Rosa and Cid, who appear all together in the Prologue) plus Ceodore, gets their own Tale, with some new characters thrown in. Then everyone (except Fusoya) from every Tale you’ve cleared becomes available in the final stretches of the game, provided you make a save at the end of every Tale then import them all into the final one. There are just a couple things to remember: if you don’t repair Calca and Brina in Rydia’s Tale, they won’t be available in the final ones, and if either of the Eblan Four (Gekkou, Zangetsu, Izayoi or Tsukinowa) dies during their individual scenarios in Edge’s Tale, they’re also gone for good.

One new feature is that each character gets several Bands: special attacks performed in tandem with one or more other characters, which serves to compensate for the lack of Limit Breaks and encourages character rotation in your active party. Because otherwise, you may conveniently forget that most of these characters exist…

In terms of outfits, the usual gripe regarding the women applies. The original FFIV was somewhat refreshing in that it featured one shirtless and one semi-shirtless male character, alongside the more traditional scantily clad female ones. Here, one new shirtless man joins the ranks, but the two original ones put some clothes back on, while two of the younger women are now so scantily clad that their official artwork was censored outside of Japan *rolls eyes* (I will be doing this a lot). A third outfit also got censored, but that one is just being prudish, in my opinion. There’s also the fact that three characters had their faces redrawn on their official art for non-Japanese versions of the game. While I can understand having reservations about skimpy clothing, what possible justification was there for tweaking their faces? No other game in the series has had this issue, before or since.

Ceodore: Cecil and Rosa’s son has his mother’s blonde hair (blue on his sprite) and his father’s blue-green eyes. I feel that the writers missed an opportunity to plumb the depths of ridiculousness by naming him partly after his grandmother, rather than his grandfather. We could’ve ended up with Kluodore. Cluedo? You know what, I’ll just call him that. Anyway. Cluedo was supposed to be 17, but the developers retconned it to 15 (although he looks all of 10) to avoid any implications of Rosa being pregnant during FFIV (out of wedlock, the scandal!). That didn’t stop them from putting Cluedo’s bed in his parents’ bedroom. Next to theirs. Anyway, Cluedo is training to join the Red Wings, but he’s actually determined not to rely on his parents’ achievements. The monster attack on Baron puts a dent in his plans. Cluedo’s airship crashes near Mysidia, but a mysterious hooded man helps him out, and they return to Baron via the Devil’s Road. Cluedo’s Strength and HP are mediocre, but he has the best MP and Spirit of the melee characters, which makes him decent at White Magic, even though he only has basic spells. He’s also the second fastest healer in the game. He can use swords and shields, bows, daggers, spears and staves. His special ability is Awaken: it fully heals him and boosts his stats for three turns, but after it wears off, his HP drops to single digits, which can be very dangerous. He has 15 Bands with Cecil, Kain, Rosa, Rydia, Cid, Luca, Ursula, Yang, Palom, Porom, Tsukinowa and Golbez. Of those, eight are two-character Bands, four are three-character, one is four-character, and two are five-character. Personality-wise, Cluedo is remarkably bland, given that he’s supposed to be the game’s poster character. But then considering his parents’ personalities, perhaps it’s not surprising. He’s your typical earnest lad eager to prove his worth. He’s also not the sharpest tool in the shed, as his favourite word is “huh?!”. However, as Rosa’s mother is still alive, he has two living parents and a grandmother, which is all but unheard of by JRPG standards.

Cecil: Having had more than his fair share of time in the spotlight in the original game, Cecil is briefly playable in the Prologue, then absent from the party until the final Tales. He is now the king of Baron, happily married to Rosa and father to Ceodore. As Baron gets attacked from the get-go, he is forced to defend the castle. Unfortunately, he has apparently learned nothing from his experiences in FFIV and orders Cid to take Rosa away to safety, rather than letting them help or even have a say in the matter. The game then makes him eat humble pie for this, causing a lot of trouble for the rest of the cast in what is simultaneously a rehash and a mirror image of the first game (I’ll let you figure that one out), before things are set right again. And yet, when the opportunity pops up to elaborate on this parallel, the writers completely bypass it. Anyway. Cecil is much as you remember him: a strong melee character with a smattering of White Magic. His HP and Strength are both very high, but his Spirit isn’t great, so his White Magic is just there for emergencies. His spell selection and speed are also worse than Ceodore’s. He can equip swords and shields, axes, staves, bows and daggers. His special ability is still Cover, allowing him to step in and take hits for a designated party member, or one whose HP is dangerously low. Despite taking a backseat to other characters for most of the game, Cecil still has the most Bands of the lot: 18, to be precise, with Rosa, Cid, Kain, Ceodore, Golbez, Yang, Ursula, Palom, Porom, Rydia, Edge and Edward. Of those, nine are two-character Bands, five are three-character, two are four-character, and two are five-character, which means that he also has the most two- (tied with Rydia) and three-character Bands in the game. Personality-wise, Cecil is still the same honourable and righteous fellow, but the aftermath of the attack on Baron isn’t kind to him, and he also has a psychological breakdown later on, which dramatically lowers his stats. He eventually gets better, but none of this really makes him more interesting.

Rosa: As opposed to Cecil, Rosa didn’t have much to do in the first game…and the developers couldn’t think of much for her to do in this one either. She is now the queen of Baron and mother to Ceodore. And also FAR more modestly dressed. Guess a wife and mother (and queen) can’t go prancing around in a leotard. Either that, or she’s now too old by JRPG standards (36! The horror!). She and Cid initially try to help Cecil during the attack on Baron, but he eventually orders Cid to take her to safety on his airship, staying behind to face the threat alone. It was already silly when he tried to pull this in FFIV, and it turns out to be even sillier this time around. Anyway. After escaping Baron, Rosa goes to Damcyan to ask Edward (of all people…) for help, but essentially walks straight into another kidnapping. *rolls eyes* Once she’s freed, she briefly helps out Ceodore in Kain’s Tale and then becomes playable again in the final Tales. Rosa is the hardiest of the dedicated healers, having the best HP, Strength and Stamina. Porom has better MP and Spirit, but Rosa is more versatile, as she can contribute to combat with her Aim ability. Her Pray ability from FFIV has been changed into Blessing, which can now heal a small amount of HP and MP for free. And, of course, she has her White Magic arsenal. She can equip bows and staves, as well as the Queen’s Whip. She has 14 Bands with Cecil, Ceodore, Kain, Cid, Rydia, Palom, Porom, Edge, Leonora, Harley and Izayoi. Of those, six are two-character Bands, four are three-character, one is four-character, and three are five-character. This means she has the most five-character Bands in the game, oddly enough. Personality-wise, Rosa is still the same stereotypical  pure, gentle goody-two-shoes and a completely static character. Her dialogue also consists of 80% “Cecil!”, 10% “Kain!” and 10% “Ceodore!”. I’m kidding, but just barely. Also also, her face now looks worryingly similar to Cecil’s in the introductory cinematic.

Cid: At 71, TAY Cid is officially the oldest playable human character in the entire Final Fantasy series, beating FFVI’s Strago by one year, but his role in the story is anecdotal at best. He is now a granddad to little Mid, although his daughter still doesn’t have a name. Anyway. Cid is still Baron’s top engineer and has taken Luca on as his apprentice, but that’s as much as the game tells you of his life since FFIV. His hair’s gone white though, so he’s starting to show his age. He shows up during the Prologue to help Cecil and whisk Rosa off to safety. He briefly reappears alongside Edward to help out Ceodore in Kain’s Tale, but doesn’t do anything else until the final Tales. In combat, Cid is still one of the least useful characters of the lot. He has a lot of HP, and his Strength and Stamina are among the best in the game, but he’s also painfully slow and has very bad MP. In terms of abilities, he still has Analyze from the original game, which displays the targeted enemy’s stats (i.e. useless). He also has a new ability called Risk Strike, which will either do a lot of damage…or miss completely. So basically, if you’re looking for a reliable damage-dealer, look elsewhere. Cid can equip hammers, axes and bows. He has eight Bands with Cecil, Rosa, Ceodore, Kain, Luca, Calca, Brina, Edward and Harley. Of those, five are two-character Bands, two are four-character and one is five-character; he has no three-character ones. Personality-wise, Cid is still the same foul-mouthed workaholic with a short fuse, but considering how little he features in the game, you’d be forgiven for forgetting he’s even there.

Rydia: Everybody’s favourite green-haired Summoner, now with 20% fewer clothes! In fact, her new outfit (basically a thong trikini) was deemed so revealing that her official artwork was censored outside of Japan. *slow clap* At least her in-game model is more modest, covering up more of her backside. I guess she didn’t get the same memo as Rosa, despite only being two years younger (physically, at least). Or maybe it’s because she’s not a wife and mother, and therefore must still be attractive. *rolls eyes* Anyway, Rydia’s been rebuilding Mist and visiting her Eidolon friends in the Feymarch. At one point (shown in Porom’s Tale), Queen Asura told her to go hang out with other humans and forbade her from ever returning. However, her Tale opens with her paying a visit anyway. As luck would have it, the Mysterious Girl attacks right then and petrifies every single Eidolon. Rydia is shocked and decides to go warn the others, joined by Luca, whom she meets outside the Feymarch. Rydia’s still the same destructive force as in FFIV: puny HP, formidable MP and Intelligence. Palom is better at both of the latter, but she’s faster and more versatile than he is, courtesy of Asura and Sylph. The problem is that she won’t be able to use her Eidolons until the final Tales, and you’ll need to fight (but not kill!) them to get them back. You could also hunt for the four rare enemy drop Summons (Goblin, Bomb, Mindflayer and Cockatrice), for all the good they do. Rydia can use rods, daggers, bows and whips. She has 16 Bands with Luca, Palom, Edge, Ceodore, Cecil, Rosa, Edward, Yang, Leonora, Harley, Izayoi and Kain. Of those, nine are two-character Bands, three are three-character, two are four-character, and two are five-character, which means that she’s tied with Cecil for most two-character Bands. Personality-wise…Rydia’s Tale doesn’t paint her in the best light. She was strong, resilient and persistently optimistic in the original game, but here, she actually takes a backseat to Luca in her own Tale. This could be justified by the trauma of losing all her Eidolons, but it’s still quite jarring (especially coupled with her outfit change). She does make up for it in the final Tales though. And there’s a small possibility that she may finally notice Edge’s attentions by the end of the game.

Luca: All the dwarves in FFIV had shadowy Black-Mage faces and yellow eyes, and the female dwarves had beards. But it looks like the developers simply couldn’t have a non-conventionally pretty 21-year-old female character in the game, consistency be damned (not that she looks much older than 16). So Luca is now the only dwarf in the entire FFIV world whose face you can see. And she doesn’t have a beard, unless she shaves it off. She describes her makeover as “not being a fan of dwarven fashion”. Does that extend to dwarven genetics? Unless she means that the beards and dark faces are an outfit? At least she kept her dwarven girth, which is probably also the reason why she wears sensible clothes *rolls eyes* At least her hair and eye colour are very close to their original versions. Anyway. King Giott’s daughter is now Cid’s apprentice and has permission to fly the Falcon by herself. While out on patrol, she bumps into Rydia at the entrance to the Feymarch and decides to lend a hand in stopping the Mysterious Girl. The Red Wings then attack her father’s castle and steal their Crystal, but as no one is hurt, she tags along with Rydia. She also brings along her two dolls, Calca and Brina (whom you may remember as bosses in FFIV), which given her age, is a bit creepy. Being Cid’s pupil, Luca has very similar stats: high Strength, HP and Stamina, but low MP and Speed. She also has Analyze as a special ability and can equip the same gear as him (hammers, axes and bows), as well as the Queen’s Whip. However, she’s faster, and her second special ability, Big Throw, is (slightly) more useful than Risk Strike, as it allows her to deal normal damage from the back row by throwing her weapon (thereby taking less damage). She has 12 Bands with Rydia, Calca, Brina, Cid, Edge, Ceodore, Ursula, Zangetsu, Edward, Harley, Palom, Leonora and Porom. Of those, three are two-character Bands, four are three-character, four are four-character, and one is five-character, which means that she has the most four-character Bands in the game. Personality-wise, Luca is possibly the best new character. She’s plucky, resourceful and often serves as a motivator to Rydia. She also has an unrequited crush on Palom, but, refreshingly, doesn’t pine about it.

Calca: Luca’s male doll has blonde hair and blue eyes, just like his female counterpart. Being a doll, his story input is, understandably, non-existent. He never even speaks. All he does is try to protect Rydia and Luca from the Mysterious Girl, alongside Brina, getting trashed in the process. You can repair both him and Brina during Rydia’s Tale by finding three specific rare items, and they can then join the party alongside everyone else in the final Tales. Like Brina, Calca’s stats are mediocre at best, with notably the lowest HP growth in the game. He does, however, have the higher Strength, Stamina and Intelligence of the two, making him better suited for melee. His high Intelligence comes into play with his special ability, Jive, which allows him to cast random enemy spells, thereby introducing a Blue Mage of sorts into FFIV, albeit one whose casting you can’t directly control, which can often prove counter-productive (e.g. if he decides to use a fire-based spell against an enemy that absorbs fire). He can equip daggers and special doll clothes. These give dramatic boosts to some of his stats, allowing you to customise him to your needs. All-in-all though, the randomness of the dolls’ abilities is problematic, and Calca is the less useful of the two, especially since far too many of his spells involve status effects, rather than direct damage. Unsurprisingly, the dolls have the fewest Bands in the game (Fusoya doesn’t count, as he’s not a permanent character): four each, with each other, Luca, Cid and Edward. Of these, one is a two-character Band, two are three-character, and one is four-character. They don’t have any five-character Bands.

Brina: Luca’s female doll has blonde hair and blue eyes, just like her male counterpart. Her storyline input is just as non-existent as his, and she gets trashed alongside him when they try to protect Rydia and Luca from the Mysterious Girl. She can then also be repaired with three specific key items found during Rydia’s Tale and join the party in the final Tales. Like Calca, Brina’s HP growth is the lowest in the game, but she has higher Speed and Spirit. This fits very well with her Dance ability, which casts random White Magic spells when used. This is significantly better than Calca’s Jive, as you can’t really go wrong with healing or buffs. The only problem is the randomisation, meaning that she can (and likely will) bust out a Protect when what your party really needs is a Curaga, for example. Still, if you’re willing to live with that, Brina can pull her weight as a healer. She can also equip daggers and the same special doll clothes as Calca. She can even become one of the fastest characters in the game, thereby somewhat offsetting the issue of her randomised spells. If you prefer being able to control your healers though, steer clear. Unsurprisingly, the dolls have the fewest Bands in the game (Fusoya doesn’t count, as he’s not a permanent character): four each, with each other, Luca, Cid and Edward. Of these, one is a two-character Band, two are three-character, and one is four-character. They don’t have any five-character Bands. Brina is also the only female character who can’t equip the Queen’s Whip. Probably because she’s not actually alive.

Yang: Everybody’s favourite punch-master, now with 200% more hair! Yang’s braid now reaches to his thighs, and his ‘stache would make Nietzsche proud. As opposed to Rydia and Porom, who lost some clothes along the way, Yang now covers up one arm and half of his ridiculously burly chest (but his character model doesn’t). And his trousers are now on fire, instead of having smiley faces on them. The end of FFIV saw him taking the throne of Fabul, after the previous king abdicated in his favour. Seventeen years later, he’s still at it, kicking butt and taking names in the process. He has also fathered a daughter called Ursula with his wife Sheila. Ursula really wants to learn proper buttkicking from her dad, but he thinks that she puts too much importance on physical strength and is therefore reluctant to teach her until she has proven herself. Unfortunately for them, the Mysterious Girl attacks Fabul and takes their Crystal, which prompts them to pursue her. As befits a master Monk, Yang has the highest HP, Strength and Stamina of the entire cast, but his other stats are mediocre at best. He still has his Kick and Focus abilities, which allow him to attack all enemies onscreen and boost his attack power, respectively. However, he now also has Cover Counter, which is a more offensive (i.e. better) version of Cecil’s Cover: he will not only take damage for a designated character, but counterattack as well, although he will not automatically cover weakened teammates like Cecil. Yang can equip claws. He has nine Bands with Ursula, Gekkou, Edward, Rydia, Edge, Cecil and Ceodore. Of those, seven are two-character Bands, and two are four-character. He doesn’t have any three- or five-character Bands, making him one of two permanent characters (alongside Golbez) with only two Band categories. Personality-wise, Yang is still stoic and honourable, with a side of overprotective dad, although he is eventually forced to admit that his daughter does understand what buttkicking is really for (i.e. not for its own sake). Not very interesting, but very effective in combat. Although I’d say that his Tale is misnamed, considering how much it focuses on Ursula’s development.

Ursula: Yang’s daughter has inherited her dad’s blonde hair and light brown eyes, as well as his stubbornness. She was clearly designed as a call out to Chun Li, but her official artwork got modesty shorts added to it outside of Japan, as it was deemed that her qipao showed too much leg, which I think is overkill. I mean, it’s a much tamer outfit than Rydia’s or Porom’s. Anyway, she’s the only member of the new generation who looks like her designated age of 17. Yang’s continued refusal to train her frustrates her a lot, so she tends to sneak away to Mt Hobs to train by herself. On one such occasion, Yang goes to fetch her and witnesses her fighting some Bombs, just as he did in the first game. They then explore a nearby meteor crater together. Lo and behold, they also spot the Red Wings on their way to Fabul. The subsequent attack plays out almost exactly like in FFIV, and Yang and Ursula then decide to travel to Baron for some answers. Ursula has very good Strength and Stamina, albeit not on par with Yang, but her HP isn’t great. However, she’s the third fastest character in the game, after Tsukinowa and Edge, which really helps her damage output. She shares her Kick ability with Yang, but she also has Chakra, which heals and restores one ally’s status, and Tenketsu. This can do several things: an instant kill, a critical hit, a hit targetting the enemy’s elemental weakness, or, if all else fails, a regular attack. This makes her an excellent, versatile character. She can equip claws and the Queen’s Whip. She has seven Bands with Yang, Ceodore, Luca, Cecil, Porom, Leonora and Palom. Of those, three are two-character Bands, one is three-character, two are four-character and one is five-character. Personality-wise, Ursula is independent and brave, but very respectful of her dad, whom she admires (in fact, her favourite word is “father!”). She also has her values in order, which is what eventually leads him to accept to train her properly.

Palom: The little pintsized brat is all ‘grown up’. I say that because he really doesn’t look 22; maybe 12 at best. And what’s with that ridiculously long braid? Anyway, Palom has unfortunately graduated from bratty to just plain rude. His eyes have also inexplicably gone from brown to blue. His lifelong dream was to become a Sage like Tellah from the original game, i.e. to master both Black and White magic. Considering his twin sister is a White Mage, I have no idea why he has apparently never tried to learn from her in seventeen years. Maybe it’s because of his newfound animosity for her controlling ways? But then half the population of Mysidia consists of White Mages, so…The Elder of Mysidia tells him he’s not ready, but Palom’s not exactly the type to ask for permission. But I digress. One day, the Elder receives a training request from Troia. As the country is governed by eight White Mages (called Epopts), the Elder’s decision to send Palom comes as a bit of a shock. Nevertheless, after a protracted journey, Palom meets his new pupil, Leonora, a timid Epopt trainee. He accompanies her to the Tower of Trials, a new Epopt-training device, teaching her basic spells along the way. Unfortunately, when they return, the Red Wings are on their way for Troia’s Earth Crystal. Palom has the highest Intelligence in the game, which makes him the best Black Mage, although Rydia is faster and more versatile than he is. He still has his Bluff ability from the first game, which temporarily boosts his Intelligence and stacks with use. He’s also one of the three characters who can learn Dualcast in the final Tale, which results in total annihilation. Twincast is no longer an ability, but crops up later as a Band. He can equip rods, bows and daggers. He has 11 Bands with Leonora, Porom, Rydia, Ceodore, Tsukinowa, Luca, Ursula, Rosa and Cecil. Of those four are two-character Bands, four are three-character, one is four-character, and two are five-character. Personality-wise, aside from being rude, Palom is now actually less boastful and quite self-critical. And his brand of tough teaching actually helps Leonora to become more assertive.

Leonora: I suspect that being a religious authority figure is the only thing that kept Leonora’s outfit modest. One of the unnamed NPCs from FFIV’s ending (the little girl to whom Palom boasts) has been retconned as her, so later versions of the original game changed her character model, which originally had bright pink hair. Leonora is now a green-eyed blonde (although her hair still has a hint of pink in her official artwork), and, in what is probably the biggest discrepancy between age and looks in the game, looks about nine instead of 24, especially since her outfit is about five sizes too big for her. Anyway, Leonora is due to replace one of Troia’s Epopts, who is ill, and therefore needs training, so Troia sends an official request to Mysidia. The Elder decides to send Palom instead of Porom (unusual, because all the Epopts are White Mages), presumably to teach him a lesson about his attitude, but Leonora doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, she conveniently wants to become a Sage as well. The training consists of a trip up the Tower of Trials, but then the Red Wings attack Troia to steal its Crystal. Unless you count Ninjutsu, Leonora is the only permanent character in the game who can cast both White and Black Magic, although her White Magic will always be better. Her Spirit is comparable to Rosa and Porom, but her Intelligence is worse than Palom, Rydia and even Golbez, and she will take ages to learn her Black spells. Her MP is good, but her HP is puny, and her Stamina and Speed are also both low. However, she’s one of the three characters who can learn Dualcast in the final Tale, which can be handy if you want versatility. She can equip rods, bows, staves and the Queen’s Whip. She has 11 Bands with Palom, Porom, Rydia, Rosa, Harley, Izayoi, Luca and Ursula. Of those, four are two-character Bands, three are three-character, three are four-character, and one is five-character. Personality-wise, Leonora is very shy, but also very devoted to the Epopts, displaying surprising assertiveness to defend them. She’s also very persistent and brave under her meek veneer, which eventually earns her Palom’s respect. She also admits to having a crush on him towards the end of the game, which he doesn’t seem too thrilled about.

Edge: Along with Palom, Edge is probably the character whose personality has evolved the most between the two games, mostly for the better, in his case. He’s now a focussed, dedicated ruler, reluctantly training four ninjas (the Eblan Four) who desperately want to help him. He’s also taken a cue from Yang and completely covered up his chest. One day, Edge sees a second moon in the sky. The Eblan Four volunteer to help, so he dispatches them to four other nations to find out if anything fishy is going on. While they’re away, the Tower of Babil starts glowing, so Edge goes off to investigate. The Eblan Four join him there, and they have an encounter with the Mysterious Girl, from which they escape by the skin of their teeth. Edge has good, balanced stats, making him proficient with both his physical attacks and his Ninjutsu, of which he has a larger selection than in FFIV. He’s also the second fastest character in the game, after Tsukinowa, which is a fantastic asset. In fact, his only poor stat is his Spirit, which doesn’t affect any of his skills. He still has his Throw ability to toss spare weapons at the enemies. His Steal ability has been changed to Smash and Grab/Mug, which attempts to steal items, but also deals damage in the process, thus making it more efficient. Edge can equip katana, boomerangs, daggers and claws. He has 12 Bands with Tsukinowa, Izayoi, Gekkou, Zangetsu, Rydia, Kain, Luca, Yang, Cecil, Edward and Rosa. Of those, eight are two-character Bands, one is three-character, one is four-character, and two are five-character. Personality-wise, Edge has really come into his own. He hasn’t completely lost his flirtatiousness, especially where Rydia is concerned, as he still carries a torch for her (and has apparently not moved on or addressed it at all in SEVENTEEN YEARS), but he’s now far more mature and responsible. The end of the game also vaguely hints that he may finally have a chance with Rydia. Now if only he didn’t have to make awkward remarks about Izayoi (which feel doubly odd, as he doesn’t treat any other female character that way).

Zangetsu: The Eblan Four are a waste of character space. They each have an elemental affinity, a preferred weapon type and fighting style, and a moon-themed name which is meant to indicate the order in which to play their individual missions (not that it affects anything if you follow a different order). But the game tells you nothing about their lives or why they’re so desperate to become Edge’s students. It makes them about as relatable as a pile of rocks. Heck, in the PC version, they all get titles, and you’d think that this would help their characterisation, but all the titles except Gekkou’s refer to either their age or their gender. Which implies that they don’t have any personality traits worth mentioning…Anyway, Zangetsu is “the Elder” of the Eblan Four, and quite possibly the biggest waste of character space among them He has white hair and brown eyes, and his name means “morning moon” (which, given the names of the others, likely stands for waxing moon, thus making his mission first). His element is lightning, so he wears yellow and uses lightning-based Ninjutsu, and his fighting style is a weird mix of Dragoon and Black Mage. He’s dispatched to the Dwarven Kingdom and learns no useful information whatsoever, aside from seeing the Tower of Babil light up, as he leaves before the Red Wings attack the castle. He does, however, come dangerously close to blowing his cover due to being unable to say “lali-ho” properly and not jumping very high (presumably due to his age). Zangetsu has decent Strength and Speed, but his HP is lacking. On the other hand, his Intelligence is very high and actually better than Leonora. Too bad his Ninjutsu selection is so mediocre. And he can’t dual wield either. He can equip katana, boomerangs and daggers, like Edge, but also spears. He can capitalise on that with his Human Kite ability, which is basically a dragoon’s Jump with some artificial help (lampshading his inability to jump properly). He has five Bands with Edge, Tsukinowa, Gekkou, Izayoi and Luca. Of those, three are two-character Bands, one is four-character, and one is five-character, just like Gekkou. He has no three-character Bands. Personality-wise, err…Zangetsu is old? No, seriously, this is almost all he ever talks about and the only thing other characters say about him, usually to mock his strength or his mental capacity. I guess you could deduce that he’s optimistic enough to become an aspiring ninja at his age (and I would’ve been interested in finding out why), but that’s quite literally it. Ageism ahoy!

Gekkou: “The Leader” of the Eblan Four is called Gekkou (pronounced “gecko”), which means “moonlight” and presumably stands for the full moon, meaning that his mission comes second. He has brown hair, brown eyes and apparently hates shoes (he’s one of two barefoot characters in the game). Possibly because his element is fire. He wears red, uses fire-based Ninjutsu, and is very strong and very slow. Kind of like a ninja version of Cid. He’s dispatched to Fabul and is notably the only one of the Four who doesn’t go undercover. Instead, he investigates the meteor crash site before Yang and Ursula arrive, and witnesses the Mysterious Girl wreaking havoc. He then goes back to Eblan and joins Edge and the others to infiltrate the Tower of Babil. Gekkou’s HP, Strength and Stamina are very high, but his Speed and MP are low, and he can’t dual wield. He can equip katana, boomerangs and daggers, like Edge, but also axes and hammers. His special ability is Shuriken, which does exactly what it says on the tin. Pretty underwhelming. His Ninjutsu is also hampered by his low MP. He has five Bands with Edge, Izayoi, Zangetsu, Tsukinowa and Yang. Of those, three are two-character Bands, one is four-character, and one is five-character; he has no three-character ones. Personality-wise, Gekkou’s main trait is being honourable. He’s also the only member of the Eblan Four to actually see the Mysterious Girl during his mission and thus the only one with useful info to bring back. That might be why he’s the leader.

Izayoi: “The Woman” of the Eblan Four (her actual title in the PC version). And it gets worse. Early on, Edge tells the Four that they all have better things to do with their lives, then adds “especially a woman your age” to Izayoi. Because finding a man would be a better use of her time, right? Then, an NPC she rejected in Eblan Castle wonders whether she’s interested in someone else. Because that’s the only possible reason, right? Finally, when she returns from her mission, she hopes that Edge will see her as a ninja first and a woman second. Edge’s response? “You’ve gone crazy, woman”. On top of that, she wears a tiny, off-the-shoulders robe with slits all the way up to her waist. Good thing she’s got a leotard and tights underneath. And her special ability, Illusions, involves her seducing an enemy to confuse them, despite otherwise displaying zero flirtatiousness. She’s a barely developed character, but this kind of treatment is profoundly annoying. Anyway. Izayoi has black hair with brown highlights and blue eyes. Her name means “sixteenth moon”, which is the night after the full moon (i.e. waning moon; her mission is meant to be played third). Her element is (the stereotypically feminine) water, so she wears blue and uses water-based Ninjutsu, and her gimmick is being a healer (ditto). She infiltrates Troia as an Epopt candidate, realises that they’ve built the Tower of Trials to protect themselves, but, like Zangetsu, leaves before the Red Wings arrive. Izayoi has several healing Ninjutsu and high Spirit…but all Ninjutsu are Intelligence-based. *facepalm* She also has high Speed, but her other stats are average. She can equip katana, boomerangs and daggers, like Edge, but also whips and bows. No dual-wielding here either. She has more Bands than the rest of the Eblan Four, as she gets to participate in the all-female ones (because she’s…a woman!): eight, to be precise, with Edge, Gekkou, Tsukinowa, Zangetsu, Leonora, Rydia, Harley and Rosa. Of those, three are two-character Bands, one is three-character, three are four-character and one is five-character. Personality-wise, Izayoi is stern and decisive…and doesn’t want to be defined by her gender, dammit!

Tsukinowa: “The Youth” of the Eblan Four is a boy with purple hair and blue eyes, whose name means “circle of the moon” (which seems to stand for new moon, given the others’ names, so his mission comes last). His undercover alias is Lapin, which means “rabbit” in French and is a reference to the Moon Rabbit (the Japanese equivalent of the Man in the Moon). His element is wind, so he wears green and uses wind-based Ninjutsu, and his fighting style is based on him being very, very fast. He’s dispatched to Mysidia, where he also almost blows his cover by refusing to cast spells (probably for fear of giving away his ability to cast Ninjutsu). He gets turned into a frog by a practicing fellow student and is thus able to eavesdrop on a meeting between the Elder of Mysidia, Porom and some other mages, where they discuss something that worries them (although we’re only shown what it is in Porom’s Tale). Porom then decides to go to Mount Ordeals, and Tsukinowa, who inexplicably develops an instant infatuation with her, decides to follow. However, he loses track of her and then sees the Tower of Babil glowing, which prompts him to return to Eblan. By running across the ocean. As you do. Tsukinowa is the fastest character in the entire game. It’s too bad that the rest of his stats are mediocre. His Strength and HP are notably both quite low for a melee character, so he’s best used in the back row with a pair of boomerangs. Because he’s the only member of the Eblan Four who can dual-wield. In fact, he’s like a poor man’s version of Edge, as his special ability is Steal. He doesn’t have any weapon that’s specific to him, but you do find some boomerangs during his mission. Other than that, he can equip katana and daggers. He has six Bands with Edge, Zangetsu, Izayoi, Gekkou, Porom, Ceodore and Palom. Of those, three are two-character Bands, one is three-character, one is four-character and one is five-character. Personality-wise, Tsukinowa seems to be a bit more outspoken than his three colleagues. And then there’s his random obsession with Porom, which, given that they interact exactly once during the entire game, and that he’s only a child, just comes across as creepy.

Porom: Probably the most egregious character redesign in the entire game. Remember Porom? The sweet little brown-haired White Mage from FFIV? She’s now all grown up as well, but her hair has inexplicably turned pink and her eyes green. What’s more, her striped jumpsuit has been replaced with a frilly pink, see-through onesie, which was the third outfit to be censored outside of Japan, to at least allow for the possibility of underwear. Ho-hum. Oh, and she doesn’t look 22 either. 16 if I’m being generous. Anyway. Porom’s Tale is the single most pointless Tale in the entire game, and Porom herself is woefully underdeveloped. Basically, the entire Tale features her tagging along while other characters do more interesting things and essentially serves as filler for other Tales. First is a flashback to her childhood with Palom. Then another flashback to a few years later, when she joins Palom on a trip to Mist. Then we return to the present day, where Porom is moping in Mysidia while Palom is away in Troia, and the Elder tells her that she needs to figure out what to do with her life (she’s had SEVENTEEN YEARS to do that!). Then the Lunar Whale reappears, which prompts her to go look for Kain on Mt Ordeals, for some reason. While her character development might be a disaster, Porom is the best White Mage in the game, with better MP and Spirit than Rosa, although her other stats are worse. She’s also one of the three possible candidates to learn Dualcast in the final Tale, if you feel that you really need a lot of White Magic. Her special ability is Rosa’s Pray from FFIV. It has a chance of restoring a decent chunk of HP, but Rosa’s Blessing can restore MP as well. What’s more, Rosa is better in melee if you ever need to conserve your MP. Porom can equip staves, bows and the Queen’s Whip. She has 10 Bands with Palom, Tsukinowa, Rosa, Leonora, Luca, Ceodore, Ursula, Rydia and Cecil. Of those, four are two-character Bands, two are three-character, two are four-character, and two are five-character. Personality-wise, Porom is very insightful when her brother is around, but when it’s just her, she has all the charisma and initiative of an amoeba. The Elder suggests that she wants to travel the world, but it seems more like wishful thinking on his part, as she never acts on it. On an unrelated note, you need to have Porom on your team before you fight Titan in the final Tales to be able to reclaim him.

Edward: Everyone’s favourite spoony bard, now with 100% more diplomatic savvy! Seriously, he’s probably the only character in the game who knows how to use his brain properly. Mind you, he’s not been up to much since the original game either. He’s rebuilt Damcyan, planted a lot of flowers and hired a secretary called Harley, as he still prefers to play the harp while pining for the long-dead Anna (SEVENTEEN YEARS LATER). It gets to the point where Tellah’s ghost (who’s also still around after all this time) prompts him to put the moves on Harley instead. Anyway, a meteor crashes between Damcyan and Fabul. Harley and Edward go to investigate, but a messenger from Baron tells them to cease and desist. Edward is suspicious and decides to go talk to Cecil. Harley tags along, but gets Desert Fever along the way, much like Rosa in FFIV. Edward finds a sand pearl for her, they make it to Baron, and he uses a neat trick to understand what’s going on. Edward’s stats aren’t great, except for his Speed, but he’s a surprisingly effective healer, thanks to his Salve ability. It still does the same thing as in FFIV, namely uses five of a given item to restore the party. But as this includes any item, he can cure HP and MP, heal negative status effects and revive multiple party members in one go. What’s more, the Economical Ring found in his Tale doubles the effectiveness of healing items, letting you use cheaper potions to greater effect. He also has Bardsong, which casts an offensive or defensive song, depending on whether he targets the party or the enemies. The defensive songs can cure, cast Protect and Shell, or Haste. His Hide ability has been renamed Escape, still allowing him to hide during battles, which can protect him from harm and ensure that he survives to heal the party. He can equip harps, bows (Wii version) or daggers (PSP/PC versions). He has seven Bands with Harley, Calca, Brina, Luca, Yang, Rydia, Cecil, Cid and Edge. Of those, four are two-character Bands, one is three-character, and two are four-character; he has no five-character ones. Personality-wise, Edward’s newfound courage from FFIV really has a chance to shine here. He’s still a sensitive, melancholy fellow who’s useless as a frontline fighter, but he does his utmost to protect his kingdom and the people he cares about. The game teases him and Harley as a potential item, but never follows through with it. Which is a pity, as he would deserve to move on.

Harley: Edward’s secretary has blue hair and blue eyes…and is the worst character in the game. She’s never given much of a backstory, despite Edward having the opportunity to read her diary while she’s away investigating the meteor crash. Basically, she lost her parents in the war against Golbez and then decided to become Edward’s secretary because she liked his songs. Yes, that’s literally the content of her diary. She really wants to be useful and therefore volunteers for everything. Investigating the meteor? She’s on it, although she doesn’t return on time, prompting Edward to go check on her. Going to Baron to talk to Cecil? She tags along, even though she gets Desert Fever, which forces Edward to backtrack to Damcyan to find her a sand pearl. I get being enthusiastic, but she’s clearly not on par with everyone else in terms of combat abilities. Harley has two special skills: Gil Toss, which damages enemies with money, and Piercing Sight, which dispels any protections and inflicts a random elemental weakness. Which you still have to discover by casting Libra afterwards. Her stats are mediocre, with only her Intelligence being above average, but since she can’t cast any Black Magic, it’s pointless. She can use whips, bows, staves, rods and daggers. She comes with the Economical Ring equipped, which is great on Edward, but it’s just a matter of removing it from her and putting it on him. She has five Bands with Edward, Cid, Luca, Rydia, Izayoi, Leonora and Rosa. Of those, one is a two-character Band, one is three-character, and three are four-character; she has no five-character ones. Personality-wise, Harley comes across as business-like, intelligent and shrewd, but that’s about it. She doesn’t have a sense of humour or really anything else to make her interesting. The game hints that she has feelings for Edward which may be reciprocated, but it goes nowhere, and frankly, she’s so bland that it’s hard to care much, even if it would’ve been nice for Edward to finally move on from Anna.

Kain: Everyone’s favourite Dragoon, now with 100% more redemption! Kain was the poster character for FFIV and many a fan’s favourite despite not being the main protagonist. People sympathised with him, since he was genuinely repentant and even ended the game by pottering off to Mt Ordeals to atone for his sins. I get that betraying your friends isn’t great, but a) he was brainwashed, and b) surely it wouldn’t take SEVENTEEN YEARS to move on? Especially considering how it ends up happening, which makes no sense. There are a couple of significant spoilers regarding Kain, so it’s hard to describe his role in the game without giving anything away, but you’re not told anything about what he did for those seventeen years. There is a point where he seems to be up to his old tricks again, but there’s more to it than that. Kain originally had his own Tale in the Japanese release, but the Western Wii version of the game bundled it with Ceodore’s Tale, for some reason, thereby spoiling the events of several other Tales. This has been rectified in the PSP and PC versions, but if you somehow still have access to the Wii version and haven’t played it yet, I urge you to stop after Ceodore and the hooded man arrive in Baron and then pick up again after Edward’s Tale. Anyway, Kain eventually has his own version of a Paladin transformation and becomes a Holy Dragoon. He gets a shiny new light blue armour (although I prefer his old purple one) and some White Magic spells. And of course, he keeps his trusty Jump. He’s still among the best melee characters of the lot, with high HP, Strength, Speed and Stamina. Only his MP is mediocre, which admittedly isn’t great for his newfound White Magic, but he does have a better spell selection than Cecil (e.g. Haste). He can equip spears, swords and shields, axes and daggers. Kain has 12 Bands with Ceodore, Cecil, Rosa, Cid, Edge, Rydia and Golbez. Of those, eight are two-character Bands, two are three-character, and two are five-character; he has no four-character ones. Personality-wise, Kain has (finally!) learned to accept his dark side and forgive himself for it, hence his transformation. He also ends up taking on a mentoring role with Ceodore (with whom he spends more time than Cecil does…), which is rather endearing, considering his unrequited love for Rosa, and brings out a more protective side to him.

Golbez: Yep, the main villain of FFIV (let’s not pretend it was Zemus) is now playable. It makes sense, given that he ended FFIV by redeeming himself, but the moon flew off into space at the end, so the fact that he’s able to come back is more of a surprise. Disregarding what was shown in FFIV DS (brown hair and purple eyes), Golbez now looks a bit like Cecil, with white hair and blue-green eyes, but darker skin and more muscle. He wears far fewer clothes this time around (a cape and a loincloth, no shoes), maybe to compensate for spending the entirety of FFIV in full armour. His Tale sees him awakening from the Lunarian slumber party he joined at the end of FFIV, sensing that something is amiss. He soon finds that Fusoya is awake as well, and they proceed to investigate, only to run into the Mysterious Girl. Shit hits the fan quite copiously, and Golbez ends up travelling to the Blue Planet on the Lunar Whale to go warn the rest of the team. Golbez has very balanced stats, his HP and Stamina being the most notable, but he also has decent Strength, Intelligence and MP, making him the only character who is equally good at melee and magic, even though there are better specialist characters in both areas. He has a very good selection of Black Magic, but also Pressure, which will paralyse an enemy for a couple of rounds, and Taunt, which draws enemy attacks and turns him into somewhat of a tank. The result is a very versatile character who works well in most party setups. Golbez can equip swords, axes, spears, hammers, rods, staves and daggers. He has five Bands with Fusoya, Cecil, Ceodore and Kain. Of those, four are two-character Bands, and one is three-character; he has no four- or five-character ones, making him one of two permanent characters in the game (alongside Yang) with only two Band categories. Personality-wise, Golbez is a far cry from his former self. He’s still grim and taciturn, but that’s due to an intense feeling of guilt. He’s very worried about the people of the Blue Planet, and especially his brother, and is willing to put his life on the line for him. This can turn out to be literal in the last Tale: he will die protecting Cecil unless you bring both Rosa and Ceodore along for one particular fight. I spoil this because the game gives you zero indication that it can happen or how to avoid it.

Fusoya: Last, but not – wait…yeah, still least, we have this guy. He essentially serves the same purpose as the nameless mooks which accompany some of the characters (e.g. Porom, Edward or Ursula) in their Tales, as he’s there to provide support for Golbez and doesn’t join the rest of the team in the final Tales. But he is a recurring character and does have a name and even one Band, so he does deserve a mention. Fusoya and Golbez both joined the Lunarians’ slumber at the end of FFIV, but a sense of foreboding causes both of them to awaken again, while all the other Lunarians snooze on. They proceed to investigate, but then things go way south, and Golbez eventually leaves the Moon to join the fight on the Blue Planet. Fusoya is still the same as in FFIV: he knows every single Black and White Magic spell in the game, and has high Intelligence and Spirit, but he only has 190MP and none of his stats will increase upon levelling up, except his HP. On top of his magic arsenal, he still has Bless as a special ability, which will now restore a small amount of HP and MP over three turns. It’s still pointless though, as it ties him down for the duration, when he could be casting more useful stuff. He can use rods, staves and bows, and has a single Band with Golbez. Personality-wise, he’s still a blandly benevolent old man with zero interesting traits. And he still turns into a puddle when K.O.ed.

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