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The protagonist and focus character of Final Fantasy IV. Cecil is a Dark Knight of Baron, and commander of the Red Wings airship division at the beginning of the game. A conflicted man, Cecil is tasked by his king with finding the fabled crystals that are held by the kingdoms of the world… and to do so by any means necessary. Cecil is the only character who will never leave your party.
In combat, Cecil is heavily weighted to the physical. He has a strong sword arm, good defences with his heavy armour sets, reasonable speed, and an amazing amount of health. Cecil is the consummate tank, able to outlive almost everyone else you’ll ever recruit, and he’s a great sponge for other members of your party. The only area where he suffers is magic, and his magic is pretty negligible anyway.
Cecil begins as a Dark Knight. During this time his ability is Dark, which hits every enemy for non-elemental damage - but saps a small percentage of Cecil’s total HP. Useful early on for crowd control, but not a great attack overall. Later in the game Cecil becomes a Paladin, and Dark is traded for Cover, which allows Cecil to take physical hits for characters targeted by enemies. He will also automatically jump in the way of physical attacks aimed at characters whose HP is low. Once he becomes a Paladin Cecil will gain access to a small number of white magic spells, though he sucks so badly at white magic that only the utility spells should be used in combat - and even then, they’re usually a waste of a turn.
A Dragoon, and Cecil’s best friend. Kain is a soldier of Baron, and when Cecil sets out on his journey to deliver a package for the king of Baron, Kain follows. He comes and goes often, more so than any other party member, and in the original game Kain will always be in your final party lineup.
Kain is a strictly physical attacker, and is utterly lacking in magic growth. Though not as resilient as Cecil Kain can deal as much damage as the Paladin, and he’s a little bit faster on average to boot. Kain has a tendency to take more damage than usual from magic, so elemental-resistant armour will prove quite useful to him late in the game. He’s a solid, if fairly one-note, character.
Kain possesses the Jump command. Jump allows Kain to leap into the air for several rounds. While airborne, Kain will avoid all damage aimed towards the party, including attacks that might otherwise kill you automatically (Odin’s Zantetsuken, for example). Upon landing he’ll inflict heavy damage to a single enemy. Jump is a great way to dodge predictable attacks that might otherwise obliterate Kain.
A Summoner of the village of Mist. When Final Fantasy IV begins Rydia is just a little girl, forced onto an epic journey when her home is destroyed. She’s tiny at first, but an epic accident will turn Rydia into a potent magic user, and an incredible asset to the party. She joins up twice, and the second time is permanent.
Rydia is the consummate magic user. Her stats are heavily weighted towards casting, allowing her to make great use of her wide repertoire of black magic (and, early on, a few white magic spells). She also has a solid magic defence, and despite her poor HP Rydia can usually survive even the strongest enemy spells. The same cannot be said of physical attacks, which will ravage Rydia if she’s left in the open. Always keep Rydia in the back row, and, when her magic is needed most, Covered by Cecil.
Rydia possesses the Summon command. She can use this ability to call upon fell beasts to inflict heavy damage upon your enemies (or, sometimes, to heal your party). Though Summoning loses its potency in very late levels of the game, this ability will prove very helpful in many portions of the game, both for crowd control and as a check against strong bosses.
An aged Sage with a dislike of suitors. Tellah is a world-renowned magic user whose many years have atrophied his combat skills; nevertheless, he boldly steps out of retirement to chase down his daughter, who has run away with a randy bard. He will join your party twice, though never permanently.
Tellah… is butt. Seriously. His physical skills suck, and, depressingly, so do his magical skills. When you first get him Tellah seems like a good character, especially compared to developing caster Rydia, but by the second time he joins Tellah’s shortcomings quickly become apparent: his stats barely develop at all, sometimes getting worse with new levels, and he never gains more MP. Consequently, even though he will eventually learn every freaking spell in the game, Tellah can only make limited use of the best of them. He’s a glass cannon at best, and though Tellah will make a few bosses really easy, he’s ultimately a bad party member.
Tellah possesses the Recall command. When used, Recall will have a small chance of randomly using one of Tellah’s forgotten spells for no MP expenditure. Recall has a one-in-five chance of outright failing, and when it does go off there’s no way to control its overall effectiveness. Eventually Tellah will learn all of his spells again anyway, so Recall is very much a last-ditch choice.
A Bard, and the prince of Damcyan. A travelling romantic, Edward is as much a dandy as his appearance suggests. Yet his softness hides a backbone that’s just waiting to emerge, and with some patience he’ll become a surprising asset to the party.
… or not.
Edward starts off as one of the worst characters in the game, with universally poor stats. His only asset is his speed. His equipment selection also sucks, and he’ll usually get killed if you leave him in the front row for too long. Keep him in the back row and his harps will mete out mediocre damage, as well as the occasional status ailment. That said, Edward will gain some ridiculous stat boosts if you’re willing to stick it out and get him to level 70 and beyond, putting him above some of your other characters. This allows him to more effectively explore the Lunar Ruins and the Cave of Trials in the GBA and PSP versions of Final Fantasy IV.
Edward possesses three commands. The first is Sing, which has random effects on either the enemies or your party. Not that handy. The second is Heal, which allows Edward to split a single Potion between your party members. Utterly useless if you try to use it in the post-game content. The third is Hide, which allows Edward to flee off of the screen and avoid incoming attacks until his next turn. Similar to Kain’s Jump, Hide can be used to dodge predictable-and-powerful blasts that might otherwise kill the party, though it’s not quite as effective since its duration is lower. Edward will trigger Hide automatically when his HP is low.
A White Mage. Cecil’s girlfriend, Rosa sets out on a journey to locate her beloved after he goes missing. Saving her… and then saving her again… constitutes a large chunk of Final Fantasy IV’s plot. Rosa will spend most of the game in your party, and is one of the permanent members by game’s end in the SNES version of Final Fantasy IV.
Rosa is your party’s healer, no contest, and in that role she performs superbly. She possesses an admirable range of white magic, and has more than enough MP to keep healing you for quite a while. Unlike Rydia Rosa is also a capable physical fighter, able to use bows with reasonable efficiency (though healing should always take precedence). Rosa also has a great deal more HP than Rydia, and can survive longer in tough fights. Make the most of this durability by keeping her in the back row at all times.
Rosa possesses two commands. The first is Aim, which allows Rosa to target an enemy with a bow and deliver a stronger, more accurate shot, though with a longer delay between selection and execution. Decent, but overall fairly meh. The second is Pray, which, if successful, restores a small amount of HP to everyone at no MP cost. The chances that Pray will fail, as well as its low power, make it a pretty useless command.
A Monk of Fabul. The strongest of his order, Yang is a staunch defender of his realm, and a fierce friend to Cecil and his party. He joins early in the game, and then again a short time later, but will not appear in your party in the late game unless you’re playing the GBA or PSP versions.
Yang is another physical character, with non-existent magic skills and a rather poor magic defence. His high HP and natural defence allow him to ward off relatively strong attacks even if his armour is light, and his speed allows him to outpace most enemies. Yet Yang’s greatest asset is his physical strength, one of the best in the game, which allows him to fight enemies quite effectively without the use of weapons. That said, his claw weapons boast a variety of elements which allow Yang to very efficiently target weaknesses. In this sense he’s perhaps one of the best boss killers in the game, assuming you stock up on the proper claws.
Yang has three commands. The first is Kick, which allows him to deliver moderate amounts of damage to every enemy on the screen. Nothing special. The second is Focus, which allows Yang to power up an extra turn and deliver a more powerful physical attack. Good, I suppose, but you could aways just attack twice in the same time. The third is Brace, which greatly increases Yang’s defence for a turn. Brace is probably his best command, assuming you know what’s coming in the next round.
A young Black Mage of Mysidia, and brother of Porom. A magic user in training, Palom joins Cecil as a not-so-secretive spy. He doesn’t remain in the party for too long, but during that time proves a potent ally.
Palom is basically Rydia without Summoning skills, which is to say that he’s not quite as good. He can still dish out some serious hurt with his magic, making him a good secondary black magic caster if that’s what you’re looking for, but Rydia’s almost always going to be the better choice (even if she does learn some of the high-level spells more slowly). It’s only a good idea to stick Palom in the party over Rydia if Porom is also along for the ride. Palom is just as vulnerable as Rydia to physical attacks, so keep him in the back row.
Palom has two commands. The first is Bluff, which allows him to increase his intelligence - and, thus, his magic attack power - for the duration of the current battle. It’s very handy when you first have Palom, but Bluff becomes somewhat redundant when targeting elemental weaknesses with spells like Firaga, Blizzaga, and Thundaga. The second is Twincast, which allows Palom to cast painful all-hitting spells against every enemy. Porom must also be in the party, and must also use Twincast, for this command to work. Twincast has fantastic power, but it takes so long to charge that it’s usually not worth the trouble.
A young White Mage of Mysidia, and sister of Porom. Sent along with Palom to spy on Cecil, Porom joins the party for a short while after he leaves Mysidia. She doesn’t get much time on the party, but Porom proves her worth as a solid healer.
Like Palom, Porom sits in the shadow of a better character, in this case Rosa. Porom actually has it worse than Palom, as she lacks Rosa’s overall durability, and is just plain not as good at healing. You can still take her along and expect to survive just fine, but Rosa… Rosa is just better. If you plan to take Porom along, bring Palom too.
Porom has two commands. The first is Cry, which, when used, makes it easier to run away from battles. This is only good if you’re A) In a real pinch, or B) Trying to rush through a dungeon. The second is Twincast, which is described above.
The chief Engineer of Baron. Cid is responsible for the creation and upkeep of the Red Wings’ airships, and he serves as a gruff, zealous conscience for Cecil. He joins the party once, albeit for a relatively long time, and then disappears for good if you’re playing the SNES original.
Cid is a physical character. He hits hard and can take a fair amount of physical damage, but he’s slow as all hell. He’s also terrible as far as magic’s concerned, and can’t take many mystical hits before he goes down. Cid’s also pretty bland in general compared to your other potential party members, and will probably get left behind once he becomes an optional part of the gang.
Cid possesses the Study command. This is basically a free version of the spell Libra, allowing Cid to display the HP and strengths / weaknesses of a single enemy. Decent for the first time you encounter an enemy; after that, preeeeeetty useless.
A Ninja, and the prince of Eblan. Edge is a brash young man with a too-high opinion of himself, and, when he joins the party, a fervent desire to bring down one of the four Elemental Lords. Edge only joins the party once, but once he does, he’s there to stay.
Edge is largely weighted towards physical skills, with a solid attack - bolstered by his dual-wielding capacity - and an excellent speed, the best in the game. This is offset somewhat by Edge’s poor defence and somewhat low HP, which, despite good evasiveness, usually gets him knocked out early in combat. Though most of Edge’s weapons are front row blades, it’s not a bad idea to buy or find him some boomerangs and stick him in the back row instead. Though perhaps not the best character around, Edge is nevertheless quite versatile, and can almost always contribute something to a fight.
Edge has three commands. The first is Ninjutsu, Ninja-based elemental magic with a variety of effects. Ninjutsu is underwhelming when stacked up against comparative black or white magic, but it’s still a handy command. The second is Throw, which allows Edge to hurl an attack item - shurikens or blades - at a single enemy, usually for high damage. This command will get the most use. The third is Steal, which allows Edge to snag items off of enemies. Most creatures in Final Fantasy IV don’t have great things to pilfer, so Steal will usually be ignored. Sorry, Edge.
A Lunarian. Saying any more would spoil a big chunk of the plot. FuSoYa is important, and that's all you need to know. He will join your party late in the game for a bit of exploration and a single dungeon. (Two, if you really feel like dragging him along.)
FuSoYa is an upgraded version of Tellah. His stats are better, and he has more MP, but overall? He still kinda sucks. FuSoYa will burn through his MP too quickly, and he has a tendency to get knocked out more often than you’d like. Still, he has every spell, and unlike Tellah he can actually use Meteor, so putting up with him for that one dungeon isn’t so bad.
FuSoYa possesses the Regen command. White active, everyone in the party will slowly regenerate small amounts of HP. FuSoYa will remain static while Regen is in effect. It sucks. Don’t use it.