Final Fantasy IV is remarkable as the first Final Fantasy to follow a universally accepted world-story-narrative. Final Fantasy 1 was the sum parts of everything great about fantasy but was lacking a story. Final Fantasy II had a story, but very shallow characters. Final Fantasy III had no character development (until the remake) and less of a consistent story. Final Fantasy IV, however, carried the video game storytelling to new heights. It created a narrative focusing on the Hero archetype. Even more, Final Fantasy IV has one main theme: Redemption.
But there’s a twist. Most Western video games follow a very linear path, following the Hero’s Journey steps subsequently. But Eastern video games are somewhat cyclical. In the past, programmers made games cyclical to extend the gameplay. But here, the programmers incorporated this principle to the story and the characters, with interesting results. Final Fantasy IV’s Hero’s Journey narrative repeats each stage in cycles. Several different characters going through their own mini-Hero Journey. But I’ll only concentrate on Cecil for this post.
First let’s list the Archetypes:
- Heroes: Cecil Harvey
- Shadows: Golbez, Zeromus, Cecil’s shadow side, Kain Highwind
- Mentors: Tellah, Elder of Mysidia, FuSoYa
- Herald: Kluya, Anna
- Threshold Guardians: The Four Fiends, King, and Queen of Eblan, Sahagin, Cecil’s doubt
- Shapeshifters: The Four Fiends
- Tricksters: Palom and Porom, Cid Pollendina, Edge Geraldine
- Allies: Kain Highwind, Rosa Joanna Farrell, Yang Fang Leiden, Polom and Porom, Edge Geraldine, Rydia of the Myst, Cid Pollendina
Now let’s talk about the stages:
First Stage: At the beginning of the game, we meet Cecil Harvey, who is
a strong and gifted knight, gaining the respect and admiration of his men during his captaincy of the Red Wings. Although being raised by the King of Baron, Cecil is modest and shy and struggles with showing his emotions. His most remarkable traits are his bravery and firm beliefs. Towards his friends, Cecil is loyal and exceptionally forgiving, being able to forgive even those who betray him.
We can tell he’s not a flat, self-contained character like the Warriors of Light before him. He has potential. Cecil has potential to learn. What he must learn is to follow his heart and do what’s right. We can relate to Cecil; we’ve all had to choose between duty and integrity. We meet Kain, Rosa and Cid at this time, his allies.
Second Stage: Cecil’s conscience gets the best of him, and questioning the king gets him a discharge. The king of Baron orders Cecil to deliver the Carnelian Signet to the village of Mist. The king orders Kain to accompany Cecil for coming to his defense. This is the point of no return. The story finally takes off. This is also Rydia’s call to action.
Third Stage: Later that night, Cecil suffers humiliation and doubt. Cecil agonizes between doing what he believes in and doing what the king orders. He swears to never perform another act of evil on behalf of Baron. Rosa comes to Cecil’s room to show him sympathy and support.
Fourth Stage: Cecil arrives in Mysidia, and meets the Elder of Mysidia to explains his plight. The Elder tells Cecil to relinquish his Dark Sword and acquire the acceptance of the Holy Light. Tellah agrees to help them at the mountain summit. Later, Cecil and the party will meet FuSoYa, who will create urgency to stop the real problem.
Fifth Stage: Cecil accepts the challenge. The Elder sends him to Mount Ordeals with the trickster archetypes Palom and Porom. But of course, these aren’t the only challenges. Other challenges happen in the Antlion Den; the castle of Baron; the Tower of Zot; Tower of Babil; Feymarch; the Lunar Subterrane and Core.
Sixth Stage: Cecil encounter bosses in the Overworld, Underworld, the Land of the Summon, and the Lunar surface.
Seventh Stage: This stage starts every time a new character enters your party.
Eighth Stage: Towards the middle of the story, Cecil meets Golbez. Golbez is an intimidating and formidable foe (but the true horror is they’re related). Cecil confronts his imminent demise; Rydia saves him on the Tower of Zot.
Ninth Stage: The reward for enduring the previous four steps in Final Fantasy IV is usually the crystal. But they soon lose the reward. Golbez’s arm steals the crystal. Kain steals the crystal.
Tenth Stage: After defeating the Giant of Babil, Cecil and the party reason to stop the source of all evil. Instead of leaving the Special World, Cecil leaves the Blue Planet for the Lunar Surface.
Eleventh Stage: At the last battle, near the end, Zemus K.O.’s the party. But the prayers of all Cecil’s friends gives the party a new strength. This is last battle, to resolve all polarities.
Twelfth Stage: The elixir in this sense is like a type of royalty the Heroes transforms into. Cecil and Rosa marry as the new king and queen of Baron. Yang becomes a king. Edward becomes a king. Edge regains his kingship. Rydia gets to live in the Land of the Summons as a type of princess. Palom and Porom become the most respected mages in Mysidia. Kain Highwind, on the other hand, starts his own Hero’s Journey.
Legacy: From Final Fantasy IV and on, Final Fantasy started concentrating on the inner lives of its characters. FFVI radically lead with several heroes, for example. But the story wasn’t without criticism, some characters in FFIV left your party chaotically. Maybe this was to represent how each character was their own individual and not just an extension of the Hero? Or maybe their departure informed the Hero’s growth as a character, in how he responded to the scenarios?
The After Years tried to implement the Hero’s Journey again, by making each side character their own Hero…to varying degrees of success.
Thanks for reading!