Thanks to Leth09 for the inspiration.
Game designers develop worlds which inform us of how our character’s progress. Each main character’s job class can achieve this.
Can’t say much about Final Fantasy I, II or III. Final Fantasy I and III had no main character. Final Fantasy II and III’s characters’ had no stable job class. Final Fantasy I’s story was about exploration and survival. Final Fantasy II’s characters had no job class, but definitive main characters. Each was orphans with very little fighting experience that grew as the story went on.
Final Fantasy III make sure you saw the need of changing your job class at the appropriate time (i.e. Garuda). Like Final Fantasy III, Final Fantasy V has no set job class. You can be whoever you need to be when you choose. It’s no surprise that Bartz is a drifter in the story.
In Final Fantasy IV, Cecil starts off as a Dark Knight, which:
is characterized by wearing tight, sometimes enclosed black armor and wielding a sword steeped in wicked powers.
Dark Knights usually turn to the dark side, but Cecil is able to keep his sanity and goodness. It’s also a strange choice for him as a person:
Cecil 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, shy, and insecure. He struggles with showing his emotions, his meekness catches others off guard, ill-fitting his initial role as a Dark Knight. Cecil struggles with his sense of identity and morality; he comes to hate himself for blindly following his King’s orders to the detriment of others, and promptly loses his sense of self as a result. By becoming a Paladin and bonding with others, he gains a semblance of who he is, a recurring theme in the game that he shares with many characters.
According to his gameplay, the Dark Knight profession is actually draining his health.
As a Dark Knight, Cecil can use the Darkness ability to inflict damage to all enemies at the cost of some of his HP. In the 3D remake versions, Darkness doubles his attack for three turns at the cost of 10% of his maximum HP per attack.
This is essentially wearing away at his conscience. The story, and Cecil’s character arc is about redemption. Cecil spends most of the first half seeking it. At finally gets his chance. He’s told to traverse Mount of Ordeals, where:
Cecil has to overcome his hatred by facing himself as a Dark Knight. Succeeding by not raising his sword against his darkness, Cecil becomes a full-fledged Paladin.
And as a Paladin, Cecil can heal others with Cure. He heals himself through being saved from sin, error, or evil of his past.
Final Fantasy VI breaks the traditional Dungeons and Dragons fantasy-style naming convention. In this game, Terra’s a “Magitek Elite”, which essentially means “magic-user”. But she also has a skill, called Trance, which “doubles any damage she deals while in use, meaning she can deal heavy damage in any role”. But it also morphs her into the one thing she fears, an uncontrollable esper that causes needless damage to others.
Terra transforms in the Narshe Snowfields and the second battle with Humbaba.
One thing we haven’t seen before, or since, is the ability for the main character to transform. One thing to take note is that the world transforms from Balance to Ruin. The latter is scary for all people. Terra expresses this fear of “not fully knowing what those powers are” and the destruction they might cause.
If you don’t have enough AP, she won’t morph. That’s because she lacks confidence in acting. She’s also afraid of letting her powers control her. Eventually she learns to control her powers, and hopefully as you gain levels you won’t need Terra to morph as often, as she won’t be desperate enough to use this attack.
Terra is the first party member to naturally learn magic without equipping magicite. Compared to Celes, who learns attack and status spells, Terra focuses on healing and attack magic. Terra learns the Fire line of spells, contrasting Celes’s Blizzard spells.
We don’t get to traditional job classes again until Final Fantasy IX.
Zidane’s job in Final Fantasy IX is a thief. But why would a thief have all of these highly destructive attacks, rather than just stealing? In the first Final Fantasy, a thief couldn’t steal, but his high evasion and agility made him perfect for fleeing. Zidane has this too, but it’s unclear why he would need to flee.
Zidane doesn’t really understand who he is, so he set out to define himself.
Though he is confident in his abilities, Zidane harbors insecurities about his past and concealed loneliness. While usually cheerful, Zidane sometimes gets depressed, lonely, and questions why he should exist.
But who is he?
This explains why he has so many powerful attacks; Zidane is a Genome from the planet Terra. His Limit Break harkens back to the ability Terra had in Final Fantasy VI.
Yet a lot of his actions suggest he’d rather help than destroy. For example, the Protect Girls ability is only unique to him. And flee may not be for him specifically, but for his team. He’s thinking of helping others and keeping them safe.
There are other examples, but these are the most notable ones that stick out to me. Final Fantasy VII, VIII, X and XIII’s job classes are analogous to those of the past but aren’t very traditional.