No one touches my princess!! LIGHT WARRIORS?? You impertinent fools. I, Garland, will knock you all down!!
This is perhaps the most memorable line in Final Fantasy. What made it so memorable? The cheese and ham. Most villains have scary one-liners, but is this the best Garland can do? What should have been the most dramatic meeting in the game up to that point became nothing but bewilderment? It’s so non-threatening, I don’t know if anyone would be afraid of Garland. What are we doing, going bowling? It also doesn’t help that he happens to be the first and weakest boss up to that point. Maybe we would have had to have heard him speak. Maybe then he would have sounded menacing. But as it stands, Garland just wasn’t very intimidating.
But why shouldn’t we have been afraid of Garland? I don’t mean because we know he would eventually become Chaos, the demonic monster maintaining a time loop. Garland may have been a lot stronger than we could see. Or rather, the reason he was so easy was that he was a lot weaker.
According to the lore, Final Fantasy I has no summons because Garland killed them all. Those who remain are Bahamut and Titan. Shiva, Ifrit, Leviathan, Ramuh, Odin, etc. all dead. Killing summons all by yourself is no ordinary feat. In fact, this shows how insanely powerful he was at the time. Had he not killed the summons at the time, knocking us down would have been a serious threat. It’s wouldn’t have been the words themselves, but the promise, which would have struck fear in our hearts.
But it may have been worst.
Consider that you’re able to travel to Elfheim, an elven village, shortly after you acquire a ship. Near the entrance of the town lie several graves in a row. Only one of them has an epitaph: “Here lies Link”.
This is no coincidence. This is Link from the Zelda series. Yes, it’s a gag from the developers. But the developers kept this translation for later editions. While it breaks the fourth wall for us, it doesn’t for them. This means that Link’s death has some type of narrative significance, at least on the lore. And in this sense, the game states Link’s death, which gives it more significance that Garland’s killing of the summons.
So then, how did Link die? Maybe old age. Maybe he fell off a horse. However, consider Link is a hero, whose job it is to protect the princess. While Serah isn’t Zelda, he sprung into action regardless. However, his battle with Garland proved to be too difficult. Garland overwhelmed and defeated Link. Note that with Link dead, Astos could place a curse on the Prince of Elfheim.
However, in other editions, the epitaph is for Erdrick, the hero of the first three games in the Dragon Quest franchise. Why does it change?
Because the developers wanted to take a jab at Dragon Quest.
Yet, the in-game answer could be that Garland defeated Erdrick. In the NES version, Erdrick resided in Elfheim. In later editions, Link does. This would mean that Final Fantasy I’s timeline is not a stable time loop. With every battle won, the timeline changes a detail. In this case, Elfheim has a hero in both timelines. In both timelines, Garland has enough power to knock each of them down.
The relevance of all this is that the four Warriors of Light save both the Zelda and Dragon Quest franchise. With the time loop broken, Link or Erdrick exists alongside our Warriors of Light. They exist to go on adventures, in an already confusing timeline.