“A Jack of All Trades, who is incompetent in all of them.”
-Black Mage on the Red Mage, 8-Bit Theater
Final Fantasy XV finally comes out soon. In celebration of the long, long, long-awaited release of the next entry in my favorite series, the rest of this month will be devoted to FF as the main topic.
I’m starting with Final Fantasy Fundamentals: Class It Up. The purpose of this series is to analyze the design, statistics, and abilities of some of the jobs in the franchise, and how they influenced later characters.
Final Fantasy I Classes
The very first FF game used a job system. Instead of having characters with dedicated backstories and personalities, it had character classes. Later spinoffs, such as DISSIDIA, Record Keeper, and Theatrhythm condensed the Warrior class into a single character: the noble and vigilant Warrior of Light.
At the game’s outset, you can make a party consisting of four different characters out of eight classes total. Some of the characters’ appearances are ambiguous and automatically generate male and female names. You can also input names of your choosing. Over the course of the game, each class will receive a promotion, a feature essentially carried over into Final Fantasy III. In the original NES version of FFI, the characters’ sprites became huge upon promotion!
Final Fantasy I Classes
The Warrior hits stuff real good and takes hits real good. The consummate melee/tank class. This class is also known as the Fighter or Knight. The Knight class as we know it from later games doesn’t technically appear until FFIII. Knights gain ever more attributes depending on the game.
The Thief is agile but lacks defense and doesn’t do as much damage as the Warrior. The Thief promotes to a Ninja, but both of these classes lack the skills that would define them in later games. I guess they didn’t “Believe it!” enough back then. 😛
The Monk specializes in keeping his pimp hand strong and defeating enemies with one punch. Eventually promotes to the Black Belt.
Ah, the Red Mage: the class that can do melee and black and white magic, but isn’t good at either of them. Red Mages are still an important evolutionary link between melee and magic-based classes, however. Without them, we may never have had magic knights or spellblades. The Red Mage is eventually promoted to the Red Wizard.
The White Mage casts important healing and support spells, but they have limited strength and defense, albeit less so than their Black Mage counterparts. Some characters in later RPGs who defy the weak mage stereotype but still have healing capabilities are known as “combat medics”.
Black Mage: The magic bomb. However, they are as useful as a limp noodle in physical combat with low strength, defense, and HP. Black magic seems less useful in FFI because elemental weaknesses had not really come into play yet.
Final Fantasy II
The ambitious FFII already changed things up from FFI. Instead of having generic character classes with plug-in names, it had characters with their own attributes, usable equipment, and names.
In FFII, each character could use white or black magic, but due to their stats, some would be better at it than others.
The most important characters whose attributes would be carried over to later classes (and diversified) include Maria, who could use a bow and arrow, making her an archer (even though she is terrible at it); Leon, who is technically a Dark Knight for a while, but lacks any of the typical grimdark edgelord Dark Knight attributes because they hadn’t been invented yet; Leila the pirate; and Ricard the dragoon. Three of these four classes that these characters represent would reprise in the next game. The pirate sees fewer appearances than the other three.
Final Fantasy III Classes
Somewhat similarly to FFI, in the original NES/Famicom version, the four main characters are basically blank slates. However, they can choose to assume a variety of jobs gained from crystals that they find throughout their quest. In the Nintendo DS remake, these four characters are turned into individuals with their own names and personalities: Luneth, Arc, Refia, and Ignus.
However, there are several redundancies with some jobs having higher-level versions.
The Ranger comes back with the ability to attack with full power from the front or back rows. They also have a Barrage attack that hits four random foes (or one foe four times) with slightly less attack power.
Scholar: They can Scan enemies to determine their attributes and HP. They also double the effect of restorative items that they use.
Geomancers are fun because they can use magic determined by their environment at no MP cost.
Dragoons use the Jump command. While it charges, they are offscreen, so they are unable to be targeted by enemies. The Jump attack itself is more powerful than a regular attack.
Vikings use Provoke to draw hostile attention towards themselves. Later games would give this ability to later classes, such as the Dark Knight and Sentinel, while the Viking class itself faded into obscurity.
Dark Knights were a lot more generic in the NES/Famicom version. They lacked any typical Dark Knight traits, but could use… low-level white magic? That’s like the opposite of what they should do.
The NDS remake gave Dark Knights the Souleater command. It sacrifices a fifth of their HP to attack enemies. I’ve never been much of a fan of sacrificing HP.
Evokers summon powerful creatures, but their ability has a random aspect. The creatures that they summon will randomly use a supportive “white” or offensive “black” ability.
Evokers are the low-level versions of Summoners, which would prove to be much more important in FFIV, IX, and X. Summoned creatures themselves play especially important roles in those games as well as in VIII and the Lightning Trilogy. :3
Bards are most spoony. In the NES/Famicom version, they could Scare enemies to… lower their levels? They could also Cheer to increase the damage that their allies do. The NDS version lets them perform songs depending on which harp they have equipped. Their turn goes first when they perform.
Knights come into their own more in III. It is here that they gain the Cover ability, which allows them to become a human shield for allies with critical HP. In the NDS version, they can also use low-level white magic.