As early as its second game, the long running RPG series Final Fantasy has featured Guest characters. These characters, unlike the player's main party members who join them permanently as they make their way through the game, only join the party for a short period of time, usually present to move a certain part of the story forward. If the character takes part in battles, they are often stronger than the player's party. Sometimes, it is the player's job to keep the guest alive until they reach a certain location. Other times, they are there to make a heroic sacrifice that pushes the story forward.
Throughout the history of Final Fantasy, some guest characters have become nearly as loved as a game's main cast members. Here are some of those characters.
Warning: SPOILERS for multiple Final Fantasy games.
1. Minwu (Final Fantasy II)
Minwu, the first White Mage in the Final Fantasy series, makes his appearance early in Final Fantasy II. A servant of Princess Hilda, he is tasked with healing the game's heroes, Firion, Maria, and Guy, after the Princess finds them injured in the woods. Minwu eventually takes it upon himself to grant the dying wish of the King of Fynn and retrieve the Ultima tome, from which a powerful piece of magic can be learned, from the Mysidian Tower. Firion and his friends accompany Minwu on his quest, only to find the Ultima Tome stuck behind a powerful magical seal. Minwu uses all his energy to break the seal, losing his life in the process. He believed it was his destiny to ensure the heroes obtained the Ultima Tome.
" Do not grieve... This... This was my destiny..- Minwu.
With his death, Minwu became the second playable character to be permanently killed in a Final Fantasy game, after Josef earlier in FFII.
In Dawn Of Souls, a remake of the first two games in the series, Minwu gains new life as the lead character in 'Soul Of Rebirth', the new playable epilogue to Final Fantasy II. Here, Minwu unites with the other characters who were killed over the course of the game to battle the Emperor of Heaven, while the living characters fought his hellish counterpart. Once this task is completed, the souls of the departed heroes can finally rest.
Minwu remains an important figure in Final Fantasy lore. He is subtly referenced in many other games in the series, although these references are often lost in the English versions, where his name has been mistranslated as either Mindu, Minu, or Ming-Wu. In early drafts of Final Fantasy IV, the great sage Minwu is named as the founder of the town of Mysidia, the same name as the location of Minwu's death in FFII, providing a connection between the two games.
2. Ricard Highwind (Final Fantasy II)
While in-story he is the last of the Wyvern-riding Dragoon warriors, Ricard Highwind is the first member of the recurring 'Dragoon' job class to appear in the Final Fantasy series. Believing all of the Dragoons have been slaughtered by the Palamecian Empire, Firion, Maria and Guy are surprised to find Ricard in the belly of the Leviathan after the beast swallows them. Escaping together, Ricard joins the heroes for a time, before eventually sacrificing himself in battle against the Emperor.
Like Minwu, Ricard reappears in the 'Soul Of Rebirth' epilogue. If Ricard was equipped with the Blood Sword in the main game, he will be very useful in the epilogue, dealing out powerful attacks against Ultima Weapon and the Light Emperor.
Ricard earns his place on this list not so much for his usefulness in-game, but for the legacy he spawned. He was the first character with the surname Highwind, which became a recurring surname in the Final Fantasy series, particularly for those of the Dragoon class. When visiting his hometown of Deist, Ricard adopts the orphaned son of one of his fallen fellow Dragoons. If the party takes on the optional task of returning to Deist to inform Ricard's family of his death, his son will declare his intention to someday become a Dragoon like his Father. In the original version of the game, this boy goes unnamed, but in the Dawn of Souls remake, his name is Kain. Final Fantasy IV features Kain Highwind as a playable character. In the game's backstory, Kain brings about a rebirth of the extinct Dragoon class, inspiring others by caring for his deceased Father's elderly Dragon. In the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS and PSP remakes of the game, Kain refers to his Father as Ricard. This provides another possible connection between FFII and FFIV, leading fans to speculate that they may take place in the same world.
3. Tellah (Final Fantasy IV)
In Final Fantasy IV, the elderly mage Tellah joins your party on a quest to avenge the death of his daughter Anna at the hands of the game's villain, Golbez. Due to his age, Tellah often forgets his spells, and spends much of his time trying to remember the powerful spell 'Meteor', which he believes he can use to kill Golbez. He gets his chance when the party has their second major encounter with the villain, finally remembering 'Meteor' and casting it against him. Tellah's aging body is unable to cope with the power of the spell, and he passes away in the arms of his allies soon after. Adding to the tragedy, Tellah's death proves to be in vain, as his spell only briefly weakens Golbez.
Tellah is unique in the Final Fantasy series, in that his stats decrease rather than improve as he levels up, most likely due to the character's advanced age. This, along with protagonist Cecil Harvey's conversion from Dark Knight to Paladin, is one of the ways in which Final Fantasy IV manages to brilliantly tie in game play with its story. However, Tellah will always be best known as the character who said this:
"You Spoony Bard!
With that quote, Tellah became the face of the early games slightly dodgy translations, and was the reason a local team was set up for future Final Fantasy translations. It has become one of the most famous quotes in the series, and remains included in all remakes of Final Fantasy IV, as well as being referenced in other games in the series, including Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XII, and Disiddia.
4. The Ten Moogles (Final Fantasy VI)
Early in Final Fantasy VI, a group of Moogles living in the Narshe Mines (Lead by a single English speaking Moogle, Mog) step in to aid Locke Cole in protecting the unconscious Terra Branford from the town's guards. Game play wise, the Moogles act as place holders for the main party members until they join you. Only Mog can officially become a permanent party member, but it is possible to hang on to another, Moghan, for a little bit longer if the player exploits a glitch that allows Locke to bypass rescuing Celes. After leaving your party, the Moogles remain in the Narshe Mines throughout the first half of the game.
If the player returns to the Narshe mines during the World Of Ruin section of Final Fantasy VI, only Mog remains. While the fate of the other Moogles is not explicitly revealed, Mog's melancholy suggests that they died, probably killed during Kefka's destruction of the world.
While the ten Moogles are only with you for a short time, they hold a place in the hearts of many Final Fantasy fans.
5. General Leo Cristophe (Final Fantasy VI)
Unlike most soldiers found fighting for an evil Empire in the Final Fantasy games, General Leo Cristophe is actually a decent person. He prefers negotiation to battle, always endeavouring to prevent any unnecessary loss of life on either side. Even FFVI's rebel heroes, the Returners, respect him greatly. Many fans of the series speculate that the only reason Leo fights for the Empire at all is loyalty to his Homeland, as he was born in Vector, the Imperial Capital.
After a brief ceasefire is arranged between the Empire and the rebels, Leo is sent by Emperor Gestahl to join some of the Returners on what he believes is a goodwill mission to speak with the Espers. During this time, he bonds with Terra Branford, expressing a deep regret for any role he played in the Empire's horrid treatment of her. While Leo succeeds in peace talks with the Espers, everything is ruined when Kefka arrives and kills the Espers for their Magicite, informing Leo that this was the Emperor's plan all along. Leo battles Kefka, but sadly falls. The Returners bury him in Thamasa, and the player can visit the grave at any time for the rest of the game.
During his time with the party, Leo becomes very useful. For many years after FFVI was released, players chased after possible ways of saving Leo, or resurrecting him later in the game. Sadly, like all the rumours of ways to save Aerith in Final Fantasy VII, these have proven false.
6. Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII)
Early in the series most well known entry, Final Fantasy VII, players are treated to a playable flashback sequence through the eyes of protagonist Cloud Strife. This flashback details events that occurred in the town of Nibelheim before the game began, culminating in legendary SOLDIER Sephiroth going mad. During this sequence, Sephiroth will appear in the player's party for a short time.
While Sephiroth's actions in battle cannot be controlled, he is extremely useful, displaying techniques that the player can only dream of possessing at this point. He quickly puts an end to the battles in which he participates.
Though Sephiroth only battles beside you for a short while, the power he displays during this sequence was probably enough to send many first time players into a panic once it became apparent that he, and not the Shinra Corporation, was the game's main villain.
7. General Beatrix (Final Fantasy IX)
The first few times Zidane and co encounter General Beatrix in Final Fantasy IX, it is as an enemy, as Beatrix serves as General of the greedy Queen Brahne's army. Later, upon learning of Brahne's plan to execute the innocent Princess Garnet, Beatrix leaves the Queen's service and aids Garnet's escape. When Garnet takes the throne a little later in the game, Beatrix returns to her role as head of the royal army.
In her major appearance as a party member, Beatrix aids Adelbert Steiner in the defence of Alexandria. Steiner will have fallen a little behind by this point, so Beatrix's purpose in game play is mostly to serve as a crutch for Steiner, keeping him alive long enough to gain some levels and catch up with the rest of the group.
While useful enough that some players will go to the length of hacking Beatrix back into the game as a permanent party member, she is probably best known for her role in the story, becoming half of an adorable accidental love story. In a comedy of errors in which a love letter written by Eiko to Zidane accidentally ends up delivered to Beatrix, who thinks Steiner wrote it, the two warriors embark upon a sweet love affair. The scene towards the end of the game, in which Beatrix shows up on airship the Red Rose to protect Steiner during the battle to enter Memoria, is one of many fans favourite moments.
8. Laguna Loire (Final Fantasy VIII)
Rather than just a guest character, Final Fantasy VIII gave players a whole guest party in the form of Laguna Loire and his comrades, Kiros and Ward. Appearing in what may at first seem to be an unrelated subplot, it is soon revealed that the sequences in which you play as Laguna are taking place in the past, providing the player with important parts of the game's backstory. This includes how Ellone and the young Squall Leonheart came to be placed in Edea's orphanage.
While never one hundred percent confirmed, it is strongly implied that Laguna is the Father FFVIII's protagonist, Squall. When Squall finally meets Laguna in person, Laguna tells him that they have a lot to talk about. Laguna is also shown to possess Squall's Triple Triad card, a sign that two characters are strongly connected in the game.
Laguna's Limit Break attack, Desperado, in which he does damage to all enemies in a battle through the use of grenades and an improbable machine gun assault, remains one of the most popular in the series.
9. Aranea Highwind (Final Fantasy XV)
Like Beatrix, Aranea Highwind, a mercenary hired by Niflheim, is an enemy when the party first encounters her in Final Fantasy XV. She is fought as a boss when Noctis and co infiltrate a Niflheim base. Later, after entering legally this time, the Chancellor of Niflheim has Aranea join the party to train them in temple raiding. While with the party, she encourages Noctis to seek out his own path in life.
When the party encounters her again later in the game, Aranea has become a freelance Daemon Hunter, and will appear at random to aid the player in Daemon related missions. She has become popular with fans, many of whom have exploited a glitch that allows them to keep her in the party permanently.
10. Shadow (Final Fantasy VI)
While it is possible for the mysterious Ninja Shadow to join your party permanently in Final Fantasy VI, this will not occur unless the player fulfills a specific set of requirements late in the game. Until then, he will periodically join you as a guest, one with the unique and annoying habit of randomly leaving the party after a battle. And no, unlike Gau who will briefly leave on the Veldt to learn his rages, Shadow will not return a battle or two later. Still, he manages to remain one of the game's most popular secondary characters, owing largely due to the snippets of his rich backstory that can be accessed under certain conditions.
Despite his apparent unreliability in battle, Shadow can be counted on to show up right when he is needed, swooping in just in time to save the party from a fire in Thamasa, or from Kefka as he destroys the world. It is the second scenario that leaves many players with crippling guilt from their first playthroughs of FFVI, when they may have been unaware that it is possible to save Shadow as the world crumbles. If the player waits until the final five seconds before jumping onto their airship, Shadow will catch up and be saved. If not, he is presumably killed as the World of Balance becomes the World of Ruin. This is the first, and in fact only occasion in a Final Fantasy game where the player is directly responsible for the life or death of a playable character.
When it comes to the Final Fantasy series, the inclusion of guest characters is a long and much loved tradition. We can look forward to meeting more of them for many years to come.