Final Fantasy IV marked a turning point in the Final Fantasy franchise, where plot was revamped into a more character driven approach. Gone were Warriors of Light and generic rebel fighters, and in their place were Dark Knights, Engineers, Princes Orphans and more. Yet despite all this, the rulers of this world are denied a name entirely, referred to instead simply by their titles. In doing this the game distinguishes character via two avenues, those with assumed traits suggested by their title, and those with names who are immediately more complex. However, most of the heroes are either princes, leaders or last survivors of their people, suggesting they will ultimately give up their names too, in favour of titles intended for them in later life.Within the earlier chapters of Final Fantasy IV we are introduced to the kingdoms of Baron, Damcyan and Fabul alongside the settlement of Mysidia; each one of these places has a ruler who is, at the very least made reference to at some point in the narrative, yet are denied the right to a name or a distinct personality. Instead their titles carry connotations that they are benevolent rulers, who in their day, have done much good for their respective kingdoms. Ultimately the status of King or Leader is not for one moment smeared by negative, evil associations, even if they begin to commit negative or evil deeds themselves; it is inconceivable. Indeed in the case of the King of Baron, it is revealed he has been deposed by Cagnazzo anyway, meaning the man himself never betrays the principles of his title, nor do any other rulers for that matter.
Yet for almost every new settlement the heroes visit along the way, they meet someone with a name, who is significant within that settlement and who more than likely will join the party henceforth, unless proven to be an enemy. Either way they will appear in battle at some point in the narrative, revealing the burden of receiving a name in this universe. Those with names are destined to battle for the fate of this world, similarly to how these benevolent rulers are suggested to have done previously. Thus we begin to realise that those with a name are presumably the next rulers in the making. Must they then work towards the values insinuated by such titles, and nary stray from that path?
Perhaps so, only they must lose their complexity in order to achieve this. This happens frequently in the plot, with tragedies barely dwelled upon in the face of the enemy (e.g. the twins petrification, the presumed death of Rydia from Leviathan), but never more so obviously as when Cecil transforms from Dark Knight to Paladin. All of a sudden his bloody past is erased and his character almost too conveniently becomes pure; he is on his way to gaining those ideals he’ll need to adopt for his title. However his murky past is no longer of concern, and thus what perhaps makes the character so compelling (his struggle to overcome his guilt for the massacres of Mysidia or Mist) is no longer of any concern, because those of titles cannot burden themselves with such complex matters. Furthermore from the snippets we hear of the previous rulers of this world (the one’s which sit on the throne at the beginning of the game) would suggest they were not unlike Cecil and his friends in their youth, they too had complexities before but now they have reached a position where they no longer matter. Perhaps they even had names once… but it seems one’s destiny is ultimately to lose it, and their personality along with it.
Yet are there any alternatives for these characters? Tellah for instance, stubborn as ever, is known as a great sage yet he has no title to ascend to. Instead he is destined to die, seen as his stamina decreases whilst gaining levels and him fighting with insufficient MP. His death seems imminent yet perhaps his stubbornness is a testament to those who do not wish to sacrifice their character for a title. Tellah may perish but he manages to keep his name throughout life. Anna his daughter makes another notable exception and is perhaps the only named character in Final Fantasy IV who doesn’t appear in battle. She too dies for her name but in doing so allows Edward the courage to one day gain his own title. Thus she dies trapped in the middle of a name and a title, daring enough to have one yet understanding their is no future for those with no chance of a title.
Thus a cycle seems to be at work here, where named characters are destined to aspire toward a title. Yet despite this there is one named character who might actually provide some progress, and it is his invention that kicks the plot in motion to begin with. Cid survives the game despite having no title to aspire toward. It would seem he is attempting to create his own title, using his airships to force this somewhat archaic world into a new era. Yet the question of whether Cid would be willing to give up his name once his job is accomplished is uncertain, one would hope his forward thinking might bring the ruling classes into a new era also, where names and characters, not titles and stereotypes that come with them, are able to rule.
Titles in Final Fantasy IV thus play an interesting role, in which most titles given to rulers and family members bring with them connotations of love and support, yet stop there devoid of any distinct character or personality. Furthermore anyone with a name must be in line for a title, or else they are doomed to die along the way. We can only hope that with Cecil and friends eventually ruling this world, they will manage to maintain their names and remain the characters that the series put at the forefront of the game.
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