Bartz vs Cecil: Which SNES-Era Final Fantasy Protagonist Reigns Supreme?

Bartz vs Cecil

Bartz vs Cecil: Which SNES-Era Final Fantasy Protagonist Reigns Supreme?

Thanks to the series’ continual emphasis on storytelling and narrative alongside its gameplay, the Final Fantasy series is synonymous with amazing protagonists. With the sole exceptions of the first and third entries in the series and the online titles, each Final Fantasy game features a compelling main character who, along with their companions, faces insurmountable odds to attempt to save their world. With the series seeing its first major upgrade in terms of world and character building during the 16-bit era on the SNES, it makes sense that the characters of these games continue to hold a special place in fans’ hearts. In terms of best SNES-era protagonist of a Final Fantasy game, it really comes down to the battle of Bartz vs Cecil.

With Final Fantasy VI famously adopting the “ensemble cast” approach to its multiple protagonists rather than one standout main character, that leaves just Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy IV as the titles players can pull from for choosing the series’ best SNES-era protagonist. Both Bartz Klauser and Cecil Harvey are excellent main characters, though the two could not possibly be more different in terms of the tone of their personality and their interactions with friends and foes alike. Specifically, where Cecil is somewhat of a tragic hero in need of redemption, Bartz is a happy-go-lucky everyman who just wants to protect the world in hopes of exploring it more.

Bartz vs Cecil: Side-by-Side Comparison

Bartz vs Cecil

Aside from featuring as the heroes of their respective Final Fantasy titles, Bartz and Cecil are practically polar opposites. Cecil’s powers as a Dark Knight and command of Baron’s Red Wings make him a known quantity within the game’s world and somewhat of an anti-hero prior to his redemption and forsaking of the Dark Blade. Conversely, Bartz is a wandering traveler who searches the world in hopes of adventure. A chance encounter with a meteorite places him into the trajectory of a princess, a visitor from another world, and a pirate captain, with the four of them together venturing to stop an evil sorcerer from destroying all of existence. In essence, Final Fantasy V‘s Bartz is practically a response to the dour and serious nature of his predecessor in Final Fantasy IV.

CharacteristicBartz KlauserCecil Harvey
First AppearanceFinal Fantasy VFinal Fantasy IV
Game Review Aggregate Score66%89%
Total Game Sales3.1 million units2.7 million units
DesignerYoshitaka AmanoYoshitaka Amano
Class TypeFreelance/AnyDark Knight/Paladin
Combat AbilitiesAny, depending on JobDark Blade/White Magic, Cover
PersonalityCarefree, Affable, NaiveSerious, Regretful, Dour
HeritageBartz’s father is one of the four warriors who, along with Galuf, seal away ExdeathCecil’s father is the Lunarian Klu-Ya, brother to Fu So Ya and inventor of airships and the Devil’s Road
Other AppearancesFinal Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals, Dissidia series, Theatrhythm seriesFinal Fantasy IV Interlude and The After Years, Dissidia series, Theatrhythm series

Bartz vs Cecil: 5 Must-Know Facts

Here are 5 must-know facts comparing Final Fantasy V‘s Bartz Klauser to Final Fantasy IV‘s Cecil Harvey:

  • Even though the title wouldn’t be released in the West until many years after its initial launch, Final Fantasy V has stronger sales than its predecessor. That said, the title has a very mixed critical reception due to its Japanese exclusivity and critics’ inability to comprehend the game’s Job system. Comparatively, Final Fantasy IV’s review aggregate score dwarfs that of Final Fantasy V.
  • Thanks to the game’s Job system, Bartz can assume any one of Final Fantasy V‘s job classes once the player unlocks them. This essentially means that he has near-limitless abilities that he can utilize in combat. Cecil, on the other hand, is restricted to a specific class and party role just like all other companions in Final Fantasy IV.
  • Cecil comes off as being significantly troubled due to using his power in defense of evil, ultimately seeking redemption for his past actions and feeling regret for becoming a Dark Knight in the first place. As a wandering traveler, Bartz has absolutely no responsibilities and has nothing to regret, constantly living life in the moment.
  • The journey of Cecil is more traditional in terms of adhering to the classic “Hero’s Journey” template popularized by author Joseph Campbell. Though Bartz’s story is also somewhat of a Hero’s Journey, Cecil’s redemption arc and the major plot points of Final Fantasy IV follow a more predictable arc.
  • Though both characters make appearances in other series spin-off titles that include heroes and villains from across the franchise, only Cecil and Final Fantasy IV have return appearances in games that act as sequels to their original adventure.

Bartz vs Cecil: Popularity of Respective Games

Final Fantasy creator and longtime producer/director Hironobu Sakaguchi would have Final Fantasy V be the last game in the series to feature his direction, resulting in him going on record as it being his favorite game in the series alongside Final Fantasy IX. Additionally, many prominent members of the Final Fantasy development team at Square Enix cite Final Fantasy V as their favorite game in the series. Despite its popularity within the company, though, Final Fantasy V wouldn’t arrive in the West until 1999 courtesy of the PS1 release Final Fantasy Anthology. Final Fantasy IV, on the other hand, would help to bring the Final Fantasy name into more households as a result of its place as a launch title for the North American launch of the SNES.

In the years since each game’s release, only Final Fantasy IV has multiple sequels and a 3D remake attesting to its popularity among fans. Meanwhile, the only “sequel” of sorts that exists for Final Fantasy V is an animated film released exclusively in Japan. Even though Final Fantasy V has slightly higher sales than Final Fantasy IV, it’s safe to say that many fans prefer the story and characters of the first SNES game in the series over its follow-up. That said, the reinvented Job system from Final Fantasy V is a known fan-favorite and one of the best underpinning gameplay mechanics in the series.

Bartz vs Cecil: Utility in Combat

Speaking of Final Fantasy V’s Job System, the ability to assign each of the party members different Jobs at any time creates near-limitless freedom in how players build out their team of adventurers. It also results in Bartz essentially being a blank slate to which players can assign their class of choice. This system exists in stark contrast to the model that Final Fantasy IV uses, with each of its characters adhering to a specific class identity and a predetermined set of abilities. Cecil starts off as a Dark Knight and eventually transforms into a Paladin, and though this redemption does see his leveling start over from scratch as he gains new abilities, he retains those abilities for the rest of the game. In comparison, Bartz can switch between job classes and abilities at will.

Bartz vs Cecil: Differences in Tonality

Along with their differences in combat potential, Cecil and Bartz could not be more different in terms of their characterization and personality. With Cecil being a tragic hero of sorts in need of redemption, the game characterizes him as a tortured individual filled with regret. Not only does Cecil begin the game in the service of a despotic tyrant, using his power for ill-gotten gains, but he also is incapable of being with the one he loves thanks to the Dark Blade’s hold on his heart. This results in every bit of Cecil’s dialogue coming off as overly serious and, at times, melodramatic as the character struggles with the conflict unfolding around him.

Bartz, on the other hand, is an affable hero similar to Goku from the Dragon Ball series. Similar to Goku’s singular goal of being the world’s strongest, Bartz simply wishes to travel the world in search of adventure. When players meet Bartz, he is exploring the world on the back of his trusty Chocobo without a care in the world. And, after coming across the meteorite that acts as the initiating event for the adventure within Final Fantasy V, he continues to approach every situation with a similar lighthearted optimism. In comparison to Cecil, Bartz’s characterization is downright refreshing.

Bartz vs Cecil: The Hero’s Journey

Joseph Campbell’s seminal work The Hero With a Thousand Faces examines the common tropes that exist across most works of fiction and mythology, eventually labeling these steps as the commonly understood “Hero’s Journey”. Countless examples of the traditional “Hero’s Journey” persist across film, television, fiction literature, and video games, and the tale of Cecil Harvey and his journey of redemption in Final Fantasy IV is a classic narrative adhering to its template. While Bartz and his companions’ adventures in Final Fantasy V contribute to one of the more interesting and atypical narratives in the series, they do not abide by the classic steps of the “Hero’s Journey” in a way that is immediately recognizable.

Bottom Line

As the first true “next-gen” game in the series and the debut title of the franchise on the SNES, Final Fantasy IV‘s excellent narrative and strong characters elevate it to near legendary status in terms of the stories of Final Fantasy games. A large part of that status is supported by excellent characters, Cecil Harvey included, though he does come off as a bit melodramatic and petulant at times. Still, Cecil exhibits bravery and heroism along with strong leadership capabilities to band his companions together and save the world.

Final Fantasy V‘s Bartz may be the relatable “everyman” hero that the series needed after Cecil’s “doom and gloom” characterization, but the game’s narrative isn’t able to anchor its story around him in the same way as a result. In terms of both his presence in combat as the group’s resident melee powerhouse, and his importance to Final Fantasy IV‘s narrative, Cecil is the best Final Fantasy protagonist of the SNES era.

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