Final Fantasy IV Story, Explained

Final Fantasy IV concept artwork

Final Fantasy IV Story, Explained

Right from its opening moments, Final Fantasy IV makes it very clear how much it is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessors in terms of storytelling. While the first three games in the Final Fantasy series essentially drop the player right into the action with minimal context, Final Fantasy IV kicks things off with some exposition and character development, putting the tale it’s telling ahead of the gameplay. The player gets to meet the game’s protagonist Cecil while also gaining some insight into one of the title’s core conflicts – that of a hero struggling to understand how to balance his great power with his unwillingness to use it for evil. The Final Fantasy IV story only ramps up its intensity from here, establishing itself as one of the best narratives in a series that continues to be a benchmark for stories in interactive media.

Final Fantasy IV stands as one of the handful of titles releasing during the 16-bit era that would greatly elevate what is possible in terms of storytelling in games, introducing characters and a central conflict that players would find themselves invested in and using its incredible and evocative score to highlight the emotional depth of certain narrative beats. While love, and what one is willing to do for it, is a central theme of Final Fantasy IV, the real heart of the story centers around redemption. As such, the tale of the Dark Knight Cecil is a classic “Hero’s Journey” in the style of some of literature and cinema’s all-time greats.

Assault on Mysidia and Red Wings Over Baron

Final Fantasy IV gameplay

The Final Fantasy IV story begins with a steady shot of a battalion of airships flying through the sky, with Nobuo Uematsu’s “Red Wings Over Baron” playing in the background. This military force is returning from a mission, and when we meet the commander, he flashes back to the memory of their assignment. The player watches as a massacre takes place, with the main character Cecil and his troops (the Royal Air Force of Baron, aka The Red Wings) slaughtering helpless White and Black Mages in order to acquire a Crystal.

As Cecil reflects on his actions, the troops around him echo his displeasure with their military might being used against innocents. The troops then remark that sightings of monsters are becoming increasingly common, wondering if it might be an ill omen of some kind. Upon returning to Baron, Cecil joins Baigan, the captain of the guards, for an audience with the King of Baron and to report The Red Wings’ success. Baigan mentions to the King that Cecil’s dissent is obvious, and that he can no longer be trusted. When Cecil hands over the Crystal, he questions why the King is in a race to acquire them, resulting in him being stripped of his command.

The Dragoon Kain enters the throne room, defending Cecil, which only lands him in hot water as well. In order to enter the King’s good graces again, both Kain and Cecil must deliver a Bomb Ring to defeat the “Phantom Beast” plaguing the Misty Valley. Before departing on this journey, we meet Rosa and Cid, and Rosa makes plans to meet Cecil later in his room. Despite their obvious love for one another, Cecil remarks that his position as a Dark Knight will prevent them ever truly being together.

Journey to the Village of Mist

Final Fantasy IV gameplay

As Kain and Cecil depart Castle Baron for the Misty Valley, Final Fantasy IV begins in earnest. The duo make way for the valley but have to traverse the Cave of Mist beforehand. A mysterious voice keeps instructing them to “GET OUT”, but both Kain and Cecil are adamant about completing their mission, underscoring both heroes’ sense of duty. The voice turns out to belong to the Mist Dragon, which Cecil is sure of being the “Phantom Beast” he and Kain are meant to destroy. After felling the spectral dragon, the heroes make their way to the Village of Mist where the Bomb Ring activates to torch all the buildings and eliminate any remaining Summoners.

A lone girl remains, distraught over the death of her mother. When Kain and Cecil go to investigate, they realize that the girl’s mother is the summoner of the Mist Dragon, letting loose that they are the ones responsible for killing her. This sends the young girl, Rydia, into a blind rage, causing her to summon the Eidolon Titan against the two. Though Kain and Cecil vow to go against the King’s wishes and protect the girl, Rydia is incapable of reason in her current state, causing a massive earthquake that both separates Kain and Cecil and blocks off access to the Misty Valley. With Kain now missing and Rydia unconscious, Cecil heads to the nearby desert village of Kaipo for recovery.

Kaipo, the Sand Pearl, and Damcyan’s Destruction

Final Fantasy IV gameplay

Upon reaching Kaipo, a battalion of Baron soldiers arrive to arrest Cecil and execute Rydia. After bravely defending Rydia from the soldiers, Cecil promises to protect her at any cost, which prompts Rydia to tell Cecil her name and agree to join up with him as an ally. Before figuring out their next move, Cecil learns from the townspeople that a lone girl from Baron collapsed outside Kaipo muttering the name “Cecil” over and over again. Cecil finds Rosa resting inside one of the houses in Kaipo, ill with Desert Fever and needing the Sand Ruby to convalesce.

With a renewing of purpose, Cecil and Rydia set off for Damcyan to receive help retrieving the Sand Ruby. Their path takes them through the Waterfall Cave, where a mysterious old man blocks the path. Realizing that Cecil is a powerful Dark Knight and that Rydia is a young Summoner in training, the old man asks if he can join the two as all three of them are heading for Damcyan. This old man is actually none other than the Great Sage Tellah, one of the world’s most famous and revered wizards. Together, the three of them make their way through the Waterfall Cave and eventually reach Damcyan.

Unfortunately, as they exit the cave, the Red Wings show up and launch a full-scale assault on Damcyan, destroying the castle and stealing their Crystal. Tellah’s daughter, Anna, is caught in the fray, shielding her new husband Prince Edward from arrows and giving her life in the process. Blind with rage, Tellah departs on a one-man mission of revenge against the Red Wings’ new commander, Golbez. With the help of Prince Edward, Cecil retrieves the Sand Ruby and returns to Kaipo, healing Rosa and agreeing to let her join the party.

Protecting Fabul & Rosa’s Kidnapping

Final Fantasy IV gameplay

Rosa’s recovery allows her to fill in Cecil with all of the details regarding The Red Wings’ new commander Golbez, who she claims is responsible for controlling the King from behind the scenes and also being the reason for Baron’s acquisition of the Crystals. With two Crystals now in Baron’s possession, the party recognizes that the next target is likely Fabul, prompting them to head to the nearby Mount Hobbs in hopes of reaching Fabul in time. Their journey to Mt. Hobbs proves to be fortuitous, for at the summit the Fabul commander Yang is engaging in a battle he has no hope of winning. Cecil and his companions selflessly join up with Yang to even the numbers, seeing the 5 of them emerge victorious.

The party arrives in Fabul just in time to prepare a defense for Golbez’s assault on the Castle, hoping to push back the Red Wings and protect the Crystal. Ultimately, though, The Red Wings are able to use deception to gain the advantage, with one of their rank assuming the appearance of one of Fabul’s soldiers and granting the enemy access to the castle’s inner chambers. After falling back to the Crystal Room, Cecil finds himself both cornered and betrayed when he realizes that it’s none other than Kain who is leading the attack. Golbez is able to quickly defeat Cecil, noting that his Dark Knight powers will never be capable of harming him.

As a final insult, Golbez kidnaps Rosa after securing Fabul’s crystal, departing with Kain to his stronghold. Though the party is defeated, they are not without hope, as Cecil devises a plan to return to Baron and rescue Rosa. They depart on a ship heading for Baron when the great Eidolon of the sea, Leviathan, unexpectedly attacks.

Trial of Mount Ordeals & Cecil’s Rebirth

Final Fantasy IV gameplay

Cecil washes up on the shores of Mysidia — the very place where his journey of self-doubt and discovery begins before Final Fantasy IV‘s opening moments. The attack from Leviathan leaves Cecil to presume that his companions are dead, and he has no choice but to head back into Mysidia to seek help from the very people he and his forces slaughtered. Though the townspeople are less willing to accept Cecil’s remorse over his past actions, the Elder is open to granting him a chance at forgiveness. He instructs Cecil to head to the nearby Mount Ordeals in order to shed his identity as a Dark Knight and become reborn as a Paladin if he is to have any hope of defeating Golbez.

Accompanying him on the journey are the twins Palom and Porom, two of Mysidia’s most powerful mages. After beginning the climb to the summit of Mount Ordeals, Cecil runs into a familiar face when the party stumbles across Tellah. As it turns out, Tellah is climbing Mount Ordeals in hopes of recalling the Metor spell to use against Golbez. With their interests aligning once more, Tellah joins up with Cecil and the twins. At the summit, the party encounter one of the Four Fiends, who are working with Golbez to see him acquire the world’s Crystals. The fiend Scarmiglione suffers defeat not once, but twice, before falling into the ravine below the mountain.

Cecil enters a mysterious monolith at the summit of Mount Ordeals where a strange light refers to him as “My Son”. Confronting his past demons, Cecil emerges reborn as a Paladin, shedding the darkness controlling his heart. It is in this moment that Cecil achieves redemption for his previous actions, resolving to use his newfound powers of light for the betterment of mankind.

Return to Baron, Taking to the Skies

Final Fantasy IV gameplay

In addition to helping Cecil atone for his past as a Dark Knight and becoming a Paladin, the light on Mount Ordeals also allows Tellah to recall all of his spells, including Meteor. After returning to Mysidia, the Elder congratulates Cecil on his transformation and redemption, giving them access to the ancient Devil’s Road that links Baron and Mysidia. The party use the Devil’s Road to sneak back into Baron, arriving in the center of the city and quickly coming face to face with Yang. Yang doesn’t recognize Cecil and confronts him as an enemy, but a quick fight between the two sees his memory recover enough to recognize that he should join up with his friend.

The party successfully sneaks into Castle Baron and does battle with Baigan before Cecil finally confronts the King. Here, the King reveals himself to be another one of the Four Fiends, Caignazzo, and remarks that he has been impersonating the king for some time. The party successfully defeat Caignazzo, but in his dying breath he triggers a trap to crush the heroes within the walls of Castle Baron. To allow Cecil and his companions to continue with their mission to stop Golbez, the twins Palom and Porom sacrifice themselves by turning to stone and stopping the encroaching walls.

Cid, who was placed in prison for refusing to build any airships for the King, leads the party to the secret hangar for his ultimate creation — the airship Enterprise. The party takes off and escapes from the castle in the Enterprise but an enemy airship quickly intercepts them. Kain, under command from Golbez, instructs Cecil that he can secure Rosa’s life by acquiring the Crystal of Earth.

The Crystal of Earth, Dark Elves, and the Tower of Zot

Final Fantasy IV gameplay

Golbez’s plan to use Rosa as a bargaining chip for the Earth Crystal is successful, leading Cecil and his companions to head to the kingdom of Troia to try and persuade them for the use of their Crystal. Unfortunately, the Crystal is already in the possession of the Dark Elf, who has taken up residence in a nearby cave protected by a magnetic field. While in Troia, Cecil discovers that Edward is still alive, having washed up on their shores after Leviathan’s attack on the ship leaving Fabul. Edward pleads with Cecil to take the Twin Harp, noting that there may come a time where Edward can help even though he’s physically incapable of joining them on their adventure.

Cecil, Yang, Tellah, and Cid head to the Dark Elf’s cave, relying on weaker non-metal equipment to make their way to the inner chamber where the Crystal resides. Without the aid of Cecil’s sword, the party is quickly defeated, and Edward realizes something is amiss. At great risk to his own health, he makes his way to his harp and plays a tune that will resonante from the Twin Harp Cecil carries. The plan is successful, and Edward’s intuition and bravery save the day by disrupting the Dark Elf and the magnetic field. Cecil and his allies easily defeat the monster and take back the Crystal to bring to Golbez.

After arriving at Golbez’s stronghold, the Tower of Zot, the party makes their way to the upper floors and prepares for a confrontation with Golbez. Tellah, refusing to listen to reason or understand his own limitations, uses the Meteor spell at the cost of his own life. The power of the spell momentarily defeats Golbez, allowing Kain to snap out of his brainwashing and help Cecil rescue Rosa and defeat Barbariccia.

The Dark Crystals & Reunion

Final Fantasy IV gameplay

Defeating the third of the Four Fiends results in the Tower of Zot’s destruction, but Cid is handy with a quick escape courtesy of the Enterprise’s remote control function. The party return to Baron to regroup and form a plan of attack, and it is here that Kain reveals there are more than four crystals. Long considered to be a legend, there are four Crystals of Light and an additional four Dark Crystals that reside in a secret world underneath the earth’s surface. As it turns out, Kain is in possession of the item necessary to gain access to the Underground, and the party begin making their way there posthaste to prevent Golbez’s plans.

After making their way to the Underground, the party gain an audience with the Dwarf King Giott only to arrive right as Golbez is attempting to steal their Dark Crystal. Golbez almost wipes out the party completely, until Rydia shows up to save Cecil and defeat Golbez and his Shadow Dragon. Now much older, Rydia is an incredibly powerful summoner and black mage who joins back up with Cecil to help him stop Golbez. Cid stays behind to repair the airship and the party head toward the Tower of Babil to retrieve the Dark Crystals.

After making their way to the Crystal Room, the party falls into a trap and finds themselves near the control center for the cannons assaulting the Dwarven forces. Yang sacrifices himself to stay behind and destroy the cannons, giving the party the time they need to escape. Cid arrives with the Enterprise just in time, but also sacrifices himself to hold off the Red Wings’ pursuit, sealing off the entrance to the Underground with a massive explosion.

The Kingdom of Elban & Tower of Babil

Final Fantasy IV gameplay

Distraught over the apparent deaths of both Yang and Cid, Cecil and his companions make it to the surface and return to Castle Baron. There, they connect with Cid’s team of engineers who act on some plans that the late airship builder left behind in case of Cecil’s return. After attaching a hook to the bottom of the Enterprise, the Engineers bid Cecil and the rest of the party farewell as they head to the kingdom of Elban in hopes of using the nearby Tower of Babil to re-enter the Underground. Castle Elban lies in shambles and is completely deserted, prompting Cecil to head into the cave on the castle’s outskirts.

The heroes quickly discover that the people of Elban are surviving within the cave, having gone into hiding as a means of surviving the wrath of the fourth and final Fiend — Rubicante. After speaking with the Advisor to the King of Elban, Cecil learns that Elban’s young prince is chasing after Rubicante to get revenge for the deaths of his parents. At this point in the Final Fantasy IV story, players meet the final hero who will join Cecil on his quest in the young and brash prince Edge, who also happens to be a powerful ninja.

The party save Edge from foolishly killing himself in single combat against Rubicante by coming to his aid, and the Fiend taunts them by suggesting they give chase into the Tower of Babil. Since the party needs to enter the tower to access the Underground anyway, they follow Rubicante into the underground and successfully defeat him, helping Edge get his revenge.

The Sealed Cave & Kain’s Betrayal

Final Fantasy IV gameplay

After defeating the last of the Four Fiends, the party stumbles across a secret experimental airship that has metal shielding, allowing them to fly over the oceans of magma in the Underground. With the newfound ability to explore anywhere within the secret realm, the party heads off in search of the final of the Dark Crystals. This last Crystal lies waiting within the Sealed Cave, which only King Giott has the key to. He grants Cecil the key in the hopes of the Paladin being able to stop Golbez once and for all, and the party sets off to acquire the final Crystal before their adversary does.

The Sealed Cave proves to be a treacherous dungeon that even contains a contingency for anyone hoping to take the Crystal in the form of a living wall trap. After defeating the living wall and making their way back out through the dungeon, Kain is overcome by a mysterious force once again and turns on the party, stealing the Crystal and betraying Cecil to head back over to Golbez’s side. Now with all 8 Crystals in his possession, Golbez is ready to activate the Giant of Babil, which will spell doom for all living creatures on the planet.

In their darkest hour, the party return to Mysidia to seek guidance from the Elder. He informs them of a legend passed down through Mysidia:

One born of a dragon
Bearing darkness and light,
Shall rise to the heavens
Over the still land.
The moon’s light eternal
Brings a promise to Earth
With bounty and grace.

As the Mysidians pray for Cecil and recite the legend, a massive airship emerges from beneath the ocean. The party boards the strange vessel and interacts with its controls, taking them to the surface of the Moon.

A Trip to the Moon & The Giant of Babel

Final Fantasy IV gameplay

After using the Lunar Whale to reach the Moon, the party make their way toward the massive Crystal Palace in hopes of discovering a means to defeat the Giant of Babil. Upon reaching the palace, Cecil is beckoned to the throne room where FuSoYa emerges from thin air. FuSoYa is the emmisary of the Lunarians, a race of beings who call the Moon their home and who once chose to live among the humans. During this time, one of their own (a Lunarian calling himself Klu-Ya), would fall in love with a human and birth two children, one of whom is Cecil. The other, FuSoYa reveals, is Golbez.

As it turns out, Golbez’s status as a half-Lunarian makes him susceptible to manipulation at the hands of Zemus — and evil Lunarian who was placed into a protective slumber to prevent his enslavement and subjugation of mankind. FuSoYa’s revelations shake Cecil to the core, as he realizes that it could have just as easily been himself being manipulated and his brother Golbez being the one to stop him were it not for a cruel trick of fate. Armed with the knowledge that Zemus, and not Golbez, is the true antagonist, FuSoYa joins the party on their return trip to earth and battle within the Giant of Babil.

The party is successful in stopping the Giant, though not before having to battle their way through the revived Four Fiends. FuSoYa is successful in breaking Zemus’ hold over Golbez, which has the additional effect of shattering Kain’s brainwashing to see him rejoin the party once more. Cecil is unable to confront Golbez as his brother, and he departs for the Moon with FuSoYa before the Paladin is able to reconcile his feelings for his own flesh and blood.

Descending Into the Lunar Core

Final Fantasy IV gameplay

After some persuading from his allies, Cecil realizes he needs to follow FuSoYa and Golbez to the Moon for two reasons. One, it is his duty as a Lunarian to stop Zemus and save humanity. Two, he needs to forgive his brother and allow him the same atonement that Cecil found atop Mount Ordeals. The party heads to the Moon, but Cecil, Kain, and Edge urge Rosa and Rydia to stay behind given the danger and posibility of it being a one-way trip. Rosa takes a definitive stance of defiance, stating that she would rather die by Cecil’s side than live without him, and the two finally come together as one.

The party enters the Lunar Subterrane beneath the Crystal Palace, making their way through all manner of threats to eventually reach the core of the Moon. After reaching the place where Zemus slumbers, Cecil arrives just in time to see Golbez and FuSoYa take on the evil Lunarian. Unfortunately, their efforts are in vain, as Zemus is able to render their magic useless due to the darkness that still resides in Golbez’s heart. With Golbez and FuSoYa defeated, Zemus sets his sights on Cecil and his companions.

Back on earth, all of the allies Cecil made along the course of his adventure send prayers to the Moon, and their collective faith in Cecil restores him and the rest of the party to full health. Cecil uses the Crystal against Zemus, transforming him into the evil abomination Zeromus, and the party is able to defeat this foul creature and send him back to the void.

Bittersweet Farewell & New Beginnings

Final Fantasy IV gameplay

After defeating Zeromus, Golbez and FuSoYa awaken, congratulating Cecil and his companions on their victory over evil. However, Cecil’s hesitance toward forgiving his brother causes Zemus to have one final gasping breath, in which he reveals that he will always exist so long as the hearts of men harbor hatred and darkness. With that final cryptic warning, Zemus disappears. Realizing that the people of earth will likely never forgive him for his transgressions, Golbez resolves to join FuSoYa in his slumber until the time at which humanity and the Lunarians can live side-by-side.

Cecil, in order to come full-circle and complete his hero’s journey, must forgive Golbez and allow him the atonement that he was able to achieve atop Mount Ordeals. In the last moments before Golbez and FuSoYa depart, Cecil swallows his pride and acknowledges Golbez as his brother, wishing him well for the journey ahead and bidding him a heartfelt farewell. The heroes then return to earth while Golbez and FuSoYa depart, causing the Moon to escape its orbit and fly off into the depths of space.

Our story concludes with Cecil and Rosa finally solidifying their union to one another through marriage on the same day that they are both part of a coronation ceremony as the new King and Queen of Baron. Kain, seeking atonement of his own for his betrayal of his friends, opts to live a life of solitude, training and reflecting until that time that he is at peace with his past.

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