Facing the Past - Final Fantasy IV

"A True Paladin knows when to sheathe his sword." - Unknown voice, Final Fantasy IV.

I'll admit that this isn't the correct quote. In fact, if the quote's no-where close, feel free to E-mail it to me. However, it's my best recollection of it. The quote comes from the battle after Cecil has faced Mt Ordeals and is ready to become a paladin. He undergoes the transformation and finds himself face to face with a Dark Knight. A manifestation of himself as he was.

In his past, Cecil had learnt the skills of the dark sword under the guidance of his King. He served his King faithfully, and followed his orders without question. Even though he sacrificed his soul in order to gain the power that the Dark Knight gave him, he did it so he could protect his King, his country, and his beloved Rosa.

Unfortunately, the King's orders became erratic, and when Cecil led a mission that saw a lot of the mages of Mysidia killed by his hand, Cecil begun to doubt his purpose, and the orders of his King. When he questioned them, the King was outraged and banished Cecil on a mission with seemingly little importance. The mission was a life saver for Cecil, as it opened his eyes to a new path to follow.

It became apparent during the early part of Final Fantasy IV that Cecil as a Dark Knight just wasn't going to work as a hero. His Dark element attacks did cause damage to multiple opponents, but at cost to his own life-force (HP dropped.) The love that he had for Rosa, and the love she returned for him, became clearer and paramount to Cecil's decision in battling Golbez.

The story turned around when Kain, controlled and made stronger by Golbez, was able to attack and defeat Cecil. Kidnapping Rosa, Golbez and Kain leave and Cecil is left alone on a beach, no-one around him, and nothing but the emptiness of his soul knowing that the one person who loved him for who he was had been take away from him and in danger.

In desperation, Cecil turns to the people who he himself had persecuted. The mages of Mysidia. Mocked and hated by everyone who walked there, Cecil still heads to see the Elder of the Mages. Cecil bears his heart for the Elder, who listens and who then offers him a ray of light, a ray of hope. The chance to turn his back on what he despises and make himself stronger. A chance to destroy the evil within his soul and replace it with good to repair the damage he has caused.

Accompanied by the mages Porom and Palom, Cecil sets off to Mt Ordeals. The undead enemies here make Cecil's attacks ineffective, as the game pushes through the fact that Cecil's powers as they stand are useless. Upon reaching the summit, Cecil has to stand alone in the battle that ultimately decides if the world survives or not…

… It's an interesting little plot development, and one which had me hooked. On the one hand, you've got Cecil as a Dark Knight, the path he has always followed as being right, even if his heart wasn't in it. On the other hand, you have Cecil as a Paladin. A path completely foreign to him, and yet one that perfectly suits him. In the battle, your instinct is to unleash everything that the new form has to offer upon your old self in order to vanquish it. In reality, this is the worst thing to do.

"A True Paladin knows when to sheathe his sword."

Cecil has to re-learn exactly how his skills are to be used. As a Dark Knight, he was a weapon of the King, to enforce the law in order to make Baron a safe and stable Kingdom. The King pointed to those who needed the law enforced, and Cecil would go and stamp on them until they followed the King's wishes.

Being a Paladin changed Cecil's thinking. He was never meant to be a weapon, to be used to destroy. He was a defender, and in order to prove himself to be worthy of these powers, Cecil had to show that he knew when to defend those he loved, when to defend what he believed in. By not showing his sword to his old self, he was turning his back on his old self.

And he succeeded. After three rounds, the Dark Knight form is defeated, and Cecil emerges a Paladin. A low level Paladin, but a Paladin nonetheless. The story continues, and Cecil's destiny unravels. And in the final battle, after FuSoYa and Golbez have fought Zemus and Golbez's attempt to use the crystal have failed, it is Cecil's hand which exposes Zeromus' true form. The light in his soul is the ultimate weapon, one which gives him and his party the power to fight hatred, and defeat it.

Cecil's story is one of the most fascinating ones I've played through in any RPG. The changes he went through are on one hand simple and on the other so profound that they could be debated to and fro for a long time. You could argue that it was just a change of costume in that battle which Cecil went through, that his character didn't change at all. But at the same time, it wasn't just the costume which changed. Cecil's whole purpose changed in that battle, and it was that change which ultimately gave him the power to rescue Rosa and become the hope that the world needed.

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