FF4: Free Enterprise Character Breakdown

Final Fantasy IV: Free Enterprise is one of the best randos I’ve played yet. I adore every version of Final Fantasy IV I’ve ever played, even that cash-grab sequel starring Cecil Jr. and Poochie, so a new way to revisit the game has been very exciting. I have lots of thoughts about the rando, but the most interesting ones are on the choice you can make regarding your team, so that’s what this post is about.

Most versions of FFIV don’t allow you to build your party, and the two versions that do have incentives to use all the characters at least once, and only at the very end of the game. It’s not like other JPRGs where you’re making decisions about your party through the entire story. It really wasn’t until Free Enterprise that I ever had cause to stop and think of the merits of one character vs. another. In this post I’m going to outline how characters are obtained in the rando and some general thoughts on who you ought to take or, failing that, how to make do with who you find.

Two Starting Characters

The basic rule is, Free Enterprise gives you a character anytime you reach a location where someone joined in the main story. I’ll call these “Join Spots”. Since you start with two characters in the main story, Free Enterprise rolls you two characters to start with. Depending on who you get will determine how easy your start is.

I’ll get into the merits of each individual character later, but the best possible start is probably to get Edge. Since Free Enterprise characters join the team with the same levels and equipment set they have in the base game, and Edge is one of the last characters you meet, any number of early game bosses will go down nice and easy. Fusoya is another great character to start with, but I play with a game flag that causes him to be weak until you kill some bosses, so Edge is still your best get.

The worst possible start would be something like Edward/Tellah, but even that is manageable if you know where the other Join Spots are.

Duplicate Characters

Some characters join the party more than once in FFIV, so in Free Enterprise there are more Join Spots than there are characters. This means some characters are found in multiple locations. A character can’t be in your party more than once (although that would be amazing, here’s hoping for a future version), so if you run into a duplicate character nothing special happens.

Freebie Characters

There are “free” Join Spots at Watery Pass, Damcyan, Mysidia and Mt. Ordeals. (These are the spots where Tellah, Edward, Palom/Porom, and Tellah again join in the main story.) If you’re playing with the No Free Lunch flag turned off, you can immediately fly to these spots to fill out your team. You’re not guaranteed to see everyone, so you don’t exactly get to pick and choose who you want, but it’s had to imagine not having a great party after seven rolls.

Nobody I know plays with this flag off, because I don’t consort with cowards, so let’s pretend the freebie characters don’t exist.

“Freebie” Characters

With No Free Lunch turned on, there are two characters you can reach without doing any treasure hunting. The first one you’re likely to check is in the Baron Inn, though he’ll be guarded by two boss fights. The other is on the Mt. Hobs summit, and is guarded by a much easier boss fight. If you’re not ready to start taking bosses yet you can check to see who they are before triggering the fight.

This early in the game, single-target damage is your goal. Ideally, between these two characters plus the two you start with, you’ll find some combination of Edge, Kain, and Yang. Casters aer great later on, but they all start out pretty weak (except for Fusoya, with an asterisk), and it’s likely you’ll find a good spear or ninja sword during your initial explorations. These single target bros are your moneymakers at first.

If you got the dreaded Edward/Tellah start, and there are no good bows to equip His Royal Spooniness with up front, you’ll probably have to take out a few lowbie bosses to get enough EXP to take on the bosses in Baron and on Mt. Hobs.

After you’ve checked these locations, everyone else is blocked off by key items. You’ll have to do some treasure hunting to find everyone else.

Key Item Characters

In addition to two characters, Free Enterprise starts you out with one key item. If you’re very lucky, it’ll be one of these, which unlock easy Join Spots:

Package – This is a cool item to get early. Fly this to Mist, and you’re rewarded with a short scene where you fight whichever character rolled into this slot. They’ll summon Titan and knock you out, then you’ll proceed to Kaipo where you’ll automatically fight a very easy boss to get them into the party. You might call this the vanilla start, since this is the item the king gives you at the beginning of FFIV.

SandRuby – You can check which character is asleep in Kaipo any time you want, but you can only wake them up if you find the SandRuby.

Hook – With the Hook, you can fly your Hoovercraft to the Eblan Cave. There’s a Join Spot at the end, where some poor character gets whooped by whichever boss rolled into Rubicant’s slot. They’ll join immediately.

Darkness Crystal – Flying to Mysidia with the Darkness Crystal triggers the Big Whale event, allowing you to travel to the moon and immediately access the Join Spot outside the crystal chamber at the start of the final dungeon.

It’s nice to get these items early, but don’t go into Free Enterprise counting on them. Chances are you’ll have to fight at least a few bosses or pop a few monster chests to fill out your numbers.

Guarded Characters

Here are the rest of the Join Spots, each of which is blocked by both a key item and two boss fights. I’ll list them in rough ascending order of difficulty, for what it’s worth, but you’ll probably have to make do with what items you find. (And some boss fights are dreadfully difficult no matter which slot they roll into.)

Baron Key – This item grants access to the equipment shops in Baron, as well as the Castle. There’s a Join Spot in the castle behind two boss fights. If you’re strong enough to beat the bosses in the Baron Inn, chances are you can take the two bosses inside as well. You don’t get a chance to check this character before triggering the bosses.

Earth Crystal – By flying to Troia and speaking to the green soldier you can explore the Tower of Zot whenever you want. There are two boss fights here, behind which is a Double Join Spot. You can fight the first of these bosses to see who the first character is, but once you trade the crystal to Golbez both characters join your party before the second boss fight. These are the toughest boss fights in the Overworld, so don’t be surprised to face a wall here if someone like Wyvern or Dark Knight Cecil rolls into their slots.

Magma Key or Hook – Either of these key items grants access to the Underworld, where you can reach the Join Spot in the Dwarf Castle. These bosses are about as tough as the ones in Zot. You don’t get to check this character, but they join in time for the second fight. If you’re using the Hook to reach the Underworld through the Eblan Cave, you’ll have to face two more bosses in Bab-il who are considerably tougher, making this potentially the most well-guarded character in the game.

Darkness Crystal – Talking to the soldier on the Big Whale grants access to the Giant of Bab-il, where one more Join Spot awaits you at the end, behind two of the toughest bosses in the main story. If you get very lucky with early equipment and easy boss rolls, it’s possible the Darkness Crystal grants you two early characters!

Now that we know where all the characters are, who should we take? Well, that largely depends on what you find and where you can check, but you’ll eventually have to make hard decisions regardless. Reaching a Join Spot with an already-full party will prompt you to dismiss someone, and dismissed characters are never seen again (unless they’re your duplicate for the seed). It’s tempting to think you’ll just take the characters you want and dismiss the rest, but in practice you usually won’t want to replace a developed character even if their replacement is strictly better.

I’ve arranged the characters in order of the general usefulness of each character’s role. Who you want to take will likely be a function of which roles you have filled and who you manage to find.

White Mages

You will need need need a white mage in your final party, and by “white mage” I mean “someone who can spam Cure4”. It is possible to defeat Zeromus without a dedicated healer, but the fight is much tougher, and the road there is much tougher as well. There are three good white mages in the game, so chances are you’ll roll into one. I would consider completing the rando without one of these characters to be a challenge run.

You only need one white mage. My general rule is to take whichever of Porom or Rosa I find first, or Fusoya if I find neither. The only reason to double up on healers is if you want someone casting White in the endgame.

Rosa – Pound for pound, Rosa is the most useful character in Free Enterprise. She has a higher Will stat than Porom, though that doesn’t matter much since equipment tends to equalize that. She learns all of the important spells (Cure4, Float, Wall, Life2) at earlier levels than Porom does, plus she can Aim. Bows and arrows are pretty good in the first half of the rando, especially if one of your shops carries Artemis or Samurai Arrows, and Rosa can never miss with them. I mentioned earlier how one solid martial character can mow down most of the early bosses. With just a tiny smidge of luck, Rosa can be that character.

Porom – Porom is worse than Rosa across the board, since she gains all the important spells later than Rosa does and can’t Aim. If you find her early and gain a bunch of levels before locating Rosa, though, she’ll carry you to the end with no difficulty. Her one advantage is she actually learns the Exit spell, which is very useful while treasure hunting. (Rosa only learns this spell if you complete the Tower of Zot!)

Fusoya – Fusoya is a special character with his own rando flag. If the flag is off, he joins your party with 1900 HPs and every spell in the game. If the flag is on he joins with way fewer resources, and gains some HPs and a few randomly-selected spells each time to defeat a boss. There are like six bosses you can kill effortlessly right at the start of the rando, so Fusoya is a good early get no matter what you do. His drawback is his small MP pool; he can’t cast as long as Rosa or Porom can, and you risk your Cure4 battery dying at a crucial moment in the Zeromus fight. You can mitigate this if you roll SomaDrops into one of your shops, but that’s janky and expensive. If you keep Fusoya in your team it will probably be in the role of secondary caster, and you’ll be using him for black magic or emergency revives.

Tellah – Tellah is not a viable white mage. Do not take him.

Top-Tier Martials

Winning the game with just casters is possible, but pretty tricky due to how many hard-hitting physical attacks you’ll have to face while treasure hunting. Outside of Adamant Armor, squishies can’t absorb these attacks; you’ll need someone on the front line with heavy armor and lots of HPs. These characters will also be your primary source of damage early in the rando, until you level up a black mage.

The only real consideration with these characters is you only have three front-line spots to use. If you have more martials than spots, someone has to sit in the back row where their usefulness is drastically decreased.

Cecil – Cecil weilds the strongest weapons, wears the best armor, has amazing HPs, and automatically tanks hits for other heroes if they’re near death. Even better, all his endgame equipment shows up in monster boxes. You are going to find more Crystal gear than you know what to do with. Cecil’s only drawback is you need to “level” him by completing Mt. Ordeals and turning him into a Paladin, and he’s useless before that. Since there are three bosses and a key item up there, you’ll probably do Mt. Ordeals early anyway. If you find Cecil before then just stick him in the party and tell him to sit tight. If you don’t, clear Mt. Ordeals then prioritize searching for him.

Kain – Kain has the same advantage Cecil does: strong gear that rolls into the monster box pool. His other major advantage is the Jump command, which deals damage from the back row. This has the benefit of making Kain basically invincible to physical attacks, and freeing up a front line spot for another martial, should you find one.

Edge – Edge is a little squishier than Cecil and Kain. He’s incredibly strong early on and tends to taper off by the time you hit the Underworld or the Moon. Still, he’s the only character with two endgame weapons in the key item pool, so it’s easy to gear him up. His Dart command deals huge single-target damage, which is excellent early on for getting through out-of-depth bosses if they’re blocking your progress. In a pinch, you can put Edge in the back row if you manage to find some FullMoons, but this isn’t optimal.

Yang – Yang starts out weak but ends up so incredibly strong it’s almost scary. He doesn’t need gear (though, certainly give him anything useful you find!) and his only relevant stat is his experience level. His damage output will probably never outpace Cecil’s or Edge’s without some concentrated grinding; if you get him, consider clearing out the monster boxes in the Sylph Cave or the Lunar Subterrane to charge him up.

Black Mages

Black mages are an important source of damage both in boss fights and monster boxes. The problem is they mostly start out knowing no useful spells, meaning their first few boss fights are going to be real tough going. Your casting strategy is also going to be very different depending on which of these mages you find and decide to stick with. Whomever you put in this role, remember the Stardust Rod is their best weapon. If you find this in a shop during your initial exploration, and you rolled a black mage as a starting character or one of your freebies, this is one of the most potent weapons you can buy. Its use ability casts Comet, which is enough to wipe out pretty much anything in the Overworld.

Unlike white mages, doubling up on black mages is actually viable, especially through the mid-game when you’re clearing a bunch of pesky monster boxes. Feel free to take two or more black mages with you if you’re feeling fiesty.

Palom – Palom is so much more powerful than the other black mage options that I will actually consider dismissing one I’ve leveled up a bit if I find him late. He has higher Wis. than the other black mages, which translates directly into more damage, plus he has the Bluff command to raise his own Wis. during battle. He also gains black magic at a much quicker rate than Rydia, most notably Ice-2 (which he gets after a single level) and Quake. Quake alone can destroy every monster box and most boss fights in the game. I’ve cleared the Lunar Subterrane of all its chests with an extremely under-leveled party just using Palom’s mighty Quake.

Rydia – Rydia is a distant second when it comes to black mage options. Her Wis. is lower than Palom’s, but that’s not really the issue. You won’t be able to make good early use of Rydia unless you find some useful Call magic (which are found randomly as treasures, or sometimes in item shops) or a path to the Underworld. By completing the event in the Dwarf Castle Rydia will grow up, immediately granting her all the *-2 elemental spells and most of her Call magic. If you don’t find a way to the Underworld, and don’t manage to luck into a Levia or Baham item, Rydia is stuck as a kid with probably not much to do with the scant experience you can win from Overworld bosses. That being said, an early Sylph spell can be a godsend, turning Rydia into a passable healer during the mid-game. It’s not really that she’s bad per se, it’s just that Palom is so much better so much earlier, and without any luck involved.

Fusoya – Fusoya is a decent black mage, with all the same caveats that make him a decent white mage. He has a smaller MP pool, and his randomly-selected magic sets might leave you hanging without a good attack option like Virus or Quake for way too long. Of course that flips the other way too; you might get super lucky and score Quake really early, in which case you can go ham. One good strat if you find Fusoya early is to commit to him plus one other caster, letting him take on the opposite role of whomever you find next.

Anyone – If you have the Japanese flag turned on (and you really, really should) you will find a lot of spellcasting items both in treasure boxes and in shops. Learn what these do. You will often find seeds where a bit of black magic can carry you through a really tough fight, and anyone can use items off the menu. GaiaDrum casts Quake, Vampire casts Drain, Coffin casts Fatal, and there are a few other useful ones besides. If you find a shop with some spellcasting items but no black mage in your early explorations, consider buying some to make your life easier.

Tellah – Tellah is not a viable black mage. Do not take him.

Mid-Tier Martials

There is only one character in this tier. It is Cid.

Cid – Cid has two drawbacks, but they are fatal ones. First, he has no endgame equipment. The best weapon he can use is the Rune Axe, which is fairly weak compared to what the other front-liners can use. (He has the Earth Wrench, which casts Quake when you use it, but not the Wis. stat to back it up, so it won’t stomp the game the way Palom can.) Second, he is incredibly slow. Consider giving him a Crystal Ring to enhance his Agility a bit, but even then, watch in awe as the other characters lap him. That being said, Cid’s HP pool gets pretty unreasonable at higher levels, effortlessly clearing 4000+ with just the EXP you pick up along the way. Worst case scenario, put him on the front line with Armor or Blink and let him tank the physical hits.

Garbo

These characters are terrible and you should not use them. Well, usually. You might not have a choice at first. The only thing worse than starting with one of these characters is starting with one and then finding them again as your duplicate on Mt. Hobs.

Cecil – Before promoting to Paladin on Mt. Ordeals, Cecil is the weakest character in the game by a very, very large margin. His one and only benefit is that he starts with more HP and stronger gear than Edward or Rydia do; he probably won’t die to the bosses in the earliest slots. He’s the best garbo character because you can take him immediately to Mt. Ordeals to transform him into a powerhouse. If you don’t, he is not a viable character in the slightest.

Edward – Edward is just barely viable if you squint. His one and only asset is his high Agility (which isn’t even that high, on average; just “not worse than anyone else really”). If you find a really good bow and either Artemis or Samurai Arrows in a shop, Edward is good for 1200-ish damage from the back row. His HP is kind of the opposite of Cid’s; the developers didn’t intend for either character to reach high levels, so didn’t pay much attention to what their HPs curves did. Cid gets way too much, and Edward gets way too little. Plan on spending lots of money on Apples, if you can. Or, better yet, just dismiss Edward at the first opportunity.

Tellah – Tellah starts with pitiful spells, low casting stats, awful HP, no Agility, and it gets worse. His 90 MP looks like a lot at first, when compared to Rydia or the twins, but by the mid-game is not enough to carry the team as a white or black mage. His one and only saving grace is you can get him some useful spells by completing Mt. Ordeals. More than once I’ve used his Stone spell from there to clear the monster boxes in Eblan Castle or the Tower of Zot. Unless you want to spend a million GP on SomaDrops so he can keep barely-adequate pace with sub-par Cure4s, dismiss him as soon as you can.

Thank you for reading this post about characters from a video game that came out 500 years ago!

2 comments to FF4: Free Enterprise Character Breakdown

  • bulbonius

    This randomizer is bunk. My current party is Dark Cecil, Yang, Palom, Porom, and Fusoya. I started with Rydia and Edward. I also gave up Cid for Fusoya. Valvalis for some reason is blocking the shrine on Mt Ordeals and Kain is nowhere to be found(either in Eblan Cave or the Sealed Cave.) To add insult to injury, I can’t change Cecil in to a Paladin or unlock ANY spells for Fusoya until I kill Valvalis, AND I have the key items for Excablibur in my bag. I’ve spent four hours running around looking for key items and party members but the game decided that it was gonna waste 6 character slots in a row on repeat characters! Now im heading in to the tower of babel because apparently Im gonna have to clear out underworld dungeons for key items so that I can MAYBE fucking make my useless lunarians actually viable. Tell whoever made this randomizer to nerf the shit out of Valvalis so that you dont need Kain or just prevent her from spawning in front of the paladin shrine.

    • bulbonius

      I restarted a new seed just to avoid the shitty ass rng I got and LOW AND BEHOLD I get 3 TELLAHS+CECIl AS FREEBIES! Fuck this stupid randomizer.

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