Lessons Learned From Games: Final Fantasy IV and Redepmtion

Games have been a big part in help­ing me work with what I cope with, or at least has been enough of a dis­trac­tion in the times in which it was need­ed. And I know it’s a big rea­son why I am so pas­sion­ate about games, as I am sure it is with a lot of you. For decades, games have been help­ing peo­ple live through their cir­cum­stances, even help­ing them grow skills, de­vel­op con­nec­tions with peo­ple, and can even teach cer­tain lessons.

There is one such les­son I would like to fo­cus on to­day for you, and how it’s af­fect­ed my life.

Redemption.

No mat­ter your cir­cum­stances, no mat­ter your past, no mat­ter your en­vi­ron­ment, you can be re­deemed. I’m not nec­es­sar­i­ly talk­ing about this in the Biblical sense, but in the per­son­al sense. Redemption in of your­self in your own eyes.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 46.6 mil­lion adults in just the United States live with some form of men­tal ill­ness. That’s one fifth the adult pop­u­la­tion, and if we ex­trap­o­late that out to the world then that is 1.5 bil­lion peo­ple. They al­ways say, “You are not alone.” That’s nev­er been made more ap­par­ent than af­ter check­ing those sta­tis­tics.

As one of those 1.5 bil­lion, I’d like to say hel­lo. There is a good chance you are there with me.

Today I want­ed to delve into more of a per­son­al sub­ject for me, and a place I don’t go into of­ten on this site. Consider this part ther­a­py, and part reach­ing out to peo­ple. So this way you know you are not alone, and hope­ful­ly I make a con­sis­tent point by the end of this.

We are all hu­man, and so we are prone to mis­takes. Working with men­tal ill­ness­es can ex­ac­er­bate those mis­takes at times. Depression may have us damp­en how we feel so those mis­takes can’t af­fect us as heav­i­ly. Anxiety may have us lock up or make us lit­er­al­ly sick due to mis­takes or fear of them, and it can lead into a pat­tern of mak­ing new mis­takes to beat your­self up over. Giving your mind more ammo and rea­sons as to not even try.

But I think one of the most im­por­tant steps is al­low­ing your­self re­demp­tion for those times. It’s not to make ex­cus­es, but it’s to al­low our­selves to grow be­yond those times we may slip up or not choose the right path. Our past and our per­sons are noth­ing to be ashamed of, and re­demp­tion in your own eyes can al­low an hon­est in­tro­spec­tion in how you can be the best ver­sion of your­self in the fu­ture.

That is why of all the Final Fantasy ti­tles, Final Fantasy IV (Final Fantasy II to me at the time) is the most im­por­tant for me.

While the fourth in­stall­ment of this se­ries is very well re­gard­ed, I wouldn’t call it the best in the se­ries in sto­ry or game sys­tems. But it did a lot of things very well for it’s time in the sto­ry­telling de­part­ment.

I know I can­not be the only per­son who got touched by Dark Knight Cecil’s re­demp­tion arc to world sav­ing Mooninite Lunarian Paladin. But some­thing that didn’t quite strike me when I was younger was how deep the re­demp­tion themes go in this game.

Almost every main char­ac­ter in Final Fantasy IV goes through some sort of re­demp­tion sto­ry, and when you look at them as a whole, you can see the game can be one of the strongest game al­le­gories for ac­cep­tance of the past and your­self so that you can push for­ward to change the world (or at least your world).

Even the char­ac­ters that don’t have an overt re­demp­tion arc them­selves tend to play a big role in the re­demp­tion of oth­ers, with many pro­vid­ing the step­ping stones that Cecil need­ed to climb to be able to for­give him­self ful­ly.

Rydia over­comes her di­rect anger at Cecil ear­ly on for the ac­tions of Baron via the un­wit­ting hands of him and Kain, pro­vid­ing the first shaft of light on the abil­i­ty for Cecil to re­deem him­self lat­er on. One can’t un­der­es­ti­mate the pow­er that first act could have on some­one wracked by guilt for ac­tions they felt forced to do. Overcoming her la­tent fear of fire from those ear­li­er events to help the very peo­ple that had brought her vil­lage and fam­i­ly ruin is a nice cher­ry on that ear­ly bit of sto­ry.

Edward gains re­demp­tion for Anna’s death and Tellah’s wrath, be­ing able to come to terms with los­ing his love and help­ing both him and Tellah come to terms with the sense­less ca­su­al­ties of war. In the process of his sto­ry he’s able to pro­vide vi­tal as­sis­tance to the brave war­riors de­spite be­ing se­vere­ly in­jured af­ter the Leviathan at­tack that sep­a­rates him and Rydia from the rest, prov­ing he’s stronger than he thought he could be if he only let him­self.

Palom and Porom are most­ly viewed and act like the ego dri­ven chil­dren they are when we meet them, only to sac­ri­fice them­selves lat­er on to keep the par­ty push­ing for­ward. Turning them­selves to stone to stop the crush­ing walls of the cas­tle, they were able to re­deem them­selves of their more judge­men­tal and child­ish as­pects by mak­ing one of the most adult choic­es some­one can make. They were saved by the end of the game, but they had no way of know­ing that would hap­pen at the time of their sacr­fice.

Cid has his re­demp­tion from mak­ing ma­chines of war for an in­creas­ing er­rat­ic King of Baron, show­ing re­gret as ear­ly as Cecil does. He’s able to use his skills as to best try to help lib­er­ate rather than sub­ju­gate, prov­ing that it wasn’t the ex­is­tence of air­ships that made things worse but how they were used in un­scrupu­lous hands.

Kain… is Kain. I don’t like to talk about Kain.

Golbez, the main an­tag­o­nist for most the game, even gets a taste of re­demp­tion af­ter hav­ing his true self freed by Fusoya as he tries, fu­tile­ly, to dis­pose of the evil he helped bring about. In The After Years he even gets a far­ther re­demp­tion, but my twelve year old self wouldn’t know that quite yet.

But this isn’t meant to be an analy­sis on a char­ac­ter by char­ac­ter ba­sis. I just want­ed to point out how in­grained the themes of re­demp­tion are in Final Fantasy IV. It’s not just Cecil’s sto­ry, but every char­ac­ter in the game com­ing to terms with some form of their past, some as­pect of them­selves that may not be good, some loss that oc­curred that they wish they could’ve stop, or en­abling the re­demp­tion of some­one close to them.

And that is damn pow­er­ful mes­sag­ing for some­one of any age, let alone some­one just en­ter­ing their teens. Even if I didn’t ful­ly ap­pre­ci­ate the lessons be­ing taught un­til years lat­er.

Being able to for­give your­self for your mis­takes while be­ing able to take heed of what can be learned is what made me ap­pre­ci­ate such a re­demp­tion tale. Realizing that I need to re­deem my­self in my eyes be­fore I could make for­ward progress is some­thing I’ve tak­en to heart.

We may be vic­tims of our cir­cum­stances, and we may have had peo­ple do us very wrong. We may have gone down paths we didn’t want to, or avoid­ed walk­ing for­ward all to­geth­er for fear of con­se­quences that are long past. We are crea­tures of habit, and men­tal ill­ness can start to have us en­force un­healthy pat­terns very eas­i­ly.

But that doesn’t mat­ter in the here and now. Because at any point in time you can start to re­deem your­self in your own eyes. To know that the mis­takes don’t make you, the stum­bles aren’t per­ma­nent and that you can be who­ev­er you al­low your­self to be.

I know the Bible teach­es a lot about this. But we weren’t a re­li­gious fam­i­ly. I had Final Fantasy IV, though. And it’s lessons have helped me learn how to ac­cept my lim­i­ta­tions and work past them any­way. It’s not about ig­nor­ing what I work with, but about giv­ing my­self the grace to know that mis­takes and bad things do not have to be what de­fines me and my fu­ture.

At the same time, maybe you can help be a chap­ter in the re­demp­tion of some­one else. Allowing just that ex­tra time to think about someone’s cir­cum­stances, and to not in­stant­ly pre­judge who they are or what they might do based pure­ly on past ac­tions. People change, in­clud­ing our­selves. We need to al­low those av­enues of re­demp­tion for those who want to dri­ve on them.

I can only hope that you out there have a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence with some ti­tle, be­cause games can teach us a lot if we let them. Have you ever ex­pe­ri­enced a pow­er­ful les­son or had a game help you through a hard time in your life? We’d love to hear!

The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent be­low.
Josh Bray
Josh has worked in IT for over 15 years. Graduated Broadcasting school in 2012 with a fo­cus on A/V pro­duc­tion. Amateur pho­tog­ra­ph­er with a pas­sion to make things work… by any means nec­es­sary. Editor‐in‐Chief and do‐er of tech things at SuperNerdLand
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