Pros: Powerful offensive black magic.
Cons: Terrible offense and defense, Cannot equip most good equipment. Lack of HP.
Physically speaking, Black Mages are terrible fighters, even worse than the White Mage. Their low physical stats and inability to equip swords or even hammers make them quite weak, not to mention they are very lacking in the HP department. However, what the Black Mage lacks in physical stats, he makes up for in his magic, because the Black Mage’s offense relies on his powerful black magic. Not only can Black Mage cast elemental magic like LIT, FIRE, and ICE, he can also cast instant death spells such as BANE, BRAK, RUB, and QAKE. He can also cast various spells that lower enemies stats or inflict status abnormalities such as SLEP, LOCK, DARK, SLOW, CONF, and STUN.
He can also warp the party to previous levels of a dungeon with WARP, and increase a characters physical attack with TMPR and his own attack with SABR. Not to mention his FAST allows a character to hit multiple times in one turn, which can be very handy against stronger enemies. Black Mages become increasingly powerful throughout the game as you continue to gain his powerful black magic. Bringing the magical attack to the party, Black Mages are invaluable throughout various areas of the game.
Pros: Can learn all black magic.
Cons: Terrible offense and defense, Cannot equip most good equipment, Lack of HP.
With the upgrade to the Black Wizard, level 8 black magic becomes available. This lets Black Wizards (and Black Wizards alone) to gain ZAP! and XXXX which are both instant death spells, along with NUKE, which blasts enemies with massive amounts of non-elemental damage (similar to the Flare of later Final Fantasies). These make Black Wizards quite capable of plowing right through enemies throughout all stages of the game. However, Black Wizards still retain their low physical stats. Terrible offense and defense combined with low HP and incompatibility with good equipment make Black Wizard almost useless on the offensive side. Make sure to keep him in the back row.
Like Black Mages, Black Wizards are always a great addition to a team on the magical front. What they lack in physical strength, they more than make up for in their powerful magic. Only with the Black Wizard can you gain so many incredible offensive spells.
Pros: Extremely cheap to equip, Doesn’t require weapons, Great attack power, Multiple hits in one turn.
Cons: Low defense, Can’t equip much armor, Cannot learn any magic, Upgrade gains nothing.
The Black Belt gets a lot of criticism, but actually, he can be a very powerful addition to your party. His attack is comparable to Fighter’s, plus he doesn’t need any weapons to reach that level of attack. Because his attack doesn’t rely on his weapons, it means you will save huge amounts of money with a Black Belt, simply because you wont need to buy any weapons for him. And because Black Belt cant use magic, you also wont need much money invested in magic. Having a Black Belt can be quite refreshing in parts of the game where money for equipment must be raised (e.g. Elf Land), because Black Belts are practically free to equip. Also, Black Belts have a higher chance of attacking multiple times in one turn than your other characters.
Yet of course, Black Belts do have their downsides. Black Belts have extremely low defense. And to add insult to injury, Black Belts cannot equip much good armor. This means that its always a good idea to keep Black Belts in the back row, and have a White Mage, Red Mage, or potions ready to give him a heal when needed. Black Belts also cannot learn magic. Plus, after completing Bahamut’s tasks, the Black Belt’s upgrade is not as much of a jump forward as any of the other characters’. In conclusion, Black Belts really do have their ups and downs. If used correctly then Black Belts can be a great addition to the party. Also, a team of 4 Black Belts can be quite fun, because you don’t have to buy equipment or magic (but potions should always be in stock). When used correctly, Black Belts can be extremely powerful, but if used incorrectly, Black Belts can be one of the worst characters.
Pros: Extremely cheap to equip, Doesn’t require weapons, Great attack power, Multiple hits in one turn, High HP.
Cons: Low defense, Can’t equip much armor, Cannot learn any magic, Very similar to Black Belt.
Unfortunately, Black Belt doesn’t gain all that much from his upgrade into a Master. His basic stats increase, sure, and his range of compatible gear widens, but unlike the rest of the characters, you don’t gain any new skills from the upgrade, making Master the only upgraded class without any form of magic. But even still, his attack power is still incredible, and can even surpass Knight’s as Master’s levels increase and his HP growth also increases, making Masters a bit more safer to use than Black Belts.
One big plus about Masters is the fact that they can hit multiple times in one round more frequently than any other character. In fact, Masters have been known to string combos together reaching up into the 50-hit range if trained enough. Masters could, if trained right, kill Chaos in one turn. But, as the plusses of the Black Belt are carried into the Master, so are many of the disadvantages. Masters still have low defense, and they’re still pretty much restricted to bracelets for armor. They still can’t learn any magic. As stated earlier, Master really isn’t a large jump from Black Belts, but that doesn’t mean Masters are worthless. Quite the contrary, actually. But just like Black Belts, a Master can be one of the greatest characters or can really suck, depending on how you take advantage of him.
Pros: Highest attack value, Highest HP value, Can equip best armor, Can equip nearly all weapons, Well rounded character.
Cons: Fully equipping is costly, Can learn no magic, Difficulty to equip can frustrate early.
The fighter is probably the second most well rounded character of them all (second only to Red Mage), with many advantages that seem to greatly dissolve his few disadvantages. His attack power is monumental, making him a healthy addition to the party from Corneria to Chaos. In fact, perhaps the only character that rivals Fighter’s titanic offense is the Black Belt. As an icing on the offensive cake, fighter can also equip almost all weapons (with the exception of powerful weapons found after Fighter is upgraded, nun chucks, special staves, and the katana), making Fighter quite a formidable ally throughout the game. As for taking the defensive, Fighter’s HP far surpasses those of his allies. And not only that, Fighter can also equip both powerful body armor and shields, and many of the most powerful armor can only be equipped by the Fighter family. These make fighter a very well rounded character, and a definite recommendation for beginning players.
Although Fighter’s cons are few and seemingly outweighed, it is very important to note that a few downsides do exist. Fighter is a very expensive character to equip, second in this category only to Red Mage. This difficulty to purchase all his gear combined with the difficulty of gaining money early in the game makes Fighter very frustrating towards the beginning of the game, especially around Elf Town, where Fighter’s Silver equipment seems like a necessity to pass the Marsh Cave. However, this is a problem that is soon nearly nonexistent as the game progresses, and gear that is found in dungeons is equal or better than equipment bought at stores. Also, its important to note that Fighter cannot learn any magic. However, its really not that big of a deal, considering he can dish out enough damage without running out of MP that it really doesn’t matter. All in all, the Fighter is truly a great character, that any beginner’s party cannot afford to forget. Unless your playing the game with a certain challenge in mind, at least one Fighter should surely be included in your party. The firepower and defensiveness that Fighter brings will be invaluable throughout the game.
Pros: Highest attack value, Highest HP value, Can equip nearly all armor, Can equip nearly all weapons, Can equip Knight-specific equipment, Can learn low-level white magic.
Cons: Low level white magic not as effective by the time you’re a Knight.
Good god, and you thought the Fighter was good! After your run-in with Bahamut, Fighter will become a Knight, a much more powerful addition to the party. Knight is literally a walking fortress, with groundbreaking attack, defense, and equipping capabilities, much as its predecessor was. However, the Knight can now equip more (and more powerful) weapons and armor than Fighter was able to. And to sweeten Knight’s already incredible stats, he can even learn low-level white magic, adding a little extra boost to your healing.
But, it must be noted, Knight can only learn low-level magic, and by the time Knight is available, this magic will not be as effective as the higher level white spells that White Mage has access to. What else is there to say about Knight, except that he’s probably the most valuable character you can gain throughout the game.
Pros: Can use both black and white magic, Can equip good armor and weapons, Most well-rounded character, Most powerful character early in game.
Cons: Can only learn levels 1-5 spells, Not particularly very good at anything, Usefulness dulls as game progresses, Extremely expensive to equip.
Red Mage is surely the jack-of-all-trades of the group. He can learn both types of magic, he can equip good armor and weapons (including the Silver Sword), and his stats don’t really suffer anywhere. But for that matter, they don’t really exceed in any areas either, making Red Mage sort of a happy medium between attack power and magic power. Because of his ability to get as good gear as Fighter and magic as White Mage and Black Mage towards the beginning of the game, Red Mage will most likely be your must useful character throughout the first part of the game. But Red Mage’s power slowly wanes as the game progresses. First of all, Red Mage can only learn the first 5 levels of spells, making his spells seem a bit insignificant later in the game.
Also, even Red Mage’s ability to equip good armor and weapons decreases as more and more powerful items arise that are only equipable by the more offensive characters. This makes Red Mage’s usefulness decrease until upgrade. Basically, Red Mage is alright at everything, but cant really find an area where he can exceed the other characters. Also, another major setback with Red Mage is that he is extremely expensive to equip. Equipping Red Mage with the best swords, armor, and magic is usually very expensive, especially in Elf Land. Much the financial opposite of the Black Belt, equipping a Red Mage can be quite frustrating, especially for first time players or players with a four Red Mage team. Red Mage is perhaps one of the most fun characters to control, as he is really a taste of everything, but as the game progresses, maintaining a Red Mage can get frustrating, as his range of gear narrows and his magic becomes less effective. A nice character to have, nonetheless, because he serves several purposes.
Pros: Can use more magic than Red Mage, Can equip better armor and weapons than Red Mage, Most well-rounded character, Can learn some level 7 spells.
Cons: Can only learn levels 1-7 spells, Cannot learn most level 7 and no 8 spells, Usefulness dulls as game progresses, Extremely expensive to equip.
Really, Red Mage doesn’t gain anything incredibly spectacular in his transformation into the Red Wizard. His equipment range increases, and he is now able to learn level 1-6 magic and a few level 7 spells. However, don’t let these shortcomings turn you off, because the Red Wizard is still a great character to have in later stages of the game, even though he’s not as useful as he was earlier. He’s still the most well-rounded character, just with the ability to equip much better gear and the ability to learn more powerful magic.
However, the Red Wizard might still be a bit pricey. Hopefully, though, by now a lot of the best weapons you’ll receive will be found in dungeons, so not as much money is needed. However, magic is still pricey as it cannot be found. Although it’s no Thief to Ninja upgrade, the Red Wizard is still a great deal more useful than a Red Mage. However, you may not be able to appreciate the improvement, as by the time the upgrades are happening, Red Wizard’s usefulness will start to wane.
Pros: Easy to escape battles, Inexpensive to equip, Upgrades to Ninja.
Cons: Fairly low defense, Cannot learn any magic, Fairly low offense.
Thief is not exactly the ideal character to use near the begging of the game. For starters, his attack is fairly weak compared to Black Belt’s or Knight’s. He doesn’t have any magic to fall back on either. He cant equip as good armor or weapons as Knight, but is still better off at equipment than Black Belt. That makes him weaker, but less expensive to equip. Really, the only really good purpose Thief serves before upgrade is the fact that he can run away from battles much better than any other character because of his high agility. This can be quite handy to get you out of tough situations.
But don’t worry, Thief’s usefulness will increase after your characters reach their upgrades. Thief surely isn’t the most useful character near the beginning. His low stats make him nowhere near as useful as Knight or Black Belt and his lack of magic doesn’t bring him on par with any of the mages. But Thief’s true power resides in his potential to upgrade into the Ninja.
Pros: High agility, Can equip Katana, High offense, Can learn low-level black magic.
Cons: Fairly low defense, Limited armor selection.
The Thief goes through a much more drastic change to his upgraded version than any of the other characters, perhaps making putting up with Thief worth it. First of all, Ninja has the ability to learn basic black magic, adding a little extra fire power to your party’s offense. And speaking of offense, Ninja’s offense far surpasses that of Thief’s. Its still no match for Knights, per say, but it is still quite a jump. And like the Knight, Ninja gains the ability to equip some weapons that are only available to that class, such as the Katana, the third most powerful weapon in the game (second only to Masamune and Xcaliber).
Ninja retains his agility that he possessed as Thief, still making him a good tool to use when escaping a fix. But, even the Ninja has its cons. First of all, Thief’s defense never quite improves noticeably. And Ninja doesn’t have the ability to acquire armor that rivals Knight’s, leaving him with not a whole lot of defense to work with. That makes it important that you have some form of healing ready in case Ninja’s health falls short. Although Thief can be a real pain to put up with, most consider it worth it because of the Ninja’s usefulness. With his high offense, high agility, and black magic, Ninja can be quite the formidable addition to your party.
Pros: Great White Magic, Good against Undead monsters.
Cons: Weak attack power, Low defense, Low HP growth, Cannot equip most good equipment.
White Mages are, obvious, the main healers of a party. But their wide range of white magic spells are not only for healing. Spells like HARM dish out great damage against undead monsters; FEAR can intimidate enemies into running away; EXIT will transport you out of a town or dungeon; and AICE, AFIR, and ALIT reduce magical damage of Ice, Fire, and Lightning elements (respectively) by 1 half. HARM, however is incredibly useful towards early areas of the game where many enemies are undead, making White Mages not only healers, but also adding a little firepower to the party.
However, like most mages, White Mages have weak physical strength, low defense, and little HP. Also, like most mages, White Mage’s range of equipable items is rather small, limiting it to mainly hammers, staves, and robes. White Mages are actually a good addition to the party, as they bring easy and cheap healing. Plus, their offensive white magic can be quite useful early on in the game.
Pros: Can gain all White Magic, Good offensive magic against Undead and Evil monsters.
Cons: Mediocre attack, Sub-par defense, Cannot equip best equipment.
White Wizards serve basically the same purpose as White Mages, just on a higher level. With the upgrade, White Wizards can learn all white magic. This opens up new useful spells like LIF2, which fully restores a fallen ally, and FADE, which is similar to the holy spells in latter Final Fantasies by doing incredible amounts of damage to evil enemies (damage is comparable to that of NUKE). Also, after upgrade, HP rises, making White Wizard a pretty average amount of HP. Even after upgrade, White Wizards still wont be much of a physical attack addition to your party, as attack power increases marginally and defense remains below the levels of most of the other characters.
White Mages still cant equip some of the best armor throughout the game, and are mainly limited to only hammers and staves for weapons. They’re much more valuable to the team than White Mages, mainly just because of the FADE spell, which will greatly help you against the many evil enemies of the game, including Chaos. This powerful white magic makes White Wizards a great addition to any party.