Monk Time

Most of the standard classes in the Final Fantasy series are pretty easy to figure out, with a few exceptions. For instance, why does a red mage use both black and white magic?

I don’t know, but their abilities are presumably unrelated to the kind of red magic Jinnicky uses in the Oz series, at least as far as we can tell. Then again, looking at it in FF terms, Jinnicky does have magic for both attacking and healing. Anyway, one class with a name that might not be as easy to determine is the Monk. When I see that term, I generally think of Catholic monks, with their robes and chants. Monks in the FF series, however, are masters of unarmed combat. The creators of the games might have been thinking of the Shaolin monks, Chinese Buddhists who practice martial arts.

As mentioned in this New York Times article, legend has it that this practice was introduced by an Indian monk named Bodhidharma. Whatever the truth may be, the warrior monks distinguished themselves when fighting for the Emperor of China in the seventh century. Early English translations of the FF games, either to avoid confusion or to remove the religious implications, referred to this class as “Black Belt” or “Karate Master,” but now they usually go with the more accurate “Monk.” Anyway, this is the class of Yang Fang Leiden in Final Fantasy IV, as well as most of the other men of Fabul.

The women there apparently don’t learn martial arts, although Yang’s wife Sheila swings a mean frying pan. In FF6, the representative of the monk class is Sabin Rene Figaro, trained by the master Duncan.

And interestingly enough, although FF7 doesn’t really have a class system as such, Tifa Lockheart is a warrior monk trained in martial arts.

She’s also the winner of the coveted Final Fantasy Character Most Likely to Have Appeared in a Russ Meyer Film Award.

Another interesting class name is the Dragoon, named after mounted infantry in European armies. How they got this name isn’t entirely known, but it’s suspected that it was derived from a kind of gun that the French called the Dragon. Dragoons in the FF series typically don’t use guns, though, preferring to fight with lances. A more accurate translation of the Japanese name would be “Dragon Knight,” and they are sometimes shown as riding dragons, or at least fighting alongside them. It appears that “dragoon” was first used in the FF4 translation because of the limited amount of space available, and the name stuck. The first dragoon to appear in the series is Ricard Highwind in FF2, a member of a group of dragon-riding knights who temporarily joins the party and ends up dying in the fight against the Palamecian Empire.

He also has an adopted son named Kain, and one of the main characters in FF4 is a dragoon named…Kain Highwind.

It was eventually revealed that Kain’s father Ricard died fighting an evil empire, so they could potentially be the same guy. What this means in terms of how the FF games fit together, I couldn’t really say. Anyway, the signature move for dragoons is jumping, which temporarily takes them out of the battle, but they return to land on an enemy with extra force. Ricard doesn’t have this move, but Kain does. Kain is an interesting and somewhat annoying character, being Cecil’s best friend but jealous of him because he’s secretly in love with Cecil’s girlfriend Rosa. As such, this makes him particularly susceptible to Zeromus’ mind control magic, and he spends a significant part of the game as an antagonist working for Golbez. The Highwind name is used again for King Alexander Highwind Tycoon, who might or might not be a dragoon, but does keep a dragon. Then in FF7, we meet the foul-mouthed, chain-smoking Cid Highwind, who’s essentially both a dragoon and a pilot. His goal in life is to travel into space, which he eventually does during the course of the game. For some reason, the other characters regard Cid as old, even though he’s only supposed to be thirty-two.

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