As I've done a couple times in the past, this rant will be a rehash of something I've said previously in conversation with others (in this case, a post on Gaia). I'm doing 60 hours at work this week, with a out-of-the-ordinary commute of 2 hours each way, so suffice to say that I am a little too tired to be really inventing new stuff. But I also feel guilty for not ranting as much as I should, so here you are. If you've already seen this before, you probably can just shake your head in disappointment at my lameness and move on to something more interesting. I recommend reading Crime and Punishment, playing Metroid Prime 3, or perhaps sending an email to J. Jaques that asks him when he plans to start making Questionable Content good again.
Anyways. Edward, or Gilbert if you're one of those people who believe that everything is better in its original Japanese form (sorry, folks, but Robotech, Nippon Ichi games' voice acting, and the renaming of Final Fantasy 6's Mash to Sabin, prove that this is not always the case), is the bard of FF4, universally ridiculed for his completely ineffective combat abilities. To sum it up real quick, he has lousy defense, mediocre HP at best, sub-average attacking abilities, and all his special abilities suck ass. He's considerably better than just not having anyone to fill a slot in the party, but that's about all you can really say for him.
Because of this, Edward suffers all kinds of unfair flak from the standard, shallow gamer whose only real concern is with how a character best serves his/her own demands. He is called useless and weak consistently.
Well, that's just not true. On either account.
First of all, on the matter of usefulness, Edward is one of the MOST important characters plot-wise. It is due entirely to Edward's help that:
Cecil gains a transportation vehicle to cross reef-ish areas.
Rosa doesn't die from fever.
The king of Fabul believes Cecil's warnings, and Fabul is at least that much more prepared for the invasion thanks to having that much more time to prepare defenses (hey, that invasion could have gone a LOT worse than it did without the entire castle ready to fight).
Cecil, Tellah, Cid, and Yang don't all die at the hands of the Dark Elf (and subsequently Rosa doesn't die because Cecil and company weren't able to complete their quest).
He also helps them in a joint effort with others several times, both in battle and out (such as the final battle, during which his prayers join with the others' to help re-energize Cecil's party).
He does a LOT to help Cecil save the world, more than quite a few of the other characters (while they all had important parts to play, the list of essential contributions to Cecil's cause that Palom, Porom, Tellah, and even Yang and Edge each has an equal or lesser number of achievements). Without his help, things just would've gone sour real quick.
But what gets me more is people calling him weak. Yes, fine, he's mostly useless in battle. I get it. But hey, here's something for people to consider: he's a prince and a bard. He's basically a guy who all his life has likely had very little need for physical training, whose talents in life are apparently crooning to a harp and impressing ladies. And when you meet him in the game, he JUST recently lost the love of his life, and she died protecting him. Plus, her father comes along to add a heaping portion of guilt to the tremendous grief and regret he already feels, after beating him senseless with a cane. Given that, I think the fact that this guy can pick himself up at ALL, and actually fight for a cause rather than just completely lose himself in grief and guilt-induced madness is remarkable. He KNOWS he's not a strong person, he says it himself, yet he's very soon after this catastrophe willing to do everything he can to prevent it from happening to another, even knowing his physical limitations.
Now I ask you all, seriously. I'm going to assume that most (certainly not all, of course, but most) of you have as little training and natural combat talent as Edward has (nothing to be ashamed of; we live in a world where it's not necessary). If, this afternoon or evening, after coming home from work or school or Social DDRing or whatever it is you do with your time, a group of people showed up and killed everyone you love, and destroyed your home, and left you in the ruins of your own life all for a family heirloom trinket...
Can you honestly tell me that you'd be even close to as strong a person as Edward is? Could you possibly pick yourself up almost immediately after it happened to help a group of strangers keep it from happening to any other? Or are you honest enough to admit that you would more than likely just sit in shock, terror, and grief beyond imagination, unable to cope with what just happened? Because I'll tell you right now, I may talk the talk, walk the walk, and balk the balk, but I'm pretty damn sure that I couldn't even hope to have the inner strength and courage to follow Edward's example.
Physical ability be damned--Edward's as strong as they come.