The hero of the game. Firion is a youth from Fynn, who flees it as the Empire lays siege to and occupies it. Together with his adopted family Maria and Guy, they manage to make it to Altair, the base of the Wild Rose Rebellion, headed by the princess of Fynn. They convince her to allow them to join, and together work to defeat the Empire, take back Fynn, and save the world. Firion appears along with the Emperor in the Dissidia: Final Fantasy series and appears as a player character in the Spin-OffTheatrhythm Final Fantasy.
Depending on the Artist: Interesting, in that this is a one-artist variation on the trope — Yoshitaka Amano drew Firion quite differently from picture to picture, to the point where a lot of official art of the character has to be labeled as such in order to be recognizable as Firion. His face and his armor would remain the same but he frequently changed his headgear and color scheme.
Put it this way — in DissidiaFirion's◊ three◊ costumes◊ all have different hair accessories, different hairstyles, and differently styled and colored armor, and all three are based on different Amano arts.
Dub Name Change: His Japanese name, フリオニール, Furioniiru, is officially transliterated as Frioniel. This became Firion in English due to character limits, and has remained such likely due to a combination of inertia and euphony.
Firion's adopted sister, who fled Fynn with him when the Empire took it. She too joined up with the Wild Rose Rebellion, despite her angst and worry over what has happened to her older brother Leon, as last they knew he was with them, and then he disappeared.
Squishy Wizard: Her HP is the worst of the initial party, putting her in the back row by default. Fortunately, especially in later remakes, Stat Grinding means she can become more durable, making her last longer.
Stripperiffic: Very tight clothing, bare back, and there is nothing covering one breast except for half a golden cup.
Impossibly Cool Clothes: The jury's out on whether or not it's "cool" but it's definitely impossible. How any of the fabric or metal covering her upper body stays on is beyond human ken.
Firion's best friend and, according to various Japan-only materials, also an adopted brother. Guy was abandoned in the wild as a baby, only being raised by humans from age ten onwards, and as a result is very... well, slow, and quiet. Nonetheless, he has a close bond with Firion, Maria, and Leon, and joins them in their quest to save the world from oppression.
Wild Child: Was one until kind people in Fynn took him in.
Younger Than They Look: He's actually the youngest party member at sixteen, but is quite large and... well, craggy.
Maria's older brother (this time, not adopted), who fled Fynn with them when it fell, but vanished along the way. When he turned up again, he was working for The Empire, but all may not be as it seems...
Dragon Ascendant: Subverted. After the Emperor is killed in the Cyclone, Leon crowns himself Emperor, and it falls to the party to confront him and take him out, so clearly, he's the real villain, right? And this was all an elaborate scheme to grab the throne? Maybe so, but sadly, the Emperor's not put paid for yet, and trumps Leon quite soundly.
Dual Wielding: Yes, everyone can dual wield anything in this game, but Leon gets special mention because he dual-wields a sword and a axe upon joining the party.
Dub Name Change: His Japanese name is レオンハルト, Reonharuto (Leonhart), but he has always been called Leon in English releases due to character limits.
Easily Forgiven: Firion and Maria are willing to welcome him back, no conditions and no questions asked. Unfortunately, he can't forgive himself nearly as easily.
Face-Heel Turn: In the beginning of the game, joining up with the Empire offscreen after the siege of Fynn.
Heel-Face Turn: Near the end of the game, after the Emperor shows that he will not go down nearly as easily as they'd hoped.
Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Played straight. Leon, the mysterious Dark Knight, wears one during his stint as a Heel, but ditches it upon joining the party.
Heroes Prefer Swords: While his Infinity+1 Sword is, in fact, a spear, the other weapon he dual-wields when joining the party is a sword, and he is usually depicted as wielding one in artwork and FMVs.
In the Dawn of Souls version, giving him the Blood Sword in the final battle allows him to do almost 4x the damage that Firion can dish out.
Magikarp Power: He may start out slightly behind your party in HP, depending on your level grinding, and has only 5 MP and no spells. But he innately has Stamina and Magic in the 30s, and since those two stats determine HP and MP gain, those two stats will quickly shoot up to considerable levels, especially in the 20th Anniversary release where his exclusive Longinus piles another 50 Stamina onto him.
Multi-Melee Master: Though everyone can train to be the same, he's naturally proficient to some degree with all weapon types when he joins, as well as shields. Axes and swords are his highest followed by spears, but he can just as easily grab a bow or a staff and shield.
Name's the Same: As another traitorousJRPG knight. Subverted in the Japanese version of both, though - as their names were Leonhart and Lion respectively.
Spell My Name with an S: Leon's not his original name (see Dub Name Change above), but lack of an "official" transliteration has led to people calling him Leonhart, Leonhardt, Lionheart, etc.
The Unfought: A boss fight with him is foreshadowed, but never happens, being interrupted by the Emperor's resurrection and Leon deciding it'd be a good idea to join up with the people against the Emperor now.
A former soldier of the Palamecian Empire (according to the manual). He lives in the icy mountain town of Salamand, and aids the party after they save the men of his town from being forced into slavery. Sadly, though, he dies after heroically saving the rest of the party from a Death Trap.
A prince of the fallen kingdom of Kashuan. Gordon is anxious and has no self-confidence at first, constantly comparing himself to his deceased brother and coming up short. Later, though, he finds strength within himself and grows into a respected leader of the Wild Rose Rebellion.
A pirate captain. She's hired by the party to transport them to an island nation, but she betrays them—however, after the party kicks her and her crew's ass, they wisely change sides and join with the Wild Rose Rebellion.
Action Girl: Comes with the whole "pirate captain" territory; also she's initially geared as a fighter when she joins your party.
White Wizard of Mysidia, and apparent advisor to the Fynn royal court. He is the one who saves Firion and his party, and later fights alongside them in their quest to stop the Empire. He is tragically killed by the magic necessary to undo the seal on Ultima. He appears as a playable sub-character in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy.
White Mage: He is, as of yet, the only male healer in the franchise. The rest have been female.
The last dragoon of Deist. Ricard (technically Richard, but no English version of the game has yet called him that) finds the party when they are swallowed by Leviathan, and together they break free and he joins their quest to stop the Empire. Dies nobly while covering the party's escape from the newly revived and powered-up Emperor.
A prince of Kashuan, and Gordon's older brother. He dies of injuries sustained during the failed defense of Fynn, very early in the game... but in the Bonus Level of Heaven, he is playable, and is key to investigating the mystery behind why the afterlife is suddenly such a hostile place.
Princess of Fynn and leader of the Wild Rose Rebellion. Hilda is the brains behind the operation, and sends the party on most of their missions, eventually retaking her throne in Fynn. Although her father the king dies halfway through the game, she is curiously never upgraded to "Queen."
Big Good: The leader of the good rebels, by far the most important (as in irreplaceable) character on the side of good in the game.
Distressed Damsel: Minimally invoked: she's kidnapped only once, and there are indicators that the Emperor had no idea she was even on the airship when he captured it. Pretty good for The Eighties.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: The strategist and brains behind the Wild Rose Rebellion. Gets bonus points for going and camping with her troops before the assault to retake Fynn, instead of staying in Altair where it was safe.
The villain of the story. The Emperor of Palamecia is so dedicated to taking over the world, he even sold his soul to gain control of the Legions of Hell to aid in the effort. He's also one of the least sympathetic and most evil Final Fantasy villains to date. How evil? When he dies, as the remakes reveal, part of his soul is (somehow) good enough to get into heaven... and then proceeds to conquer thattoo. In the Novelization, apparently the Emperor was able to actually kill Satan despite his powers coming directly from a deal with him. He has appeared in the Dissidia: Final Fantasy series alongside Firion and is set to return as a boss character in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy.
Badass Boast: "You have braved the bowels of Hell to reach me. But the hand of man, which deals in false justice and forsaken love, can never hope to defeat the lord master of Hell!"
Deal with the Devil: The novelization heavily implies that his powers came from a pact with Satan. Also subverted in that unlike most characters in this trope, Satan pretty much didn't expect how much of a monster Mateus would become.
Also inverted in the interquel "Dawn of Souls", where the Emperor's light half (who's also just as bad) attempts to beg those of the party who ended up dead in the main game to forgive him for the actions that his dark half committed, and in exchange will give them eternal life. Of course, they don't buy it.
According to other sources Satan is the Emperor's Dark Half in the Novel.
Follow the Leader: Pun aside, some of his actions were later repeated by later Final Fantasy villains. For starters, his action of poisoning the water supply of the Dragoon fortress was later redone with Kefka, the latter of whom managed to take it to an even new low by poisoning a civilian kingdom (Doma), and most of Mateus' personality and traits (even his coming back from the dead) were reused with Seymour Guado. In addition his using a flying fortress capable of generating a cyclone and then being killed in it (not to mention having the title Emperor) is later repeated with Vayne in Final Fantasy XII and his use of the Sky Fortress Bahamut in the final battle before being killed, although unlike Mateus, Vayne doesn't come back from the dead.
Freudian Excuse: Surprisingly enough, the official (Japanese-only) novelization attempted to give him one. Apparently, his unsatiable greed is caused by an even worse demon sealed in a stone taking him over to wreak vengeance against humanity. It's also hinted that every single Emperor before Mateus were this demon's human proxies. He also exiled his mother under the influence of this demon, and she was trying to get him back to the good side. In a way, he seems very tragic in that respect. Though its unclear if the novel is part of the game continuity as the game series (although it should be noted that the novel was written by the same guy who wrote the story of the first three games).
God Emperor: By the end of the game, he pretty much is one.
According to some sources on the Japanese-exclusive novelization, Mateus made a pact with Satan to summon demonic minions to help him conquer the world, and when Mateus dies and Satan tries to collect his soul, he defeats him to become the new ruler of Hell. Really drives home the Badass part of this trope. Of course other sources claim the novel version of Mateus never kills Satan and it is Satan who's the Emperor of Hell.
Nietzsche Wannabe: Granted, it was not enough to actually make him destroy the world, but he does mention in both his Dark Emperor form and Light Emperor form his belief that Humanity is good only at executing flawed justice, forsaken love, and having inherently violent tendencies.
No Nonsense Nemesis: Probably helped by his status as a Flat Character rather than hurt by it. The entire game is essentially Mateus upping the ante after the party's every move, almost always without warning, and almost always with civilian or party casualties.
Orcus on His Throne: Taking into consideration his hair styling and wardrobe changes, it's a wonder he even has time for world domination.
Purple Eyes: A special and magical character has special and magical eyes.
Shout-Out: Let's just say that he bears an uncanny resemblance to Labyrinth's Jareth. His appearance in the Anime Music Video for the PSX version of Final Fantasy II also invokes the appearance of Maleficent.