The first half of Final Fantasy VI is pretty straightforward, and party members largely come and go as they please. Once you reach the World of Ruin, however, all but one member of your party is lost, and you're left with few clues as to where they've gone. You can get everyone back - but it'll take some looking.
This guide goes through each of your missing comrades and provides a brief overview on how to get them. Note that one of these characters is permanently missable if you don't do something specific in the World of Balance, so, hopefully you decided to be patient.
When you awaken in the World of Ruin you're playing as Celes. Piece of cake. You won't need to play solo as Celes for long, though it's long enough that you may need to do some levelling if you've neglected her up to this point. Make sure to give her a Ribbon, as there are lots of enemies in the World of Ruin that can instantly wreck her with status ailments.
The first character you can optionally recruit in the World of Ruin is Sabin. Upon sailing back to the mainland Celes will find herself near the town of Albrook. North of here is Kefka's Tower, and even further north, near a mountain range, is the town of Tzen. Upon entering Tzen it will come under attack by Kefka, and you'll see Sabin in the north of town, propping up a house. You'll need to enter the house and rescue the child trapped on the lower floor before time runs out. Sabin will rejoin the party once you escape.
If you're coming to Tzen immediately upon returning to the mainland Celes will need to rescue the child on her own, and the enemies inside can be nasty. Again, make sure you equip a Ribbon to save Celes from status effects. Area spells are also handy for quickly wiping out mobs.
Next up is Edgar, one of three compulsory characters in the World of Ruin. You'll find a man who looks suspiciously like Edgar in Nikeah, on the north-western tip of the submerged Serpent Trench. Follow him across the ocean to South Figaro, enter Figaro Cave, and proceed through the events of Figaro Castle to get Edgar back.
The final compulsory character in the World of Ruin is Setzer. He's also the easiest character to recruit, as he's just sitting in the Inn / Pub in Kohlingen. Once you get Figaro Castle up and running again it will shuttle you straight to Kohlingen. Talk to Setzer and he'll rejoin the party.
Getting Setzer also opens up a dungeon that will net you a new airship. The airship opens up the rest of the World of Ruin, and you can get the rest of your teammates in any order you like. This guide will attempt to list recruitment by order of difficulty.
Though Final Fantasy VI tries to put you on the tail of Cyan immediately after you get your new airship, grabbing Mog next will take less time and allows you to snag another character in quick succession as well. In the north of the World of Ruin you'll find a small island continent dominated by mountains. On the west side of the island is Narshe, and it has been abandoned to monsters. Enter the mines through the secret passage to the west of the entrance and make your way to the den of the Moogles. Mog is here, and he'll promptly rejoin the party.
(Before you leave, make sure you check the wall behind where Mog was standing. You'll find Molulu's Charm, which, when equipped on Mog, halts random battles. Very handy.)
Depending on whether you got Sabin or not you can get Gau earlier than this. Second only to Setzer in recruitment simplicity, Gau is waiting for you on the Veldt, floating off on its own in the northeast of the World of Ruin. You can get Gau back in your party by battling on the Veldt with three party members. He'll rejoin without a fuss.
Note that you must have three party members. If you have four in your active party he will run away. If you've just grabbed the airship and got Sabin along the way you'll need to recruit someone else before you can get Gau, as you can't change your party composition on the airship without someone to talk to.
Upon retrieving your new airship you'll see a quick cutscene with a bird that flies to Maranda, a solitary town in the southwest continent on the map. Head there and speak to the woman in the lone house on the east side of town. She'll mention her boyfriend in Mobliz who has been sending her letters, and ask you to attach a letter to a carrier pigeon outside. Do so and you'll see the pigeon fly off to Zozo, on the north end of this same continent.
Follow the bird to Zozo and speak to the merchant who's wandering the street to the north of the entrance. He'll offer to sell you Rust Rid for 1,000 gil. Buy the Rust Rid, then enter the building with the 'Pub' sign (it's the first door you'll see upon entering Zozo) and climb up to the balconies. There's a rusted door here that you can now open. This leads to Mt. Zozo, a short dungeon. Cyan is waiting for you at the end of Mt. Zozo.
Technically you can find Terra before anyone else in the World of Ruin, though you can't recruit her until you get the airship. Walk along the Serpent Trench to its far-east tip and you'll find the remains of the town of Mobliz. Terra and a bunch of orphans are hiding in the basement of the old post office. Terra will refuse to rejoin, and on your way out of town Mobliz will be attacked by a demon named Humbaba. Beating Humbaba will drive it away.
Return to Mobliz once you have the airship (you can walk out of Mobliz and right back in if you've already obtained the Falcon) and you'll find Terra missing. Check the home on the west side of town and behind a book shelf to find Terra. This will trigger another story sequence where Terra will help you battle Humbaba. Defeat the demon for good and Terra will rejoin the party.
Before we get into recruiting Shadow, it is important to note that he only returns in the World of Ruin if you waited for him on the Floating Continent at the very end of the World of Balance. This requires making it to the jump point during the countdown sequence, defeating the Nelapa, checking the jump point, and choosing not to jump. Do this twice and you'll see a prompt that says you're waiting for Shadow. Wait here until time is up and Shadow will appear and join everyone else on the airship. Fail to do all this and Shadow will (presumably) die on the Floating Continent.
Recruiting Shadow in the World of Ruin is a two-step process. First you need to track him down. Fly to the Veldt in the east and look along the southern shores for a cave. Inside the cave is a small dungeon, at the end of which you'll find a collapsed Shadow, watched over by Interceptor. You'll need to defeat the Behemoth King guarding Shadow to complete this step. Before doing so, however, make sure you scour the cave thoroughly until you find a treasure chest containing the Ichigeki (the Striker in older translations). This is a weapon Shadow wants.
Beating the Behemoth King will send the party to Thamasa, where they'll leave Shadow to recuperate. Leave and reenter town and he'll be gone. Hop on the airship and fly to Dragon's Neck Coliseum, which is on the northeastern continent, near Kohlingen. Bet the Ichigeki here and you'll fight Shadow, who should be a pushover. Beating him will trigger a cutscene that puts him in your party.
Recruiting Relm is dependent on whether or not Shadow survived the World of Balance. If you left him behind on the Floating Continent you'll find Relm in Shadow's place in the Cave on the Veldt, and will need to save her before you can proceed. She'll leave Thamasa for Jidoor. If Shadow was in the cave then you can skip this step.
Once Relm is in Jidoor, one way or another, you'll find her in Owzer's Mansion in the north of town. Turn on the light near the stairs to access the art gallery, then check the paintings to trigger battles and find a door into a twisty, haunted dungeon. Proceed through the dungeon and defeat the boss at the end to regain Relm.
Strago is another character you can see early, but you can't recruit him until you have Relm in your active party. He's roaming around in front of the Cultists' Tower, a solitary building in the midst of a mountain range along the Serpent Trench. You'll need the airship to reach it. Enter the area with Relm in your party and she will snap Strago out of his daze and bring him back into the fold.
The first of two secret characters in Final Fantasy VI, Umaro can technically be recruited immediately after getting Mog, though the enemies in his dungeon are strong enough that you may want to wait. Put Mog in your party and head into the hills of Narshe, where you fought Kefka's battalion of soldiers early in the game. You'll find the Frozen Esper right where you left it, on the edge of a cliff, and interacting with the Esper now will put you in a fight with the frozen Valigarmanda. Defeat it to get the Valigarmanda Magicite.
Beating Valigarmanda will reveal a gap in the cliff. Inspect it to leap down into a cavernous dungeon. Make your way through to find a room with a bone sculpture. Inspect the sculpture for the Midgardsormr Magicite. This will bring Umaro into the room, and he will attack you. Beat him, then speak to him again. As long as Mog is in your party he will bully Umaro into joining your team.
The second secret character in Final Fantasy VI is Gogo. Check the northeast corner of the World of Ruin, north of the shores of the Veldt, to find a triangular island. Here you'll run into giant worm enemies named Zone Eaters, and given a chance they will suck your party members one-by-one into their mouths. Allow your whole team to be eaten and you'll find a dungeon inside. Gogo is waiting for you at the end.
Last up is Locke. Occasionally while speaking to NPCs you'll hear about a suspicious mountain range just north of Tzen. Fly over the mountains in the airship and you'll see a small, bare patch in the middle. This is the Phoenix Cave, and upon descending you'll be prompted to split your party into two before you can explore, similar to Kefka's Tower. You'll need to jump between the two parties to complete the puzzles and make your way to the end of the cave. Locke is waiting here, and he'll give you a bunch of treasures for recruiting him, along with the Phoenix Magicite.
Though you can technically complete the Phoenix Cave immediately after getting the airship, it's ill-advised to do so. The monsters inside are fairly tough, and you're best off having two full teams of battle-ready characters.
© 2022 Matt Bird