Celes is a playable character in Final Fantasy VI. Celes is a Rune Knight and strikes balance between physical and magical skill. She is the starting party member of the World of Ruin and one of three characters required to recruit to complete the game.
Celes has balanced stats overall. Her Strength and Speed are decent, her Stamina is average and her Magic is high. Her Evasion is decent and her Magic Evasion is above average. Alongside Terra, she's the only party member who can learn some spells naturally while leveling up. Their stats are similar, although Terra has better Magic, MP and Magic Defense, while Celes's other stats are higher.
Celes joins the party equipped with a Hairband. She is able to equip all swords but for the Apocalypse, which is exclusive to Terra, and some daggers and maces. Her armor encompasses all shields and all heavy armor, female-exclusive equipment, and most hats, light armor, and robes. Celes's equipment draw is almost identical to Terra's, the sole differences being the Cotton Robe (which is exclusive to Terra) and their exclusive ultimate weapons in the Dragons' Den—while Terra equips the Apocalypse, Celes has Save the Queen, won from the Blue Dragon in Dragons' Den.
Due to when she is available in the World of Balance, Celes's equipment draw for the first half of the game is not of great importance, as she is more useful for her magic and falls short to the player's other options for physical attackers. She has more utility while exploring the Magitek Research Facility, where the Flametongue, Icebrand, and Thunder Blade allow her to use elemental attacks against enemies with elemental weaknesses.
In the World of Ruin, Celes is best used with the Enhancer, which grants +7 Magic, the largest possible boost a weapon can give. With a Genji Glove, she can dual-wield two Enhancers for +14 Magic. Terra and Locke surpass her as physical attackers—Terra has the Trance ability to boost her damage output and Locke has all-around superior physical stats and better weapon access. However, Celes is still useful as a mage and against bosses and other powerful enemies that prominently use magic. Her ultimate weapon, Save the Queen, heightens this supportive role by offering her boosts to Evasion and Magic Evasion while Terra's boosts all her stats and allows automatic critical hits at the cost of MP.
Celes's unique ability is Runic, which absorbs the next magical attack cast by any enemy or ally, Celes recovering an amount of MP equal to the MP cost of the absorbed attack. Celes must be equipped with a compatible weapon to use Runic. This encompasses swords (except for the Ultima Weapon), daggers, spears, katanas, and the Magus Rod. Through the Swordless Runic bug, Celes is sometimes able to use Runic without a compatible weapon. Runic persists until it absorbs a spell or until Celes is given another command.
Celes's elemental affinities bestowed by her equipment affect how much MP is recovered; if the element is resisted, MP recovery is halved; if the element is a weakness, MP recovery is doubled; if the element is negated, MP recovery is reduced to 0; and if the element is absorbed, then Celes will take MP damage. Equipping the Celestriad or Gold Hairpin on either Celes or the caster to change the MP cost of spells has no effect on the MP gained. Spells cast when attacking with weapons cannot be absorbed.
Runic cannot absorb Quake, Tornado, Meteor, Meltdown, Teleport, Quick, all summons, Snowstorm used by Umaro, and all magical attacks from the unique abilities of other party members, like Slot. The exception is Rage; susceptible abilities that Gau uses while under Rage will be absorbed. Magical attacks exclusive to enemies vary on whether they can be absorbed: all of those that can cost the enemy 20 MP, with the exception of Hyperdrive, which costs 0 MP but is still vulnerable to Runic.
Runic has circumstantial uses throughout the game. Against magic-heavy enemies it is invaluable and can nullify much of their offense. Knowledge of an enemy's attack patterns is key to smart use of Runic, else Celes will waste turns having Runic prepared when no vulnerable attacks are imminent. Getting the most efficient use out of Runic requires the proper party composition that can fight at full strength without needing magic. Aside from characters who prominently use physical attacks, Strago is also a good choice as his Lores cannot be absorbed.
Celes's Desperation Attack is Spinning Edge, which deals magical damage to one enemy.
Along with Terra, Celes is the second party member to naturally learn magic without equipping magicite. Compared to Terra, who learns healing and attack spells, Celes focuses on attack and status magic. Celes learns the Blizzard line of spells, contrasting with Terra's Fire spells. Celes's ability to use magic makes her an excellent party member during the search for Terra after the Battle for the Frozen Esper—enemies around Kohlingen, Jidoor and Zozo are very powerful, making Celes's curative spells very helpful.
In the SNES version, and possibly other versions, Celes does not learn Confuse from level averaging. If Celes levels up past or to 32 due to level averaging, but does not reach at least 40, she will learn Haste but not Confuse. Both Haste and Confuse are supposed to be learned at level 32, but due to the way her natural spell list is ordered, and the way the list is sorted during level averaging, Confuse is lost because Berserk is learned at level 40. This is due to Berserk being stuck between Haste and Confuse.
This is due to Celes's learning spell list order:
- Level 32 Haste
- Level 40 Berserk
- Level 32 Confuse
The effect of the bug is mitigated as every character can learn magic through magicite.
In the World of Balance Celes is recruited during Locke's scenario in the Three Scenarios. Due to the bypass event glitch, it is possible to complete Locke's Scenario without recruiting her, in which case come the Battle for the Frozen Esper she will be replaced with Moghan, one of the ten moogles. Because Moghan has no unique ability, and cannot change her equipment or use espers, it is recommended not to do this.
Celes is a required party member during the expedition to the southern continent, spanning from the end of Zozo to the final area of the Magitek Research Facility. She rejoins the party at the end of the World of Balance after the Floating Continent rises.
The World of Ruin begins with Celes as the only party member available. She is a required character until the player raises the Falcon and unlocks the ability to freely change party members. Because only Celes, Edgar and Setzer need to be recruited to acquire the Falcon, the player could immediately enter the final dungeon and defeat the final boss using only them. This is known in the fandom community as a "CES challenge".
If Celes and Locke are in the party when visiting Kohlingen and seeing Rachel, the scene will be slightly longer with Celes going back to see Rachel after the party leaves.
Celes has unique dialogue when speaking to Ramuh in Zozo.
Aboard the Floating Continent when confronting Emperor Gestahl, if Celes is not currently in the party, a cutscene plays of her arriving on the scene. When the party escapes the Floating Continent shortly after, Celes will join the party as the fourth character if she was not already present; if she was already in the party, the party will remain with only three members.
If Sabin is recruited during the start of the World of Ruin when Celes is the only character, she will have specific dialogue for the scene. If the player recruits Sabin later, generic dialogue will be used, even if Celes is in the party.
If Celes is in the party that finds Locke at the end of the Phoenix Cave, she will have an additional line directed to Locke.
When the party first enters Kefka's Tower, a small cutscene plays of them worrying what the loss of the Warring Triad would mean for magic and espers. If the player has recruited Strago, he will speak up during this scene. If he was not recruited, Celes will have additional dialogue similar to what he would have said.