Now that we had our first Job Crystals, it was time to look at our party layout. Similar to the FFIII remake, our party was currently made up of Freelancers, a class that now behaved very differently to the one in FFIII, but in a way that will only make sense once I explain the others. The Wind Crystal had gifted us with the Knight, Thief, Monk, White Mage, Black Mage, and new to this entry, Blue Mage jobs. Unlike FFIII, where jobs gave you a pre-set block of stats, Jobs in this game simply apply some extreme modifiers to your character’s base stat-line, and also give you a series of abilities.
Jobs have a core ability to begin with, called a “Job Command,” though additional Hidden, passive abilities are also lurking behind the scenes. As the game goes on, you gain job points (technically “ABility Points” or ABP), and when you gain enough, your job levels up, unlocking new Job Commands which may be equipped in your second Ability Slot even in other jobs! Some of the Abilties are copies of the active or passive abilities the job has, which can be carried over to other Job classes, while others are brand new even to the Job that taught them. This sounds like a great way to build characters, though the fact that you only get to pick one secondary ability at a time is fairly limiting. Because you won’t really be at your full potential until you have a unique secondary ability in your secondary ability slot, you’ll want to start off this phase of the game by getting an ability from one job and then hopping over to another. We did not do this, and instead at on our initial Job picks for several hours, picking up nothing but “carry-over” copies of skills our starter jobs already had. Oh well. Next replay.
The first set of jobs in FFV can be summarized quickly, since they’ve barely changed since FFIII or, in some cases, the upgraded versions attached to the FFIII-inspired characters of FFIV. Knights get the best armour and a whole class of their own “Knight swords.” Knights serve the usual defence and interception role you’d expect after FFIII. Knights later learn a moderately powerful skill called Double Handed, which increases the damage of a single weapon, should you forego a shield. This seems to defeat the purpose of a tank-Knight, but that’s where multiclassing comes into play. Just because you learned the skill from a tank-class doesn’t mean it’s a tank skill, since you can equip it to anyone!
White Mage and Black Mage can cast all spells of their respective school while you’re currently using the Job in question. Unfortunately, they only learn the carry-over version of the skill one level at a time: first you get “White Magic Lv 1,” which will let anyone who equips it cast level 1 White spells, but no others. And so on, until your White Magic skill is finally high enough to cover the entire spell list. This takes a long time. Thankfully, spells in this game are purchased, so you’ll only have to put up with so many levels at a time, but you’ll probably be hopping back to the default caster classes every few dungeons, just to keep at or above par!
Monks start with their usual barehanded fighting, in addition to a few abilities first seen with Yang and later with Ursula. For some reason, they can’t transfer their Kick skill to other jobs (it’s one of the few such non-transferable skills in the game) but they can transfer their barehanded fighting if you’re interested. Monks actually unlock their traditional Monk-skills early on, after which they spend the rest of the game unlocking a set of three HP-boosting passive skills, each better than the last. This calls back to the Black Belt’s secret role in FFIII: Keeper of the Only High Stamina Stat.
The Thief has some stealing and running skills, as well as the ability to prevent back attacks, and also a number of skills involving moving around the map: both by sprinting (why Thieves?) and revealing hidden tunnels. This is easily the Thief’s least impressive outing.
Lastly, we come to the new job class, the Blue Mage, which looks like an American superhero for some reason, mask and all. Blue Mages get a fair variety of weapons (and armour, our Blue Mage was in the front lines the whole time she had the job), but their real strength is the ability to learn specific enemy skills after having them be used against the Blue Mage personally. It seems that in older versions, the Blue Mage could learn these skills just by being present, but now the Mage has to be struck directly, which has led us to… unorthodox tactics, like converting the entire party to Blue Mage for a brief period, which we’ve done a few times now. Luckily, FFIII DS’ one-and-only clever system, the one that forced you to fight a few times before you “got used” to your new job, was not a part of this game, so we can change Jobs with impunity. And as much as I like FFIII DS’ system in its own ways, I am far more comfortable with this one.
Thankfully, the party all knows the same spells from a pool, which keeps costs down for the bought spells, and is even more of a relief with Blue spells. Unfortunately, it turned out to fairly hard to find any good Blue spells early on. If we had been checking a guide at this point (Kyle found a good one later on) we’d have returned to the Wind Shrine for an early Blue spell, Aero, but since we didn’t know that, our Blue Mage was in the cold for a long time.
Kyle and I initially decided that we were going to pick a few jobs and stick with them, as it would require nearly a thousand job points to master any particular job, and we were receiving only one or two APB a battle at this point in the game! We would no doubt be switching out before finishing each job, but we planned to get as high as we could. Mastering jobs is important even if you aren’t interested in the skills, as each Job you master potentially adds to the power of the Freelancer job, a very clever mechanic indeed. Freelancers can also equip two skills instead of just one, inherit some of the major stats of mastered jobs, and can even inherit passive abilities from mastered classes, turning them into an endgame powerhouse.
Going back to Freelancer by the end of the game is also included as a part of the game’s art style. In FFIII, your Job Class was represented in your sprite at all times. That has its own appeal, but in a game like FFV where you eventually go back to the starting class, it would be like going back from being a big old hero to a chump in plain clothes! As a result, in FFV, your job only appears in your combat sprite. Your normal sprite is your Freelancer sprite, at all times, so that when you return to Freelancer nearer the end game, it’s the most natural fit of all.
Long story short, we made Bartz a Monk (we really wanted those HP skills in the long term), Lenna a White Mage (since she already had a staff – she had the shittiest weapon in the beginning of the game and we simply gave her the first replacement we found, which later turned out to also be shitty! I can’t help but feel I’ve been herded towards these opening classes…), Galuf became a Knight (he looks ridiculous in this and honestly half his costumes), and Faris temporarily became a Blue Mage, with the objective that we would get her the “Learning” and “Blue Magic” Abilities and then abandon the job for something more profitable. We were figuring we would swap her to Thief at the time, as a call-back to Leila, but we ultimately decided that the Thief just plain sucks in this game, since the Stealing system has terrible odds of getting a rare item. The Thief can’t even dual-wield like in other games!
Left to our own devices, we took the boat south, noting a locked canal leading to the east and a town to the west. At the town, Faris and the Pirates left the party to start drinking, and we did our own thing. As a nice touch, Faris would reappear whenever we went shopping so that she would still ‘be in” the party when we compared her equipment to the stuff on the shelf. We also stopped in at the pub, where Faris was drinking in her room alone. We also got to play the piano (poorly, levelling our “piano skill”) and where we watched some dancers who were, more clearly than ever before, strippers. They also finished their dance by all jumping on to Bartz’s lap and just… staying there.
“…I don’t think there’s any other way to interpret that,” I said to Kyle.
After this, we found the creator of the canal (what, did he dig it himself?) and Lenna, invoking her authority as a princess, asked him for the key, but he pretended he had lost it after an outbreak of women-attacking monsters in the canal (by the way: the fact that the monsters only attacked woman was odd detail that never really came to any particular end, unless the implication is that the monsters you encounter are attacking Syldra. You’d think, cliché writing-style, that this would be leading up to the reveal of Faris’ gender but no, they have an even older cliché waiting for that). The man invited the party to stay the night, and while Kyle and I were joking about him robbing the party or staring at them creepily during the night, we woke to find him… staring at them creepily at us during the night. At Lenna, specifically. Bartz woke up and talked to the man about Bartz’s parents, weirdly enough, and Bartz informed us that his father had some involvement with the Crystals before he disappeared. His father had told Bartz’s mother not to tell Bartz any details about the Crystals, as it was not his fight. Something about this tale inspired the creator of the canal to surrender the key, and we left the town not long after… but not before one last pit stop.
Kyle and I reasoned that we would have to track down Faris to get her to rejoin us, and when we went to find her, Bartz simply barged into the her room at the inn and went to wake her, discovering that she was a woman. Or rather, he got a heart over his head and went all loopy, implying that… she was naked? That everyone in this game loves watching everyone else sleep? Even better, he goes out and gets Galuf to do the same thing! Wow, so we’ve just created the two sleaziest characters in the franchise, and this is a franchise that already includes a guy who nearly had sex with a snake. At least that was consensual for all of “Can we speak in my bedroom, alone?” until the Charm magic and murder got involved. FFV couldn’t even muster that! Congratulations on hitting the concrete with a giant gong.
Even weirder: the characters somehow still do not know Faris is a woman! There is still a reveal scene down the road! Obviously this scene here is optional but there’s no other point in the game in which it can occur!? If this isn’t how the party learns about Faris’ gender then why is it here? Just out of the sheer glee of sexual exploitation and lack of respect for their comrade-in-arms? To reveal that Bartz and Galuf might be attracted to men only for that to never come up again? The fuck was the point of this? Looking back on this from the present day, having Bartz and Galuf perving on a teammate may very well be the worst scene in the entire game, since it reduces half our party to disgusting jackasses.
It turns out the actual way to get Faris to rejoin you is to leave down, where Faris decides to dump her pirate crew, ordering them to defend their hideout and their “booty,” and mostly get out of the way of her adventuring. They took her orders, and so did we, heading straight to the pirates’ hideout so we could raid their booty. There we discovered that Boco had gone into the cave to look for us (hey, remember Boco?) and had been attacked by monsters. Luckily, the pirates had chosen to heal him back up instead of eating him (that is the actual joke) and the party left him in their questionable hands. Then we turned to the canal.
It was here that we learned that Bartz never told the rest of the party about the key. RPGs often make inter-party communication a silent matter, implying they talk while you’re walking from place to place, but not today, apparently. Bartz just asked them to go to the canal, then walked all the way along the ship’s figurehead to reach the canal lock as the rest of the party watched on in confusion, This makes everything that just happened bizarre as all hell. Why did Faris abandon her crew, and why did everyone sail out here and then climb out on the figurehead (no doubt requiring Syldra to move out of the front of ship to the back, then to push the ship slowly up to the keyhole…), without asking a single question about what he planned to do, or cluing into the fact that he was going to unlock the door? Either way, we progressed at once, and were randomly attacked a few second later, scaring the bejesus out of Kyle, who had figured he was invulnerable on the ship! Oh, inconsistent game design.
The canal was another very brief dungeon. I barely even remember it. I was checking some info on Jobs or whatnot when Kyle breezed through the whole thing to the boss. This boss rose from a whirlpool in the middle of the canal, and we somehow fought it without the ship moving an inch from its pre-battle position. Totally believable. The boss itself was called a Karlabos, a strange sort of lobster-scorpion, and while it was a few steps up in difficulty from the Wing Raptor, we were still firmly in Garland territory of bosses with barely any special attacks and so had no real need or capability for esoteric strategy. What a surprisingly slow start this game is having! Probably has something to do with the fact that we only just got jobs, but still! The Octomammoth of FFIV at least pretended to be more complex than it was. Then again, FFII’s first two bosses were both minor enemy recolours…
Less generically, after the fight ended, the whirlpool did not, and we were pulled… uh… past it? At some point during the sequence, Syldra started pulling us out of the whirlpool, and the end result was an animation of the boat just moving over the whirlpool like it was no big deal. Unfortunately, Syldra ran out of strength as she did this, and was pulled back to the whirlpool… without the ship? Remember: the ship has way to move on its own. I’m not entirely sure it ever had sails and they’d certainly be of no use now. And yet, despite Syldra pulling from the front of the ship, she somehow ended up back in the whirlpool while the ship not only stayed exactly where it was despite the fact that it must be tethered to her, but it floated off down to the other end of the canal, against the pull of the whirlpool!
Faris was obviously upset, and nearabouts jumped off the ship after her sister, and probably would have made it if Lenna hadn’t grabbed her (so it seems Lenna’s the only one who knows how to comfort anybody!). The game blacked out and when we had regained control, we found that the ship had drifted away, not just out of the canal, but to the dangerous shallows known as the Ship’s Graveyard
Screenshots in this Journal come from Tarosan’s longplay of the RPGe translation of FFV on the Super Famicom, available from World of Longplays (YouTube). GBA screenshots also come from World of Longplays (YouTube), by Valis77.