As we would later discover, the Ship’s Graveyard was located at the north of another large, inland sea. The party, including Faris, pulled themselves together upon arrival, and the game did a good job of showing us that the party was not fully unified but knew they would have to work together without having to spell out the point for all to see.
The Graveyard was a weird dungeon. It’s nominally made up of multiple ships joined together by planks, but in practice, it mostly takes place inside the hold of a single ship, while you only hop across the abbreviated tops of most of the others. Furthermore, this dungeon introduces the fact that your characters can swim in full armour without having to come up to breathe. If you say so!
The ships were infested with Undead, who weren’t really that big of a threat. Kyle navigated the dungeon until the party found a place to camp, after which Lenna went off to change into dry clothes, which raises the question: what dry clothes? You were completely submerged in scuzzy corpse water! Not only are all the clothes you’re carrying just as soaked as the ones one your back, but you’ve all got the most infections you’re going to pick up this side of a malboro! Lenna leaves, and when Faris refuses to strip, the guys insist on force-stripping her (looks like these two are still complete assholes), finally discovering that she’s a woman. This time, they’re shocked. Oh well then. Lenna burst back in to find out what was the matter, and Faris explained that she was raised among pirates and was not taken seriously as a girl, and so disguised herself as a man. So, wait, does she identify as a woman or not? It would later seem yes but I was quite confused at the time.
That heart-to-heart completed, the party went to sleep on the haunted ship filled with the hungry dead and then did some rock-hopping to discover a chest that… raised the ship it was on out of the water? We were surprised too! On the other side of the ship, we hopped across some rocks to the shore, where we ran into the boss: a Siren. She used her powers to hide herself in mist and called out to the party with visions of people close to each individual. She appeared to Bartz as Bartz’s mother, Stella, even though we later learned that Stella was dead! She appeared to Lenna as her father, King Fat Tuesday. Now, Faris was only close to Syldra, whose sprite was far too large to fit into this scene, so she simply walked into the mist after one of the others and did not come back out. Only Galuf remained, and the Siren tried to lure him with the vision of a little girl who called him “Grandpa.”
But for once, amnesia played in the player’s favour, and Galuf did not recognize the girl or fall for the Siren’s tricks. He retrieved the others and administered Sage Tellah’s Patented Remedy: smacking each of them hard over the head. So recovered, everyone got back on their feet to challenge the monster. The Siren was capable of an old, simple boss trick: changing forms from weapon-weak/magic-strong to magic-weak/weapon-strong, in this case between alive and undead – indeed the game implied that she was actually undead, unless the haze of writing this so many weeks after the fact has misled me.
The party thanked Galuf and we returned to the world map, only to reach a town where an NPC told us we didn’t have the world map. Wait, what? It turned out the GBA version had added a map feature, which you could unlock in the ship graveyard (and in a later location), which would give us a minimap in the corner and a full map on a subscreen. That would have been great, because we were having tons of trouble working out where on earth we were relative to our starting point.
We lugged our way back to the ship graveyard and found the map only after giving it a full once-over and finding nothing – the somewhat smudgy smooth art style of the iOS remake looks very nice but runs the mistake of a lot of modern games of not making it clear which objects are part of the scenery and which are not, like doors. This was hardly the last time we would make this mistake, especially on ships which seem to have a particularly faulty sprite palette in this regard. Oh well. Also, we found a flail down a path that didn’t even exist until we approached it (yes, we found a path that did not even exist before we found the door, which says a lot).
Now that we had a map, we took a look around. While we wouldn’t get the grasp of it until around the end of the session, FFV’s world is built like a series of interlocking cells, walled off by mountain, water and repeat isolation of the player from their existing transportation. You start in the middle, then go to the east, then go to the outer layer, then to the next layer… Moving from one cell to another, often during cutscene, makes it hard to tell how they’re all connected.
Returning to town, we stocked up on equipment and turned to our next mission: we had heard a rumour that Lenna’s father’s Wind Drake had been seen to the northeast, which would be an ideal solution to our sea travel problem. We headed up and climbed the place, which I recognized from an earlier trip to the wiki as having a digital “hole” in its collision detection that would let you walk into the sky in the Super Famicom version. Whoops?
Back on the parts of the mountain we were supposed to be walking on, we ran into a tombstone enemy that would attack us with a Blue spell if we fed it an Ether. What a clever way of hiding the attack!
The worst part of the mountain was a set of poisonous weeds that grew across the terrain that we had to avoid lest we be Poisoned (that might sound logical but look me in the eye and tell me you can think of any other game that would have said “poisonous weeds” and wouldn’t have done HP damage instead of the Poison status effect. Frankly, Poison was worse!). In the original versions of FFV, this would have been just an excuse to get us to walk a circuitous route and into a few more random encounters, but in the iOS version, our movement was no longer grid based and was honestly kind of slippery with its touch controls, making the whole thing somewhat nerve-wracking. I was reminded of a puzzle in Space Quest 2 where you have to avoid some tentacles with a different kind of shitty movement, though I suppose Roger Wilco got the short end of that stick since he would have been killed for getting his puzzle wrong. Dude has trouble getting a drink from the faucet without being eviscerated.
Just before the end of the road, we came to the boss encounter, and what a boss encounter it was. She opened the fight by straight-up shooting Lenna with a poisoned arrow, and somehow (magically?) caused part of the mountain to collapse as Faris tried to get at her. Faris got across all the same and threw the party a rope (wow, why don’t more of our parties carry ropes and stakes?) so that we could fight our opponent together. This woman, Magissa, talked a lot about her golem husband, implying that he would show up later, and the internet informs us that he would have! You know, if she hadn’t attacked Bartz, provoking a Monk counterattack followed by a critical hit that killed her, preventing her from calling her husband. Uh… whoops again?
No, seriously, that was it, we will never run into the guy.
At the top of the mountain, we found the Wind Drake, who had been fatally poisoned by the weeds and was on his final breath. But who’d have thought it, the only sample of a previously mentioned miracle cure for dragons grew MERE STEPS AWAY. You just don’t get that kind of luck in anything but hack writing, folks. But it’s okay! There was drama, in how Lenna crossed the weeds to get it, even though they barely hurt her and I don’t even recall seeing her be healed, rendering any drama completely irrelevant. Well done, team.
Long story short, we now have a Wind Drake, who can fly over water but not mountains. Unfortunately, we quickly found that this did not expand our range significantly. There were only three other notable features in the area: a tower that we didn’t visit at the time but, based on later information, was probably guarded an inaccessible; a town; and a castle adjoining the town. We hit the town, getting some new weapons and also getting a look at the first batch of Summoning spells, not that we had a class that could use them. In the corner of town, we spotted a strange local animal, a Garula, which the game alternately described as one-of-a-kind and a local animal species (in fact, they’re wandering monsters in the region, though we never encountered one. But the game is awkwardly written and presses the idea that this is the only Garula, to the point where I actually though it was one-of-a-kind until I looked it up while writing this!).
In town and in the castle, we learned that this was Walse, and that the Walsites were in possession of the Water Crystal, which they were somehow charging with a machine that was harnessing its power. They explained that a similar machine had been fitted to the Fire Crystal (the text seemed to imply the Wind Crystal had been similarly tapped but I’m not certain about this – moreover, the issue was that the characters acted like the player already knew about these enhancement machines even though that was certainly not the case!). The Walsites said the country’s wellbeing was all thanks the Crystal, and also that the magic water kept the monsters away. This was immediately snubbed by the demons living in the Castle’s magic-water flooded basement and tower, but whatever you people say.
The basement contained a monster called a Jackanape, a common monster from much later in the game, which nearly killed me twice and actually succeeded once again. It was guarding some armour, perhaps not worth the trouble but at least satisfying to grab. The tower was more of a secret mini-dungeon, its door hidden behind a waterfall, which just makes the “no monsters” thing even more silly. At the depths of the tower we found Shiva and her Ice Commanders, who destroyed me yet again. I encouraged Kyle to come back later in the game when we had Fira (it was apparently in the very next town) though he gave it a shot all the same (if I’m remembering the order of events correctly, we picked up a group Toad-causing Blue spell from the local monsters during this second trip, so it wasn’t for naught).
In the castle’s dungeons we also found an NPC werewolf. Yes, a werewolf, or rather a wolf-man. He said his name was Lone Wolf and asked us to let him out. The player got a Yes/No box, but there didn’t seem to be any consequences for our actions – the rest of the party didn’t even seem to care!
After all our exploration, our party hit up the king of Walse, to beg him to turn off the Crystal enhancing device. Our characters seemed to be under the impression that the Crystals were being broken by over-reliance on these machines, an impression that was coming from nowhere as, again, the Wind Crystal sequence did not even attempt to establish these machines. It was a hackneyed bit of environmentalism that is only going to get stupider once the big bad arrives on the scene. But for now: clean water is pollution, flowing air is pollution, steamships (which we will encounter later) are 100% fine and fully advocated.
The discussion with the King was interrupted when another meteor landed near the Tower of Walse, and we went to investigate. At the tower, we got bad news, but seemingly unrelated to the meteor: a Garula has gone berserk and attacked Walse Tower. Rushing in, we climbed a short dungeon to reach the Crystal. This dungeon included some hidden areas connected by vines that really did benefit from blending into the scenery – I have no problems with this kind of blending for secret areas, just for mandatory ones. At the top of the tower, we found the monster trying to attack the crystal. A knight of Walse fended it off, shouting that “they” were controlling the Garula, but he was knocked aside and we took over.
It’s here where we’ll truly see the weight of the months it’s taken me to write this (first half of the) journal, because I don’t remember the full details of this fight… simply that it was nearly a rout. As I recall, only Galuf the Knight could really stand up to the monster, and he may have very well been the only one standing in the end. We killed the Garula, but the Crystal suddenly shattered all on its own accord! The game will spend part of the upcoming arc claiming this happened for environmentalism reasons (that is to say, because the Walsites were draining its power with the machine), but if that’s so, why did the ominous “they” send the monster at all? And since it later proves that these environmentalism plots have very little to do with anything, what’s the real answer?
Just then, the Knight of Walse got back up, muttering to “Lord Galuf” that “they” (a different “they” this time) have to protect the Fire Crystal. Unfortunately, he died of his wounds before he could fill in any more blanks. Things got worse as we gathered up the Crystals for our new Job classes, as the Tower began to collapse as the oceans went haywire without the Water Crystal, and we were only rescued from the raging seas by Syldra! Yes, Faris’ big sister had returned from death to save us and immediately die again! What a champ! It wasn’t funny when Cid did it in IV and it’s not dramatic now. To make matters worse, one of the job Crystals was left behind in the tower.
Returning to Walse, we found that a soldier from the far west had arrived, somehow, via the meteor. We set out to investigate, but before we left, it was time to check out our new magic career paths.
The first of the Water Crystal jobs was the Red Mage, which had been critically downgraded from other games. Like in other games, Red Magic works to give you both Black and White magic at once, but in this game suffers from a magic cap leaving it unable to cast spells past magic level 3 out of 6 and never gets any higher! And no, there’s no Red Wizard or Sage job to supplement it! The real draw of the Red Mage is its final job skill, the most expensive in the game, worth 999 AP for the last level up alone, plus the price of the previous two levels. This is Dualcast, the ability to cast two spells in one turn. We decided to give the Red Mage a pass, and had, until recently, never even considered going back to it.
The second was the Time Mage, which was concerned mostly with buffs and debuffs. Now, very much despite our impressions going in to this Marathon, it’s turned out that, so far, Final Fantasy games have made good use of their buffs and debuffs, and so we weren’t about to snub a class that could cast Haste, Slow and even upgraded forms of both, not to forget such fundamentals as Float and Teleport. That said, we did not use the Time Mage quite yet.
The third class was the Summoner. Introduced much earlier in the game than in FFIII, FFV’s Summoners must still earn most of their spells in hidden boss fights (though as I said, some early-level spells were still available for sale in Walse). That said, Summoners are nowhere near as powerful as those of games previous and upcoming. They can essentially be considered a means of causing evened group damage, where regular Black Magic spells cast on a group have their damage divided between all targets. We decided to train Faris as a Summoner, though she was still in the middle of her Blue Mage training at the time we acquired the job. I can’t quite remember when the switch-over happened, but it was after we got Shiva in the Summon list, just a few steps from now.
The remaining classes from the Water Crystal have proved less useful in the long run. The Berserker has a high strength but is completely uncontrollable and so undesirable. We never touched it. Going in the complete opposite direction (with lots of micro-management instead of no management at all), we have the Mystic Knight, who can enchant their blade with a spell that will strike every time they do, a potentially good return for a slow start-up. Unfortunately, the Mystic Knight’s combat stats (save Agility) don’t compare to Knight and even some later classes. At the time of writing this journal (between play sessions 3 and 4), we had never used the Mystic Knight.
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.