When our second session started, we decided to grind out a little job training, even temporarily changing Faris to Ninja out of a misguided sense of our intended direction for her. We ultimately trained Bartz only part of the way to Control in a spat of impatience, and instead pressed on with the plot.
We talked to Cid, only to find that the loss of the Fire Crystal had hit him hard, feeling guilty about potentially destroying the planet. He left us to go off and begin binge drinking. We had no choice but to follow rumours in town of Cid’s grandson, Mid (you might remember a second Mid appearing in TAY). Mid was off studying at the Library of the Ancients, the place where Cid had learned how to enhance the Crystals in the first place, and now that Karnak’s walls had fallen, our way to the Library was clear. A dark and arbitrary means of progression, but it’s what we had!
Unfortunately, we quickly found out why the way had been blocked when we ran head first into a Dhorme Chimera, a monster that randomly stalked the desert near Karnak. This beast had a powerful Blue Magic spell, Aqua Breath, but we weren’t able to get it and still make it out alive over the course of several attempts – I believe we picked it up only after making it safely to the Library. It was in fighting the Chimera that we learned that Control had benefits beyond gaining Blue Magic, since we could use it to keep the damn thing from killing us! Unforotunately, Control was unable to help us learn Aqua Breath (it seems that Control can only cast group attacks on monsters, and not the party), but it was able to “pin” the Chimera down after it used the spell. As a result, Kyle’s kept it on Bartz as a secondary skill for many a job switch since. We only later learned that Control only had a 45% chance of working at this point in the game and were quite surprised, as it seemed to work nearly all the time!
Gathering another Blue spell from the local “minidragons,” we decided to swap our classes before heading to the Library. We made Galuf a Time Mage, as his Knight skills were insufficient as sub-skills and we needed him to get something else – anything – to replace them before returning him to a combat class. With him off the front lines, we promoted Lenna to Monk, as she had already progressed as a White Mage through White Magic Level 5. At the time, we figured giving her Barehanded would be useful in making her a back-up attacker, though our real goal were, once again, the Monk’s top-tier, HP-boosting skills. Healer tank! We ended Faris’ brief experiment as a Ninja and returned her to Summoner, and we decided to make Bartz a Ninja as soon as he was ready to swap, which happened not much later.
We entered the Library to learn that of course there was trouble there as well. Monsters had begun possessing the books. The librarians were allies with Ifrit, the summon, but had lost contact with it and so had become unable to dispose of the books properly. The books were certainly a unique sort of fight. Once you encountered one, normally as a wandering monster, you would fight one of four “Page” monsters emerging from a book in the background. There was Page 32, a demon; Page 64, a devil’s head submerged to the jawline; Page 128, a spider; or Page 256, a tribal mask with claws. The special thing about the Page enemies was that they would only attack one at a time, but would come in waves, something no other game had done in Final Fantasy! Most of these Pages held Blue Magic, and knowing about them in advance, we aimed to earn a skill called “Level 5 Death.” These “Level” spells were introduced in this game and have since become a frequent element of later games. They’re group spells, that can guarantee status effects (where applicable) or high-damage spells for low cost, but they only strike targets whose levels are evenly divisible by the level in the spell’s name. That meant Level 5 Death would automatically cause instant death to any target with a level evenly divisible by 5. Yes, monsters now have levels, too! Since we needed a Blue Mage to be hit by the spell to learn it, we changed Bartz to Blue Mage and kept him at a level divisible by 5 as long as we could. Great way to learn a spell. “Hey Bartz, I need you to drop dead for a minute.”
One problem with the Page enemies and their “waves” system was that it made it impossible to know if we were going to fight certain monsters until they appeared in later waves. One consequence of this was that we kept running away from encounters while searching for Page 256, only to later learn that they never appear in the initial waves and had to come back for a second grind!
The dungeon was short, but a pain. First off, there was a room with moving shelves that refused to move unless you stepped on arbitrary spaces or interacted with hidden switches, and one “reverse” switch was so hard to find that I and Kyle both assumed there was no way to leave the dungeon the way you had come in! I found this out after I ran into Ifrit quite by accident and wanted to go back to heal, only to find no exit! I panicked and had to use an Ice Rod to kill him. Once I had finished the dungeon (below), we were teleported out, and so still didn’t know about the “reverse” switch in the puzzle room! This spelled trouble when Kyle went back into the dungeon to get the Moon Flute Blue Magic spell we had missed from the Page 256s. You see, we tried to exit the dungeon by going to its end, just like we had during my attempt, but it turned out the back-end exit was closed after the plot no longer needed it, and Kyle had to walk through the dungeon twice, encountering three more Page 256s than were actually necessary, before we finally found the reverse switch!
As for me and the main-dungeon run, I got to the end of the dungeon and was attacked by a book monster called Byblos, who was taken down in an instant by the lethal combination of Death Claw and Marathon Prerogative. Bite us, magic bull.
We found Mid at the end of the dungeon. As it turned out, Mid was very young. Like, as young as Palom and Porim were supposed to be in IV, if not younger (six or less, perhaps?), though the Wiki doesn’t seem to have an exact age. The Amano art shows him rather short as well, but I also have a rather odd trump card. See, there’s actually a sequel to FFV, an OVA, which we’ll be discussing right after the game. This sequel is set in the future, but we do get a flashback to Mid several years after the game, and he is still clearly a small child! (I should also note that Mid’s sprite is a lot bigger in the Super Famicom version but in the remake is now much smaller.)
Mid is a rather self-absorbed and self-important researcher, but to our luck he’s found a way to re-power the Fire-powered ship (…despite not knowing that it was damaged…). Unfortunately, he takes the news of his grandfather’s descent into alcoholism rather badly, as you might expect, and he runs across a continent-wide desert infested with Chimeras just to get to him. Oh, children. The supernatural brats. We followed him back and watched as he gave his grandpa Galuf and Tellah’s favourite treatment: a slap to the head. Actually, Mid was soon pounding his grandpa on the chest and shouting that Cid had always taught him to never give up on anything, and this sad and touching moment caused Cid to snap back to normal, and soon the both of them were talking about and soon work on repairing the Fire-powered ship. This in spite of the fact that the ship is still infested with monsters and would remain so, almost like a portable dungeon!
As we waited in the ship for them to finish their work, Galuf reflected on Mid’s intervention with his grandfather, and suddenly remembered the girl from the Siren delusion back at the ship graveyard. You know, the one who called him “Grandfather?” In this vision, he was standing on a castle’s walls when she approached, he called her “Krile.” She then started striking him as well, which we never got any explanation for. I guess it’s just something kids do with grandparents in this universe. Krile, now that she was on screen for more than a few seconds, was very small, presumably the same age as Mid (indeed, in the Super Famicom version, she’s even smaller than Mid. Once again, more on this later).
Also, looking at a video of the PSX version of the Super Famicom game, I’ve got to say I prefer Krile’s old talk portrait the same way I prefer some of the After Years portraits on the Wii.
When Galuf returns to the present, it seems he’s remembered more than just his granddaughter. He decides this is as good a time as any to tell the others just what he’s remembered: that he’s not from this world, and like the werewolf and presumably the “Knight of Walse” we saw in Walse tower, he came here on a meteorite, specifically the one we found him near at the game’s start. Or rather, he “warped” here, using the teleporter in the meteorite. He says that he came back to stop an evil that he and three others sealed on Bartz’s world thirty years prior: the Warlock Exdeath.
This is the culmination of the environmentalism metaphors, folks: don’t destroy the environment or an evil warlock from outer space will destroy the planet. Lesson learned. The game, uh, gives up on the environmentalism kind of rapidly after this point.
Galuf reveals that he and three others – two humans and a werewolf – sealed Exdeath at a point where the four Crystals power converged, namely in an inaccessible forest on the north end of the world. In that forest are four stones… maybe. I had to double-check a video, and it seems the rocks only seemed to appear when the Crystals were destroyed, with only two rocks present after the destruction of the Water Crystal, and so on, though I suppose it may have been a glitch in the cinematic in question as I, for some reason, thought I saw four as early as the start of the game on Faris’ ship?
That was all Galuf could remember for now, so with that information, we took control of the Fire-powered ship from Cid and Mid and sailed it into the wild blue whatever, where we were promptly mauled to death by a Corbett. I’ve got no excuses this time, that thing is just a beast.
After wrapping around the planetary doughnut north-to-south, we spotted a small town, Jachol, on a peninsula improbably surrounded by mountains. But even though that kind of geology is usually put in place to say “This is from a later part of the game,” we were perfectly capable of walking to Jachol and there were few random encounters down the route, making me wonder even now why they bothered with the impossible terrain fence. There, we spoke to the townsfolks and learned that Jachol was a popular haunt for adventurers who plundered the nearby ruins for items that were now on sale in town. We picked up a few Green Berets for our lighter-armoured party members and then visited the caves ourselves.
The cave turned out to be optional. It started out with a moving wall, a number of skull switches and a hidden passage switch in a chest, but more notably a bizarre monster population of Nutkins (squirrels – even in stats) and its recolour, the Skull Eater (with defence like a brick wall, evasion like a flea and teeth to live up to its name). The Skull Eaters were so dangerous that without a strategy to overcome their defence (they only have 1 HP), they might have routed us, though we managed to push through using Control and sheer luck. Unfortunately , this won us nothing but job points (but wow, a lot of job points!) as the dungeon led to a dead end on the overworld, and Lone Wolf had beaten us to the cave and stolen its only valuable item (thankfully it was a Beastmaster’s whip that we no longer needed). Apparently, Lone Wolf will no longer influence the plot from this point on. Odd that they included him just to remove one item from the game, and from an optional dungeon to boot!
To make matters even more confusing, Kyle and I misunderstood the villagers in Jachol, who said something about the ruins nearby resembling those on the Crescent Isle to the southeast , which was odd as the cave has nothing in it but cave and skull switches. I later realized they were talking about another ruin, over a mountain range to the northwest, proving once and for all that NPCs can actually see the world from bird’s-eye! The Crescent Isle jumped to the front of our list after we visited Cid and Mid at the Library of the Ancients and they pointed us there as well – apparently no one in the library had heard of the island, but it’s still a little silly when the game gives you at least three opportunities to pick up a world map that includes the island (yes, that was a GBA upgrade, but still), and people in Jachol are willing to talk about it no problem.
So we sailed to the Crescent and were no more than inside the town’s front steps when our ship was sucked into a whirlpool without us, in what I suppose you could see as an FFII reference. Dammit, we just got this ship! Kyle and I were pissed before it even happened, because it seemed so damn inevitable, too, what with the one-tile wide cove. After a quick tour of town, we learned that Chocobos might live to the south, and sure enough found a Black Chocobo in the forest below. Lenna said they were supposed to be extinct, so of course it was morally right of us to kidnap the only one that was left. Bartz caught this one (hey, remember when this game looked like one of its characters would be a guy and his chocobo? Where is Boco? Being deep-fried by the pirates?), but found out that it was in a spot of trouble. As a matter of fact, it was choking on something, and Faris heimliched it out of him with of our favourite remedy: smacks to the head! The chocobo thus coughed up the offending objects… the two remaining shards of the Fire Crystal! Oh yeah this is all hells kinds of probable.
The Crystals contained the Ranger job, which shoots bows and can eventually gain the multi-striking Rapid Fire technique (which you can use even without bows), and the other shard held the Bard job, which does buffing with songs you learn from NPCs throughout the game. We have no plans to ever use either, though we’ve been collecting Bard songs and practicing the piano at every town we go to just for the fun of it. Now that we had the two jobs, it was clear that the nearby town was built up to service both of them, and includes both a piano and a song you can unlock.
Since these two jobs were boring for Kyle and I, the Black Chocobo was the real prize, as it could land in forests and fly over water just like in FFIV, though it could still not climb over the mountains. We used it to visit every spot on the planet that we could reach, only to later find that we almost standing on the next vehicle in the game and were wasting our time. Nevertheless, we spent most of our remaining play-time for this session on these Black Chocobo side trips.
In one town (which it seems we could have visited with the Fire-powered ship), we abused a sheep until it kicked us into a secret location. There, we met a bard, who told us about “an evil eye” at a mountain-locked waterfall. In town, we also heard about an old man wandering through the woods nearby, attacking people. We went into the woods and found nothing short of the summon Ramuh walking around as a wandering monster. We clobbered him, which was neither so hard nor so straightforward. Thunder, as ever, has no notable weaknesses in Final Fantasy! Beating Ramuh won us the Ramuh item, which Kyle correctly deduced we were supposed to use the item to learn the spell, but because this had not been the case with other summons, I ignored his advice and we suffered the consequences at the next boss! (So why was Ramuh an item when other summons weren’t? Presumably, the item was dropped because of this fight’s unusual nature as a random encounter, making it impossible for the game to script us learning the spell automatically.)
Another town we visited during this section of the game proved even more interesting, as we discovered it was Bartz’s hometown! There, we learned about how Bartz got a fear of heights during a childhood game of Hide & Seek (which I don’t believe ever came up again), and a music box triggered a flashback showing us how Bartz’s father, Dorgann was always disappearing on some sort of mission. In fact, he talked to Bartz one night and was apparently planning to pull a Dad from FFLII and disappear on his family in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, he was interrupted by tragedy when his wife, Stella, died of some sort of lingering illness. (Seeing this flashback also got us another Bard song.)
In the middle of the night, Bartz left the others to visit his mother’s grave, and Faris tailed after him, hearing the story of how Bartz went travelling with his father for three years after his mother’s death, before Dorgann died of an illness himself. Bartz added his father’s name to his mother’s tombstone and Faris mused about what it would have been like to have a father, which proved rather apt considering what scene we were about to see, and the fact that we were probably supposed to have, ah… seen it ages ago.
See, the last place we visited during our trip with the Black Chocobo was Lenna’s hometown of Tycoon, which had cut off from the rest of the map by the initial meteor. A quick check of the wiki and the playthroughs I’m using for screenshots confirm that yes, we could have gotten back with the Wind Drake during our first play session. The scene and items located there showed their age in terms of the rest of the game so far. At the castle, we were greeted by the chancellor, who gushed over Lenna and tried to coax her to stay, though she of course refused. Thankfully, he gave us a blank check to raid the place, not that there was much to find.
We also stayed the night, triggering an event between Lenna and Faris that seemed long overdue. Lenna confronted Faris about her necklace (hey, remember that?) and concluded that she had to be her long-last sister, Sarisa. Faris eventually admitted it, and we came to learn that she had fallen into the water as a child while under King Tycoon’s care, presumably while flying the Wind Drake. Father of the Year award. Faris and Lenna agreed to keep Faris’ identity secret to avoid giving the Chancellor a heart attack, and we later returned to Tycoon and got a second scene expanding on Faris’ history. It’s not clear what triggers this second scene (we saw it towards the end of our session, but since we were late on the first scene, who knows when we could have gotten the second). This scene starts off after speaking to Sarisa’s old maid, who triggers a memory in Faris of ditching her studies to babysit her little sister, Lenna, and we learn the two of them used to be good friends. Lenna and Faris seem much closer after these two events, but since these scenes were entirely optional it’s possible that’s just good character development (at least, I think the scenes are optional. These elements do come up later during mandatory sections of the plot, and it would be very strange if they started talking about them without context…).
That completed, Kyle and I returned to the world map, where we made an incredibly unpleasant discovery. Oh yes: It finally happened. After so many games of picking up a new form of transportation and going in every direction but the correct one… we realized we had forgotten what the correct direction even was.
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.