Final Fantasy V – Narrative-Critical Fursuiting

Galuf follows up his backstory and speech by leading the party back to his original meteor, now with a door in its front. He explains that there is only enough power left in the meteor to power one transportation back. He and Krile would go, and he made it clear that Bartz, Faris and Lenna were to under absolutely no circumstances to follow. Like a pack of four year olds, the moment his back was turned by several astral units, the remaining party reneged. All they needed was a teleporter!

But first, it was time to look at the new job classes!  First off: the Dancer. We’ve already sort of seen Dancers in this Marathon with Calca and Brina the living dolls in TAY, and the skills originated here: Dancers inflict/grant randomized buffs an debuffs, while Bards get controllable ones. However, where TAY split dancer between two characters, one a buffer (Brina) and one a debuffer (Calca), FFV’s dances are all Calca: debuffs only, with one dance actually doing a super attack instead of a spell. Like with Calca and Brina, Dancer equipment tends to be exclusive items that were few and far between, though there were also a few that changed around the odds a certain dance would occur and made them a lot more appealing than the average axe or sword for anyone else. Dancers also have a Flirt attack that temporarily distracts an enemy, which I’m glad we didn’t see on the dead-eyed ceramic dolls. That’s all nice and good, but in the end we never so much as touched the class. Sorry for wasting your time.

We never used Chemists, either. Chemists were FFV’s original limited ammunition class, with a second such class added in the GBA remake. The chemists boosted the effect of normal items for free, had the power to Drink superbuff potions, and another power to consume items by Mixing them to create new ones. The Mix list included our much-missed X-Potions from FFIV (too bad you can’t store what you Mix for later), as well as buffs, debuffs, healing and damaging commands. On higher levels, Mix even unlocks a group Esuna and a group Revive ability. Certainly a job with good potential, but one never ended up caring for at any given moment. Unfortunately, it would seem many of the Chemist’s options were glitched into uselessness, even in the GBA version. It’s not clear to me if they were still glitched in the iOS version. Unfortunate.

Dragoons were back, with the limited armour selection of FFIII instead of the nearly-any armour selection from FFIV, which meant they didn’t have much up-to-date armour and were still having to rely on the Knight for defence! Since we were using so many back-line classes at this point in the game (3 of our 4 party members!), we weren’t ready to invest in an under-armoured member who would often be bounding away from the lines. The Dragoon had one notable improvement with the classes’ Lance skill (in later games called “Lancet”), which could drain both HP and MP from a target (more MP than even the Osmose spell, we found), but that wasn’t going to get us to change jobs prior to the finding some good Dragoon armour.

Last was the Samurai, a class of many skills, almost all of which we ignored in favour of its one passive ability to dodge 25% of attacks and good carry-over stats to Freelancer. Later in this session, we stuck Faris in the Samurai job when we came in need of a new front liner (unfortunately my poor notes prevent me from remembering why we made the change. Bartz was moved to Black Mage at one point after we realized Faris should not double up on Black Mage and Summoner, so Lenna became a Monk and Faris a Samurai at different times). Samurai are most famous for their Money Toss ability, something Kyle made excessive use of during some of our later sessions, while its other abilities went forgotten. The job’s abilities don’t even follow a role I can easily summarize, being based more on actual Samurai techniques and Samurai fiction than a specific gameplay theme: they had an instant kill attack, a disarm attack, a glitched stunning attack… all over the place.

Also, I should mention that while the official art and sprite art depict the Samurai in appropriate period armour, the iOS version has Faris and Lenna showing chainmail thongs that would make the Dancer blush. What’s odd is that the port doesn’t normally do that sort of thing, and even less to Faris, who wears pants even as a Dancer!

After having settled into… no new jobs… the team went to commiserate with Cid and Mid about how to go after Galuf. The academic twosome recommended we find more adamantine from the other meteors to power another transportator. Unfortunately, we now enter a sort of dark age in Marathon record-keeping: where most of this journal was written around two months after the original plays, everything from this point on was written two years too late, after I started this very blog. The FFV writeup was so delayed that I ended up writing the FFA and FFMQ journals in its absence, and suffice to say my memory of the events of FFV is very poor. Still, we must do with what we have, so let’s see what we can scrounge.

At this point, FFV opens up into a relatively open-ended quest wherein you track down the old meteors and scrounge them for their adamantine batteries (excusing the Tycoon meteor, as that had already been drained). Since I don’t remember exactly which meteors Kyle and I visited when, I’ll cover them in the order the meteors appeared in the early plot.

In Walse, our party was attacked by a swarm of Bomb recolours (“Purobolos”), which put us into a tight spot with the sheer power of their explosions, but were simply not that strong to begin with and only made themselves weaker with each bomb, leading to a pretty brief “boss fight” one way or another (Ed. it turns out they can cast Arise on their fellow Bombs, making them quite dangerous, but as far as I can remember this literally never happened!). Next, in Karnak, we found the summon Titan ready to attack us, of all things, who would have been easily undermined with Float if we hadn’t lost our only Time Mage! Dammit Galuf! Last, we headed to Krile’s meteor, which was now impacted in the desert that had once hidden the Ronka Ruins. We’re lucky the whole place isn’t buried in scrap. There, we fought a Manticore (a Chimera recolour), which, after Titan, we fought with full seriousness, and it certainly put up the best of the fights, as it’s the only one I remember being frustrated about! Apparently, Gravity would have worked on this monster, but I’m positive we never used the spell during the entire game. Not that we could have, because we had just lost our only Time Mage. You’d think they did this to us on purpose!

With that done, we gathered the adamantine, and that was apparently all we’d need to ready our portal. This is a critical point in any playthrough, as you really are about to go from one world to another, with no way back! As a result, there are some concessions to keep in mind before going, like the fact that it’ll be a while until you find certain items for sale, but most important is the fact that Shiva will be lost forever if you don’t retrieve her before leaving. Every other summon on the first world (like Ramuh) will become available again later, but Shiva slipped through the developers’ fingers!

Great job, team.

The party set up the portal in what I can only describe as “a small pit,” and all of them jumped in, arriving on… a dead-end island. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Actually I suppose I should feel grateful they didn’t end up in the middle of the ocean, or in outer space. The game spends the next stretch of time trying to bore you (no, really), as it’s waiting for you to use a Tent (dropped with frequency by the local monsters). During the night, the party is attacked by a later-game enemy called “Abductor,” who does exactly that, abducting Faris and Lenna and leaving Bartz to fight it solo. I believe we won the fight against the Abductor, but whoops! It drops a chest full of poison gas that knocked Bartz out anyways. The party wakes up in the jails of Exdeath’s very own castle. Wonder if that was just still standing around from his glory days, or if he’s just a very fast builder?

Lucky for the party, Galuf seems to have gotten wise to his friends’ arrival and capture, and he sneaks into the dungeon, leaving Krile in charge of an army guarding an elaborate bridge at Exdeath’s borders. With only Galuf at our disposal, we were forced to change his job to something more versatile, and so reverted to his earliest job, the Knight, since it was a fairly solid solo class and was already well-trained. It turned out Galuf wouldn’t be alone very long, and so our strategizing wasn’t quite as critical as we thought, but we were proud of ourselves nevertheless.

Without a doubt, the most serious (perhaps, only) obstacle in Galuf’s path was a new character, and this one’s a doozy. Appearance: Kabuki warrior. Name: Gilgamesh. One of the most prominent characters in the entire franchise. And in a franchise where titles rarely cross over, that is no small deal. I will remind you that we fought him in TAY, and I’ll point out that he also makes an appearance in the Soul of Chaos dungeons of New Style FFI, both times with a brief plot segment attached associating him with a weapon. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I feel it might be better to just let him… play out as we go rather than to explain him in a big clump.

Gilgamesh is… weird, though that’s not clear immediately. He’s one of Exdeath’s lackeys, armed with a naginata, and he bails from the fight with Galuf after only a few blows. Give him time. Quite a few guides remark on how, with the right abilities, you can actually defeat Gilgamesh here and win an Elixir, but it’s more of a trick than a strategy.

With Gilgamesh out of the way, Galuf frees the others and they escape through the front door (which raises some questions about Exdeath’s security, beyond his relying on Gilgamesh as a guard). But don’t worry, this isn’t going to be some deflated escape sequence. In fact, it’s about to become one of the most famous escape sequences in video game history: the Clash at the Big Bridge.

Known especially for its famous musical accompaniment, the Clash at the Big Bridge sees the party attempting to cross the bridge that borders Exdeath’s territory to the safety of Krile’s forces, all while monsters spill over the edges and Exdeath primes a barrier at his fortress that will kill the party if they’re caught in it. The battle isn’t actually timed, but the sequence is intense never-the-less, and is punctuated by a second, proper battle with Gilgamesh in the middle of the bridge. Gilgamesh uses a number of attacks that seem designed to imply he’s somehow multi-classed: he has Haste (Time Mage), Protect, Shell (White Mage), Aera (aka Aerora, a Blue Mage spell), Goblin Punch (Blue Mage), Jump (Dragoon) and coming in last as a “maybe,” Wind Slash (“Aero Strike” would become a Spellblade ability in later games for descendants of the Mystic Knight class, but was not available in FFV because Aero is a Blue spell and Mystic Knight makes use of Black and White spells). His appearance here has since made “Clash on the Big Bridge” Gilgamesh’s theme song, so thankfully the classic track wasn’t left behind in a game that was nearly forgotten outside of Japan!

The party does not technically make it to the safe side of the Big Bridge in the end, being tossed by the force field across the planet to another continent. Hey, what do you know! No fall damage! Checking the map, we discovered that Galuf and Krile’s world looked somewhat suspiciously like Bartz’s, but not enough to be some sort of alternate dimension…

One problem we’re seeing here, though it may not be immediately obvious, is FFV’s sudden interest in putting the party in unique situations, stranding them in one way or another. This kind of errant, game design fidgeting seems to be a natural response to the versatility of the job system. FFIII on the NES chose to go with puzzle-like challenges, but FFV doesn’t seem to know how to cope with the player’s freedom and is just trying to confuse them with left-field developments?  You also see this FFV-style of frittering around in Final Fantasy: The Four Heroes of Light, a game I’ve been playing behind the scenes for a solo Marathon. 4HoL was more prepared for these sorts of changes, building them into its structure (though I have a few words to say about certain other elements in 4HoL…) but in FFV they only feel like inconveniences.

The party eventually comes to a town (wow, good thing we landed at the dead end of a one-way path!), where we got an ominous free night at the inn. Bartz and Galuf chatted during the cutscene about the party teleporting over here, and it seems there were no hard feelings. Together, the party heads south to the castle of Kuza. This interesting place could also be very dangerous, home to the terrifying Kuza Beasts, Behemoth recolours. These enemies could instantly kill us, so Kyle, in his usual tenacity, set out to find a way to kill them, and won us a lot of EXP and APB by Controlling the Beast into sedation. This was never 100% certain, and we lost quite a bit of prizes by getting unlucky before we could save, but it was hardly all bad!

What on earth could these overpowered beasts be guarding? Their encounter rate was low enough that we figured out even before Kyle got to work grinding against them. It seems Kuza was housing twelve “Sealed Weapons” of great power, essentially one of every weapon class, used during a great war in the past that we’ll be hearing more about as the game goes on. Unfortunately for us, the weapons remained sealed for the time being, but we’d have loved to take a crack at them.

With no way to proceed at Kuza for the time being, we returned to the road and eventually entered a forest dungeon. There, we saw a Moogle stuck on a tree. It seemed Moogles were native to Galuf’s world and not the world we had come from, as only Galuf recognized the creature. Unfortunately, we startled the poor Moogle, and in running away, it fell into a water-logged cave, below. Some luck. Our party decided this was probably their fault, and decided to help out. This led to a short dungeon full of awful Underground Waterway flashbacks from FFIV and TAY. No, no! The octopus is coming, mommy! The octopus!

In spite of those flashbacks, we killed a bone dinosaur boss with a Phoenix Down, because not even FFIV memories would make us take an undead boss seriously. I guess we helped the Moogle out while we were at it, because it showed us the way to its hideout, which a location you had to remember, because he didn’t exactly lead you right to the door. So… we lost it. Yeup. We outright needed a map from the internet to proceed. Not our finest hour.

That’s the party in the middle. Having trouble telling individual Moogles apart? Us too – which made the section a lot more frustrating than it should have been.

It turns out our new friend had led us to Moogle Village, but either hadn’t informed the others or was having trouble doing it, as everyone ran from us. It was even hard to find the one we had spoken to before, since he was tucked away in a far corner, almost under a tree. Nice to see you too? He gave us some prizes, unable to communicate with us in any other way. Creepier was the “Moogle Suit” the party found in a nearby treehouse. This is a bit like finding a human skin suit in a human town… and then putting it on… to romance the owner’s neighbour, as it happened. In exchange for an Elf Cape that I pray was not made from actual Elves.

Talking with our friend again. he sent off a telepathic message to a Moogle living in the same castle as Krile, with the implication that all Moogles on the planet were psychically linked… making one wonder why he didn’t tell everyone in the village that we were no harm! Now that she knew where we were, Krile came to rescue us with her Wind Drake, as apparently they’re still around on this planet.

Prev: Final Fantasy V – The Death of Captain Planet
Next: Final Fantasy V – Respect for the Dead

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.

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