Early on in this session, we located Castle Surgate to give them the bad news about their king, and how he had willed all his portable possessions to us. This included no less than 5000 gil in a single chest! We also had to do a book puzzle to get everything, but no big deal.
Our next mission at this point in the game was to use “our” submarine (our tomb robbing continues) to locate a sage named Ghido, who had been mentioned several times up to this point, though I hadn’t mentioned him in these Journals. Ghido is another of FFV’s characters who gave their name to the name randomizer in FFI, Ghido ending up on the Red Mage job. It’s clever, because the Red Mage is the predecessor to the Sage job from FFIII, get it?
The trouble was: Ghido’s island sank into the waves ages ago, so the submarine would be critical. Krile assured us that Ghido was still alive (she was just magic that way), so off we went. On our way to Ghido, we discovered an underground cave we could use to visit another location being haunted by the Catoblepas summon. After gathering that, we also found a chocobo forest, where there were no ridable chocobos, only a female chocobo, and Bartz said that riding female chocobos was a no-no. I’m sure he knows more about chocobos than me, but… why, specifically?
During this section, I believe we also went to the optional Gil Cave dungeon (if not now, then earlier), where you could find cash strewn about the ground, but only if you were willing to risk a fight with the dangerous Gil Turtle. I can’t remember if we ever managed to kill the thing, but it was an absolute monster and I don’t believe we pulled it off.
I said earlier that Kyle’s grinding had broke our original plans, and this was absolutely true. He had trained the party far beyond what either of us had expected while we were making the plans in the previous entry. This was the state of the party when we returned from our last session:
Bartz: Monk 4, Thief 5, Ninja 5 (Maxed), Black Mage 7 (Maxed). We aimed to finish Bartz’ Monk and Thief training so that he could become our primary end-game attacker with high attack and speed. He may have also become our Blue Mage simply because we had no better place to put the skill, or at least, that’s what we were thinking at the time.
Lenna was Monk 7 (maxed), Mystic Knight 6, and White Mage 7 (Maxed). We would finish her Mystic Knight training simply because she was so close (we realized it wouldn’t benefit her much), and then she would become our primary White Mage more often than not. We planned on turning her into a Freelancer almost immediately, as there didn’t seem to be much sense in piddling around just for the sake of it.
Galuf had Knight 6 (Maxed), Berzerker 1, Time Mage 7 (Maxed) and Geomancer 3 (Maxed). We were going to train him in Bard of all things, a rather esoteric plan that didn’t really pan out. We considered giving him Dragoon or Blue Mage as well, simply because that sounded so stupid, but we were really running out of options thanks to Kyle’s grinding. I don’t really remember what we did with Galuf immediately, so you’ll have to wait and see just how he ended up at the end of the game!
Last of all Faris, with the widest spread of all. Faris had Samurai 5 (Maxed), Black Mage 4, Summoner 6 (Maxed), Blue Mage 3 and Red Mage 2. Kyle had been trying to get Dualcast, and it seemed a shame to waste his effort. We weren’t even disappointed by the Red Mage, since it turns out Raise is a Level 3 White spell in this game, meaning she found plenty of use after all! We also considered training her in Dragoon to get Lancet, so that she could fuel her costly, Dualcasted Summons, but it would be a lot of work even though the rest of the party were essentially resting on their laurels!
These plans did not exactly survive contact with the enemy either…
Ghido’s cave proper was full of hidden tunnels, making Kyle’s seemingly unnecessary Thief training for Bartz suddenly the talk of the town, since one of the Thief abilities reveals hidden passages! Also present in the dungeon were enemies called Metamorphs, who could transform into Summons! In a moment of divine comedy, Kyle somehow killed a fake Ramuh with a Thunder Blade, as it turned out they don’t have strengths and weaknesses! Another element in the dungeon was an odd, Zelda-like puzzle where we had to carry a rock from one chest to another to depress a hidden switch. Not exactly exhilarating, but it’s funny to think that that kind of rudimentary inventory puzzle just doesn’t show up in other RPGs, besides Lufia?
Later in the dungeon, we encountered a turtle, and Bartz’s very first impulse was to ride the poor thing across the water. The turtle ran away, only to appear in another part of the room. Bartz then began… punching it in the head. Sprite animation from this era may not have been quite as capable as retro gaming fans like me want to remember.
But it turned out the turtle was no less than the great Sage Ghido himself! Someone probably should have mentioned to us that he was a turtle, but this seemed to be news to Galuf as well, so what do I know?
Thankfully, Ghido seemed to know some of Exdeath’s plan. He informed us that Exdeath was trying to go to the Forest of Moore, where he was “born.” He explained that Exdeath isn’t actually a mortal creature at all. It seems that the Forest of Moore was an intelligent forest that had housed a tree used to seal away evil spirits and monsters, until the spirits eventually became so concentrated that they came together as one entity, Exdeath. He was now looking for something in the place of his birth, and since they’ve already got one archevil tree, I’m sure we didn’t want to chance them finding another! Ghido gave us a special branch to get past the sentient trees (I’m reminded of a plot element in Enix’s Soul Blazer, or FFV’s contemporary Final Fantasy Mystic Quest), and off we went.
The Forest of Moore was my play, and it was actually kind of obnoxious. The forest canopy often blocked your view in a show of “graphical prowess” over functionality, and it made everything look the same and navigation a problem. After what was essentially just a slog, we got to a point where the game revealed Exdeath’s location: he hadn’t yet even arrived in the forest! He also had no plans on how to get past its sentient trees. He was just going to firebomb the entire place! The party hid in another of infinite holes that seem to dot Galuf’s planet, and came out to find the forest ravaged. There’s a mean little trick here where you can let an Aegis Shield burn in the forest fire to get a Flame Shield, but we took it before that could happen.
Dark as it is to say, but the burned down forest was much improved as dungeons go! It was a lot easier to tell everything apart, and hey, no canopy! At the end of the dungeon, we came to the Guardian Tree, where our magic branch allowed us entry. Inside, we found four Crystals, which attacked us. Each were elementally aligned. Given their behaviour and elemental alignments, Kyle and I presumed that these were not actually Crystals per se, but four Elemental Fiends being bound to the Crystals! We weren’t that far off the mark.
The Crystals were powerful bosses, especially since we could only use a few group attacks to defeat them. I remember the fight being a serious panic, but unfortunately my notes don’t go into any details, which is a damn shame. Lessons learned.
Unfortunately, all we had done was help Exdeath along, by destroying the “seals.” He enters, and reveals that the Crystals were hiding… Crystals!
Okay, let me correct myself: the crystals we’ve been fighting were lower-case ‘c’ “crystals,” which were hiding upper-case ‘C’ “Crystals” inside of them, i.e. the four elemental Crystals of Galuf’s world. I don’t think Square quite realized that we weren’t going to draw that fine a line between the two concepts – after all, FFIV had like, three hundred Crystals  and we didn’t really consider that any might have been “different.”
Exdeath used the Crystals to attack us, prompting a psychic reaction from Krile half the world away. Or… not. She rushed to us on her Wind Drake, but it would be a hell of a journey to complete in only those few seconds, so we must have been seeing a flashback, as she arrived on scene only moments later. That or Final Fantasy is experience yet another of its many, many, many moments of compressed time. Wait, don’t tell me, Krile: you spent the entire trip here learning Lufenian! Krile arrived and attacked Exdeath, only for him to fling her around the room in a globe of fire. Not exactly having a glory day for the good guys.
But Galuf got back up on his feet, enraged by the treatment of his granddaughter. Exdeath warned him that if he continued to resist his magic, the Crystal imprisoning him would shatter, with all the usual consequences. Galuf didn’t care. He pushed through the Crystal’s power, and then knocked Krile out of the fire globe, seemingly absorbing its power into him (or simply enduring the flames until they were gone, interpret as you will). He then engaged Exdeath in single combat, despite being dropped to 0 HP in the first round. Galuf, powered by determination and love, could not be stopped.
Dramatic as this was, it was a less than ideal battle on our side. Galuf was in some absolutely useless class at the time (Bard, I believe) and could barely deal any damage, even with our best magic cast over and over again. The fight took forever as a consequence, but Galuf did what needed to be done in time, and knocked Exdeath out. However, the Crystals were now loyal to him, and the surviving three went to him and seemingly teleported him away. Or at least that’s my best guess in hindsight. Kyle was asking: “Did he disintegrate after taking fifty Thundagas to the face?”
Unfortunately, Galuf was dying. He charged the other party members – including Krile – to defeat Exdeath, echoing the words of Xezat and probably realizing he was never destined to reach the end of this new story. He passed on despite their attempts at magical remedies (please keep this in mind during future, infamous death scenes). Krile, mortified, threw herself nominally on Galuf’s body, but it seemed that he had faded away in reality just like he had in video game appearance! “Don’t lie on his evaporated body, Krile,” I said, “it raises too many metaphysical questions.” “Ssh!” said Kyle. “She’s absorbing his job levels! …I mean, how terrible!”
Yeah, we’re kind of awful. This scene was actually quite lovely and sad. FFV has a way with drama for a game I once heard described as “the silly Final Fantasy game.” Ridiculous. After FFIV wasted almost half its deaths in preposterous circumstances, I’m happy to say that FFV finally had something worthy of a few tears.
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.