Unfortunately, with Exdeath dead (“dead”), the remaining three Crystals shattered. After a lot of shaking and a blinding red light, the cast awoke in front of… Castle Tycoon? The party doesn’t seem nearly as surprised by this as they should.
Inside, and with no archvillain to distract us, the Chancellor rushed at the chance to make a public announcement that Lenna and “Sarisa” were back and Tycoon’s line was secure (let’s not raise questions about who would become queen with Faris technically the older child!). The Chancellor got Faris all gussied up in a dress and threw a royal ball to celebrate. Sir, I don’t want to be rude, but the last time we held a ball in this franchise, a former party member tried to take over the world, and both Satan and God were overthrown in their own domains. I think it’s probably for the best if our player characters never dance again, for the rest of the franchise.
After a time, Krile started to look uncomfortable, and to our surprise, Bartz noticed (sorry, it’s just that after Luneth, Cecil and Sumo, we’re just not used to our party “leaders” being sensitive to the moods of the others). Krile said she was anxious sitting around, and Bartz decided that if Lenna and Faris weren’t going to be able to come with them, they would go off on their own to find out how they got there.
In exploring the castle, we talked to someone who mentioned that thousands of years ago, the skies were “rent asunder,” musing about some sort of atmospheric phenomenon going on outside at that very moment. Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to investigate the sky, so Bartz decided to guilt Krile into leaving the party to check up on Boco. Krile doesn’t believe that Bartz used to be an expert chocobo rider, and he fucking smacks her, and in response she nutsacks him. Geeze FFV, I don’t even know how to address that.
Reuniting with Boco, we learned that the pirates have still not eaten him, and that he was now married to a chocobo named Koko, who was pregnant. Hey, these are some smart pirates! Instead of getting some drumsticks, they get to have eggs! Boco agreed to go with Bartz for the time being, and he and Krile slipped into the hammerspace saddle on Boko’s back. They used him to cross a few streams, which is apparently something FFV’s chocobos can do.
Together, they head along the world map, heading to that town where Faris got drunk earlier (while watching part of Valis77’s longplay of the GBA version, I was reminded that this was the town where you can visit the tutorial experts. This might seem redundant so late in the game, but they also talk about all the jobs you have now, so it could be a good place to revisit!). The world map had changed dramatically. One of the most notable changes was the presence of what looked like the Big Bridge to Exdeath’s castle from Galuf’s world, now connected to essentially nothing. Hm…
Continuing down the only road available, Boco was soon caught in an Antlion trap. Luckily, after a short-handed battle, we were rescued by Faris, who had given up on princessing. Around this time, Krile complained about a splinter, which I’m sure is absolutely harmless in every way. Together, we journeyed further down the road until encountering a cave, where we found none other than Sage Ghido. Above water this time.
Ghido explained what we had already guessed: the two worlds had been merged by Exdeath’s actions with the Crystals. He explained that a powerful evil, Enuo, once existed who could control “the Void.” Some heroes of the past defeated Enuo with the now-Sealed Weapons of Kuza Castle, and then went on a pretty drastic solution to dealing with the Void itself. Correct me if I’m wrong with the details here because this is pretty needlessly complicated. The heroes sealed the Void inside the “Interdimensional Rift,” a quasi-dimension. This was where Gilgamesh had been sent after our last encounter. They then split up the Crystals of the world, causing it to split into the two worlds of FFV. Now that the Crystals had been destroyed, the world had amalgamated, and the Void would begin breaking free.
The Void wasn’t the only one. Surprise: a character only mentions a minor physical complaint if it’s really a major plot point! Krile’s sliver from before was actually Exdeath (you’ll recall that Exdeath is an Ex-tree), and he directed the Void to consume Castle Tycoon, leaving nothing but a hole in space where they used to be, and seemingly killing Lenna. Sure game. The party was apparently unable to fight Exdeath off while short a party member, but they were only rescued by Ghido. One truly awful Ninja Turtles joke later, Exdeath gave up on killing us and simply threw us out of his way. But he made a mistake: he had dumped us right at the foot of the Library of the Ancients, where Ghido felt we could find a sealed book that could tell us how to kill Exdeath for good. As it happened, there were two halves to the book, one in the Library and one in Castle Surgate on Galuf and Krile’s world. I’m not sure if it was possible to have spotted the Ancient’s Library half of the book prior to this as a bit of foreshadowing, but I made a note about us having found the one in Surgate during a previous session!
With the two halves united, Ghido opened the weirdest secret passage in video game history: an entire support pillar and staircase raised up to reveal… a table. In a room full of tables. He then told us his plan: to use the information in the sealed tome to release the weapons that killed Enuo. Unfortunately, a game doesn’t hand you twelve end-game weapons all in one haul. But it will, apparently, do three…
The book outlined where to find four stone tablets that could each unlock three sealed weapons of your choice at Kuza. It gave us a handful of hints to find them, because if you haven’t worked it out already, this is largely an optional quest. You only need to find the first (and only currently available) tablet to progress the storyline, so it’s up to you how many more ultimate weapons you really need to support a party of four. Erm… three at the moment. The book (which was actually speaking to us, by the way) seemed to realize it was at the front of a set of optional quests, so it outlined a bunch more. Apparently after unlocking the weapons, we could also unlock some ultimate spells and summons.
If you think about it, this is not really out of line with how the past few Final Fantasy games have been structured, nor FFVI for that matter (and for all I know it goes further): a bunch of optional dungeons just before the finale. The only difference is that FFV is outlining what’s up for grabs, even if it’s cutting a few corners to surprise you. I think I appreciate their being forthright, if only for the change in pace!
While we were in the library, we also located the last of the Bard songs, and a good thing too, because it can be permanently lost not much later in the game!
We set out, taking a quick stopover to buy basic restoratives, including enough Phoenix Downs to tar and feather a dragon. Ghido had directed us west, to that pyramid in the desert of shifting sands that I had complained about earlier. Along the way, we found that the living forest and Guardian Tree from Krile’s world was regrowing en-route. Yaaay! In the mountains, where its growth would no doubt be stunted and inadequate for magical needs that concern the fate of the world! Yaaaayyyyyyyy!
Also, the sands of the shifting sand desert had stopped shifting. Bartz started outright hopping up and down. Yaaaay! It’s not a gimmick dungeon anymore! It’s just boring!
We were now able to reach the pyramid, which as my notes put it was “full of snakes, trapped chests, and little Omegas.” You might remember Omega from TAY – this super-robot got introduced in FFV, but before you reach it, you’re going to be fighting smaller versions and prototypes, like the Mecha Head enemies found here (the “Prototype” enemy was available ages ago, but only in a small area, so we missed it). The snakes were a mix of traditional snakes and Lahmias. This was a rough time for our party. Everyone was in bad shape, we were short a party member, and and they kept getting locked down with status conditions. You’d think it would be easy to keep status conditions controlled with Faris stuck as a Red Mage with nothing better to do, but you’re overlooking the fact that Red Mage is complete trash in the late game. Since TAY, we’ve had an inside joke about teams that rely on one party member, calling them “Team Golbez,” after our disastrous, only-Golbez-matters True Moon party. Faris was the anti-Team Golbez.
The whole dungeon was really quite complicated, what with shifting sands, mummies guarding passageways (in a manner that Enix seems to have copied a year later in Illusion of Gaia), and most notable of all, a wandering midboss named Sekhmet. This minotaur was no real threat at all, though he did threaten us that his “brother” would kill us later. Apparently this wasn’t an immediate threat, as we saw neither sight nor sound of his brother at any point in the dungeon.
Instead, the boss was a pair of Gargoyles, the same boss which would guard any of the Sealed Tablets. The Gargoyles were all identical bosses, making this pair the worst, since we fought them the earliest in the game and were short one party member. While it’s possible to kill these things with Level 3 Flare, remember: we weren’t able to get the damn thing! This is important, because the Gargoyles must be killed in the same turn, or else they will all survive. Once you work out a way to do that, they’re not really that challenging one way or another.
Unlocking the tablet was not a silent process. The pyramid raised us to its upper levels, so that we could a vaguely dragon-shaped peninsula drop into the waters, only to transform into the dragon king, Bahamut. Covered in dead plants and animals that used to live on his back, I’m sure, gently precipitating to the ground below. He went off to a mountain to wait for us, and just then, our airship showed up for no reason – other than that real-world fact that we were stranded.
To get to the airship (which was currently just on the water, since it could transform like the first ship in FFIII), we had to pass by the Guardian Tree, where we were met by… well, one of the Wind Drakes, anyways. There was one in the first world and one in the second. This was presumably the former, as it dropped Lenna’s wounded body at our feet before leaving. Seems she got away, but not unscathed. Golbez had been to the Interdimensional Rift since we had seen him last, and he had freed some of the boss monsters being held prisoner there. Lenna had been possessed by the monster Melusine, who blew us apart. Rather than finish us off himself, Exdeath made productive use of his time to destroy the Library of the Ancients and Sage Ghido in the process (“a turtle infestation”). I think he’d have been better off killing us, but I can’t fault his plan B. If he had killed Cid and Mid, too, the game might as well have been over!
Luckily, we were rescued by Lenna’s Wind Drake, though it died in the process. Melusine was kicked out of Lenna’s body, and the party attacked her. Melusine’s greatest advantages in this battle were that, one: she could change her weaknesses and strengths like the Archeoaevis (except that she could do it on demand), and two: Lenna was still out of the party (besides her being unconscious, this makes sense from a mechanic perspective – you haven’t been able to adjust Lenna’s stats, equipment or job in ages, and it wouldn’t be all that fair to force you to babysit her). While Melusine can be near-instantly killed by a high-level Mystic Knight, our high level Mystic Knight was unconscious on the ground, forcing us to use conventional tactics.
Curiously, like Archeoaevis, Melusine changes her weaknesses by swapping between entirely different enemies in the data, which has led some players to discover a dummied form that isn’t used at all, and has entirely different stats!
Lenna joined the party at this point… unconscious. You know, I really admire the game’s willingness to use mechanics in telling its story, like when Lenna was poisoned, when Lenna was unconscious…… scratch that. Rewind.
You know, I really admire Lenna’s willingness to use mechanics in telling this story.
We revived Lenna, and headed to the airship. Now that we had the airship, it was well within our power to head to the end of the game, so it was time for the game to have just a few more cutscenes. Golbez used the power of the void to destroy more towns, though some of them were more than a little petty, like the Moogle Village (which in the merged world was already blocked off by mountains and unable to help or hurt anyone). Bartz’s hometown was among the victims. Some people even called out for Krile or Bartz as they were being pulled into the Void. I could understand Krile, since she was already in a leadership role, but I’m pretty sure Bartz’s hometown didn’t know anything about him or his mission? Bartz was so furious about this that he must have flown around the world about six times in the cinematic that followed. I guess that’s as well a way to express anger as anything but we were laughing at the poor guy a bit more than was probably fair.
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.