The Final Fantasy Project: Final Fantasy V, part 2

I don't expect it to last, but it'll be nice while it does.

Artwork from a sketch by Yoshitaka Amano

Once you have access to the jobs, the complexity of Final Fantasy V kind of explodes.  Not in a bad way, you’re not being smothered by stuff to do, but the overall change is pretty notable. You have a new swath of jobs to use, and suddenly you have to deal with an aspect of gameplay that has not been an issue in any previous installment of the franchise to date.

Previous installments of the franchise didn’t feature a lot of choice, or at least not much in the same sense of playing around with jobs.  Even Final Fantasy III barely cared which job you had been leveling with before; it was all about what you were doing now, after all.  Level as something that turned out to be useless and then change?  You don’t miss out on much.  But here, useless and useful jobs have an impact.  Leveling now has an impact on what you’re doing while leveling later.  Planning well means negating later grind.

Your first six options for jobs are Knight, Monk, White Mage, Black Mage, Blue Mage, and Thief.  Get used to that lineup, because whenever the developers of a spinoff need to come up with starting classes it’s basically “draw from Final Fantasy again” with rare exceptions.  All six are relatively useful, too, but their utility varies slightly.  I decided to go with two Knights, White Mage, and Black Mage; it’s a solid enough setup to at least get moving forward in the game.

Where we we?  Oh, right, we sort of botched our first day on the job by letting the Wind Crystal be blown to hell, although in our defense we hadn’t yet actually been hired.  Or whatever you call being delegated by the crystals.

Back to Tule to regroup, and Lenna introduces the group to Zok, who should have the key to unlock the Torna Canal but apparently managed to lose it.  At least he offers to let the crew crash at his pad for the night, which prompts a flashback from Bartz about his dad heading off to protect the crystals.  Zok then reveals to Bartz that he had the key all along, he had just been worried about Lenna.  Anticlimactic, but character-building.

Is there a bulk discount available or... no?  Okay.

Hey, dude, I head you were dealing plot coupons?

When the group goes to leave, Faris tells his pirates that they’re to remain behind.  They protest, but he insists, and they eventually acquiesce.  On the boat, Lenna explains what’s around the corner, the group reconfirms their dedication to not letting the world come to an end, standard franchise stuff.  You can also check in on Bartz’s bird if you’re so inclined.  He’s chilling with pirates.  Good times, great oldies.

Once at the canal, the ship runs into a whirlpool and the second real boss of the game, a nasty piece of work named Karlabos that’s basically some sort of hateful crab-scorpion-thing.  The group dispatches it, but Faris’ pet sea serpent Syldra is still overwhelmed by the currents.  She pushes the ship free, and Galuf and Bartz have to restrain Faris from jumping in to help… but even with the ship free of the whirlpool, there’s no way to steer the ship with the weakened wind.  They’re drifting.

After an undisclosed but non-trivial amount of time, the ship finally runs into something.  Unfortunately, that “something” is the Ship Graveyard, which sounds like what it is – a place full of wrecked ships, undead, water, and wreckage.  It’s also the first real dungeon to put the group to the test, and it’s odd noting how several elements of Final Fantasy XIV‘s battle system have been removed or trimmed away.

Charge times, for example, are gone – actions fire instantly, which is better in most ways but also removes a tactical element of the prior game.  Enemy actions seem to come later, heals are more potent, and in general the battles feel faster and more non-lethal for the party.  It might be a result of adaptation decay, but the actual mechanics of the game feel far more forgiving than the previous game.

At around the midpoint, the group realizes that Faris is actually a woman, in what could be considered a remarkable bit of casting if it weren’t mostly just an excuse to say that she was hiding her true gender.  It’s also implied that she’s absolutely gorgeous without the pretense, which is… yeah.  This is apparently a thing for JRPGs that seems to mostly irritate people hopeful for actual representation, so let’s jut move on.

lol gurls

On the plus side, it’s the least gender-biased portrayal of a female character in the series to this point, so I suppose I’ll take what I get.

Accordingly, after a bit more moving on through the graveyard, the group gets accosted by Siren, who fails to entrance Galuf largely because he’s amnesiac and can’t remember the people who once mattered to him.  She’s built around a gimmick of swapping between undead and living states, with different strategies for each, but she’s not too hard as a whole.  The group thanks Galuf for saving their collective lives, Galuf shrugs it off, and everyone emerges onto dry land once again with a need for water, food, shelter, and presumably some form of stiff intoxicating beverage.

Fortunately, it’s not far from the graveyard to the town of Carwen, using the usual series trick of not giving you more than one potential place to go.  Apparently, the group wound up somewhat off-course, with Walse to the south of Carwen… and unreachable by land or by sea.  They could have made the trek of Syldra were still around, and there are rumors that a wind drake landed atop the nearby mountain.  Perhaps it’s time to go for an unorthodox solution.

I’m still liking the game quite a bit more than its predecessor, partly because it just feels more alive.  Part of that may have to do with a different translation team, but I think it’s also that the group of characters is able to have distinct personalities and has time to grow into them rather than being shuffled around as the plot demands.  The battle system feels a bit trimmed down, but the actual boss fights feel a bit more mechanical, which is a good thing.  Onward, to a mountain!  Because I have literally no other places to go.  It is very obvious.

About expostninja

I've been playing video games and MMOs for years, I read a great deal of design articles, and I work for a news site. This, of course, means that I want to spend more time talking about them. I am not a ninja.

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