The Final Fantasy Project: Final Fantasy V, part 6

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

Artwork from a sketch by Yoshitaka Amano

The party has a boat again, which is a good thing.  It’s impossible to imagine that the fate which befell the last boat will also befall this one, due in no small part to the fact that this boat is not being pulled along by a sea serpent.  With this boat, we can hopefully prevent the last crystal from shattering, which would both be the first successful effort that the group had made thus far and also be kind of a failure anyway.

I mean, we’re down to saving a quarter of the world-preserving crystals here, somehow I don’t think the one still working will make the other three better.

Still, no point in not trying, right?  Off we go, and to the great surprise of absolutely no one, there are only a handful of locations to go to that we haven’t already visited, thus making the process of locating the Earth Crystal chiefly a matter of finding which one has something relevant to do there.  At least it’s consistent?

The town of Jachol – which I am incapable of pronouncing in my head as anything other than “Jackhole” – is pretty much a non-starter, with a whole bunch of people talking about the cave to the north to no real effect.  Buy some crap, head up there, whoopee.  The cave itself is mostly notable for having a few treasures and enemies that like to hand out more ABP than is normal for this part of the game; it’s all skippable, really, but it’s a nice power boost.

Nut eaters.  Heh.

Oh, this feels like a reference to something.

Istory is our next stop, and wouldn’t you know it, this town is basically useless too; there’s a spell to earn here and a couple of items to get, along with some overpriced accessories.  On the plus side, the forests nearby have Ramuh wandering around, which I’m pretty sure was the source of Ramuh’s role in Final Fantasy XIV.  You pound on him for a while, he joins you, another summon, everything is wonderful and so forth.

That leaves one more new town to visit, the town of Crescent.  No sooner does the party walk into Crescent than an earthquake hits, which leaves the party unscathed… and also leaves the fire-powered ship to be dragged into a whirlpool beneath the ocean’s surface.

I guess it’s not really a game with the job system unless every vehicle you ride in gets destroyed five seconds after you get it.

Talking to people around the town, the general consensus is that it really sucks that your ship was destroyed, but tough titties.  However, a couple of people do mention trying to catch a black chocobo in the forest to the south.  Sure enough, there’s a birb living in the woods, and after catching up to the flying beast he… can’t fly.  There’s something lodged in his throat.  Specifically, two more crystal shards from Karnak, which you can dislodge with a little precision thwacking from Faris.

These jobs are Ranger and Bard.  Bard, as it does in every game in this franchise, sucks to an unusual degree.  Ranger, meanwhile, is the key to really breaking open the game’s combat system through abusing Spellblade, Dual Wield, and Barrage; you wind up with eight attacks in quick succession that have the powered effect of Flare, thanks to Dual Wield being an inherent ability for Freelancers once you master Ninja.  Sure, the attacks are each at half damage, but by the time you’re pulling off that combo on a regular you’re at or near the damage cap on a single strike, which makes the flurry pretty overwhelming.  Fun stuff.

I think I should fit in a digression about why this silliness meets my approval at some point.

Believe in the power of birb.

Black chocobos, of course, can also fly.  This particular black chocobo can fly over even more stuff than the wind drake, which makes mobility much easier and opens up a fair bit of the map for sidequesting.  It’s similar to the structure of Final Fantasy IV, obviously, but it feels far more organic and less limiting than the way that game was structured; I’m struggling to figure out exactly why, but I think part of it is just the fact that you have some control over who is in your party and wind up not getting crammed into situations wherein you completely re-evaluate combat strategies over and over.

As it stands, there’s not much on the map that we haven’t already seen, but it seems like we’ve had Bartz out for an awful long time; shall we bring him home?  Yes, you can visit Bartz’s old hometown, which doesn’t have much in the way of loot or anything but does feature several character cutscenes.  We get a sense of Bartz growing up, the origin of his fear of heights, and him mourning at his mother’s grave.

It’s character building, but in subtle ways, and without telling you about the characters so much as just showing how they interact.  Watching Faris and Bartz interact and deal with his departed father and mother – along with Faris mourning having no parents – feels small and organic in a way that the prior games never quite manage.  There’s space for these scenes to breathe here, and it makes the characters feel more realized.

You sit there in your heartache, etc.

When you were young.

Once that’s all said and done, the group is kind of lost as to where it should go next, which means you can wander around aimlessly for a while or skip ahead to just heading into the Library of the Ancients again.  Cid’s chilling there, like you do, and he seems unconcerned that you trashed his ship.  He and Mid also reveal that King Tycoon has apparently been found wandering into the Desert of Shifting Sands, which sounds reasonably ominous and unpleasant.  There’s a prominent tower in the middle of the desert, but no one can cross the flowing sands, so no one can be sure if it’s actually there or what.

Galuf is a little reluctant to approach a desert that can’t be crossed, until Faris goads him into it.  And the Earth Crystal is quietly forgotten, because the protagonists know that you always just follow the chain of sidequests until it leads you to story resolutions.  Onward, in a seemingly random direction!

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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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