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?
I made a passing comment at the end of the last article that I think deserves to be unpacked a little bit, because it’s the basic problem that every single Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy V has been trying to solve. How do you allow characters to share abilities while still making all of the diverse classes available be worthwhile for something unique?
The reason this comes up is because of things like Beastmaster. As a class, Beastmaster is pretty awful. Its big tricks aren’t useful, it doesn’t provied more damage or healing than any other class, and the one thing it has in its favor is the ability to control an enemy. That sounds pretty screamingly useful, to boot… but then you realize that there’s no need to actually put that ability on a Beastmaster. Why would you not just grind for a little bit on Beastmaster, unlock Control, and then never touch it again?
Such is the plight of several jobs in the game. Such is, in fact, the plight of several jobs in every game, but this is the point where the struggles begin. In Final Fantasy III, there were a couple of classes you could get away with never using, but a majority of those jobs were useful somewhere even if you weren’t likely to use them from start to finish. In Final Fantasy V, even decent jobs pale compared to the jobs that combine nicely with other jobs.
So the protagonists of the game are currently not doing well at their stated goals. Two crystals encountered, two crystals destroyed. In their defense, the job wasn’t theirs until the wind crystal was already in bad shape and the water crystal sort of happened without their consent. Nevertheless, based on series history I’m sure that the other two crystals will wind up being just fine.
Well, they might.
All right, so it’s a foregone conclusion what’s going to happen from here. The important thing is to keep moving on despite that fact, after stopping to have a brief chat with the King to indulge in a round of the “We Told You So” dance. To his credit, he’s already realized that he probably should have listened to the group in the first place, not that it helps him a whole lot now. But Walse wasn’t the only kingdom amplifying its crystal with machinery, and the kingdom of Karnak seems poised to be the next victim of… whatever is going on now.
So Lenna is convinced that her father’s wind drake is on top of the nearby mountain, and the rest of the party agrees to go along with this because, well, they weren’t doing anything. Also there’s no other route to the water crystal than via the air at this point, so that’s a good motivator. The trek to North Mountain isn’t terribly interesting, with its very name making it pretty clear where you’re heading.
As with most dungeons that take place on mountains through the series, this is not a particularly interesting or ornate area, largely linear and without much in the way of hidden passages. What is interesting is that you’re probably moving along nicely with your character jobs by this point, unlocking some abilities to toss into your secondary slot and probably considering swapping jobs on some characters. This is actually reasonable, since later job levels take more and more ABP to learn, but later enemies reward more ABP for clearing a battle. If you haven’t been constantly swapping, as you move through this dungeon you’ll start picking up some real options.
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.