<–Final Fantasy IV Review Final Fantasy VI Review–>
This is the part of a long-term project to play and review/analyze all the Final Fantasy games. Whenever possible, I will play the original version, but in cases where it’s not available and/or there are time constraints, I’ll use a port and/or watch a Let’s Play, both of which contingencies will be indicated in the review. Ideally, I will attempt to play a portion so that I can remark more accurately on the gameplay experience. These will be long-form reviews with detailed plot analyses, so please be wary if you do not want spoilers.
I started my Final Fantasy journey in the 80’s with the legitimate sixth installment Final Fantasy VI, and though I did eventually go back to play Final Fantasy IV (which is now in my top 5 FF games), somehow or another I missed V. While IV is known for being the first Final Fantasy to have a cohesive and intricate story, it had a static job system with only one character changing per the demands of the plot. Final Fantasy V allows the player complete control over what jobs their characters have even more than Final Fantasy III, which required a certain amount of points to alter. This was a huge advantage and helped distinguish FFV from its predecessors.
Final Fantasy V, like the original Final Fantasy III, was originally only released in Japan back in 1992. It’s since been ported to Sony’s PlayStation and Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance, and there’s even an OVA produced in 1994 called Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals that serves as a sequel to the game’s events. So take that Advent Children. You are not the first film video game sequel. Legend of the Crystals was released to the PlayStation Network on April 6, 2011 in Japan, but I’m certain some resourceful individuals could find a way to watch it in the states. An enhance port of FFV was released for iPhone, iPad and Android in 2013 and are available there still.
The game’s biggest claim to fame is its freedom of customization. While the characters have individual personalities, back stories, and motivations, the abilities they acquire are entirely up to the player through a greatly expanded Job System. For gamers who prefer to shape their own characters and might dislike the series for too much hand holding with that, Final Fantasy V might be the exception to their rule.
I did not finish my play-through of the game, but wound up watching a Let’s Play so that I could at least talk about it. I’ll discuss aspects of the Gameplay of course, but it would be intellectually dishonest to omit this fact. Time and energy were certainly factors, but there were others I’ll detail. On to the…
By now we’re all familiar with the Final Fantasy formula of top-down world map and turn based battle.
Final Fantasy V is no different. The enemy encounter rate fits perfectly between IV and VI, but unlike either its predecessor or follower, the game requires you to purchase magic similar to earlier series iterations. However, when you consider V’s Job System, this makes perfect sense. In IV where the jobs are static or story based, certain characters learn magic as they level up, and in VI everyone can eventually learn everything with the use of Espers. Since jobs are fluid in Final Fantasy V, it only makes sense they’d need to be obtained through shop purchases. The difference between this system and the earlier games is the spells don’t cost nearly as much, and you don’t have to spend hours grinding in order to afford either magic or weapons. I recall doing some before the Fire Ship, but it took me less than an hour.
So let’s talk about that Job System. The first time you have access to it is at the Wind Shrine, and there is a bit of a tie in with the jobs and the story. Prior to this your characters are considered Freelancers. The power of ancient warriors live within crystal shards, so when the big ones shatter, it allows them to access these abilities (I’ll have more to say about this later in the Story section).
The initial jobs are Knight, Monk, Blue Mage, Thief, Black Mage, and White Mage, which (with the replacement of the Red Mage with the Blue) is similar to the choice in the original Final Fantasy. Knights are fighters; Monks are martial artists; Thieves are…thieves, but they also have the ability to sprint (no need for Sprint Shoes!) and see hidden passages. Blue Mages can learn the magic of other creatures so long as the attack is used on them; Black and White Mages use black and white magic respectively.
You can pick any of your four characters to take any job. I followed a particular guide so made Lenna (or Reina) a Black Mage, Galuf a White Mage, Bartz a Knight, and Faris a Blue Mage, It was nice to finally to not be coerced into having a female White Mage (though technically the WM in the first Final Fantasy is supposed to be male), and it’s a shame there’s no other FF with static jobs that does that. As you fight with your jobs in place, you’ll gain AP points and when you’ve earned enough, you’ll learn that job’s abilities. This is extremely valuable, because even if you switch jobs, you can give that character the ability they learned with the prior one. For example once Lenna learns the first level of Black Magic spells, I could make her a Time Mage and put Black Magic on so she’d have the ability to use both Black and Time Magic. This means you can customize your characters in various different ways. As the game continues (and more crystals shatter), you pick up more shards and jobs for a total of 25 in all (for the Mobile and Steam versions).
Final Fantasy IV was the first game to have Active Time Battle (ATB), and FFV was the first game to show it.
This made it much easier to see and therefore plan for each character’s turn. With IV you pretty much learned who’d follow who based on character speed, but it’s much easier when you can see it. Another difference between V and IV is the party size: it’s back down to four, though, since V has a lower difficulty than IV, this isn’t a disadvantage. You keep the same characters through nearly the entirety of the game, though there are some exchanges due to story aspect just like in IV. There’s no airship to stash excess people like there is in VI, which would need such due to its abundance of characters. V does have above ground transportation in the form of wind drakes or hiryu that you can use quite early in.
Hiryu means “flying dragon,” so I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be the wind drake’s name or an alternative moniker for their species. Lenna seems to use it as the former, but either way it’s a nice Bilingual Bonus.
The wind drake can fly over everything accept mountains; you need a black chocobo in to accomplish that. There’s a very important yellow chocobo whom one of the characters begins the game with, but we’ll cover him and other points in…
Like the games before it, Final Fantasy V’s plot centers around the four crystals of Wind, Fire, Water, and Earth, which keep the planet in balance. On a day when the wind is slow and stale, King Alexander Highwind Tycoon travels to the Wind Shrine on Hiryu, the wind drake, to ensure the Wind Crystal is safe and quell his daughter’s, Princess Lenna’s, fears. However, upon his arrival, the king sees the crystal shatter right before his eyes.
Meanwhile, a young man named Bartz and his chocobo Boco witness a meteorite strike the planet’s surface right outside of Tycoon castle, so there’s meteor shenanigans in the beginning of the story instead of impending doom at the end (these are also benevolent meteors as we’ll see later). When Bartz goes to investigate, he discovers an unconscious Princess Lenna.
It’s a nice switch up to have a chocobo from the get go when the other games make you go through some growing pains before you obtain one. It makes sense for Bartz to have a mount though, since he’s a bit of a vagabond, and they can’t always rely on their feet.
After rescuing her, they then discover an old man named Galuf who has partial amnesia, because Final Fantasy loves its amnesiac trope (I initially thought I could give Final Fantasy IV a pass, but then I remembered Tellah).
Lenna, who is not eight despite how much smaller her sprite is than the others, explains she was headed to the Wind Shrine to check on her father who hasn’t yet returned, and Galuf suddenly recalls that that was his destination as well (though he’s unsure why). He decides to accompany her with Bartz going his separate way, proclaiming “The wind is calling me,” as he explains his father’s dying wish was for his son to see the world. However, since Galuf and Lenna are heading towards the Wind Shrine, it’s pretty obvious that Bartz will wind up there soon, too. The adventurer soon finds them in trouble again from a monster assault. He decides to stick around, and the trio find all land routes blocked due to meteorite induced earthquakes. Taking to the underground, they discover a pirates den and, after being capture, managed to talk their captain Faris into ferrying them to the Wind Shrine on ship pulled by Syldra the hydra.
Side note: I was pronouncing Galuf’s name to rhyme with “galoot,” a term for a preposterous but good-natured person, and indeed Galuf comes off as the jolly, old man type with characteristics similar to FFIV’s Cid and FFVI’s Sabin. The Let’s Player I watched said it like “GAL-if” so it has a close rhyme with “Alice,” so I’ve been thinking that in my head since. I prefer my pronunciation since I’d think the “u” would make a long “o” sound. It’s probably something I should check. Apropos of pronunciation, I tried to give Faris a “pirate” accent (which…only exists in fiction despite there being a Talk Like a Pirate Day), but it wound up sounding more Irish (or as close to an Irish accent as my American tongue can get).
They discover the shattered Wind Crystal, but there’s no sign of the missing monarch. The shards react to their presence, though, and an image of King Tycoon appears charging the group to protect the Crystals that remain. This is the moment when the power of the Crystal shards are made available, granting Bartz and co the power to change their job classes to aid them on their quest. The shards also endow each of them with one of the four elements: courage and fire for Faris, devotion and water for Lenna, hope and earth for Galuf, and wind and passion for Bartz. Tycoon names them the Warriors of of Light, providing the throwback for that reference, especially since the first four jobs are the original classes from the first Final Fantasy. The elemental assignments are…a little odd, but I’ll discuss that more when I finish the summary.
Also, omg wow, Faris and Lenna have the same pendant and a similar hair color. I wonder what that could possibly mean???
The next nearest crystal is the Water one in Walse, and during their voyage there, Lenna explains the dire consequences should all the crystals be destroyed. The natural forces they’re connected to would cease and the planet would become uninhabitable. The lack of wind is already noticeable, and the only reason the party is able to travel is due to Syldra pulling Faris’ ship. Sadly, that arrangement doesn’t last for long. The ship is attacked by a monster, and though it’s defeated, it sucks the faithful hydra into a whirlpool leaving the party adrift and Faris devastated. Her and Syldra were “raised together like brothers,” which was said when the pirate captain was still perceived as a man. I was a little confused about that statement until I realized Faris being female was supposed to be a big secret, but it was spoiled for me a long time ago. I legitimately thought the big reveal would happen with the canal monster that only attacks women. Lenna and Faris would be targeted and the jig would be up. Squaresoft decided to avoid that obvious scenario, but the inn scene where Bartz and Galuf “check up” on “him” and come out smitten is hilarious. I kind of wish Faris had been trans, but there’s no way in hell that would’ve happened back when FFV came out.
They wind up in in the Ship Graveyard and, after crossing a flooded room, find a sanctuary where they can dry their clothes by the fire. Faris protests to undressing, but the others insist, and during the brief struggled its revealed the captain is a woman. Years ago she was lost at sea and found by pirates. For understandable reasons, she disguises her gender, though in game, she’ll only say she did it because pirates don’t take girls seriously. It is fairly hilarious how Galuf says he knew Faris was too pretty to be a man, which is the most Genre Blind statement to ever exist, though I suppose there are more pretty dudes after than before V (Cecil from FFIV being the only one prior…also maybe Kain).
When the group finally reaches the shore they are ensnared by Siren with visions of their loved ones. Bartz sees his mother Stella; Faris and Lenna are fixated by King Tycoon (a huge hint about who Faris really is), and a young girl appears before Galuf; however, the old man’s amnesia serves him well and saves them all in this regard. Since he has no memory of her, he’s able to knock his friends back to their senses so they can defeat the temptress.
In the town of Carwyn, the group hears rumors about a wind drake in the North Mountain, giving a clue to King Tycoon’s whereabouts. At the top they find Lenna’s wind drake Hiryu, but no sign of her father. When the Light Warriors return to Castle Tycoon, Lenna confronts Faris with the knowledge the pirate captain is actually her sister, but Faris denies this.
Their next destination is Walse where the Water Crystal resides. The king there is using an amplification machine on it, which while purifying the waters is weakening the crystal. Of course the king refuses to stop, since the machine provides Walse with both protection and prosperity. Before the Light Warriors can argue their case further, another meteorite crashes at Walse Tower, the very site of the crystal. Again Bartz and gang arrive too late to stop the crystal from shattering (though they do gain a second set of job classes, so yay?).
Afterwards the tower plunges into the sea almost taking the party with it, but they are rescued by Syldra who gives her life for theirs.
When they’re finally able to explore the Walse Meteorite, Bartz steps on a warp point and is whisked away. With nothing else to do, the rest of his companions follow, finding themselves at the Karnak Meteorite, and when they enter the town they’re arrested on suspicion of being in league with a werewolf who’d emerged from it before them. This is why the townspeople were afraid of “monsters” from the meteorite going after the Fire Crystal, and prior to the group’s seizure, they learn the Ancients from the Library warned Karnak to stop using the Fire Crystal, but their insistence only caused the queen to put up a wall between her kingdom and theirs.
Yeah… While in prison the Light Warriors meet Cid Previa, the inventor of the infamous crystal amplification machines.
He was jailed by Queen Karnak for trying to shut the device down after he realized the destruction it could cause, but his imprisonment is short lived after the Light Warriors’ arrival. The chancellor releases both Cid and them (at the engineer’s insistence) when his expertise is needed to shut down the very device he was jailed for trying to stop in the first place. They go to the Fire-Powered Ship to find Queen Karnak possessed. She summons (or becomes) a fiery monster, which the Light Warriors defeat. Afterwards, the werewolf from before joins the in the crystal chamber, revealing himself to be an ally who knows Galuf. Unfortunately, they’re still too late to save the Fire Crystal when a Karnakian soldier, who is also possessed, turns up the machine, which causes the crystal to shatter. The werewolf helps the party escape at the cost of his own life before the entirety of Karnak Castle explodes, leaving the Light Warriors to pick up three more shards from the wreckage.
Cid blames himself for the crystals’ destruction and decides to drown his sorrows in booze.
Meanwhile the Light Warriors venture to the Library of the Ancients to figure out their next move. There they meet Mid, Cid’s grandson, who rushes to Karnak to snap Cid out of his funk once he hears about it.
The sight of grandfather and grandson triggers something in Galuf, and he flashes back to a similar scene between him and the girl he saw in Siren’s manipulation. He realizes this is his granddaughter Krile, miraculously regains his memory, and tells his companions he’s from another world.
Thirty years ago, he and three other warriors (conveniently the same number of people he’s with now) sealed an evil warlock called Exdeath on this world using the power of the crystals. Now Exdeath is trying to break the seal against him and escape by shattering the crystals via possessing others to carry out the deed. This explains why normally docile animals are turning violent, and the queen of Karnak seemed possessed…because she was, as well as other strange happenings.
Cid and Mid repair the Fire-Powered Ship to allow it to operate without the Fire Crystal and give it to the Light Warriors to find the last remaining Earth Crystal, but the ship is unfortunately lost when they arrive at Crescent Island due to an earthquake. Luckily, the island is home to a flying black chocobo, enabling the party to cross the mountains where they make a stop at Lix, Bartz’s hometown. While there he reminisces abut the past, remembering his late mother Stella who died waiting for his explorer father Dorgann to come home.
Returning to the library, the Warriors find out from Cid and Mid that King Tycoon has been seen near the abandoned town of Gohn, but when they find him there, the king leads the party through a trapdoor into underground ruins. Here Faris calls him “Papa” for the first time, finally admitting she and Lenna are sisters. They all escape via a warp point, but it overloads when they use it almost killing the team in the explosion. The warp sends them to another set of underground ruins where they find the Fire-Powered Ship shortly before Cid and Mid fall through the ceiling. This works to everyone’s advantage though, as the two inventors then realize that the ruins were left by the Ancients (whom I’m also assuming built that library named after them). They conveniently find an airship right alongside the fire-powered one, which Cid fixes and gives to the party who are still resolved to save the last crystal.
Back in Gohn, the Light Warriors see the Ronka Ruins rise into the air due to an ancient amplification machine, which puts the Earth Crystal at risk. With an adamantite enhanced airship, the party is able to fly to the floating city where the find King Tycoon who orders them to defeat a monster, which unbeknownst to them at the time, is actually the Earth Crystal’s guardian. Once it’s slain the obviously possessed king prepares to attack them, but Faris and Lenna refuse to let Bartz and Galuf confront their father.
Another meteorite suddenly arrives bearing Krile, Galuf’s granddaughter, who breaks the spell on King Tycoon. Seeing her again completely cures Galuf’s amnesia and King Tycoon has a happy reunion with his daughter, especially Faris whom he thought long lost. Their joy is cut short when the Earth Crystal shatters, freeing Exdeath from his prison. He taunts Galuf for failing to keep him eternally contained and sets the crystal shards to attack the party before departing. King Tycoon sacrifices himself by drawing the shards’ attack. Once inert, they become another set of job classes for the party, but at what cost?
Faris and Lenna don’t even have time to mourn their father. With the Earth Crystal gone, the Ronka Ruins fall, forcing the party to flee, and with the last seal broken Exdeath is back in the world. Galuf, with memory restored, is now able to recount the story of how he and his three companions, the Dawn Warriors, fought Exdeath in the other world and this world, finally sealing him away here with the crystals. When he and the others learned Exdeath was attempting to free himself, they used the meteorites to try to stop him (I guess by transporting there?) but were too late. Galuf informs his current companions that he and Krile will return to their world to fight Exdeath and forbids them from following as it would be a one way trip.
Of course Bartz, Faris, and Lenna do so anyway. With Cid and Mid’s help, they collect more adamantite from meteorites in order to reactivate a warp point to the other world, which looks remarkably like their own. Before they can get their bearings, Bartz and crew are immediately captured by Exdeath’s servants and brought to his dungeon.
Meanwhile, Galuf and his army prepare to cross the Big Bridge and assault Exdeath’s castle by taking out the barrier wall, which, for you non-nerds (though honestly…why would a non-nerd be reading this?) is a reference to the barrier protecting the Death Star generated from the forest moon of Endor. This is one of the first examples of how Galuf’s World is more technologically advanced from the first one. Unfortunately for Galuf, Exdeath uses his captured friends as a bargaining chip, forcing him to retreat. Galuf then borrows his granddaughter’s wind drake in order to rescue his disobedient companions where they fight Exdeath’s infamous lackey Gilgamesh.
Afterwards, they escape across the bridge and confront Gilgamesh a second time. Before they can finish crossing, Exdeath activates his Barrier Towers, hurling the Light Warriors to the distant continent of Gloceana. Galuf isn’t upset Bartz and co. followed him, since his army would’ve been wiped out without their help. Eventually with the help of some moogles, they contact Krile at the Castle of Bal whose injured wind drake volunteers to pick them up.
Upon arriving at Bal, Bartz and the princesses find out that Galuf is actually a king, though he insists they don’t treat him any differently. Krile’s wind drake is dying from its exertions, and Lenna, a lover of the creatures, suggests dragon grass, which only grows in the dangerous Drakenvale. They pass through the werewolf town of Quelb on the way where they met with Kelger, one of the four Dawn Warriors and Galuf’s old companion. Kelger is suspicious of the party and insists Bartz best him in battle. He does so using a move his father Dorgann taught him and is stunned when Galuf and Kelger reveal Dorgann was one of the Dawn Warriors as well. He was the only one to protest leaving Exdeath where they did in Bartz’s world and so remained there to watch over the seal.
The group retrieves the dragon grass after dealing with some complications, and then go visit the Sage Ghido due to his psychic calls to Krile. Unfortunately, the instant they set foot outside of Ghido’s cave, Exdeath sinks it into the sea. Bummer. Back on the wind drake, they find and join King Xexat’s assault on one of the Barrier Towers. He’s another one of the Dawn Warriors, and the Light Warriors assist by infiltrating the tower with their submarine, climbing to the top in order to destroy the antenna. Meanwhile, Xexat mounts an attack on the generator room, blowing it up, though it costs him his life. The Light Warriors manage to escape, and the barrier falls.
With that out of the way, the party is able to use the submarine to reach Sage Ghido who turns out to be an ancient turtle. He sends them to the Forest of Moore to protect the crystals there, but once again Exdeath tricks them into destroying the crystals’ guardians. The warlock then turns the crystals’ magic onto the party. Krile flies to the forest and tries to stop him but is struck down. At the sight of his granddaughter in danger, Galuf uses all of his strength to fight both the crystals’ power and Exdeath. He manages to send the evil wizard packing, but like his Dawn Warrior comrades before him, it is the last act he performs. His friends try to heal him, but Galuf cannot be saved.
Using the power of the Guardian Tree of the forest, Galuf passes his powers onto Krile so she can take his place as one of the Light Warriors.
Four once more, the party infiltrates Castle Exdeath and the last Dawn Warrior Kelger gives his life to reveal its true form, an (appropriate) creepy looking forest, allowing them to fight their way to the top.
They find Gilgamesh again, but he only has the Excalipoor and poses no threat. Exdeath, unamused by his lackey’s failure, banishes him to the Interdimensional Rift. The party fights Exdeath again, and though he appears defeated, the warlock still shatters the remaining crystal.
The Light Warriors (conveniently) black out and (even more conveniently) awaken near Castle Tycoon, which throws a celebration for the return of Princesses Lenna and Sarisa, Faris’s original name. Bartz and Krile slip out to figure out how they were able to return to the first world, and they’re soon joined by Faris who very quickly tires of royal life. The trio learn from Ghido that once the two worlds were one but were split in order to seal the power of the Void created by the evil Enuo lest it be used for evil. Now the worlds are merged again, the Void’s power has been released to be used by Exdeath.
Enuo’s never seen in the game, but he was a deathless wizard who traded his immortality for control over the Void, wreaking havoc across the world with the power of nothingness.
Eventually, Enuo was defeated by the twelve Sealed Weapons and consumed by the very Void he’d unleashed. The Void itself was contained in the Interdimensional Rift, and the Crystals were split in two, causing the world to split as well and putting the Rift out of reach in the space between. This was done so that no evil could use the power of the Void again, but obviously that didn’t work out. Though he was consumed by the Void, Enuo’s essence lives on in the Sealed Temple within the Void itself (sounds mighty familiar…like it’s a common Final Fantasy trope or something).
One of the consequences of the sundering was Phantom Village or The Town that Time Forgot. Caught in the Interdimensional Rift, no time has passed here for the thousands of years the worlds were apart. It’s a sacrifice one to save a thousand situation, though I suppose some people would trade such an existence for immortality.
The Light Warriors must obtain the Sealed Weapons, a set of legendary twelve from a thousand years ago, to survive the Interdimensional Rift and destroy Exdeath. After they learn this, the warlock emerges from a splinter in Krile’s hand (no…really) and knocks them all out in what can only be a callback to Garland’s threat in the first Final Fantasy to “Knock you all down!” Exdeath then uses the Void to cast several locations into nothingness including Castle Tycoon…where Lenna was.
The party, though, soon reunites with Lenna after obtaining the first seal. Hiryu not only saved her from the Void but also sacrificed himself to help drive the demon Melusine from her body so the others could defeat her. Exdeath destroys a bunch more towns with the Void including Bartz’s hometown of Lix (of course). Eventually, the Warriors meet back up with Cid and Mid who upgrade their airship for undersea use, which allows them to travel all over the world unlocking the seals as they go. Faris’s old friend Syldra is one of the summons they find as well as Lenna’s faithful Hiryu reborn as the Phoenix. Faris had a brief reunion with her old friend before obtaining him as a summon. Syldra appeared as a ghost in the pirates’ old hideout. Krile can see the hydra, as well, probably because she, too, has had concourse with the dead. It’s like Harry Potter and Luna Lovegood with the thestrals.
I wouldn’t be shocked if Lenna could see the ghost as well, considering what we find out about her mother, and we need to talk about this. In Phoenix Tower, the princess has a flashback to when her mother was gravely ill. The only thing that could’ve cured her was a wind drake’s tongue. When Lenna learned this, she tried to cut out Hiryu’s, but Jenica, the maidservant stops her. If Lenna (or if the player makes her) insist, King Tycoon will come and backhand his daughter, scolding her for selfishness and preaching self-sacrifice. What…the actual…fuck. The Let’s Player I watched didn’t do this; he only said it would happen, but this is how you get the Phoenix summon.
When they’re prepared, the Light Warriors pilot the airship into the Interdimensional Rift that’s opened over Tycoon, fighting through a variety of environments pulled together from places the Void consumed until the final floors, a world of crystalline darkness (not that dissimilar to the Lunar Depths in FFIV). It is there that Exdeath reveals his true form: the Moore Tree. The Great Forest of Moore had once been used to seal evil spirits until one day the spirits sealed in a tree became a malicious and sentient being: Exdeath. He tries to destroy the Light Warriors with the Void, but the spirits of departed loved ones lend them aid. Galuf, Xexat, Dorgann, Kelger, and King Tycoon allow the party to confront Exdeath even though halfway through their final battle the warlock himself is consumed by the Void becoming Neo Exdeath.
It is manifestation of all of the evil spirits trapped in the Moore Tree that was Exdeath seeking to turn all creation into nothingness (of course). Obviously, the Light Warriors with the help of the spirits of Dawn and Tycoon defeat it.
For a short time the Void lingers, and the essences of the elements carried by the party: Hope, Courage, Devotion, and Passion, imbue the crystal shards they have, allowing the crystals to be reborn in the places that held the weapon seals. The Void existed before the world, and the crystals that sustain the planet were born in that darkness, creating the world. It is the original state of the universe, because the beginning is always dark, Once the Light Warriors learn this, they are thanked by the spirits that helped them, and Krile’s wind drake appears to take them home.
A year later Krile sends Mid a letter telling him what the Light Warriors have been up to. Bartz has resumed his wandering life; Lenna and Faris returned to Tycoon, though Lenna soon after cast her royal life aside to rejoin her pirate crew; and Krile herself returned to her grandfather’s castle in Bal. She visits the Guardian Tree on the anniversary of Galuf’s death, but is surprised by a visit from the others, which reminds her she need not mourn alone. Together they all vow to continue protecting the crystals.
Even before FFVII, Squeenix, or rather Squaresoft, had some environmental opinions. It’s much more subtle in V than it is in the later game, but it certainly could be inferred from the theme of responsibility, which runs rampant throughout the narrative.
Both Exdeath’s creation and failed containment could be seen as entirely humanity’s fault, especially the sealing. He was once the Moore Tree, which gained sentience due to the myriad of evil spirits sealed inside of it, essentially making him an evil Ent
or a demon tree like Ygg in A Song of Ice and Fire. While I have many theories about the similarities between Final Fantasy VII and ASOIAF, it took a video from Ideas of Ice and Fire about the weirwoods to make me realize the connection in FFV as well.
The evil spirits stored in the Moore Tree aren’t dissimilar to the people sacrificed in front of the weirwoods insofar as the end result is spirits going into a tree. The weirwoods are either sentient or have a sentience in them due to this blood magic, and Exdeath’s existence is due to humans storing spirits within the same type of already living vessel.
When this occurred, the Dawn Warriors of Galuf’s world used the power of the crystals to seal Exdeath in Bartz’s world, essentially foisting the problem they created onto someone else. It’s like the “A Big Piece of Garbage” episode of Futurama where the titular ball was launched into space in the 21st century (Dawn Warriors using the trees to store evil spirits) where it eventually comes back to threaten the 31st century (the Moore Tree becoming sentient/turning into Exdeath). At that point it was too deadly to deal with by conventional means so the Planet Express crew decide to launch another garbage ball to knock the original one off course (sealing Exdeath in Bartz’s world 30 years ago), figuring by the time it comes back, it’ll be someone else’s problem (the plot of Final Fantasy V).
The only one who took any responsibility for it was Dorgann who stayed in that world in order to watch over the seal. However, in focusing on this, he shirked the duties he had to his son Bartz and ailing wife Stella who eventually succumbed to her illness. Exdeath managed to break the seal anyway, destroying the crystals in the process and bringing death and destruction to two worlds.
This isn’t to say the Dawn Warriors didn’t attempt to remedy the situation, but it still illustrates a case of not taking care of the problem at the start, which causes it to grow too large to handle. In comparison to FFVII which could’ve been solved by expunging lies, Final Fantasy V could’ve forestalled much tragedy and death by dealing with their evil spirit problem in some other way.
This sadly mirrors many of our own world’s issues, as Final Fantasies are wont to do. The tree angle of course puts me into the mind of climate change, which isn’t too hard to compare to that growing garbage ball, since that seems to be what the Earth is turning into. The climate change comparison is even more apt when we consider peoples’ reactions to any suggestions they stop using/enhancing the Crystals. Cid was literally thrown in jail for attempting to turn off the Fire Crystal’s enhancement. All of these rulers were far more interested in the powers the Crystals could grant them now without any care for what might happen in the future…until it did. Once you give people more power, they want to hold onto it no matter the cost. From all reputable accounts, we are heading towards disaster by 2030, and yet there are people in power arguing over whether or not anthropogenic climate change even exists.
FFV has Final Fantasy’s signature “picking up the mantle” motif. The Dawn Warriors were succeeded by the Light Warriors with the older champions dying directly in service to their original cause. Krile literally replaces Galuf, her grandfather (who sacrifices himself to save her just like Tellah does for his daughter Anna in FFIV), as a member of the Light team. The only other familial parallel in that is Bartz to Dorgann, although it is later revealed that Faris and Lenna are sisters, so there’s still yet another family connection. The Dawn Warriors dying with at least three and arguably four (Dorgann) sacrificing themselves for the cause could be seen as them paying penance for the mistakes of the past, and the Light Warriors picking up the mantle of their forebears shows Square was very invested in such an idea even before Cloud became a “living legacy.” The old dying for the young, while tragic, is far better than the inverse since that would be stealing from the future (which is what we are doing to our rue).
Bartz is the same FF archetype as Locke, the wandering adventurer who’s swept up in something greater and proves his heroism (though Locke was a Returner from the start so already part of a rebel group, but semantics). Lenna is the innocent princess apropos of IX’s Garnet as well as other characters. Galuf is the amnesiac that Final Fantasy just loves, and Faris was a bit of a wildcard. She reminded me of Setzer (VI), and I believe they share an archetype, since Faris starts out as the rogue with a ship whose intentions are initially unclear. With her true identity uncovered and later with the discovery about Bartz’s father Dorgann, we find out the entire cast is royalty. Not only that, but since Dorgann is from another world, that makes Bartz another half “alien” protagonist like Cecil from IV, Terra from VI, and (thematically) Aeris from VII (ironically Aeris is more “Gaian” than any of the full human characters, since her people are literally the Ancients, but that’s for my VII review. I haven’t forgotten IX and Zidane, though he’s full “alien” if you think about it). This is another common Square motif. Speaking of which,when the meteors started falling in the beginning, I figured I’d found another commonality to the series, but I was impressed with the way they mixed it up. Instead of a destructive force, these meteors were used as a way to travel from one world to the other. Aliens that travel by meteor used by the protagonists in this game.
This is also where moogles are first introduced, and they come from Galuf’s world, which we can surmise, since Bartz has no idea what a moogle is before he meets one in the Moore Forest. Since they must’ve evolved after the worlds split, V would be their introduction to the Final Fantasy timeline. I’m uncertain if the Gogo introduced in this game is the same optional character found in FFVI. V’s Gogo looks more like Kefka, and it’s not like VI lacks for interesting theories about the character.
I was initially more critical of Exdeath. I didn’t find him deep and compelling, and I thought he was a weak villain in terms of the narrative. He wanted to control the Void for “Teh Evulz,” but then as I let the story marinate, I realized I wasn’t delving deep enough. I used to think similar of Kefka until I read some fanfics and the Wiki about how he more than likely went insane due to the process to make him a Magitek Knight. It’s subtle in the game, but it’s there, and if I was going to play “Sympathy for the Devil” for Sephiroth, I had to take Kefka’s plight into consideration (before any VIers jump down my throat, I never thought Kefka was a “weak” villain, just not remotely sympathetic. I will always think Sephiroth is a far more complex villain, and this is a hill I will die on). While Exdeath himself is literally “just” an evil tree, his very existence serves as a sharp lesson. Squeenix is pointing the finger squarely at humanity for the cause of this problem (and I’m counting the people of Galuf’s world as human even though above I used “alien.” It’s symbolically significant that Bartz’s father is from another world in the overarching themes of the series, but in terms of everything else, they’re human). Not dealing with the evil in the proper way caused the Moore Tree to become sentient, and then foisting it off on “another” world is a piss poor way to handle any problem.
Like the games before and after it, Final Fantasy V does not disappoint with the music. The overworld theme “Ahead on Our Way” vies with FFIV, FFVI, and FFIX for one of the best.
This is a song I loved even before I played FFV, especially since I’ve heard several orchestrated versions.
Oddly enough there’s a song in FFVII of the same name, but it’s the town music. I’m not sure why Squaresoft did that. They’re both good songs, but it’s a bit confusing.
The reason I know the ship graveyard music is fantastic is because I tend to dance along to it. It’s both bouncy and eerie, which is a hard combination to snag.
While the music of Kerwin’s town made me want to dance an Irish jig.
That’s another great thing about Uematsu: he incorporates so many different styles of music into his work.
There’s a key moment in the game where something is put together, and the music that plays there has at least one phrase the same as FFVII’s “Those Chosen By the Planet.” The FFV melody is “The Book of Sealings.” Listen to the very first phrase; it’s the same as FFVII’s song except the latter has the bells and the drums.
Uematsu-san probably built off of “The Book of Sealings'” tune, adding in the bells and the drums to make it sound even more ominous. It’s interesting that V’s is about sealing something away, but when this song plays in VII, something horrible is about to be unleashed.
Lest I forget probably my favorite song in the game “Dear Friends.” There are some amazing orchestrated versions of it, and it’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.
I do have to make a confessions…I did not like “Battle on the Big Bridge,” which seems to be everyone’s favorite. I was super hyped for it, too, and it just didn’t do much for me. I’d heard it before playing FFV, but hearing it in game confirmed it was the title I thought, and there are just other songs I liked much more. I loved the character of Gilgamesh; he’s excellent comic relief, and “Big Bridge” is definitely a technical masterpiece. It’s one of those situations where I can appreciate the musicality of a piece and the tremendous amount of work that went into making it, but it just doesn’t hit my ears in the same way it strikes those who love it. Now I might change my mind in a year after listening to it a few more times. That happened with me and the main theme of Final Fantasy VII, which I wasn’t fond of at first, but that I full appreciate now (just whistling it gives me the shivers).
This is normally where I do my ratings, but I think I’m going to forgo that from now on. I gave a lot of extraneous ratings, and I’d rather just use this as the wrap-up of what I think. Initially, I wasn’t overly fond of FFV’s story and thought it was inferior to its surrounding games (IV and VI) because I overlooked the depth of Exdeath’s existence. While he’s not directly a deep villain insofar as having a sad back story, the fact that he exists at all is the true tragedy. He’s the literal symbol of humanity’s inability and/or unwillingness to take responsibility, passing the buck to the younger generation, which is what we’re currently seeing now. Exdeath’s very first mission is to destroy all of the crystals, which keep the planet’s elements in balance. As in the first FF, the wind will die, the water will sour, and the earth will rot. The planet will become uninhabitable all because past responsibilities were shirked. All of the “older” characters even die, though at least they’re better than most of their real life counterparts as they sacrifice themselves attempting to fix the problem they caused. There are still people who don’t believe anthropogenic climate change is real let alone give a fuck about what their grandchildren will have to deal with.
Final Fantasy always shows the best of us even as it shines a light on the worst. Heroes, no matter how reluctant, always step forward when necessary to fight and win the day. It’s a heartening escape from our shitty world, though it’s not wholly unrealistic to believe such spirit could live in us all.
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8 thoughts on “Final Fantasy Friday: Final Fantasy V”
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Love your reviews – the memes are a humorous touch. XD I’ve never played this game and at this point, might never have the time to, so I enjoyed this detailed run-down.
(And yeah, I agree that I find Sephiroth a more sympathetic villain than Kefka (and most others honestly)).
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I *may* try to play it on mobile at some point since I find that easier when I don’t have a lot of time. It took me bit, but after I let it marinate I really liked the message it was sending and if you enjoy customizing your characters on your own, it’s great for that!
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I do have FFV and plan to give a spin one of these decades (at this gaming rate, haha). I’ve bookmarked this review to read whenever that happens 🙂
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It took it a bit to grow on me. It was almost going to get the TSN scathing critique, but then I let it marinate and it was actually pretty cool 🙂
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