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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thursday Night At The Arcade: Final Fantasy V

Suppose you have four people who have absolutely nothing in common with each other.  They have no ties to each other, or if there are ties, they are so loosely tied that they could come undone at the slightest movement.

I mean, let's take these four character types.  The guy who likes to travel and embark on exciting, and sometimes dangerous adventures.  The pampered woman who appears to live a life of luxury, but deep down inside has strong feelings for how people treat each other.  The tomboyish woman who hangs with all the guys and embarks in a life that most others would never touch.  And there's the man who may appear frail and useless, but instead boasts high intelligence as well as a past that will automatically change your opinion of him.

At first glance, you'd think that these people working together would be an impossibility.  That they would be so different in their thinking and their beliefs, and how they act, and other things that they would end up fighting after ten minutes.

That's part of the reason why I love the game Final Fantasy V so much.  In that game, you had four people (with the same character traits that I discovered up above) coming together for a common goal.  Which if you've ever played a Final Fantasy game before, you'll know that the main one is to save the world from evil forces.  At any rate, the four may be completely and totally different from each other, but they work beautifully as a team unit.

At the head of the pack, you have Bartz Klauser (or Butz, if you've played the original SNES version released only in Japan in 1992).  Bartz grew up in the small village of Lix.  He was the son of one of the famous Light Warriors who sealed away the evil Exdeath inside the world, to keep him from taking over.  His mother passed away when Bartz was small, and when Bartz turned seventeen years old, his father passed away as well.  His father's wish was for Bartz to travel the world, and from that moment on, Bartz travels the globe looking for adventure.  He isn't quite alone, as he is accompanied by his faithful Chocobo, Boko.  However, Bartz isn't exactly a people person, and likes to spend as much time alone as possible.  For the most part, he's content just riding the world on his Chocobo.

Next to Bartz, you have Princess Lenna Charlotte Tycoon.  Lenna is the daughter of King Tycoon, and she has grown up living a life of luxury.  Despite this, she has a kind heart, and cares for other people, even putting herself at risk to save others.  She can be impulsive at times, as her brave nature can get her into trouble, but she is a loyal friend to have.  She loves dragons, especially wind drakes, and during the course of the game, she risks her life twice to save the life of the dragon.  She survives, but not without much scolding from others.  It's later revealled that Lenna's mother died from an illness which could be cured by the tongue of a Wind Drake, but since there was only one left in the world, the queen did not want to kill the dragon so she could live.  This event shaped Lenna's belief of putting others before herself.

Behind Lenna is Faris Scherwiz.  When we're introduced to her at the beginning of the game, we see that she is the leader of a pirate crew, and has a pet sea-dragon named Syldra.  In fact, when we first meet her, we actually don't know that she is a her at all.  Bartz mistakes her for being a man!  In truth, Faris went by another name.  She was born Salisa Scherwil Tycoon, and if that name sounds familiar, it's because she happened to be Lenna's lost sister.  An accident caused Salisa to be lost at sea, and when she was found by the group of pirates she would eventually become the leader of, she was given the nickname of Faris.  Due to the fact that female pirates were not nearly as respected as male pirates, she was raised male.  Eventually, the sisters are reunited with each other, and Faris briefly returns to Tycoon Castle.  In the end, she can't leave the pirate life behind, and it proves to be advantageous to the group's final fight.

Lastly, you have Galuf Halm Baldesion.  An elderly man who Bartz and Lenna happen to stumble upon in the middle of a forest.  When we're first introduced to him, he has absolutely no idea who he may be, as he seems to be suffering from amnesia.  He remembers bits and pieces of his life, but they're all fragmented and lost.  Bartz and Lenna decide to take him on as a companion in the hopes that something he'll see will jar his memory and help him remember who he is.  What they don't find out until later on is that Galuf was in fact one of the Light Warriors that helped seal Exdeath, along with Bartz's father.

There's actually one more character that comes into the fold, and that one character actually replaces one of the above characters who ends up dying midway through the game...but I'm not going to spoil it, should you want to play the game.

So, how does the game start off?  We know who the key players are in this game, but what does this have to do with Exdeath?  Who exactly is Exdeath, and why is he so dangerous?

It all has to do with crystals.  Initially, there were four crystals, each one representing an element.  Fire, Water, Wind, and Earth.

One millennium before the current setting of the game, a mage named Enuo imperiled the world with something called 'The Void'.  It was a vortex that could suck up whole communities.  The people of the world fought back with a set of twelve powerful weapons which effectively dispatched Enuo, but the Void was unable to be destroyed completely.  The decision was made to split up the four crystals into two sets.  As a result of this action, the world was split into two, and Enuo was trapped inside the dimensional vortex between the two worlds.  As long as the crystals remained intact, Enuo remained sealed.

One thousand years later, both worlds continued to flourish, ship building became an effective method of travel, and towns grew.  Unfortunately, in the middle of the second world, in Moore Forest, a tree was being possessed with demons and evil, and created the antagonist of the game, Exdeath.

(You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried, people.)

Anyway, the Four Warriors of Dawn (comprised of Bartz' father, Dorgann, Galuf, Xezat, and Kelger) fought against Exdeath, and used the power of the crystals to seal him up in the first world, and peace briefly returned.

Thirty years later, however, something strange happens, and the winds start to die down, and the air becomes stale.

That was the eighteen minute long introduction to the first part of the game.  If you don't have time to watch the whole thing, basically, what happens is that King Tycoon goes to the Wind Shrine to find out why the wind is dying out, and is witness to the crystal exploding in the shrine, and something happens to the king.  Meanwhile, Bartz is outside camping with Boko when he sees a meteorite come crashing down towards the Earth.

Unlike real life where a meteor hitting a planet would likely be quite apocalyptic and deadly, these ones just leave behind a little crater.  It's inside one of those little craters where you run into Lenna.  Lenna immediately gets abducted by goblins, and you have to kill them to get to know the princess a little bit better.

Because let's face it, failure to rescue a princess from goons makes for one very awkward and disasterous date.

After the fight scene, Bartz and Lenna introduce themselves, and then they hear a faint noise in the distance.  There they meet the amnesiac Galuf (who apparently travelled to the area ON the meteorite, making this storyline even less believable), and it is here where our story really kicks off.

And, by now, you're probably completely lost. 

You'll just have to take my word for it that the game sounds a lot better than I described it. 

In all seriousness, it is.  Although it wasn't released in North America until 1999 (which is when the PlayStation anthology with Final Fantasy V and VI inside of it came out), Final Fantasy was a really great game, and the story makes more sense when you play it.

If you are a fan of role playing games, you'll definitely like this one.

One of the reasons I enjoy this game is the class system.

You can make your characters anything you want to be, because just like Barbie, there's dozens of job classes that you can make your characters be.  They can be Geomancers, Knights, Mages, Timekeepers, even Dancers (and by dancers, I mean tap and ballet...not dances with stripper poles).

And, no there are no job classes for prostitute, drug dealer, or McDonald's fry cook either.

With dozens of combinations to choose from, you could make your characters as powerful as you want them to be.  In fact, there are some secnarios where you have to have a job mastered in order to proceed (such as if you have to cross a pit of spikes, a Geomancer can show you the way to go).

But more importantly, the reason why I have a soft spot for Final Fantasy V is sort of linked to my opening paragraph.  The characterization works and blends in such a way that you find yourselves rooting for each of the characters both individually and as a whole.

Bartz's backstory of losing his parents, and using it as a way to pursue his dream of adventure is poignant, and yet, tragic at the same time.  In many ways, Bartz's parents were all that he had to rely on.  When they were both gone, he had lost any and all ties keeping him in the village of Lix.  It wasn't until late in the game when Lix is attacked by Exdeath that we see all of the emotions bubbling up to the surface, and we see Bartz show any emotion.  Naturally, his friends help him through, and that was the moment they all wanted to fight.

With Lenna, you know about the dragon tongue story where she wanted to kill the dragon to save her mother, but relented when she learned it was not what she wanted.  There's a point in the story where the Wind Drake is sick, and the only way to save it is by feeding it dragon grass.  Earlier in the game, a scary incident involving dragon grass has scared the dragon, and the dragon won't eat it.  Lenna decides to show the dragon that the grass is safe by sampling it herself, full well knowing that it is poisonous to humans.  The dragon sees Lenna eating it, and decides to eat it too.  Lenna risked her life to help the dragon, which the others thought was incredibly stupid (I agree, by the way), but at least it showed that Lenna had compassion for others.  She eventually recovered and continued on with the quest.

Faris also lost someone close to her.  At the beginning, the pirate ship that they are all on gets caught in a storm, and is almost sucked down a whirlpool.  Syldra, Faris's sea-dragon friend pulls them to safety, but ends up dying in the process.  Faris is devastated.  Later on in the story, Faris is reunited with the spirit of Syldra, and learns how to call her as a summon...proving that friendships don't end after death.

As for Galuf, he perhaps makes the biggest sacrifice of all in the quest to save the world from Exdeath...but that's another tale for another day...

Regardless, Final Fantasy V is a great game to play, and for all of you gamers out there, it's worth checking out.

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