Final Fantasy V: Common Elements

The Final Fantasy games, somewhat famously, don’t really form a continuity. Each game in the series proper 1That is, each game with a title like “Final Fantasy [number in roman numerals]”. There have been a some sequels to particular games, but I’m not considering them here. is its own world. However, there are some recurring elements, not just of gameplay but of content, that help to give the series an identity. There’s an extensive Wikipedia article on the subject, but honestly it seems a little too extensive to me — yes, most games in the series contain healing potions, but so do most CRPGs.

So, what is there that’s genuinely distinctive about Final Fantasy? First and most obviously, there are some recurring creatures, such as Chocobos, Moogles, and Tonberries. The only one of these I’ve seen so far in FF5 is the Chocobo, a large bird used as a steed, but I understand there are Moogles to come.

Next, there’s the airship obsession. This is enough of a Final Fantasy mainstay that if you’ve ever seen a Final Fantasy parody, it probably had an airship in it. I haven’t found any airships in FF5 yet, but I’m sure they’re coming. At least, I hope so. Without one, the only means I have of travelling over long distances without the hassle of wandering monsters is by riding a dragon. This might not sound worse than an airship, but it can’t fly over mountains, and is thus limited to a certain mountain-beringed portion of the map.

Then there’s Cid, the crusty airship mechanic, or at least usually something close to that. In this game, he’s a scientist who designed the crystal power amplifiers that are blamed with overworking the four Elemental Crystals and making them shatter. (This never really seemed like an adequate explanation to me. I mean, a problem like that can’t be solved by killing things, which means I can’t do anything about it. So I have to find the real reason the crystals are shattering. And then kill it.)

These are surface matters, though. Less often remarked on but just as prevalent are common plot features, notable for being the only thing that identified the Final Fantasy movie, The Spirits Within, as Final Fantasy. Like the prison scene. Often there’s a point toward the end of Act 1 where the player characters are incarcerated, receive some small help in escaping, and then fight the rest of the way out. I’ve been through this scene in FF5 already. It’s kind of amusing how it comes about. See, there are these monsters attacking the crystals — the fact that the crystals are under attack by monsters is another reason why the “amplifier” explanation doesn’t make sense — and the monsters apparently emerged from huge meteors. Entering a hollow meteor yourself, you find a tunnel that leads to the site of another meteor. On the other side, you’re seen emerging from the meteor, which means you must be a monster. Luckily, the guards don’t have the same zero-tolerance policy towards monsters as you do.

Then there’s the dual antagonist scheme, consisting of a human-scale enemy, such as a conquering empire, who you focus on in the early parts of the game, and beyond that, the real menace, a cosmic horror that threatens the whole world. This creates an opportunity for a reveal scene where the plot suddenly broadens beyond the initial conflict. I don’t think it’s going to happen quite like this in FF5, because I’m fairly advanced in the game now and I don’t have a human enemy yet. All I’ve been doing it racing around after crystals to save them before they explode. (And I’m always too late. Good thing, too, because it’s the shards of the shattered crystals that give me new Jobs.)

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1. That is, each game with a title like “Final Fantasy [number in roman numerals]”. There have been a some sequels to particular games, but I’m not considering them here.

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