Final Fantasy V: The Death of Galuf

By now, all four of the original Dawn Warriors are dead. With the exception of Dorgan, who was already dead before the story began 1Unless he’s actually alive, which wouldn’t surprise me at all., they all heroically sacrificed themselves to help me escape X-Death’s clutches, symbolically stepping aside so that the new generation can take over and so forth.

Note that Galuf was one of the Dawn Warriors, and also one of the player characters. Thus we have one of those famous Final Fantasy “cutscene deaths”, where the plot demands that the resurrection magic you’ve been using all game suddenly doesn’t work for some reason, although he version I’m playing cuts through that by designating characters who have run out of hit points as “KO” rather than “dead”.

Galuf’s death leaves a vacancy in the party, which is quickly filled by Galuf’s granddaughter, Krile. I actually knew this was coming; I’ve looked at a few spoilers files by now to help me choose which Jobs to advance in. I’ve been trying to avoid plot spoilers, but a change in the party roster is something that game mechanics spoilers have to cover too. So I was worried about what would happen to all the experience levels and job levels Galuf had accumulated. As it turns out, he somehow manages to transfer them to Krile. So as far as the gameplay goes, it seems less like Galuf is dead and more like he’s been transformed into a little girl. And it’s not a large change, either, aside from the graphics — there’s some difference in their base stats (Galuf is stronger, Krile faster and more magical), but this is completely swamped by the effect of the Jobs on stats.

Speaking of the graphics, Galuf’s death is one of the stranger visual moments in the game. As he gasps out his final words, he starts flashing like a boss monster in combat mode, and when he dies, his body vanishes. “Deresolution”, as they called it in Tron. Now, we know that this is what happens when things die in this game, but it’s always seemed like a simplification of what really happens — much like how we accept the battle animtions, in which the heroes “stand ten feet away and make hitting motions” as Kingdom of Loathing put it, as a symbol for actually hitting the enemies with their weapons. But to take that out of combat mode — are we to understand that this really is a story about a world where dead people actually vanish? It seems like a joke, or like something that an indie developer would put in as some kind of postmodern commentary.

This isn’t the first plot-death in the series, so I may well have seen this happen before and not been struck by it so. Mind you, most of the deaths of major characters in the last Final Fantasy game I played, FF4, turned out by the end to not have really been fatal after all, so maybe there wasn’t any on-screen non-combat-mode deresolution there. On the other hand, perhaps this blog is making me think about what I’m seeing more.

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1. Unless he’s actually alive, which wouldn’t surprise me at all.

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