Final Fantasy V: Dawn Warriors

I’ve made my way back to Galuf’s castle. It turns out he’s a king on this planet. I thought at first that this was another piece of his backstory that I had missed or misinterpreted somehow, and I was relieved to discover that it was news to the rest of the player characters as well. Another flashback filled in more details: the reason that Galuf and his comrades — “The Dawn Warriors”, as their PR department calls them — imprisoned X-Death where they did is simply because that’s where they defeated him, and they had to do something about him right there before he came back to life.

Now, these Dawn Warriors were a group of four, much like the current party. For the first time in the series, there’s a sense that the player’s position is not unique, that the previous generation had their version of this story — a Pre-final Fantasy, if you will (Midterm Fantasy, maybe?) — and that the story is partly about coming of age, filling the shoes of those who came before you and living up to their standards. When you think about it, it’s an appropriate theme for an RPG with mechanics based around improving your characters. FF8 does something similar.

As if to drive the point home, it turns out that one of the Dawn Warriors, the late Dorgan, was the viewpoint character’s father. This gives certain NPCs an opportunity to say admiring things about him and then conclude with “He would have been proud of you” or similar, just like whenever Dumbledore talks about James Potter. In particular, I’ve got this treatment from the two other remaining Dawn Warriors, Kelga and Zeza.

Kelga is a werewolf — werewolves are good guys in this game, there’s a whole town full of them. He’s too ill to have much to do with the new fight against X-Death, and will more than likely die before the game is over. Zeza, on the other hand, leads the offensive against X-Death’s new domain. It’s surrounded by an impenetrable force field, but Zeza knows a secret way in, through a cave that’s only accessible by submarine.

This is the point where I really started to think that everything that seemed new and different about FF7 was already present in FF5. FF7 was the point where the designers seemed to suddenly realize that
Fantasy does not have to imply Pseudo-Medieval. Sure, it still had swords and spells and dragons, but it was also full of guns and helicopters and neon-lit cityscapes. FF8 went so far as to declare that all magic was really manifestations of psi power, and put you in a world with roughly 1940’s fashions and customs (except in one country where it was more like Star Trek fashions and customs.) In FF5, people wear standard fantasy robes and live in standard fantasy castles, but this is but a veneer over advanced industrial technology. There’s always been a bit of high tech in the series — FF1 had a “castle in the sky” that turned out to be a space station populated by robots 1I always thought that the robots in FF1 looked a lot like those in Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky, AKA Laputa, which was released in Japan while FF1 was in development., and FF4 involved a trip to the moon — but that stuff has generally been more like an anomaly in a mostly stock-fantasy world, and a relic of Vancian lost civilizations besides. In FF5, people are building submarines and steamships and force-field generators, even though they evidently haven’t discovered gunpowder.

1 I always thought that the robots in FF1 looked a lot like those in Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky, AKA Laputa, which was released in Japan while FF1 was in development.

1 Comment so far

  1. malkav11 on 10 Dec 2007

    This is one of my favorite things about the later FF games. Fantasy with airships and cannons and submarines and such is much more exciting than the very generic fantasy that the earlier games present. (It’s also why I like the Shin Megami Tensei games so much. They’re not as fantasy-oriented as the FF games…more horror, if anything. But there’s still that impingement of weird magical elements into various otherwise fairly real-world settings.)

Leave a reply