Crystal Vision: Got a Black Mage-ic Woman

Crystal Vision is a short series about one inept player’s annual humiliation in a fun but difficult fundraiser: Four Job Fiesta. This installment includes spoilers for Final Fantasy V.

When you sign up for Four Job Fiesta, you’re assigned your first job right away. But you don’t unlock the job system until about an hour into the game when you go through the first of four elemental shrines. The first is the wind shrine. Unlike some RPGs, FFV has a well paced beginning, and even after four or five runs through the game, I’m not tired of it.

 

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Final Fantasy V opens with a dramatic castle and pans down to a king and his dragon, who are preparing for a dangerous journey, but we don’t know what that really is yet. The wind has stopped and he has to try to restore it.

 

Next, we meet our intrepid hero, nameless as of yet, who’s camping around a fire with his chocobo when they hear a lot of noise. There’s an incredible animated sequence from the first-person perspective of a falling meteor, which grinds a ditch into the land. Inside the landing strip, we meet Lenna, who has mysteriously appeared with the meteor. And in turn, we meet Galuf, an older guy with a wonderful beard, who makes some bad heteronorming suggestions about Bartz and Lenna and then laughs at his own joke.

 

I name Bartz after myself, to the best of my ability. Aroline, Lenna, and Galuf narrowly escape some earthquakes and enemies with the chocobo’s help. They find a cave, where they see a pirate ship sail in, moving without any wind.

 

The pirate ship’s captain, Faris, reveals that the ship is powered by a sea monster named Syldra who he says is a lifelong companion he thinks of as his brother. Okay, normal, not scary, good, yes. As Lenna pleads for Faris to lend them his ship, her special pendant glitters in the light. She confesses to the group that she’s the princess and heiress of the kingdom. Faris agrees to take the group where they need to go.

 

Wow, this is subtle foreshadowing.

 

A navigator sails us to the wind shrine. You can take the wheel yourself but I don’t remember there being much of interest to find right now that you can’t find later, and I don’t want to run into enemies before I have my job equipped. Inside the shrine, we talk with some royal army guys who tell us Lenna’s father, the king, has gone upstairs to try to save the wind crystal that powers the shrine and maintains the wind in the entire world apparently.

 

Our first miniboss, a rude large bird, pummels us with bad magical breath. I use a bird feather to resurrect Galuf after he dies. This just makes the rude large bird more upset.

 

Finally, we make it to the top of the shrine, where Lenna’s father becomes a ball of light I guess. Then the crystals appear and are absorbed by the main characters: Knight, Monk (“Black Belt” in my translation), White Mage, Black Mage, Blue Mage, and Thief. I know my first job is black mage, so I switch everyone to that.

 

We make our way to a town, where I buy everybody some new magic gear and sell all our dumb old swords and shields. Faris sneaks away to take a nap, and we grossly invade his privacy by going into the room and staring at him while he sleeps. This causes some confusion for Bartz and Galuf, who find Faris very beautiful, and that would be gay, so it can’t be right, right?! Wow, more on that in later episodes.

 

Job System Nitty Gritty

My characters are all black mages for now, but what does that really mean? For each battle in FFV, you earn XP like always, but you also earn ability points, ABP. After a certain number of ABP, a character’s job levels up, so Bartz will soon be level 8 with level 1 black mage. But jobs have level caps, so after a certain number of ABP that varies by class, you become a master of a particular job.

You might remember from last week that I’m doing a special run where my characters will all have the same job at any given time. For now, they’re all black mages, and after the next crystal shrine, they might all be red mages or beastmasters. When you pass a certain level with a job, you get abilities that you can keep using after you’ve changed jobs. That means my party will be e.g. beastmasters who still do black magic.

 

Gender Issues Nitty Gritty

If you’ve played FFV before, you know the “big twist” of early game, which is that Faris is a woman. I’m not clear on why the game believes it ever presents her as a man to begin with. Faris isn’t a gendered-sounding name. We see Faris reflect privately about the pendant she wears, which is the same as one openly worn by an actual princess. She has long pink hair and wears a scarf. The other pirates are all grim-looking and nasty.

So this 25-year-old game might have fresh-looking pixel art but its attitudes are a little gross. Fortunately, this part of the plot is moved out of the way very quickly. I’ll share the conclusion of it next week, when there’s also a spooky pirate graveyard.

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About Caroline Delbert

Caroline Delbert is a writer, book editor, grad student, researcher, and avid reader who lives in Chicago. She's also an enthusiast of just about everything.
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