Note: this report makes frequent use of Japanese characters. Older web browsers may not display these characters correctly; try using the newest version for best results.
So. One final class left to play as a solo character in Final Fantasy 5. That would be the Mimic job, which is similar to the default Bare job in (mostly) having no abilities of its own. Characters assigned this class are able to Mimic the actions of others, duplicating the same action that the previous character in your party just took, including miming abilities that they themselves don't possess. This can be used to set up crazy broken spell chains with the use of Doublecast and Quick in full party settings. The real upside to the Mimic job, however, is the power to assign up to three abilities from other classes. Instead of having to waste a slot on the Fight command, you can simply assign X-Fight instead, for example. You can also give a mage character three different spell sets instead of two, such as White + Time + Summon. There's a lot of potential to mix and match here in highly broken combinations. The one downside is that Mimics don't automatically get to equip all weapons like the Bare job; they can equip every armor in the game, but on offense they are limited to knives, rods, and staves. There are a few little tricks they can do, like using Mimic after drinking an Elixir for endless health refills, but the gameplay for a solo Mimic is fairly uninteresting. It's mostly going to be imitating what other solo reports have already done before.
I wanted to find something more interesting for this final playthrough. One thing that kept coming back to my mind was the way in which we experience these games. Many of the old games on Nintendo and Sony consoles originally came from Japanese developers: Capcom, Konami, Namco, and so on. For anyone in the Western world, we are always playing these games in translation, never in their original unmodified form. Final Fantasy 5 is an extreme example of this, as it was never released outside of Japan at all until ported to other platforms years later. I've never touched an actual Super Famicom system, and I've never played the "real" Final Fantasy 5 before, only experiencing the game through the fan translation patch and later Gameboy Advance remake. What would it be like to see the actual game, just as it would have been received back in 1992 on release?
And so it begins:
Of course, in order to play through the game like this, it's necessary to understand some basics about how Japanese works as a language. This is not the first time that I've gone through an untranslated game (that would have been some of the earlier Fire Emblem games), and there are some elements that make things easier than one might suspect at first glance. Here's the status screen at the start of the game, using the same "All Jobs" code to access the Mimic for screenshot purposes. Everything is located in exactly the same place as it is in the fan translation patch. From top to bottom, the commands are:
ジョブ = "Jobu" = Job
アビリテイ = "Abiritei" = Ability
アイテム = "Aitemu" = Item
まほう = "Mahou" = Magic
そうび = "Soubi" = Equip
ステタス = "Sutettasu" = Status
コンフィグ = "Konfigu" = Configure
セブ = "Sebbu" = Save
Now the first reaction of the reader is probably something along the lines of "well some of those almost sound like English words - what's going on?" In order to explain why this is, we first need to understand a little bit about how Japanese functions as a language. Japanese technically doesn't have an alphabet, or alternately you could say that it's made up of three different alphabets. There's hiragana, which serves as the closest thing to a basic alphabet and functions as many of the particles in speech. All of the more complex words in Japanese can be broken down into more basic hiragana pieces. Next there's katakana, which is another alphabet that almost perfectly duplicates hiragana and is used for loan words introduced from other languages (usually Western languages). It's completely baffling to outsiders (myself included) why this duplicate system is needed, but hey, languages don't need to make a lot of sense. Going back to the screen above, this is why some of the words look familiar when converted into the Roman alphabet. Writing something like "Aitemu" is clearly a Japanese version of the word "Item", and it gets rendered in katakana as a result. In fact, everything on that screen is written in katakana except for the two obviously non-English words, "Mahou" for Magic and "Soubi" for Equip. These are both written in hiragana, probably because there were already well-established Japanese words for these concepts. You can see here the obvious influence of Western role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, which predated the development of the RPG in Japan. Words for things like "Job", "Ability", and "Status" were lifted directly from English and converted into katakana. This is why playing one of these games is not as hard as it would seem at first glance. If you can learn basic hiragana and katakana, much of the game's text instantly becomes recognizable.
That said, everything doesn't line up quite that neatly. Japanese is a very different language from English, and many words can't be converted without being "Japanified" first, if that makes sense. In particular, syllables in Japanese are (almost) always made up of a consonant + vowel pairing. Consonant clusters are quite common in many English words but simply don't exist in Japanese. Therefore, in order to incorporate Western words into their language, the Japanese often have to add extra vowels to create their normal consonant + vowel pairings. For example, a name like "Bob" would be problematic; the "Bo" works just fine and directly translates, but that second "B" is standing alone by itself, which doesn't work. It has to become ボブ = "Bobu" instead. (Using ボッブ or "Bobbu" would probably be more accurate, but trying to keep things simple here.) There are also some sounds that don't translate, most infamously the "L" and the "R" sound being identical in Japanese and accounting for most of the amusing Engrish mistranslations out there. So "Sally" becomes サッリ = "Sarri" and so on. The "B" and "V" sound are also almost interchangeable as well: see the confusion over the name of Bal/Val Castle in this game as one such example. And the vowels in Japanese are pronounced similar to the way they sound in Romance languages (French, Spanish, etc.) more so than how they sound in English. Thus "Tina", the Japanese name for Final Fantasy 3/6's Terra character, sounds like "Teena", and Galuf's name in Japanese (ガラフ = Garafu) sounds like Gaa-Raa-Foo, and so on.
The third "alphabet" (if you can call it that) in Japanese is known as kanji, which consists of different pictoral symbols brought over from Chinese and used to represent most nouns and verbs. Kanji can be combined together to form other words when put together. Put together the kanji for fire (火 = ka) and the kanji for mountain (山 = san) together to create the symbol for a volcano (火山 = kazan, literally "fire mountain"). Most kanji have two readings depending on how they are used, with more common ones having more readings, including a few who have as many as eight different readings. Yikes. That's pretty rare though. There are over 50,000 kanji in total, although only 2000 are actually used in modern speech, thank god. I know a couple dozen of the most common kanji and that's it. I make no pretense to having anything near fluency in Japanese whatsoever. This is where things will be difficult in this playthrough. The good news is that most of the game's text is in hiragana and katakana, and the kanji that do get used tend to be very common ones. This is a game intended to be played by schoolchildren after all, the text can't be too hard to read.
With all that said, let's look at the name input screen:
Well this is a little different from prior playthroughs! The choices at the top of the screen are between hiragana and katakana characters; no option to pick kanji in this game. I have the hiragana characters selected above. The characters are grouped by vowel and consonant pairings: A, I, U, E, O at the top and then A, KA, SA, TA, etc. going down vertically on the left. Four across and three down would combine together to produce "SE", for example. It's the exact same thing only using katakana characters on the other tab. My mimic character would be named after the world's most famous mime, Marcel Marceau, after converting the name into Japanese of course. I used katakana since this was a Western name. The best that I could do was to go with マルセル (Maruseru), remembering what I said before about the need for consonant + vowel pairs in Japanese. That may not be the best way to render that name in katakana, but it's close enough for me. Try pronouncing "Maruseru" as quickly as possible, and it actually does sound pretty close to "Marcel".
I got a kick out of this screenshot:
だいじょうぶか？ (Daijoubuka? Are you alright?)
レナ: え、ええ... (Rena: E, ee... Lena: Y, Yes...)
This was the first screen where I could understand everything that was being said. This is a fairly common phrase in Japanese, and of course I know what's going on in this scene anyway, but it was still very rewarding to me that I could pick up a little bit of the dialogueue. I went through the cut scenes at the pace of a Japanese five-year old, slowly trying to understand as much as possible. One thing that jumps out right away is the stylistic differences between the characters' speech. Lena is exceedingly polite and a bit formal in the way she converses, while Galuf definitely lives up to the kooky old coot stereotype, lots of slang and not polished at all. Now it's starting to make sense why all the other characters are baffled to discover he's a king later in the game's plot... Galuf is also referred to as "Ji-san" (Old Man) by Bartz over and over again, which I find very amusing.
Another weird observation: Boko the Chocobo says ケエ "Kee" instead of "Wark" or whatever. No idea why.
Here's another little note about kanji. When using symbols that the reader might not understand, the Japanese will occasionally break the kanji down into hiragana component syllables, which was a godsend for me when I was playing. In this picture, Bartz is asking Lena about where she was heading when the meteor fell. Lena's response is almost entirely in kanji, 風の神殿, the latter two symbols which are very helpfully then written out in hiragana as しんでん. In the Roman alphabet, this is "kaze no shinden" and translates as Wind Shrine. I did know the kanji for wind, but I had no idea what the other two meant, and this explanation was hugely helpful. Of course, this was all geared towards Japanese schoolchildren still learning their kanji, but hey, I wasn't too proud to take the help when it appeared!
I spotted something else that I found interesting when interacting with Faris' pirate crew:
The pirates are asking Faris what to do with the rest of your captured party. Faris gets the title おかしら= okashira, which translates as roughly "boss" or "captain", probably intended for the latter here. What's more interesting is the word used for the pirates themselves. I'm pretty sure that they go by "kyzoku" when Romanized. Hmmm, where have I heard that name before?
Yep, the same word used for "pirate" enemies fought on the sea in the original Final Fantasy. I thought that this was an amusing little quirk of language.
As I went through the Wind Shrine, I wanted to have Marcel try fighting as a Mimic. However, there's a bit of an unusual drawback to the Mimic class: you must learn at least one ability from another job before the Mimic can select the Fight and Item commands from the ability menu. Marcel couldn't do anything except use the Mimic command, and that wasn't going to be enough as a solo character! I went ahead and selected the Mystic Knight instead, a job that only requires 10 AP in order to unlock an ability, and fought through the Wind Shrine in that fashion. The Wind Raptor gave Marcel enough points to unlock the Magic Barrier ability, and then I could finally swap over to the Mimic job permanently, with the ability to fight and use items. Here's the traditional picture for my solo characters upon completing the Wind Shrine:
It's the same screen as usual, only with everything written in Japanese. Oh boy, a lot of text to go through here. We have Marcel's name in the top left corner, then his Level next to that. (It's written in highly amusing Engrish fashion: レベル= "Reberu" = Level. Remember, the letters "R" and "L" are interchangeable in Japanese.) Next to that is the Command window (コマンド= "Komando") with various different options that Marcel could take in battle underneath. The first one is the Mimic command, which is apparently ものまね="Monomane". It probably doesn't come as a surprise that I had no idea what the word for Mimic was in Japanese. This is also reflected in the official job class name for the Mimic, displayed right above Marcel's character portrait. He was officially a "Monomaneshi". The other two commands are the normal Fight and Item options. Fight is displayed in hiragana as たたかう= "Tatakau", which makes sense since there was already a well-established Japanese word for this concept. Item instead appears in katanana as アイテム= "Aitemu" as a concept apparently borrowed from Western RPGs. Note that this screen has hiragana and katakana mixed together everywhere, although there is no usage of kanji anywhere, even in places where it would have been appropriate to do so. Perhaps this was done for reasons of saving space (?)
Thankfully the numbers for ability points, hit points, and magic points all remain unchanged above and below the character portrait. Below that on the left side are a series of phrases written in hiragana that I don't really understand. I can work backwards from the English screenshot and know that these refer to the amount of experienced gained and needed for the next level, but I won't pretend that I know how to translate "genzai no keikenchi". At the bottom is the equipment that the Mimic can use; this class can make use of the default knives along with rods, staves, and shields. That last one is a very big deal indeed, as few classes can equip shields in this game. The little armor icons at the bottom are the same for each class, which underscores another huge advantage of the Mimic: they can equip every piece of armor in the game, with the one exception of the Ribbon. They can use pretty much anything else, including all three sets of heavy/medium/light armor. This would be highly useful later.
Finally, the right side of the screen shows all of the character stats. They are completely identical to the Bare job, an even score of 24 in all categories, modified by the Bartz character's innate bonuses to each field. The first one is probably the easiest to translate; it's Strength in the English version, and ちから= "chikara" does indeed mean strength in Japanese. I even know the kanji for this one: 力. They use this kanji quite commonly in the game's dialogueue, so I guess that they simply wanted to keep everything in hiragana and katakana particles on this menu screen. The next one is Agility in the translation, written originally as すばやさ= "subayasa". I had no idea what this meant, and I couldn't find a translation when I searched online. This one will remain a mystery for the moment. The last two are Vitality and Magic Power in the English translation, and it turns out that the latter one is closer to the original. These are たいりょくand まりょく, "tairyoku" and "maryoku", which literally mean something like physical/body strength and magic strength. The Gameboy Advance translation renders these two as Stamina and Magic, which works fine but Magic Power is actually closer. Neither Vitality nor Stamina is really correct for "tairyoku"; it doesn't turn into English very well. "Bodily strength" is about the best I can think of. This also makes sense for a stat that deals with hit point growth. The rest goes through Attack, Defense, Evade, Magic Defense, and Equipment Weight, although all of them in slightly different phrasings. Both Attack and Defense headings include the "ryoku" phrasing at the end, which means strength or power (it's the alternate reading of the "chikara" kanji), so they are more literally translated as "Attack Strength" and "Defend Strength". An understandable simplification in English. I do find it interesting how it all looks in the original version.
OK, one more menu and then we'll move on with the actual gameplay. This is the magic shop where you can purchase the initial White and Black magic spells in Tule village. This is another case where we have English words getting turned into katakana and used as spell names: ファイア = "Faia" for Fire, ブリザド = "Burizado" for Blizzard, サンダ = "Sandaa" for Thunder (Japanese has a terrible time with consonant clusters) and so on. It all works well enough for the first level spells, but what about the more advanced versions? Japanese as a language can add on additional emphasis to words by using the -ra and -ga endings, which are roughly equivalent to English's -er and -est endings for adjectives. Thus we get "Burizara" for the second-tier ice spell ("more blizzard"), and "Sandaga" for the third-tier lightning spell ("most lightning"). The initial English translations always rendered this as Fire 1/2/3, since these noun endings don't exist in English and it was easy for anyone to understand. Ice 3 is obviously a stronger spell than Ice 2 and so on.
In the more recent English translations, however, SquareEnix has swapped over to a direct Japanese transliteration, resulting in these spells being dubbed "Firaga" and "Thundara" in current Final Fantasy games. I've never liked this change, as it creates nonsensical gobbledygook words caused by a mismash of two different languages. Applying Japanese word endings to English words just comes off as ridiculous, like when people start using Japanese honorifics in English. ("Thank you, Bartz-senpai!") What makes this even more absurd is the fact that these spell names are already using katakana versions of English words, then adding Japanese suffixes to them, then translating them back into English again with Japanese suffixes intact. None of it makes any sense. Long story short: direct transliteration across languages isn't always the best decision. It makes way more sense to call your anti-poison White magic spell "Antidote" than to do the exact translation of "Poisona" (which again relies on a Japanese word ending that has no meaning in English - and don't even get me started on "Esuna", argh!)
Here's the battle screen we all know and love, without the English translation patch applied. The enemy White Snake was casting an Entangle spell when I took this, which is apparently called まきつき = "Makitsuki" in the original version. Never seen that word before, it probably means... Entangle. Anyway, the battle options have the normal choices of たたかう = "Tatakau" for Fight and アイテム = "Aitemu" for Item, with the first in hiragana and the second in katakana. There's also ものまね = "Monomane" in the first slot, which is the Mimic's default Mime ability. I would select this command by accident many, MANY times when wanting to fight throughout this run. Every other class has the Fight command in the default fight slot, but not the Mimic! This guy has to be different. That's what makes the class so good, in all honesty, since you can replace Fight with something like X-Fight or Capture instead. Marcel will never have those options, sadly.
I farmed a few Elixirs in the Wind Shrine until reaching Level 14, where Marcel picked up an additional attack multiplier. Keeping track of items was going to be a bit tricky for this playthrough (which one is the Elixir???), although fortunately most of the item names are English words rendered in katakana. Anyway, Karlabos was up next, or "Kaarabosu" as that name on the left gets transliterated. Marcel had only two things going for him here, and relatively few options compared to other solos. Number one, he could equip the Leather Shield for 10% physical evade, which as paltry as it was did come in handy several times. I captured a picture of one of those misses above, with the text amusingly printed out in tiny little katakana characters ミス = "Misu" or Miss. That always looks weird to me. Number two, Marcel could use his Mimic command to mimic the drinking of Elixirs without actually depleting his stock. The first Elixir will cost you an item, but if you keep mimicking the same action over and over again, it doesn't use up any more. (Of course, using the Fight command will break this chain, and then it's back to consuming items again.) This "bottomless cup" strategy of nonstop Elixirs looked to come in handy later in the run as well, almost like the Bard's Hide move of waiting until a boss ran out of magic points.
As for the red lobster himself, it didn't take all that long for Marcel to line up the nine or so attacks needed to win. I believe that he won on about the eighth attempt at the battle, which was a bit better than I was expecting. Pure melee characters with low Strength need a little luck to get through this fight, and it lined up reasonably well for Marcel.
Another one of the few screens of dialogue where I managed to understand everything being said:
ファリス： はなせ！ はなせよ！！ シルドラ！！！
Farisu: Hanase! Hanaseyo!! Shirudoraa!!!
Faris: Let me go! Let me go!! Syldra!!!
Poor Faris. Obviously it helps having the action on screen to follow along, and knowing this game as well as I do. I've heard that things like comic books and video games can be excellent tools for learning a foreign language, and that seems to be true. I've picked up quite a few more kanji from doing this playthrough, although who knows how long I'll be able to remember them. By picking through these screens one at a time in glacial fashion, I was getting perhaps five percent of what was being said, which was way better than I expected to do.
As far as the actual gameplay, I was using the Flail as a weapon throughout the Ship Graveyard, due to its back row friendliness. There wasn't too much to add on that front, Marcel was walking the same path as innumerable other past solo characters. The Siren battle was a bit interesting, since she can cast all of those buffing spells (Haste, Slow, Armor, etc.) Fortunately she loses all of her buffs every time that she shifts forms, otherwise this would have been a lot harder. The Flail was pretty effective here, especially with its armor piercing property against the undead Siren form. Marcel won on the third try (when Siren didn't cast Slow) at the cost of one Elixir.
I ran into an unexpected surprise at the item store in Carwen village: the names of the consumable items! Unlike most of the previous items to date, these were written using hiragana and not katakana, turning them into total mysteries to me. I was able to figure out that どくけし = "Dokukeshi" had to be an Antidote, because I knew that "Doku" meant poison in Japanese. Similarly, おとめのキッス = "Otome no Kissu" had to be "Maiden's Kiss", since the second half of the phrase was helpfully written in katakana and therefore included an English transliteration. But what about めぐすり = "Megusuri" and うちでのこつち = "Uchide no Kozuchi"? Somebody give me some help here! Based on the position in which they were sold on the item screen menu, I realized that the first one had to be the Eyedrop, and the second one had to be the Luck Mallet. As far as remembering which item was which for use in battle, I always put the items in the same order in inventory, and so I took real care to make sure that I had my normal setup in place. This was a challenge I hadn't expected for this playthrough! Fortunately the weapon and armor names were almost entirely in katakana, and they had the little item graphic to show the weapon type. This could still get ugly in the endgame when Marcel was carrying a lot of stuff around though...
North Mountain's name is a literal translation; it uses the two Japanese kanji for "North" (北) and "Mountain" (山), which are among the few that I do know. As simple and straightforward as it gets. Marcel used his Flail to power through the random encounters up there. For the bosses at the end, I opted for the standard play of breaking the Ice Rod found in Carwen. What's interesting about this is the name used for the Ice Rod itself. The Japanese version opts for hiragana and calls it the こおりのロッド = "Koori no Roddo" instead of using the word for "Ice" or "Blizzard" or anything like that. I have no idea what this means, and a simple attempt at using Google translate failed to turn up anything either. Is this an attempt to call the item the "Cool Rod", perhaps? But if that's the case, it should be using katakana and not hiragana. This one has me stumped. What's up with this name for the Ice Rod?
Next it was on to Tycoon Castle, where Marcel picked up the best item in the first world: the Healing Staff. It's called いやしのつえ = "Iyashi no Tsue" in the original version, and I don't have the faintest clue what that means. Probably "Staff of Healing" or something like that. I just looked for the item with the staff graphic with attack power of zero anytime that I wanted to equip the thing. This also reminded me of another advantage of the Mimic class that I hadn't considered before: they are the only non-Bare class that can equip rods, staves, and shields! No one else can use all of them. You can have the Healing Staff in one hand and a shield in the other hand, which always feels a bit strange. This also opened up the possibility of claiming the Elf Cape in the basement of Worus Castle:
Put your character in the front row (since Garkimasra will always cause a back attack), then keep curing yourself with the Healing Staff while you hold down the run buttons. Eventually you'll manage to run away successfully, even if it takes a while. Marcel's innate abilities made this even easier, as I needed to make him self-attack once with the Healing Staff, then I could sit there Mimicking the same self-attack afterwards. Moving the cursor around to attack yourself can be a little tricky sometimes, and it does each up a few tenths of a second of wasted time on the ATB gauge. No issue for Marcel here. By the way, apparently the GBA translation is correct about this item: it's officially listed as エルフのマント = "Erufu no Manto" which is obviously "Elven Mantle" (remember that R = L in Japanese). All of these reports I've written calling the thing the Elf Cape have been using the incorrect term! Ah well, hard to break old habits at this point. The GBA translation also gets the Samurai weapon in the basement of Tycoon Castle correct as well: it really is the "Ashura" and not the "Katana". Two points
to Griffindor for the official translation over the fan one.
The dialogue sequence in Worus Castle was noteworthy for the way in which the game referred to the local ruler. He's referred to initially as "King Worus", and then after the first mention the text shortens that to simply "King" using the kanji for the word: 王 (this is pronounced "o" with a long "o" as in the word "go"). For whatever reason, it amused me that this throwaway character who's on screen for all of ten seconds gets referred to as "King" and nothing else in the dialogue. The actual Mimic gameplay here was nothing to write home about, Marcel continued using the Flail from the back row without issue. He could equip the Heavy armor set which meant zero damage attacks from Galura, plus I could use the Healing Staff, so... yeah. Interesting note about the name of this boss: it's ガルラ = "Garura" in the original version, which means it could get translated as any one of "Garura" or "Galura" or "Garula" or "Galula". The fan translation uses the second one, the official GBA translation uses the third one. It's honestly just a matter of personal preference, any of them are equally accurate.
I was amused to find out how Cid's name is rendered in Japanese: it's シド = "Shido", which was not at all what I was expecting. I suppose it makes sense, just another example of the strange way that things get converted between languages. This picture above is from the conversation that takes place just before entering the Steamship dungeon. I'm not exactly sure what this area is called in the original game; there's katakana text referring to the "Enjin", which is obviously a translation of Engine. Is that the true name of this place (?) I'm missing too much of the conversations to know for sure. It would definitely make sense.
I also wanted to make a brief note of how the dialogue boxes work in this game. Japanese as a language doesn't seem to make use of quotation marks the same way that English does. Instead, it uses the symbols that look like upside-down "L"s to indicate speech, but only at the beginning of dialogue, not at the end. In the picture above, Cid is the one speaking, followed by a brief phrase from Bartz. Unlike every other character in this game, all of whom are identified by name when speaking, Bartz never has his name placed in front of any speech. Instead, Bartz gets identified through a thicker outlined speech marker (the upside-down "L" thing) whenever he's the one talking. I used this picture to demonstrate the difference between the two. This suggests to me that Bartz is intended to be a stand-in for the (presumably young and male) player, since you can rename the character after yourself and the name "Bartz" is never directly referenced in dialogue. It's a world of difference from the GBA version, which constantly places the little portrait graphics on the screen and does everything possible to give the characters more individuality. The 1992 FF5 is deliberately trying to create a blank slate for the player; the 2006 FF5 is doing exactly the opposite. It's interesting to see how Japanese RPGs evolved over time in this manner.
In the actual Steamship (or whatever it's called), Marcel was able to make use of his versatile gear setup. I was able to use the Mythril Shield + Elf Cape combo for excellent physical evade, although Marcel's damage output with the Mythril Dagger was pretty sad. He was barely cracking 150 damage even from the front row. Halfway through the dungeon, I was able to pick up the Full Moon boomerang (えんげつりん = "Engetsurin", whatever that means!) and start using it from the safety of the back row. This brought damage up to the respectable range, about 250 per use. Only Thieves and Ninjas can use this weapon other than Mimics - and neither of them can pair it with a shield! Mimics are a weird class. I was also able to mix and match armor from the Heavy and Medium sets, such as the Mythril Armor and the Green Beret found in the dungeon. Throw in the Healing Staff, and Marcel was in pretty good shape, even if he lacked overwhelming damage of any kind.
For LiquidFlame (officially "Rikuido Fureimu" in one of those awesome Engrish transliterations!), Marcel simply tossed Full Moon boomerangs and used the Healing Staff to patch up the damage taken. By equipping the Mythril Helmet over the Green Beret, I was able to nullify all damage from the physical attacks of the Hand form, making this battle a cinch. Although it took a while, I won on the first attempt without using a single healing item. Lots of Healing Staff usage, no items though. The escape from exploding Karnak Castle was a bit trickier, and I failed to make it out the first three times in a row! Marcel lacked much offense, and he kept getting way more random encounters than normal in fits of bad luck. The Gigas enemies in particular made my life miserable on several occasions. Fortunately I did not have to go fetch the Elf Cape (since Marcel already had one from Worus Castle), but even so, I had to skip some Elixirs to get the Guardian dagger and make it out in time. I did it on the fourth try with under ten seconds left - yeesh! Did not mean to cut it that close.
Three more quick notes on translation stuff. First of all, the GBA version is correct again: this weapon is indeed called the マインゴシュ = "Main Gosshu" or Main Gauche. It looks like the fan translation just made up the "Guardian" name because of the weapon block property, which makes sense but is an artificial addition. Whoops, another mistake in all my written reports. Secondly, the werewolf who appears in the failed attempt to save the Fire Crystal gets the name ワルフ = "Warufu" for Wolf. That's pretty hilarious, I couldn't help smiling at that. I told you Japanese doesn't handle consonant clusters well! Finally, when the crystal shards provided new job classes at the end of this area, the formal name for the Geomancer was this: 風水土. That's the kanji for Wind ("Kaze"), Water ("Mizu"), and Earth ("Tsuchi"). In other words, the Geomancer is the Wind/Water/Earth job class. That actually makes total sense, heh. I keep finding lots of small details like this as I proceed.
Next up was the Ancient Library, and no, I don't know the official name in this version. (It was all written in kanji that I didn't recognize.) I had Marcel stop to fight a battle against one of the Chimera monsters in the small desert along the way, mostly just to prove that he could beat them. They are somewhat infamous for having extremely strong physical attacks and using the Blue magic spell Aqua Rake repeatedly. My answer was to move Marcel to the back row, keep Mimicking self-attacks with the Healing Staff, and then go over to the offensive with the Full Moon once the monster was out of magic. That's the message above, "MP Gatarinai" written in hiragana. This strategy was a slow process, but it did work. I had a feeling that I might be running more bosses out of magic points down the road with this character.
I don't like the monsters in the Ancient Library. I've said this on a number of occasions. They take a while to fight and don't produce much of anything in terms of gold or experience for rewards. I always wonder why these book enemies only drop 200 XP per battle, while the very easy critters outside are giving you double and triple that. Anyway, I actually died here once or twice before remembering that Marcel could simply run from any encounter I didn't want to fight. Oh yeah! Been playing too many Brave Blade characters of late. Anyway, I took this screenshot to capture the hilarious Engrish spell name above: レベル５デス = "Reberu 5 Desu". That's Level 5 Death written out in katakana, as you may have guessed. I tend to butcher the pronunciation of non-English words, so it's reassuring on some level to see how badly Japanese as a language can mangle stuff from the Western world.
For Ifrit and Byblos, the strategy was simple. I had tested earlier and determined that breaking the appropriate elemental rod would do about 2300 damage to each of them. I might have fought Ifrit in normal fashion, using the Healing Staff endlessly until he ran out of magic points, except that he can pull out a paralyzation attack. That meant it was simply too dangerous. I did about 600 damage to Ifrit with physical attack (and let me tell you, that was not easy at all, with three or four rounds of Healing Staff usage for every one round attacking) and then finished him off with a shattered Ice Rod. With Byblos, there would be no such fooling around. Break two Fire Rods and get out of town with life and limb intact. The Fire Rod's official name here is "Honoo no Roddo", or possibly "Ho no O no Roddo", and again I don't know what that means. These rods use hiragana and not katakana, which means no easy English transliterations. In any case, Byblos died easily in two rounds of combat. Marcel actually began the battle with a "Chance to Strike First", which meant that Byblos never got to act at all. Hah!
Random detail: Byblos' line of dialogue when he dies is うごごご = "Ugogogo". Apparently this is the Japanese version of "Argh!" or "Ugh!" Interesting.
The next character to show up in the game's plot was Mid, who as you might have guessed is called ミド = "Mido". Shido and Mido, the dynamic airship duo. This is also where we get Galuf's first flashback sequence, and the appearance of his granddaughter for the first time. This character's name might work in Japanese, but it becomes a complete mess when converted into English. クルル = "Kururu" or "Kululu" or some combination of the two, which sounds incredibly awkward for a little girl's name. Neither the unofficial fan translation's "Cara" nor the official SquareEnix's "Krile" is particularly accurate here. My personal preference is for the fan translation, because who in their right mind would name a young girl "Krile"? One choice is just as arbitrary as the other here. As for the screenshot above, here's another simple phrase I can translate in full. クルル： おじいちゃんのバカ！ (Kururu: Ojiichan no baka! Cara: Grandpa you idiot!) Both Mid and Cara use "Ojiichan" to refer to Cid and Galuf respectively, which is a very familiar and informal term in Japanese. That was my guess before playing, and it was nice to see it confirmed in practice.
Here's something else weird. The Bard-exclusive weapons in this version use a little note symbol instead of a harp symbol:
I wonder how that change made it into the fan translation. Did someone create a little harp graphic and throw it into the conversion file (?) While we're on the subject of Bard stuff, the various Bard songs are another perfect place to demonstrate the differences between the literal fan translation and the flowery official translation. The first song is listed in the Japanese as たいりょくのうた = "Tairyoku no Uta". If you remember back to earlier when I talked about the various stats on the status screen, Tairyoku is the stat used for HP growth, which is translated as either Vitality or Stamina in the two versions. This first song is therefore called the "Vitality Song" in the fan translation, an exact conversion of the name. But that's too boring for the GBA translation, which turns this into the "Might March". Ditto for the other stat-boosting Bard songs, as "Chikara no Uta" = "Power Song" becomes "Sinewy Etude" and "Maryoku no Uta" = "Magic Song" becomes "Mana's Paen". These overly-elaborate descriptive names are most definitely additions that were not present in the Japanese original, and furthermore they obscure the function of these spells. (For example, "Mana's Paen" has absolutely nothing to do with mana whatsoever.) I know what the "Power Song" does, it increases my strength. "Sinewy Etude" is not at all clear, and it sounds like something from a college freshman creative writing class. Way too much usage of obscure words - put down the thesaurus there, chief!
I make no bones about the fact that I don't particularly like the official GBA translation. That version takes some major liberties with characterization, and the obsession with making all of the names sound poetic leads to outright confusion at times. As I continue to go through the Japanese version, I'm more and more impressed with the fan translation. As best I can tell, it's extremely accurate to the original dialogue. The one knock on the fan translation would be that it's very literal, taking no liberties and attempting to turn everything directly into English. I suppose it comes down to personal preference on what you enjoy reading, the no-frills direct conversion or the GBA version with its pirate-talking Faris and its sarcastic/mean turtle sage (neither of which exists in the original). Honestly, I think FF5 can stand on its own merits without needing to be jazzed up with these additions and faux-Shakespearean names. As I said though, it's a personal preference.
The first place that I went with the Black Chocobo was Bartz's home town of Lix (officially "Rikkusu" in Japanese) to restock on Potions at the cheaper half cost prices. Above that item store is another shop that sells a bunch of ninja-only gear, which I've screenshotted and translated here. All of this could have been lifted directly out of that Naruto anime show, heh. Leaving aside the kunai and shuriken, I was very surprised to see that the fire/water/lightning scrolls are referred to as "Jutsu" in the original version. That's a word that does not translate directly into English, with "technique" or "skill" seeming to be about as close as you can get, although I've seen it translated as "style" or even "discipline" at times. Anyway, the fact that a "Fire Scroll" is actually "Katon no Jutsu" suggests that the Ninja class isn't so much throwing a rolled-up piece of paper as he or she is actually performing a secret martial arts technique. This makes total sense, and the English version is definitely losing some of the original meaning here.
The Sandworm was next, and the gameplay for this battle was completely uninteresting. Marcel attacked with the Guardian dagger, and swapped to the Healing Staff periodically to refresh his health. Rinse and repeat for about ten minutes until the battle was over. I contemplated using the Mimic command in random fashion, hoping to get lucky and attack the correct target, but the battle was already slow enough with Marcel's physical strikes doing all of 150 damage. I made sure to pick the actual worm. More interesting was the new text in the bottom left hand corner. There's a little number 2 listed there! That's placed next to the あな = "Ana", which I looked up and does indeed translate as "Hole". Note that this number does not show up in the fan translation patch. I wonder why the fan patch took out that little number (?) Small changes, I know, but my eyes were drawn there like a magnet immediately. I think I may have played this game a few too many times...
When I wrote about the solo Gladiator in the GBA version, I wondered if the new name of the Ruined Town (Gohn) had been present in the original Japanese game. I took careful note when I reached this part of the plot and took the picture above. I had a devil of a time finding the exact kanji used here, and then also figuring out what the hiragana word meant. Long story short, after close to an hour's work with Google, I have the correct translation. ほろびの町 = "Horobi no Machi" and that becomes... "Town of Ruin" or "Ruined Town". Aha! I knew it! I knew that whole "Gohn" name was SquareEnix revisionist garbage! The GBA remake pulled that one out of its rear end. It is most definitely not in the original game. Score points this time for the unofficial fan translation.
After playing hide and seek with King Tycoon, the gang found their way to the underwater airship. This triggered the short boss fight with Crayclaw, who has the awesome Engrish name of クレイクロワ = "Kureikurowa". As bizarre as that looks when spelled out, it actually does sound pretty close once you understand the weird way in which Western words get converted into Japanese. In the battle itself, I didn't even heal Marcel ahead of time, since I knew I could one-shot the lobster with a broken Thunder Rod. This one is いかつちのロッド = "Ikazuchi no Roddo", which as I understand does indeed translated as Thunder Rod using hiragana particles. That was now all three types of rod broken in battle, and it wouldn't be the last time I would employ the technique on this run. (And no, it's not possible to Mimic rod breaking. You do need a separate item for each use.)
Against Adamantium, I swapped to the back row and equipped the Full Moon boomerang to get around the row penalty. The battle itself was a slow process of attacking mixed together with a whole lot of Healing Staff usage. At least the combination of the Elf Cape and a shield gave Marcel some pretty good evade. Slow battle, zero danger.
Here's another fun picture where Mid breaks the fourth wall in his conversation. He tells you flat out to hit the A button in the boxed text - well, technically it's "A Botan" using katakana in another little bit of Engrish. There's also two kanji in use here that I recognize, both of them right next to each other. The first is the 上 kanji, which has a whole bunch of different readings but "Jou" seems to be the most common. It means "high" or "above" or "best" depending on use. Right next to that is the 空 kanji, nearly always read as "Sora" and meaning "sky" when used normally. These are two kanji that I did know ahead of time, and when used together, it's clearly a refernce to using the airship to reach the Lonka Ruins in the "high sky" or something like that. This is how I processed the story on this playthrough, getting bits and pieces of the dialogue here and there. Obviously knowing the game ahead of time helped enormously.
For the Flameguns preceding the Sol Cannon fight, Marcel could equip a Flame Ring and attack with whatever he wanted. The Rockets though, they were a bit trickier:
The easy solution would be breaking Thunder Rods, but I wanted to avoid that if possible. There was another, more creative approach. Recall that the Rockets will never actually kill your character themselves. They only deal percentage-based damage, so they'll drop you down to 1 HP but never finish you off. They rely on confusing your characters with Rocket Punch and then waiting for self-inflicted suicide damage. This is why I've gotten past this situation with a number of character by equipping the very weak Knife weapon, which will deal 0 damage against any kind of armor. I could have Marcel equip the Knife too, but then he wouldn't be able to deal any damage against the Rockets, and he didn't have an ability to fall back on like Dance or Terrain or whatever. Equipping the Healing Staff would do the same thing, as Marcel would never kill himself... but he'd never kill the Rockets either. And Rocket Punch is classified as an "ability" that doesn't use MP, so the enemies would always be able to keep using it. How to deal damage here?
My solution was to equip the Fire Rod and attack using that weapon. The damage from the Fire Rod has the fire element property, so going into the battle with a Flame Ring would cause it to heal Marcel. This would ensure that he could never kill himself in his confusion. And the Fire Rod could damage the Rockets when attacking, if just barely. Rods have a weird formula in the Algorithms Guide: roll a random number from 0 to the weapon attack value, then multiply it by two. Take that value and subtract enemy magic defense from it (not physical defense as normal), then apply the multiplier M using the standard magic damage formula [M = (Level*Magic Power)/256 + 2]. To make a long story short, rods typically are pretty weak on the attack, since the attack value can be anywhere from 0 to 32 and the multiplier is quite a bit lower than for physical weapons. The Rockets have a magic defense of 15, which meant that fully half of Marcel's attacks were doing no damage at all. When he did roll a good attack value, it looked a lot like what you see above. The absolute max damage possible was only 68. Have I mentioned that the Rockets have 2500 health? Ummm... Marcel was going to be there for a while. Liberal use of emulation fast forwarding eventually got it done, with three hours of in-game time passing according to the clock. Fortunately I only ran into one battle with Rockets, getting the tame Flameguns for the other three. Whew.
I thought about running the Sol Cannon battle without picking up an Angel Ring. Marcel could destroy the Lanchers with two broken Thunder Rods, so if both of the initial missiles missed their shots, it was doable. However, the odds of that were very low (each missile having over 90% odds to hit), and I realized that I might want to have an Angel Ring anyway for use somewhere in the second world. As a result, I took the extra hour to grind out the 50,000 gold needed to pick up one of those accessories. The best place to do this is almost always against the monsters outside Crescent, since they have the chance to drop Doom Axes which sell for 3000 gold apiece. I demonstrated that at the bottom of the picture above. This is another case where the GBA translation is more accurate; the weapon is デスシックル = "Desushikkuru" = Death Sickle. Marcel didn't get any of these item drops for a long time, then landed three of them in about ten battles. RNG at its finest.
The top of the screenshot has the Level Up printout for the Japanese version of FF5. This one is another truly fantastic version of Engrish: マルセルはレベルアップ = "Maruseru wa Reberu Appu". Remember how the letters "R" and "L" are functionally the same in Japanese? "Level Up" becomes "Reberu Appu" when transformed into katakana. It's striking how the concept of an increase in level was borrowed so directly from Western tabletop role-playing games. Virtually the whole terminology for JRPGs has been lifted directly from the old Dungeons and Dragons tabletop games! I find this fascinating how different cultures interact and play off of one another.
The Sol Cannon battle went exactly as expected. Marcel smashed two Thunder Rods to take out the Launchers, then very slowly killed the Cannon itself with the Guardian dagger and a whole lot of Healing Staff usage. It took about five rounds of healing for every one round attacking, but there was never any danger. Sol Cannon prints out a whole bunch of Japanese text during the battle, most of which was in kanji that I couldn't read. I noticed that the "128%" number was still present in the text that always appears right before the thing fires. I have the Surge Beam text captured in the screenshot; this one is はどうほう = "Hadouhou". Note that it's written in hiragana and not katakana, meaning that this uses indigenous Japanese words and not borrowed Western ones. As best I can tell, the "Hadou" part seems to be coming from the same root word used for Street Fighter's "Hadouken", and it means "moving wave" or something along those lines. The "Hou" part then almost certainly means something along the lines of "beam". Looks like "Wave Beam" or "Surge Beam" or something close to that is roughly correct. The GBA version uses "Wave Cannon" for this attack, and it might be a better fit. I dunno.
The path through the Lonka/Ronka Ruins was an interesting one. (And yes, the place is named ろんか as expected, so either name is equally appropriate.) Marcel didn't have all that much in the way of direct offense, just his Guardian dagger, but he did have the Healing Staff, and therefore I abused the living daylights out of that thing. Any encounter with the Whirl Demon enemies would prompt me to Mimic use of the Healing Staff over and over again until they ran out of magic points to cast White Wind. Then Marcel could (slowly) kill them with his dagger. I did fight and kill nearly everything, it just took a long time.
Marcel had two nice advantages for the ArcheaoAvis battle: the Healing Staff and very high physical evade. In the non-dangerous early phases of the boss fight, I could sit back and heal up to full whenever I wanted. That would make this another version of the Sol Cannon situation: slow and steady progress. Of course, the counter to this was the fact that Marcel was only doing about 70 damage per attack against the first phase! Heh. The way that ArchaeoAvis works is that each new phase is generally more dangerous in terms of the attacks that it does, but each phase also has lower defense as well. By the final undead phase, Marcel would be up to about 300 damage per swing.
For a solo character, the true danger in this battle is always the "attacks with status effects" that ArchaeoAvis can do. The first couple phases have minor things like poison, HP leak, and darkness status. The last two phases are the dangerous ones: the fourth phase inflicts paralyzation on ArchaeoAvis' special attack, and the final phase inflicts confusion. Both are obviously very bad for a solo character. Marcel had the good luck to be able to equip the Guardian dagger (also his strongest weapon for attack), the Elf Cape, and the Gold Shield. That gave him total physical evade of 65% and a good chance to dodge the really nasty stuff from the boss. I played this battle cautiously, using the Healing Staff liberally for the first three phases. For the last two phases, I stopped using the Healing Staff and swapped over to Elixirs, to save rounds of combat wasted on healing and get the battle over sooner. There were a few tense moments in the last phase when ArchaeoAvis kept spamming ミッルストッム = "Mirrusutommu", the awkward katakana translation of Maelstrom. I actually saved a couple of Elixirs by Mimicking drinking them. Fortunately, Marcel was only confused one time and he didn't kill himself with dagger, allowing me to win this battle on the first attempt. It took a long time to play, and I didn't want to get stuck here!
In the cutscenes that follow the battle, Exdeath makes his appearance for the first time. The character's name is officially エクスデス = "Ekusudesu", which does indeed look like "Exdeath" but honestly could likely be rendered as "Exodus" just as easily. Pitchfork Pat wrote in his Rise and Fall of Final Fantasy series that the name Exodus would make a lot more sense for this character, and I think that I agree. (Final Fantasy as a series loves to make Biblical allusions!) While I won't pretend to understand all of the dialogueue between these characters in the cutscenes, everything seems to play out pretty much the same way in the Japanese text. Exdeath likes to twirl his villain mustache and do the フアフアフア = "Fua Fua Fua" laugh, which seems to be the anime version of "Mwa ha ha!" Here's one subtlety that doesn't translate out of Japanese into English: while the two girls in your party both refer to King Tycoon as "Father", Lenna uses the more formal "sama" honorific, while Faris uses "san" instead. There's really no way to capture this nuance in English without mucking around with the wording, and it does shed a small insight to the personality of the characters.
Continued on the next page...