Final Fantasy V: Bing and Vera-Ellen – Stave 3

How about a looksee at Stave 2 to get you in the mood?

World 2 begins on my personal favorite landmass in the Final Fantasy series: Tent Island. When Butz, Lenna, and Faris are teleported to Galuf’s world via the meteors, they are cast on the shores of a deserted island. Upon exploration, they only discover one easily-defeated enemy that drops a Tent every time. The plot advances only upon the characters using a Tent, as they are kidnapped in the night by Exdeath’s bounty hunters. It is possible—but not really worth it—to farm endless Tents on the island from the native Pao enemies.

Upon using a Tent, the party is ambushed and Butz faces a solo battle with an Abductor. Even though the plot will continue whether the battle is won or lost, Butz usually has the tools to bring down the enemy. In this case, Charm Song kept it Charm-locked and it spent every action attacking itself.

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No matter the outcome of the battle, the party is captured and taken to Exdeath’s dungeon. Exdy projects the image of the party in the sky with a magical mirror and Galuf boldly comes to their rescue—and this is where most solo parties must take a slight indulgence.

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Galuf faces a solo battle with Gilgamesh—Exdy’s hilarious lackey—and, unlike the solo fight with the Abductor, must win to advance. In a casual game, Galuf will be sufficiently leveled to take on this easier-than-normal boss, but in a solo variant, his level will be in the single digits, and he will die to a single blow. The battle is possible with the proper equipment setup—usually the Elf Cape and Guardian Dagger for 50% physical evade—but this often requires repeated attempts to appease the gods of Random Numbers. An easy way to quickly clear this battle and advance a challenge run is to make Galuf a temporary Samurai and simply perform one !GilToss in the battle. Even at Galuf’s low level, this will do enough damage to trigger Gligamesh’s hasty escape.

Just for fun, I took advantage of my all-jobs cheat to make Galuf a Mime—a class that technically isn’t available until after Galuf goes Aeris, and thus has no sprite in the game. When assigned this job, his sprite is simply empty—invisible—but he continues to act as normal. Any other sprites, like the sunglasses of Darkness status or the green spinning circles of Charm status, execute, but simply over an invisible character. Thankfully, the dead sprite of characters is always in their Bare class, so we can see his dead body as we continue through the next few dungeons.

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Music fans rejoice when the party reaches the Big Bridge from Exdeath’s Castle. This mini-dungeon has some heavily rocking progressive rock, and features a number of “trapped” battles—fights triggered by stepping on invisible trigger points, and avoidable with a specific path along the bridge. One unavoidable battle is another with Gilgamesh—this time with a full party, but this time he poses a much more significant threat.

He begins the battle with 6500 HP and a mildly threatening AI routine of mostly physical attacks. When he is dropped below 2500—as a reaction, not on his next turn—he quickly casts Armor (Protect) Shell (halves magic damage) and Haste on himself, followed by a Jump ability unique to him. Because these four actions happen as a reaction, they don’t consume a turn, so it is possible, and very common, for Gilgamesh to perform an additional attack—sometimes another Jump—immediately following his buff. So Armored and Shelled, and with doubled actions thanks to Haste, he becomes massively more dangerous. His Jump attack is the most dangerous ability of his second AI routine, and it’s a strange ability in the code.

The enemy ability Jump differs from the ability of the Dragoon class of the party. It bizarrely uses the Magic multiplier (M) and bypasses evasion, but uses Physical Defense in its damage calculation. Either way, one Jump would almost drop one of these two in one shot; a Hasted Gilga Jumping over and over would end the battle very, very quickly. Thankfully, the game provides us with a way…

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The Mage Masher knife from World 1 has a chance to cast the Mute spell (33% chance to attempt; level check and enemy Magic Evade still apply), and Gilgamesh isn’t specifically immune to Mute status. With some careful HP tracking and plinking him from the back row over and over, I was able to land the Mute status, then deliver the blow to put him below 2500 before the status quickly expired. He attempted to cast his buffs, but all were nullified. We still had to be cautious, as his Jump ability is still deadly, but coming at half speed, we could handle it.

Following the assault on the Bridge, Exdeath launches the party to another continent (!?) with his castle’s force field, and they are finally set loose on World 2. I fought some fun battles with enemies with the Fusion ability—a suicide move that kills the caster and transfers its HP to another target on its side—for some quick killing and unlimited healing. Thanks to Charm Song, I could fight as many Dilures as I cared to with no need to stay at the inn.

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Another not-so-fun random encounter here in World 2 involved the Fairie Orcs, which cast a Revive spell (Spirit) on their own side. When confused, this made them revive invisible Mime Galuf, forcing me to waste turns killing him to save experience for my Bard/Dancer combo.

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After the next town—which finally sold Hi-Potions, allowing me to save on Elixirs for healing during boss battles—we continued to the Moogle Cave. In this short dungeon, the gimmick is jumping into fast-flowing water and being dragged through encounter tiles, not unlike the Lete River sequence in FFVI, but with no loops and no Banon for unlimited leveling.

The cave exit is guarded by a skeletal Tyrannosaur; undead and nasty. Its ???? attack deals damage equal to the damage it has taken. This amounts to a one-hit-KO after a few rounds, making this a dangerous and luck-dependant fight for many solos and duos. Thankfully, it has the undead property and is vulnerable to a Phoenix Down insta-kill…subject to 75% Magic Accuracy when used on enemies.

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After this exchange, a short sequence in a hidden village of Moogles reveals my favorite pair of chests in the FF universe:

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Uhh…thanks.

Galuf’s granddaughter comes to our rescue on another dragon and brings us to Bal Castle in Galuf’s Kingdom. There are a number of hidden treasures and quirks about this short castle visit, but for this variant run the most significant was the Lamia Harp attained by sneaking behind the weapon and armor shop desk and triggering a humorous scene in which Butz puts on his Dragon Warrior IV hat and tries to sell weapons to shop customers.

To this point, I hadn’t much used Harp weapons, but I would finally begin to make occasional use of them with the pickup this new find. Three of the game’s four harps don’t deal static damage; rather, they deal percent-based damaged based on the target’s current HP—much like a Demi or gravity spell. The Lamia Harp deals 3/16 of current HP (not max HP) and inflicts Charm status on a successful hit. It acts like a magical attack with an accuracy of 99%, so high-level targets and/or those with inherent Magic Evade can dodge the damage from harps. Further, harps DO NOT work on targets with the Heavy flag in the game’s code: most bosses and a few random enemies, mostly Dragons.

From Bal Castle, we have to head to Hiryuu Valley to retrieve a special plant to heal the dragon that had rescued us—just as we did in the North Mountain in World 1. En route, we pass through the werewolf village of Kelb. There, we pick up another Song that would be very, very useful in the coming dungeon: Requiem.

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Requiem is the only offensive Song in the Bard’s skillset—and it’s a doozy. It packs a Spell Attack of 225, uses the Magic M, cuts enemy Magic DEF to 1/32 of its normal value (with usually reduces it to zero), and inflicts HP Leak status on its victims. The drawback? It only works on undead targets, like the Bone Dragons and Zombie Dragons in the Hiryuu Valley.

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That’s a lotta damage, from the back row, 100% accurate, and requiring no MP. Experience and gold racked up quickly as I worked through the dungeon, singing Requiems at everything that moved. Faris simply sat in the back row and defended, not wanting to risk a Jitterbug Duet (HP Drain) on the undead targets that would reverse the damage and healing.

The boss at the end of the valley is the Dragon Plant. This big plant does one thing and one thing only: revives its five guardian Flower. Each one of these nasties attacks with a weak physical attack that inflicts a different status from Darkness to Poison to Aging to Confuse to Paralyze. Each Flower has low HP, and they can be easily taken out with area-of-effect damage, but this team has no access to all-targeting damage abilities.

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Thankfully, all six targets are vulnerable to Stop status from Love Song. Once Stopped, the main plant cannot revive its Flowers, and we could attack it with impunity; resetting the Stop status every few rounds. Finally, the Lamia Harp saw some use against this high-HP (but not Heavy) boss. Bing could finally deal significant damage to a non-undead foe. Sadly, because of its percent-based damage formula, the harp dealt less damage with each hit.

With a healthy dragon as a temporary airship, we can visit the castle of Galuf’s old friend Zeza. The King is absent at when the party arrives, but they can loot his castle for a few useful goodies. For our purposes, it’s the Speed Song written in a diary in his bedroom.

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The Speed Song is the first of the stat-boosting songs we will learn. All four of these Songs work the same way: upon selecting the Song in battle, the singer enters “Singing” status. While in this status, the character can take no other actions—her actions are skipped as the battle continues. She will continue to Sing until hit with a physical attack, similar to leaving Charm status. During the Song, the Agility stat of all living characters will steadily increase, shortening the time between actions. I would make heavy use of this song for many of the tough boss battles ahead.

Like the run-in with Gilgamesh and his pal Enkidu on King Zeza’s ship. This is again a two-stage fight, Gilga starts the battle with a manageable AI routine, but things change when he hits low HP. Instead of buffing himself, he summons his flying green accomplice Enkidu, who heals him to full HP with White Wind and goes on the attack.

With Speed Song in my arsenal, I sandbagged for the first phase of the fight to buff up my agility before letting Gilgy summon Enkidu. This meant equipping the Elf Cape and Guardian Dagger on Bing to max out his physical evade—both items still function when in Singing status, and will prevent Singing knockout when they parry an attack—and simply defending and healing with Faris. When our speed was maxed out, we dinged Gilgamesh down until he summoned Enkidu.

Luckily, Enkidu is not Heavy, and thus lacks resistance to a few handy statuses. In the battle, I experimented with harp attacks, but found his Magic Evade (20%) blocked a number of my attacks. I switched between knives and harps with Bing while Faris went all-out on her Dancing.

Atop the following Barrier Tower, a tough boss with a unique gimmick is a big hurdle for many challenge run players. Atmos is a dimensional beast with the ability to slowly pull dead characters across the battlefield and into its black hole of a mouth, and thus out of the battle. Whenever at least one character is dead Atmos uses (most) of its actions to pull every dead character closer. Whenever a dead member reaches the end, it is eaten with the Wormhole skill and cannot be returned or revived.

Whenever all characters onscreen are alive, Atmos launches a hail of the Time Magic spell Comet—with a chance to launch two per action. That it has a high Speed stat (36) and begins the battle in Haste status can make the Comets really fly. The point of these Comets in a casual battle is to kill a character quickly and begin the sucking. Once the dead member is removed, the Comets return, repeat cycle. So, this battle usually turns into a race to take down Atmos’ high HP (19,997) before it can eat your party members.

Standard solo practice for this battle involves some mild cheating: entering the fight with one character dead and only attacking with the solo while all others do nothing. Just before the first character is eaten, another character kills herself, keeping Atmos busy sucking while the solo continues the fight. But, with a Bard in the party, we don’t have to do that.

By Hiding just before Galuf and Lenna are Wormholed, Bing can simply sit safely out of range while Atmos burns ALL 10,000 MP (seen displayed by ROM address watch in the video) on useless Comet spells. Unfortunately, in the successful fight, Bing was hit with a Slow 2 (one of Atmos’ other nonlethal spells that it can fire in its sucking phase) and was thus hampered once the MP had been drained and he emerged to fight with the Dancing Dagger. Interestingly, this dagger randomly triggers the Dance command when used to Fight at a 25% rate. This is the Bard’s best source of damage for much of World 2.

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We now have full use of the submarine, and we visited the forgettable and short Guido’s Cave dungeon to pick up the key to our next major challenge: the Forest of Moore and the Seal Guardians.

Navigating the forest was easy and fun with this quirky duo; Bing was able to Sing the hard-hitting enemies into confusion or stasis while Faris either mopped up with her dagger or simply waited for them to plink each other to death. From this point in World 2 onward, I would have to be careful and selective about which enemies I would confuse, as many random foes now have access to spells and abilities with unwanted effects, like Berserk and Reset—a Time spell that re-rolls the battle as if it were just triggered, and for some reason is considered a “party-friendly” selection in the AI progression of some enemies.

After picking up a few levels in the forest, we faced the unnamed crystals, generally called the “Seal Guardians” by most fans. Each of these is attuned to one of the game’s four crystal elements—clockwise from top: Fire, Water, Earth, Air. Together, they pose a significant threat for many Four Job Fiesta parties and many other challenge-run parties.

All four crystals have high Speed stats and thus act quickly. With access to neither Slow (they are vulnerable) nor Haste, I would simply have to eat their attacks to the best of my ability. All four crystals have 7777 HP, and begin the battle with nothing but physical attacks. Whenever any crystal is below 3000 HP, it foregoes physical attacks for all-targeting third-level elemental spells of its element: Fire 3, Aqua Breath, Earth Shaker, Aero 3. Any two of these in a row and my party would be wiped out, and I would quickly lose a damage/healing race between two spongy fighters and a magic-spamming crystal.

But, I do have Speed Song, and this would be the key to the fight—short of Hiding each crystal out of MP, taking hours and leaving the Earth Crystal still spamming the no-MP Earth Shaker attack. To start the fight, I equipped Elf Capes and Guardian daggers—a second Guardian is hidden in a barrel in the town just before the forest—on both characters and set up for a long sandbag.

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Bing set up Regen and kept Speed Song going while Faris sat back and chucked Hi-Potions around. The Elf Cape and Guardian helped keep Bing Singing, as being hit with a physical attack would cancel the Song and force him to spend a turn resetting. After a while, our speed advantage became greater and greater; Faris getting two or three actions for each one of any given crystal.

Finally, it was time to go on the attack. I carefully watched the HP of each crystal as we weakened them with attacks and Dances. When a crystal approached 3000 HP, I moved Faris to the front row, waited for it to take an action, and went at it with a Dance. If a Sword Dance did proc for 2200+ damage, Bing would poke away 200 more immediately, and Faris could finish it off with a (non-luck-dependant) attack before it would have a chance to fire off its desperation spell. They would both then retreat to the safety of the back row, licking their wounds after taking a pummeling in the front row.

If, say, a Jitterbug Duet triggered to bring a crystal below 3000 but out of quick-kill range, Bing could then immediately throw a Potion or Hi-Potion at the enemy to keep it from nuking us with spells. This happened a few times, but I had the plan, I had the inventory, and I had the patience to persevere.

Quick note: the best dagger available at this point in the game is the Air Lance, a rare source of Air-element damage for the party in this game. Unfortunately, the rear crystal absorbs Air element—and is the fastest of all four crystals—so we had to switch to slightly weaker weapons and hope for enough damage. We got it.

After the Seal Guardians are defeated Exdeath shows up and Galuf is forced into a plot-advancing solo battle with him. In it, Galuf exchanges dialogue with Exdy while they attack back and forth. In this battle, Galuf doesn’t die when his HP reach 0, the fight just continues until Galuf does enough damage to Exdeath. At his low level, it would have taken a long time to plink down, but I took advantage of an oversight. Before the Seal Guardian battle, I equipped Galuf with the Bone Mail armor—giving him the traits of the undead—and simply began the battle by using a Phoenix Down on him. This sets his status to DEAD without HP loss, forcing the end of the battle, but not a Game Over!

Following the forest—which is burned to a crisp by Exdeath—we head to the Big Man’s castle to face him head-to-head. The castle climb is one of the most interesting and most challenging dungeons in the game—and an absolute playground for our Bard. Many large enemy groups would become confused meat with Charm Song, sometimes to hilarious (and rewarding) effect.

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I did have to be wary, however, of the Wall Mages with this strategy. These piddly casters posed very little threat by themselves, but their inherent Reflect status sometimes caused complications—especially when they were paired with the deadly Dark Wizards.

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That’s a Stone spell reflecting away from the Wall Mage and on its way to our party.

But not every fight was an easy win, and we ran away from most of the tough dragon enemies in the upper floors—especially the strange battle with three Blue Dragons that all share the same sprite. Yep.

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I unfortunately hit Level 27 near the top floor, and was forced to grind it up to 28, just to safely avoid L3 Flare in the upcoming fight. The battle with Exdeath, like many in FFV, has two chapters. He begins the fight with 32,768 HP and 32,768 MP, and begins his normal AI routine. When his HP drop below 16,000, roughly half, he changes routine to a “berserk” mode, in which he takes two actions on each turn and spends them on powerful physical attacks and single-targeting elemental spells. Both sides of this Exdeath coin have their own challenges, but the second half is generally thought to be the easier of the two—or at least easier to plan for and neutralize.

The first order of business would be to run him totally out of MP…all 32,000 of them. This would take forever…or would it?

Due to a hiccup in the game’s programming, I can immediately cut his MP to 9999 simply by throwing an Ether at him. The game reads this as healing him to more than the usual four-digit maximum and, following its own programming, simply sets the MP number to the usual maximum. Too bad this doesn’t work with HP.

On the first attempt, I made an annoying blunder. Exdeath has a 2/3 chance to cast Condemn on his first action, setting a 30-second death counter on one of the party. Bing was hit with it before he Hid away. I thought the timer would stop while Bing stepped out. Forty-five minutes later, I returned to the battle, stepped back, and saw the timer roll over to 00. Back to the drawing board.

On the next attempt, I avoided the Condemn clock and safely hid away with Bing while Faris bravely Danced for a few rounds until she dropped. Bing stepped back into battle to an MP-bereft Exdeath, but not a completely neutered one. Gravity 100 (an ability that pulls any Floating characters back down to earth) signaled an oncoming Earth Shaker—the same no-MP spell cast by the Earth Seal Guardian. He can also use a number of other dangerous attacks, most notably Zombie Breath. This ability can deal heavy damage (or very little damage; it has a very wide range), and any characters reduced to 0 HP by it are inflicted with Zombie status, a quirky state that makes them attack party members, yet a valid target for enemies that cannot be killed. Some teams intentionally use this status in certain tricky battles, but it wasn’t in the cards for us.

With both characters alive and Exdeath long from defeated, we sat in the safety of the back row with Guardians and Elf Capes to block some of his incoming physical attacks. Bing sang Speed Song while Faris kept everyone alive. In one humorous little exchange, Bing was pulled to the front row by the row-switching enemy skill Dynamo. It was up to Faris to knock him out of Singing status, but his Guardian blocked her attacks over and over! Meanwhile, he just kept Singing and buffing our speed. Fully FASTed, it was time to go on the offensive.

When Exdeath dropped below half health, he entered his two-per-turn phase, but most of his damage was nullified due to his empty MP tank. His physical Vacuum Wave attacks—1.5x physical damage and HP Leak status—were the only threat, and not insignificant. It was safer to keep both characters in the back row, Faris Dancing with an Air Knife and Bing swinging with the Dancing Dagger hoping to pull Sword Dances at a 1/8 chance. Eventually, we got him.

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It was a long fight, but the battle went just how I planned. World 2 was a fun challenge for this team, and World 3 had some great new treasures and powerful new songs just waiting for us.

FFV Bing and Vera-Ellen Quick Reference

Stave 1 – Prefatory Matters
Stave 2 – World 1
Stave 3 – World 2
Stave 4 – World 3
Stave 5 – The Void

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About Active_ate

Active_ate is an American expat currently living in Ireland. Since first buying Final Fantasy in the clearance bin at Kay-Bee Toys in his hometown mall, he has been hooked on JRPGs. He had his first taste of the Final Fantasy V Jour Job Fiesta in 2013, and has since become a hopeless FFV challenge run junkie. He has also published a comprehensive FAQ for The Blue Marlin, an obscure NES fishing game, and another childhood favorite. In real life, he is a travel writer, publishing travel guides and articles at fivesuitcases.com. He simultaneously regrets and cherishes the fact that he destroyed all of the maps and guides for that copy of Final Fantasy through heavy marking, folding, and loving use.

2 Comments

  1. Okay, I’ve caught up to all three parts just now and I must say this is AWESOME. I was so excited when I saw in the title you would be going into FFV, and clicking back to the first post, I found this super interesting. I hadn’t heard of the Fiesta runs before and didn’t know there was a community doing challenge runs of FFV at all. I love this game and have always felt it goes overlooked by Final Fantasy fans. I’m really enjoying how you break down the boss battles into their code and explain the probabilities of things happening. I hadn’t thought about the formulas working behind the scenes like that before. And I love the White Christmas theme, very festive! Now that I’m caught up, I will be very much looking forward to the next entries!

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