Anatomy of a Run: Examining the Final Fantasy V Four Job Fiesta

Games don’t have to be just what the developer intended them to be. As the speedrunning community taught us, you can apply whatever limitations and challenges you want onto an existing game to create something entirely new. In that spirit, the Final Fantasy V Four Job Fiesta is perhaps one of the most accessible metachallenges that you could undertake thanks to the sheer flexibility of the core game and the varying playstyles that result from it. One run can play completely differently from another, which speaks to why players take part year in and year out.

This is how the Four Job Fiesta works: Final Fantasy V is a job-based game, where you have different character classes you can switch between at will. Each class has an innate ability and some special characteristics all its own, and you can learn new abilities for leveling each job up. Where it gets spicy is the fact that you can assign any ability from any job you’ve learned from to a second slot, leading to incredibly busted builds or just plain weird multiclassing possibilities. And with over 20 different jobs you can choose from for across four different characters, party compositions can get really customized and varied.

The limitation that the Four Job Fiesta introduces is as it says in the name: The game will limit you to four different jobs that you must use throughout the game. And since you have four characters, each character must be one of the jobs with no repeating jobs. For instance, my run was Monk, Time Mage, Ranger, and Dancer, which means that I would always need to have each of those jobs as part of my party where possible. You get these jobs at a staggered pace in the opening hours of the game in four batches. Once you hit each of these points, you have to tweet Gilgabot on Twitter to learn which job you’ve been assigned from that batch. So you’ll have everyone as one job at first, and then as you get new jobs, you have to have at least one of each in your party.

Jobs are randomized for the purposes of this challenge, so sometimes you’ll have a hilariously overpowered set of jobs and abilities, and sometimes you’ll end up with a ridiculously mismatched team. But no matter what, you’ve got to work with what you’re given. A big part of the appeal of the Four Job Fiesta is the amount of experimentation and improvisation that goes into a run. These limitations often force you to think outside the box, and since there’s so few combinations that all but ensure victory, it’s up to you to piece together good synergies and strategies for whatever is thrown at you.

As an example, here’s my party and the thought processes that went into making it work:

Monk: A job with high hit points and strength, the Monk specializes in unarmed strikes, and thus can’t equip a weapon. They make up for this by having two strong attacks per command. They also have the innate command of Kick, which deals damage to every enemy in a battle once. They’re a great first pull early in the game because of the survivability factor and also letting you save your money that you would spend on weapons normally for later. Some of the key abilities later in the game are passive ones that increase your HP by 10%, 20%, or even 30%, which proved clutch for surviving the final boss’s ultimate attack. Also keep in mind the Monk’s ability to do multiple hits per attack will come into play in concert with another job’s abilities later.

Time Mage: The odd person out, the Time Mage was my only magic user for the run. This can be both good and bad, as it gives you magic when physical attacks won’t cut it – the late-game Fork Tower comes to mind for this – but the job doesn’t really synergize that well with any of the other classes I got, meaning that the Time Mage was just doing their own thing. An early-game challenge with the Time Mage is the fact that their spell list doesn’t have a damage spell until the midgame. That means you’re left relying on the class’s hidden function – the ability to break elemental rods in battle – as its sole method of dealing damage. And it’s extremely effective, as it gives you access to the highest tier of elemental spells way before you should have them. But the problem is the fact that each rod costs money, so you’re limited in where you should use them. Other than that, the Time Mage is a support class, speeding up your party with Haste, slowing down enemies with Slow, and taking extra turns with the late-game Quick spell. When you do get a damage spell, Comet, you learn that it has a bigger range of possible damage numbers than any other spell, meaning you can get an unusually low or high damage result from casting it. This won’t be the only high-variance aspect of the party I was given, and part of the tricky thing with this party was taming that variance to the point where you can do more consistent damage.

Ranger: The Ranger is a surprisingly clutch job in both the early and late game. They use bows as weapons, but that’s not what’s so special about them. The first important thing you get from the Ranger is the Animals command, which ends up filling a hole in your arsenal early on. Animals is another high-variance ability, as what happens when you use it is completely random. You’ll summon one of a number of different animals with different abilities. Squirrel, for instance, will do damage to a single enemy, while Flying Squirrel paralyzes foes. But none of those abilities are the ones we’re using Animals for. The only result that matters is Nightingale, which heals the party and removes poison and blind. As we don’t have access to a White Mage or a Chemist, we don’t have a good method to mass heal. Nightingale lets us come back from against the ropes and fight through some of the scarier super attacks from early bosses. The problem is the fact that you can’t ensure that you’ll get Nightingale because, again, Animals is a random draw. Equipping the ability on multiple party members mitigates the randomness somewhat.

Once you master Ranger, you get the ability Rapid Shot, which lets you attack random enemies four times in one command for lower damage in each shot than normal. All told, this damage still adds up to more than a regular attack, but the trick is in breaking parity. By equipping Rapid Shot on a Monk, you end up doing what is a lesser regular attack four times. But since a Monk hits twice when it attacks, Rapid Shot actually ends up doing eight hits, resulting in massive damage, especially once you get the Kaiser Knuckles that greatly increases unarmed hits. It was one of the cornerstones of my damage dealing in the endgame, and the most consistent one at that.

Dancer: By far the most difficult job to figure out how to use effectively, the Dancer is generally considered the worst melee class because of how random it is. The Dancer’s special ability lets you do one of four different dances, three of which are only marginally useful. The one you really want is Sword Dance, which attacks for four times the damage of regular attacks. Because it’s by far too random to truly be breakable, we want to maximize the damage it can do when it does hit. Again we employ a Monk ability, Barehanded, to double the number of hits, resulting in two Sword Dance hits. Of course, odds are that you won’t hit Sword Dance most of the time, so I ended up giving the Dancer Time Magic so it could do more consistent damage and having a second support caster until I got the Red Shoes and Rainbow Dress, which increased the likelihood that Sword Dance gets drawn.

My party in general was weak on healing, meaning I was reliant on Nightingale and Potions throughout the game, but it had some powerhouse synergies with a little massaging and mitigating for the surprisingly high variance nature of what I was assigned. But that’s just what Four Job Fiesta is about. There’s a reason it gets played by so many people every summer for years now. The challenge is capped off by you tweeting at Gilgabot a picture of your party defeating the final boss, Neo Exdeath, and the amount of fulfilment you get from that moment is different than if you had just beat the game normally. It speaks to you commitment to flexibility, mastery of the game’s systems, and, yes, even research as you prove you can meet the challenge. It just goes to show the infinite potential in games that goes even beyond what the developers intended.

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