Boats are a recurring feature throughout the Final Fantasy series, appearing in several games. Boats are often used as a method of transportation before the player obtains an airship.
Boats are generally received towards the middle of the game, opening up new areas of the map as some areas such as Final Fantasy IX's Lost Continent can only be accessed by land or sea. This normally allows the player to both advance in the game's plot, and complete sidequests not previously available.
Boats are often a common means of transportation for non-player characters as well as the player's party. The S.S. Winno and S.S. Liki are used by the denizens of Spira to travel from Besaid to Kilika and from Kilika to Luca.
Some games in which they are more common provide the player with ferry services using some type of boat, in Final Fantasy XII such a service exists in the Estersand. Fuel is often not mentioned, but assumed to be different in the universe in which it exits, for example Gaia use Mist-powered engines for airships yet boats are able to travel world wide where Mist does not exist. In the world of Final Fantasy VII it is likely that Mako serves as a power source as the Shinra Electric Power Company dominate the world due their advancements in technology.
Some boats, like the Cargo Ship from Final Fantasy VII, can carry cargo between continents such as the Buggy, they also provide a place where playable characters can interact, usually on deck. In some titles, boats did not include any facilities, and were simply a way for the player to travel around more quickly.
In most games, characters cannot get into battle while traveling by boat or ship, however in one notable exception Sin attacks a boat and is fought by the party on deck. In Final Fantasy IV, Leviathan attacked a ship, knocking Rydia overboard and leaving Cecil Harvey stranded on another continent completely on his own.
In the case of the Enterprise the Viking ship was later transported into an airship making it more useful as a means of transportation.
Most boats in the series—especially in earlier games—generally resemble regular ships, possessing sails and masts and seemingly are made of wood. Often, the boats even have visible flags.
Some games with more futuristic settings have more modernly running boats that are power-generated, rather than using sails, such as the Cargo Ship from Final Fantasy VII and the Al Bhed Salvage Ship. These ships are usually for work purposes and are equipped with various types of machinery such as electrical pulleys.
Other ships of the series do not follow any traditional ship design, as they are either hybrid of or originally were a sort of airship, such as the Gardens in Final Fantasy VIII, the Tiny Bronco, or the Enterprise.
Boats often provide a quicker, easier way to travel throughout the game world, enabling the bypass of large expanses without encountering any enemies. Some areas are altogether unreachable without the use of an airship or a boat.
However, often boats can only land at beaches or harbors, and when no access point is available they cannot dock in such area. In Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy X, and Final Fantasy XII the player cannot steer boats freely, and can only select certain destinations.
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