Ships are a recurring feature throughout the Final Fantasy series, appearing in several games and allowing movement over bodies of water. Ships are often used as a method of transportation before the player obtains an airship.
Ships 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 sea. This normally allows the player to both advance in the game's plot, and complete sidequests not previously available.
Ships 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 ship, 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 exists. For example, people in Gaia use Mist-powered engines for airships yet ships are able to travel worldwide 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 dominates the world due their advancements in technology.
Some ships, 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, ships 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. In Final Fantasy X, Sin attacked a ship and was 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 ships in the series—especially in earlier games—generally resemble regular ships, possessing sails and masts and seemingly are made of wood. Often, the ships even have visible flags.
Some games with more futuristic settings have more modern-looking ships that move under their own power, 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 ship/airship hybrids or originally were a sort of airship, such as the Gardens in Final Fantasy VIII, the Tiny Bronco, or the Enterprise.
Ships 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 a ship or airship.
However, often ships 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 ships freely, and can only select certain destinations.
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