Final Fantasy IV Recap, Ep. IV: Boris Vallejo Feminism

Before we go gadding off in our new airship Enterprise, let us pause a moment to admire our Four Warriors of Technicolor.

FFIV: No female characters

The colors are fantastic — including Cecil’s blue lipstick — but I can’t help noticing that all the female characters have now dropped out of the party for one reason or another.

Cidface: 🙁

But first! Nothing says “sidequests” quite like “The clock is ticking, and your girlfriend or maybe even the entire world is facing imminent destruction!”

So we hang a U-turn and head back to Baron Castle, where I recall finding a locked door during my first fifteen minutes of gameplay. Like any self-respecting sky pirate, I never forget locked doors.

With Yang’s magical key that opens every door in Baronstandard issue for a new guard during his first week on the job! — we have a field day looting the castle’s treasures.

In the basement, Cecil hears voices.

FFIV: Cecil Hears Voices
“Stoooop steeaaaaaallling myyyyyy treaasaaaaasure….”

Come to think of it, a guard npc told us, “In the bitter watches of the night,* I sometimes hear a voice calling from the castle depths. It sounds just like His Majesty’s.” So let’s make sure the real king isn’t moldering in a prison cell before we leave on our world tour.

*(Yet another Tolkien quote; translator Tom Slattery wins 1/2 an internet.)

FFIV: Ghost of King of Baron

Yes! There he is! Give us our rewa— Wait, no, he’s just a ghost. How thoughtful that someone built a spare throne room in the basement for him to haunt. Ghost King says to return once we’ve picked up some Eidolons: “Then I, too, will be able to lend you my strength.”

Well, that was random.

Or not so random, actually. Before infiltrating Baron Castle, I took a quick side trip to Mist to look for Rydia. We didn’t find her, but we did pick up a few clues.

FFIV: Odin Eidolon Clue

So I guess we should come back later and let the ghost of Cecil’s beloved king try to KILL US DED with Odin. That… seems fair?

Speaking of random, let’s check out the rest of the world map. Once again, Square forgot to label anything, so let me fill in a few blanks.

Final Fantasy IV: NOT the World Map

(Credit where due: The “Mythidia” suggestion comes from Legends of Localization’s discussion of FFIV’s English translation.)

On the island of Mythril, we find lots of loot an entire town full of people who seem to be victims of random status effects. Including these guys, representing the local branch of the WTFdancers guild.

FFIV: Mythril Brothers

No. We definitely aren’t.

They perform the entire hip-thrusting WTF dance routine that we’ve seen in each of the other villages, using the Chocobo Theme instead of Flight of the Bumblebeee.

Oooooookay, then.

To the south, we find the island of Agart, a.k.a. Backstory Village.

FFIV: Ann Cesters

Time for a Backstory Dump with Professor Maechen!

We learn that Agart’s people, descended from dwarves, came from under the earth via a “sealed chasm.” Their ancestors’ underworld had an alternate sun, “Magma,” which may be literal, but one npc recites a legend that “when the sun’s stone is returned to our ancestral home, the way there will be reopened.” (Odd. I think Old Dalan said nearly the same line in FFXII.) So I’m not sure whether they were getting their light from the planet’s molten interior or a mystical rock such as…. mmmmmaybe?…. the Earth Crystal.

We’re further enlightened by teachings of the revered philosopher Ann Cestors, who said that everything, even the world itself, has “a darker inverse.” Now I wanna see dark!Rosa (although I suspect that would simply be Lulu).

We also drop in on the resident astronomer, Professor Corio. He reports that one of the moons is lifeless, while the other shows signs of habitation, and has lately shown signs of a plot device:

FFIV: Lunar Cry?

That seems to tie in with rumors of recent earthquakes, plus “something red” falling into a crater in the northern mountains. (And I hope this copy of the game won’t hang after the “Lunar Cry” FMV.)

There’s also a bottomless well in the astronomer’s back yard:

FFIV: Bottomless Well

So, tucking all these backstory bits into our Bag of Holding for later assemblage, we continue exploring the overworld map.

To the southwest, we discover the obligatory Bigass Tower of Babel With No Way In Yet, traditionally the site of the penultimate endgame dungeon.

FFIV: Bigass Tower

Directly to the south of BigAss Tower, we find our Dungeon of Leveling Up, Castle Eblan, which makes up for its lack of random encounters with nasty jack-in-the-box treasure chest monsters that KILL US DED.

At this point we’ve pretty well filled in the overworld map (above). So it’s time to return to the Path of Plot Advancement and visit Troia. Which, for the classically-minded among us, is the Latin word for the legendary city of Troy.

That explains the GeneriGreek statues out front.

FFIV: Entrance to Troia

Our heroes’ task here is steal acquire the Earth Crystal from the Troians without our wheels, er, paladin, slipping out of alignment.

The palace of Troia has lots of guards, but they freely admit to visitors that they’ve never known war and haven’t the foggiest clue how to fight.

FFIV: Troia, Peaceful Realm

Greaaaat. Then why did Golbez and Kain have any trouble seizing their Earth Crystal?

*facepalm* Because someone else already waltzed in and stole it!

FFIV: Earth Crystal Stolen

This dark elf. Was his name Ass-toes, by any chance?

Let’s pause a moment to learn more about the peaceful land of Inept Amazons Troia.

FFIV: Even We Soldiers...

How novel: a matriarchal society that lets even women be soldiers!

Naturally, their uniforms are LeBlanc pink.

The women in purple are the Epopts, the leaders of Troia. (From ancient Greek epopt, an initiate of the Eleusinian Mysteries.)

FFIV: The Epopts of Troia

Great. But when someone steals your greatest treasure, you just stand around passively waiting for four male heroes to show up and fetch it back?

Final Fantasy XIII Fang Reaction Shot

Now, now, Fang, Troia’s watchwords are “grace and civility.” Please show proper deportment.

The Epopts are protected by an elite guard wearing silk loincloths and bikinis. One proudly informs us that this is their battle uniform:

FFIV: Sexism in Final Fantasy

Clearly, the POTUS ought to replace the Secret Service with male models in Speedos.

The nearby town includes an all-female swimming hole, except for this guy standing on the bank.

FFIV: Troia Swimming Hole

He follows the fine ancient Greek tradition of creepers Amazonophiles such as Hercules, Achilles and Theseus.

Even the rabbit thinks these ladies are easy… ahem, easy to take advantage of.

FFIV: Cheatingway

Cecil, noble paladin, assists our two-timing mog by distracting one of the ladies with small talk…

FFIV: Cecil Drinks Milk

(Cecil drinks the drink of heroes.)

…until newly-renamed “Cheatingway” shows up to finish his second conquest for the night.

In the back of the bar, we find a couple ladies who are either trying to have sex with anything male or, possibly, drum up customers for an upstairs brothel.

FFIV: Is This a Brothel?

Because nothing signals “society of empowered women” like reducing women’s roles to sluts and hookers.

Hey, Square?


GIFSoup

This concludes our tour of Final Fantasy’s first attempt to imagine a female utopia.

Before we leave town, we should note another Final Fantasy first, the introduction of the Black Chocobo that can fly over water:

FFIV: Black Chocobo Farm

Back on the Path of Plot Advancement, we learn that a survivor of Damcyan had washed up in this landlocked country:

FFIV: Not Much of a Prince

Golly, I wonder who that could be?

We find Edward languishing in the infirmary. He apologizes once again to Tellah and tries to rejoin the party, but he’s in a bad way:

FFIV: Tellah Lectures Edward

Cid promises he’ll pick up the slack for Spoony. Ed gives Cecil a Whisperweed, “the only way that I can accompany you now,” and urges him to save Rosa. Which is really rather sweet. Throughout the game, Edward’s main motivation seems to be wanting to help Cecil find the happy ending he lost.

FFIV: Edward's Weed

Grass? Weed? No comment. But I would really like to know how you tie dye plate armor.

Okay, let’s go deal with the Dark Elf. His Lodestone Cavern, we’re told, repels any sort of metal weapons or armor, following the well-known scientific principle that all metals are repelled by magnetism.

Shedding most of Cecil’s useful equipment, we grab ourselves a black chocobo.

FFIV: Chocobo Forest

Astos, Dark Elf, Final Fantasy I

Astos, FFI dark elf

Off we go to see this dark elf fella. Lucky for us that he’s a bad guy, so Cecil’s authorized to hit him over the head and take his stuff. Gotta keep that goodie two shoes reputation pristine, now.

At the other end of a very long dungeon, we discover that yes, it IS Ass-Toes. Or at least his spitting image:

FFIV: Dark Elf

The fight does not go well. In fact, we earn a TPKO in short order, although Cecil remains conscious for the sake of of cutscene drama:

FFIV: Defeated By Dark Elf

Luckily, everyone in this game is telepathic and/or carries a palantír in his back pocket.

FFIV: Edward Senses Danger

Heroic faceplant for the win.

FFIV: Edward/Gilbert Faceplant

Edward nobly stumbles over to his harp. Through the magic of wireless technology Whisperweed, he starts playing music and gives Ass-Toes a migraine.

FFIV: Dark Elf Hates Music

This for some reason causes the local magnetic field to collapse so that we can use our regular weapons and armor. A good thing, too, since Ass-toes undergoes an FFIII random transformation into a dragon!

FFIV: Dark Dragon

The rest of this battle is accompanied by the surreally tranquil soundtrack of Edward’s harp-playing. The usual battle victory song is replaced by FFIV’s lovely harp rendition of the Final Fantasy Prelude.

So anyway, we’ve got a crystal! Wonder how long we’ll have it before Golbez nabs it.

FFIV: Earth Crystal

Back in Troia, Tellah has a few kind words for our squishy bard and tells him to stop apologizing every three sentences.

FFIV: Tellah praises Edward

The old man promises to avenge Anna on Edward’s behalf, too.

Now it’s time to take our prize back to the Epopts.

FFIV: Chamber of the Epopts

A voice booms out. Did I mention that everyone in this game is telepathic?

FFIV: Kain Is Telepathic?

It’s Kain, calling to collect. We see once again the Final Fantasy rule that darkness/evil = purple (although not necessarily the other way around.)

The Epopts are kind enough to loan us the Earth Crystal.

FFIV: Epopts Loan Earth Crystal

Ahahahaha. Ha. Sure thing. (Cecil doesn’t mention his track record with the other three.)

Cecil, gullible as ever, rendezvous with Kain.

FFIV: Kain Leads Us to Tower

We head to the Tower of Zot. Which I can’t help associating with the anteater in B.C.

Inside the tower — okay, I guess it wasn’t an endgame dungeon after all —  Golbez wants to play with his food before disposing of us.

FFIV: Tower of Zot

The promised reward is “dear Rosa” at the top of the tower. Who is still chained to that danged pillar, and yes, I have noticed what looks like a Klingon bat’leth suspended above her head.

Halfway up the Tower of Zot, we meet the original incarnation of Sandy, Cindy and Mindy.

FFIV: Magus Sisters iOS

They introduce themselves as the Magus Sisters, in service to “Barbariccia, the Empress of the Winds.” They’ve come to take the crystal and “give you a taste of our Delta Attack to make sure you never see your dear Rosa again!”

So I guess they aren’t part of the army of Cecil/Rosa shippers we’ve been meeting all through the game. Kain may still have a chance.

One miniboss battle later, we head upstairs to meet Golbez. Cecil, true to form, is as much of a naive dunce as ever.

FFIV: Cecil Surrenders Earth Crystal

Cecil is then shocked… shocked! … when Golbez fails to hand over Rosa.

In the least surprising plot twist in the history of Final Fantasy, Tellah chooses this moment to waste his life in a futile attempt to exact revenge on the Endgame Boss before the endgame.

FFIV: Tellah's Meteor Spell

However, Meteor’s power does at least free Kain from mind control (yes!), and he collapses.

FFIV: Kain Collapses

I’m not quite sure why a physical damage spell has any effect on a Charm spell, but we’ll take it.

Enough chitchat. Golbez punts Cecil across the room, forgetting that they can’t duel properly until the endgame. However, he recognizes Cecil’s inner Shiny (“You… But— how?”) and spares him, for now.

FFIV: Golbez Punts Cecil

I’m hoping that Cecil’s “long-lost Dad” plot thread will be fully explicated later. (I must again remind myself how much more plot and world development there is in this game than the previous installments, even if I have a few nits to pick.)

Cue angst scene with Tellah, complete with several dramatic freeze frames in the remake.

FFIV: Tellah Dead

Tellah confesses that he let hate consume him, as a thousand voices across the land cry out in unison, “WE TOLD YOU SO.” Lesson emphatically not learned, he asks us to avenge Anna in his stead.

FFIV: Cid, Tellah, Cecil, Yang

Everybody has touching things to say (well, sort of; Cid’s is “Open your eyes, you old fool!”)

I have a brief instant of Cid/Tellah shipping before sternly reminding myself that same sex friendship rocks, too.

As for Kain, I am incredibly relieved that my original hunch about mind control turned out to be true, so that I don’t have to feel twitchy with him in the party for the rest of the game.

FFIV: Kain Begs Forgiveness

Oblivious as ever to what’s going on in his best friend’s head, Cecil magnanimously declares: “Golbez held sway over your mind. None of this was your doing.”

Finally, it’s time to rescue Rosa!

FFIV: Rosa, Distressed Damsel

The animation is not quite up to the task of showing Cecil cutting her chains just as the precision-Timex mechanism drops the Klingon guillotine, but we get the idea.

FFIV: Cecil, Rosa Reunited

Big awwww. My inner Utena is satisfied.

“Distressed damsel” is such a tired plot device, yet I never get tired of rescuing the princess (except for the fact that I’d much rather have the princess in the party, kicking ass).

Afterwards, Kain confesses his true feelings, and Cecil finally gets a clue.

FFIV: Kain's Confession

I can accept that answer. I don’t expect Kain to be perfect, just not sadistic to the woman he loves.

FFIV: Kain Craves Forgiveness

Rosa accepts his apology at once, and warmly asks Kain to “join us.” Her thoughts make it clear that she’s forgiven him for what she regards as involuntary actions.

FFIV: Rosa Forgiveness

Cecil reiterates Rosa’s invitation, after a moment of “…”

FFIV: Cecil Forgives Kain (Maybe)

It’s less clear that Cecil forgives him, but it would be unlikely (not to mention boring) if Cecil just went, “Oh, right, no problem!” now that he’s finally learned about Kain’s feelings for Rosa.

Assuming he’s even paying attention. Naturally, loverboy is a little preoccupied.

FFIV: Cecil One Track Mind

So much for our love triangle.

Before we can depart and provide Rosa with much-needed rest, food and a hot shower, another archfiend butts in. She gets on Kain’s case for being a traitor.

FFIV Kain vs. Barbariccia

So we beat her up. I won’t lie: walkthroughs save lives.

When the battle’s over, the tower begins to crumble, OF COURSE. However, now that her hands are freed, Rosa has an ace up her sleeve.

FFIV: Rosa's Teleport Spell

Normally, that spell just pops the party immediately outside the dungeon’s exit. In Rosa’s case, however, the spell can cross hundreds of miles to reach one specific location with pinpoint accuracy.

“Where are we?”

FFIV: Rosa's Special Power

This is where I laughed very loudly. Rosa, you rascal.

I imagine Cecil blushes beet-red at this point.

Before giving our happy couple a little quality time, we have a brief confab to plan our next move.

Kain reveals that despite Cecil’s failure to keep the Four Crystals of Light out of Golbez’s hands, there’s another chance to screw up. Remember that bit about how everything in this world has an inverse? There’s four Crystals of Darkness as well, just as we saw briefly in FFIII. Golbez is after these now.

FFIV: Golbez's Evil Mastermind Plan

The moon, eh? Well, at least it beats “destroy/rule the world.” That was getting boring.

Cecil is confused. And anyway, how on earth are we going to reach the moon or underworld or wherever we’re supposed to go next on the Path of Plot Advancement?

FFIV: Kain Has Magma Stone

Kain hands the Magma Stone to Cecil. Which Golbez not only gave Kain, but left on his person after Kain was released from his mind control, thus ensuring it would fall into Cecil’s hands.

After all, why fight your way through the underworld looking for crystals, when you can get the chump hero to do it for you?

This does not, of course, occur to any of our erstwhile heroes. In fact, their selective amnesia means that they have quite forgotten our side trip to Agart, where we uncovered that whole backstory about Magma stones, sealed passages to the underworld and a conveniently bottomless well.

FFIV: Goodnight Cid

As a devoted shipper, I kick everybody out and write pr0n give Rosa at least one night to rest up from her ordeal.

Tune in next time, when we head to the underworld and seek new and exciting ways to play right into our enemy’s hands!

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