Final Fantasy VI Recap, Ep. VI: Adventures in Cat Herding

Whew! I got  bogged down rounding up all my scattered party members — seriously, we just lived through the end of the world and everything, but did they have to be difficult and run off and join weird cults and get themselves lost on mountaintops, in the depths of monster-infested catacombs and so on? — so this playthrough is once again tardy.

Cid: You're finally awake! Celes: I..feel like I've been sleeping forever.

Hey, it wasn’t that  long since my last post.

So, last time in my Let’s Play Final Fantasy VI, the world went to Hades in a haversack. Miraculously, the crustal ruptures we saw in that exciting end-of-the-world cutscene did not result in Siberia-sized lava outpourings, a planetwide blanket of sulfuric acid fog/rain, or other Permian-Extinction-style armageddon. (Geology porn… bookmark for later!)

Instead, as this is Final Fantasy, Celes awakens in a blasted world that’s creepy and sad and fragmented. FFXIII-2 riffed on this trope again 17 years later, and the music from its Dying World fits nicely:

Yeap, it really is that bad.

Celes learns that Cid’s been taking care of her unconscious body (why is she not dead?) for the past year on a desert island, and they may be the last people alive on the planet.

Cid: Since that day, the world has continued its slide into ruin. Animals and plants are dying...

There’s a touching bit when Celes adopts Cid as her “granddad,” which helps avoid any unfortunate Adam & Eve implications.

Cid says that the other people on the island “passed away of boredom and despair” — at least in this censored PS1 version; the GBA translation is more blunt — and that he’s feeling none too chipper himself.

Cid: I..haven't eaten in 3 or so days, ever since I became ill.

This is a Japanese video game, so you know what that means: fishing minigame! A lot more boring than Okami’s version, since Celes has to catch fish with her bare hands (and without the aid of a magical solar wolf, woez). I fail miserably, and Cid dies from the poisoned fish I gave him. I reset and resort to a walkthrough. Dammit, Jim, she’s a Magitek knight, not a fishmonger! Er… nevermind.

Cid: I feel much better! Thanks, Celes!

In thanks, Cid shows Celes a raft he’s built. In the basement. Down a narrow flight of stairs. On an island almost completely devoid of vegetation. Work with me here.

(Good thing that Celes is a buff and tough Magitek Knight who can drag this thing out to the beach.)

Cid: Celes...You must leave this place. You have to find your friends!

Celes promises to bring back all her friends to meet Granddad. “That Locke fellow, too, no doubt…” Cid quips. Shipper on deck!

Cid and Celes part ways. I hope Taco Man can fish for himself now, because otherwise I’m afraid that his prospects are rather bleak.

Celes takes leave of Cid on the beach

Celes floats away and washes up near Albrook. We hear from villagers how Kefka’s using the goddess statues and become a god himself, wielding the “Light of Judgment” against towns that defy him. Also…

NPC: You... the sparkle in your eye... You're the spittin' image of a man who came through here recently.

Er? Well, I guess if the Impresario thought that Edgar looked like Maria, it stands to reason that…Celes looks like Edgar(?)

Celes continues to the hamlet of Tzen to the north, skirting around the bigass ugly tower that all but screams “Kefka’s new pad!” and “Final dungeon!” (It’s been heaped up where the Imperial capital of Vector used to be.)

Upon entering Tzen, there’s a flash. Uh oh, Kefka’s attacking! Npcs scurry back and forth like ants fleeing a watering can.

NPC: We resisted Kefka, so he unleashed the Light of Judgment on us!

A woman begs Celes to save her son who’s inside a house that… Charles Atlas is holding up.  Aha, it’s Sabin! Hey token bara, long time no see!

Sabin: If I move...The whole house will collapse. First...save the child that's in there...

Anime physics ahoy! But the laws of physics can only be suspended for so long, so Celes needs to shake a leg.

The house is  infested with giant scorpions and other monsters that force Celes to stop and fight them every five steps. She reaches the sprog in the basement (where else?) with a minute or so to spare. On top of the mantlepiece is exactly where I would hide if a house was falling down (what?):

Kid: "I'm scared!" Celes: "Don't worry, you're safe now."

“Or you would be, if I weren’t stopping to pick up ALL THE TREASURE on the way out of here,” Celes doesn’t say.

Uh oh. Houston, we have a problem. (Note timer.)

Timer at 00:06

“I…I…I’m losing my grip,” Sabin says as the screen fades to black. “Keep up the fight, brother.” Aw, the fraternal bonds in this game are so touching, and I just crushed them with my gamer greed.

So: Celes  failed to escape with the urchin in time. The house falls down, Celes dies, the kid dies, Sabin dies, and you know what? CID DIES, because I’m not going to spend another half hour catching fish to save him.

(ETA: The worst part? I don’t think I equipped that “Drainer” weapon on anybody for the entire rest of the game, and I ended up handing it to Shadow to chuck during the final boss battle.)

So let’s see that angstful alternative to the “Cid survives” scenario: MORE ANGST PLZ. Honest to gosh, I didn’t do this on purpose. I’d forgotten to save my game before entering Tzen, and a you-can’t-go-there-npc wouldn’t let me back out to save before starting the timed “collapsing house” rescue mission.

Rewind! Back on the deserted island, Celes catches yummy fishies for Cid day after day, but some are not so yummy, and he eventually croaks thanks to her bad cooking.

Celes: No...NO!! You promised you'd stay here with me!!

Sorry, Celes. Can’t be helped. I’m lazy.

She runs to the north end of the wretched little island and climbs the Cliffs of Despair. Oh, look, a dead bird to complete the picture. She hears Cid’s words echoing in her mind:

when they were feeling down they'd take a leap of faith from the cliffs up north...perked 'em right up!

YEAH RIGHT THAT IS SO NOT WHAT CID SAID. Nice job, censors & localization team!

(GBA Script has the uncensored version: “The other people who were here with us all gave up hope… One after the next they flung themselves from the northern cliffs in despair…”  This is one of many moments in FFVI where the English translator was obviously struggling to make it past Nintendo “kid-friendly!” censorship without getting the game yanked.)

Celes: Everyone's gone...Even Locke, who promised to watch over me...

Oh bloody screaming cumquat. Yes, the situation is bleak, but CELES, YOU SAID YOU WERE “A SOLDIER, NOT A LOVE-STARVED TWIT,” REMEMBER? A Magitek Knight.  You don’t need Locke to “watch over” you: if the situation’s too dire for your abilities, he’s not gonna be much help.

Sigh. Okay, go for it, babes; I’m sure there’s a video game trampoline at the bottom.

Celes falls from the cliff

She falls in slow motion with little sparkles that I suppose are tears. Ack. That was surprisingly angstful. The plaintive strains of Draco & Maria (“Oh my hero”) play in the background, to add that extra spork twist to the gizzard. (Come to think of it, Celes is imitating that bouquet she tossed off the balcony during the opera. Eeek.)

She washes up on the Evil Fishing Beach, now totally fished out, alongside a bird wearing a bandana. Is the bird resurrected, symbolic, or part of Celes’ delirium?

Celes: Phew...Why did you nurse me back to health? Did I ever ask you to help me!?

Easy, there, Celes; if you’re shouting at gulls, it’s not a good sign.

Celes belatedly notices the bandana. Birdie flies away from the crazy woman, but she’s buoyed by the omen: “He’s alive.” Yeah, and he’s probably tucked in in that basement in Kohlingen, moping after Rachel’s embalmed corpse.

Celes heads back into the hut and finds a letter from Cid. 

Find the stairs next to the stove. Down them lies your road to freedom. Love, Granddad.

At this point the alternate Cid-timelines reconverge. Celes drags the raft out of the basement and sails away, vowing to make “Granddad” proud of her. (Again: Celes, you were already a career military officer. Why so humble? Then again, she was a general at what, age 18? Alexander the Great parallels aside, Final Fantasy loves to milk the awfully-young-to-be-a-stormtrooper hero trope.)

So, rinse and repeat: Celes arrives in Tzen in time to witness the Light of Judgment, finds Sabin, dashes inside house, rescues the kid, gets out of house, earns the Gratitude of AnonyMom ™, and has a semi-happy reunion with Sabin. Celes is overjoyed to find him alive.

Sabin: But of course! You think a minor thing like the end of the world was gonna do me in?

Modesty. Clearly, it runs in the family. (That’s okay. With all the angstbuckets in this game, Sabin and Edgar are refreshing.)

Blundering around the barren desert that is the World of Ruin, we eventually discover the lightly-toasted town of Mobliz, which used to be at the edge of the Veldt, but is now isolated on a forsaken peninsula. Most of the town is underwater; what’s left is badly damaged. In the basement of one of the few surviving houses, we find signs of life.

Kid: You're gonna have to fight your way in here, chumps!

There’s a whole passel of kids in here, and it’s a good thing Sabin and Celes don’t take this lad up on his offer.

A voice from the inner room calls “Wait!” and Terra emerges.

Terra: Oh! I'm so glad to see that you're safe! I've missed you!

However, when Sabin tells her to come help us beat Kefka, she retreats back into her bedroom. She’s never reacted well to her former tormentor’s name.

Giving Terra a moment to collect herself, we chat up the kids in this makeshift orphanage, who hail her as “Mama” and plead with us not to take her away. Lots of heartstring-plucking fodder. One of the urchins tells how  “The light took everyone … … everyone… ….Dad…Mom…”

There are also a couple of teenaged lovebirds, Katrin and Duane, whom we bugged when they were snogging in the hay met before the world fell to pieces. (Note spelling: “Katrin”! It changes later.)

Katrin: Terra's helped us all to survive. Ever since she's been here, we've felt hopeful for the future.

Duane adds that we can’t just barge in here barking orders, and reiterates that we can’t take Terra away.

In her chamber, Terra tells how the Light of Judgment torched the town, splitting the very ground in two, and how the adults died protecting the children. Now she’s serving in their stead, and she’s finally found a place where she belongs and know who she is.

“I don’t know why these kids need me,” Terra says, “But they’ve made me feel things I’ve never felt before.” For once, people need her, Terra, the person, rather than simply needing her Esper abilities. They don’t care who or what she is; they love her.

Terra: The moment I sensed this, I lost my will to fight.

Just as Celes and Sabin leave her to the little piece of peace she’s carved out, a fairy tale monster, Phunbaba, attacks. (The kids say “It’s back,” so it’s apparently menaced them before.)

Terra takes it on solo, but even an Esper needs a little help from her friends.

Phunbaba: first boss fight, Terra esper form

Celes and Sabin run back into the village at the sound of battle to find Terra flattened. My guttering Celes/Terra shipping tendencies give a small hiccup:

Celes: Terra! Wake up! Uh, oh...here it comes!

Lacking Terra’s powers, Celes and Sabin can only fend it off until it flees. Terra’s a bit chewed-upon, but  her wounds are mostly those of the soul: her self-confidence is shot.

Terra: I've really lost it...my fighting edge...

Awwwwww.

So we leave Terra with the kids — honestly, after all she’s been through, letting her play mama bear for a while appeals to me, even if I’m not fooled by the “let’s stash Gandalf somewhere so  the rest of the party can get into REAL trouble!” narrative device. 

Our wanderings take us to the port town of Nikeah. One of the locals reports that Figaro Castle struck an obstacle under the desert and got stuck, so its location is unknown — except to a local gang of thieves, the Crimson Robbers, who escaped its dungeons through a sand worm’s tunnel. Now they’re plotting to go back and raid the castle for treasure.

This bar wench’s news pricks my interest:

Wench: I've been chatting with the boss of this gang, Gerad. He's kinda handsome!

Gerad, eh? Gee, how subtle. Wonder what Edgar’s up to?

Celes hunts down and corners Edgar in the Inn, calling out his disguise when he pretends not to recognize her and calls her “my lady.” (Dead giveaway, Celes insists, even if the anagram name wasn’t.) Another odd translation gaffe: the PS1 version has her saying, “Don’t play possum with me!” He looks pretty lively for someone playing dead:

Gerad: Case of mistaken identity, my dear. Give it up!

Either this is some elaborate ruse, or Ed’s lost his memory.

Maybe he needs these ruffians to break into his own now-buried castle. So we stow away in the back of their ship. He may need our help if things get ugly.

In South Figaro, we stop by the house of Duncan’s grieving widow, who must surely greet Sabin as her long-lost son, considering the warm pupil-mentor relationship he had with her late husband.

Duncan's wife: No, dear! Duncan's still alive and well! He's meditating just north of Narshe.

OOOOOPS. GEE UH. Great to see you, Mrs. Duncan! We’ll be hurrying outside now, without mentioning the itsy bitsy fact that Sabin killed your son Vargas in retaliation for Vargas supposedly killing his father.

We follow Edgar and the Crimson Whoosits back to Figaro Castle, where we find that the engine room has gotten its gears clogged by a random tentacle monster. (On the way downstairs, we spot Ed surreptitiously helping a few castle denizens). He orders the ruffians away to safety, then finally drops his “Gerad the robber king” act.

Edgar: What're you waiting for, Celes?

CELES IS SO GOING TO SMACK YOU.

After we get done smacking this thing.

Tentacle thingie

Afterwards, Edgar sheepishly admits that he was pretending to be a thug to get the thieves to lead him back into Figaro Castle. As he’d been the one to lock them up in the dungeons they’d escaped, he couldn’t let on who he was.

We hide until the thieves give him up for dead and leave (hauling off the castle treasure, but Ed says fighting Kefka is more important).

Thief: Must have been eaten by that thing...

We find that the denizens of Figaro Castle have come through the apocalypse and accidental burial as well as anybody, apart from a few deserters who have left to join the “Cult of Kekfa.”

At this point, I’m going to try to bid walkthroughs adieu, as this is as far as I reached on my one and only previous attempt at FFVI. (I don’t regret using walkthroughs on replays, but I prefer to experience a new game cold on my first run unless I’m completely stuck.)

Taking the castle back to the surface, we head to nearby Kohlingen to find Setzer moping in the pub. He’s happy to see us alive, but like Terra he’s lost his nerve… and his wings. Celes snaps him out of his funk with an excellent pep talk. (So Leo wasn’t the only general who could motivate troops.)

Celes: But before the world collapsed, you fought with all your heart! You were absolutely fearless!

“…You want to live in this world as it is? No? Then do something about it!” That’s the spirit, Celes.

Setzer is convinced. He still has a shine for Celes, who reminds him of Maria the opera singer, after all (as well as someone else, as we’ll see shortly).

Setzer: Mwa ha! All right...you win! I'm starting to feel lucky again!

(Side note: Celes interacts with Setzer in this game nearly as often as Locke, and they seem to understand one another. So I’m surprised that Setzer/Celes isn’t a common ship in this fandom. I’ve seen at least one fanfic, but I’d expect more.)

He says we should go to the Tomb of Daryl, his old rival captain and love, to retrieve her airship that she had willed to him if anything happened to her.

Setzer: yeah. She was a piece of work. Nothing scared her...

I don’t know why I’m surprised to find that Daryl’s burial place is a huge elaborate underground dungeon, complete with zombies, aggressive escargot and malboros (Evil Oscars, in this game), and even a boss battle.

Setzer, did you build this elaborate undead labyrinth for your dead lover, or did you simply take over some creepy ancient burial mounds?

Oh, dear. In a game where nothing the programmers bothered to code is mere chance, I find a “this space intentionally left blank” tombstone to be less than reassuring:

The tombstone is blank. Carve something? Yes / No

It says “nothing appropriate comes to mind” if we choose “Yes.” Setzer, I have a bad feeling that you may be joining your lady-love down here before game’s end.

The honest-to-gosh grave of Daryl is guarded by Dullahan (I think he’s an XII Mark?), a skeleton in a funky purple chariot with skeletal horses belching matching purple flames. I’ll take two.

Battle Screencap

(The chocobo stampede is the result of one of Setzers’ “Slots” attacks).

Boss dispatched, we’re taken on a staircase down memory lane. Here’s a creative way to present flashbacks, synched to party movements down a flight of stairs.

Daryl: This experimental airship is probably a bit unstable

YES THAT SOUNDS LIKE JUST THE AIRSHIP FOR US.

We watch a flashback of Daryl and Setzer racing in the Falcon and Blackjack, Daryl vowing to become the “woman who flew closest to the stars,” and leaving him in her wake as she zooms away. Setzer finds the wreck a year later and restores it.

Setzer: I put it in storage. I couldn't bare to look at it. But now it just may save us...

Aww, sweet typo. Take it off, Setzer; take it all off!

So we take off — as usual in FF, it’s an airship, so it launches from underground, shoots up through the ocean and into the sky! I wish real-world airports were underwater and/or in giant hollowed-out caverns under major deserts.

A pigeon flaps past. Celes says “Follow that bird!”  thinking of the bandana-sporting birdie back on the Island of Cid. (Should we go back and bring him some fish? Oops, wait, no, he’s dead. SORRY CID.) We chase the bird to the village of Maranda.

Bird flying over World of Ruin

There we hear more rumors of our friends (e.g. a knight charming everyone with his courtly “Thou”). Here’s an odd rumor: Lola, whose letter-writing boyfriend we helped in Mobliz before the world went kablooie, is receiving a stream of letters and silk flowers that she assumes are from her boyfriend.

There’s just one problem: when we visited Mobliz, where Terra’s guarding the kids, one of the children mentioned that the wounded soldier —  Lola’s boyfriend — perished during Kefka’s attack.

The letter says, “My beloved Lola: We’re still trying to rebuild this town. If all goes well, I’ll be able to return to you soon.”

Celes: This handwriting... it looks a lot like Cyan's... But where is he mailing them from?

Oy. What the? Cyan, that’s not very courtly of you.

Lola asks us to send a letter back for her. Okay! We attach the missive to a bird, then track it. (And drug it, I assume, as it seems totally unfazed by the ginormous airship riding up its tail feathers).

Our carrier pigeon leads us not to Mobliz but to Zozo, the town of thieves and atmospheric rain and darkness. There, we hear that there’s a secret passage leading up into the mountains through the top of the pub! After much questing, and a truly nasty boss battle fight with a dragon, we discover a secret cave full of flowers, a letter, and a desk. Um…Cyan? What are you doing?

I’m half expecting Atrus to leap up from behind the desk and beg us to bring him the “YELLOW PAGES” or something. Nevermind.

Nosy as ever, we read Cyan’s latest missive.

Dear Lola: I am writing to you to beg your forgiveness. I am guilty of perpetuating a terrible lie....

Blah blah blah. It’s a long letter, but the gist is: (a) your boyfriend is dead and (b) you should “look forward, to rediscover love, and embrace the beauty of life.

Cyan? It’d be a lot easier for her to do that if you hadn’t pranked her. Trust. She’s never going to have it again. I thought better of you, Sir Knight!

(I guess this is a recurring trope in many FFs, but especially in FFVI: the unhealthy ways that people may cling to the past. If it’s not embalming dead lovers and pretending they’re still alive, it’s trapping summons or goddesses or souls in stones.)

We find Cyan outside on a precipice reciting a poem and sending a letter. (For a moment I thought it was a haiku, but it’s seventeen words, not 17 syllables; I wonder what it was in Japanese).

The world before the fall / Delightful is the light of dawn / Noble is the heart of man...

I was afraid that Cyan  might jump, but he’s delighted to see us alive and readily rejoins the party. He confesses that he felt sorry for Lola after hearing in Maranda how she kept writing letters to her boyfriend day after day. Cyan, who lost his loved ones to war as well, admits, “I realized I was very much like her.”

I turn back to Maranda, morbidly curious to see Lola’s reaction to his apology. To my surprise, it turns out that Lola already had an inkling that the letters were not from her boyfriend; she just couldn’t admit it to herself. She’s quite magnanimous to her unknown hoaxer:

Lola: The pain in my heart became bearable...I'm sure whoever wrote them has suffered greatly...

She says she’d like to meet the man who sent the letters, but Cyan stops his friends from outing him.

Onward. Our party swells to five, but we’ve got six more comrades to find before we take on Kefka. (It feels like more than half this game has been a quest to find and/or re-motivate lost party members.)

Cyan says that “Sir Gau” has gone back to the Veldt to train himself to be stronger so that he can fight Kefka. Since I lost any grasp of geography when the map rearranged itself, I start heading for random dots on the minimap hoping that one of them is the Veldt.

One dot turns out to be the Opera House. The Impresario has a brand-new problem: a dragon has cast itself as the newest Maria (not really; it’s just hogging the stage). Oh great. The last dragon we fought was no fun at ALL.

I love the fact that the orchestra plays on through our fight with the Pee, excuse me, Dirt Dragon.

Fight on the stage

I have a brain fart and don’t realize that “Dirt Dragon” means “godawful earthquake attacks” until  two of the four party members are down. Where’s Gau and his auto-float? Eventually we dispatch the drake. Do we get free opera tickets for the rest of the year? No? Oh, well, I guess that’s a reward of sorts. Moving on.

Continuing the search for Gau, we find Shadow and Interceptor in a cave on the Veldt (along with a Behemoth King which Cyan totally fails to notice until it attacks, despite the fact that these critters are the size of apartment complexes on the battle screen).

Cyan: Look at those wounds...

Psst. Cyan, that thing standing behind you? It’s gonna be a lot bigger when screen-shatter signals combat.

We take Shadow back to Thamasa to heal and recover. He has a nightmare that I don’t understand:

You came to fetch me... But I won't be coming back. I want you, and the girl, to live in a peaceful world...

Hrm. Is that supposed to be Shadow before he became the Man in Black? Who’s the girl? Hope there’s some more fragments of this dream later to explain. [ETA: I never managed to trigger any others, despite having Shadow sleep in various inns. Someone posted a video of all of them. BIG SPOILER which helps explain Shadow’s actions and Interceptor’s back when Relm was trapped in that burning house.]

We finally find Gau during a random monster encounter on the Veldt. I missed our Mowgli wannabe.

Time for a humorous interlude! In our ongoing search for missing party members, we find the cottage of the old coot who lived north of the Veldt. Sure enough, he’s still cuckoo. We flee outside the escape the crazy. Sabin, never the sharpest needle on the cactuar, belatedly realizes that this must be Gau’s father. Time to introduce them! But wait, Sabin has a cunning plan.

Sabin: I know! Let's go to Jidoor and give you a make-over!

*FACEPALM* Oh dear.

We divert to Jidoor, the town of Snooty Rich People, to indoctrinate Gau in the ways of civilized society.  Sabin (of all people) tries to teach Gau table manners. No eating with the fingers! Speak clearly! Don’t talk with your mouth full!  Poor lad. Worse still, Sabin has almost as much fashion sense as Gilgamesh.

Gau: This is it! Me go to funeral? Sabin: Perfect! Functional yet sporty! Done!

Setzer, disgusted, insists that they put Gau in an outfit like his own. Sabin is outraged, but Setzer charms the tailors into providing something more flattering than red flannel pjs.

Sabin: Okay, Gau? Now, any father'd be glad to have a son like you! Gau: Hoooo....

We march boldly into Gau Senior’s hut, where he is once again expecting repairmen to fix his roof. Symbolism much? For no reason I can understand, Sabin hares off on a tangent asking about Emperor Gestahl’s map, which has not been mentioned before, as far as I can remember. Wha?

Aged Man: Little whilea go, some guy wearin' a bandana asked for the map. So I told him!

Oh. OH. Most awkward way ever to drop a necessary clue about a missing party member? Got it. (The old man adds, “It’s where the mountains form a star—” which I will spend the next three game sessions searching for.)

Sabin cuts him off and circles back to the subject.

Sabin: “Sir… You…had a son, right? You with me?!”
Aged Man: “…son?”
Sabin: “Right. The truth is, he’s alive! Come here, Gau!”
Gau: “Ffffaaatherrrr…”
Aged Man: “What is this!? What’s with this ‘son’ business? I never had a son!”
Aged Man: “But now that you mention it, I once had a terrible dream. In it, a demon-child was born!” 

Oh dear. Poor Gau. This isn’t going to end well, is it?

Father: I grabbed the creature, and rushed off to the Veldt with it... It was crying like crazy when I...

As the old man raves on and on about the “frightening” baby that he abandoned to be devoured by monsters, Sabin loses his temper. “Why! You old… He’s completely lost his mind! Gau, I’m gonna clobber him!”

Gau: Uwaaaooo....ooo...

Awww. Gau intervenes to protect his daddy, then quietly leaves the hut. Subdued, his friends follow him out. Sweetie pie that he is, Gau cuts Sabin off when he begins to apologize for the debacle:

Gau: Father alive... happy....

I don’t screencap Gau enough, but I love his abilities and his personality; he’s like a kid brother to Red XIII and Kimahri.

Speaking of kids, it’s time to go check on Terra’s orphanage. Uh oh. Terra’s missing. So’s Katrin, ahem, Katarin (the spelling varies from screen to screen) who’s gotten knocked up by Duane. We hear that he was being “mean” to her, so she left. What a chump.

We find Terra and Katrin hiding  in another basement. Katrin says she’s happy to have a baby, but Duane is miserable. He finally shows up and apologizes, saying he “didn’t know how to handle it.”

Duane: I've been an awful husband...byt I'm learning. Please, come back with me.

Is NO ONE on this entire planet capable of a functional relationship? (Save maybe Setzer, whose lover was therefore doomed). Yikes.

Our touching reunion of underage parents is interrupted by the reappearance of Phunbaba, the village’s local monster menace. Terra’s still got the jitters.

Terra: Please! Save this village! I simply can't fight.

Sigh. Okay, hon. Let your big sister Lulu Celes take care of this.

We fight it for a bit until it sneezes (ewww!) Cyan and Sabin off the battlefield. Cue the trumpets! Terra rushes in and joins the party to help defeat it. Finally! We missed ya!

Boss battle with Phunbaba

With her help, the three mages easily finish it off.

Afterwards, Terra hovers over the battlefield with an eldritch scream —girl is SCARY — and the children cower in terror. She sinks to the ground, looking distressed. Finally one little urchin dares to approach.

Girl: Mama... It is you, isn't it? I can tell...

The other children gather around, accepting her for what she is. MORAL OF THE STORY, FOLKS?

“Dear Princess Celestia…”

Terra: Finally... I understand that feeling...Even though I kept it buried for so long.

“I’m sure it’s called… …. … LOVE!” 

There you go. Love does NOT HAVE to be romantic or shipping of any kind!

Terra flies back into the air, shedding magical sparkles that make the whole village greener:

Terra: Listen, children, your 'Mama' has to go away for a while. I'll return when I feel your future's guaranteed!

Lulu, Rosa, Lightning, Edea, even Fran (with Penelo): I do so love the Mama Bear archetype in Final Fantasy.

We go back to check on Shadow and find he’s disappeared, but hear a tip that he’s headed off to the Colosseum. Come on, guys, stop wandering off! We need to fight Kefka! Ahem.

I’ve seen the Colosseum before, but I was ignoring it. I don’t much like its owner:

NPC: Finally, the whole world is at war! I'm so happy! And I owe it all to Kefka!

Yep, arms merchants and military contractors reap the profits of other people’s woes during war. Too close to real life.

This guy’s racket is that people come to the Colosseum to train and win more powerful weapons as prizes for the duels they win. Shadow, who says “the only thing I know how to do is fight,” joins us after losing this duel:

Shadow and Terra at Colosseum

Shades of Dissdia! Except this is totally automated; the game engine just uses their stats and simulates them whumping on one another. After a few turns, Terra charges up and changes into Esper form, pummeling Shadow into the ground.

Well, that’s one way to get a friend back into the party.

We make another attempt on Jidoor, the town of wealthy snobs. (I came here earlier with Sabin and Setzer, but got completely lost bumbling in a labyrinthine basement beneath Owzer’s mansion, now haunted with weirdly ugly paintings that attack). With Terra’s aid, we fight our way down to the depths of the dungeon, where we find Owzer, the owner, has pressed Relm into child labor.

Owzer: It's...there's a monster hiding in my prized painting of a goddess... "A monster!?"

Relm painting in a pitch-black basement, apparently serving Jabba the Hut?

We fight a ferocious battle to save Relm from the scantily-clad goddess, who suddenly transforms into a cloaked demonic figure. (Yep, nasty things possessing/misusing the goddess is a theme of this game.) After a fierce battle, the demon departs and the lights come on.

Relm is totally oblivious to our efforts to save her life:

Relm: Hey! Relax! The monster croaked!

I do not like this brat. I don’t.

At least we get the goddess’ magicite (which had attracted the demon) out of the deal. In PSX, it’s the “Starlet” summons, and I wish I had the GBA version which calls her “Lakshmi.”

Hunting for Locke in his old haunts, we pick up Mog in the depths of Narshe Mines. He says we need to go find his yeti friend, who’ll be lost without him. Well now, there’s a rare canon pairing. (I will skip over getting lost ten jillion times.) Eventually we find the yeti’s lair and kindly relieve him of the magicite in his skull totem altar. O HAI.

Enraged by the theft, the yeti attacks. One boss battle later…

Mog: I'm you're boss, Kupo! You're gonna join us, kupo!!!!

Again, still searching for Locke, we find Duncan’s house at the center of a star-shaped arrangement of trees. (Hey, it was star-shaped.)

Duncan: What!? Sabin, this can't be... Tears??

Duncan thinks Sabin’s all choked up at finding his master alive. My theory is that Sabin’s just realized that he’s got the blood of Duncan’s son on his hands, and that Vargas was innocent of the crime of patricide after all.

Not that Sabin says anything. So he and Duncan have a friendly sparring session around the clearing to teach Sabin his master’s ultimate secret martial arts technique, Bum Rush. (Called something else in the PS1 version, but we know it’s the ass-grabbage finishing move).

Where the heck is Locke? Nowhere near Narshe, it seems. Still hunting for that elusive star-shaped mountain range, I trip over Doma castle. Which some village npc or another said was haunted by demons. Sounds like a great place to level grind let Cyan wallow in angst!

We find absolutely no demons, but Cyan won’t wake up the next morning. In lieu of a rooster, these three little twits come bounding into the room and announce they’re going to dine on his soul. Excuse me?

We're the three Dream Stooges

Their names really ARE Larry, Curley and Moe.

They hop on/into Cyan’s head and vanish, so Sabin does as well. He always wanted to jump that old dude’s bones, right? Let’s go save Cyan!

WTF.

WTF.

WHERE IS EVERYBODY.

WHY AM I A YETI.

(Because the game engine picked the fourth character slot).

Are you telling me that I’ve lost my other party members and have to go round them up again? #%!@!

So I’m stuck as the abominable snowman, who auto-battles so that I have absolutely NO control over him, fighting the most cracktastic things I’ve seen in this game.

Battle in Cyan's Dream

I shall now excerpt a post I made on Tumblr while playing this sequence:

WAIT

THIS IS FINAL FANTASY

UR DOIN IT WRONG

THE CRACKTASTIC WTF DUNGEON SHOULD BE THE ENDGAME

WHY DID I GET STUCK AS A YETI

HE IS A NICE YETI BUT HE IS DUMB AS ROCKS AND WON’T LET ME HEAL HIM IN BATTLE

DIED MANY TIMES

WHY ARE DEMONIC TEAPOTS FARTING “EVIL TOOT” ATTACKS THAT POOT GHOSTS

WHY IS THERE A WOMAN WITH NO PANTS RIDING A FANTASIA REJECT

WHERE IS MY SURLY SAMURAI

SIR CYAN WAKE UUUUUUUUUUUUUP

I DON’T LIKE THIS NIGHTMARE

OH WELL AT LEAST MUSCLE BOY FINALLY GOT TO JUMP SIR CYAN

Eventually, I find two party members and take on Larry, Curley and Moe in a boss battle. They have a Delta attack, so basically they’re the Magus Sisters in drag. And they’re HORRIBLY ANNOYING. One of them revives/White Winds his buddies, and I TPKO twice before getting past them. (I am not all that fond of auto-battle characters just now.)

Larry, Curley, Moe

DIE DIE DIE DIE.

*pant pant*

Annnnnd after we go through the next mysterious shining door we end up on the Doom Train, now colored flashback yellow.

The Phantom Train

I AM SO BLEEPING CONFUSED

OH HELL WE FOUND THE DOOR TO DOOMTRAIN

I AM SO GOING TO SUPLEX THIS TRAIN

GET ME OUT OF HEEEEERE.

More battles: I keep running into Leblanc (“Barb-E”) with a ponytail and a cigarette holder. She has  a “love tap” attack and sings out, “Protect me!” forcing sane party members to lose their minds and defend her from other party members. So she’s basically Locke’s  dream girl, and I’m not sure why she’s in Cyan’s head.

Barb-E Monster

We escape the train without getting an opportunity to suplex it, and wind up in yet another part of Cyan’s nightmares: his innate fear of machina, er, magitek. All the monsters in this dungeon are armored whatsits — including us, so Cyan keeps fleeing us.

I’d run away too, if I saw a yeti driving a mech. I’m pretty sure he has no idea how to steer.

The party wearing magitek armor

We fall down a broken bridge and land in Cyan’s old quarters. The ghosts of his dead wife and child, Elayne and Owain, beg us to snap Cyan out of his nightmare of unending self-flagellation. We’re trying, believe me!

Why is he still asleep, anyway? Didn’t we dispatch the Three Stooges? Oh, that’s right, there’s always a bigger boss.

Wrexsoul is a composite monster, made up of wretched spirits who were dispatched in meaningless wars.

You mean like Sin, right? Nevermind.

Ducking past a few charming flashbacks of marital bliss (not like THAT!) and Cyan teaching his son to fence, we confront the evil spirit who’s plopped his ass down on the throne of Cyan’s dead king. Awesome! We get to battle for Sabin’s bff our friend’s soul!

Wrexsoul: I grow stronger now, with his anger, hatred and guilt! And I hunger for... you!

Now, now. Good to know that Sabin’s feelings are reciprocated, but you shouldn’t be tapping into them.

I won’t tell you how many times I fought this boss battle. It’s an utter nightmare, because one has to KO whichever character Wrexsoul possesses, and with Mog and Yeti Boy on auto-battle, they’re no help at all when it jumps into Sabin.

Wrexsoul Boss Battle

Once we finally win through, Cyan staggers to his feet, still in the dream. “Thanks be to ye.” (It looks just as hokey as it sounds when npcs use it in FFX). Cyan’s wife and son appear one last time to bid farewell, urging him to stop beating himself up over their deaths.

Cyan: No... I didn't do anything...then...and I can't now... I'm a man with no honor...]

“I tried to change the world, but I changed nothing. That is my story.” AHEM.

Elayne’s ghost tells him that he has “entirely too much honor.” One heartwarming pep talk later, they’ve convinced him to go on living, and they dissolve into… Murasame! (Or is that Masamune? I always get them mixed up).

Elayne: We'll always be at your side

… at least until I pick up Cyan’s next most powerful sword.

Phew. Okay. Let’s get OUT of here before any more party members wander off. Herding cats, I’m telling you.

Still hunting for that elusive mountain range where Locke’s hiding out, I keep passing this tower. Avoiding it, actually, until I realize that Kefka’s tower is even bigger and farther south. So what’s this place?

Tower of the Cult of Kefka

Oh! This is the temple of Kefka’s worshipers, who wisely worship on a different continent from Kefka itself. It appears that Strago has gotten religion and joined their Cult. Er…why? Hypnotized, slave crown, excellent orgies, or did he simply decide that it was time to cast his lot with the winning side?

Relm: You!! You old fool!!! You're still standing!?

Side note: It’s not the only time that a Final Fantasy game will portray organized religion in a not-so-positive light (In real-world Japan at this time, fringe religious cults with charismatic leaders were a growing problem, one that would metastasize a year later with a horrific sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway).

Relm snaps her grandfather out of his trance (I guess it was hypnosis, then) with a lively exchange of loving insults.

Ho hum, as long as we’re here, we might as well climb this game’s Bigass Tower dungeon.

Tower of the CUlt of Kefka

We make it quite far up and battle our way past another @$%@!%! dragon (there’s eight of them scattered around the world), but eventually the monsters are getting a leeeetle too powerful for us, even with Reflect Rings (all the monsters here cast powerful magic, and all our commands are grayed out EXCEPT magic).

…and then Celes discovers that (a) Quake magic cuts through Reflect, (b) it’s hard to cast Float on yourself while Reflected, and (c) Warp/Flee doesn’t work.

FFVI Battle with level 60 mgic

The end.

Okay, so maybe this tower is not going to get completed on this playthrough.

I still have no blinking clue where Locke is. We head back to Thamasa, for want of anything better to do, where we learn that Strago’s old war buddy Gungho (really) is busted up after fighting their longtime foe, the Bandersnatch. Er, scratch that, Hidon.

Gungho: Strago... Please... you must avenge me...

Against his better judgment, and with Relm nagging him not to be a sissy, Strago agrees to go monster hunting. Woo!

The beastie’s lair is guarded by this bizarre treasure chest.

Hungry hungry Hungry hungry Hungry hungry Hungry hungry Hungry hungry Hungry hungry

Once again, I see FFX parallels: Tidus’ spirit is obviously inhabiting this box.

After half an hour of blundering around, I give in and find a walkthrough that tells me I’m supposed to feed the chest at least 21 pieces of coral picked up from other chests in this aggravating random-teleport-pad dungeon. Oh, okay.

And here’s the beastie. With all my battle prep, I overkill it so fast that I don’t even get to see its special attack which the walkthrough told me would be good for Strago to learn (he’s a blue mage). Oops. Well, I’m not resetting.

big ugly bony thing

We return to Thamasa in triumph. Strago regales his friend Gungho with a blow-by-blow of the epic battle until late at night.

After Strago nods off, Gungho escapes into the fresh air, where Kid Brat tells him she knew all along he was faking his wounds just to get his friend killed so Strago would gather the courage to face the monster that had taunted him for decades.

She thanks him, but also calls Gungho a lousy actor:

Relm: Only Strago could have been taken in by that performance!

There certainly are a lot of questionable performances in this game: Celes pretending to be Maria (surprisingly successful), Locke the treasure hunter (which both is and isn’t true; he’s searching for a way to revive Rachel), Gestahl pretending to be a good guy to trick us into doing a job for him, Edgar pretending to be Gerad the Robber, Gau pretending to be civilized, Cyan pretending to be Lola’s dead boyfriend, and of course, that clown Kefka pretending to be a general. Except that last was actually true, much as it is in the real world.

I still think Relm is a brat, and I still can’t find Locke.

I start making a methodical check of every danged town and island that lets me land. (Not Cid’s resting place). Oh, hey, a sand wyrm! Ahem, a “Zone Eater.”

engulfed by zone eater

It…ate us?

Of course, it’s got a ginormous dungeon inside. And there’s someone else trapped down here:

Dungeon

Well, that might explain where Locke is, except that my clues said “star-shaped mountain” not “inside a worm’s gullet.” Ah well, this party needs to level grind, so let’s explore.

There is suspiciously circus-like music down here. Something Humorous is supposed to happen in here, I take it?

%#%@!! The bastard on the bridge tossed us off it into a chasm when we hopped over towards him.

Well, THIS dungeon is just a barrel of laughs. We’ve got crazy green guys throwing us off bridges, a collapsing ceiling, various treasure chests whose lids work like trampolines to bounce us us over chasms, and finally this person, who is clearly not Locke.

Gogo's Introduction: Shrouded in odd clothing... is this a man? Or a woman? Or should we ask?

GENDER AMBIGUITY HUZZAH. Er, I mean. I’m so excited I forget to remove the capslock from Gogo’s default name. Oh, hey, it’s Gogo. Who was a mime in FFV’s bonus dungeon, but this time, thankfully, zie doesn’t challenge us to a do-nothing duel. (Did I miss a boss battle somehow?)

Gogo: Yes...I have been idle for too long. If I deem you worthy, I'll mime your actions in battle.

I imagine there’s not much of an audience for a mime living in a sand wyrm’s gullet, ya.

Gogo asks when do we leave. Leave? Where’s the bally exit! We’ve reached a dead end, occupied by your posterior!

*breaks down and grabs walkthrough*

We leave via a Warp spell. Okay, I fail at FF. (Don’t look at me, we didn’t have Warp when I first joined the bandwagon around FFVII!)

Great. I’ve got one more character whose Esper skills I need to level up (or, actually not, since like Yeti Boy, Gogo can’t be junctioned). And still no Locke. Hrm.

choosing party members

Oh THERE it is. Man. Couldn’t they have marked it on the map? That was a lot of dots to check.

Phoenix Cave location

We’re asked to split the party up into two groups, each operating switches in this maze-dungeon to let the other group pass. (So how did Locke get through?) This is the first time that we have a big enough group of PCs in Final Fantasy to engage in the “let’s split up and cause trouble in multiple locations” trope. Finally, in the heart of the labyrinth:

Locke: You're all safe! Behold... A legendary relic that can restore life...

He’s too busy to talk to Celes (to be fair, the game dialog seems to be fixed to apply no matter who’s in the party). This place is named the Phoenix Cave, so, naturally, the legendary relic turns out to be Phoenix Magicite.

Locke: This has some major cracks in it though... I fear it may have lost its power over time...

Wonderful. Does this mean we’ll soon be fighting Zombie Rachel? But the Path of Plot Advancement beckons, so, anon.

Back in Rachel’s resting place, that horrid Hojo-like old man is still an asshole.

Patriarch; If only the Magicite didn't bear those deep cracks... I think you've been wasting your time, young man!

Uh oh, I spoke too soon. The magicite starts glowing and going *twingle twingle*

Huge red phoenix covers screen

Wow. Primitive graphics, but the slow swooping phoenix sihouette is quite impressive when animated.

Rachel says the phoenix has only given her a short time to speak. (Which is far better than the zombie scene I was imagining; phew.)

Locke...I've dreamed of seeing you. I wanted to hear your voice. Locke: Rachel...

What great wisdom does she have to tell us from beyond the grave?  “In the instant that the accident occurred, I thought all about you…and about the joy you brought me. Thank you, Locke… I’ll never forget you…I have to go now… You must now cast off the anguish you’ve been harboring inside for so long.. Today I set your heart free…You must learn to love yourself again, and regain your self respect…” and so on, and so forth, and it’s all terribly touching and sweet and romantic, and when did I become such a horrible cynic that I’m shouting, THAT’S RIGHT, FORGET RACHEL,  IT’S ALL ABOUT LOCKE!

Ahem. At any rate, Locke finally lets her go (with a loud Rachel!!!! of course, but we’ll grant him that). So that unhealthy dynamic is over with.

Locke: Thanks, I'm okay... I feel lighter than air... From here on...

PHEW. Okay. We’ve finally rounded up our fourteen main party members. I will skip over my week-plus stint of Sidequests Before Saving the World, except for the following excerpts.

In an “Ancient Castle” buried under the desert of Figaro, we find Odin’s magicite and echoes of the thousand-year-old War of the Magi, where the queen of a lost civilization once fell in love with the Esper that defended her realm. Nosy as ever, we read the Queen’s diary:

diary: I realize, now, that I am in love with Odin...This...breaks every rule of our society.

See, Terra? It’s happened before. (It would be fun to see an FFX fanfic playing with this idea in a serious way).

Odin’s magicite powers up when we take him to the queen’s statue, which weeps a crystal tear (FF always repeats itself. Always.) Actually, the statue is the queen herself, since the enemy sorcerer turned everyone to stone. I’m going to call her “Queen Serah” just so we can have a colossal time jumble between FFI, FFIII and FFXIII.

Speaking of that sorcerer, now that we’ve leveled up a bit (and acquired the Phoenix magicite with its handy auto-life spell), we confront him at the top of the Cult of Kefka’s tower. At least, it looks likethe same sorceror-sprite that appeared in the Ancient Castle’s flashbacks.

Sorceror and cultits of kefka

This is almost the last gasp of old-style FF monsters who appear as hooded ghostie sprites during cutscenes, but turn into oversized and elaborate monsters in battle. Mateus, my boy, you’ve come down in the world:

Magimaster boss battle

He ultimas us, but thanks to auto-life, we win! (And get a nice “gem box” for Terra which lets her doublecast spells. And you though I was just up here to avenge Queen Serah.)

All right! Enough Sidequests Before Saving the World. Tune in next time, when our fourteen (!!!) heroes take on Kefka the Evil Clown, and finish off this long-delayed playthrough!

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2 thoughts on “Final Fantasy VI Recap, Ep. VI: Adventures in Cat Herding

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Jason

    August 30, 2013 at 8:52am

    Sorry, this is the Anonymous from the last post, finally decided to throw my name on here. Anyway, not that it’ll do you much good now, but SPOILER ALERT for that blank tombstone: ERAU QSSI DLRO WEHT. If you want to know what that means, read below. If not, ignore this.

    There’s a code in an offset room that you have to read four other tombstones. The combined message of the tombstones is ERAU QSSI DLRO WEHT, or “the world is square” backwards. Input this correctly, and it gives you directions to an Experience Egg.

    • admin
      Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      admin

      August 30, 2013 at 5:17pm

      Oh, neat, thanks!

      The things I miss by skipping walkthroughs. Oh, well, next time! 🙂

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