FFXII Revenant Wings (2) – Chapter 2 – Flap, Flap

So, this week, I’m back from a convention and have 5000 more words of a novella draft to write, and…

Dog from Up movie saying "Squirrel!"

Revenant Wings is proving to be surprisingly distracting for such a lightweight game. Apparently I was in the mood for mental popcorn.

An exultant FMV makes us feel like we’ve achieved something despite the blasphemy of not having a world map. (Just kidding; I played far too many early games without world maps to care.)

I should stop yik yakking and sit back to enjoy the most uplifting, pretty FMV that a teeny tiny DS screen can manage. In 2x magnification, but still.

Woo hoo! Wave at Bhujerba (?) as we fly by!

Airship flying past Bhujerba

No idea what we’re flying into here… Mist? Balthier’s aftershave? Exploded sparkly vampires?

Flying in golden sparklies

I love the refreshing Phon Coast theme; I can almost hear that blue jay sound effect that someone must’ve imagined sounded like a seagull.

Ooo, aaah, oh. Nice colors to go with the lovely music. More Mist? Looks like when the Dawn Shard sank the Leviathan and gave Ondore something to write about that he didn’t have to spin doctor, for a change.

airship flying in rosy clouds

We approach another Bhujerba-like continent.

Approaching another floating continent with big crystals sticking out

I love the way Final Fantasy has built up all these invented mythological elements, mixing and matching from game to game. Flying fortresses go right back to FFI, although I think the first official “floating continent” wasn’t until FFIII.  FFXIII’s Cocoon was another variation on the theme, but it had been a long time since we’d explored a sky continent in depth when Revenant Wings came out.

Chapter 2: Distant Skies. The Sky Continent of Lemurés

Etymology break: Lemures in Roman mythology were ghosts, “shades,” spirits.

The kids are so very excited.

Filo: This has to be it!

Kytes: The legend! Filo: The undiscovered sky continent!

Uh oh. Mommy Penelo is here to spoil our fun and remind us we’ve gotten abducted by an airship. What was it Balthier said about things we own, owning us?

Penelo: Well, we're in quite a mess now, aren't we.

Filo: It’s not our fault. The ship started moving all by itself.

Right, right. Totally not our fault that we snuck out of Rabanastre, bypassed the guards and fought our way aboard this airship. No idea how that happened.

Queen Ashelia is probably storming around her throne room even now asking how seasoned soldiers could let a pickpocket, a dancer and two children make off with the thing. Security implications much?

Vaan: Don’t worry. I can fly the airship, no problem.
Penelo: Hmph. You’re certainly confident.
Tomaj: At least I finally managed to get our “guest” under control.

He’s got Ba’Gamnan tied up on the bridge listening to every word they say. Oh, yeah, like that won’t come back to haunt us. Chuck ’em overboard already!

Tomaj: So what's the plan, Vaan?

Vaan: First things first. Our airship needs a name. No self-respecting band of sky pirates has a ship without a name.
Filo: Yeah! It’s bad luck!
Kytes: But since when are we a band of sky pirates?

Isn’t that always what Vaan wanted to be? And didn’t you want to be just like Vaan? You’re all of what… *checks Wiki* Dear gods, 10 years old. Plenty old enough to be a JRPG hero in a lighter, fluffier game!

Vaan: This is  the adventure you always wanted, right?

Filo’s 11. Her concept art is great. Just slightly modified from her FFXII outfit into brighter, less “mud is realistic” colors.

Filo - Revenant Wings Concept Art/ Character Portrait

Love the boogie board tether.

Now. The naming of airships is a difficult matter. Here’s our flappy bird-wasp ship. Possibly sentient, since she came looking for us?

Revenant Wings Airship Model: The Galbana

 

By default, her name is Galbana, after the Galbana Lilies that Vaan’s dead brother Reks loved so much. How touching.

But in the voice actor era, we almost never have the fun of naming anything, so I can’t ignore this rare opportunity. How about…

Airship name selection screen

Franservi…

Whoops. Limited to 9 characters. That won’t work.

Time for me to get all etymological. Strahl means “beam, jet, ray, arrow, shaft of light, brilliance” in German and Yiddish. So how about something from the same language(s)?

Faygala? Yiddish for “Little Bird,” but also slang for “gay.” Tempting, but I’m not sure whether it works with this crew. Now, if it were Margrace or Balthier, that’d be fine. (I know, I know; according to the manga he’s most likely bi.)

Speaking of Balthier, how about we annoy him by borrowing one of his turns of phrase? Quiddity has a certain ring to it. Possibly too erudite for these street urchins, however.

Waffling, I pose the question to my blog followers. rhymemaster-inc suggests Vaanguard, because who doesn’t like a pun? I think I’ll combine it with Quiddity.

Vaan: The vanity. Whaddya think?

Filo: It’s perfect!

Ain’t it just?

Vaan: Now that that’s settled, we’ve got a sky continent to explore!

At last, the cutscenes end, and we finally get our first chance to Talk To Everybody. I don’t know why I miss optional dialogue when I’m just gonna go around and press X until I’ve heard everything, but there you are.

Airship bridge with little talk-bubbles over people's heads

Penelo: I’ve been thinking about something. You remember what Balthier said when we found the Cache of Glabados?

Vaan: Something about it having something to do with the eternal, right?

I confess I’d already forgotten. Sorry, Penny. Luckily, Vaan has more than turnips in his head.

Kytes: You don’t think the Cache has something to do with this airship, do you? That it brought us here?
Penelo: It just may have, Kytes. But what does it all mean?

That… almost made sense.  The airship had no reason to come to Rabanastre when it did unless something had called it. Like the green crystal in Vaan’s pocket.

Ba’Gamnan is still tied up. He hops up and down and growls if you talk to him. Punt him over the side! He survived a nasty drop in FFXII; I’m sure it won’t kill him!

Penelo: It's a long way down.

Penelo: If you don’t start behaving, we can always show you the door.

Never mistake gentle Penelo for a pushover. She also has personal reasons to be sharp with her former kidnapper.

Tomaj gushes about the “chance of a lifetime.” Adventure, yadda yadda.  Treasure, “not to mention a healthy supply of raw materials.” He’s all about the Loot. And, more importantly, item synthesis.  He says to bring items to him. Great!

Kytes seems a bit spooked.

Kytes: The ship’s real enough…but who do you think it belongs to?
Vaan: You got me. But she seems to have accepted us as her crew. Guess we’ll just have to see what happens.

I’m trying to think if there’s ever been a sentient airship in Final Fantasy before. LUNAR WHALE? Not really. I guess XIII did, sort of, with Eidolons that could assume mechanical shapes. Like lesbian bikes.

Filo’s our pilot. Bugging her lets us open up a map of sorts, with a thumbnail view and travel guide description of our destination.

The Bosco Pampa: Verdant flatland broken by patches of sky. Well-preserved ruins dot the plain, attestation to an ancient civilization that survives to this day.

I hate Bosco; it’s no good for me. Mommy put it in my milk and tried to poison meeee…

Er, ahem, sorry. Showing my age. (Y’all are probably far too young to remember that jingle.)

And here’s the world map for Revenant Wings.

[World Map Legend: The Sky Continent of Lemurés, Zephyr the Windward Isles]

Oh, whaddya know. We DO have a navigable world map in this game! The top screen is a 2d traditional map with markers and moving cursor (yellow), and the bottom screen is a 3D environment with moving clouds. The ship flaps along gently like a dove.

Here’s the southwestern island. At first, I thought this was Bhujerba, but it’s not the same shape.

Westernmost Sky Island

Things I have never gotten around to doing: learning the Ivalician alphabet. As usual in FF, it appears to be an English cipher. The brown label on the map above says “Lemures,” which I guess is the entire collection of sky islands, and then each one has its own name?

There’s a total of four sky islands waiting to be unlocked. Here’s the big eastern one:

Sky island with large lake/sea in interior

The windmills on the northern one are very Miyazaki.

Steep-walled island with granite columns and interior mountain peak mostly separated from rest by moat of air

Random Miyazaki trivia note: the horseclaws in Nausicaa were the original inspiration for chocobos.

Okay, enough futzing around with the world map; time to get off and explore this sky island.

Tomaj: I suppose I'll stay here, keep an eye on our scaly stowaway.

Yeah, can’t have an adult on this adventure, after all. (And I still don’t entirely trust Tomaj, for reasons I can never seem to put a finger on. He reminds me of the streetear Jules in Archades.)

Penelo tells them all to wait. She’s gotta pep talk or something.

Penelo: I want each of you to promise you'll do something for me.

Vaan: What kind of promise?
Penelo: I want you all to think about what it means to be a sky pirate.  Being a sky pirate isn’t all thrill and adventure, you know.

I had that question when Vaan was so excited about becoming a sky pirate back in FFXII. Balthier and Fran pretend to be self-interested treasure hunters, but really, they spend an awful lot of time aiding the downtrodden, rescuing persons in distress, mentoring kids, and generally acting like chaotic good errant knights in disguise. Han Solo types.

Are there or were there ever any real-world pirates like that? They did tend to respect people outside normal society’s hierarchy, so women and PoCs could be pirates, but I’m not sure about the whole “chaotic good vigilante” mystique. Anyway. Penelo wants us to ponder the nature of sky pirate-dom.

Filo: It’s not?
Vaan: Not exactly. It’s something we had a lot of time to think about when we were helping Ashe fight the Empire.
Filo: If you know the answer already, why won’t you just tell us?
Vaan: It’s the kind of thing you have to figure out for yourself.

Kytes gets enthused and wants to keep a log about it, because that way the game can have more character development without us having to stand around pressing X so much. Much more debate, griping about Penelo being in charge, yadda yadda… let’s go explore!

It’s hard to see, but on the bottom screen, the world map, we get teeeeny tiny little Vaan and Penelo figures wandering about. Which is pretty unique; most games with a party have one person or all of them visible.

Top screen: Cartographer world map; bottom screen: 3D environment world map

I blunder around for a bit until I realize I have to poke the name “Bosco Pampa” by an orange flag indicating the Path of Plot Advancement.

A  Mission Synopsis screen comes up to tell us about the next leg of our journey.

The Winged: The derelict -- now known as the Vaanity -- brings Vaan and his friends to the legendary sky continent. What wonders await them on its many islands?

Yes, yes, let us in! Maybe we’ll find some black chocobos up here; it looks like a nice place for ’em.

Mission 2-1: The Winged. Location: Zephyr, the Windward Isles

So this particular sky island (and adjacent bits) named Zephyr, the Windward Isles

Ooo, nice. Giza Plains music.  There’s critters that look like funguars with staves, big blue spiders, and creepy desert wolves roaming about.

The wolves are much cuter without heads that open up back to their eardrums. I hope this game fixed the couerls; there were far too many monsters with disturbing heads (or no heads) in FFXII.

Filo spots a ginormous chest and rushes over to open it. A glow emits from it briefly. I am paranoid, but this game continues to be lighter and fluffier than expected, so she is not cursed or diseased or seized by a giant hand dragging her back into the coffin and slamming the lid shut.

Kytes: I didn't think we'd find our first treasure so soon!

Filo: Not much of a treasure. Just some musty ol’ book.
Vaan: Might as well take it, just in case.

[It’s an item crafting recipe book, I discover later.]

Kytes is excited about the prospect of all that treasure, until Vaan reminds him there’s monsters. Did this kid actually grow up on Ivalice? Guess the townsfolk really did huddle inside cities (which makes a lot more sense in worlds where even the tomatoes are carnivorous).

Penny spots a traveller being ganged up on by spiders just down the path from us.

Penelo: We have to help him!

Filo: Is he even a…a hume?

There’s a lot of unexamined racism in FFXII. Seeq, Bangaa and Moogles are treated as second-class citizens, seldom rising above the merchant class. Even the Viera are abused (see Mjrn). The only ones that earn a certain amount of respect are the Nu Mou and whoever those faun-people are (Gran Kiltias Anastasis, advisors of Raminas and Ondore). When playing FFXII, I kept wanting to know more about the non-humes.

Vaan: Let’s save him first, ask questions later.

Vaan raises his crystal and summons a bunch of critters to help us, without even the aid of a summon gate. Handy. Can we do that outside of plot points?

Party plus Esper backup attack the spiders

The spiders are quickly splatted.

Penelo and Vaan rush to tend their fallen victim.

Vaan: We're not gonna hurt you. It'll be okay.

I’ll say again: Vaan’s a good-hearted kid, like Tidus without the jock chip on his shoulder. (I say this once again because a lot of western fans find Vaan intensely annoying, boring, or pointless. Oddly, he’s much more popular in Japan.)

Penelo tosses a few Curas at the the red dude.

Wounded Warrior: (Groan)

Not quite enough to do the trick. He’s still groggy. Filo plays Captain Obvious for us in case the eensy pixels are defeating our eyes and whispers to Kytes that the chap has wings.

Penelo glances down the path and points out that someone’s left a science molecule set lying about.

Clump of red balls beside the path

Oh. Tutorial screen informs us they’re HP berries.

Vaan carries winged dude over to have a nibble, and he revives. He turns out to be Welsh. (Sort of. llwyd, “gray, brown.”)

Wounded Warrior: My name is Llyud. You— you have come from below?

I think we’ve found our Red XIII/Kimahri for this game. He’s noble and stoic and has the sense of humor of a piece of shirt cardboard.

Vaan: Nice to meetcha, Llyud. My name’s Vaan.

Vaan: We're sky pirates, but don't let that give you the wrong idea.

Exposition time. Being a woman, Penelo wastes no time in asking for directions, saying they don’t know where they are. Llyud says they’re in Lemurés, “the land of my people, the aegyl.”

Exposition time is interrupted by more spiders tormenting a friend of Llyud’s further up the path.

Penelo: She's in trouble!

Our mobs of summoned critters make short work of Attercop and Shelob.

Once again, Vaan and Penny hurry to be good Samaritans. This kind of behavior is what must’ve made the Lowtown ghetto bearable during the occupation.

Vaan: Everything's gonna be fine. We're here to help!

Mission complete, levelup… Aha we’ve got Loot!

Mission Complete, list of treasures we picked up

I wonder where the nearest Bazaar is.

Pink girl flaps off before we get a chance to say hallo.

LLyud's friend flies off

Um… you’re welcome?

The party gathers in the pylon gateway of an impressive structure to regroup.

Penelo: good thing we showed up when we did.

Vaan wants to know what that was all about and who was attacking the winged people.

Llyud: Sky pirates.

Oh, dear. Y’know, it may not be wise to go around announcing ourselves as sky pirates to all and sundry, especially sundry who live in the sky.

After more prodding, Llyud disgorges a small nugget of exposition.

Llyud: Lemurés is besieged by throngs of sky pirates from the underworld.

Not-so-secret continents, it seems, even though most of our party has never heard of these places. Then again, it’s hard to see why sky pirates wouldn’t know about honking great chunks of rock floating in the skyways, for all that I think we’re over the southern ocean here.

Llyud: It is they who drive the Yarhi to their frenzy— sky pirates such as you.
Llyud: A mighty barrier once girded our lands. Behind this barrier we aegyl had lived in peace many thousands of years. But no longer.

Ah, so that’s why. Shades of Final Fantasy VI, when the Espers lived beyond a sealed gate.

And what destroyed the barrier? “A great rush of Mist from the world below.”

Those pretty rose-colored clouds we flew through on the way here must be leftover from the incident that gave Fran such a migraine…

Penelo: The explosion of the Sun Cryst?

Vaan and Penny immediately offer to help clear out the troublemakers, assuring Llyud that not all sky pirates are as horrible as the ones attacking his people.

I wonder if Balthier and Fran have given Vaan and Penelo an atypical view of their profession.

Vaan: Then just show us where these troublemakers are, and we can get down to business.

A new flagged Destination opens up on the map, where Llyud says the trespassers have set up camp.

Fane of Gucuma Qul Synopsis: August temple enshrining auracite, stones held sacred above all else on Lemurés. Carven wings soar above the temple, catching the sun and instilling peace and awe on all who make pilgrimage here.

But first!  Time to backtrack and pick up all the loot we can.

Whoops! Backtracking isn’t quite as simple in this game as in some.

  • You exit an area immediately after “Mission Complete,” even if you haven’t grabbed all the treasures.
  • There’s some chests, but many treasures are piles of wood or rock or bones that require a bit of time to collect them.
  • Monsters will interrupt scavenging, so you need to clear monsters away from resources.
  • But if you kill all the monsters in an area, you get “Mission Complete!”
  • Returning to an area where you’ve finished all the plot points gives you a “Battle monsters” mission, and it looks like the mineral resources (but not the chests) renew themselves if previously-scavenged.

So we need to be careful to leave one monster alive until we’re done looting every bit of Llyud’s peaceful home. Aren’t we nice?

Time for a tutorial on the Battle Party Screen, which will turn out to be the most important screen in the game.

Objective: Defeat all enemies! At least one ally must survive.

I need combat practice. So far I’ve always wound up with a mosh pit of my entire party and all the monsters piled on top of each other in a frantic scrum.

The Battle Party Screen lets us preview the area’s monsters. Argh, so cute. This was two years before Angry Birds was released, but…

Quetzalcoatl: Earthbound avian who flings bolts of lightning from his lowly perch.

Here’s our little army. Each of the party leaders gets a few retainers, just like basic D&D. (Well, apart from their being Espers.)

A happy army

Here’s a typical battle, with everyone marching towards the positions I’ve told ’em to take up and/or attacking the targets I’ve selected. Pretty chaotic, since they’re all operating under auto-combat unless one chooses a magic spell/ability manually.

On the map screen, we’re blue, monster mobs are pink, treasures/resources are yellow moneybags, and HP restore points are cherries.

Typical field battle

Still getting the hang of it, but frankly, I should’ve started the Tactics series of games sooner. Arthritis has made it increasingly difficult for me to play any game that requires realtime button-mashing (E.G. Kingdom Hearts.)

More loot and levelups later, we head back to the bridge to trade in our goodies. Oh, hi, lizard breath.

Ba'gamnan: If you think me one to forgive and forget, you've a rude awakening waiting, boy!

Hmm. Tomaj is over in the pilot’s seat now, pissing off Vaan by calling it the “good ship Tomaj.”

Penny wants to know if we’ve given back the treasures we found to Llyud. What kind of sky pirate question is that?! Balthier would be ashamed of you!

The children aren’t too thrilled either.

Filo: WHAT?! Kytes: We're gonna give back the treasure?!

I guess Penelo and Vaan know a thing or two about foreigners comin’ in and stealing your stuff.

Penny: Of course we are, don't be silly. It belongs to the aegyl— why shouldn't we give it back?!

Hmm. This is all very honorable and correct, and is exactly what Vaan was supposed to be doing when he was stealing things from Imperials back at the beginning of FFXII: restoring people’s possessions.

Tomaj said to bring treasures to him, hinting he’d be able to make new items from them, but he’s useless right now. Lyud’s standing in the spot Tomaj was earlier, which automatically means he’s taken Tomaj’s job. Right? Right? That’s how it works in RPGs!

Llyud: The contents of those chests are aegyl offerings made to the gods to keep Lemures safe.

Chests? Mostly crystals and bones and piles of wood lying across the path, actually.

Llyud: If we use these treasures to defend my land, surely no aegyl could voice complaint.
Filo: Sounds like we’ve got a license to plunder!
Penelo: You’re incorrigible, Filo.

Yes? Are you going to cater to colonial fantasies and be a generous indigenous person, allowing us to exploit what we’ve already stolen?

NOPE. Shame on me. Guess we’ll just have to tote those rat pelts and bits of cherrywood around until we can sell them in Rabanastre.

A small table with a book on it has appeared on one corner of the bridge. Kytes and Filo are trolling one another in the logbook, and there’s primers with lore about characters and places, and a recipe book for item synthesis that will presumably be useful sooner or later, but there’s nothing more to be done on the airship right now.

We disembark and head back to the Path of Plot Advancement.

Cartographer map / 3D map splitscreen

World Map: Fane of Gucuma Qul

And now I’m gonna pause in this Let’s Play because chapter 2 is flipping loooong.

Before I go, have some character portraits from the game’s concept art, ganked off FFWikia.

3D model

Llyud

concept art

Kytes

3D render

Penelo

concept art

Vaan

concept art

Tomaj

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