The Golden Vaanity bobs gently above Zephyr, the Windward Isles, aka that very first dungeon which will later be tinged with a sense of homelike nostalgia because you can squish all the starter monsters there like bubble wrap:
We sail away, flush with the sweet taste of victory and the knowledge that we
thoroughly cased the joint whumped some baddies who thought it would be fun to use inept angels for target practice.
Where to next, Llyud? I keep wanting to call you Lloyd.
*finds official render of Llyud*
I’d quote George Takei’s favorite quote, but he’s a little young. Ahem.
He says we need to trot ourselves over to the next island to defend a giant crystal that the Judge of Wings wants to swipe.
I’m sure this quest will in no way resemble the “We Suck” segments of Final Fantasy III, IV, and V, wherein we totally failed to prevent the villains from stealing and/or smashing the Crystals of Light.
First, however, I backtrack to the Fane of Gucuma Qul. If you return to a previously-cleared area, optional Melee missions obligingly crop up for level grinding purposes. They’re similar to the battles we fought there before, but without the plot points.
This game is a little skimpy without the ten jillion cutscenes we’ve come to expect from console games, so let me see if I can recap select battles in a way that’s as entertaining to read as they were to play (not snark; I’m enjoying this silly game).
Here’s the handy-dandy Battle Party Screen which lets us scout all the monsters that the mission’s got cooked up for us.
Cick “Espers” to pick the summons you want in this particular battle and/or to enlist new summon types to your roster if you’ve got any spare auracite jingling in your pocket.
A clever person would study the list of foes with penetrating intelligence to determine the perfect squad to fling at them. But I’m a newbie, and so I get distracted playing with the Ring of Pacts aka “hire new Espers” roulette wheel:
Accordingly, I enlist Quetzalcoatl, Aquarius, and Sahagin, because I didn’t have any lightning or water-based critters yet.
Then I return to the Battle Party Screen and figure out what I should’ve enlisted instead.
The Ring of Pacts let us expand our roster, but now we’ve gotta pick five battle buddies from that roster for this particular mission.
By the time I come to edit my incoherent notes for this post, I’ve learned to make “us vs them” lists. Too bad I didn’t do it while playing this part of the game.
In retrospect, I’m scratching my head wondering why I forgot to counter combat types as well as exploiting elemental weaknesses. n00b.
And I’m embarrassed to admit that I had to Google “why the heck is Ba’Gamnan sitting on his ass and sitting out all the battles after Tomaj quite literally roped him into Clan Vaanity?” before I discovered that clearly-visible “Leaders” button which allows you to swap party members.
But I did at least have sense enough to realize that ranged monsters can take down fliers like brats with bb-guns, so I should swap out Filo the hoverboarder for Ba’Gamnan.
Enough prep. Clan Vaanity is ready to rumble!
We warp in with each PC accompanied by a pair of Espers of the same combat type (melee, flying, etc) that follow them about like obedient death commando ducklings. If we have any party “affinity points” left over, we can summon a few more from a friendly summoning gate.
Since our opponents are oblivious to our arrival, we conga line our way over to the nearst summoning gate. We gather around it praying to win its favor, thanking Yevon we don’t have to blunder around in a Cloister of Trials first.
Claiming a gate with the Power of Prayer ™ also lets us call more summons later to replace those we’ll wind up losing in battle like the incompetent leaders we are.
Don’t tell Llyud, but we’re really just here for the loot.
Treasure chests open immediately, but there’s other sorts of goodies which must be scavenged over time using our Swiss Army Pickaxe. Wood, bones, rat pelts (sorry Vaan), rocks— I’m sure these’ll come in handy later.
In a nice inversion of the rest of the game, our Espers stand around idly, presumably gossiping and shouting out helpful instructions while their PC leaders do the actual work.
Score! We mined Mythril Shards.
Last but not least, I use our group’s surplus “affinity points” to summon guards for Penelo, who is restricted to healing duties in this game despite whacking dragons with Tournesol in the last one.
After all this prep, my first few battles are anticlimactic.
The monsters wait politely in small groups of two to four telling us to come slaughter them at our convenience.
- Attack with whatever the target is most vulnerable to (fliers, in this case).
- Send in the units of the same battle type as the target (melee, in this case) to assist the front line and shield those in back.
- Put the vulnerable PCs in back (healers plus ranged, in this case) to assist.
The last room presents my first real challenge.
At lower left is a line of green Ixions (melee), with red Sagittarius (ranged, aka I HATE THESE GUYS) centaurs behind. Archers can take out flying critters, but flying critters are strong against melee critters.
So I’m going to use a Neener Neener Gambit to lure the infantry away from their ebil ebil line of archers.
Vaan runs towards the Ixions yelling something about Captain Basch. (The shoes cursor indicates “Move here!”)
Once the Ixions start chasing him trying to trample the clamor, I have him run back towards my fliers.
It worked, except that I didn’t have my fliers close enough to take immediate advantage. Instead, Ba’Gamnan started swearing (I imagine) and laying about with his tennis racket chainsaw. Also, one enemy archer gave chase, the red guy, but at least it’s not all of ’em.
Feint-and-ambush, feint-and-ambush, victory fanfare. Think I’m getting the hang of this.
Nice loot from these sidequests, but no auracite, to prevent us from enlisting new Espers too quickly.
I finish the other two “bug hunt” missions and return to the Path of Plot Advancement.
Oh, but wait. I almost forgot to stop by the airship for my favorite pasttime: Talk To Everyone!
Bahahaha. You got me there, bondage snout.
Kytes wants to hunt for more treasure, since looting an entire island wasn’t enough. Shush, kid.
Trying to distract the aegyl from our treasure-mad friend, Vaan asks Llyud about Faolthanos, his god:
Penelo fishes for more exposition, but unfortunately Vaan butts in before Lluyd can be sweet-talked into giving anything away.
Penelo: What does the Judge of Wings want with the Eternal, anyway?
Penelo: Is that even possible?
Of course it’s possible! Weren’t you paying attention in the last game when we butted heads with “the Undying” Occuria? How about Espers? Next you’ll be asking if it’s physically possible for rocks to float.
For those of us distracted by sidequests, Filo recaps the plot so far:
Filo: *pant* I can’t keep it all straight!
I feel ya, kiddo. Modern video games speak in code. I remember watching the first trailer for FFXIII and being nonplussed: L’Cie? C’ieth? Whaaat? Am I supposed to care about these things?
Turns out Vaan shares my reservations about Tomaj:
Tomaj: I’m hurt, Vaan. When have I ever been anything but a valued ally?
*cough* You mean like letting that sky pirate get away in the last dungeon, or never joining our away teams even though you’re the only adult in the group? Or sending a reckless teenager into the desert to hunt dangerous predators and clear caravan routes for you? I’d say you’re one up on the Merchant of Questionable Morality ladder from O’aka.
Someone’s set up an efficient desk shelf Ikea unit to hold our growing pile of primers, airship logs, tomes of lore, still-useless synthesis recipes, etc.
GameFAQ’s Game Script includes all the folio entries, so I don’t have to spam you with them here. Most are straightforward Lore like the Bestiaries of FFXII, excerpts from charmingly stuffy ancient texts and antiquarian scholarship. It’s Maechen in a book!
Now and then there’s quotes from humbler sources:
I miss Migelo. (Who is voiced by John DiMaggio, aka Bender/Wakka.)
The logbook is our equivalent of the Balamb Garden chat forum, mostly consisting of sniping between Filo and Kytes:
Filo’s gatekeeping of Llud’s behavior is a recurring theme. 11-year-old bossing around a… well, I dunno how old he is, but he looks to be in Vaan and Penelo’s age bracket.
Other items of interest sifted from the Backstory Infodump library:
- Llyud is considered a heretic and traitor by the other aegyl for joining us.
- Tomaj really is using some kind of mechanical “device,” not an innate magical spell or ability, to control Ba’Gamnan, so I guess I have to forgive him for letting that enemy sky pirate get away.
Okay, enough gossip. We head to the next island of the sky continent of Lemurés, which should actually be called a sky archipelago:
Another gorgeous sky island. (Llyud called the wispy crystalline wings “cloudstones,” FWIW.)
A helpful billboard in the shape of a yellow down-arrow shows Vaan where to land, and we disembark.
Or rather, everyone else starts to dash for the landing ramp, but Vaan hangs back on the bridge.
Filo: What’s the matter, Vaan?
Kytes: Aren’t you coming?
Vaan: Something’s been bothering me.
I’m so glad Vaan’s being a good samaritan, but um… it’s not like we can patrol the entire planet simultaneously. Or even…
Penelo: That’s actually a good point, Vaan. But we can’t exactly be in two places at the same time.
Tomaj: Maybe that’s something I can help with. Who better to dig up leads on what these sky pirates are doing?
Tomaj offers to put up a notice board on the bridge for gossip and intel. Which is a start, but I still think we need a few hundred clones to patrol the rest of Ivalice while our back is turned.
Finally, a new chapter title. And this isn’t an ominous chapter name at all…
We head for the Orange Flag of Plot Advancement.
Sounds lovely. I’m still bemused by how light and fluffy this game is. Although I suspect it won’t be for much longer, if that chapter title is any indication. For now, Cerobi Steppe music adds to the tranquil atmosphere.
The World Map has acquired a new Tomaj Button, a notice board that lists new optional sidequests such as:
Don’t distract me with sidequests! I’m trying to stop puttering around and get on with the Path of Plot Advancement! *sticks fingers in ears*
Here’s our next actual plot-related mission:
The chapter screen opens with a montage of sky pirates brutally cutting down aegyl victims so fast I can’t even screencap before the camera scrolls to the next victim. STOP THAT!
Clan Vaanity rushes over the roots of the giant crystals (?) and beholds the carnage.
Penelo: We’re too late…
Vaan: Not too late to help!
Penelo: How many aegyl are left?
Oh great. This is one of those “keep civilians alive” missions I’m so terrible at. I’ve been accidentally squashing people I was supposed to be saving since Choplifter.
Battle Party screen!
Our opponents are a nasty bunch, as their descriptions emphasize. Even the viera sounds brutal:
The others are Barbarous Sky Pirate (Bangaa), Sadistic Monk (Bangaa), and Petty Sky Pirate (Hume). All Melee except the viera. Their Espers are mostly fire-vulnerable, earth-resistant. Mwhaha.
Flammable, you say? Great. I now have salamanders that lob fireballs at flying things. (Their flaming gills look like long cat ears.)
I may abuse save states a bit on this one. Mea culpa.
We materialize in a glen at the bottom of a winding hill.
Our starting point is the lower left corner of the minimap, closest to the decorative blue sphere that looks like it came from FFX.
Ahead/to the right of us is a grassy low area with a summoning gate at the foot of a cliff (gray). Turning left at the foot of that cliff, there’s a steep switchback path up to a higher area which wends its way back to a flat sandy ledge.
A fleeing aegyl spots us and calls for help.
We turn and clobber the guy attacking him. He flies behind us, heading to our starting point which is an arbitary “safe” zone.
The all-too-familiar sound of a cactuar shooting its needles alerts us to pan the camera all over the damn place to find the next victim (who looks identical). Turns out he’s off the screen to the right, at the bottom of that cliff near a summoning gate.
We go charging in without a plan. Luckily, it seems each group of attackers is holding off until we get close, so we can catch our breath after saving him. He flies back along our tracks to the “safe” spot.
Terrified Aegyl: It-it’ll be safe over there, r-r-right?
I waste a little time securing the gate and summoning a few more fire salamanders to bolster our troupe.
The sound of cactoid needles alerts me that there’s another Aegyl in distress on the clifftop above us. Some orange cactoids are shooting him (he’s in yellow on the minimap, which marks the bottom screen’s camera view with a faint white square.)
Unfortunately, the switchback path up to the top of the cliff is guarded by a viera archer commanding a fierce gauntlet of needle-shooting cactoids. We have no choice but to charge up the hill between them to reach him. This is getting scary, folks!
The topography looks like the bottleneck at Djose where so many died in Operation Mi’ihen. And that, of course, was designed to kill as many Crusaders as possible.
Morituri te salutamus. (Blue heath bars are us, orange things are cactoids shooting 1000 Needles.)
Vaan, wearing sprint shoes, quickly outdistances the rest of the group. I’m hoping he can break through the gauntlet and draw the cactoids’ fire from the aegyl onto himself until the cavalry arrives, but this is so, so risky.
[ETA: Ugh. I just noticed: that X with a boot over Filo’s head is an Immobilize spell, a nasty viera ability.]
In case the Charge of the Light Brigade wasn’t challenging enough, a Seeq materializes back in the “safe” glen with a quartet of those #%@!!! Sagittarius centaur archers.
Why are these sky pirates so bent on killing aegyls, anyway? Not much treasure in it. Do they taste like chicken?
Standard villain stuff, I guess.
Phew. Vaan’s close enough to the third aegyl atop the cliff now to draw enemy fire away from him, but one Vaan against two cactoids is tough. He starts attacking them.
He did it! He took out the aegyl’s cactoid tormentors!
But the run up the hill of death has cost us. Filo was KOed on the way, and Penelo and Kytes are struggling clear, each having lost Esper followers.
“Aegyl Brave”? How about SUICIDAL. He decides his one and only route to safety is to fly back down the way we came up, right through the gauntlet of “ranged” enemies— the viera, the cactoids, and now those bleeping centaurs — who are especially skilled at shooting down anything that flies!
That’s Filo KOed over on the right with the stars over her head. 🙁
I send everyone back down the switchback into enemy fire to cover the aegyl’s retreat. Then I try desperately to summon a few healers.
You can summon from any friendly gate, but you have to move the camera over to the gate, click it and cycle through some menus to pick Espers and group leader for them to follow, which takes your attention off the battle at critical moments.
Panicking like a cornered squirrel, I tend to flail and summon a bunch of the same thing (4 more salamanders! 3 more healer rabbits!) assigned to a PC leader completely at random.
Following the fleeing aegyl to draw some enemy fire towards us saves him. Only a couple cactoids chase him towards the “safe” zone. But we’re in serious trouble. We’ve got two oh-so-vulnerable mages and an arrow-magnet called Llyud down there.
The fleeing aegyl reaches the “safe” zone and warps away.
Lluyd is the next to KO, pinned at the base of the cliff with cactoid needles and viera arrows bombarding him from all sides. A noble sacrifice for his people.
We’re down to Vaan, Penny and Kytes, and we’re in dire straits! We dash back up the hill, trying to escape arrow/needle fire. Penny casts a Curaga on the rapidly-dwindling group:
Annnnd… Game over. 🙁
We receive experience points for a valiant attempt.
Grrr. I hope I’m not penalized for failing on the first try. Now that it comes to it, I am not going to abuse save states; those experience points convince me to try again.
Grudgingly, I swap out Filo for Ba’Gamnan. There are two many danged anti-aircraft (ranged) enemies in this battle.
Word to the wise: the Battle Prep screen tells you what kinds of summons the enemy might employ, but not how many. Also, it didn’t mention Donga of the Doofy Hat and his bleeping centaur brigade warping in late to the the battle.
Ba’Gamnan has a “Drain” ability. I set it as his gambit, hoping he’ll use it as his default attack. We need every last HP we can squeeze out of this battle.
So then I just have to try to keep Llyud alive. His Jump ability bounces him out of range of many attacks, but also out of range of Penelo’s healing.
Once more into the breach!
We rescue the first two aegyl below the cliff. Once again, trying to climb the Switchback of Death is where we start to run into trouble:
Time to start summoning backup now! Pen’s lost all her healers, although I’ve added a few to Vaan during one of my panic-flails.
Once again, no sooner does Vaan rescue the aegyl at the top of the cliff from some cactoids, than we have to escort the hapless flappy boy back down the way we just came through a shooting gallery.
By the time we reach the bottom, that dratted Seeq and his centaur brute squad are hot on our aegyl’s heels.
Penny and Kytes KO, so it’s down to Vaan and Ba’gamnan and everything I can summon! Where the heck did those jumbo shrimp come from?
We don’t make it. Close, but no cigar.
Y’all who play these games more often are probably laughing at me, but this is TOUGH.
Llyud’s XP from that debacle give him a new ability: Lancet. Pretty much Drain. I switch his gambit (auto-ability) from Jump to Lancet and cross my fingers.
Fortune favors the foolish… let’s try again!
Finally, we’re making headway. We rescue the first three aegyl and manage to clear out the Gauntlet of Doom, but there’s another gauntlet waiting for us at the top of the cliff: 4 cactoids (ranged), a pack of flying
jumbo shrimp Atomos that are as bad as centaurs for different reasons, and a goblin army between us and the last flap chap who needs saving:
Ouch. Vaan reaches the top of the cliff after escorting 3 aegyl to safety, but he doesn’t make it through all those Atomos.
Penny, Ba’Gamnan and Llyud are left, accompanied by all the fire salamanders and healers I can muster.
The final aegyl, surrounded at the top of the hill, sees Penelo’s Army coming and starts down, retreating towards us. Flap faster! We’ve just gotta hold off his pursuers and survive!
Covering him all the way, we manage to contain most of the enemy. A few goblins get past us, but at least they can’t shoot at him.
At the bottom of the hill, our desperate aegyl flaps for all he’s worth, pursued by a parade of enemy (pink) goblins, with Penelo’s Army chasing after.
By this time, I’ve been snatching whatever spare seconds I can to summon more bombs, salamanders and healer bunnies to Penny’s command. They surround her in a moving wall, wearing dark sunglasses and ear-mikes. She moves faster than Ba’Gamnan and Llyud, who are stumbling along behind.
Penelo’s Posse comes thundering down the hill!
The final aegyl reaches the “safe” spot at the far end of the battlefield and vanishes right before the eyes of the pink goblins pursuing him.
The camera pans back dramatically to… Vaan’s KO’d form, a lonely little heap at the top of the hill. He fell covering that aegyl’s escape.
Um… okay? Thanks for the reminder. Now what?
Ack! I forgot; if the camera’s too far away from fighting, there’s no sounds of battle. I have to pan the camera back DOWN the hill, where Penelo, Ba’Gamnan and LLyud are fighting for their lives as the thwarted aegyl hunters turn on us!
I quickly steer Penny out of the scrum (she keeps trying to rush back in to help, stop being noble!) As long as one PC is still standing, hope is alive!
We wind up with Ba’Gamnan and Llyud fighting back to back (above, the two blue bars). Drain and Lancet are keeping them alive. I direct some of Penelo’s supporters to go help them.
At last… Mission Complete! Whew. The screen fades with Penelo in the center doing the victory dance to the Final Fantasy fanfare. As are her bunnies, brandishing their carrots.
That never gets old.
Sorry for the detailed play-by-play, but that was epic. Clan Vaanity can be proud of what it did today.
It looks like XP is distributed partly by how much the Espers under each PC’s leadership accomplished. The later stages of that battle were carried almost entirely by Penelo’s Army of bunnies and fire-breathers.
Decent treasure, too. I hope that artificer’s handbook means we’ll be able to access item crafting soon. I miss the Bazaar.
A save screen later, with rather a lot of first aid handwaved, we meet with the survivors.
*groan* Noooo, don’t tell me we have to give chase. That battle took a lot out of us!
Penelo: If all they’re after is auracite, why attack the aegyl?
I was wondering that myself. Genocide doesn’t seem like it would be all that profitable for sky pirates.
Vaan: You don’t understand the kind of people we’re dealing with here. All they care about is getting what they want. To them, it doesn’t matter if people get hurt doing it.
Awww. That’s how Vaan used to talk about the Empire, when he and Penelo were in the same position the aegyl are now: little people, trodden underfoot by uncaring occupiers and invaders.
And let’s not forget his airship’s default name was “Galbana,” although I renamed it. Vaan’s flying these missions partly in his brother’s memory. Does he think of Rex when he sees these aegyl getting shot down?
Penelo: Then we have to make sure that doesn’t happen. Why don’t we let them on the airship to stay safe? Who knows if they’ll get attacked again. Besides, there’s plenty of room.
Vaan: That’s a great idea.
Llyud: Are you sure?
Vaan: Why not? The ship’s as much yours as it is ours. Maybe it’ll give Penelo someone else to mother for a change. *the humans laugh*
A bit of a stereotype for Penny, but that’s exactly what Vaan and Penelo were doing for the orphans of Lowtown during the Imperial occupation, following the example of Migelo who sheltered them.
(Hey… Filo? All that nagging about Llyud not saying thanks? He’s learning.)
Back to the World Map, I see some good news. Does this mean item-crafting/synthesis/the bazaar is now available?
It’s time to return to the airship for another round of Talk to Everyone. I’m sure the pirates we’re supposed to be fighting will wait for us.
I see Llyud’s pink friend has joined us, as well as a random aegyl.
Kytes worries about all the aegyl on the ship, but when Vaan spouts a Rikku-quote, Kytes changes his tune and parrots it right back.
Kytes is still hero worshipping Vaan. He’s always nervous, though:
Kytes: Are we going to fight the sky pirates again? I hope I’m not in the way.
Poor kid. He didn’t make it through that last battle, but he helped! My inner Penelo is not well pleased that we’re dragging 10 and 11-year-old prodigies into a war zone, although I guess they nearly grew up in one. (Again, this feels more like FFV-VI, with Krile and Relm.)
OH. OH oh oh. I just realized. Between Final Fantasy XII and Revenant Wings, Kytes studied magic so he could help Vaan, after realizing he wasn’t cut out to be a fighter. He’s turned into a smart but somewhat timid boy who hero-worships a bishie light-haired thief.
I’m sure I’ve run into a character like that before. And Kytes’ Revenant Wings mage outfit looks very, very familiar.
I rest my case.
The Filo | Refia analogy isn’t quite as obvious, but both of them are rather bossy young women who have a thing for airships and flying.
Penelo is still sore at Vaan for typecasting her, and bawls him out with some amusing open-mouthed Chibi shouting.
Vaan: Uh, when haven’t you?
Vaan: Take it easy, Penelo. It’s not like it’s a bad thing.
Llyud’s back to his usual job as the Spock, summarizing relevant plot info. Judge of Wings, auraliths in danger, yadda yadda. Got it.
Oh, here’s an interesting tidbit.
Probably a false rumor, since Togi described the Judge of Wings as a woman in armor, but who really knows? What if the Judge is androgynous? Or two people?
I’m still trying to figure out if the female aegyl is Llyud’s friend or a game-model clone. There were no women among those we just rescued:
But if that’s Lluyd’s friend, where’s she been lurking?
Ba’Gamnan, as usual, is unimpressed with proceedings.
Oh, I dunno, that Ikea desk in the corner is a definite improvement on the swirling black clouds of doom that enveloped this airship when we first entered it. La la la, what haunted airship?
Filo is eager for another battle, never mind that she spent most of the last one unconscious, and Vaan tells her it’s a wise thing to get ready first.
There’s always time to hit a few shops before saving the world.
Drat. Tomaj’s shop is just a shop, no itemcrafting/synthesis. Interesting thing to note: most accessories grant a group resistance, as well as individual stat bonuses.
I give Filo better armor. But it looks like each item is “Sold Out” as soon as you buy it or find it in a treasure chest, so maybe we should just wait to find gear in the field.
Tomaj wants to know why there’s aegyl crawling out of the woodwork. Vaan says a “practical streetear” like himself should be able to figure it out.
Like you weren’t doing it before. Why else did you tag after Penelo and join us on the airship?
Most of the logbook is just chitchat among the PCs, but Llyud’s trying his hand at poetry.
To which Filo writes, “That’s it? Is that all you can say?” She’s always ragging on him. Why do I have the uneasy feeling this game may be shipping them before it’s over?
Now, much as I’d like to get on with the Path of Plot Advancement and hurl us all into another hellish gauntlet of cactoids and centaurs raining death on us from all sides, I’m not sure how long the sidequests on Tomaj’s mission board remain open.
So tune in next time for some “Maleficent Mayhem.”
Which suggests a fabulous crossover between Maleficent, Fran and Balthier. But will undoubtably involve yet more #)%#@!!! centaurs.