Last time on Let’s Play Revenant Wings, we scurried around playing sidequests in the shattered remnants of the Skysea. Now, at last, it’s time to catch up with the leading man and his long-suffering copilot!
Their ship, the Strahl, has moored beneath a vertical village named “Heaven’s Vigil”:
The northern sky island is called Arda, Heaven’s Pillar. “Arda” is from Tolkien, although in his world it means, well, the world.)
I visit Namingway in the Sky Saloon, because we’ve been Clan Potholder for far too long, but unfortunately the only new name I can think of is a terrible, terrible idea. I apologize in advance.
We have to put down (blue dot) nowhere near Heaven’s Vigil (red dot)…
…because Balthier stole the only convenient parking spot.
We pass several aegyl settlements on the trek west…
…before finally reaching the Miyazaki village with the windmills that I spotted near the beginning of the game.
There’s a better view of the Strahl.
And who should be waiting for us when we climb down there to investigate but…
FRAAAAAAAAAAN! Oh thank goodness.
As soon as we learned the story of Velis and Mydia, it started niggling at the back of my mind that Fran’s path might parallel the Judge of Wings. If Balthier really was killed as the Judge of Wings claimed, Fran might break quite a few rules to Orpheus him back again.
So, at least she’s alive. And Balthier?
Ominously, she’s alone.
Fran is walking away from the Strahl when Clan Ashe-Hats hails her.
Penelo and Fran had a subtle little-sister/big-sister dynamic in the last game, with Penelo looking to Fran for guidance and noticing whenever the Mist was bothering her. Fran spoke little, but a lot of her lines were passing tidbits of knowledge to Penelo.
So Penelo’s been as keen to find her as Vaan is to find Balthier:
Penelo told Kytes and Filo not to worry after the “news” of Balthier’s death, but she was worried, obviously.
Fran: I am.
Hee. I can hear Fran’s dry deadpan voice in that line. Oh I missed her. She’s like Lulu: over-the-top fanservice design, but such an intelligent, formidable, fierce yet compassionate soul.
Okay, sorry, fansquee moment. Moving on.
An ! of embarrassment appears briefly over Penelo’s head.
I’m so glad these two have a Moment, although now Vaan needs to know about his mentor. (Whose theme is playing in this scene.)
Vaan pushes forward. “Where’s Balthier?”
And I have a sinking feeling in my stomach. Please, Fran, put us out of our suspense here.
Abruptly she turns and starts to walk away. Vaan spreads his hands.
Before I can claw the walls again, Fran finally confirms that Balthier is alive… or at least that he survived that encounter.
HELLA. Er, no, actually, I’d be just as happy to hear Fran’s poetic way of putting things, but we do need to see him.
He relaxes as soon as Fran says that. He was worried too, whatever he might claim to believe.
Fran turns to look back at the multi-level dwellings set into the cliffs behind them, and the camera pans up. Now that looks like the sort of place where winged people might choose to dwell.
Fran: You will find him in the mountains ahead.
Penelo: What about you, Fran? Why aren’t you with him?
As usual, Penelo picks up when something is amiss with Fran, although you’d have to be as oblivious as Vaan to miss it. We’ve never seen her and Balthier apart before.
Mist always did give Fran migraines. Or does she mean she’s losing her attachment to Balthier? Or Balthier to her?
The camera pans up to show the Strahl. Which Balthier also holds dear.
The camera pans during this whole sequence are visually striking, despite the very limited graphics. There’s a 3D effect of the cliff disappearing off into the hazy distance with other structures faintly visible.
Fran doesn’t say anything else, and Penelo shakes her head at Vaan.
Vaan: Guess we’ll just have to go see for ourselves. Thanks, Fran.
Fran raises her head and stares at the sky as the children dash away.
She looks lonely. Keeping near the Strahl, guarding it until he returns? Or staying away from places heavy with Mist, to keep from losing her mind? Her anima?
After they leave, as the screen fades to black, Fran sinks to one knee with a sound like a suppressed sob and shuts her eyes. Even her ears are drooping. She didn’t show this much emotion even when her sister Mjrn was in trouble. This does not bode well for the leading man.
I cling to the hope that he’s sent her away for her own safety, but it’s hard to believe she’d willingly leave him unless he’s forgotten her.
Clan Ashe-hats marches along a wide mountain path, oblivious to her pain. A lively Mosphoran Highwaste theme suggests grand adventure ahead. A pirate fleeing in the opposite direction suggests we’re nuts.
Pirate: It’s too dangerous! Turn back!
Vaan: What’s so dangerous about it?
Pirate: A viera told me to flee this place. I didn’t wait around to ask why.
Sounds like Fran has been warning away civilians, assuming she passed this pirate on the way down.
The pirate runs off. Kytes shuts his eyes. He’s worrying again.
They look back at the platform where Fran was standing, but it’s empty. Should I be concerned?
Vaan: No, don’t tell me. We’ll have to see for ourselves.
Standard Final Fantasy trope #8219: if there’s an Auron-figure who knows too much, they have to let the children learn The Truth on their own. Because reasons.
A new map location opens up at the back of the terrace behind Heaven’s Vigil.
I haven’t recognized most of the location names in this game, but Ymir is a primordial giant in Norse mythology, from whose body the world was created.
Oh GREAT. Sounds like we’ve got leapin’ lizards. How do they keep finding us? Especially since we last saw them in the caverns under the Skysea just before it went kablooie?
Our first glimpse of the mountainside shows it’s infested with yellow flans.
The sound of falling water is interrupted by a screenshake and a bad Scottish accent. (Not really, but I remember Bwagi’s voice in FFXII.)
I’m really not in the mood, Bwagi. Don’t make us go Ultima on your ass.
Oh, all right. If you insist.
Rinok dashes in with a sword-brandish (I’m never quick enough to screencap these):
Gijuk informs us that they’ve “like made nice with Ba’Gamnan… One big, happy family again!” so we can expect him up ahead. Nuisance indeed. I suppose we had Rikken’s help the last time, but still, I am underwhelmed. So is Vaan.
All the Bangaa are resistant to water attacks, whereas their minions are vulnerable to ’em. I don’t caaaaaare. Our non-elemental Espers can be scary buggers.
The Brady Bangaa Bunch whine that Ba’Gamnan “reeducated” them by beating the stuffing out of them. One happy family, sure.
Fine head? Ha. You haven’t had to look at Vaan’s nosepicking animation in FFXII.
Heeey. They are CHEATING CHEATS! The battle party menu only lists what monsters the Bangaa summon, and neglects to mention that the hillside is infested with Earth drakes and flans.
And it’s a bit of a mess with no summoning gates and all of them ganging up on us while we scavenge treasures. Just when things look dicey for us, Vaan’s Pyroclasm is charged and ready to go.
One kaFWOOOSH later, Penelo’s free to start reviving people, and Vaan smites the scaly Scot.
(Dramatic killing blow is dramatic)
Woo hoo, new weapons recipe book for Cu Sith!
Because sadly, that sword we plucked out of the turtle wasn’t as powerful as our custom jobs.
Seriously? Okay, yes, they pulled exactly that stunt with Penelo at the beginning of FFXII, but she was just a merchant’s shop-girl. She didn’t have any combat training back then.
Are they mad?
Vaan: Good thing we came along when we did.
Yeah. Although to be honest, Fran probably would’ve had a spot of trouble with those three and their 30 summoned monsters.
Kytes: For all we know, that’s what he wanted to happen.
“He” meaning Ba’Gamnan, that is. Heh. He left these three here just so Fran could shred them? I like that headcanon. Bwagi, however, does not, leaping up and down like a maddened ferret.
Rinok: I’d believe it. He’s always been one to hold a grudge.
Gijuk: Maybe he fancies himself a teacher, what with all these lessons he’s givin’ us.
Miffed at Ba’Gamnan’s betraying them again, they’re willing to betray his plans.
Bwagi: I’ll let you in on a little secret, boy. We’re not the only ones Ba’Gamnan has workin’ for him, if ye catch me meaning.
Penelo: We have to warn Fran!
Back we go. We all run back down the hill, Penelo in the lead.
A mission’s waiting for us in Heaven’s Vigil.
Odd how FFXII let us explore every nook and cranny of the world and towns as much as an MMO, but in RW, there’s almost zero locations to explore, unless they double as battlefields.
The title screen for the next mission shows sky pirates creeping up from Fran on all sides, including a Moogle Time Mage. Drat.
Fran is still not particularly impressed.
Whoever wrote the script for RW did a good job of capturing Fran’s mannerisms. (And apparently hostage-taking is something Ba-Gam’nan does a lot?)
Fran’s disdain raises their hackles:
Wanton mage? Oh my.
Fearsome Bangaa: We’ll have your guts for garters right here and now, aye!
Um, that might get in the way of the whole hostage-as-bait business, you know.
Bevyn the Crafty: Your silver tongue will find no purchase with us!
Fran continues to be underwhelmed.
The Time Mage sneaking up behind her makes the first move, since it’s hard to fight with Stop cast on you.
BAHAAHAH Okay, I laughed.
Look out, Clan Cliché is coming to the rescue.
Vaan dashes into the fray and knocks them all back.
Please don’t tell me Fran is damseled?! Does every female protagonist have at least one battle in which they have to be rescued or protected?
We’re not allowed to pick her in our Battle Party Menu. Grrr.
Well at least we can show off Penelo’s new bodyguard, Ultima.
The battle begins with a minor tactical puzzle. Vaan’s recklessly put himself in a fix during the last cutscene. The battle starts with him surrounded not only by all those mages but also their summoned critters. The rest of the party has to fight through a blockade of enemies.
All right, I’ll admit, there may be enough monsters to KO Fran before we can reach her.
I take a risk and send the whole troupe charging through the blockade at top speed. If we lose any Espers, there’s a summoning gate behind us, so we can call for reinforcements. I summon Ultima right off the bat, so she’ll show up in a minute or two to bolster us. We also summon chocobos on the theory they’ll run faster than pursuit.
Sure enough, we lose a few Espers running the gauntlet, but Filo, Kytes, Lluyd and Penelo break through. Some of them get hung up fighting the Bangaa mage. That’s fine, just so they’re close enough to provide aid to Fran.
Now if we can just plug up that gate that keeps spitting out replacement Espers.
I’m relieved to see that Fran isn’t passive in this battle, she’s just not under my party’s control. She provides covering fire over Penelo’s shoulder. Her arrows have Stop magic, I think. Clever Fran!
Ultima isn’t invincible; she took out a good chunk of the enemy forces, but she didn’t make it through on her own. So I summon her again! And send back my fliers to try and wrest control of that gate.
The battle lasts long enough for Penelo to charge up her Quickening and heal everybody:
During her Quickening animation, she dances around on the surface of what looks like a shallow pond covered in Moon Lilies. Shades of Yuna’s sending dance.
Fran’s blinding people, too. Sneaky sneaky viera.
Chaos erupts a moment later when the Moogles advance on our position. They target Fran immediately, the little twerps.
Bloody hell they have TWO summons gates side by side to call in replacements as fast as we can mow them down.
I summon a cavalry charge of chocobos — weak but so, so fast, and there’s a lot of ’em. By the end Fran is standing over Vaan’s fallen body, protecting him, until finally Filo and the chocobos surround her so you can’t see either of ’em.
She’s fine. The only reason you were conscious at the end of the battle is that Llyud flew over to tickle your nose with a phoenix down.
Vaan: We couldn’t leave a friend out to dry.
But all is not right in Franville. She turns her back and walks a few steps away from them, as if his comment stung.
Suddenly she drops to the ground. Oh, those canny game designers. Yes, yes, we know, Fran’s ass is one of the seven wonders of Ivalice.
After that token Franservice, she rises to her feet and shakes her head a bit groggily. “It is nothing.”
Then she walks several more steps away from them. So maybe Balthier did send her away for her own safety.
Vaan: Fran, why not come with us?
Vaan: You can’t really expect us to leave you here alone. A pretty viera alone in the mountains… who knows what could happen.
That’s a rather skeevy way of putting it, Vaan, but yes. By all means.
Fran seems to indulge younger people’s play-acting with a certain wry tolerance (remember how she responds to Ashe’s request to be kidnapped).
Keeping in mind that he’s 19, and she’s probably 70 at least, since she left the Wood about 50 years ago. She should be chaperoning them.
Vaan: What, don’tcha trust me?
Echoes of her pronouncement that Larsa was trustworthy, despite his being an Imperial. Balthier commented then that she was a good judge of men.
She walks off while they all stare after her a bit tongue-tied. Except Llyud. Poor chap; no one thought to introduce him.
Of course, Fran joining us means I’ll now have to make someone sit out during battles, but I am so happy to have her with us.
I head back to the airship to show off the ship to her and pick a better clan name than Ashe-Hats.
The sky pirates who were fleeing earlier have joined our ever-growing crew of refugees:
I guess the middle of this island is a tad volcano-shaped. Uh oh. (Make sure to clear all dungeons first, as they my be experiencing some remodeling later.)
Lowland Sky Pirate: Leastwise that’s what the highfalutin’ sky pirate and the viera were sayin’. It was my partner’s idea to come here in the first place, so I was mor’n happy to leave!
Highfalutin’ indeed. You can take the snob out of Archades, but…
His partner is a ninja-type who said they came here for auracite, but fled when Balthier and Fran warned them away. Also? A Seeq and a hume is a combo I haven’t seen before.
On the bridge, Vaan and Penelo discuss Ba’Gamnan’s grudge against Balthier and Fran’s situation. Vaan says she really didn’t need their help.
Llyud echoes my thoughts when we first met him: he reminded me of a viera. The proud, wise, in-tune-with-nature but ultimately chaotic good viera, not the dreadful ones we keep meeting in this game.
Vaan: I think you may be onto something there.
Once again, Vaan botches his diplomacy roll:
Ouch. Vaan has a point.
Llyud: Yet still we are different. Is it our anima that separates us?
Vaan: Well, Fran’s different from just about everyone I’ve ever met. She has an uncanny ability to read people.
Llyud: Perhaps this ability, too, stems from her anima.
You keep your midichlorian mumbo jumbo outta this, OK?
Vaan: I don’t think I’m the person to ask.
Translation: Durrrrr. (Just ask Fran. She’s always expositing about mystical foo.)
Filo is wondering why “Fran sure is getting a lot of attention from Kytes and Tomaj.” Filo, you are 11 years old. You should be putting two and two together.
Vaan: You got me.
THERE. Sometimes he knows better than to stick his foot in his mouth. Sometimes.
Filo: It must be the ears. Yeah, that’s gotta be it.
Vaan: I think someone sounds a little jealous.
POT. KEETTTTTLE. (See Chapter 5.)
Filo starts pulling her ears and trying to stretch them. Oh good grief.
Welcome to the good airship LEERjet.
Kytes wants to know if all viera look like Fran. But at least Filo’s guess turns out to be correct.
Don’t worry, kiddo. She’s patient as the sea, and anyway, to her you’re in diapers.
Tomaj mutters vaguely about how the airship seems a different place with Fran around.
So let’s see what Dr. Fran has to say about us.
Vaan: Huh? Me?
Fran: You’ve found something to protect.
Vaan: I have?
Fran: It will give you strength. Remember that.
While Vaan’s trying to protect the aegyl and sky islands and Ivalice in general, I wonder if she means the children. He promised Penelo they’d come to no harm.
Fran, the Strahl’s engineer, thinks our ship is odd.
It’s almost aerodynamic. Clearly that violates the laws of physics in Ivalice.
Time for a little more weaponcrafting. Alas, Fran’s gear isn’t listed, so that means she won’t be with us for long.
Thanks to our latest recipe book, Vaan now owns a Nail Bat, Penelo a Yunaversal, Kytes a Spritzer, Filo a Laguna Biatch, and Llyud brandishes Shiva’s Hangnail. Yes, I’m starting to run out of ideas.
Then it’s back up the mountain.
Vaan, Filo and Kytes charge ahead up the mountain path while Penelo and Fran walk together quietly at the rear of the party.
Penelo: What are the things that are most important to you?
Girl talk. Real talk, when Vaan and Balthier are chasing windmills to tilt.
Fran: Why do you ask?
Penelo looks away (shyly?) and back: Just curious.
Sounds abstract, but Fran chose irrevocable exile from her entire species and culture because she didn’t fit in.
Penelo: I guess that is pretty important.
Penny suddenly stops and glares (shouty face) up the trail, where Kytes, Filo and Vaan have lost their minds and are playing catch with the Cache of Glabados stone. Sacred relics make great frisbees.
Poor Llyud is watching this horseplay with, I imagine, some dismay. But Fran ignores children being children.
Fran: We still have far to go.
Penelo: Um, Fran? If you could live forever…what would you do? If you had forever to spend with someone who really understood you?
It’s amazing the stuff Penelo comes out with when she’s not relegated to cook or store clerk.
Fran doesn’t disappoint. In her cool near-monotone, it probably sounds profound rather than suggestive.
Fran: Eternity is an illusion. Remember this.
She walks off leaving Penelo to ponder, then dash after her.
(Title Screen for next Mission: “At Fran’s Side.”)
Penelo: Balthier came this way too, didn’t he?
Fran: There is an entrance to a cavern just ahead. Come.
Fran, master of the non-answer. Even Auron would be hard-pressed to say less.
More lightning and fire monsters.
Clan Fran Club assemble!
Fran: Take care that you do not come to rely too heavily on it.
Uuuuh. Well, a bit late for that. (Also the children probably shouldn’t be here without the extra protection of our Esper posse.)
True to her word, Fran just marches straight forward, shooting the nearest flan until she gets close, then attacking it with her claws…
…while the rest of us greedy little twinks are pilfering treasure.
Fran stops fighting long enough to issue a cool admonishment.
That’s a reference to Balthier’s shenanigans in the last game, when he took Ashe’s wedding ring in payment until he found “something more valuable,” then in the closing FMV sent it back with a note: “Something more valuable: the Cache of Glabados.”
Oopsie. One of the treasure chests around the next bend turns out to be a mimic spider disguised as a chest (Filo’s put slow on it, marked by that orange down-arrow).
With Fran’s sleep arrows putting most of the monsters to sleep, it’s not a very difficult crossing. At the far side, she hesitates and shakes her head. Vaan asks if she can feel the Mist.
Balthier’s presence… in the Mist? Hope she’s just being poetic.
She raises her hand and does something magical to unseal that glyph, revealing a hole beneath it.
Llyud: I would not have thought to find a cavern in such a place.
What a sheltered boy. Doesn’t he know that in RPGs, you traverse mountains via tunnels?
Vaan: Glad we had Fran with us to show us the way.
Fran: The Mist grows hot. Let us hurry.
Just don’t go all spiky on us, ma’am. You’re a bit scary in a Mist frenzy.
Almost forgot this chapter is named Stealing Eternity. Balthier wouldn’t be Balthier, if he weren’t challenging the gods themselves.
And what was that Fran told Penelo? “Eternity is an illusion. Remember this.”
Back on the airship bridge, Penelo mulls over Fran’s words about wanting to “understand and be understoood,” the foundation of the “really strong bond” between her and Balthier.
Thanks for making it about understanding instead of luurve.
Filo is frustrated that Kytes and Tomaj talk about nothing but Fran, and she’s still trying to stretch out her ears. Tomaj has roped Kytes into trying to catch Fran’s attention, which Kytes claims isn’t his idea. Vaan tells Kytes they’re wasting their time.
Tomaj claims they’ve put some plan into Operation Fran. How does he keep managing to set my teeth on edge in new and different ways?
Yet another ship I never wanted to contemplate. Fran, no one will stop you from cutting his vocal chords.
Vaan: Mature is right.
Tomaj: If you think I care about how old she is, you’ve got it all wrong, Vaan!
Yeah, the T&A is what you’re after.
Vaan makes it his business to warn her, although she can hardly be oblivious.
When I renamed this party “Fran Club” I had no idea how apt it would prove.
Vaan: Sorry about that. Try not to let it bother you, okay?
Fran: Why would it bother me? It is not the first time such a thing has happened.
Vaan: Wait, you don’t mean…Balthier?
VAAAAN. *facepalm* Indiscretion Cretin!
Fran: Yes, though his methods were somewhat…different.
So many fanfics, so little time.
She reverts to telling us to go to the bleeping cavern. “There you will find Balthier.”
I think we’ll pause here, as I suspect the next bit will be portentious. Stay tuned to find out what godawful mess Balthier’s gotten himself into this time!