Where the heck ARE we? I’m going to shamelessly screencap the maps and add captions so we can find our way around. Here, belatedly, is the Floating Continent. The Fairy Forest isn’t marked because the Elder Tree has put up a You-Can’t-Go-Here-Now barrier, but it was just west of Castle Argus, and before that it was floating around in the desert southwest of Tokkul.
Map of Floating Continent:
And here’s where we are now, on the surface world now that it’s been resurfaced:
We rejoin our heroes in their latest handy-dandy airship, the Nautilus, which despite its suggestive name cannot (yet) submerge. Here we see the sunny SW suburbs of
Asphaltland the Kingdom of Saronia, which amazingly has learned how to grow trees directly out of flagstones.
Before quitting Saronia, we make the npcs rounds and collect Backstory Bits and abysmal doggerel. We hear that the king’s wicked vizier
Gargamel Gigameth was using the power of darkness to maze people’s hearts and jack up his power. All the minibosses seem to be tapping into the power of darkness; I wonder if it comes in a six-pack at the local Wall Market?
Outside the castle, we find this jackass:
Off with his head!
We’ve already heard a few npcs in various towns refer to Noah, a great sage who could wield all kinds of magic and summons. Now we get a bit more backstory:
We also meet the Saronian Engineers, our resident Al Bhed with powdered wigs and more clothing.
Confusingly, a few of the engineers refer to Cid, a “genius engineer” who built the Nautilus. Yet it’s being excavated in the Ancient Ruins? That temporal anomaly can do backflips.
In the libary, we finally learned about Owen.
So Owen was a scientist among the Ancients, and Desch was his son and apprentice. Other books also talk about the “Four warriors who came from the world of darkness to stop the rampaging light” a thousand years ago. I’m a little fuzzy on the relative chronology, but once again I appreciate the fact that Dark Is Not Evil, even if the evilbads are currently exploiting it as a power source.
After picking up more clues for various sidequests, we hop in the Nautilus and navigate the You-Can’t-Go-There-Yet wind tunnel that was barring us from exploring the southern continent of Dalg. Here we find a lonely manor house which I half expect to be populated with enchanted brooms from FFI.
Being the Four Warriors of Light, we barge right in without being invited.
Wait. You mean we can’t just break and enter and steal all your treasure? We have to knock?
The voice orders unseen servants to “Seize them!” We are surrounded by a menacing pack of Moogles, the first extant Moogles in a Final Fantasy game.
Once again, we take several HP damage from cute.
Alas, this humorous turn of events does last long. The Great Wizard Doga recognizes the Four Warriors of Light and welcomes them, then delivers a Backstory Dump. Finally someone tells us what the heck is going on. He again rehashes the story of the great mage Noah and his three apprentices.
Xande, the third apprentice, was understandably miffed at being given Mortality. To avert his own death, Xande covered the world in darkness and stopped the flow of time.
Hence the origin of the Floating Continent.
But somehow, the power of Light carried within the Four Warriors of Light has now “restored time to its rightful rhythm.”
…I guess that makes sense, seeing as the power of darkness was used to stop time?
So now, Doga says, Xande is plotting to neutralize the Warriors of Light so he can stop time again. This grants us our special Good Guy License to Kill (the baddie).
While plotting Saving the World and All That, Luneth confesses that he and his pals screwed up royally and let Goldor destroy the Earth Crystal.
Repeat Sev’s Mantra: “Oh. Okay.” (Note Luneth puppy eyes.)
Next, Doga needs us to help him enter the “Cave of the Circle” to help him activate the “Eureka key” which will unlock a special dungeon concealing all the coolest and most dangerous weapons in the game. SURE, give us goodies!
Doga absently casts a spell that’ll let our ship travel underwater (“Oh, Okay!”)
Then Doga commands us to go seek a magic lute that’ll awaken Unei from the dream world.) And what’ll he be doing?
Wait! Doga! You mean that key hanging around your neck?! Is this like when I’m searching everywhere for the glasses I’m wearing? Hang on! Don’t go!
Whoops, he’s teleported away.
So we sail away to find the magic lute.
Bizarrely, the Nautilus seems to vanish when we’re attacked underwater, resulting in this unlikely battlescape:
HOW ARE WE BREATHING.
(PYREFLIES? SHUT UP, TIDUS.)
About this lute. I ask you, if you were going to store a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable musical instrument for centuries, where would you put it?
Yes, that’s right, in a temple that’s completely underwater. I’m sure the humidity will do the soundboard a world of good.
Nonetheless, after hacking and slashing our way through yet more Crabs n Stuff (some of the stuff including Behemoths, ack), we find our lute in remakably good shape…
We tote it back to Unei’s Cave near Saronia, where there’s this parrot that gets absolutely no role whatsoever for the rest of the game…
We pass the lute to our resident bard for a jam session.
Wakey Wakey! Rise and Shine!
As guardian of the Dreamworld, Unei’s a lot cuter than Neil Gaiman’s mopey gothboy.
Unei says we have to help her go find the Invincible, yet another ancient airship that will fly over the You-Can’t-Go-There-Yet mountains surrounding most of the northeastern continent. Luneth is surprised…
… the last airship hasn’t even exploded yet, and we’re already replacing it?!!
“N-no, Ma’am. Not at all.”
“Then stop staring and get moving!”
Even Unei is confused about the plot at this point. She says that while time was stopped for the rest of the world, dream-time flows normally. During her thousand-year-sleep, she observed that “something evil was using its power to create a giant earthquake on the floating continent.”
Don’t ask us, grandma. We’re just in it for the cute reaction shots. But I have a bad feeling that this means there’s another Big Bad behind the Big Bad, pulling Xande’s strings.
In the Ancient Ruins, Unei dazzles us with her magical John Henry powers, blasting through a cave-in made of solid adamantite rubble…
And here’s ourselves a new airship. Which, counting the airship that Cid lost bringing the orphans to the floating continent, brings our airship tally up to five.
The good news: the Invincible is so big that it includes free beds for four, Mognet, shops for magic/items/armor, a Fat Chocobo self-storage unit (what?) and a complete bar and entertainment center.
The bad news: the Invincible is slower than cold toothpaste.
Unei instructs us to go to the Cave of Shadows to find the Horn of Earth, then meet up with her and Doga at Doga’s Mansion. But first, let’s try out the Invincible’s ability to hop us over You-Can’t-Go-There-Yet mountains.
In a western vale we discover Falgabard, the home of Dark Knights (Hey, Leon, where are ya?):
Gack. Remember that bad doggerel I mentioned earlier? Here’s a typical sample.
RUNNING AWAY NOW.
Behind the waterfall, we discover Shinobi, yet an0ther badass grandpa whose battle form is NOT THE SAME:
Below is the same guy in combat. We whup him, but dang, there are a lot of shapeshifters in this game.
After we beat him, he praises us and gives us a really nice sword, Kiku-Ichimonji. Not Masamune caliber, but still pretty sweet.
Outside, the Bard from Hell is still droning on outside the waterfall:
MAKE IT STOP.
MY EARDRUMS ARE IMPLODING.
So now you know why I didn’t bother to screencap the bards in the village of Duster. They all talk like this.
Next, we journey to Replito village in the far north, home of summoners and evokers.
Here we learn that it’s very important to wear a funny hat while summoning.
This is the first Final Fantasy game with summoners, and it’s actually got three job classes that can Summon: Evoker from the Water Crystal and Sage/Summoner from the Earth Crystal (stay tuned).
Shiva, Chocobo, Ramuh, Ifrit, and Titan (here called “Hyper”) can be purchased in Replito village, while Odin, Leviath(an), and Bahamut come from sidequests. I tried to pick up the other summons at this point and got my ass handed to me, so let’s put a pin on that and get back on the Path of Plot Advancement.
This is where I suddenly hit the Morituri Te Salutamus phase of the game when, no matter which boss or sidequest I tackled, we got Total Party KO. I’m presenting my playthrough in a logical order, but in fact, the order was something like Cave-of-Shadows-oops-we-died-let’s-try-Leviathan-oops-we-died-let’s-try-Ancient-Maze-oops-we-died-let’s-try-Cave-of-Shadows-again-phew-we-survived-how-about-Leviathan-again-nope-still-died-maybe-Earth-Crystal-oops-we-died-okay-then-Doga-and-Unei-oops-we-died-let’s-try-Bahamur-oops-we-died, etc, etc, etc, etc, until finally, with enough level grinding, we got through each of these next bits.
So. Unei sent us to retrieve the Horn of Earth from the Cave of Shadows. (She also gave us another horn which, with the Dwarves’ horn and the Nepto Dragon horn represent the four elements. These are plot coupons we’ll cash in shortly.)
There’s reams of annoying monsters in here that divide and clone themselves, and some suitably creepy decor:
Here we are.
A random boss shows up, and I’m actually quite concerned when I see his battle form. Firion, did you turn into an undead?
His name is Hecatoncheir, one of the giant races of Greek mythology. I laud Square for their mythological legerdemain, but do they realize that hekaton+cheir means “hundred hands”? Oh well, they’ll get it right in FFXIII.
So we hand him his hundred-cheeked ass in a basket and carry on.
With our Four Horns of Plot Advancement, we pass the scary statues that cause instant game over if you’re not carrying them:
We come to the Ancient Maze (which is thankfully not all that mazelike) surrounding the Crystal Tower:
Just inside is the Earth Crystal! Gimme some new jobs, already!
Drat. I really wonder how Xande managed to rope in all these minibosses to do his bidding.
So we whump on Titan, the Hekatoncheir clone…
Several TPKOs and level grinding runs later, we have our new jobs:
- Sage (suped-up Red Mage with a bit of white, black and summons magic and a Very Silly Hat),
- Black Belt (with the cute white gi and gray cloak, and I live in this job because it boosts HP),
- Magus (super-duper black magus),
- Devout (super-duper white mage with cat-eared hood)
- Summoner (super-duper evoker)
- Ninja! (who dresses like Auron. Auron = Ninja?!)
Well that was useful.
After leveling up a bit in the Ancient Maze and Crystal Tower (stay tuned), we run back to finish our sidequests.
First, a quick stop at Black Mages’ Village, aka Doga’s Village, which can only be accessed through an underwater tunnel.
I’m curious why Doga built his mansion on the other side of the mountain range from the village named after him. Did they kick him out, or does he just not like company?
Once inside, we waste no time in our next important mission: SHOPPING SPREE!
We buy every last spell on the planet like kids in a candy shop. Woo hoo!
No sign of Vivi, so we buckle our swashes and head out to acquire the summons that kept clobbering us earlier.
Leviath’s lurking under the waters of a lake west of Castle Argus on the Floating Continent:
Here, fishy fishy fishy!
Leviath is a tesseract. Somehow we manage to fight Leviath inside Leviathan. However, the outer Leviathan (above) resembles the fishy Leviathan of Arabic mythology, whereas the summons looks like an Eastern dragon, as it will in most future FFs:
Hi, Leviathan! Don’t eat me!
Leviathan is a bugger of a boss. This is what happened before we got the jobs from the Earth Crystal:
The new jobs finally did the, er, j0b, and Leviath agreed to join us.
Odin, similarly, shredded us during our first few visits. But with the new jobs, we actually survived his Zantetsuken, go us!
Better view of Odin, with Ingus wearing Sage and the aforementioned Very Silly Hat:
And here’s our buddy Bahamur.
Gosh, that looked easy! (Ignore the green. Arc’s magic harp does some very weird things as far as Protect, Aura, etc.)
Thanks to messages from Mognet, we get all sorts of sidequests, including this vitally important task to fix Sarah’s broken necklace:
Yes, they made sure that fanservice would not be obscured even if Ingus was wearing a Very Silly Hat.
Refia the smith’s daughter can’t repair it and her pops can’t do it because REASONS, but we eventually discover
Fujin the Legendary Smith:
Fujin decides to ship Ingus with Princess Sarah like pretty much everyone in Castle Saronia, so she fixes up the locket gratis.
Sarah is more than delighted, and we stick Ingus in the even more ridiculous Devout costume so as to see happy princess.
I’ll try to get a better screencap of the Devout job later, as it’s adorbs. But for now, I just want you to know:
Real men wear pink tops with red shoes.
(Jobs: Black Belt, Devout, Ninja, Bard).
We also get a note from Cid that Mrs. Cid saw something scary in the basement…
So we take care of pest control. This gives Ingus the opportunity to channel his inner Dalek.
Our prize from this boss is orichalcum, the legendary metal, which we tote back to the smith. She crafts it into the Ultima Weapon, and makes more nice toys for us for the remainder of the game.
All right, are there any more Mognet letters? Cats to rescue from trees? Milk to pick up at the grocery store? No?
Drat. That means I have to get back on the Path of Plot Advancement. I’d be more saddened by this, except that the next two bosses blistered our keisters. The random costume changes in the next section are indicative of how many attempts it took to survive to the end of this entire sequence.
We arrive at Doga’s mansion, fashionably late:
Little does Luneth know what’s coming:
Am I imagining it, or is Unei cackling in the background?
One dungeon crawl later…
Doga: “Good! You have come. We must now make the Eureka key whole once more.”
Go Unei! Er…waaaitaminute…
Unei and Doga explain that the Eureka Key requires the power of both Doga and Unei to be complete. Because it wouldn’t be an FF game without somebody dying and getting turned into a rock, crystal, stone, or key item.
Doga: “It must be done! Have it your way… if you do not defeat us, you will die!”
Memo from Gulgan Gulch: Destiny still sucks.
And the battle forms in this game just keep getting weirder:
(Doga was right, by the way. We died.)
One costume change and some level grinding later…
Whoops. Luke, you just killed Ben Kenobi.
And now it’s time to take on Yoda.
Luneth channels his inner Squall in a surprisingly familiar gesture…
Sorry, kiddo. Nanny Ogg wants her chops.
Like I said, the battle forms in this game are getting stranger.
Luneth has another BIG NOOOO once the battle is over.
Doga, like so many fantasy characters, cannot truly expire until he’s chewed up at least five minutes with explication, prophecies and pep talks.
Here we go. Time for our traditional Final Fantasy Elemental Horoscope. So, Doga, what’s our sign?
Yep, standard hero schtick.
Meh. Okay. (I guess “The light of a sharp tongue” didn’t sound as eloquent.)
ALL HAIL THE SILLY HAT.
Unei puts in her mite about hope and light conquering darkness, the usual Warriors of Light cheerleading. She also hands over the Eureka Key and the Syrcus Key. (A three-ringed Syrcus?)
Hm. So, Xande is like Darth Vader, and we’re supposed to try to redeem him rather than just skewering him? Drat. Being a good guy is a drag.
And that’s that. Doga and Unei fade away like proper Jedi Knight Mentors.
Now it’s time for the Final Dungeon. Which is actually three or four different dungeons, so let’s take a breather and not start the endgame at 11PM. (Lessons learned the hard way.)