All right, that last episode was very trying, so I have to rec this Faris cosplay to make myself feel better. Also this fanart, from Cumuluscastle.
We left our star-crossed pirate in the dark night of the soul.
Next morning, for a change of pace, we learn that (a) Butz does not react well to being woken ():
(good to see that Faris has recovered her usual acerbic wit)
…and (b) Faris’ real name is Sarisa.
Oh look a named female npc— SHUT UP I’M STILL IN MOURNING.
Next stop, the village of
Waltz Walse, whose soundtrack sounds bizarrely like the sleepy seaport music at Balamb in FFVIII.
The villagers rhapsodize about how their king has a special super-duper machine to boost the crystal’s power.
Oh, gee, we see where THIS is going.
The town’s guardian spirit appears to be a short-nosed version of Snuffleuppagus.
I like random things. Don’t mind me.
So it’s time to visit King Walse and tell him
to stop refining mako that the crystal’s in danger.
We rifle the castle for loot and do NOT let this bloke out of the dungeon, as I seem to remember his nipping some of our treasure on a previous playthrough.
He calls us “schmucks” and vows revenge. Oh. Okay.
So, hey kingie!
I come with a request. Please, stop amplifying the power of the water crystal!
This eco-friendly message brought to you by the Sierra Club.
And as usual, the Top Dude is all, “my people live comfortably thanks to the crystal’s power.”
We stand around arguing until klaxons and the the Red Screen of
Global Warming Uh Oh interrupts the debate:
An npc rushes in to inform us that a meteorite has crashed near the Tower of Walse. Wait. ANOTHER meteorite? Hope this one’s made of nerf too.
Galuf tries to remember whether the laws of physics work more plausibly in the world whence he came.
Nothing doing at the meteor crater — or lack thereof — so we proceed past it to the Tower of Walse. Just inside the entrance, we come across flattened soldiers. As an aside: I haven’t seen any Biggs or Wedge yet in these games, have you? Wonder when they first show up.
Ahem. These soldiers have some Plot to deliver:
Oh, great, massive meteorite falls, the KING goes into the tower — always a good idea to let the leader investigate highly dangerous situations, just ask Riker — and takes his pet…monster?
Also, according to flattened lackeys, some unknown knight entered the tower after the king. (Garland?) Hm. Well, I guess you can call this a plot, but I’m stymied at how Snuffleupagus fits in to the epic scheme of things. And I’m pretty durned sure my least-favorite boss in the final level of FFXIII-2 was modeled on it.
Oh, a few levels up, we find the king!
*waves phoenix down at him* Whoops, sorry, gameplay/story segregation’s a bitch. Hang in there, kingy!
In the Crystal chamber, we discover the mysterious knight, Snufffleuppagus, and a clear case of misunderstanding.
The beastie bowls over the knight, so we fight it. Seems a shame…
…especially since the Crystal still shatters after we’re through boss battling.
(I am reminded, once again, of the recurring plot cycle of FAIL EVERY MISSION in FFII. I guess that’s the running theme of the series: “Yep, we still suck.”)
Oh, hey, the knight recognizes cheese-brain!
Predictably, the soldier expires before he can tell Galuf who he is.
We pick up some more shinies, er, broken crystal bits and job classes — Red Mage, Summoner, Mystic Knight, Berseker, and a new toy, Time Mage— but then the tower sinks beneath the ocean. Well, carp. With lots of fins.
Hooray! Syldra’s here to save the day! Also, Faris gets to perform another Prince Utena rescue on Lenna, who floats away from the others thanks to an insidious Distressed Damsel undertow.
Syldra then regurgitates everybody on a nearby beach. No, really, she swallowed them, and now she barfs them up.
This is not quite the triumphant reunion Faris had hoped for.
Lenna prevents Faris from throwing herself into the sea as Syldra disappears again with a dramatic fade to black and piteous wails. ANGST HAMMER OW. I keep forgetting how serious this silly game is. (And I do enjoy the give and take between sisters, even if I’m still smarting at having my ship burned down to the water).
I stop by the Walse meteorite and…hey, there’s a door that wasn’t here earlier.
Ring any bells, cheesebrain? Opening FMV and all that?
*Butz jumps on pad, spins around, and gets shot straight up apparently into ceiling*
Ow. I think we’re gonna be gettin’ choco-butt down with a spatula.
Whoops! It warps ALL us across the ocean.
We warp right back so we can visit Castle Walse and tell the king “I told you so.”
He tells us that Karnak’s using a machine to amplify their crystal as well. Just great. I’m sure this’ll be an easy fix.
Okay, NOW we’ll go to Karnak.
We stop by the town first. Everybody in town is very excited about how the Fire Crystal improves their quality of life, apart from the fact that it causes random spot fires to break out in front of doors, treasure chests, outhouses, and various rooms in the castle. I don’t know about you, but this does not look very kid-safe:
Another one tells us that the queen of Karnak had a giant wall built between Karnak and the library, so that those pesky scholars can’t keep disturbing the realm with inconvenient truths. It’s depressing that this game is 20 years old, yet the hamfisted commentary is as relevant as ever.
We also hear that a werewolf and a “horde of monsters” poured out of the meteorite and attacked the castle. Hey! I didn’t let him out this playthrough! It’s not our fault!
We make a beeline to the weapon and armor shop to look for silver bullets. No such luck, but there’s some good weapon upgrades.
Our shopping spree is rudely interrupted as the cashier is ringing up our purchases. Someone bursts in yelling, “There they are!”
Uh… is this like when the Al Bhed decided Tidus was a fiend in human form because of his fabulous dress sense?
We get hauled off to jail. Where, luckily, there is a madman with explosives. Gee, who could it be?
Before we can get too bored ragging on Cid, there’s another Red Screen of Uh Oh with klaxons. The queen’s chancellor rushes to let Cid out, telling him the crystal is cracking and he has to save it. Cid browbeats him into letting the rest of us out.
We promise to help Cid unplug the fire crystal from his Fire Ship…
…after running all over the world to collect blue magic (0 MP cost!) and buff up job abilities because JOB CLASSES ARE ADDICTING and fight Shiva behind the waterfall of Walse castle (what?)
We come back to see if the crystal has exploded in our absence. No?
Naturally, the Fire Ship is now totally infested with monsters, so Cid hands us a toolbox and tells us, “Good luck!”
We enter a maze of twisty little passageways, all different. Pipes to crawl through, a veritable labyrinth of one-way conveyor belts, multiple levels and doors and stairs and CID WE ARE SO GOING TO KILL YOU when we finish this dungeon. It’s like a TARDIS from my worst nightmares.
(I recall that Breath of Fire III also had switch-and-conveyor-belt mazes; I think they were all the rage during early 90s RPGs. I’m glad this fad has abated.)
In the boiler room, we find
Faris’ old flame the missing Queen of Karnak.
Uh oh. This is gonna be another of those adventures where people keep getting possessed, isn’t it?
#@%@!$ shapechanging fire monster sets fire to the boiler, then attacks. Annoying in every form— why have I not found the “Shell” spell yet?
After the boss battle…
Yeah, we kinda figured that out, hot stuff.
The queen reveals that “something evil” is using the power of the crystals “to resurrect itself.” Then she begs us to save the fire crystal.
So, donning asbestos underwear, we follow the giant conduit piping raw power from the fire crystal to the fire ship. Oh, hi, Mr. Werewolf!
More miscommunication ensues. Boy howdy, we’re GOOD at this.
We won’t let you touch the crystal!
Stand down! I am not your enemy!
Galuf, say something! What’s happened…is something wrong?
Ugghh…Can’t remember a thing…who in blazes am I, anyway…
Oh, so Galuf is on a first name basis with werewolves. Okay. While we’re all jawing, a possessed soldier comes in and pokes some buttons.
whoa nellie! (or more dramatic words to that effect.)
Gloating villain laugh, 6.9. Uh oh.
The crystal shatters. Flames break out all over the floor, blocking our path to the shards, because none of us are in any way capable of climbing over an air conditioning duct. The walls, er… pipes? Start closing in. The werewolf flings himself in the way.
Lenna tries to rush to the werewolf’s aid, but openings in the floor drop us into a room below. There’s an explosion, and all the scattered spot fires blink out. We rush back to see what char-broiled werewolf smells like.
Once again, I gently attempt to coax Butz over a duct to get at the crystal bits. Lenna points out that it’s time to skedaddle.
Dead werewolf ally crushed and burned alive. And by the way, a timer starts counting down the seconds we have left before the castle explodes. I must say that the beautiful Final Fantasy Prelude, heard in all the Crystal Chambers since the first game, seems a little incongruous here.
So we get our first timed “run like crazy or die” romp in a Final Fantasy game, a tradition which I’d be happy to leave behind with the folding canoe. After a wild race through the burning castle, scooping up loot and whumping monsters and defeating the dratted Iron Claw boss (first appearance!) blocking the exit, we boogie it out with TWO SECONDS TO SPARE. *buffs nails*
(Okay, so I may have used a map.)
Hey, Karnak? It was probably not the best idea to build a castle out of combustible stone.
As we regroup outside, three of the crystal shards tinkle down from the explosion — Ninja, Beastmaster, and Geomancer (YES GEOMANCER THE AWESOME HAS ARRIVED — massive hit-all spells for zero MP) — but two seem to have fluttered away. Oopsie.
So the castle’s toast. How about the village?
You don’t know the half of it, bub.
They’ve carried the Queen to the Inn, but she’s not in a good way.
For the record, dark is now evil.
We stop by the fire ship, but Cid runs away in a fit of self-flagellation.
Ship’s dead in the water.
I guess it’s time to go to that Library of the Ancients, now that the exploded castle has also exploded the You Can’t Go There Yet wall.
This message brought to you by Room to Read (which I donate to IRL, by the way):
Yay! Even more awesome than aggressive architecture is aggressive literature! Let’s go duel some books for knowledge!
Bit of a comedown for the ol’ boy, doncha think?
The maniacal bookshelf lets us pass after we acquire Ifrit. “Gah— Ifrit! S-sorry, sir!”
I ADORE the Library of Ancients. There is something about random pages leaping out and attacking that appeals to my inner nerd.
In the bottom of the stacks, we find Byblos. He utterly wipes our posteriors, and the fate of the world and the Warriors of Light suddenly hangs upon one random Geomancy spell. Lenna, don’t fail me now:
Thank you thank you thank you Lenna.
Just behind the site of this knock-down brawl, we find a young, snooty prodigy who epitomizes the oblivious scholar:
Yep, he’s the origin of Balthier’s “Mid” Bunansa.
After we escort Nerd Boy back to the other scholars, and they fall on his neck in joy to see him alive, he uncovers half a clue.
Mid has also found an Ancient Book (it’s ALWAYS ancient technology) which reveals how to make the Fire Ship self-powering. He returns with us to shake grandpa Cid out of his funk.
Grandpa and grandson set to work retrofitting the ship. We duck into a handsome cabin to avoid being drafted for any more missions. Faris starts measuring the drapes. Then Butz notices that Galuf is making funny faces.
Cheesbrain has a brief flashback to his granddaughter “Krile” beating on him.
Suddenly, Galuf’s memory returns! Or at least part of it.
Well, I guess that makes about as much sense as a man from the moon arriving on a LUNAR WHALE.
Galuf recalls that he and his buds sealed the Big Bad in this world thirty years ago, and he came here to stop it from reawakening:
I note a distinct lack of womenfolk in our predecessors.
Who did not think to wonder what would happen to this world if they locked their arch-nemesis in it.
Maybe they’re all cheesebrains like Galuf?
After a good night’s sleep, we head to the distant town of Jachol, full of adventurers, snazzy weapons, and random dancers who BREAK THE FOURTH WALL.
We load up on phoenix downs and go romp in the nearby CAVE OF THE UNDEAD SQUIRRELS.
I am totally in love with the zaniness of the undead squirrels. The walkthrough I’ve been using suggests running from them, since they’ve got 90% evade, one-hit-kill any party member, and multiply if you hit them with most spells. However, they give gobs of job points, and Earth magic clobbers them nicely.
Speaking of jobs…
WHAT IS WITH THE SHEEP OUTFITS FOR THE “BEASTMASTER” JOB CLASS?
All right, enough lollygagging, as Faris would say. We head to the mysteriously crescent-shaped island, no relation of Crescent Lake in FFI. Honest.
All seems fine until we enter the village. Earthquake!
Language, Butz. Language.
So this happens every time a vistor arrives in a ship? Miffed, Faris picks the rude villager’s pockets for laughing at us.
Yeah, chocobo racing sounds like a daft idea.
We head to the nearby chocobo forest, whose floor seems to be over…something…weird below.
Butz catches the legendary black chocobo, and we start to fly away! But…
Faris gives the first-ever Heimlich maneuver on a chocobo, and it disgorges two crystal shards: Ranger, Bard.
Ew, they’re still sticky.
I don’t care, gimme the Ranger shard now! YES! Bows and arrows and MY ARMY OF FLYING SQUIRRELS!
Lenna is now set for the rest of the game. I really dig random powerful spells with zero MP cost — even if some are duds. Also one of the “summon your animal friends” Ranger spells restores lots of party HP. This job seems to be made for her.
Oh, by the way, the chocobo-riding theme in FFV is SWEET. My second favorite after FFX:
So, astride our black chocobo, we can now fly over low mountains. We head to Butz’ home town of Lix.
Cue up the flashbacks! First of all, we learn why Butz is scared of heights.
No, he wasn’t Harry Potter, he just somehow climbed up there while playing hide-n-seek. And nobody came to get him.
Probably because of this.
Ouch. Butz adds his Dad’s name to the tombstone, explaining that he traveled with his father for a while after his mother fell ill and died. (Wait, aren’t those the purple poison tumbleweeds from the dragon mountain? Nevermind.)
Foreshadowing, your key to quality literature.
Faris’ comment intrigues me. Lenna’s claimed her as a sister, but she vehemently denied it. However, she’s seen the King of Tycoon, at least briefly. Has she been pondering what it would’ve been like to have him as a father? Or is she still in denial?
If you enter Butz’ old house and play a music box, there’s a poignant flashback to the night his mother died. We glimpse his father as well.
Daddy, are you going to get more bad guys?
Amano artwork makes him look a little like Galuf.
Stella collapses over by the stove while they’re talking, struck down by the Mysterious Final Fantasy Mom Illness that has claimed so many hapless souls. At least we learned her name, I suppose.
And on that depressing note, it’s time to pause.