Let’s Play Final Fantasy VI, Ep. I: Hope and Free Will

I’m laaaate starting my FFVI gameblog, although I started it at the beginning of the month.

Opening FMV analysis time!

When I first started playing Final Fantasy in the VII-VIII-X era, I was mildly bemused by a series whose releases seemed at first  to have almost nothing in common but their titles and big yellow birds. As I’ve worked my way backwards, I’ve enjoyed that “click” of recognition whenever I spot recurring elements: FFXII’s glossair ring airships, the trains of FFVII and VIII, the Evil Empire (“empire bad, kingdom good,” as we first learned all the way back in FFII), and the tragic/unearthly damsel. FFVI’s mechs, however, are almost a first for the series (I say almost, since Doctor Lugae, the Hojo lookalike in FFIV, drove one in his boss battle).

It’s interesting to see how the old FF character classes of white mage, black mage, fighter, thief, ranger, ninja, summoner, monk and berserker are submerged yet remain visible beneath the surface. (Coming to the franchise so late, I was  puzzled about fans calling Tifa a monk, or Cid a dragoon, or why Kimahri was blue. Now I understand!)

Like any good opening FMV of the mature FF years, this one raises all sorts of questions about who-what-where-why that will only become intelligible on a replay.

I pause to listen to a orchestral performance of Terra’s theme, since my emulator makes it sound less than the perfect bit of music it is. Then, onward.

Whoops. There’s a lengthy intro AFTER the FMV. It turns out that the FMVs were added for the PS1 port of the SNES original.

FFVI Intro - War of the Magi

Holy Mysidia, Batman. No Magic?! That’s a dramatic break with FF’s past, giving this game its own personality from the get-go.

I feel that Final Fantasy IV was already moving away from FF’s roots with its wide cast, rudimentary politics and character-driven story, but I think that FFVI is the moment when we leave “old school” Final Fantasy behind and move onto the middle years, with technology and dystopia coming to the fore. (I gather that most fans put the break at VII, with its startling shift in graphics, but storywise, we’ve already make the jump.) 

FFVI Intro - 1000 Years

It fascinates me how the premise of FFX is an inverse of FFVI. In Spira, a Machina War led to 1000 years of magic, prayer and anti-technology, whereas FFVI’s War of the Magi led to a world of mecha and steampunk.

However, after a thousand years, the stagnant status quo has shattered:

FFVI: Magic Is Evil

Mistake? People in power? In a Final Fantasy game? Naaaah, that would never happen.

FFVI: Here We Go Again

Yep. News flash to players of previous FF games: magic is evil, as opposed to simply magic is game mechanics.

So here’s our hapless grunts assigned to execute that “deadly mistake.” Congratulations, player! Just like in FFIV, you get to play the jerkass in the intro and spend the rest of the game atoning for it!

FFVI: Esper Found

Biggs! Wedge! About time you two showed up. (I was surprised at how late they first appear in the franchise.)

Just where did Square get the word “esper,” anyway? Yes, yes, I know, it’s from “ESP,” but it sounds odd to me. On the other hand, I squee at Greek/Latin borrowings like “aeon” and “eidolon,” so YMMV.

FFVI: Terra the Sorceress

“Sorceress” is now a role to be feared, as we’ll see again in FFVIII (and IX, in a way, with its Black Mages).

Biggs adds, “I heard she fried 50 of our Magitek Armored soldiers in under 3 minutes.” I don’t find Wedge’s reply very reassuring:

FFVI: Slave Crown

Great. So did someone order her to fry 50 soldiers just to see what she was capable of? Or was that an unintentional result of her burgeoning powers or her attempts to fight  mind control?

Now we get the real opening titles, showcasing that spiffy pseudo-3D environment effect pioneered in FFV, now with drifting snow to accentuate the feeling of moving into a landscape.  Also, we get to enjoy Terra’s theme again, courtesy of this dude:

FFVI Opening Titles


So, our first task as imperial thugs is to barge into the unsuspecting Narshe Village, plunder its esper and wipe out a few townsfolk along the way. Lovely.

FFVI: Machine-Riding Swine!

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’d want “Casualty of a beginning-game battle tutorial” on my tombstone.

FFVI: Battle Screen

The townsfolk try desperately to stop us, one calling out, “We won’t hand over the Esper!” Wonder why? Are they afraid of magic, or trying to keep the Esper out of imperial hands, or are they its friends?

They defend their precious treasure with a…giant whelk?

FFVI: Whelk

“What’s a marine creature doing in frozen mines?” Good question, Biggs. (And which villager has the noble ancestral calling of “Whelk Wrangler”?)

Oh, wait, no, Biggs is just warning us not to attack us when it’s hiding in its shell, since it’ll zap us with a gazillion volts. Yep, that’s how these things go in Final Fantasyland.

Aside: Have you ever stopped to think what it would be like if FF logic applied in the real world? “No! Don’t touch that snail! It will KEEEL U DED!” “Oh, shoot, there’s a foot-high barrier. I guess we’ll have to hike all the way around the mountain to move forward.” “Don’t mind us, we’re just raiding your life savings from your fireplace.” “Let me just pop this tent out of my codpiece.” “Security checkpoint? No problem, I’ll just stow the katana up my butt; they’ll never see it.” Etc, etc.

FFVI: Esper's Dais

So, after defeating the escargot, we reach the dais of the esper we’ve come to steal. Golly gee. Frozen cave, ice and snow, WONDER WHO THIS COULD BE?

FFVI: Tritoch Battle

Tritoch? Uh…come again? No, that’s not the name I was expecting. Where’s my sex-changed Hindu ice goddess?

Terra is stymied enough to approach it, despite her slave crown. Also, the esper is going *twingle twingle* at her. And “emitting an eerie light.” I wonder if it wants to be friends?

Biggs is all, “Hey! What’s the matter! Do you know something we don’t?”

FFVI: Uwaaaa

Biggs and Wedge are vaporized — well, that was an awfully quick cameo for their first appearance in an FF game — leaving Terra alone with the whatsit. Which zaps her.

FFVI: Esper Zaps Terra

Gee, thanks. She wakes up somewhere else, in the care of one of the villagers who thankfully hasn’t slit her throat for her part in the attack on their village. He explains that he removed the Slave Crown that was controlling her.

…HEY WAITAMIUTE. He took her Magitek armor, too? Didn’t he? Didn’t he?  And now he’s gonna sell it on the imperial black market for loads of cash. Bastard.

Poor Terra is too befuddled to realize she’s been robbed.

FFVI: Terra's Amnesia

Just as well she’s got video game amnesia, considering that she’s been murdering scores of people and their doggies.

Before we can settle down for some proper Exposition,  soldiers and more dogs (woof woof!) start banging on the door.

FFVI: Soldiers Come Knocking

Yeah! Give it back! What did you do with my armor? That mech rocks!

Incidentally, they call her an “officer of the empire.”

Eager to avoid questions, unnamed OLD MAN is willing to help her sneak out the back, into the mines. I’m missing that Magitek Armor already.

Imperial soldiers eventually catch up with her, only for her to fall through an oh-so-convenient hole in the floor. And to anyone grumbling that recent installments of FF let you get through battles by pressing X for the first hour or so? Stuff it; it’s true of FFVI as well. Terra now has considerable experience as a proud member of Clan Ratsbane.

She passes out after her fall. (Comas! Unconscious heroes! Flashbacks! Your key to quality literature!) We see glimpses of her past:

FFVI: Kefka Flashback

“Uweee… he… he…?” Excuse me? Someday I need to do a montage of all the odd laughs in the FF franchise.

More importantly: Evil clown is evil. I find it truly terrifying that there are fanarts on Tumblr that romanticize this abuse as a lovey-dovey relationship.

And yes, as this flashback makes all too clear, Kefka was testing out his new toy by having Terra kill his own army’s soldiers. And he enjoys it. Forget mysterious otherworldly all-powerful incarnations of evil (Trees, Voids, or Darkness), a masochistic evil human is a lot scarier!

FFV: Terra Kills Fifty Soldiers

But behind every Goebbels is a leader with moneybags, and Emperor Gestahl is only too happy to seize control of the only magic-user on the planet. Introducing our as-yet-unnamed imperials (I  didn’t notice the army at the bottom of the screen while playing, oops):

FFVI: Imperial Forces

In previous FFs, the raised-hand was a wave or emphatic gesture, but now they  remind me uneasily of a Nazi salute.

So Terra wakes up and realizes she’s a horrible monster. Gee, like that never happens in Final Fantasyland. (Actually, I’m not sure she remembers this flashback when she wakes up. Or does she? This ambiguity may be important later.)

Meanwhile— oh, I do love it when there’s enough plot for a meanwhile and flashbacks— time to introduce the male lead back in the Narshe village home she lately vacated.

FFVI: Locke's Introduction

Old man and Locke bicker over semantics — thief, treasure hunter, burglar — and Locke is none too thrilled to learn that he’s been called back to look after Terra.

FFVI: Imperial Witch!

The old dude says the Empire is after her, and that she “was not responsible for her actions,” but does not mention the slave crown. He awkwardly transitions into saying that Narshe can’t stand up to the empire unless it joins forces with the Returners, a resistance group.

Luckily, this is enough to convince Locke to help her, for reasons that are not quite clear to me — he was awfully vehement about that “witch!” just a few seconds ago — and he heads out to find her still lying unconscious in the mines.

…just as a crack team of Moogles show up. (What?) There is certainly a lot of storyline luck in this game!

FFVI: Moogle Rescue Squad

Just in time, as Locke has to sneak her past a buttload of soldiers.

My poor Locke gets KOed fighting a boss, but he still manages to steal a MythrilKnife before he goes down. Gallantry and thievery, a potent combination.  He hauls Terra out of the caves, where she eventually wakes up. She says she still can’t remember a thing.

FFVI: Locke's Promise

“I’ll be your Guardian/Knight/Bodyguard/sky pirate kidnapper!” Awww. Locke is, right from the start, a kind-hearted bloke.

This moment occurs often in FFs, and it always makes me smile at the gut level — I do so like to be an Utena prince — while wincing on behalf of the one stuck wearing the Distressed Damsel Diadem.

At least Terra, like nearly every Final Fantasy damsel, is a Magical Maid with Awesome Latent Powers of some sort or other, and she’s  possessed of a spine.

The OLD MAN who stole Terra’s armor told us to seek Figaro Castle. I get totally lost and blunder into a chocobo forest. I’m not proud; I’ll level up once I’ve got more party members.

FFVI: Locke on a Chocobo

Naturally, I find Figaro Castle immediately afterwards.

FFVI: "Oh It's You"

“Oh, it’s you. Proceed.” If I were writing this story, they’d be ambushed as soon as they entered the courtyard, and the king would toss Locke in the dungeon for pilfering his castle on some previous occasion.

However, our reception is actually quite cordial, and we’re still in the land of fantasy RPGs where you can just waltz in and address the king of a country.  Locke explains the situation via the expediency of sprite head nodding, so we have no idea what he actually said:

FFVI: Introducing Edgar

While Kingy’s ogling Terra, she bursts out, “Who do you think you are?” which shows more pep than I’ve seen from her until now. He apologizes: “How rude of me to turn my back to a lady!” So, okay, Edgar’s a ladies’ man. Locke leaves her to Edgar’s expansive hospitality and runs off to do…something.

I’m wondering exactly what Locke told the king (and for that matter, what Locke actually knows about Terra). Edgar sounds like he suspects she’s a spy for Gestahl.

FFVI: Figaro and Empire are Allies

Terra’s synapses are beginning to fire. She wants to know why Edgar’s buttering her up and just how this batch of people plans to exploit her.

FFVI: I Will Not Be Abused

Edgar assures her that her beauty has captivated him (much finger waggling), he wants to know if he’s her type, and… oh, yeah, there’s that whole magic user thing. Well, at least he’s honest. He’s a bit crestfallen that she’s not swooning in his arms, and he goes off to sulk or apply Old Spice or something.

FFVI: Terra, Hardly Normal

Terra’s an odd blend of self-doubt and self-assurance.

As with FFV, we shrewdly take note of two thrones in the throne room and the King’s evident bachelorhood, before going off to raid his treasury explore the castle.

A Matron – Matron!? — fills us in on the king’s lost brother.

FFVI: Matron on Sabin

Most of the soldiers spew Edgar’s official “we’re allies of the empire!” PR spiel, but this one seems not to have gotten the memo.

FFVI: Empire on the Move

So, we establish a few factoids while exploring/raiding:

  • Edgar is a shameless flirt, but all the ladies of the castle are wise to him. Disturbingly, a little girl in his chambers says he’s promised to marry her when she’s older. We’ll hope he was joking or deflecting an innocent “marry me!” comment from a child.
  • Edgar’s this game’s Cid. The castle has an off-limits engine room in the basement, and tight-lipped sentries hint at “top secret” technology. Chekov’s gun, duly noted.
  • Edgar’s twin brother “traded the throne for his freedom” when their dad was about to croak. According to the Chancellor, the “succession was settled with a coin toss.” I gather that Sabin disagreed with the coin toss. (Which is an insanely arbitrary way to decide the fate of a kingdom, but so are most others).

Next, “Sir Kefka,” grumbling about emperor Gestahl’s orders sending him into the middle of a hot, sandy, uncomfortable desert, comes calling. We are treated to the first of Kefka’s odd “woop-woop-woop” evil laugh sound effects.

FFVI: Edgar, Loyal Vassal

Laying it on a bit thick there, Ed? (He’s more blunt to Kefka’s guards, if you talk to them: “Heard you were having fun down south. Looking for more cities to destroy, eh?”)

Kefka lies and says he’s looking for a girl that stole something. Again, we take it for granted now, but this is the first FF story with complicated enough characters to include lies.

FFVI: Kefka BS

Ed’s all, “A girl, huh? I’ve got more girls than grains of sand, no idea if yours is here!” Yes, Edgar, we get it: you’re the world’s most eligible bachelor.  May we have some other characterization, please? (I’m being picky, considering that we’re not that far removed from Firion the Piece of Cardboard).

Edgar’s counter-BS appears to do the trick… mmmmaybe… but Kefka stalks off threatening to do something dire to Figaro if he’s lying.

FFVI: Kefka's Threats

Hiding Terra from the Imperials, Locke fills her in: the Marquis Edgar is actually helping fund the Returners’ rebel faction, although he pretends to be a loyal subject of the empire.  Locke, rogue-about-town, is his contact. All this talk of the empire seems to trigger Terra’s memory, and she’s still a little confused about which side she’s on.

FFVI: Terra, Soldier of the Empire

She’s an… ex-SOLDIER! Magitek! Mako! (Yes, Square shamelessly recycles story elements.)

I need to go back and replay the beginning, as I’m still not quite sure how Locke transitioned from “Aroint thee, vile magitek-using witch!” to sympathetic protector.

FFVI: Redefining Identity

Terra’s poignant reply: “I don’t understand…what should I do?” On the one hand, she was wary of Ed’s desire to make use of her abilities, yet on the other hand, she’s obeyed another’s will for so long that she has little grasp of autonomy.

So her hero’s journey will be to Find Her True Self. Locke says he can’t tell her what to do, but he’s sure she’ll find her own way.

FFVI: How WIll I Know?

Well, you could climb Mt. Ordeals and become a paladin or something. (Or something). Stay tuned.

To absolutely no one’s surprise, Kefka sets fire to Castle Figaro in the middle of the night.

FFVI: Kefka Attacks Figaro

“I guess I have no choice,” Ed says, pinging one of the major themes of this game, and leaps off the battlements.

FFVI: Escaping Castle Figaro

KEFKA: “Ackk! Shameful that a king should flee, leaving his people behind! How utterly delightful!”

As a matter of fact, some wee cutscenes had shown that Edgar had devised a contingency plan with his Chancellor for just this possibility—I’m impressed by an FF leader who — for once — has planned ahead for the inevitable Surprise Attack.

Ed swings around to pick up Terra and Locke from a side tower, and gives the command to activate Chekov’s gun steampunk engines.

FFVI: Castle Figaro

His Chancellor (“No one can defeat the people of Figaro!”) submerges the castle beneath the sands, chucking out Kefka and (we’ll hope) extinguishing the fires.

FFVI: Castle Figaro Dives

After a brief boss fight — and like everyone, I completely fall in love with Edgar the Ranger’s auto-crossbow —

FFVI: Edgar's Auto-Crossbow

…our heroes run circles around Kefka and ride off into the sunset, while Kefka obligingly alerts me to the fact that Ted “Enough Expository Banter!” Woolsey is the translator for this game:

Kefka: "Son of a Submariner!"

Submariner? I think it would be funny if Edgar really did turn out to be a Cid-descendent; he fits the type.

Terra is such a blank slate, poor dear.

FFVI: Was That a Bad Person?

I was a bit irked at this line, but in retrospect I realize that “I-I’m scared” wasn’t generic “the girl is wimpy and helpless, despite all her firepower,” but rather a hint of just how badly Kefka must have traumatized her. Even with no memory at all, she’s terrified of him. (My imagination once again shies away from the horror of imagining what he must have done to her… for years.)

Edgar and Locke ponder their next move: taking her to Banon, leader of the Returners. Ed says Magic is the key to winning the war. Didn’t he read the prologue about how magic is a “senseless and deadly mistake”?  This is one aspect of the game I find interesting: the prologue talks about how magic and Magitek, used by “those in power,” are a bad idea, yet the Returners are most definitely willing to fight fire with fire. Come to think of it, good king Edgar is technically one of “those in power.” Shades of Ashelia B’Nargin Dalmasca?

The conversation turns to the Esper back in Narshe.

FFVI: Foreshadowing!

Terra insists it seems natural to her to use magic, but Ed says no HUMAN is born with magic.  Disturbed, she slams on her chocobo’s brakes. He apologizes at once. Tact, Edgar, tact.

Again she falls back to, “What should I do?” Ed points out that, “If they get their hands on you again, the world’s finished.” Well, I’m sure that makes her feel just peachy.

The scene ends, and we head out on our second major overworld-map trek and through some caves which (mental note for later) include a random turtle skulking in a pool. (I couldn’t reach it, no idea if it’s important).

While slogging through caves, Edgar witnesses Terra’s magic for the first time: an itsy-bitsy, insignificant Cure spell that most FF fans whip off without even remembering that hey, this is physically impossible, yo. And the prize for overreaction goes to:

FFVI: Edgar Reacts to Magic

Edgar: “Dddddddddid you just see what I saw…?”
Locke: “Yeah… this kid seems loaded for bear…”
Edgar: “She’s amazing! That was magic! MAGIC!”
Locke: “M… MAGIC!? She used magic?”
Both: “Pswpswpswpswpswpswpsw…”

As they continue to whisper about it and ask Terra where she learned it — with the battle music playing in the background, and the hairball obligingly waiting for the guys to finish their confab — Locke finally realizes that Terra’s practically squirming with embarrassment. He hastens to assure them, “Edgar, Terra can cast magic, and we can’t. That’s the only difference between us. The fact is…we could use her help!” He’s a sweetie. [ETA: Although hey, once again, kind words on Terra’s behalf are once again coupled with “We can use her.” Good guys, I like you both very much, but you’re making my head hurt.]

The two blokes collapse out of sight behind the battle menus, and an alert message sternly flashes across the screen, “Stop swooning!” before battle resumes. Thanks, Woolsey!

One cave and worldmap trek later, we arrive in the scenic town of S. Figaro to stock up on supplies and scuttlebutt.

FFVI: South Figaro

At the inn, we hear about a disgruntled martial artist, suffering in the shadow of his celebrity guru and life coach martial arts school father. Ain’t that always the way?

FFVI: Vargas Backstory

Also we run into a shifty character with a dog. He won’t give Locke the time of day (“…”). Edgar suddenly recognizes him.

FFVI: Shadow's Introduction

I guess knowing all the assassins that Kefka’s likely to employ would be wise for any reigning monarch.

Locke takes the better part of valour and decides to “steer clear of him.” Ha ha, Locke. Didn’t you notice the character intro and PC-name-choosing dialog box (which I haven’t been screencapping, since I’ve been sticking to canon names)? Our paths must cross sooner or later.

Terra, however, is naively curious (or at least I am):

FFVI: Dog Eats Strangers

Woof! (I’d laugh, but Final Fantasy has had some scary-ass dog-wolf-direwolf-warg-hellhound-monsters going back to the first game).

I think the gramophone in the background is a nice touch. FFVI is an odd mix of medieval and steampunk.

I love the way nearly all the npcs will talk to you, no matter where they are or what they’re doing.

FFVI: Pillow Talk?!

And this guy totally doesn’t notice the armor-clad witch interrogating him over pillow talk. Hello? He, like many of the NPCs, is anxiously anticipating an Imperial attack on this village, South Figaro.

Inside a lofty mansion, the town’s self-proclaimed “millionaire” is writing a letter and isn’t the least bit pleased when Terra intrudes.

FFVI: Collaborator

In case there was any doubt in our minds what he’s up to, his kids in the next room — imitating imperial Magitek Armor (“chung chung chung”) as they stomp around — are proud to inform us that his Dad hosted “General Leo” for dinner. 

Sounds like a good time to buy up everything before the village is inaccessible make our escape.

Far to the north of S. Figaro, in an isolated bay in the mountains, we discover an isolated little cottage. Which is…stinky?

FFVI: What's That Smell

Check the ceiling vent to make sure Cloud’s not spying on your plans for world domin— er, sorry, wrong game.

As we explore the cottage, Edgar keeps making remarks like “these were his favorite dishes!” and “this is his favorite tea!” So I guess from this we can conclude that Sabin is an unwashed bachelor whose home reeks of dirty laundry. He’s not home, so we continue on our way.

Outside, we hear that Duncan, martial arts teacher last heard taking students up into the mountains, has been killed, his son Vargas has gone missing, and Sabin’s headed after them.

FFVI: Duncan Slain

Anything that can kill a celebrated martial artist is probably something we want to avoid, right? Right. Oh, dear, the Path of Plot Fulfillment is beckoning. At least we’ll get a good night’s free rest in Sabin’s hut before we head out.

So we climb Mt. Kolts. Which of course means we actually go inside Mt. Kolts. Remember how, in Lord of the Rings, it was a completely novel idea to go through a mountain? Well, in Final Fantasyland, every single danged mountain comes equipped with its own  Mines of Moria (although fortunately this one is lacking in Balrogs).

FFVI: Tunnels of Mt. Kolts

During our brief forays outside, we spot a fast-moving shadowy figure leaping out of sight. He’s allergic to screencaps. Naturally, when we catch up to him, it’s Saionji from Utena Vargas.

FFVI: Sabin Sent You?

Edgar is eager to hear news of his brother, but Vargas Ain’t Got No Time for That.

Vargas ipooh boss fight

Wait. Ipooh. iPooh? Evil Steve Jobsian Pooh Bears? Is that the best you can come up with?

We actually are handling him quite well, but of course Sabin has to leap in with a flashy entrance, picking the corner of the sideplot sheet and tugging it straight.

FFVI: Sabin Confronts Vargas

Vargas spins a tale of jealousy, about how Duncan made Sabin his successor  — “Did not!” “Did too!” — yawn, dojo politics. Anyway. Can we finish the boss fight now, please?

Ack, no fair, Vargas uses a powerful wind to blow our party out of the way so he and Sabin can have a solo fight.

FFVI: Sabin vs. Vargas

Alas, I’m having some trouble getting my emulator’s joystick-mapping to work with Sabin’s blitz technique (i.e. Tifa/Zell/Auron keypad pattern matching game), so Sabin meets a grisly end. Which for some reason means game over even though we’ve still got three fresh fighters standing around.

FFVI: Annihilated

Edgar’s day is ruined,  his brother is dead in a pointless battle against some random boss, and Edgar goes back to Figaro (north, south, east or west, he doesn’t care) in despair telling Locke and Terra to fund their own damned resistance instead of relying on royal pursestrings.



Er, I mean.

I reset, switch the keymapping to D-pad keys instead of the joystick, and retrace my steps over the entire blinking mountain again, losing  XP and gil from the grinding I don’t plan to redo.

Vargas, Battle, Sabin’s arrival, etc. Sabin follows the tutorial to launch a Blitz technique and pummel him to death. Yay?

Sabin is sad. However, we’re back on the Path of Plot Advancement, so Vargas is promptly forgotten. Cue quick reunion scene — Terra says Sabin looks like a bodybuilder, which he takes as a compliment — and Edgar explains that we’re off to the Sabil Mountains. We are?

FFVI: Off to Join the Rebels

I see the rebels in this game are just as careful about security as the Wild Rose Army in FFII. Of course their base’s location is common knowledge even to ascetic monks who live in the remote wilderness.

Sabin signs on, nevermind that he’s been avoiding Edgar for years:

Sabin Is a Bear

(Just in case any of the Sabin-is-gay fan club needed this screencap for evidence).

Skipping gaily over another world map trek, we reach the Returners’ hideout, where we are immediately summoned to go talk to the head of the rebels. So of course we talk to everyone else first.

FFVI: Returners Secret Base

Oh, SURE. This is going to end well.

So we finish stocking up on stuff and chatting up rebels and go find Banon, the rebel leader. After Edgar says, “We brought the girl with us,” he and Banon take turns talking around Terra for several exchanges as if she isn’t even there. Seriously, guys? SPEAK TO HER, NOT THROUGH HER.

FFVI: Carrier Pigeons?

Terra finally can’t stand it.

FFVI: That's a Lie!

Things abruptly get a little tense here.

FFVI: She Doesn't REmember

Now, I think Terra really can’t remember anything. However that flashback while she was unconscious in Narshe suggested that her repressed memories are still there…maybe? And we’ve seen that even good guys like Edgar will lie for self-preservation (admittedly to Kefka). What if Terra does remember some of her past, and is trying to conceal it from these people whom she doesn’t entirely trust, or (more likely) from herself?

FFVI: Banon and Terra

One minute, Banon is telling her to keep back and seems to regard her as a menace. Then, abruptly, he lapses into mythology. At first, it sounds like he’s implying that Terra is Pandora:

FFVI: Pandora Myth

Yet that analogy doesn’t fit, since Banon’s talking about humanity’s mistakes.

It’s interesting to see exactly which ills are inside of the box. “Envy… Greed… Pride… Violence… Control…”

Control? Not something one necessarily associates with evil, especially in a society that prizes discipline like Japan, but I guess there’s that whole tyranny problem.

Also, it occurs to me that this is another subtle way in which FFVI (and to some extent IV, with its archfiends) breaks with old school Final Fantasy. In those games, we tended to get a list like that to describe the Four Warriors of Light: Curiosity, Hope, Kindness, Courage and so on. Now we’re getting the reverse, a catalog of sins, and there’s no Warriors of Light in sight.

Oh, wait, spoke too soon. It’s Terra:

FFVI: Only Hope

So the Final Fantasy Hope Hammer puts in an appearance, and it’s a trope I can get behind, no really!

One thing puzzles me: just a moment ago, Banon seemed like he was ready to call out the torchlight brigade and Burn the Witch. Now he hails her as savior. Mixed messages much? Before we can inquire further, he ends the Exposition session.

FFVI: So Tired

You’re tired? Well, good thing you’re the rebel leader and never have to go fighting in the field, as you’d obviously not last five seconds. (Those words will come back to haunt me, won’t they?)  This gives us a chance to chitchat with friends and glean more backstory.

FFVI: Locke's Backstory

[ETA: The “jailed” comment puzzled me a bit — one of my Dreamwidth commenters noted that the GBA translation changed this to, “The empire stole someone important from me,” which makes more sense.]

Locke explains how this inspired him to join the Returners. (“But I have no significant other,” Terra muses). Cue sweet comments from Locke about how other people care about Terra, so she’s significant to them. I suppose this explains why Locke was so quick to become her champion, although what the old man told him back in Narshe was rather vague. (That she was a fugitive of the empire, and that she “was not responsible for her actions” as a Magitek-wielding witch.)

Sabin tells her that Edgar is absolutely to be trusted, but not to tell his nitwit brother that he said something nice. Edgar says that they’d like her to join, but can’t force her, because then they’d be no better than the empire. (Hope Hammer and Choice Hammer, two cornerstones of many a Final Fantasy game). Finally, Terra goes back outside.

Banon is waiting for her. “Summoners are kind of like Spira’s ray of hope….”

FFVI: Ray of Hope

If she says “no,” he says, “I see,” and she gets punted back into the hideout. So, the Path of Plot Advancement says we have to say “yes.”

FFVI: I'm Scared

While it elicits a lot of player sympathy, I have mixed feelings about much of Terra’s early-game characterization, variations on “I’m scared” or “I don’t remember” or “tell me what to do.” I suppose it beats Cloud’s self-deception as a coping mechanism for a soul-scarring experience (also, unlike Cloud, I gather that she’s been a prisoner since she was a child, so her life skills are limited).

Banon gives her a Gauntlet to comfort her, promising her “the person who possesses this relic need fear no harm” — OH LOOK, THE GOOD GUYS ARE LYING AGAIN– then holds a strategy meeting.

FFVI: Origin of Magitek

Magitek –  magical machines – were last used in the War of the Magi a thousand years ago. Comparing their scouting notes, our heroes realize that the empire seems to be draining Espers for energy to power Magitek and magic-users. Edgar, who first muses, “Could that ancient tragedy be happening once again?” then insists that they “can only fight Magitek enemies with Magitek weapons.” Banon suggests they get Terra to talk to the Esper of Narshe to see if it’ll wake up and help instead of just zapping her again.

FFVI: I'll Do It!

Finally, Terra gets to make a choice and sounds sure of herself.

FFVI: Sabin's Unhappy

Dang right she’s enjoying being able to choose her own actions for the first time in her entire life!

Neither Edgar nor Sabin is entirely sure this is a good idea, but before they can think better of it, a messenger bursts in.

FFVI: Figaro Has Fallen

And on that cliffhanger, I think it’s time to stop.

However, before I break, let me back up. I learned from a walkthrough that if Terra refuses The Call (Banon’s “Will you be our last ray of hope?”) three times, Banon says, “You’re sure about this?” and stops pressing her. At that point, when she heads back inside, she speaks to herself:

FFVI: Terra's Lack of Hope

The strategy meeting is skipped, the messenger from Figaro stumbles in right behind her, and the two optional paths rejoin. I  decide to stick with this option in my savegame, because one of the npcs gives her a rare Genji Glove!

FFVI: Innocent Lives

“We need your abilities. This relic will keep you safe,” he continues.

It will be interesting to see how the game plays out in light of the fact that my Terra never actually agreed to join the Returners’ cause. They were trying to allow her choice, agency and free will, but just like real life, necessities often mean that choosing nothing means you get dragged along.

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