The Final Fantasy Legend – Free Will is an Inconvenience

ffli-2015-06-13-20h32m53s133World 2 is pretty bereft of plot. I get the impression it’s not very popular with fans, either, and the best I can say about it is that the developers certainly did a great job designing a world where you… have to… uhh… operate entirely under your own accord! Personally, I had nothing but bad memories of the place from previous playthroughs. Not only are the clues insufficient, but one of the hardest parts is right at the start and has almost no clues at all.  What a great opening!

Let’s break it down. In this archipelago world, you’re told early on that there are no available ships because of pirates, but that there is a moving island that might be worthwhile as a ship. You have to move through tunnels to find it. What they don’t tell you is: 1) the “island” is one of the funny rocks off the side of the actual islands that just look like decoration, 2) the island is a specific rock off the side of the actual islands, that looks like all the others, which you have already tested and concluded are decoration 3) there are no plot events needed to find the island, you’re just supposed to check them all. If you don’t have the brainwave to check every single rock – and younger me never did – you’ll be trapped in the tunnels forever. Thankfully, I had made my way through that morass over a decade ago, and knew to check the rocks. Soon we were sailing the seas, being attacked by rare, uh… sea wolves. Which looked like cats.

ffli-2015-06-14-05h43m03s372Once you’re sailing, there’s still the matter of finding your way around. One of the creepiest part of this world to me – even though it clearly comes from technical limitations – is the fact that the world doesn’t loop around itself: it’s got a frightening, jagged black border if you go too far afield, as though the world were ripped off at the seams.

After some navigation, we found a town to the northeast that existed purely for supplies. This town sold pretty much the game’s entire library of martial arts techniques. Martial Arts functioned as odd “weapons” that based their power on the number of uses they had left instead of some flat number, and they got more powerful as you wheedled them down.  It was probably supposed to represent your experience with each technique, with the surreal note that after you use it enough, that experience, uh, vanishes (the game makes up for it by giving you an especially higher boost for that final use).  Unfortunately they started pretty high, so they’re something of a long-term investment.  As a result, we didn’t bother in this game, though we did give them a whirl in FFLII.

To the south of that town, we found an old man living in a small hedge maze (oh, the 80s) who told us where to find the “Airseed,” an item that would let us breathe underwater. We grabbed one from another island and did the rational thing by plunging straight the fuck into the ocean via a whirlpool. I’m still not sure how we were ever able to get our rock back to the surface.

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The background tiles in this underwater segment are animated to give the impression of a current rolling along the sand. An impressive showing from one of the very first games on the GB!

Under the waves, we found the underwater castle we had been looking for (sorry that I can’t remember where the precise hints came from, it’s lost in the mists of “I already knew where to go” and “Kyle and I beat the whole game in one day, years ago”). Finding the castle, we learned that the guards would jump us if they got within proximity, like we had feared of the Imperial Soldiers would do in FFII (I supposed that happened with King Sword’s Wererats and Zombies but we were hunting them deliberately at the time and didn’t notice). The guards made navigating the palace considerably more difficult. The game also pulled a dick move by locking all the doors but one, tricking us into thinking that none of them were locked, pretty much the same technique used to hide the floating rock. We were soon trapped upstairs without the key and had to march all the way back!

Thankfully the enemies weren’t as bad as I remember from my childhood. The Salamand helped with that, and we had also upgraded the Humans better than I probably ever had as a child. Speaking of which, the Salamand in the marathon party had now become a “Fireman,” a level 13 elemental of some sort (remember, monster “levels” only go up to 14!), and we left him in that form for most of the remainder of the game.

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The devil is a Cancer.

Long story short, Kyle bailed to the surface so we could replenish our stock, and I took over, grabbing the key. At the top of the castle, we found a room I remembered quite well from my original playthroughs. This room was packed with orbs (not “Spheres.” I can’t help but the think the chosen words were more distinct in Japanese). The first room featured orbs in a long row and the second in a long column. The third had a room packed to the gills with orbs. Checking the orbs at random caused a fairly powerful crab monster to attack you. The first time I played through this as a kid, I had reached this room in bad shape, and had to work out the puzzle without picking up a single other crab, or I would never survive the boss. And I also had to solve the puzzle without walking about much, for fear of the random encounters. Tense stuff… and not to be repeated this time around.

ffli-2015-06-14-05h45m22s142I had Kyle solve the puzzle, because I already knew the answer: simply check the orb in the third room where the column and row from rooms 1 and 2 would have intersected. This got us the Red Orb and also the wrath of Sei-Ryu, the Azure Dragon of the East. He, uh, died pretty much as fast as Gen-Bu. The rest of the party was also ahead of the curve this time around. Bosses in the first two Legend games are also pretty underwhelming in general. FFLII at least gave them more HP than FFLI, but they sstill tend toward the simple.

Back on the surface, we were left without a lead. Remember, we had a weird “Orb,” not the Sphere we needed to unlock the way up the tower. I suppose if I had talked to people in the towns again, we’d have gotten directions, but we were impatient. A walkthrough pointed us back to the old man in the hedge maze, with enough of a reminder of my original playthrough to remind me that this man was actually O-Ryu, Sei-Ryu’s brother. He quizzed us, asking what a few items would “become” if you stuck them together… though he didn’t clarify what he meant. He was actually asking what you could buy if you totalled their prices. We found the item – a Battle Sword if I’m not mistaken – and showed it to him, earning his respect and the Blue Orb. Combined, the Orbs two formed the second Sphere, the Blue Sphere. With that, we were able to return to the Tower to head for the next world.

ffli-2015-06-14-05h46m48s840At the third level, we once again ran into our old friend in the suit. This time, they gave us some more specific advice: to pose as guards to get into the local Fiend’s confidence. Our heroes took this with a nonchalant shrug of their shoulders and just went straight to it. As Kyle pointed out after the fact, the Heroes just didn’t seem to be moving under their own impetus in World 3. “Pose as guards? Okay.” We stumbled into a bar where some Guards were drinking and ended up in a brawl with a few of them (some Fly monsters). Their boss dragged us in, impressed. “You want me to join the guards? Okay.” The impression of nonchalance partially stems from the fact that they’re following such stringent orders in such small time periods, but it’s more the actual dialogue, which is very terse. Our party doesn’t seem to have minds of their own! You could probably analyze that, given the ending of the game, but the problem seems to be restricted to world 3?

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Reward?! That’s the best reason to do evil!

I’m getting ahead of myself. World 3 was a series of clouds in the sky, with cities built on the clouds and everything. It was being ruled over by a tyrant, Byak-Ko, The White Tiger of the West, from his flying fortress (which moved between every major plot point). Interviewing the locals, we learned there used to be a resistance against Byak-Ko, but it had been crushed. But the resistance had one last laugh: the leader had hidden the White Sphere away from Byak-Ko, though some of the locals suggested his twin daughters might know where it was being kept.

What do you know? Byak-Ko dragged us into his service and asked us to find a girl named Jeanne, presumably one of the twins. Our heroes the muppets just said: “You want me to find an innocent woman for your regime? Okay, right away!”

It was easy to move around World 3, since Byak-Ko gave us access to his gliders, a very fast overworld vehicle that let us move through the world of cloud we were searching. We first noticed a patch of cloud in the northeast and landed there to find a hidden town I had never found as a kid. Not that useful, honestly: it had good spell books, but as far as equipment was concerned, the Dragon armour we bought in the main town proved far more useful, as it made us immune (not resistant: immune) to almost every kind of elemental attack and gave endgame level defence to boot, and the weapons just didn’t stand up (though we should have bought a Vampic sword for Liz all the same).

ffli-2015-06-14-05h48m56s515

Our moth-like glider next to the flying fortress.

Our party ultimately found Jeanne already under attack by Byak-Ko’s actually loyal (and self-motivated…) monsters, we fought them off. “You want me to go rescue your sister? Okay.” Iiiii’ve got no strings, to hold me down…

It seemed Jeanne’s sister Mileille had already been captured by Byak-Ko, so we used our cred as loyal minions to break her out. The walk through Byak-Ko’s fortress was extensive, and to make things weird… there was nothing in it? No one was attacking us and there weren’t random encounters.  And I know what you’re thinking, but no! it really doesn’t become a dungeon later! We filched Byak-Ko’s keys and went to find Mileille, guarded by wildcats. Killing them, we mentioned Jeanne’s location, only to discover that Mileille was working for Byak-Ko all along. Whoops. “You want me to go to prison? O–” *slam*

Actually, our characters didn’t take very well to being in prison, and once they remembered their free will, they proactively ripped the cell bars off their hinges with their bare hands (I shit you not). Also in prison, we found a magic, talking sword called Revenge that wanted blood. Hey, sweet, you’ll make us some good selling money! Yoink!

After escaping from prison, restarting, getting sent to prison again, actually finding all the treasure chests in prison we had walked past by accident, and escaping from prison again… we found a glider and tracked down the flying Castle, only to discover that it had already moved to the site of the White Sphere. This was irritating, because the location of the Sphere was not actually on the map, and we started searching the Castle instead, wasting a truckload of time! The guards are willing to attack you now, how were we supposed to know? Once properly inside the hidden place, however, we saw Byak-Ko had the sphere. He then tried to kill Mileille in a “You have outlived your use,” sort of way. Jeanne jumped in front of the shot, and died in her sister’s arms. Our heroes just sort of stood there. Just… hangin’ around, looking at our feet, until instructions came, and then, “Oh, you want us to kill him for killing your sister? Okay.”

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Here you see the screen shaking, as it does when a player-character is hit.

Byak-Ko put up a bit more of a fight than the fiends, probably because he was closer in strength to Rei, and also because world 3 is so small that we only got a half hours’ worth of training. He also got to use the Sphere as a weapon, which could be pretty harsh, but on defeating him, the Sphere vanished. Judging by Byak-Ko’s dialogue, he may have somehow self-destructed the both of them or something to that effect. Once Byak-Ko had died, Mileille began to cry, apparently crying out a Sphere the size of her head. I’m not clear what just happened. Was the other sphere a fake? Did she just restore it somehow? I guess we don’t have to care, because our party hoisted the Sphere and left without even helping Mileille tend to the body. Why would we? She didn’t ask.

Prev: The Final Fantasy Legend – Interspecies Dating for Fun and Profit
Next: The Final Fantasy Legend – Misaimed Commentary


Screenshots in this Journal come from Ironsharp’s longplay of FFLI, available from World of Longplays (YouTube).

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