Inside the oasis town of Kaipo, Cecil rented a room to heal the girl’s injuries, because Inns apparently really do work like that even in a narrative context. When she had slightly recovered, he tried to talk to her. She mostly ignored him, as is only reasonable, and he went to bed in defeat. He was woken in the middle of the night by Baron soldiers, who had arrived by airship to retrieve him and kill the girl, so he got up and fought them off, starting his rebellion.
You thought I was joking about the not taking his armour off when he slept, didn’t you?
Remember when I was talking about Wonderland, and complaining about how its doors connected in such an illogical way that it went beyond fun and into frustration? And how I complained about Monstro and the maze of twisty passages? Well the problems with Wonderland were all on side paths, and the problems in Monstro were somewhat negated by them being intentional. Yes, I don’t like mazes, but I at least respect that it was meant to be one. I’m put off and baffled by an unintentional one, like Halloween Town. Halloween Town is illogical and hard to navigate seemingly by accident. You go into the coffin, which is illogical but was at least telegraphed, before having to leave the Mayor’s room through a tomb, which is kind of hard to find thanks to the camera angles jumping to the angle that was used for the mini-game, despite the fact that it’s no longer present.
Once you make it to the far side, you’ll be at Moonlit Hill, the famous spiral hill from the poster. By the way, the section of graveyard with the coffin is now behind you, despite that not being the room you just came from. Now: how to cross the hill? Well, since we’re apparently incapable of singing our way across, you have to… uh…
How do you cross this hill?
Final Fantasy IV (originally released as “FFII” in the West) exists on a strange plane. We originally played FFIV immediately after Final Fantasy II, and in doing so, Kyle and I entered an era that neither of us knew very much about at all. They’re not like FFI or VI, which I knew the general plot of, or FFVII – X, which Kyle knew. Neither of us had really played the games from FFII – V. Kyle had played enough of IV to know a major plot event about a quarter of the way in, but he’d forgotten most of what preceded and never got further. What makes IV different from more recent games is that IV is widely considered a SNES classic. It makes sense that we haven’t played, say, XIII, since it was so new and came after Final Fantasy’s heyday. It also makes sense that we had never played the games that weren’t translated until late (II, III, V). It doesn’t make sense that we had never played IV. Well, time to rectify that.
A look at 100 Acre Wood’s storybook “overworld.”
That’s enough heady seriousness for one day. Let’s check in with Pooh, and add a chapter to his book that has to be pretty damn wet at this point. Hope he doesn’t mind.
Well I mind, because thanks to our rescuing the Dalmatians early, we’re about to follow up the most frustrating world in the game with the most frustrating mini-game. This chapter introduces Roo to the story (Kanga is nowhere to be seen in the entire game). Like many of the 100 Acre Wood characters, Roo goes unvoiced. Together with Roo, Tigger, Owl and Pooh, we take a trip down to Tigger’s favourite bouncing spot.
With that all behind us, we then decided to cave and find out what Doga and Unei wanted, since that was a sidequest too and I guess would give us job points. Or rather… we thought it was a sidequest. We probably should have realized it wasn’t, simply because no one had given us orders to go to the Ancient’s Maze, and FFIII always tells you where to go. This was an old RPG, but not that old. Square had learned their lesson after the communicative disaster that was FFI, and wasn’t going to leave us to our own devices in the game. But they made a new error. What Doga and Unei had simply failed to explain was that they didn’t just have the key to Eureka, they also had the key to the Crystal Tower, something you’d think they should have tried to tell us!
Ariel’s pissed at her father’s behaviour from earlier, so to calm down she suggests you all go to her treasure trove, just a few rooms back. Along the way, you’ll encounter your first Sheltering Zone, a giant Sea Neon that splits into four Sea Neons when you kill it. You can kill it directly with magic or a critical hit, so it becomes a matter of strategy and luck whether you prefer a shorter fight for smaller returns, or a drag for better EXP and drop odds. Best get a handful of those Ultima Weapon ingredients while you’re here!
At her cache, Ariel shows you her stuff, isn’t it neat, including a Torn Page kept in a surface-world chest, if you can find it among the carefully organized clutter. Here, Ariel explains her dream of, wait for it, seeing other worlds. Oh, shit, we’re back in the realm of absurdly particular use of the word “world.” Sora sort of coughs and sputters to keep from saying what he knows, and Ariel impulsively suggests they go check out a sunken ship nearby, because that sounds pretty cool. “I’m bored, let’s go rob some place?” That’s about as substantial as most game plots. Let’s do this!
Back in the main plot, we took the Lute to Unei and were able to wake her. She got up, and took her parrot onto her shoulder, where it disappeared and was never seen again (not the case in the Famicom version, where it is still visible on her menu sprite). I personally have policies against working with people who erase their pets, but I’m not Luneth and company. Unei then told us we’d have to find the Invincible, a third airship, to carry on with the plot. This one was still being held where the Saronians had unearthed the Nautilus: in the Ancient Ruins west of Saronia.
Sora’s third trip to the 100 Acre Wood returns to Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree for the segment where Pooh manages to get himself lodged in Rabbits front door. If you’re not familiar with Honey Tree, Kingdom Hearts does little to vary it: Pooh shows up at his friend Rabbit’s house, imposes himself, and poor Rabbit is too polite to be inhospitable, even when Pooh’s being a jerk. This all gets worse when Pooh gets stuck in the rabbit hole on the way out because he ate too much. Which is extra silly because Rabbit has a larger back door. Watching this happen involves a lot of moving around on your part, which is pretty boring, though there’s one funny moment where you narc Rabbit out by showing Pooh where he stashed his hunny pot (in the beams of the ceiling!). The plot doesn’t vary from the film until it comes time to get Pooh out of the hole, when Rabbit (unvoiced) suddenly announces that a drink of carrot juice will slim Pooh down. If you say so, talking bunny, my suspension of disbelief is invulnerable in 100 Acre Wood.
Unfortunately, who should show up to complicate things but Tigger (Jim Cummings). Tigger’s making an early appearance (he wasn’t in Honey Tree), but he’s just as troublesome as ever, as he’s decided to go bouncing through the carrot field. If he’s not trying to smash the carrots deliberately, he’s doing an awful good job of it all the same. Rabbit’s about ready to have a conniption, so this might not be a good time to tell him that you were throwing around his cabbages on your way in. Instead, get out there and play another mini-game to save the carrots from the tiger. Wow, Greenpeace just doesn’t talk about their niche work.
The town of Duster, home of Bards, Geomancers, and the regret that comes from being a Bard or a Geomancer.
Working on advice from a walkthrough, we unlocked the Airship and tracked down two out-of-the-way towns built to equip Evokers, Bards and Geomancers. These might have been useful if we had had any of those classes (especially an Evoker, as the town sold all of the Summoning spells that would ever be sold, not bad!), but as far as we were concerned, the towns were really only useful for buying a hats for our Mages (and later, a hat for our defence-starved Dark Knight, but that’s a jump ahead). The Mages would not get better armour virtually until the end of the game, with one exception. We came to just accept that they were never going to get any better.
From there, we went to the northwest continent and found a gigantic walled city. I do mean gigantic. It wasn’t entirely filled with buildings, but the entire countryside was cobbled (though trees grew through the stones out of ill-repair, which was a very nice touch), and if there’s a bigger set of city limits than this in the entire Final Fantasy series, I will be surprised, and triply so if it’s not from a futuristic game like XIII. The shape of the continent invites this comparison, so I’m not exaggerating when I say this city had to be bigger than most of the northeastern United States.
When Sora wakes up, he discovers that Riku has kidnapped Pinocchio, who is unconscious. When Sora asks what Riku thinks he’s doing, Riku tells him that Pinocchio’s unusual existence – a puppet with a heart – might be able to help someone who’s lost their heart: Kairi.
Riku darts off before Sora can process this, and Geppetto takes out a chest for Sora containing the High Jump ability, a “Group Ability” that applies to everyone and costs no AP. Mobility abilities are fantastic in any game, so you’ll probably have it installed in your deck long before you process the idea of abstract concepts like skills being kept in boxes. Though if I can nitpick, I’d have rather the game turned the skill on by default. I’ve seen that screw up a few young players.