Maybe Kyle had a moment of remembering the plot, because that’s exactly where we were: Mysidia. The inhabitants were furious at Cecil, of course, and expressed this through passive aggression, turning him into frogs and pigs and such. Unlike the end game town from Final Fantasy II, which sell nearly every spell the game, Mysidia was a little short on magical doohickeys, mostly because this game doesn’t sell spells. In fact, they seemed determined to hock weapons and armour for a class we had never encountered. It was pretty obvious what was about to happen, mostly because Kyle had spoiled me on this plot point years prior to the Marathons. So let’s get that twist out of the way so that you can know it too!
With nothing to buy, we headed to the main building and spoke to the Elder, who in so many words said the only way we were going to be able to earn the trust of the Mysidians would be to go to Mount Ordeal to become a Paladin instead of a Dark Knight. To spy on / assist Cecil on his trip, the elder sent along two mages: twins Palom and Porom. More children. More children, being sent a trial that no one ever returned from. And they have no adventuring experience. It’s not as though they (or Rydia) got in a few fights before being officially drafted, they have no experience at all. The Elder’s trying to get these two killed, isn’t he? Does no one on the writing staff see the flagrant child endangerment they keep putting to page? This could all have been excused with a few simple hand waves!
Porom, the polite, brown-nosing young girl, was a White Mage, and Palom, her mischievous, bratty brother was a Black Mage. Neither started off particularly impressive, so we upgraded their kit. Thankfully, Cecil fell off the ship with a full wallet and inventory. By the time we even near the top of the mountain, both had become quite useful, so I’ve got to say they had an impressive power curve. We headed out to the mountain and quickly ran into a familiar face: Sage Tellah! Oh goodie. More mages. Did I mention this game has virtually no Ethers?
Tellah had actually recovered some of his “forgotten” spells at this point in the game, as well as some pieces of equipment we had filched off of him in desperation to get through the first dungeon. This made us realize that everyone who left the party when the Leviathan attacked was never getting their equipment back, as the game must delete their old equipment to replace it with the new. And the game does this without warning? Shit, now I see why people find this game frustrating. Tellah had come to the mountain to find a particular spell: the reoccurring spell Meteor. He figured it would help him kill Golbez, even though he was too old to take the strain of casting it. We put his other new spells to good use, but his MP was capped at 90 and the twins soon passed him, and in this MP-starved game that’s truly the more important thing to have. Oddly enough, the party began to progress to –ra level spells, making resource management even more critical.
The mountain was a mid-sized dungeon, just the right size for my tastes. As we climbed, the game kept doing abrupt cuts to Golbez, Kain and Rosa on his ship. Golby was not pleased with Kain, and decided to send Scarmiglione, the Archfiend of Earth, after Cecil before he could become a paladin. He reasoned that Scarmiglione’s Undead forces (he being a successor of Lich, after all) would be strong against Cecil’s Dark Sword. I didn’t see that happen, per se, because the undead seemed to be strong against EVERY weapon until Cecil got his first Light sword. Still, Cecil’s instant kill sword never worked on the Undead, so maybe that’s what he was referring to. It’s not like we were using Cecil’s Darkness ability for any reason, not with three accompanying mages.
We actually ran into a fight against a large enemy (a Lamia) on the square that triggered an event where Palom sense a monster following us. Apparently the engine allows both random encounters and triggers on the same square, which is confusing as heck: the game seemed to be hinting about us that we might be attacked by the monster we had just fought! But sure enough, Scarmiglione showed up, flanked by multiple ghouls or zombies or some-such.
Scarry was a pain in this fight (which was strange, because this wasn’t supposed to be the hard fight, so far as I can tell), if only because the zombies were way above our level and took forever to kill since only Palom and Tellah could do them any damage. We didn’t even consider using Cure (Cure spells hurt the Undead from FFII on), because we were locked in a group spell mentality didn’t want to heal Scarmiglione while we were blessing his zombies. Bit of a mistake, as single target casts would have worked fine. Once the zombies were finally cleared, we had no trouble killing the Archfiend… only for him to come back as an Undead monster. It really should have occurred to us at this point that he was Undead, but somehow it skipped our minds entirely and we didn’t use Cure on him either.
Scarmiglione opened the proper fight with an unusual skill (“Become like the undead!”) which we assumed he was using a status effect from later games, Zombie. I don’t quite recall where I had learned of this status effect, maybe from some of Kyle’s gaming stories. It turns out there are two kinds of Zombie status effects in the series, and we were thinking of the one from FFVIII and IX, which makes you like an Undead unit: harmed by healing spells. What I believe he actually did was cause Slow, at least in the PSP version, as some sources I’ve found online say that the SNES version does nothing at all due to a glitch. What I’m getting at here is that we killed an Archfiend while still bleeding from the zombie fight, without ever healing with spells because we thought it would hurt us, while Slowed, and without casting Cure on Scarmiglione, and without realizing he was weak to Fire (see below). Kings of the castle.
In the final chamber, Cecil became a paladin and was given a Light-aligned Sword by a voice calling him “son.” The game treated this with suspicion, as though the voice were actually Cecil’s father based simply on this one word. This surprised us, I suppose because western culture is entrenched in Christian and Catholic tradition and we’ve come to expect religious entities to call mortals “son” or “daughter.” Frankly, a godly voice from the sky that could probably call Cecil whatever the hell it wanted, but okay. Just then, Cecil was challenged by his Dark Knight self, walking out of a sort of crystal mirror. We tried to fight him for a bit, before the game prompted us to sheath our sword. We did. Nothing happened. See, what the game actually meant to say was “don’t attack.” What we did was to unequip Cecil’s sword, the one that appeared so prominently moments before, to put it in his inventory. We sheathed the fucking sword, and he killed us. Thanks, game. Thanks for that.
I had made the mistake of not saving after the fight with Scarmiglione, so it fell to Kyle to do it again. By that point we had learned that his second form was weak to Palom’s Fira to the point it was almost silly, so we just waltzed through. Kyle also made a better show of the initial Zombie fight using the twin’s Twincast ability, which drops a heavy spell on the enemy group after a long wait. We then used a walkthrough to figure out what was wrong with the Dark Knight fight (we also unequipped Cecil’s Dark gear beforehand, earning us about 3000 gil. Heh). After the fight, Tellah somehow learned Meteor and “all his old spells” for pretty much no reason. Unfortunately for us, Meteor has an MP cost of 99, so we won’t be using it any time soon with Tellah plot-locked at 90. We equipped the Paladin gear we had bought ahead of time in Mysidia (hah! Got you there, game!) and stumbled off the mountain, training Cecil from his newly reset Level 1.
Back at Mysidia, to cut through the crap, the Elder gave Cecil permission to use the teleporter they had once used when they had friendly trade relations with Baron, the Devil’s Road. The locals said the teleporter was infested with demons or something that would rip anyone that used it apart, but a Paladin could surely get through. Even though Tellah and the twins were coming, too, who were unmistakably not Paladins? Huh. On the Baron side of the teleporter, I had control, so I decided to be a weirdo and go explore the ruins of Mist. To our surprise, we found survivors even running an inn and shop, and hidden treasures, none of which were really worth it. We bought Porom a Dancing Dagger that actually brought him up to a useful attack strength, though we’d regret the costly purchase in the long run…
Interrogating the locals, we discovered that Cid had been captured after creating a new prototype airship, and that Golbez was de facto head of the kingdom. Instead of His Majesty the Portraitless? You don’t say! Breaking into Baron Castle proved easy after we discovered that Yang was alive, amnesiac and working as a captain of the guard. We clobbered him over the head a few times, which was apparently enough to fix things (the wiki, funnily enough, doesn’t know how much you need to hurt him. This is because Cecil is supposed to be talking to Yang here, but in an infamous glitch, the game only starts the conversation if Dark Knight Cecil is in the party. This was fixed in our version. Incidentally, the wiki lists Yang’s enemy data gives him 62 000HP, impossible to cause in time. But oddly enough, the fight against Rydia at the start of the game has only 60 000HP. Why the gap?). Yang rejoined us and we bought him new claws, bankrupting us. Thankfully, the Thunder Claws we had grabbed would soon be worth more than their weight in gold.
We snuck into the castle via a second underwater tunnel that connected Baron-the-castle to Baron-the-town. This water-tunnel was just as annoying as the first but on a much smaller scale. Most of the enemies here were weak to Thunder, except one in particular that was absorbed Thunder and showed up everywhere just to complicate things. Also, I feel the need to mention that we missed a secret shortcut in this dungeon (until we came to it from the other side!) because it didn’t occur to us to walk sideways off of some stairs, which I’d like to think was a rational mistake given the 2/3rds perspective.
Once on the far end of the tunnel, we were inside Baron castle, but could find no sign of Cid. Kyle, thinking back to the game’s opening, remembered to raid Baron’s treasury, which I would have certainly left behind. Good spot! He also found a tunnel blocked “by a mysterious force.” Really, Square? That’s the best excuse you can come up with to keep us out of a late-game room?
Kyle then headed for the throne room, when Baigan, the general that turned Cecil in at the start of the game appeared to cut us off. Baigan claimed to be loyal to Baron, not to Golbez, and so joined up with us. Kyle and I were confused. Not only was his sprite generic, making him a temporary party member at best, but we already had a full party of 5 members. Palom and Porom set us straight, immediately unmasking the general and calling his intended treachery “obvious” (oh, burn on your players, kids). We took the man on after he transformed into a monster. Baigan was easily the most complex boss fight to date (perhaps across the whole series so far) but was still not very hard. His arms could be separately (and easily) destroyed and his only real defence was to cast Reflect on his torso, preventing us from using group spells much of the time. And a good thing it did, because if you kill the body while arms are still attached, they explode.
In the Throne Room, Kyle discovered that King No-Picture was actually Cagnazzo, the Archfiend of Water, and may have been for some time. Cagnazzo was a joke with our party still primed to fight water enemies. Tellah and Porom rained down Thundaga and Thundara bolts while Yang used his Thunder claws, leaving Cecil to just sit there looking pretty in comparison. Two down.
After the fight, we ran into Cid, who had apparently escaped on his own (from where? From the Void? He wasn’t in the prisons, we checked!). The party attempted to retreat, but Cagnazzo’s spirit went after them. It somehow locked the doors of the nearby antechamber and began to collapse its walls in on us. Keeping cool heads, the twins surprised Kyle and I both by using the Break spell to Petrify themselves and hold the walls. Tellah tried to restore them (which in FFIV would be as simple as casting Break on them again), but it did not work as they “became Stone of their own wills.” Oh, and the doors are randomly unlocked. Yeah, that’s bullshit. Do you know who didn’t actually have Break in my party? The twins (Palom learns it at level 36 in the 2D versions). Do you know who did? Tellah, who is guaranteed to have it. I know the spell coming from nowhere was a plot contrivance – what I’m saying is that they should have just asked him to petrify them, or any number of alternatives. This is the most contrived death yet, and that includes Borghen’s giant boulder trap in FFII. Square: either Tellah is a murderer who wants to leave the kids as statues, or you just didn’t think your tragic death scene through one bit.
Kyle and I were discussing this later and as much as we liked the twins, this event was more “annoying” than “upsetting.” Why annoying? Well, we lost thousands in equipment, for starters. Second, we’ve been treating Tellah as a ticking time bomb since he rejoined us. Eventually, he’s going to see Golbez, cast Meteor, and either die of a heart attack or get hit by Meteor himself, failing to kill Golbez entirely. It’s down-right inevitable. We were expecting him to die next. In fact, we stripped him of most of his gear before the fight with Cagnazzo (since we figured it was just a cutscene, considering we had just fought Baigan). Now we’ve lost two party members and we still have to deal with his erratic fuse. When will he pop and take his equipment with him? Who knows!
Cid directed us to an airship, but no sooner were we in the air than Kain arrived in his own ship, making me wonder he know we were in this one. He delivered an ultimatum that we the players already knew from a cutaway to the bad guys: Golbez is not sure how to take the Earth crystal by force, and so wants to coerce Cecil to get it for him by extorting it in exchange for Rosa. Cecil yelled at Kain to “wake up,” perhaps assuming that Kain was under mind control like Yang, but it seems Kain is working for Golbez of his own free will. Cecil then told the others that they would go after the Crystal, though what he plans to do with it remains unclear. As for us, we’re going with the plan anyone should follow with a new airship: go everywhere but where the plot wants you to go! Wheeee!
That brings us to where we left off. Cid is now a party member, with a skill to use Libra for free but without the Scholar’s guarantee from FFIII DS that it will always work. Yang and Tellah are still with us, and every child that has come into contact with Cecil is now petrified or presumed dead (though Rydia totally isn’t dead). Cecil, you have so, so very much Paladining to do to make up for this.