Rosa brought Cecil back home to Baron, where we found (well… technically we had been there earlier) that the soldiers were now loyal to us, some of them even trying to proclaim Cecil king. We went for the previously mentioned magically blocked corridor, where we found a back-up throne room (what) inhabited by the ghost of the portraitless king. He told us to come back after we had visited the “Feymarch.” Wow, the game does not want us to see this cutscene.
While in Baron, Kain confided that Golbez does not have all the crystals yet. “So the legends were true!” Cid says, in exactly those words, making me want to boo the game off the stage for being just that cliché (and it’s a literary cliché, so no, it does not get a “bye” for doing it early on in game history). Apparently, this game also has four Dark Crystals ala FFIII. Kain says they’re in “the underground”: apparently this entire planet sits on a paper-thin crust with another planet on the inside! Kain then hands us the “Magma Stone” and says it’s the key to the underworld.
This was not a tough puzzle, but I respect the game for allowing it to stand as a mystery instead of explaining it outright. The Dwarf-Descendants to the south had told us that the path to the Dwarf’s homeland would open with the help of the “Sun’s Stone,” and that the Dwarf’s underground sun was called “Magma,” so obviously they were referring to the Magma Stone. We took the stone to that town and tossed it into a prominent, extra-deep well in the middle of town, because it makes sense to start with plans that are irreparable if we’re wrong. A volcano went off. This is also irreparable.
So as the volcano goes off, and magma and smoke shoos miles into the sky, let’s sit back and bask in the glory that is Cecil Harvey. Murdered a girl’s family, then tried to kill her. Then dragged her into a building filled with corpses, and then Cecil and his girlfriend forced the girl to relive her most traumatic memories (involving Cecil), just so they could melt some ice why not. He then did not even move to save her when she fell in the ocean, partially because he refuses to remove his plate mail for any reason. He then immediately found two more children to drag into harm’s way, who committed suicide. He took orders from a giant turtle pretending to be a man, and his best friend hates him so much that he jumped on Cecil’s head with a spear. But that’s okay, because his best friend once also jumped that little girl from the start of the story, also with a spear, so you know he and Cecil are on the same wavelength as good guys. He sleeps in his armour, and as far as we can tell, in the same bed as every other party member, at the same time, including the children. And don’t doubt that as there is often only one bed in total. He gave up his identity and happiness to become a Dark Knight, and is now making it up for everyone by becoming a Paladin, which apparently involves blowing up giant mountains only a quarter mile from inhabited villages, which only wasn’t wiped out by lava, debris and soot because the designers chose to pretend that they have no ideas how volcanoes work.
By the way, before we went to the town to bury it in ash, we checked in on Edward, who was still injured and only sunk further into depression at the news that his father-in-law was dead. Cecil Harvey, ladies and gentlemen!
We travelled into the Underworld with our airship, only to discover that Golbez not only already had a way in but had already brought the Red Wings and his air force with him. I can’t even imagine how that’s possible, and doubt we’ll get a satisfactory explanation. They were fighting the local Dwarfs, who had Nintendo Wars-esque tanks to fight back. We got caught in the cross-fire, and soon crash-landed about two steps from a castle. Of course we did. And this despite there being a path-like landmass leading up to the castle that we never actually had to explore. Can you say “cut content?”
Inside the castle we met the Dwarfs, who were FFIII-style Dwarfs with faces encased in shadow. On the way in we encountered a girl named Luca, who it turns out was the princess. She was looking for her dolls, but they were nowhere to be found. When we went to speak to her father, Cid left the party to fix the airship up, both in general and with a few apparent upgrades: namely, he was going to attach metal plates to the hull to allow it to fly over the lava everywhere. Because the best forms of transportation are giant flying ovens. Kyle and I weren’t… happy that he left the party, but we weren’t really upset either. All it cost us was a subpar party member and a Gaia Hammer. The game could have done worse by taking Rosa, but it also could have done a bit better by taking Yang.
Meanwhile, the King told us that Golbez already has two of the Dark Crystals, but that the third is safe in a secret door at the back of the throne room that I had already spotted. Just after saying that, Yang realized there was a spy in the throne room. I suppose that’s one way to put it. The following animation suggested there was a spy already in the secret room. I’m not sure which the game was really trying to imply. We got inside the secret room, only for the door to be locked behind us (considering what happens next, this is doubly strange) and were confronted by Luca’s dolls, Calca and Brina, which were alive. We fought them and they somehow split into doubles. We killed both the Brinas, but the game ignored that and all the same the surviving dolls combined into “Calcabrina,” a boss monster we killed despite its irritating power to cause Charm (Calcabrina can even form from a single surviving doll, though it is possible to skip the fight if you wipe all of them out at once). I should mention that Rosa really is a godsend in this fight. She has more MP than any party member to date, and it’s nice to be able to rely on her. Kain, on the other hand, was performing sub-par most of the run. We eventually replaced the Blood Spear we had given him with another apparently weaker elemental spear in hopes that his low damage output was the result of the wonky rules of the reoccurring Blood Equipment, but it’s not clear if that helped.
Despite our efforts, the Calca and Brina dolls escaped unscathed (ugh) and somehow called Golbez to the other side of the Crystal chamber automatically. We’re just getting arbitrary here! This time he did not mess around and fought us, but we were unable to even hit him. He eventually Summoned a dragon to crush us, which was news for us as far as his powers went. He killed the others with the dragon’s attack, leaving Cecil for last when suddenly we were rescued by a Summoned Mist Dragon. Finally. Took her long enough. After many hours, Rydia finally joined our party of mostly-corpses.
…But how did she get past the locked door? Oh, and she’s also like, eighteen, I should probably comment on that. But how did she get past the locked door?
Luckily, after several misfires earlier in the game, we had finally stocked our bag with enough Phoenix Down to stuff a pillow, so we restored Rosa and fought a slow battle of recovery against Golbez, while Rydia used the Ramuh summon to call down lightning on Golbez. Soon, he was defeated.
Except of course he wasn’t. As our party ignored his corpse and even tried to walk away from it, his… hand got up, walked away from the body, sloooooowly towards the Crystal as Cecil just sort of puttered around behind it. You know, the Siege of Fabul from before looked mildly silly but there is a shocking number of sequences in this game where Cecil just doesn’t do anything and suffers the obvious consequences while you bash your PSP against your forehead until the D-Pad is etched there. The arm teleported away with the Crystal, because it would have just looked silly for Cecil to trot after it until it had crawled it all the way back to Golbez’s HQ.
Speaking to the mysteriously-older Rydia, we learned that she had been somehow shuttled away to the “Feymarch” by Leviathan. You might remember hearing that name from Cecil’s portraitless father. Rydia explained that the Feymarch is home of the Eidolons. There, she learned her advanced summoning powers at the arbitrary cost of her White Magic. She assumes time must have been flowing differently in the Feymarch, to explain her age. After the battle, the Dwarfs directed us, among other things, to a Fat Chocobo, where we swapped out Rydia’s new whip for a Mythril Knife we had found earlier in the game that was about as strong as the whip, but had an edge against Ghouls (which we never actually encountered). This was a silly mistake, as whips are long-range weapons you can use from the back ranks, and I’m not sure how we didn’t realize that at the time!
The Dwarf king then came up with a loony but wonderful plan: while Golbez goes for the last Dark Crystal in the Sealed Cave to the south, we would sneak into his headquarters at the “Tower of Babil” and steal the other seven. The Tower of Babil was the tower we saw coming from the abyss in the overworld – the one I suspect borders the Tower of Zot – which apparently has its roots down here. During a cutaway to Golbez himself, we learned that the Crystals are the key to “unlocking” the Tower and reaching the Moon, so of course the other seven would be housed there, though it is really not clear why his going to the moon would be a bad thing. In fact, since the antlion ages ago, there have been no signs that stealing the other Crystals have made the world worse in any way. Why not just let him go and then take the Crystals back when he’s gone into space? Oh well. The Dwarfs sent some tanks to attack the tower, though the tower had cannons of its own and fired back. We snuck in under the fray.
The Tower was rather dull, actually, in that it had more floors than any other dungeon so far, but like many gaming towers, none of them were very big. So we walk a bit, find a new floor, walk just a bit, new floor… The tower also featured four chests guarded by the exact same summoning robots, though research tells me they would have summoned different monsters if we had not let Yang use his Focus attack and elemental claws to defeat them within a turn or two.
Inside the tower we encountered a certain Dr. Lugae, who was teleporting surviving Archfiend Rubicante to the surface. Rubicante said something about ninjas being wiped out that didn’t make any sense. Better yet, no one seemed to notice we were there until Rydia pointed out that no one seemed to notice we were there and was overheard by Lugae. Lugae was alone at that point, and tried to attack us with his Frankenstein’s Monster-esque creation, Barnabas. According to the wiki, this fight could have involved us fighting the monster twice when Lugae takes him over. Instead, we killed Lugae first and the monster just self-destructed in Kain’s face, which only resulted in us losing a little XP and was probably the ideal solution? Either way, Lugae then turned into a status-effect causing boss monster, except that he inexplicably kept curing those same effects. What a bizarre fight.
With Lugae gone, Cecil ignored the teleporter and we headed back to a locked room filled with the cannon controls, to stop Golbez’ people from killing the Dwarfs. Wow, genuine responsibility, very nice! The cannons were manned by Goblins so weak even Rydia could kill them in one go, but somehow they still survived after the fight to blow up the consoles. Oh for Hironobu Sakaguchi’s sake, people, can you not actually kill anyone?
But then the most peculiar thing happened. No, really. The most peculiar possible thing. Yang stepped out of the party, told us to leave, and remained in the room for nearly half a minute when it blew up, asking us to tell his wife he loves her. And then the room exploded and he died. Oh. Oh, that’s just… just… what just happened? What did he just accomplish? Did he flying kick the consoles or focus punch the explosion to keep it from hurting us? No! No, no explanation was given at all, in any translation we’ve read, and they’ve translated this several times! It’s not explained in the SNES translation, the GBA, the completely rewritten DS, or even in FF Record Keeper, which has done a surprisingly good job justifying plot holes in other games! It can’t be explained, it’s death by plot hole! All we could come up with was that we had depressed him with our jokes about his magic defence! Why didn’t he leave the room?
We were then at a loss of where to go. Our characters had obviously forgotten the Crystals, and it took some real walkthrough diving to figure out we had to walk the whole… way… back to the… very… bottom… floor. Cast Teleport! Almost out, Golbez (somehow intact again) burned a bridge while we were on it. Luckily (by which I mean “In a way that was completely contrived”), Cid managed to arrive with the airship to save us last second. How we fell from inside the tower to the outside is a different question. But one of the Red Wings’ ships was on our tail! So Cid had Cecil pilot the ship toward the volcano-hole we used to enter. Cid’s plan? Cid’s plan is to jump out of the ship carrying a bomb and set it off to close the hole behind them. It makes perfect sense! No, no you cannot just throw the bomb off the edge with a lit fuse. That would be stupid. Geeze. Oh, and he’s going to ask Rydia to call him “Uncle Cid” just before jumping to his suicide bombing doom, just so she can form an emotional connection, because every adult in this story is a horrible, horrible person and Rydia is going to need more therapy than this game is long.
(Clyde Mandelin remarks that, in the original Japanese version, Cid only asks Rydia to call him “Uncle Cid” because she had just used addressed him in a way that might be translated as “Grandpa Cid.” So the line isn’t supposed to be “Call me your beloved uncle, also goodbye foreverrrrrrr…!” but “C’mon, I’m not that old!” Only the entirely revised DS script kept the original spirit intact in English!)
So Cid jumped off, nuked himself in mid-air, and either fell into lava or hit the distant ground before a fucking mountain fell on his head. Except, except… get this. We stumbled on a spoiler by accident. He’s fine.
HE’S. FUCKING. FINE.
He flung himself down a sky-high drop and blew himself up part way, dropping the weight of a mountain on top of his head, and he’s fine. I do not exaggerate: we were laughing so hard we had to stop the day’s playthrough. I’ve never laughed so hard in my entire life.
We were perfectly happy with this game before, despite our jabs against Cecil. It was a perfectly fine story, certainly the best in the series so far. Even the evil dancing dolls didn’t throw us over the edge. And it’s not like this series hasn’t been illogical before. We were pissed when Ricard pushed us away from the Dark Emperor, because we probably could have taken him, but there were a few drops of logic in that. But between Yang’s senseless suicide and Cid’s what the hell just happened pointless suicide attempt, this game has shot its credibility in the foot, with a rocket launcher like a nitwit Team Fortress player on 10 health, propelling its ragdoll credibility fifty feet into the air to crash-land somewhere downwind with a bone-splitting thunk. And while we’ll continue to enjoy mocking it: no, its credibility is not “fine.” Our entire perspective of this beloved classic has been irreparably changed in one abbreviated gaming session (we had about two less hours than usual, and still Square packed it in). As Kain said moments after Cid’s suicide, presumably for pathos but earning only another round of screaming laughter from us: “Why do they always choose death so easily?” Kain, we’re still not sure why either of them chose death at all.