So back in IV, we decided to stop in to show Rydia, still alive, to Edward, but all he did was moan about Yang being dead. Later in the game, we decided not to visit him at all, because all Cecil seems to do is make him want to die a little more. That’s our party leader!
We returned to the cave next to the Tower of Babil and descended, where we found the survivors from that monster-box filled castle from earlier, huddling in the dark. They claim that their ninja-trained prince had gone after Rubicante, presumably hoping to revenge the destruction of their civilization, and we followed the trail of his allies’ bodies (through another water-cave dungeon) to find them. We eventually caught up to the Prince, who actually identified as “Edge.” He tried to fight Rubicante and used one of his Ninjutsu powers to… cast Fire at him. Rubicante absorbed the damage and rightly turned Edge into a roast before leaving. What a reassuring introduction to our newest party member.
Edge joined the party (we weren’t surprised, as the game had been scattering katanas and Ninja throwing items the whole way there). He flirted with Rydia, which seemed to be going well enough, but then started to also flirt with Rosa and never really recovered his romantic ground with our Summoner. I should probably stress that this fellow looks a lot like Firion. I point this out because one of the first things he did after joining us was to be “Enticed” (a Charm spell) by a Lamia. Yup. Glad to have you back, Fir. Edge was very poor defensively. Once he had a proper kit, his magic defence didn’t stink as much as Yang’s. But it did stink as much as his physical defence. The kid can’t hold himself together, is what I’m saying. He was strong offensively, the classic “glass cannon.” His Ninjutsu magic is never the sort of thing we’d rely on so long as we had Rydia in the party, but is nice to have around in a pinch, very similar to Slade’s Ninja magic in Shining Force II. He also had the Throw ability from FFIII, to chuck old items for heavy damage. Edge can also Steal like an FFIII Thief. Later Final Fantasy games, in an effort to trim down this complicated skillset, would have you Throw Ninjutsu scrolls to replace the original Ninjutsu skill menu, which I think is a pretty stylish bit of efficiency!
We followed the cave until led us back to the Tower of Babil, which was stocked to the gills with the exact same monsters, except that now we couldn’t instantly kill the Mystery Egg monsters, which more often than not hatched into Lamias. The eggs were a particular source of embarrassment, as not only did we manage to ambush one (?) but got ambushed by one. By an egg. We also had Edge try to Steal from one, only for it to catch him at it and smack him away, causing 2 damage!
Near the end of the tower, we encountered what at first appeared to be the ghosts of Edge’s parents, but suddenly appeared as horrible, mutated monsters. We fought them, it turns out we didn’t have to, as their dialogue (which took a very long time to get across) ended with them self-destructing. It’s almost too bad the actual fight didn’t count, because we were throwing out a real firestorm against them. Before dying, they told Edge that he would be able to restore their kingdom and that they trusted him.
Afterwards, Rubicante appeared in a fury, saying that the mutated royalty were the fault of the now-late Dr. Lugae and he had nothing to do with them. He apologized to Edge (though he earlier claimed not to even know anything about him or his kingdom) and even offered us a chance to re-equip and healed us himself for our grand showdown. Given the pathetic fight his fellow Archfiends had given us, Kyle and I figured this was not unlike polishing the sword that stabs you, but Rubicante insisted that his “Cape of Flame” would protect him from the Ice weapons we had already stocked up on.
Ruby was telling the truth, but there was a downside to his plan: he simply did not use his Cape enough to help himself. When he raised it, Blizzard spells would heal him, and he would even cast them on himself to heal. He even managed to have it up very early on, just after we learned how it worked and too late to stop Rydia from summoning Shiva, which undid half our work up until that point. And despite that: he was still a joke. How much of a joke? Let’s put it this way. He killed himself. He cast Blizzard when his cape wasn’t even up and he killed himself. The Four Elemental Archfiends, folks. They had a good run. This one didn’t even try to get back at us from beyond the grave.
In the very next room, we found Golbez’s collection of seven Crystals, but had only taken one step into the room before we fell in a trap door. We then followed the only available path until we found a new, red airship that Edge christened the “Falcon.” We took it out from there and down to the Dwarf castle. There, the party and Dwarf King Giott discussed tactics, and we learned that they had given up on the seven Crystals entirely. Inspiring. It’s not like you couldn’t walk back there with a few six-foot planks of wood, eh?
The Dwarf King was upset to hear this we had given up (not near as much as Kyle and I were) and told us to go after the Sealed Cave and the eighth Crystal instead, as Golbez hadn’t found it yet. The reason had hadn’t found it was because the cave was just as Sealed as advertised, and no one could get in without the help of Luca’s necklace. We also discovered, just as spoiled, that Cid was fine, and resting in the Infirmary. After a visit to the easter egg Devloper’s Room you can find in this town, we visited Cid and he installed the metal plating on the airship. He collapsed after the work, and the game even faked out that he had died from exhaustion. But he was really just sleeping! Someone at Square thinks Cid is far funnier than he actually is.
We immediately followed New Vehicle Procedure and went everywhere but the Sealed Cave. We found a Dwarf smith who was busy inspiring Dwarf Fortress mechanics by refusing to work until given the materials he wanted for his dream project. He wanted Adamantite like the Dwarf from FFI. We then went to a Dwarf Town, which was stocked with Diamond equipment. We couldn’t buy everything, but updating everyone’s equipment was rewarding after all this time. We then found two other caves, which we later discovered were optional dungeons: one leading to the Feymarch and the other called Sylph Cave. Both were too strong for us, so we fell back to the Sealed Cave.
To our surprise, opening the seal did not result in Golbez Ocarina of Time-ing his way into the Cave the very next second, but hold your horses. Most of the monsters in the cave were irritating but not dangerous (at least for a few levels), but the key feature of the cave was that it was infested with Trap Doors: monsters that would cast a few rounds of Instant Death attacks, and then transform into a healthy new monster. The monster they transformed into was almost always a Chimera Brain: a monster with a painful Frost Breath we grew very, very, very tired of, especially with one party member usually still face-down in the dirt from the fight with the Door.
Partway through the maze, we had exhausted our stats and were about to pull our first bug-out since Marsh Cave in FFI, when we discovered that the Sealed Cave would not allow Teleports. It was another of those “catch you with a boss on the way out” dungeons and we were being punished for the developer’s inability to cope with their own game’s features! We had to check an online map to find the nearest save point, behind one of the Trap Doors. Pissed at the ‘Doors, we also took the opportunity to look up strategy against them. The solution was obvious: use Rosa’s new Reflect spell to bounce back their Instant Death spell. It took a few fights to get the timing right, but soon the doors were no problem.
We found the Crystal without trouble, and as I implied, were ambushed by a boss on the way out: the doors had failed so the walls themselves came after us, which I have to admit is pretty clever. There we were introduced to a series re-occurring boss to be feared: the Demon Wall. This boss somehow attacks as normal but also closes on the party with time, ultimately crushing them. Kyle handled it no trouble, but it was a durable pest. We then started the slow climb to the surface, waiting for Golbez at every step. He was a jerk and ignored us until the final/initial room. There, he called to Kain, who suddenly lost control of his mind and stole back the Crystal before leaving with a fortune of equipment. Well… we sold your backup equipment, jerk! What’re you going to do about it?
While wondering how on earth Kain escaped the circle of mountains surrounding the cave (Kyle insisted it was the Dragoon’s Jump), we returned to the Giott with more bad news. I’m surprised this guy even trusts us anymore. With Golbez going to the Moon (and the party takes a moment to stress that this is a horrible thing for reasons that remain unexplained) the King suddenly related the faintest hope we had: The Lunar… uh… Whale. The Lunar Whale. While trying to explain what this was, he quoted part of a prophecy Cecil had heard (concerning himself) in Mysidia. The Dwarf King confirmed the Whale was a Mysidian legend (he didn’t think Mysidia even existed as a real place).
Now, as it had happened, we had left the Mysidian Elder ages ago while he was praying, and the King suggested that he might be praying for the… the whale. But we needed a way back to the surface first. Just then, who should arrive but Cid, offering to install a drill to the prow of the Falcon? Holy crap, really? That’s awesome! There was yet another extended and totally boring sequence of Cid’s sprite dancing about to install the part (Square is too fond of its sprite animating powers in ’92, wasting them on dancers and these extended, content-free cutscenes). This one was even worse, as Cid fake-died again. Square, do you know how much you’ve blown this character? I think if he was dead, I still wouldn’t have cared. This served something of a point in that Square had to explain why Cid couldn’t rejoin the party, but it showed that someone on the dev team, or multiple somones, had no sense of dramatic timing.
Anyway, we used the drill to drill out the entire volcanic mountain range Cid re-sealed with his bomb, somehow not killing everyone in the neighbouring town a third time, never-to-mind ourselves. Holy crap, the story grinding its credibility into pulp and using it as fertilizer. Also, if the drill is on the prow, did that mean we were turned sideways on a ship with an open-air deck. But oh well, if the plot is going to be ground up, if it’s doing the grinding with an awesome, over the top drill, do we really get to complain?
At this point, we figured Edward would rejoin us, as he we had an empty slot and (as far as we could tell) were going to the moon where it would be sort of hard to get reinforcements. We were wrong, but luckily we hadn’t gone all the way to Troia as we figured he’d just show up in Mysidia. Saved us a trip! At Mysidia, the Elder said something about the moon calling to Cecil, and then he did his prayers and the sea opened to reveal… a giant, whale-shaped spaceship. With a ninth crystal inside, apparently. And you know what? If the game hadn’t previously shot its credibility, we probably would have swallowed this with just a few chuckles. It’s not actually near as bizarre as it sounds, and I realize it sounds really, really bizarre. We have pretty good suspensions of disbelief – what’s a whale-shaped starship, really? Inside we found healing pods and a fat chocobo, which probably makes this ship the successor to the Invincible from FFIII. The party used this ninth crystal to head to the moon!