We went into the Falcon and found that it was commanded by Cid but with Dwarven command represented by Princess Luca, of all people. I should stress once again that Luca is a child, but whatever you say, game. The game took us automatically to the Sealed Cave – no chance to conduct our own affairs (this was unsurprising, in fact we were discussing just how linear we expected the Interlude to be given the events we had already seen). Inside the Sealed Cave, we found few surprises. The Dwarfs had occupied and perhaps even cleared some of the rooms (we never seemed to be attacked in the northern half of one room, but FFIV never showed the ability to put monsters in only part of a room, so I’m still not sure it wasn’t luck). Best of all, the Dwarfs had killed the Trap Door in front of the save point. But oh, geeze, the rest of the Trap Doors.
Sadly, since we were in our mid Level 30’s, Palom had not yet gained Reflect, a spell she gets at Level 44. Without it, we couldn’t psyche out the Trap Doors. Still, we could kill them before they summoned the Chimera Brains, so we settled for getting no XP for one dead party member rather than risk a TPK at the hands of the Chimera Brains. What a pain. We later learned from the internet that Porom’s Slow spell would have been an ideal way to kill the doors before they transformed, but too late to help.
Crossing the final bridge, we were naturally accosted by the Demon Wall, which Kyle took on handily. A lot of thanks go to Porom’s sky-high Intellect stat. Inside, we found the Crystal chamber and also Rydia, who was collapsed at the base of the Crystal, not unlike the opening sequence with the silhouette. We helped her up. Rydia was at level 32, behind the rest of the party (thanks to the Trap Doors we were at uneven levels, with an average around 36). She had also lost all of her Summons, but did not talk about why – in fact, it didn’t even come up in conversation in any way, which was odd from a writing standpoint even if the player is supposed to be suspicious! Worse, she was wearing the Minerva Bustier: her best defensive armour, but one that dropped her Intellect by almost half of what she currently had. Unfortunately, we didn’t notice she was wearing the Bustier until we were out of reach of the nearest shop, and so were forced to stick with it rather than leave her with no armour at all. Thanks to our muss-up, her Intellect was bottomed out and she was quite useless for the rest of the Interlude, though she did hit harder with her Blitz Whip than the Twins with their staves… even if that’s like comparing poking to prodding.
When we returned to the surface, the party saw the Tower of Babil pulse with energy (it turned red, more like). They decided to investigate, finding that the Dwarfs had noticed as well and had stationed their tanks about it. The tanks were mostly there to form an invisible wall and prevent us from leaving the immediate area, but weren’t these tanks supposed to be disassembled to construct real walls back at the city? One of the Dwarfs said that Dwarf Tanks were extra tough, but I don’t think that was meant as an excuse – more likely the writers realized pacifism makes for poor sequels when combat comes into play.
But I’m skipping ahead. Mid-trip, we changed points of view again to meet up with Edge. He was heading to the party at Damcyan, despite his advisers saying that the party “ended hours ago.” Hey, have you got the impression that Square doesn’t even know how time works? The party ended hours ago and Edge’s kingdom is on the other side of the fucking planet, and Edge has no airships. But Edge wasn’t honestly going there in the first place. Instead, he disappeared into the nearby cave system, bound for the Tower of Babil. The monsters in the upper cave were no threat, but we lucked out by finding Palom and Porom’s ultimate accessory while we were searching the old refugee camp: one of the two Twin Stars. If we got both, we’d be able to improve their Dualcast ability! We found the second accessory inside the caves, in a chest that gave us trouble in the original FFIV, so we weren’t going to miss it this time around! Thanks to this small game’s bizarre, shared inventory, we’d be able to give these to the twins as soon as we cut back to them!
There was no difficulty trouble in the caves this time: a quick romp back the surface for our own reasons actually had Edge fighting stronger monsters on the surface, and the ones inside could not possibly have toppled Edge. Edge also found a valuable Yoichi bow down there that we probably would have given to Rydia if we had not been worried that Rosa would come back later in the Interlude (she did not). When he reached the Tower, Edge said that his theories and fears were confirmed: someone was definitely trying to “use” the place again.
We returned to the rest of the party and entered at the Tower’s base (we were attacked one step in, which was unusual for this game). All the Tower’s old guarded chests were now unguarded but even better stocked, with things like the Aegis Shield. Perhaps the designers forgot the guards? Or maybe they were just generous? At the exit door to each floor, the party was attacked by an upgraded, local elemental monster: a powerful Frostbeast, for example. Since the first two such “superbeasts” had obvious weaknesses, they were easy to topple, and the Earth and Lightning ones weren’t very big problems either. With each one, Rydia regained one of her four elemental summons: Shiva, Ifrit, Ramuh and Titan. Rydia was acting and speaking strangely the whole time.
When we reached the room where Yang almost died, Rydia skipped ahead of us, and we were cut off from her by a unique set of three recoloured robots. Not remembering that robots were weak against Thunder, we decided this was a prime time to drop the upgraded Twincast: with the help of the Twin Stars, the twins could Twincast “Double Meteor” instead of the already impressive Flare. Double Meteor was a spell that otherwise only existed in Golbez and Fusoya’s cinematic attempt to kill Zemus at the end of FFIV, so we were happy to get a shot at it. It crushed the robots but caused them to form into a new recolour: a “Deus Ex Machinae.” Edge appeared and joined us. We were about to cast Twincast again but delayed to let Palom cast Curaga, and while she was doing that we randomly cast Thundaga with her brother. That reminded us of the weakness and let him just wipe the floor from there. Actually, the game’s funny about robots being weak against Thunder. With a few exceptions, they almost seem more weak to it than Water enemies are… but maybe we just weren’t running into enough late-game Water enemies?
While Kyle and I forgot to go looking for it, the Tower of Babil also happens to house an easter egg: this game’s Developer’s Room! It’s… not even hard to find? The room features staff for the entire Complete Collection, a good way to group that all together considering the Developer’s Rooms in FFIV and TAY were already stocked!
We went into the old control room and found that it was a) intact and b) empty. How Rydia had gotten past us during a fight with giant robots on a bridge, I will never know. With only one obvious direction to go, we headed on to where we had fought Dr. Lugae. There was Rydia, but Edge, who must have been looking closer at the real Rydia than Cecil had been during the events of FFIV (*cough*), noticed she was only a convincing fake! Well that’s one way to explain the strange behaviour. The fake Rydia, now talking in jerking syllables, sent the Eidolons after us, one by one. Why they obeyed her, I don’t know. Aren’t these thinking beings, who should know Rydia and even the party personally by now, and should know this imposter isn’t who she claims she is?
The Eidolons were no real trouble, except for Titan, as Porom still wasn’t a high enough level to cast Float. We managed to beat them all before they completed their full attacks (the ones that would have mimicked the actual summon from the player’s point of view). The only exception to this was Titan, though in using his special attack, we discovered it did almost half the damage of his standard Quake spell. So strange! First Zeromus’ Meteor and now this! I’m not upset, but I am confused. Attempts to hit “Rydia?” failed, even after Titan was dead, so she summoned Bahamut next (Edge says that this makes her “stronger than the original” but I can’t imagine how). We couldn’t hit Bahamut either, so Kyle healed the party up to brace against Mega Flare, which dropped them all to the red through automatic scripting. Just then, the real Rydia arrived, once again preceded by her signature Mist Dragon. This attack apparently snapped Bahamut to his senses and he left.
Now by our side, real Rydia cursed about “them” using her friends the Eidolons this way (Ed. which makes no sense, as Rydia has no evidence there is more than one person involved at this point). Following her speech, we took on the fake Rydia with real Rydia’s help. The fake Rydia proved capable of using powerful spells on her own, like Meteor. Once we discovered that the fake, too, was weak against Thunder (*cough*robot*cough*), the fight was over. As small bridging storylines go, it was a fair Final Boss fight in terms of variety, but was not particularly challenging.
The finale cut very, very suddenly from scene to scene, and all the cuts were just as jarring as the scenes in Fabul from before. The fake vanished and reappeared in the Tower’s (now empty) multi-Crystal chamber that Golbez had been using. There, it collapsed on a platform. Next, the ending took the party safely home to Baron. Didn’t even go looking for the robot, did you guys? Still haven’t learned to check the damned bodies! Cecil talked to Rosa at her bedside, oblivious to the obvious. She filled him in about her pregnancy, and he was soon stumbling into his own throne room with the news. It was absolutely hilarious: the way he acted like the concept of pregnancy was completely alien to him. Personally, we were joking that managed to take off his armour to get to “this point,” (ahem) even if it was between games. But heck, since he seems to have been using his heaven-sent Light sword as a doorstop in favour of some Mythril placeholder, maybe he just lost his welded-on armour somewhere?
Despite Cecil having no trouble naming little Ursula earlier in the game, when Palom mentioned that Rosa and he need to think of names, the music suddenly cut out. It then began to dramatically swell into Prologue, the Final Fantasy series’ main theme, as Cecil continued to stammer, as though the baby’s name would be of great significance to veterans of The After Years. We’ll see about that.
The final shot, post-credits, was of Kain, who seems to have spent the past year staring out across the same hill where we left him at the end of the original game. There, he heard a voice calling to him, and the Interlude ended. With that, we called it a night. There’s no more significant a way to end a gaming session than the end of a game, even a short one like the Interlude.
After we were done with the game for the day, Kyle noticed thought of something nice: despite our jokes, Cecil actually seems to be the happiest, and certainly the most vocationally successful, of the Final Fantasy leads we’re aware of. He’s just ahead of, or at least on par with, Firion the snake lover, who isn’t a King but is certainly seems to have ended the game personally content and with a good career. While The After Years might yet ruin this for poor Cecil, it’s interesting to see how the series’ characters took an emotional nosedive in the upcoming games.
Ed. It’s at this point in the original blog where I predicted TAY would take only two full-length sessions for Kyle and I, which is just hilarious.