At this point in Ceodore’s Tale / the Prologue, we cut away from Ceodore and off to Baron. There, Kyle and I found Cecil just lounging on the throne when he got the news of monsters attacking. He ordered a nearby man to guard Rosa, as apparently we can’t get this guy on screen for five damn seconds before he tries to ditch his White Mage. To make matters worse, he handed her off to a guy who looked like Baigan. You know, that guy who betrayed him during the game, and then turned into a monster? Fool Cecil once, shame on Cecil. Fool Cecil twice: employment!
I should talk about our returning leads. It turns out that, during the intervening sixteen years since the Interlude, Cecil and Rosa have really let themselves go, not so much physically as statistically: both are now Level 15 (the Interlude was 30!), making them lower than their son after he had completed his first dungeon! And Ceodore was Level 1 not two days ago (and it would have been just one day if we hadn’t used a tent) so that’s a shocking lack of exercise. Cecil had a new “Kingsword,” probably inspired by King sword from FFIII, which was pretty killer for a start-of-game weapon but was nothing like his best weapons from the original. Cecil was still in his paladin kit, but had clearly aged, his blanche white hair having greyed to… uh… only vaguely light blonde. Did I mention he was blue-haired in the SNES version?
So like I said, Cecil ran off to defend the castle, refusing to let Rosa help because he’s an idiot, yes, but he’s consistent at it! He had not gone far when he started to encounter monsters in the halls. It took him a while to realize what we did at once: the monsters were all fliers, except for the Lamias that the game seems determined to squeeze into every story we’ve played so far. Firion jokes will be restrained, but I’m not sure I can hold them. The fliers make sense: the in-story explanation for the monster attack was that they had flown in from above… and yet there were Lamias! I’m not even sure what to say! One of them dropped a Lamia Rod, a weapon that would cast Osmose and is apparently very rare. Luckily, it ended up in Ceodore’s inventory, Interlude-style, but he didn’t really need the thing any more than Cecil.
Cecil rescued a random NPC woman in a tower, decided that was all the saving he needed to do for the day, and then returned to the Keep only to find one of his guards being nearly slaughtered by a Centaur Knight. We fought the thing and almost got trampled ourselves. Don’t bother healing the guy on the ground or anything, your Lordship.
A few screens later, Rosa caught up to Cecil despite his orders (don’t bother healing that guy on the ground or anything, your Ladyship) and essentially repeated the exact same argument she and Rydia made on the Lunar Whale in the original game, because I guess Cecil didn’t learn his lesson the last time? I have no idea. Rosa joined the party. So let’s talk about her. Well, at Level 15, most of her spells are gone, as is her bow again (why?). Also, Rosa had given up her sarcasm-quotes-“armour” from FFIV (bikini, with cloak), in exchange for a robe, and no, not a White Mage’s robe.
Together, our questionably happy couple headed off to a vacant platform at the top of baron, which was apparently our destination. Why? I… don’t know! I don’t even know what possessed Kyle to go there: there was really no plot impetus to do so, and we know the place was a dead end from FFIV.
Along the way, we met up with the now-grey Cid, who joined us as well. Fun fact: Cid is now 71, older than Tellah at Tellah’s time of death, making him the oldest human party member in Final Fantasy history! Like Ceodore, he was outfitted with foam equipment. Luckily (?), he had a new ability where he could risk a higher chance of missing in exchange for heavier damage. Not something we’d use often, but it was better than his original skill set from FFIV, aka the ability to cast Libra, a spell that costs 1 MP.
Once atop the platform, the party was audience to a dramatic sight: a second moon appeared in the sky again! …Wait, hold on. When were there ever not two? Kyle and I could only assume that the Lunarian moon disappeared in that terrible CGI sequence from the ending of FFIV, something it definitely failed to convey! But it’s hard to tell, because even this game is inconsistent about what was and wasn’t going on with the moons, and that only made things more confusing. The game then we cut to virtually everyone else in the cast, who was also catching this sight. This included several characters we either do not recognize in their aged-up forms, or who could have been all new! Also, it would also appear that the Elder of Mysidia had collapsed, although I’m not 100% sure about what I was seeing there.
Atop the tower, the party was attacked by several waves of the invaders, which seemed to be flying down from the double moons in a full invasion (there’s an iconic visual for you). This went on until Cecil saw fit to order Cid and Rosa away, asking Rosa to look after Ceodore. Why he planned to “go down with the ship” (Cid’s words), I don’t know. Wouldn’t it have made sense for him to fall back with the rest of forces? I don’t think one man could really stop or even distract an entire army of flying monsters, most of which would ignore him entirely by accident? The conceit of the heroic sacrifice really shouldn’t work in this context!
With his loved ones… safe, I guess (like I was saying at the end of the Interlude, Cecil is certainly rare in Final Fantasy protagonists in that he even has loved ones, but he’s always in a hurry to be rid of them!), Cecil looked up at the moons and saw Bahamut coming down. But unfortunately, our Rydia-lookalike friend from the Interlude was in control of Bahamut again. …annnnd why? Why did Bahamut take no safeguards against this? This is the first of several instances where the existence of the Interlude introduces plot holes. Would it have killed Square Enix to either add lines to this version of The After Years, or to simply make an Interlude that didn’t step on so many toes? Cecil and co. should have taken a look at the Rydia lookalike and taken steps over the course of 16 years to stop all of this from happening! Yet here we are, just running the same laps over again.
The lookalike, no longer looking exactly like Rydia but still similar (enough to be a sister, let’s say), had the Hallowed Father of the Eidolons wipe the floor with ~Level 17 Cecil, which seemed more or less inevitable. After this, we saw the Mysterious Girl in the Feymarch, confronting Leviathan and Asura, and turning them to stone. Last of all, the Tower of Babil began to glow. As you can imagine, things weren’t really going for the best, and the game used the player’s presumed familiarity with the FFIV world to show shit going down in detail, which was a nice and not exactly universal touch.
I believe this ended the original cell phone/WiiWare prologue chapter, with everything that follows belonging to the original “Ceodore’s Tale” chapter. In all releases from the Complete Collection on, the entire affair is known as “Ceodore’s Tale.”
Back with Ceodore, we found the airship had crashed, and Wedge and the other Red Wings died. Biggs lost his own life saving Ceodore’s, so naturally Ceodore kicked in with survivor’s guilt about his cowardice somehow having caused all of this. I don’t blame him for the guilt, I just think it’s ironic that he feels this way when his cowardice was actually the thing that kept him alive. Luckily, Biggs died in the slow dramatic way that gave him time to give a speech. In it, he told Ceodore that he was now the last of the Red Wings (having technically become a member on completing his trial) and so gave him his last orders: to reach Baron at any cost. Biggs’ insistence that Ceodore was the last of the Red Wings was also the chapter subtitle (“Last of the Red Wings”) and struck both of us as rather odd, as the Red Wings used to be a lot larger than just one ship’s crew. In fact, an NPC even said that the Red Wings were an entire fleet in this very game, as if to counter this assertion. An even LATER chapter has Ceodore insist that the Red Wings were just one group and probably are dead. I’m inclined to believe this as canon but the game probably should have picked some of its few remaining nits on this point. I’m sort of wondering if it was a poor localization? Whatever the case, Ceodore took his orders to heart.
Our young Red Wing left the crash site with his orders, but had not gotten far before he was ambushed by some very thorough monsters that I can only presume were looking for survivors. This pack included a Flame Hound, a mid-to-late game monster (and a Tower of Babil midboss in the Interlude). Being a mid-to-late game monster, this one trounced us, only for Ceodore to be rescued by the “Hooded Man.” That’s the only name we know the fellow by, even as I write this Journal entry (around mid-game). I have to give TAY credit: Kyle and I were willing to buy that this fellow was indeed a stranger for some time. However, after a while it occurred to me that this strange blonde man might just be Kain, though the game hasn’t admitted it yet. After all, we did run into him not far from Mount Ordeals. It’s the assumption Kyle and I are running with, and I have to tip my hat to the game for not blowing its surprise if we’re right. Guessing it when we did was just luck. However, since we’ve come to this conclusion, Not-Kain has only provided more evidence that he’s the missing Dragoon, so I feel fairly secure in our guess.
While we could have headed to Mount Ordeals (I think – who knows with these changed maps), we decided to play nice with the game and headed to Mysidia instead. We did not buy a thing while we were in town, since there was nothing worth buying… or so it seemed. As it turned out, just like in FFIV, Mysidia mostly stocks shops for party members and classes you’ll get a few minutes later.
While in town, we found that the Elder was sick and dying of old age. The nurse was happy to tell us this, and then to ask us not to tell anyone, like she just did, to strangers. Or at least we assumed we were strangers at first, but soon learned that the Elder was familiar with Ceodore, however he had nothing truly critical to say and directed us to his replacement. We also learned from local gossip that Palom had, as bragged, become the greatest Black Mage in the world, and that he was off in Troia on official business, though the people of Mysidia suspected he might be spending all his spare time hitting on the Troian women. Kyle and I wished we could have been there right then. They’d tear him apart, verbally or otherwise. It’d be hilarious.
Running the place in the Elder’s stead was none other than Porom, and wow, what a change. First off, she’s got pink hair, which neither version attempts to justify or explain. While all three games have gone to lengths to address that Porom is diligent and studious (and now as an adult, highly authoritative), I now have to incorporate “would dye her hair vibrant pink” into her character profile, and it’s an interesting change. Kyle and I ran some math later out of curiosity in the characters’ ages, and figured the twins had to be in their mid-twenties or even near thirty by our math (but hold that thought). This was shocking, as Square Enix is infamous for treating the early twenties as the age you stop being useful, though you can become useful again in your mid-forties if you try really hard.
Unfortunately for SE’s apparent enlightenment, Kyle and I had drastically overestimated the twins’ ages in the original game: we were figuring somewhere in the range of 7-11. It turns out they were actually five. They were five? No. No they were not. No. Young Rydia might have been as low as five, but not these two. Let me check Rydia’s age. She was certainly younger than them and… she was seven? I know I said “eight” in the FFIV journal but that’s before I learned the twins were five! I thought the twins were older than her, and that she was eight! Ugh, this is just off.
I’ll grant that the CGI intro does make the twins look 5, but they didn’t behave like five year olds, and what else do I have to work with? Five-year-old protagonists! I think you can see why Square Enix would think someone over 25 is “old.” Still, at 22, I bet you that Porom and her brother will be older than virtually every protagonist from FFs V through XII, and the rest of the TAY cast is even older, so these games are pretty irregular for the publisher. Add in XIII’s adult cast and the 2/3rds adult cast of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, and you have to wonder if Square Enix might be adjusting its infamous age bracket to match its aging, late-nineties fanbase.
I need to go clear my head. An era may be ending. G-give me a minute here.