Yes. “Kain’s” Tale. Definitely.
This was the first of the scenarios that requested save data from a previous playthrough, namely Ceodore’s Tale. Apparently, in the WiiWare release, these two versions merge or something to avoid this loading process, which was no doubt cumbersome, and also costs the player access to Ceordore’s bonus dungeon in replays, making the whole thing more than a little silly. Yet again, I’m glad we have the PSP version on-hand.
We joined up with Kain just at the tail-end of the Interlude, where he was hearing voices on Mount Ordeal (either that, or Kain’s been hearing voices for years and just ignored them until now). Not that the game says this is a flashback, so it can keep up its bluff that Kain is Kain and the Hooded Man is Some Random Guy. Kain was Level 30, same as when he joined up with Porom, and we took him to the monolith or whatever at the top of the mountain, only for him to find nothing. It took us a moment to realize we were supposed to just… leave the mountain, only for Kain to turn back and go back to the top. What’s all this running around for?
Kain went to the chamber where Cecil had spoken to his father and was soon faced by his own dark self. Has anyone not put the rest together yet? Well, just before the game can hammer it into your head, we cut ahead to Definitely-Not-Dark-Kain-Walking-Around-Autonomously in the present as he meets up with Porom in her tale, and then cut further ahead to him meeting the doppelganger in Mysidia. He followed her off into the Devil’s Path (where he was immune to the damaging squares that had hurt Ceodore. Jumping skills, I guess?). Despite apparently having taken a shine to Kain, the Rydia doppelganger refused to answer any questions and only asked a few of her own about Kain’s motives, which he largely refused to answer in turn. Once taken to the throne room in Baron, the doppelganger changed the deal, saying she would only let Kain have time with Cecil if he brought her all the remaining Crystals (remember, Palom was taken out in the middle of Porom’s Tale, so the bad guys already have the Earth Crystal). Kain trucked off to Fabul to steal Yang’s Crystal and make totally justified declarations about how evil he is, which we didn’t get to watch a second time.
Instead, we cut to the Hooded Man (definitely not Kain) and Ceodore entering Mist en route to the mountains for climbing. We didn’t buy much or anything in Mist, as I recall, though we did visit the grave of Rydia’s mother so that the Hooded Man could pay his respects. We then climbed over the mountain, which included one point where Ceodore pointlessly falls down a gap. I’m not sure what this added but realism (and sure, that’s fine), but it was so short that one has to question. Kyle and I both figured it was going to be used as another excuse to hint at the Hooded Man’s jumping abilities, but nope.
At the other end of the climb (thanks, walkthroughs, for reminding me of the exact order of things as I write this more than a month after the fact), we saw Dark Kain’s airship en route to Damcyan. Once again, Kyle and I watch in astonishment as our heroes try to outrun the thing, and by “outrun” I mean cover the same stretch of ground, on foot, but with the addition of going to the nearby town, have two scripted nights’ rest, go through the entire Underwater Cavern (again: one of the longest dungeons in the game) and get there just behind the airship. Oh my god I hate the writing so much right now.
(Now, it’s possible that Kain was supposed to be shown going to Fabul on the airship at this point in the game, and they actually caught up with him as he arrived in Damcyan later in the story, but we’re still talking some wonky data here. Remember! You can outpace an airship on the road to Fabul and that road’s covered with trees.)
We briefly cut back to Kain fighting himself on the mountain and losing, and saw how Dark Kain took Kain’s place and since that’s done, can I please stop typing this man’s name? It’s lost all meaning. Kain Kain Kane Kain Kain!
We travelled from there to Kaipo, where just like with Cecil and Rydia, we were attacked by Baron Soldiers in the night, due to the time loop or whatever’s going on. We fought them off (it turned out they were for-real zombified, not just hypnotized-zombified) and then made our way, inevitably, to the Underwater Cavern. *sigh* This is the fifth time between TAY and FFIV. Even if you liked the dungeon this is too much. Part-way through, at the first save point, we were forced to rest (this is, I should note, only like two rooms into the dungeon. I know with their existing material, but sheesh). While we were asleep, or so, Dark Kain did attack Damcyan, and confronted Edward. There’s going to be a few intercuts here, so let’s clean things up with Ceodore: on the far side of the dungeon, we re-fought the squid boss in the same fashion Palom and Porom did, and then arrived in Damcyan’s territory.
For Dark Kain’s side, he threatened Edward, who refused to step down, and then attacked him. Suddenly, Rosa appeared: this was where she was hiding. But Dark Kain is a manifestation of all of Kain’s less savoury impulses, so he shouted that he was going to kidnap Rosea other such skeevy things. When Kain’s soldiers came to back him up, Edward decided to unleash his trump card: the Carnelian Signet from Cecil. Despite this surprising and brilliant move (Edward is now my favourite), Dark Kain attacked Edward again and made off with the Crystal and Rosa. Apparently, if you listen to Rosa’s protests while controlling Dark Kain and stop attacking, you get a game over! Huh! Unless this walkthrough writer is just talking about Edward killing you very slowly with his harp…
Heading out with Rosa and Crystal in tow, Dark Kain is just in time to be spotted by Ceodore and not!Kain, who see him get jumped by Rosa’s fellow refugee: Cid in the Enterprise. Cid’s attack only succeeds in slowing Dark Kain down (oh, who am I kidding, he’s probably going at normal speeds) and Cid himself is forced to the ground. For some reason, he goes into Damcyan to talk to Edward, where Ceodore convinces him to go straight back out? Cid also joined the party at an upgraded level from when we last saw him in the intro. Edward “joined the party,” which was a way of saying he followed us but did not actually join us, probably thanks to limitations of the original cell phone and WiiWare formats (it wouldn’t have made sense to load Edward’s data from his chapter if you hadn’t completed it or didn’t own it).
The game then started cutting between our two at-odds parties yet again as Dark Kain arrived at Baron and the others pushed through just behind him, to catch up in the room where Palom and Porom had almost died. There, Rosa caught sight of the Hooded Not!Kain and revealed that he was… some guy named Stan! Yeah, but seriously, he was really Kain and he and Dark Kain get into two fights, both of which you can lose if I’m not mistaken, and the latter of which was actually quite likely (something like TPK + 2). Kain pulled out a lance from nowhere in the second half of the fight when he regained his Jump technique. The sequence of events was actually a little wonky: the Hooded Figure was not referred to as “Kain” until the second fight, despite being unmasked by Rosa prior to the fight. I guess he had to come to terms with himself… except that’s not what the preceding scene was about! That’s what the following scene is about!
Kain accepted that his friend-stabbing, Crystal-stealing, friend-kidnapping/rape-threatening Dark Self was a part of his personality, however deservedly buried, and as the personality was re-absorbed and put properly in line, Cecil’s father spoke one last time (from what we’ve seen, at least) and Kain became a Holy Dragoon, which is just like a normal Dragoon but with a few Holy-type Lances and some White Magic, including Haste, a spell that almost no one else seems to have for some reason. Not that there was time to enjoy the promotion, as the party went in after Cecil, and started the world’s longest “short” conversation…
But that would have to wait.
Kyle would never forgive me if I didn’t start this off with a hearty “I’M GOLBEZ!,” Kyle’s favourite way of announcing the character. He’s big, he’s brash, and he’s about to take over the narrative just like he likes.
Moments into starting the chapter, we learn that “Magus” is Golbez! Or so we learn as we start up this chapter, featuring the once-armoured warrior walking being woken from what must have been a lovely dream of fighting his brother. Like a tired man lurching to his feet to answer a midnight doorbell, Golbez crawled out of his hibernation pod and began to climb the original final dungeon in reverse to find the source of whatever had woken him, eventually discovering that monsters were working their way back into the dungeon from above.
Oneinitial nice discovery about Golbez was that he was drastically overlevelled compared to the others’ start point (but gained few levels during his chapter, giving him only a small lead). He also had >3000 HP, but has barely gained any since. In terms of gameplay, Golbez was like a mix between Black Mage and Warrior, able to use most weapons and most Black Spells competently, though perhaps not as well as Palom. His initial lack of armour (as per the sprite) was a little disheartening: indeed, this chapter gave him so little equipment and forced him to fight such defensively strong monsters that he essentially was just a Black Mage in the end, too. So long as we’re talking about his capabilities, he also had the ability to Taunt enemies to attack him as opposed to other party members (great with his high HP, useless considering he was alone for some time), and another to cause Paralysis with some regularity against non-boss enemies.
Golbez’s walk to the surface was about as boring as you’d expect, considering we had to tromp through the final dungeon backwards to do it and to make things even more dull it wasn’t fully stocked, with monsters only showing up once at set points instead of everywhere (though I’m glad they did it because the opposite would be worse in a different direction). Up in the Crystal Palace, he met up with Fusoya and they decided to go investigate on the surface, which we had never had to explore on foot in FFIV. Not far from the face on the moon/Lunar Ruins bonus dungeon, we found another meteor impact site, with the exact same layout of the one on the Blue Planet save for the bottom-most section, which linked the side that resembled Yang/Gekkou’s dungeon to the side that resembled Edward’s into one extra-long dungeon. Well that’s highly improbable.
There, we found another of the doppelgangers, this one wielding Asura. And she was a colossal pain, because Golbez and Fusoya weren’t fooling around, and for the first time, we were supposed to be doing our best to win against one of these doppelgangers instead of automatically lose. I think we died three times, until we went up Edward’s side of the dungeon to find a Diamond Armlet, which made one of our party members strong against the doppelganger’s Thunder attacks (and I think we might have found another piece of Diamond equipment in the Subterrane). What is the deal with Thunder and us not having the resistances? This is what kicked our asses in KH1’s Atlantica, too! To our surprise, our victory actually did end with the doppelganger’s death, though Asura remained in the power of the bad guys. Yeah, I know, I could be pretending that the doppelgangers are just one person and she somehow recovers, which is what the game pretends, but why bother?
Deciding that this means trouble for the whole moon and especially the Eidolons, our party of two decided to check in on Bahamut. Since the FFIV party gutted the Behemoths that used to live her, Bahamut seems to have replaced them with a series of “Count Malboros” (advanced Malboro recolours are often referred to be feudal titles, though the Count Malboro was new to the series when The After Years released it). These things were not messing around, and took some of our heaviest spells (and Fusoya and Golbez have the heaviest spells in the game) to crack them. Frankly, we should have retreated before the third Count Malboro and even prepared to do so if we ran into teh doppelganger when we tried to talk to Bahamut, because we would have had no chance. Fortunately, we did a test encounter and there we no boss fight: Bahamut was just petrified like the Eidolons in the Feymarch, though his unexplained aides seemed fine. Seeing this, it finally occurred to our heroes that they had left the other Lunarians and the Crystals undefended and so headed back to the Crystal Palace.
When we got there, we found the Crystals themselves petrified, though they could still partially speak, squeezing out disjointed shards of unpleasant (or at least, confusing) prophecy. We fought the doppelganger again, this time with Leviathan at her side, only for another clone to show up after the fight and head into the dungeon on its own. As we traversed the final dungeon of the original game a second time, the game would cut away to the Crystals shattering behind us. Sadly, the game had not improved on the original in that it still wasn’t clear why this was a bad thing: the entire thing seems to be operating under the same “When Deus Ex Machina is not under the player’s direct control it is a bad thing” premise of the original game, with the same level of explanation. I believe Kyle and I have a good operating theory as to what the Crystals cracking represented now (I’ll explain in the final chapter), but that’s not the issue at hand: Fusoya and Golbez simply seemed rushed as though the decay and collapse of the Crystals was bad in-and-of-itself, as though it were some kind of timeline, but offered no explanation as to why. At the time we had to make up our own theory, assuming that the Crystals were the only thing protecting the Lunarians. That might still be true.
When we were almost at the Lunarians’ chamber, the final Crystal broke, and we were confronted by the worst possible thing: Zeromus was revived by the doppelganger as “Zermous’ Malice.” Golbez and Fusoya showed good priorities by plunging straight in, hoping to save the rest of the universe some trouble when Zeromus was probably at his weakest. This fight was rough, but as it was weeks ago and we didn’t actually lose, so I’m afraid I don’t remember many details, save that Z’s Malice did have Black Hole (a skill of Zeromus’ that removed buffs and debuffs) but used it so intermittently that we actually risked the odd buff or two. Once we had done enough damage, Fusoya realized it wasn’t going to be enough, and prayed for the Lunar Whale so that he could Teleport Golbez to it and save his life from the Malice, as Fusoya was left behind, possibly to his death. In the Whale, Golbez had a number of dreams where we controlled his armoured self in every one of his encounters with Cecil, from the most recent to the his triumphant, earliest entries, Golbez’s guilt mounting with each memory…