Final Fantasy IV: The After Years – The Immortal Slog

The party selection begins!

The Crystals – Part 2

This chapter began with us in control of Ceodore, but a quick chat with anyone soon gave us the option to swap party members. We could use anyone from the previous chapters, with Cecil joining us anew at Level 40, far above the rest of the party… and useless. Cecil’s stats had been floored by his mental state, and were kept bolstered only by his top-tier equipment, though they were still below the intended level. This put us in an awkward state. We did not want to check ahead in the walkthroughs, but the Marathon’s rules state that we have to check ahead to make sure we don’t lose any optional party members.  As a result, we knew a secret: we would need a party of Cecil, Golbez, Ceodore and Rosa to keep Golbez alive past a certain point of this dungeon, or Golbez would die.  Cautious about this but not sure when it would actually happen, we made sure to use this exact party for most of the dungeon, including Cecil.  This was a terrible mistake.

To fill the final party slot, we drafted Kain after some deliberation. When we finally did notice how poorly Cecil was doing, we considered swapping him for Luca (my choice) or Edge (Kyle’s), but never did it. We were just too nervous about losing Golbez.  This might surprise some people, but it actually took us a while to notice that Cecil was even doing sub-par!  This was because Rydia had been doing very poorly during The Gathering Tale (and would continue to do so until she got her -aga spells) that Cecil’s pathetic stats almost seemed half-decent in comparison. Seriously, what was wrong with Rydia in this game?

Valis has assembled a high-speed, low-defence party with a number of powerful attack Bands, as well as the ultimate buff Band, Pure White Magic.  This Band uses Porom, Rosa and Leonora to imbue the entire party with every buff effect in the game, in exchange for a hefty 99 MP.

After selecting our party, Kyle and I stopped for the night. Unfortunately, it took two more sessions just to get through this part of the Megadungeon, and Part 3 was still in front of us.  According to the clock, we’d been in the final chapter (plus The Gathering Tale) for approaching 15 hours. This dungeon accounts for at least 10 of that so far. It’s so big the cell phone release had to split it down the middle, between the “True Moon’s Subterrane” or so the walkthroughs call it, and the “Depths.” It is, without a doubt, the longest mandatory single dungeon in the entire series, only potentially toppled by random dungeons like FFX-2: Last Mission, and it’s no surprise that the 3D re-releases shrunk down the second half.  But first things first.

The  first half of the dungeon is structured like this: first, cross the surface of an unfamiliar moon to the entrance, where the doppelganger taunts you. Go through the old final dungeon from FFIV for a half dozen floors, whereupon you enter a new area. Throughout the dungeon, you will find several save points with cutscenes attached to them where characters bond, often gaining Bands. Some of these scenes are happy, some sad, some silly, but all fairly nice to see (by the way, all of these scenes take place when the party sleeps for the night, so this dungeon must be taking weeks to traverse as the moon gets closer and closer to the Blue Planet). While the extra save points are always a relief, there are also a number of Crystals, which you often must examine to continue on. These Crystals resurrect dead bosses at the cost of the Crystal itself (this probably explains why the Crystals on the moon broke: the doppelgangers needed the Crystals’ power combined to revive Zeromus’ Malice). Some of these Crystals lock the doors leading on, meaning you have to clear them, but we did most of the Crystals either way because all of them also drop new equipment, which was awesome. Every once and a while, we’d find an “elevator” we could use to swap out the party or return to the Whale, were a Hummingway would sell us basic necessities, though the only status effect clearing item available at the shop was the expensive cure-all “Remedy” item.

Now here’s where we hit something of an editorial snag.  Some of the upcoming parts of the game are my favourite parts of the game, indeed some of my favourite Final Fantasy moments overall. But the trouble is that I wrote this original entry years ago, when the PSP version was new, and resources online for it and the WiiWare version were sparse as hell.  I’m not exaggerating in saying the FFWiki was actively updating with TAY information as-I-watched, and wouldn’t finish updating Interlude information for a year later.  Suffice to say, my ability to check online to confirm that actual order of events was slim to none, and this section was and probably is still full of errors and very short on detail, as I was writing it only after we had completed the first half of the dungeon (at least three weeks later, probably more).

Unfortunately, this revised entry is already an hour late to press, so it’s going to have to go up with only a few obvious corrections.  For anyone else who loves these scenes as much as me, I’m sorry.  Maybe I’ll be able to improve the entry in the future.

One of the first campfire conversations showed Ursula talk to Ceodore like a childhood friend despite their lack of interaction at any point earlier in the game. Given that they’re godsiblings according to the Interlude, this is a damn shame, especially considering the quality of the scene.  Ursula essentially tells him to buck up, that he’s grown up and should keep doing so, but it’s a lot sweeter than I’m describing – and shockingly genuine given their lack of previous interaction in-game.

The first resurrected boss was Baigan, the monstrous general from Baron in FFIV. His Reflect was a bit more of a pain than it was in the original, but nothing we couldn’t handle.  The second scene that followed was of Edge scolding his ninjas for coming with him, but allowing them to carry on so long as they made sure they all got out alive.

The second boss fight was against the Magus Sisters, who put up a fight but we were able to easily divide and conquer since we knew which one of them had the Revive spell this time around. The boss after that was Dr. Lugae (the mutated form) and his Frankenstein ripoff. The mutated Lugae was much less generous with healing spells this time, but we took them out at about the same time to limited consequences. Palom and Porom talked about Palom’s wish to be a sage and Porom teased him about Leonora, restoring their Twincast band, which had been lost after their childhood flashback (still irritated about how the story is all about Palom and almost has nothing to do with Porom, though…).

The next boss was the King and Queen of Eblan, who again refused to fight us (uh… good pair to resurrect, space doppelgangers!). Luca and Rydia had a talk after that, which led partially up to an upcoming set of scenes with Luca and Cid.  These personal chats were some of my favourite parts of this entire game, but the original blog entry did an awful job of covering them.  I’m afraid my summaries will be brief here, as well.  Let’s see… Luca gives up on pursuing Palom and encourages Leonora to do so instead when she finds she’s interested, and instead talks to Cid about growing up and growing old. Cid mentions to Luca that he thinks this moon is a vehicle – a space ship like the Lunarian’s – and she agrees. Ceodore tries to get to know his uncle, sort of. Harley tells Edward how much he inspires her and his people in both his music and leadership. And last of all: Cecil’s condition has not improved.

Not long after the “fight” with Edge’s parents, the dungeon changed to several elementally themed floors, each manned by the respective Archfiend. None were that much trouble (I can’t imagine how one fights Barbaricca without Kane or Zangetsu, however), though not as blown-away easy as they were in the original run. Apparently, with Edge in the party, one can duel Rubicante one on one, but we didn’t bother as he had fallen behind in levels. That done, we felt we were almost at the end of the game, not knowing about the Depths half of the Megadungeon. This was good, as Cecil was starting to tell on us. You can laugh at our mistake in taking him, it’s okay.

Now at this point, Kyle and I had believed that the Crystals we were finding in the dungeon – the ones reviving the bosses from FFIV – were the eight Crystals from the blue planet.  After all, the doppelgangers seemed to have no other reason to steal them. But before too long after Kyle and I came to this conclusion, we found a ninth Crystal, which unleashed the CPU and its two cores. Where did the Crystal come from? We found even more Crystals after that, making me wonder if the game designers even remembered that the doppelgangers stole so much as a pebble. As for the CPU: the smaller cores had been greatly improved in speed and effectiveness, making the fight the challenge it was probably meant to be in the first place (indeed, I screwed up by accidentally destroying the Attack Core thanks to a poorly placed cursor. The fight essentially restarted after the CPU restored both cores and the Defence broke out the healing spells).

In the next room we reached our breaking point in a sense. Leviathan and Asura were there, but there was no way for us to rescue them without Rydia in the party, despite Kyle’s dogged handling of the Asura fight to the bitter end. We reloaded a save on my insistence and started grinding to raise Rydia’s level, and we finally caved and took Cecil out of the party. It had to be done.

Impatient, we soon struck out against the royal couple again despite Rydia being something like 5 levels behind the others. We restored Asura and then Leviathan, though we probably should have done so in the opposite order.  You see: the first monarch you rescue is summoned once for free during the fight with the second, and Asura appeared to heal us at a time when we were fully healed. Not that we didn’t appreciate the gesture. Both were incredibly difficult battles, even the often-pathetic Leviathan, which we took as a sign that we were underlevelled, despite later evidence showing we weren’t (this was probably because the two of them were bonus bosses in the original FFIV and so were simply extra-complex fights no matter the intended level here in TAY).

With the royal couple back on our side, we found ourselves at Golbez’s big moment. Apparently, if Cecil and Golbez aren’t in the party during this sequence, you lose at once, which I hope the game telegraphs somehow, or at least explains in hindsight. Who knows how it works? But if you go into the battle with only Cecil and Golbez and skip out on Rosa and Ceodore, Golbez will die.  We got the ideal party ready.

If you don’t fight Dark Cecil with at least Cecil and Golbez in the party, things don’t turn out for the best.

The final boss of this original-release-episode/half of the megadungeon was Cecil’s Dark Knight self. Golbez saved his brother from the Dark Knight’s attack, and Rosa and Cecil subsequently saved him (it’s not clear why Ceodore has to be there, but he does). With Cecil back to his senses and armed with a Holy sword, and Kain also using a Holy spear at the time, we were easily capable of dispatching the Dark Knight. With Cecil back in his prime, we noticed something odd: he had gained one level in our party as we travelled, but most of the party was in that exact neighbourhood. One can conclude that he was set at Level 40 because that was the level the rest of the party would be at at the point he was ready to be used. This was backed up further by the default levels I’m reading you get for certain characters if you don’t import them.  So we… weren’t… underlevelled?

So: Cecil has his mind and powers back, and was now a leading party member. We took a look at our resources and decided to keep him in the party, instead swapping out Ceodore (despite his multitude of Bands) for Rydia, hoping to give her another chance, though we would regret it for quite a while.  If you’re curious about the numbers, I can give you an example: by the time she did get her -aga spells, her summons (including Leviathan) were doing a fifth the damage of her -aga spells. When we last left off, her Summons still sometimes do a fifth the damage. I can’t figure out why and it’s really bugging me.

Prev: Final Fantasy IV: The After Years – Dazed and Underlevelled
Next: Final Fantasy IV: The After Years – Passing the torch to burn the next generation

Screenshots in this Journal come from Valis77’s longplay of the 3D version of FFIV:TAY on the PC, available from World of Longplays (YouTube).

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