With Dion revived, we all bundled into the Talon and hit the Unit X-Plane to travel to Pureland, hoping to chase after the team that had somehow invented the Unit on their own without leaving a copy or schematics to make a new one and yeah, I’m going to keep complaining about that. Before we left, we flew around for a bit, Kyle commenting that the Talon was too shitty to even fly over mountains with its two engines. He must have been thrilled, then, when we hit X-Plane and arrived in Pureland, only to be informed that Units X-Plane and Hover had broken, meaning that the Talon not only couldn’t fly over mountains, but that it couldn’t fly over water. Truly we were living the airship dream.
(I’m not certain why they break X-Plane as well. It wouldn’t have been so bad to teleport back to the original world and then back to this starting point in Pureland. It’s not like this game is so advanced that we’d expect dialogue on the original world to change up to match recent events. I mean, the Elder in Dharm was still talking about Lara coming to stay with him!)
Dion, who had fallen behind in levels anyways, left our party to go looking for the advance party. This curiously meant that he was willing to leave fate of his foster sister to us instead of taking it into his own hands. He then boarded a ship in the town of Darius (a name you can encounter in only one place in the game, and not within the town itself!) and was immediately cut off from us by a freak storm. “Strange weather we’re having,” remarked a townsperson. “We can’t use Float or Dive to travel anymore.” You know, it’s interesting that all Purelanders are implied to have those spells, but it’s so obviously forced that the game is trying to bottleneck us now that we’ve got our new airship, that I just can’t appreciate it! At least the Talon still has guns to shoot wandering monsters, as it taxis along the prairies like the world’s dumbest-looking tank.
We headed to another town to the southwest (after buying a few new items and chatting with the Purelanders about how to upgrade a ship they know perfectly well exists entirely to destroy them) and found that agents of a Master, Fenrir, had raided the southwestern town. Why he did this, considering that no explanation is given and everything on this planet already belongs to the Masters, I don’t know. These agents were the BlackCats, a type of mummified cat that kept trying to feed us parts of its own body. We have never seen any monster in this trilogy drop so much meat, it kept going long after we left the region! The townspeople had been petrified, save one useful fellow who pointed us towards a catnip tree (yes, I’m positive that that is exactly how catnip grows) that we could raid after finding a break in a certain fence. Taking the catnip to Fenrir’s maze to the north (which, I learn to my surprise as I edit this, was built like a cat’s head!), Kyle searched the place and used the Catnip to sleep-bomb the guards into letting us past. There, we fought Fenrir, a no-eyed, multi-armed dog Master who mistook Arthur for advance party member Jupiah, who he claimed to have killed. We fought him… and quickly discovered that despite four trips to towns with shops since starting the game today, we had entirely forgot to pick up Elixirs, and had no way of reviving dead party members when Arthur dropped dead.
It was close, but Kyle scrounged through our inventory for explosives, managing to overcome Fenrir with just three party members (suck on that, doggy), and carried on to the back of the maze, where he freed Faye from prison. Faye’s character design is rather hard to make out on the GBA sprite, but thankfully we have the Japanese official art to tell us that she’s some sort of nun, carrying a Rune Axe. Despite this change in look, I find Faye to be a lot like Dion, mechanically. She has a few more spells, but that’s what I’d expect if Dion had joined at this point, and the next character will have a few more. As a result, I don’t have much to add about Faye. FFLIII could have probably benefited from a Beast Guest party member, or at least another Mutant than we’re going to see, but no.
Faye told us that the Masters were afraid of the Mystic Swords and were trying to use Faye to draw Xcalibr and presumably get rid of it: she suggested we grab Xcalibr ourselves, as soon as possible! Unfortunately for us, there was no sea route to the town housing the sword. While the storm that had followed Dion from Darius had passed, which allowed us to reach the trade town of Knaya, the storm had tracked Dion to the town of Porle like some kind of meteorological stalker. And this even though the actual route to Porle on the world map was essentially the same as the route back to Darius! Even weirder than this, but you’re able to Remote the Talon to your location at Knaya even though it can’t possibly get there on its own, and that’s not a glitch or oversight: the characters will bring it themselves as part of a plot point a little while down, and you need it to cross a certain upcoming obstacle!
In Knaya, there are four of every kind of shop (Weapon, Armour, Magic and Item), though one set is a duplicate and one of the others a copy of the shops in Darius – still, it’s a nice point in the game for spending. We finally grabbed our Elixirs, along with two copies of Cure A, the first group healing spell and first key in a plan that would make us functionally invincible. We had fallen behind a bit in weapons and armour but it ended up not hurting us all that much!
From there, we reached the one point in the game where you can follow two distinct, mandatory branches of plot, and went the easier route (“easier,” not “easy.” This may be one of the generally harder parts of the game if you don’t know what to expect). This route took us to a mountain, where we had already been told we would find Buzi, one of the original Talon crewmen (we had previously met Jaha, the Talon’s live-in armourer, who had turned us down on the basis that he had money to make selling armour to a king. As Kyle put it, you have to be sure you’ll be financially secure after you save the world, you know?). Somehow our informant knew Buzi would be here, even though he had only come for a meeting that just happened to be in process when we arrived. Sure.
As we climbed the mountain, we found Unit Missile, a weapon for the Talon, and a Cool medal, which would make its wearer strong against Fire. Giving the Cool to Gloria and an Ice Shield from Maitreya’s mountain to Curtis for similar reasons, we climbed to the peak. There, we found Buzi talking to the Master, Guha: a ghost-shaped ball of flesh and mouths, who refused to end the war with the other World. When he threatened Buzi, our characters jumped in the way and took the full brunt of his FireX spell, which would have vaporized us if not for the Fire resistance on our mutants and they prepped with Cure A (I’ve done this a few times. It’s an aggravating part of the game if you don’t know what you’re doing and especially if you’ve sold the Ice Shield). We were able to beat Guha with repeat casts of Cure A, often when we did not need it at the start of the turn, since we knew he would us it later. That’s about to become A Thing, I promise you. Killing Guha impressed Buzi, who rejoined us on the Talon, selling more or less the same Items all Item shops were selling at this point. Well, at least he’s convenient? On Buzi’s advice, as if we needed it, we also raided Guha’s treasure and stole the Durend, the second-weakest of the Mystical Swords.
I filled Kyle in on the plot of a certain side-trip here so we wouldn’t have to make it: Buzi advised we talk to Talon crewmember and spellcaster Shar, who was researching the magic used on the Purelanders to make them worship the Masters. In the English version, a key to this mystery is a Tablet held in an obvious place in a nearby ruin: in the Japanese, it’s a monster’s corpse he wants to use for an autopsy. While it’s clear why this was changed for censorship reasons, and we do lose a nice detail from the original where Shar obviously isn’t able to break the curse because the autopsy didn’t tell him enough, the Tablet still makes more sense for this research than a corpse. This is just another instance of Square forgetting that you’re fighting wandering monsters all the time. We have essentially been leaving a trail of Monster’s Corpses wherever we go, and asking us to grab one specific one without a reason why we have to grab the one is obvious fetch questing. Hell, I’d be glad to hand over some of the wandering monsters’ corpses! We’ve left so many behind us that it’s a miracle the Masters haven’t found us already!
We entered the shrine in question, as we could have done before the mountain, and found Dahak, a two-mouthed lizard beast, guarding the entrance. Dahak tried and succeeded in swallowing a few of us, but luckily you can fix that by giving the party member an Elixir. I guess he shits really fast, I don’t know. We beat Dahak, but he revealed that he was actually just an image bound to this place and could only be removed by a Sage. Luckily, Buzi is a Sage, and was able to clear the way, Dahak going somewhat eagerly. Also, apparently he was now dead. I don’t know what’s going on, maybe we killed him but his image remained?
Just inside (really: just inside, mere steps away) we found the Tablet/Corpse, and also stairs leading further into the building through a series of rough-hewn tunnels. We headed in and found our first Fire Crystal for spell fusion and also several waterfalls, which we dutifully plugged despite not knowing why we were doing so (even Shar doesn’t instruct you to plug the waterfalls if you give him the Tablet. He tells you what to do after this, sure, but not this in particular!). After finishing the job, we found we had completely dried out the nearby river. Well! If we could just do this back home on the World our job would already be done! Where are the sliding block puzzles? Let’s get on this!
Back in the world of plausible solutions, we headed north across the desert that lay on just the other side of the riverbed, where we ran into a wind storm we could only cross with the Talon (that said, I’ve seen this wind storm kick the Talon out. It can be so frustrating to get in I wouldn’t be surprised if some players thought it was impassable, they could have really done a much better job of programming it. At least Shar’s information will assure you that the Talon is the right choice). Unfortunately, the Talon is caught by the storm and pulled down and destroyed in front of the master of the storm: Jorgandr, who is one of the weaker Masters. He doesn’t even get boss music for reasons that will make a bit more sense down the page, but I’m speaking statistically. If not for Jorgandr’s immunity to all elements but Mystic (including basic damage!), he would be a complete waste of time. The only reason I’m treating him as a Master is because the Dwelgs, a group of Purelanders that you meet later in the game, clearly treat him with reverence. But anyway: monster who’s only really vulnerable to one element, for which you only have one viable source, the Durend. It turns things into an interesting fight damn fast.
Official Tally: Chaos (FFI), Dark Emperor, Light Emperor, Creator (Legends), Ashura (Legends II), Dunatis, Venus, Magnate, Odin, Apollo, Julius / The Mana Tree, Creator (After Years), Dogra, Ashura (Legends III), Chaos (Legends III), Maitreya, Fenrir, Guha, Dahak, Jorgandr.
This retrospective’s screenshots come from me! Enough talk! Have at you!