Before we returned to FFVI for our final session, Kyle did some grinding, encountering something entirely by accident. Normally we avoid encountering bosses or story content when we aren’t together, but Kyle accidentally did his grinding near the home of the new-to-the-GBA Esper Cactuar, and accidentally acquired it. The Cactuar is a Final Fantasy staple designed after the Japanese Haniwa figure (you might recall me mentioning the Haniwa towards the end of the FFLII journal). They were first included in FFVI and this Esper seems to have been added to celebrate that, earned by defeating a “Gigantuar” after fighting enough of the smaller ones. Besides their iconic “jogging” appearance, the Cactuar are known for their special attack, 1000 Needles, which does exactly 1000 damage every time, which can be devastating or a joke, depending on the condition of your party. The Cactuar Magicite taught Hastega, which more than justified its inclusion in the party.
Kyle’s main concern while grinding had been to remove the curse on the Cursed Shield, a special item we had found in Narshe. This famous item powers down the user (and is useless as a piece of armour), but after being used in a startling 256 battles, it will transform into the best shield in the game, the Paladin’s Shield, which among other benefits can teach Ultima like an Esper! As you can imagine, we were rather powerful once this was over, but Kyle didn’t quite use everyone in his grind, as you’ll see.
Wanting to get the game over with so we could move on to other things, Kyle and I turned to a walkthrough to finish our collection of Espers and, as it happened, party members (despite having already reunited the original party…). Our first stop was to go to the Coliseum, where we could find another magicite that was added in the GBA version. Kyle had already completed the first step in this process during his grind session: he bought the Excalipoor from FFV at the Auction House for a good chunk of change. By putting this up for wager, we attracted the attention of our good, dimension-hopping buddy, Gilgamesh, who interrupted the actual fight. Gilgamesh’s arrival prompted the game to put aside the Coliseum’s mechanics, which typically involved auto-battling, so that the entire party could engage him normally. The fight went quickl. It’s possible that Gilgamesh is a difficult boss normally and Kyle’s grinding put us a head above… though frankly I doubt it, as his stats aren’t honestly that great, and he was probably calibrated to fight players coming much earlier in the World of Ruin.
As a magicite, Gilgamesh was special, teaching the Quick spell, which gave you extra turns! He also taught an entirely new spell to the GBA version, Valor, which causes your next attack to do triple damage. Kyle and I equipped Gilgamesh in a hurry, rationalizing that we’d get a lot of mileage out of Quick, but we ultimately forgot it existed and very nearly never used it at all!
After the fight, Kyle and I considered sticking around at the Coliseum to earn more prizes, but were couldn’t make head nor tail of its ultra-complicated system, even with the help of a guide, so headed back out on our own.
Our next stop was to get a party member we had entirely missed, and it’s no surprise that we had. The first step in the process is practically arcane: you have to go to a seemingly uninhabited island, and then encounter a special monster, the Zone Eater. Now, as it happened, we had done this in the previous session, but we had quickly killed the monster, thought nothing of it, and returned to our airship. Instead, you’re supposed to allow the Zone Eater to swallow your party with a special attack, at which point a new dungeon begins inside its belly!
This was a weird one, and I say that even though the Marathon has seen Kyle and I inside of other living things through the entire Trauma Centre series, as well as no less than three times in Final Fantasy alone (the Leviathan in FFII, Hein’s tree/castle in FFIII, Ki’s body in FFLII, not to forget the recently-living Shedding of Jorgandr in FFLIII). But while Trauma Centre gave us a run for its money with it many and frightening GUILT and Stigma infections, nothing stacks up to a pan-dimensional worm with guards in its stomach, pinwheel rooms, bouncy chests, and best of all, Gogo. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Guards I’m referring to are a set of soldiers patrolling bridges (yes, inside a living thing), that you have to stealth past them to get through. You’ve got to appreciate FFVI’s willingness to be surreal from time to time. We had to do this numerous times, partially because the iOS controls are just slippery enough to cause trouble, and also because we wanted to get the Relic that would let Relm use Control instead of Sketch. Past that was a room where the ceiling deliberately crashed into the ground, threatening to instantly kill the party, which unfortunately happened, forcing us to do the stealth section again!
After this came a maze of bridges and chests that your party used as springboards (yup, this is definitely weirder than even the Trauma Team finale) and finally Gogo. If you read the FFV journal or played FFV itself, you might remember the Famed Mimic Gogo, the boss that guarded the Mime class. Some have suggested that Gogo in FFVI is, in fact, Gogo from FFV, doing a cross-dimensional tour like Gilgamesh, while others feel this is just another one of Final Fantasy’s references, like Lone Wolf. It’s hard to say, because Gogo is barely explained in-plot. It’s been suggested by the developers that there was going to be more of a build-up to their appearance, including the multiple identities of Siegfried. You see, some fans think that the fake Siegfried was supposed to be Gogo all along! Unfortunately, without an in-game or even out-of-game confirmation, we’re just left to fill in the gaps, and to forget about Siegfried entirely!
As you might expect, Gogo is a Mime, though what that means without the comforts of FFV’s job system is a little hard to explain. Essentially, like an FFV Mime, Gogo can mimic the previous command in battle. They can also equip commands from a repurposed screen on the submenu, consisting of every other character’s special commands, excusing Trance! Gogo can even use relics to use the upgraded forms of commands (and must – Gogo can’t equip, say, Control directly). Unfortunately Gogo cannot use Espers, like Umaro, but can use any spells already earned by allies, so who cares?
Our next stop was to track down the bonus boss, Deathgaze. You may remember this foe from TAY, and how it flees from battle but retains damage between battles. The biggest trouble with finding it here in FFVI was the fact that it hides in a specific “square” of the sky. You may realize the problem with this: the smartphone version doesn’t use squares! As a result, we followed advice online to twist our ship into a specific angle and fly around the world, hoping to spiral it on every possible point. Simply finding it took numerous tries and was a huge pain, so we were thankful when we finally managed to kill Deathgaze in only two battles. I won’t apologize for any grinding if it gets us away from tedium like that. The prize for beating Deathgaze was nothing less than Bahamut as a Magicite, who gives HP +50% and teaches Flare at x2, an excellent gold medal.
The funny thing is: we had a great plan for taking Deathgaze down during the second battle involving weakening Locke and using his special Valiant Knife (as it gets stronger when he is low on HP), but Deathgaze must have lost too much HP during the first battle so we didn’t get the chance!
Our next stop was the last dungeon we had missed in our exploration the previous day. I don’t really blame us for missing it any more than the Zone Eater: you have to deliberately strand yourself from your airship to find it, and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do that. The dungeon is found by going to Figaro and having it tunnel through the mountains again (again, instead of using your far more convenient airship), at which point it will accidentally discover a new tunnel as it goes under the mountains (wait, was it not following the same route every time? Was it seriously digging a new tunnel every time?). This led to the Ancient Castle, a Tower of Zot-like dungeon that doesn’t appear on the overworld.
There were a few interesting features in this dungeon. The first was the return of the Tonberry, but I’ve talked about those in the past. The Castle itself was a relic from the War of the Magi, and showed it in the form of the Esper Odin, who was still trapped there in petrification (this is something of an in-joke, as Odin was curiously vulnerable to Petrify in FFV, despite being a boss). Luckily, Odin was able to convert into Magicite for us now that he had some allies nearby to help him. Further in, we learned that Odin had been in love with the human Queen, which had an emotional impact for Terra.
There were more than a few bonuses locked away in this area by finding some hidden switches. One notable find was the Blue Dragon, but past the dragon was the petrified queen. Examining her led to Odin transcending himself into the new Esper, Raiden. In older versions, whether or not you should do this was a big debate among fans, since Raiden loses some of Odin’s capabilities, but once again the GBA remake simplified things by introducing new Espers that overlap with Odin. One can debate the merits of each version of the game on their own.
But the most important upgrade in the Ancient Castle was the almighty Master Scroll relic, which allowed you to attack four times in a single turn. Combined with the Genji Gloves, this led to a remarkable eight attacks in one turn. We gave the items to Cyan, since he was behind the rest of the party and needed evening out. The results were really quite absurd, leading Kyle to wail: “Oh god, stop, it’s already dead!” more than once.
One other step we had to complete was to track down another new GBA boss and Esper, Leviathan. Leviathan will appear if you first talk a gentleman who mentions him, and then take the boat from one coast to another (since you have to get the clue first, I think this is a lot more rational than abandoning your airship to go to the Ancient Castle). Unfortunately for Leviathan, he was statted not unlike Gilgamesh, meaning he was far too weak for us and was, as ever, hilariously weak against Thunder. About the only truly notable thing about this fight is that it adds another opportunity for Mog to learn his water-based Dance, though you can lose it again here just like everywhere else, if you’re not on the ball. Leviathan the Magicite teaches the new spell Flood (an unusual spell first introduced in FFLIII!) that serves as essentially the only Black Magic spell that causes Water damage in FFVI – most of the others are Lores.
Our last action before going to the Final Dungeon was to return to the island where Celes woke up in hopes of finding Mighty Guard, a favourite Blue spell of ours from FFV (I can’t remember if we ever actually used it, but we were awfully fond of the idea of it). This took some grinding, as the enemy that teaches it, the Land Ray, will automatically die on its first turn. You essentially have to Stop it and then have Relm Sketch it so that her Sketch will teach Strago the Lore. Sheesh!
I presume this was also when we collected the Quetzalli magicite, which had washed up on the beach where Celes used to go fishing (either that or we picked it up during my Locke-related gap from the previous session – in fact, I think that’s more likely but I couldn’t be certain). Quetzalli taught a number of old Time spells at a high rate, making it very popular for the both of us.
With all of that accomplished, it was time to go to Kefka’s Tower for the final confrontation. Kefka’s Tower began with a few speeches, including Celes’ delightful realization that once we destroyed the Warring Triad’s power (the stuff consumed by Kefka) would quite possibly destroy the Espers and Terra in the process! What a charmer you are, Celes!
The game then prompted us to divide the party into three separate groups of four. (This means that anyone trying to do this with the minimum number of party members would be forced to split up Celes, Edgar, Sabin and Setzer. Good luck with that!) Now, technically Strago can only learn one of his Lores from a specific boss, so if you want all the Lores you’re going to have to put Strago in the right party. To my surprise, we didn’t bring Strago to this particular fight (he should have been in Party #1), but I guess that’s where our minds were at the time.
Our parties were split up as follows:
Party 1: Terra, level 52. Locke, level 53. Sabin, level 52. Gogo, level 51. We gave Gogo Steal, Throw and Items, and the Brigand’s Glove to use Mug instead of Steal. We weren’t so sure about Gogo, since they were untested, but they had a solid backing in Terra, Locke and Sabin, just in case they didn’t prove up to snuff.
Party 2: Celes, level 59 (blame the Growth Egg). Cyan, level 48. Strago, level 51. Relm, level 56, with the Fake Moustache to use Control.
Party 3: Mog, level 47. Setzer, level 45, with the Hiji’s Jitte to use Gil Toss. Shadow, level 48. Edgar, level 51.
Gau and Umaru were left on the boat, where they belong. Umaru was level 36, implying that Kyle’s grinding had carried everyone up around ten levels.
Let’s get going!