Month: July 2018

Final Fantasy Tactics – The Family that Ultimas Together…

Battle 62: Airship Graveyard

Welcome to Final Fantasy Tactics, the only game in the franchise to end in a garage! An Airship hangar, I mean. Ramza’s summary of the Scriptures of Germonique had already set up the existence of airships in the past, and airships are a franchise standard, so I suppose the authors felt there would be no sense in ending the game without a visit to the airship. Besides… it allowed the devs to cheat. But more on that in a moment.

Apparently, Folmarv sensed Ajora’s spirit lingering on one particular derelict airship, and he had set up Alma’s body with the Virgo stone here to revive the High Seraph. But the ritual wasn’t working… at least not until Folmarv saw Ramza and the party and pulled the title “Angel of Blood” from out of his ass (we’d only later learn that the High Seraph is the “Angel of Blood,” but there was no setup for this at the time, like a lot of name-related things in FFT). He decided to transform into Hashmal, Bringer of Order, the lion Lucavi, to get the blood he needed out of our bodies and all that. Indeed, some fans seem to have decided that the entire War of the Lions was orchestrated for the blood they needed, but this seems unlikely, given that it didn’t occur to Folmarv to add more blood until giving it a few hours of thought. If the War had been a blood sacrifice all along, you’d think “more blood” would be at the front of his mind!

And heyyyyyy! Would you look at that! The semifinal boss in a story about a war between two lion factions is a… you get it? You guys? Do you get it?


Final Fantasy Tactics – Take a Look Atop a Book

Session 5. While Kyle suggested we start our final session by buying duplicate items so that we could replace any that might be Rent in the final few battles, we didn’t want to risk random encounters, and were only able to stock up on half our necessary equipment in Dorter (heavy equipment and light equipment are sold in different towns). And we already had dupes of those! We got lucky, because even though we did lose a few items of heavy equipment to Rending, we had exactly enough to spare, but no more!

Battle 58: Orbonne Monastery, Fourth Level

Into Orbonne, with no dramatic monologuing on the familiar upper levels! Instead, we went straight down to the highest level we had yet to visit, and found ourselves in battle with a set of generics in an incredibly odd map: one that was filled with giant books, as though we had been shrunk down or something! Geeze, I had seen “Book” in the list of terrain available to a Geomancer, but I assumed it was just short for… “Bookshelf,” you know?

Kyle just breezed through this battle, and that with poor, forgotten Wilham in the party for one last, uh, oversight. Really, one of the simplest fights in a while. Next!

Battle 59: Orbonne Monastery, Fifth Level

Loffrey was waiting for us at the sigil, along with a troupe of casters. He didn’t have much to say to us, so on to business. Most of the battlefield flat as a pancake (to make room for the sigil), Final Destination, Fox only, no items, you know the drill. I guess you’ve got to have at least one battlefield like this, huh? Loffrey himself was a Divine Knight, like Meliadoul. During the battle, Ramza said something about Loffrey reminded him of Celia and Lettie, as though he was an Ultima Demon. In the end he didn’t transform or anything, though he did talk about… surpassing human flesh, or what have you.

Unusually for our boss-fighting strategies, I actually did attack a few lesser enemies here, but only because they were noticeably weak. Yes, while the enemy bosses in the endgame are quite durable, their thugs were tinfoil, with gaps in their ability slots and incredibly low stats, despite the game claiming they were above level 50! I joked to Kyle that all the good cultists must be dead already.

Towards the end of the battle, I made the mistake of attacking Loffrey with Ramza’s Ultima, even though Ultima wasn’t my best option. Just trying to show off, you know? This ended up reducing him to critical HP instead of killing him, meaning he made a run for the far corner. Thanks a lot, Ultima. This made it something of a stunt to weave Agrias over to attack him, and I knew that if she were killed in the interim I’d have no chance at all. Thankfully she made it, and the fight was over.

At this point, Loffrey decided to pull an Aganihm from LttP, with the logic that bringing the hero closer to the conspiracy’s evil plan was somehow better than… you know… locking the hero out, permanently and guaranteed. He recited the incantation a second time, transporting the party to the necrohol. He came with, and then destroyed the exit sigil and trapped us there. Well darn, I was just going to leave, but now I have no choice but to ruin your evil plan! Loffrey died after this.

(Confusing detail, but at the end of the previous battle, you overhear Loffrey reciting the invocation to teleport someone else to the Necrohol. You only hear part of this, because you’re listening through a door. The incantation invokes a spirit named, “Zomal, Reeve of Time.” This became confusing, as the muffled incantation only mentions the title “Reeve” out of context. This got strange when one of Loffrey’s randomly named thugs was, RNG-dubbed… Reeve! (Presumably, this NPC Reeve was named after the FFVII character; the list of random names is full of Final Fantasy references.) As a result, I didn’t realize the muttered speech was the incantation at first – I figured he was just giving instruction to his underling, and maybe no one had been transported to the necrohol yet! For a minute there, I thought we had just arrived ahead of Folmarv!)

So, we were now in “the necrohol of Mullonde,” aka the sunken ruins of the original city of Mullonde, buried ages ago. Into the ruins then! Before the next battle, we made our final Job change in the game, and it was a foolish one. Annoyed with Ramza’s low defence, we decided to change him to Dragoon, and naturally we gave him a spear, since spears give you boosted damage when you use your Jump attack. “Just to try it out,” we said. We then forgot to take him off it after it turned out to be crap. This meant that Ramza, who had been a dedicated Ninja for around half the game, was now a far less useful Dragoon, stuck with a weapon he couldn’t dual wield. I’m not even all that sure why he sucked as much as he did, considering the Dragoon worked just fine for Arthur and even our forgotten C-lister Meryell, but perhaps its strengths had finally faded in the endgame? If only we had gotten that super-spear from that battle with Construct 7…

Also, in an effort to improve Wilham should we make the mistake of using him again (which we did), we made him a Bard with Arithmaticks instead of an Arithmatician with Bardsong.

Battle 60: The Necrohol of Mullonde

Next up in this pseudo-“final dungeon” was Cletienne. Cletienne fought us near a crypt-like building that the game had forced us to surround using a two-flank deployment. It’s too bad the party was split up, since we could have steamrolled Cletienne if all five party members had been deployed together, but I guess the devs knew that. This fight featured a rare appearance by enemy Samurai, but like in the previous battle, most of the enemies had obvious blanks in their ability list. Goodness knows why. It’s the end of the game!

Cletienne’s forces fell apart rapidly. Not only did he divide himself from his allies, but his casters fell back and buffed some useless back-liners instead of him! Despite his atrocious position almost in the middle of our formation, Cletienne decided to monologue all the Lucavi’s plans to Ramza, because that’s the calibre of villains we’re dealing with here. He confirmed that the Lucavi were trying to resurrect “the High Seraph,” and furthermore told us that the High Seraph was being troublesome because it was bound to its former host, despite that former host’s death. Who was that host? Saint Ajora himself! Yes, Ajora wasn’t just a mere mortal spy like Germonique had implied, but a demonically possessed, apocalyptic cultist! Kind of strange that Germonique would leave that bit out, especially since the implication is now that all the Zodiac Braves were actually just Lucavi the whole time? Ugh, whatever, “demons did it,” the original narrative is making its rocket-powered escape from the product, there’s really not much I could say by means of analysis at this point.

I’m just going to say this: Ajora and the Ivalician religion are pretty obvious stand-ins for Jesus and Christianity, right? As in, it might as well be in neon. Okay. Now that we’re agreed on that, I want to say that the argument “What if the story of Jesus was exaggerated and abused by power blocs to ensure their power,” might have had merit as the basis of a story. But “What if Jesus was a literal demon, from hell,” sounds like it came from some teen edgelord’s blog, rather than anything nuanced. You’d need to do a pretty impressive job to make it sound like anything but edginess for edginess’ sake, and the Ajora plot doesn’t have near enough runtime to make that happen.

In any event, Ramza – Ramza with his shitty spear – killed Cletienne with no extra fuss.

Battle 61: Lost Halidom

So Barich is still alive, just like I said he would be. With no explanation for him being here, just like I said there wouldn’t be. To make matters worse, Kyle and I didn’t even recognize him at first? Despite having faced him only a few days earlier, Kyle and I stared at his portrait in utter confusion, and I actually had to go online to remind us who he was!

Barich’s plan was pretty solid, and for once there was little the AI could do to screw it up! He engaged us across an epic gulf in the necrohol, with a bridge at one edge of the map and a narrow gap in the middle that you could only cross with Jump upgrades. Barich still had his elemental gun, and he had brought a Chemist with another elemental gun, both of which could snipe the player party as they try to make their way across the map. He also had three Hydras of varying strength (the strongest named after our old fiend, Tiamat), ready to fly in and sandwich us if we were unable to jump the gap and had to take the bridge. And it’s not like they were small fry! Last of all, he had a Dark Behemoth ready to guard the bridge. Yup, this sure would be tricky for anyone who doesn’t have the stats to hop across the gap and lop Barich’s damned head off straight away. Wonder what it’s like to be those people?

Since we were positioned in two flanks, it made sense play into Barich’s hands just enough to split up his force, so Kyle allowed our right flankers to contest the bridge. That left Ramza and Agrias to hop the gap and assassinate Barich, while Wilham (yes, Kyle brought Wilham) did a Bardsong in a corner, forgotten by everyone, even the two enemy gunners! Meanwhile, Barich’s Hydras used the very odd Tri-Flame technique. We couldn’t say how this attack was supposed to work. It targeted an area, apparently, but when it went after Cid, it missed outright? But later, when it went after Agrias, it hit three times in a row, incinerating her on the spot?

Part-way through the battle, Ramza lamented that Barich has become a pawn of the Lucavi, “too.” Oh, did you feel better when the mass-poisoner was just a loyal churchman, Ramza? Well at least you’ve moved away from the “everyone in the church is automatically demonic” thing from before, I guess. Barich made some weird speech about being “truly human” and not needing to “bow his head” any more, even though he was bowing his head to the Lucavi? It was exactly like Arbent’s speech about how great it was to be a zombie, except this scene is the predecessor to that WotL addition so I can’t blame a rewrite author for missing the original point. Are these writers even aware of what they’re putting to screen any longer?

Unfortunately, Barich managed to hold out against our assassination attempt. Things went poorly for Kyle after the Tri-Flame wiped out Agrias, as the Dark Behemoth gored Cid to death moments later. Bearing in mind that Ramza was stuck as a shitty Dragoon, Arthur a shitty Samurai, and Josephine wasn’t even on the field, things looked bleak. But Kyle still pulled off a win, after he resorted to the dark powers of Wilham’s Arithmancy to cast Arise on Agrias from the other side of the gulch! Just when Barich thought he was safe, there she was back on her feet and ready to drop him. End of battle.

Prev: Final Fantasy Tactics – Dragons and Damsels and Damsels who are Dragons
Next: Final Fantasy Tactics – The Family that Ultimas Together…

Final Fantasy Tactics – Dragons and Damsels and Damsels who are Dragons

At this point, the game added a shortcut running from Mullonde to Goug, allowing us to finally finish the sidequest we had started ages ago. Mustadio’s father used the Cancer auracite to power his new device. Are you ready for this? This is where shit gets weird. The machine makes a huge ruckus, and when it’s done, a man is standing in the room, and it’s Cloud Strife. And it’s not just an Ivalician Cloud Strife like Aerith, earlier. While places like FFWiki imply that he is supposed to be alternate universe in some fashion or another, and I have no doubt that Square’s official sources would agree with the wiki (what with the permadeath in this game), the dialogue from FFT is crystal clear: this is supposed to be the actual Cloud Strife, from FFVII, having been plucked out of the events of his game after falling into the Lifestream after the first trip to Northern Crater. It’s really funny how the fandom has treated this, the fact that apparently, Cloud was moved from one game to an entire other game. As a friend of mine said when I told her about it: “How have I never heard about this?”

(In 2017/18, Mobius Final Fantasy would feature crossover events starring the canonical Tidus from FFX and Lightning from FFXIII at a specific points in their timelines, too!)

Considering the state Cloud was in at North Crater, he’s not much happier to be here than he was there, though he’s having trouble remembering the particulars of what was going on. Ultimately, he runs off and you’re left with no practical leads for where he would go… except for the meta-reasoning that, naturally, he would somehow end up near their universe’s Aerith. Off to Sal Ghidos, then! But we wouldn’t do that immediately. Because as it happens, the new plot for Beowulf and Reis is right next door, in Lionel, and Kyle and I were going to go there first.

The first step in this quest is to find another Rumour, but we had already done that. After the death of Cardinal Delacroix (hey, I remembered the name of a character from FFT!), Lionel had appointed a new lord. When you come to visit, a cutscene opens in which Beowulf and Reis have a private moment outside of town. While they’re talking, Beowulf says that everything that happened to them before they met Ramza was “Bremondt’s” fault, the name of the new lord in Lionel. The two part, and Reis is only barely off the screen (a necessity, since FFT’s diorama-sets aren’t large enough for someone to get very far away) when she screams. Yes, that’s right, she’s been kidnapped. Reis, who was largely the victim of the original Beowulf and Reis plot, is the victim yet again. This was made in 2007. It doesn’t even make gameplay variety sense, you know? We’ve already had a series of battles with Beowulf as a mandatory party member. Shouldn’t we naturally be flipping it so that we get a series of battles with Reis?

The kidnapper is a certain Ser Aliste, who works for the newly appointed Celebrant Bremondt of Lionel. Bremondt is apparently thrilled that Reis is free of her curse, and furthermore wants to lead Beowulf into an open trap, so she’s to serve as bait. Beowulf says that Aliste used to be a friend, but apparently the sheer reward offered by both Bremondt and the church (Beowulf is a heretic for messing with the auracite) has convinced him to change sides.

Battle 55a: Lionel Castle Gate

From here, it’s straight to the rescue attempt, with no scene of Ramza getting the bad news or the like. Beowulf is once again an uncontrollable guest, the jerk, and you only get to bring four others to back him up. Aliste is waiting at the gate (the same gate where you fought Gaffgarion), and he curiously says something about “the effects” taking hold by now, though we won’t learn more about that until later. In any event, we have to kill the guy to end the battle. This would be pretty daunting, since he starts on the wall and the only way up without special abilities is to walk straight under him and up the hill at the far end, each step guarded. But as we’ve proven time and time again, our Holy Sword and Ignore Elevation team combo will have none of that bullshit. Once he came under attack, Aliste (who belongs to the same class as Beowulf) outright gave up his ideal position and used the Time Mage ability Teleport to hop right into our clutches!

Suffice to say, this battle didn’t last long, though there was a funny moment where Aliste talks about Beowulf losing his edge. Beowulf argues otherwise, even though he was Confused and doing a funny dance at the time.

Dance, Beowulf!

After the battle, Aliste revealed he hadn’t really changed sides for money: he was sick and dying, and chose to die in instead. He even acknowledges Beowulf as his true liege lord before he passes (the fact that Beowful was the true lord of Lionel was only mentioned in the bios up to this point, which Kyle and I hadn’t read, so it was a surprise to us!). So, just to die in battle, you kidnapped an old friend and put both her and another friend in danger? Yeah, you’re more of a jackass than a tragic figure, aren’t you?

Defeating Aliste gets you the Genji Armour (the body armour portion), presumably as a way of making it up to you that you couldn’t steal it from Elmdore in this version. The rest of the Genji equipment is trapped in multiplayer, or available in the smartphone post-game, like most former multiplayer items.

Battle 55b: Lionel Castle Oratory

Bremondt is hanging out in the Oratory with a force consisting of only women. One of his ninjas arrives and tells him that Aliste has been defeated, and all the other guards have been drugged. The drugs are presumably the “effects” that Aliste was talking about. It seems Aliste drew the line between moral and immoral behaviour somewhere between “kidnapping and endangerment” but before “letting his ex-friend fight a city.” I…. yeah this still doesn’t redeem the guy. Also, remember that Lionel’s city guard didn’t show up to defend their last liege lord either? Considering their track record, did he really have to drug anyone at all?

The party arrives, and Bremondt is shaking afraid of him. Bremondt promises his attendants a huge reward to fight for him, presumably because of the mixed allegiance issue, what with Beowulf being the rightful lord of Lionel. They agree, so it’s time for a fight (Ed. by the way, we didn’t know it, but one of them is holding a stealable Masamune sword!). Beowulf is once again a guest here, which is an even bigger pain than before. The enemy has the high ground and are all members of top-tier classes, and rare ones too: the PSX game had very few lady Ninjas, and very few Samurai or Mystics altogether! Bremondt, meanwhile, has both White and Black magicks (actually, he didn’t have White Magick so much as “Priest” Magicks, a weird offshoot of White Magicks that was previously used by Zalmour. If you look at the data, Priest Magicks strangely require a sword, despite the fact that the player never has access to the class to justify the micro-management? It’s worse than White Magick to begin with, so why did they bother with the restriction?).

During the battle, it became clear that Bremondt was in love with Reis, and refused to believe that she was in love with Beowulf. This egotistical entitlement was what led him to curse her into her dragon form several years back. Why he thought that would turn anything in his favour is unclear, though it is clear that this isn’t a very bright man to begin with. Seizing the board in this battle wasn’t so hard, but around here we began to pay for Ramza’s Geomancer job and its low armour, a price we’d keep paying for several battles to come, and ultimately resulted in our strange decision regarding Ramza’s job in the final few battles. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

After defeating Bremondt, Kyle and I were both confused when the game carried on by allowing one of his Mystics to cast her spell, even though the battle rightly should have stopped! Moments later, Bremondt got up and used an invocation to turn his curse againt himself: now he was a dragon, though thankfully his followers were gone. Why the game had allowed the Mystic to cast the spell before Bremondt’s death scene, I can’t imagine. Obviously it wouldn’t have done so if the battle had been fully over, so it feel like it was a glitch.

Unfortunately for me (I was in control at the time), both Ramza – thanks his shitty defence – and Cid – thanks to his being surrounded – were dead on the ground with identical death timers. When Arthur’s attempts to save them failed, I had to restart. Kyle’s attempt at the two fights went similarly for Ramza, but Cid stayed on his feet. To our surprise, Beowful even pitched in by trying to revive Ramza on his own AI, and he later tried to revive Agrias when the dragon Bremondt killed her too! Oh, sure, neither of his attempts worked, but the effort was appreciate! Ramza, who had to be revived by Josephine, finally finished the fight on his own, leading to an odd moment where Bremondt was replaced with a corpse (a wing, like all dragons) only to pop back in as a full dragon and then explode back to his human form, moments later? The remake team should have known how to do better, they’ve got a half dozen examples of this sequence done right all over the game! Anyways, good: the party doesn’t have to explain a dead dragon and now only has to explain their murder of the liege lord of Lionel. Much better.

After a final exchange between Bremondt and Beowulf (“Reis… is… mine…” “Reis belongs to no one.”), the party went off into the castle to find their missing teammate. After this, both Beowful and Reis rejoined the party, even going through the process of offering to join you again – you have to re-confirm them joining the party and everything! Your prize, besides narrative satisfaction and the aforementioned Genji Armour, was a collection of accessories, including the relatively rare Sortilége accessory for women. This was an example of the Perfume line of accessories that are otherwise only available via multiplayer or by Poaching monsters with the right skill. The Sortilége granted automatic Protect and Shell at the start of battle, which is decent, though I don’t remember if and how we used it.

While we’re here, I just wanted to point out that, over the course of the game, we’ve seen all three major dukes of Ivalice drop dead, along with a Marquis, not one but two Celebrants of Lionel, the pope, nearly the entire house of Beoulve, plus a number of other high-ranking persons, both plot-relevant and narratively faceless. And don’t forget that time we led and entire year’s worth of young nobility into exile! Hey, remember when Ramza’s school sent him and Jerkface to stand on a wall for a while, so they not only never went back to school, but overthrew society? That was great.

At this point, Kyle and I went to look at one quest we wouldn’t be doing: this game’s secret dungeon, Midlight’s Deep. The intro cutscene took place in a tavern where, in a joke at the expense of the PSX localization, two mercenaries were endlessly spouting drivel from the PSX version’s Errand reports. They ended up getting in a fight over it! Naturally, there’s also a conversation introducing the dungeon, but the cameo from the old localization is the real treat. Sadly, Kyle and I had no intention of going to Midlight’s Deep. The dungeon features 10 levels of mazes, which you have to navigate in the dark, and must find the exit to each floor before you clear it of monsters, or be forced to repeat it! The end boss of the dungeon is a wizard, who many suspect was intended to have more of a role before the sequence was cut back. The game even has a unique job with unique abilities that seem to fit best here, but are never used. Some believe he was originally going to have a “first form” that was cut. It’s a shame the remake didn’t add those back in, but I suppose it’s truer to the original challenge this way.

In the finished version, the wizard is still no mean threat, as he reveals a hidden thirteenth auracite (based on the sometimes-accepted thirteenth zodiac symbol, Ophichius), and turns into a superboss Lucavi. To make the fight even harder, he’s the game’s only source of the final summon spell, Zodiark, who can only be earned Blue Magic/Ultima-style by a Summoner, by taking and surviving a hit! To compensate for this mess, the game gives you a Guest ally, Byblos the demon from FFV, who joins the party during the fight and stays with you after the fact, all without a word. It all sounds very strange. In any event, after this superboss is cleared, Midlight’s Deep cycles infinitely for anyone who cares to grind there.

Kyle and I were hanging out two days in a row for Session 4, and I believe this marked the end of the first day. The second day would be abbreviated. Our final task before the endgame at Orbonne was to wrap up Cloud’s sidequest, and that meant a cross-country trip to Sal Ghidos. During the walk, we finished Cid’s training as a Sword Saint and moved him over to Knight. It was obvious that he wouldn’t get out of it before the end of the game, but getting Equip Swords was the logical thing to do in case we were wrong. We also switched Arthur to Samurai, since he had essentially finished in Monk and we had nowhere else to put him. This was definitely a mistake, and not just for the reasons we cited when we took him out of Samurai to begin with. Kyle would later joke about how Arthur, with his Samurai Speed stat of 8, somehow ended up looking pathetic in a party with speeds of 9 or higher, even though 8 would have been upper-tier in any other setup!

There was an optional scene on the way to Sal Ghidos that reunited Agrias and Ovelia at Zeltennia (if Agrias’ two knights are still in the party, they show up too!). Ovelia is thrilled to see her few trusted friends, but unfortunately Agrias can’t stay, as she realizes that Ramza’s quest is more immediately important, what with the demonic apocalypse and all. Jerkface makes his presence known, and at this point, Agrias passes Ovelia a knife for her personal protection. This scene is technically optional, but since the knife reappears later, the story feels more complete with the scene in hand. It’s not inconceivable that Ovelia could find another knife in a big castle full of armouries and kitchens, but this way it’s an established knife, you know? In any event, Agrias is the only person I know who seems to dislike Jerkface more than me (the one who calls him “Jerkface”), and since she also deals more damage than Cid (since the rouge she got from Mustadio boosts Holy attacks), that makes her my favourite.

Battle 56: Sal Ghidos

Sal Ghidos at last! Cloud arrives in Sal Ghidos ahead of us, and runs into the alternate Aerith. He’s surprised to see her (remember, this is after the Midgarian Aerith’s death!), but realizes it must not be the Aerith he knows and heads off. Unfortunately for Aerith, moments later she’s accosted by “ruffians.” It seems she owes them no less than thirty thousand gil when she only makes 1 gil a flower (holy shit!), and she’s rescued when Cloud overhears and turns back. Aerith is able to get away, but Cloud, despite earlier saying that all he wanted to do was fight, is in no shape to do so: he participates in the upcoming battle as a Guest, but has no weapon and will soon run to a corner to hide! The hero of FFVII, everyone! And just wait until you hear the real-world reason the developers didn’t give him a weapon, it’s way worse.

Ramza arrives on scene, and not-so-long story short, I Arithmaticked this battle to death in only a few turns. That’ll teach you to stand on level ground!

After the fight, Cloud muttered about losing something important (Midgar’s Aerith) and agreed to join the party. And that’s the end of his story! We never see Ivalice’s Aerith again, and Cloud never technically returns home on-screen. He does have the bizarre footnote in that his bio doesn’t appear in the Personae menu until he leaves the party by death or dismissal, but that’s just a glitch. Another thing I’m surprised the remake didn’t fix! Hell, the remake could have given him an ending scene, too. A post-credit scene of him silently entering a portal would have been fine!

But while Cloud’s story was done, there was still one mission we wanted to do before we considered the sidequest wrapped. This involved getting into a random encounter at Mount Bervenia, an area where we had never fought before. As it’s a random encounter, I’m not going to give it a battle number. Mt. Bervenia is key to Cloud’s gameplay, because the only way for Cloud to use his special Limit Break abilities is for him to be equipped with a “Materia Blade,” and the only Materia Blade you can find (besides those level 99 Ninjas I mentioned when I was talking about Samurai) is hidden in an guaranteed Treasure Hunter square at the tip-top of this battlefield. By the way, this is why I suspect Cloud doesn’t start with a sword: since his FFVII sword should rightly already be a “Materia” blade, they had to take it away!

The random battle at Bervenia was a boring match (random battles often are, which is why I’ve skipped dozens of them in this Journal) that consisted of us killing most of the enemies in just a few turns, and then trying to pin down the one surviving monster while Rapha climbed the summit to find the treasure. It’s not even worth the fuss: Cloud, like Rapha and Marach, has a reputation as being one of the worst characters in the game, and the remake didn’t even try to fix him like it did the AoE twins! His problem is that his Limit Break abilities take an absurd amount of time to cast, at which point most of the battle is over and your target has probably moved, anyways! Dragoons and casters are barely functional in this game as-is thanks to similar restrictions, but they’re close enough to still justify the effort. Cloud? Not a chance.

Battle 57: Brigand’s Den

There was one other sidequest we wanted to check out before we ended the game. This sidequest begins, for some reason, only after seeing Agrias’ cutscene with Ovelia, even though it has nothing to do with said scene! A Rumour appears after the scene, which tells you that you’ll be dealing with defectors from the Order of the Northern Sky, who have stolen all sorts of cool goods and retreated to the place where we fought Milleuda for the first time at the start of the game. While the fight itself is virtually inconsequential, it has a few weird footnotes. First off, Agrais takes this very personally (especially after… for fuck’s sake… one of the thugs threatens to rape her) and acts an autonomous Guest. Second, there’s a brief exchange if Cid is in your party, but it amounts to nothing and I’m not sure why it’s there? Third, this fight has some Knights in the arena that are trapped at the top of the fortress thanks to their shitty jump stat, and that’s pretty funny.

But fourth and most important, this fight has a huge amount of high-level equipment that you can steal from the enemies. To help you do so, no enemies will fade into memory crystals in this battle (or chests, on the flip side). This means they can be revived indefinitely, so long as you make certain that Agrias doesn’t kill the last of them when you’re not ready! Unfortunately, Kyle and I didn’t have anyone worth Stealing with, so we just wiped the board with them to say that we had done everything the game had to offer outside of its superdungeon. Which I’d argue is more heroic than stealing from the people we’re chasing after because they stole in the first place!

This was where we stopped playing for the day, but we got together soon after for our final session, essentially the fifth. We were eager to see the end of the game, with none of the usual late-game malaise that haunts the Marathon! Unfortunately, we ended our fourth session worried that we wouldn’t have much time on our hands, so we tried to get to Orbonne without random encounters. We decided to pre-empt that… by save scumming before shutting down for the day, just so the threat of boring random encounters wouldn’t discourage us from playing the next time we got together!

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Final Fantasy Unlimited After – All’s Well That Didn’t End At All

Since I’m running out of DVD screenshots, I think I’m going to accelerate something I was going to put off until the end. You see, the first FFU DVD features more than just concept art of the characters we know and tolerate: it also features incredibly early concept art, from when the show was going in a very different direction! As even the DVD goes out of its way to note, the twins actually do things in this original concept, and I hope whoever shot that down realizes they’re heavily responsible for the show’s low narrative quality. I’ll be using these screenshots throughout this post, but let’s talk about them here at the front.

The Wonderland of these concept sketches is a lot more populated than the one we got to see, which probably fell amiss of budgetary concerns. One of my favourite pieces is the first, which depicts the twins in an oppressively urban part of Wonderland, maybe something of a red light district, all neon and back alleys. I suspect may have been the original plan for the village from Episode 3, given that the same cloaked figures can be seen here (plus the whole opium den scene in Episode 3 that would fit right into a red light district like this one). Suffice to say, a dark, urban red light district seems a lot more interesting to me than the fruit village we got in the final ep 3, but judging from some of the DVD notes, I imagine the urban Wonderland was lost when the real world was added to the script at a later date (the show was originally all-fantasy, although it looks very much like a fantastical apocalyptic ruin), and so it wouldn’t make sense to return to an urban setting so soon. My other favourite picture (included later in the article) is one where the landscape starts out flat on the right side of the screen but twists into a tube in the distant left, so it’s clear the surreal nature of Wonderland was present from the early stages.

Character designs have changed quite a bit. The Hayakawas look like young teens, and Lisa is basically just Tifa Lockhart. I mean that, by the way. I’m not sure how they allowed her to stay like that for even a single sketch, because for goodness’ sake, she’s literally just Tifa Lockhart! The twins can also be seen with weapons at one point, Ai with a crossbow and Yu with a sword or rapier, as they confront a Cthulhu-looking monster and a larger skull/gun monstrosity (again, below). While none of them look like their finished selves, Kaze looks the most distinct of all, being designed as a sort of “chocobo cowboy,” who would even play a sort of guitar at the campfire to entertain the kids!

At this point, let’s return to the second season, and the ongoing “Summary from CD booklet.” We’re nearly done! The quality of the summary picks up considerably at this point, and we return to the plot at-large. Soljashy is now telling people that Gaudium is “the Flower of the Gods,” (continuing Herba’s flower metaphor from earlier) and that it will save them from the dying world, which Soljashy compares to Noah’s Ark (although it’s possible that Ai no Kareshi inserted that comparison of his own accord). Soljashy says that “a path” will soon be available to let people get to Gaudium, but they don’t listen and start rioting to get there first. Why they can’t walk through the Pillars of Darkness like the Wonderlanders seem to be doing, I truly do not know. Minor spoilers, but the “path” Soljashy is talking about turns out to be pretty physical and mundane, so it really does seem like they should just be able to… walk into the pillars? Maybe I’m wrong about multiple pillars surviving and the only one left is the one in the Sea of Japan?

The summary ends with a brief summary of a final scene in which Kaze attacks the Privy Council during the signing of the actual, physical treaty with Gaudium. This scene sounds like a big deal, but is barely described in the summary, save that Kaze is able to rescue the Hayakawa parents in the process.

Ugh, what a mess. But thankfully, we’re at the end of it, as we now move into Unlimited After 2 proper, the second audio drama, which ends the second season, and FFU as a whole for better or worse. The opening scene isn’t very important, though it does feature Ai telling Makenshi off for ordering the humans to be Vulcans about their emotions to prevent Chaos’ growth, which is something I can appreciate. Anyways, it turns out that Herba has arranged for giant, spiralled trees to grow to be used as paths for the humans to go to Wonderland. The spiral trees are built in semblance of the Ghost Train’s spiralled train stations in Wonderland, if you didn’t catch onto that. Soljashy tells the crowds to head on in, and then leaves them to trample one another to death in their rush to escape their dying world, all to give Chaos even more emotions.

Makenshi and Crux split up from the others to have a fight scene at this point. Ai no Kareshi doesn’t specify why their target is important, but it sure as hell becomes important when Soljashy appears and defeats them single-handed! This forces the Comodeen to turn around to rescue him, but Soljashy is prepared for this and has brought the last of Gaudium’s heart-shaped, body-horror laser satellites to attack them.

At this point, Makenshi begins calling Soljashy “Dolk” to get his attention. Despite his lectures to the humans about being too emotional, Makenshi admits that he’s fighting for a world where people won’t have to be unemotional like he is. Sojashy points out that letting people run around, having whatever emotions they want is a chaotic world, but Makenshi says that if that kind of world produces the demon Chaos, the problem is the demon, not the emotions, and he means to stop the demon. Hey, good for him, that’s a nuance that’s often lost in narratives like this. At this point, Soljashy upgrades the body-horror satellite with his business card (why not do that all the time?), calling it Satteligon.

Showing some character growth, the twins want to go help Makenshi, and they order Lisa to stay behind on the airship. They reason that if she comes along, she’ll only get more upset about Dolk, and end up feeding Chaos. Ai asks Pochepocket for some help, and he spits out “a swarm of missiles,” prompting Ai to exclaim, “Just when did you eat those?”

Soljashy takes the bait and decides to go after his would-be “Chaos Rulers” instead of Makenshi, which gives Makenshi the room he needs to summon his dual-sword dragon and destroy the Satelligon. In the process, he also wings Soljashy’s briefcase-body, causing it to “[run] screaming all on its own.” Separated from Soljashy, the true Dolk’s personality emerges in Dolk’s body, but Lisa discovers he has no “spirit” any longer, and it’s clear he’s in a lot of pain. Just then, Kaze arrives and kills the briefcase with his shotgun, defeating Soljashy for good in an underwhelming finale!

Without Soljashy, Dolk begins to outright crack and die, and things get even worse when he begs Lisa to let him die. She continues to beg him to not give up hope, when Kaze just shoots Dolk himself, killing him. To make things even worse for Lisa, this time Makenshi has Kaze’s back on the whole “destroy pieces of Chaos” thing and says he was just about to do the same to Dolk, even though Makenshi never supported Kaze in killing the kids! Lisa does noooooot take this well.

Another favourite.

Dolk’s body then transforms into Soil, “Chain Gold” to be specific, and Lisa is so upset after this entire season’s worth of emotional torture that she begs Kaze to kill her with the new Soil. Because she’s giving off so much emotion, she’s partially chaotic herself and Kaze actually considers it, and Makenshi has to step in, revealing that he’s learned that humans are emotional creatures and shouldn’t be punished for “negative” emotions. The audio drama then does a fake-out by playing the sound of gunshots, making it seem like Kaze shoots Lisa anyways! Thankfully he did not. Good use of format, I can’t imagine it being so effective in an anime. What was he shooting at, you ask? It’s still pretty bad news: thanks to Lisa’s emotions, Gaudium has arrived in the real world.

Princess Herba makes her first appearance to the good guys, and taunts them, though Ai no Kareshi notes that Kaze won’t stop shooting at her during the speech, which sounds fucking hilarious. Unfortunately, Herba’s taunts are working, and Lisa is giving into her anger, going all Dragon Ball Z with the surrounding rocks. Herba starts saying – possibly making shit up on the fly to get Lisa’s goat – how much Dolk was trying to fight Soljashy’s possession so that he could help Lisa, until finally Lisa lets out an explosion of Kigen Arts that transform her into the Kigen Dragon.

Oscha rescues Herba from Dragon Lisa, and then Lisa flies off to the Pillar of Darkness, driven by her hatred of it for starting all of this mess twelve years earlier (remember, Lisa was there as a child). The bad guys want this to happen, but I still don’t understand why, since the flying castle is here now. Are they trying to make such a big hole in reality that Chaos itself can get through? If that’s the case, did Chaos have go through this whole rigmarole for every world he’s already destroyed, which number in the thousands or millions? That’s a hard sell, I don’t know if I believe it! In any event, Makenshi says that Lisa’s Kigen Dragon form can destroy the barrier between worlds, but she’ll die in the effort, as if things weren’t bad enough. Sure enough, Lisa opens a portal by attacking the Pillar, and Guadium… goes… back to Wonderland through that portal Lisa opened earlier? I’m so confused.

Makenshi attempts to stop Lisa’s attack, but fails somehow. I’m afraid the summary doesn’t give any details, though it’s possible the audio drama just fudges the whole exchange by saying, “Well that didn’t work.” It’s an audio drama after all, that’s all they’d technically have to say! Kaze wants to go next, but the others protest, knowing that he wants to kill Lisa instead of just stopping her. Makenshi steps in, holding out a drop of hope in Kaze’s better nature, and insists that Kaze be allowed to try. They let him go.

The soil charge triad to use on you has been decided!
That which falls into infinite darkness, Silent Black!
One that hates the pain of lament, Pain Blue!
And finally, to restrain all things, Chain Gold!

Note that this is Dolk’s Soil.

Resonate! I summon you, Anima!

Cid proclaims that this Summon wasn’t chosen by Kaze, but by Lisa’s enchained, suffering heart, just like how Anima is enchained and suffering. What an excellent use of a Summon and its lore from the original games! A quality finale for the Magun! Hell, considering this came out after FFX, the idea of Anima going out in a tender fashion instead of an torturous one is a great send-off for her, too!

Cid also says he can hear the Soil saying something, and the summary implies that Makenshi does as well. Miles – who has done nothing this entire season, so I don’t blame you if you’ve forgotten about her – asks who Cid is that he he can hear the soil. Good question! Let me also ask how he knew about “God’s Egg” at the start of this “season!” It seems Cid is not the young human being he appears to be, but we won’t get any more details in Season 2. Or ever!

Anima is able to save Lisa without hurting her by somehow putting her to sleep, and Kaze just waltzes off, only to be present in the next scene? When Lisa wakes, Kaze tells her that it was Dolk who saved her, not him. At this point, Kaze and Makenshi try to go off together, as allies, into Wonderland to defeat Chaos. Yu tries to come with them, but Makenshi refuses.. When Lisa gets to her feet and tries to follow, Kaze outright threatens her with his shotgun to keep her back. Our hero, everyone, in his final appearance! And with that extraordinarily dubious moment, the audio drama, and FFU as a whole, comes to its cliffhanger ending.

Yikes, what an uncomfortable way to go out. Striking! But uncomfortable. And not just pointing a gun at Lisa – although yeah, mostly that. Putting that threat aside best we can (if we can), my issue is that FFU:After still ends on a cliffhanger even though they knew another season was never coming. For all the damage it did to get there, and as interesting as all this season 2 stuff has been, I think I appreciate that FFU-the-anime had the decency to actually end.

Unfortunately, we’ll almost certainly never see an official conclusion for FFU:After, though we might be able to derive a few clues about Season 3 from some official art. For example, check out the adjoining picture/wallpaper (or use this link). It depicts both Clear and Kupo alive and well, along with a creepy image of Herba draping Yu in regal robes. Oh, and there’s another close-up of Oscha’s exaggerated eye. But these elements could easily be metaphoric. That said, if the show wasn’t going to pay off on all those hints that there’s more to Oscha than meets the eye (hah!), maybe up to and including a reveal that he’s the true final boss, I can’t imagine what they were planning…

But that was another time, in another world. Instead, we got… Final Fantasy Unlimited and Unlimited After. The mess, the legend, the second season zombie. Goodbye, twisted prince. May a chorus of Samurai Pizza Cats sing thee to thy rest.

Oh, and one last batch of concept art, I think:

Prev: Final Fantasy Unlimited After – Death to Boats!
Next: Marathon Look-Back #2, Reviews

Final Fantasy Tactics – I’ll Disintegrate My Allies! Beat That!

As we left town, we got a cutscene from Zeltennia, and watched as Ovelia overheard noises in the hallway. This is probably as good an opportunity as ever to tell you that FFT’s attempts to do short voice samples for things like deaths. Unfortunately, this resulted in really pathetic, digitized samples that were acceptable in gameplay but were just laughable in dramatic situations like this. To put matters in perspective, I kept commenting to Kyle how characters kept dying “with a fart,” given a certain sound effect that I think was supposed to be a grunt? What I’m getting at here is that Ovelia overhears some serious gastric disaster going on just past some double doors.

It turns out the source of the noise is Orran, who seems to have interpreted his father’s orders to protect Ovelia to mean “get her away from Jerkface even if it means all of the guards stab you to death.” It seems he’s just that pissed about the conspiracy framing his father for murder when they did it himself. Jerkface himself arrives with Valamfra in tow, and he points out that not only are things demonstrably better for everyone now that Goltanna is dead and he’s in charge, but Cid is a free man. He doesn’t point out that it was his faction that framed Cid for treason in the first place, of course.


Final Fantasy Unlimited After – Death to Boats!

Spiral 5 begins a series of flashbacks that occur at the beginning of all the remaining spirals. They concern Touya and Yu rescuing a sick puppy when they were in grade school, and I don’t see much sense in covering them in detail. They’re mostly here to show what close friends the two of them used to be. I’ll cut to the chase: even though Yu is more invested in the puppy, Touya decides to adopt the pup in in the end, since Yu’s parents wouldn’t allow a dog. Even the youngest reader will probably be able to predict that the dog will show up later in the season. Great, let’s move on.

We return to Soljashy and Touya, and Soljashy sets up a meeting with Touya, offering to tell him the truth about what happened in Wonderland if he’s interested. It’s clear this is going to be a Faustian bargain. He schedules their meeting for the morning, just before Touya’s scheduled meet-up with the twins.