Day: July 12, 2018

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 (what with the permadeath in this game), and I have no doubt that Square’s official sources would agree with the wiki, 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 him 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 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 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.

Dance, Beowulf!

After the battle, Aliste revealed he hadn’t really changed sides for money: he was sick and dying anyways, and wanted to die in battle 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 you against the mess of them (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, but he never succeeded on either. 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 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. The Sortilége granted automatic Protect and Shell at the start of battle, 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 segment 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 after the fight, 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 it was the logical thing to do in case we were wrong. He needed the Equip Swords ability if we were going to put him anywhere but Sword Saint or Knight, after all! 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 see? 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… is 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 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. This battle is important, 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) which 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, might I add!

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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