After the fight with the Anacondour, it was up a hill to the communication tower, where the soldiers were conducting repairs on the broken tower. Here, Seifer announced that every time he completes a battle, he becomes closer to his “dream.” “You have one too, don’t you?” Yeah, Squall, you have to believe in your dreams or something, and your honour as SOLDIER! Urm… SeeD. Your honour as SeeD. God, I had no idea Crisis Core cribbed so much from FFVIII, this is really disenchanting me from my “favourite” FFVII game.
Seifer ran off at this point, which meant he crucially wasn’t present for the arrival of Selphie, who tripped to our current location complete with… sigh… up-skirt shot. Well I’ll thank you for being honest with us, FFVIII, because FFVII waited until midway through Disc 2 to get to this level of gruel with its slap-fight. It’s good to know your real priorities from the off. Selphie finally gave us her name and announced herself as being from Squad A, with a message for our commanding officer, Seifer. Unfortunately, he was already far off, and taunting us about his secret, “ROMANTIC dream.” Whoa, seriously? That’s more KH2 whiplash from me. I knew from KH2 that “romantic” was one of Seifer’s catch-phrases, but I didn’t think its origin was so… porn-y. Worryingly, Kyle promised that it would get even worse before it was over.
Oh, before we move too far along, time for Selphie’s actors. Selphie’s mocap was provided by Miyuki Shimizu, who would return to Final Fantasy to mocap Rikku in FFX (but not X-2). If IMDb is correct, Shimizu would go on to become an animator, working on Midori Days and even providing animation for Suda51 game Killer7. The performer who just mocaped a tumble down the hill was action actor Hoshimi Asai, and you won’t be surprised to learn that she’s a professional stuntwoman. I imagine several of these “action actors” are professional stunt performers, but this is the first time I’ve been able to confirm it. She’s also a “karate master,” according to an unsourced claim at the Eiga wiki.
Selphie jumped down off a nearby hill to go after him, and we were offered the choice to do the same, but by this point I too had glanced at the strategy guide and knew that this would penalize us. We took the long way around before finally rejoining with Selphie, at which point she outright joined the party. Selphie is armed with nunchaku, starting with a weapon the game very generously calls a “flail.” This is… I mean… sort of? Selphie’s starter weapon resembles a proper grain flail, if the chain between one stick and the other was uselessly overlong for a grain flail as I understand them? On the subject, the chain on Selphie’s weapons are easily the worst-looking graphical detail this side of the overworld map, looking more like a bit of stretchy elastic than chain. Her weapons are barely even nunchaku to boot. Speaking generously, she basically uses her sticks like a whip (less generously: “like two sticks tied to a retractable dog leash”), which feels redundant when Quistis is using actual whips!
Selphie’s Limit Break was Slots, but like Quistis’ Blue Magic, this was so heavily mutated that it was almost unrecognizable as a returning ability from FFVI and VII… though in this case, thank goodness, since I personally hated the old Slots. In Selphie’s case, there are no actual slot wheels on screen: the game simply offers her a random spell that she gets to cast a random number of times (the list of spells available is based on Crisis Level), and the player is welcome to sit around spinning “the slots” as many times as they please if they don’t like the results! Sure, the enemies are still attacking while you do it, but whatever you think is a priority!
Now with three party members that didn’t piss us off, we finally split up Squall’s GFs and gave Shiva to Selphie, and began Drawing magic for her own personal pool. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to mess around, since the boss was just around the corner, or should I say… up an elevator? As Seifer ran off, chasing Galbadian soldiers, we had to head up to the top of the tower on our own, to the place where some soldiers were running the repairs we had heard so much about. And what do you know! There were familiar faces waiting for us: this game’s incarnations of Biggs and Wedge! FFVIII is, unfortunately, Biggs and Wedge’s last major appearance outside of minor cameos for many games (skimming the wiki, it seems they won’t have more than a bunch of brief cameos until FFXIII-3!). Despite being recurring characters, these two oddly just use generic Galbadian soldier models, a G-Soldier and an Elite Soldier respectively, which makes me suspect they might have been a somewhat later addition to the game, but not so late that they couldn’t play a recurring role? In any event, I’m glad to see them.
Biggs, the commanding officer, is conducting repairs when Wedge arrives to report on sightings of some kind of boss monster in the area. Biggs ignores him, so Wedge heads off on his own to look for the monster. This leaves Biggs alone when the party arrives, but they’re a little too late, as Biggs manages to complete his work. The Communication Tower produces a huge satellite dish and begins projecting some kind of beam into the sky. It’s here when Biggs turns around to discover the party is uselessly gaping at him, and we get into a fight after Seifer returned and cut off Biggs’ escape.
Being a barely improved version of the Elite Soldier enemy found in random encounters, Biggs was no big(gs) deal, though we had a few laughs at his rushing attack, which played out with him clotheslining his way past our party line, and then politely returning to his starting position after he was done, even though he had been trying to run away before the fight! Wedge showed up part way into the battle, but even this was too late, as the boss monster he had been searching for showed up and knocked them both out of the battle.
The real boss battle was against a flying, air-casting monster called Elvoret, who served as a Draw point for an entire GF, Siren! You can get GFs like this just by Drawing them once, it’s no big deal and a pretty easy chore to check each boss in the game for a GF before you start swinging. Thankfully, GFs are openly labelled when you attempt to Draw, while unknown spells are marked with question marks instead. Ultimately, the Elvoret was no threat. Not only had we already killed the T-Rexaur, a monster with ten times as much HP, while we were much weaker and had only two party members, but the Elvoret was a source for Cure spells, and you can also use Draw to “Draw-Cast” a spell directly from the source, without decreasing your supply! Poor thing. If anything, the only thing hard about the fight was the tedium of watching summon animations over and over. Final Fantasy. After clearing this battle, you also get a “Weapons Magazine” (a magazine about weapons, not a cartridge magazine). These magazines give you synth recipes for various weapons, although this one only gave you our current characters’ starter weapons (including Quistis’), in case we needed dupes sometime in the future
At this point, Selphie is finally able to pass on her message to Seifer: SeeD had ordered a withdrawal ages ago and our team now had only had thirty minutes to get back to the shore to evacuate! This left the party with no time to check out what Biggs and Wedge had been doing here, or even if they had been taken out (although for what it’s worth, Seifer also had no interest). Sure enough, they were both alive, and Biggs got ahold of a device Seifer had knocked from his hand earlier on. He used it to give orders to a robotic drone that was supposed to be protecting his squad. This was X-ATM092, and it was impossible to kill without what Kyle called “serious grinding.” The only option was to do enough damage to force the machine to collapse, at which point we could run away. One problem! We couldn’t work out what buttons cause you to run away on our controller! You had to hold down two buttons at once to do it, too, so it was possible we were doing one wrong but not the other? We finally discovered we had to push both the thumb sticks, but it took so long that we actually stopped our recording temporarily so that we could go online to find our answer!
X-AMV42-whatever resembles a spider, by the way, and will actually pick you up and bite you, like all serious military hardware these days
The robot mech will attempt to engage you at multiple points, but only the first is mandatory, as the rest can be dodged if you avoid the spider-bot on the map. You have to do some silly things to keep away from it, mind. I like the part where the robot jumps in front of you on a bridge in hopes of tricking you to running into it, and then jumps back the other way in hopes of doing it again! I do not like the point where you have to stop moving when it shakes the earth to keep it from stunning you (something that only happens during this one screen, and not others). Experienced fans of platformers will tell you that this isn’t how shaking floors typically work in games, a mechanic that goes back to the NES if not earlier (normally, one avoids being stunned by a ground shake attack by jumping), which makes it almost impossible to work out before you get tagged for a fight. There are six possible fights, but we only encountered two. There was also a point where I rescued the dog in town square from the robot, which I imagine factors into your mission rating, and another moment where two other students were hiding in a café but then ran straight back out.
The whole time this was happening, I was making one snide comment after another about the silliness of the whole situation. Like how we’re hurting its metal, tank exterior with fists and wooden “flails.” Earlier, I had also been complaining about all the swords and soldiers who attack by clotheslining you. So imagine my reaction when the party finally made their way down to the beach and Quistis filled the robot with bullets from the landing craft. “Ohhhhhh,” I said, in imitation of the party. “Guns.” But seriously, what on earth were we doing to damage the robot earlier if not similar damage to Quistis’ machine gun? It wouldn’t have broken down if we hadn’t attacked it, so it’s not a fuel issue or something like that. This also isn’t covered by the usual D&D HP excuses, where HP can represent luck, agility, stamina and fate. We caused it to break down! Damage was done! If we weren’t tearing holes in it, what the fuck was happening?
After this dramatic, fully-rendered CG animation, we then cut straight to the terrible overworld graphics. Ah, what a refreshing quality plunge!
Quistis gave us no explanation for SeeD’s retreat immediately after the fact, much to my frustration. She simply said that we had free time before a proper debriefing back at the Garden. As a result, we spent a little time exploring Balamb Town, and met up with Zell’s mother in town. Also in town was a father telling his daughter the legend of a god named “Hyne,” who had been mentioned briefly earlier in the game. According to the legend, Hyne created humanity so they could do his work while he rested after a great battle, but was so put out by their quick reproduction that he decided to wipe out an entire generation of children. Thankfully, this incredibly nice guy was defeated by children and then “gave up” the weaker half of his body to get away. What exactly is implied by “half,” the myth doesn’t explain, but I’m imagining an NES TMNT3 Krang situation, complete with the legs jauntily prancing off into the sunset.
At this point, Kyle spent our remaining time for this session card hunting, at which point he challenged the guy who had won Ifrit from us, and lost yet again. We decided not to save that loss, and called it quits for the night. Silliness and the baffling writing of the town square sequence aside, I’ve been enjoying the game so far. Keep it up, FFVIII!
Session 2 started with some random-ass cruft, so I’ll tack it on to the end of this post. We started the next time we met up, continuing our ardent avoidance of FFT’s grindy final chapter. This session was quite long and covered basically the entire next plot arc: we started with SEED graduation and wrapped up only after completing the “return to Balamb” sequence after our next mission.
We started our session by briefly trying and then giving up on retrieving the Ifrit card at the start of the session. We didn’t try again for the rest of the session! Heck, we’re not even sure if the NPC is still in the game at the time of writing, because he disappeared from his usual location and hasn’t come back!
Back inside the Garden proper, we overheard two students finally explain why the Communication Tower in Dollet had been abandoned: even though it’s been repaired, it still can’t work. In fact, no such towers work anymore, and haven’t for seventeen years! Apparently some kind of signal noise has filled the airwaves and made such broadcasts unworkable, worldwide. As a consequence, wireless communication has been replaced with cabled television and internet, as well as chocobo-back mail delivery. Strangely, even though the game is adamant that cable television exists, it is somehow impossible for live broadcasts to occur over cable, only recorded ones. I don’t claim to be able to work that one out, but it’s really just the surface the problems with this particular bit of worldbuilding.
Right after this conversation, we learned from the headmaster that Galbadia has retreated from Dollet and apparently has no problems with them taking back power so long as they leave the communication tower online! Geeze, did you ever consider asking or threatening them into repairing it themselves instead of staging a major military conquest?