We were greeted at the entrance by Fujin and Raijin, who had flip-flopped on their “let’s let Squall beat Seifer back to normal” plan, and were now going to attack us. With two of our current party (Squall and Irvine) equipped with Sleep-inducing Junctions, we had soon knocked both of them out and began to milk Fuu for Full-Life (Arise) spells. Sadly, our third party member, Selphie, didn’t have any remaining magic slots to use to hold Full-Life. And it’s arguably too bad that she didn’t, because she had nothing to do for the whole fight but to attack the Rai and Fu, and so eventually reduced them below a certain health mark that not only changed their AI to a harder one, but woke them both up! I’ve never seen a change in AI remove status effects like this before, at least not without a transformation or magic spell to explain it! These changes meant that I had to get serious and end the fight. Oh well. Raijin and Fujin ran off. Just a few rooms into the map, and Biggs and Wedge showed up, having not been seen in hours, and they outright quit their jobs and ran off, without even noticing us! The way to the dungeon was now open.
Say, remember a hundred years ago when Laguna and friends scouted out an Estharan excavation site and I said it was mildly possible to change the past? Welcome to the payoff! It seems the Estharans were actually trying to excavate Lunatic Pandora, which is actually some kind of relic from a past civilization (either that or they dig up the Crystal pillar at the excavation site and then built Lunatic Pandora around it?), and they took part of the crystal mines with them. And sure enough, all the optional stuff you could do in the flashback opened up new prizes now. We hadn’t realized this was going to be the case, however, which was bad news. You see, Kyle’s strategy guide told us that we would be able to find a Power Generator here, and we were counting on it to Quistis her second-last Blue spell (you’ll recall we Refined the one we got from Chocobo World into ammo to use for Squall’s ultimate weapon). Yup, you guessed it: you can only get the Power Generator if you do something in the flashback dungeon, and it was literally the only thing we had missed. Dammit. We worked this out after the dungeon’s first boss. With no other way to get the spell short of relying on Boko to return a second, we headed out and Kyle took over to grind Blitzes in Centra, who had only a <6% chance of returning Power Generators to Mug. We lucked out, and found one in far less time than the odds suggested it would. After that, we made another pre-Disc 4 backup save and returned to the dungeon.
By the way, in finding Quistis’ second-last limit break, we had done it. We had completed! Virtually! Everything! We had missed that one Combat King magazine, and some sidequests that give duplicate rewards (like the Zell and Library Girl “romance quest,” which I’m disappointed to have missed now that I’m learning about it after the fact), and we hadn’t yet collected Quistis’ final limit break because it would require some grinding, but I intended to do so later (Ed. and did). Everything else was either done according to our standards for 100%! This is easily the closest we’ve come to 100% a Final Fantasy game with a full arsenal of sidequests! Sure, there are some games – especially the older games and the portable games – that don’t have optional content, meaning you 100% them almost by default, but there’s no pride in 100% a game if it happens nigh-automatically. This calls for a celebration! And since this feels like something worth recording for posterity, I’ll qualify it by doing a list.
- While the original FFI had only small sidequests that wouldn’t qualify for a notable 100% game, the remakes introduced the Soul of Chaos and the Labyrinth of Time, and that puts the shoe on the other foot. We played the GBA version during our playthrough, so the Labyrinth of Time wasn’t available, but we could have done the Soul of Chaos dungeons. Unfortunately, we were still treating the Marathon as a race at the time, as per the Mega Man games, so we didn’t touch them. I’ve actually been lazily playing through the PSP FFI with a copy of our original team to get us to the point where we could do runs of these dungeons, but it hasn’t been a high priority.
- The only optional content in the GBA FFII is the Soul of Rebirth’s battle with Ultima Weapon, but since it’s kind of easy to become superhuman in Soul of Rebirth, that never felt like much of an accomplishment (I do, after all, describe it as, “The Juicer Incident”). Like with FFI, I’ve been lazily playing this game on PSP as well, and we might one day play the multi-part Arcane Labyrinth. Actually, since the Arcane Labyrinth does level-scaling, maybe we could go for that any day now?
- FFLI has only one, tiny sidequest, where you redirect water from one false paradise to another. Collecting Excalibur, the Nuke, and visiting the Hidden Town all arguably count in their own way, although they aren’t really “quests” so much as “unusual treasure chests” and an unusual town, but we did those too. So yeah, we got 100%, but it’s so small that I don’t feel like it’s on the same level.
- FFIII DS has a hernia waiting to happen in the form of the Blacksmith’s Ultimate Weapons, which involves getting Jobs to level 99. Yeah, I’m not going to do that, but you could argue it doesn’t “count” the same way that getting characters to Level 99 doesn’t “count” for completion by my standards in every other game. That said, even if you set aside the ultimate weapons, there’s still FFIII’s superboss, the Iron Giant, which we never touched.
- FFLII has the Nasty Dungeon, which we attempted but never finished.
- FFA‘s only sidequest, so far as I can remember, was to hatch the Chocobo during the middle of the game. Another understandable Game Boy underachiever.
- FFIV Complete for the PSP has two major blocks of optional content that we skipped: the bonus dungeons at Mount Ordeals for getting your returning party member’s ultimate weapons, and also the Lunar Ruins for every character. We also never finished the “Tail” sidequest that involves getting a lottery-winning low drop from the Princess Flans, but since the odds are so low, I refuse to acknowledge it. I happen to be playing the PC version on-and-off these days, but I’m even further away from 100% that version, since getting 100% in the 3D FFIVs involves beating the game (at least!) twice, as well as getting an incredibly rare drop for Namingway. Also, even if I completed FFIV PC from top to bottom, that version doesn’t include the Lunar Ruins, so I still wouldn’t feel like I was “done” with our initial Marathon run on the PSP.
- FFIV: Interlude: I suppose we never technically went to the Developer’s Room. Maybe I should go there, just so I don’t feel silly having left the easiest FF to complete accidentally incomplete?
- TAY: We got every character and Summon in TAY, which is nothing to sniff at, and also got all the hidden ores in Rydia’s Tale. Unfortunately, we have yet to beat the superbosses, including Lost Babil. We also didn’t touch the Challenge Dungeons during our playthrough, which is another notable oversight. Nor did we bother with the extended Tails sidequest, but that’s because it’s nonsense.
- FFLIII has quite a few optional dungeons and challenges, all of which we cleared, but none of which are particularly challenging. Definitely more of a “full-sized game” by modern standards, but still too easy to count, as a consequence of the platform and the game’s low overall difficulty.
- MQ‘s closest thing to a sidequest is collecting all the equipment (normally I wouldn’t count “getting all the equipment” as a completion requirement, but FFMQ has only a few dozen pieces of equipment that all fit into a tidy grid that’s easily qualified at a glance) and clearing all the Battlefields. Done, but doesn’t count.
- While we got most of FFV‘s optional content (all the Sealed Weapons, visited the Phantom Village, got Mime, even found Mr. Clio), and we got nearly all the Blue Magic, and could easily find the few we skipped once we got lazy. Not bad, but not great either, and missing all the remake bonus content. (Ed. Hello from the future! As a matter of fact, I recently went back to the game on an achievement run, and have currently done everything but the bonus dungeons and superbosses! Unfortunately, the bonus dungeons and superbosses are still incomplete at the time of writing. Close, though! Easily my new #2 for completion after FFVIII, beating out…)
- FFVI: We got all the major things in the game that aren’t in the Dragon’s Den or Soul Shrine, and even got about a quarter of the way through the former. We even got all of Strago’s Lores, to the best of my memory. That would make FFVI a high-water mark, if it weren’t for thrice-cursed Gau and his hundreds of rages. We beat the game with only, like… three. I don’t know if I care to let the Rages “count” though, because thanks to their sheer volume, it almost feels like it’s similar to demanding you get all the equipment, you know? What do you think?
- Crisis Core: While we did more Missions than we rightly had to do and breezed through the game as a consequence, Crisis Core has even more Missions than that! For what it’s worth, we did ensure that we got all missable content, so we could go back to 100% our file someday. Which is more than I can say for…
- FFVII: We missed about half the ultimate weapons and ultimate limit breaks, some of them permanently (like Aerith’s and Barret’s), because we just didn’t care. Didn’t beat either of the stronger superbosses either, though we did clear Ultimate Weapon and all the optional dungeons. This is another game I’m currently replaying for better coverage, starting (god help me) with the achievement for earning Great Gospel.
- Dirge of Cerberus: Those hidden “pills” can bite me, though I feel a bit bad about the narrative-stripped multiplayer missions that were retrofitted into bonus missions. After all, if we had been playing the Japanese version (while the servers were still up, anyways) they might have been on our “must-play” list!
- FFT: While we had pretty good coverage of most of the game’s sidequests, errands and optional characters, we never went into Midlight’s Deep, nor did we ever unlock the Dark Knight, Mime, or even the Onion Knight jobs for any character. Sadly, the PSP multiplayer missions are literally inaccessible without another copy of the game on PSP, but I won’t hold that against us.
- Final Fantasy Unlimited: Listen here, you! I’ve written up more about FFU than most of the Internet even knows exists. 200% completion! Platinum Trophy! I will go down in flames in the Final Fantasy hall of glory!
Quistis’ Blue Magic aside (Ed. and again, I got that later), the only thing we’re really missing in FFVIII are 1) clearing Chocobo World, which I’m idling through even as I first draft this (Boko’s at Level 82!); 2) the game’s superboss; 3) the Magazine sidequest, which I’ll be sure to do on a replay someday; and 4) the game’s two bullshit achievements: the “Never Use Squall” achievement, and the simply unreasonable 10 000 Kills achievement that virtually no one on Steam has even bothered to earn. I can imagine maybe one day doing the Never Use Squall achievement, since it sounds like fun. This game’s gameplay can be a lot of fun, especially when you know what you’re doing, and especially when you’re willing to break it, Marathon-style. This Achievement encourages you to do just that, and I respect it as a clever achievement that informs the players about the extreme yet still largely skill- and planning-based possibilities in the game (the level-scaling means that the enemies will be weaker to make up for your missing party member, and that sounds like an interesting challenge!). If I weren’t already replaying three Final Fantasy games, I’d probably have started already! The 10 000 Kills achievement can go rot.
Funny fact: one thing I was surprised to learn from looking at the Steam Achievements is that the achievement for learning all of Rinoa’s Limit Breaks is actually less common than the one for Quistis’! In fact, it’s the lowest-earned achievement that doesn’t make unreasonable demands of the player, like “Do a low-level run of the entire game” or “Play Chocobo World.” This in spite of the fact that Quistis’ achievement almost requires a guide, including the fact that you need a Level 100 Sylph to Refine her last Limit Break, contrary to all other Refinements in the game! Rinoa’s, meanwhile, requires a lot of walking and finding a bunch of books, all of which you can literally buy with Tonberry if you missed them, and if you’re willing to go online to get Quistis’ Blue Magic, I’m sure you can get the magazines and Tonberry! The worst I can say about Rinoa’s is that you can be locked out of it on Disc 4, but again, the internet should have saved you from that if you did Quistis’! It just seems like it’d be more common to solve the puzzle with less moving parts (Rinoa’s) than the one with lots (Quistis’), you know? I suspect – shot in the dark here – that you can blame the fact that a lot of people are going into the Steam re-release with experience, and so know that Rinoa isn’t actually in the game for a big chunk of it, and are probably throwing her out of the party instead of walking with her and learning the tricks.
Also surprising: the missable magazine achievement, which you get for collecting the Combat Kings, Occult Fans and Pet Pals magazines, is more frequently earned than the unmissable Timber Maniacs magazine achievement!
Okay, enough tangential bullshit for the time being, let’s finish off Lunatic Pandora. Not that there’s much to say about it, since we saw most of it during Laguna’s visit, and parts of it again during Zell’s. I only really have two things to add. First: why is every monster in this dungeon Level 1? No, really, every minor enemy including the traditional end-of-game Behemoths are Level 1 instead of level-scaled like nearly every other enemy in the game! Why? Two: why does this dungeon have dead ends that look like doors? It had a least two of them. You walked inside the door, walked for a while, realized you weren’t getting anywhere, and then walked back only to discover you hadn’t gone that far to begin with! Why didn’t Squall say, “It’s a dead end” or something? The only other time the game has done something like this was for make-out point back at the Garden!
Eventually, we got back to the point where Zell had been tossed from the dungeon several hours ago, and we ran into the boss that did it, a robot called Mobile Type 8. This time it didn’t automatically win, and of course there was no justification for why. Every few turns, Mobile Type 8 would switch between “main fire mode” and “support fire mode.” The robot was made of multiple parts, and you only had to kill the main body to win, but if its supports were left alive, they would attack during “support fire mode” and counterattack you if you hit the body body during “main fire mode.” I did try to attack the supports, but my few group casts ended up destroying the main body before I even knew it. Yup, you read that right: I didn’t even notice the fight’s complexities, like the aforementioned details about the two modes. I even got hit by the robot’s super-attack, Corona, only once, and still pulled through almost in my sleep. How did I even do that? I’m not even dragging the game here, what the fuck happened? Corona is arguably a return of the spell from Super Mario RPG, where it was among the most powerful enemy attacks, but in this game it’s a different name for Kefka and Sephiroth’s Heartless Angel. I killed the boss right after it used it, entirely by accident.
Rai and Fu retreated to the final room, where they decided to turn on Seifer, again, and free Ellone. Seifer, however, carried on with his evil scheme, saying his mysterious, “romantic” dream still hadn’t been granted, and that he insists on carrying on just because he doesn’t see any point in stopping now. You know, Square would publish Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, a game dedicated to attacking this cliché motivation, just half a console generation later. Just saying.
By the way, you will never learn any more about Seifer’s romantic dream, unless it’s in the game’s closing minutes, the only part I have yet to see at the time of writing. In fact, from what I’ve seen, he’s just a few minutes away from being erased from the plot. I don’t even know any more.
Seifer’s fight opens with a moment so amazing that I’m really disappointed I was spoiled on it, though for the record I got a real hoot even just reading about it! Too bad I missed the intended delivery, is all. You see, as soon as the Seifer battle begins, who should show up but Odin. But after he attacks Seifer, to everyone’s surprise, it’s Odin who dies! Odin’s Zantetsuken (the sword, that is) goes flying, only to be caught by a mysterious hand. At this point you fight Seifer as usual, and he was even more pathetic than ever, despite that amazing entrance. Once Seifer is defeated (or after 16 turns if you saw the scene with Odin and fail to kill Seifer first), a new figure arrives: Gilgamesh, now carrying the Zantetsuken and making it abundantly clear that he’s the Gilgamesh from FFV, after being banished to The Void. This is especially clear in Japan, where he starts saying the name “Bartz.” This marks Gilgamesh’s first appearance after FFV, so the clarification was important! And so one of Final Fantasy’s most storied traditions began. As I’m typing this first draft, Gilgamesh is just now leading in the FFWiki’s championship vote for favourite-ever Final Fantasy character, and his legacy arguably began right here. In a single blow, Gilgamesh defeats Seifer.
As a replacement for Odin (speaking of storied traditions, FFVI fans will recognize this is a continuation of the Raiden event from FFVI), Gilgamesh operates under different rules. He only appears in the middle of battles, not at the start, and only if there’s an extended period of so-called “Dead Time,” similar to some of Angelo’s abilities (you and the enemy have to sit still doing nothing for a stretch, easier to do when your and their speed stat is low!). If he shows, he randomly selects one of his weapons to make an attack. Zantetsuken instantly kills all enemies just like Odin, but like Edgar’s chainsaw in FFVI, is useless against bosses (of course, Odin would never show up to a boss fight, other than Seifer, so we’re still ahead of the pack). His next two weapons, the Excalibur and Masamune, do damage to a single target, which actually can help against bosses. The final weapon, Excalipoor, does 1 damage.
Seifer survives and runs off, kidnapping Rinoa off-screen (I believe this would have happened on-screen if she had been on in our party). Still rattling on about his “my life must play out according to tropes” bullshit, he drags Rinoa to Adel’s prison, and the Disc comes to an undercut finale! It feels like the scene was accidentally cut in half during development, like they wanted the real cliffhanger to be occur after the very next boss fight (which would have been a lot more compelling, and another disc-ending sorceress, for that matter!) only to run out of room on the CD at the absolute last byte. Or maybe they felt the scene one boss from now works better without interruption? Or maybe they just don’t agree with me that Seifer’s scene stinks! Anything is possible!
The party runs off after Seifer via a crane he activated somehow, and they come to Adel’s chamber. Seifer’s started mumbling something about Ultimecia wanting all the sorceress’ powers in one body, which makes me wonder why she was so clumsy with Rinoa and the stream of monsters in space. Edea already explained that powers have to be passed on, but Rinoa’s would have been lost in space! In any event, despite Rinoa’s genuinely upsetting pleas to her ex, Seifer throws her to Adel, who gets set free and grabs her (hey remember in the FFT Journal when I talked about how we’re not allowed to talk about sexual intimacy but are allowed to talk about sexual violence? Have this delightful example that’s just one step away from partner abuse just to fatten things up a bit). Adel then attacks you, with Rinoa… bound to her chest like Rola to Giga-Desp in Metal Combat: Falcon’s Revenge. What? No. You’re kidding. You’re kidding! The battle against one of the most notorious figures in the game’s canon, the greatest mass-murderer in history, who had to be tricked into a sealing device because it wasn’t possible to kill her… is a gimmick battle? Implying that without the gimmick, it would be too easy to kill her? They’re even playing the regular boss music instead of the Ultimecia music. This is pathetic. I was just talking about how pathetic the Disc 3 finale was only for Disc 4 opening to be a letdown in its own right!
So let’s talk about the gimmick fight… in the echoing, dramatic emptiness. Rinoa-the-hostage has only a little HP (and her “enemy” level-scaling maxes out at Level 46 and 9036 HP). Group attacks and most Limit Breaks are obviously out the window, though you do have some wiggle room with the latter. Worse, Adel keeps draining Rinoa of around 700 HP every few turns, using it to heal herself. The best approach is to cast Regen on Rinoa if you have it, and then to stick to the few attacks you have that won’t do group damage. I stuck to regular attacks, though I left Irvine in the danger zone so that he could use some of his shittier Limit Break ammo, half because I could confirm it was a type of ammo that did single-target damage… and half because I knew that since this was a gimmick fight, Adel would be a joke. And she was!
It’s only after the Adel fight that things finally get interesting. Ultimecia jumps automatically to Rinoa, and Ellone runs in to send her into the past. To my surprise, she even succeeds at bringing Rinoa back to the present, even though that felt like a Chekhov’s Gun. And that’s it: the plan worked perfectly and Ultimecia destroys the world. Congratulations everyone! This was our literal objective.