The party reunites, and preps for the *cough* “final” dungeon run. First up was a trap that I didn’t understand, where you have to hit a switch and then avoid lights that appear in a grid while crossing the room. I thought it was a whack-a-mole game and kept deliberately chasing the lights until Kyle spoke up and explained things to me! One of the monsters in this area was the Movers from FFV, a final dungeon enemy that rewarded treasure troves worth of AP. Not so much here, where they gave no more than a regular enemy! The presence of an end dungeon enemy, plus the inevitable encounter with Garland and Kuja, prompted me to joke that we were in a fake-out dungeon, like Exdeath’s Castle and the Floating Continent before this. Kyle asked how I could possibly think this wasn’t the final dungeon, and I got to look him straight in the eye and say: “Well, I have this fourth disc in my game box that I haven’t touched yet…” This structure doesn’t work on the PSX!
Next up was an elevator puzzle. The idea is that the elevator has a ramp that’s required to get on or off, and the ramp rotates 50 degrees each level it rises. You have control of the ramp’s starting rotation, and have to coordinate it with your climb in order to get anywhere. If you fail to do it in a mere two attempts, the game will have your other party members stay behind to rotate the ramp at will, which trivializes the puzzle. Funnily enough, this is delivered as an ATE, and is actually the last ATE in the entire game, despite this not actually being the final dungeon! There’s an entire disc to go and they just… abandoned this prominent side feature!
The last room was a simple teleporter puzzle, with each teleporter vertically aligned with its twin. No big deal, just had to work out that the room had multiple entrances and everything fell into place. With that done, it was time for the inevitable battle with Garland.
Garland had some more babble before the fight, something about the people of Terra reviving as people between life and death, something about not killing to eat, I think…? Look, Garland, if you want the Terrans to photosynthesize, they should be green. Is he supposed to be hypocritical when he says that he wants to stop having to kill things to live but is killing things to live? He is, right? Ugh, Garland’s motives really has nothing to do with anything, and after Persona 2, I’m really getting tired of these throwaway villains and their throwaway, nonsense motivations getting so! Much! Airtime! If it hadn’t been for both P2 games doing it I probably wouldn’t be sour. Our chosen party gave some – I swear to god – completely unrelated friendship speeches as though “in response” to Garland’s rant, because they aren’t listening to Garland any more than I am. Look, let’s just start punching, okay?
Oh, and as soon as the punching started, the game crashed!
Garland starts by calling in a Silver Dragon to fight us (presumably this isn’t Kuja’s, though at the time of writing I can’t say if Kuja’s shows up later or what). I’m embarrassed to say that the Silver Dragon made a fool of me. That, more than anything else, made the Garland fight difficult. Like most of the difficult bosses lately, the dragon could cause group damage, and we had left Quina on the bench in favour of Eiko (Ed. and we still didn’t know you could group-heal)! The boss isn’t that hard, and we had a Trance on Zidane to make things even easier, which is probably why I was able to squeak by in such poor condition instead of simply getting a Game Over, which might have been better for us overall!
Between the fighting, Zidane asked Garland why he chose to be in charge of the restoration project instead of going into stasis, and he… didn’t… really… answer the question? The poor game’s plot is falling apart with these villains. He just attacked us. Garland was primarily a mage, able to cast Black Magic ur-spell Flare. This time I was grateful to have Eiko, since she could Summon Carbuncle, but the trick was getting the party on their feet before or during the Reflect wall. Poor Amarant did virtually nothing but Chakra the entire fight, mostly to keep Eiko and Vivi charged with MP while occasionally healing their minor wounds that weren’t enough to justify Eiko’s Curaga (since the two of them didn’t have enough HP to justify Curaga even at 1 health!). The fight might have gone better if we weren’t trying to Steal Garland’s stuff, but I kept it up anyways, worried that the closer we got to the endgame, the rarer the equipment would get! (I later learned that there are unique steals on Disc 4, but not here at the end of Disc 3!) For that matter, even the Carbuncle strategy didn’t kick in until late, or things might have gone a lot better. At one point in the fight, I even used one of our Elixirs!
If that had been the end of it, things would have been fairly tidy, but just like the Mistodon sequence in Alexandria, the game decided to pile on another fight that was only really “hard” because of the lack of a break after the previous fights. Kuja himself decided to attack at this point, having stolen the Invincible while Garland was distracted. Like Garland, Kuja was primarily a caster, so my tactics didn’t change, except that I wasted a lot less time Stealing because I was fed up. Unfortunately, one of Kuja’s spells was Gravity and that didn’t hurt him on Reflect. His spell Flare Star ignored Reflect and did some nasty group damage to boot.
Continuing a trend we’ve had going since Eternal Punishment, Kuja actually managed to kill himself with a reflected Thundaga. I don’t know how that keeps happening! But he had a plan ready in case he was defeated: he entered a Trance. And unlike a regular Trance, he had used the Invincible to channel the flow of souls into him (or something like that) which not only boosts his power, but allows him to remain in Trance indefinitely. He used Ultima to defeat us and kicked Garland off a ledge, surely the most reliable way to kill somebody in fiction!
Sure enough, Garland did come back for revenge, but not, you know… outright alive like you’d expect after a fictional character falls from a tall height. His soul (or something like that… again) spoke out and informed Kuja that he had been bio-engineered with a time limit on his life, meant to die when Zidane became an adult, meaning Kuja had little time left. Kuja initially laughed this off, but as he realized it was probably true, he began to fall into a deep distress. The game made the connection to the Black Mages an open fact instead of a subtlety (I don’t know how I feel about that), and Kuja vowed to kill everyone as revenge. Kyle talked about how dull he found that motivation, this… “If I can’t have it no one can” bit, and I agree with him. It’s nice that we’re finally seeing the Xande storyline we never got to actually see in FFIII, the other villain that never wanted to die, but Xande took an interesting approach trying to achieve stasis over death. Kuja doing “destroy the world” is just another of his dull bingo cliches.
Kuja decides the right place to start is to destroy Terra, presumably including the sleeping Terrans. Unable to do anything to stop him, the party arranges an evacuation for the Genomes and their few Moogle companions, stealing the Invincible as their escape vehicle (I guess there’s no way to stop Kuja from getting souls now that you have control of the “funnel?” Anyone?). Zidane gets a chance to thank Garnet for rescuing him earlier, finally breaking this wall he’s had preventing him from talking to her. After that’s done, they arrive at Bran Bal. The Genomes mostly go along with the evacuation, except for the “Girl” from earlier. She reveals that she was built as Zidane’s replacement, third in the chain that started with Kuja, but she still truly believes in the cause. Zidane, taking some unwanted familial insinuations from Kuja in a previous scene to a brighter turn, decides to tell the girl she’s his “sister” and asks her name, which turns out to be Mikoto. He tells her that the Genomes are pretty clearly not just empty, soulless vessels meant to be tools for the Terrans, and convinces her to escape. The disc ends with Kuja destroying his homeworld.
Disc 4 starts as the the party begin to talk about the situation aboard the Invincible, noting that they’ll probably have to go to the Iifa tree to stop the flow of souls to Kuja. Just then, Steiner runs up with bad news: the entire planet is covered in Mist now. I couldn’t see the stuff, but reader Danny B points out that the Mist really does return here in the form of a tighter distance fog effect, which I didn’t notice because I’ve trained myself not to notice the stuff over the last few decades, but it’s there! Anyways: the Mist is back! Wow! I’d probably care if you had established what was actually bad about Mist except in a few throwaway lines at the start of the game! By the way, what happened to the “the Mist is gone and that’s bad” plotline?
The party takes the Genomes to Black Mage Village, where the two former slave races start to learn from one another. We got another look at Bobby Corwen (“Won’t it bite?” asked a Genome. “Yes,” I said. “Frequently.”) and everything seemed to be going fine for them, so long as we can keep Kuja from destroying the fucking planet and all that. After a final scene with Garnet, who decided we shouldn’t tell Cid what’s happening to avoid a panic (I do not agree with this), the party went off for final prep, and we shut down for the session.
In our final session, we’ll probably buy up the last of the game’s equipment at Dageurreo, and probably complete the Stellazzio sidequest. Marathon rules insist we get the “best ending,” and strictly speaking, the final reward for the Stallazzio quest is tied in to an expanded ending, but the scene is of no particular consequence, so we have to decide if that’s really “the best.” If we don’t keep the item, we can actually use it to synth some super-armour for Steiner, so you understand our reluctance! Other than that, there’s not much to do left on the overworld. Unfortunately the days when you got a huge crop of optional, end-game challenges ended with FFVII, and there’s really not much more than general prep left to keep us from going straight to the Iifa tree for whatever may come! Wish us retroactive luck?
In between sessions, I took to grinding for cash and AP, primarily to acquire a Dark Matter from the Treno Auction house to fulfill our Marathon objective to get all “party members” (I recorded all this, but fucked up bad when cropping out the borders and deleted the original before I realized my mistake, thus the continued Disc 3 screenshots in this section). I got so much money, in fact, that I got half-way through another side-quest prompted by buying miscellaneous items and decided to finish that, too! Bought a few other items along the way, too, including Garnet’s Curaga staff, which the wiki told me had become available for sale in Black Mages’ Village. I’m glad the wiki said it was a Disc 4 exclusive, because the price was so low I would have otherwise figured we had missed it hours ago! I also got the Thieves’ Gloves at auction, and at a way lower price than it would have been at the synth shop! These modify Zidane’s steal odds for rarer items. As for the AP training, I caught Amarant up, but later realized I should have also been training Steiner, since he also has to train a butt-ton of weapons one after another. Oh well.
Anyways, the sidequest. An old man in Daguerreo is looking for an item called a “Magical Fingertip,” a quite literal human fingertip that can be bought at auction. But it’s not that easy: it will only show up if you buy several referential but otherwise innocuous items at the auction: the Rat Tail from FFI and elsewhere, items referencing Doga and Unei from FFIII (which can trigger an Easter Egg in Black Mage Village), and a Griffin’s Heart, which doesn’t seem to be a reference to anything. You then have to find people in town who will buy them off of you, most of which are found in the process of walking off-screen to make them easier to miss. Once you sell them all, the Magical Fingertip shows up at auction, though it took three auctions for the game to finally sell it close to the price average instead of stratospherically above it (I won’t get into the auction’s mechanics). Once you bring the fingertip to the old man, he explains his tragic story of how the fingertip belonged to a supposedly magical dollmaker, Gogo (yes, name after the Mimic), and how he wanted its powers to build a doll of his late wife, only to realize that both he, and perhaps the fingertip, are past their prime and he has lost his opportunity. He promised to move on and make some other use of his life.
I finished up my grinding session by cashing that stupid Kupo Nut, earning a gag armour in the form of a Hawaiian shirt.