Weirdly, talking to Cid didn’t progress the plot on its own! We had to aimlessly wander back to the middle of the school for Xu to show up and speak to us, instead. She told us to the observation deck, as a ship was approaching, and god knows who’s on board! Since this was an urgent situation, we went to play cards, and this time we did win the Fujin and Raijin card (from someone other than the person who first had it, as it happened)!
As for the approaching ship, the people on board appeared to be dressed like the people we had seen rescue the strange woman during the insurrection in the Garden, though they claimed to be SeeDs working for Sorceress Edea. Naturally this only confused and conflicted the party. These supposed SeeDs demanded to speak to the headmaster, and told him they had come for Ellone. Stranger still, Cid seemed to think that Squall would know Ellone somehow, and told him that she could be found somewhere in the school. We ultimately found her in the library, and as I had guessed, she was the mysterious woman who had shown up at the start of the game, etc (because who else would it be at this point?).
This post is here to serve as an announcement that, during January 2019, I will be shutting down the comments sections for the Kingdom Hearts Retrospective. Don’t worry, all the old comments will stay up, but you won’t be able to make any new ones. The idea is to have them closed before the release of Kingdom Hearts 3. Since I have to do each page manually, it may take a while, so I’m not setting any exact date, but it will be done before the release date on the 29th.
This is first and foremost an anti-spoiler measure, but I don’t intend to reverse it, since it’s also my way of signalling that I don’t intend to keep polishing up my commentary – in the post or in the comments – every time Nomura does something that expands on said commentary. Once KH3 is out, the Retrospective will be out of date (even more than it already is), and this is my way of acknowledging that. I’ll probably put a boilerplate to that effect in the intro post, too.
One of the luxuries of the Journals over the Retrospectives is that the Journals were never intended to be all-inclusive. A playthrough of FFIV on the Complete Collection was simply that, and the fact that I’ve played FFIV on PC since then doesn’t necessitate an update to the entire Journal. If I ever get back to doing Retrospectives, I should probably make sure it’s for series that are long dead, but no promises, not even to myself. If I break that promise, you can bet that one day, I’ll have to close their comment sections too.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.
If you missed it, I uploaded a Bottom 5 Final Fantasy Dungeons on Sunday as a supplement to our previous post. I even added another runner up (from FFIV) on Monday that had gotten lost between my first and final drafts. Check it out!
As said in the last post, our first few images in this post come from the World of Longplays playthrough made by RickyC (YouTube).
We return to FFVIII on the other side of the world, where Sonic the Leonhart has crossed country so fast that, judging by my math, he must have arrived almost an hour ahead of when he started. Arriving in the garden, he finds that the men wearing kasa have suddenly staged an open coup against Headmaster Cid, and had recruited what seemed to be most of the students, all of whom wanted Cid dead or alive! Whoa, uh… well geeze! I knew things were suspicious but I didn’t think they were this bad! Points for the twist! The men in kasa said they were working for “Garden Master NORG.” I was in control during this section, and initially lied about being one of NORG’s followers in hopes of getting more information, but none came, and I soon cast aside any pretence of mixed loyalties and stealth once I came across students under attack by the NORGites. As I said previously, I don’t have any emotional attachment to the Garden or to Cid, but the NORGites were openly evil, like caricature evil, so it didn’t take long to pick a side. Honest to god, one decision in this section you deciding whether or not to defend two actual children from being eaten by a T-Rexaur.
You also meet Squall’s mystery woman from the start of the game again during this sequence, but nothing happens with her quite yet. Each group of students you rescue earns you an item, though some of them were less valuable than others. Probably the most surprising was in the cafeteria, where someone gave you some Gysahl Greens. Uh… friend, I don’t even have a Chocobo, and so this item literally cannot be used? “Squall, we’re counting on you to save the Garden. Have a carrot.”
We’ll open with the same screenshot, just like playing the actual dungeon!
So, during my most recent FFVIII post, I was discussing my least favourite dungeon in the entire Final Fantasy Marathon, D-District Prison. For point of reference, I also threw some shade on my previous least-favourite dungeon, the Ronka Ruins from FFV. But as I added after the fact, I actually replayed FFV not long after FFVIII, and realized I didn’t dislike the Ronka Ruins as much as I remembered. If you want to see my comments on those two dungeons, check out that post. In this post, I’m going to follow up those thoughts by trying to work out my new #2 least-favourite dungeon!
Now, some quick standards: I’m going to consider any dungeon in the traditional RPGs, any chapter/stage in the stage-based games, and any battle or fixed series of battles in FFT (spoiler: there are no FFT battles on this list, not even the duel with Wiegraf. But I thought it would be nice to have that rule in case we revisit this list after playing FFTA!). Also, this is only for games we’ve covered in the Final Fantasy Marathon at the time of writing (in the middle of FFVIII), and for Final Fantasy alone. If I had allowed Persona 1 dungeons, there’d be nothing else on the fucking list, so I am happy to dismiss it. No TV episodes or films either, both because they’re so different and because, like Persona 1, LotC and FFU would just dominate the list. With that out of the way, let’s take the the dungeons in Marathon order.
So: the worst dungeon to date. Because I never really qualified this sort of thing in the past, the previous record holder was arguably the Ronka Ruins from FFV, as I implied during the FFVII Journal of all places. I don’t consider the air battle before the Ronka Ruins as being a part of the dungeon itself, for the record. Once you’re actually in the ruins, the dungeon itself were a huge, messy maze, little more than an traditional paper maze, with no attempt made to make it resemble a real location and what appears to be active effort to make it more challenging and frustrating. Mazes are everything I despise about dungeon design, and so the Ronka Ruins was once my #1 and still holds my #2 shit-spot.
(Ed. I actually replayed FFV after clearing FFVIII, and found I didn’t mind the Ronka Ruins all that much after all! Still, I’m going to leave my original comments as they stand. I then decided to put some thought into my new #2, and wrote a whole post about my Bottom 5 FF Dungeons so far! Go check it out!)
Disc 2 follows up Squall’s fall off the float by opening with another Laguna flashback. This time, Laguna was alone, with no sign of Kiros and Ward, as befitting Squall’s situation. Laguna was now in casual clothes in a village of some sort, having apparently been woken from his sleep by a young girl that called him “Uncle Laguna.” She told him someone had come to “the pub” looking for Laguna. Laguna chastised her for coming to his house, because apparently coming from the pub to here would have put her at risk of monster attack! The game’s text boxes addressed this girl as “Elle,” but we quickly learned her proper name was Ellone, which I think is supposed to be pronounced “Elle-oh-nee.” Or as my brain insists on calling her … “Elle One.” I like to pretend Laguna has multiple Elles to keep track of but doesn’t care enough to tell them much apart.
On Laguna’s bullet-ridden first floor (seriously, guy?) we learned that Ellone had lost her parents sometime in the past. As Elle had already told us, the Pub was just next door (meaning monsters must be just flooding the town), and Laguna went on ahead to clear out any monsters before allowing Elle to follow. There were simple enemies infesting the town, familiar to us from the Balamb overworld. They continued to appear despite the presence of nearby Galbadian soldiers, whom we later learned would insist that their job was to protect the town from Esthar, not from monsters. Jackasses. Given the nature of random encounters, much less monsters, it’s hard to see how it’s even possible for them to ignore monsters within their line of sight (and vice versa), but it’s not the worst writer’s hack they could have drummed up… goodness knows they’ve proven that already.
Back to Deling we went, and to Caraway’s mansion, where the game tricked me into entering the wrong ID number for the sword by asking for the numbers from right to left instead of left to right! Okay, okay, I should have been paying attention. After getting into the house, Rinoa revealed what had become obvious over a number of hints about her familiarity with the city: she was Caraway’s daughter. She gave Squall an order not to leave her in the house, implying that, despite his favourable political leanings, Caraway might not be a very… ah… nice person, especially not to her. Actually, I’m kind of confused as to why she goes into the house at all if she has these kinds of fears? Seriously, get the poor woman a hotel room and come back for her when it’s time to act.
Unsurprisingly, once Caraway was on the scene, he announced that he would not allow Rinoa to be a part of the assassination, since she wasn’t trained for it. I mean, he’s not wrong, but how about you spread that complaint to the party at large? After Caraway and Squall had a pissing contest about Rinoa, Irvine brought the subject back to the assassination, and Caraway decided to take us to the site to discuss the plan. By the way, “the site” is the middle of town fucking square, right outside of the President’s residence, in the middle of a normally busy street is magically vacated for our briefing. What I’m saying is that Caraway is about to get up on a wide-open stage in the middle of all the town’s spotlights and shout about assassinating a major public figure.
Quistis left to talk to the headmaster and, after a little exploration, we were called to a meeting room. Despite this quick stay, I found two odd things within the building. First off was a mass of close-clustered save points. They couldn’t have done a worse job hiding the fact that not only will this building be a dungeon in the future, but that it will be a maze dungeon, where nearby rooms end up locked off from one another. What’s that? The Sorceress plans to make her base in Galbadia Garden? Well, don’t you worry, because I am positive she will not succeed!
Secondly, a student in a wheelchair told us that the Gardens are supposed to be politically neutral, so Galbadia Garden is technically not on Galbadian soil, like an embassy. “It’s hard to explain…” he said. Yes, writers, it is hard to explain something when you don’t actually have a working explanation!
Once in the meeting room, Quistis returned, and told us that Galbadia had declared Seifer’s attack to be an independent action, and so the Gardens were not responsible. Seifer, however, had been tried and executed in a matter of hours. Kangaroo courts and all that. Oh, and the fact that it obviously wasn’t true, because Seifer is on the game’s cover and hasn’t done anything of serious note yet. So yeah, you can get a really fast trial and execution when you don’t actually try or execute anybody!
At this point, we made our way to the TV station, and were surprised to find a giant screen on the side of the station showing the station’s current broadcast, which thanks to the global interference was nothing but random gibberish in text form (Ed. I later learned, months after we had finished playing, that there are hidden messages in the gibberish that make sense once you understand the reason behind the interference. Very nice!). I can’t imagine the screen has been running like this for eighteen years, so the Galbadians probably just turned it on. Then again, I can’t help but notice that the screen is now facing that impassable wall of buildings I was complaining about earlier, so no one is going to be able to see it these days!
After getting news that the president was inside and too well guarded, Rinoa considered whether to switch to Plan B (the publicity plan) or to go in guns blazing. A stray comment from Squall, however, revealed that he didn’t have much confidence in her. She began to ask him about that, and we were given the option to back down to push harder. Since I had my own issues with the Owls (chiefly that they don’t seem to have a long-term plan), I decided to let her have it, but it turned out that Squall only had really petty complaints about them being unprofessional, and I felt bad for doing it. Come on, Squall, these people might operate in an unorthodox manner, but they just hijacked a train car from the middle of the actual train.
The party gets off the train and arrives in Timber, and immediately meet up with their contact, who led them away from the platform. Before we went, however, I became morbidly fascinated by a blocked-off building marked “Pet Shop.” “Who… builds a pet shop next to a railroad station?” I asked, aghast. “A bad person,” Kyle said. When we talked to the person blocking the entrance, we learned that his dog had been left inside without anyone to tend to it and presumably without food or water. “A very bad person.”
Our contact led us to the resistance base, which was closer than I expected, in a manner of speaking. Specifically, it was on board a train, a mobile base! Interesting approach! There, we met the nominal leader of the resistance, Zone, who introduced our contact as Watts, and the resistance as “the Forest Owls.” I was going to complain to Kyle about the fact that our code phrase to Watts had been about forests and owls and how foolish that is, but I swallowed the complaint, and would later learn that this flaw was definitely intended by the developers. Let’s just say… this may not be a professional terrorist organization.