I can’t say much about the final dungeon. It’s a cave, and you’ve already heard my complaints about caves. It was dull, kind of twisty, and full of heavy-duty monsters that loved to jump us from behind. Also: dragons, which were a guaranteed loss of MP. We had an unfortunate laugh at Kain’s expense here, since he was a dragoon slaughtering dragon after dragon. We’re good people.
Kyle and I got together the day before Christmas Eve (ed: the year the FF Marathon began), determined to see an end to this game so that we could safely say “Three Final Fantasy games done in less than one year!” (Less than a year, in fact! FFI, FFII, FFIV) And the game heard us, and became determined to have us whipped for our insolence.
It was at this point that Kyle and I made a critical mistake. Let’s try to put you in our shoes. We arrived at the moon and found it was much smaller than the world below (as you’d expect), but contained of several dungeons, most of them caves but one of them a massive green-crystal structure (there was also a carved face, probably a reference to the face-like pattern on Mars). Now, that was probably all we should have considered: “Oh, a crystal building, let’s go there.” But there was also another cave, bullseyed by a circle of rock. Where to start? Well, we weighed our evidence and picked the latter. Here’s the list:
- We tried to visit each dungeon first to get a grasp on it, but discovered the crystal dungeon couldn’t be reached directly. By our guess, most of the caves nearby served as a dungeon made up of smaller, micro-dungeons, eventually leading to reach the crystal castle. Ease favoured the bulls-eye cave.
- Tropes are also a factor. On one hand: a giant eye-catching castle demands attention. On the other hand, giant eye-catching castles that can only be reached by tunnel tend to be final dungeons. What were the odds we were going to the final dungeon at this point in the game when there was an easier-to-reach cave right over there?
- The bulls-eyed cave was called “Lair of the Father.” The Elder of Mysidia had just insisted to us that Cecil was being called to the moon, and the last time Cecil was “called,” it was by a mysterious voice that called him “son,” and remember that the game triple underlined the fact that he had been called “son.” If we were on the moon to figure out who was calling to Cecil (the characters certainly seem to have forgotten about Golbez), shouldn’t we be going to “the Father”?
On our way to the Cave (our real attempt, not our scouting attempt), we then ran into a fateful random encounter that would send us into the tailspin we spent the rest of the evening fighting to overcome. A bunch of overworld moon-amoebas did a nasty number on us. I wouldn’t say they kicked our asses, but it was far worse than we had seen for a simple new monster across the entire game. We began to worry that we were under-levelled.
So back in IV, we decided to stop in to show Rydia, still alive, to Edward, but all he did was moan about Yang being dead. Later in the game, we decided not to visit him at all, because all Cecil seems to do is make him want to die a little more. That’s our party leader!
We returned to the cave next to the Tower of Babil and descended, where we found the survivors from that monster-box filled castle from earlier, huddling in the dark. They claim that their ninja-trained prince had gone after Rubicante, presumably hoping to revenge the destruction of their civilization, and we followed the trail of his allies’ bodies (through another water-cave dungeon) to find them. We eventually caught up to the Prince, who actually identified as “Edge.” He tried to fight Rubicante and used one of his Ninjutsu powers to… cast Fire at him. Rubicante absorbed the damage and rightly turned Edge into a roast before leaving. What a reassuring introduction to our newest party member.
Rosa brought Cecil back home to Baron, where we found (well… technically we had been there earlier) that the soldiers were now loyal to us, some of them even trying to proclaim Cecil king. We went for the previously mentioned magically blocked corridor, where we found a back-up throne room (what) inhabited by the ghost of the portraitless king. He told us to come back after we had visited the “Feymarch.” Wow, the game does not want us to see this cutscene.
While in Baron, Kain confided that Golbez does not have all the crystals yet. “So the legends were true!” Cid says, in exactly those words, making me want to boo the game off the stage for being just that cliché (and it’s a literary cliché, so no, it does not get a “bye” for doing it early on in game history). Apparently, this game also has four Dark Crystals ala FFIII. Kain says they’re in “the underground”: apparently this entire planet sits on a paper-thin crust with another planet on the inside! Kain then hands us the “Magma Stone” and says it’s the key to the underworld.
We pick up Final Fantasy IV where we left off: Kyle and I flying to places we are not supposed to be. And boy did it show, with us dying over… and over… and over…
Perhaps I should step back.
Our escapades began when we began flying to the south, where we discovered a town full of people that used the Mini’d sprites to convey that they were descendants of fantasy dwarves, not that we had seen any fantasy dwarves. This Mini sprite was much larger than the Mini’d characters of FFIII, which were like ants. These ones look more like children – in fact maybe a little too much, as the 16-bit Final Fantasies have very strict models for adults and children, and these look like the children except in how they lack necks. It didn’t really come across that these folks were supposed to be adults. The original game doesn’t seem to have done this trick with the Mini-sprites, so maybe it was a little better off for doing so. This “strict models” thing would come back to bite the plot of FFV as well, just you wait.
Maybe Kyle had a moment of remembering the plot, because that’s exactly where we were: Mysidia. The inhabitants were furious at Cecil, of course, and expressed this through passive aggression, turning him into frogs and pigs and such. Unlike the end game town from Final Fantasy II, which sell nearly every spell the game, Mysidia was a little short on magical doohickeys, mostly because this game doesn’t sell spells. In fact, they seemed determined to hock weapons and armour for a class we had never encountered. It was pretty obvious what was about to happen, mostly because Kyle had spoiled me on this plot point years prior to the Marathons. So let’s get that twist out of the way so that you can know it too!
Now where did I leave off? Oh, right. Bug spit. FINAL FANTASY, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!
Inside the oasis town of Kaipo, Cecil rented a room to heal the girl’s injuries, because Inns apparently really do work like that even in a narrative context. When she had slightly recovered, he tried to talk to her. She mostly ignored him, as is only reasonable, and he went to bed in defeat. He was woken in the middle of the night by Baron soldiers, who had arrived by airship to retrieve him and kill the girl, so he got up and fought them off, starting his rebellion.
You thought I was joking about the not taking his armour off when he slept, didn’t you?
Final Fantasy IV (originally released as “FFII” in the West) exists on a strange plane. We originally played FFIV immediately after Final Fantasy II, and in doing so, Kyle and I entered an era that neither of us knew very much about at all. They’re not like FFI or VI, which I knew the general plot of, or FFVII – X, which Kyle knew. Neither of us had really played the games from FFII – V. Kyle had played enough of IV to know a major plot event about a quarter of the way in, but he’d forgotten most of what preceded and never got further. What makes IV different from more recent games is that IV is widely considered a SNES classic. It makes sense that we haven’t played, say, XIII, since it was so new and came after Final Fantasy’s heyday. It also makes sense that we had never played the games that weren’t translated until late (II, III, V). It doesn’t make sense that we had never played IV. Well, time to rectify that.