Well, it’s that time again: time to look back at a long period of gaming spanning several years in both development and playtime. The last time we did this, we were covering the NES, SNES and GB eras, plus their direct continuations. The games we’ll be covering this time are all the PSX-era RPGs and their continuations, basically everything we played after FFVI and up to the present day, including six Final Fantasy games (seven if you count Before Crisis), three Persona games, two Final Fantasy movies, and one Final Fantasy TV show. This is proximate to our last look-back in terms of products (our last Look-Back covered twelve Final Fantasy games, one OVA, and the undersized FFII Soul of Rebirth and FFIV Interlude), but represents way more blog posts overall. The Directory was really getting unwieldy. Admittedly, as Kyle comments in one of his reviews, all these spinoffs and sequels are going to make this something of a FFVII-centric post, but it’s how it’s gotta be.(more…)
Remember FFT’s Errands, and the artefacts they sometimes rewarded? You know, the ones that referenced past Final Fantasy games, accelerating the grand, incestuous tradition of Final Fantasy cross-references? In international versions of FFT, there’s only one artefact you get to examine up close: the Scriptures of Germonique. But this wasn’t necessarily the case in the Japanese release, where all the book-like artefacts can be experienced to some degree, in this case in the form of “sound novels.” These were never translated, not even in international versions of the remake.
What does FFT consider a “sound novel?” The term shouldn’t be confused with “audio drama,” and the word “novel” shouldn’t be taken literally either. Basically, they’re text-driven short stories that happen to have dynamic background music (the music is available internationally, if only in FFT’s hidden sound test). FFT’s sound novels also happen to be games of a sort, ranging from Choose Your Own Adventure-style stories to games with actual variables to track.(more…)
Battle 62: Airship Graveyard
Welcome to Final Fantasy Tactics, the only game in the franchise to end in a garage! An Airship hangar, I mean. Ramza’s summary of the Scriptures of Germonique had already set up the existence of airships in the past, and airships are a franchise standard, so I suppose the authors felt there would be no sense in ending the game without a visit to the airship. Besides… it allowed the devs to cheat. But more on that in a moment.
Apparently, Folmarv sensed Ajora’s spirit lingering on one particular derelict airship, and he had set up Alma’s body with the Virgo stone here to revive the High Seraph. But the ritual wasn’t working… at least not until Folmarv saw Ramza and the party and pulled the title “Angel of Blood” from out of his ass (we’d only later learn that the High Seraph is the “Angel of Blood,” but there was no setup for this at the time, like a lot of name-related things in FFT). He decided to transform into Hashmal, Bringer of Order, the lion Lucavi, to get the blood he needed out of our bodies and all that. Indeed, some fans seem to have decided that the entire War of the Lions was orchestrated for the blood they needed, but this seems unlikely, given that it didn’t occur to Folmarv to add more blood until giving it a few hours of thought. If the War had been a blood sacrifice all along, you’d think “more blood” would be at the front of his mind!
And heyyyyyy! Would you look at that! The semifinal boss in a story about a war between two lion factions is a… you get it? You guys? Do you get it?(more…)
Session 5. While Kyle suggested we start our final session by buying duplicate items so that we could replace any that might be Rent in the final few battles, we didn’t want to risk random encounters, and were only able to stock up on half our necessary equipment in Dorter (heavy equipment and light equipment are sold in different towns). This wasn’t as helpful as it sounds, as we already had duplicates of those to begin with! We got lucky, because even though we did lose a few items of heavy equipment to Rending, we had exactly enough to spare, but no more!
Battle 58: Orbonne Monastery, Fourth Level
Into Orbonne, with no dramatic monologuing on the familiar upper levels! Instead, we went straight down to the highest level we had yet to visit, and found ourselves in battle with a set of generics in an incredibly odd map: one that was filled with giant books, as though we had been shrunk down or something! Geeze, I had seen “Book” in the list of terrain available to a Geomancer, but I assumed it was just short for… “Bookshelf,” you know?
Kyle just breezed through this battle, and that with poor, forgotten Wilham in the party for one last, uh, oversight. Really, one of the simplest fights in a while. Next!
Battle 59: Orbonne Monastery, Fifth Level
Loffrey was waiting for us at the sigil, along with a troupe of casters. He didn’t have much to say to us, so on to business. Most of the battlefield flat as a pancake (to make room for the sigil), Final Destination, Fox only, no items, you know the drill. I guess you’ve got to have at least one battlefield like this, huh? Loffrey himself was a Divine Knight, like Meliadoul. During the battle, Ramza said something about Loffrey reminded him of Celia and Lettie, as though he was an Ultima Demon. In the end he didn’t transform or anything, though he did talk about… surpassing human flesh, or what have you.
Unusually for our boss-fighting strategies, I actually did attack a few lesser enemies here, but only because they were noticeably weak. Yes, while the enemy bosses in the endgame are quite durable, their thugs were tinfoil, with gaps in their ability slots and incredibly low stats, despite the game claiming they were above level 50! I joked to Kyle that all the good cultists must be dead already.
Towards the end of the battle, I made the mistake of attacking Loffrey with Ramza’s Ultima, even though Ultima wasn’t my best option. Just trying to show off, you know? This ended up reducing him to critical HP, meaning he made a run for the far corner. This made it something of a trick to weave Agrias over to attack him, and I knew that if she were killed in the interim I’d have no chance at all. Thankfully she made it, and the fight was over.
At this point, Loffrey decided to pull an Aganihm from LttP, with the logic that bringing the hero closer to the conspiracy’s evil plan was somehow better than… you know… locking the hero out, permanently and guarenteed. He recited the incantation a second time, transporting the party to the necrohol, where (after the battle) he destroyed the exit sigil and trapped them there. Well darn, I was just going to leave, but now I have no choice but to ruin your evil plan! Loffrey died after this.
(Confusing detail, but at the end of the previous battle, you overhear Loffrey reciting the invocation to teleport someone else to the Necrohol, but he’s muffled. The incantation invokes a spirit named, “Zomal, Reeve of Time.” This became confusing, as the muffled incantation mentions the title “Reeve” out of context. This got strange when one of Loffrey’s randomly named thugs was, himself, named Reeve! (Presumably, this NPC Reeve was named after the FFVII character; the list of random names is full of Final Fantasy references.) As a result, I didn’t realize the muttered speech was the incantation at first – I figured he was just giving instruction to his underling, and maybe no one had been transported to the necrohol yet! For a minute there, I thought we had just arrived ahead of Folmarv!)
So, we were now in “the necrohol of Mullonde,” aka the sunken ruins of the original city of Mullonde, buried ages ago. Into the ruins then! Before the next battle, we made our final Job change in the game, and it was a foolish one. Annoyed with Ramza’s low defence, we decided to change him to Dragoon, and naturally we gave him a spear, since spears give you boosted damage when you use your Jump attack. “Just to try it out,” we said. We then forgot to take him off it after it turned out to be crap. This meant that Ramza, who had been a dedicated Ninja for around half the game, was now a far less useful Dragoon, stuck with a weapon he couldn’t dual wield. I’m not even all that sure why he sucked as much as he did, considering the Dragoon worked just fine for Arthur and even our forgotten C-lister Meryell, but perhaps its strengths had finally faded in the endgame? If only we had gotten that super-spear from that battle with Construct 7…
Also, in an effort to improve Wilham should we make the mistake of using him again (which we did), we made him a Bard with Arithmaticks instead of an Arithmatician with Bardsong.
Battle 60: The Necrohol of Mullonde
Next up in this pseudo-“final dungeon” was Cletienne. Cletienne fought us near a crypt-like building that the game had forced us to surround using a two-flank deployment. It’s too bad the party was split up, since we could have steamrolled Cletienne if all five party members had been deployed together, but I guess the devs knew that. This fight featured a rare appearance by enemy Samurai, but like in the previous battle, most of the enemies had obvious blanks in their ability list. Goodness knows why. It’s the end of the game!
Cletienne’s forces fell apart rapidly. Not only did he divide himself from his allies, but his casters fell back and buffed some useless back-liners instead of him! Despite his atrocious position almost in the middle of our formation, Cletienne decided to monologue all the Lucavi’s plans to Ramza, because that’s the calibre of villains we’re dealing with here. He confirmed that the Lucavi were trying to resurrect “the High Seraph,” and furthermore told us that the High Seraph was being troublesome because it was bound to its former host, despite that former host’s death. Who was that host? Saint Ajora himself! Yes, Ajora wasn’t just a mere mortal spy like Germonique had implied, but a demonically possessed, apocalyptic cultist! Kind of strange Germonique would leave that bit out, especially since the implication is now that all the Zodiac Braves were actually just Lucavi the whole time? Ugh, whatever, “demons did it,” the original narrative is making its rocket-powered escape from the product, there’s really not much I could say by means of analysis at this point.
I’m just going to say this: Ajora and the Ivalician religion are pretty obvious stand-ins for Jesus and Christianity, right? As in, it might as well be in neon. Okay. Now that we’re agreed on that, I want to say that the argument “What if the story of Jesus was exaggerated and abused by power blocs to ensure their power,” might have had merit as the basis of a story. But “What if Jesus was a literal demon, from hell,” sounds like it came from some teen edgelord’s blog, rather than anything nuanced. You’d need to do a pretty impressive job to make it sound like anything but edginess for edginess’ sake, and the Ajora plot doesn’t have near enough runtime to make that happen.
In any event, Ramza – Ramza with his shitty spear – killed Cletienne with no extra fuss.
Battle 61: Lost Halidom
So Barich is still alive, just like I said he would be. With no explanation for him being here, just like I said there wouldn’t be. To make matters worse, Kyle and I didn’t even recognize him at first? Despite having faced him only a few days earlier, Kyle and I stared at his portrait in utter confusion, and I actually had to go online to remind us who he was!
Barich’s plan was pretty solid, and for once there was little the AI could do to screw it up! He engaged us across an epic gulf in the necrohol, with a bridge at one edge of the map and a narrow gap in the middle that you could only cross with Jump upgrades. Barich still had his elemental gun, and he had brought a Chemist with another elemental gun, both of which could snipe the player party as they try to make their way across the map. He also had three Hydras of varying strength (the strongest named after our old fiend, Tiamat), ready to fly in and sandwich us if we were unable to jump the gap and had to take the bridge. And it’s not like they were small fry! Last of all, he had a Dark Behemoth ready to guard the bridge. Yup, this sure would be tricky for anyone who doesn’t have the stats to hop across the gap and lop Barich’s damned head off straight away. Wonder what it’s like to be those people?
Since we were positioned in two flanks, it made sense play into Barich’s hands just enough to split up his force, so Kyle allowed our right flankers to contest the bridge. That left Ramza and Agrias to hop the gap and assassinate Barich, while Wilham (yes, Kyle brought Wilham) did a Bardsong in a corner, forgotten by everyone, even the two enemy gunners! Meanwhile, Barich’s Hydras used the very odd Tri-Flame technique. We couldn’t say how this attack was supposed to work. It targeted an area, apparently, but when it went after Cid, it missed outright? But later, when it went after Agrias, it hit three times in a row, incinerating her on the spot?
Part-way through the battle, Ramza lamented that Barich has become a pawn of the Lucavi, “too.” Oh, did you feel better when the mass-poisoner was just a loyal churchman, Ramza? Well at least you’ve moved away from the “everyone in the church is automatically demonic” thing from before, I guess. Barich made some weird speech about being “truly human” and not needing to “bow his head” any more, even though he was bowing his head to the Lucavi? It was exactly like Arbent’s speech about how great it was to be a zombie, except this scene is the predecessor to that WotL addition so I can’t blame a rewrite author for missing the original point. Are these writers even aware of what they’re putting to screen any longer?
Unfortunately, Barich managed to hold out against our assassination attempt. Things went poorly for Kyle after the Tri-Flame wiped out Agrias, as the Dark Behemoth gored Cid to death moments later. Bearing in mind that Ramza was stuck as a shitty Dragoon, Arthur a shitty Samurai, and Josephine wasn’t even on the field, things looked bleak. But Kyle still pulled off a win, after he resorted to the dark powers of Wilham’s Arithmancy to cast Arise on Agrias from the other side of the gulch! Just when Barich thought he was safe, there she was back on her feet and ready to drop him. End of battle.
At this point, the game added a shortcut running from Mullonde to Goug, allowing us to finally finish the sidequest we had started ages ago. Mustadio’s father used the Cancer auracite to power his new device. Are you ready for this? This is where shit gets weird. The machine makes a huge ruckus, and when it’s done, a man is standing in the room, and it’s Cloud Strife. And it’s not just an Ivalician Cloud Strife like Aerith, earlier. While places like FFWiki imply that he is supposed to be alternate universe in some fashion or another (what with the permadeath in this game), and I have no doubt that Square’s official sources would agree with the wiki, the dialogue from FFT is crystal clear: this is supposed to be the actual Cloud Strife, from FFVII, having been plucked out of the events of his game after falling into the Lifestream after the first trip to Northern Crater. It’s really funny how the fandom has treated this, the fact that apparently, Cloud was moved from one game to an entire other game. As a friend of mine said when I told her about it: “How have I never heard about this?”
(In 2017/18, Mobius Final Fantasy would feature crossover events starring the canonical Tidus from FFX and Lightning from FFXIII at a specific points in their timelines, too!)
Considering the state Cloud was in at North Crater, he’s not much happier to be here than he was there, though he’s having trouble remembering the particulars of what was going on. Ultimately, he runs off and you’re left with no practical leads for where he would go… except for the meta-reasoning that, naturally, he would somehow end up near their universe’s Aerith. Off to Sal Ghidos, then! But we wouldn’t do that immediately. Because as it happens, the new plot for Beowulf and Reis is right next door, in Lionel, and Kyle and I were going to go there first.
The first step in this quest is to find another Rumour, but we had already done that. After the death of Cardinal Delacroix (hey, I remembered the name of a character from FFT!), Lionel had appointed a new lord. When you come to visit, a cutscene opens in which Beowulf and Reis have a private moment outside of town. While they’re talking, Beowulf says that everything that happened to them before they met Ramza was “Bremondt’s” fault, the name of the new lord in Lionel. The two part, and Reis is only barely off the screen (a necessity, since FFT’s diorama-sets aren’t large enough for him to get very far away) when she screams. Yes, that’s right, she’s been kidnapped. Reis, who was largely the victim of the original Beowulf and Reis plot, is the victim yet again. This was made in 2007. It doesn’t even make gameplay variety sense, you know? We’ve already had a series of battles with Beowulf as a mandatory party member. Shouldn’t we naturally be flipping it so that we get a series of battles with Reis?
The kidnapper is a certain Ser Aliste, who works for the newly appointed Celebrant Bremondt of Lionel. Bremondt is apparently thrilled that Reis is free of her curse, and furthermore wants to lead Beowulf into an open trap, so she’s to serve as bait. Beowulf says that Aliste used to be a friend, but apparently the sheer reward offered by both Bremondt and the church (Beowulf is a heretic for messing with the auracite) has convinced him to change sides.
Battle 55a: Lionel Castle Gate
From here, it’s straight to the rescue attempt, with no scene of Ramza getting the bad news or the like. Beowulf is once again an uncontrollable guest, the jerk, and you only get to bring four others to back him up. Aliste is waiting at the gate (the same gate where you fought Gaffgarion), and he curiously says something about “the effects” taking hold by now, though we won’t learn more about that until later. In any event, we have to kill the guy to end the battle. This would be pretty daunting, since he starts on the wall and the only way up is to walk straight under him and up the hill at the far end, each step guarded. But as we’ve proven time and time again, our Holy Sword and Ignore Elevation combo will have none of that bullshit. Once he came under attack, Aliste (who belongs to the same class as Beowulf) outright gave up his ideal position and used the Time Mage ability Teleport to hop right into our clutches!
Suffice to say, this battle didn’t last long, though there was a funny moment where Aliste talks about Beowulf losing his edge. Beowulf argues otherwise, even though he was Confused and doing a funny dance.
After the battle, Aliste revealed he hadn’t really changed sides for money: he was sick and dying anyways, and wanted to die in battle instead. He even acknowledges Beowulf as his true liege lord before he passes (the fact that Beowful was the true lord of Lionel was only mentioned in the bios up to this point, which Kyle and I hadn’t read, so it was a surprise to us!). So, just to die in battle, you kidnapped an old friend and put both her and another friend in danger? Yeah, you’re more of a jackass than a tragic figure, aren’t you?
Defeating Aliste gets you the Genji Armour (the body armour portion), presumably as a way of making it up to you that you couldn’t steal it from Elmdore in this version. The rest of the Genji equipment is trapped in multiplayer, or available in the smartphone post-game, like most former multiplayer items.
Battle 55b: Lionel Castle Oratory
Bremondt is hanging out in the Oratory with a force consisting of only women. One of his ninjas arrives and tells him that Aliste has been defeated, and all the other guards have been drugged. The drugs are presumably the “effects” that Aliste was talking about. It seems Aliste drew the line between moral and immoral behaviour somewhere between “kidnapping and endangerment” but before “letting his ex-friend fight a city.” I…. yeah this still doesn’t redeem the guy. Also, remember that Lionel’s city guard didn’t show up to defend their last liege lord either? Considering their track record, did he really have to drug anyone at all?
The party arrives, and Bremondt is shaking afraid of him. Bremondt promises his attendants a huge reward to fight for him, presumably because of the mixed allegiance issue, what with Beowulf being the rightful lord of Lionel. They agree, so it’s you against the mess of them (Ed. by the way, we didn’t know it, but one of them is holding a stealable Masamune sword!). Beowulf is once again a guest here, which is an even bigger pain than before. The enemy has the high ground and are all members of top-tier classes, and rare ones too: the PSX game had very few lady Ninjas, and very few Samurai or Mystics altogether! Bremondt, meanwhile, has both White and Black magicks (actually, he didn’t have White Magick so much as “Priest” Magicks, a weird offshoot of White Magicks that was previously used by Zalmour. If you look at the data, Priest Magicks strangely require a sword, despite the fact that the player never has access to the class to justify the micro-management? It’s worse than White Magick to begin with, so why did they bother with the restriction?).
During the battle, it became clear that Bremondt was in love with Reis, and refused to believe that she was in love with Beowulf. This egotistical entitlement was what led him to curse her into her dragon form several years back. Why he thought that would turn anything in his favour is unclear, though it is clear that this isn’t a very bright man to begin with. Seizing the board in this battle wasn’t so hard, but around here we began to pay for Ramza’s Geomancer job and its low armour, a price we’d keep paying for several battles to come, and ultimately resulted in our strange decision regarding Ramza’s job in the final few battles. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
After defeating Bremondt, Kyle and I were both confused when the game carried on by allowing one of his Mystics to cast her spell, even though the battle rightly should have stopped! Moments later, Bremondt got up and used an invocation to turn his curse againt himself: now he was a dragon, though thankfully his followers were gone. Why the game had allowed the Mystic to cast the spell before Bremondt’s death scene, I can’t imagine. Obviously it wouldn’t have done so if the battle had been fully over, so it feel like it was a glitch.
Unfortunately for me (I was in control at the time), both Ramza – thanks his shitty defence – and Cid – thanks to his being surrounded – were dead on the ground with identical death timers. When Arthur’s attempts to save them failed, I had to restart. Kyle’s attempt at the two fights went similarly for Ramza, but Cid stayed on his feet. To our surprise, Beowful even pitched in by trying to revive Ramza on his own AI, and he later tried to revive Agrias when the dragon Bremondt killed her too, but he never succeeded on either. Ramza, who had to be revived by Josephine, finally finished the fight on his own, leading to an odd moment where Bremondt was replaced with a corpse (a wing, like all dragons) only to pop back in as a full dragon and then explode back to his human form, moments later? The remake team should have known how to do better, they’ve got a half dozen examples of this sequence done right all over the game! Anyways, good: the party doesn’t have to explain a dead dragon and now only has to explain their murder of the liege lord of Lionel. Much better.
After a final exchange between Bremondt and Beowulf (“Reis… is… mine…” “Reis belongs to no one.”), the party went off into the castle to find their missing teammate. After this, both Beowful and Reis rejoined the party, even going through the process of offering to join you again – you have to re-confirm them joining the party and everything! Your prize, besides narrative satisfaction and the Genji Armour, was a collection of accessories, including the relatively rare Sortilége accessory for women. This was an example of the Perfume line of accessories that are otherwise only available via multiplayer or by Poaching monsters. The Sortilége granted automatic Protect and Shell at the start of battle, though I don’t remember if and how we used it.
While we’re here, I just wanted to point out that, over the course of the game, we’ve seen all three major dukes of Ivalice drop dead, along with a Marquis, not one but two Celebrants of Lionel, the pope, nearly the entire house of Beoulve, plus a number of other high-ranking persons, both plot-relevant and narratively faceless. And don’t forget that time we led and entire year’s worth of young nobility into exile! Hey, remember when Ramza’s school sent him and Jerkface to stand on a wall for a while, so they not only never went back to school, but overthrew society? That was great.
At this point, Kyle and I went to look at one quest we wouldn’t be doing: this game’s secret dungeon, Midlight’s Deep. The intro cutscene took place in a tavern where, in a joke at the expense of the PSX localization, two mercenaries were endlessly spouting drivel from the PSX version’s Errand reports. They ended up getting in a fight over it! Naturally, there’s also a conversation introducing the dungeon, but the cameo from the old localization is the real treat. Sadly, Kyle and I had no intention of going to Midlight’s Deep. The dungeon features 10 levels of mazes, which you have to navigate in the dark, and must find the exit to each floor before you clear it of monsters, or be forced to repeat it! The end boss of the segment is a wizard, who many suspect was intended to have more of a role before the sequence was cut back. The game even has a unique job with unique abilities that seem to fit best here, but are never used. Some believe he was originally going to have a “first form” that was cut. It’s a shame the remake didn’t add those back in, but I suppose it’s truer to the original challenge this way.
In the finished version, the wizard is still no mean threat, as he reveals a hidden thirteenth auracite (based on the sometimes-accepted thirteenth zodiac symbol, Ophichius), and turns into a superboss Lucavi. To make the fight even harder, he’s the game’s only source of the final summon spell, Zodiark, who can only be earned Blue Magic/Ultima-style by a summoner, by taking and surviving a hit! To compensate for this mess, the game gives you a Guest ally, Byblos the demon from FFV, who joins the party after the fight, all without a word. It all sounds very strange. In any event, after this superboss is cleared, Midlight’s Deep cycles infinitely for anyone who cares to grind there.
Kyle and I were hanging out two days in a row for Session 4, and I believe this marked the end of the first day. The second day would be abbreviated. Our final task before the endgame at Orbonne was to wrap up Cloud’s sidequest, and that meant a cross-country trip to Sal Ghidos. During the walk, we finished Cid’s training as a Sword Saint and moved him over to Knight. It was obvious that he wouldn’t get out of it before the end of the game, but it was the logical thing to do in case we were wrong. He needed the Equip Swords ability if we were going to put him anywhere but Sword Saint or Knight, after all! We also switched Arthur to Samurai, since he had essentially finished in Monk and we had nowhere else to put him. This was definitely a mistake, and not just for the reasons we cited when we took him out of Samurai to begin with. Kyle would later joke about how Arthur, with his Samurai Speed stat of 8, somehow ended up looking pathetic in a party with speeds of 9 or higher, even though 8 would have been upper-tier in any other setup!
There was an optional scene on the way to Sal Ghidos that reunited Agrias and Ovelia at Zeltennia (if Agrias’ two knights are still in the party, they show up too!). Ovelia is thrilled to see her few trusted friends, but unfortunately Agrias can’t stay, as she realizes that Ramza’s quest is more immediately important, what with the demonic apocalypse and all. Jerkface makes his presence known, and at this point, Agrias passes Ovelia a knife for her personal protection. This scene is technically optional, but since the knife reappears later, the story feels more complete with the scene in hand. It’s not inconceivable that Ovelia could find another knife in a big castle full of armouries and kitchens, but this way it’s an established knife, you see? In any event, Agrias is the only person I know who seems to dislike Jerkface more than me (the one who calls him Jerkface), and since she also deals more damage than Cid (since the rouge she got from Mustadio boosts Holy attacks), that makes her my favourite.
Battle 56: Sal Ghidos
Sal Ghidos at last! Cloud arrives in Sal Ghidos ahead of us, and runs into the alternate Aerith. He’s surprised to see her (remember, this is after the Midgarian Aerith’s death!), but realizes it must not be the Aerith he knows and heads off. Unfortunately for Aerith, moments later she’s accosted by “ruffians.” It seems she owes them no less than thirty thousand gil when she only makes 1 gil a flower (holy shit!), and she’s rescued when Cloud overhears and turns back. Aerith is able to get away, but Cloud, despite earlier saying that all he wanted to do was fight, is in no shape to do so: he participates in the upcoming battle as a Guest, but has no weapon and will soon run to a corner to hide! The hero of FFVII, everyone! And just wait until you hear the real-world reason the developers didn’t give him a weapon, it’s way worse.
Ramza arrives on scene, and not-so-long story short, I Arithmaticked this battle to death in only a few turns. That’ll teach you to stand on level ground!
After the fight, Cloud muttered about losing something important (Midgar’s Aerith) and agreed to join the party. And that… is the end of his story! We never see Ivalice’s Aerith again, and Cloud never technically returns home on-screen. He does have the bizarre footnote in that his bio doesn’t appear in the Personae menu until he leaves the party by death or dismissal, but that’s just a glitch. Another thing I’m surprised the remake didn’t fix! Hell, the remake could have given him an ending scene, too. A post-credit scene of him entering a portal would have been fine!
But while Cloud’s story was done, there was still one mission we wanted to do before we considered the sidequest wrapped. This involved getting into a random encounter at Mount Bervenia, an area where we had never fought before. As it’s a random encounter, I’m not going to give it a battle number. This battle is important, because the only way for Cloud to use his special Limit Break abilities is for him to be equipped with a “Materia Blade,” and the only Materia Blade you can find (besides those level 99 Ninjas I mentioned when I was talking about Samurai) is hidden in an guaranteed Treasure Hunter square at the tip-top of this battlefield. By the way, this is why I suspect Cloud doesn’t start with a sword: since his FFVII sword should rightly already be a “Materia” blade, they had to take it away!
The random battle at Bervenia was a boring match (random battles often are, which is why I’ve skipped dozens of them in this Journal) which consisted of us killing most of the enemies in just a few turns, and then trying to pin down the one surviving monster while Rapha climbed the summit to find the treasure. It’s not even worth the fuss: Cloud, like Rapha and Marach, has a reputation as being one of the worst characters in the game, and the remake didn’t even try to fix him like it did the AoE twins! His problem is that his Limit Break abilities take an absurd amount of time to cast, at which point most of the battle is over and your target has probably moved, anyways! Dragoons and casters are barely functional in this game as-is thanks to similar restrictions, but they’re close enough to still justify the effort. Cloud? Not a chance.
Battle 57: Brigand’s Den
There was one other sidequest we wanted to check out before we ended the game. This sidequest begins, for some reason, only after seeing Agrias’ cutscene with Ovelia, even though it has nothing to do with said scene! A Rumour appears after the scene, which tells you that you’ll be dealing with defectors from the Order of the Northern Sky, who have stolen all sorts of cool goods and retreated to the place where we fought Milleuda for the first time at the start of the game. While the fight itself is virtually inconsequential, it has a few weird footnotes. First off, Agrais takes this very personally (especially after… for fuck’s sake… one of the thugs threatens to rape her) and acts an autonomous Guest. Second, there’s a brief exchange if Cid is in your party, but it amounts to nothing and I’m not sure why it’s there? Third, this fight has some Knights in the arena that are trapped at the top of the fortress thanks to their shitty jump stat, and that’s pretty funny.
But fourth and most important, this fight has a huge amount of high-level equipment that you can steal from the enemies. To help you do so, no enemies will fade into memory crystals in this battle (or chests, on the flip side). This means they can be revived indefinitely, so long as you make certain that Agrias doesn’t kill the last of them when you’re not ready! Unfortunately, Kyle and I didn’t have anyone worth Stealing with, so we just wiped the board with them to say that we had done everything the game had to offer outside of its superdungeon. Which I’d argue is more heroic than stealing from the people we’re chasing after because they stole in the first place, might I add!
This was where we stopped playing for the day, but we got together soon after for our final session, essentially the fifth. We were eager to see the end of the game, with none of the usual late-game malaise that haunts the Marathon! Unfortunately, we ended our fourth session worried that we wouldn’t have much time on our hands, so we tried to get to Orbonne without random encounters. We decided to pre-empt that… by save scumming before shutting down for the day, just so the threat of boring random encounters wouldn’t discourage us from playing the next time we got together!
As we left town, we got a cutscene from Zeltennia, and watched as Ovelia overheard noises in the hallway. This is probably as good an opportunity as ever to tell you that FFT’s attempts to do short voice samples for things like deaths. Unfortunately, this resulted in really pathetic, digitized samples that were acceptable in gameplay but were just laughable in dramatic situations like this. To put matters in perspective, I kept commenting to Kyle how characters kept dying “with a fart,” given a certain sound effect that I think was supposed to be a grunt? What I’m getting at here is that Ovelia overhears some serious gastric disaster going on just past some double doors.
It turns out the source of the noise is Orran, who seems to have interpreted his father’s orders to protect Ovelia to mean “get her away from Jerkface even if it means all of the guards stab you to death.” It seems he’s just that pissed about Jerkface framing his father for murder when Jerkface really did it himself. Jerkface himself arrives with Valamfra in tow, and Jerkface points out that not only are things demonstrably better for everyone now that Goltanna is dead and he’s in charge, but Cid is a free man. He doesn’t point out that it was his faction that framed Cid for treason in the first place, of course.(more…)
Battle 46: Mount Germinas
Really! The church allowed someone to name a mountain after the guy! Who would have guessed!
We were attacked by highwaymen at Mount Germinas. They demanded our money, which Kyle and I joked they could happily have, since we had learned that Sal Ghido was nearly the game’s final shop (despite it being so far from the endgame!) and so we functionally no longer needed money! Unfortunately, the highwaymen soon recognized Ramza as a wanted heretic and decided to drag him in for the bounty. Hey, remember when we were fighting the Corpse Brigade and it was a national crisis that took months to complete and resulted in a noble family executing one of their own wards? These highwaymen are level 36 and could rightly wipe out every living person in Chapter 1, rebel or government. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s really weird that computer RPGs became the hallmark of narrative video gaming when you realize that computer RPG mechanics don’t actually get along with narrative in any way.(more…)
So now we’re off to Limberry to deal with the whole nearly forgotten plotline about the Marquis holding Alma hostage, except he’s not really holding her hostage (remember, Folmarv has her!), but Ramza doesn’t know that. Oh good, openly-acknowledged filler. It would be a four-node walk from familiar territory to Limberry. Between battles, we decided it was time to move Arthur out of Dragoon, and to begin his Ninja training by rounding off our one missing level of Archer in a random encounter at the Beddha Sandwaste, and then to Thief for the random battle after that. We also switched Josephine to Arithmatician with speed-boosting equipment (including a ladies-only handbag weapon that Wilham couldn’t have used), though this didn’t prove helpful enough in the long run.
At this point, if I’m remembering correctly, I accidentally stumbled across the Rumour that triggered part of a sidequest! Legitimately and everything! I was just looking to see if the Rumours had changed after the big developments at Bessalt (they hadn’t) and there it was! Unfortunately, the location unlocked by this Rumour, Nelveska Temple, was useless on its own, and poorly-phrased internet advice left us confused about it for a stretch. Nelveska is actually the middle step in a sidequest, and to start that sidequest you have to go a little further in the game. Nice of them to let you unlock it early, I suppose?(more…)
Battle 43: Fort Besselat
Unusually, and in fact uniquely, Fort Besselat offers you the choice between two alternate battlefields, at either the North or South gate. I chose the North, as it was the second item in the list and hell, I figured less people have seen it as a consequence. (Footnote: it’s odd that it’s the second option, seeing as how Ramza is approaching from the north and all!). The South wall apparently takes place in a gutter-like area with high walls on both side and two platforms in the middle, but the North involves an attack on a tall tower.
Say, uh… aren’t these walls supposed to hold out the entire Order of the Northern Sky? You know, during an active siege? Why am I able to attack them and not bring down a defending force at least a few dozen Southern Sky soldiers mistaking us for a Nothern Sky spies trying to sneak in and open the gate? Why not hundreds of defenders? FFT has actually done a half-decent job convincing me that Ramza really should be fighting only a half-dozen enemies in almost all of the past 50 battles, but this time? I don’t believe it for a second!(more…)
At this point, the game wordlessly adds a new path to the map, leading to Fort Besselet. If you’ll recall, the fort is about to be the site of a major battle. More relevantly for Ramza, this is where Cid Orlandeau is stationed. Kyle and I, of course, futzed off to do Errands instead, and were soon wrapped up in a whole side-quest after we were pointed there by a walkthrough (we didn’t want to miss any narrative content of this size, after all, thus the walkthrough). Nice of everyone to wait for us! To find this and later sidequests, you have to basically trip over the right Rumours. You might recall that I said there are almost no Rumours left in the game, which is part of the problem. These special, side-quest-triggering Rumours only show up in certain towns, well after you’ve long stopped checking any town for Rumours, both because there haven’t been any, and considering that the Rumours were never different from town-to-town in the first 70% of the game, so why should they start now?
Hearing a Rumour of a monster-infested mine near Gollund (the town where we first met Orran), and of a rare, Holy Dragon living there. Ramza decided to visit the mine, and was met by a man named Beowulf after talking about the job in a pub. Beowulf claimed to have been on the trail of the Holy Dragon and offered to help us. If you turn him down, you not only ruin the potential of this sidequest, but bork two more sidequests in the process! Beowulf was a Templar, whose Spellblade abilities allow him to inflict status effects while causing damage at the same time. While this was honestly not the world’s most exciting skillset on the surface, it helps that Beowulf has the ability to inflict nearly every possible status effect in the game, including the extreme Bravery-reducing ability, flatly dubbed “Chicken,” since Bravery reductions below 10 cause the character to literally turn into an actual chicken! While we took Beowulf onto the team for sidequest purposes, we never made much use of him, or at least we haven’t yet.
Battle 38: Gollund Colliery Floor
Beowulf acts as a Guest during this entire series of battles. Battle 38, at Gollund Colliery Floor, pits you against a force of… Chemists… armed with guns. Nothing but Chemists. And you’ve really got to take a look at this starting setup: check out the heights on the map, the long distance deployment, all that stuff, because it’s literally all they have going for them and I wanted to give them credit. Unseen in this shot is another Chemist in the middle of the arena, just to draw you out. Great plan, right? Too bad no plan survives contact with an AI to dumb to wield it, though you can see that the devs gave it a shot, what with all the Chemists stuck in niches their missile AI wouldn’t want to escape! Naturally, our characters with their heightened Move and Jump stats handled this without any serious trouble.
No plot in this or any but the final battle of the sidequest.
Battle 39: Gollund Colliery Slope
I think the gimmick of this fight is that nearly every enemy starts off hidden. That’s why I picked the screenshot you see here. Barely an enemy to be seen, until their AI foolishly runs them out into the middle!
This battle puts you against a mixed force of Chemist-gunners, Thieves and two Behemoths, one of them a Behemoth King. The most notable thing here is that one of the Chemists (the one in this screenshot, in fact) has an incredibly rare elemental gun, which causes flat damage regardless of defence, and is definitely worth the Steal, not that we had any capable of Stealing or enough interest to bother! I kind of wish we had, though, because moments after I took this screenshot, the Chemist offed Josephine in a single shot!
I’ll give the AI credit: they did their best to keep us at the foot of the hill for most of the battle. But this is another example of the power of high Jump and Movement: once we were finally able to start up the hill after their super-gunner, we were at the very top of the hill in just a few turns. And while Behemoths are nasty, a force of Chemists and Thieves has no defence to speak of. Next!
Battle 40: Gollund Colliery Ridge
Battle 40 puts you against Blue Dragons and yes, more Chemist-gunners. I remember this one being a much bigger fuss than the others, since the Blue Dragons are incredibly dangerous. It’s one of those situations where you know the big guys are distracting you from all the extra damage coming in from the small fry (the gunners), but what can you do? The big guys are dragons!
This took several attempts, with Kyle finally winning it on attempt #3. My second attempt might have cleared the fight if I hadn’t risked Agrias midway through the battle, because I was one action away from winning when her death timer whittled to zero. But no harm done: Kyle improved considerably on top of his original attempt, and the only close casualty was Josephine going unconscious, which we’ve sort of acclimatized to by now. No offence, Jo.
Battle 41: Gollund Coal Shaft
After that two-loss battle on the ridge, the final battle in this series was a complete joke. You discover the Holy Dragon here, only to learn that the dragon is named Reis, and that Beowulf isn’t looking for the dragon to hunt her, but to rescue her. Reis has been surrounded by monsters commanded by an Archaeodemon, who say she’s taken a certain stone, and you won’t need three guesses to figure it’s an auracite. The tricky bit here is that you have to keep Reis alive despite a bottleneck between you and her. Thankfully, it’s easy to claim the bottleneck for your own if you have – say it with me now – high Movement, one of the two true champions of this series of battles (high Speed didn’t hurt here, either). As a result, the only real complication in the fight was the risk that Reis might charge into battle and get herself killed (“pulling a Rapha”). This didn’t happen, and the rest of the battle ended little more than moments later.
It’s almost embarrassing that the narrative in Battle 41 has given me more to say about it than the previous three battles, especially since each of the previous battles took up more of our time!
After the battle, Reis (via Beowulf) hands you the auracite, an entirely optional piece you can only get through this sidequest. Beyond saying that Reis is a friend, Beowful offers no explanation for the strange events we’ve just seen, and you’ll have to carry on into later missions to learn even a little more! Both he and Reis join at this point, Reis being a monster, like other dragons. Unlike other dragons, you’ll want to keep Reis in your party, along with Beowulf, if you don’t want to screw up those further sidequests that I mentioned earlier.
Luckily, Reis’ auracite turns out to be the Aquarius, and we took it back to Goug to activate the weird sphere that we found earlier. But that’s a long walk, so first things first!
Battle 41b: Dorter Slums
Only a few steps on our way to Goug, we ran into the second remake-only cameo character. This one occurs only after you find the right Rumour, which we found thanks to a walkthrough. The plot’s simple: you’re spotted as wanted heretics around the same time the cameo is spotted as an unrelated fugitive. Who is this cameo? Why, it’s some alternate incarnation of Balthier, a party member from FFXII! (Indeed, I later learned that WotL loosely insinuates that this may be the Balthier from FFXII, having travelled through time, but it’s a blink-and-you’ll miss it clue, and I did.) Balthier is voiced – both here and in FFXII – by Gideon Emery, a frequent video game and Star Wars voice actor. Some will know him as Fenris from Dragon Age II, others as Captain Cold from the 2015 revival of DC Super Friends. Like a lot of Square Enix veteran talent, he appears in several of the FFXIII games as minor voices, and also has a full role in XIV.
As this mission re-uses the Dorter Slums map from Battle 05, it wasn’t particularly exciting, and was stocked with some seriously underpowered enemies, so it was over in a matter of minutes. In practice, Balthier was like a superior Mustadio, but we never made much use of him, save to Nina his pistol to help us out in a specific battle to come.
Believe it or not, we actually managed to make it to Goug unimpeded from Dorter, something like a quarter of the world map! We activated the mysterious sphere, which turned out to be a robot, “Construct 8,” who joined the party. Functionally speaking, Construct 8 is like a monster, though there’s nothing else quite like it (though hold that thought). First off, Construct 8 has 0 Faith, making it immune to most majicks for good or for ill, reminiscent of the Robots from FFLII. Construct 8 was also equipped with a set of abilities that you pay for in the form of HP. Frankly, we didn’t find it to be of much use. Instead, I openly complained to Kyle about how the ancient society that built Construct 8 apparently took the miraculous power of the auracite to build upwards of twelve only moderately helpful construction robots with them and nothing else. I mean, if you possessed the power of eldritch demons at your disposal, would your first-and-only investment be to build twelve copies of Guts Man?
Long story short, we did eventually make use of Construct 8 in a certain battle, but not because we really wanted to.
We made our way back towards the story missions before ending our session for the day (two random encounters on the way back, for comparison’s sake). At this point… we walked away from FFT for several months. We just didn’t want to play the thing! The hours and hours of grinding, the pointless random battles, and the unfulfilling sidequests had cost us almost all our interest. The story wasn’t carrying it either. Instead, we jumped ahead to FFVIII for some traditional RPG stuff for two whole sessions before finally returning to FFT seven months later. Our next session – Session 4 – covers just short of the final stretch of battles, but we got together very quickly after Session 4 to do Session 5 and complete the game, so the Session 4 Journals weren’t actually finished until after we had wrapped up Session 5 and the rest of the game!
On the plus side, we returned to the game determined to complete it, and so gave up our time-wasting training of the B and C teams. Only Wilham the Shitty Mage got any use on the A-team from here on out, and even he would be mostly discarded. That said, a new character was added to the A-team during the session, which forced us to juggle our teammates even at this point!
Battle 42: Beddha Sandwaste
In the previous post, Jerkface told us the church wants to assassinate the leaders of civil war, leaving themselves in charge of Ivalice. If you’re sharp, you’re probably wondering what the church plans to do about the two giant armed forces that will still be standing around after they’ve killed the enemy commanders, armies that will be loyal to the dead men’s successors instead of the church! Here’s your answer: one of the Templars, Barich, has just scattered a powdered poison to the winds bound to the Northern Sky forces, hoping to weaken them enough to allow the Southern Sky to take them out (presumably they intend to take over the Southern Sky via Jerkface, making that army a puppet of the church). Ramza arrives too late, and even worse, Barich decides to share, and poisons the player’s party as well. Why this poison that hits Ramza isn’t as lethal as the one that hits the Northern Sky, we can only blame narrative convenience, but the party does begin this battle under the Poison status effect. While apparently you can cure the Poison, we didn’t bother. Poison’s not so bad in FFT.
The biggest threat in this battle is Barich himself, the battle’s primary target, as he’s armed with an elemental gun. And…. you know… he isn’t a shitty Chemist. Most players in-the-know deal with this threat by stealing the gun from him, but we still weren’t going to bother. Thus began our “Yakkity Sax” chase of the enemy missile boss around the map, basically ignoring any enemies that weren’t conveniently clustered for a Holy Sword strike.
Part-way through the battle, Barich, who seemed to be taking the matter rather personally, asked Ramza what on earth he planned to do if he was going to let the nobles live. Ramza spent a third of the conversation missing the forest for the trees, by myopically arguing about the war instead of the social problems that had partially caused it. He spent the next third of the conversation pleading that there were good people that would fix the problem, while ignoring the fact that they simultaneously didn’t do anything of the sort before the war and also… oh right, don’t actually exist. He’s basically just talking about Cid and Orran in a peanut gallery full of atrocious cartoon monsters on both sides. He spent the final third of the conversation on the closest thing he has to an actual point, which is that the church is just putting themselves in the nobles’ place. You tell him, Ramza! You lecture him and the audience about the dangers of demon feudalism in comparison to regular feudalism! Political science degree, here you come!
Barich seemingly dies after the battle, and I want to make clear that the game goes out of its way to make it clear that he’s capital-D dead. I’m trying to make this clear because he shows up later in the game without anyone so much as raising an eyebrow.
I should also mention that this battle saw the debut of Wilham the shitty mage as Wilham the shitty Arithmatician. I’ll explain the Arithmatician class in a later battle, when the Arithmatician in question is Josephine and doesn’t suck as much. For now, all you need to know is that their Speed is the lowest of all classes in the game, and Wilham barely got to participate, much less accrue JP for his new job! Still, that prepped us to ask the important questions: how we were going to get JP for a good Arithmatician (Joesphine) if the Job is so slow? Bear in mind that Arithmaticians can’t even use their active ability, Arithmaticks, without at least two upgrades, not just one like other classes. The only other job with this distinction is Dragoon, but Arithmaticks does one better (or maybe “ten better”) by feeling heavily restricted until you’ve unlocked most of their active skill’s upgrades! That’s a lot of JP to earn! Speed-boosting items would help, sure, but it soon occurred to us that Errands could substitute for field training. Unfortunately, our excessive grinding had wiped all the Errands off the map, meaning we would have to advance the plot just to get new Errands, and so more JP for our prospective Arithmaticians!
Meanwhile at the fort, it seems the church is making its move, as Cid Orlandeau is being put under arrest by Duke Goltanna for supposedly trying to assassinate the duke. When asked about proof, Goltanna claims the church’s High Confessor (the pope) discovered the plot within his own church, and of course the pope’s word trumps Cid’s. When Cid accuses the High Confessor of conspiracy, he’s asked for proof that he apparently can’t provide, despite making a lot of fuss about spying on the man earlier. Really, after all this prep, you don’t have a single, solitary scrap? After the arrest, Goltanna gives full military command over to Jerkface.