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…)
Since I’m running out of DVD screenshots, I think I’m going to accelerate something I was going to put off until the end. You see, the first FFU DVD features more than just concept art of the characters we know and tolerate: it also features incredibly early concept art, from when the show was going in a very different direction! As even the DVD goes out of its way to note, the twins actually do things in this original concept, and I hope whoever shot that down realizes they’re heavily responsible for the show’s low narrative quality. I’ll be using these screenshots throughout this post, but let’s talk about them here at the front.
The Wonderland of these concept sketches is a lot more populated than the one we got to see, which probably fell amiss of budgetary concerns. One of my favourite pieces is the first, which depicts the twins in an oppressively urban part of Wonderland, maybe something of a red light district, all neon and back alleys. I suspect may have been the original plan for the village from Episode 3, given that the same cloaked figures can be seen here (plus the whole opium den scene in Episode 3 that would fit right into a red light district like this one). Suffice to say, a dark, urban red light district seems a lot more interesting to me than the fruit village we got in the final ep 3, but judging from some of the DVD notes, I imagine the urban Wonderland was lost when the real world was added to the script at a later date (the show was originally all-fantasy, although it looks very much like a fantastical apocalyptic ruin), and so it wouldn’t make sense to return to an urban setting so soon. My other favourite picture (included later in the article) is one where the landscape starts out flat on the right side of the screen but twists into a tube in the distant left, so it’s clear the surreal nature of Wonderland was present from the early stages.
Character designs have changed quite a bit. The Hayakawas look like young teens, and Lisa is basically just Tifa Lockhart. I mean that, by the way. I’m not sure how they allowed her to stay like that for even a single sketch, because for goodness’ sake, she’s literally just Tifa Lockhart! The twins can also be seen with weapons at one point, Ai with a crossbow and Yu with a sword or rapier, as they confront a Cthulhu-looking monster and a larger skull/gun monstrosity (again, below). While none of them look like their finished selves, Kaze looks the most distinct of all, being designed as a sort of “chocobo cowboy,” who would even play a sort of guitar at the campfire to entertain the kids!
At this point, let’s return to the second season, and the ongoing “Summary from CD booklet.” We’re nearly done! The quality of the summary picks up considerably at this point, and we return to the plot at-large. Soljashy is now telling people that Gaudium is “the Flower of the Gods,” (continuing Herba’s flower metaphor from earlier) and that it will save them from the dying world, which Soljashy compares to Noah’s Ark (although it’s possible that Ai no Kareshi inserted that comparison of his own accord). Soljashy says that “a path” will soon be available to let people get to Gaudium, but they don’t listen and start rioting to get there first. Why they can’t walk through the Pillars of Darkness like the Wonderlanders seem to be doing, I truly do not know. Minor spoilers, but the “path” Soljashy is talking about turns out to be pretty physical and mundane, so it really does seem like they should just be able to… walk into the pillars? Maybe I’m wrong about multiple pillars surviving and the only one left is the one in the Sea of Japan?
The summary ends with a brief summary of a final scene in which Kaze attacks the Privy Council during the signing of the actual, physical treaty with Gaudium. This scene sounds like a big deal, but is barely described in the summary, save that Kaze is able to rescue the Hayakawa parents in the process.
Ugh, what a mess. But thankfully, we’re at the end of it, as we now move into Unlimited After 2 proper, the second audio drama, which ends the second season, and FFU as a whole for better or worse. The opening scene isn’t very important, though it does feature Ai telling Makenshi off for ordering the humans to be Vulcans about their emotions to prevent Chaos’ growth, which is something I can appreciate. Anyways, it turns out that Herba has arranged for giant, spiralled trees to grow to be used as paths for the humans to go to Wonderland. The spiral trees are built in semblance of the Ghost Train’s spiralled train stations in Wonderland, if you didn’t catch onto that. Soljashy tells the crowds to head on in, and then leaves them to trample one another to death in their rush to escape their dying world, all to give Chaos even more emotions.
Makenshi and Crux split up from the others to have a fight scene at this point. Ai no Kareshi doesn’t specify why their target is important, but it sure as hell becomes important when Soljashy appears and defeats them single-handed! This forces the Comodeen to turn around to rescue him, but Soljashy is prepared for this and has brought the last of Gaudium’s heart-shaped, body-horror laser satellites to attack them.
At this point, Makenshi begins calling Soljashy “Dolk” to get his attention. Despite his lectures to the humans about being too emotional, Makenshi admits that he’s fighting for a world where people won’t have to be unemotional like he is. Sojashy points out that letting people run around, having whatever emotions they want is a chaotic world, but Makenshi says that if that kind of world produces the demon Chaos, the problem is the demon, not the emotions, and he means to stop the demon. Hey, good for him, that’s a nuance that’s often lost in narratives like this. At this point, Soljashy upgrades the body-horror satellite with his business card (why not do that all the time?), calling it Satteligon.
Showing some character growth, the twins want to go help Makenshi, and they order Lisa to stay behind on the airship. They reason that if she comes along, she’ll only get more upset about Dolk, and end up feeding Chaos. Ai asks Pochepocket for some help, and he spits out “a swarm of missiles,” prompting Ai to exclaim, “Just when did you eat those?”
Soljashy takes the bait and decides to go after his would-be “Chaos Rulers” instead of Makenshi, which gives Makenshi the room he needs to summon his dual-sword dragon and destroy the Satelligon. In the process, he also wings Soljashy’s briefcase-body, causing it to “[run] screaming all on its own.” Separated from Soljashy, the true Dolk’s personality emerges in Dolk’s body, but Lisa discovers he has no “spirit” any longer, and it’s clear he’s in a lot of pain. Just then, Kaze arrives and kills the briefcase with his shotgun, defeating Soljashy for good in an underwhelming finale!
Without Soljashy, Dolk begins to outright crack and die, and things get even worse when he begs Lisa to let him die. She continues to beg him to not give up hope, when Kaze just shoots Dolk himself, killing him. To make things even worse for Lisa, this time Makenshi has Kaze’s back on the whole “destroy pieces of Chaos” thing and says he was just about to do the same to Dolk, even though Makenshi never supported Kaze in killing the kids! Lisa does noooooot take this well.
Dolk’s body then transforms into Soil, “Chain Gold” to be specific, and Lisa is so upset after this entire season’s worth of emotional torture that she begs Kaze to kill her with the new Soil. Because she’s giving off so much emotion, she’s partially chaotic herself and Kaze actually considers it, and Makenshi has to step in, revealing that he’s learned that humans are emotional creatures and shouldn’t be punished for “negative” emotions. The audio drama then does a fake-out by playing the sound of gunshots, making it seem like Kaze shoots Lisa anyways! Thankfully he did not. Good use of format, I can’t imagine it being so effective in an anime. What was he shooting at, you ask? It’s still pretty bad news: thanks to Lisa’s emotions, Gaudium has arrived in the real world.
Princess Herba makes her first appearance to the good guys, and taunts them, though Ai no Kareshi notes that Kaze won’t stop shooting at her during the speech, which sounds fucking hilarious. Unfortunately, Herba’s taunts are working, and Lisa is giving into her anger, going all Dragon Ball Z with the surrounding rocks. Herba starts saying – possibly making shit up on the fly to get Lisa’s goat – how much Dolk was trying to fight Soljashy’s possession so that he could help Lisa, until finally Lisa lets out an explosion of Kigen Arts that transform her into the Kigen Dragon.
Oscha rescues Herba from Dragon Lisa, and then Lisa flies off to the Pillar of Darkness, driven by her hatred of it for starting all of this mess twelve years earlier (remember, Lisa was there as a child). The bad guys want this to happen, but I still don’t understand why, since the flying castle is here now. Are they trying to make such a big hole in reality that Chaos itself can get through? If that’s the case, did Chaos have go through this whole rigmarole for every world he’s already destroyed, which number in the thousands or millions? That’s a hard sell, I don’t know if I believe it! In any event, Makenshi says that Lisa’s Kigen Dragon form can destroy the barrier between worlds, but she’ll die in the effort, as if things weren’t bad enough. Sure enough, Lisa opens a portal by attacking the Pillar, and Guadium… goes… back to Wonderland through that portal Lisa opened earlier? I’m so confused.
Makenshi attempts to stop Lisa’s attack, but fails somehow. I’m afraid the summary doesn’t give any details, though it’s possible the audio drama just fudges the whole exchange by saying, “Well that didn’t work.” It’s an audio drama after all, that’s all they’d technically have to say! Kaze wants to go next, but the others protest, knowing that he wants to kill Lisa instead of just stopping her. Makenshi steps in, holding out a drop of hope in Kaze’s better nature, and insists that Kaze be allowed to try. They let him go.
The soil charge triad to use on you has been decided!
That which falls into infinite darkness, Silent Black!
One that hates the pain of lament, Pain Blue!
And finally, to restrain all things, Chain Gold!
Note that this is Dolk’s Soil.
Resonate! I summon you, Anima!
Cid proclaims that this Summon wasn’t chosen by Kaze, but by Lisa’s enchained, suffering heart, just like how Anima is enchained and suffering. What an excellent use of a Summon and its lore from the original games! A quality finale for the Magun! Hell, considering this came out after FFX, the idea of Anima going out in a tender fashion instead of an torturous one is a great send-off for her, too!
Cid also says he can hear the Soil saying something, and the summary implies that Makenshi does as well. Miles – who has done nothing this entire season, so I don’t blame you if you’ve forgotten about her – asks who Cid is that he he can hear the soil. Good question! Let me also ask how he knew about “God’s Egg” at the start of this “season!” It seems Cid is not the young human being he appears to be, but we won’t get any more details in Season 2. Or ever!
Anima is able to save Lisa without hurting her by somehow putting her to sleep, and Kaze just waltzes off, only to be present in the next scene? When Lisa wakes, Kaze tells her that it was Dolk who saved her, not him. At this point, Kaze and Makenshi try to go off together, as allies, into Wonderland to defeat Chaos. Yu tries to come with them, but Makenshi refuses.. When Lisa gets to her feet and tries to follow, Kaze outright threatens her with his shotgun to keep her back. Our hero, everyone, in his final appearance! And with that extraordinarily dubious moment, the audio drama, and FFU as a whole, comes to its cliffhanger ending.
Yikes, what an uncomfortable way to go out. Striking! But uncomfortable. And not just pointing a gun at Lisa – although yeah, mostly that. Putting that threat aside best we can (if we can), my issue is that FFU:After still ends on a cliffhanger even though they knew another season was never coming. For all the damage it did to get there, and as interesting as all this season 2 stuff has been, I think I appreciate that FFU-the-anime had the decency to actually end.
Unfortunately, we’ll almost certainly never see an official conclusion for FFU:After, though we might be able to derive a few clues about Season 3 from some official art. For example, check out the adjoining picture/wallpaper (or use this link). It depicts both Clear and Kupo alive and well, along with a creepy image of Herba draping Yu in regal robes. Oh, and there’s another close-up of Oscha’s exaggerated eye. But these elements could easily be metaphoric. That said, if the show wasn’t going to pay off on all those hints that there’s more to Oscha than meets the eye (hah!), maybe up to and including a reveal that he’s the true final boss, I can’t imagine what they were planning…
But that was another time, in another world. Instead, we got… Final Fantasy Unlimited and Unlimited After. The mess, the legend, the second season zombie. Goodbye, twisted prince. May a chorus of Samurai Pizza Cats sing thee to thy rest.
Oh, and one last batch of concept art, I think:
Spiral 5 begins a series of flashbacks that occur at the beginning of all the remaining spirals. They concern Touya and Yu rescuing a sick puppy when they were in grade school, and I don’t see much sense in covering them in detail. They’re mostly here to show what close friends the two of them used to be. I’ll cut to the chase: even though Yu is more invested in the puppy, Touya decides to adopt the pup in in the end, since Yu’s parents wouldn’t allow a dog. Even the youngest reader will probably be able to predict that the dog will show up later in the season. Great, let’s move on.
We return to Soljashy and Touya, and Soljashy sets up a meeting with Touya, offering to tell him the truth about what happened in Wonderland if he’s interested. It’s clear this is going to be a Faustian bargain. He schedules their meeting for the morning, just before Touya’s scheduled meet-up with the twins.(more…)
At this point, we come to a point where Ai No Kareshi’s drops the ball a little: namely, he presents a section marked, “Summary from CD booklet,” but doesn’t explain what that means. Here’s my best educated guess, I’m fairly confident in it. Only two products came on CD: Unlimited Before and Unlimited After 2. Since Unlimited Before was a flashback, we’re probably talking about a booklet included with Unlimited After 2. I further guess that the booklet was used to summarize all the events that led up to After 2 for anyone who missed the previous parts of the story (Before, After 1, After Spiral). Okay, so we worked it out! The trick is: the booklet seems it also summarizes crap that was never released in any other form, and so Ai no Kareshi had to summarize this booklet summary just to get the full Season 2 story! What a mess!
The CD booklet tells us that Kaze called off the fight with Makenshi when he realized Makenshi no longer has his Mist powers, and Cid says something about Soil and Mist that I just don’t understand. Nothing Cid says makes any sense to me in Ai no Kareshi’s summary, perhaps the concepts were too hard to localize, or perhaps the sentences were incomplete (which is an even bigger pain to localize)? All you really need to know is that soil and mist are super important for arbitrary reasons. Because he’s Kaze, Kaze then walks off and abandons everyone.(more…)
Chobi helps the party escape C2’s headquarters, along with Kaze. Now that she’s learned Soljashy is not on their side, Lisa decides to tell the kids about her friend Dolk. She notes that Soljashy not only resembles Dolk, but said a few things Dolk did in similar situations, making her strongly suspect that Soljashy really is Dolk under some sort of possession or mind control. Furthermore, she recovered Soljashy’s keychain after Kaze started shooting at him, and discovered it was the same keychain she gave Dolk as a gift, which seems to clinch things. She also tells them about their friendship: Dolk helped Lisa as a newbie member of C2, and in return, she helped Dolk deal with the fact that he’s naturally forgetful, and sort of doofus.
Setting up a plot element for later, we flashback to a scene where young Lisa hurt someone using her Kigen Arts, and she had a breakdown. Dolk comforted her, but also reminded her that her powers weren’t meant to be used to harm. Ai intuits that Lisa may have been in love with Dolk, and we gradually learn that she’s correct!(more…)
This is is the start of our coverage of FFU’s “Season 2.” If you’re interested in the anime itself, our coverage of that starts here!
For a series that was cancelled before it was even finished, you might be surprised just how much spinoff content Final Fantasy Unlimited actually has. The FFWiki lists no less than seven unique spinoff products, none of which were ever officially released in North America. Thankfully, there are detailed fan summaries of four of the spinoffs, and we’re going to piece them together to get a look at the lost second season.
But before we get started with “Season 2″… what about those three spinoffs that didn’t get summaries? Unfortunately, we don’t know much about them, so I’m going to… ah… shove them under the rug before we get started. As you’re about to see, in two of the cases, there are reasons that no one ever bothered to give them a summary.(more…)
Chapter 25 – Kaze: The Glory of Life
The party has been captured. Ai, Lisa, Kaze and Makenshi are now being held by some of Herba’s vines inside the Chaos chamber, and there’s no sign of any of the others – not the Comodeen, Kaze, Lou, Kupo, or even Chobi. Yu is free, but so messed up by the Earl’s mind games regarding his parents that he’s basically subdued without any physical restraints whatsoever. Ai wakes up and immediately recognizes her parents and that something is wrong with them (just because we’re got a whole episode left to go doesn’t mean we’ve stopped rushing!), and Lisa soon wakes and agrees. Unfortunately, while the Earl (back in his child form) reveals that he saved the survivors and even admits to having a reason, Oscha tells us that everyone else is dead. This being a kid’s show, that’s incredibly unlikely, but the show does an okay pass at it.
There is no Fabula recap in any copy of this episode or its subtitles that I’ve seen online. This makes me wonder if perhaps the last two episodes aired as a two-parter, but it may be that they just didn’t have time for one!(more…)
Chapter 24 – Chaos: The Earl Unveiled
We pick up with the end of the previous episode (Makenshi and Kaze about to blow each other to atoms) and cut immediately to opening credits and Fabula, not wasting any time today. Knave responds to the inevitable battle between the show’s actual main characters by ordering a total retreat, which is how you know he’s a wise leader after all. The twins, Lisa, Chobi and Lou stay behind, however, and Lisa wakes from her collapse from Episode 23 to see Teros beginning to erupt in geysers, either because of the damage in the previous episode, or as a Dragon Ball Z-style consequence of the two titans charging their powers during a stare-down.
As Ai and Lou help Lisa to her feet, Yu begins to moan about how he “never help[s] out in any way.” Yup, you sure don’t! Blame yourself or god, kiddo. And by “god,” I mean the screenwriters. Keep an eye on that, by the way, it’ll be back later. Yu’s self-deprecation, I mean, not the incompetence. You should already be expecting the incompetence. Anyways, Yu is so mopey that he’s caught by a geyser and has to be rescued by Chobi, leaving the others undefended when they’re hit by a subsequent geyser.(more…)
It’s a memory-themed twofer! Or at least that’s what the titles are telling me, the second episode doesn’t really have much to do with… oh, are we starting?
Chapter 22 – Moogle: Nostalgic Memories
This new Ocean puzzle cube seems to be home to an idyllic riverside village. It goes without saying that any genre-aware group of heroes would have hid inside the sub and welded the hatches shut, but I guess we wouldn’t have a plot if they had done that, would we? As the title implies, a Moogle is watching their arrival, concealed by a brown cloak.
I was teasing the good guys in the previous paragraph, but they cross the line into genuine foolishness when video game town-style music starts playing and the Comodeen start sunning on the beach. Kaze and Lisa aren’t so impressed, but they’re the only ones, so their cautions go unheard. We see everyone revelling or relaxing, followed by a shot of a distant, bizarrely ugly tower on a hill. This close-up on the tower (above) causes the background music to abruptly stop in its tracks, only for it to return when we cut away! I don’t think the effect is quite as good as they were shooting for, but it’s certainly interesting!(more…)
Chapter 20 – Yu: The Secret of Gaudium
It’s a few days later, and Ai is still mooning over Clear. This is also upsetting for Yu, especially because neither Ai nor Kaze will give him any details about what happened in the previous episode! Yu isn’t talking long before Cid flies in, riding Clear’s glove, which can fly just like the name “flying water” implies. Ai is angry at him stealing the glove away while she was staring into space, and takes it back. But enough reminiscing about Episode 19: Fungo gives a warning and the ocean puzzle shifts to start today’s activities.
Much to everyone’s dismay, the Jane ends up in a new cube in mid-air and is now plunging through the clouds. After clearing one particular cloudbank, the party stumbles onto none other than… Gaudium! Yeah, Gaudium is here, inside the Ocean Puzzle! It doesn’t really makes sense to me that Gaudium could have been inside the puzzle before now, and there were never any hints that that was the case, so it makes me wonder if the production team moved it here after they got word they were going to be cancelled, just to rush things along?(more…)