Final Fantasy XIII: Won!

My wife wanted to see me beat Final Fantasy XIII — it turns out she’s never actually seen me beat a Final Fantasy game. But that meant waiting until the weekend, since our workday evenings are usually pretty busy.

I actually started playing Final Fantasy XIII shortly after it was released in 2010. I was chugging right along and was around 90% through it in July 2010. I was actually playing it when I got a call informing me that a friend had killed himself.

I might have attempted to play it once or twice in the weeks and months after that, but I don’t think I did. At any rate, I don’t recall playing it then. I next picked it up in early 2012.

The problem with such a long gap in play time for a game like this is that you forget the context for your characters’ current status. You may have been involved in the main quest, or you may be on a side quest. The ability or magic system may not make sense after such a long time. You may quite simply not know what to do.

Sometimes, though, you can figure it out. Final Fantasy XIII has a neat little feature where when it’s loading a saved game it gives you a recap of recent events. It doesn’t give you all the details, but often it’s enough to jog your memory.

Spoilers follow.1

When I did pick it back up, my characters were on the planet Gran Pulse. There are two main settings in the game: Cocoon, where the game begins, which is a satellite of the planet Gran Pulse. The inhabitants of Cocoon have lived there for a long time. Cocoon is, I believe, an artificial construction. It’s run by a group called the Sanctum, who if I remember correctly, are an oligarchy of sorts which is or resembles a theocratic institution.

Cocoon is sustained by beings called fal’Cie. They’re usually large and powerful. The fal’Cie are manipulative — they can effectively enslave humans. The human becomes magically marked with a tattoo of sorts and becomes a “l’Cie”. Each l’Cie has a goal, called a “Focus”, unique to it. They don’t necessarily know what that goal is. If they fulfill their Focus, they’re rewarded by being turned into crystal (some reward). If they fail, they undergo another transformation into a being called a Cie’th, which are creatures or monsters with the mental life of a zombie.

Over the course of the game, the main characters become l’Cie. They are eventually told that their Focus is to destroy Cocoon. One of them will turn into a monster called Ragnarok and destroy the fal’Cie Orphan. This will result in the destruction of Cocoon.

The playable characters are:

  • Lightning — an experienced former soldier. You start the game with her and Sazh. She’s trying to find and rescue her sister, Serah.
  • Sazh — a pilot who is trying to reunite with his son, Dajh, who has been taken by the Sanctum.
  • Snow — Serah’s fiancee. Leader of a group that’s opposed to the Sanctum.
  • Hope — a kid whose mother dies early in the game and blames Snow.
  • Vanille — the narrator of the story. She’s a l’Cie from a village on  Gran Pulse called Oerba.
  • Fang — also a l’Cie from Oerba, she became Ragnarok in the past to kill Orphan, but initially has no memory of it.

Ultra-brief story summary: Serah and Dajh come in contact with a fal’Cie and become l’Cie. While trying to find Serah, Lightning, Sazh, Snow and Hope become l’Cie (unbeknownst to them, I think, Vanille is already a l’Cie — so is Fang, but she’s not in the group yet). Serah accomplishes her Foci quickly and turns to crystal. Lightning and Snow are understandably not okay with this. They resolve to restore her. I think that Dajh is (or was) at some point turned to crystal as well. They run all over Cocoon, solving most of their problems the same way characters in all Final Fantasy games usually solve their problems, with a great deal of violence. They discover that the Sanctum leader is actually a disguised fal’Cie named Barthandelus. They find out that their Focus is to destroy Cocoon, and then something neat will happen. I don’t recall what. Probably some pretty apocalyptic stuff. Eventually they go down to Gran Pulse. There are some seriously huge creatures there. I made it most of the way through Gran Pulse. I was about to go back to Cocoon when I got the bad news about my friend and stopped playing.

When I started playing again a year and a half later, I made it back to Cocoon to a place called Orphan’s Cradle. It was a surreal place — it was like the inside of psychedelic wind tunnel. I made it most of the way through it before getting distracted from the game.

After beating Final Fantasy, I thought I’d have a go at finally finishing the 13th installment. I took a look at an online walkthrough to get my bearings and realized that I was very, very close to the end. On the last day of the long Memorial Day weekend, I started playing again. And was almost immediately astonished by how hard the fights were. After a moderately difficult fight with a Bandersnatch and a Jabberwocky, I was teleported to another section. There I fought a large beast, called an Immortal, that was similar to other less powerful creatures I had fought before. But it wiped the floor with me. I then tried fighting some of the smaller enemies in the area and had a similar outcome.

Back in the day I would do two runs through a Final Fantasy game. I’d do one run through just to get the main plot and beat the game, and a second run to fully explore every facet of the game. I don’t do that anymore, since the amount of time required is prohibitive, and my interest in the game can’t be sustained across many short sessions if the gameplay required for all the extras is both tedious and complicated. But, even these days, if I come up against a part of the game that’s too hard, I have no problem setting aside some time to developing the characters enough to be able to handle the challenges.

But this game is different. I never really fully grasped what was required to advance characters. The system to develop abilities is called the Chrystarium, and I understood that. But most of my weapons and accessories were fairly weak. I had, back in 2010, managed to upgrade a bunch of them, but it’s a weird process and I don’t remember exactly how it works. And the in-game help was surprisingly vague, unless I somehow missed or skimmed a thorough explanation (that’s very possible).

So I was faced with this dilemma — do I go back and invest a lot of time developing the characters? That might be okay, but I’m doing this in conjunction with this blog, and I since I was already starting very late in the game, I didn’t think that would provide anything resembling interesting material for posts.

Instead, I tried messing with what the game refers to as “Paradigms”. The characters can adopt different roles, or jobs, in older Final Fantasy games’ parlance, in combat. In some early Final Fantasy games, you could change your jobs outside of combat.2 In others, especially more recent entries, you can change mid-battle. In this game, you don’t specifically change a character’s job mid-battle, you change the group configuration of jobs. So you may start a battle in the “Relentless Assault” paradigm, which consists of 1 Commando and 2 Ravagers. A Commando is a typical fighter. A Ravager is an offensive magic user. If one or more of your characters start to take damage, you may want to heal them. To do so, you might switch to the “Diversity” paradigm, which consists of 1 Commando, 1 Ravager and 1 Medic. The Medic casts spells that benefit the party members, including healing spells.

There are many possible paradigms — I think 16. However, you can only have about half that number available to at any given time. You configure them outside combat. If it turns out that you didn’t configure “Diversity” and you’re in a fight, you can’t use it until you are outside of combat and enable it.

Good use of paradigms are the only way to advance in Final Fantasy XIII. You can button-mash through weak enemies, but bosses and mini-bosses are considerably more formidable. Before I understood this, I was often very surprised at how quickly the game seemed to ramp up the difficulty. It wasn’t really — it just required good strategies. And it’s not just the use of a particular paradigm — you can (and usually have to) switch paradigms many times over the course of a battle.

So that’s what I did. I don’t remember offhand what paradigms I configured, but I managed to barely survive some of these battles.

I made my way deeper into Orphan’s Cradle until I got to the last save of the game. That’s where I stopped until this weekend, so my wife could watch.

I expected the first fight: it was with the fal’Cie Barthandalus. I beat him on the first try, but it was a little difficult.

The characters thought they were finished, but then Orphan shows up.

Orphan mopped the floor with me. In true Final Fantasy tradition, it has a mega-attack that reduces everyone to a very small amount of hit points. If my party leader (in this case Lightening) gets killed, it’s game over. I couldn’t heal her fast enough, and a followup attack killed her. So I rejiggered my paradigms and tried again. After beating Barthandalus again, I took another shot. I did better this time, though I really did squeak by.

Also in Final Fantasy tradition, it wasn’t quite over yet. Another incarnation of Orphan (or something) shows up. This one wasn’t so hard, though there was a time limit on the fight.

I’m skipping some stuff, with Fang turning into Ragnarok, everyone else except Vanille supposedly turning into Cie’th, etc. Honestly, given the long gaps in my play of this game, I’m a little confused.

Anyway, everyone escapes, except for Fang and Vanille. Those two become Ragnarok and stop Cocoon from crashing into Gran Pulse by turning into a giant crystal that keeps Cocoon aloft.

Everyone else, now down on Gran Pulse, turns to crystal.

I half-expected it to end there. Boom, everyone’s crystal now, the end. But they somehow un-crystalized. Serah and Dajh show up and everyone is happy. Except for Vanille and Fang, who are still crystal.

I think I will replay this game at some point. The very long break I took diminished my enjoyment of the gameplay and plot. The game did allow me to save the game after winning, so I don’t have to start a new game to explore some parts more carefully.

I had a lot of fun playing it, though — so much that I decided to just start playing Final Fantasy XIII-2 next.

  1. That’s really what this site is, isn’t it? One big spoiler?
  2. There were plenty of games, however, with fixed roles. This was the case for the first game, which I recently beat, though you do choose your characters’ “jobs” in the very beginning. Others include II, IV, VI, VII, I think VIII and IX. Games with jobs include III, V, X-2, and now XIII. Final Fantasy X and XII allowed you to develop other job-like skills, but the characters would come to embody multiple jobs, not switch between them.

Final Fantasy: Won!

As I hinted at the end of the previous post, I beat Final Fantasy this weekend.

Settle in, because we’re going to cover time paradoxes, free will, and phallic devil chest-snakes.

The last boss, Chaos, was surprisingly difficult. I still beat him on the first try, though not all of my characters were conscious when he bit it. But I’ll get to that.

This version of the game assumes that you’ve played Final Fantasy before, I think. Otherwise it wouldn’t confuse the player by introducing optional dungeons the way that it does. During my final tour through the cities before tackling the dungeon, I ran into a cloaked dude in Cornelia:

When I went to the Chaos Shrine, this same guy was waiting for me. He walked to the back of the shrine, a door appeared and he went through. So I did the same thing. I talked with him, and he explained that I’d have to give up some abilities to move forward.

For the first part, I gave up the ability to flee from combat. In return, I was given several minutes to complete the level. I watched a pixie float in, do a dance, then float off. Then 5 pixies flew in, and I had to pick out the original pixie. It was not especially difficult.

It progressed like this for a while. I passed several floors. But this was very strange. This seemed unrelated to the plot. It also did not seem like a 1987 console RPG would present these sort of puzzles. In fact, the whole “lose the ability to do this or that” thing1 reminded me of the Battle Square in Final Fantasy VII.

It wouldn’t allow me to save my game either.

While I had never been this far in the game, I was familiar with the general sequence of events, and this seemed all wrong. So I looked up some walkthroughs for the PSP version, and sure enough, I had stumbled onto another optional, super-hard dungeon. In fact, it’s apparently the most difficult area in the game, and the walkthrough suggested that my characters all be level 99 and have all the best equipment.

My characters were around level 50, and I just really wanted to complete the main plot. It’s possible I’ll come back later to try the optional dungeons, but I probably won’t. Luckily I had saved outside, so I just loaded that save.

This time, instead of going to the back, I went into the central area where I had fought Garland near the beginning of the game. I triggered a time portal, stepped into it and was teleported 2000 years in the past.

Time travel in works of fiction usually bugs me. One thing that no one ever takes into account is that the Earth (or whatever planet) you’re on is moving through space. So time travel also has to be spatial travel if you don’t want to pop up in the void of space. And that’s a lot of distance, especially over 2000 years. The answer people usually give to this question is that if scientists figured out how to travel to the past, then surmounting the distance problem should be trivial. I don’t like that explanation. Moving forward in time faster relative to others involves moving at a very, very fast speed. You could fly very close to the speed of light around the Earth many times, tracking its movement through space, and end up far in the future relative to the passage of time from your point of view and still spatially near the Earth. If moving through the past worked the same way,2 and you could somehow keep your ship intact while traveling at such high speeds (and at revolving tightly around the Earth), then I guess the spatial issue would be resolved. Note that I got my degree in Philosophy and English, and I have no idea what I’m talking about.3 In this matter or any other, really.

I’m also annoyed by supposed time loops and paradoxes. But I’ll get to that shortly.

Anyway, they step on the portal and they’re in the same temple 2000 years in the past. It’s in better shape now. Then. Whatever.

I made my way through. In short order I came across Lich again. He seemed to be a little more formidable than before, but it wasn’t much of a challenge. Continuing deeper in, I came across Marilith again. Something interesting happened here. I had stepped on a square and fought Marilith, then noticed that there was a path going east just south of me. There were stairs a couple blocks north of me. So I went to explore the path to the south, and when I headed back for the stairs, stepping on the square triggered another fight with Marilith. The fight wasn’t difficult, so it wasn’t an inconvenience, but Marilith (like Lich) didn’t reward much experience or gil at this point.

I eventually found and defeated Kraken, and then Tiamat. I also had to fight Tiamat twice, as I had missed a section. It was worth it, though, because I found Masamune, which is a very good sword that can be used by anyone, even magic users. I gave it to Kai. If I had to do it again I’d just give it to Frotz, at least for the last battle.

Finally I made my way to Garland, AKA Chaos. Garland gave a James Bond villain speech, where he explained a lot of what was going on. When my characters killed Garland, the Four Fiends sent him 2000 years back in time. Somehow they saved him and transformed him into a demon named Chaos. Then he sends the fiends into the future so that they can send him to the past. He also supposedly kills the Light Warriors (my peeps).

Oh boy. These tenses are going to get confusing. Er, were confusing. Will have been. Were to be?

That’s all ok. Causal loops, despite being somewhat mind-bending, do make some logical sense. But characters throughout the game refer to it as a cycle, as does Garland. He refers to killing the Light Warriors again and again. That’s the part that doesn’t make sense. An event that happens at a particular point in time only happens once. Yes, a future event causes the event in the past, but that doesn’t mean that something happens again and again. A causal loop only happens once. There are no different Light Warriors to kill.

Wait, how do I die and die again? I've had it up to here with all these platonic metempsychotics! Are you with me, people?

You can’t change the past. Period.4 If you engage in some form of time travel to the past, that’s fine, but it already happened. That means that before you hop into your time machine to go twenty minutes into the past to give your dad a wedgie, he’s going to tell you that about 20 minutes ago, you gave him a wedgie. Then you’ll hop in the machine, burst out, and give your dad a wedgie. It’s ok — you never actually had free will to begin with.5

I’m unsure at this point whether Garland/Chaos sent the fiends into the future before I burst into the room. I had just fought each of them (two of them twice each as well — also very confusing). It’s possible that between defeating Tiamat and finding Garland/Chaos he sent them to the future. If he did send them into the future before this encounter, that makes sense. If he’s supposed to kill the Light Warriors and then send the Fiends into the future, it doesn’t make sense, because I can assure you I murdered the shit out of Chaos. And he did send them into the future, because they sent him to the past, where he’s bragging to me shortly before getting his ass handed to him.

It’s also not entirely clear if Chaos supposedly defeats the Light Warriors then chills out for 2000 years, becoming a human again, then getting beat by the Light Warriors before being sent back in time. He says something that hints at that, but that also doesn’t make sense to me. How did he stop being a demon? What did he do for 2 millennia?

Wait, is that Garland in 2000 years part of your past personal timeline, or actually a future version of you that you have yet to experience. NO DON'T GIVE ME THAT TIME LOOP CRAP.

To sum up my frustration here: the Twelve Monkeys model of time travel makes sense. Back to the Future‘s model does not. This game seems to embrace some form of the latter. But more importantly, can we talk about what’s going on here?

Those are the scariest knees I have ever seen. Or been seen by.

Seriously — there’s a lot happening here. Final Fantasy bosses have a tendency to look a little over the top, but what exactly is that phallic devil snake coming out of his chest? And the knees — why do you need faces on your knees? How would you do rock power-slides without seriously injuring your face-knee pals? Do they have to be fed? Wouldn’t it be weird to watch a face-knee eat ribs? Because the face-knee would get sauce all over his face, and it would be hilarious, because how is he going to wipe the sauce off? I suppose Chaos could grab a wet-nap and wipe the face-knee’s face, but do you think maybe Chaos sometimes doesn’t do that, just to get a rise out of him?

Anyway, Chaos was actually pretty tough to defeat. The game might have benefitted from having more bosses of similar difficulty. I came very close to defeat a couple times.

I tried using status effects to pump my characters up, but he was able to kill characters with a single hit. So Kai was preoccupied for most of the fight with reviving and healing characters. My fighters weren’t doing much damage, especially since they lost Haste when they were knocked out.

At one point everyone except Yurto was unconscious/dead. Eventually I turned the tide. When Chaos went down, everyone was conscious except for Frotz.

The game’s ending sequence explains that now that the cycle was broken (this makes no sense, McFly), Garland was never sent to the past, the fiends were never sent to the future, and none of this shit happened. But. But. The story lives on in legend, somehow. People sing about it or something. But no one remembers it, because it didn’t happen, because we broke the cycle.

Again, that makes no sense. You can’t change the past. My characters defeated Chaos 2000 years in the past, and that’s that.

Irony. BECAUSE NO ONE HAS EVER MADE A JOKE LIKE THIS ABOUT FINAL FANTASY. This was the first.

When it was all over, the game let me save a New Game Plus save. Which means I can start a new game and keep my bestiary or something, which is amazing because I always wanted to keep my bestiary…? I’m sure there’s another benefit that I’m forgetting here. The best part is that Frotz is dead in the game save. He’s doing a face-plant. I don’t have a picture at the moment, but I may include it in a followup.

So I may do a followup post — a summary or a review or something. I haven’t decided yet. I usually like to think about something like that for a while before trying to put it to words. It should be clear if you somehow made it this far into this post that I could probably spend more time and thought on these posts. I should maybe try to be a little more concise, and a little less 2000-wordy. Though maybe I typed roughly 2000 words to mirror the 2000 years I travelled back in time to punch Garland in his stupid face. Did I just blow your mind?

That said, I’ve already started on the next game. Or, rather, I’ve picked up where I left off with Final Fantasy XIII. The story surrounding why it’s taken me so long to beat this game will probably be more interesting that anything I have to say about the gameplay from here on out, since I am at the very last save spot in the game before the final battles. I’ll get into that later.

I should beat it in short order, though it may have to wait for the weekend.

After that, I’ll probably play Chrono Trigger, since I get so worked up over incoherent time travel.

  1. At various points I also sacrificed my ability to use items, cast white spells, etc.
  2. I forget how the math works out — isn’t it if you could somehow move faster than light then you could, theoretically, move backward in time?
  3. Let this serve as a warning, kids. Get a degree in something like Philosophy and you may find yourself in your mid-30s writing a blog about your own ineptitude with regard to beating video games in a timely manner. I have many regrets.
  4. It’s around here that some smart-ass will start arguing about the many-worlds interpretation and quantum branching. Even if something as apparently unverifiable as this is true, it still wouldn’t account for a closed causal loop. Perhaps a spiral? Now might be a good time for me to reiterate that I really have no idea what I’m talking about. Look, I read A Brief History of Time once, like 15 years ago. That’s all I’ve got.
  5. Don’t ever argue with anyone about free will. It never ends well. Also, now that I’ve told you not to have that argument, you will either A) heed my words, undermining your free will, or B) not do what I say, still undermining your free will. In fact, I shouldn’t even be writing this.

Final Fantasy: The Fourth Crystal, and Dancing Your Way to Foreign Language Mastery

After teleporting out of the Sunken Shrine, I talked to the people in Onrac. Specifically, I talked to Dr. Unne’s brother, who exhorted me to take the Rosetta Stone to Dr. Unne.

I did so. Dr. Unne was very excited to see it. After studying it for at least 20 seconds, he mastered the Lufenian language. Even better, he offered to teach me. Apparently learning a foreign language involves thrusting your arms out repeatedly while your teacher hops several times. I’m not kidding.

Why didn't they use this amazing technique in my college French classes? This is all I remember from 2 semesters of French: "Zut alors!" That's it. Oh, and "Va te faire enculer chez les grecs!" Side note: this is a perfectly appropriate and valid response to any attempt my anyone to engage you in socratic dialogue against your will. But forget I said any of this, as this is a family blog.

Now that I was a master of Lufenian, I headed for the last city I hadn’t been to. Presumably Lufenia. I presumed right. It totally was Lufenia. And since I had thrust my arms multiple times over the course of 5 seconds, I could speak to its denizens.

They lived in the clouds… and they were called the "Sky People". I don't know, I just don't understand the connection.

The Lufenians were full of interesting information. Most confusing was a comment about 5 warriors who had been sent out to track down the big bad guy. There was also a comment that I think referred to them being turned into bats, though I might be confusing some things. Anyway, this got me wondering whether there might be a subplot involving all the “Kee-Kee!” bats I’d been running into.

Anyway, the Lufenians had tried to fight off Tiamat, the fourth of the fiends, 400 years ago, but were not successful. One of them gave me a chime that would grant me entrance to the Mirage Tower.

I headed there. There’s not much to say — I fought through a lot of enemies, eventually finding a warp to the Flying Fortress. I guess the warp cube I got from the robot earlier helped with that.

Anyway, I eventually found 3 interesting things. First was some Adamantite.

I wasn’t sure what it was for, but the game made a big deal out of it. Played some music and everything.

Second was a window showing the geographical center of all of the crystals. It was very close to where the game started, in Cornelia.

Third was Tiamat. Tiamat was actually a little tougher than the other fiends, but that’s not saying much. She went down in short order.

That's not how things played out.

Anyway, it was the usual deal. Lit the crystal, teleported out, all that.

I had lit all the crystals, but it appeared that there was still a big baddie to deal with. Before heading to the spot indicated in the window above, I went to the various towns, swapping spells around and seeing if there were loose ends to wrap up. It turns out that the adamantite could be used by that dwarf blacksmith in Dwarfopolis to forge Excalibur. That is super-confusing, considering the whole legend around that sword, but cool. It is a bad-ass sword.

Spells in order,1 Excalibur in hand, I was ready to go after the head douchebag. In a hilarious repeat of an earlier confusing mistake, I went on a fairly long detour that left me a little frustrated with this game’s self-awareness as a remake.

But I’ll explain that in my next post.

Until then, I’ll leave you with two things. First, if you look at my list of games, you may see something exciting, though not entirely surprising. Second, here’s Square trying to shoe-horn Cid into the plot. This was definitely not in the original:

Yeah? And was Cid a chocobo? With a pet moogle? And will anyone who is actually likely to read this have any idea what I'm talking about?

I get why they did it — a character named Cid is in most of the Final Fantasy games. Usually it’s someone associated with airships somehow. Still, it seemed a little silly to throw this in. Unless I’m completely mistaken, of course. But this feels like some Grade-A Lucasian retconning.

  1. I had several items that could be used to cast some spells without limit, including Invisira, which allowed me to drop that spell and get Exit. I also ended up getting Teleport.

Final Fantasy: Do You Want to Get in the Barrel?

Oxyale1 in hand, I headed back to the submarine in Onrac.

The girl standing if front of it was happy to see I had it. She exhorted me to “save the mermaids”, then she kind of floated away. The float-away was kind of slow and awkward. Everyone was a little uncomfortable.

Then the game presented me with an interesting question:

Hey kids, here's a pro-tip: the answer to this question is always NO.

There is never any situation where the answer to “Do you want to get in the barrel?” is Yes.

So I got in the barrel. I was treated to a bit of a cut scene and found myself in the Sunken Shrine. I fought my way to the top level and came across a bunch of mermaids. They were less impressed by my legs than the townsfolk in Onrac, but they were surprised to see that I could breathe underwater.

Because these legs aren't REALLY mine!?

See, that is an appropriate question to ask someone: “You can BREATHE underwater?” It is so much more reasonable than, “Are those REALLY your legs?”

More interesting was this exchange:

So it would appear that it’s hard to get into the tower in the desert, and that there’s an instrument or chime that is a key of some sort. I also found a “Rosetta Stone”:

This is, as any student of history knows, a reference to expensive software that will teach you to say "I am a United States wanting a talk box to buy cheese pie" in a couple dozen languages.

Anyway, after talking to them all and collecting some nice armor, I headed down for the lowest level.

We are ourselves, and we still don't know just who we are. Seriously, we just showed up in front of a castle and started murdering goblins. No idea what's happening. Yurto keeps mumbling about unicorns eating his wife or something, but that's all we've got.

Some of the fights have started to get a little more challenging. The majority aren’t, though, and when they are, it’s because the enemy is paralyzing my characters or because they can do an insta-kill attack or something. But still, nothing to really worry about.

I eventually found Kraken. The fight went about as quickly as with Marilith. To illustrate, I went back to a previous save and recorded the fight.

That’s it. And here’s the thing: even the precautions I took here were probably a waste of time and spell points. I probably should have just attacked with my fighters (though they wouldn’t have done much damage without the Hastes) and had Yurto cast only Thundaga until Kraken croaked. Not that it really matters.

This, so far, is the biggest weakness of Final Fantasy on the PSP. It is just too easy. This is the 3rd of 4 Fiends. They are supposed to be major bosses, and they are pushovers. I did do some leveling early on before I fought the first fiend, but I’m not intentionally leveling anymore. However, I’m still gaining levels like crazy (I’m in the mid-40s now) and I haven’t had a single difficult fight. I don’t even know how not to level: the random encounters in dungeons are very, very frequent.

I honestly thought this game would be much harder. I remember dying quite a bit more in Final Fantasy IV and VI, at least in boss fights. Again, the difficulty may have been lowered for the PSP version. I think this was based on the old port to the original Playstation, but I never played that version. So I don’t know if this is unique to the PSP or not.

I mentioned before that I would try the original after beating this. I will definitely do that.

Oh, and one more thing. What the hell is this?

10 gil?! Screw this quest. With that kind of money I can retire and live a life of leisure.

Seriously. I am most of the way through the game and I keep coming across chests with tiny amounts of gil in them. Keep in mind that there are other chests around them with large amounts. There are also chests with little items like Potion, Antidote, etc. I just don’t get it. Is it a joke? I kind of laughed the first couple times, but it just keeps happening. Very weird.

  1. Is that pronounced ox-yale? Oxy-ale? Oaks-Yaw-lee?

Final Fantasy: Are those legs REALLY yours?

I parked the airship somewhat near a town called Onrac on one of the northern continents. I made my way west to the town.

This was one weird place. There was a lot of talk about legs, UFOs and robots.

I think this was the first dialog that genuinely surprised me.

Under what circumstances is this a legitimate question? Seriously, what's with you people and legs?

There were also some more high-level spells being sold. I bought some, but they’re getting very expensive now. There was also a woman who had tried to make her own submarine, but apparently it’s a deathtrap.

Normally I'd be pleased that this kind of explains the obsession with legs in this town. But then you had to speak the second half of that sentence. You made a submarine out of a BARREL? Sure, why not? By the way, I made a moped out of a rake and an angry mule.

Anyway, I picked up some good information here in Onrac. I was told the location of the caravan, where I could presumably find the faerie. Someone named Koppe told me about a UFO or something landing at a waterfall. I had flown over that waterfall earlier.

I left town and rowed canoe up the nearby river to find the waterfall. Inside was a cave.

It was fairly big, with lots of twisty passageways. After a good deal of exploring, I found myself in a room with a lot of treasure chests and a robot, presumably the one mentioned in town.

I have BEEN going as fast as I can, jerk.

It gave me a cube, of course.

So, er, okay. That said, someone in Onrac who was Dr. Unne’s brother mentioned “Sky People”. He also mentioned a language and a “Rosetta Stone”.

The robot didn’t have anything else useful to say, though, and I left. I’m still considering dropping a spell in exchange for the Exit spell, but I really like those spells. And anyway, new spells are getting expensive (as I mentioned earlier), so the extra fights on the way were probably worth it.

I decided to go look for the caravan. I apparently needed to get to the caravan to get the faerie, who could get me some oxyale, which would… do something?

After wandering somewhat aimlessly in the dessert fighting slightly tougher creatures than I normally encounter, I stumbled onto the caravan. There, a merchant was selling a bottle with a faerie in it for something like 40,000 gil.1 So I bought it. I headed back to Gaia, whereupon the faerie flew off to the northeast. I went up to a spring that I had previously found. The faerie was there, hanging out in a very Legend of Zelda sort of way. It gave me some Oxyale. It also informed me that I could use it to breathe underwater, so I guess I could try out that rickety wine barrel of a submarine after all.

So I’m going to head back to Onrac and hop in the “submarine”, though I may head back to the waterfall to make some more money first.

  1. I’m trying to use the word “gil” more.

Final Fantasy: Airship

Finding the airship took longer than it probably should have. I kind of wandered around, finding the answer at Elfheim.

Legend has it that you should just tell me where the hell it is.

An elf who previously didn’t have anything interesting to say now told me exactly where it was:

Or, perhaps, by the power of greyskull?

I went down to that desert and, just like the elf said, it rose right out of the sand.

So I flew the ship around for a little while. I went back to Cornelia and rested up, because it’s super cheap there and I only have 300,000+ freaking gil. What the hell is gil, anyway? I never use the word “gil” in my head, just “gold”. I believe it’s also referred to in some spots (in at least some Final Fantasy games) as GP. Which makes me immediately think, “Gold Pieces”. Anyway.

Of course, once the game gives you an airship, it’s not like it’s going to make travel to new areas convenient. Sure, you can fly to new continents, but the airship can only land on specific spots — basically flat grassland. You can’t land in swamps, forests or deserts. Which makes sense, but then nearly all the towns and castles in the northern continents are surrounded by a great deal of these tiles. We’re talking about parking waaay out in the sticks and taking a long hike. Still, I found a series of islands with half a dozen caves that were not so inconvenient. Inside them were no enemy encounters, but there were a bunch of dragons. They were just walking around, half-bored.

They kept talking about taking some trials to prove worth or bravery. There was some mention of Bahamut. In Final Fantasy games, Bahamut usually (always?) a dragon. Sometimes he’s a summoned creature (though there don’t seem to be any summons in this game), sometimes a character. He’s the latter in this game. I found him in one of the caves. Told me to prove my worth, etc.

I missed the whole pokemon thing, but from my perspective as someone who has no idea what it's about, it nevertheless feels appropriate to make a joke about it now. Except I can't, because I don't know what it is.

One of the other dragons mentioned a nearby castle. I found it quickly (just to the northeast of the islands), but I stopped at a town called Gaia first. There I found shops with a lot of spells and items that I couldn’t use. I was able to buy Blizagga for Yurto. The rest couldn’t be used by black or white mages. This, along with the whole “trials” business was a big hint pointing to something I already knew about this game — my characters would probably soon get a promotion of sorts. Mages would become Wizards, etc. Then I should be able to use those spells.

There was mention of an ancient city to the south, referred to as “Wing of the Hawk”. I think I’ve seen it — it’s one of those towns that I’ll have to park a long way from. Also, there was some discussion of a missing faerie and a spring, and some sort of water called oxyale that only faeries can get. There was a pirate-looking dude hanging out outside a church who claimed to have sold the faerie to a caravan.

You, sir, are on questionable ethical grounds.

Finally, someone mentioned a tower in the desert that I flew over, called “Mirage Tower”. There’s certainly no shortage of options at this point, but I really suspect that if I pass the trials I’ll get the character upgrades, and I was anxious to do that. This is the farthest I’ve got in this game. Last time I petered out sometime after beating Lich.

Anyway, I stocked up then hopped back in the airship. I had to park a good distance away from the castle (of course).

The walk to the castle wasn’t too bad. The monsters I encountered (mostly big cats of various sorts) were disappointingly easy — again, I think my levels are higher than are really necessary for this stage.

Sure, random dude hanging out in this abandoned castle in the middle of nowhere. I've brought a fancy hat, so let me in.

In the castle I had a brief discussion with a wizard or something. Then I found a throne, sat in it, and was teleported to another floor. There are a bunch of teleporters on this level. There wasn’t a lot of rhyme or reason that I could discern in what teleporter led where, but through trial and error I eventually made my way to a treasure chest with gauntlets that no one could use. Some more trial and error and I found some stairs going up.

On this level were a good number of chests. This game does some strange things with chests — I come across many empty ones, and many with very small amounts of gold gil. Often these are next to chests with a large amount. Also, I’ll occasionally find a very good item in a chest, whereas a nearby one has a potion. Very weird.

So, I made my way to a room with a chest and a throne. In the chest was a Rat’s Tail. Gross. In front of the throne was a forced fight with some Dragon Zombies. They were pushovers. Afterwards I sat on the throne and was transported back to the first level.

Really? A rat's tail? I killed Lich and Marilith. I raised an AIRSHIP out of a DESERT like I was freakin YODA. But this severed rat's tail impresses you? Sure, fine. You need anything else? Puke of a house cat?

I headed back to Bahamut and he promoted my peeps! Very cool. Now Frotz can use the gauntlets I had found, though I’m leaving him with a Protect Ring I picked up in Gaia. On that note, now the other characters can wear Protect Rings as well. Frotz was is able to cast low-level white spells now too. Oh, and I picked up a claw or something in Gaia that Yurto can use now. Also bought the rest of the level 7 spells for the mages.

Frotz was most excited about his new tiara.

Oh, and I still can’t buy the level 8 spells — the mages aren’t at a high enough level. This part of the game totally confuses me. My characters are at a high enough level that no enemies (except in the bonus dungeons) that I’ve encountered have posed a serious threat for for a long time. Why keep me from getting certain spells? It’s not like I need those spells, and I need to claw my way up to high enough levels by fighting dangerous enemies. The main obstacle is finding opponents that will give me enough experience to level at a decent pace. It’s just weird. They must have fiddled with the difficulty of the game for this version.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I am having fun. As I mentioned, this is the farthest I’ve made it in the game, and I’m happy to not deal with the idiosyncrasies of the NES version. Though I think I will still play a few hours of the original once I’ve beat this version, just as a point of comparison.

So that’s where I am now. I have freshly upgraded badasses. There are plenty of possible things I could try at this point. I still haven’t looked much at the other northern continent, so I may do that.

Final Fantasy: From Hot to Cold

I ended the last post on the 3rd level of Mt. Gulg. There’s actually not much to tell — I headed down a couple more levels and confronted Marilith, the Fiend of Fire. There was a lot of lava to wade through to get there, but it wasn’t a big deal.

Neither was Marilith. Maybe it was the Protera, Invisira and NulBlaze (a reasonable guess, I thought) spells, along with Haste being cast on the two fighters, but this fight went fast and my characters were never in any real danger.

Anyway, the aftermath was the same as with the Fiend of Earth: the crystal sparked up and I teleported out.

I headed back to Crescent Lake, and the cemetery-loving goth dude had woken up.

Yet another “GO THERE” moment. I did head there. Turns out that this cave was actually an ice cavern.

The difficulty seems to be ramping up a little. There were a lot of Mindflayers, who I’m sure were in Final Fantasy IV as well. They can be fairly dangerous — their “Mind Blast” spell can potentially paralyze the entire party, though when it does work, it usually just paralyzes the two fighters. There were also Dark Wizards who, especially in groups of four, can be quite dangerous, as they frequently cast Firaga and stand up well to physical abuse.

The cave was a little bit of a puzzle, though nothing too crazy, and I’m not going to go into detail here. The end was a little anticlimactic — the Eye I fought was a pushover. Anyway, it was guarding the Levistone. I worked my way out (with just a touch of regret at not picking up the Exit spell).

That’s where I am now. The Levistone is somehow connected to getting an airship, so I’m going to poke around and see what I need to do.

Final Fantasy: Crescent Lake

After the confusing Earthgift Shrine debacle, I decided to hop back in my boat and search up north. One villager had mentioned a ruined civilization to the north, and it was the only lead I had. I sailed west and before turning north I brought up the map. I noticed that there was a large continent directly to the west with a couple ports. It was actually the large continent to the east, which Pravoka is a part of. 1 So I Columbused this route and landed at the more southern dock.

There wasn’t much there, though the world map showed a couple areas of interest nearby. I made my way to a town called Crescent Lake. It was mostly empty, except for a woman complaining about her sleeping husband and someone who was asleep — presumably the woman’s husband.

DUDE. You are sleepwalking in a cemetery. Creep.

Why are there so few houses in Final Fantasy towns? Especially these early ones — there are shops, temples, things like that. There are the occasional abodes, but usually nowhere near enough to support the villagers walking around. Crescent Lake is no different, because even though there was apparently only one couple living there, there wasn’t a single home.

I checked out the shops. The spells being sold were level 6, so I figured I was in the right spot. They weren’t cheap, but I am flush with cash at this point. I even loaded up on ethers, tents, potions and hi-potions. I bought enough to last me for the foreseeable future, and it only made a mild dent in my wallet. Anyway, I bought Stona, which cures characters who have been turned to stone. So now my lack of Gold Needles is considerably less worrisome. Unless Kai gets stoned.2

Final Fantasy gives your magic users 4 slots for spells per spell level. So Yurto, for example, can have 3 spells for level 1, 3 for level 2, etc. But they typically sell 4 spells for each level, so you have a decision to make whenever these spells become available. It hasn’t been too difficult so far. For Yurto, I strongly favor elemental magic: things like Fire/Fira/Firaga, Thunder/Thundara/Thundaga, etc. Then I go for spells that enhance my characters (Haste), and finally spells that negatively effect my opponents. I’ve largely ignored spells like Teleport and Exit, which move you out of a dungeon by one level or remove you entirely, respectively. That may come back to bite me later, but at least in this version of the game I can actually delete some spells and swap in other ones, apparently.

So I had some decisions to make. With Yurto, one choice was between Death and Stun. Death, well, kills an enemy. Typically this kind of spell costs a lot, has a fairly lousy success rate, and never works on bosses. Stun paralyzes an enemy. It has similar faults, though I doubt it’s as bad. There’s very little chance it will work on any significant boss either, of course.

If you’ve read previous entries, you know that I’ve decided that Yurto has had a rough life, and that his wife was eaten by a %&$^#@* unicorn. He’s seen things that have changed him, man. Dark stuff. Et cetera. I’ve also been listening to Dexter series in audiobook form3 while commuting to and from work. So I’ve decided that Yurto has been corrupted into a sick bastard. He doesn’t just want to kill his enemies. He wants to toy with them. Dark Passenger, foul-mouthed sister, arch-nemesis missing his hands, feet and tongue — the whole shebang. He’s a goddamn serial killer, if killing sharks, goblins and anthropomorphic plants counts.

So I bought Stun. The Death spell wouldn’t be as much fun for the weirdo.

But I digress.

I was a little confused at this point. While I felt like I was on the right track, neither of the town’s residents were helpful at all. I wandered around outside but couldn’t get anywhere. Then (facepalm) I noticed an area on the right side of town that I completely missed.

There was a big grove over there with a bunch of dwarves or wizards. I have no idea why they’re hanging out in the sticks like this, but okay. The main dude’s name is Lukahn. Before I get into what they said, I have to return to the earlier question — where do they live? Or at least sleep? Is this a campground? Perhaps a hippie commune? They’ve got beards and robes, so it’s not out of the question.

Awesomely, they thank me for beating Lich, which the ingrates in Melmond didn’t have much to say about:

You're welcome.

They give some background to the story which, if a little overdue, is very welcome.

So the fiends have been making staggered appearances. Wind appeared 400 years ago, Water 200, Earth just recently, and presumably Fire in another 200. Except…

Er, sorry?

Oops. Well, it’s got to be done, right? Anyway, there’s another mention of the ruined north lands, and then the first “GO THERE!” hint in a while:

Could you be more speci— Oh. Really? Ok.

To make sure I couldn’t refuse, making the situation super-awkward, he gave me a canoe. Funny, I didn’t see a canoe in the middle of this field. And, so, do we just lug this canoe around with us for the rest of the game? I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice canoe. Top brand. But, yeesh. A little inconvenient. NO, YOU’RE MAKING THIS WEIRD, YOU CREEPY GARDEN GNOME.

I chatted a few more of them up. The only other thing of real interest was a request that we return to Woodstock when we get all the crystals:

Will do, ZZ-Top.

With that, my guys all grabbed part of the canoe and we awkwardly weaved out way through the hippies back to the wilderness, and on to Mount Gulg.

Mount Gulg is hard to miss. It’s a big volcano to the northwest. I took the canoe down the various streams to reach it and headed in. Turns out buying all those potions and hi-potions was a fantastic idea — there are patches of lava that can’t be avoided. When you step on them, you take damage. I recall something similar in Final Fantasy IV — I think it was the Sylvan Cave? You could avoid damage there with a levitation spell. No such luck here. Fortunately it doesn’t do much damage and there isn’t very much of it, at least on the first two levels.

The first level was small and uninteresting, except for the lava. Level two had a lot of treasure chests, but most of them had equipment I already bought or found. Still, I found a few useful things.

Oh, and it was around now that I saw in the manual that monks can do more damage with their bare hands at higher levels. They’re around level 30, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I removed Qasi’s Iron Nunchaku, and WOW. He does a lot more damage — sometimes he’ll hit 8 times for around 400 damage. And keep in mind he’s fighting monsters made of fire. He is punching the shit out of monsters made of fire.

Anyway, I saved at the entrance to the third level. I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot more lava to trudge through.

  1. This world, while not quite spherical, at least wraps east-west, which makes it a cylinder. I don’t know if it wraps north-south. If it does, that would be weird. That would make the world something like a doughnut, wouldn’t it? Anyway, I think every Final Fantasy through 9 has a world map like this that you can roam freely, at least once you get an airship.
  2. Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re trying to be so good. ♫
  3. I’m on the fourth book. One line review of the series so far: Fun but formulaic. Kind of like Final Fantasy I.

Final Fantasy: Frazzled Cats

So I headed to the Earthgift Shrine. It did not work out very well.

Standing just inside the cave was a dwarf who I’ll call Bashful. Bashful said:

Keek? Lippin?

Then, like a million other characters standing outside a million other caves in a million other games, he said:

I, of course, totally ignored the dwarf. I went to the door and opened it. If you listened to every character in every game who said, “I wouldn’t go in there if I were you”, you’d never beat any game. That’s usually a big, flashing neon sign indicating: “GO THERE!” So I did. The screen went white, and I was suddenly standing in the middle of a desert.

Is this The Construct? Can I learn kung-fu?

This seemed very odd. Usually there’s a bit more prep for dungeons in Final Fantasy games. You at least get some kind of idea of what’s going on. Then I remembered something. The other day I had looked at the back of the game box. It mentioned something about new dungeons. Sometimes when they remake these games they add extra challenges, extra bosses. All are usually optional, and you usually can’t access them until much later.

I walked around for quite a while. Every now and then I stumbled across some palm trees. I kept running into Black Goblins and Desertpedes, which looked like scorpions. They were cannon fodder. I eventually came across a chest, then just west of that I found an oasis. Next to it was, naturally, some stairs. With no other choices presenting themselves, I headed down.

I came out into a forest. Why not? The stairs vanished. On the other side of some trees were more stairs, but even though I beat the shit out of Lich, the Fiend of Earth, apparently I can’t chop down a couple freaking pine trees. Frotz even has an axe. But no, I end up taking a very long walk through the woods. It probably took half an hour to get to the stairs. Again, the fights aren’t a challenge at all.

Oh, look! The next set of stairs. Too bad they're behind trees made of titanium.

Next I found myself in some typical underground caves. The enemies continued to be wimpy, and the items I found in chests were things like potions and whatnot. Nothing special. So imagine my surprise when another level or two down I stumble onto this:

This doesn't end well.

This creepy lady, or whatever it is, made short work of me. Remember that up until now in this dungeon I had been fighting the equivalent to slightly frazzled cats. Next thing I know, I’m in a fight with the chick from Species, who immediately kills my two fighters with an earthquake. Kai and Yurto are similarly killed in short order.

Moments later, they’re standing back at the entrance with Bashful.

They managed to gain a level on the way to getting killed, so it wasn’t a total waste of time. I’m pretty sure now that this is an optional dungeon that I should come back to later, though. I actually went back and tried multiple times. Not only did the Echidna repeatedly annihilate my people, other big baddies (I counted maybe 4 total) were down there, and I guessed they were about as badass.

So I slinked back outside, used a tent and decided to try to track down the main plot. But later, when they’re much higher level, I’m going to go back and turn that thing into a nice pair of boots.

Final Fantasy: First Crystal Obtained

So I went back to the Cavern of Earth. I did a little bit of leveling in that area where the giants appear on every square, but after getting to level 25 I started to feel silly. So I rested up and decided to make a go at beating the dungeon. I didn’t expect to have too much trouble. I was largely correct.

However, on the fourth level, Qasi was turned to stone by some cockatrices. I only had one Gold Needle, which is needed to un-stone my characters. That had me a little worried. If someone else was turned to stone I’d be in for some hurt, especially if it was Kai, my healer. I couldn’t remember if there were any sold in the nearest town. But since I’m able to save the game anywhere I like, I figured I’d try my luck.

A couple fights later, in front of a treasure chest,1 I received a Power Plus as a reward. This gives a bonus to a character’s strength. I gave it to Frotz.2

On the topic of treasure chests: most of them have money. That would be great, except I already have over 100,000. Things are getting more expensive (spells in particular, but I did buy a suit of armor in town for 35,000!), so I suppose I shouldn’t complain, but still.

In a room on the fifth level, I found a glowing ball. I talked to it and, unsurprisingly, it turned into a big bad guy. And he was a big bad guy. He was Lich, the Fiend of Earth.

The fight went a little longer than I thought it would, and he managed to do a good amount of damage right before kicking it. First I had Yurto cast Haste on Frotz & Qasi, who ended up doing about 70 points of damage per hit, which was pretty lousy. Kai spent most of the fight casting Diaga, which did about 144 points per casting, which wasn’t bad. But Yurto, my cold-eyed mage whose wife was eaten by a goddamned unicorn was the real powerhouse in this fight, dealing about 280 points per casting of Firaga. It lasted several rounds, and in the round that Lich died, he cast Blizarra, doing some fairly major damage. But everyone survived, and they all in fact gained a level. Everyone except Qasi, that is, who is a little behind due to getting stoned earlier. Let that be a lesson, kids.

Lich defeated, one of the shards my guys were carrying glowed and merged with a large crystal. The big crystal lit up. Awesome. One crystal down. Then I got a cut scene of a statue disappearing at some place called the “Earthgift Shrine”. I don’t recall visiting that place. Anyway, I half-expected to be magically transported out of the dungeon. I assumed that the game was going to wimp out and not force me to slog back out, so I was impressed that it didn’t. However, I walked around behind the big crystal to a glowing field and it transported me out. So I’m less impressed, though I suppose it was optional.

So it looks like I need to go to the Earthgift Shrine and find out where to head next.

I seem to be averaging about 1 hour of play per day. That’s not going to get me through this game very fast, so I’m going to have to find more time to play it. Still, assuming it’s a 40 hour game, that puts me at 20%. So maybe I’m not doing too bad.

I am finding that I’m struggling to keep focus, though. As usual, I find myself tempted to play other games, especially Fez. So far I’ve resisted, though. I am thinking that the next game I play after Final Fantasy should maybe be Dragon Age. Ahem.

  1. Nearly every square in front of a chest triggers an automatic fight, and it’s repeatable. That would be handy for leveling, were it not for the aforementioned area on the first level.
  2. I mentioned in an earlier post that he was named after a piece of software. That was nagging at my brain for a few days when I remembered that the software is named after a magic word used in several old text adventure games, including the Enchanter series.