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).
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
- At various points I also sacrificed my ability to use items, cast white spells, etc. ↩
- 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? ↩
- 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. ↩
- 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. ↩
- 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. ↩