Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Game #45: Final Fantasy II (SNES) - Meanwhile...

Has anyone ever said no? I often chicken out even when I know it's not a real choice
Our party was last outside Fabul. When we explained the situation to the king there, he expressed the same doubts Yang had about Cecil's character, even though the shop clearly sold dark knight armor. The men quickly put the lady folk out of the party to tend to the defenses. With as Yang the only fully trained karate master, we were easily pushed back multiple times. The final stand took place in the crystal's chamber through a cutscene where Kain appeared as an antagonist. Kain challenged Cecil, and a scripted battle began in which I was destined to lose. Rosa and Rydia showed up to stop Kain from dealing the final blow. However, behind them, Golbez suddenly appeared. He seemed to have control over Kain, but upon seeing Rosa it nearly broke. To maintain control Golbez took Rosa and the crystal, commanding Kain to follow. Rydia cured the party, and we dragged ourselves to the king's chamber, who had been injured in the attack. He bestowed the black sword upon Cecil, and arranged a ship to take us to Baron. So, we set sail for Baron on a short 3 hour cruise.
What could possibly go wrong?
Having the ship attacked by a giant sea monster didn't factor into our plans. Cecil woke up alone on a beach just outside the town of Mysidia. The very town where he had stolen the water crystal, and killed many wizards. Most of the inhabitants were aggressive towards him, even going as far as casting spells that turned him into a toad or pig. The elder heard his pleas though, and described a trial he would need to overcome at Mt. Ordeals to the east of Mysidia to prove his change of heart. He would need to give up the dark sword and become a paladin. To spy on... I mean aid him in his travels, the elder ordered Palom and Porom to accompany him.
And so continued the journey of Cecil to find a princess that would kiss this poor toad
While the music and graphics are a great improvements, it's the combat that really deserves a bit of recognition. It isn't the standard turn based model, and it's not quite action based. Instead, each character (and monster) works off a personal timer; once that timer is full they get to enter an action for their turn. There's also a delay between selecting and executing that factors in, which depends on actions. The rate at which the timer fills varies from character to character, and is probably reflected in their stats. I haven't talked about character stats at all because, while accessible, there's no control over them; I found no reason to look at any point in the game. In my previous post, I mentioned how each character has a special attack, except Cecil's was removed during localization. Apparently, Tellah's was removed as well. He had an ability called recall that would cast a random spell, since his spell list was so limited. The fact he didn't remember the other spells never really came across in this translation. Palom and Porom came with an ability called Twin that casts either flare or comet, but costs quite a bit of MP.
During the climb up Mt. Ordeals, I was treated to a sneak peak of what Golbez was up to
Some foreshadowing of the boss I'd face against in Mt. Ordeals was shown while I climbed up. I ran into Tellah, who seemed a bit befuddled about why he was there, and made a vague reference to some hidden power. At the top of the mountain was Milon, the earth fiend, one of the four fiends in service to Golbez. With no surprise he was fairly easy to take down. Weak to fire, and me with plenty of fire attacks, I didn't even blink when I faced him a second time on the other side of the bridge. He raised as a zombie Milon, which made him weak against cure magic as well. Beyond him was a mirrored chamber where Cecil faced his reflection. A light spoke to him, calling him son, and granted him the legendary sword of light; however, he then needed to overcome his dark past. During the battle the voice told me that to become a paladin, I needed to learn when to fight and when to not. In this case I waited out the battle by parrying, and it ended before too long.
Cecil's reflection could use Darkness, so why couldn't he?
As you can see I changed some of the names, but I'll still refer to each by their originals. After the battle, the blinding light shined bright again, and Cecil was truly a paladin. Tellah recalled all the spells he had forgotten, including the powerful Meteo (although with not enough MP to cast it). Back in Mysidia, the elder was pleased to learn we had succeeded, and wondered if this could have anything to do with an ancient Mysidian prophecy, the same one inscribed on the sword Cecil now carried.
And nobody has any clue what this means
The elder now accepted Cecil's commitment, and opened up the serpent road. A magical gateway that connected Baron and Mysidia before the attack. Palom and Porom continued to accompany me, and we soon found ourselves in Baron while the elder prayed... I mean "wished" for our success. I found Yang in Baron. Suffering from amnesia he had accidentally became one of the commanders for the guard. After knocking some sense into him, he joined the party with a key to a secret waterway that led into Baron castle, bypassing all the guards. The same key opened up the previously locked equipment shop. The castle was strangely empty, except for Baigan, the king's advisor. Cecil, being the trusting individual that he is, allowed him to join the party on our way to confront the king. Palom and Porom sniffed him out as a monster, and a fight ensued. His two arms acted as separate enemies that took their own actions. Of course, even with at least one misstep where I accidentally cast Flare (using Twin) on Baigan after he cast wall (which reflects spells), him and the water fiend that the king turned out to be were once again easy battles. Kainazzo, the water fiend, died in a single round.
I think this is the first truly heart wrenching moment I experienced in a game
Once the fake king of Baron was defeated, Cid showed up to challenge him. He found the party instead, and joined us. He was leading everyone to an airship before we could realize having six party members upset the cosmic order, so someone had to leave. A small entrance hall was rigged as a trap in the event that Kainazzo died. The walls started to close in. All hope was lost, except in the minds of the twins. It doesn't come off well my description, but they had a lot of banter that made their company rather charming. Palom and Porom turned to the walls, and cast stone on themselves. This somehow stopped the walls from moving any closer, and illogically unlocked the doors. Tellah attempted to heal them, but they remained stone through their will. As the party solemnly made their way to the Enterprise (Cid's latest airship), I was treated to a cutscene where Golbez described a plan to trade Rosa for the final crystal.
Followed by another cutscene where Kain told the party the same thing
At this point the game loosened the reigns a bit by allowing me to explore the entire world with the airship. Actually, there are a couple caves that remained unreachable since they required access by hovercraft, which was stuck in the small area near Damcyan. In my travels I found Silvera, a small mining town with a stock of silver equipment; Agart, home to a bottomless well, and a people born from a Hidden Land; and Toroia, home to the Earth Crystal, which was recently stolen by a dark elf. The elf's cave was on a secluded island with nowhere to land the airship. The only access available was by black chocobo, which can only land in forests. The council requested I recover the crystal, and agreed to let me borrow it for a short time after.
I just realized I never returned to this point, and I have no idea what's behind this door
Edward was in the castle, bedridden, but alive. He couldn't join the party, but insisted on giving me a twin harp. I was also warned that the dark elf's cave restricts anyone wearing metallic equipment. The town helpfully sold non-metal items for everyone, but I opted to instead run away from every encounter. I knew that the restriction was lifted when I faced the dark elf by Edward playing his other harp. The melody protected the party from the elf's magic, and he fell quite easily after an initial battle that required me to lose. Unwinnable battles that the player controls are a pretty terrible idea. It usually turns into a waste of resources. Most of the unwinnable battles in this game are obvious after a turn or two, so they don't drag on. However, I think this is a pitfall in other RPGs, especially the lack of distinguishing it from a normal boss battle. I gained the crystal, and returned to Toroia to find Kain had been monitoring my efforts.
He led me to Golbez's floating tower, and then disappeared
At this point in the game it's only possible to ascend to the tower with the airship, but it's thankfully possible to return to the airship and land next to Toroia. I wonder why they would bother to lock the airship down like that, but it might be the only mechanism they had for giving access to the tower, which is never seen on the world map.

Elapsed Time: 3h38m (Total Time: 6h16m)

Sorry for the lack of posts. This one should have been posted already, or been twice as long, but work has been cutting into the time I usually devote to this. Hopefully after this week things will settle back into a normal routine. I've actually beaten Lagoon, so I need to do some serious writing to catch up. Looking forward to doing that over the 3-day weekend.