I was just reading owlmoose 's great little fanfic Elemental again -- I reread fanon that aligns with mine from time to time to help me maintain my mental lock on characters -- and something struck me in one of the comments, raising a question that I've had before. It's one of those game mechanics flaws.
How is it that Lulu managed to stumble halfway or all the way across the Calm Lands on two prior pilgrimages, with nothing more than the most basic and weak elemental spells? They're plenty strong enough to handle fiends as far as Djose, but unless she took a boat straight from the Moonflow to Bevelle, she and her summoners should've gotten clobbered on the Thunder Plans, or, if not there, in Macalania Forest. (I've just been having a nice quiet replay, and I find those are the first two places where the local fauna are formidable enough to require skilled tactics or level 2 spells to avoid catastrophe.)*
Two possibilities had occurred to me in the past:
-- Ginnem and Zuke had level 2 black magic and/or relied extensively on aeons. They were older than Yuna, and may have spent more time at temple strengthening their aeons.
-- Lulu was a stronger mage before losing Lady Ginnem, but losing her summoner shook her quite badly, and she's still getting her confidence back. She hides it well, but there are many hints that she doesn't have complete confidence in her abilities from the Calm Lands onwards because of her past failures. Problem: if Ginnem's death shook her that much, it's surprising that she was able to regroup (after losing Chappu, as well) and try again with Zuke.
The comments on Elemental raised another possibility: perhaps the fiends were WEAKER two years ago, even a year ago, and are now growing in strength commensurately with Sin? Jecht has been Sin for a while, but he's only now losing his self-identity completely. As his will wears down, Sin may grow worse. And it sheds sinspawn all over the place. Maybe the fiend population is in some what affected by it.
That might explain the incredibly long lags between High Summoners of the past: hundreds of years, in some cases. If fiends get worse over time, it would be harder and harder to survive the pilgrimage.
Then again, Auron remarks that there were fewer fiends on Braska's pilgrimage. It's a throwaway bit of combat dialogue, so I don't know if we should take it seriously, but it is a puzzle.
I know, I know, I'm overanalyzing. The real answer is that playable characters always starting out fairly weak so that they can be leveled up. The worldbuilding in this game is rich enough that I find myself pecking at the few bits that don't entirely work.
*(While the Highroad monsters can eventually be worn down with level 1 spells, some big bruisers might be too much for her, too, if Lulu did not have such an uncanny evasion stat. Either she's a dancer, or she hung out near the Aurochs' practices a lot and learned to dodge. )
"And that, as they say, is that." Every time I replay this game, I find myself falling more in love with Maechen the Scholar. blah blah blah...
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