In the unnamed world of Final Fantasy II, Emperor Mateus has popped back up like fungus and dragged along Christian mythology for the ride:
Satan? Hell? Waaait. Don't you be draggin' that stuff into my dragons and unicorns fantasy world. (Come to think of it, I recall being nonplussed at devils and planes of Hell in early D&D manuals.
Oddly enough, the final dungeon gets more backstory than Guy, Firion, or most of the game's named characters.
Pandaemonium Castle. That is NOT what my fellow Let's Players, Rina and Sev, are calling it. But more on that shortly.
Frog Prince also tells us a Kashuan folktale about a lake in eastern Mysidia (land of magical foo!) which is supposed to be the gateway the underworld, where people have been known to disappear.
Hilda, much more practically, says that we can reach Castle Pandaemonium via the Jade Passage, i.e. the lake that Gordon is rambling about.
Most of the NPCs in Fynn have something to say about this place:
Translation: Once again, a Final Fantasy CRACKTASTIC "WTF! WERE THE GAME DESIGNERS ON DRUGS?" ENDGAME DUNGEON lies before us!
One lonely NPC takes a break from the National Geographic Channel special on
Repeat after me, Final Fantasy fans: Empire Bad, Kingdom Good. (See also: FFXII.)
Before heading to our rendezvous with destiny, we pay our respects to the last two survivors of the dragoons back in Deist. Elina tries to find something diplomatic to say about our party's knack for chewing up NPCS:
Elina says she's taking her son Kain somewhere else to live, since this place holds too many sad memories. She even gives us Excalibur, the sword of the Dragoons, because Ricard would've wanted it that way. Er...Didn't Ricard say he was gonna raise Kain to be a Dragoon? And isn't that boy the last hope of his people now, or something? Why doesn't he get the sword?
This Dragoon sideplot intrigues me. Final Fantasy IV's Kain Highwind is the son of a Dragoon named Richard Highwind, whose past and heroic death parallels Ricard Highwind in FFII. Yet FFII's Ricard greets Kain as the son of his friend Phillip, and seems not to have met the boy before. The two games' storylines might be reconciled by assuming that FFII glossed over the Dragoon training that Ricard said he'd give Kain, and that Ricard adopted and mentored the boy for an off-camera span of time between our battle with Mateus and our non-battle with the Dark Knight.
Or, more likely, Square is just being confusing. They recycled Cid's name; perhaps they had originally toyed with recycling character names, as they did spells, monsters, and weapons.
Sorry. I'm boring you with backstory nattering. Let's get onto that Jade Passage, blissfully ignoring any double entendres. FMV time!
... and we promptly receive our first Total Party KO since the early stages of the game. Wow!
I will note that Maria continues to be epic no matter what. I reached this point where her FEROCIOUS FISTS are no longer doing more damage than other people's weapons, so I decided to equip her with the Diamond Mace I just picked up plus another random staff and level her up now, when I've been maxing out her fists for the whole game. She quickly levels up her staff skills to 8 and starts kicking ass all over again.
So there's that.
One long and lonely slog later, through the passage of ten gazillion dragons...
We find another teleport pad and are whisked away to Pandaemonium Castle!
... or, as Rina and Sev call it, Castle Bling Pimp-Cup!
And it is fabulous.
I'm sure this place has been written up in all the Planes of Hell interior decorating magazines.
Unfortunately, we get utterly and totally creamed -- repeatedly -- by the four horsemen of the apocalypse, as if we hadn't leveled up the least bit since the game started:
They do 1500-6000 HP of damage and heal themselves with every hit. We manage to take out just one before we're toast.
WHAT THE HECK, SQUARE?
We were massively overleveled for most of the game, and suddenly we've hit a brick wall. I try and try to get past this point, but it's just not happening.
Finally I give in, concede that I'm not gonna finish this game in February, and return aboveground to the world of Sidequests and Stat Grinding. The emperor can wait. To this end, we venture with great trepidation into the 20th anniversary remaster's RANDOM BONUS DUNGEON, aka the Arcane Labyrinth.
To refresh your memory, I tripped over the three entrances to this dungeon near the beginning of the game...
The goal is to solve each of three labyrinths to break the seal on the Arcane Sanctuary, where we'll find a...Blue Wombat or something. Every level of each labyrinth takes place in a different area and (perhaps) time. I'm reminded of FFXIII-2's Serah, hopping all over the timeline rescuing puppies, slaying dragons and helping people write their term papers.
Most of the Arcane Labyrinth levels are just random puzzles and quests, such as...
WALKING ON ELECTRIFIED FLOORS FOR SCIENCE! (which I forgot to screencap)
WTF, science dude.
Rescuing damsels from evil mages who sound suspiciously like the cultists in EYE OF ARGON!
(This sidequest explains the ramblings of a townsperson back in the town of KEYBOARD SMASH who mentioned seeing a woman hauled off by four creepy mages).
But wait! We're not finished yet! We must...
RESCUE KITTEHS THAT HAVE
I'm not making this up.
Then there's the Nausicaa Valley of the Wind Level, with lots of worms!
Of course, this being FF instead of Miyazaki, we just exterminate them.
We chat up wyverns with better manners than any of the humans...
Sure, lay another fetch quest on us, we've got nothing else to do but save the world!
(He wanted a
We challenge giants to an arm wrestling match:
We refight the taking of Castle Fynn from the perspective of the Wild Rose army grunts, who need our help...
We escort souls to the
Eventually, hopping from dungeon to dungeon of this Doctor Whoniverse, we find ourselves in a town under siege:
It's not Fynn in the prologue, although there are obvious parallels. The architecture looks like Mysidia, and the elders are dressed like Minwu.
A lady solicits us to help find her son in the midst of the chaos:
She gives us a detailed description. Maddeningly, the whole town consists of boys running about in a panic, so apparently all the parents took shelter inside their houses and locked out their brats. Finally we find the right child:
"But then you saved me. Thank you. It just goes to show you should never give up hope!"
Yes, it's another corny Final Fantasy trope, but it happens to be one of my favorites.
[This is how most of the successful levels end, providing new keywords that we can use to unlock new levels.]
In the "Hope" level, we are eventually cornered by soldiers (because no matter how overpowered you are, THE STORY SAYS SO) and face certain death when
Who could it be?
Deumion, being Nobler than the Good Guys, knocks enemies unconscious rather than killing them (I checked). He wants to save lives, not take them. Awww, look, characterization. HEY FIRION, YOU MIGHT TAKE NOTES.
In the Destruction level, we arrive at a Council of Peace attended by Minwu lookalikes who lament the war that has been raging for years. Some are in favor of locking away magic forever, blaming it for prolonging the conflict, while others wish to create a more powerful magic to end the War once and for all. (Again with the WWII parallels.)
Meanwhile, the mages of the castle continue to research weapons of war. In case we were in any doubt about the spiritual connections between FFII and FFXII, this 20th anniversary edition gives us a shout out:
And here's our Dr. Cidolphus...
Sooo, we fetch him various kinds of magicite, and he assembles something he calls the "ultimate magic." He dispatches us to inform
He tells us to quit our "dilly-dallying." I swear it's Dr. Cid. It's easy to read all his lines in a Bunansa style.
Unlike Vayne, however, this general is less than happy.
The Council's consensus is that the new magic is far too dangerous to be used. In fact, they think it needs to be sealed away to keep it from destroying the world.
Gee, who might that sucker be?
One of the Sages says he knows of a child in his village possessed of great powers. The others protest that it's too cruel to appoint him...
In the end, the General laments that the war has killed off all the other
Yeah, you should've. OH WAIT. Just who gathered the ingredients for the mad scientist to construct this awful weapon, anyway?
One of the council members asks that very question...
HINT: HE'S STANDING RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU, WEARING A DEAD BIRD HAT.
The angstfest continues with more handwringing:
"And it is all our fault," she concludes.
NO IT ISN'T.
IT TOTALLY ISN'T.
MEMO: YES, WE STILL SUCK!
After that sobering reminder, we find the next Labyrinth portal and use the [Guardian] keyword to teleport to a familiar town. The soldiers are depressed about having to haul off this kid...
We sneak past them -- FAQ OH YEAH BABY -- to get to Deumion's house just in time to see his mother's tearful farewell:
Deumion does the Brave Stoic Self Sacrifice BS Dance, and goes out to meet the soldiers planning to haul him away by force. Because, you know, enslaving citizens is totally legit.
"I will become the Seal," he says.
And what is our reward for condemning this talented young man to life as a human beef gate?
As Deumion marches off, he drops a shiny thing which his sobbing mother fails to see. We, of course, help ourselves to this poignant memento and don't think to give it to her:
Sure enough, once we've solved enough levels of the various Arcane Labyrinths, the central Arcane Sanctuary is unlocked. We descend many stairs to find an old friend:
The Coucil of Sages mentioned that he has the unique power (in this world) to summon monsters. True to Final Fantasy Bonus Dungeon Sidequests, the monster he calls up is badass:
(Gratuitous screencap to show off Ultima spell...)
By now we are sufficiently leveled to take on this game's version of Omega Weapon.
Afterwards, Deumion pronounces himself impressed.
"Hope," we tell him, trotting out the right keyword.
"Long ago," he muses, "I knew the vital importance of that word. Have you any proof your hearts are capable of holding on to hope and compassion at all times?"
We show him the [Light of Hope].
He is then moved to bestow on us the Revive spell (heals all MP/HP of party AND monsters, which is actually quite useful at the start of battle, although it wipes out the spellcaster's MP).
"This magic holds the light of hope. Let it be a guiding light of peace for the world. Here I shall remain for all eternity, guarding the power that threatens total destruction."
As we leave, we turn back to look at the sealed door behind him, the one place in the game we can never enter...
Apologies for the lengthy digression, but I know that many people who play FFII never got to see this bit of story arc.
Postscript: the interesting thing is that you can ask for "Destruction" instead of "Hope." If you do so, he gives you the Destroy spell which does 10,000HP of damage — enough to wipe out every boss in the game except the last, and it's two thirds of Mateus' HP — but also kills the spellcaster's allies and reduces the caster to 1 HP, 0 MP. I'm guessing this is the magic sealed behind that door.
So, after that sobering plotline, which gives us a double helping of the ethical gray area present in many later FF games, we return with a jolt to the Really Final Dungeon to do battle with Emperor Mateus.
Along the way, we pick up FF's ever-trusty Masamune, Genji Gloves/Helm/Armor, and a Ribbon or two, each guarded by bosses.
Zombie Borghen, the dastardly turncoat Baron of Fynn who betrayed his kingdom to the empire at the game's start...
Leon, why are you wielding a gas lighter as a sword?
Here's Tiamat, less blue and sparkly than in her Final Fantasy I incarnation...
We meet Astaroth, filling our Final Fantasy Winged Boss quota:
Behold, a blinged-out Iron Giant (another of my favorite FF monsters):
And last but not least we fight a buglike Beelzebub that I'm not screencapping because (a) I forgot and (b) ICKY POO. He's a giant fly head with mantis bits.
The top floor of the castle is transparent as well as sparkly, signifying that we have reached this game's Cracktastic Landscape For the Really Final Battle. Commence gloating:
(I thought that was the Leviathan dungeon, actually)
"...the lord master of Hell!"
I am intrigued to hear Mateus of FFII talking like Dr. Cid, rambling about the "hand of man." I wonder if the localization team was working on this remaster at about the same time as FFXII.
So! Boss battle time! And it is SHINY!
Hit it, Uematsu!
So we are epic and powerful and I totally cheated by using Bloodsword (this guy heals himself for thousands of HP when he hits ya) and finally...
Yay! And stuff.
WE BUG HIM. Nyah nyah nyah.
Mateus proceeds to channel his inner blue caterpillar:
Maria pokes him in the belly button again...
Savor this. The Final Boss Dissolution Animation is gonna last for 20 minutes by the time we get to FFXX.
All right, Palpatine dead. Let's split!
Back in castle Altair, the few surviving named NPCs (Nelly, Leila, Paul, Hilda and Master of Frogs) gather 'round to celebrate:
Alliances are discussed (once again, I'm happy that we're focusing on Hilda's role as a leader instead of a breeder, and I apologize for shipping them earlier):
"Though once a coward, I now stand here a man... you have my deepest gratitude." Sorry, Gordo, you'll always be Master of Frogs to me.
Paul complains he's got nothing to do now that he can't steal from the empire (so he's going to steal from us), Nelly joins Fynn's household to keep Hilda's affairs in order, and Leila heads back to pirating, inviting Firion along.
Pegging? Yet another perfectly innocuous word ruined by prurient minds.
Maria says NO HE AIN'T GOING WITH YOU! Leila teases Firion about Maria, then looks crestfallen on the way out. Oops. So apparently there was a love triangle that I missed.
Alas, all is not sugar and rainbows. Leon rebuffs Maria's joy that the four friends can all go home together.
He heads out to be a broody boy, to Maria's disappointment. He can join the retirement home of Not Entirely Reformed Baddies along with Rufus Shinra and Seifer.
Just as our remaining heroes turn to leave, there's a Significant Moment when the Jedi Ghosts of our dead NPCS pop out to wave at us:
Well, that leaves us with just one big unanswered question: WHAT ABOUT THE POOR WYVERN WHO HAS NO DRAGOONS AND NOBODY TO PLAY REINDEER GAMES WITH?
Spare a tear for our last-of-her-kind wyvern.
Okay, put away the tiny violins.
Ending FMV time!
(nice touch: note sword and armor shops, not to mention the character resurrection temple, during the "peace has returned" line)
Oops, sorry, my mistake...
(Nearly missed this frame... it says "...that a band of young heroes once saved the world.)
Well, at least they'll be REMEMBERED this time, unlike the last game! (Alas, poor Spoo.)
Well, that was fun. This game was a bit draggy in parts... as Sev notes, they were trying to add characterization, plot, and more depth than FFI, even if it was a bit flat. And there's a ton of Final Fantasy jigsaw puzzle pieces like chocobos, Cid, and the whole "magic vs. technology" trope that get established in this game. It was enjoyable, but I'm not sure I'll replay it. Except for ONE THING.
After you finish the game, you get "Extras." FFI extras let you replay all the soundtracks and a few other goodies. This game includes those goodies plus the 20th anniversary edition bonus adventure, Dawn of Souls. It's not a full game, but a short adventure like the "Last Mission" addendum to FFX-2 found on the International version. Remember the flickering image of Josef, Minwu, Ricard and Cid in the throne room? It's something to do with that.
So I want to replay the endgame of Final Fantasy II and make sure I do not strip Ricard down to his underwear, since I believe he gets to do stuff with whatever he's carrying when we part ways. If and when I get a chance to do Dawn of Souls, I'll post a Let's Play.
However, 2013 is the Year of the Final Fantasy Marathon, and I'm already late getting started with the replay of FFIII. Which is one of my favorites, so I wanna share my joy and show why I love it. (Admittedly it's mostly to do with ADORABLE CHIBIS, which have melted the heart of this cute-cynic. But anyway.)
Until next time...
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