However, it turns out there is a supreme moment of WTFery involving a sheep in this episode, so... just keep Sev's Mantra in mind.
Off we go with Desch the Fifth Party Member (uh oh, we know where THIS is going) to find the Gnomish Village! Poor Arc is hoping he won't have to use the Mini Spell...
Refia dons her dapper Red Mage hat to Mini-fy us, and we soon find the secret village with music that sounds like a Disney ride. The gnomes give us corny lines like "We're the itsy to your bitsy!" This will not be the worst doggerel in the game.
Once again, I'm glad to see that Spoo's Tea Emporium is still selling healing potions and other curatives (BUT NOT PHOENIX DOWNS, DAMN YOU FFIII).*
*Which is why you need to know where all the Revive Pools are in FFIII until you get the Arise spell.
Uh, oh, we've got another patient.
A distressed gnome reports that one Dr. Shelco has fallen ill, and therefore the whole village is inexplicably "doomed." (I briefly misread it as "Sheldon" and think, "Oh, good!" since I really don't like that character in Big Bang Theory.)
At least this patient doesn't need an elixir, but he's as cranky a patient as Dr. McCoy.
In reward, he shows us the secret passage to the Path of Plot Advancement. We thank him and wander on our way.
On the far side of the teeny tiny tunnel, we randomly arrive in a Viking Cave. No, not Cove, Cave. (After fighting a few leprachauns. What?)
Okay, well, we'll deal with that just as soon as we can restock MP to un-teeny ourselves.
I like this lady.
(Hey, wait. Pink hair, Valhalla, scornful of wimps and fools...Lightning, is that you?)
They offer to give us a ship with a familiar name...
(Wait... if the dragon sank all your ships, and you're giving us the last one, you're not really Vikings anymore, are you? Er... guess I'll just keep that to myself and make sure Pink Haired Lady doesn't get wind of boss man's bright idea.)
At the end of a nearby peninsula, we enter Nepto Temple, where we find a dragon statue with an eye knocked out.
Hmmmm...statue...ruby eye missing... haven't I seen this before? Or since? I SEE WHAT U DID THAR, FINAL FANTASY VIII.
Through the teeth, and over the gums, look out boss monster, here we come!
Sorry, rat. We need it to advance the plot.
One dragon statue restored. The dragon says Fangs for Helping and gives us a Water Fang!
And the vikings give us the Enterprise!
Um, Desch? Thought you said there was something important you had to do?
Snerk. Okay, it wasn't quite a Lulu-putdown, but I still give Refia props for looking fierce as a chibi.
So, with that settled, we cast off before Pink Haired Lady can catch us. Oh, hi, Saha(u)gin! Good to see our old D&D mainstays continuing to get action.
(Yep, this is totally from later in the game; I forgot to screencap the ship. Geomancer, Knight, Ranger and Scholar, if you're curious.)
Across the sea, we reach the town of Tokkul to the SW, where something is fishy...
Stop! Wait! We're not pushing The Watchtower at you or anything like that!
Nearly everybody runs away from us. Except this guy.
Next he'll be telling me that a tree has turned evil and is trying to destroy the world or something. Backing away now.
Ah, here's somebody with answers. The Elder of Tokkul tells a sorrowful tale:
Okay, so the local ruler's soldiers are pillaging the village and drafting the menfolk into serfdom. Hey! Why are you trying to instill a dose of medieval realism into my idyllic fantasy world? Let's go kill a were-gerbil, quick, to restore my willing sense of disbelief!
In the nearby desert, we discover that the babbling villager was not, in fact, hallucinating:
Looks more like a hairball than a tree. Whatever it is, we can't seem to get in.
We continue exploring. Aha, a chocobo woods!
Alas, like all chocobos, the one-way ticket rule on this bird is strictly enforced. I sometimes think that the chocobo's sole purpose in these games is to lure us into some dangerous and remote location and strand us there, the Final Fantasy equivalent of a pooka.
That opening FMV wasn't kidding about the edge of the world. We're on a Flat Earth, evidently.
Arc, the bookworm, is not quite brave enough to try rappelling over the edge to verify the existence of turtles and elephants.
We take Desch to a lonely Village of the Ancients (wait...Aeriiiiith!) on the outskirts of the continent, where Exposition Dudes spout the usual FF myth about a long-lost advanced civilization, a battle between light and darkness, hubris and the dangers of gaining too much power:
At least this time, the Light and Darkness trope is balanced: a thousand years ago, it was Light that got too big for its britches and had to be put back in its place by the Four Warriors of the Dark.
Yeah, well, after a while, every FF game starts giving you déjà vu. (Except when they don't, and then all the Old School FF fans boycott it because it's Not Final Fantasy Anymore.)
Eventually we reach Castle Argus, where Desch picks up the Captain Obvious ball to remark, "There's no one here..."
Oh, Ingus. All of your lines are in Basch's voice. Seriously.
We also discover a nearby fairy woods and pick up some backstory.
More backstory bits: Thanks to the spite of an evil wizard, the Elder Tree was "carved into the shape of a castle, and wanders the desert aimlessly." Insert Sev's Mantra here. ("Oh. Okay.")
Luckily Arc Sherlock is on hand to 'splain this thing to us.
"I got it!"
Good thing one of the party members has brains.
Alas, our stock of plot coupons has run dry, and the fairies aren't helping. We chew the fat...
"I don't know about that... I don't have very fond memories of my last airship ride..." Luneth says, prophetically.
At last, we bumble our way to Gulgan Gulch, home of blind Exposition Dudes.
Grr. What was I saying earlier about prophets kicking back while sending other people out to do the heavy lifting? But at least Desch got a Toad spell out of the deal, so this time HE is the Master of Toads.
This doesn't sound so good. So of course, Desch wants to go there at once.
Refia disagrees, channeling Han:
Okay, that's it. Normally I am a Final Fantasy Black Mage fanatic, and the outfit is cute and all, but I cannot see your entire head in cutscenes. I will have to rectify this as soon as possible.
We sail away to the Tower of Owen (who is Owen?) for an all-too-predictable Date With Destiny.
Unfortunately the bottom level is flooded and requires us to use our shiny new Toad Spell, which Refia appreciates about as much as Arc enjoyed being made shorter than he is already:
Sorry, hon. It's FOR SCIENCE!
Refia really, REALLY does not want to be a toad.
I love how this game actually uses status effects for non-battle puzzles. Other than Lulu using a modified Thunder Spell as a signal to Wakka near the beginning of FFX (which spawned all sorts of magic meta in my fanfics, some of it admittedly X-rated), I can't recall too many instances of applying Final Fantasy magic in non-combat ways.
All through the Tower of Owen, we keep getting a creepy-ass voice taunting us from above (The "Hih hih hih hih" laughter, so spelled, is mildy amusing).
Desch, in turn, keeps getting more "I think I've been here before" feels, until finally...
Why is it that anyone over the age of 20 is an "Ancient" in these games? (On second thought, I'm afraid we'll be getting the answer to that question shortly.)
I keep forgetting to show the simple stuff like world map, random encounters...
...and the monsters in this game are awfully cute, even when they're kicking our tails.
So, up at the top of the Tower, we discover Medusa playing the part of Miniboss...
Xande? I think we've got our Big Bad ID now. Oh, wait...
Don't lose your head!
So we beat her up and then Desch gets his memory back (convenient fantasy amnesia backwards "R" us) and realizes that he's the Guardian of the Tower, who's supposed to protect it from danger. And we did it! We killed Medusa!
Oh, darnit. There's that pesky destiny thing.
Excuse me? Some Exposition Dude in the Village of Ancients said that the Floating Continent was resting on the Tower of Owen (no turtles) like some sort of Axis Mundi, but...really? Flung away from the sun? Is the pillar glued to the sun?
*sigh* Nevermind. I'll borrow Sev's "Oh. Okay."and continue on.
So Desch for some reason has to leap into the pipe with the molten lava to fix the tower before it collapses. He thanks everybody and says it's been a real slice, then hops in. The Rubber Band of Convenient Teleportation yanks us all back to the Enterprise.
Desch's sacrifice causes the Final Fantasy Whirlpool of You Can't Go There Yet to disappear, allowing us to leave the Kiddie Pool Inner Sea for the outer ocean. (We've been here before, too.)
This time around, we visit the Dwarves immediately after breaking out of the Kiddie Pool:
I am once again baffled by this "Lali ho" catch phrase, except that I guess "heigh ho" belongs to another set of dwarves.
So the dwarves explain that their treasure, their "precious," has been stolen by a villain with the unlikely name of Gutsco, and they need us to retrieve their Horn of Ice for them.
Which requires us to turn into toads again, much to Refia's irritation. Because of course a bare, dry catacomb dungeon is accessible by diving under this lake...
Arc contemplates hydraulics.
Down in the bottom of the dungeon, we find our miniboss:
Who, like so many Final Fantasy monsters in the early days, grows a pair (and I'm not talking about testicles) when we actually face him in combat:
Mini spell adds another layer of cute to an already cute game, although status effects are annoying.
Bammity bammity bop. Vanquished boss.
We totally ignore all the loot — and a spiffy Onion Knight helmet! — and head back, equally oblivious to the suspicious shadow tagging behind.
Back in the main Dwarven Cave, the head dwarf shows the same grasp of security as the Wild Rose Army back in FFII:
...With predictable results. Gutsco turns off his cloaking device:
Luneth demonstrates his powers of deduction, not realizing that plot devices are rampant in Final Fantasy physics.
Gosh durn those spiffy hats, always in the way of my reaction shots!
Gutsco, like any accommodating evil mastermind, outlines his plan, informing us "silly twits" that he'll be using the Horns of Ice (he needs two? What, as little booties?) to approach the crystal of fire and steal its power.
We consult all the dwarves for any other ways to get near the fire crystal.
Dwarf philosophy. Which come to think of it is pretty profound, for these games. Alas, it doesn't help us much in the surviving-magical-fire department.
But not to fear!
Say it with me, Final Fantasy veterans! "We're Warriors of Light! We're Inflammable!"
(And I still don't think that word means what Momo thinks it means.)
In front of the Fire Crystal, we find our miniboss...
So apparently the Power of Fire allows you to spontaneously transform into Puff the Magic Dragon. Who knew?
Remember, kids, don't do drugs. (Well, except maybe Ottershrooms, which teleport you out of dungeons in this game.)
We wipe the floor with Gutsco's puffy ass again, then get our Job Promotion pep talk:
YES. FINALLY. Gimme my cute Ranger / Robin Hood outfit. Gimme. (who says girls don't like to play dress-up? No, wait, I just love archery.)
Apparently I'm not the only one confused about this "Lali Ho" business.
And here my powers as a screencapper fail to capture the delightful randomness of early FF games...
...because he really does moonwalk backwards to give us access to the Stash of Very Useful Weapons and Stuff.
Alas, we don't have much time to try out our new toys, as a dying villager manages to stagger all the way to the Dwarven Cavern (across the Kiddle Pool Sea and the Outer Ocean) only to expire just inside the front door.
As useless as fairies, dwarves, and prophets have been in this game as far as helping us out with hints, this guy's final dying words are touchingly specific:
Hein...has a way to change his weak point...
Only a scholar has the power...to see through
As last words go, I think Oscar Wilde's "Either that wallpaper goes, or I do," has more oomph, but thanks for the strategy tip.
But WAIT! Before we go to rescue villagers from imminent eradication, it's time for... SIDEQUESTS!
Because all through this game, npcs have been sending us letters through Mognet, delivered by the Moogles stationed at the entrances of towns and caves:
Decisions, decisions. Should we rescue hapless villagers in some faraway land from marauding soldiers? Or rescue children in our hometown? Like so many "heroes" the world over, we must SAVE THE
Along the way, we stop off on Canaan to find Salina still moping for Desch and Mum in a foul temper:
Back in Ur Village, Elder Topapa explains the children have wandered into the cave where Luneth fell at the beginning of the game, and unlike him they haven't gotten out again. So we go rescue them from our old friends, the Final Fantasy Bombs:
In a nice turnabout, Arc rescues the bullies who were picking on him at the beginning of the game. "I never thought that you, of all people, would be the one who'd save us!"
Bully #1 gives Arc a crystal fragment they found in thanks. Ta-da!
It's the Onion Knight Job, a throwback to the original Japanese-only Final Fantasy III which had all four characters as Onion Knights (or Onion Kids) to start with.
Unfortunately this optional sidequest job has hobbled stats up until level 99, when it becomes godlike. So we'll set it aside for another time when I'm not trying to finish FFIII in a month. (Maybe a random cameo for screencaps, since it is very cute, plus I have a soft spot for it because of its FFX appearance).
All right. We sail out of the Kiddie Pool Sea again to the remote village of Gysahl on the eastern edge of the Floating Continent. There we find nothing but chocobos, sheep, and the most random npc cutscenes ever...
A sheep walks towards us in dramatic slow motion, then we get this scintillating punchline. Wow. Gosh, I'm so glad I sailed all the way out here. And they had to render this whole village just for this exciting moment? What am I missing?
Even more bizarrely, the "Roaming Sheep" music that plays in this scene got a full vocal treatment on the soundtrack, which is so beautiful that one fan felt moved to borrow a sheep from a later Final Fantasy for this incredibly odd fanvid:
Again, to quote Sev, "Oh. Okay."
Speaking of chocobos, I realize I have been remiss in my duties for this playthrough episode.
Take one HP damage from cute.
Incidentally, I wish Scholar were an easier job class to manage. Scan is occasionally handy, and doubling the effectiveness of all items is boss (Thundara items now do Thundaga? Sweet). But useful item drops in this game are rare and require strategic stealing. Ah, well, we'll get the Alchemist job right sooner or later.
Oh, wait, wasn't there was a village in imminent danger of being burned to the ground? We rush back to Tokkul...
...reluctantly still wearing the Big Hat to deal with Hein. (Also, one fight with the Onion Knight outfit, just because it's cute).
We're running so fast that we run smack dab into an invisible plot device and faceplant in unison:
I'm not quite sure how these grunt soldiers managed to overcome us. Didn't we just wade through rivers of molten lava and fight Puff the Magic Dragon?
Alas, time and plot devices bow to no one, so we soon find ourselves waking up in a jail cell. At least this isn't Tomb Raider, so we're mercifully still in possession of all our armor, weapons and
Fellow prisoners tell us that this wizard has far too much time on his hands, and/or thinks topiary is for sissies:
Well, it's a hobby.
In a nearby cell we find King Argus:
As Rina noted in her playthrough, fantasy kings really need to work on their vetting process of right-hand-advisors. (See also: King Théoden, the sultan in Disney's Aladdin, et alia.)
All the other purple people (ack! Hein is a Purple People Eater!) feed us backstory bits about how Hein has been corrupted by darkness and thirsts for more. I like the enemy plant in this cell:
So we knock him down.
I must say that Arc left his brains behind with his White Mage outfit:
One mini spell later, we're wandering through a tree dungeon.
A rare moment of scenery porn, thanks to the iOS remake's graphics:
And here's our baddie.
Mind you, it's generally a bad idea to judge people based on appearances, but I really think King Argus might've considered a background check.
Kefka's looking a little long in the tooth here. Oh, wait, we've still got three games to go. Hein amuses us with bad villain-gloatage on the subject of darkness, "a thing of beauty, a black tapestry of chaos! A tapestry on which I shall paint an all-encompassing nocturne!"
While we're pondering that mixed metaphor, he attacks.
He does a number on our resident scholar and his handy-dandy Scan ability, but Refia still takes Undead Clown down in proper black-mage-vs-elemental-weakness style. (Note first example of the recurring FF "Barrier Shift" ability, which causes every spell but the current weak point to heal the enemy. Hello, Mr. Spherimorph!)
Freed of Hein's hiney, the Elder Tree awakens, returns the prisoners to their proper places, and snaps us back to its forest with the Rubber Band of Teleportation and Plot Advancement.
Uh... I hope this isn't too personal a question, but how the heck did that entire dungeon fit inside you?
Oh, nevermind, the Elder Tree says it must fall asleep for a thousand years, and no one else may enter the forest until it wakes up. I'm sure it'll be just fine once it's all healed, right? Right. (Stay tuned for Final Fantasy V.)
But it gives us a Horn of Fire, commanding us to leave the Floating Continent and journey to the World of Darkness -- "the surface world."
Punted out, we head to Castle Argus, where soldiers helpfully tell us to help ourselves to the treasure we've already plundered. So that was okay, then.
They also tell us about the next plot coupon.
King Argus passes us the Wheel of Time, which is not actually that funky-looking round table, but something that fits in a box.
Then he sends us back to Cid for an engine upgrade.
FINALLY! A new airship! The Enterprise was a ship that is meant to fly! (At least briefly!)
Cid also drops a bomb on the party while discussing their upcoming voyage:
Take 2 more HP for cute damage.
Cid relates how once upon a time, he was ferrying random folks around— and charging MUCH LESS than FFII Cid, I'll have you know —
...when suddenly the airship was engulfed in an impenetrable cloud of darkness (tm)
All his passengers were dead except for the four orphans,
(OOPS, Final Fantasy III remake, why did Cid deliver Ingus and Refia to entirely different places than Arc and Luneth, especially when we've heard Elder Topapa's touching story about how the stranger who dropped off Luneth was burned and injured? In the original version, all four orphans were raised by Topapa in Ur Village. Oh well, it's hardly the largest plot hole in this silly game.)
So anyway, Cid concludes cheerfully, it's our job to fly out into the Cloud of Darkness with our freshly-upgraded airship and find out what happened to the surface world. Because of course nothing could happen to a ship named Enterprise. And of course we shouldn't be in any way disturbed by the fate of Cid's previous two airships.
More brave than wise, we boldly go where no Final Fantasy airship has gone before... right off the edge of the world.
And there we'll pause, because this makes a nice cliffhanger.
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