And lost them.
Let's review Cecil's Very Bad Week.
- slaughtered innocent civilians while stealing their Crystal, feels remorse
- lost his position as proud leader of the Red Wings air brigade
- lost faith in / betrayed by the king who raised him as a son
- too stupid to realize the king was using him again for dastardly deeds
- accidentally burned a village to the ground and killed a bunch of summoners
- including the mother of a sweet child he's now guarding in atonement
- except now he's lost the child and she's probably drowned or dead
- attacked by an Octomammoth, which means that somewhere, in some fanfic, Cecil is stuck in tentacle!porn hell
- failed to save the kingdoms of Damcyan and Fabul from assault by the troops he used to command
- three out of four Crystals now in enemy hands thanks to his failures
- best friend has betrayed and tried to kill him
- girlfriend nearly died, then kidnapped by villain just to torment Cecil
- shipwrecked on the way to rescue said girlfriend
- as far as Cecil knows, the friends he dragged along on that rescue mission are dead
- girlfriend is gorgeous and underdressed, yet he's trapped inside armor that requires Jaws of Life to remove, so they probably haven't even made it to first base
- he's named Cecil Harvey.
Ouch. Surely things can't get any worse?
Ahahahaha. Let's go find out.
Crap. Yep, that'll do it.
The survivors of Cecil's unprovoked attack on Mysidia are so happy to see him!
A present? For Cecil? What is it? Oo, oo, lemme guess!
Yes, a TOAD spell.
I don't even bother to waste a curative on Cecil; I can see where this is going.
In the Mysidia Inn, Toad!Cecil meets another WTF dancer who is happy to perform a strip tease for a mopey-looking giant black toad. Of course.
Cecil feels oddly sleepy at the end of the dance routine. Pining after Rosa? Nope. When he wakes up, he finds that the WTF!Dancer has turned into a cackling old crone. She turns him into a pig.
Is it wrong that I take satisfaction in letting the Mysidians tar and feather him? After all, he did order his men to kill some of them. A little Toad-Pig-Mini torment seems like a mild enough weregild. I think Cecil himself would agree.
Of course, it's no joke; there are mages frightened of Cecil even in pig form, while some of them say things like, "Give us back the lives you stole!"
For the most part, their revenge is confined to biting remarks and silly status effects. However, things take a nastier turn in the bar.
Barkeep: "I'm sorry, did the poison make it bitter? No more so, surely, than the tears you've made us shed!"
I don't know why poisoning Cecil troubles me more than the transformations; they all require items to fix.
I also don't know whether to laugh or wince at the following screencap.
Yep, that's Final Fantasy IV right there in one package: Extreme WTFery and angst all tied up in a bow.
One white mage is kind enough to share information instead of simply meting out justice:
Eeeeugh. Sounds like the 55 freeway to Newport Beach.
Oh, that's right. Back in Baron, I stumbled across the "Devil's Road," a magical portal to Mysidia that had been blocked off by the mages after Cecil's raid on their town. So that's our alternate route back, assuming Cecil can somehow convince the mages to stop tormenting him.
Which will take some convincing. Golly, I wouldn't want to be in his shoes right now. Not only are his misdeeds coming back to haunt him, but they're stopping him from reaching Rosa.
All right. That's enough time in the stocks. Cecil downs a few curatives and presents himself to the village elder, who questions him sternly. Cecil's response is bleakly honest: "When I came before, I did so at the orders of my king— orders I lacked the courage to disobey."
Really, Mysidia's mages are being more than fair; in the real world Cecil would be facing a lynch mob or war crimes tribunal.
Cecil lodges his plea: he needs to get back to Baron to rescue a friend and stop Golbez, who has taken over the kingdom.
Sigh. We're back to the classic binary system of darkness = evil, light = good. Well, it is a very old metaphor.
The Elder commands Cecil to go to Mount Ordeals, atone for his sins and "trade his dark sword for one of light." Cecil is understandably desperate to get to Rosa, but the elder insists that this test is a big deal (of course) with a capital D for Destiny.
The Elder loans Cecil two mage apprentices, a black mage brat named Palom (who greets Cecil as "that filthy dark knight" and boasts of being a prodigy) and his twin sister Porom, a white mage with far more tact. Because Boys Are Naughty and Girls Are Nice. I can haz stereotypes?
I am probably going to misspell the twins' names at some point, since Final Fantasy XIII recycled their names with the town of Palumpolum, home of the young mage prodigy, Hope.
[[Incidentally, the names Palum and Porom, along with Cecil, are some of the many Final Fantasy names that make me wonder, "How the heck do you say that in Japanese?" See also: Squall. Along the same vein, I assume Rydia's name was "Lydia," but unlike FFV's Reina/Lenna, "Rydia" was so well-established among fans that her Engrish name persists in remakes.]]
Voiced alveolar lateral flaps notwithstanding, we set forth from Mysidia towards Mount Ordeals. Along the way I bump into Namingway in the nearby Chocobo Forest. He's changed his names and services a few times since I last screencapped, and until now I've been mildy amused. However...
You little bastard. I offer you ONE tent, and you take all of them? CareerChangeWay, you are officially GetOutofMyWay, and I don't like you anymore!
Grumble. Tentless, we head up Mt. Ordeals.
Palom's magic is handy at getting us past flame barriers en route, and Porom keeps him in line when he boasts of his awesomeness.
Bonus points for "thwack" appearing in Final Fantasy subtitles. The translations have definitely improved.
Now we get a "Meanwhile" scene change, the first time in a Final Fantasy game that the characters and plot are developed enough to have a "Meanwhile, back at villain HQ" scene.
The improved graphics put Rosa more squarely in Distressed Damsel position, since she's got her hands chained overhead to a pillar. Grr, I can feel my inner Utena wanting to do something about that. However, the scene focus is on the Big Bad and his minions.
Scarmiglione appears to be an evil Jawa that has gotten stuck in the floor. We've reached a level of realism in these games such that I wonder what he's supposed to be. ("Realism" being a relative term, considering the trollface!Octomammoth and the giant Antlion.)
Golbez fills Undead Jawa in on the situation: Cecil's climbing Mt. Ordeals to become a paladin (he is?) and needs to be stopped. I wonder if Golbez has a palantír; he seems awfully well-informed. After his miniboss departs, Golbez gives his human toys a brief poke.
Aha. We've got four archfiends, like Kraken and such in FFI.
To my annoyance, Rosa doesn't get a reply, taunt, or any sort of retort. Come on, Square, how much effort would it take to let her get a word in edgewise? I fantasize for a moment.
- Rosa: There are several Cecil matches I might find entertaining, but Undead Jawa/Cecil is not one of them.
- Rosa: Come a little closer so I can kick you in the crotch.
- Rosa: Kain, will you please stop standing around like a git and do something.
- Rosa: You tied me up here just because you're jealous that I can go to the privy without requiring a squire to disrobe, didn't you? Bastard.
But no, the conversation switches to Kain and Golbez. Kain warns Golbez not to underestimate Cecil.
Kain insists he should be the one sent to slay Cecil. Golbez snarks that he was so effective at doing that during their last confrontation.
All right, let's talk Kain for a moment. KAIN WHAT ARE YOU DOING.
My first inclination is still, "possessed/mind controlled," mostly because we've seen several clues about mind control of some sort, and also because Kain's vow to join Cecil in rebelling against their tyrannical king seemed sincere. Although even then, Kain wasn't doing it for Cecil, but for the honor of the Dragoons and (somehow) for Rosa, although the reasoning there is a bit muddy.
Yet now Kain's showing enough autonomy that I'm wondering if I'm wrong about the mind control. Is he playing both sides, such that even Kain doesn't know which way he's going to jump? Is he doing this to shield (or steal) Rosa? Or is there some other ulterior motive, possibly connected with his wanting to be a great Dragoon like his father? At any rate, Golbez clearly doesn't trust him and says his job is to guard Rosa.
Rosa finally gets one line in to close out the scene, echoing her last words to Cecil during their previous two partings.
Touching, but I'd like more than a few Rosa crumbs tossed my way.
Back with Cecil and the twins, we soon bump into Tellah, who has the sense to realize that his magic is no match for an Endgame Boss like Golbez. So Tellah has come to the mountain of Epic Hero Augmentation looking for the power of Meteor.
This time, I'm not the least bit surprised that people can recognize a sage/wizard on sight; Tellah's purple striped and polka dotted pantaloons are probably legendary.
Porom is dismayed that the famous sage is seeking such a dangerous spell.
Tellah harrumphs that bumping off Golbez is a good enough reason to lay down his life. Again, I suspect Anna would disagree.
Near the summit, we hear hissing noises. Porom's sure her brother's playing tricks on the party. Nope, we've got a miniboss with a master's degree in taunts.
I'll give that about a 7 on the Villain Taunt-o-Meter.
Nevertheless, he goes down fairly quickly under an excess of magic use.
The brat, as usual, is far too cocky.
Luckily, Porom gives me a hint (as if I needed one) that we will be seeing Undead Jawa again shortly.
Hey, gratuitous Gandalf quote! That's cheatin'!
Woohoo. We smote his ruin upon the mountainside, on general principles.
All right, time for us to have ourselves an ordeal.
Thanks to the opening FMV, I know Cecil's gonna have to fight himself.
Cecil's friends haven't seen the opening FMV and are therefore surprised when a clone shows up.
Thanks to a similar scenario in early Tomb Raider, I know that any damage Cecil inflicts on his clone will hurt him, so I'd better just defend and hope that works. So we do that.
Yep, it worked. Afterwards, the epic voice tells Cecil his "virtue is proven":
"May it be your strength, though it be the last of mine." Thanks, Dad!
I won't miss Cecil's full body armor -- it's hard to relate to someone you can't see -- but I kinda liked the Eye of Sauron on his shield.
So now Cecil is shiny, and Tellah has a minor plot device epiphany and suddenly remembers all the -ara and -aga spells he'd forgotten plus Meteor. Well, that's handy. Coulda used it in last boss fight.
Back in Mysidia, most of the townsfolk greet Cecil's change with enthusiasm. Once again, we see the importance of judging people by appearances:
Everybody's willing to forgive and forget except for one curmudgeonly black mage who is unimpressed by the Power of Shiny.
Also, if Cecil ogles the WTFdancer, she still turns him into a pig. Heh.
We report back to the Elder of Mysidia, who is pleased to see Cecil has obtained the Power of Shiny. There is a minor Reveal:
This is a secret? Seemed pretty obvious, not to mention sensible. I would have been only mildly surprised if their real assignment had been to kill him.
Cecil says to think nothing of it. He asks about the voice calling him "my son," but the elder doesn't know what that's all about. He can, however, translate the runes on Cecil's new sword, which come from an ancient legend:
...Moon is swathed in ever-light
Ne'er again to know eclipse
Earth, with hallow'd bounty reconciled
Wow, quite a lot to fit on one sword.
Fantasy Anatomy 101: dragon's wombs are in their mouths? Also, assuming it's not a typo, I find it interesting that this legend refers to only one moon. We've seen two moons in the sky several times during the game. I suspect we're in for some creative cosmogony sooner or later.
We also learn that Tellah and the elder are old wizarding buddies. The elder tries to talk Tella out of his plans for vengeance:
Again, Tellah says he's fully prepared for Meteor to kill him, as long has he takes Golbez with him.
Enough chitchat. Time to head back to Baron and find Rosa!
Surprisingly, the Devil's Road does absolutely nothing to Cecil because he's a paladin. I was expecting a dramatic "will he or won't he make it down the HP-sapping corridor?" sequence. Instead, we simply teleport back to a random basement in the town outside Baron Castle.
Back in town, we catch up on gossip. Rosa's mum is safe, but worried about her daughter; there's been no sign of her since she set out after Cecil across the desert.
The townsfolk don't recognize Cecil in his shininess.
Uh oh, Cid's in trouble.
Cid built a stupendous airship, then refused to tell Golbez where it was. Er? Y'know, airships are large. Also they tend to occupy air, i.e. open sky. So how did Cid manage to hide it? For that matter, did he build it all by himself, or did he kill all his underlings to ensure the secret died with them? Inquiring minds want to know.
We also learn that Yang has joined the royal guard. Hi, Yang! Great to see ya!
Pummelling Yang and his grunts unconscious magically cures Yang of his highly selective amnesia, and Yang is chagrinned to find he's been working for the enemy.
Palom, tactful as ever...
Porom, thwack him again.
Again, I'm seeing evidence of mind control, and again, I'm not sure whether that fully explains Kain turning traitor. Mrgh.
Yang rejoins the party. This does not bode well, as someone's going to have to get offed before we can rescue Rosa. His brief internship with Evil means that Yang has a key to the underground waterway into the castle. WOO HOO IT'S TIME FOR THE FINAL FANTASY ANNUAL SEWER CRAWL I AM SO PSYCHED.
Actually, this sewer crawl turns out to awfully tame compared to some (see: the nightmare maze under Deling City in FFVIII). No rats or bats or anything, no green goo or foul-looking sludge, just fish and hydras and stuff. All perfectly ordinary.
As are steps and a large opening in the outer wall of your castle, providing convenient moat access to would-be infiltrators.
Inside the castle, we meet up with Baigan, captain of the Royal Guard, who claims that he tried to rescue Cid but lost all his men in the attempt. (To whom? The castle is totally deserted.) He immediately pledges his undying devotion to Cecil's cause. Cecil, ever the bright one, takes him for an ally at once. Cecil, you IDIOT. There are only five party slots; he has to be a baddie!
The twins announce that something stinks of monster.
So we have a boss fight with Baigan and his two arms, which dangle in midair after we defeat his body. We're back to the random boss battle transformations of FFIII, except that in this case, there's almost justification, since Baigan claims Golbez gave him some kind of "gift."
Which, considering that Golbez gave Cecil some kind of "gift" during their last encounter, is a little worrying.
Palom scolds Cecil for being too trusting, and we proceed towards the throne room.
The party has a bit of Fridge Horror after the fact, with Cecil guessing that the king has met the same fate as Baigan, and Yang realizing that the same thing might've happened to him if he'd remained under Golbez's control.
I'm thinking that it's a good thing Golbez lacks my imagination. Cecil had no compunctions about killing Baigan, who had already Done Him Wrong, but what if it had been Rosa? Eeeeee.
So anyway. Are we stupid enough to march straight into the throne room of the suspiciously deserted castle?
Why yes. Yes we are.
King is suspiciously genial. However, he can't help blowing his disguise and gloating when Cecil addresses him as "My liege."
I guess the king is dead, then, huh? And probably has been since the beginning of the game.
There's more gloating on the subject of Scarmiglione being a pathetic excuse for an archfiend, and then it's time for a nasty boss battle.
My old Black Mage instincts save my ass, as I instinctively shower Thundagas and Thundaras when cornered.
Afterwards, we discover that Cid has broken himself of the dungeon. (Well, dammit, why can't Rosa be sprung by a convenient plot device, in that case?) Everybody introduces everybody to everybody, snark happens, and we eventually follow Cid down to find his hidden airship.
Aside: Why is it that ships that fly are always discovered underground or underwater in Final Fantasy?
Outside the throne room, the disembodied voice of Cagnawhatsit — I'm not even gonna try to spell it— gloats that he's going to take us with him, and the doors at both ends seal themselves shut. The walls start to close in, a la Star Wars trash compactor.
Wondertwin powers, activate!
Uh oh. Our Tarutaru (that is what their in-game models resemble, isn't it?) are up to something.
Yep, they're doing something stupid and heroic. Just the sort of thing they told Tellah not to do.
Cid's face: :(
So now I feel bad for calling Palom a brat. But he was a brat.
Tellah tries Esuna, but a gameplay/story segregation popup informs us that it doesn't work since they voluntarily turned themselves to stone. Cue a round of angst from the surviving party members.
Cue fade to black and "MEANWHILE." Yeah, where the heck is Rosa?
Gah, still chained to that pillar. Squeenix, your fanservice are sick.
Golbez and Kain are discussing some sort of "complication" that's kept them from acquiring the Earth Crystal. Kain suggests having Cecil retrieve it in exchange for Rosa's life. Rosa gets in one blinking line... "Kain!" and that's it.
Then this happens.
Oh good grief. I was hoping it was mind control. If Kain is really doing all this to try and seduce Rosa, and that's his motive for playing along with Golbez, I'll be pretty disgusted.
If Kain's not possessed, then to me, he's already past the Atonement Event Horizon. The original graphics were vague, but in the remake, Rosa has been hung by her wrists for several days with no visible support for her feet. That is torture. Only white magic can explain why she is even conscious at this point. One little word of "I'll get you out of here, I promise" might have mollified me, but no— Kain's first direct line to Rosa in the entire game is to gloat about his designs on her and his plan to do away with the man she loves. Kain's focused on his desires, not hers, and he doesn't care that he's hurting her. That's the attitude of a sexual predator.
It's abuse. It's betrayal. It's far worse than some anonymous villain using her as a pawn.
I will be curious to see if the game can convince me to sympathize with Kain after this. I know it's going to try, because I've seen all the Kain/Rosa shipping out there, but right now all I see is predator-victim asshattery. I'm already sick of all the Seymour/Yuna and Kuja/Terra fetishization floating around fandom. (To be clear, I don't mind predator-victim shipping when there's an acknowledgement that it's disturbing and problematic, but when it's presented as lovey-dovey romantic, JUST NO.)
Okay, enough ranting. Speaking of ships, let's go get Cid's Enterprise, quick.
I sure hope that the Enterprise-B holds up longer than the Enterprise-A did in FFIII.
Shortly after takeoff, Kain arrives under a flag of truce to deliver Golbez's ultimatim.
Cecil still trusts Kain, on this one matter:
Depends what you mean by "safe."
Kain kill Rosa? This is an empty threat, and Cecil really ought to call him on it. Then again, I'm not sure Cecil ever noticed Kain's feelings for her.
Cid and friends yell a few parting "What the heck do you think you're doing, Kain!?" protests, but Kain heads out, leaving them to stew.
Yang wants to know their course. BIG sigh from Cecil. Then...
Again, Cidface: :(
I'll be curious to see how Cecil solves this. He's been conscience-wracked all game, and rightly so, for his part in attacking Mysidia to steal their crystal. He just went through a trial by fire to expunge his guilt. Moreover, thick as he is, he knows that giving Golbez the fourth and last crystal is a dumb idea.
So what's a lawful good paladin to do, if Troia doesn't want to give up their crystal?
I'll pause here before the next leg in the journey of the Shiny Paladin.
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