So, what's the evil villain going to do with us? Why, he's going to use his giant mirror to STEAL OUR SOULS, just like in FFIII! No, wait, scratch that. He's placed the mirror on the floor outside our cell. And then...
Butz! Look, up in the sky!
Lenna, lass, we're in an underground dungeon. How can we possibly—
Cheesy Superman references notwithstanding, I have the feeling that Exdeath just broke some Newtonian law or other. Why does his reflection appear behind ours? Where's the bars between us and the mirror? How... oh never mind, it's Final Fantasy. PHYSICS, WHAT IS THAT.
Golly, I'm so proud that we've come here just in time to thwart Galuf and his army's assault against Castle ExDeath. Exquisite timing, what?
Well, this is a pretty pickle. If Rosa's time in the Distressed Damsel penalty box is any kind of precedent, we might be here a while.
Luckily, Galuf is a one man army. He borrows his granddaughter's wind drake...
...and mounts a solo assault on Castle Exdeath, which has surprisingly few (i.e. no) aerial defenses.
Battling his way through castle guards (spiders, not particularly effective, but union minions cost more), Galuf makes time for a little treasure hunting. Woo! Loot! Waitaminute, that's our stuff.
Who'd a thunk? For once, the villains stripped us of weapons before tossing us in a jail cell. Exdeath is smarter than 99% of video game baddies.
At the moment, however, he's off quashing Galuf's army, so he's left a sub-boss in charge. And our jailor is...
GILGAMESH! Finally. First-ever FF appearance, although my first run-in with Gilgamesh wasn't until FFVIII. But that's a tale yet to come.
I think he's the spiritual descendent of Rubicante, with less leg and more camp.
Alas, there's not much time for camp at this juncture, as Galuf beats him handily. Gilgy demonstrates his mastery of face-saving commentary:
Don't step out of line again! *FLEES*
Yes, the FLEE command was made for Gilgy. Like Ahnold, he'll be back.
Badass grandpa that he is, Galuf breaks down the frickin' door (who needs keys?) and, in response to everyone's apologies...
Galuf, we missed ya, ya crazy old loon.
So! We wend our way back to the Big Bridge that leads west from the continent of Castle Exdeath back to Galuf's home turf (Castle Bal). We quickly discover that it's a Troll Bridge:
These minor battles are made instantly awesome thanks to one of the five best songs in Final Fantasy history, "Clash on the Big Bridge," which I first heard as a reprise/homage to this scene in FFXII. Here's the original:
When we hear that theme music, we know who's coming.
Took you long enough, too...I was just getting worried you might have gotten lost! Anyway! It's go time!
Yes, because it's so easy to get lost when the route consists of a bigass castle and a bigass bridge leading away from it and a big circle of You Can't Go That Way mountains barring every other possible course. Bring it on, G-man!
*fight fight fight* ...is just too tough for me...
NOT! Ha, I lied! Like a rug! Oh I kill me!
With that, he skedaddles.
I'm guessing that the first few times people encountered Gilgamesh, he must've been terribly annoying. However, a running gag is a running gag. (And he has very nice gams when he runs.)
Waving at his rapidly retreating posterior, I would like to know why Square latched onto an ancient, Hercules-like hero of Mesopotamian myth and turned him into a cowardly, incompetent sword-collecting villain with a screw loose. Then again, I suppose he is epic.
Meanwhile, on the far side of the bridge, Krile is waiting for us.
NO NOT THAT KIND OF KRILL.
Um, Amano? Krile is 14 years old. What's with the fanservice concept art? I think this variant makes more sense (and she'd get along very well with the March Hare and Dormouse, for reasons we'll be seeing shortly). Incidentally, her name is "Cara" in some transliterations, which works a lot better than "Krile." Looking at the Japanese "Kururu," I wonder if the original intention was "Carla."
Oh, er, the barrier. Right. Castle Exdeath flashes some sort of weird red Akira-like bubble-barrier that expands out to the Big Bridge (offscreen to the left), and we're all teleported away.
Lenna and Faris take point and begin to explore our landing site while the guys futz around. Hanging back, Butz apologizes again.
Galuf...Sorry about all this. I mean, we came to help you, but you ended up helping us...
Galuf doesn't mince words.
I think Galuf is some sort of bastard lovechild of Auron and Sazh.
Before we start, here's a map of this new world where we've landed, which sharp eyes will note bears a passing resemblance to the world we've left behind. The "Big Bridge" is that horizontal line between the two southern continents, with Castle Bal to the west of it and Castle Exdeath to the east of it.
We head south towards that purple dot, the town of Regole, which is so remote that they'll pay us to be random dancers! Only 100 gil, though.
Butz, ya should've changed into your fabulous Dancer job class outfit to earn us more gil:
Bartz in Dissidia. ~FFWiki.
Let us pause to admire the Dancer of FFV. Not only does this job have a certain gay-superhero pizzazz, but like the Bard in FFIII (and V), it's surprisingly handy, sucking HP & MP from monsters or causing massive damage with "Sword Dance." Plus, it's campy. I'm not surprised that it made its debut in FFV.
During the night, Butz apologizes to Galuf for a third time. However...
Oh, phew. Despite our incompetence, we managed to save at least some of his army from getting vaporized by Exdeath's defenses.
After playing pet-the-undead-dragon-for-gil-and-profit in a Sealed Castle south of Regole (more later, when we've leveled up properly), we spot a Moogle falling into a pit.
A critter in distress! We must save it!
Brindled barnacles, Lenna, we don't know how deep that–
There she goes again.
*facepalm* I can't take you three anywhere.
Blast it, another dungeon. With currents. And giant squid.
(Gratuitous screencap to show off Galuf's red Dancer leotard with rainbow sleeves. I have a kite that looks just like it).
We rescue the Moogle from an animated T-rex skeleton. It —the moogle, that is— cowers from the garishly-dressed thugs who just beat up a zombie monster.
Lenna's animal diplomacy does the trick. Our new friend leads us back to the hidden Moogle Village.
They're all afraid of us -- gee, I wonder why -- until we find a spare moogle
Do we have the ethical decency to refuse this heartfelt gift? Or abstain from looting every treasure chest in the village? Heck, no! Stealing from innocents and abusing other species is what humans do best!
Ah, there's the Moogle we rescued. It invites us in, gives us more treasure, and communes via
Krile is like a professional cat lady: she understands all the nuances of the word "
She goes to the roof to chat up her exhausted dragon, who is tuckered out from dropping off Galuf at Castle Exdeath.
The drake gamely insists that he's got one more ride left in him. Off she goes!
Aww. The Moogles set up a sort of impromptu parade / landing strip to help Krile find us. As corny as this game is, I'm surprised they didn't whip out little air traffic orange batons and start waving them about.
All five of us pile onto the much-put-upon dragon and fly back to the castle. Where Butz shows off his podunk manners.
Galuf brushes him off at first and tries to get on with the job of ruling, already, debriefing his soldiers and learning that most of them have been wiped out by Gilgamesh (!) and random monsters while we were off gallivanting in Gloceana.
However, Butz is not to be deterred. He just can't believe Galuf's a king.
Nevertheless, the coot says we can call him just Galuf. Of course, Butz promptly calls him "Just Galuf." I'm not sure why Galuf hasn't punched him.
Banter concluded, we
So now he's dying. Yanno, maybe we shouldn't have forced him to carry the entire party with ALL our armor and items and thousands of gil pieces. In FFV's unwritten sequel, the dragons revolt against their cruel oppressors and wipe out the royal families of Bal and Tycoon.
In the meantime, Lenna thinks she knows a way to save him:
I don't give Butz enough credit. He's so laid-back, apart from when he's being a minor pest, that he's easy to overlook. No angst, no badassitude, just a free spirit who helps people. The above line is one of many that reminds me of the Fool card from Tarot. Which I just doodled, badly:
Final Fantasy Tarot - The Fool (Bartz) by ~auronlu on deviantART
That's Butz in a nutshell, don't you think? And the Fool is not an idiot, he's simply... a blank canvas, with the whole world laid out before him to be discovered. The Fool stands for potential, innocence, and a general "Why not?" attitude towards life. A refreshing breather from the mopey heroes that FF tends to throw at us.
Lenna is kicking me to get going; there's a critter to save! We trip over a boss battle outside the gates...
(Gratuitous screencap for more Galuf-dialog, because he is the epitome of kingliness).
On the way to Drakonvale, we pass through Quelb, the village of werewolves. Who keep sheep. Nervous sheep, I suspect.
We promptly find ourselves embroiled in yet another round of miscommunication with their leader, one of Galuf's old war buddies who fought Exdeath thirty years ago.
Amano, you crazy man. A werewolf with horns? HORNS FOR EVERYONE. Emperors, princesses, summoners, werewolves...I'm surprised Fran didn't have horns. (Except then she'd be a jackalope, so never mind.)
Butz doesn't start it, but he's sure not helping matters.
GUYS BEING STUPID, EXHIBIT A. Butz injures Kelger really rather badly in this display of mutual penis-waving. This helps how?
In the post-battle truce, Butz lets slip that his father is Dorgann, to the astonishment of both Galuf and Kelger. I'm surprised Galuf hadn't learned this earlier, but I suppose that graveside scene back in Butz's hometown was between him and Faris alone.
These are the four Dawn Warriors whom Galuf's mentioned before:
(Can I just say that drawing scrabble tiles is not the best method for choosing fantasy character names? Then again, I shouldn't talk; my college roommate and I used to use a Ouija board).
Butz is equally stunned to learn that his father was from another world. (Well, at least it wasn't the frickin' MOON).
Kelger and Galuf reminisce about their battle against Exdeath thirty years ago, cornering him on the world where Butz was born:
Dorgann decided to stay behind. He would not state his motives, but it's clear that he was worried about leaving Exdeath to his own devices. Or perhaps Dorgann had already met Butz's mother Stella, at this point. Either way, I find it interesting that Dorgann sickened and died three years before the game starts; maybe that was Exdeath's doing?
We chat up some of the other werewolves in the village before taking our leave. One of them says that he's the brother of Tzuze, the strange werewolf who sacrificed himself to save us from the Fire Crystal's destruction. So that was not Kelgar, nor was it the shifty "Lone Wolf" thief imprisoned in the dungeons of Walse Castle. (For a simple game, FFV is awfully complicated).
Onward. We scale Mt. Drakenvale, where the game yanks us back from angst to its default mode of slapstick.
Butz slides one past the censors...
Lenna discovers that not all critters are sweet and kind...
And Faris reminds us why we love her.
It's all fun and games until I realize that we're up against one of my least favorite bosses, one of those dratted FF vegetables whose seedlings regenerate and spew nasty status effects like Confuse. I wish the creators of FFXII and XIII hadn't resurrected this kind of monster (Neo-Ochu, DIE DIE DIE DIE.)
Success! The grass is cowed (so to speak). We hurry back to Castle Bal with our prize. However, Krile's caught a mild case of plot device, and is tucked up in bed babbling something about the sage Ghido.
Oh, Butz. You and Vaan oughta go on Vaudeville with your gormless routine.
First things first. We seek out the ailing dragon. He doesn't want his medicine – apparently legends of the Ornery Dragon Grass Demon have traumatized him — so Lenna does a little hands-on demo.
Cue freakout from friends who really should know by now to tackle Lenna the instant there's an animal in distress.
Lenna! Are you insane?
Lenna! Did you forget? Dragon grass is poisonous to humans!
Lenna collapses. Yes, this is the second time she's poisoned herself to save a dragon. Krile, thankfully, pops out of bed to deliver an antidote to Lenna Just in Time (tm).
Awww. Big pirate sister loses her cool for only one reason. Lenna, you're turning her hair white. (I imagine Lulu had a few white streaks by the end of her little jaunt. They should form a support group with Lightning.)
Krile keels over, too; she's still sick from... er... having the sage Ghido yapping at her telepathically? I'm not quite sure. Galuf sends her back to bed.
(I'd throw more stones at characters gratuitously collapsing to ring the Angst Bell, but I confess that I was writing and enjoying stories with this overused trope when I was a teen, which I'm sure was the intended audience for this game).
Our next assignment is to ask the seven-hundred-year-old sage Ghido to stop giving Krile migraines. We book a quick dragon flight to Ghido's island.
WHERE AN EARTHQUAKE PROMPTLY SINKS IT.
Oh shut up, you. Has no on in this game any respect for the fourth wall?
All right. We've previously heard from castle scuttlebutt that Galuf's old war buddy Xezat is staging a naval assault on Castle Exdeath. (In fact, I think the original plan must've been for Galuf to attack from the west via the Big Bridge while Xezat attacked from the east, only we jinxed them). So let's
Xezat is the last of the four Dawn Warriors, and YES THERE YOU GO AGAIN AMANO: MORE HORNS!
Galuf introduces Butz as Dorgann's son and Faris and Lenna as "nobility from another world." So Butz is the only one of the WoLlies who isn't royalty, although he's a hero's son.
Xezat tells us to catch a few Zzs before the battle starts. Our wake-up call is the "Clash on the Big Bridge" theme music — man, that would make an awesome mp3 alarm — and we dash upstairs to meet Gilgamesh and steal his Genji goodies!
Oh, wait, the old Dawn Warriors have to
Don't blow it this time!
We mop up all the small fry and then tap Gilgy on the shoulder. He's preening on the prow.
Ahhh...blue, blue skies and the rolling seas!
Who are you calling sir? I'm...oh nevermind.
We harsh his buzz to the utmost. Mid-battle, Gilgy summons his faithful sidekick...
When they're both defeated, Gilgy attempts to drag Galuf overboard with him.
Geh! If I go, I'm taking you with me! How about going for a swim!
Whoa whoa whoa! *clings*
Hey! Foul! That's playing dirty! I'm not supposed to be the only one in the drink!
Serious game is serious.
Xezat and Galuf trade bad puns...
That pun is so bad, I'm gonna fall on purpose...
And then go down to the hold to
Of COURSE. Just the sort of tech we'd expect to find in a medieval fantasy world. The plan is to attack one of the barrier towers from underneath, which should hopefully short out the shield protecting Castle Exdeath. (On this playthrough, I'm finally noticing that there is a strategy, however tenuous, throughout the story).
And of course it's the two ruling monarchs of the world who have to undertake this dangerous mission, although Galuf does at least have us "kids" as backup.
Entering one of the barrier towers with Xezat, we split up. He heads to the basement, while we have to climb the obligatory Bigass Tower with Lots of Floors.
Xezat gives us Whisperweed to communicate long distance (woo! Game continuity! Also used by Edward in FFIV!) I'm imagining disgusting pieces of kelp hanging out of people's ears.
Naturally, it's guarded. This boss nearly ruins our day. GAAH. First appearance of Atomos.
It keeps dragging KOed party members towards its maw. Nasty.
(Confession: with this and a few other screencaps, I've overlaid dialog from one frame with animation from another, since the dialog boxes tend to appear when they're all standing still.)
Our triumph is short-lived. Xezat's playing the stoic and won't tell us what's wrong, but he's clearly in trouble, checking in via kelpie-talkie.
He's trapped: voltage arcs block the stairs. Shades of Desch from FFIII. Except that Desch survived. And here I'd almost forgotten FF's penchant for grinding up npcs.
Fourteen floors above, Galuf is bound and determined to reach his friend, but Xezat orders him back to the sub.
Butz finally has to knock Galuf out to get him off the tower before it blows.
Faris and Lenna catch them before the tower falls. Yep, it's corny and clichéd, but it's still a tear-jerker.
After Galuf's recovered, we take the sub and go off to search for our Sunken Sage on the seafloor.
Once again, amazing Final Fantasy physics means that there's plenty of air in the cave.
Inside, Galuf tries to restrain Butz from harassing the native wildlife.
Sage, I'm so sorry. Please forgive my brainless companion.
Butz apologizes, and Yoda the Turtle launches into a major backstory dump about Exdeath.
Unfortunately, much as I love this silly game, I have to concede that its backstory is as goofy as IV's (Evil Tree! Lunar Whale!) and harder to follow. Help me, Yoda Ghido; you're my only hope!
In sum: The Great Forest of Moore consists of sentient trees. Long ago, its neighbors thought, Hey, what a great idea; let's seal evil spirits in the forest! Five hundred years ago, all that concentrated evil coalesced into a sentient form, Exdeath. At that time, Ghido sealed him away, and the seal lasted for almost five hundred years. Thirty years ago, he broke loose. The Dawn Warriors chased him to Butz's world, beat him up and sealed him with the crystals they found there. But then Cid invented a machine to amplify the power of those crystals, which broke them, which freed Exdeath, and now he's returning to the Great Forest of Moore to find something — a weapon, perhaps? — that's sealed away there. Said seals being maintained by a different tree, the "Guardian Tree." Oh, okay. (Y'know, it sounds like they're repeating the same mistake, using another sentient tree to bind up more evil. Oops.)
TL;DR: we must go to the Great Forest and stop Exdeath from gaining whatever he's seeking.
Ghido gives us one of
As soon as we've penetrated the forest, Exdeath sets it ablaze! Did Ghido set us up? A friendly moogle leads us underground to escape the inferno.
Afterwards, the Great Forest of Moore is lightly toasted, but at least the path to the Guardian Tree is now clear. Thanks, Exdeath! That was actually helpful! (Hm.)
We enter the Guardian Tree and are accosted by the four crystals that have sealed away "something" (as Ghido told us vaguely) for hundreds of years. Hey, wait. Are we supposed to be fighting them?
That's our handy-dandy Titan summon. Afterwards...
YEP, WE WALKED RIGHT INTO IT.
Yes, we are definitely card-carrying WoLlies. We always fail to save the crystals. (Cf: Luneth, Firion, Cecil et alia).
I guess these were the crystals that bound him for 470 years before he broke out. And why am I trying to make sense of this flimsy plot?
Exdeath wastes no time in turning the crystals against the Warriors of Light. Owie.
Ooooo, that's about a 9 on the villain gloatage scale!
The part of Lassie will now be played by Krile the Wunderkind.
She flies from Castle Bal to the Forest of Moore to the Guardian Tree and enters in time to see Exdeath having his way with us. So to speak. And LIKE A BOSS she knocks him down (again!) with a thunder spell. Was her Dad's name Garland, or what?
Put her, Palom, Porom and Hope on the same team, and you'd probably have the most kickass Kinderguardians ever.
Unfortunately, she's underestimated our villain. While she's trying to heal us, Exdeath wakes up. He is Not Well Pleased.
Cue Galuf's crowning moment of awesome. He fights back against Exdeath's sorcery...
...shatters the crystal that's been turned against him, pushes Krile out of the magic circle that's killing her, and takes the brunt of it himself. And then he fights ExDeath.
With zero HP.
Exdeath unleashes everything and the kitchen sink, including Flare, Holy and Meteor, but Galuf won't keel over.
What was I saying about Galuf reminding me of Auron with more sass? I think he's unsent at this point.
Fool! All the hatred in existence can't destroy me!
This... isn't anger...isn't hate.
The crystals and Exdeath vanish, and our heroes stagger to their feet. Everyone gathers around Galuf, calling his name.
Except Faris, with her usual stubborn habit of refusing to face reality.
See what I mean?
Playing the fallen warrior trope to the hilt, Galuf asks us with his dying breath to destroy Exdeath.
For once, gameplay and story segregation is averted, twisting the angst dial up another notch. Our friends try everything they can to revive him: phoenix downs, elixirs, Curaga and Life.
It's no use. This...is an ex-pc. He has ceased to be.
You know, for years I heard from FFVII fans about how groundbreaking that game was, how moving and how unique, because it was the first RPG with a major character death. I suppose for most of those fans it was, since FFV didn't get ported into English until years later. But really, while Galuf doesn't have the virgin-sacrifice mystique, his death is pretty danged heroic, meaningful, and tragic. He's not Aeris, who is indeed one of the better video game characters out there, but he's a pretty awesome character in his own right. Why had I never even heard of Galuf before I picked up Anthology in 2011 and stumbled across this scene for myself?
So let's raise a tankard for the old coot.
Krile, Wunderkind, communes with the spirit of her dead grandpa, thanks to the blessing of the Guardian Tree.
I love Krile. She's fourteen, and unlike FFIII, she acts like it. There's a moment of "no, grandpa, don't leave me!" then she buckles her swash and takes up the burden.
And now, for the first time, the core Final Fantasy party is mostly female. I can't help wondering if some of the rap this game gets is because of that ratio.
We return to Castle Bal to lick our wounds, level up, and prepare for an assault on Castle ExDeath. STAY TUNED.
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