This screencap is boring, apart from the unusual combination of lobster and sushi rolls and roast turkey, but I just want to stress that he said we.
Because...well, you'll see shortly.
We leave the fortress, pausing to wave neener-neener at Kefka and flush all the toilets in the empty prison cells so as to screw up Imperial plumbing.
On the way out, we're told that both Doma and Figaro have been freed from imperial occupation, since the emperor was so impressed by our
All the other towns on the southern continent are now free as well, and their citizens are waxing hopeful about rebuilding and peace and conscripts coming home.
Which of course means EVERYTHING IS ABOUT TO GO TO HELL IN A BAG OF HOLDING.
At the site of the crashed airship, I discover Cid pestering Setzer, offering to upgrade his engines. "Go kill time in the casino! I can speed this crate up!"
I read that in the original Japanese, Cid offends Setzer even more, proposing to remove the casino so that the Blackjack can go even faster.
After Cid has been chased away from the airship -- FF gamers will note the irony -- Terra initiates a little chat with Setzer. "You love this ship more than anything, huh?" she says.
Setzer waxes nostalgic about a "young girl", Daryl, pilot of the fastest airship of the world, the Falcon. They were both friends and rivals.
"...I felt like I lost my spirit."
So Locke and Setzer should compare notes over a beer. They've both latched onto Celes as a substitute for lost loves.
All right, enough pussyfooting; let's head to Albrook and join forces with Emperor Gestahl (nose pinching time). General Leo is there to greet us.
To my relief, Celes seems to be in one piece and none the worse for wear. Was I silly to worry?
So, Locke. Gonna apologize?
Nope. Locke does a double take, exchanges nods with Celes, and that's it.
Well, at least Terra reaches out to her with a touching exchange of Final Fantasy ellipses:
Celes, so overcome that she can only stammer two ellipses, blushes and looks to one side, then hurries off. Only then does Locke call her name. Ergh. You two! What are we going to do with you? (Celes/Terra would be so much simpler, wouldn't it?)
Meanwhile, Shadow is positively chatty, compared to his old "back off before my dog eats your face" self.
All right, so, where's Emperor Gestahl? I guess he's got a few last-minute errands to run before we cast off. DVDs to return, that sort of thing. With nothing else to do until he shows up, we check into Albrook Inn for the evening.
Locke wakes up in the night and steps outside to find Celes staring at the sea. The 8-bit orchestra strikes up the Draco-and-Maria soundtrack, even though these two have some major issues to work through before they can get to the "Oh My Hero" phase of this soap opera.
Locke ambles over and says, "Celes..." This time, she's the one who won't answer.
So Locke tries the honest approach, and for that I'll give him full marks (I doubted her at first myself, after all):
Um, Locke? I'm all for honesty, but how about an apology, too? "I'm sorry that..." Just a suggestion.
Oops, there she goes. Celes hesitates as if debating whether to turn back and speak, then bolts.
Next morning, we set sail for Crescent Island...
WITHOUT EMPEROR GESTAHL.
WHY ARE WE CASTING OFF.
WEREN'T WE TAKING GESTAHL TO MEET THE ESPERS?
OH BLOODY HELL THIS BETTER NOT BE ANOTHER OF THOSE "BAD GUYS JUST SUCKERED US INTO DOING SOMETHING FOR THEM" MISSIONS.
Oblivious to this ominous change of plans, our heroes pass a dramamine-filled night aboard ship, affording another opportunity for insomnia and character development. It's Terra's turn!
General Leo spots her hanging over the rail and politely asks if she's all right. When she nods, he says, "You seem to be feeling better." Did she have a bout of seasickness (there's a lot of cookie-tossing in this game), or is he referring to the good ol' days when he stood passively by while she was Kefka's mindless slave?
"...But here I am cooperating with the 'enemy'..." she concludes.
I find it odd that she'd open up to an Imperial, of all people, when she really hasn't talked over past traumas with her friends. (Well, she did expound the massive Backstory Dump about her origin, but she didn't really say much about how she felt about all that). Then I realize: Leo's "Are you all right?" may be the first time in the entire game that anyone's expressed concern for Terra's wellbeing directly to her face. They've talked about her, but Leo talks to her. Funny indeed.
Leo asserts that the empire isn't all bad, echoing something that Edgar said a while back.
Maybe so, but the reminder of Kefka triggers Terra's wariness. Inexperienced she may be, but she's not willing to be used again if she can help it:
I like it when Terra questions those around her and forces them to own their actions.
Leo admits his own complicity, or at least his silence: "I knew you were being used as a biological weapon." His confession contradicts his words of a moment before:
Terra doesn't answer— and doesn't absolve him. Instead, her response seems to me a bit of a non-sequitur.
This is the second time she's shied away from talking about Kefka with one of his co-generals and abruptly changed the subject to love.
The last two times she asked this question, Locke said it didn't matter because people loved HER, erasing her agency, while Celes took umbrage because Edgar had just been giving her unsolicited relationship advice. General Leo, whom we've seen in the past giving his soldiers a friendly ear, answers with an emphatic, "Of course!"
Honey, you're young.
See? Leo agrees with me.
He says — wait, where is he going?! Leo bows his head and runs off. Is this a hint that he fancied Celes? There's precious few likely candidates in this game.
Terra breaks out the mike:
Ahem. On the one hand, it's really great that Terra's fully self-aware and expressing her wishes now. On the other, I'm disappointed that as soon as a female character has agency, "Love interest Y/N?" becomes a key point for her character.
Terra asks Shadow too, but he tells her that she must "look within for answers." He reminds her, also, there's a lot of schmucks around like himself.
Okay, enough character individuation. Fast forward to the next morning, when we're splitting up into search parties to comb Crescent Island for Espers. Celes, leaving with Leo, pauses for another quick round of "How Not to Communicate!"
"Um...I..." Celes continues.
Locke turns his back on her pointedly.
He stomps out, leaving Celes to fall dramatically to her knees. Oh for heaven's sake. Terra starts towards Celes as if to comfort her, hesitates, and runs to catch up with Locke and Shadow.
We discover Thamasa, an idyllic sleepy hamlet where nothing ever happens and nobody has ever heard of Magic nor Espers. No, really.
Pay no attention to the kid in the back forty yelling "Fire!" and conjuring up will-o-the-wisps, or the mother saying "Cure!" to fix her child's boo-boos when she thinks we're not looking.
We interrogate the Galuf-like old coot at the edge of town, whom village scuttlebutt says used to be a powerful warrior. Hey, old man, ever heard of Magic?
I don't know who makes the Victrolas in every household, but I bet they're making a tidy income.
Enter the game's Perky Girl (my least favorite FF archetype, with some exceptions) and child prodigy, Relm, who can "capture the very essence of life" in her paintings.
Oops. Strago hems and haws until Relm is distracted by Shadow's "doggie," Interceptor. Cue mildly humorous scene in which the Hound of the Baskervilles falls in love with the little girl and trots into the back of the house to play with her until Shadow drags him out again. Because it's such a great joke to let kids play with dogs that might rip them into teensy tinsy shreds.
We give up on wringing any useful info out of Strago & Kid Cute, and take another look around the village. There's not much else to see besides more people pretending not to do magic, plus the innkeeper suddenly lowering his price from 1500 a night to 1 gil, with Freudian Slip bonuses.
Our rest is interrupted by Strago rousing us in a panic. Relm has gotten herself locked into the local mysteriously-inaccessible dungeon-sized empty mansion which has spontaneously combusted. Of course. And his first thought would be to ask random strangers instead of neighbors for help.
We run outside — even Interceptor the doggie, although not Shadow, who has a suspicious attack of Heavy Sleeping — and Strago tries to cast a "Flames Be GONE!" spell in desperation. The mayor comes running over to yell at him.
"I don't care! Relm's in there!" the old coot cries. The mayor gives in, and all the adults try casting water spells on the fire to no avail. The mayor mentions that's probably because the house owners have a basement full of fire rods. Fantasy world problems, gotta love 'em.
Strago announces that he's going in. Locke tries to show that he's an equal opportunity White Knight!
Strago, finally, gives Locke a much-needed rap on the head:
Translation: Stop treating everyone like Rachel and allow other people agency.
Inside, we battle various flames, Bombs, and Sauron's Disembodied Eyeball (tm Peter Jackson):
We find Relm, but it's "Too late." The flames close in on us. Interceptor, immune to smoke inhalation, barks at fireballs. Shadow shows up fashionably late to lob a Smoke Bomb (this seems a bit redundant?) and carry all four of us out.
Shadow was just pretending to be a bloodthirsty bastard, wasn't he? Cute.
Afterwards, Strago owns up. Hooray! Tell us a story, Exposition Dude!
Regular humans blamed them for the War of the Magi and hunted them down. A few survivors escaped and founded the remote village of Thamasa — Thamasa? Not Mysidia? You sure? — where their descendants live to this day, concealing their powers.
So, basically, they're inverse Al Bhed, persecuted for magic instead of machina use.
Here's another role reversal: Terra is now recruiting others to the cause.
She's careful not to pressure, however.
Shadow slips off, leaving a gap in our four-party slots. Drat.
Ordered to stay behind by her grandfather, Relm (of course!) sneaks after us as we work our way through the next mountain-tunnel-dungeon to a chamber with three Goddess statues.
Time for another backstory dump!
(Paraphrased) Long ago, three Goddesses were banished to this world and made war on one another.
...so Terra's enslavement has a precedent, and I suspect that Kefka — and Gestahl? — learned about Slave Crowns and how to use them from that "ancient text" that Gestahl mentioned.
Chagrinned, the Goddesses used their last energy to transform themselves into statues, freeing the Espers from their mental control. These statues are copies; the real Goddesses are on the other side of the Sealed Gate to the Esper world.
I love it when FF starts playing with created mythology. It's not as fully-developed as the complex background histories of warring gods, goddesses and Espers of Ivalice and Cocoon, but I'm seeing seeds of those later games' mythology here. Note the triple hierarchy of powers: unseen senior god(s) who banish a lower echelon of powers to this world who create Espers.
A purple octopus falls from the sky, interrupting my train of thought.
We whittle Ultros down to takoyaki so quickly that Relm doesn't get a chance to join the battle. I gather that she was meant to have swooped in and saved our asses. Oops.
In a word: No.
At the heart of the mountain, we find the Espers, still crabby. Locke, bless him, is nothing if not consistent:
No use; the Espers surround us. Terra stands forth to confront the very bloke who once insulted and dissed her mother.
Gradually they hash out an understanding. The Espers are deeply sorry for losing control and attacking Vector. I wonder why Espers "go ballistic" (as Locke describes Terra's first stint as Esper) when they enter the human world? I suppose it's something to do with the goddess statues or pyreflies or maybe midichlorians.
Locke proposes they adjourn to meet with general Leo.
Hey now. I think Terra and Strago did most of the talking?
Once again, I'm picking up vague WWII parallels: the empire started the conflict by attacking the Espers, but the Espers went too far by demolishing a city and killing lots of innocent civilians.
"This probably isn't the time or place to ask your forgiveness, but..."
Too bad this type of conversation never actually happens in the real world between two warring powers, but it pretty much sums up the cause of most wars. Sigh.
So, while the ambassadors make nice-nice, Locke sidles over to Celes to talk to her. FINALLY.
Celes responds with an equally bland, "Let's return to Vector."</span>
I guess we're now pretending we're friends and everything's hunky dory and there's no need to talk things over or apologize?
"Celes..." Locke says.
Oh. Alrighty then. *wry grin*
And then Kefka crashes the party. I was wondering when he or Gestahl was going to show up.
Somehow, Kefka zaps each of the Espers in turn and instantly transforms them to magicite. WTF? Why are Espers (or Mage Warriors, for that matter) so helpless?
Leo is the only one left standing. He now redeems himself for letting Terra suffer. "Kefka! Your behavior is dishonorable! I can't allow this!" He steps forward and has a fight with Kefka, which he appears to win.
Unfortunately, it's an illusion. Kefka vanishes, and Gestahl himself inexplicably appears. Leo, RUN. When a villain starts telling you their Diabolical Plan, they're about to kill you! And if you're not the lead character, you're toast!
Gestahl explains that this whole expedition was just a ruse to collect more Magicite. Leo is shaken, and he voices the question of soldiers the world over:
Gestahl transforms...into Kefka. So wait...does that mean the emperor isn't behind this whole magicite-collecting farce? Has Kefka killed him and assumed his place, or what?
I don't know, but I do know we've just lost Leo.
Just to add to the mayhem, some of the Espers from the Esper world inexplicably bust through the Sealed Gate calling out, "Wait! We'll help!" They fly towards Thamasa, landing in the village square to take on Kefka. Bad move. He's so buffed with Magicite that he can not only fend off their spells, but forcibly drain them and turn them into crystals without even using a factory to do it. Yikes.
He loads up all the magicite he can carry, and heads off for the Sealed Gate to take the battle into the Esper world.
We stop and bury Leo before giving pursuit.
Again, I find it touching and sad that Terra connects more with Leo than with any of the other friends she met since she was freed. He may have been an imperial, but I think that made him feel more familiar to her.
Interceptor shows up, badly wounded. Locke jumps to conclusions:
Celes remarks of Shadow, "He was so gentle." Guess he wasn't fooling anyone.
Sans Shadow, the party shows up via airship to deliver yesterdays' news. "We've been had!" Setzer exclaims. "The Emperor is a liar!" So...wait...how did they escape?
Oh, right, Ed seduced the maid. Poor Leo. Gestahl told the blinking maid things that he wouldn't tell his own general. Is that fair?
Relm is not about to get left behind when her grandpappy joins us to fight the Evil Empire, and she pesters until he gives in. As the party's breaking up, this happens.
IS THIS A TRANSLATION BLOOPER? PLEASE SAY YES.
Help me, GBA script; you're my only hope.
Relm: What's wrong, lover-boy?
Edgar: ...How old are you?
Relm: Ten... Why?
Relm: Weirdo. I'm going on ahead, okay?
Edgar: Not even a lady yet... Here's hoping you're still around in eight years, kid.
*grabs sides of head and gives firm shake*. Every once in a while, I remember that some serious cultural differences remain between Japan and the West.
Let's get back to the airship, quickly.
Celes observes that Magical Waif senses something. (I notice Bechdel moments.) "What's wrong, Terra?"
FMV time! A large chunk of land lifts up, and people fall into the crevasse. This game is in danger of losing its kid-friendly rating.
We get a glimpse of Kefka and the emperor making unwise life choices on the newly-minted Floating Continent.
I assume the clown in front of you will have something to say about that shortly.
Back to the airship...
"...rearrange the face of our planet..."
Gods DAMN does no one know how to build worlds or buildings or ships without a great big huge "Never Touch This Button" structural flaw?
We chase the Floating Continent, which, I suppose, is actually the Esper world yanked into this one? I'm not quite sure. We're buzzed by the imperial air force — wait, wasn't Setzer's supposed to be the only airship? — and are very briefly inconvenienced by that damned octopus and his bizarre friend –
Esper!Terra is doing 9999 damage with spells at this point, so it really isn't a fair fight. Miffed, "Mr. Chupon" sneezes us all to the Floating Continent. WHAT.
Oh, hi, Shadow. You're looking the little worse for wear. Cheer up, buddy, I've brought a U-haul full of Shurikens and assorted throwing items for you.
He asks after Interceptor. Awee, he's worried about his puppy. Suddenly I like him a little more.
We blunder all over this maze of blasted rock, monsters, treasures, and this lovely boss (ow.)
After THAT little rumble is over with, Shadow decides to desert us.
THAT'S WHY YOU SHOULD HELP US YOU NINNY. All those wonderful goodies I gave you!
So we go back to the airship and pick up Gau and then (yes, this meant going through the whole bally maze again) confront the emperor and clown.
Woo hoo! Go Celes! Uh oh.
It seems the Emperor has been on the same high-fiber, high-magicite diet as Kefka. He magically paralyzes everyone in the party except Celes, whom he tries to tempt to Rule the Galaxy with him and Kefka.
Wait...does that mean that she and Kefka were part of some kind of creepy breeding program? Are siblings? Or is that metaphorical? At any rate, Kefka stupidly hands her a sword, ordering her to kill the others in order to redeem her treachery.
Celes stands behind Terra with sword raised high. Nope, not buying it. "Power only breeds war... I wish I'd never been born." She wheels around and gut-punches— or stabs? — Kefka.
Kefka takes it well.
Kefka calls on the statues to give him their power. Gestahl belatedly realizes the folly of giving a psychotic clown access to unlimited power, tries to stop him, and winds up on the losing side of some goddess-powered lightning bolts.
Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, but at least Gestahl only wanted to rule the world, not destroy it. Sliding Scale of Megalomania?
Kefka, dinking around with the statues, tosses Celes off the platform when she tries to intervene.
Time for Shadow to show up fashionably lateand save the day! Maybe. He pushes the statues back together, pinning Kefka between them.
It is, of course, Too Late (tm). The statues are imitating a Trek phaser on overload, shooting sparklies in all directions. We flee like there's an angry X-ATMO5 after us — and do NOT leave Shadow behind; he leaps after us just as the Floating Continent begins to fall apart.
There goes another airship, dammit.
In rapid succession, we see towns torn apart, mushroom clouds, crevasses opening, mountains rising, and finally we see the whole planet getting its "face rearranged":
So to recap: the Emperor and Kefka tricked us into doing their dirty work every step of the way, and with our help, Kefka broke the planet.
Repeat the Final Fantasy mantra: we SUCK.
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