time year on my FFX Liveblog, Tidus and friends slogged along the Djose Angst Road commiserating with survivors of Operation Mi’ihen. Condescending yet well-intentioned priests mingled with the walking wounded, dispensing healing and absolution, oblivious to their own Maesters’ subtle stage management of the entire fiasco.
Sorry, no room in FFX for a Floating Continent... will some floating rocks do? [X]
[Ixion mandala & glyph]
Before we flee into the Temple of SPARKY (as my father named Ixion) to escape rampaging hopper monkeys, let me backtrack and add some thinky thoughts about the Luzzu & Gatta arc...
- Here’s the alternate versions of the convo with Gatta or Luzzu outside the temple. You have a choice of owie or OUCH.
- During Luzzu’s meltdown, Lulu is lurking behind him, watching with arms folded. She steps towards him in concern or sympathy, much as she did when he left for the front lines after his confession to Wakka. I will try not to be bitter that there wasn’t time for Lulu and Luzzu, whose voices are yummy, to exchange a few meaningful words as the failed warrior-babysitters of Besaid. There’s always headcanon.
- The remaster adds something cut from the original: Wakka turns to Lulu and salutes just as the scene fades out, as if to say, “It’s sorted, boss.” I like the way they look after people, as older orphans often do (see the ferryride to Luca, when they’re brainstorming what to do with Tidus). Besides, Luzzu is their only surviving childhood friend not on pilgrimage.
- In my catch-up playthrough, I kept noticing how Chappu’s ghost metaphorically overshadows Operation Mi’ihen, from the “I want to fight Sin, too!” scene with Gatta to this scene outside the temple with the survivor angsting over the one who didn’t make it (Luzzu: You don’t know what it’s like! Wakka: I do know.)
- Witnessing Operation Mi’ihen forced Lulu and Wakka to face the reality of Chappu’s death in a way they hadn’t before (Lulu had said it was “pointless to think about it,” while Wakka was in denial). They had to watch a virtual repeat of his last battle. So did we (and Tidus), giving us some emotional connection to what happened to Chappu. All of which is prep for a brief scene in Guadosalam.
- Gatta acts like a stand-in for Chappu, whose life or death Tidus, i.e. we the players, are responsible for. Alternatively, we can make Luzzu atone by dying. Either way, someone we “know” dies in the battle, not just random no-name NPCs. The stakes feel higher when it’s personal.
Okay, enough beating a dead... chocobo. Sorry.
Just inside the temple, Doorpost!Auron snarks, "So you're a champion of Yevon now, Braska?" at the newest Summoner statue. We’ve heard that Yuna’s mom became a pariah after marriage, but this is the first in-game hint that Braska was something of a black sheep himself. It's also another hint that Auron is not drinking the Yevon kool-aid, making him unusual at this point in the game.
It’s time to meet someone who is drinking the kool-aid, yet proves that not all Yevonites are jerkasses:
Isaaru is voiced by Reno/Axel's VA, btw. (Not his best work; he’s trying too hard to sound spiritual and compassionate rather than snarky and suave.)
Some fans have remarked that these brothers don’t look related, but considering that the only named couple we’ve seen so far is Dona and Barthello, UM HELLO. If you look closely, Pacce may have Isaaru’s eyes and Maroda’s hair. On the other hand, Sin chips away at families so much that having three siblings with the same parents is probably exceedingly rare. Either way, this trio have more diversity than the entire FFXV main cast.
Isaaru establishes himself as anti-Dona with the first words out of his HD lips. Dona’s opening salvo was a blunt, “A summoner, are you?” Isaaru is shy and tentative: “I beg your pardon, but may I ask your name?”
“Summoner Yuna, of the island of Besaid,” Yuna answers, totally failing to pull rank or flaunt her parentage (so there, Dona). “As I thought,” Isaaru enthuses, although his manner of expressing enthusiasm makes me think of a were-sloth.
Hang on. How did Isaaru recognize Yuna? For that matter, how did Dona know she was a summoner? Do aeons leave some kind of spiritual fingerprint? Are the colors of summoner ribbons and/or obis filed at some Yevon Registration Office, unique heraldic designs meant to ID the summoner? The logical conclusion when you see a physically unimposing person with one or more looming escorts? And maybe the Crusaders were gossiping to Isaaru before Yuna’s party arrived.
(Speaking of ribbons and other fashion accessories, I’ve joked before about Isaaru’s boxspring mattress jacket:
[dansg08′s great playthrough / commentary ]
...but actually it looks more like he lay down on an institutional bedframe while the paint was wet.
college temple dorm pranks, don’t you miss ‘em?)
Where was I? Oh, yes. “You have the look of your father,” Isaaru continues.
“My father...you knew him?” Yuna says, startled.
“Nope! I’m a Braska superfan!” Isaaru explains. “I’ve collected all his bobbleheads and posters!” Or words to that effect.
So yeah, Isaaru probably knows Braska’s portraits well enough to recognize the family resemblance. He’s trying to emulate Braska in every way (including the mellow voice, perhaps?) While Isaaru gushes about his idol, we’re treated to a view of the High Summoner’s statue festooned with hopper monkeys. I hope to goodness Isaaru doesn’t get any ideas...
...oh, drat. Well, we’ll worry about that later.
Something else. Isaaru is 26, and he’s hero-worshipped Braska “since I was a child.” Shouldn’t he have heard the “fallen summoner” scuttlebutt? Or did the church hush up the scandal, which explains why it hasn’t percolated into the NPC grapevine? Or is this another case of people following the church so blindly that they blot it out when the propaganda is revised, as Auron just intimated?
Isaaru affably challenges Yuna to a race to Sin, i.e. to the death. How sporting! “Good luck to both of us!” he adds. He’s her rival just as much as Dona is, but he’s a gentleman about it. I wonder if all summoners are supposed to compete.
After this introductory cutscene, Maroda is fretting about the snail-like pace of Isaaru’s pilgrimage, worried that other summoners will overtake them. So there’s at least a few summoners on the road we never meet. Isaaru, dismayed about Operation Mi’ihen, says they need to get going, “before another fool plan wastes more lives.”
However, Pacce’s running around the great hall like a puppy chasing a butterfly. Thanks for pointing out the floaty ball lighting torches, kiddo. I’d missed that they’re suspended in mid-air. “So pretty!” Awww. There FFX goes again, portraying innocence and happiness and cute little kids oblivious to the DOOMY DOOM hanging over them in order to make us wince. (I suspect it’s the main OOC reason for Pacce’s inclusion, although one can struggle to justify that Isaaru wanted his little bro with him as long as possible and didn’t realize quite how dangerous it would be. Perhaps he meant to leave him at a temple somewhere along the way — no, actually, it’s just more angst fodder).
Whoops, we’re not quite finished with Team Isaaru. Before Tidus can enter the Cloister, Isaaru calls him back with a “Hey, you.” Maroda shares the rumor that summoners are disappearing, kicking off a new subplot now that Operation Mi’ihen is in the bag. (“Ain’t much future for a guardian without a summoner,” Maroda warns, unaware of Auron’s stint on the Zanarkand talk circuit.) You don’t say. Actually, one Al Bhed back at Operation Mi’ihen did say, muttering to Tidus in incomprehensible pink writing, “A summoner... I shall report this later,” which is pretty much what the Psyches outside the Aurochs’ locker room said right before Yuna’s first kidnapping. Consider ourselves foreshadowed.
Okay! Time for the Sparky Cloister of Trials! I like this one. In HD, you can see the Djose glyphs inside the Djose Spheres. (See my ridiculously over-detailed webpage about Yevon script in FFX.)
For once, I remembered not to push that stone plinth into the bottomless pit. Were you afraid you’d lost it forever like I was? Still not thrilled with having to play hopscotch across an abyss, and no, the safety net of lightning bolts was not reassuring. Too many years playing Tomb Raider, until I got too old to be able to tolerate the awful crunch of a body hitting the ground.
Way back when, Besaid temple’s Cloister included a wall teaching suppliants the stations of the pilgrimage. Kilika Cloister was a test of courage: can you push through the flames? Now we have to power up a huge Yevon symbol, acknowledging the power of Yevon. Yes, I’m probably reading too much into these puzzles.
For the first time, Tidus enters the guardians’ antechamber without risking execution or excommunication. Good thing Yevon’s always so lenient, huh? Not that Lulu and Kimahri don’t watch him like a hawk. “Settle down.” “Pick spot. Shut up.” Kimahri’s followup line is more gentle: “You grow stronger, but are still a pup.” (Kimahri is Isaaru’s age, by the way). Then Dona shows up to take the heat off Tidus.
Begging for a handshake, Barthello proves to have as much of a fanboy crush on Auron as Isaaru had on Braska, and it’s adorable (except for the part about unwittingly following role models to their doom). Lulu and Wakka lay the verbal smackdown on Dona for failing to recognize Auron, and it’s all very satisfying.
[dansg08′s playthrough ]
Dona is constantly presented as the shallow bitchy rival, complete with slut-shaming costume, yet a closer reading shows she’s actually a shrewd cynic, as X-2 makes clear. She simply has no time for phony courtesies. She means to save Spira, but she’ll do it on her own terms. She refuses to play the “ray of light” game, smiling to keep up morale. She’s not putting on an act.
She also thinks Yuna is coasting on other people’s coattails: her father’s reputation, an excessive posse of guardians, Sir Auron’s support, invitations from the maesters, Seymour’s personal patronage... no wonder Dona is skeptical and a little jealous. She has a point, really. Before the end of Yuna's pilgrimage, all these things get stripped away at one time or another. Yuna will have to be able to get by without them.
Something else I noticed this time through. When Tidus first enters the guardians’ antechamber, there’s a brief lag before Dona arrives. Yuna’s actually still in the room with Kimahri standing over her, although you have to dash across the chamber before the cutscene starts to see her. She’s on her knees doing the Yevon prayer-gesture, which causes the stone door of the Chamber of the Fayth to rise with a grinding sound. That must be the proper way to open the door when you don’t have a Kimahri!Crowbar handy. She enters the Chamber of the Fayth just as Dona enters the other side of the waiting room.
Luckily, Yuna’s becoming quicker at this communing-with-the-fayth business. After the "May I shake your hand?” Dona & Barthello cutscene, a male voice starts up in the background singing the Hymn of the Fayth. I think that signals that the fayth has manifested in the next room to talk to Yuna. Yuna emerges soon afterwards, stumbling into the arms of her Big Blue Kitty spotter, at which point Dona launches her “stand on your own two legs for a change” tirade.
After scoffing that “your guardians won’t be able to protect you,” an indirect insult to poor Barthello, Dona enters the Chamber of the Fayth to collect what will turn out to be her last aeon. The scene ends with the Blackscreen of
Snorage Time Passing, and Tidus wakes up in the inn beside the temple.
Outside, the rock sheath has settled back over Djose temple, apart from the front door. Lulu spouts a generic “no matter how dark the night, morning comes” platitude to reset the mood (I actually like that line, contrasting dark and light in the way that Lulu herself does visually, but it sounds like an Auron epigram). Wakka and Lulu are standing closer now, Wakka talking animatedly with arm-waving while she listens with arms crossed. Have the scenes with Luzzu helped reconcile them somewhat? And the hopper monkeys are still scurrying around underfoot. They’re cute, but they’re everywhere, gah.
Inside the temple, I find a shellshocked Luzzu praying in front of Gandof’s statue, saying he’s about to leave for Besaid, since he “can’t keep eating the temple’s bread.” He wishes Tidus farewell. “I hope we’ll meet again.” It’s not a very dynamic scene, but then, Luzzu doesn’t have a personal connection with Tidus.
dansg08′s excellent walkthrough provides the alternate scene with Gatta...
Apart from that line, the conversation is almost identical, except that there’s a hint of camaraderie between Gatta and Tidus. They’re about the same age, and Tidus has spoken up for Gatta before. On the way to Operation Mi’ihen, Gatta was optimistically asking Tidus to teach him blitzball once Sin was dead, echoing Tidus’ fans back in Zanarkand: “Teach us how to blitz!” Now, Gatta wishes him luck and says soberly, “I hope we meet again someday.” He’s faced Sin and lost. He knows now what odds Tidus is up against.
Around the temple, priests and nuns are returning to normal routine. Most of the Crusaders have cleared out apart from one mentally-scarred fellow who can only babble, “Kweh.” (Last night, he was groaning, “My chocobo... oh chocobo... kweh.”)
We hear that Yuna stayed up until dawn, healing the wounded and sending the fallen. One of the priests remarks, “I imagine it must have been quite hard on such a young summoner.” Why didn’t the older summoners stick around to help? Dona didn’t assist with the Kilika sending, either, although perhaps she didn’t arrive in Kilika until it was over. Isaaru seemed more concerned with getting on his way to head off the next Operation Mi’ihen. Perhaps post-Sin-attack-cleanup normally falls to nuns, priests and “temple summoners,” unless there’s no temple summoner on hand to send.
Tidus (not Lulu!) rouses a flustered Yuna, who dashes outside, bows and apologizes too much. She gives Auron a full ninety-degree bow, which seems to me excessive (but I don’t know bowing etiquette well enough to be sure). Tumblr member They Better Be Mysterious notes that the “bed hair” joke is only in the English; instead, the party teases Yuna for sleeping with her mouth open and mumbling. I prefer the English localization. I love Auron’s line about — DAMMIT HOPPER MONKEY WILL YOU STOP PESTERING AURON— ahem, I love his smug, “Once Lady Yuna fixes her hair, we leave.”
I have a note in my notes: Don’t forget to stop in at the Inn before you leave; there’s a Str +3, Str +5 stacked-bonuses ball for Wakka in a chest that a priest was blocking earlier.
Now it’s time to head to the dubiously-named Moonflow. But first, I’m going to chat up NPCs for another round of Spiran Scuttlebutt. Big events are afoot in the larger world of Spira, events which are easy to miss without tedious backtracking!
Cross-posted on Tumblr here.
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