Part 100: Interlude - Part 3
To be fair, it's possible that he very well is two years old. I mean, this is the game where two five-year-olds possessed great magic and could hang in battle with experienced soldiers.
I love how there's almost zero explanation for Palom and Porom being amongst the world's most powerful magi aside from "These kids are mad talented." If it were a modern Final Fantasy, they would have incredibly melodramatic subplots about how they were genetically modified to be the greatest mages in Mysidia since birth and thus the greatest combination of science and magic known to the planet, but nope; here you've got a couple children fresh out of toddlerhood slinging spells like nobody's ever seen, and everyone just rolls with it.
The Interlude Interlude: Part 3
Last time, we witnessed a momentous occasion, the birth of Yang's daughter Ursula, though the moment was cut short by the arrival of the Falcon. Having been left in the hands of the dwarves after the events of the first game, the party questions precisely why it would show itself in Fabul, of all places...
Turns out it's Cid, the twins, and Luca. So yeah, the dwarves.
Looking for action, that's what!
There's talk of monsters pouring out of the Sealed Cave, lad!
I'm about this close from making a .gif of Cecil and Ceodore's sprites just alternating screaming "WHAT!" at each other. God.
Luca: We dwarves can't beat them all on our own...
So the elder told us to do whatever we could to help.
And I will do the same!
Do not forget about me!
Stay home and be a family man!
There's nothing to worry about, pops! We'll take care of everything!
Let's go, Rosa.
Rosa is just stoked as fuck about charging headlong back into the Sealed Cave, isn't she? Can't say I blame her, though.
She's gone white as a sheet!
I-I'm fine. We need to go...
B-but I must...
From a practical perspective, we've already got a tank, a healer and two DDs, so your purpose in this chapter is currently wholly redundant. Thanks for helping out, but the static broke up and we found a rep who isn't going to space out and/or go AFK to have a baby in the heat of the moment.
whoever heard of somebody going WHM/RNG anyway, christ
I understand, Cecil.
Cid, take us to the Sealed Cave.
Luca: I'll go ahead and get the Falcon ready!
Aw, jeez, now she's sulking.
...I'll be fine. It's nothing you need to worry about. Just be safe out there, Cecil...
Leave the lady Rosa in our hands. You all take care of yourselves out there.
Yep. Totally takin' care of ourselves.
we are going to die horribly
So as you can see, we've got ourselves a half-decent party for taking on the Sealed Cave. Sure, Porom doesn't get Reflect for another ten levels and we can't exactly grind the Cave for that long, so we'll have to play it a bit smarter during the infuriating goddamn door gimmick. If nothing else, we can still completely chainsaw the hell out of random encounters.
Hello, ridiculous lava-resistant drillship! I've missed you so!
Dwarves are the best.
Hell yeah, let's get our spelunking on.
Cid's apprentice: In that case...
Luca: The Falcon is ready to fly!
Speaking of the Falcon, bet you'd just love to know what Edge is up to right now, wouldn't you?
Sure you would!!
Gekkou and Zangetsu, making their first actual appearances in FF4's chronology, are here to make entirely idle chatter while they see their most glorious master and king off to do... whatever it is he's doing. Neither of them get portraits for this section or even name reveals, so it's completely up to conjecture to know who's actually talking to Edge.
This won't stop me from assigning portraits here, though. Gotta show off the new art somehow!
Your Highness, we will gladly guard the castle in your stead. However... You are aware that the celebration in Damcyan ended hours ago, are you not?
Edge is still largely his cocky, comic-relief self from the original game rather than the more mellowed version we encounter in The After Years. "The party already ended? Screw that, I am the party, I'll just go anyway!"
Very well, Your Highness. Be careful.
When am I ever not careful?
O-of course, Your Highness! I didn't mean to suggest...
That's more like it. I'll be back in a bit!
Edge then runs off to leave the Eblan
Since we are currently on his.
Another round of "talk to everyone to advance the plot!" Despite flying over the ocean seconds ago, we are now flying over vast mountainous ranges, forests and lakes. One of these two topographies is a dick for lying to us.
Luca: Thank you for coming to help, Cecil!
Dwarves: Lali-ho. I'm certain there's something going on at the Sealed Cave...
Princess Luca is over the moon about airships!
With all of you here, it's like we have the strength of a hundred men! Lali-ho-ho!
I've picked a great name for this ship! We'll be the dwarven Black Wings! Lali-ho!
Fearsome, to the point, calling into imagery the darkness of the underworld and an alliance between it and Baron... I like it. Dwarves are awesome.
It's gonna be smooth sailing now that we're here to help!
Rydia and Edge never made it to Damcyan... You don't think anything could've happened to them, do you?
Hmm. The ship's been tuned real well. That Luca has promise as a shipwright.
With that done, the apprentice at the helm announces that we've finally neared Agart.
We will be in the underworld for the rest of Interlude, I am not afraid to inform you. Upon entering, the Falcon finds its way to the Sealed Cave and lands, giving us control upon the deck of the ship again.
For being a years-long apprentice of Cid, this dude has no goddamn idea what his boss is like. Then again, he said on board; the Sealed Cave isn't on board! It's not on board at all!
Several of the dwarves on board serve as shops for weapons, armor and items, as well as a free inn. Since you can just leave the Sealed Cave at any time and come back to the Falcon, this is a godsend, and we will be coming back here a lot.
I pick up a Faerie Rod for Palom, an Aura Staff for Porom, and that Icebrand for Cecil before I enter the Cave. Some of you might be wondering why the hell I grabbed that Flame Sword in the last update then if an immediate upgrade is available now - all in due time, dear readers. Truthfully though, I probably could've waited even longer to pick it up, but oh well.
Incidentally, Palom's idle battle sprite is one of the small handful I find to be actively atrocious if not simply downright odd; ponytails have no right to work like that.
Enough of that, it's time to get our marauder on. Welcome to the Sealed Cave, for the third time.
A mildly worrying thing that would probably go otherwise unnoticed here is the Cave's door being open from the start. Luca makes no mention of her opening it at any point when you talk to her, which suggests that whatever's inside busted through the seal all on its/their own.
This, if nothing else, lends a small amount of credence to Luca's reasoning in Rydia's Tale of The After Years that the possessed Baron could just force the lock if they really tried. Not that the entire section is redeemed because of this, but it's certainly something interesting and a bit subtle.
woo climbin' down ropes
I'm going to admit it right out: the Sealed Cave is nothing that hasn't been shown off before, especially in light of Rydia's Tale. Most of the screenshots are going to be of Palom completely wrecking everybody in the face, because he has a mighty substantial amount of spells and his insanely high Intellect (60, with the Faerie Rod, before we even move inside!) ensures that they are all thoroughly dangerous.
Trap Doors are still by far the most dangerous thing in the Sealed Cave. Their function hasn't changed from the Target-Dimension Nine strategy they employed in the original and The After Years, but in this iteration they are probably at their toughest, if for only one reason: we have no effective one-step counter. Porom, as stated before, doesn't have Reflect, and won't get it for another ten levels.
Well that's all fine and dandy, but what about Palom? Dude gets Stop at level 14 in the original game, and has it in his beginning repertoire here.
Sorry, that shit won't fly in Interlude. Turns out that Trap Doors in The After Years had their status resistances specifically redesigned so that Rydia can easily put the kibosh on their terrifying attack pattern with Stop; Interlude plays by first-game rules, and Trap Doors in the original resist virtually everything.
So what the hell do you do, then?
The answer is simple: Bio. Bio everything. For 20 MP, an instant cast time, and incredible damage output, Bio still reigns supreme as a ridiculously broken spell within the subseries. With Palom's gobs of MP he can keep this up for quite a while, though he only needs cast it once in the fight; Cecil and Cid generally get two turns to his one and a half, and provide the rest of the damage required to bring any given Trap Door to its knees, if not destroy it completely.
A lot of the time I take to having Porom use Slow in an attempt to make Dimension Nine trigger slower, but while it will visibly stick the Trap Door gives firmly zero shits and will devour a party member in the same amount of time regardless. Porom's turn is best used flinging a reactionary Raise to whoever will get inevitably deadified.
If you bring a Trap Door to critical HP, it will immediately counter with spawning a monster (usually a Chimera Brain or Black Flan, though rarely a Yellow Dragon) and leaving the battle entirely.
The resulting spawned monster requires no change in tactics, really.
You're usually rewarded pretty well for your efforts. Considering that at any point you can walk/Warp your way outside and get a free restoration on the Falcon, it's actually worth hunting down Trap Doors just to toughen up.
Son of a--
Scattered around the place are some dwarves who are apparently patrolling the Caves, helping fend off the monsters, though as you can probably guess this has no real impact on encounter rates or in fact any battle mechanic whatsoever. They're just here to be bros.
GOD DAMN YOU!
Funny enough, Chimera Brains are probably the best thing to hope for when a Trap Door spits out an enemy. While Chimera Brains have a Frost Breath attack that can hit the entire party and capitalize on the weakness of freshly-Raised members, the Black Flans here hurt like hell, dealing roughly 450-800 damage to Cid and Cecil, though admittedly they're equipped with defensively-lacking armor in the interest of pumping up their attack power to get rid of the Doors themselves faster. Palom and Porom don't fare much better, squishy child wizards they are, despite being in the back row.
Available for purchase from the Falcon's dwarfshop is the Index Finger, a weapon for Cecil that is purportedly effective against flans. I've never used it, as Black Flans simply aren't worth the trouble having to constantly re-equip him to use it on; with 1357 HP, Palom will rip them a new one easily.
Fuck you, Sealed Cave. The thunder has been sowed, and suspiciously fire-shaped lightning is what will be reaped!
cathartic as hell
The rest of the dungeon crawl turns into Palom just utterly flaying random encounters with spells of incredible power because I've stopped giving a shit about conservation of MP.
YOU WILL DIE LIKE THE REST
Yellow Dragons hurt. For being the apparent rarest of the Trap Door spawns, these things don't like to fuck around, and will gladly throw Lightning in your face for just about anything you do to it.
Perhaps the only worthwhile treasure within Interlude's Sealed Cave. It doesn't improve Cid's Attack as much as you'd think from the equipment screen itself, but the Strength boost it provides is enough to pump up his multiplier to 8x, which is significant enough.
Dwarves are great.
COVER! IN YOUR FACE!
Black Flans are at least at the mercy of being able to only perform physical attacks, making Cecil ridiculous amounts of useful against them, especially with the Trap Doors' proclivity to running after any of the other three instead of him. Palom was right, this really is smooth sailing.
THEY DETECT HUBRIS
Let's try that again!
doop a doop doo makin' progress through the boring-ass dungeon
I immediately smack them all in the face with Bio, to... lackluster results. It is immensely satisfying, however, that those bastards are the ones inflicted with Sap now. Irony all up in this combat!
Out of raw, burning, incredible spite, I then Toad them all, and invent the rare subspecies of flying batfrog.
Further progress, and a save point. Ho hum.
Eventually we reach the corridor just before the Crystal chamber, and oh boy I just can't wait to see what happens next can you?!
I bet it's candy
Just then, a rumbling sound!
That's not candy at all!
What is it, Cecil?
The wall begins to close in!
Faced with the prospect of looming death via horrible living wall, Palom is unfazed. Nay, Palom thrives, and instead of confusion, fear or panic, proclaims a hearty "Hell yes!" as it means he gets to blow it the fuck up.
I love Palom.
The wall approaches ever closer!
Th-the wall is coming at us!?
There's one thing I have to tip my hat to Interlude for with this scene: the only character in the present party who's seen this happen before is Cecil. The other three had no indication whatsoever that something like this would happen, and react accordingly. Hell, even Cecil doesn't do a "REPEAT OF THE PAST? HOW COULD THIS BE" line. Granted, you can make a point for all characters involved sharing the same sort of situation during Cagnazzo's trap in the original game, but having never been in the Sealed Cave before, they didn't know it would happen again.
As I look back at that last sentence, this specific party being pulled here is actually a very clever callback to that very scene. Nice.
Anyway, it's time to fight the Demon Wall, again!
The usual setup and preparation, followed by a most severe beating delivered by the party. The Demon Wall continues its trend of countering magical attacks with Stone Gaze, which is made far more annoying in Complete Collection; as you might recall in the SNES/GBA versions, Gradual Petrify would keep a character standing, but slowly overlap that character's sprite with grayscale, showing a progress of how close he or she is to kicking an immaculate-carving bucket. Complete Collection treats Gradual Petrify as with any other status effect, and forces the character into kneeling state, providing no such overlay. You have no idea when the actual Petrify status is going to kick in, so you'll just have to take faith in your ability to Esuna in time without impacting the party's function any more than that.
With Palom's Intellect skyrocketed, the Demon Wall Slowed, and the party Protected to help mitigate its physical damage, I Berserk Cid just so I don't have to keep dealing with his attack menus.
With enough excessive force applied, the Demon Wall finally gives, and starts to slowly blow away into ash as every boss in Complete Collection does nowadays. Hilariously enough, Auto-Battle speeds this animation up as well.
We have defeated the Sealed Cave, and to us, the knowledge that the Crystal is perfectly safe.
wait a second
What's she doin' here!?
What a girl. She can even sleep in a place like this?
She's not sleeping, you fool!
Apparently roused by the ruckus the party's making, Rydia slowly awakens.
Rydia... Can you hear me?
Rydia takes a moment to look around, confused at her surroundings.
You're in the Sealed Cave. Why didn't you come to Damcyan like you were supposed to?
I... must go...
Rydia pushes Cecil aside, trying to barge her way past the party, slowly lurching forward as she walks down the stairs.
You don't look too good, Rydia.
No point in dallying here. Let's take her back to the Falcon, Cecil.
Oh... Yes. At once.
See, even Cecil's thinking that something is wrong here. Could this be related to his dream from the beginning of the chapter?
Woo! A full party at last! Now Palom won't have to shoulder the load of annihilating random encounters all by himself, with an army of incredibly powerful primeval elemental spirits at our beck and call!
GOD DAMMIT, INTERLUDE