Part 103: Part One Hundred and Three: Weird StuffPart One Hundred and Three: Weird Stuff
Chocobo forests may be pointless and kind of dull, but today we're going to take a look at a really esoteric sidequest.
This is Obel Lake. I don't know if there's anything in the game that suggests you come here, but if you do, you can skip rocks.
The number of times the rock skips is random, from zero to five.
I hope you all enjoyed this important but bizarre piece of side content.
Nah, I'm just messin'. There's more to Obel Lake than just skipping rocks, and it's all unlocked by humming at the lake.
Should you hum, a shadow will appear. It's probably a fish, but I always think of the enemy Creeps:
(That's this guy.)
Anyway, if you throw a rock at the shadow, it leaves. This doesn't have any discernible negative effect, but it doesn't help matters either. It's also rude.
Again, you have to hum to get to the meat of Obel Lake. Well, "meat".
A not-insignificant portion of this quest is standing in one place and talking to a lake. I don't really know what's going on with this one. As a guess, I thought it might be based on some piece of folklore or another, but I couldn't find anything in my (cursory) search.
Talk to the shadow a couple of times and it'll ask a favour. Like throwing a rock at the shadow, turning it down does nothing special and you just have to start over.
So, uh, let's go look for the lake shadow's monkey friend.
Lake Shadow: Please... Mr. Monkey should be in a forest somewhere. Keep walking around, and I'm sure you'll find him. If he's not around, perhaps he took a train towards Dollet?
We do at least get a couple of hints, amounting to "look in a forest near Dollet."
And hell, there's one right here.
There's no graphical indication of the monkey, you just run around in the forest until this pops up. By the way, you want Enc-None for this one. Once you do find the monkey, you can either throw a rock or sing to it. I sang to it because, first of all, it's good manners. It's also kind of funny to me to imagine Squall singing to a monkey.
Either way, the monkey just runs away. Oh well.
Now we can go tell the shadow about Mr. Monkey, and also get paid for even more dumb bullshit.
Cool, great. One weird thing about this quest is that Squall has no direct dialogue during it.
By helping the shadow find Mr. Monkey, we've unlocked a whole new set of dialogue. Unfortunately, it's doled out at random. There are about half a dozen "important" things in there, but they're hidden in a lot of chat about the weather.
Lake Shadow: I wonder what it means.
That second line doesn't have closing punctuation. Other than that, this is how the lake shadow works. It gives you a vague hint about something you can pick up and you run off to find it.
The FF wiki claims that there's a Break draw point on one of the rail bridges, but most other sources point to this Aero draw point as the reward. It's the only one I could find.
This sounds like it refers to Timber, which is south of Obel Lake.
But actually, it refers to this clearing on the Centra continent, where you can find nothing. Fuck you, fuck off.
Lake Shadow: I bet it's a wonderful place.
This hint, finally, actually points us to something worth doing.
Eldbeak Peninsula is this area on the Trabia Continent. Every area on the world map has a name, but there's no way to check them other than going around and opening the menu. It's a cool idea but they didn't quite land it.
If you go all the way to the edge of the Eldbeak Peninsula, you can find this thing.
As you might gather from the fact that that message makes no immediate sense, this is a puzzle. Thankfully, it's a pretty easy one. The shadows says to take some time off at the Eldbeak Peninsula, and if you remove the words "time" and "off" from that message, you get "treasure at Minde Isle."
Minde Isle, by the way, is this island over by Esthar.
If you go to Minde Isle and run around a bit, you can find this Luck-J Scroll. Luck-J is a fairly rare ability, so this is a useful thing to find. On the other hand, there's no actual direct hint to the scroll's location, so you just wander around and mash X until you find it.
Lake Shadow: You'll find something on an island east of Timber, too.
Lake Shadow: At the beach in Balamb, something special washes ashore at times.
Lake Shadow: There's also something on top of a mountain with a lake and cavern.
The next leg of the quest is based on these hints, which are interspersed with the previous three. The Obel Lake quest is fundamentally a treasure hunt, and each of these is a part of your "treasure map".
First up, over on this small island east of Timber.
Narration: It looks man-made, and has some carving on it... R E A I D R
: (...Is this...part of something?)
To answer Squall's question, yes, it is part of something.
Next, in Balamb...
The game plays this hilarious trick on you! Again, there's no real hint about where the rocks are, and certainly no visual cue, so this is just insulting to the player. To be honest, the Obel Lake quest is not a triumph of design. It sucks: it comes out of nowhere, you have to jump through a billion pissy little hoops to finish it, and spoiler: the reward isn't amazing.
Anyway, you dig around on the Balamb beach long enough and you'll find this.
Carving: S T S L R M
: (...Seems like the same rock I picked up before...)
Another beach, another rock with an apparently-meaningless carving.
Now, finally, we can check out this mountain with a cavern and lake. Your best option to find this one is just to follow the river back, which at least makes sense.
Up on the plateau, you can find a bird's nest. This kind of reminds me of a bit in Final Fantasy VII where you find a chocobo nest. On the other hand, there's - again - no fuckin' visual element.
If you check the birds out, you end up in a fight with two Thrustaevis.
There's another option, though! If you spend a bit of time running around, you can check out the nest and find it birdless. I like that you have the very small option of not having to fight the birds, it's a nice small touch. Always fun to be able to practise good manners.
Either way, you find another rock.
Narration: It looks man-made, and has some carving on it... E A S N P D
: (...Seems like the same rock I picked up before...)
And that's our third one!
Now it's back to Obel Lake! Great!
Lake Shadow: S T S L R M R E A I D R E A S N P D
Having found the first three rocks, we get a hint for a fourth. Let's go see Mr. Monkey.
OR let's skip that bit, because Mr. Monkey won't do shit for you right now, and let's skip some rocks.
Again, these results are random, so enjoy skipping a hundred rocks before you see this one:
This is the one you need.
Now we can deal with Mr. Monkey. Unfortunately, we can't sing our way through this encounter. Set a rock to catch a rock.
The first time, you get a different message and the monkey fucks off like normal.
So, yes, you have to run the monkey down and throw rocks at him twice. Fuck if there's any reason here.
The second time, he throws a rock at you and runs away.
You're haeo, rock.
: (...This must be all of them...)
It goes through the four inscriptions again before this "line" but I'll spare you. We'll see them again in a second anyway.
Lake Shadow: ...This must be all the rocks.
So, now that we've got all the rocks, the shadow lines them up for us. Of course, the inscriptions don't mean anything by themselves. The trick is, if you read top-to-bottom, right-to-left, you'll get the message "Mordred Plains has treasure."
Lake Shadow: I wonder what it means?
What it means, my aquatic friend, is that we're going to Mordred Plains to talk to some rocks. Mordred Plains is the bit of the Esthar continent past Trabia Canyon and north of Esthar City, by the way.
The last portion of the Obel Lake quest is that you have to talk to a bunch of rocks and wander around the place.
There are four different types of rocks. Three of them just give you directions, but the directions often conflict. That's the gimmick here.
Unfortunately, the rock that gives you the basic explanation is the blue rock, which is not always the first one you find, which it should be. I think there are also fewer blue rocks than the other colours. The blue rocks give you a rundown of the other types (though they don't identify them by colour):
These are red rocks. Red rocks give the most useful hints because you just go the direction opposite to what they say.
These are black rocks. Black rocks are the only ones who won't give you multiple lines if you talk to them several times.
The last type are white rocks. White rocks say a direction at random, so they'll often give you conflicting advice without you moving.
So here's what you do: you wander around Mordred Plains, with no visual clues, and you mash X and you defy red rocks.
And, after way too damn long, you find this red rock.
And the treasure.
Expendx3-1 is still not a great ability.
But Three Stars is a useful item, because you can refine it into 100 Triples. 100 Triples is useful, because Triple is still a great junction. The rewards for this quest are okay, and I don't mind a good treasure hunt. Unfortunately, they really missed about half the design work for this one. You're kinda boned if you don't know where the named areas are, you have to run around in several different fields mashing X, and there are two separate "no item" here pranks. Obel Lake isn't a winning quest, and neither is it one most people are likely to find. To me, this is one of the most bizarre pieces of game design in Final Fantasy VIII.