Part 113: Part One Hundred and Thirteen: Time-Compressed WorldPart One Hundred and Thirteen: Time-Compressed World
Once you get to the steps of Ultimecia's castle, the rest of the party catches up to you. I think the conversation really benefits from Squall being halfway behind Quistis.
Plot twist: it's not. This is the shopping mall of the future.
: I've never seen anything so creepy. You think what's-her-face really lives here?
: We've come this far. She's gotta be here.
There's a beat in the conversation where everyone considers this.
When Ultimecia reigns, surely.
They haven't melted into time goo, so they're still good to kill.
: What are we going to do, Squall?
: We'll divide into two parties.
Something to note is that Squall can now be removed from the party. You can freely swap between the two parties inside Ultimecia Castle, so I suppose the devs thought that forcing Squall's inclusion was kind of silly.
Once the party is chosen, everyone dramatically climbs the steps and the door opens, releasing the spooky mist.
...But we're not heading inside just yet. There are errands to run.
First, we want to look at these portals.
You can jump over to them, and they will teleport you out onto the world map. This is the only way to enter or leave the Ultimecia Castle map, as it doesn't appear anywhere on the world map.
The first portal spits the party out on the Galbadian continent, near Deling City.
The second leads to the Centra Continent.
And the third dumps you out on the beach near the Chocobo Sanctuary in the big forest near Esthar.
The one of use is the middle portal. If you want to do this quest, you probably want Enc-None, since it's really just a lot of running around.
So, here we are, in scenic Centra. Even in the future, this place is a dump.
Way over at the edge of the draw distance, you can see the Centra Ruins.
If you turn to the north, there's a tiny bit of land you can use to skirt around the mountains and reach this chocobo forest.
Way back when I did the chocobo stuff, I mentioned that chocobos were good for two things. This is the second thing.
To get where we're going, we need to run across the shallows to reach the other part of the Centra continent. You can see, by the way, that paycheques come in even in the fucked up world of time compression. SeeD has spectacular accounting.
And then we need to find this very narrow pass through the mountains separating Centra and Greater Esthar.
See, way out in the Kashkabald Desert is this red dot on the map. Red dots mean vehicles.
And indeed, we find the Ragnarok here. It's still got fuel and everything.
Unfortunately, there's a small spanner in the travel works.
See, there are no towns on disc 4. The majority of locations are blocked off by these impassable walls of light. You can essentially only enter the optional dungeons with GFs in them and Ultimecia's Castle. This stops you from getting locked out of the optional GFs, but getting the Ragnarok is by no means necessary (in fact, very little of disc 4 is).
As if to remind you what is necessary, there's a portal right next to where you find the Ragnarok that takes you back to Ultimecia's house.
Fun fact: the Esthar Airstation callout still pops up, even though you can't enter.
Another fun fact: since the Pandora is gone, Tears' Point is back to having a blue sky over it. The sky around Esthar, though, is still red on the world map.
It's just funny to me that this tiny train station has been sealed off.
If you can remember where it is, you can still find the crash site from the Lunar Base escape pod.
And there, you can find the Queen of Cards. She always shows up here, whether or not you did her quest.
All you can do is play cards with her.
But there's a small problem: she seems to use every rule. On the other hand, this offers an alternative way to get the cards you win in her questline, since she'll play any you don't have. This is also a way to replace those cards if you mod them (or lose them), so you could do something like mod the Kiros card, win another one, and mod it again to get Auto-Haste on all six party members. You know, if you wanted to.
While we have it, let's also take a quick peek inside the Ragnarok.
As soon as you do, Xu runs up and greets you, because Xu deserves a fucking promotion.
So, yes, Xu is here not because she's a SeeD and wants to replace Irvine's useless ass, but because she wanted to play cards. In the grim darkness of the far future, there are only three types of people: Ultimecia, people trying to kill Ultimecia, and trading card fanatics.
: Yes. Time compression has begun. We must get to Ultimecia before she begins compressing time in this world.
Basically, Time Compression starts from the past (when Rinoa/Adel/Ultimecia were in the same body) and moves towards the future. Eventually, the compression will catch up with the party and they will no longer exist, so they have to kill Ultimecia and stop it before that happens.
Yeah, it's kind of the end of the world.
It's also very good that she brought this goofy sidequest into time hell with her. This doesn't happen if you don't beat the CC Group at Balamb Garden, by the way. It's kind of the reward for doing that (other than all the rare cards). Her second line alludes to a little wrinkle in the thing, though, which is that each member uses a different region's ruleset.
Xu: And Quistis... I mean, Cardmaster King will play in the airlock.
: Alright, sure.
Quistis clearly wasn't consulted on this, but goes along with it anyway. This is the kind of goofy thing that's in a lot of Final Fantasy games, it's something that sidequests like this lend themselves to well. The card club followed you through time? Sure, why not?
They all also have a line or two if you speak to them.
They all also have a line about choosing their cards. This is probably related to the other gimmick of the CC Group on disc 4:
If you have lost/modded a non-Queen rare card, they CC Group will play it at random. Like with the Queen, this lets you get up to some real bullshit with Card Mod. Want 100 Holy Wars? This is how you get them.
By the way, Xu uses the FH ruleset when you play her.
Over by the elevator, you can find Solid SeeD.
Editor's note: Vil pointed out that Joker shows up even if you don't beat the CC Group back at Balamb Garden, which makes shops available to all players even without Call Shop.
Joker: I'll try to help out. Let me know if you need anything. I can play cards with you, too. I'm a CC Group member!
Joker here is very useful if you don't have the Call Shop or Junk Shop abilities for whatever reason. He just runs a standard shop, so it's nothing fancy or rare, but this is the only non-menu option on disc 4 if you need to buy potions or whatever.
Joker uses Centra's rules, but rule mixing is still on the table. If you have the patience, this means you can slowly abolish different rules around the ship.
Also, Direct is unfortunately popular around here.
Being a SeeD who never says anything, I think Club is a joke about Squall. He uses Dollet's rules if you play him.
Our old friends Diamond are also here, of course.
Unlike most of the CC members, they have additional dialogue if you talk to them a couple times.
This is where you get an "explanation" of what happens to people during time compression. It's nothing you couldn't figure out on your own, but it's nice to see people are talking about this stuff.
Diamond are apparently handy for winning rare cards, since one of them is supposed to play the cards you don't have in order, but unfortunately, they use Trabia's rules, and those include Random.
Editor's note: Vil pointed out in the thread that it's the Diamond on the left who does this, and she's especially good because she will use cards that you can normally only get from playing the Queen.
I did manage to get the Minotaur card back, though!
Jack: But watching you guys in action, I get the feeling everything will turn out ok...
Jack believes in the party, but he also uses Random (which means that I apparently somehow spread a bunch of bullshit rules to Balamb).
Spade is hanging out over here in the storage room. He uses Esthar's rules.
And, finally, if you enter the airlock with Quistis in your party, you can play cards with her. The only problem is that you have to turn around and challenge her to do so; this is the only time in the game that you can interact with your party members in any capacity.
Like, any capacity. They don't even have collision.
But, when you finally work out how to do it, you can play cards against Quistis... if you want to deal with the Lunar ruleset again.
Cards aside, since we're back on the Ragnarok, we can check in with the party members to get a couple new lines of dialogue.
Most of them are just stuff like this. These guys haven't got much to say.
But Rinoa's a bit wordier, and she's got a point. We're kind of on the one end of a paradox here, so it's hard to explain exactly, but even killing Ultimecia won't be able to prevent what she will come to have done.
As a sorceress, Rinoa is Ultimecia's "ancestor" and wonders what that link means. But she also thinks about it going the other way - if Ultimecia dies, someone has to receive her powers. Will that cause her to become corrupt and evil? Is the existence of the wicked sorceress really unavoidable? It's not the central focus of the story, but I think it's an interesting question and it's a reminder of the situation Rinoa is in. It also ties her to that sense of futility in the SeeD vs. Ultimecia conflict, with one side creating the other.
The Rinoa-Ultimecia relationship also continues the trend of inverted standard archetypes (cf. Squall and Seifer) with Rinoa not being the descendant of a hero but being the distant ancestor of a villain. Ultimecia herself inverts the idea of some ancient evil returning to wreak havoc and the whole time loop invokes the ending of the first Final Fantasy, where the villain was using a scheme to become a god in the past.