Part 14: Part Fourteen: Takin' the TrainPart Fourteen: Takin' the Train
So, we have a mission, and it is to look at the girl on the right's striped shirt. I like the shirt.
Nah, I'm just jokin'. Our mission is to go to Timber and help a resistance group. But to do that, we have to go through Balamb Town.
This guy is talking to Zell, not Squall. Balamb is where Zell grew up/lives, and it's a very Zell-centric location.
Since this is our first time really checking out Balamb Town, let's check out its music:
New Assistant: I've heard a lot of stuff about you!
: Huh? What stuff!?
Zell is something of a public figure in Balamb.
New Assistant: Hardly. You're like a legend here.
: No way! What'd he do?
Selphie just met Zell yesterday, and she's already going to get the embarrassing dirt on him.
New Assistant: Well, I guess he's most known for doing the most grueling pull-ups.
Damn, Zell does pull-ups. Boy is his face red now.
That's a fuckin' lot of pull-ups. Damn.
: Yeah, what do you guys think about that, huh?
I like Selphie's animation here. She bends over like she's tired.
: Umm... I think you need some help.
I don't think the party is impressed by Zell's pull-up skills.
Zell is very taken aback at this. He expected Squall to respect his lats.
The mechanic and his assistant like Zell and think it's cool to do 100 pull-ups, at least.
Oh, here's a picture of me hangin' out and gettin' paid.
(I got paid, like, 4 times while I was getting screens for this section. I was starting to think it was an emulation glitch that I was getting paid so often.)
Paid just in time to go to the store.
At this point, I upgrade Squall and Zell's weapons. On the left are the materials needed to upgrade, and each upgrade takes a bit of gil as well. Items are the hard part. As you can see at the bottom, new weapons just add to a character's Strength and Hit, rather than using secondary stats or anything. More expensive weapons add more stats than cheaper ones. It's not a very deep system.
And then, I came back after doing some card modding. Punishment is Squall's second-best weapon. See, weapons aren't gated behind anything, so if you get the items for an upgrade together, you can do it any time. If you know what you're doing, you can use this fact to get ultimate weapons very early; Selphie and Quistis could already have their ultimate weapons if I got the cards together.
I'm not doing that, though, because I want to show off the content of weapons for some reason, so I'll only upgrade to something after I see it in Weapons Monthly.
: Hey...! How's it goin'!? You know me, I'm always good.
Old Man: Good. Make sure you stop by and say 'hi' to your mom.
I feel like this old man has probably known Zell since Zell was very young.
Now, let's follow his advice and go visit Zell's mother.
We do this by just sort of crowding her into the tiny kitchen.
: This is my house. But don't make yourselves too comfortable!
Ma Dincht is just worried about her boy.
In the living room, we can find this...joke. Remember, this game was released in 1999, and jokes were only invented in '98, so they weren't entirely sure how to use them.
: That's my room up there! It's sacred! So just keep out!
We can't go into Zell's room. We're not that kind of friends yet.
We can talk to his mother, though, for some important Final Fantasy VIII lore.
: Nah, outdoor class.
Important Final Fantasy VIII lore: Zell's mother does not know he's a SeeD.
Sure, will do.
If you leave Zell's house and come back (search me as to why you have to do this), you can play cards against his mother. She always asks this, even if you've never played against her before.
You can win Zell's card off of her. It refines into 3 Hyper Wrists, which teach a GF Str+60%, the biggest Strength-boosting ability.
Since we've visited Zell's mum, let's visit his neighbours.
Looks like it's story time in the Zell'sneigbours household.
Grandpa: The god was very, very strong, but after fighting a lot of monsters, he became very tired.
I like how this game overlaps text boxes - here, the kid talks at the same time as the old guy, and we saw a similar thing with Squall and Quistis earlier.
I don't really know how to transcribe this and keep the impression, so I'm just leaving it as a screenshot.
Something like this would probably be annoying if you used voice acting (since it's generally annoying to hear one person talk over another like the kid is doing), but it works and conveys the tone well in text.
Grandpa: Uh huh. Scary, isn't it? ...Of course, everyone was scared then, too.
Hyne sounds like kind of a dick.
He must've kept the bottom half, then.
Grandpa: Well, he was a god. Anyway, it turns out Hyne tricked the people.
Man, that is just like Hyne.
Grandpa: The half that Hyne ran away with was the half that had the stronger magic.
Girl: Wow... So we still can't find the other half that ran away???
Grandpa: Hmm... It might be close by, actually. It might even be watching you.
Squall is the other half of Hyne.
You might remember Hyne's name from the data archive relating to sorceresses, where it alluded to this myth and suggested that sorceresses were the half of Hyne he left to people.
There's nothing else to hear at the Zell'sneighbours' place, so let's continue with the tour.
Hotel Owner: How's that for a catch line...? Not in a million years would you be able to come up with something better.
: Pu-lease! Blow it out your rear!
I somehow got it in my head that this line had Zell saying "blow me" to the owner, which I'm sure you'll agree is much ruder.
Hotel Owner: ...Blow... ...That's it! Blow!
The Hotel Owner finally remembers the title of that movie about the cocaine guy.
Hotel Owner: Where the sea breeze will 'blow' you away...
Adding the quotes makes it sound skeevy, dude.
So, here's the Balamb Hotel.
We will not be staying, but we will be stealing the towels.
In the hotel, we can find an actual old issue of Timber Maniacs. Timber Maniacs is different from other magazines in that you can't actually read the magazine from the menu; instead, it unlocks something else. We'll see that later.
If you were wondering, yes, you can actually stay at the hotel.
I wonder what a gil is worth. When I see item prices, I sometimes consider it to be like a yen, but that would make this hotel cost something like a buck a night. Seems low.
Another stop on the Balamb Grand Tour: the pier.
Gossip #1: Mrs. Dincht's son passed the SeeD exam.
Gossip #2: Really? I wonder how in the world that rowdy boy passed.
Unlike the mechanic and his assistant, these two don't seem to think much of Zell.
Gossip #2: Does Mrs. Dincht know?
Gossip #1: Since Zell passed, the chances my son will pass is probably near 100%.
Hey, don't shit-talk Zell, especially when he's right there.
Gossip #2: The exam didn't just test physical abilities, right?
I remember once, in high school, some friends of mine were shit-talking some other kid, who came up to me after class and told me to at least talk about him "behind his back" (he pointed when he said that).
Gossip #1: Right. My son told me Zell had good students on his team... Oh well...
I'd been sleeping in class and didn't know what the hell he was talking about.
Gossip #1: I wonder how long he'll last. After all, SeeDs are expected to have composure and focus and make proper decisions.
She might be a shit-talker, but she has a point. Zell's biggest weakness is his emotionality - Seifer played him like a fiddle, and it would be dangerous if something like that happened during a mission.
Gossip #2: Oh my... I doubt he can handle it.
Note: we can get right up in this conversation, and they'll still talk about Zell like he's not there.
Gossip #1: I guess all we can do is wish him luck.
This guy is a pro slacker.
And this draw point is mostly useless.
Now, let's head to the train station, where some lady tries to hit on Squall.
Why do you need a spotlight tech?
Uh, Some Famous Photographer's Name as a Joke: I wanna take a lot of nice pictures and sell them and make big money. We'll split everything 70/30. Actually, how about 80/20? Y'know what, forget about it. Ok, thanks anyway.
Yeah, no problem. Take care of yourself.
We can also hassle some guy who probably just wants to take a nap.
Businessman: It's gonna last for a while. I'm sick of traveling. Timber has this huge TV in the middle of the city. I think business is better there than it is here. The air over there is terrible, though. It makes me sick.
Over here is the "queen of cards". She's basically here to give a tutorial on the card game's regional rules and rule spreading, and to start a sidequest. I will not be starting that quest today.
Let's ask her about rules.
There are eight rules that the card game can have. Open is fairly innocuous; it just lets you see your opponent's hand, so it's useful if you're grinding cards. Some of the rules are real annoying bullshit, though, and they make playing cards in regions other than Balamb a hassle.
You can also do this. Same makes it so that if your card is touching two cards, and the ranks that are touching are the same, the other cards are flipped.
I am not paying 30,000 gil to shit up Balamb's card rules.
Queen: Currently, the trading rule is based on Balamb's rule. There is some trading taking place. Currently, everybody in the world is avoiding risky card trades. For the most part, the level of activity has been moderate. The trend is heading toward trading rule 'One'.
There are four trading rules in the game, with One being the most basic: you win a game, you take one of the opponent's cards. The others are: Diff, where you take however many cards you beat the opponent by (so, if you win 6-4, you take 2 cards) and which can be seen in my game against Cid last update, since I did stuff out of order and rearranged screens; All, where if you win, you just take all of the opponent's cards; and Direct, where cards are traded based on what colour they are at the end of the game. Direct is not as good as the others.
Next, let's ask her how to spread rules.
Queen: Basically, each region has its own rules. The rules you're carrying are passed on as you travel to various regions. As for the trading rules, they gradually spread out from a region where the card game is most popular. Of course, this region can change constantly depending on your course and actions. Also, my presence in a region can change its trading rules at times.
There you go.
You can, of course, play cards with the Queen.
Let's go over the basics of cards, since I haven't done yet. To start, you choose a hand. For me, this is generally whatever five cards are last on the list. They're my highest-level cards, and they're usually good enough to win.
Here, I went first. I put Seifer in the top-left so that the Queen at least can't flip it.
She puts Grendel in the top-middle. This isn't a great play on her part.
It lets me play my Zell card, and, since Zell's 6 on the left is higher than Grendel's 4 on the right, Grendel is flipped and now I control that space. This takes the score from 5-5 to 6-4 in my favour. That's the basic mechanic; touch two values and the lower-valued card is flipped over. Your points are how many cards are your colour, and you win by having more points.
She flips it back, but Quistis is good for this.
This was an easy game.
That's the train we're looking for.
Garden, being full of money-grubbers, didn't give us a slush fund for this kind of thing, so if you spend all your gil on dumb bullshit, you have to run around until you get another cheque.
I did not spend all my gil on dumb bullshit, so it's not a problem.
Well, nowhere else to go.
Might as well.
As soon as you board the train, it pulls out of the station. No going back now.
Then it takes a tunnel into the ocean. I guess this makes sense, being that Balamb is on a tiny island.
Character note: Selphie likes trains.
: A transcontinental railroad, baby! It even runs through an underwater tunnel to get to Timber. Pretty cool, huh?
I think it's pretty cool.
: Sure is...
Squall is less impressed.
: Guess you're not interested.
Oh, so there's another part of the train? Where one could, for example, sit down?
I guess we didn't pay 3,000 gil for nothing.
: Let's go check it out, Squall.
Shit, might as well.
Enjoy this pic of Squall's ass.
Zell, this is a hallway.
Some people make fun of Zell here, but I'd imagine that the cabin is much more exciting than the hallway.
: OHHH YEAHHH! AWESOME!
Let's leave Zell to his business and talk to Selphie.
I believe it was established in an earlier caption, yes.
Selphie's train song would go on to be a multi-platinum record in Galbadia, and Selphie would retire rich and famous.
Selphie we're underwater do not open the window.
: Oh... I'll meet you inside. I'm gonna hang out here for a bit.
Let's check out the "awesome" cabin, I guess.
There are only two beds. Where's Zell supposed to sleep?
You can't see it, but Zell is bouncing up and down like an excited child.
Squall's just gettin' paid.
You might notice that my rank has gone back down to 9 here. That's because I spent a lot of time running around and playing cards &c. instead of fighting monsters. Being paid deducts "SeeD EXP" from your total, and fighting monsters adds it, so if you keep getting paid without fighting monsters, you eventually get paid less.
Wonderful. Do they have any Occult Fans?
This isn't Occult Fan, Zell.
Yes, Zell. You might even say I just got paid to be a member of SeeD one minute ago.
So, if you're wondering about Timber, here's a chance for some lore.
I love lore.
: Thought so. Well, let me fill you in. Timber used to be a country surrounded by deep forests. But 18 years ago, Galbadia invaded.
: Timber fell quite easily to Galbadia. So now Timber is under Galbadian occupation.
18 years is a long time to be occupied.
: It's said there's a whole bunch of resistance factions, big and small.
: Nope, that's it.
: ......... ...Thank you, Mr. Know-It-All-Zell.
Wow, Squall, what a sick burn.
: Hey, no prob!
You can also get an abridged version of Zell's lecture in the menu's information section. This section has some pretty good lore that you might miss if you never check it.
For example, you can learn about the world's shaky information infrastructure.
Or you can learn that monsters live on the moon. Handy.
But let's get back to the plot:
At this point, Selphie comes in.
Squall stands up. I'm sure this is significant.
: I'm really sleepy...
Yeah, well, you're bottom bunk.
Squall, she just said she's not okay.
Selphie passes out on the couch, and it looks like Zell's not doing much better.
Well, this seems bad.