The Let's Play Archive

Final Fantasy X

by The Dark Id

Part 75: Episode LXVI: Journey to My Home

Music: Scorching Desert

Did you know the Playstation 2 was capable of having fairly long draw distances? As long as you were only mostly rendering the level geometry with a very basic texture and perhaps a far off sky-box. Time to exercise that for a bit as we wander the Sanubia Sands desert. But first, a tutorial. Haven't had one of those in a while!

Rikku, being Al Bhed and good with machines, apparently knows everything there is to robots. Including how utterly shit their workmanship is under the hood.

As such, using her Steal command on any standard machina enemy will instantly cause it to crumple into a pile of scrap. That's what you get for holding your work bot together with a pair of hand grenades. Anyway, that's the whole tutorial. Wakka hits flying things, Tidus hits fast critters, Auron hits armored jerks, Lulu magics elemental fools, and Rikku one-shots machina. Yuna is on healing and pulling the panic button with summons. Kimahri continues to exist.

Rikku will be following in the field for the duration of this leg of the journey. She doesn't actually do anything handy like give directions to treasure or landmarks. Instead she just kind of lazily follows in Tidus' wake. At least she manages to navigate most geometry successfully, unlike certain NPC followers in other titles I could name.

After the sand dune corridor, the map opens up into a massive empty field with treasure chest scattered to all four corners of the map, a few landmarks of interest, and most importantly an obnoxiously high encounter rate. The earlier monsters all make assorted appearances further into the area. But here a few new rather unique encounters crop up.

Music: Normal Battle

The Zu creature has immediately been downgraded from mid-boss to uncommon random encounter. It's is identical to its early incarnations. Though funny enough, the thing is actually way more of a pain in the ass having to juggle the rest of the far slower party eating up turns instead of just having Tidus soloing it.

But Zu is old news. Let's see something neat.

It wouldn't be a proper fantasy desert setting if it failed to have a gigantic worm, now would it? Meet the ever creatively named Sand Worm. This beast is a frikkin' mountain of HP. 42,000 points of the hit variety to its name. For reference, that's more than the Crawler tank, one round of Seymour, and the Wendigo combined.

Now you might assume this is just one of those token badass uncommon encounters you're meant to run away from until end game, where you return to wax it for profit and glory. But nope... the Sand Worm actually isn't particularly difficult at all.

First off all, while worms may not have eyes, that doesn't mean they are immune to blinding. No, that doesn't make sense but just roll with it. The Sand Worm's primary means of attack 95% of the time is just bashing people with its beak. So there goes most of its offensive capability. The other 5% of the time they will use Quake. But you have to really, really dawdle forever for it to muster the effort.

On top of being easily blinded, giant sand worms are highly susceptible poisoning. Life in the desert is harsh. If you've forgotten, poison in Final Fantasy X is NO JOKE and will deal 4,500 HP of damage a turn. In addition, it's weak against water elemental attacks so Lulu with Blizzara can dish out around 2500-3000 a turn and Tidus' buffed Brotherhood sword is water elemental and can do from 2,500 to 5,000+ on a critical hit.

The one major thing to worry about with Sand Worms while burning through their pool of health is the Swallow attack. Swallow will... well temporarily swallow a party member. It's effectively like the Eject status where the afflicted teammate will be removed from the battle and their slot left vacant. Battles apparently work on strict tagging out rules it would seem.

Unlike a proper Eject, Swallow will only last 2-3 turns before the party member in question is barfed back out no worse for the wear. Really. It doesn't do any damage or have another other negative status effects.

The only thing to worry about is a swallowed character will receive no AP if the Sand Worm is slain while still trapped in its stomach. Nobody cares if you dealt 2/3rds of the total damage against the beast. If you aren't immediately available for the post-battle celebration, you're worthless to the team.

But all of that is kind of a tedious grind when the reward is only 2,000 AP and a thousand Gil. There's an alternate way to deal with a Sand Worm infestation straight away. We just need Auron to be loaded up with his Overdrive and...

“Remember, walk without rhythm and we won't attract the worm.”

Pfft. Fuck that noise! Auron has better things to do.

There is one more unique uncommon encounter out roaming the desert. This one is far more elusive and deadly than any giant worms.

Behold! The majestic Cactuar. The most dangerous of game: a mascot character. This is a weird battle. Cactuars are flighty little buggers. They have extremely high evasion to the point where Wakka and Tidus are the only two characters with a remote chance of landing a physical hit on 'em and even then they're armored so at best it'll deal around 400-800 HP of damage. Cactuars only have 1,000 HP total.

Magic is also out of the question as the sentient cactus creatures have extremely high resistance. Like only double digit damage from tier 2 spells sort of resistance.

But that if they take a decent amount of damage... or the party takes too long... or it gets a bit chilly out... or it's the wrong time of day... or just fuck you in general... The Cactuar will book it without warning, leaving the party with nothing to show for their trouble.

Realistically, the best method to slay a Cactuar is to use a non-magical Overdrive on it. Tidus or Auron's ones work quite well. So why would we want to murder a cute little mascot character in the first place, especially one that just will flee if left alone?

Those little sons of bitches are AP pinatas! For reference, the last three boss battles combined gave us 13,830 AP. Cactuar genocide run can lead to some nice power leveling in this area.

That is not to say Cactuars are totally defenseless. They have one lame physical attack where they will ram their spinney faces into one of our crew for around 500 HP of damage. On the other hand, once in a while they'll use 10,000 Needles. What does 10,000 Needles entail?

Well, apparently getting pricked with a needle is equivalent to 1 HP of damage. If you ever wanted a real world baseline for a single HP damage. 10,000 needles involves jamming ten thousand needles into its victim in rapid succession. In this case, Kimahri.

Needless to say... it's a pretty bad scene for the recipient of 10,000 Needles. Indeed, while farting around grinding for a bit I had a Cactuar manage an ambush and wipe my entire party just tripling down on needle streams in rapid succession. Now I don't feel so bad about cutting them open for that sweet, sweet AP juice inside on contact.

A final note. I never played Final Fantasy XI because my general misanthropy cannot abide MMORPGs and also that game seemed bad. But who decided Cactuars needed to be re-imagined as dumpy middle-aged thunder-thigh sporting man-cactus hybrids...? That thing is eerie looking.

Music: Scorching Desert

In any case, if we follow the big red mini-map arrow's general direction northward, we'll eventually come to a fork in the road and a signpost, alongside a welcome save point. Let's see what it says...

Shit. Feaken fiends. The worst kind! If you cannot puzzle out Al Bhed's remaining mystery characters, there are stronger encounters like the Zu and Sand Worms on the northwestern path and the more common variety scaled toward the northeastern path. We're going to need to hit up both for our completionist sake, even if the handy red arrow IS suggesting the latter path.

The reason being they have stuck an Al Bhed Primer down each trail. To the northeast we discover the hidden truth that [N = R]! Lyhto lunh ec kynpyka dean Rymmufaah lyhto. Kuttysh dannepma!

Yeah yeah. We'll come back this way in a minute...

Doubling back and taking the left trail from the save point reveals a much more interesting looking area with several treasure chests containing such treats as Elixirs we'll never use and the like.

There is an odd crest engraved on a ruin due north... wait no the damn camera keeps shifting west. There's nothing we can do with this at the moment. We'll just have to remember it's there for later.

To the right of those ruins are... more ruins! These contain the second Al Bhed cipher discarded in the desert. Today we find that [X = Q]! Hu uha lyh cdub Sn. Tusehu! HU UHA!

Discovering this Al Bhed Primer also levels up Tidus' rank. That's 16 out of 26 letters deciphered. Not bad, Tidus. You can read Al Bhed at roughly a “took some high school courses + 7 years out from graduation and forgot most of it” level. Which is more than can be said for most of the party.

Doubling back to the northeastern path, we enter another massive open sand field we must trudge across. This one is a bit more linear with just a very wide central field and a few branches to the sides. Some markers in the central area will give a bit of direction.

Candcdormcs do sound quite dangerous. But I'm not sure if I like the sound of Cdrong fiends either. May as well stick with the east to west exploring trend we've been doing.

There is actually very little of note to the east. There is a strange mural of a Cactuar etched into a stone overlooking a valley being ravaged by a sandstorm. But there is precious little we can do about it at the moment.

Indeed, even trying to enter the valley below is off limits at this time. We'll just have to remember this is here for later on. Possibly some sort of end scenario of what some would call a game. Like an end... game? Weird, I know.

In the western part of the map, we find a whirlpool containing a treasure chest containing the Mercury Crest. Try saying that five times fast. The Mercury Crest is an important component of another end game quest. But at the moment it is of little use. We'll just have to remember we collected it.

That is not the only treasure chest discared carelessly near a whirlpool of quicksand that Tidus is stupidly more than willing to dive into for loot. However, not all whirlpools are quite as hospitable as the first one. Indeed, there are three more whirlpools in the area that have fiends taken residency at their bottoms.

Music: Normal Battle

Meet the Sandragora, a much less marketable desert plant creature. As you can see, it has a respectable amount of HP, a weakness to Fire and absorbing Water elemental attacks. I guess Tidus is sitting this one out.

There isn't a lot to say about this one. Obviously, Fire elemental spells are the ticket to taking it down and physical follow-ups not augmented by water don't hurt. Beyond that it is a fairly standard battle.

The mandragora of the sands' primary attack is Seed Burst, which doesn't hit for a whole lot of damage but can cause Confusion. Which if it strikes a beefier party member, can cause issues. Tidus, you'll never get your Affection score up with Lulu if you keep stabbing her in the chest like that.

Enough about desert botany. Defeating the Sandragora and raiding its treasure will result in a new, rare Sphere Grid sphere: the Teleport Sphere. Teleport Spheres will warp a party member's position on the Sphere Grid to any node activated by another party member. So if you decided Yuna ought to get into Black Magic or Kimahri is better off following the path of the Blitzball player for some reason, there you go.

At the far north end of the desert prior to reaching the Al Bhed's Home, there is a mandatory battle against a Sandragora. But meh... we already covered this lame plant. Auron, can you handle this...?

Thanks, buddy.

At long last, our journey across the desert is at its end! This might have seemed like a short area, but it actually took me around an hour and a half to run it dry of points of interest. Desert levels suck. Always.

Alright, let's do this thing. It's been ages since the last time we've seen a proper village on the pilgrimage road. And let's be frank, Guadosalam was a dirty hole of a town. Hopefully with their technology and such, Home will be a lot more hosp—

Eh? What's the problem? Don't tell me we went in the wrong direction or so help me, I will bench you with Kimahri for the rest of of the g—

Oh... Home is on fire and being raided by rampaging monsters. Yeah alright, Rikku. I guess that's a valid reason for concern. Welp! So much for crashing in a half way decent bed for a change...

Sand Worm - Final Fantasy Record Keeper Sprite

Sandragora Concept Art