Part 4: Episode 2 - Aggro CragEpisode 2 - Aggro Crag
Welcome back. We're on our new airship, the Celsius. At the end of the last update, our long-range sensors detected traces of sphere in the area, and the data won't be done processing until we've explored the ship and met all the supporting characters.
X-2's music demonstrates yet another stylistic change from the prequel, and it's one of my favorite changes. Nice as X's music was, it didn't really have a setting between serene and tense, or really anything you'd catch yourself whistling in the shower. X-2's music, in comparison, tends to be infused with whimsy and excitement, and the airship theme is a great example (good thing, considering how much time you spend here). It has this jazzy big band hook to it that really gets me. Here, listen to a bit of it for yourself.
Video: Ghost Riding the Celsius
We already know who Yuna is, so let's move on. Just for this scene, Rikku is sitting at one of the ship consoles. Most of the time, she'll be following you around on the bridge.
It all began when I saw this sphere of you. At least, it looked like you. I couldn't say for sure. I thought I might find more spheres like it if I joined the Gullwings. So I did.
...this! We fly all over Spira. I'm really enjoying myself.
Glad to hear it. For a while there, I was starting to feel like a kidnapper.
Don't be silly!
A sphere, you say? Moving on...
I still don't know her very well. She's not exactly the talkative type. I heard she joined the Gullwings shortly before I did...
So that's Paine. Next!
He really has improved quite a bit. He told me that he practiced just so that he could talk with me more.
Oh, Brother. Last game, Brother's only feature of note was a crazy high speed in Blitzball. Now, he's a bumbling self-styled leader with a creepy crush on Yuna. Who is his cousin. This leads to exchanges like the following, which I edited out of the previous update:
I guess Incestuous Workplace Sexual Harassment Comedy could be an established and respected literary genre in Japan, but it's really out of place here and I'll do my best to edit out Brother's lines so we never have to speak of this again.
Buddy and Brother are old friends. Buddy says he was aboard Cid's airship with us two years ago. When I told him I didn't remember, he seemed disappointed.
Nice lampshade you have there. Anyway, so we have Rikku's brother, Brother, and his buddy, Buddy. Somebody reached for a baby name dictionary and grabbed a data structures textbook by mistake. Also, one of the benefits of starting a New Game + is having already learned Al Bhed, which will be shown in bold in my transcriptions.
Shinra's an Al Bhed. He's a real whiz kid.
The entire bridge crew is Al Bhed, as well as Rikku and half of Yuna. The fact that this is all she could think to say indicates how little personality Shinra has. He's basically a MacGuffin generator.
He does, however, keep records of all the people, enemies, and cool stuff we get. We can even watch that sphere Yuna hinted at when talking to Rikku.
Video: Journey's Start
The sphere is very dark and the video quality is degraded, but we can hear a young man who looks kind of like Tidus yelling at the cameraman from behind bars.
No, I'm not sorry! I haven't done anything wrong! I know you're listening. If she was your girl, what would you do? How can you blame me for trying to use your weapon? It was the only way I could save the summoner! What would you do if you were me?
Let me out! I want to see her...
He sinks slowly to his knees and the video goes dark. Similarities and parallels, but something's not quite right there.
The other reason to talk to Shinra is for a tutorial on Garment Grids. You probably don't need it, because they're pretty self-explanatory, but he gives you the Vanguard so he can demonstrate how to equip different grids. You should switch to it immediately, as it's pretty much a straight upgrade from the First Steps grid we start with.
So, briefly, here's how the Garment Grid works. We have dresspheres that represent our different jobs, and they fit into slots on the grid. During battle, we can switch between slots connected by a white line, one hop at a time. Some grids grant stat bonuses or abilities when you equip them, and some have Gates on their pathlines that grant you a bonus if you use that path during combat. A practical application is coming later in this update.
One thing to note is that, on a New Game + playthough, we'll start to accumulate duplicate dresspheres. There can be up to six slots in a grid, and we can eventually acquire six copies of every job. This lets us fill any grid with a single job, so we can activate gates without actually switching jobs. It could be useful, but by the time you've played through the game six times, you should already be invincible.
Having finished with the bridge crew, our next stop is the engine room. There's nobody here, but there are four treasure chests for the looting. Next stop is the cabin.
Our barkeep's a Hypello. No one knows his real name, so everyone just calls him "Barkeep."
Some real creative people on this boat, I tell you. Anyway, Barkeep runs a modest item store and lets us rest in the cabin. There's no good reason for this feature to exist, seeing as save spheres restore the party for free. But you'd better do it anyway, because resting is worth 0.2% every chapter.
Gullwings, report to the bridge!
Now that we've seen everything, we're ready to proceed.
Next stop, Gagazet!
When the fayth disappeared, the clouds enshrouding the mountain began to thin and disperse, revealing long-forgotten ruins among its peaks.
Hey, the rocks are floating!
Don't tell me we gotta climb up that thing!
No worries. I'll take you to the top.
The trio jumps off the airship onto the ruins, whereupon Yuna immediately looks down, loses her balance, and nearly falls off to her death. I'm not sure why this scene is in here. Yuna runs around on the hood of airships, so we know she's not afraid of heights. I can only assume it's the high altitude.
Thanks. That was a little close.
We're here. Everything's fine now.
Well, it was smart to go right to the top, but there's a shield around the ruins. So it's time to find a side door.
Now we're introduced to the last big new gameplay feature. The circle button now lets us jump over certain gaps or climb up platforms.
We quickly get exposed to all three of the ways this mechanic will be used: gaps we want to jump over, ledges we want to climb, and gaps we want to fall down to get hidden treasure. We get a Yellow Ring from this chest, even though I already have like seven.
We're not getting across this way.
We come to this dead end and Yuna pushes a shiny button. The platform jerks into motion, moving slowly down.
I wonder how safe this is...
A moment later, Yuna learns about foresight as the platform plummets.
Brother freaks out. Again, this is really incompatible with a chain of command. It's kind of a subtle bit of world-building, though; someone like Brother in a leadership position suggests a very safe world with an increasingly complacent population.
After a little more jumping, climbing and item hunting...
Yuna hears a noise.
Ah, the thief.
Whatever do you mean? That's what I hate about amateurs...
Maybe she'll go away if we ignore her.
You! I heard that! Just as I was saying: amateurs! They have no concept of what it takes to be a true sphere hunter.
Amateurs? Weren't you following us?
Following? A mere coincidence.
Then the lackeys show up.
Indeed, following them has paid off splendidly.
Rikku starts to giggle, which makes Leblanc mad.
This starts another boss battle, but Leblanc, Ormi, and Logos aren't any more interesting than they were in the first tutorial mission, and I'm sick of dealing with them. I'm not going to cheese future boss fights too hard, but this was cathartic.
Video: Wacky Rival and Boss: I Don't Care Anymore
Hmph! And this is the thanks I get for going easy on you.
Defeated, Leblanc manages to escape again with the help of a smoke bomb. Fool me once...
Now we're in the mission proper. We have six minutes to ascend the ruins before the Syndicate steals our prize. Fortunately, Yuna came dressed for tomb raiding.
Timed sections have a long and glorious pedigree in the FF series. They're a good way to splash some extra tension into what would otherwise be a simple dungeon crawl. The trouble is, they used this mechanic too early, when we're still getting the hang of the controls, and so it's made far too easy. It's almost impossible to run out of time, and the timer stops during combat and in the menu.
Along the way, we fight Syndicate goons and gunsnakes.
The ramp up there is a decoy; instead, we drop off a blind ledge and jump to this doorway. Logos steps out and drops some more minions in our way. The timer doesn't stop while he's talking, though, so you want to mash X to cut off his voice clip as soon as possible.
Once inside, we run into the big issue with X-2's new maps. Outside, they're beautiful, organic ruined sculptures; inside, they're boring rectangular corridors straight from the graph paper of the D&D game from Hell.
There's a couple of side paths with stuff to get and some loot hidden down pits. Even if you go hunting for all of it and take all the wrong paths, you'll still be done with two minutes to spare.
When we pass this column, Ormi pops out with more minions.
Those three appear to have found a way up the side of the tower, and a way to turn off the shield. Well, thanks, I guess.
It's easy to skip this chest. The game tries to fake you out by showing you the way up in a cutscene, and then throwing up a prompt reminding you how to jump here.
When you hit this point, the timer disappears and an invisible wall blocks you from backtracking for anything you missed.
So I guess the objective was less "get to the top first" and more "make them go so fast they screw up and nearly kill themselves." Yuna, ice cold killer that she is, grabs the chest and leaves the trio to hang.
There's a boss coming up, but it's not difficult, even with the little jobs and equipment available to us on a new playthrough. First things first;
We're going to switch everybody to the Vanguard grid for the extra offense. The Songstress is our strongest magical job, so we place it next to the two Magic gates.
Paine gets the Muscle Belt we just won to beef up her attacks. The boss is weak to Fire, but the Warrior's fire attack isn't really worth the charge time. Instead, we give the Red Ring to Rikku, which lets her cast Fire, and the White Ring for some extra Magic.
At the top of the structure;
It figures we'd run into something like this.
Video: Boss: Boris
Rikku starts as a Thief to lift some Remedies. The boss has a stop attack and losing a party member sucks. Then she switches into Songstress, passing through the Magic gate, and starts casting Fire. This makes her our top damage dealer, especially when one of the other two girls gives her a Chain to work with. He goes down in three turns.
Behind the monster...
Leblanc limps in behind them to deliver a weak burn before scurrying off.
Perfect for the Dullwings.
Well, I guess we'll be taking this!
Brother? He's not with you?
Back to the ship.
And here he is.
He's alive, right? Just leave him there.
Can you analyze the sphere we found?
I'm on it.
So Brother managed to hurt himself running after Yuna. You can choose to comfort him here (unfortunate placement in the screenshot) but I already have that 0.2% and have no reason to care.
When we come back from a mission, Rikku and Paine usually have something relevant to say. Rikku is usually enthusiastic and Paine is either impatient or disapproving.
Anyway, let's see what we got.
Video: Zanarkand's Prime
Think it's worth anything?
It's not very exciting.
You know, I think a real archeologist wouldn't turn down a legitimate historical relic just because it's boring. But what do I know?
No need to fret, we've got a hit on some more spheres!
What is it?
There's at least one in Besaid, and another in the Zanarkand Ruins.
Next time: Everywhere but those two places!