Part 7: Episode 3 - Yuna the ExplorerEpisode 3 - Yuna the Explorer
Welcome back. We're now past the tutorial portion of the game, and it's willing to take its hands off the wheel and let us drive for a while.
The game is divided into five chapters, and, during each chapter, there are fixed events happening at different locations in the game. Some of them are main plot missions, some of them are optional side missions, and some of them are just pointless diversions. With few exceptions, you're given free reign of the world to explore and complete these events as your choose. However, if you advance the main plot, you're in danger of triggering a point of no return into the next chapter, and you'll miss out on any side missions you haven't completed. It's also worth noting that treasure chests get refilled between chapters with increasingly valuable loot, so it can be worth exploring even if you don't find a mission.
You access the World Map through Buddy. Locations marked as a Hotspot! are typically main plot missions. Other missions may or may not be advertised on this screen as well. Yuna's original pilgrimage route is largely still open, so you could conceivably walk to most of these locations, although you'll often warp back to the airship after a mission is over.
Thing is, Zanarkand is issuing warnings of high fiend activity. You might want to steer clear until you've toughened up a bit.
When playing the game the first time through, you probably want to do the Besaid story mission right now, since the reward is important. Since I already have it, I've got more freedom to explore. Might as well go in pilgrimage order and see how the world has changed between games. So let's head to Kilika Port.
The Youth League helped rebuild it. Now it's a bustling town. At the time, everyone was grateful. But lately, well, there have been signs of trouble. It seems that tension is building between the Youth League and New Yevon.
This is the first we hear of the Youth League and New Yevon, but the townspeople bear out Yuna's narration.
We don't know much about this New Yevon, but if they're anything like the Old Yevon, using machina wouldn't endear the League to them.
And building a base so close to a Temple of Yevon is just asking for trouble.
This person is standing around the accessory shop, and I thought it's a nice touch. Without Sin around, of course sea trade is going to be safer and cheaper.
Kilika also features a fast-transit system, useless since the town is only two screens long.
There's also a lady collecting monkeys. We'll soon find out that this game has a love of monkeys that borders on fetishistic.
Wandering around, we run into some familiar faces in a domestic dispute.
My, my, my... Fine, have it your way. Go on, leave.
Barthello puts on a manly pout and runs away crying. We head inside to see what's up.
Good to see you.
What's with Barthello?
Nothing out of the ordinary. I am with the Youth League, and he is with New Yevon.
Normally, the low-res face textures bother me. This shot kinda works, though. Dona looks all far-off and wistful.
But you've been together so long...
To each his own.
Exactly. Butt out.
Well, that was kind of rude, so we steal her secret roof money.
The passage into the woods is currently blocked off, so there's nothing else to do here. Back to the Celsius.
After seeing the event with Dona and Barthello, Rikku and Paine have this to say:
So, you think Dona and Barthello will really break up?
Who cares about going steady and breaking up? That's kid stuff.
By the way, here's their default quotes for when nothing interesting happened:
Next stop, Luca.
As soon as we land, Yuna is swamped by fans.
I couldn't bring myself to tell them it was just an impostor. The whole mess started with the Garment Grid... That's the invention that lets us harness the dresspheres' power.
Here's what I mean about the game wanting to explain itself too much. It's too soon, and not interesting enough, for a flashback to the intro mission.
We chased the thieves all the way to Luca, but when we arrived...
All right! Think there're any tickets left?
Looks like your impostor's pretty popular.
I doubt anyone would believe ours is the real Yuna.
Not dressed like that!
The plan was to sneak into the impostor's concert and recover the Garment Grid. If I went in, our cover would be blown, so it was up to Rikku and Paine. Which left me with nothing to do but lay low and wait. And that's how I got stuck with the Gullwings' prized... garment.
This is a mission with little substance, so let's get through it quickly. We head down the stairs into Luca and get immediately noticed by a vendor.
The guy gives us ten balloons to give away as a promotion. The concert won't start until we do.
The only tricky parts are knowing that you can give a balloon to each of the two people on this bench...
...and to the two people in this broadcasters' booth. When she's done, Yuna heads to the stadium.
The security guards transform into Leblanc's goons and run inside. Looks like they reverse engineered the Garment Grid pretty quickly. Or the animators were lazy.
Yuna runs down the dock and hides.
So remember the opening sequence, where we find a moogle on the docks? That was worth 0.2% completion. This flashback is our first hint to even check the docks for a moogle. We now know we've missed something, but it's too much of a hassle to start over, but we'll probably forget about it by the time we finish the game and start a second cycle. This is the kind of dick move the game likes to throw at the player.
Anyway, Yuna sees the guy with guns going after her friends and decides to even the odds. This scene is unintentionally hilarious because Logos goes into dramatic slow motion as he passes, while Yuna's idle moogle animation plays at full speed.
I was just about to finish 'em off, but then you showed up and stole all the fun.
I guess I was so glad to get out of that thing that I went a little nuts.
That explains the dancing.
No, that explains the silly backflip. Shinra already explained the dancing. Try to keep up, Paine.
We travel from place to place, and the days just seem to fly by. But sometimes I find myself stopping...
We get kicked back to the airship. Yuna's partners have opinions.
If a Rikku impostor ever shows up, do I have to dress like that?
"The Gullwings' Prized Garment?" That couldn't have been fun.
Well, we didn't get a chance to loot the place, so let's beam down again.
Seems like the political strife we saw in Kilika extends to Luca, although people here are much more laid back about it. There's also a lot more Al Bhed running around, and open talk of machina being used for more than just blitzball.
We could take what this guy says at face value, but I like to pretend that this was the guard that got KO'd and dragged out of frame by Rikku in the intro FMV. Sorry about that, guy, it was for a good cause.
We can also find our old pal Rin loitering about in the stadium's locker area. He's invented Exploding Sudoku Boggle.
I have to agree with Paine. The problem with Sphere Break is the same problem with FF9's Tetra Master; there's a lot of detail for no practical benefit. There's a bunch of different coins, and you can build up their collector value and sell them, but it takes forever, and outside of a few key rewards, the items you can win aren't special.
On with the pilgrimage!
I walked this road, too, on my pilgrimage to Zanarkand. And you walked by my side. It was a journey filled with laughter.
Awkward, forced laughter to shrug off the despair of ritual suicide, but still.
There's not much going on on the Highroad this chapter, but it's still a good idea to run the length. The enemies are fairly easy to beat and the levels you earn can carry you through basically to the end of the chapter.
The Al Bhed and their machina have an increased presence on the road. Hovers will carry you from one end to the other for a price (why would you do this when you have your own airship?) and sentry robots patrol the length between. This doesn't manifest in a particularly low encounter rate or any machina allies during battle, which is kind of a shame. There are some hints that the kinks aren't all worked out.
We also run across some kind of experiment with the sentry machina. This certainly can't backfire.
On the other hand, the noble chocobo appears to have vanished. It's distressing enough that it's drawn some protests.
If we were to warp back to the airship right now, the team would have this to say:
I'm glad we made it back before dusk. I don't like the Highroad sunset.
Hey, how come there weren't any chocobos on the Highroad?
The tour guide explained that. Try to keep up, Rikku.
Anyway, we're not warping back yet. We've made it to Mushroom Rock Road.
We don't get a monologue from Yuna this time.
Maybe there's a sphere here.
It's our turn to do the following.
These jerks again. Thankfully they don't play a huge role in this mission. We run forward after them, only to be stopped by... somebody.
This is another mean trick. As far as I can tell, Yaibal didn't appear in the actual prequel as we in the US got it. He has a completely generic character model and only showed up in a promotional video that came bundled with the International version. If you're honest and own up to not knowing this guy, guess what? There goes another 0.2%.
You really do remember me! I am truly honored, Lady Yuna! Since that day we first spoke, the Youth League has been conducting a sphere hunt of its own. We, the Youth League...
We, the Youth League, to better our understanding of Spira's past, vow to remain vigilant in our search for ruins and spheres.
Ohh, that's enough! Those two guys are getting away!
Yes. They said they're here to take care of our fiend problem. You see, the Youth League is in preparation for an important operation, leaving our patrols shorthanded.
He then takes a lot of words to tell us that we should fight our way to Youth League headquarters. Before we go, though, let's see how our old pal Clasko is doing.
Well, a lot has happened since you brought us the Calm. I ended up following Captain Lucil. When she joined the Youth League, so did I. But I'm still stuck playing tour guide. You know, all I want is to ride on a chocobo... faster than the wind!
Clasko has boundary issues.
We actually have two objectives this mission; make it to Youth League headquarters, and trail Lomi and Orgos. They'll take us slightly different places.
The gimmick of the area is that a purple haze will pass all through your brain every few seconds, obscuring the terrain and treasure chests. When it's all foggy, the encounter rate increases, but having walked the Highroad should put you on par with most of the fiends. There's some Tonberries wandering around, though, which can be a shock to series veterans.
The dynamic duo hop down into an area we could only reach last game with the airship. Fortunately, we learned to use our knees in the last two years, so we can jump down after them. We follow them into a strange cavern.
Nor this one.
What're you doing?
We scare Ormi so hard he drops his balls.
Then Logos shoots a flashbang and they get away again. Jeez guys, this is getting embarrassing. You had them cornered in a cave.
Good thing we stopped them when we did, it looks like they were about to try the right one. Picking up the sphere they dropped and touching the symbol on the wall lights up one of the indicators. I suppose we'll be looking for more of these.
As we're leaving, we get another one of these gotcha questions. At least this one is more fair; we've seen him before.
How've you been?
I joined up with the Youth League and that's been keeping me pretty busy.
Oh, I'm a sphere hunter now.
Ah, that sounds great, trying out a new way of life. Actually, Pacce's a sphere hunter now, too. He's the leader of the Kinderguardians. Be nice to him if you see him.
Leader of the what?
It was sealed around the time of Operation Mi'ihen.
We ask a couple of times, but Maroda evades questions about his brother.
So I'll, um, have to ask you to leave. I'm sorry.
Backtracking, we make it to the end of the path.
We don't actually even have to pick a choice this time. She introduces herself before we can answer. The game has shifted into self-aware irony.
How are you?
Never better! Now that I'm in the Youth League, I've always got something to do.
This is the technical end of the mission, but we're not done here yet. Elma says some more things, but they're not important, and neither is she. This is also, I believe, the first time we receive a Garment Grid for beating a mission. They're just giving these things away now.
The Youth League was formed a year ago by people who opposed New Yevon. Its members claim that, in the hands of New Yevon, Spira would only repeat its past mistakes.
Under your desks, children, here come the exposition bombs. The Youth League headquarters is sparse, but very militarized. The background music sounds like a march, and there are annoying little kids running around, usually toward you, swinging swords longer than they are.
There's a couple of Al Bhed from something called "The Faction" walking around doing maintenance on machina weapons. One of them seems to think that the League is mobilizing for war with New Yevon.
Walking up to the command tent, we're stopped by yet another familiar face with no name.
It's good to see you!
I am glad to find you well. As you can see, I have joined the Youth League to aid in the fight for a new Spira. I consider it my duty. Meyvn Nooj, our leader, has been hoping for an audience with my lady for some time.
This guy's such a great leader he gets his own special word for "leader."
Unfortunately, he is planning a mission of great import and will be occupied well into the night. I am terribly sorry, but I must ask that you return another day.
Oh, it's no trouble.
The Youth League's looking for spheres too, right?
Yes. "Knowledge of the past is the key to the future." So says the meyvn. It is with these words in mind that we seek the spheres of yore. The mission we are planning also revolves around a sphere, but...
We're on a secret mission! Don't tell anybody, it's a secret!
There sure do seem to be a lot of weirdos around here.
Just the other day, a very valuable sphere was stolen almost as soon as we discovered it.
The Thief League?
This line isn't totally clear. She's asking whether the Youth League is full of thieves, but this makes it sound like there's an official thieves' guild out there.
No. No, few here would go that far. Most of us are very devoted. We work hard with Meyvn Nooj towards our goal of building a new Spira. But the meyvn insists that none be turned away. And so the occasional bad seed does slip through...
After talking with Lucil, another familiar face walks in.
In the prequel, Maechen was our Hitchhiker's Guide, giving us the history of wherever we happened to be in exhaustive detail. He's about to do it again.
In order to get full completion, you have to listen to Maechen's story. It's about six minutes long, the game keeps prompting you to interrupt him, and the voice actor's notes are just the word "boring" over and over. It's even too much to transcribe, even though there's some useful information hidden within. Really, there's only one thing to do to this scene.
Video: Maechen Explains It All
tl:dr; A guy named Trema started a sphere hunting organization to uncover Spira's lost past, then founded New Yevon and hoarded all the spheres they'd found. The Youth League was then formed by people pissed at New Yevon. And I'm old.
So we already had an idea why New Yevon might not like the League, but now we're getting a sense of why the opposite might also be true. The League is basically, if you'll forgive the analogy, the Anonymous to New Yevon's Scientology. It also seems to count many former Crusaders as members, which explains the militarization and the hostility toward New Yevon; Old Yevon didn't exactly treat the Crusaders with a gentle hand.
Oh, might I ask you one small favor?
What is it?
I'd like to shake your hand... if it's not too much trouble. To touch just once the hand that defeated Sin and saved all Spira.
This option is our reward for
Don't say that.
Is something wrong?
No, no, it is nothing. Lady Yuna, you have my thanks.
If we pop back to the airship, here's what Paine has to say:
She's got a valid concern. The League might have its heart in the right place, but it seems militarized, unstable, and full of malcontents and ne'er-do-wells. Never trust hotheads to run a cold war.
We can also watch that Crimson Sphere we got.
Video: Crimson Report 1
Back at the entrance, Eeyore is sulking.
I don't know where I belong. I've spent my whole life drifting from one failure to the next. But, I can't keep doing this forever. I know that there's a place for everyone in this world - even someone as sad and pathetic as me.
Fun as it would be to twist the knife, I let him on. This is one interesting feature of having our own airship; we can pick up hitchhikers. Once he's aboard, we start walking to Djose.
But don't think we've aligned ourselves one way or the other. We work with both New Yevon and the Youth League.
The area around Djose seems to be populated by Al Bhed from this Machine Faction. One seems to imply that they are supplying machina to both sides in this political conflict.
After we defeated Sin, people began to distance themselves from the temples. For a long time, Djose Temple was neglected as well. But now...
We get to the temple, and there's a crowd milling around outside that turns and gawks at Yuna as she approaches.
You're famous, Yunie. Better get used to it.
All I want's some peace and quiet.
Maybe she's getting old.
Ah, good times. This is an important aspect to Yuna's character, though, and I'm glad it gets some highlighting. Already embarrassed by her celebrity in the prequel, she spent at least a year in seclusion on Besaid after defeating Sin, and since then she's traveled out of the public eye on her own airship. She's really not comfortable with her status and has done almost nothing to shape her own public image, and that's left her as almost a mythological entity in the minds of the citizens of Spira.
Then a pirate walks by.
That's Gippal, leader of the Machine Faction. He can be kind of annoying, but he's all right.
I gotta admit, I like Gippal. Part of it is his voice actor. He gets the attitude just right.
To do anything else here, we have to apply for a job digging in Bikanel Desert. First we talk to the assembled crowd until the line clears out, then we register to apply, then we get ushered into the temple.
I have already done interviews.
He's about to skip out on his responsibilities when he notices Yuna.
Hm. All right, follow me.
Again, I like this characterization. Yuna's determined to be herself and not be defined by her actions two years prior.
Before we follow Gippal outside, we have a talk with the Machine Faction's PR guy to find out what they're all about. Basically, they're trying to move from just digging up old technology to actually improving it or inventing new things. Looks like what we saw on the Highroad is part of that. They're also playing the politics game of redefining things, and it seems to be working; most of the people outside still object to machina, but think machines are just fine.
Gippal waits for us on the bridge into the temple.
I could get used to this.
Well, if it isn't Cid's girl. How you been?
Hey, I have a name!
Heh. Brother doin' okay?
Same as ever. Buddy's around, too.
Same as ever is right.
Gippal then notices the goth in the room.
Paine. Nice to meet you.
Right... the interview.
I love this exchange. Gippal's surprise contrasted against Paine's poker face does exactly what it's supposed to do; we know that the two know each other somehow, and that Paine is going to say absolutely nothing about it. The first time I played the game, this scene made me think Gippal was her ex-boyfriend or something. Really, screens don't do this justice, so go watch:
Video: Gippal is Awesome
All right, you're hired. Welcome.
You. Are. Hired. Don't know why a superstar like you would want to play in the sand. Well, do what you gotta do. Anyway, I've done what I can. Dig to your heart's content.
If we hopped back onto the airship, we'd find that Bikanel is now a Hotspot! We'd also get opinions from our teammates.
Let's hurry up and go to Bikanel! I'll get us through the desert in no time!
Do we have to go play in the sand? We're supposed to be sphere hunters.
We could also beam down to the Moonflow from there, where we'd see this scene.
Spira's landscape really hasn't changed much since then. If anything's changed, people seem to smile more often now... It's as if they finally have time to notice the beauty around them.
Hey, this is nice out here.
A lot of people are traveling these days, trying to learn more about Spira.
Thanks to you, Yuna.
I had nothing to do with it.
Go on, give yourself a pat on the back.
The Moonflow is a nice place for this exchange. On Yuna's original pilgrimage, Tidus was the odd man out by actually being surprised at how beautiful the scenery was. It's cool to see the rest of the world able to appreciate it with the same fresh eyes.
The problem is, if we beam down to the Moonflow, we'd probably end up talking to this guy.
Tobli is supposed to be this motor-mouthed entertainment mogul, but his voice acting keeps pausing to load the next sound clip from the disc, which just makes him sound mentally unstable. He tells us about a show he's planning, and that his assistant is missing, and bribes us to go check on him. Thing is, we don't actually have to do that.
Tobli's quests are one of the branching paths in this game. We get different rewards depending on when we talk to him and which of his quests we complete. It doesn't really change the main plot, and as long as we save the assistant, it doesn't matter whether we get bribed first (except, of course, for completion percentage). There's a stupid number of permutations of Tobli's quests, too many to realistically show off, and each of them comes with a different unique item as a reward, so if you like making perfect save files, you're not going to like this guy.
I'm going to do this mission by walking from Djose. It feels more natural, and it lets me interact with Tobli as little as possible but still show off some end game content.
Were you attacked?
Not yet. But I am very worried?
Somebody thought this was hilarious. Anyway, the assistant begs Yuna for help until she buckles.
This is a pretty uninteresting escort mission. We keep running into invisible walls so we can't go too far ahead of the cart.
The events of the quest are fixed. First, one bandit appears, and we're frozen in place until he grabs a suitcase from the cart, so we have to kill him to get it back.
Second, two bandits appear, and we can cut off the assistant this time and run out to meet them. It's kind of a neat touch that we can see other bandits waiting on the cliffs above, although why they don't try to help while we slaughter their companions is beyond me.
Third, we reach this corner, and instead of animating the cart turning, the screen just fades out and then back in with the cart facing the new direction. Finally, one bandit comes from in front and another from behind, but we can run far enough ahead of the cart to deal with one before the other gets anywhere close.
You're telling me. Back at the moonflow;
Oh ho ho, you've returned!
Thanks to these ladies.
Yup-yup! Of course, you've been most helpful! With this, the show is just a step away from smashing success! Please, accept this as your reward.
Incidentally, if we warp back now...
Racist. As we're leaving the Moonflow, we find more goddamn monkeys.
Now to our final stop today, Guadosalam.
Guadosalam, home of the Guado. You remember, right? But the Guado are no longer here. Some people think they deserved all that happened for what they did to Spira. They have a point... but it seems like such a sad way to look at things.
Things have certainly changed. The Guado, I guess, are genus non gratus after backing Seymour in his mad quest. The Ronso have particular reason to hold a grudge, being nearly wiped out; I'd run away too. Leblanc Syndicate goons are standing guard at Seymour's old mansion; I guess that's their headquarters. There's not much to do here this chapter, but it's good to know what's going on for later.
Well, not until you said something, lady.
We can also try to visit the Farplane, which triggers this scene.
I've thought about going in so many times, hoping that I might see you there. But I never have. I think... I probably never will.
They won't let us in anyway, though.
The Farplane, as you may remember, is where the souls of the fallen are sent to rest. So what does it mean when limbo is having technical difficulties? I'm glad you asked, because this is a neat example of how X-2 integrates game mechanics into the plot.
We know from the prequel that fiends are the manifestation of unsent souls that resent the living. When you defeat a fiend, there is a ghostly wail and a spray of technicolor particles. That's Yuna sending the souls that make up the fiend (there may not be any aeons left to summon, but she hasn't forgotten how to manipulate spiritual energy). This doesn't happen when defeating human or mechanical enemies - mechanical, because they have no souls, and human, because Yuna & Co. are presumably not going for kill shots.
Unfortunately, it seems that the sending process isn't taking the way it used to. This game features a gameplay element called Oversoul, which is similar to the Overdrives from FFX, except that enemies get to use it. When your party has killed a certain number of a specific species of fiend, the next one you encounter will pull in pyreflies from the ether and visibly power up. An oversouled enemy usually has better stats, stronger attacks and fringe benefits like unlimited MP or more status immunities. The bestiary that Shinra keeps has separate entries for Oversouled enemies, and better items can be stolen from them as well. Even bosses can be oversouled with the help of a New Game +.
Video: Fiends Get Limit Breaks?
The game never says so explicitly, but I'm certain that the problems with the Farplane and the Oversoul mechanic are meant to be related. It's not just that the Guado aren't around to regulate the system any more, whatever that means. At the end of FFX, there were four entities (Sin, the aeons, Yu Yevon, and the simulation of Zanarkand) that each individually represented an enormous investment of spiritual power, and Yuna sent all of them to the Farplane at the same time.
Now Hell is overflowing. The Oversoul mechanic is one consequence of this overabundance of pyreflies. We'll get a little deeper into the metaphysics in a later update.
That's about half the non-essential world explored. Next time: we visit old friends in Besaid.