Part 11: Episode 5 - Gil for Nothing and Fiends for FreeEpisode 5 - Gil for Nothing and Fiends for Free
Welcome back. We left off our Greatest Hits reunion tour at Guadosalam. Our first stop today is the Thunder Plains.
Know how? She said she camped out here for a week!
Okay, two things. First; there's nothing to do here, and there won't be for most of the game. Second; hey, game developers! "I'm afraid of lightning" doesn't count as characterization, and "I'm no longer afraid of lightning" doesn't count as character development.
The only noteworthy feature is this guy who tells us that the Al Bhed finally got around to fixing the lightning rod towers, and the Plains became a popular tourist attraction, not necessarily in that order. I have to give the Al Bhed credit; they're really taking advantage of the upswing in machina acceptance to secure their position in the new world order. The halfway shop is still open too.
You know, I give X-2 a lot of grief for its minigames, but, on reflection, it's not like the prequel was unmarred by the same problems. Lightning Dodger? Butterfly Catcher? Whose ideas were those? Moving on.
It's been two years since the fayth in Macalania Temple disappeared.
There's a few things to find here. The first is a vague environmental conservation message that the game never really develops or does anything interesting with.
The second is these guys! Looks like that rumor about the Guado hiding in Macalania were right. You'd think the Ronso would have heard the rumor too.
And deep in the woods, we find Tromell, the closest thing to a leader the Guado have left. As soon as we approach him, he immediately starts to grovel.
How have you been?
"Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"
Well... With Lord Seymour gone, we Guado are hardly different from the dead. Many Ronso lost their lives at the hands of Lord Seymour. Those who survived swore vengeance for their fallen comrades. We Guado sealed ourselves away in Guadosalam and strengthened our defenses, but soon we no longer had the strength for even this. Now, we live among the shadows of these woods.
High Summoner, do not trouble yourself to show sympathy for the Guado. We once walked willingly with Lord Seymour, never questioning, even as he led all Spira into madness. Lady Yuna, I cannot ask that you forgive us... only that you forget us.
I'm of two minds about the Guado in this game. On the one hand, their dilemma was not an easy one; go against their superior, and suffer immediate, and probably fatal, consequences, or go along with something immoral, knowing that the whole world will judge you if you end up on the losing side of history? The Guado, at least, don't seem to be leaning on the tired excuse of "just following orders." They're owning up to their culpability for their actions (or inaction, as the case may be).
On the other hand, for all of Tromell's dramatic self-loathing, the Guado are taking the coward's way out. As Paine says, just withdrawing from the society they've harmed doesn't remove the injuries they inflicted. They've accepted fault, but not responsibility, and by judging themselves, they're denying the rest of the world the right to judge them. Also, have you ever known somebody who, whenever they screw up or hurt somebody, will start to beat themselves up, figuratively or literally, in a reverse-psychology attempt to engender sympathy? Tromell kind of hits that note here, and it makes it hard to trust his sincerity.
Ah, well, what brings the high summoner to these woods?
Well, I'm a sphere hunter now.
Hm. A sphere hunter? You don't say...
Once we're done with Tromell's pity party, he hands us the first of our three Special Dresspheres. As I alluded to earlier, these take the place of Overdrives or summons in this game. You have to charge them up by switching to every dressphere in your grid at least once in the same battle. When one character activates her Special job, she kicks the other two girls off the battlefield and transforms into something large and thematic with a matched pair of support entities. Paine, for example, gets into a giant bird suit made of knives, and her knife wings act as second and third party members.
You wouldn't expect to get these so early, except that they're more defensive walls than offensive powerhouses. All the special jobs have easy-to-learn abilities that grant triple HP and status immunity, and free HP restoring, MP restoring, and KO-reviving skills capable of outlasting pretty much any battle of attrition. Their attacks, on the other hand, tend to be slow to come out, off-setting the increased offense.
We can pop back to the ship quickly after this scene and hear what the party thinks of the Guado's fate.
Tromell was seriously down in the dumps back there, wasn't he?
So Tromell and the Guado plan to fade away with the woods...
It's not entirely clear how the woods are fading, or how the Guado would fade with them. Anyway, we're not done; there's a third thing to find in Macalania.
Looks like people weren't kidding about the temple having sunken into the lake.
As we approach the Travel Agency, some Al Bhed run up to it with guns out and yell for O'aka XXIII to come out. If we talk to them, they say they're repossessing the shop.
Naturally, he shows up behind us, asks us to keep quiet, and runs off.
I think this is the first mission that the World Map gives us absolutely no indication exists. Anyway, O'aka is probably selling really cool equipment again, right? Let's go chase him down.
This mission leads us on a merry chase through the forest, with O'aka occasionally stopping to wave politely at us and scamper away. If you're doing this chapter in the same order I am, you'll find the random battles here numerous and obnoxious. Paine's new special job, however, quickly learns our first available confusion attack, and we can start using it to learn beneficial blue magic here.
We track O'aka to the campsite from the prequel, and the game goes meta for a second. The characters can totally see him from their angle, but the camera can't.
O'aka, at your service!
Where do you meet these people?
I bought the Travel Agency from Mr. Rin, but then the temple nearby sank to the bottom of the lake. And business sank with it. Just my luck.
So start a scuba diving venture. And you call yourself an entrepreneur?
Now the Al Bhed have come to collect and they're not in the mood for excuses. Think ye could give old O'aka a place to lay low? Hmm? For a while? I'll find a way to make it up to ye, I promise.
So, for the time being, O'aka stands across the cabin from Barkeep. What do people think about our new passenger?
O'aka? He's in the cabin. Let's buy something to help him out!
Great. I've always wanted to harbor a fugitive.
Fortunately, O'aka's more than just a passenger. All he sells is basic restoratives, although he's the first shop to offer Hi-Potions, and he sells them at 98% of normal market price. It's not much, but it helps.
On top of that, the cost of whatever we buy from him is deducted from his debt. On the first cycle, his debt starts at 100,000 gil, and every time you start a New Game +, it goes up by a thousand. Since I paid it all off last time through, it's only 1,000 gil. Three Hi-Potions later...
"So long, thanks for everything." Not exactly a proper thanks, now is it? I think I'll keep doing business here for a bit. At a tremendous discount, of course!
Tremendous discount is right. O'aka now sells at 10% market price. While standing across from Barkeep, who will buy things at 50% market price. This is how you get infinite money in Chapter 1. We also start to see some of the nefarious design of X-2; random battle difficulty will encourage you to complete Chapter 1 in pilgrimage order, as I am, but certain sidequest synergies work more to your advantage if you go backwards.
But that's if you let him aboard. If you don't...
The game double-checks you want to be a dick first.
You have to pay back what you owe.
We found him! O'aka is over here!
And back on the ship...
I wonder where they took O'aka.
Remind me never to borrow money from you, Yuna.
Note that the reward for this mission is the Ice Queen Garment Grid. I think it's more appropriate for finishing the mission by turning O'aka in.
Next, to Bikanel Island. Note that you can actually come here before talking to Gippal, but the mission is locked off.
This is where the Al Bhed's beloved Home stood until two years ago. Most have moved on, but a handful of Al Bhed still live here today. They say countless machina lie buried under the desert sands.
Rikku, naturally, has no idea where we're going. We follow her into the desert, and, after exactly three unavoidable random battles...
We wake up in an Al Bhed camp.
We could've looked forever and never found it.
Normally, that'd be the end of the scene. However, since we came with Gippal's letter...
It's probably too big for the airship to handle.
I guess we won't be leaving the way we came.
We're locked into the mission now. The save sphere won't let us warp out.
Thanks for the tip. After talking to the right people...
Nhadala rides in on a hoverbike much cooler than she is.
I'm busy, so make it fast, okay? I've got lots to excavate and no one to do it.
Oh, so you're the new guys! Hmm. I guess the high summoner's hard up, too. Well, don't be expecting any special treatment.
This mission is just a tutorial for the digging minigame. We're introduced to a "wacky" robot sidekick...
...and driven out to the desert.
Largely, it's easiest to watch the minimap while playing this game. Treasures are marked with Xs, and can be small amounts of money, restorative items, Sphere Break coins, or buried monsters.
The object of the dig is the yellow X. If we don't get it, or if another digger gets it before we do, or if we dig it up then fail to get back to the hover before we faint, the dig counts as a failure. It's also possible to accidentally end the dig early by getting too close to the hover.
Here's why we're not going to do any digging until we absolutely have to. After a while we can apply for a raise, but the rewards for digging aren't a particularly good time investment. The main reason I dug in my first playthrough was to find a full set of Al Bhed Primers, and those carry over.
Oh, and occasionally you'll run into this guy while digging.
Right now he's just a big ball of HP, and he ejects you from battle after a certain amount of time has passed. If you don't know he won't attack, it can be pretty scary the first time you run across him.
Video: We're Going To Need A Bigger Boat
Let's go dig again and rake in some serious pocket change!
Yuna, look at me. You do remember that we're sphere hunters, right?
On to Bevelle. Time to hear the other side out.
I suppose that makes it my hometown, but I can't say that I have a lot of fond memories here.
The guards on the Highbridge have varying opinions of the Youth League.
I see you've finally decided to join New Yevon! You do us much honor, my lady. Lord Braska - may he rest in peace - would be proud. I will summon the praetor immediately. I beg your leave.
Mind you, he says all this before Yuna opens her mouth. These guys hard sell like Scientologists. While we wait, Yuna paces nervously.
We should leave.
What's the matter, Yunie?
Well, you see, there was this arrangement... with the son of the chairman of New Yevon. I turned the offer down, but I thought it'd be kind of awkward.
You're probably right. Let's go.
Before we can bravely run away, a tall, dark man makes a dramatic entrance.
So, you're the chairman's son?
Ah. As it happens, the chairman has recently resigned. As did his son, the praetor. They were trying to take too much power. We had to ask them to leave. Now the younger members run the party - by mutual consensus, of course. So you see, Lady Yuna, it is not I that was meant to marry the high summoner.
I understand if your feelings toward Yevon are mixed. But I would hope that you could put that aside and join our cause. The world is changing, and there are many who are finding it difficult to keep up. New Yevon wishes to help those who feel lost in the winds of change.
Oh, and should you come across any spheres of Spira's past, please do let us know. My lady.
I think I've heard enough. What now?
Well, at least Baralai was polite enough to turn us away himself. But they're certainly pushy, their interest in spheres is suspicious considering their track record, and they don't seem to like to let people get a word in edgewise.
Baralai's really got his act together, don't you think? Our Gullwing men should start taking notes.
Baralai was putting on an act. No one that nice could ever become praetor.
I think I agree with Paine's judgment on this one. Remember that this Trema guy wanted spheres too. It pays to be cautious when a change of leader produces no change in policy. We can now run to the Calm Lands.
Many summoners used to cross these plains, their hearts heavy with the weight of their pilgrimage. I was no different. But the Calm Lands we knew have changed.
Somehow the fiends of the Calm Lands have been drafted into minigames. There's two things to do here.
There are two minigame companies working in the Calm Lands. They provide basically the same services, and we have to pick one to publicize. If one gets significantly more popular than the other, they'll have a merger at the end of the game. Somebody's projecting.
The other point of interest is this guy, trying to find a wife for his son. Both of these quests require us to talk to everybody in the world an additional time every chapter and pick from a list of advertisements. Not only are they pointlessly time-consuming, they also force you to play with one eye on a FAQ to tell you which sells give you the most points.
The matchmaker quest isn't necessary, so I'm not doing it. The PR mission is necessary for a couple of things, but I'm not really doing it either. I can buy credits for either company with my infinite money, and a portion of the credits I lose playing games is added to my PR score, so next time I'm watching TV I'll just go by the audio cues and lose a bunch on purpose. Multitasking is fun.
It'll wait until next chapter, though, when my betting limits are higher. All I do this trip is spend some credits on a No Encounters accessory. Or I would if I didn't still have one from last game.
We also can't go into the Monster Arena for no adequate reason. One last stop before we hit the end of the road.
Kimahri is their elder now, and he's working hard to unite his people. Still, it seems much quieter here than it used to be. Maybe because summoners no longer come here to climb the sacred mountain...
Or maybe because most of the Ronso got killed.
Yuna look well. Kimahri glad.
How you been, Kimahri? What's it like being an elder?
Elder's job difficult. Kimahri troubled.
Note that Kimahri is the elder of the Ronso now despite being a runt and probably not anywhere near the oldest. It really is who you know.
This Garik guy jumps in to tell us that two Ronso children, Lian and Ayde, have apparently left the mountain to look for a cure for Kimahri's broken horn.
All there really is to do here this chapter is placate the Ronso. They'll say certain things and we have to pick an answer they like. Some of them think the Ronso are dying out, and others want to go to war with the Guado. Again, this is a part of the game that punishes you for not having the strategy guide, because the "best" answer isn't always obvious, or even consistent with Yuna's preferred message. Sometimes a comforting approach gets you the most benefit, while other times the Ronso gets offended that you tried to calm him down. The only person who really reacts to what we say is Kimahri, anyway.
Is everything okay?
Either of the more comforting options prompts Kimahri to tell us that he's not up to the job of Elder. If we tell him to grow a spine, he responds;
Yuna. Kimahri sorry. Whining make Kimahri small.
And what do our party members say?
No wonder Kimahri seems troubled. He takes his duties so seriously.
Not every problem goes away with the coming of the Calm.
Well, we've reached the end of the road. Next time: where we cast off our false hope.