Part 35: Episode 16 - AloneEpisode 16 - Alone
Welcome back. We had to chew through quite a lot of backstory last time. Let's take a moment to digest what we learned.
We learned a little bit of Nooj, Baralai, and Gippal's history in the Crimson Squad, although we're not completely sure what the Squad was supposed to be, and that things ended badly for them after they survived what was supposed to be a suicide mission. We learned pretty much all we needed to know about the betrayal that makes Paine keep Yuna at arms' length. And we have a sense of how the other three reacted to that betrayal. Gippal retreated into the inner working of things that aren't human, teaching his followers self-reliance. Though he may not be bitter, he certainly learned a lesson. Baralai seems to have retreated further into his faith, taking upon himself the responsibility to nurture and protect his flock the way his friend failed to do. And Nooj, however genuine his words about freedom of knowledge, appears to have had an ulterior motive this whole time; gathering information about Vegnagun, and denying that information to those who would protect it. Even the location and time of the meeting is insightful; Baralai calls it in Bevelle so he won't have to leave his people, Gippal goes because he thinks his people can handle themselves without him, and Nooj gets there earliest because he doesn't really care about the League.
What I like about this part of the game is how much we learn about Nooj without actually interacting with him for more than five seconds. We see he was famous enough to be notorious, and we start to get the first signs of his self-destructive tendencies; scarred by life and touched by death, yet unable to rest until he meets an honorable warrior's end. There's echoes of Auron in there. But we also see that Nooj was able to inspire great loyalty in his comrades, such that years later and after literally shooting his team in the back, he still gets invited to clandestine meetings and attends them without significant fanfare. Paine and Gippal's reactions speak volumes. Her continued insistence that the shooting was an accident gives us a sense of how much she trusted Nooj, and still wants to, and that his behavior is out of character enough to probably be the fault of whatever was possessing him.
Oh yeah, and the possessing thing. Whatever it was, it said it wanted to use Vegnagun and destroy it at the same time. Presumably it knows Vegnagun won't run away from that, and only fled because of Nooj's underlying desire to just plain ol' destroy it. So our earlier metaphor of Vegnagun as the world's only nuclear weapon might be more apt than we knew. It may just be that Vegnagun is a one-shot weapon, and using it will destroy it, but it sounded more ominous than that to me.
I have a hunch that we're not getting the whole story here.
So, not even the Machine Faction's weapons can stop the fiends... Another group bites the dust. That didn't take long.
Unfortunately, there's not much we can do about that mystery just yet. We've got that situation in Djose to deal with first.
Before we leave, we ask Shinra about this squeaky thing that's flitting around the bridge. Apparently he's gone on to develop a mobile version of his communications technology. That could come in handy for exploring down those holes in the temples.
When we hit the temple, everyone's got their guns out already.
Where is Gippal when we need him?
He says Gippal's not back yet.
Credit to the developers for remembering to include alternate dialogue depending on if you've seen the scene at Bevelle. It's so hard to find, I could imagine them not doing so, but then having to pretend we didn't know where Gippal was would have strained my suspension of disbelief.
We tried fighting the fiends on our own, but we only made things worse. The fiends found a way to merge with our machina.
Translation: Not good!
Then that's our cue.
The temple maps, I think, were never designed to be dungeon crawls, so this mission is pretty short and linear. There's not even a save point inside. It seems like bad game design on the surface, but I actually like it; it brings across how completely unexpected this disaster is, and how unprepared the world is for it.
It also bolsters the reason the Faction says they're losing; they could have defended the temple from an outside attack, but the Cloister is too small to safely bring out the big guns, leaving them to make do with rifles and small arms.
There's also that gap that Tidus needed a hovering pedestal to cross, but Yuna can jump right over it. She's gotten some exercise, I guess.
On the upper floor, the way forward is blocked by arcing electricity, and we have to push in one of the pedestals in back to shut it off. Every time I've played, the right pedestal is the correct one; the others all start a battle. Whether it's random or predetermined, it's possible to get through this dungeon without a single fight.
Here's our setup for the upcoming fight. Unlike the Ifrit fight, having Lightning Eater isn't an instant win button, and unlike the Malboro fight, we don't really have the time to play with grids before Breaking the enemy, so I put Pride of the Sword on a faster job. Lady Luck is here because the boss has pretty high defenses and evasion, and Dice doesn't care about either.
We should be used to this by now, but Dark Ixion looks a little cyborg here for a bit of a twist.
Merged with Al Bhed machina. Isn't that what they said?
How can this be...
Ixion starts the battle by throwing a cutscene bomb at us, which is pretty sweet. Note that the remaining Al Bhed with the rifle is still here and alive, but won't do jack shit to help in the boss fight.
Dark Ixion's attacks are all pretty familiar. Somebody decided that a chapter end boss had to be more of a challenge than none, so Thor's Hammer is no longer lightning elemental. Aerospark is now a nasty fractional attack, and Ixion will also occasionally heal itself with a bolt of lightning.
Because Thor's Hammer is a legitimate threat, our priority is first applying Shell, then Breaking Ixion's Magic as quickly as possible. Its Evasion makes this a little difficult, which is why I have a Berserker doing it; more turns means more chances for a Break to connect. Another valid strategy is to have a Gunner apply Breaks with her supreme Accuracy. I had fun with Dice this fight too, dealing damage, stunlocking, and setting up Chains.
Video: Boss: Dark Ixion
After the battle, there's a familiar sight.
Go find out.
Uh-uh! No way!
The hole we found was so deep... It was as though all the secrets in the world might be hidden in its depths...
On the one hand, I think this sentiment doesn't quite mesh with Yuna's personality. On the other, I kinda like the fact that we have RPG protagonists whose first instinct isn't to immediately jump down every suspicious hole they find. It made sense in Bevelle because the hole opened into a man-made area they could probably see the bottom of from the top; here, it'd just be stupid and dangerous.
Unfortunately, we're about to have the choice taken away from us. The mechanical parts of Ixion drive it after us even as they threaten to explode.
Caught by surprise, there's little time to think. The team dives for cover.
Rikku dives right...
Paine dives left...
When Yuna regains consciousness, she's in a field of flowers, and somehow wearing the Songstress Dressphere. We've never been here before, but it looks like something we've seen from a great distance.
Yuna stands, and her Songstress clothes seem to resonate with some free-floating pyreflies nearby. It's not entirely clear where we are, but our best guess is... we've fallen into the Farplane.
Suddenly, a figure in the distant fog grabs her attention. An eerily familiar figure...
Is that really you?
It is me. Shuyin.
And the last flicker of hope that the man in the sphere was Tidus has been extinguished.
I've waited so long, Lenne.
But I'm not Lenne.
I looked for you for so long. While I wandered, I realized something: Spira hasn't really changed at all.
A thousand years have passed, and they can't leave the hatred behind. I'm through waiting. I'll fix it.
And we'll fade again, together. Help me do it, Lenne.
Whoever this Shuyin is, he's monologuing. I believe we've found our villain.
Whose feelings are these? Lenne's? Mine?
It's a good question, but for a long moment, it doesn't seem to matter.
Video: Shuyin in the Farplane
Open your eyes!
A warning from an unexpected source shakes Yuna out of her trance.
She regains herself and breaks away from Shuyin, who transforms into... Baralai?
The end is not far now.
Baralai-Shuyin makes a portal somehow and starts to walk through it.
How do you know her?
The four of us go way back.
It's under control!
Take care of things topside.
And without another word, Nooj and Gippal follow through the portal. It closes behind them, and the Farplane goes dark.
Video: The Other Guys
I didn't know what had happened. Everywhere I looked, I found only questions. But more than anything...
Yuna tries some primal scream therapy, but everything that just happened, and is still happening, is just too much.
Lost, alone, confused, and raw, Yuna feels herself breaking down. She curls up into a ball and hugs her knees, trying to hold it together.
Her sacrifices on her pilgrimage were never this hard, because there wasn't as much to lose. But two years ago, she learned what true hope felt like. Now, she feels truly, utterly hopeless.
Wait, what's this?
Okay, okay, the game doesn't actually give you a prompt. But if you talked to Maechen earlier in the chapter, and you recognize that you're stuck in the Farplane, you might get the idea that it couldn't hurt to mash buttons here. Or you might just get frustrated waiting for Yuna to do something.
Either way, a shrill whistle cuts through the darkness, and Yuna shoots to her feet.
A second whistle turns her around...
The figure walks off into space just like Baralai did, but this time, Yuna's willing to take the chance. She makes a step of faith...
...and the Farplane seems to respond, building her a ramp of light. As she runs, everything gets brighter, until she can't keep her eyes open...
Yuna comes to on the platform in Bevelle overlooking Vegnagun's hole. The flying CommSphere device hovers over her, darting and beeping anxiously.
Come in, Yuna. Yuna!
Yuna finds her feet and pauses before she responds.
Yuna, reporting in.
Chapter 3 has ended. First-cycle completionists should be sitting at 59.6%.
Next time; what the hell happened.