Part 6: Bilibin and Kolima
Now that you've been forced to help Ivan, forced to leave Ivan, forced in the direction of a mission involving Ivan, and then made to go somewhere entirely different, you're forced to get Ivan back. ADHD gameplay you have no control over is fun.
It's no use. Our Psynergy isn't strong enough to free that stump.
Even ignoring the question of why there's a stump there (somebody cut down that tree by standing ten feet away and throwing an axe for a few hours?), this is, as always, pretty terribly contrived. Apparently 10-foot-tall marble statues are fair game but ivy-covered stumps constitute a Heraclean task, and Garet burning the ivy would just be terrible for the environment.
As for the fact that you have swords, let's just go with "Camelot" and leave it at that.
...Thanks for the help. But why are you here, Ivan?
I couldn't get into Lunpa...Don't get me wrong! I didn't come here to ask for your help. Your quest has been on my mind ever since I left Vault. Please, allow me to join your quest.
That time I read your mind five minutes ago has stuck with me over my entire hundred-foot walk, inspiring me to come to this cave instead of back to the the town where I actually live or the other town where I had reliable shelter and actually saw you. Mind if I risk my life unnecessarily also?
In any case, we get to our second dungeon. Vastly more intricate than the first one, this dungeon is actually interesting and enjoyable, containing a number of clever concepts and…
Yeah, not at all. It's actually another maze built around pushing things.
The only moderately noteworthy piece of this is that we can get another djinn, who arbitrarily fights us. There's no rhyme or reason to if encountered djinn will fight or just immediately join you, but there is the requisite needless inconsistency as Flint is the only one who can speak or displays any other sign of intelligence. Really, nothing about this mechanic was thought through.
(Note: Readers of the thread informed me that whether a djinn fights you or not it based on whether or not the area has random encounters, with Flint as the only exception. I feel that my overall critique still holds.)
As was briefly mentioned last update, item #678 that isn't explained due to the word count being wasted on reiterating nonexistent motives is the existence of a weakness chain. In case you couldn't tell from the classical elements setup, the standard rock-paper-scissors game comes into play through 90% of the attacks in the game, not at all explaining why Camelot never tells you what this weakness chain is or that it exists. The only clue (besides this being a JRPG with a categorized collection element cribbed from Pokemon) is the exclamation points after the status messages. !!! means it was very effective, ! means it was normal, and . means it was weak. Battles in Golden Sun apparently involve a lot of shouting.
Addendum: Technically it isn't a weakness chain, it's mutual opposition. Fire and Water are weak to each other, neutral to the other two other elements, and strong against themselves. Same with Lightning and Earth.
Enclosed is a piece of evidence for why I believe people in Golden Sun seem to understand things about djinn, at least not finding them as noteworthy as they should considering these mythical beasts showed up a day before and can control classical elements. Sorry to hear about the talonic frostbite; get well soon.
Pretty much this whole dungeon is just pushing wood to get around the one-square jump limit, in this case creating a shortcut to where you entered. Every dungeon in the game (with two noteworthy and very annoying exceptions) has you end up five feet away from where you started with the revelation that, say, wading across a small stream would have negated the need to do any of the crawl you just completed. I suppose it's nice that we don't have to double-back through every dungeon we complete, but there's such a thing as being a bit too upfront that we're merely the Sisyphean playthings of a developer. Perhaps this game was intended as a metatextual primer on Camus.
Like all of the issues the game brings up, I'll promptly forget about that theory in favor of exploring another town we have no reason to explore.
The only thing of note is this djinn, found by tightroping-walking the fence and tornadoing some ivy to get to the cave / gold statue storage cellar. I think every city in this game is required to meet a one statue per citizen quota.
The lord will only meet with brave and mighty warriors. You don't seem the type. Think you're up to it?
What do you say? They look a little young to get involved in this ugly mess.
Nobody else seems up to the challenge, though. What do we have to lose?
The lives of three children? As guards, that seems a fairly decent thing to try not to lose.
New warriors, yeh say? We've sent many a man intae Kolima Forest, but not one has returned.
McCoy is the only Scottish man in this game. In fact, he is the only character with any inflectional dialogue in this game at all, and he serves absolutely no purpose besides giving you this meaningless quest and letting you know that nobody else is up to the challenge of being one of the many men who were up for the challenge of looking at trees.
Hey...Are these the ones yeh were talking about? Here. This key'll get yeh past the barricades tae the east...Even with the key, such wee lads as yerselves'll never reach Kolima.
A large chunk of dialogue of meaningless (and lengthy) logistical planning later and McCoy remembers he's in a Golden Sun game, hastily changing personality midway through his introduction.
They call themselves warriors...but they're naught but wee children! Aye, these are desperate times, but I cannae send such wee lads tae their doom! We cannae give up hope on our other champions! We cannae send yeh intae certain doom.
Referring to the forest as "certain doom" twice in one block of text would seem to imply a lack of hope in your champions. Just saying.
(Fan theory: McCoy is a robot caught in an infinite loop. Despite this setback, the only reason he is unable to successfully pass the Turing Test is due to vastly surpassing the intellectual capacities of anyone else in the room.)
That barricade...You may not need a key. Oops...I shouldn't have said anything. Well, I'm going to go now.
This is the barricade, also known as the haphazard pile of boxes that would be substantially less effective if not for everyone in this game having a crippling fear of the existence of water.
The next stop on our list of stops that don't in any way help us save the world is Kolima. Everybody in Kolima has become a tree. Far more worrying, however, is the town's concurrent glitter infestation.
This tree...was a person.
Everyone in Kolima has been turned into a tree. Why? Do you know why this happened? [Yes]
Trying to defeat the Romans via occult magic?
I see...It was because they hurt the holy tree?
Seriously? In case the verbosity and mass incompetence weren't giving me enough Chzo flashbacks; now I'm getting two games in a row involving immoral godly figures punishing villagers by putting their souls into trees? Did this somehow become a common trope when I wasn't looking?
One of the few things to do here is the stock "puzzle" about going into a "hidden door" that would cause the player characters no inconvenience or confusion at all (opposite side of the tree in the above shot). It leads to a needlessly long cave that, as always, succeeds in moving us five feet for another djinn. Climb over the waist-high fence instead? What are you, mad?
Alright, well, this town doesn't really have residents as of now, so maybe we can steal some equipment? No, the game (reasonably) won't let us do that, but I guess a sense of ethics is understandable. Maybe we can do something that wouldn't hurt anyone in any way.
Nope. Apparently being sensible (e.g. sleeping in a bed) is an entirely foreign concept unless money is somehow changing hands. Ayn Rand would be proud.
Given that Kolima is unimportant, we're instead meant to go up another ten feet and get ambushed by indigo.
Could this be what turned those people into...We've got to get out of here!
From a storytelling standpoint, how exactly was any of this constructed? We get railroaded into an obvious trap only to be deus ex machina'd out in a method that never comes up again and clashes with what little has been established about how psynergy works. Were employees under strict orders never to revise anything on penalty of having to play the game they were making?
I'm certain that was Psynergy we were projecting. That must mean that some Psynergy acts only when it's needed.
Ah, so psynergy is an automatic defense mechanism. That explains all those times it defended Felix from drowning, the priests from dropping the boulder, Garet and Isaac from being trapped in an exploding volcano two days ago, the very possibility of dying in battle, and all the times this will be addressed again (hint: the answer is less than one).
You mean, like when we're in danger? I think it's like when we strike critical hits in battle. We can't control it, but it's there when we need it.
This has never been brought up and will never be brought up again, and it doesn't fit into anything except establishing that Garet has no control over how powerfully he swings his own arms. Camelot, there's something you're fundamentally not understanding about how to prioritize the world-building aspects of your game.
Now we get to telekinetically communicate with the trees. Whether this is related to the above point is up for debate (but the answer is yes).
Tret was once a kindly forest king. But he is slowly dying, and his heart has torn in two...His wrathful side turned the people of Kolima into trees. The kind Tret speaks no more.
Nobody seems to bat an eye at the concept of mythical sentient trees with magic powers taking revenge on humans for trying to cut them down. I remind you that this is the same group of people who a few days earlier were blown away by the thought that there might be a picture of the sun in a building named after the sun.
Hroom! The kindly heart invites destruction...I need no kindness!
If you wish to save those whom Tret turned into trees, you must reawaken his gentle side. But...if you cannot stop Tret from withering, we all will... Look for Tret deep within the forest.
Or... we could be out stopping the villains from destroying the world instead of wasting time taking on meaningless side missions that only exist to give us redundant reasons to do things we would already be doing if not for taking those side missions.
Dungeon #3. It's a "puzzle dungeon" consisting entirely of the same puzzle: pushing things. This is the same puzzle we covered in the first two as well, but this time the objects are horizontal! This prevents Move from working for no adequate reason.
Also it's a (bad) maze.
The only really noteworthy part is this combination water level - block pushing puzzle, which is really just the same puzzle as all the other rooms with more running back and forth, just in case the past few weren't tedious enough.
This dungeon is one of the exceptions I was talking about a bit earlier. There's no permanent shortcut, so you're forced to do that forest dungeon at least twice (four times if you're an idiot like me and forget that you have a Retreat spell). Technically I could sequence break and save this dungeon for later, but as mentioned I'm going along with the excuses Camelot barely even bothers giving for why I should be doing this. Trees are bad, I guess.
Climbing the vine takes us inside the tree which inevitably balloons to five times its initial size to accommodate us.
Camelot Designer 1: So, I'm playing this game called Ocarina of Time. Apparently people really like it, so I'm going to use all of the awesome ideas it has in this game we're making.
Camelot Designer 2: Ah, like the varied environments, huge number of sidequests, imaginative design, clever puzzles, and interesting boss fights?
Camelot Designer 1: Yeah, as if people liked those parts. The real reason OoT was successful was all the block pushing and unskippable dialogue.
Camelot Designer 2: Well, there was a little more than-
Camelot Designer 1: Fine, we'll make our characters go inside a giant sentient tree also. Happy?
Camelot Designer 2: Well, I'm not sure that will accomplish-
Camelot Designer 1: I can no longer hear you as I am too busy attempting to eat this cordless drill.
Next time, we'll tackle this dungeon and I'll finally show off what the battle system can do for us. Most of it involves mashing A until everything dies.