Part 37: Izumo and Trident Piece #2Alright, time to breeze through two uninteresting dungeons while being incredibly dry because nothing happens. If for some crazy reason people care about any of this, feel free to ask and I can elaborate on what it is I'm actually doing. If not, skim away; nothing here matters at all.
Now that we have Parch, we get to go to Magic-Antarctica, a continent that has a grand total of one thing on it, a five-minute walk away from where you can land. This is a mostly unrelated rant, but I hate it when games interpret "big" as "full of completely useless empty space". Putting everything miles away from everything else does make something seem dense, but it's usually not the game.
The tower we want to visit is in the middle, at that blue dot on the tip. Going all the way to the left and wandering around just the right patch of snow gets us a djinn. I'm surprised and somewhat impressed Camelot didn't just put half the djinn in the middle of the ocean and make them only appear if Jenna is wearing the right hat.
Nearby Tundaria Tower is where we get to use Parch. Aqua Rock is on the far East of this map and half a planet North. If you come here first you can do nothing. This exploration system is not fun.
The tower is a maze.
Beings of fire that have natural opposition to ice still like to hang out in ice caverns on floors of ice.
Pounding pillars of ice into sheets of ice doesn't break either piece of ice.
Reflective walls that aren't walls act like walls until you reveal that they aren't reflecting things. Dark Dawn features a moving subplot about an elderly Felix trying to overcome his terrible hallucinations while being occasionally distracted by malicious cherubim.
And that's it. That's the dungeon. Wasn't that exciting?
I have to ask, is there some sort of Nier-esque backstory for why everything is these games is in ruin? Did society collapse from building too many statues and not enough granaries or something?
Burst lets you summon explosions, which is already what half of Jenna's offensive spells do anyway. This particular explosion, however, can arbitrarily be used on the world map to do... pretty much nothing. Like Parch, it works about twice in the game.
Backtracking through this dungeon (hope you found and remembered this room rather than assuming you had completed the dungeon by getting an item at the top of it!) lets us explode some ice (our fifty "light a fire" spells and sharp-bladed weapons would never work, god no) and get a trident piece. Between this and the Burst Brooch, I no longer have any inventory slots. Would it really have been that hard to have a "Key Items" menu?
Next arbitrary and entirely unmarked destination: Izumo.
Izumo in brief: Psynergy Stones made a serpent who lives in Gaia Rock wake up and demand a ritualistic sacrifice (I'm not sure how a serpent would do this; politely request it in formal letterhead?), causing the town to hold a lottery and pick Kushinada, the woman in the second screenshot. Susa, a friend of hers, decided to go to Gaia Rock to kill the serpent first, which we decide to do also for no particular reason. Got it? Fantastic.
I'm not going to do anything fun for this rock. It's by far the most bland of the four and, as I keep reiterating and half-following in true Camelot fashion, I really want to get this pre-Champa stuff over with as quickly as I can.
As always, there's a wall climbing part and a maze cave part. Interestingly, you can actually go straight to the maze cave part as soon as you walk in, but that does not mean this dungeon is anywhere near as nonlinear as it's going to pretend it is.
Here, the gimmick is using cyclone to make vines swing so you can swing across gaps. Doing so is awkward at best and demonstrates why most JRPGs do not include elements cribbed from Pitfall.
Because it's an elemental rock, there are also pointless and annoying wastes of time. In this case, the walls are blind mazes, where a lack of clairvoyance makes masks jump out of the walls and knock you off. No, there is no way to watch for these, plan around them, or anticipate them in any way; they are rigged to specific spots and come out as soon as you pass over them, never before. There is also a reason why most JRPGs don't include the equivalent of invisible coin blocks in Mario World hacks.
You know that classic immature game where people say swear words or names for the male anatomy in increasingly loud voices until someone notices? I'm starting to suspect that half of this game was the result of bored developers trying to make things increasingly incongruous and seeing how far they could take things before being told "No, stop, that wasn't part of the design document and it completely clashes with what we're going for out of this game". In the end, Camelot lost.
Alright, this is the central mechanic of this dungeon: the serpent is incredibly powerful and needs to be weakened by shining light on it. This dancing statue lets you move those larger statues, uncovering windows to let beams of light shine into the dragon's chamber.
I actually really love this idea. Progressing through the dungeon makes the boss easier, but you're able to run right through and fight the boss at any time. It reminds me of the Mega Man X strategy of intentionally going against boss weakness order to make certain levels easier, and it's a cool tradeoff that rewards and encourages different playstyles. As always, however, Camelot completely ruins it in two different ways.
Besides just by doing this
First, they get unbelievably lazy with this mechanic.
Camelot Employee 1: How many of these light things should we put in Gaia Rock?
Camelot Employee 2: I'm thinking four. Four's a good number.
Camelot Employee 1: I don't really want to make all those rooms. I'm too busy making the next eight cave dungeons.
Camelot Employee 2: It should be four. Four is good. Just put three of them in one room. That will be good. But do four of them.
Secondly, they make the serpent recover 4000 HP each turn if unweakened (he has 3500 HP in total), making it literally impossible to just opt out of doing this dungeon.
In other words, they had a clever idea and did nothing with it because balancing that concept would take effort. As a result, this is exactly the same as the other elemental rocks, just more bland. Awesome job there.
The only other noteworthy time waster in the dungeon is here. Just before the dragon, you have to use Growth on plants to figure out how to maneuver a maze, and you have to do this for about 20 rooms. This is why nobody was sad when Quovak didn't post an accompanying video. If you really want one you can make some of these screenshots into a GIF and play Crazy Bus again.
I will defeat you before the next full moon and rescue Kushinada myself!
This is Susa. Susa's hobbies include being bad at killing dragons and loudly announcing his motivations and relevant timeframes to the walls.
Why is everybody afraid of this dragon? It offers absolutely no resistance to people feeding it poison, it's weak to sunlight, and it's locked away inside a mesa to the point where even people who are specifically looking for it have trouble finding it. Just don't sacrifice and wait for it to die of magical melanoma.
Here's a boss. His attacks are sparks. You kill him by spamming strong attacks. The end.
Even though the serpent's been defeated, I can't rest! Be still, serpent, and I will grant you peace.
This fight really isn't well integrated into the story here. Basically, we kill it, then we talk about how we didn't kill it, then Susa talks about how we killed it, then he kills it. I don't know what made us stop fighting it, really. A lust for dramatic emphasis?
And then one of those stone tablets rises out of the ground. It's like they just suddenly remembered that you were supposed to be accomplishing something here.
Incidentally, we accomplished being able to turn into sand. This is still in many ways less contrived than Spider-Man 3.
No, there isn't even a single pixel indicating that this is here. No, I don't know how the non-Felix party members also transform into sand.
Please, you were the ones to defeat it, so you should be honest and accept credit.
For… ineffectively hitting it until you actually did something? We did weaken it, but I don't think either he or our characters realize that we did. Susa fed it poison, killed it, and heroically collapsed several hundred feet away. Why would he not want credit, again?
How did you hear? The only one there besides us was Susa himself, and he's currently collapsed. We just got here. In retrospect we maybe should have helped him. Ah well, what's done is done.
You were seen coming down from Mt. Mikage. What brought you to such a dangerous place?
To complete our quest, we need many types of Psynergy.
What is Psynergy?
One of these days, I'm going to replace a "What is Psynergy?" conversation with a random previous "What is psynergy?" conversation and see if anybody calls me on it. I wouldn't be surprised if a Camelot employee has already beaten me to it.
Psynergy is many things... The power to move things with one's mind, to heal, to create.
Felix, there's no need to hide our abilities from them, is there?
When did this line become so popular? Nobody in either game has ever had a problem with hiding their abilities, and every time we enter a town we basically stop one step short of brandishing a bullhorn and screaming "We have magic powers based on rocks".
If you already have Psynergy, why do you need more of this power?
Their powers are different from our own. There seem to be many forms of Psynergy.
Susa takes this time to dramatically enter the room and magically become an expert in what people have been discussing. Keep watch of this; from this point on it basically becomes the cutscene equivalent of dungeons turning out to be caves.
Ah, yes. Psynergy...I have dedicated most of my life to its study... The power of Psynergy comes from the four basic forces of earth, fire, water, and wind. These energies, the foundations of Alchemy, are called "Elementals."
Ah, yes, Kraden being reminded that he's talking about psynergy during a conversation about psynergy because somebody mentions psynergy. How many times are we going to do this?
Does this mean that there are as many types of Psynergy as there are types of elements?
That's right, Kushinada. You're a smart lass. Mt. Mikage was a place of great earth powers. I'd imagine your powers are earth based.
Kraden... Mt. Mikage is Gaia Rock, isn't it?
There are many mountains like Mt. Mikage all across the Eastern Sea. Mt. Mikage is a source of earth power, and therefore, it must be Gaia Rock.
Sheba remains the most egregious example of people completely changing their knowledge base as a result of convenience. Sheba is by far the least well-traveled member of our party and none of our characters have anything besides the floating "Aqua Rock" text box from which to infer any of this, and this logic is completely circular (Mt. Mikage was a place of Earth power, thus your power is Earth-based, thus Mt. Mikage is a source of Earth power). That result is barely even true; the dungeon was built around using Whirlwind and Cyclone and manipulating light. The only time Earth had anything to do with it was when you had to use Growth, and even that specifically required a Mars djinn.
And now, you are questing to gather the power of these elements, yes?
And you only defeated the Great Serpent of Mikage to accomplish this goal?
You're... not implying that we defeated the serpent, are you? It's true that we did fight the creature...But without Susa's power, the battle might not have ended so happily.
We were victorious only because Susa risked everything to weaken the dragon.
The game doesn't do a very good job of keeping this story straight. We weakened the dragon (by beating it even if our characters don't know about the light mechanic) and Susa finished it. But we were victorious because Susa weakened it, even though the dragonsbane didn't really weaken it, but maybe it did.
They could just have the two agree that it was a communal venture, but instead there's a ten minute "No, you take the credit" back-and-forth as both sides of the party aim to be as ineffective and Canadian as possible.
You weakened the serpent. You dealt the final blow. I'd say you were essential. So, Lady Uzume, wouldn't you say that Susa deserves the reward for this feat? Even Felix agrees, don't you, Felix? [No]
Are you asking for a reward? That's just plain greedy!
Last game you stole priceless gems from a sanctum. This game you've fully accepted rewards for dozens of other things we've been inconsequential in, like Briggs' capture and whatever we did in Garoh. We have no reason to refuse this generosity. Stop padding these scenes.
Now, it's about time for us to leave Izumo Village. We're on our way to Lemuria. We are in a great hurry.
No we aren't. We just went through a salamander fortress on the off-chance it would help us and now are leaving before we could actually be helped. As far as you know, you've accomplished nothing except letting Felix be more irritating at beaches and you seem to have no problem with how you've been spending your time.
I'm sure we'll be back once our mission is completed.
Excellent! I shall accept that as your oath!
By promising to return, we'll be ensuring that our quest will end successfully...
That is not how oaths work. I think an equally effective of making sure you're successful would simply be desiring to be alive. Or save the world. Either of those are slightly better motivators than "oaths".
This whole cutscene is almost verbatim identical to the recent one in Madra. Why did this village even need to exist?
It troubled me to let you leave like this... I owe you much for your help, but I didn't have any way to thank you... And then I thought of something. Maybe you want to go check out the dragon again... I left something there for you... just as a way of saying thank you.
He's referring to the Cloud Brand, which I got earlier because I'm not playing along with Camelot's strategy of "rewarding" me by having me complete dungeons twice. Ellipsis man, why didn't you bring it back, given that it's your sword? Why didn't you tell me this when we were both in that room rather than an hour later when we were a mile away?
In a rare moment of Camelot generosity, we can actually get rid of a now-useless key item and be rewarded for doing so. In a non-rare moment of Camelot being Camelot, this is completely telegraphed and only available after everything is resolved and our characters complain about how they quickly they need to leave.
I think I may have something that might please you. This is my pet. It's very dear to me. I am unsure how it works, but this fellow seems to magnify our power... Though it saddens me to part with it, I would have you take him, as he might help you...
Why do Earth adepts have their power amplified by fire djinn? Why is Aqua Rock still the odd one out here in not giving people magic? Why do people keep only these particular monsters as pets? You never hear of somebody keeping around a golem.
Next time, Kushinada dies a painful death from being attacked by monsters in an area that doesn't use any of the powers she has. It will also be another dry update as we take care of the last stretch of tedium before Champa, which actually contains the first legitimately good writing in the series (Believe me, I'm as blown away as you are).
But yeah, until then nothing continues to happen.