Part 18: The Climb Is All There Is
So after failing to rescue Cisna from the clutches of the Magi, and inadvertently getting Karas sister Lena killed in the crossfire, the party decides to take a mulligan on their epic wipeout failure at the Sand Maze ruins and head for the Free City of Greede beyond the Flandar Mountains.
Seriously, what the shit guys? I have never seen a JRPG party fuck things up as much as you lot have. And I PLAYED FINAL FANTASY XIII AND SOMEHOW ENJOYED IT!!!
Leonard: Hey, I got a cool shield out it.
SHUT UP DIPSHIT, NO ONE CARES! IF YOU COULD USE THAT DAMN KNIGHT PROPERLY WE WOULDNT BE IN THIS MESS!
CUTSCENE: Setting Out... Once Again
We depart from Albana in the midst of yet another desert storm. How portentous.
Leonard: Oh, lovely, another sandstorm.
Stop repeating what I just said.
Eldore: The Bunker Lode Caverns lie to the south, as does the Princess. This is the only way to reach her.
Leonard: Alright then.
Conveniently, however, the sandstorm stops immediately after the cutscene ends, so at least we can see where were going this time.
Leonard: Next time, theyre not getting away.
Eldore: They got the best of us
Orren: Im just like wow. I cant believe you guys let that happen.
Yulie: We were so close! Urgh!
Kara: The Magi will BLEED for this!
Orren: Yeah, so about your sister I know it wont bring her back, but, If you want to kill him, just like, any time, let me know
Kara: Dont talk to me.
Since Kara has joint the party full-time now for reasons that completely elude me, seeing as how theyre kind of responsible for her sisters death at the hands of the Magi, I should probably cover her character.
Karas default equipment is an estoc rapier (classified as a short sword), no shield, and the same black trenchcoat like outfit she had on during her stint as a guest party member. Shes suited mainly to short-swords, is fast and agile, and is good with magic too. Shes essentially a better version of Leonard, only she doesnt have an Incorruptus psyche! Fake spoiler!
Im gonna be honest, I rarely if ever use Kara as my party leader, though she will be an on-and-off staple of the party for most of the game.
Anyways, after a brief run and some more encounters with the standard enemies of the Lagnish Desert, we come at last to base of the Flandar Mountains. Eldore has some words of encouragement for the party as they prepare to cross the bridge ahead.
Eldore: Im proud of you two. The desert is not an easy place.
Eldore just completely discounted the Avatar as a person here. He doesn't have to count Kara in there because shes ostensibly lived in the desert her entire life. But still man.
Yulie: Yay! No more sand!
Kara: Yes, getting away from the desert is almost enough to make me forget my sisters dead now. Hooray.
And here we go, off to the Flandars. Hi-dily-Ho White Knight-erinos!
OVERWORLD MUSIC: The Continent of Nadias (Disc 1, Track 15)
Were given a chance to fast travel back to anywhere weve already been once we exit the Lagnish Desert. Just in case you wanted to, I dunno, head back to Balandor and let Sarvain know you almost sort-of rescued Cisna, but were gonna try extra hard to make it stick next time.
CUTSCENE: At The Foot of the Mountain
CUTSCENE MUSIC: Flandar Trail (Disc 1, Track 29)
Flandar Trails another area with a really well done background track that Id suggest you listen to at least once. At the very least it has a nice song youd imagine would be playing while hiking in up a tall mountain feel to it.
Leonard: Is this it?
Leave it to Leonard to be unimpressed with a trail where GIANT CRYSTALS ARE GROWING OUT OF THE ROCKS.
Eldore: Yes, the Flandars. And on the other side lie the Bunker Lode Caverns.
Kara: To reach the mines and the ruins that lie inside them, we must first follow this trail over the mountain
Kara: And then find our way down into the great caldera.
Eldore: Kara, do you know where Greede might be?
Kara: Right now? Its the mining off-season, so the city should be down.
Eldore: I see. This isnt going to be easy then.
Orren: Easy and you people are anathema to one another.
Yulie: Oooh, look at Mister Fancy Words. (Hes totally right, though).
Leonard: So, uh Translation please?
Orren: Anathema is a noun meaning
Eldore: Youll see. Come Leonard, help me to set up camp.
Orren: You know you can just tell him, right? Youre not gonna tell him, arent you? You know, Brom, this whole mentor withholding crucial information shtick tends to get people killed more often than not.
Eldore: Then why dont you tell him?
Orren: Okay then, I will. Greede is actually one big giant
Leonard: Cant talk now, gathering firewood.
Orren: Aw, fuck it..
Eldore: See? The old farts keener than he looks, eh?
No comment, Mr. Sheffield.
CUTSCENE: Belcitane's "Retirement" Plan
CUTSCENE MUSIC: Grazels Theme (Disc 2, Track 16)
We transition rather abruptly to this asshole.
The ominous music stabs, and piano and choral track underlying the scene and the fact that hes a guy dressed in black with long silver hair staring out the window of a dimly lit room tells me that hes our Big Bad for these two games.
Since hes not identified right away, Im just going to call him Crispin Freeman, for reasons that will be patently obvious if you bother to watch the accompanying video. Crispin Freeman is the leader of the Magi, or so it would seem, because between him, Dragias and Belcitane the Magi have like 50 different leaders or something.
Crispin Freeman: So, Gandalf, youre trying to lead them over Caradhras. And if that fails, where then will you go? If the mountain defeats you, will you risk a more dangerous road?
Again, the Dutch angles are really weirding me out here.
Crispins window-side reverie is interrupted however, with the arrival of Shapur. See! I told you he was going to become relevant eventually!
Crispin Freeman: My instructions were to obtain the Ark. What is taking Belcitane so long?
Shapur: Who knows, my lord?
Also, take note of Shapurs outfit. Its a weird amalgamation of fantasy elf armour and a Nazi field uniform. I dont really know whats up with that, as hes the only person in the world of White Knight Chronicles to sport such a clearly modern collar/button cut to his shirt. (Outside of Framboise. At least).
Shapur also speaks with a bitchn Spanish accent When he isnt shrieking like a stuck pig.
Crispin Freeman: Hmm. Who knows, indeed.
Crispin Freeman: Retire him, Shapur.
Oh SHIT son! This doesnt bode well for old Belcy.
Shapur: Of course.
Shapur turns to leave, probably going to knife the uppity midget in the back right now, while Crispin Freeman smirks an evil smirk.
Crispin Freeman: Because Im totally not irredeemably evil, or anything. No siree.
CUTSCENE: The Dragon's Knight
Back in the Flandars, the party has made camp for the night and is resting up to summit the mountains tomorrow morning.
AaaaandINCOMING PLOT BIRD! Hello, Plot Bird. I did not miss you at all.
Foz knows exactly what his job in this game is, and gets right down to it, spitting out another hologram image of Cisna to exposit with the party.
CUTSCENE MUSIC: Melody of Light
Dont let the smile fool you, shes fucking pissed at them right now. Or she would be if she was anything approaching an actual human being and Akihiro Hino actually knew how to write a goddamn script.
Hologram Cisna: Well, you dumbasses have some explaining to do Like why arent you bowing before me? Sigh.
Hologram Cisna: Leonard.
Thats two shots, if youre playing along at home.
Leonard: Are you alright?
Hologram Cisna: Yes. Im fine, considering.
I dont even have to add anything. The script and Kari Walhgrens bemusedly exasperated delivery of that line say just about everything in light of what just happened last chapter.
Hologram Cisna: Its not as bad as before.
Hologram Cisna: Honestly, I think Im actually starting to enjoy being kidnapped. I mean, theyre feeding me rather well, Ive got a room of my own, its not too hot or cold, Ive got tons of books to read (if you count dozens of unsold copies of Belctianes religious manifesto books), theyre taking me to all these interesting and exotic locales, I dont have to put up my annoying subjects bitching at me about stuff, Im learning how to run an army from the inside, and Im nowhere near any of you people, so thats a plus.
Hologram Cisna: But, Leonard, listen, Im more worried about you.
Hologram Cisna: In theory.
Leonard: What is it?
Hologram Cisna: That Incorruptus is a Balandor state treasure, and expensive to boot. I hope youre taking care of it. Because I want it back after this is all over.
Leonard: Uhh Yeah. Hey, whats going on where you are anyway?
Hologram Cisna: That man in black armour, before he was always here, watching me constantly.
Hologram Cisna: But I havent seen him in a long while now.
Leonard: You mean he left? Where could he be?
Hologram Cisna: I dont know.
Hologram Cisna: Well, perhaps it doesnt mean anything.
Hologram Cisna: Other than Im going to have to hire a really good bounty hunter to kill him for me now.
Yulie: Princess, can you tell where you are?
Hologram Cisna: I think were heading for the Bunker Lode Caverns. The ruins there, if I had to guess.
Eldore: Then someone pick up that phone.
Eldore: Because I just ca
Hologram Cisna: Do not interrupt me.
Leonard: Dont you worry. Were going to rescue you.
Orren: This time?
Leonard: I promise.
Hologram Cisna: I am simply awash with confidence for your success I mean
Hologram Cisna: Yes. But, do be careful, Leonard.
Hologram Cisna: Seriously, that Knight is worth like twelve of you. If you break it I am gonna be pissed. END COMMUNICATION!
Eldore: Just as we thought. Theyre heading for the Bunker Lode ruins.
Kara: It all makes sense
Orren: Bullshit, how?
Also, Kara was the one who postulated that they were heading for the ruins in the caverns. Eldore didnt even mention them originally. But weve all agreed that narrative cohesion is just too much for this game to muster.
Kara: A nest of dragons has dwelled there for ages, and they say that one of them guards over one of the Knights Arks.
Eldore: How do you know such things?
Orren: How do YOU?
Kara: Hah. You know, people in Albana, theyre always talking.
Yulie: A Knight protected by a dragon Just like a fairy tale.
Leonard: Except were not going there for the Knight. Our goal is to rescue the princess.
Yeah, because saving one girl, regardless of the magic power she possesses should definitely be a higher priority than possibly securing a loose superweapon that you know your enemy is intent on claiming and has the power to activate even without Cisna.
Any other hero worthy of being called a hero would probably say something different. Heck, lets call upon the Pantheon of Video Game Heroes I Personally Love to see how they would handle the situation.
Commander Shepard: This is perfect. We can rescue the Princess and secure another Knight at the same. If we pull this off well have a major advantage over the Magi the next time we face them.
Master Chief: Cortana, what are the odds we can secure both the Knight and the Princess at the same time?
Cortana: Realistically? Slim-to-none. John, what are you
Master Chief: Weve done more with less.
Cortana: Yes, we certainly have
Jak: Sorry, but the Princess can wait. If they get that Knight, its game over for everyone. Im NOT going to let that happen.
KOS-MOS: Shion, I am reassigning my mission priorities to include the recovery of the Knight and the safeguarding of Princess Cisna. I estimate an 85% probability of success for this mission. Is this acceptable?
Zack: Oh boy, lemme at em! Those Magi wont know what hit em. Well get that Knight and maybe Ill score a kiss from the lovely Princess while Im at it. You never know.
Jim Raynor: Listen to me, boys! Aint no force in heaven and earth gonna keep me from saving both the girl and that Knight. We got whooped once badI aint in the habit of making this a recurring feature. Now grab your gear and lets get moving.
Booker DeWitt: I will kill that son of a bitch Belcitane for what hes done, so help me god. He dont get to walk away from this one.
Nathan Drake: Heh. Rescue a hot anime princess AND get my very own superweapon in the process? Im all over that one. Hey, Sully! Hows the market looking for crazy bullshit magic weapons these days, anyway?
Shulk: If theres a chance we can claim that Knight as well as rescue Cisna, we have to take it. The Magi could do untold damage with two Knights on their side. If we get it, and save Cisna then we could turn the tide of this war and put an end to the fighting once and for all. We have to give it our all this time!
Link: [Link perseveres despite the overwhelming odds through the use of his wits and strategic deployment of every weapon available in his arsenal.]
Lightning: Eat shit and die. Wheres my paycheck?
Okay, maybe ignore that last one.
Notice a theme of actual heroism in these responses? Of concern for the greater good or doing the most good possible? With Leonard, the primary objective is, was, and will remain Cisnas panties, to the exclusion of all else in creation.
Fuck. This. Kid.
Kara: Humph. Well, whatever the reason, the destination remains the same.
Kara: Though Ill believe it when I see it.
Eldore: The first step of our journey takes us up over these mountains. It wont be easy. This is hard terrain.
Leonard: So whats new?
Not even Leonard can stay oblivious to the crushing onslaught of frustration and failure that powers White Knight Chronicles forward.
CUTSCENE: The Climb Begins
CUTSCENE MUSIC: Flandar Trail
The next morning, we finally get our area-specific title card.
Poor Yulie, she cant handle deserts, she cant handle mountains. While I appreciate what she brings to the table in the caustic wit department, WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE IF YOU CANT KEEP UP WITH EVERYONE ELSE?
Yulie: Hrugh. This looks steep!
Leonard: Youre telling me
Kara: Hrumph. Giving up already?
Kara has zero fucks to give about their bitching. Doubly so since, you know, she just lost the only remaining family shes ever had thanks exclusively to Leonard.
Eldore: The climbing is the least of our worries.
Leonard: Yeah, that figures.
And were moving on without comment.
And were off, up the mountain.
Leonard: The trails covered with crystals!
Yulie: Arent these the ones they use for earings?
Eldore: They sprout from the earth like crystalline trees!
Kara: This isnt a nature walk. Climb.
Eldore: I hear you can also find precious ores.
Leonard: Bet we can make one hell of a sword.
Kara: Yes, some gemstones as well.
Yulie: Are they pretty?
And here is yet another instance of pallet swapped enemies. These shitlords are POISON Vespids. As if they werent bad enough already. Same factors apply to them: incredibly aggressive, fast, huge line of sight, will follow you from one end of the Flandars to the other if you let them because the path is incredibly narrow and you cant outrun them, only now they can inflict poison status effects on the party too.
Eldore: Well, friends, should we have a rest?
Leonard: Nah, I can keep going.
Yulie: Im alright?
Kara: Why, do you need one?
Orren: Yeah, weve gone like a hundred feet, tops.
We also encounter Jackals on Flandar Trail in addition to the standard Wild Boars. They actually show up near the Flandars exist in the Lagnish Desert, but I was saving them till we got to the Flandars proper. Just like the Wild Boares, theyre weak against slashing attacks.
God, these mountains go on forever.
Yulie: Everything feels so new!
Eldore: The land here contains rich mineral deposits.
Leonard: So were climbing a mountain of treasure?
Yulie: Thank you, Eldore-pedia.
Kara: You certainly know a lot.
Eldore-pedia. Thank you, Yulie.
Well at least someones enjoying the climb.
Yulie: Ugh. This will be quite a climb.
And here we have yet another pallet swap enemy: the Ice Giant. Exactly like the Fire Giants of the Lagnish Desert, only ice-based instead of fire-based, and scaled to be slightly stronger on the idea that youve levelled up a bit since then. Fire attacks work well against these guys, as do stabbing attacks.
Leonard kills it with a stab right to the crotch. Classy. Also thats not 1 damage, it was 126, the other two digits hadnt popped up yet.
Eldore: Expect plenty of surprises ahead!
Fucking mountains Luckily, Eldores here to entertain us with his vuagely senile ramblings as we run along.
Eldore: Ive never taken the term prickly situation quite so literally before.
Now here we encounter our first unique enemy type of the Flandars, the Earth Dragon. Dragons, as a species, are quadrapedal, so youve got four legs to hack at this time instead of two, in addition to its tail and head. Dragons are tough mothers and should normally be avoided unless youre strong enough to really take one
Which we are.
Being an earth-based monster, its vulnerable to wind magic. Dragons as a species are also susceptible to smashing attacks like Lunging Strike. You cant tell from this picture, but Kara and Orren have already broken two of its legs and its sporting a break target on its head now, which we cant reach. Oh well.
I stand corrected. In a moment of rare AI brilliance, Kara uses one of her leaping attacks to not only strike the dragon in the head, but hit it with the correct attack type, causing it to collapse completely.
Now its effectively out of the fight and we wail on it until it dies.
Fus Ro DAH! Motherfucker.
The last new enemy we find in the Flandars are Ice Lizards. These guys are just like the Basilisks we found in the Nordia Tunnels, weak to stabbing attacks and in this case, fire too.
Soon enough, we come to a plateau and our first patch of open sky.
Kara: Cant say Im thrilled at the prospect of visiting Greede.
Given all the fetch quests were gonna do while were there, neither am I.
As Leonard approaches the edge of the cliff, the scene begins to fade out into a cutscene.
Kara and Orren both ponder pushing him over the edge at this point, by the way.
CUTSCENE: Sighting Greede
Oh hey, its that pre-rendered shot from the trailer.
For whatever reason, only Leonard, Yulie and Eldore appear in this movie. Of course the Avatar isnt going to show up, for obvious reasons, but I dont know why Karas not there. Maybe her and Orren are just off screen talking about how much theyve both come to hate Leonard in the brief time that theyve known him.
Pictured: what White Knight Chronicles was probably supposed to look like before Level-5 shit the bed on its development. Also, Im kind of surprised that its taken eight hours of gameplay time for us to get our first SquareEnix-style pre-rendered FMV. You will be able to count the total number of these across both games on your fingers.
Because , thats why.
Leonard: What is that?
Eldore: That is the Free City of Greede, beyond the rule of both Faria and Balandor.
This thing thats holding the entire city on its back is the Demithor, by the way. More on that in a bit.
So now were ripping off Final Fantasy IX. Greede is the games version of Lindblum: a densely packed technologically advanced metropolis of ostensibly neutral standing ruled by an ailing-yet-beloved leader.
And thats on top of the game's Alexandria rip-off, Balandor (the medieval castle city currently ruled by a shifty despot), and the games Burmecia rip-off, Faria (the exotic land of inhuman badasses who no one gets along with because... racism, I guess? Or is that speciesism?).
The Demithor rears back and roars for no good reason, probably causing millions of dollars in property damage.
Seriously, the physics of the Demithor make no sense. Building a city the size of Midgar on its back is one thing, but if you actually watch the video and see the way it moves, this thing lumbers around in such a way that everyone living on it would be thrown around wildly every time it took a step forward. And yet, as well see when we make it to Greede in the next chapter, its all perfectly still and stable while were in the city.
I imagine thats on their postcard or something, Greetings from fabulous Greede: even Physics takes a holiday here!