Part 26: Crispin Freeman Sends His Regards
CUTSCENE: The History of the World (Part 1)
Back in Balandor at Casa de Medius, Setti sits the party down around the kitchen table to discuss the history of the Dogma Era.
This should be good
Setti: You see, when my father Medius died, he told me all about the secret of the Knights.
Orren: Shouldnt that be BEFORE he died? Gods, one sentence in and youre already sounding suspicious.
CUTSCENE MUSIC: Scar (Disc 2, Track 13)
Setti: As you know, the Knights are weapons of war, sprung from an ancient wisdom.
Setti: These Ancients, their technology truly defies modern understanding.
Setti: But as sophisticated as they are they were, the Ancients still needed a fuel for their Knights, something with which to power them.
Orren: Gods, could you PLEASE just shut up and listen for once without parroting back keywords all the time?
Setti: A Knight is like a suit of armour; it cannot act on its own.
He shakes his head and looks downcast, like hes burdened with a terrible weight all of the sudden.
Setti: To move, to fight, each Knight requires the power of a persons soul.
Caesar: So wait, weve been lending out our souls so that they can fight?
Setti: Essentially, yes. A Pactmaker with the right qualities offers his soul, and the Knight is transformed into the mightiest of warriors.
Caesar: The right qualities Hmm.
In Leonards case, stupidity; in Caesars case, badass.
But wait, theres more
Setti: Of course, the men who made these invincible weapons; they feared that the Pactmakers might turn on them. So they took an extra precaution:
Setti: They used the souls of newborn infants to power the Knights.
No, more like:
Setti: The armour itself learns from its battle experience, and can then fight on its own.
Setti: The soul is enough; it does not need a higher intelligence.
Or in Leonards case, any intelligence.
Setti: The creators saw that if they used an infants soul, still innocent
Setti: They could maintain complete control of their weapons.
Caesar: So they turned babies into killing machines?
Caesar: Thats evil, man.
Orren: And infuriatingly stupid.
When I showed him this cutscene, Blind Sally said something to the effect of Wow, thats like Venture Bros.-level messed up.
Leonard: What the hell? What kind of war was this?
World War Stupid, apparently.
Setti: A long time ago, during whats known as the Dogma Age
Setti: Two great forces struggled for control of the world.
Setti: They were called Yshrenia and Athwan.
Click here for a massive version of this screenshot.
Setti: Their fortunes waxed and waned, but neither could ever gain the upper hand. In a bid to finish the war once and for all, Yshrenia created the Knights. And just like that, the tides changed; before long Athwan stood on the brink of defeat.
Again, click here for the gigantic version of this tapestry.
The murals explain a lot more than what Settis saying. In the center of the drawing it shows whole groups of people apparently sacrificing their lives to give the Knights life and the pile of corpses resting at the base of the Knights construction slabs.
I dont know about you, guys, but I think between this and the whole powered by the souls of babies thing, I think these Yshrenia fuckers might be slightly evil.
Im not certain, lets hear some more evidence before we make up our minds.
Setti: But the Athwani forces made one last, desperate counter-attack. At the price of many lives, they used sealing magic to entrap the Yshrenian Knights. Without their superweapons, the Yshrenians were overwhelmed by the Athwani spellcasters. Now it was their turn to be pushed to the edge of defeat.
Click here for a giant version of the Athwani counter-attack mural.
So what we have here is essentially the mythic history of Final Fantasy X. Two global superpowers, Yshrenia/Bevelle and Athwan/Zanarkand engaged in a destructive, world-shaping conflict with one another. One nations war machine was made up of advanced technological weaponry (Yshrenia/Bevelle). While the others was built on the backs of powerful mages (Athwan/Zanarkand). The war raged on with no clear victor in sight until the magical nation launched a desperate and costly counter-strike that ultimately fatally wounded both sides of the conflict (Yu Yevon summons Sin by turning all of Zanarkand into a collective Fayth, Queen Mureas seals away the Knights by sacrificing countless mages to sew up the sealing spell). And now, thousands of years later, the protagonists are still dealing with the repercussions of that war thanks to the stubborn remnants of the mechanical empire (the Church of Yevon/The Magi).
Speaking of, this game is in desperate need of some Jecth.
Goddammit, Akihiro Hino. If you want to make a Final Fantasy game, then just make a Final Fantasy already. Hell, it probably couldnt be any worse than what Mamoru Toriyama and Testuya Nomura have put out (or in Nomuras case, failed to put out) in the last 10 years.
But I digress; the stupid continues
Setti: However, before the Athwani could finish off their foes, they turned against themselves and their empire collapsed into civil war.
Setti: Eventually, both civilizations, Yshrenia and Athwan alike, faded away.
Orren: Good riddance. The Dogma Age sounds like it was absolutely fucked.
Setti: For all their sacrifice, neither side ever gained ultimate victory.
Setti: In the end their bloody struggle was all in vain.
This game is like a Cohen Brothers movie, a long, depressing maze of meaningless failure and futility, but bereft the anchoring presence of a Jeff Bridges, Javier Bardem or George Clooney to guide you through it.
Setti looks across the room to Eldore, rather pointedly, I might add
Oh, Charles Shaughnessy emotive grunts. How I never get tired of transcribing you. Mostly because I would willingly transcribe anything Charles Shaughnessy mutters. The mans a fucking Baron, lest we forget.
Also, that is one goddamn murderous glare. Holy fuck.
Leonard: And now the Knights are free again.
Orren: See. This IS all your fault.
Setti: So it seems.
Setti: The Dogma Age ended with no victor.
Setti: However, the oracles of the time prophesied that a final battle would be fought ten millennia later.
Orren: Oh, it gets even better then. Wonderful.
Setti: The souls of the Yshrenian Emperor, Madoras, and the Athwani Queen, Mureas, would both re-emerge, and settle their great conflict once and for all.
Everyone just stands there stone-faced at the revelation.
So thats the backstory to White Knight Chronicles: two selfish assholes got in a pissing match over control of the planet and then got in an arms race that eventually wiped both them and their empires out of existence. Only they didnt have the decency to die like normal people and are now coming back in the modern age to finish said pissing match.
This is the plot to every fantasy novel ever: something from the past really fucked shit up, it was buried and forgotten about, and now its back to fuck shit up again and only a select group of people can do anything about it.
In Dragonlance its dragons. In A Song of Ice and Fire its the Others. In The Wheel of Time its Rand Al-Thor himself. In The Lord of the Rings its the One Ring. In Final Fantasy VI its magic. In Mass Effect its the Reapers. In Dragon Age, its the Darkspawn. Et cetera, et cetera.
Leonard: And these prophecies You think theyre coming true now?
Setti: I do. Its what Father feared more than anything else.
Also, I love how this Standard Fantasy Setting world has black-and-white camera technology, apparently. Eh, it probably came from Greede, theyre at least an Industrial Revolution Knock-Off Fantasy Setting. That, or its very subtle confirmation that the Crystal Camera is an actual thing in this world and not just an unacknowledged gameplay oddity like the Arc Knight.
Caesar: So wait. Maybe Is that why Medius put me in someone elses care?
Setti: Im sorry, but that answer will have to wait. Someone has been watching me these last few days.
Orren: You mean the last few days youve spent cooped up in a cave running and hiding from Trolls?
Setti: Its not safe for you to be here. We need to leave, and the sooner the better.
Leonard: Leave and go where?
Setti: The place where this all began: Sinca Village.
Caesar: Sinca Village?
Oh god, Caesar, not you too now.
Setti: Youll understand once youre there. About the Knights, and more.
Orren: The amount of faith youre putting in Leonard to understand period is suspect.
Eldore: This angers me for reasons I will not vocalize until its too late.
I think someone just subplanted someone else as the groups go-to exposition machine. Eldore will not stand for this.
Setti: We must hurry. Our only defense against the crisis Father feared, is knowledge.
And the two 20-foot tall magic suits of armour weve got, right? I mean, those things are pretty good at defending against stuff when Leonards not using them. Eh? Eh?
Oh yeah, I forgot, this is White Knight Chronicles; the Knights basic ontology is plot-conditional.
Setti: I have to prepare for the journey; meet me at the East Gate of Balandor. Please, go now.
Orren: Wait. Shouldnt one of us stay behind and keep watch on Setti? I mean, if hes being followed, its a safe bet its by someone working for the Magi. Youre just gonna walk out the door and leave him all alone? Cant we at least leave Caesar with him? Wouldnt the sight of the guy who moped the floor with Belcitane be enough to deter any potential
Leonard: Hey, dont worry. The Black Knight will protect him.
Orren: The Black Knight is
Orren: Eh, to hell with it. Im going back to Rapaccis place. Dont follow me. Hey, Sauske, tell Grazel we said hi when he shows up and murders you because we were too dumb to protect you.
Eldore: Oh, quit over-reacting, Niles.
So the party files out without a touch of concern for Settis safety, because things have just gone absolutely swimmingly vis-à-vis people around them whose lives are in some kind of peril.
I mean, look at our track record: King Valtos, Archduke Dalam, Princess Cisna, Lena, the Dragon Matriarch, Count Drisdallall of them are 100% not either dead or kidnapped right now thanks to our partys inaction or incompetence. Right?
Im also pinning Drisdalls death on Leonard because Im pretty sure the emotional trauma he went through when Leonard showed up and outted Caesars fake Goddess of Lépanne statue accelerated his death and did him in prematurely.
What Im saying is that Leonard is such a tactless, haplessly destructive, assbrained twit that even Neelix from Star Trek: Voyager would shake his head in disgust at him. And I actually liked Voyager as a series.
But thats neither here nor there. Weve got more prodding of the ramshackle collection of poorly thought-out lies in a ratty cape that is Eldore to do.
Setti: You havent revealed who you really are.
Eldore stops cold at that little jab.
Just what is up with you, Maxwell, anyway?
Setti: Well, it wont stay secret for very long.
Eldore glances back over his shoulder at that not-at-all-threatening-sounding line before leaving the house to join the rest of the party.
AREA MUSIC: Balandor Castletown (Disc 1, Track 4)
So while Setti
So its daylight when we go into the cutscene
CUTSCENE: Yep, Saw That One Coming
And suddenly its night time when the cutscene begins.
Team Caesar has just been standing there all afternoon and into the night, apparently, waiting to Setti to finally show up.
Leonard: Where is he?
Orren: Giving me time to work on my best fake-surprise face.
Yulie: Do you think hes okay?
Caesar: That Setti guy
Caesar: Hes kind of weird. That prophecy stuff And my dragonsight doesnt work on him either.
Once again it falls to Caesar to be the one character (in the games narrative at least) to start poking his finger through the various logic gaps that until now have gone unremarked upon by the Rube-sans-Goldberg Machine that is Leonard.
Also, that marks two characters who can actively block the dragonsight: Eldore and Setti.
Eldore: Did you try your dragonmouth? Dragonnose, perhaps?
Eldores becoming increasingly sketchier as the game continues, yet he still knows how to lay out a sick burn every now and then.
Suddenly, this guy comes running in, screaming and flailing like an utter moron.
Panicked Civilian: S-Someone Help!!!
Eldore: What is it?!
Leonard: What the
Panicked Civilian: Theres been an explosion in the south district! A man was killed in the blast.
Oh, Im sure it was just someone trying to invent the first gas stove and blowing up half the block. Its almost definitely not anyone we know.
Also, this guy (who's name is Nathan, by the way ) ran all the way from Mediuss house near the South Gate of Balandor to the East Gate, clear across town and just now found someone interested in the fact that a fucking house just blew up for no good reason. Either this is another massive plot contrivance meant to bring the Plot back to our
Caesar: No You dont think ?
Team Caesar springs into action!
Quickly, Robin! To the Hindsightmobile!
CUTSCENE: The Man Himself
Orren: oh gods, this is so shocking. i did not see this coming at all. poor setti. Idiots.
Throw another one on the People Who Died Because Leonard Showed Up Somewhere pile.
Leonard: What happened? You think this was the Magis doing?
Yulie: But why would they?
Because Grazel is smart and competent, thats why.
Kara: Nothing could have survived that.
Yulie suddenly spots something up the roof of the neighbouring house.
Gasp! Its a Plot Bird. A black Plot Bird. An EVIL Plot Bird!
Follow that bird!
Also, the Avatar disappears for the rest of this scene, because fuck the Avatar. Id like to think, though, that Orren just watched a group of grown men and women go running off after a bloody bird and just shook his head and walked to the bar across the street to have a drink and watch Settis house burn down Richard Sheridan-style.
Cultural gloss: Richard Brinsley Sheridan was an 18th century English playwright, actor, theatre owner and MP. When the Drury Lane Theater, which Sheridan owned at the time, caught fire in 1809, Sheridan purportedly walked across the street to a bar, purchased a glass of wine, and calmly watched it burn to the ground.
Fuck, can we just skip to the end of game 2 where Leonards a non-entity and Yulie, Caesar, Cisna and the Avatar all become badasses?
Caesar: End of the line, bird! Now, who do you work for?
Aw Caesar. Threatening a harmless bird is absolutely stupid, but Ill allow it, only because its you.
But seriously, its a fucking bird. Its not going answer you just because you
Aw shit, not agaiiiiiiiiALLGLORYTOTHEHYPNOBIRD!
CUTSCENE MUSIC: Grazels Theme (Disc 2, Track 16)
So the Evil Plot Bird spits out an image of a guy sitting in a chair.
Jesus, this shows you how beneath his contempt Grazel finds the party. He doesnt even bother to stand up to gloat at them, or do it in person, no less. He does it sitting in a chair, via hologram.
This is a man who has better things to do with his time than talk to Leonard, so hes putting in the minimal amount of effort required. And for that, I salute you, good sir.
Now its time for the big reveal of Grazels face, the thing the games been keeping hidden from the audience this whole time.
You ready for it?
Can you handle this?
I dont think you can handle this.
Here it comes
Wow, its like if you made Sephiroth even more androgynous. Hell, the guys even wearing womens earings.
Hologram Grazel: Greetings. My name is Grazel. So nice to speak with you. I am the leader of a little organization which you like to call the Magi.
Hologram Grazel: I imagine you must be very worried about your precious princess.
Hologram Grazel: I know I certainly would be.
Oh Grazel, you master troll.
Hologram Grazel: In light of that, I would like to propose a trade.
Hologram Grazel: We want the Knights. And we are willing to exchange Princess Cisna for the two Arks in your possession. I will be waiting by Thaumus Rock in Frass Chasm.
Hologram Grazel: You may come if you like or not. It is up to you. But this will be your only chance to ever see the Princess alive.
Hologram Grazel: Thank you, and do have a good day.
Hologram Grazel: END COMMUNICATION!
Okay, so hes not as mustache-twirlingly evil as Belcitane was, but hes polite, classy, a bit of a troll and utterly contemptuous of Leonard as a human being. We might not be that hard done by for decent villains after all.
Ah, who am I kidding, Grazel is bland a shit.
Can we skip to game 2 when Ledom shows up?
[Exuent Evil Plot Bird]
Oh, I guess Orren was there after all. Its just another case a character disappearing when their plot-relevance dips below critical levels. Like how nobody clued into Kara being the Black Knight on Flandar Trail because it got written off as Level-5 legitimately forgetting she existed for that scene.
Leonard: Bastard. Id like to wring his neck.
Spoiler: Leonard never comes anywhere close to strangling Grazel.
CUTSCENE: Back on the Trail
So the party gathers at the East Gate in the morning, none of them the least bit bothered any more by Settis brutal murder.
Well, in their defence, they only knew the guy for like an hour tops, and theyve kind of become accustomed to seeing people die around them because theyre unwilling or unable to help them.
Eldore: Frass Chasm is a steep-sided gorge further south, beyond the Bunker Lode Caverns.
Orren: Yeah, because thats exactly where I want to go right now: Papitaur Central. Gods, I hope we get eaten by a Greaver. I really do..
Also, notice how Caesar is standing out in front of the party again in the leaders position. He has taken right over as far as the rest of this game is concerned. All the big emotional and character developmental scenes are between him, Kara and Eldore. Leonard does one more thing of note between now and the end of the game, and thats it. Sadly, Yulies time to shine doesnt come until game 2, so shes officially done for this game too.
Caesar: If we make out way back to Greede, we can take a gondola out of the station there. Yeah, thats doable.
Leonard: Lets go.
We dont need your say-so to get underway, Captain Idiot. Though I suppose its just Leonards way of meekly trying to reassert his position of dominance in the group hierarchy and failing, as usual.
So tell me, do you like the view? Because this is where we end up, one way or another. I cant believe after all the crap I went through in this canyon that Id actually end up settling down here.
Eh, the Papitaurs took my money and gave me the land, and theyve had the good sense to stay the hell away from here ever since, so I dont really mind.
Sucked about that Setti guy though One of these days, I thought, one of these days well go somewhere without someone dying thanks to Leonard.
Also, while Im at it: fuck Emperor Madoras and Queen Mureas.