auronlu: Terra going RAWR (ff6 - Rawr)
[personal profile] auronlu
I'm laaaate starting my FFVI gameblog, although I started it at the beginning of the month.

Opening FMV analysis time!

When I first started playing Final Fantasy in the VII-VIII-X era, I was mildly bemused by a series whose releases seemed at first  to have almost nothing in common but their titles and big yellow birds. As I've worked my way backwards, I've enjoyed that "click" of recognition whenever I spot recurring elements: FFXII's glossair ring airships, the trains of FFVII and VIII, the Evil Empire ("empire bad, kingdom good," as we first learned all the way back in FFII), and the tragic/unearthly damsel. FFVI's mechs, however, are almost a first for the series (I say almost, since Doctor Lugae, the Hojo lookalike in FFIV, drove one in his boss battle).

It's interesting to see how the old FF character classes of white mage, black mage, fighter, thief, ranger, ninja, summoner, monk and berserker are submerged yet remain visible beneath the surface. (Coming to the franchise so late, I was  puzzled about fans calling Tifa a monk, or Cid a dragoon, or why Kimahri was blue. Now I understand!)

Like any good opening FMV of the mature FF years, this one raises all sorts of questions about who-what-where-why that will only become intelligible on a replay.

I pause to listen to a orchestral performance of Terra's theme, since my emulator makes it sound less than the perfect bit of music it is. Then, onward.

Whoops. There's a lengthy intro AFTER the FMV. It turns out that the FMVs were added for the PS1 port of the SNES original.

FFVI Intro - War of the Magi

Holy Mysidia, Batman. No Magic?! That's a dramatic break with FF's past, giving this game its own personality from the get-go.

I feel that Final Fantasy IV was already moving away from FF's roots with its wide cast, rudimentary politics and character-driven story, but I think that FFVI is the moment when we leave "old school" Final Fantasy behind and move onto the middle years, with technology and dystopia coming to the fore. (I gather that most fans put the break at VII, with its startling shift in graphics, but storywise, we've already make the jump.) 

FFVI Intro - 1000 Years

It fascinates me how the premise of FFX is an inverse of FFVI. In Spira, a Machina War led to 1000 years of magic, prayer and anti-technology, whereas FFVI's War of the Magi led to a world of mecha and steampunk.

However, after a thousand years, the stagnant status quo has shattered:

FFVI: Magic Is Evil

Mistake? People in power? In a Final Fantasy game? Naaaah, that would never happen.

FFVI: Here We Go Again

Yep. News flash to players of previous FF games: magic is evil, as opposed to simply magic is game mechanics.

So here's our hapless grunts assigned to execute that "deadly mistake." Congratulations, player! Just like in FFIV, you get to play the jerkass in the intro and spend the rest of the game atoning for it!

FFVI: Esper Found

Biggs! Wedge! About time you two showed up. (I was surprised at how late they first appear in the franchise.)

Just where did Square get the word "esper," anyway? Yes, yes, I know, it's from "ESP," but it sounds odd to me. On the other hand, I squee at Greek/Latin borrowings like "aeon" and "eidolon," so YMMV.

FFVI: Terra the Sorceress

"Sorceress" is now a role to be feared, as we'll see again in FFVIII (and IX, in a way, with its Black Mages).

Biggs adds, "I heard she fried 50 of our Magitek Armored soldiers in under 3 minutes." I don't find Wedge's reply very reassuring:

FFVI: Slave Crown

Great. So did someone order her to fry 50 soldiers just to see what she was capable of? Or was that an unintentional result of her burgeoning powers or her attempts to fight  mind control?

Now we get the real opening titles, showcasing that spiffy pseudo-3D environment effect pioneered in FFV, now with drifting snow to accentuate the feeling of moving into a landscape.  Also, we get to enjoy Terra's theme again, courtesy of this dude:

FFVI Opening Titles


So, our first task as imperial thugs is to barge into the unsuspecting Narshe Village, plunder its esper and wipe out a few townsfolk along the way. Lovely.

FFVI: Machine-Riding Swine!

I don't know about you, but I'm not sure I'd want "Casualty of a beginning-game battle tutorial" on my tombstone.

FFVI: Battle Screen

The townsfolk try desperately to stop us, one calling out, "We won't hand over the Esper!" Wonder why? Are they afraid of magic, or trying to keep the Esper out of imperial hands, or are they its friends?

They defend their precious treasure with a...giant whelk?

FFVI: Whelk

"What's a marine creature doing in frozen mines?" Good question, Biggs. (And which villager has the noble ancestral calling of "Whelk Wrangler"?)

Oh, wait, no, Biggs is just warning us not to attack us when it's hiding in its shell, since it'll zap us with a gazillion volts. Yep, that's how these things go in Final Fantasyland.

Aside: Have you ever stopped to think what it would be like if FF logic applied in the real world? "No! Don't touch that snail! It will KEEEL U DED!" "Oh, shoot, there's a foot-high barrier. I guess we'll have to hike all the way around the mountain to move forward." "Don't mind us, we're just raiding your life savings from your fireplace." "Let me just pop this tent out of my codpiece." "Security checkpoint? No problem, I'll just stow the katana up my butt; they'll never see it." Etc, etc.

FFVI: Esper's Dais

So, after defeating the escargot, we reach the dais of the esper we've come to steal. Golly gee. Frozen cave, ice and snow, WONDER WHO THIS COULD BE?

FFVI: Tritoch Battle

Tritoch? Uh...come again? No, that's not the name I was expecting. Where's my sex-changed Hindu ice goddess?

Terra is stymied enough to approach it, despite her slave crown. Also, the esper is going *twingle twingle* at her. And "emitting an eerie light." I wonder if it wants to be friends?

Biggs is all, "Hey! What's the matter! Do you know something we don't?"

FFVI: Uwaaaa

Biggs and Wedge are vaporized — well, that was an awfully quick cameo for their first appearance in an FF game — leaving Terra alone with the whatsit. Which zaps her.

FFVI: Esper Zaps Terra

Gee, thanks. She wakes up somewhere else, in the care of one of the villagers who thankfully hasn't slit her throat for her part in the attack on their village. He explains that he removed the Slave Crown that was controlling her.

...HEY WAITAMIUTE. He took her Magitek armor, too? Didn't he? Didn't he?  And now he's gonna sell it on the imperial black market for loads of cash. Bastard.

Poor Terra is too befuddled to realize she's been robbed.

FFVI: Terra's Amnesia

Just as well she's got video game amnesia, considering that she's been murdering scores of people and their doggies.

Before we can settle down for some proper Exposition,  soldiers and more dogs (woof woof!) start banging on the door.

FFVI: Soldiers Come Knocking

Yeah! Give it back! What did you do with my armor? That mech rocks!

Incidentally, they call her an "officer of the empire."

Eager to avoid questions, unnamed OLD MAN is willing to help her sneak out the back, into the mines. I'm missing that Magitek Armor already.

Imperial soldiers eventually catch up with her, only for her to fall through an oh-so-convenient hole in the floor. And to anyone grumbling that recent installments of FF let you get through battles by pressing X for the first hour or so? Stuff it; it's true of FFVI as well. Terra now has considerable experience as a proud member of Clan Ratsbane.

She passes out after her fall. (Comas! Unconscious heroes! Flashbacks! Your key to quality literature!) We see glimpses of her past:

FFVI: Kefka Flashback

"Uweee... he... he...?" Excuse me? Someday I need to do a montage of all the odd laughs in the FF franchise.

More importantly: Evil clown is evil. I find it truly terrifying that there are fanarts on Tumblr that romanticize this abuse as a lovey-dovey relationship.

And yes, as this flashback makes all too clear, Kefka was testing out his new toy by having Terra kill his own army's soldiers. And he enjoys it. Forget mysterious otherworldly all-powerful incarnations of evil (Trees, Voids, or Darkness), a masochistic evil human is a lot scarier!

FFV: Terra Kills Fifty Soldiers

But behind every Goebbels is a leader with moneybags, and Emperor Gestahl is only too happy to seize control of the only magic-user on the planet. Introducing our as-yet-unnamed imperials (I  didn't notice the army at the bottom of the screen while playing, oops):

FFVI: Imperial Forces

In previous FFs, the raised-hand was a wave or emphatic gesture, but now they  remind me uneasily of a Nazi salute.

So Terra wakes up and realizes she's a horrible monster. Gee, like that never happens in Final Fantasyland. (Actually, I'm not sure she remembers this flashback when she wakes up. Or does she? This ambiguity may be important later.)

Meanwhile— oh, I do love it when there's enough plot for a meanwhile and flashbacks— time to introduce the male lead back in the Narshe village home she lately vacated.

FFVI: Locke's Introduction

Old man and Locke bicker over semantics -- thief, treasure hunter, burglar -- and Locke is none too thrilled to learn that he's been called back to look after Terra.

FFVI: Imperial Witch!

The old dude says the Empire is after her, and that she "was not responsible for her actions," but does not mention the slave crown. He awkwardly transitions into saying that Narshe can't stand up to the empire unless it joins forces with the Returners, a resistance group.

Luckily, this is enough to convince Locke to help her, for reasons that are not quite clear to me — he was awfully vehement about that "witch!" just a few seconds ago — and he heads out to find her still lying unconscious in the mines.

...just as a crack team of Moogles show up. (What?) There is certainly a lot of storyline luck in this game!

FFVI: Moogle Rescue Squad

Just in time, as Locke has to sneak her past a buttload of soldiers.

My poor Locke gets KOed fighting a boss, but he still manages to steal a MythrilKnife before he goes down. Gallantry and thievery, a potent combination.  He hauls Terra out of the caves, where she eventually wakes up. She says she still can't remember a thing.

FFVI: Locke's Promise

"I'll be your Guardian/Knight/Bodyguard/sky pirate kidnapper!" Awww. Locke is, right from the start, a kind-hearted bloke.

This moment occurs often in FFs, and it always makes me smile at the gut level — I do so like to be an Utena prince — while wincing on behalf of the one stuck wearing the Distressed Damsel Diadem.

At least Terra, like nearly every Final Fantasy damsel, is a Magical Maid with Awesome Latent Powers of some sort or other, and she's  possessed of a spine.

The OLD MAN who stole Terra's armor told us to seek Figaro Castle. I get totally lost and blunder into a chocobo forest. I'm not proud; I'll level up once I've got more party members.

FFVI: Locke on a Chocobo

Naturally, I find Figaro Castle immediately afterwards.

FFVI: "Oh It's You"

"Oh, it's you. Proceed." If I were writing this story, they'd be ambushed as soon as they entered the courtyard, and the king would toss Locke in the dungeon for pilfering his castle on some previous occasion.

However, our reception is actually quite cordial, and we're still in the land of fantasy RPGs where you can just waltz in and address the king of a country.  Locke explains the situation via the expediency of sprite head nodding, so we have no idea what he actually said:

FFVI: Introducing Edgar

While Kingy's ogling Terra, she bursts out, "Who do you think you are?" which shows more pep than I've seen from her until now. He apologizes: "How rude of me to turn my back to a lady!" So, okay, Edgar's a ladies' man. Locke leaves her to Edgar's expansive hospitality and runs off to do...something.

I'm wondering exactly what Locke told the king (and for that matter, what Locke actually knows about Terra). Edgar sounds like he suspects she's a spy for Gestahl.

FFVI: Figaro and Empire are Allies

Terra's synapses are beginning to fire. She wants to know why Edgar's buttering her up and just how this batch of people plans to exploit her.

FFVI: I Will Not Be Abused

Edgar assures her that her beauty has captivated him (much finger waggling), he wants to know if he's her type, and... oh, yeah, there's that whole magic user thing. Well, at least he's honest. He's a bit crestfallen that she's not swooning in his arms, and he goes off to sulk or apply Old Spice or something.

FFVI: Terra, Hardly Normal

Terra's an odd blend of self-doubt and self-assurance.

As with FFV, we shrewdly take note of two thrones in the throne room and the King's evident bachelorhood, before going off to raid his treasury explore the castle.

A Matron – Matron!? — fills us in on the king's lost brother.

FFVI: Matron on Sabin

Most of the soldiers spew Edgar's official "we're allies of the empire!" PR spiel, but this one seems not to have gotten the memo.

FFVI: Empire on the Move

So, we establish a few factoids while exploring/raiding:

  • Edgar is a shameless flirt, but all the ladies of the castle are wise to him. Disturbingly, a little girl in his chambers says he's promised to marry her when she's older. We'll hope he was joking or deflecting an innocent "marry me!" comment from a child.

  • Edgar's this game's Cid. The castle has an off-limits engine room in the basement, and tight-lipped sentries hint at "top secret" technology. Chekov's gun, duly noted.

  • Edgar's twin brother "traded the throne for his freedom" when their dad was about to croak. According to the Chancellor, the "succession was settled with a coin toss." I gather that Sabin disagreed with the coin toss. (Which is an insanely arbitrary way to decide the fate of a kingdom, but so are most others).

Next, "Sir Kefka," grumbling about emperor Gestahl's orders sending him into the middle of a hot, sandy, uncomfortable desert, comes calling. We are treated to the first of Kefka's odd "woop-woop-woop" evil laugh sound effects.

FFVI: Edgar, Loyal Vassal

Laying it on a bit thick there, Ed? (He's more blunt to Kefka's guards, if you talk to them: "Heard you were having fun down south. Looking for more cities to destroy, eh?")

Kefka lies and says he's looking for a girl that stole something. Again, we take it for granted now, but this is the first FF story with complicated enough characters to include lies.

FFVI: Kefka BS

Ed's all, "A girl, huh? I've got more girls than grains of sand, no idea if yours is here!" Yes, Edgar, we get it: you're the world's most eligible bachelor.  May we have some other characterization, please? (I'm being picky, considering that we're not that far removed from Firion the Piece of Cardboard).

Edgar's counter-BS appears to do the trick... mmmmaybe... but Kefka stalks off threatening to do something dire to Figaro if he's lying.

FFVI: Kefka's Threats

Hiding Terra from the Imperials, Locke fills her in: the Marquis Edgar is actually helping fund the Returners' rebel faction, although he pretends to be a loyal subject of the empire.  Locke, rogue-about-town, is his contact. All this talk of the empire seems to trigger Terra's memory, and she's still a little confused about which side she's on.

FFVI: Terra, Soldier of the Empire

She's an... ex-SOLDIER! Magitek! Mako! (Yes, Square shamelessly recycles story elements.)

I need to go back and replay the beginning, as I'm still not quite sure how Locke transitioned from "Aroint thee, vile magitek-using witch!" to sympathetic protector.

FFVI: Redefining Identity

Terra's poignant reply: "I don't understand...what should I do?" On the one hand, she was wary of Ed's desire to make use of her abilities, yet on the other hand, she's obeyed another's will for so long that she has little grasp of autonomy.

So her hero's journey will be to Find Her True Self. Locke says he can't tell her what to do, but he's sure she'll find her own way.

FFVI: How WIll I Know?

Well, you could climb Mt. Ordeals and become a paladin or something. (Or something). Stay tuned.

To absolutely no one's surprise, Kefka sets fire to Castle Figaro in the middle of the night.

FFVI: Kefka Attacks Figaro

"I guess I have no choice," Ed says, pinging one of the major themes of this game, and leaps off the battlements.

FFVI: Escaping Castle Figaro

KEFKA: "Ackk! Shameful that a king should flee, leaving his people behind! How utterly delightful!"

As a matter of fact, some wee cutscenes had shown that Edgar had devised a contingency plan with his Chancellor for just this possibility—I'm impressed by an FF leader who — for once — has planned ahead for the inevitable Surprise Attack.

Ed swings around to pick up Terra and Locke from a side tower, and gives the command to activate Chekov's gun steampunk engines.

FFVI: Castle Figaro

His Chancellor ("No one can defeat the people of Figaro!") submerges the castle beneath the sands, chucking out Kefka and (we'll hope) extinguishing the fires.

FFVI: Castle Figaro Dives

After a brief boss fight — and like everyone, I completely fall in love with Edgar the Ranger's auto-crossbow —

FFVI: Edgar's Auto-Crossbow

...our heroes run circles around Kefka and ride off into the sunset, while Kefka obligingly alerts me to the fact that Ted "Enough Expository Banter!" Woolsey is the translator for this game:

Kefka: "Son of a Submariner!"

Submariner? I think it would be funny if Edgar really did turn out to be a Cid-descendent; he fits the type.

Terra is such a blank slate, poor dear.

FFVI: Was That a Bad Person?

I was a bit irked at this line, but in retrospect I realize that "I-I'm scared" wasn't generic "the girl is wimpy and helpless, despite all her firepower," but rather a hint of just how badly Kefka must have traumatized her. Even with no memory at all, she's terrified of him. (My imagination once again shies away from the horror of imagining what he must have done to her... for years.)

Edgar and Locke ponder their next move: taking her to Banon, leader of the Returners. Ed says Magic is the key to winning the war. Didn't he read the prologue about how magic is a "senseless and deadly mistake"?  This is one aspect of the game I find interesting: the prologue talks about how magic and Magitek, used by "those in power," are a bad idea, yet the Returners are most definitely willing to fight fire with fire. Come to think of it, good king Edgar is technically one of "those in power." Shades of Ashelia B'Nargin Dalmasca?

The conversation turns to the Esper back in Narshe.

FFVI: Foreshadowing!

Terra insists it seems natural to her to use magic, but Ed says no HUMAN is born with magic.  Disturbed, she slams on her chocobo's brakes. He apologizes at once. Tact, Edgar, tact.

Again she falls back to, "What should I do?" Ed points out that, "If they get their hands on you again, the world's finished." Well, I'm sure that makes her feel just peachy.

The scene ends, and we head out on our second major overworld-map trek and through some caves which (mental note for later) include a random turtle skulking in a pool. (I couldn't reach it, no idea if it's important).

While slogging through caves, Edgar witnesses Terra's magic for the first time: an itsy-bitsy, insignificant Cure spell that most FF fans whip off without even remembering that hey, this is physically impossible, yo. And the prize for overreaction goes to:

FFVI: Edgar Reacts to Magic

Edgar: "Dddddddddid you just see what I saw...?"
Locke: "Yeah... this kid seems loaded for bear..."
Edgar: "She's amazing! That was magic! MAGIC!"
Locke: "M... MAGIC!? She used magic?"
Both: "Pswpswpswpswpswpswpsw..."

As they continue to whisper about it and ask Terra where she learned it — with the battle music playing in the background, and the hairball obligingly waiting for the guys to finish their confab — Locke finally realizes that Terra's practically squirming with embarrassment. He hastens to assure them, "Edgar, Terra can cast magic, and we can't. That's the only difference between us. The fact is...we could use her help!" He's a sweetie. [ETA: Although hey, once again, kind words on Terra's behalf are once again coupled with "We can use her." Good guys, I like you both very much, but you're making my head hurt.]

The two blokes collapse out of sight behind the battle menus, and an alert message sternly flashes across the screen, "Stop swooning!" before battle resumes. Thanks, Woolsey!

One cave and worldmap trek later, we arrive in the scenic town of S. Figaro to stock up on supplies and scuttlebutt.

FFVI: South Figaro

At the inn, we hear about a disgruntled martial artist, suffering in the shadow of his celebrity guru and life coach martial arts school father. Ain't that always the way?

FFVI: Vargas Backstory

Also we run into a shifty character with a dog. He won't give Locke the time of day ("..."). Edgar suddenly recognizes him.

FFVI: Shadow's Introduction

I guess knowing all the assassins that Kefka's likely to employ would be wise for any reigning monarch.

Locke takes the better part of valour and decides to "steer clear of him." Ha ha, Locke. Didn't you notice the character intro and PC-name-choosing dialog box (which I haven't been screencapping, since I've been sticking to canon names)? Our paths must cross sooner or later.

Terra, however, is naively curious (or at least I am):

FFVI: Dog Eats Strangers

Woof! (I'd laugh, but Final Fantasy has had some scary-ass dog-wolf-direwolf-warg-hellhound-monsters going back to the first game).

I think the gramophone in the background is a nice touch. FFVI is an odd mix of medieval and steampunk.

I love the way nearly all the npcs will talk to you, no matter where they are or what they're doing.

FFVI: Pillow Talk?!

And this guy totally doesn't notice the armor-clad witch interrogating him over pillow talk. Hello? He, like many of the NPCs, is anxiously anticipating an Imperial attack on this village, South Figaro.

Inside a lofty mansion, the town's self-proclaimed "millionaire" is writing a letter and isn't the least bit pleased when Terra intrudes.

FFVI: Collaborator

In case there was any doubt in our minds what he's up to, his kids in the next room — imitating imperial Magitek Armor ("chung chung chung") as they stomp around — are proud to inform us that his Dad hosted "General Leo" for dinner. 

Sounds like a good time to buy up everything before the village is inaccessible make our escape.

Far to the north of S. Figaro, in an isolated bay in the mountains, we discover an isolated little cottage. Which is...stinky?

FFVI: What's That Smell

Check the ceiling vent to make sure Cloud's not spying on your plans for world domin— er, sorry, wrong game.

As we explore the cottage, Edgar keeps making remarks like "these were his favorite dishes!" and "this is his favorite tea!" So I guess from this we can conclude that Sabin is an unwashed bachelor whose home reeks of dirty laundry. He's not home, so we continue on our way.

Outside, we hear that Duncan, martial arts teacher last heard taking students up into the mountains, has been killed, his son Vargas has gone missing, and Sabin's headed after them.

FFVI: Duncan Slain

Anything that can kill a celebrated martial artist is probably something we want to avoid, right? Right. Oh, dear, the Path of Plot Fulfillment is beckoning. At least we'll get a good night's free rest in Sabin's hut before we head out.

So we climb Mt. Kolts. Which of course means we actually go inside Mt. Kolts. Remember how, in Lord of the Rings, it was a completely novel idea to go through a mountain? Well, in Final Fantasyland, every single danged mountain comes equipped with its own  Mines of Moria (although fortunately this one is lacking in Balrogs).

FFVI: Tunnels of Mt. Kolts

During our brief forays outside, we spot a fast-moving shadowy figure leaping out of sight. He's allergic to screencaps. Naturally, when we catch up to him, it's Saionji from Utena Vargas.

FFVI: Sabin Sent You?

Edgar is eager to hear news of his brother, but Vargas Ain't Got No Time for That.

Vargas ipooh boss fight

Wait. Ipooh. iPooh? Evil Steve Jobsian Pooh Bears? Is that the best you can come up with?

We actually are handling him quite well, but of course Sabin has to leap in with a flashy entrance, picking the corner of the sideplot sheet and tugging it straight.

FFVI: Sabin Confronts Vargas

Vargas spins a tale of jealousy, about how Duncan made Sabin his successor  — "Did not!" "Did too!" — yawn, dojo politics. Anyway. Can we finish the boss fight now, please?

Ack, no fair, Vargas uses a powerful wind to blow our party out of the way so he and Sabin can have a solo fight.

FFVI: Sabin vs. Vargas

Alas, I'm having some trouble getting my emulator's joystick-mapping to work with Sabin's blitz technique (i.e. Tifa/Zell/Auron keypad pattern matching game), so Sabin meets a grisly end. Which for some reason means game over even though we've still got three fresh fighters standing around.

FFVI: Annihilated

Edgar's day is ruined,  his brother is dead in a pointless battle against some random boss, and Edgar goes back to Figaro (north, south, east or west, he doesn't care) in despair telling Locke and Terra to fund their own damned resistance instead of relying on royal pursestrings.



Er, I mean.

I reset, switch the keymapping to D-pad keys instead of the joystick, and retrace my steps over the entire blinking mountain again, losing  XP and gil from the grinding I don't plan to redo.

Vargas, Battle, Sabin's arrival, etc. Sabin follows the tutorial to launch a Blitz technique and pummel him to death. Yay?

Sabin is sad. However, we're back on the Path of Plot Advancement, so Vargas is promptly forgotten. Cue quick reunion scene — Terra says Sabin looks like a bodybuilder, which he takes as a compliment -- and Edgar explains that we're off to the Sabil Mountains. We are?

FFVI: Off to Join the Rebels

I see the rebels in this game are just as careful about security as the Wild Rose Army in FFII. Of course their base's location is common knowledge even to ascetic monks who live in the remote wilderness.

Sabin signs on, nevermind that he's been avoiding Edgar for years:

Sabin Is a Bear

(Just in case any of the Sabin-is-gay fan club needed this screencap for evidence).

Skipping gaily over another world map trek, we reach the Returners' hideout, where we are immediately summoned to go talk to the head of the rebels. So of course we talk to everyone else first.

FFVI: Returners Secret Base

Oh, SURE. This is going to end well.

So we finish stocking up on stuff and chatting up rebels and go find Banon, the rebel leader. After Edgar says, "We brought the girl with us," he and Banon take turns talking around Terra for several exchanges as if she isn't even there. Seriously, guys? SPEAK TO HER, NOT THROUGH HER.

FFVI: Carrier Pigeons?

Terra finally can't stand it.

FFVI: That's a Lie!

Things abruptly get a little tense here.

FFVI: She Doesn't REmember

Now, I think Terra really can't remember anything. However that flashback while she was unconscious in Narshe suggested that her repressed memories are still there...maybe? And we've seen that even good guys like Edgar will lie for self-preservation (admittedly to Kefka). What if Terra does remember some of her past, and is trying to conceal it from these people whom she doesn't entirely trust, or (more likely) from herself?

FFVI: Banon and Terra

One minute, Banon is telling her to keep back and seems to regard her as a menace. Then, abruptly, he lapses into mythology. At first, it sounds like he's implying that Terra is Pandora:

FFVI: Pandora Myth

Yet that analogy doesn't fit, since Banon's talking about humanity's mistakes.

It's interesting to see exactly which ills are inside of the box. "Envy... Greed... Pride... Violence... Control..."

Control? Not something one necessarily associates with evil, especially in a society that prizes discipline like Japan, but I guess there's that whole tyranny problem.

Also, it occurs to me that this is another subtle way in which FFVI (and to some extent IV, with its archfiends) breaks with old school Final Fantasy. In those games, we tended to get a list like that to describe the Four Warriors of Light: Curiosity, Hope, Kindness, Courage and so on. Now we're getting the reverse, a catalog of sins, and there's no Warriors of Light in sight.

Oh, wait, spoke too soon. It's Terra:

FFVI: Only Hope

So the Final Fantasy Hope Hammer puts in an appearance, and it's a trope I can get behind, no really!

One thing puzzles me: just a moment ago, Banon seemed like he was ready to call out the torchlight brigade and Burn the Witch. Now he hails her as savior. Mixed messages much? Before we can inquire further, he ends the Exposition session.

FFVI: So Tired

You're tired? Well, good thing you're the rebel leader and never have to go fighting in the field, as you'd obviously not last five seconds. (Those words will come back to haunt me, won't they?)  This gives us a chance to chitchat with friends and glean more backstory.

FFVI: Locke's Backstory

[ETA: The "jailed" comment puzzled me a bit — one of my Dreamwidth commenters noted that the GBA translation changed this to, "The empire stole someone important from me," which makes more sense.]

Locke explains how this inspired him to join the Returners. ("But I have no significant other," Terra muses). Cue sweet comments from Locke about how other people care about Terra, so she's significant to them. I suppose this explains why Locke was so quick to become her champion, although what the old man told him back in Narshe was rather vague. (That she was a fugitive of the empire, and that she "was not responsible for her actions" as a Magitek-wielding witch.)

Sabin tells her that Edgar is absolutely to be trusted, but not to tell his nitwit brother that he said something nice. Edgar says that they'd like her to join, but can't force her, because then they'd be no better than the empire. (Hope Hammer and Choice Hammer, two cornerstones of many a Final Fantasy game). Finally, Terra goes back outside.

Banon is waiting for her. "Summoners are kind of like Spira's ray of hope...."

FFVI: Ray of Hope

If she says "no," he says, "I see," and she gets punted back into the hideout. So, the Path of Plot Advancement says we have to say "yes."

FFVI: I'm Scared

While it elicits a lot of player sympathy, I have mixed feelings about much of Terra's early-game characterization, variations on "I'm scared" or "I don't remember" or "tell me what to do." I suppose it beats Cloud's self-deception as a coping mechanism for a soul-scarring experience (also, unlike Cloud, I gather that she's been a prisoner since she was a child, so her life skills are limited).

Banon gives her a Gauntlet to comfort her, promising her "the person who possesses this relic need fear no harm" -- OH LOOK, THE GOOD GUYS ARE LYING AGAIN-- then holds a strategy meeting.

FFVI: Origin of Magitek

Magitek –  magical machines – were last used in the War of the Magi a thousand years ago. Comparing their scouting notes, our heroes realize that the empire seems to be draining Espers for energy to power Magitek and magic-users. Edgar, who first muses, "Could that ancient tragedy be happening once again?" then insists that they "can only fight Magitek enemies with Magitek weapons." Banon suggests they get Terra to talk to the Esper of Narshe to see if it'll wake up and help instead of just zapping her again.

FFVI: I'll Do It!

Finally, Terra gets to make a choice and sounds sure of herself.

FFVI: Sabin's Unhappy

Dang right she's enjoying being able to choose her own actions for the first time in her entire life!

Neither Edgar nor Sabin is entirely sure this is a good idea, but before they can think better of it, a messenger bursts in.

FFVI: Figaro Has Fallen

And on that cliffhanger, I think it's time to stop.

However, before I break, let me back up. I learned from a walkthrough that if Terra refuses The Call (Banon's "Will you be our last ray of hope?") three times, Banon says, "You're sure about this?" and stops pressing her. At that point, when she heads back inside, she speaks to herself:

FFVI: Terra's Lack of Hope

The strategy meeting is skipped, the messenger from Figaro stumbles in right behind her, and the two optional paths rejoin. I  decide to stick with this option in my savegame, because one of the npcs gives her a rare Genji Glove!

FFVI: Innocent Lives

"We need your abilities. This relic will keep you safe," he continues.

It will be interesting to see how the game plays out in light of the fact that my Terra never actually agreed to join the Returners' cause. They were trying to allow her choice, agency and free will, but just like real life, necessities often mean that choosing nothing means you get dragged along.

Date: 2013-07-16 03:36 am (UTC)
inked_compass: (Default)
From: [personal profile] inked_compass
It's really interesting to see how different the two translations are. I've only played the GBA translation, which is supposed to be more accurate, but I understand the strong nostalgia factor in the first one. (I mean, I personally haven't liked what I've seen of it, but I have nostalgia factor about different things, so I get it.)

1. In the start, Locke's line is a more ambiguous "you don't mean..?!" re: Terra, instead of his vindictive mini-rant about her magitek.

2. Edgar is loads more tactful. I actually felt that he was kinder to Terra than the other Returners, Locke included. (Though I also interpret his flirtatiousness differently than the fandom, so there's that.)

3. "Matron" is the High Priestess.

4. You really do not get to play with Magitek as much as you should in this game and it's a crying shame.

5. Banon's story about definitely-not-Pandora's Box had the Seven Deadly Sins in it. I guess "control" ties back into the whole theme of choices.

6. Locke's story about someone being jailed by the Empire changes to "The Empire stole someone important from me." (When I read this line years and years ago it made me think he had another, non-Rachael person he was angry over.)

7. Terra not knowing WTF to do and everyone treating her as a weapon/pet combo here happens in both versions and it makes me sad for Terra and also irritated at the writers. There are a few occassions where everyone is talking around her and over her head while she's right there in the room. I don't know if that's intentional or it's a writing fault. I tend to lean to the latter because this game has a lot of writing faults in the vein of telling you that characters are Good without acknowledging half the questionable crap they have done / are doing / will do in future.

Date: 2013-07-16 03:08 pm (UTC)
inked_compass: "Just so you Jedi know, the whole cryptic routine isn't mysterious, it's just irritating." (You damn Jedi)
From: [personal profile] inked_compass
There are things that happen with different characters and the game interface/scripting that make me less charitable towards its writers' intentions. But it's true, there are things (even conveyed in sprites--I love the clear body language in the 3D games, but I'm always impressed at how much tiny pixel people can convey with very simple movements) in this section that indicate Not Okayness in what the Returners are doing. There's a bit coming up shortly where they start talking over her again and her sprite is all UM HI RIGHT HERE? So in this section, it could be 100% intentional. And that is a good point about Terra as the Other. It is a tough situation for everyone, because if they had more time Edgar and Locke probably would do a better job of treating Terra as a person, but that doesn't wholly excuse them from going along with Banon.

It is easy to be irritated by Terra's fright and passivity ("were those bad people?" uh, yes, they are so evil they set a stone structure on fire) but it does make sense from a storyline perspective, as you say. I don't think it's said exactly when she gets the slave crown, but she's not a veteran old codger who apparently rode in a meteor of his own will and just happened to crash it badly, she was a slave and the total of her known experience is burninating people, getting chased by angry soldiers, and getting chased by the guys who made her burninate people in the first place and got the soldiers mad. And now she... still doesn't get to do things of her own will, she's just allowed to think about the stuff that she's getting dragged into. It's a bad day.

I have not watched B5, though I've heard good things about it from my scifi-loving friends! (I should, since I've watched all of Star Trek.) I take it telepaths are treated in a similar fashion?

And yeah, I tend to apply a similar interpretation to Edgar that you do to Balthier--the way he words some of his dialogue can be extremely cynical (at least in GBA). It's true that flirt characters are fun and entertaining; I've just seen fandom talk about him like he's a pervert when I think that's a very, very superficial reading of his words (and FFVI has a lot of instances where what a character says doesn't line up with the truth about themselves, but fandom/fanon takes their words at face value).

Re: Dissidia... the folks who commented after me have it. Dissidia takes the personality from the first 20 minutes of gameplay + a generous dollop of fanon for several of the characters, and Terra is one of them. Basically they just take the bit where she's scared of her powers and nothing else about her character development.

Date: 2013-07-16 10:50 pm (UTC)
monsterboy: The face of a stylised plush blue dragon, with white horns and eyes. (siggraph locke)
From: [personal profile] monsterboy
Yeah, I like Edgar, tbh. He always struck me as an honourable sort deep down, someone who really cares about his nation-- and I did always get the impression that the kid who was like "Edgar said he'd marry me!" had really just gotten a brush-off from him along the lines of "Sure, kid, when you're older."

I saw the whole flirty persona as, yeah, something he genuinely feels to a certain extent-- he's a ladies' man-- but also, yeah, an over-the-top cover to make him look less competent than he is. He's clearly a smart cookie, what with being the resident tech-head, so I doubt he's running his mouth just for the sake of it.

Date: 2013-07-16 09:09 am (UTC)
monsterboy: The face of a stylised plush blue dragon, with white horns and eyes. (siggraph locke)
From: [personal profile] monsterboy
This analysis is, so far, magnificent. And I'm so glad that you're digging into this game, because your knack for FF analysis is something I really enjoy. (Don't know if you remember me, but I was eclective on LJ several years back.)

I'm a long-time fan of this game (it was my first FF), and I love how you're really digging into some of the parts of it that I, too, find interesting (and so often glossed over by fans). Like how the Returners, in their own way, are using Terra and not really giving her a choice; they're paying lip service to it, but ultimately, they need her, and they're willing to guilt-trip her and, to an extent, objectify her to get what they need. No one's morally spotless here.

And Terra is, despite how she's clueless in many ways here at the beginning, wise to that. She knows instinctively what it's like to be used as a pawn: even if she doesn't remember the details, she feels it, and it's clear she's not terribly happy about going back to that, even if it's for the "good guys" this time.

(Actually, I don't remember her saying a single thing up to this point that can be taken as a "oh my hero, thank you for saving me!" When people offer to help her, she's mostly all "???" or "Why are you doing this?" She doesn't trust people to help her, and I'm not sure she has a clearly defined concept of "good guys" even if she knows what "bad guys" are. In her world, everyone's suspect. And she's got good reason to feel that way.)

Re: Dissidia -- don't bother, seriously. They take the absolute worst parts of Terra's characterisation (the parts that can be read as somewhat damsel-y) and turn them up to 11: she's all damsel, all the time.

One of the things I like about Terra is, while she's traumatised at first and that shows through in confusion and indecision, she does have a spine, as you said. She's socially and emotionally naive, but she has instinctive savvy. She can snark, if the situation calls for it. Dissidia!Terra has none of that, and she comes off as utterly uninteresting because of it. It's an awful shame.
Edited Date: 2013-07-16 09:14 am (UTC)

Date: 2013-07-16 10:39 pm (UTC)
monsterboy: Yuna from FFX staring into a rainbow sky, with the text "a child-like wonder". (childlike wonder)
From: [personal profile] monsterboy
:D! Yessss, always happy to egg that on. Adorblest. ♥ (Also, your iiiicon.)

Yeah, I really feel like FF6 marked a turning point for the series -- the transitional point between "heroic epic" and "morally grey". FF4 had it too to an extent, but there was still a lot of epic feeling about the world in general: Cecil did questionable things in the beginning, but you also knew that he knew it was wrong from the outset, and you definitely got the impression that you were supposed to see him, and everyone else, as heroes. Whereas in FF7, you're thrown straight into a world of misery and decay from the get-go, where everyone's just scrapping for survival.

FF6, I think, is somewhere in between: everyone's good-hearted, but they also turn up flaws pretty regularly, and the world is still lush but in a somewhat dark and muted way. You can definitely see Square's gears starting to turn in a different direction, from the bright, pretty worlds of FF4 and 5 to the urban nightmare-sprawl of FF7.

And yeah, Terra is... you can definitely see where she got that passive-yet-cautious attitude. Thinking about it, it'd probably have been unrealistic for her to have been anything else, really. She'd hardly have been encouraged to exercise her free will, but nor would she have been fed the traditional female narrative of "men are shining knights to look up to and trust". She's a captive animal who's been let out of her cage for the first time in years, maybe in ever, and she doesn't know where to go or what to do but she knows she's going to do it cautiously.
Edited Date: 2013-07-16 10:42 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-07-16 11:58 am (UTC)
samuraiter: (Default)
From: [personal profile] samuraiter
Ah, memories. I look forward to reading more, though I don't really have anything to add to the discussion at the moment. :-)

Date: 2013-07-17 03:30 am (UTC)
lassarina: I'm not coming out until the stupid people have gone away.  ....I can wait all day. (Default)
From: [personal profile] lassarina how the fuck did I miss that FFX is an inversion of FFVI with regard to tech/magic? MIND. BLOWN. brb writing a squillion words of fic.

aaaaah I am so thrilled you are playing this and theorizing about it. yesssssss.

Date: 2013-07-17 08:13 am (UTC)
flonnebonne: (Default)
From: [personal profile] flonnebonne
Love all the comparisons to earlier and later FFs. I haven't played most of them, so it's very cool to see all those connections and the way the developers developed all the various developments they developed. I think you're totally right that FFVI is where Square started to really break into a different kind of story-telling mode. A mode in which they liked to break their old modes. Yes. It is late and I am tired.

Huh, I'd forgotten about Edgar's foot-in-mouth disease. In fics he usually comes across as a smooth talker, but so far he's been a lot less diplomatic than Locke (a common...treasure hunter) and Sabin (practically a hermit). I don't think it's an act either! I wonder if the writers wrote Edgar this way on purpose? I feel like maybe the writer in charge of Edgar and Sabin (Kaori Tanaka) was maybe savvy enough to play with idea of what a king is supposed to be like.

Date: 2013-07-18 01:21 am (UTC)
flonnebonne: (Default)
From: [personal profile] flonnebonne
I've really got to play all of the GBA translation one of these days! (I played the second half only, and in Japanese.) I feel kind of afraid that I'll reject it just because it's different, but I keep hearing good things about it.

Here' what Kaori Tanaka (she also calls herself Soraya Saga) said about the character design process:

"When the project started there was a list of playable class names, like "one thief, one gambler and two magitek knights". The staff used to bring along ideas to create stories, as my friends took a gambler, a ninja and a painter, I chose a monk and a machinist to design and write. Personally I really like desert landscapes, therefore they naturally became the kings on the sand."

So they started with the classes, and then put the backstories on top of that. This is good game design, I'm told - start with the mechanics, and put the "skin" on top. If you start with the skin and try to shove mechanics in later it's more trouble for the programmers.

I think the design approach made for some really original characters, but it also led to a pretty fractured narrative in certain parts of the game. Tradeoff!

I read somewhere else (I think on the FF wiki) that Terra (aka Magitek knight #1) was originally conceived as a male character, but they decided she'd work better as a female in the end. There was a bit of stereotyping going on there, I think, but I'm glad they did it because I like Terra for all her damsel-in-distressedness. And at least one FF with a female lead before XIII. Anyway, they got to do a male version of a confused ex-SOLDIER in FFVII. :D

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