Or in this case, Barren Falls, with “barren” meaning empty.
This installment will be all about why I usually do Sabin's branch first when I get to this part of the game. Not only is it the longest, storywise, far as I can tell, but this part specifically can take a while if you're going to take full advantage of it. And the worst part is, this final segment of Sabin's branch will be relatively light for the hour and a half or so I put into playing it.
See, this is the part of the game where we get a character named Gau. His unique role in Final Fantasy history is that he's the one character, far as I know, whose attacks are entirely based on those of the monsters. Before we get to that, though, there's one other thing we need to do: jump off a cliff.
To get to where Gau actually is, a place called the Veld, we have to go down the Barren Falls of the Lete River, which we've been following this whole time. Before we jump, we need to take Shadow's equipment like we did with Mog when we had him in Narshe, because he's got good stuff that other characters can use, and he leaves the party here. Once Shadow's gone, Sabin and Cyan are free to jump. On the way down, they fight a group of fish monsters called piranhas, followed by a boss monster called Rhyzophas. It's really not a difficult fight, but it does make the trip interesting.
After beating the boss, our current pair of heroes wind up out cold and floating down the river, where they get fished out by a young man in animal skins who runs off when they come to and try to talk to him. At this point, they have to cross the Veld to reach a town called Moblitz. Chances are, you'll run into Gau a time or two at the end of random battles here, because they work a little differently here. I'll get to that in a minute, but for now, you've just gotta smack him to get him to run away and let you get to town.
Once you do get to Moblitz, the first thing to do is go to the Item Shop and buy a piece of dried meat. Far as I know, this is the only place in the game to get it, but it's also the only place in the game where you need it, and you'll only ever need the one piece, as I recall. And this is also where we get into why we were running into Gau at the end of random battles before. Up until now, Gau would say he was hungry, and although there was technically a food item in the inventory, Green Cherries just don't do it for him, so that's why we hit him before. Once we have the dried meat, though, give him that and he'll join right up after having a little dust-up with Sabin and accidentally offending Cyan with his use of the word “thou”. Gau will also offer us a treasure that he hid in a cave at a place called Crescent Mountain, where we'll have to go to move on anyway.
And now that Gau is in the party, things are going to get long and a bit tedious for the next forty-five minutes or hour. Building up Gau's attacks requires having him jump onto enemies' backs instead of fighting them and then waiting for him to come back at the end of another fight. The fights that happen in between don't count. Took me awhile to figure out that's how it worked the first time I played this game, but at least there's a little green guy called Kappa who comes out to explain this and a few other things, unlike with Sabin's blitz from before, or Cyan's sword arts or bushido attacks, or whatever you want to call them, though Cyan's skill isn't used to advance the plot, that I can remember.
Part of the reason this part takes so long is that you want to get as many of the monsters as you can on Gau's list when you go to the Veld. There's really only one I'd call “must-have” at this point, and that would be the Marshall, who was the boss we fought back in Narshe with Locke and the Moogles. The Marshall has Wind Slash and Snare as special abilities, which are really good ones. It's still worth it to get all the others, though, because they do have a lot of good magic and special attacks that the monsters don't use, fortunately, and other characters won't have access to until much later in the game, if at all.
There's also a side-quest in Moblitz to help break up the tedium of building up Gau's abilities involving a wounded Imperial soldier who'd gotten his ass kicked by his own unit when he pussed out of attacking Doma. Worth it, of course, but now the poor guy's in a bad way and in grave danger of keeling over right there. The only reason he doesn't is because he gets letters from his girlfriend in the town of Miranda, on the southern continent. Of course, part of the reason for that is because we've been sending her stuff in his name. After sending copies of his favorite record and favorite book, a Tonic for her sick mother, and a few letters in his name, he'll say he noticed and give us the Tintinabar relic. Could have sworn I missed it back at the Returner Base, but now I'm not so sure of what the second relic there was supposed to be.
Anyway, after a while, you'll have pretty much all monster attacks you can for Gau. These can be accessed through the “Rage” command in his battle menu, where most other characters have an attack command. This will bring up a list of monsters that Gau has been seen with. Whichever one you select will make Gau use the attacks and special abilities of that creature.
With all that taken care of, it's off to Crescent Mountain, where Gau has a diving bell hidden. Since it still works, Sabin says the party can use it to jump into the Serpent Trench, a high-speed underwater current in the ocean that will take the party from the cave to the port town of Nikea. There's a boat waiting there that will take the party to South Figaro From there, they go on to the Returner base on their own, which means we'll have to choose a different party to play as next time.
My standard choice is Locke. It's the middle-length one of the three, and also the middle difficulty one. Locke will probably take two issues rather than the three this one has taken.
So, see you then, folks. Stay safe, have fun, keep gaming, and DFTBA.