This time, we're off to the opera, for one of the most moving scenes in Final Fantasy History.
I've never embedded videos in one of these before, but then again, this is the first time I've come to a scene where I thought I had to. I think I'll put it closer to the description of the actual scene, though.
Picking up from where we left off, too long ago now, really, word on the street in Jidoor is that the only way to get into those territories controlled directly by the Empire is to fly in, and there's only one person in the whole world who can make that happen for us. He's a gambler who's got a thing for a famous opera star named Maria, and he's pretty much made it clear that he's going to abduct her during the big scene in the show she's in right now. Luckily for us, I suppose, Celes is pretty much an exact match for Maria, except for the fact that Celes is a soldier instead of, in her words, “an opera floozie”. But since getting the gambler's flying machine is the only way to get done what we need to get done, Locke and the Impressario from the theater talk her into taking Maria's place in a performance.
After a short trip to the Opera House, to the south and east of Jidoor, the Impressario still has some reservations because he's got concerns about his star. Upon reassurances from Locke and the others, he has Celes go rehearse her scene.
As all of this is going on, Ultros the Octopus shows up again and decides he wants to play a prank on the opera for some reason, first by leaving a note saying that he's the one who's going to kidnap Maria, which goes unnoticed, and then by dropping a big weight on the actors during the big fight scene after Celes does Maria's song.
That particular bit is supposed to look something like this:
I actually screwed it up for the first time in a long time. Not because I chose the wrong lyrics. I can still get those pretty much right without really looking at the score because of the number of times I've played this. I was in the wrong place to complete the scene the first time I tried. I think this is the first time I made that mistake. Or at least the first time I can remember. I've aced this scene almost every time I've played it since my second or third time through the game, so it's been awhile.
After Celes does her song, her character goes off to have a dance with another opera character named Prince Ralse, whose East has taken over the West in the opera. In the course of the dance, survivors of the defeated West attack, lead by the presumed dead Draco, the West's greatest hero and Maria's in-story lover. As the two sides duke it out, Ultros prepares to drop his weight onto those performing on the stage, destroying the production.
Locke, having discovered the tentacled creature's plan while checking on Celes from the dressing room, tells the Impressario and gathers the rest of the party to go stop Ultros, who says he'll need five minutes to drop the weight onto the stage. This is, I believe, the first time that US audiences, at least, had a directly timed mission in a Final Fantasy game. If done properly, that's plenty of time, in spite of having to talk to somebody and flip a switch on the other end of the balcony from the door that leads to the catwalks above the stage. Those same catwalks are the tricky part, because they're a bit of a maze and is infested by rodents that you'll have to fight to get past if they get in your way. Luckily, they are easily avoidable, but it's good to fight at least one group of these monsters, called Vermin and Sewer Rats, respectively. They'll be handy for a while once they're added to Gau's Rage list later.
The thing about Ultros is that I'm not really sure what his role in this game is supposed to be, beyond that of a comedic relief villain. He's a recurring character, but he doesn't seem to be working for anybody. He really seems like a chaotic neutral version of myself, just doing all the things he does for funzies. Kefka, it could be said, at least had an ultimate goal in mind, which was to take over the world and make it in his own image, however warped it might have been. But Ultros, I really don't know. He does all the awful things he does, but never for any obvious reason. All I know is we'll still fight him at least twice more before the end of the game. The fight in the opera house can go easy or hard, and I'm not sure if it really matters who's in your party when you fight him this time. This time wasn't so bad.
Once the fight with Ultros is over, the gambler, a guy with long white hair named Setzer comes swooping in to kidnap Celes, thinking she's Maria. Once on his airship, Setzer locks Celes in a room with a convenient place to drop a rope down to Locke and the others, who climb aboard too, and help her confront Setzer in order to convince him to take them to the Empire. He'll give in eventually, but it takes Celes offering him a coin toss where if it's heads, he'll help them or she'll marry him if it's tails. Of course, it's a rigged game, because it's a double-headed coin. It's a revelation that makes Setzer agree to help willingly because Celes had the balls to trick him, and he likes that.
With that, the group flies off to the southern continent to infiltrate the Empire's capitol city of Vector. I'm not sure if we're intended to go directly there or actually all the way around the continent to visit the other three towns here, but that's the way I always took it since we land right next to one of them. I can't remember which one off the top of my head. We'll find out which one next time in Returners Tour of the Empire, 20th Anniversary Edition, Part One. See you then, folks.