Wednesday, August 20, 2014

TEXT PLAY: Final Fantasy VIII (SquareSoft, 1999; Playstation): Issue #010: Teenage Mutant Screw-up Soldiers

Cowa-bungle, dudes!

As the party approaches the door to Caraway's mansion, Squall starts having this inner monologue with himself about right and wrong that'll be delayed when the general himself comes in to brief them on the actual mission. Nothing is said about how they had to make the little side-quest to the tomb. Kind of odd, considering how big a deal the guard made it.

Once everybody's actually in the mansion, they're taken directly to General Caraway's private study or something, where they have to wait. The whole team's a bit upset about this. Understandable, I guess, given that there's a mission to do here and that they had to go do a little fetch-quest just to get in. Rinoa says she'll go look into it, and that the rest of the party shouldn't worry about her running around the place, since it's her house, too. If I mentioned a couple issues ago that the story starts breaking up somewhere in here, it really does, and this is a prime example of how.

It turns out, you see, that General Caraway is Rinoa's father. The game even points out that it's a little weird that a top Galbadian military official would have a daughter who's in a resistance cell against that very same government. But then again, this same general is playing a major role in the attempted assassination of another figure who wants to make Galbadia a leading power in the world. Still, considering that there were people with power in Nazi Germany who were trying to kill Hitler during World War II, perhaps this isn't so strange after all.

Anyway, when Rinoa goes to check on her father, he enters the room and briefs the rest of the party on how all this is going to go down. Squall and Irvine will be the sniper team, which will be stationed in a clock tower in the presidential mansion. Quistis, Zell, and Selphie, meanwhile, will be the “gateway team”, who will be in charge of closing the gates of the archway just beyond the gates to the presidential mansion. Caraway also gives them a tour of the area and explains how things will go down. When he's done, he says the party is free to do as they please for awhile, so long as they get back to his place in time for a final strategy meeting before zero hour. I took the time to get stock up on a few last spells and get some more abilities for Gfs, as well as some cards for the card game as well, though I'll likely not do much of the actual card game itself.

On their way to their positions, Rinoa shows back up, telling the party that she's got a plan, too. It involves something called an Odine Bangle, which is supposed to greatly reduce, if not completely block, the Sorceress' powers. Quistis points out that there are several obvious and big flaws in that plan, in that even if Rinoa could get close to the Sorceress, who's name is Edea, we learn, she wouldn't be dumb enough to put it on herself or let someone else slap it on her. And that assumes the damned thing even works, because there's not even any proof that it will, assuming that it even gets to the person it's intended for.

Now, I'll admit, for as much crap as I've been giving the characters, I'm not doing a perfect job of playing the game myself. I actually had two chances to get a magazine that I think might have had some important stuff in it and I botched both times because I just plain forgot it was even there until it was too late. I'm hoping the game can continue without it, or that there'll be a chance to come back and get it again later on.

But now our six party members are in three groups, kind of like our party members were early on in Final Fantasy 6. Unfortunately, this doesn't work out nearly as well, in part because the game designers were a little too sparing with the save points in this part of the game. I think that's kind of why I forgot about that magazine thing in the process. I just wanted to get through this before I got tired of playing. The first opportunity to go after that was with Rinoa as she goes to give Sorceress Edea the bangle. Naturally, the whole thing blows up in her face. Edea hits Rinoa with some sort of stun spell, throws the bangle away, and puts the girl in some sort of trance.

From there, Edea goes on to give a speech to an equally hypnotized crowd of Galbadian citizens, telling them that they're all morons, fools for playing right into her hands and allowing the one most despised person in the world to take over the world. Of course, it turns out that the president isn't under her spell, nor are Squall or Irvine. The president asks her what the hell she's doing, saying all that stuff, which gets him killed. Squall and Irvine see that Rinoa's in trouble, but they can't go charging in to the rescue just yet, because climbing the gate would raise too much commotion, so they have to wait.

In the intervening time, Quistis and the others have taken their positions, only to have Quistis get a hurt conscience and order her team to go with her back to the mansion so she could apologize to Rinoa, who had just run out before her father auto-locked the room to keep her safe. How the hell is it that these people never seem to pass each other in the hall? And why the hell could nobody talk Quistis into saving this whole “Let's go say sorry” thing until after the assassination attempt?

At any rate, good ol' Quisty and party wind up trapped in the room that was meant to keep Rinoa safe during all of this. Fortunately, there's a secret escape hatch, though. Just gotta take a wine glass from the shelf and put it in the hands of the statue next to it. Now, there is a save point just inside the secret hatch, but I had already decided that I was going to go ahead with this, and there's not another one until the very end of the sewer portion of this. That's something that wouldn't be a problem were it not a maze down there, with Squall and Irvine's rescue attempt in between.

The good news is that there's a new Guardian Force to be gained along the way. Quistis and her party hear the parade start as they work their way through the sewer. At the same moment, Squall and Irvine go rushing through the now-open front gate to the presidential mansion. On their way, they see Seifer riding on the Sorceress' float. Isn't he supposed to be, y'know, dead, at this point? At any rate, our not-so-dynamic duo continue on to the same obvious break in presidential security that got Rinoa to the Sorceress. It's also the second shot at that magazine thing I missed. Just had to go down the manhole by the boxes. When Squall and Irvine get up to the presidential stage, they seem to have nothing to say about the fact that our buddy Vinzer is dead now. They don't even stop to check the guy's body. I mean, granted, we got to see the smoking corpse after Edea murdered him, but I'm not sure Squall got to. So, they just go running into the hallway where Rinoa has collapsed and the hatch to their sniper's nest is. We can open the hatch, but when we go down, Irvine says we have to go save Rinoa before we can go ahead with the sniper mission. I guess we've gotta save our client from the pair gargoyles Edea summoned on her. They have the Carbunkle Guardian Force, which can be drawn from either of them. It'll come in handy when we go up against the Sorceress. They also have the Break spell, which can turn enemies into stone. They also have esuna and cure. Once I got one of the gargoyles taken out, I stocked up on esuna until both Squall and Irvine had 100 and then took out the other one.

Once the gargoyles are taken care of, Rinoa comes to and says she was scared shitless of the prospect of having to fight alone. She's still so shaken she pretty much had to be carried to the sniper's nest by Squall. Once they're all in there, Squall hands Irvine the rifle that's been provided them for the hit. Irvine takes his place at the front of the clock and, at least at first, seems to be psyching himself up for the shot. Squall and Rinoa discuss the fact that Seifer's still alive and well, and that if Irvine misses the shot, Squall may have to kill Seifer to get to the Sorceress in order to complete the hit. Of course, all this is going to shit, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Squall goes to check on Irvine, and finds that he's having a freakout about actually having to blast someone.

Back in the sewer, Quistis and crew have to find their way from Caraway's place to the gateway so they can drop the gates. The water's actually pretty damed clean in there, for it being a sewer. Especially with all the monsters in there. There's a shadow thing that has Life spells and a giant waterbug that has water spells. I did kill a few of the shadows just to get a little XP. Traditional level grinding is a bad idea in this game, but it's still smart to do a little of it, all the same. Generally speaking, I turned the monsters into cards because we don't get experience for that, but we do get items and ability points after battles. I even got a Sphinxaur card from one of the shadows. The Sphinxaur is a boss from almost the very end of the game. Along the way, I also found that mag I needed to go down the manhole by the boxes for and realized that I missed it.

Not long after, I came to the last save point before everyone's back in place. This is where I'll stop for now. Next time, we'll finish off the first disk. And since that's a natural breaking point, I'll be changing a few things about the way I post this Text Play. Starting with what will be Issue 12 of Final Fantasy VIII, I'll be posting all new issues of the Text Play series to my Patreon a day before I post them to my regular blog. This will be for both Final Fantasy VI and VIII. I'm not sure how good an idea that is, but I'm going to give it a shot anyway.

At least in terms of this game, I'm not sure how much it'll matter anyway. Final Fantasy VIII is one of those games I've never made it more than a third of the way through, more or less, in spite of repeated attempts. Starting partway through the second disk, the plot points and holes just get too much for me, and I wind up just giving up. Part of it's the way the game's presented, part of it's just my own preferences. Maybe the idea of getting paid for it will help me actually finish it. There are no guarantees of that, of course, but I'm willing to find out if my audience is, and I'm really hoping that turns out to be the case.

Anyway, I think I'll close this issue out the same way I did #8: with the theme song of the show that inspired the title of this issue: the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme. Kind of a shame we didn't see them in Deling City's sewers. Might have made things a little more interesting.

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