Tuesday, October 14, 2014

TEXT PLAY: Final Fantasy VIII (SquareSoft, 1999; Playstation): Issue #013: The Not-So-Great Escape

God damn, did I ever underestimate how long this part of the game was.

If I'd remembered how long this was, I wouldn't have tried to do it all in one sitting. As it stands, after about three hours, minimum, of running around in the D-District prison, I decided it was time to save when I got to a convenient save point. Since I was just about done, far as I could tell, I decided I'd just make it all one post that was over two sessions. But holy hell, this thing's long.

Anyway, where I left off last time, Laguna and Kiros were just about to take a nap before dinner after telling Raine about their patrol in Winhill. Before they do, Laguna finally fesses up and tells Kiros that he thinks he's in love with Raine. He doesn't say it in so many words, but that's the gist of it when he says he doesn't know what he feels at the moment, but he does know he doesn't want to wake up from his nap and find that he's someplace other than his ratty little bed in his messed up house in Winhill.

But, of course, that's not what happens, because as soon as Laguna and Kiros close their eyes, the main party starts waking back up in their cells. Or, at least, five of six do. For some oddball reason, Irvine's not there, and it never gets explained why, even though he was in Squall's party when he attacked the Sorceress. Quistis, Zell, Rinoa, and Selphie are all in the same cell, discussing the situation. The conclusion they come to is that it's no surprise that they're all in lockup and they're probably going to be executed. I disagree. It's a surprise they're not all dead already, considering how quickly they thought Seifer had been killed for going after the president.

Before long, some mean guy, aptly named Mean Guy, comes along. At first, he and his men start kicking the shit out of Zell. As cathartic as it may be, they've actually come with a message. They're to escort Rinoa out of the prison, because, well, she technically is General Caraway's kid, after all, and I guess Galbadia's top general won't have his daughter locked up in spite of being guilty of treason.

Once Mean Guy and his buddies have taken Rinoa away, we see Squall waking up in his own solitary confinement cell. Being in solitary in this prison means being put in a PODS storage pod and shuffled around as Seifer's torture fetish demands. Squall is somehow not only alive and well after that kinda-sorta fatal chest wound the Sorceress gave him, but he notes there's not even a hole in his clothes where it was. It seems that Edea wants to know what the secret of SeeD is. Squall shows that he's got half an ounce of brains for once and tells Seifer that he should know just as well as anyone, for all the years he spent at Balam Garden, and that there's no secret to it. Seifer insists that there is, and he doesn't know because he didn't make the grade. Eventually, Squall gives in and tells Seifer some bullshit about how the secret is that SeeD wants to take over the world by planting flowers and then invading once everybody's lost their will to fight after looking at the flowers all the time.

Meanwhile, the three remaining party members not being tortured decide to break out. In a departure from most other Final Fantasy games I've played, it seems that Zell's the only one who can fight with his bare hands. I say most, because I'm not sure if fighting with no weapon equipped is an option in Final Fantasy VII, as I've never bothered to try it. It is, however, an option in all the other ones I've played, so I find myself wondering why it is that the so-called combat specialists in this game can't fight with their bare hands if need be. They do establish that the magic that they can all use is not an option because of something called an anti-magic field being in place. I find Spoony's rant on the matter agreeable. And of course, it's not even an issue for long, because once Zell, Rinoa, and Qusits beat the crap out of Biggs and Wedge for the second and final time, an escape alarm goes off and the field is intentionally brought down any-god-damned-way. That's the party's cue to go to the top floor of the prison and rescue Squall.

Squall tells them that they can ride down to the base level in his pod and escape through the door that must be down there. Because the Galbadians had the good sense to have halfway decent security in their prison, the controls need somebody at a command post to flip a switch at the same time as somebody in the pod's control booth. Since Zell was talking up how he was Ward, who worked at the prison in the last Laguna bit, he gets the honor of explaining all that and being the one who stays behind. It just goes to prove me right when I say that just because you're not the sharpest tool in the shed, it doesn't mean you're not still a tool.

Once Squall and the ladies get down to the bottom floor, the find that their escape route is blocked by a million tons of sand, as the door they opened is actually under the ground. I guess a wall of plot convenience kept the place from flooding completely with sand. They realize they've gotta go back for Zell when they hear guys with guns trying to shoot him as he runs away from them.

When everybody meets in the middle, Rinoa explains that Daddy Dearest pulled some strings to get her out. That's all well and good, but it doesn't explain where the fuck Irvine was until now, why she was dumb enough to come the hell back, or how they got all that done so quick. At any rate, the plan now is for them to all split up again. Why? Hell if I know, but then again, these are teenage mindsets we're dealing with here, and I know I was no genius at that age.

At any rate, Squall takes two people and goes up while Irvine takes two people and covers them. Once Squall and his team gets to the top floor, Irvine tells his team they're going to go back down to the basement and ride the pod back up. How he expects that to work, I don't know, but he does, and it will. We'll get to that in a bit, though.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering where Seifer is in all of this, since he was the one torturing Squall. Well, he's off overseeing a missile launch against Balam Garden. Why? Well, the Sorceress wants it taken out regardless of the supposed secret behind SeeD, and he gets to do the honors. And it's the last we'll be seeing of him for awhile. We will see Seifer a time or two more, depending on how much longer I keep playing, but I can't remember if I've made it that far before, and I'm not sure if I will now, either.

Anyway, at the very top of the tower, there's a boss fight against two of the robotic guards and one of the human soldiers that were running the place. We've seen these guys before, as normal enemies thus far in the prison, if not the game as a whole. Granted, I've not played this game as often as I have some of the earlier ones, but it has been enough that I should know that when the game says that escapees who actually make one of the exits will be terminated, it doesn't mean anything stronger than what we've seen before. Considering that Galbadia had put so much effort into the rest of this prison, one might think they'd have something with more stopping power than normal guards at certain major points, like, for example, the exits.

But once this boss fight is taken care of, Squall and the others hear Irvine trying to get ahold of them on the intercom to have somebody start the elevator for them. Zell explains what button needs to be pushed so Squall can do it. Irvine tells them when it's going, but says it seems slower than normal. Gotta wonder how he knows what normal is for that. Turns out there,s a reason for that.

However, while Squall's gang waits, they go outside to find themselves in the desert, on top of one of three towers connected by collapsible walkways. Turns out, the outside walls of the towers can be used as giant sand augers or screws so the prison can submerge. There's a harrowing moment when this feature is put to use, and Squall has to hold onto an outside railing and drag himself back to a safer part of the base as it sinks into the sand. Although I did manage to pull it off OK, I thought I'd fucked it up and would have to do the boss fight over again, because the screen went black for an uncomfortably long time.

Turns out, though, I did make it, and all six party members meet up in a conveniently unguarded vehicle bay that even has two handy armored vehicles in it. And better yet, one of them's even a Galbadian army vehicle, which will useful shortly. There's no real explanation of how those vehicles got up there or how they were supposed to get down again if and when somebody needed to use one.

Our not-so-gallant heroes take advantage of the situation and roll out in their newfound rides to make a plan about what to do next. Squall's initial plan, when the group stops at an also conveniently unmanned checkpoint, is that they're all just going to go back to Balam and warn their fellow SeeDs of the attack. If things hadn't started getting stupid before now, this is where it really does.

See, Squall and team are very close to Galbadia's missile command. Like close enough to see it with the unaided eye. It takes not only Selphie explaining that they're going to launch missile strikes against Balam Garden and also Trabia Garden, where Selphie is from, but also seeing the strike on Trabia being launched to convince Squall that they might want to send a team in to maybe try to stop the other launch, or at the very least mess it up.

A good explanation for why that seems dumb to me is comparing it to how I do my grocery shopping. Sure, there's a good argument for me going to the grocery store that's over by my folks' place. I'm over there all the time, and there's a general store right across the street, too. But, to risk giving too much about myself away, it would be silly of me to go halfway across town to do that when there's quite literally (ding!) the exact same setup four blocks to the south of me. Same companies and everything.

But in the game, Squall, somehow chosen as the leader of this now partially rouge team, still needs to see the missiles actually take off for Trabia to let Selphie lead a team into the missile base while he takes the others back to Balam to warn the Garden and the associated town.

Where I'll be picking up next time is with Squall, Rinoa and Quistis barreling into Balam on a stolen Galbadian freight train while Selphie, Irvine and Zell go into the missile base to disrupt the strike on Balam Garden. And since Selphie's party is the playable one, we'll be starting out on A Horse With No Name. See you then, folks, and DFTBA.

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