Monday, October 20, 2014

TEXT PLAY: Final Fantasy VIII (SquareSoft, 1999; Playstation): Issue #014: A Horse With No Name

You know, back when I started this Text Play, I said there were a lot of interesting ideas in it, even if they didn't go together very well. This specific mission brings in one that I tend to forget about unless I'm going out of my way to think about the details of the game. This is the only one of the Final Fantasy games I've played where I have to specifically purchase fuel for the vehicles. I don't recall that being an issue in any of the other games. Hell, in Final Fantasy IV, you could fly one of the airships to the moon and back as often as you want and never have to worry about refueling. In this game, though, you can actually run out of gas, at least for the land vehicles. I know we get what passes for an airship in this game somewhere in the last third or so of the story, but I don't know if the whole gassing up thing works on that, too.

I bring it up because I had forgotten about that bit when I sat down to get going on the missile base, and ran out of gas for the troop transport Selphie and her team had taken when I got lost on the way there. So, even though I could still kinda-sorta move the car, I just reset, found the map in the strategy guide I bought with the game quite some time ago, and found my way there. Along the way, I found myself at Deling City, so I went into town to buy some extra gas, just in case. There's a gas station right near the entrance to the city, but the guy running the place says he's closed. Fortunately, there's an items shop in the town's business district that sells gas, too, but it's a little pricey. The item shop wanted 3000 gold for a unit of gas, though I'm not sure the actual gas station would have been any better. Either way, it brings back memories of the NES version of the Ghostbusters tie-in game of the day. It was a cheap gimmick then, and seeing it done again fifteen years later didn't help any.

While I was there, I also talked to a few people, General Caraway included. Some soldiers say that they're on guard because of a group of SeeDs who had tried to whack the Sorceress, and that they're glad they don't have to face her wrath. One random citizen says he saw how President Deling died, and while he didn't like the guy, it sucked to see what happened. General Caraway wants us to keep Rinoa safe and offers to tell us about the Sorceress and recent events. He says that back in the day, during the whole Sorceress War with Galbadia's one big rival in the world stage, Eshtar, Galbadia invaded as many nations as it could to build a force against Eshtar, which was run by a sorceress named Adel, later established as Sorceress Edea's predecessor, and since then, things have been getting progressively stranger, leading up to his attempted assassination of Edea.

Caraway also says that he has a Triple Triad card of his daughter that we can win from him, but we actually have to wager our Ifrit card and beat him at the game to get it. Since I'm not doing the card game aspect of this, I just skipped it.

When we finally get to the missile base, the guy guarding the gate just lets us pass, because I guess all he needs to see is the Galbadian National Seal on the side of the vehicle. If I understand the progression of events here, Selphie and the others don't even put on the conveniently properly-sized military uniforms they found in the vehicle until they get out once they're already past the gate. How did this military make Galbadia one of this world's superpowers, anyway?

Continuing with this amazing luck, once the trio gets inside the base's main facility, they're only momentarily blocked by a locked door. Said door can be opened by a pass card that Zell, in this case, just happens to have found in his pocket when they got out of the car.

It seems the soldiers at this base are all stupid or just want a Galbadian equivalent of 9/11 to happen or something. There are a few decision points where we can choose between fighting, talking, and running away. The first one is a guard that if we make the choices to quite literally (ding!) walk up to him and try to bluff him, he'll say our parents did a good job of raising us because we're all walking single file. Must be a Japanese thing or something.

Once we're past that, we'll have to be messengers between two teams of techs prepping the launch bay for the attack on Balam. There's one guy who says he needs to hear from another team before he can proceed. This other team is too busy playing with themselves or something, and eventually, it's decided that Selphie, Zell, and Irvine are the ones who will go make sure the base's power systems are all green. It's the first chance they'll have to screw with things by knocking the base's main power offline. It's all controlled by a computer, and even back in 1999, young people like the heroes in this game, and myself at the time, really, were expected to know a thing or two about computers. Instead, Selphie's plan is more like Moe's plan for beating the evil computer and launching himself, Larry and Curly-Joe back to Earth was in Have Rocket, Will Travel.

Once the power's out, some higher-level techs come along to fix the problem. We're presented with the same Fight/Run/Bluff option set again, so I pick bluff, and it works again. Of course, Selphie leads the others back in to kick the techs' asses so they don't turn the power back on.

Once we're done with that, the techs around the launch bay realize they're going to have to put the last missile battery on its rails manually. Just about this time, our party comes along, and one of the guards notices that at least one of us looks a little small to be working at the base but asks us to help anyway. After a button-mashing event, the head tech in the launch bay tells us to go make sure the computer console outside the launch bay door is set correctly. This is our chance to mess things up a little more by cranking the error rate up as high as we can get it. Why bother trying to redirect the missiles for someplace like, say, Deling City or the D-DISTRICT prison or something, right?

After getting that taken care of, we're off to the firing control room to tell them that everything's all set to launch, and finally, we run into the one guard in the whole place who's smart enough to figure out that Selphie and crew aren't Galbadian soldiers. He says it's because they gave the wrong salute after giving their report. I can see that the base commander got his position because he's the smartest one, but I'm not sure that's saying much.

Because they've been caught, Selphie and crew reveal themselves in a blinding flash of white light, accompanied by a scream from the base commander. Apparently our heroes look worse naked than I do in spite of the fact that I've never been in nearly as good a shape as they are. Naturally, there's a fight here, and once these three are down, Selphie and the gang are off to set the auto-destruct sequence on the base. This is one of those timed things, but I'm really not sure how much the timer really matters in this case. I've had lots of time left over after beating the last boss at the base, and I've been right down to the last second before winning, and in all cases, it seems like so long as I can get through the battle results before the timer runs out, these three heroes are trapped at the base as it explodes. We're supposed to think that whoever was in that party is dead now, but as a long-time fan of the series, it had been my experience even when this game came out that playable characters don't die unless the plot actually calls for it.

One of the sadder things about this game is that the plot doesn't make you think it calls for it for very long, nor does it do a very good job of it for the time it does.

Anyway, with this brief moment of tension going on, we'll catch up with Squall, Rinoa and Quistis, who arrive at Balam Garden thinking that things are OK there because the place is still standing and it's all quiet at the front gate next time. See you then, folks.

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