The Final Fantasy Project: Final Fantasy IV, part 9
Here we are, back at the tower again, assaulting it in the hopes of accomplishing… something. I’m not entirely clear on what the heroes plan to actually do here. On one level, we’re sort of chasing Rubicante, or Edge certainly is; on another level, it’s one of those situations wherein the plot has stepped back to allow the player to keep moving forward based solely on what’s available to access. Since the Tower of Babil features rather prominently in Golbez’s plan, I suppose anything that involves us screwing with it is probably a good thing.
It is neat that you see this tower from two sides, though, with this run starting closer to the top while the previous one started at the bottom. Edge helpfully ninja-moves us into the tower proper, and the group can start heading toward… wherever Rubicante is now. Hey, maybe he he still has the crystals! That would be a good thing. Let’s go with that as our motivation, then.
Had you expected this to essentially be “Tower of Zot, pt. 3,” congratulations! You cracked the code! Yes, it’s the same basic layout and style of dungeon, which is wearing just a wee bit thin at this point. There are a number of enemies who also use the game’s now-common trick of counterattacking every time they get hit by something, which does prompt some interesting strategies but occasionally leaves part of the party more or less unable to act without provoking a bunch of painful counterattacks. I appreciate the attempt, but the actual effect is pretty boring.
Really, that summarizes the game pretty well up to this point; the mechanical wrinkles that defined the first three outings are gone now, with the only real strategy being “level up and don’t let your characters die.” Your attackers attack, your casters faff about for a bit here and there, and things die. It’s not terribly hard, even, just completely lacking in much more beyond cursory decisions.
On the fifth floor, Edge unexpectedly runs into his parents, who materialize out of thin air in front of the group. Normally I’d be making fun of the fact that no one questions this fact, but these are ninjas we’re talking about, it’s kind of their thing. But no, they’re monsters, and you have to fight them. It’s a kind of anticlimactic battle; after a few turns of pounding on them and enduring weak attacks, they regain control of themselves, say goodbye to Edge, and vanish.
Edge has a few seconds to fret before Rubicante shows up, cursing Dr. Lugae for turning Edge’s parents into monsters and apologizing to Edge. You know what that means – it’s boss fight time, but not before Rubicante heals you up to full. Dude’s taking the “fair fight” thing to eleven, apparently. His big schtick is that his cloak protects him from magic, but also prevents him from unleashing most of his strength in the process. While it’s closed, you can’t hurt him much; while it’s open, he can use Inferno to potentially drop a party member in one move, but he also takes a huge amount of damage from Ice-aspected spells and attacks. It’s not a rough boss as long as you keep yourself mobile with the cloak.
After Rubicante is dropped, Eblan’s troops show up, and Edge declares that he’s throwing in his lot with Cecil until Golbez is dealt with. The group then steps forward into the crystal chamber that Rubicante was guarding… and onto a trapdoor that drops them to the sixth floor.
Congratulations, Cecil. When the fate of the world was on the line, you got undone by some amateur-hour horseshit that wouldn’t pass muster in an episode of The Simpsons. This entire damn journey has been a long pattern of one dumb mistake after another, but I’m kind of thinking this is the top of the list. You’re just lucky that at least some parts of the party seem to make even worse decisions than you do.
A bit more faffing about in the tower leads us to a Red Wing airship that had been left behind, which Edge promptly dubs the Falcon before taking control of the helm. The Falcon has no problem with flying underground, although it can’t quite handle flying over lava at the moment. There’s also no immediate path back to the Overworld, naturally. So where do we go next?
Given the limitations of the lava, there’s only one logical destination – the Dwarven Castle. King Giott is obviously upset about the fact that the group failed to retrieve the crystals, while Cecil conveniently leaves out the explanation of why they failed. So we’re back to Plan A, which is “try desperately to get the last crystal before Golbez does,” as that worked so wonderfully in the past. A bit more poking about reveals nothing new in most of the castle, until we stop in at the infirmary to find… Cid.
No, there’s no explanation offered for how he’s still alive when you literally watched him blow up. But in the words of Airplane!, that’s not important right now. What’s important is that he modifies the Falcon to fly over magma, thereby opening up a big new chunk of the Underworld for exploration. You know what that means, right? It means that the Sealed Cave is going to have to wait a while longer, we’ve got sidequesting to do.
Our first stop is a little dwarven forge where the smith states he won’t forge anything else until he can get his hands on Adamantite, which has “endgame superweapon” written all over it. Not far from that is Tomra, just another dwarf town, but one with some very nice stuff for sale. Luckily, I didn’t have to grind for the money to get any of it.
A bit of exploration leads to the Sylph Cave, and this is an area that will happily make your main concerns less about “resource management” and more about “trying not to die during this encounter.” It’s got damage floors, it’s got hard-hitting enemies, it has Malboros. It also comes with a pile of experience for each fight, though, and on top of that, it’s when you aren’t too far from a free recharge point.
As a result, this turns into an early game of degrees. You go in, you get beaten on a bit, you last as long as you can, but you only fight for a few rounds before leaving. Each successful fight does a lot for your experience, and before long Rosa learns Float. You can mitigate the Malboros in a roundabout way, too; Bad Breath only hits one person, and as long as one of its effects is blocked, they all are, allowing you to just slap simple status blockers on to effectively get a free pass. What’s far more annoying are the Evil Dreamers, which hit hard, cast Sleep, and for reasons unknown to anyone do not wake up a target after physically smacking them.
It also highlights an issue with the game that I hinted at above – since your abilities are all solely tied to level, if you hit a roadblock, your options start and stop at “grind more.” There’s no way to change up your party for different configurations, you can’t swap classes and pray for rain, you just grind more and hope that now your levels are sufficient. For the game that was supposed to minimize grind, the amount of grind actually present is kind of insane.
Anyhow, having Float allows for a harmless passage over the damage floor, which allows for some of the usual pilfering as we travel through the cave. There’s a bit in the middle that teleports the group to a treasure cache with six booby-trapped chests, each of which offers a different set of challenges, which is kind of neat. It warps you back out when you’re done, so you have to go back in, but that’s only a moderate problem. Another quick trip back in results in a bit more pilfering, followed by finding… Yang, alive and recovering in a bed.
You know, it kind of undercuts heroic sacrifices when none of these people are actually sacrificed.
Anyhow, we can’t wake Yang yet, so that’s it, right? We’re done for now? Not quite… because the dwarves of Tomra mention that there’s a path to the Feymarch down here. You know, the place where Rydia grew up super-fast? That seems like a place to be seen. We should stop by.