The Final Fantasy Project: Final Fantasy IV -Interlude-, part 2

I don't expect it to last, but it'll be nice while it does.

Artwork from a sketch by Yoshitaka Amano

I had really wanted to get through the whole of -Interlude- in one part, but alas, it’s just a little bit too long.  You’d think there’s be a more solid sense of progression as a result, but instead it’s kind of scattershot and all over the place, starting you in the middle of leveling with an odd assortment of gear and no super-clear picture about how long you’ll be here.  It’s an odd duck, is my point.

Last time, we left off with Rydia acting as if she is far too drunk to be near crystals and loaded onto the Falcon, which is weird enough in and of itself but still leaves the question of why monsters in the Sealed Cave were acting up in the first place.  Also, apparently Edge is doing something, although it really hasn’t tied into the game in a significant fashion yet either.  I really hope these plot threads start coming together soon, there’s not a whole lot of interlude left.

Sorry, not a whole lot of -Interlude-.  That title formatting looks really ugly.  Did anyone point that out?

If I haven't made it clear, I don't like Edge a whole lot.

I don’t know where people live!

Once on board the Falcon, Rydia stares off toward the Tower of Babil, still insisting that “they’re calling.”  Obligingly, the team sets off for the tower, at which point it’s time to check back in with Edge!  Who is in the Caves of Eblan for some reason.  Despite the fact he said he was going to Damcyan.  Which is… nowhere near the tunnel.  I just don’t even know.

At any rate, it’s the same basic path that the team walked on back in the base game, just like everything else has been the same basic layout but on a different day and with different enemies.  It’s fairly boring, since Edge can’t heal himself and everything is accordingly tuned for him to just cut down without trouble.  Once he actually arrives at the tower, he declares that he knew someone had been there, so apparently he had never planned to go to Damcyan in the first place.  I feel like a scene or two was left out for some reason.  It could use a bit more elaboration.

Back on the Falcon, the group lands by the Tower of Babil, stocks up on supplies, and gets ready to head inside.  You know, the usual.  Once inside, the first door is blocked by an ice beast; killing it teaches Rydia Shiva again, which seems to confuse her somewhat.  Despite this fact, no one thinks that maybe they should take her back to the Feymarch or anything like that; they just keep climbing the tower.

A bit further up, the gang runs into a Green Dragon, which provides no significant challenge and teaches Rydia Ramuh when it dies.  Next floor up is a Flamehound that teaches her Ifrit, if you’re noticing a theme.  These fights are only bosses in name; in practice they’re pretty much inconsequential.  The next floor up hosts a save point as well as a port to another Developer’s Room, a silly little joke I’m happy to see return.  Oddly, it actually has some minor power boosts contained therein; well worth the side trip.

At any rate, taking out a giant worm nets Rydia Titan.  On the next floor, she runs into what was the cannon room back in the main game, then locks the door behind her, to Cecil’s surprise.  A group of robots jump out at the group, which means another boss fight, this time with just the three party members.  It starts out well enough, but then they merge and leave the party near for dead until Edge jumps in to help out.  A combination of spells and minor swording later, and the machine is down.

Edge explains that he saw the tower glowing and was sure that someone was starting it up again, and he picks the lock into the chamber housing Rydia… who, of course, has vanished.  Edge joins the group, we explore a bit further into the tower, and Rydia is found right where Dr. Lugae faced the group in the original game.  Edge, however, immediately declares that whoever this thing looks like, it’s not Rydia.  She starts summoning the Eidolons she had unlocked earlier, forcing the group into another boss fight, much like the battle against the archfiends toward the end of FFIV.

Yeah, hitting those same notes in rapid succession, all right.

Instead, we fight a mostly-naked woman with poorly explained ice powers.  Maybe this is less than a victory.

On the plus side, I suppose we got to avoid fighting a mostly-naked woman with the power of having really long hair.

Anyhow, the fights are not terribly difficult, especially as you have time to get up an impressive array of buffs first.  Shiva, Ramuh, Ifrit, and Titan all go down quickly enough.  Then Not-Rydia summons Bahamut.  Things look bleak, but then in comes a familiar Mist Dragon, and… well, you can guess who it is.  Real Rydia is back in the group, fake Rydia is due for a beating, and the team delivers with everything in their arsenal.  Between Bahamut, Thundaga, and a thrown array of weapons, Not-Rydia is fairly easily dispatched.

The copy disappears, then reappears in the crystal room on the moon, announcing that the Eidolon system is complete.  Back at Baron, Rosa finally reveals that yes, Cecil knocked her up, which is going to put a real dent in her usual practices of wearing bathing suits and high-heeled boots everywhere.  Cecil realizes he’ll have to think of a name, since he can’t just re-use “Ursula.”  Cue credits.

But wait, there’s a stinger!  Who have we been missing?  That’s right, Kain, standing on Mount Ordeals.  Sadly, the stinger doesn’t really add much to the fragmented half-plot, so it mostly just serves as a reminder that Kain exists.  Woo.

If there’s only one thing to take away from this little interlude, it’s that the episodic format does not work well at all with a single standalone episode orphaned in the wilderness.  There are about a million things to be gathered over the course of this particular adventure, and you wind up using three of them, because the whole thing is over and done with in less than three hours.  It does start bridging the gap between Final Fantasy IV and The After Years, but it does so by being a pastiche of re-used assets and random crap thrown together in a contained space.  More to the point, it doesn’t really serve any particular purpose beyond some vague foreshadowing that won’t pay off for nearly two decades.

Even its bridging action seems odd, since it was produced well after The After Years; it has a sequence of events in it that you think people would bring up, but I doubt anyone edited the dialogue to make allusions.

Those frustrations aside, however, while it seems bloated for its running time, it’s not actively bad.  And it’s kind of neat to tool around in the world again with a renewed structure, just re-addressing the maps without fundamentally altering the layout.  Besides, considering the task of making a bridging game at all, I think there was only so much that could be done without blowing the whole thing up to absurd proportions.

So points for effort.  Let’s start diving into the main sequel next week.  (As if there were any alternatives.)

About expostninja

I've been playing video games and MMOs for years, I read a great deal of design articles, and I work for a news site. This, of course, means that I want to spend more time talking about them. I am not a ninja.

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