The Final Fantasy Project: Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, part 7
We’re almost at the end of the initial set of tales offered by the game, although new ones have been popping up as other tales gets cleared away. You really can do them in any order you want, but it sort of blunts the effect without seeing them unfold in the intended order, wonky timeline effects aside. That just leaves two of the least likely starring characters to take center stage, and in this case, it’s the character whose entire life has basically been “support character.”
Of course, the same could be said of Rosa, but the fact is as a character I don’t like Rosa in the least. She’s clearly written as a Token Hot Girl without any attributes or opinions of her own, and the novelty of the game stating that she and Cecil were in a relationship is quickly outweighed by the fact that the writers make her completely a satellite to Cecil’s whims. Porom, on the other hand, has at least some agency and wish of her own. Not as much as I’d like, but still.
So, yes, we’re on to Porom’s Tale – The Vanished Lunar Whale. In the original game, Porom had a fairly small role overall and was mostly the check on Palom’s grating self-aggrandizement, but the bits we’ve already seen play with that development as a logical extension of the seventeen years between games. Palom’s complete unwillingness to act like an adult in any fashion means that Porom, essentially, is shackled to him as the only reason why he’s capable of functioning; her own development and desires have had to get sidelined in favor of what she has to do as a responsible individual.
Appropriately enough, her tale starts with a flashback to Palom completely blowing off a lesson because he first failed to show up, then got punished for not showing up. This would be a great point to teach him that talent without the ability or willingness to show discipline is worthless, but instead Porom brings him back and Palom claims he’s much more advanced because he helped Cecil. The Elder more or less lets the condescending six-year-old completely off the hook, and Porom develops a stress ulcer.
Flashing forward, Porom and Palom are on a bout, motherfuckers, take a look at them. They’re headed to Kaipo, because Palom wants to see where Tellah came from. Porom, being significantly smarter than her brother, explains to him in painful detail that the title of sage is something given to you, not something acquired by one’s own ambition. Palom completely misses the point. Once the pair gets to Kaipo, Palom further establishes himself as an immature twit by also missing every bit of development that Tellah went through over the course of Final Fantasy IV, while Porom gets the slightest bit of character development insofar as the game says she wants to be a good wife.
After I get back from banging my head against the wall for an hour, I find that for reasons poorly explained by the plot, we’re now in the cave leading toward Damcyan, so okay. The fights are complicated slightly by the fact that, obviously, we’re kind of at a disadvantage for physical power. There are also enemies who like to hit the twins with Toad, and they have no immediate way to deal with the status. Stocking up on Maiden’s Kisses, then.
Following the trek through, you have to fight a boss that’s a slight reskin of the octopus that Tellah and Cecil fought on the road to Damcyan, which is a pretty simple fight if you just Slow the boss and its tentacles and then have Palom cast Fira over and over. This, to no one’s real surprise, was what he really wanted to do in the first place. And, of course, he treats this as if it was an excellent decision, while the game totally fails to have him face consequences.
Have I mentioned that I fucking hate Palom yet?
Skipping ahead several years, Porom is hopping on an airship to Mist, annoyed at Palom not bothering to show up on time. It turns out he took the Devil’s Road to Baron without Porom knowing about it, something that she is justifiably upset about. I don’t see why she doesn’t just let him go feed his genitals to wolves or whatever his next stupid plan will be, but that’s not the point; the point is the twins head to Mist, then Palom basically uses Rydia as a plot ticket to get into the Feymarch.
Why everyone goes along with him I don’t know. Why he’s had more to do in this tale than the theoretical protagonist is equally mysterious. Before hitting the Feymarch, the group stops by Dwarf Castle for no real reason, aside from revealing that Luca apparently has a bit of a crush on Palom. Back to hitting my head against the wall, then. Damn it, Luca, I thought you were cool.
Regaining consciousness, the group is going through the passage to the Feymarch in a sequence that… mostly just pads things out and servers as a good place to get Porom up to level 20ish. At the bottom, Palom wants to head into the Feymarch, but Rydia refuses to let him, takes a quick jaunt inside herself, and makes it clear that the group should leave. Little asshole finally got someone to tell him no, at least.
A bit of talking happens once the group gets back to the surface, but it adds nothing to the plot that we didn’t already know, as has been the case for everything thus far in this tale. It’s a flashback to the least interesting parts between the games.
We’re finally back in the present, and after a bit of back-and-forth between Porom and the Mysidian Elder, the Lunar Whale surfaces and heads for the moon seemingly of its own volition. The Elder decides to go get Kain, who supposedly is still on Mount Ordeals. Porom volunteers to lead the charge, because of course she does, and for the first time she actually gets sort of leading status!
Mount Ordeals, as always, is covered with undead, which means that the Black Mage and White Mage can make short work of everything. Thus, the best strategy is to spend some time grinding at the entrance until they hit their level cap, then just power through until you reach the top, complete with altar to Cecil’s dad. The altar teleports the group to the mirrored chamber where Cecil became a Paladin, only to find that all of the mirrors are now shattered, in the fifth or so reference to what’s going on in Baron. After a bit of ominous text, the group is jumped by tons of undead, only to be saved by a jump from Kain.
Yes, asshole is back again. Except obviously not, since he doesn’t recognize Porom and isn’t acting like himself, because that would be far too obvious. Kain agrees to help the party, which starts the process of grinding up for Rydia’s challenge dungeon after killing the superfluous mages. Out of character, I mean. Kain does not just lance the shit out of them. Since Kain is fast and hits hard, you basically have him and Porom kill things as physical attackers and reap big rewards without the level-locked generics alive to eat some of your experience.
Once all of that is done, there’s nothing left except to climb back down the mountain. Back in Mysidia, the town is under attack; fighting to the prayer dais reveals a beaten Elder and a boss fight that’s mostly just a regular enemy with lots of health. The Elder says that the monsters came from the Devil’s Road, Kain wants to go see Baron for himself, and Porom rushes after him to see Rydia-Only-Not in the town square.
The mysterious girl wants the crystal, the Elder stumbles out to help Porom fight her, and the girl summons Ramuh. The Elder then teleports Porom out of the fight in a keen bit of gameplay and story lining up as he gets zapped with Ramuh’s Judgement Bolt. Kain jumps in with the crystal and offers to hand it over on the condition that he gets to see and kill Cecil himself, the mysterious girl agrees, and Porom is left alone in a wrecked Mysidia. And… then the story ends.
Porom’s challenge dungeon is a seriously irritating piece of work. Not difficult, exactly, and a commendable concept for breaking out of the game’s established rut of dungeon formats, but still irritating. You’re dropped in an open field and tasked with helping as many people as possible before reaching the exist while also dealing with a rather strict time limit. Your primary plan, then, is to run away from every possible encounter, dashing hither and yon to heal people, then dashing to the exit with equal desperation. It works, but it doesn’t quite hit the nice cadence of Edge or Yang’s dungeons.
So that’s Porom’s tale, except it mostly isn’t. The story focus isn’t on Porom until the last few moments, and even then all of the things being done are entirely in control of other people. It’s padded out with combat to tell parts of the story we don’t need, tacks on a chore of a dungeon, and squanders an opportunity for character development. In short, it’s the most Final Fantasy IV-like part of the sequel so far.