Thursday, January 30, 2014

Part 9: Fiend Fight at the Chocobo Corral

Last time we got pummeled by everything with a pulse along the Mi’ihen Highroad (and by some things without one) but managed to make it to the Travel Agency in one piece. There’s no rest for the weary, though, since a giant . . . something . . . has just landed on the roof.

I finally managed to start some sphere grid swapping! With two Level 1 Key Spheres I managed to break Wakka out of his grid and into Lulu’s, which was fortunately right next door. He’s going to be our black mage. Lulu meanwhile is on her way up into Waffles’s grid where she’ll be able to move into Auron’s once I get a Level 2 sphere, and on her way to becoming a tank.

Lulu, pictured here hanging around coolly in the middle of a crisis. "What? There's a two-tongued horror stomping around ten feet above my head? Does it eat belts? Then I'm not worried."

Waffles and Yuna run outside to witness a scene of chocobo calamity. On a minor note, I like how a lot of shots that are just Tidus observing or reacting to something to set the scene also have Yuna in them, to subtly show that it’s as much her story as it is his. (Also, that she enjoys being with him.)

“That’s the second-biggest chocobo eater I’ve ever seen!”

The feathers in its teeth are a particularly horrible touch.

Not much is known about the Chocobo Eater except that it eats chocobos. That is its entire raison d'être. Where does it come from? Where does it go? What kind of restless unsent souls could have possibly created it?

It is a question for the philosophers.

In case it wasn’t clear before, (it’s hinted at but not really revealed until you start collecting Jecht spheres) Auron has made the acquaintance of the Chocobo Eater already. And, judging by the location of Auron’s Mars Crest and, I believe, one of the Jecht Spheres at the bottom of the gorge, this is exactly what happened last time Auron and Friends came this way.

If Lulu’s character model ever gets flipped over for whatever reason, you can see her mysterious lack of feet. (Giving credence to the theory that she travels by floating.)

Stop that victory dance this instant, you big booger! You just wait until I reload my save and get back up there.

If you lose, Auron takes it out on Waffles. He probably knows he’s out of line, but he’s embarrassed by his failure and, like Lulu does, lashing out at the nearest culpable target to cover it up. He’s probably also remembering a similar incident with Jecht, and that smarts.

Also, if you lose, you are forced to witness one of the saddest things in the entire game. :( :( :( (Which is saying a lot, since the last hour or so is one long heartstrings tug-of-war. Reportedly, Elma took care of the fiend for you, but there is definitely an implied scene of choco-carnage.)

For some reason there’s an old Travel Agency sign down here at the bottom of the cliff. Maybe thrown down by a previous Chocobo Eater incident.

All right, everyone. One more time, with feeling!

Today’s forecast: slightly hellfire with a chance of falling fiends.

(Tonight, on Awkward Screencap Theatre.)

The reaction if you manage to push the chocobo eater in the opposite direction is well worth it. (So are the two Level 1 Key Spheres you get, since I really need those.)

Dude, I think you owe me an entire chocobo for that. It only took me like eight tries.

Apparently chocobo knight training involves flapping around madly down on the Oldroad. I am impressed though that they can get that far off the ground carrying both armor and a rider.

There are a few secret spots indicated by a yellow feather on the ground where your clever chocobo can find hidden treasure.

Also the swing dance version of the chocobo theme you get to listen to in FFX is really catchy.

(Although for most/all of us the sound of this song probably conjures up PTSD flashbacks of being pelted by freaking birds in the Calm Lands. Alas. Our first chocobo ride along the Mi’ihen Highroad was a more innocent time.)

Dona’s sense of summoner entitlement is a sharp contrast to Yuna’s humbleness. But they both have expressed the vaguely foreboding sentiment that Operation Mi’ihen will not succeed by the might of Crusaders and machina alone, and that they will be forced again to rely on summoners to defeat Sin.

Pffft. Yeah Dona’s sultry tone here makes it clear that that is not exactly what she’s intending to do with Barthello. But you know, good for them. Dona/Barthello is actually one of the most normal and functional ships sailing around out there in the turbulent seas of FFX. (Although this fandom, given its tendency to crew such vessels as “fifteen-year-old girl/guy twenty years her senior and also dead” and “savior/giant whale monster*,” does not set the bar very high. Heck even the canon ones, “doomed girl/imaginary boy” and “dead brother’s girlfriend/dead boyfriend’s brother” are pretty questionable.

* So far I’ve actually only seen one person shipping Yuna/Sin, but she is very persistent about it.)

Regardless of her high school mean girl attitude towards Yuna (and also Tidus), Dona is loyal to her pilgrimage. She doesn’t start to question the pilgrimage until near the end, when the cracks in Yevon start to appear, and even then, if you say the right thing to her, she still goes all the way to Zanarkand. She is counting, like Yuna, on her death. Dona and Barthello know this is the last time they’ll have together, so why shouldn’t they enjoy each other’s company while they can?

Oh how cute and precocious. Surely they won’t really let child soldiers in the army? (Don’t get your hopes up.)

"Oh no it's that mysteriously handsome blue-haired guy again he's coming this way he's going to see me what do I do with my face??"

Yuna’s face when she sees Seymour just walking up the road is really entertaining. She’s clearly still star-struck by him. And she bows so low in respect that she’s actually kneeling.

Seymour, who is going this way to oversee the operation, pulls some strings to let us through the closed gate. It’s unclear what his motive is here. Is he trying to insinuate himself into her good graces? Putting her into a position where she owes him a favor? Does he actually want her to witness Operation Mi’ihen? Or is he really just being courteous?

I’d also like to point out that they’ve never actually “met” before; there were never any introductions or greetings exchanged between them when they saw each other for the first time on the Luca dock, when he singled her out with his gaze in the crowd. It’s likely he knew her by reputation before he met her, but she’s never personally given him her name, and she only learned who he was when he was announced. Already knowing who she is (and presumably having access to other information about her) gives him an extra advantage over her, in addition to his status as a Maester.

I have some thoughts on why he chose her specifically for his master plan, and what exactly he’s doing, but I’ll go into that next time.

Yuna’s bow of thanks goes on for several seconds, long after Seymour has walked away. Everybody else is clearly skeptical of Seymour’s generosity.

And Lulu is getting a little tired of Yuna’s developing fan-crush on him. She already had a problem with her transparent attraction to Waffles, now she has to deal with this, too. (The little pat on the back she gives her to nudge her along is really cute, though.)

On the other side of the gate, Seymour gives an inspiring speech to the assembled Crusaders which may or may not actually be sincere. (A recurring theme with Seymour is that it’s often hard to tell; a lot of things he says are layered with twisted double meanings and ulterior motives.)

He is a summoner, and moreover, one of the few who has completed the pilgrimage. (Although he omitted the final, crucial step of, you know, actually defeating Sin.) He is also, as it turns out, very interested in Sin, so he knows possibly even better than Yuna and Dona do that Sin can’t be destroyed by normal means.

However, he is a summoner who chose his own path in the end, by turning away from Sin and, via certain insidious machinations that will be revealed to us later, eventually becoming a Maester. So the sentiment of “believe in the path that you have chosen,” has a peculiar emphasis, coming from him. He is encouraging them to stick to what they believe in, even in defiance of Yevon.

But does he really mean it? I’m not sure when exactly Seymour’s life plans change from “defeat Sin” to “become Sin,” but it could be that he is encouraging them because he knows they won’t succeed. He doesn’t want Sin to be destroyed. But if the operation proceeds as planned, he will have the chance to observe it and perhaps even come in contact with it.

But, like Lulu, I can only speculate. (And will, in the next installment.)

Guado are, as he puts it, “keen to the scent of the Farplane.” He already knows Auron is an unsent, and needles him about it whenever he gets the chance, hoping to get him to reveal something in front of the others. Auron, however, remains as tightly closed up as the Cloister of Trials.

Lulu’s facepalming while Wakka attempts to talk to Seymour is one of my favorite things.

"I Simon Chubby am here as an individual." (AuronLu’s hilariously-translated FFX bootleg is also one of my favorite things.)

"That's even worse!"

At least he's being up-front about how seriously shady that sounded. Having insider information, Seymour knows that Yevon is a morass of treachery and corruption. The things he says are actually exactly the kind of things a Maester of Yevon would say. But seeing this slippery attitude coming from an authority figure is a shock for some of our more trusting party members.

As we attempt to continue on our way to Djose Temple, Clasko comes running up and tells us that Seymour wants to see Yuna up at the command center, for reasons that are never explained. (He never actually gets a chance to talk to her once they’re there before the operation starts.) We put on our hiking boots and get ready for a climb.

Presumably at some point, this happens, since we’re in the right location. It could be after the battle, but Yuna isn’t looking nearly harrowed enough yet. I like the idea of the moogle being sent to scout ahead to make sure it’s safe. Which apparently it isn’t, since Lulu is cautioning Yuna back. (I have this as a poster-sized wall hanging in my room and people who come in are like “What the heck,” because they see the severe-looking goth lady . . . and then the smiling teddy bear cat thing. Or the people riding giant yellow birds in the background. Final Fantasy!!!)

Along the way up Mushroom Rock Road we run into Shelinda, who is still determinedly wibbling her way towards the site of the operation in the face of repeated failure. She says she knows a little white magic, so she’s planning to offer her services as a healer. I really admire her attitude. We’re never given any indication that Yevon promotes charity and generosity like many major religions (whose followers nevertheless seem only to remember it when it is personally convenient) but Shelinda herself embodies these values. She wants to help even if it contradicts her own beliefs, because she knows it's the right thing to do.

(Come to think of it, I’m not exactly sure what Yevon does promote, other than atonement. We hear a lot about what the teachings say people aren’t supposed to do, but there’s no “love thy neighbor” exhortations, it’s all “thou shalt not.”)

I still get a kick out of seeing Waffles addressed as “my lady.”

Not “heal us if we are wounded,” but “send us if we die.” Lucil is preparing for the worst, here. This is an easy line to pass over or forget, considering everything that’s about to happen, but as it turns out Yuna really takes it to heart.

Elma where are your glasses? That is clearly Waffles.

Wakka’s spellcasting animation involves scratching his head like he’s thinking about what to do. It’s cute.

I also noticed that when people cast spells, they appear to have pyreflies circling them, which gives some insight into the nature of magic in Spira. (Surprise! As with everything else, it has something to do with pyreflies.) It would seem that they’re able to tap into and manipulate the surrounding energies of the pyreflies, considering that they’re everywhere. Lulu being able to conjure elements out of seemingly thin air isn’t really that far from Yuna being able to walk on water or blitzballers not needing to breathe. (I have a little headcanon that summoners adapt the sending to the funereal practices of wherever they are, but Yuna’s dance was on the surface of water because that is how Kilikans bury their dead. Cultures that use a funeral pyre might have summoners that dance in the flames without being burned to draw the pyreflies out through the fire. Both would involve the manipulation of elements.)

I don’t know how it got started but the first time I played this with a friend we started saying “Auron disdains the flower” every time we got this shot. Later I realized that it’s actually a mushroom. The sentiment still stands. Actually you could say “Auron disdains the ___” about pretty much anything.

When we get to the top, Luzzu and Gatta are having a cutscene over here that it is possible to miss. Almost all of the scenes pertaining to Lulu’s backstory are hidden in some way, which is, on a meta level, very appropriate for her, but it means that a lot of people don’t know they’re there.

Doubtless, this exchange is reminding Wakka of him and his brother. Speaking of whom . . .

This is one of the few times we see Lulu get upset about anything enough to use exclamation points. And even though Luzzu is indirectly responsible for Chappu’s death, she’s trying to protect him from Wakka’s reaction. (Or it could be that she’s trying to protect Wakka from knowing.) It’s implied that the bunch of them (Lulu, Wakka, Chappu, and Luzzu, possibly also Yuna and Gatta although they are a few years younger) were friends or at least well-acquainted in their small community back on Besaid and she doesn’t want to ruin that, especially since there’s a high likelihood that Luzzu is about to die. She’d have preferred that he take the secret with him to his death rather than stir up old pain and resentment now with his confession.

But he plows ahead anyway, and gets socked in the face for his trouble.

He realizes that Lulu knew, and didn’t tell him. She looks away.

(I love how you can't see anyone's faces in this shot, but all the necessary emotion is conveyed through body language.)

(Wellllll given the Aurochs’ track record, this could have been a way of ensuring that he stayed single forever. But I think Chappu was probably more of an optimist.)

I’m gonna rain on everybody’s already-soggy parade and point out that this doesn’t necessarily mean that they would have gotten married – as usual, we never get Lulu’s opinion on this subject. We don’t know if she would have accepted. The description of her as "his girl" kind of rubs me the wrong way. It's such a belittling, dismissive, 1950's-type descriptor and doesn't suit her. I really don't think Lulu would stand for being anybody's girl.

But we don’t actually know much about their relationship at all.

Maybe they were a happy couple, and the dynamic contrast in their personalities balanced each other out despite a probable gap in their level of emotional maturity. (And possibly, actual ages. If we assume that Wakka’s parents died at the same time that Lulu’s did, then Chappu could have been anywhere from around 16 to 22 when he died.) Literally the only thing we ever hear about his personality is that he always thought that Lulu looked grumpy. But, given how strongly Tidus reminds Wakka of his brother, it’s easy to assume that they had a similar cheerful, impulsive temperament, meaning one that is the polar opposite of Lulu’s.

Slightly darker alternate interpretation: Maybe Chappu, being younger and starry-eyed, was a lot more in love with Lulu than Lulu reciprocated. Joining the Crusaders gave him an opportunity to prove himself as a man, in the hopes that she would take him more seriously. Now she’s carrying not only sorrow but guilt over his death, for which she feels responsible.

We get a slow zoom on Lulu, who is standing off by herself, isolated from everyone else and looking down at the ground. Even if the scenario I just described isn’t what happened, she does feel responsible in part for what happened to Chappu.

To make things worse (for our feelings): Chappu became a Crusader to fight Sin and protect Lulu when she put herself in danger by becoming a guardian to her previous summoner(s). She, in turn, did this with the intention of protecting Yuna when she decided to become a summoner, in the hopes of getting to Sin and defeating it herself before Yuna even had to make her pilgrimage. So Yuna’s decision to become a summoner set off a chain reaction of TRAGEDY. (Hopefully, no one ever told Yuna this.)

Meaning that it was still on her mind when Wakka gave Tidus Chappu’s sword.

“Wendy has got a frightening fists too.” Okay sorry I will stop with the badly-timed terrible translations. (Probably.)

Captain Lucil comes by to round up the Crusaders and Luzzu prepares to face his expected end. Even now, Wakka is still concerned for him as a friend.

Yuna, who is determined to save everyone but herself, is too. But, as Auron reminds her, he is prepared to give his life to fight Sin exactly as she has. It would be hypocritical of her to stand in his way.

Up top, poor Wakka take out his frustrations by ill-advisedly kicking a cannon with his sandal-clad foot. Waffles stops to wring some more painful exposition out of a weary Lulu.

Back in Luca, she started to explain why Wakka "never had much love for the Al Bhed," but Waffles interrupts to remind her that the fate of the blitzball match is hanging in the balance.  It's likely that this is what she was going to tell him.

The Crusaders’ plan here is to cage all these Sinspawn they have collected and then electrocute them, causing them to cry out for Sin, which is rather charmingly overprotective of all the horrible bug things that fall off of it. Once it has been lured in, the Crusaders will engage it in combat until the Al Bhed get the 1,000-year-old machina charged up and ready to fire.

There are about a billion ways that this can go wrong, but nobody wants to be the Debbie Downer who brings it up.

Yeah when those kids out front said “We’re Crusaders, too!” they meant it.

There’s a whole story told here in just a few lines of dialogue, and it’s one of the most chilling things you can find in this game. This man is training his daughter to swing a sword she can barely lift, in order to fight and avenge his other child who was killed by Sin, so caught up in his grief over the dead child that he is willing to endanger the living one. It will end up costing him her, as well.

(At least, that is how I read it.)

O’aka you are a despicable human being and you aren’t getting any of my gil.

We come upon Gatta glumly posted outside the command center, per Luzzu’s orders. When asked what’s wrong, he says that he wants to be out on the front lines and it’s not fair.

Auron is just full of sage life advice today.

He himself has faced a similar situation. When Braska decided to go ahead with the Final Summoning, Auron opposed the decision and wanted to find another way, but he had to remain faithful to his duty as a guardian. He stayed true to the last orders Braska gave him, even though it meant having to watch his two best friends die without him.

You get to Chose Your Own Adventure here and decide whether or Luzzu or Gatta gets to live. (But you can’t save both. Alas, their bromance is not meant to be.) Story-wise, it’s probably more poetic if Luzzu goes off and gets himself killed as a kind of atonement for Chappu, but the scene you get with him later if he lives has more depth to it than Gatta’s, so I’m going with that. Also, Gatta’s description of Luzzu’s death is pretty horrific.

(Also, typing out this paragraph I realized that a LOT of Besaiders have double letters in their names. Wakka, Chappu, Luzzu, Gatta, Letty, Datto, Keepa, Jassu, Botta . . . that’s like almost everyone who’s named. What is up with that? I guess it’s a regional linguistic quirk. It makes Yuna -- and possibly Lulu, although she has a double syllable -- stand out as non-natives, too.)

If you want to kill Gatta, you have to encourage him to disobey twice, you murderer.

Upon our arrival at the command center, this happens. A pudgy Maester waddles up and, living the dream of a legion of Auron fans, wraps him in an unsolicited and unrequited bear hug. Everybody gapes in astonishment.

Yes, that’s very informative, Lulu, but it fails to explain what gave this man the compulsion to plant a non-sequitur hug on Grouchy McPricklepants over there.

(This shot contains two things I like. Ordinarily grumpy characters being specially patient with doofy ones, and tall characters having to lean down to talk to shorter ones.)

Lulu explains that Kinoc’s branch of command is the warrior monks and the Crusaders, so he’s the one in charge of Operation Mi’ihen. Kinoc knows Auron because ten years ago, they were warrior monks together. But Auron got booted for refusing an arranged marriage with the daughter of a high-ranking clergyman, and Kinoc got the attached promotion instead. (Possibly, he also married the girl?) We can conjecture that Auron may have ended up a Maester himself, although climbing that high on the Yevon career ladder tends to involve some sketchy dealings, and I think Auron would have turned away in disgust when he found out how corrupt Yevon is, and the things that would be expected of him.

Even the man in charge of it, with a casual disregard for all the lives at stake, knows the operation has the same odds of success as a Hypello trying to learn to fly.

(Also, check out Yuna breaking out in a nervous sweat back there because Seymour is standing like two feet behind her. And Waffles doing whatever Waffles is doing.)

Auron still refuses to clearly explain his ten-year absence, even when noodged about it repeatedly.

This line is loaded with some kind of meaning, evidenced by the fact that they aren’t facing each other, and that Auron just replies “Hmph” and walks away.

Of course he’s seen Zanarkand. Everyone knows he’s seen Zanarkand; he’s a legendary guardian, which means that his summoner completed the pilgrimage and defeated Sin. But I wonder if this is a clue that the Maesters know about Dream Zanarkand, and are keeping it a secret.

It could also be an echo of the last conversation that Kinoc had with Auron, revealed in one of the Jecht Spheres. I discussed this with LureoftheSea on tumblr once; the last thing that Kinoc says is “You will tell me about Zanarkand when you return, won’t you?” But this conversation hints that Kinoc does not expect Auron to return.

As I mentioned on tumblr, I’m pretty sure that the Maesters of Yevon know about what summoners find at the end of the pilgrimage in Zanarkand: Yunalesca’s true nature, the guardian sacrifice necessary to obtain the Final Aeon, and that Sin can never be truly defeated and will always be reborn. So Kinoc’s deliberate tone here could imply that he knows one (or more) of several things:
- Dream Zanarkand exists, and that’s where Auron has been all along.
- What Auron saw in Zanarkand, and that Braska’s other guardian had to have become Sin.
- That Auron is unsent.

Waffles and Yuna are feeling out of place at the adults’ table.

Auron impresses the importance of guardianly duties on Waffles. (He has a motive for this, which I’ll get into later, but for now it's just cute.)

"A summoner . . . I shall report this later." 
Yeah just implicate yourself in the Great Summoner Heist right in front of a guardian. I'm sure he's not learning to speak your language, or anything.

We’re about to learn the horribly irony behind this statement. But what Wakka says is true; Yevon is behind the operation. But not for the reasons he’s thinking.

Next time: This will not end well.


  1. I am... morbidly curious about this whole Yuna/Sin pairing concept. Like how does that work. Are there links/fanfics I can check out?

    1. There is just one, as far as I know:
      The author was persistently marketing it in the comments of my DeviantArt gallery for a while and I got morbidly curious too, haha. It starts out with like Yuna benignly hugging Sin's improbably-large whale nose but then things get Lovecraftian, and not in the good way. :S Buuut to each their own.

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