Last we left off, Yomi had run off and our party decided to chase after him and try to convince him to join us, since he's the only guy with a character portrait in this town. We chase him down to the place we first met him, and catch him exterminating a whole bunch of monsters by himself. Turns out the reason he was having trouble with one weak monster when we first met him is because he just overdid it earlier, he's actually been guarding this area and exterminating the monsters around the settlement by himself for years, keeping it a secret. Ah, but why would there be any need for him to exterminate monsters after he helped one of the previous sacrifices fulfill her task? Yeah, turns out that didn't quite work out - we find out that he failed to protect the sacrifice and she died before reaching Land's End for the ritual. He's been here trying to 'atone' for his failure ever since. After a pep speech and another battle with sickle dude (who just teleports in and attacks Setsuna again without saying much), he's finally ready to give the whole sacrifice escort thing a second try.
We trek through the spooky cavern with Yomi in tow - I gave him a try, he's alright in combat I guess. Hard hitter, but I don't want to break up the original trio just yet. Actually I don't see myself changing my main party much - our silent masked hero is the protagonist, this is Setsuna's journey, and I just really love Kuon's design. Gonna be a hard sell to swap any of them out. After beating down the big cave monster boss we pop out at the city we were originally trying to find - it's a grand city with a nice port that has a ship which should take us to Land's End, but unfortunately the ship's mechanic is missing, we have to find him first. The leader here seems like a nice guy though - almost everyone in town loves him, says he keeps everyone safe, and he's even set up a refugee camp to the north where people fleeing the recent monster attacks and hardship can live, completely free of charge and without even needing to work! That sounds a little too good to be true, and some citizens do mention that it seems strange...I'm sure it's nothing. Anyway, we get tipped that we should maybe go check out the refugee camp to gather info on our missing ship mechanic, so we head off to the north.
On the way to the refugee camp, we run into a young boy with a tail being pursued by monsters and help him out - he introduces himself as Keel and he's not happy about being treated like a kid, butts heads with Yomi a lot. He convinces our party to watch after him temporarily to keep him safe, and makes a suspicious comment about him being a 'rare' specimen before pretending he didn't say anything. I'm not a big fan of his design, but I guess there are people who like these kinds of characters. Good for them, I'm not breaking up Endo/Setsuna/Kuon trio quite yet.
After some world map traveling, we hit refugee camp and start gathering info - seems a lot of people come and go from the camp according to the guard, hard to keep track of individuals. Still, we ask around and find an old man who seems to know both the ruler and our missing mechanic - he tells us about the mechanic's speech tic we can use to locate him, and also gives us a letter that he says should convince said mechanic to help us. So it's back to town we go, finding the guy with the speech tic in the bar and busting him, showing him the letter and going to inform this area's kind and benevolent leader. As a reward for finding his ship mechanic, he suddenly has his guards accost us and kidnaps Setsuna. Who could have ever guessed that the too-nice-to-be-true ruler was actually evil? We pursue him all the way to the ship and find out that he's been making deals with a mysterious third party - he provides them with a set amount of humans on a periodic basis, and in return his land doesn't get attacked by monsters. I guess that 'refugee camp' wasn't such a paradise after all. Anyway, he tries to kickstart the ship himself after the mechanic refuses to help him (and the old man from the refugee camp who happens to be his dad, the previous ruler he drove out, comes down to help stop his son too). He's not good at controlling the magic core of the ship though and it overloads, about to explode. Things couldn't be worse - or maybe they could, since sickle dude teleports in and attacks us yet again. This fight has two targets, our sickle wielding edgelord and the engine. The characters not so subtly keep telling you to focus on the engine first, so I do that and when the engine goes down, the battle ends.
Well, our ship's core is blown, and worse - Setsuna was near the blast and she's in serious condition after she shielded Keel hen the engine exploded. Keel is impressed and offers to take her to his secret village, where he says they have magic that can heal her. We don't have much choice, so we take the kid up on his offer and set off with limping Setsuna in tow. Keel's village is hidden with illusion magic, but he helps guide us there. When we arrive, he tries to use the power running through this area's land to heal Setsuna, but his magic is too weak. Keel's species used to be a short-lived race that only had a life expectancy of 20 or so years, they were hunted by monsters drawn by their high magical ability, and they always envied humans for their comparative longevity. To 'solve' this problem, they came up with a ritual where infants have most of their magic extracted on birth and sealed away - it makes them nearly unable to use magic, but in exchange they got longer lifespans, since their high magical energy was the flame burning their lifespan down. Whenever monsters attack they just have to hide in their tents and wait for them to leave, which they eventually do because they're unintelligent beasts - or are they? Lately they've been getting smarter for some reason, and they even lay an ambush for the village chief, something they've never been coordinated or intelligent enough to do before. It's clear that the village won't be able to survive just hiding at this point, and Keel decides to go take back his magic even if it'll shorten his lifespan, retrieving it from the big rock they keep it in while we hold off monsters drawn to the energy. He takes that power and we get back to town just in time to save it from the biggest monster invasion yet, before, of course, telling the village elder that he's going to travel with us. He wants to stop hiding and make the best of his limited lifespan, some cheesy stuff about making the most of your time, quality > quantity, etc. etc. - failed to tug any heartstrings here, but whatever, welcome aboard kiddo. So far almost none of the fights have been remotely difficult, that is about to change.
Now that Setsuna's better we can continue our journey, but without a ship that means continuing on foot. The next mountain we pass has one of many optional enemy encounters scattered throughout the game that are tucked away in a side-path and can be easily bypassed. In fact, the characters straight up suggest that you don't pick a fight with them back when we first ran into one a couple areas earlier, so I didn't - here I went ahead and gave it a try, and got my first game over as super-powered versions of the regular enemies in the area destroyed my team with massive damage and freeze debuffs. I guess I could have farmed up some anti-frost and resupplied to try and take them on, but I just want to keep pushing forward for now. Endo excuses himself from the party for what everyone else probably thinks is just nature's call, but it's actually the call of the guy who gave him the task to kill Setsuna, and he's pissed. What's your deal Endo, why haven't you killed the sacrifice yet? Here, the player gets a lot of dialog options - you can choose to be stoic mercenary dude who insists that he's gonna kill her soon, or you can question why she needs to be killed in the first place and protest. I'm going with the goody two shoes dialog options pretty much every time for now, doesn't make sense to me otherwise, unless the main character is secretly an evil mastermind the simple fact that he hasn't killed her yet shows that he doesn't want to...I think so, anyway, and that's what I'm going with for now. Actually, the guy who gave us the order seems to have his own doubts about it too, he's not comfortable with it and doesn't understand what the purpose of killing a sacrifice whose fate is to die anyway is, but the master's orders are absolute. "Oh and psst, if you see me later in public, pretend we don't know each other!" With that warning, he slinks off and Endo rejoins the party.
Our next town is said to be headed by a legion of knights - but when we arrive, it's deserted except for a boy who we save from some monsters standing nearby, he says monsters dragged everyone off to a nearby cave. Off to rescue them - as we hack and slash through the cave, we find the monsters wrapping up villagers in webbing to use as preserved food, and find that they attacked the village while the knight squad was away from the village, again an unusually intelligent thing for the usually mindless monsters to do. At the innermost room, we run into the same boy we met in the village again earlier, that's odd - yeah, he's actually a bug monster thing and a boss battle ensues. After we beat him down, he tearfully slinks off into a back room mumbling about how he's gotta save his mom. We chase after him, and find him trying to protect a bigger, dead bug monster thing, his mom. He seems to think if he feeds her humans she'll get better, but he doesn't realize or understand the whole 'she's dead and not coming back thing'. So Setsuna, being the nice girl she is, sets little monster boy down and explains 'Your mom's dead and not coming back'. Okay, she actually phrased it nicer than that and talked about how she knows what it's like to lose a mom since hers died when she was young, and how his mom would always be with him and all that fuzzy warm-hearted stuff. Whew, it seems like as the time without a successful sacrifice gets longer, monsters evolve more complex feelings, and now Setsuna's not so sure about the whole killing monsters thing at all. He agrees to stop attacking the human village and we walk him to the entrance together to say goodbye.
Bad timing! The knight squad mentioned earlier shows up, headed by a princess with a very strange sense of fashion, a lance and a seriously bad attitude. She tries to skewer our bug-boy monster friend, and Setsuna jumps in between to block the attack, with Endo having to break it up, sending the monster back into the caves while we hold the knight captain off. This princess knight's name is Julion, heir to an ancient royal bloodline and leader of a movement that is trying to resurrect and rebuild their historic kingdom. She seems to be a bloodthirsty psycho though, but she does offer to help us cross a strait we're having difficulty crossing because of the bad footing. She's still thankful we saved her townsfolk and all.
We're in for another surprise when we return to town and see the same man who gave Endo the task to kill Setsuna! He's second-in-command of the knight squad here, and after an initial panic, he and Endo play it cool and pretend not to know each other. It seems Julion is not quite herself, she wasn't always this crazy - her old childhood friend would know best, he insists she's changed ever since a certain event. She once wandered into a snowstorm to try and save a comrade, and long after she should have been dead, suddenly returned one day. Ever since then she's been completely ruthless and bloodthirsty, to the point where she was about to execute two of her own men for 'turning their backs on the enemy' in their last fight even though they were just helping people escape to safety. We do manage to break that up, but some magic swirling in Julion goes berserk and knocks her unconscious, with her knights dragging her off to her bed and locking off her room to outsiders. We'll never get across that strait at this point! Her childhood friend comes to us asking for help - a merchant in town has medicine that can cure the condition that ails Julion, but he won't part with it except in exchange for some rare items from nearby monsters. Julion's condition is a weird one - humans normally have a 'magic type' similar to a blood type, and just like blood types, you should only be able to have one. Julion somehow has two different types ever since that day she returned, and it's driving her crazy.
Okay okay, I know where this is going...we go hunt the monsters down, bring the items back, get the medicine, and give it to Julion. With the condition lifted, it turns out she doesn't remember anything since that day she went off into the snowstorm. We tell her to get some rest, but sure enough, as we're about to leave town, she hobbles out and insists on joining us. She wants to see Land's End for herself, because not only is it the destination for our sacrifice travel, it's also the ancient homeland of her ruined kingdom, and she wants to see it with her own eyes. With Julion's help, we can now find stable footing to cross over the floating ice on the strait and make further progress toward Land's End. I tried Keel and Julion out in battle, but yet again, I find myself unable to break up my main squad of Endo/Setsuna/Kuon. Fortunately the game forced Setsuna out of my party for a while when she was injured earlier so I got to try out other characters, but in the end I still like this team best for now.
So far this game has been okay, the whole 'monster trying to protect mom' thing was kind of touching, but next up the game is just gonna punch us in the face with over the top and out of nowhere plot dump that's supposed to make us sad. In the next dungeon, Yomi suddenly passes out along with Endo, and the two of them wake up to see a bunch of Yomi's memories - it's basically a slideshow of Yomi's memories from his last time as a sacrifice's guard. He leaves with the sacrifice, a girl named Nanase, saying bye to Nanase's younger sister Mana before he goes. Drama drama, Nanase ends up succumbing to illness and dying, admitting that she always loved Yomi but that Yomi only had eyes for her younger sister Mana, and she could never quite get over it, figuring she could at least die as the sacrifice for him. And then the game drops the big reveal on us - turns out Mana was pregnant with Yomi's kid before he left to guard her sister Nanase, and that child is...Setsuna. Dun dun dunnnn. With Mana also dying, Yomi feels like he failed both Nanase and Mana and has never forgiven himself for it, but with the help of cheesy self-help dialog options from Endo, he gets over it and renews his determination to protect Setsuna this time. I'm sorry, but this was just really shoddily done - no buildup, supposed to feel bad about characters in his memories we met 30 seconds ago, just bad. Yomi asks Endo to keep the fact that he's Setsuna's real father a secret for now, and we continue onward.
Before we can move on, we run into sickle dude yet again for another battle - you know who hasn't had character focus in a while? Kuon. Well, sickle dude charges up a big kamehameha but Kuon somehow nullifies it with her own magic, amazing everyone and making them wonder exactly who she is to be able to summon that much magical energy. Mystery, mystery! Next up is a village near the magical barrier that surrounds Land's End. There should be a passageway through it, but the villagers here can't seem to remember it. They remember that it 'should' have existed, but for some reason can't remember details. The village elder is also acting weird. Hm, okay.
We investigate a nearby cave, looking for this route that the villagers seem to have forgotten. Kuon detects an illusion ward on one of the walls - someone's hiding something. Was anyone back at the village suspicious? Oh yeah, the village elder lady. We go back and talk to her, but not before Julion collapses, and the village elder cures her using the same magic as Setsuna, and the same sacred weapon to power her healing magic that only sacrifices should be able to use. Time for the game to plot dump her sad story - she was a sacrifice a long time ago, but she got wounded badly and her sister had to become a replacement sacrifice, charging through the sealed passageway and making it to land's end while her allies died holding off the monsters. She's feeling pretty guilty about living when she was supposed to have been the one to die, but after we give her a pep talk and insist we can handle the monsters that are sealed behind the ward, she gives us the key to break the seal and sends us on our merry way.
We head back to the cave to undo the ward, and find a surprise waiting for us inside - it's sickle dude! He's not attacking us this time, though...he's weak and seemingly wounded, leaning against a wall. Yomi insists we finish him off here, but Setsuna, ever the pacifist, once again puts herself in the way and says we should let him live. Her reason is that she's never felt like sickle dude was an enemy, he just attacked them emotionlessly, she thinks he's got to have some reason for it. And here we go, the player gets a choice to either finish him off or let Setsuna protect him. Paging Chrono Trigger. Actually, I'm not sure if you actually can finish him off - I chose to let him live, not sure if I could have actually killed him if I chose the option or if the game would have railroaded me into sparing him either way. We leave him be and continue on deeper into the cave.
I'll break this update here for now - I've gotta say, I'm a bit disappointed so far. The whole stuff with Yomi was just silly, and I couldn't feel sad for the other failed sacrifice's sob story either. The monsters gaining intelligence as time goes on thing has potential, though - if the sacrifice resets the monsters' intelligence, if the monsters get smarter the longer a sacrifice doesn't happen, there's story potential for a twist there. Also, our mysterious and mostly silent sickle dude has apparently been attacking not only Setsuna and our party, but monsters as well - he was the one who killed the bug kid's mom. He also seems to know Julion. Lots of plot hooks being set up. So despite this being underwhelming in a lot of ways so far, I'm keeping hope up that it will get better soon, because once we hit Land's End (and the game keeps telling me we're almost there!), I am expecting the rug to be pulled out from under us and the story to be flipped majorly. Looking forward to seeing that.
As far as gameplay goes, the game was very easy at first (except for those special 'supercharged normal enemy' optional battles) but it's finally beginning to get a bit challenging. Early on I made sure to switch to the harder battle mode - you can have 'Wait' mode or 'Active' mode. Both are actually forms of ATB, just in Active mode, the battle continues to proceed while you're rummaging through your spells menu. For whatever reason though, you can still 'pause' any time you like even in Active mode because time stops when you're targeting an ability, so while it's more difficult than Wait mode for sure, it's really just a matter of memorizing where your items and spells are located and selecting the one you want quickly, whereas in Wait mode you can take your time reminding yourself what spells you have.
Random JRPG blogging about the games I'm currently playing.