Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, Part 4 - Thermosphere


Next up: The Earth Cave. First, we gotta cross this snowy mountain from Final Fantasy X. What's it doing here? I don't know. Also featuring Marilith. That's right, TWO Fiends today.

The latest Fool's Missive is about how the four crystals actually sustain the world of FF1 and keep everything balanced.

Wait, does this mean all of the crystal-controlled worlds (so 1, 3, 4, 5, and 9) in the series were created by Lufenians?

The snow mountain is another very long zone, and even has a blizzard at one point. I think it's my favorite zone so far.

...does this mean we're just gonna entirely skip the Ice Cave, though?

Our heroes battle griffons near the summit. There's actually an ice cave up here, but it isn't THE Ice Cave.

Marlboro debuts here...unless there was one in the Sunleth area earlier, but I think this was actually their first appearance. Probably the worst enemy in the game besides Tonberry, as is tradition.

Fun Fact: So far, I've had exactly 12 deaths in this game. They were to:
Marlboro: 1
Tiamat: 4
Tonberries: 7

Tonberries suuuuuuck.

The boss of this area is the Dragon Zombie, which was found in the Castle of Ordeals in the original game. I have a feeling we're skipping that dungeon too.

...and when are we gonna fight Astos?

.....and what of poor, forgotten Elfland?

Piscodemon: "And what about us??"

GTFO out of here Piscodemon

Like most bosses, Zombie Dragon has a second phase, and it's this creepy spider-like form where his wings turn to bony fingers. I don't wanna talk about it

Jack has some sort of flashback where he sees digitized people walking into a sterile room, greeting him as his latest party member. A whole bunch of these apparitions flash by before you finally see the current party. So he's done this before, then, and many times over.

This is starting to sound like Moon.

If you know, then you know

Jack snaps out of it, but he's freaked out at these visions and doesn't know what they mean.

We get more Fool's Missive, which at this point is practically a spoiler alert. It sounds like the Earth Cavern was based off of the Tomb of Raithwall from Final Fantasy XII.

And indeed, it definitely has an FFXII look to it. Actually this whole game feels like it could have started life around 2010 on the PS2 or PS3. Wonder what the story is here. Is this an unfinished project from back in the day that they souped up for a modern audience?

Yeah, this is definitely the Tomb of Raithwall. I'm not sure how I feel about the game subbing in areas from other games instead of re-creating, say, the actual Earth Cave. At least the Mirage Tower / Flying Fortress were actual FF1 areas that merely "got some inspiration" from areas in other games. For this, they just outright switched the area out for a different area.

This place contains DEADLY WALLS. Not the Demon Wall, just regular walls that move to crush you.

It also has the infamous floor tile + 3 arrow traps from Dark Souls. I mean they lifted them directly from that game and dropped 'em in here.

The later parts of the zone are blue and tomb-ish, which is how you know you're closing in on Lich.

More cryptic Lufenian stuff. Who is this Extraplanar Collaborator? Could it be...CULEX?

Looks like the save points we've been using for the whole game were placed here by the Lufenians as "reset points" in case important people die. Well, that's one way to explain save points.

Jack has another traumatic vision, this time of Ash dying before handing the Earth Orb to him.

Ash IS the guy with the Earth smoke in the main game artwork.

With that, our heroes find themselves face-to-skull with...

...Emperor Cain? He really let himself go.

Nope, this is Lich, and he's freakier than ever. He's got Flare and the usual poisons.

All things considered, this fight was easier than Tiamat...a lot easier. Really feels like Tiamat was supposed to be much later in the game, given how much harder that fight was than everything else so far. It's like I accidentally sequence-broke. In comparison, this guy rolls over like a Kirby boss.

Astos drops in to see how we're doing. Why haven't we fought this guy yet? And why is he freakishly tall?

He explains how the ancient Lufenians left their advanced tech laying around all over the planet. Kind of like how part of the advanced flying fortress in Elden Ring exploded and you find (very out of place) pieces of it all over the surface world for the whole game.

Astos confirms that this world was created by the Lufenians before they disappeared into hiding. Presumably some of them are in Lufein (a town that doesn't exist in this game...maybe we'll get a DLC for it).

I'd like to think most of them went to some other dimension to continue creating worlds. This is an interesting concept that they can do a lot more with. World-creators, some of which are good and some of which are bad.

Next up is the trek to Gurgu Volcano and the Fire Crystal. This goes through the Wicked Arbor, a blue forest taken directly from FFIX. It even has the FFIX forest music. Not even really a subtle remix like a lot of the other themes so far. It's just flat-out in your face FFIX music. At this point they aren't even trying to hide that this world was created using blueprints from other worlds. Interesting game here though.

This makes some sense as the zone that leads to the volcano, as you had to cross a bunch of rivers/woods to get to it in FF1 and this zone has those environments.

The FFIX music in this part is so good, just absolutely chill AF. It's nearly enough to take one's mind off of how form-fitting Sophia's dress is.

Sophia presents a difficult question. Who WILL Jack end up with? Her and Neon are both pretty great, so at this point it's probably a tie-

...oh. Wait what? There's a reward for restoring the crystals? And it's the Princess?

I don't get it, there are four heroes. Do they draw straws on who marries her? Also, some of the heroes might not swing that way or be interested in Princess Sarah, despite her fantastic rack. I guess that's why there's a treasure option, for the others who don't marry her.

Neon points out the elephant in the room. The King (and that minion he has) both seemed like assholes, so it's the kind of thing they'd do.

Ash is right, the crown is heavy. Much like Jon Snow, we don't want it.

Sophia has heard enough of Ash and Jed debating the merits of princess-marrying.

Jack is miserable. He's lost in the wilderness with these two gorgeous women. THEY'RE NO CHAOS THAT'S FOR SURE

Here's the Flan Prince. I didn't know the Flans had a prince! Maybe HE can marry Princess Sarah.

"I'm an honest to God prince!" says the Flan while flooping around.

Quite frankly, at this point I think these Fool's Missives are giving away way too much of the plot. A lot of these are things that the game hasn't actually explained yet, and here they are in missives being given away. This one lets us know that Sophia is a phantom, lingering where her previous life ended (at the hands of Tiamat) as the picture is literally a shot of her glitching in after that fight.

So she's a recurring phantom who has lost to Tiamat several times. Now that Tiamat is defeated and she's alive again, she has the chance to ascend to something more. I think. This game is insanely convoluted and I don't know if I entirely follow it...or if it even makes sense.

This FFIX forest is a suuuuuper long dungeon. I mean this could easily qualify as an "overworld zone" because it takes so long to cross. Like I said, it's cool that it has rivers running through it, to be consistent with the area around the volcano.

There's Gurgu Volcano in the distance. I'm really curious if this is a preview of what FFVIIR's further episodes will look like, in terms of making overworld areas into zones and just kinda warping to them and then traversing what used to be an overworld.

Eventually you end up in this significantly drier area, with different music that I don't recognize. That leads to...

...Great Malboro, the Super Shredder of Malboros. This thing is HUGE.

I go Mage for the first time all game and unleash Firaga. Time to start getting my caster classes done, since I did a ton of melee class grinding already.

Sophia really is unexpectedly awesome in this game. She's like a sensible and intelligent adult human in a sea of...FF characters.

Neon is alright too, doesn't match her apparent "crazy girl" trope at all. All of the characters in this game are decent, but Sophia stands out. Too bad she likely won't be in anything else after this.

Here we are, Gurgu Volcano (or as later games call it, Mount Gulg). Probably my favorite area in the original FF1...or this game, for that matter.

The volcano is patterned after FFVIII's Ifrit Cave, and has a really solid remix of the dungeon theme from that game.

There's lots of fire, and lots of Grenade enemies. Stranger of Paradise is very good about giving areas the same enemies they had in the original FF1.

The Fire Crystal is within sight as we reach the core of the volcano. We could have just dropped in here via airship, couldn't we? This game doesn't seem to have an airship though, it's been all overworld teleports.

Here's Marilith, the Fiend of Fire.


This fight is kind of insane, with incredible music and fire everywhere.

It plays very much like a Souls fight, in a round arena where the boss telegraphs its attacks.

Her biggest move is Inferno, and it's worth noting that all things red/orange/yellow absolutely pop on an OLED TV.

I switch back to Mage and dish out Wateraga spam to win the fight. Mage isn't the easymode it is in Souls games because enemies in this can generally close the gap with you much quicker, plus cast times are longer if you're using -aga tier spells (which do way more damage).

Astos warps in, probably scaring the hell out of everybody. We need to put a bell on this guy or something.

After Astos takes off (giving us the location of the Water Crystal first), Sophia questions his motivations. I'm glad someone here realizes that this weird elf guy might not be entirely altruistic.

Neon makes a good point as well. It does seem like Astos is "guiding" them at this point and making sure they don't go off their path. Their path...which is totally not what I expected at this point. We'll see where it goes next, as the search for Kraken begins.


Lich - Much easier than Tiamat (which, again, feels really out of place and harder than everything else in the game, not sure why that fight was so early). I played overly cautiously here and made a lot of mistakes, but still won pretty handily. Was legit surprised at how weak this guy was after Tiamat handed me like 4-5 deaths.

Marilith - Harder than Lich, but still a little easier than Tiamat. This fight is visually stunning, and the music is incredible (especially in the second half).

Looking forward to covering Kraken, which is almost on par with Tiamat in difficulty. Nothing else in the game really gets to that level, so it'll be a good fight.

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