Posted on March 10th 2018
Please know that this page is going to be full of unmarked spoilers for Tales of Symphonia, so, if you don't want spoilers, don't read this page. Sorry, but the way this game is, and the way we are going to be talking about it, there is no way we can mark them.
This is Part 2 out of our 4-part review of Tales of Symphonia. We're assuming you're coming from Part 1 of this article, but, if you're not, probably go read that first.
Rheairds rocket bird airplane things
Okay, so we're going to the other world, and we ride the airplanes! Happy adventure music! Nevermind that zombie Colette is right there, okay?
It is very, very clearly and unambiguously shown, for the game's own three seconds of anime, that there are four planes: one with just Lloyd, one with just Raine, one with just Genis, and one with just Sheena. The planes are very small and they are riding them like motorbikes. There's no room for a second passenger on any of the planes, and they are all very visibly alone on each plane.
So where is Colette??? Who is a zombie and can barely walk let alone pilot an airplane to space!
They land, and there's Colette standing there. No explanation on how she arrived.
To make this all so much worse, there is then a dialogue scene where Noishe is there, and they make the point that Noishe did not enjoy the flight. How is Noishe there? Did Noishe pilot his own plane too?? But Noishe is about as big as one of the planes!!
It was bad enough when Noishe wasn't in the boat, but this brings it all to a whole new level of oversight.
So we crash-landed on a mountain, and we're working our way down. How many times are they going to repeat obvious plot points to us as we go down this mountain. How did Lloyd miss that the villain's name was Yggdrasill? It was said like seven times, including the time when Lloyd asked his name and so Yggdrasill introduced himself in a very showy way!
On the topic of Lloyd not remembering people, we saw a guy named Yuan attack Kratos the night before going to the Tower of Salvation. Lloyd does the whole thing of, oh, hm, I feel like I have seen him before. Yeah, because we saw him back at the beginning of the game! Lloyd faced him and taunted him and all that jazz. But okay, it was awhile ago.
But then, after they are rescued from the Tower of Salvation, they are talking with Yuan, and it is only like 15 minutes in, after making a point about the wound that Kratos gave him is hurting, that Lloyd is all, "Wait, durrr, are you the same guy?". He saw him just like yesterday, that's not excusable that he doesn't recognize him immediately. Especially considering, are there really that many people with such long and stunningly bright blue hair running around?!?
If Sheena knew everything about this plot, why didn't she say jack shit? Yeah, okay, she is an assassin on a secret mission, but the other night she said she was going to talk straight with the party. She didn't say anything about the Desians or the Renegades or the whole point or the angels or Cruxis and arghhhhh.
Once again, nothing exists until it is revealed to the player.
So, we're now stuck in this alternate dimension without ever rescuing Chocolat?!? Or healing Clara?!? None of the characters seem bothered by this, and only Denise seems to care.
As we go down the mountain, Raine is all, let's recap what just happened. How many times are they going to recap events that happened three minutes ago?
They get to the bottom of the mountain, and Sheena complains to Lloyd all, why didn't you tell us you didn't know where you were going. Um, Sheena, this is your dimension and the others have never been here and you know that! You should be the one leading!!
By the way, the name of these mountains? The Fooji Mountains. On the way to Meltokio. Just, fuck you.
Noooo Colette don’t sacrifice yourself to save the wooorld. If you do that, I’ll be sad, and it will be like you killed me toooo.
It’ll be sad when you are dead because that will make meee saaaad.
Oh no, for a second I thought that maybe the world should be saved by Colette’s sacrifice, and because I had this personal thought in my head for all of two seconds, that’s why she’s gone now, it is all myyy faaaault!
It’s not like Colette had any choice or agency in this matter or I should respect that or anything. It’s all myyyy fault and now it is meee who is saaad!
Oh no I failed to saaave her!!
By the way, flying was so cool can we do that again?!?
Lloyd, at this point, can go fuck himself.
Papal intrigue baloney
So, we arrive to Meltokio, which is simultaneously Rome and Tokyo. It has the pope. The pope is obviously evil.
We also learn that this other world has a Chosen One too. There's this entire idea that the two worlds are fighting for the same pool of mana, and which world has more flourishes and which world has less declines. At this point, since the Chosen One of Sylvarant hasn't succeeded in their journey of world-regeneration for 800 years, Tethe'alla has been the winning world for 800 years.
So, we meet the Chosen One of Tethe'alla, who, in this world, is essentially royalty. It's Zelos, who we first encounter with three girlfriends draped upon him.
The party wants to meet the King to talk about what to do for Colette, but the King is ill and doesn't accept visitors. So we notice this little girl named Presea who is carrying the sacred wood for some prayer thing in the king's chambers. With very few words, she agrees to help us. And... she turns out to be a party member. We thought she was just going to be some NPC.
We talk with the King and the Pope and some hullabaloo, we realize that Colette is an obstacle to everyone in this world since they of course don't want her to succeed... We're allowed to save her, but Zelos decides to follow us to keep tabs on what happens.
To find a cure for Colette, we're told to go to the university city, which is on the other side of a massive bridge.
Zelos introduces this amazing bridge, quite proudly.
Listen and be amazed, bumpkins. This is the greatest drawbridge in the world. It connects the continents of Altamira and Fooji. Its control system incorporates 3,000 Exspheres.
Three thousand...human lives...
Well, that's horrific. Ah well.
So we go across the 20-screens long bridge, which we realize is probably a reference to Japan's Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line, a similarly ridiculously long bridge (and tunnel), completed in 1997, and built from human souls ✽. Or maybe a reference to the Akashi Kaikyō Bridge, a Japanese bridge completed in 1998 that is currently the longest suspension bridge in the world. Or possibly Tokyo's Rainbow Bridge completed in 1993, but the Tethe'alla bridge doesn't have any pretty lights. You'll have plenty of time to ponder what bridge you think this is a reference to as you cross screen after screen of this fucking bridge where nothing is happening yet, but surely something will be happening here later. We can just feel the tension building as we go across it.
Anyway, we then do all this stuff to get a Key Crest for Colette, the final step of which conveniently requires Lloyd to be alone and rejoin everyone back at the front door. Why did that even happen? We were expecting to be jumped on the way out, but that didn't happen, so what was the point?
The university that almost broke us
This was the point where we were so done with this game. In the university, you have to find the right NPC to talk with, and there's about 200 other NPCs everywhere, and nobody has anything remotely of interest to tell you. We're in a brand new world, and nobody is telling us anything of interest about it.
It's also a bit strange that, of the little bit we have heard about the difference between the worlds has been the characters telling us how amazing Tethe'alla is, compared with how impoverished Sylvarant is, but, we dunno, apart from the giant bridge, we don't really see much difference. We also don't really have a feel for the different cultures of each world. It all just feels the same.
We were also really discouraged at this point, since everything that the beginning of the game had us expecting and excited for... clearly isn't what's actually going to happen. We thought Colette was going to be the Chosen One, and Lloyd is just the friend of the Chosen One, but now that Colette is out of commission and the whole Chosen One thing was a farce, it's clear that Lloyd, the teenage white male protagonist, is the one who's going to save the world, like in any other game ever. Bleh. We're now in a new place, with new people that we don't know and the game doesn't bother to introduce. Colette, the highlight of the game, is essentially dead. Kratos is gone. Zelos plays like a carbon-copy of Kratos, which is really cheap. What are we even doing? Why do we care about this pope and this king and whatever.
So, after this part, we needed a few weeks' break from this game, and we feared we might drop it entirely before we got the motivation to play it again. It was the point where it became clear that this game was not going to deliver jack shit of what it promised in the beginning. We were right, by the way, but we still picked it up again, for the sake of continuing. Mostly so that we could finish the game, so that we could be justified in ranting about it. Fueled by pure and utter spite. The game would not get much better from here on, but this part was the most disappointing of the entire game.
Deus Ex Machina Undine
Anyway, we give Colette the Key Crest, and nothing seems to happen. They say we should go back to Sylvarant, and Zelos loudly proclaims that that would be treason for him, but he's okay with it. Then the Papal Knights instantly show up to proclaim him a traitor.
Because of suddenly-revealed racist reasons, the Papal Knights do an instant blood test on Raine and Genis (don't you wish blood tests were so quick and easy) in which they conveniently reveal that they weren't actually elves, but indeed were half-elves all along.
There were a few hints along the way, like that weird confrontation with the half-elf in Asgard and the pointed conversation between Raine and Genis that they are so much better than the half-elves. We figured something was going on here.
But now Raine just says, "Yup, it's true," and the entire party just accepts this revelation without so much as flinching. Lloyd doesn't go, "Wow, you lied to us all along, and this kinda changes everything considering our fight against the Desians and all that." No, it's just, "Oh, welp, okay. It doesn't matter, and, I don't hate half-elves." Even though until then, Lloyd's been saying nothing but "Half-elf scum!" to the Desians and so on. Lloyd is cured of racism in no time flat.
We meet half-elf scientist Kate in the basement, and a long conversation about racism for babies happens. We also learn that Presea was experimented on by Kate, and so Presea is essentially dead. Knowledge of this fact won't stop Genis from continuing to hit on her once he rejoins the party later.
Then we have to go save our friends from being executed because of racism. We run across the bridge, all 139 screens of it, and then at the last one the drawbridge is going up, they run for it, and Zelos is chicken and doesn't jump, but then they have to jump, they jump and Colette just zooms away on her wings, and the others fall in slow-motion for 20 years until Sheena calls the power of Satan to save them all. Oh, okay, this was why she made a pact with Undine. To make them be able to jump across this bridge.
We swear, this game is written as if on a challenge to make a story without ever being able to edit back, and they wrote this thing of Undine and they made the bridge open and they had to be like, uhhh, Undine saves them.
Maybe it was their D&D campaign.
Anyway, they get over the bridge, have a conversation about how awesome it is that they were saved by Undine, and then Presea, the zombie, is like, "Shouldn't we go save your friends?" "Oh, yeah, right, I forgot," says Lloyd. He actually forgot. One bridge ago we were arguing with Kate about how it isn't impossible that a human cares about the plight of half-elves. Now he forgot that he was saving them at all.
We save Raine and Genis, and then ask the entire party if they are still okay with being in a party with them. Sheena is okay with half-elves because...
I’m from Mizuho...We’re not exactly mainstream, either.
They can bond over their mutual enjoyment of punk rock.
Zelos answers by explaining that he is a racist because he was raised that way, but he too was always different so he understands. But he's still racist, he says.
This reads like as if the makers of this game were taking notes for what are the motivations of the characters, but never actually wrote their dialogue, so they just transformed the notes into things they just say. "Because I have childhood trauma, I am suspicious of dogs, which remind me of the dog that belonged to my aunt who abused me. I know not all dogs are mean, but I am unable to get past this yet. Over time, I will surely recover". Do the characters really have this level of self-awareness?
Anyway, we have to go back to the top of the mountain to fly away... but instead we fall into a trap. In the most anticlimactic way we've ever seen, Colette returns to her senses because someone touched her necklace. A little while ago, while she was already a zombie, Lloyd gave her a necklace as a belated birthday present. She is then implied to be aware of the necklace being given to her, but also doesn't know anything of what else happened in the meanwhile. Then she trips, thereby accidentally freeing everyone from the trap, and everyone laughs. We don't even know what we're doing anymore.
The inescapable sewer level!
Now the party needs to go back to Meltokio to talk again with Kate. They decide to sneak in through the sewers, since they are wanted criminals now, and because that's how Zelos always does it, being trash.
We saw the entrance of the sewers the first time we visited Meltokio, and we said, chances of us having to go through the sewer later? And there it is.
Can we also take a moment to say how Zelos, twice as tall and clearly an adult, upon learning that Colette is a virginal virgin who doesn't even know where babies come from, tries to trick her into bed. This is funny, isn't it? It's hilarious. Nothing more amusing.
This throwaway rape joke made us hate Zelos' character for a very long time. It turns out that he is one of the best characters of the game, and definitely with the most written backstory that connects with his motivations and actions. It turns out that, rather than informing us about Zelos' character, it is more like this joke is the part that is incongruous with the rest of what is established about him, as we will eventually learn. The developers clearly didn't think much of the implications of this hilarious rape joke, but it sent the entirely wrong message, and there's never a reason for a rape joke.
Speaking of trash, we enter the sewer. Oh god, there's these blue blocks, what's going to be happening this time.
We get to the ring-changer, and now the Sorcerer's Ring makes us shrink. The blue blocks make us big again. So, first and foremost, how does this device even exist in a parallel dimension that does not have the Sorcerer's Ring? Why can the Sorcerer's Ring make us shrink, but not become big again? Why is this whole set-up in the sewer? Who put the blocks there to make you big again? This is the most ridiculous excuse for a puzzle we've ever seen.
But then it gets even worse in which it's not even actually a puzzle. See the entirety of Minish Cap for how you're supposed to do this. In Tales of Symphonia, you become small to shimmy through these little platforms where you could have absolutely gone there on your own (also remember that Colette can fly). If they didn't have the ring and they didn't have to switch between big and small, and they could have just walked, it would have been exactly the same.
The only semi-cool thing about this dungeon is that the enemy rats you fight are huge if you fight them when you are small, which makes the battle a bit more challenging. But that's it.
Wait a minute... What would have even been the penalty for falling off the balance beam anyway? The sewer water can't be that deep, so, what, just getting icky? So, instead of just walking, where maybe they fall and maybe get icky, they instead become small, risking getting eaten by the comparatively giant rats, or falling into the comparatively much deeper water and drowning. Yeah, this makes perfect sense.
Anyway, we then have to use this obvious trash compactor to make blocks to make paths for us to walk over. We have to drop the blocks from above, but we can't gauge where they will fall because of the bullshit perspective and things in the way -- and no, we can't move the camera at all. So we're just dropping down these blocks hoping to find the right spot. We dropped the first one into the water, and it floated there. We dropped the second one onto the path, and it smashed. Then, later we dropped it into the water elsewhere, and it smashed. On what? Who knows! It's just to make it so you can't use it, but they couldn't think of anything better than making the block just smash for no apparent reason. Then later we dropped it on a metal path, and it fell there and was fine. It's very soft metal and very hard water. Who cares? Not the makers of this game.
But the thing that really pissed us off here was the spiderweb. There are some spiderwebs that you can walk upon when you're small, because you're light enough to walk on a spiderweb (even though we would think this would be a hazard and you would get eaten by a spider). So, you have to pull the block along this narrow catwalk, and to get around the corners you have to go small, walk along the spiderweb, get big again, and then continue pushing the block from the other side. There's no puzzle solving involved here. It's pretty much the only thing you can do, so you'll do it. It also looks almost like you shouldn't be able to do it, like you are cheating the game, because there's just this tiny spot where you can just barely access the spiderweb. But this is actually what you have to do, there's no other way. You also have to be really careful when you're pushing the block around, because if you overshoot it (which is easy to do with this game's shitty control system) the block falls and it smashes and you have to start all over again.
Anyway, we do this, and get partway through the catwalk, and there's no more spiderwebs. So we try dropping the block. Good, it didn't smash. We go and see where the block landed, do whatever we need to do, we're able to progress a little bit more but we obviously need another block. Where are we going to get another block?
We happen to go back to the catwalk. And lo and behold, Lloyd says, oh, look over there, there's a spiderweb that wasn't there before.
What are these, Super Speedy Sewer Spiders? So fast you can't see them? They make an entire spiderweb in the three minutes you were gone, and zoom away?
Instead of actually designing an obstacle, the developers just didn't design a way to go on, and then tacked on a path later that appears for no reason whatsoever. If the player tries to approach this as if it were a puzzle (you poor deluded fool), you would have no way to guess what to do next, because the spiderweb simply wasn't there at all. This is not a path that is obviously there, but blocked. There's no spider building a web. There's no indication of this ever making any sense. The developers just went, "Oh, whoops, we need a place to make you walk on, right? Here it is, you fucking idiot who is still playing. There's a new spiderweb now. Enjoy your piece of trash."
Why was this so hard to design? It could have so easily been something we triggered with a switch, it could have been a platform that popped out, this is bullshit. It's almost as if they were designing it to be stupid.
And they did this not only once, but twice. The second time around, we saw that one spot that clearly should have had a spiderweb to let us finish the puzzle, but the spiderweb was missing. We were like, I'll eat a hat if Lloyd's not going to be like, oh look another spiderweb. We didn't have to eat a hat.
At this point, we should point out that we've been going through the sewers without any of our healers, as they died in the previous boss battle against Pronyma, and we ran out of resurrection bottles, and there was no stop to town before this sewer. So we're limping our way through. It's not been too tough because it's just rats, but we're trying to be careful. We have to fight the convicts at the very end, talk with the mysterious Midriff Guy, and we make it. Right next to the exit door, there's a box. We go to open it, and it's a super powerful mimic that wipes out our party. It's not like we didn't try, we ran out of every item in the process. Still dead. Now we have to go through the end of the dungeon again and not get that box. This is the second mimic in the entire game (30ish hours so far). We kind of forgot about mimics, and this was a wooden crate, not a treasure chest. Boo.
Welcome to Abuse Laboratories™
Well, after the second attempt, we got out of the dungeon and went to town. We learn that Sheena's familiar Corrine is a man-made summon spirit that was abused in a laboratory. The one that we're visiting.
After learning about Corrine's tragic past involving abusive scientists, Raine approaches Corrine all, "Hm can I study you? No? You disagree because you were abused? Come back here, let me experiment on you! Come on!" This, by the way, is all framed as if they were quirky antics. How charming.
And Sheena, upon leaving the laboratory, is all, come on Corrine, say goodbye to all the lovely scientists who abused you!
Did human beings even write this game?
Then we had to return Presea to the basement of the school, to the lab where she was abused (this seems to be a trend). Kate the half-elf scientist sniffs Raine and Genis and is all, "Yep, that's some genuine half-elf scent, mmm, mmm. Alright, since you are not a racist (maybe), I will uphold my end of the agreement which was to help Presea..." but actually, she tells us absolutely nothing of value. All she told us was that Presea was an experiment (no shit), that they used her to grow the Cruxis crystal (which she told us before), that there is something strange about the Key Crest (which we think she told us before?), and the only way to help Presea is to go find a dwarf (okay, maybe that's the only bit of new information -- though I am sure the party would have figured it out, considering like three plot points ago, we were worried about Colette's Key Crest and we were trying to find a dwarf to help her -- need help with a Key Crest? Call a dwarf!).
The other scientist guy is all like, "Woah, Kate, are you sure you want to help them?" but really, Kate didn't do jack or shit. She promised to help Presea, but she always knew that she couldn't actually do a single thing to help. Why did we have to come back to talk to Kate at all? Just to send us on another useless errand. She could have just told us at the beginning, "Okay, go save your friends, and if you want to save Presea too, you'll need a dwarf to do some dwarfiness on her Key Crest. Goodbye and good luck!"
Why did we really need to go back to Kate to prove that we are indeed not racist -- which we proved, by the way, by managing to rescue our friends from public execution. So, what, if we failed, which is totally possible and probable, we would have been irredeemable racists? Once again, this game does not have the right... anything... to be tackling a theme like racism. Jeez.
The Forest of EVIL
So, now we go to The Forest of Evil (and yes, it's called that), and Zelos is telling ghost stories with practically the flashlight under his chin all... ooo, this was a forest of a murderer, and the trees are soaked with blood, and the spirits cry for vengeance, and for you to join them!!! Which, honestly, was kinda cute of Zelos, but Lloyd and Genis are all taking it seriously?? And is this really the right time? Well, the whole game has a bit of a problem of wanting to include cute, jolly, funny moments, but that's a bit jarring alongside the plot of, Presea is in danger and is going to die if we don't do something soon.
Events like these made more sense in the first part of the game when they were indeed Going On An Adventure! but lately things have been too bad for that sort of moment, and the cutscenes are being abused to fast-forward meeting the newer characters.
Okay, The Forest of Evil. We are there to find the dwarf. As soon as we arrive, there is a battle with the Pope's guards. After the fight, there is a cutscene where everyone is like, "Oh, no, now what do we do?" And Lloyd is like, "We find the dwarf, he will protect us." And everyone is like, "Okay!" But we were going to find the dwarf anyway, so why did we need to decide again to see the dwarf? And the point is not protection from the Pope's guards, which we defeated handily, but to save Presea. Hello.
Now that we are past that interruption, we finally enter The Forest of Evil, or rather The Forest of a Puzzle that Never Actually Happened. For which, we are, frankly, thankful, because as soon as we saw the ring-changer, we cringed in abject terror. So, in this semi-dungeon(?) the ring emits a beam of light. It didn't emit light in the Light Dungeon, where we were burning the curtains, remember? No, in this random Forest of Evil, we get the flashlight. Raine says something about how some plants would appreciate the light, and then that's it. We tried shining the light on some random trees, and nothing seemed to happen, except that we saw some strange orange square on the screen. To be honest, we thought it was a graphical glitch. As we shone the light on more random trees, the only effect that seemed to happen was that the glitch, we presumed, got refreshed with the real graphics, and the orange pixels went away. Until we realized that that completely unadorned, unexplained, unlabeled, glitchy-looking orange square was actually a power-meter on the power of the ring flashlight. No other ring-power has had any sort of charge, and there is no clue about this. Why didn't Lloyd demonstrate during the initial cutscene that the power can run out, and that we can recharge it in places where the sunlight is bright? Raine is the exposition elf... why didn't she say anything to remotely hint at this? She could have even said something breaking character, or talking about the A button, because it's not like she hasn't done that before. Why didn't we even get one of those crappy infoboxes that explained the rules to us??
We wandered around, shining this beam of light on random plants to no avail, and honestly, a real flashlight would have had better battery life than this Sorcerer's Ring (maybe it was a shit sorcerer).
Finally, we shone the light on apparently the correct plant, and after a few seconds of flashlight, it withered away or moved or something, revealing a new path. Okay. The plants like sunlight? They don't get much so they want more? Right? Isn't that what Raine was saying? Why aren't the plants growing and glomming onto the ring, trying to get closer and get more of the light? Unless the plants don't like the light? Are they sentient and opening the path as a sign of planty gratitude? What is happening?!?
So far, walking through the Forest of Evil, the light was relatively unimportant and not needing a battery bar. On the first point, we maybe missed something because we didn't understand what was going on at first, or maybe we have to come back to this forest later, but so far, we found just two places where the light beam did anything. The first, unfortunately, revealed a treasure chest that apparently we can't open. And the other one opened the path to the next plot-point trigger place. That's pretty minor for introducing an entire half-assed mechanic.
Usually in video games, when you have a power with a power bar, there is some importance to the timing or the rationing of the power. For example, in the desert in Baten Kaitos, you need to reach the next place where you can refill your water supply before you run out of water and die. You need to select your path to minimize wasting the water and you need to appropriately prioritize reaching the refill points to refill the water supply. Here, there was none of that. The sunbeams are pretty common; in fact, there are places where there is more than one sunbeam on the same screen. Which is especially weird considering all the characters are like, oh my, this forest is so dark. But there are sunbeams everywhere! And, anyway, the sunbeams recharge the ring's bar far more than the original square and actually give you a full, decent rectangle. And there hasn't (yet) been any place where we needed to be mindful of the limit, or ration our resources in any way, not even in the beginning when we didn't know what was going on and were being wasteful of the light.
Anyway, there's a cutscene where Colette says she hears a lot of soldiers coming. For some reason, the characters question her ability to know this, even though we have no reason not to trust her, and Raine drops the whole exposition that Colette must still have her angel-heightened powers of hearing. So Sheena sends Corrine (who? oh, oh right, the squirrel) to verify the situation.
Then, suddenly, there is Midriff Guy again, and his name is Regal, winning some sort of prize for inappropriate character name. He says he means us no harm, and he just wants to talk with Presea, expressing concern for her family, and referring to her as a victim in all of this. So we respond in the most logical way ever, and beat the shit out of him.
Many games have the trope of the awkward battle in which, no, I am really on your side, and confusion and fighting, and then afterwards we sort it all out. But here, there wasn't any ambiguity. He came up to the party, announced his intentions, and expressed his sympathy for Presea. He never attacked us before, he's clearly not being a threat, he's even bound by manacles on his hands, and the party just attacks for no reason.
After this battle, he is unconscious, face down in the dirt. They didn't just subdue him, they beat him to a pulp. How can you feel good about yourself as you gang up 4 against 1, with even his hands tied (not behind his back, but close enough) and beat him up until he is passed out in the dirt. My god.
The characters decide that they still distrust him enough that they must now take him prisoner, so Colette makes Zelos feel like a wimp as she picks up this giant man with one arm and comments that he's lighter than she even thought.
Now, this game did the whole, fight the person you don't realize is really a good guy thing before. But with Sheena, it only doesn't make sense after they do it so many times and you pause to think about it. With Regal, it's wrong immediately, to an unsavory degree.
Sheena appears and is all, I AM HERE TO KILL YOU and Colette is all like, nah, you are my new best friend. Sheena appears later and attacks us and Colette is all, nah, you are still my new best friend. And then Lloyd catches this disease because the next time we run into Sheena she is all, I AM GOING TO KILL YOU and he's all, no, I believe you are really a good person. The characters are basically laughing at her efforts to attack them. They're all like, jolly, that's our Sheena, pretending to assassinate us again, aw, how cute. Then she is basically forced into the party for some bullshit reason, and then there she is. Or rather not, since she is so barely there. For all of how Colette in particular wanted to be best friends with Sheena... they aren't shown ever really talking or interacting later. From the dialogue sections, Sheena seems to mostly talk with Zelos (with that weird forced shipping of, she hates him, therefore she loves him) and with Lloyd (with different forced shipping hints). So... that's weird. They dropped the ball there, since it could have been cute for Colette and Sheena to be more visible friends. Though, maybe we should be grateful that they didn't attempt this and make something egregiously awful.
But anyway, Sheena literally attacks the party, saying she has come to kill them, and the characters can laugh and shrug her off, since they all know she is truly a party member at heart.
Regal shows up, literally in chains, saying that he has come just to talk, and the characters jump him and beat him up, and can't tell that he's obviously the last party member.
Is it because Sheena is a girl, and girls must be pure and trustworthy, and she can't possibly be a threat anyway?
Is it because Regal is a man, and men clearly have ulterior motives, and he is a threat to us even when he is chained and unconscious on the ground?
So then Corrine returns and confirms that yes, Colette was right, there are soldiers, and they are coming. Thank god the squirrel was here to confirm that of course Colette was right... because we can't just believe Colette on something like this when time is of the essence...
Because they wasted so much time beating up people and confirming something that never needed to be questioned, the characters apparently have limited options on where to flee to, so Sheena is apparently forced to bring the characters to the secret location of
Mizuho Japan, even though outsiders are forbidden in Japan.
In Japan, Lloyd takes over
Apparently the secret location of Japan is two steps away, right there. Who would have thought?
People in Japan are pissed for about five minutes that Sheena has betrayed them by bringing filthy outsiders to Japan... but Lloyd has a brief conversation with the acting Elder of Japan, then, whatever, no big deal.
In this conversation, the Elder asks them all what they intend to do, what with their world dying to maintain this other world and this whole system of bullshit.
And for some reason Lloyd is the one who answers. Lloyd is the only one who talks. And he says that they don't know what they will do or how, but he believes that this whole system is indeed bullshit, and they will find a way to save both worlds. If Yggdrasill made the world be this way, then Lloyd will find a way to make it no longer be this way!
Why is Lloyd saying this? Why is Colette, the Chosen One, who risked everything to pursue this path of saving both worlds, who insisted and insisted that she is not happy with a solution for saving her world that harms the other world, who got questioned and called naive for this, and held tight to her beliefs all the same... not the one talking here?
The first part of the game is centered on Colette, and every choice she makes is questioned, and questioned, and won't that be hard, and won't that make me sad, and why should we think that is possible, and don't you miss eating, and isn't it not fair that you need to sacrifice yourself, and hold on, Colette may say that, but we need to be sure to let Lloyd weigh in on if he agrees with her personal decisions or not, and blargh.
Now that Lloyd is here talking to the acting Elder of Japan, he is saying essentially the same thing as Colette, that he wants to save both worlds. He stole Colette's idea and is saying it as if it was his own, and Colette doesn't say one peep during all of this. Lloyd says he is willing to try to save both worlds, and he gets like one, "Are you sure?", and then, "Oh my, how noble and majestic you are, how selfless, you are just like the hero of old!"
When a man sacrifices himself, it's noble and selfless.
When a woman sacrifices herself, it is a waste, because a man liked her.
It's also totally like the thing of where, in a corporate meeting, a woman says an idea, and gets ignored and poo-pooed. Then a man says the same exact idea, and everyone says what a wonderful idea it is and praise him for being so smart. This is something that men say doesn't actually happen, and it does indeed seem really ridiculous when it is acted out in the corporate training videos, and yeah, when telling the story, it does sound really ridiculous. But it is something that Denise has indeed witnessed happening in real life, and not just to herself, but to other women as well. And we are just a bit beside ourselves that this game wrote this sort of thing happening right there in the game, so blatantly, and apparently didn't realize what they just did.
So, we walk around Japan, which blissfully is small, but how cliché is all of this. It's got the water, and the farmer, and the shrine, and ninjas, and that guy who is literally called Orochi, and just, god, we are so tired of JRPGs just putting Japan in their game, like, exactly Japan, which is, aha, in some corner of the map, and just, there it is, Japan, and why do we care? Are we supposed to be excited? Why is this such a thing? No hatred for Japan, it's just, it's not like Americans put George Washington into every video game they make. Why do JRPGs always put in literal Japan somewhere, in a world which is otherwise fantastical? There's no historical elements in this game except for this.
Presea's hometown and the last party member
Okay, so we are told that the soldiers are gone, and we can now, once again set out to find the dwarf that is critically important to save Presea... but Presea says she wants to go to her hometown. And everyone is like, okay.
Doesn't her life depend on finding the dwarf as soon as possible? And while we can say we guess it is good that the characters for once are respecting a female character's own decisions about her own life, isn't it a bit questionable that Presea, who they are basically presenting as a somehow brain-damaged child, is the one who gets to make life-altering decisions, when she might not actually have the faculties to understand the gravity of the situation and actually make a decision like this? Does she understand that her life is at stake? Can she understand what that means? Do the other characters not understand what is going on? They don't even make the slightest attempt to tell her that the dwarf is on the way to your house, so we will be going to your home as soon as we stop to the dwarf along the way. The dwarf is going to help you. And besides, once we do finally talk to the dwarf, there will probably be some sort of wait time while the dwarf is dwarfing, so that will be a perfect time to go back to your house. Basically all this is an obvious plot device to let something bad happen that will somehow prevent us from getting to see the dwarf. Just wait.
Before we leave to go to Presea's hometown, Zelos says, hey Lloyd why don't we let Regal fight with us? If we are going to be holding him prisoner, he can at least be useful. And there he is, as the last party member.
If they were going to let him join the party five minutes later, why even go through the whole prisoner thing? Couldn't it just have been, he shows up in the forest, he says he just wants to talk, we say, we can't really talk now, because we believe Colette, and she says lots of soldiers are coming this way, so we will run in this direction and obviously bump into Japan that wasn't actually hidden at all, and if you insist, you are free to come with us, even though we will be keeping an eye on you, because we don't actually know what your intentions fully are yet, but you also haven't done anything malicious. And anyway, we really need to run, so do what you want.
There, we fixed it for you. And isn't that exactly what they did with Sheena? We don't really trust you, but you can come with us anyway. Just know that we will be keeping an eye on you. Which actually isn't even important anymore, the whole subplot that Sheena has questionable motives has been entirely dropped, and perhaps officially killed when the acting Elder of Japan awkwardly announced that Sheena is no longer spying on us, but actually officially a representative of Japan in our party -- what a useful sub-plot.
So, Regal is now in the party, and we all go take this random, ill-advised and ill-explained detour to Presea's hometown, though we are interrupted every three steps because we now need all the events to introduce Regal to us in fast-forward mode. Because you can have all the character development and introduction and make us love him in five minutes, that's how it works.
Say, Regal. Why do you keep those handcuffs on?
...These are the symbol of my crime.
...A crime symbolized by handcuffs?
I know! You’re a handcuff thief!
...Oh, that’s not it? Hmmm... Then, you ran around causing trouble by putting handcuffs on people?...
...I’m sorry. I suppose I should have said it in a way that was easier to understand.
This is so... it's not even stupid. They say Lloyd is stupid, but this is not being stupid, this is like being intentionally dense because you think it is funny over something that is surely serious. But Lloyd is not joking, he is presented as being honestly this dumb, but we are supposed to laugh, but it is not funny, and it is not in character, and it is not realistic, and just... sigh.
Genis and Presea
At this point, Genis's crush on Presea has gotten out of control, and he is now totally one track mind on Presea and saying all sorts of stupid things in relation to Presea. Who, by the the way, is some sort of zombie, and the most of what she has been able to say in reply has been, "Don't do that. I don't need your help. Leave me alone." And Genis is all "Presea Presea Presea", because now he has a crush on her, and the writers obviously have no idea how to write... anything really, but especially not Genis having a crush on Presea. Which was sparked by seeing her from a distance, never speaking to her, and the only time they are seen actually talking together one-on-one was in Zelos's house, and the conversation in question involved Genis being all, oh Presea, you're beautiful, blah blah, and Presea just being like, k.
Before this part of the game, we said we disliked Genis, but we don't quite hate him. Correction, now we hate him, possibly more than any other character in fact.
We go through Presea's hometown, and when she gets to her house, the villain guy is there and tells her that she has to bring the sacred wood to the temple. So now she refuses to leave her house because she's doing something invisible that we are not quite sure if it is just something we can't see because the cut-scene is ass, or if she is literally waving her arms around in the nothing. Both are possible. We also learn that the long-dead corpse of her father is lying in the cobweb-covered bed, and Presea doesn't understand that he is dead.
Considering that she's not able to understand that her dad is dead, and that it is more important for her to go to the dwarf to get her Key Crest fixed than to do (or not do) whatever she is doing for the sacred wood, it has only been confirmed that she is not really capable of making decisions. So the fact that she is the only woman they have let make a decision without any question is really awful, and ironically, is the only case where the decision really should have been questioned.
Also Genis is horrible. It doesn't matter if she's fully conscious as long as she's pretty, huh?
Zelos has been introduced as and confirmed to be a disgusting womanizer, so when he does gross and disgusting things, we know that he is a sleaze being sleazy. They still made some mistakes here: sometimes Zelos does nice things that are presented as sleazy (he calls Presea Presea-chan but does not hit on her; he tries to distract and cheer up Sheena while she is mourning, which is actually genuinely nice), and sometimes he does rapist level things that presented as just comically sleazy when it really goes beyond that (inviting clueless Colette to his bed); but, generally, the framing lets us know that Zelos is kinda a bad person and what he is doing is not okay.
Genis, on the other hand, is pretty much always presented as a good and even goody-two-shoes character, so for him to be this sleazy while having him presented as good is just extra disgusting.
Finally, the dwarf
Anyway, the obvious bad guy is creeping around Presea saying obviously bad guy things, like how her devotion to her job just makes things easier for him, mwhahahaha (yes, he does a literal evil laugh right in front of the entire party). So then the party decides that it is no use trying to persuade Presea to come with them, and they will instead leave her alone and go talk to the dwarf without her.
Why do they think this is a good idea? Raine even says it's not a good idea to leave Presea alone with this bad guy, but instead of concluding that they should do something different, she concludes just that they better hurry. This is so contrived, so obviously just so that Presea will be separated from the party during this time.
So they go to the dwarf's house, which is actually just two steps away from Presea's house. She was so close.
In the dwarf's house, we are greeted by a green girl who talks like a robot and looks suspiciously like Presea, with the same vacant eyes and everything. The dwarf, Altessa, kicks us out and says he wants nothing to do with Presea, and the robot-girl assures us that she will try to persuade him otherwise, and gives us the tip to find the special ore that will be needed to fix her Key Crest.
No one seems to react to the fact that they are talking to a strangely robotic girl named Tabatha who speaks in stilted all-caps and looks a lot like Presea, and why is this old dwarf in the house with this young slave, who calls him master -- no one expresses the slightest concern over this entire scene, not even Zelos, who would know that this might be kinky, and who seems to be the most sensitive and perceptive about this sort of stuff.
It is not until they are done and out of the house before anyone says anything about this, in an optional dialogue sequence. Lloyd comments that Tabatha was talking like zombie-Colette... which isn't really right, because zombie-Colette never spoke. Lloyd and Regal talk about if she is an angel. Which doesn't really jive with what we know about other characters who are angels, like Kratos.
But nobody cares that this little zombie-girl is living with the old dwarf as her "master". And nobody draws a parallel that she looks and acts and talks a lot like Presea has been looking and acting and talking.
Now that Presea is not in the party, Genis has reverted to his usual dialogue revolving around being an asshole to Lloyd. To the point of being all, hey, who is better, Dirk or Altessa, and then being all teasing all, you just say your dad is better because he's your daaaad, haha. And in another conversation, he's all like, ooooh, Lloyd, are you homesick, do you miss your dad? huh, huh? He's brutal. How are they friends?
By the way, we forgot to mention before that we now are using the great and mighty power of the goddess of the water to... fuel our boat. Row, Undine, Row! How... dignified.
And, no, there are still no monsters in the water. Which we are thankful for, but geez.
Anyway, we set out on the boat and bopped around for a bit trying to find where we needed to go.
So, we've played too many better games where, once you gain access to a new form of mobility, you now have so many more places that you can optionally explore. Getting the Surf HM in Pokémon is like unlocking the game. You can now go back to all those places you noticed at the very beginning and all through the game, and if you remember them or think to go explore them, you are rewarded with cool new items and entire secret dungeons (the Power Plant; the Unknown Dungeon; Union Cave; the Sunken Boat...). Also, see pretty much any Legend of Zelda game, Metroidvania games, you know, good games that you want to play, and the more you play it, the more the game rewards you for playing.
So, we thought that this was a good point in our game for us to explore the sea and find some cool optional things that were just waiting to be found! There's the giant overworld and all these islands around that seemed just ripe for exploration opportunities.
So we go to this one island with a dock, there's nothing there but a little tower. That seems like it will be cool. We go inside, and Sheena freaks out and makes us leave. She literally says, not yet, we haven't done the other quest yet. Might as well say, you are not far enough in the game to come here yet.
Closer to the mines, Denise saw a house sitting on a peninsula. We maneuvered around - by the way, the boat is a joy to control. The one stick kinda steers, and the other stick is for the acceleration, but there's something really strange in the way it controls. You need to push both sticks forward to go forward. Denise thought it would work like a bumper-boat where you have the left engine and the right engine and you can put them in forward or reverse to manage forward (both forward), backward (both backward), wide turns (one stick only), and tight turns (one stick forward, one stick back), but it doesn't work like that. If you put one stick forward and one stick back, you actually go... forward. The best way Denise found to maneuver is to come to a full stop, turn with the left stick, and then go forward, stop, adjust the angle, forward, and so on, in bursts. When Rosy drives, she never stops accelerating, so her turns go basically around the world, but she manages to get there faster than Denise, just getting more angry at it, and trying to tilt the entire controller as if it will help.
After bonking around for some time, we managed to thread the needle and land at the dock... even though the dock extends into the water, you can't be on the left side of the dock, you can't be on the right side of the dock, you need to be exactly head-on with the dead center of the dock and at a full stop in order to get off the boat at the dock.
Compare with walking by a city. If your butt hair is anywhere remotely close to one vertex of a tree branch of the city's overworld model, the entire game stops and asks if you want to go in the city, and it won't let you move or continue or anything until you say No. Then you try to walk past the wide open space beside the city, and it pops up again DO YOU WANT TO GO IN THE CITY?? And we're all, WE JUST TOLD YOU NO. You have to run backwards and give a ridiculously wide berth to the city to not have the game interrupt itself to try to force you inside. Argh.
It would be nice if the cities were a little less pushy about you visiting them, and the docks were a little bit more forgiving of you not being in such a precise location to get off the boat.
Anyway, we made to this house, and the characters there at first led us on. They are all, wow, we sure don't get too many visitors here in our quiet little corner of the world. It seems like they are telling us that we managed to find Optional Village, and we will now be rewarded for our exploration efforts. Except no. The next character tells us that there is no inn here, so too bad, and only women are allowed in the monastery. Okay... So we switched our overworld character to Colette, and still, the knights guarding the door won't let us in.
Denise was so convinced that we had found Optional Village, that she looked it up, and apparently, this is part of some later development of the plot, and she stopped reading before she hit too many spoilers.
We explored a few other docks, we walked along the coasts... in one place we went through the trees and along a mountain in what seemed to be a little passage that was going somewhere maybe cool, just to hit like, a polygon of the mountain that made it impassable even though it still looked like a wide open walkway. Sigh.
So, this was all for naught. When will we learn that this game is bad. It does not reward you for trying anything. Even if it seems like it is telling you to do something, it really doesn't. There are no branches. The game is slightly non-linear, but like, only by accident. We should just stop thinking, and just go where the game is saying with blinking lights that we have to go. And just dropping that Chocolat is in the Iselia human ranch is not blinking light enough. We need the entire party to have a full-blown discussion about how we better go to place now to do thing. Something subtle like, we picked up some intelligence that Chocolat has been moved to that human ranch, and Lloyd saying, oh no, we have to save her... is not actually blinking light enough, somehow. Denise still can't be mad at herself for thinking that it would be a good idea to go there to try to save her, it's just... this game is betraying our sense of understanding when we should be doing something in a game or not. It makes us feel like we are broken, but it is its own fault, it is just bad.
By the way, while you're bopping around in the boat, a nice map of where things are would be really useful. We have a mini-map, and a big map that we can pull out. But look at this:
WHICH ONE IS US? WHICH ONE IS THE GOAL? Could the crosshairs kindly stop blinking so that we can see what we are doing??
And no, you can't set your marker. Every time you want to find where a place is, you have to scroll through the entire list. Blarrrgh.
Mines and murder, but no big deal
Anyway, giving up on exploring forever, we went to the mine. In the mine, the Sorcerer's Ring sets bowling-ball bombs, lol. There was a little puzzle in working out how you could use the fire ring to trigger the switch the right way, and get access to the ring-changer to get the bomb power, which was alright. But yeah, this is another dungeon where the ring's power needs to be swapped in the middle.
At one point, we were walking through the mine, and we hit a random encounter where we fought against this spinning rectangle. We were freaked out. We hit it for minimal damage. Eventually, the battle just ended, I don't think we actually defeated it, but the battle came to an end somehow, and the statistics for the battle were mostly blank, no experience points, no nothing. We thought we encountered some sort of glitch, but we looked it up in the bestiary and saw that it is indeed a monster. Creepy. But cool.
Then in the dungeon we see another rectangle. This time, the characters talk about how it is solidified mana or something made by some professor... and somehow Raine has heard of this professor, even though we are in the alternate dimension. That doesn't make much sense...
In any case, a powerful impact can defeat the rectangle. Conveniently, the rectangle is just around the corner from an Indiana Jones boulder booby trap. So we lure the rectangle around the corner and trigger the boulder and dodge the boulder so that the rectangle is smashed by the boulder. This is honestly kinda cheap. And it seemed kinda like we were exploiting the game to lure the rectangle so far. We honestly weren't sure if it was going to work. But it was indeed what we were supposed to do.
We blew up the crates, got the ore. They make a big huge point about how a dwarf needs to be the one to do it for real, but then Lloyd just does it anyway while they are just standing in the mine (at least this time they didn't leave and go wait for him in the foyer like last time).
We were excited at the beginning of the game that Lloyd was the adoptive son of a dwarf, and this would surely have some important implications on the plot and lead to some interesting themes being explored. But no... it pretty much only exists so that Lloyd can conveniently do the magical dwarf thing while not being a dwarf. And it is simultaneously implied that he is not as good at it as a real dwarf, and it doesn't really matter because it seems to work just fine at least so far.
Also, why would Lloyd be less good at it than a real dwarf? If he is being trained by a master smith of a dwarf, why couldn't Lloyd eventually be just as good at it? Maybe the problem is that he is still in training, he's not as good at it as a master smith, but not because he is not a real dwarf. That's so racist.
On the way out of the mine, we meet another obvious bad guy who tells us that Regal is a murderer, dundundun. Regal is all, "I won't tell you the details about it, because that would be just an excuse. The important thing is, yes, I am a murderer". To which everyone says, "That's fine". And they carry on.
Not that long ago, like, 3 hours of game ago (and we had been boating around needlessly) no one trusted this guy enough to let him just lie unconscious on the ground. Now we're all cool with learning that he is a murderer. And with zero explanation of who he killed and why and what were the circumstances, and with implications that this murder had something to do with the pope, because it's clearly not the plot important time to be having this full conversation, so everyone is just happily assuming that it must have been for a good reason, and being all overly dramatic all, "don't worry, ~I too am a murderer~ since I engage in random encounters and I ate a hamburger for lunch", and Regal is all, "thank you", even though we are sure this must be incredibly disrespectful. And we are surprised that the example of murder they gave was RANDOM ENCOUNTERS when before there was the whole stupid plot point of "oh, no, I am responsible for Marble's death, I killed Marble". And also, whoever died in the hometown in the events at the beginning of the game. But nope, "I killed that scorpion that attacked us in the woods a little while ago. That must be completely analogous to whatever painful murder you committed that causes you to continuously wear manacles as an outward symbol of your immense guilt".
After learning Regal is a murderer, Lloyd becomes like best friends with him, and Regal fills in for the void left by Kratos having the wise conversations all, yes, most chefs are men, but women are less afraid of blood. Hm. Much insight. Very wise.
So, no worries on the whole murder thing, Regal can totally keep making our sandwiches, and let's just keep walking.
So, we go back to Presea, and of course, the bad thing happens. Actually, first, for some reason, Colette suddenly seizes up in pain, for reasons we don't yet know. Suddenly Presea walks by, says "Move. Let me." She then swings her axe around, allowing Rodyle the bad guy to swoop in on some rave-ready dragons, pick up Colette, do some evil one-liners, and fly away. Corrine swoops in in some way we don't fully understand, did he just knock her off the dragon, we dunno, but he saves Presea from getting taken along too.
The party has a moment of OMG COLETTE, but then Regal asks Lloyd to give Presea the Crest. He does, and Presea immediately regains consciousness. She realizes that her dad is dead, and so they have a burial and funeral.
…Thank you for assisting me with my daddy’s burial.
Have you calmed down a little?
As if mourning the sudden realization that your dad is long dead and you have been mindlessly caring for his rotting corpse for who knows how long is some sort of temper tantrum. God.
Zelos promises to protect Presea-chan, to which she seems pleased and amenable to. Let us remember that Presea only looks like a child - it is repeated many, many times that she is much older than she looks - even though most of the characters continue to treat her like a baby. This is an example of the game trying to paint Zelos negatively, but really, it's not a problem, and she is okay with it.
Genis has his gloomy moment and is mad at Lloyd for interrupting his stuttering and frankly embarrassing attempt to be all, "oh yeah, I will protect you too, see I am just as cool as Zelos". But really, Presea shows zero interest in Genis, and we really hope he gives up and respects that, and sure, she could end up shipped with Zelos, we're okay with that... which, sadly and hilariously, would be more respectful than shipping her with Genis. Besides, why would she be interested in Genis. He is a child, and she is not. He is treating her like an object, not respecting her feelings, and just overall being a cringe-fest. We guess we ship her with Zelos now.
Then a box popped up asking if we wanted to quick travel. Without knowing where it meant, we said, yes please. And we were transported to Japan town without needing to go through the Forest of Evil again. Thank you.
Once we are there, we have the entire thing of the acting Elder all, we have the intelligence, and if you want to get Colette back, you need to power up the rocket birds, and for that, we need Sheena to make a pact with Volt. It is then revealed that when Sheena last tried to make a pact with Volt, she failed, and ONE THIRD OF THE VILLAGE DIED and that is why the Elder is in a coma. How insensitive can you get.
Now that Colette is out of the party, the game is trying to forcibly ship Lloyd and Sheena for some reason. Zelos is all, talk to her, she has a thing for you. And the other characters similarly urge Lloyd to go boost her confidence. Lloyd gives a pep talk and promises that he will take on this god of lighting with his own swords if anything goes wrong, which certainly doesn't inspire any confidence in us, but Sheena takes it well enough to give it a try. We are also reminded that Corrine exists, because he too promises to risk his life to save Sheena if necessary.
Guess what, at the critical moment when Volt attacks them, Corrine jumps in front of Sheena, takes a lightning bolt to the knee, and suddenly dies.
Considering that Volt continues attacking after Corrine dies, and Lloyd is the one deflecting the lightning bolts with his swords, Corrine's sacrifice was completely meaningless and needless. If Corrine was completely deleted from the game, absolutely nothing would have been lost.
Even with the game desperately trying to do a last minute boost to Corrine knowing that he was going to be killed off soon, Corrine was almost never there, never did anything of any importance, we didn't even realize it was a he until Sheena was crying over his dying body, and we frankly had no emotional response whatsoever to this supposedly dramatic death. And Denise cries at the Care Bears movie, so, um...
Some games do the thing of wanting to sacrifice a character for dramatic impact, and so they just randomly kill off the most interesting character. They don't realize that a useless, random death for such an obvious trope-driven reason is not going to make us cry, it's just going to make us angry because it is disrespectful to us, to the character, to everything.
Some other games, like this one, are just like, well, it would be sad if a character were to die, but we still need a character to die because that's the rule. So they make the most minor character die, so that they can have the sad death without actually losing any character of importance. But if this character is so minor, we can't care about it.
If Corrine is supposed to be Sheena's guardian spirit, why did we see so little of him? Why was it never around? There were a few cutscenes when Sheena first joined the party where Sheena talks with Corrine, and there was the whole thing where Corrine reconfirmed that Colette really was hearing soldiers coming, and Corrine knocked Presea off the dragon, and just, that's it?
We're more glad that Corrine is gone because then we can't forget that Corrine is in the party, and we never have to hear that annoying voice or see that sparkle-dog design ever again. Yay!
We are sure this was not the intended response.
But anyway, we didn't write about this actual Thunder Dungeon yet, so here we go.
This was probably one of the better dungeons in the game. In this dungeon, the ring gets lightning powers of various colors. And the blue lightning can destroy blue blocks, and the yellow lightning can destroy yellow blocks and so on. There is also the recurring puzzle element of lightning rods. Lightning shoots down every few seconds (or when you step on a button), and whichever lightning rod is the highest will be the one that gets struck by lightning. So you have to solve puzzles to set up a higher lightning rod to keep the other lightning rods from getting struck by lightning and electrifying the water, or you have to close the other lightning rods so that a lower one can be struck to power a machine, and so on. That's actually kinda cool.
The only (MAJOR) problem, puzzles aside, is that a large portion of this dungeon consists of an overlapping maze of walkways in a room that is somehow pitch black, except for a few seconds after the lightning strikes. The Sorcerer's Ring doesn't give light, even though lightning is crackling off of it. So, the only way to be able to walk safely along these intentionally narrow and winding walkways without handrails or anything, is to wait for the lightning to strike, so that we can see what we are doing. Note that it is also tricky to walk here simply because of the controls. The walkways are almost all isometric, while the control stick is easier to control in the cardinal directions, so you kinda have to do that awful zig-zaggy diagonal walking over this treacherous diagonal pathway unless you are really good at getting the control stick at the exactly right angle. And you can only do this for a few seconds at a time, and then need to wait in the dark for the next lightning strike. Plus the character you control has momentum when they walk, so you can't just stop on a dime.
This whole part is not really hard so much as tedious. The game is taunting you, trying to make you impatient, so that you will try to walk forward in the dark, and fall, and need to start over. But that is stupid. There is no time limit. There is no rush. The best way is to walk forward only when it is safely lit, as slowly as it takes. No matter how slow you creep along, it will be faster than falling down and needing to start over. But you just want to get to the door and get done with this part. You need to go through this walkway maze so many times. There's nothing to do in the room. There's nothing to see. You just need to inch... wait... inch... wait... inch... carefully, carefully, wait... It makes you frustrated. It makes you want to hurry up. The only challenge of this part is because the game wants you to be hating this experience. And no game should be wanting you to be hating the experience. We paid money for the privilege of needing to tediously walk through this light-switch rave while hating every second of it. That is not good game design. This entire part of the dungeon should have been scrapped immediately and they should have gone back to the drawing board because it sucks.
Or just make it not isometric, so that we can use the part when we can see to plan our movement in the dark, without it being quite so treacherous.
The thing of needing to power the machine was a bit contrived too, but not terribly so. There was also the circuit puzzle on the wall, which we wanted to like, but we solved it too easily. It took one try, and we only had to remove two of the switches. Really?
Also this whole contraption is there to drop a rock on the bridge, smashing it and breaking it down to form a ramp so that we could get to the lower levels. Who designed this?? Did Volt make this just now just to piss off Sheena? Or was this temple ever used for something, and whenever someone needed to get the red lightning, they needed to drop a rock, smash the bridge, and then go down the stairs? And then rebuild the bridge every day, and reset the boulder up high on the switch? Is that really the most efficient way? Yet this whole thing is designed with two whole machine things, an entire multi-story wall circuit, all set up to drop a boulder to smash the bridge. This is too mechanical and intentional to have just happened to be. Someone put that boulder up on that switch. Someone built that whole wall circuit. Someone made those two machines and wired them together. Someone built the lower level staircases in a place that was completely inaccessible unless you destroy the bridge. Who does that?? This is silly. Why does it exist?
We arrive at the altar thing and summon Volt. Volt says "...", and Sheena says I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS SAYING. We were confused until Raine starts to translate, so apparently Volt is speaking something that can be heard, but the game writes it as "..."??? But "..." means pensive silence. If you want to convey unintelligible speech, you could put wonky symbols, Cyrillic (that happened in Riviera), random letters, a mash of lines, but not "...". That's against every rule. And besides, this game uses the "..." for the pensive silence all the time, just like every JRPG. It's not like they didn't know the convention if they use it all the time! So what happened here?
Also, how does Raine speak Volt?
So, as we talked a bit about earlier, Volt is unhappy, Corrine dies... we have a boss battle, and then we guess since we beat Volt up, now he agrees to make a pact.
Suddenly Undine and Volt both show up and say crap like ~the connection has been severed between the mana of the two worlds~ because there are spirits awake in both worlds and that never happened before, they are being literal exposition fairies, but talking in a way that makes us feel drunk, and we don't get it. We guess we now have to go to all the temples again, and we wish they had just said it straight.
Recovering the Rocket Birds
Now we need to recover the rocket bird things. We needed to fight some guys to get the three pieces of the password. Though, just getting the password is not enough, you actually need to remember the correct password for the multiple choice test at the door. Not that it matters, because even if you fail, there is no punishment. We wonder if we could have just brute-forced our way through? That's not how it should work. If we need to get the passwords, we should get them, and then when we get to the door, it should just open, or have a cutscene. But don't do both. Why give a memory test too?
Anyway, this time around in zappy land (because, yep, we have the electric orb ring again), the main puzzle elements (and calling this a puzzle is very generous) are using blocks to shield yourself from the light beams, and activating elevators, which mostly involves bullshit block moving so that we can stand at the right spot and elevation to zap them with this short-range ringy-ma-bob. Moving the blocks is just tedious. There was only one spot that required any brain use at all, since you needed to lower the lift to be able to slide it into place, and then raise the lift and then push it onto the platform, and then lower the lift, and then walk around the long way, and then pull the block. And at that point, we were just more annoyed at needing to move these blocks around so much and in such unfun ways that we didn't care.
So, we get to the rocket bird things, we fight the previously introduced villains, they say something like how Colette is useless, but whatever, shut up, we got the bird rocket things, and we are going to go follow the dragons that stole Colette like 12 hours ago. Probably the only reason that Colette is still alive is because Rodyle has been monologuing for 12 hours straight.
Note that, when we steal the rocket birds, only Lloyd is shown flying away in the cutscene. But once we are in the overworld, the active party of four is shown all on four rocket birds. Why are they wasting the time to show FOUR party members filling the whole screen when there are SEVEN OR EIGHT party members? It is not more accurate to show four of them. If you show just Lloyd in the overworld, we can accept it as a symbol for everyone. But showing four out of seven or eight party members just makes it wrong. That's so weird. The place where you should have shown everyone was in the cutscene. But they did it backwards. Why did this game botch showing people riding things so badly?
Flying around trying to save Colette
Anyway, we now have the ability to fly, but it controls like ass. The left stick controls altitude, which is mostly useless except for this one part, but we'll get to that. The right stick moves straight forward, straight backward, or strafing... which is really bizarre to see an entire rocket ship translate through space sideways with no apparent mechanism for doing so, and without any momentum even. How weird. Who thought of that? But anyway, to turn, you need to use the right and left shoulder buttons. These work like the boat, in that you can either turn while moving to make the widest turns you can possibly imagine, or you can sit stationary on the spot and rotate yourself around very slowly. Why does this rocket ship strafe better than turn?? Where did you learn to fly?
But, even with as ass as the controls of the rocket ships are, you can move very quickly, over the mountains and the sea and the forest and whatever, without any random encounters. So, because of this, and also because we didn't know where we were supposed to be going anyway (the game just tells us to search the eastern skies???), we took this opportunity to revisit a few places that we had noticed before while we were bopping around on the boat. For instance, we had seen a few Noishe markers on islands and by the coast that we couldn't possibly reach from the boat -- so we presumed later we must get an upgraded boat that can land on any coast (unlikely, Denise said, because that would be harder to program than the whole dock system, and she doubted they expended that sort of effort) or some sort of plane. Welp, here's the plane. We shouldn't be able to forecast this so precisely.
But anyway, now that we have the plane, we stopped to get the Noishe markers that you seem to only be able to get to by flying... which kinda defeats the point because now that we can fly, that's much better than riding Noishe... unless later they take the rockets away from us again, but still.
We also found a city in the snow full of information on getting the Ice Summon spirit with a crystal, and to get the crystal we'll need the gloves, and to get the gloves we need three quills... and this is all very nice and clearly not relevant until later in the game. Also, although we could come here, there was no benefit in us being here, the customization shop is even closed, and we weren't supposed to be here yet. Fuck you, but okay.
We flew to a floating city that we had noticed while we were on the boat, thinking maybe that was where we needed to go next. It turns out it is the only safe home of the half-elves, literally named EXILE (or, Exire), but there wasn't much to do there, at least not yet. We got the same treatment as the Southeast Monastery, all, oh boy, we don't get many visitors here! Good job finding us! Except we get absolutely nothing for our trouble. And Rosy is betting to eat her hat that later when we need to go there, there will be all sorts of cutscenes of the characters reacting to this mystical floating city of half-elves, but this time, everyone was mum. Of course.
Next, we flew back to the mine, because last time we were there, there was this little jerk of a gnome who asked us for some alcohol (er, potion), and we didn't happen to have any because that shit is expensive and useless in the game. So, we had since picked up a few bottles of alcohol (er, potion) and decided to stop back on the way to find where we needed to be. We land at the mines, and start to go inside, but Lloyd pops up all NO, it is IMPORTANT that we find COLETTE as SOON AS POSSIBLE! So wait, we were allowed to go to Snow City and waste time admiring the snow sculpture of Pac-Man there, we were allowed to go sightseeing up in the sky in Exire, but going back in the mines, now that's just preposterous!
OKAY, FINE, we'll go more east and see where the heck we can find Colette.
We end up finding Las Vegas/Disney World and we stop there, and there's a cutscene where Regal says he must wait for us at the front gate, so this is obviously wherever he had murdered whoever in relation to Presea, but apart from that, everyone goes inside.
So wait, delivering alcohol, which is something that we were previously tasked with doing, is not okay. We admit that little jerk doesn't deserve any alcohol, but... we can go all through the resort hotel and go shopping and go even to the amusement park and look at all the rides (even if we don't have a ticket to ride them), that's all okay? Oh, because we asked a few random people if they happened to see any dragons go by? Oh, this was for research, like when the Pokémon movie creators decide that they must spend a week in Barcelona for research for the next movie. Ooookay.
So, all our clues are once again, go east, east, east. We got that. WHERE?
We flew east of Las Vegas, and we see this strange Stonehenge-looking place, but we can't interact with it at all. That's weird. Clearly later someone will be sacrificed here or something.
And then we happened to turn the camera, and... there's a floating fortress way up high in the sky. Oooooh.
This might be the only time you need to use the altitude control on the rocket birds, because, otherwise, what difference does your altitude really make? Also, if you try to fly over the mountain, you automatically follow the ground up and over and down and down. So the altitude control is tacked on and needlessly using up an entire control stick just for this one part.
We strongly are getting the impression that the creators of this game saw Skies of Arcadia from the other room, but didn't play it or understand what made it fun. Skies of Arcadia does have an altitude mechanic, but it has a point, since it lets you fly above or below the random encounters, and access really high or low places.
So, we get sucked into the flying fortress (because as soon as you get anywhere near it, you cutscene into it). Lloyd does a dramatic and stupid thing of jumping off the rocket for no reason, and showing it flying away in the distance, that made us fear that he had now lost it forever, but no, that was just for show.
Colette is in a strange forcefield of orange diamonds, which are making awful alarm noises. That fiend has been torturing her with car alarms! He'll pay for this!!!
Bad guy shows up, and Presea chops his head off, but he's not real, just a hologram! Hahahaha! And now he is feeding us to his dragons! Hahahaha!
Presea talks in her robot voice about our percent chance of surviving against these dragons. So, was Presea always obsessed with numbers, and always talking in this mechanical way? Or did the writers forget that we cured her? Or is the cure failing? Or is this just written like ass?
Anyway, we fight the dragons. Because of this dialogue saying how our chances of winning are so small, and with Colette yelling that we're doomed and shouldn't even try to fight... we thought this was one of those battles where you have to lose. We were dying very quickly, so we didn't bother to use an item, and then we died... Game Over. Whoops.
Actually, probably why we were dying so hard was because, when we were visiting Disneyland and Regal left the party, our party got all shuffled around. We also had upgraded Regal's greaves and forgot to give him the cool new greaves, and so he was using the basic poopy greaves, and therefore was at a pretty major disadvantage. So, that's why we were losing so hard the first time.
So, try again... this time we won... and nobody comments about how incredible it was that we survived or anything. Sigh.
Lloyd has a stunning moment of stupid, and tells Colette to come with them and escape. And Colette calmly points out SHE IS IMPRISONED IN THE FORCEFIELD OF ORANGE, YOU DUMBASS (of course she didn't say it like that, but maybe she should have, lol).
Apparently, all it takes to destroy the forcefield is Presea's axe. I mean, she does get knocked unconscious for reasons unknown until the next cutscene, but everyone quickly explains that she is fine.
We then fly away, with TWO rocket birds shown in the cutscene. Denise would want to stop paying attention to this, but she's not trying to be fixated on this, she swears. It's just so wrong, and would it have been so hard to either not show it at all, or show it right?
But as Rosy points out, they can't keep the plot straight, how are they going to keep the number of rockets consistent?
And NOW we must deliver the alcohol
Somehow, we conveniently land right next to The Temple of Earth, the place where we should be going next. Denise even had a moment of saying, I'd rather go deliver that alcohol now, but since we are conveniently right here, why not? ...well, five steps into the dungeon, a little jerk gnome pops up and says we need to go deliver that alcohol first before we can explore this dungeon.
So, wait, the alcohol delivery was REQUIRED? We thought it was a sidequest for getting something cool. NOPE. It's required. And it's not just required, it's only required exactly when the game wants us to do it. We could have either done it the first time we went through the dungeon, or now, but NOT in between.
OMG, is it because Colette is visible in the cutscene when we deliver the alcohol? Is that the entire reason that we couldn't possibly go there while Colette was captured? Just because of that?!?!?!
NOTHING IN THIS GAME IS OPTIONAL, EXCEPT LIKE TWICE. THERE IS NO EXPLORING AND THERE IS NO GOING OFF THE PATH AND ANY POSSIBLE GOING OFF THE PATH IS ONLY POSSIBLE BY MISTAKE AAAAAAARGHGHGH
So, we fly allllll the way back to the mines, deliver the alcohol, the gnome gives us nothing in return except that we now know that we can do the Temple of Earth. If we happened to have had the alcohol handy the first time around, this would have been very much a ??? and a let down. We are not even sure if we would have ever known what we had unlocked by giving him the alcohol. We hope he chokes on it.
Anyway, we fly allllll the way back to the Temple of Earth, and now that we can actually go inside... let's discuss today's Dungeon Power of the Day. Today, the Sorcerer's Ring causes earthquakes, which basically means, that whenever you press the button in the right place to continue the dungeon, you can then continue the dungeon.
We've come a long way in playing this game. There's been things that have bothered us, there's been things that have enraged us, there were good ideas that were poorly executed, there were good ideas that were decently executed, there were bad ideas that were made extra badly... but this is a new level in sucking.
There were a lot of places where the power of the Sorcerer's Ring was stupid, but at least it was a stupid thing of at least a quarter of a thought. Use the fire to knock the lid off the vase, and use the water to fill the vase and that will do something. That is stupid, and bad, but at least it requires deciding to do a particular action.
In this case, this is, come up to an obvious dead end, and press X to continue, and then something will happen to make it possible to continue. It might as well just be a straight path with zero obstacles at that rate.
We then find another little jerk gnome. And we find out that this is actually The Temple of Enforced Backtracking. We had actually had the forethought for us to buy multiple bottles of alcohol, because the first jerk little gnome was named Gnomelette 1, and us, noticing the 1, said, he must have other little jerk friends that are going to want more alcohol, so let's get an extra, just in case.
Well, this little jerk gnome, Gnomelette 4, actually doesn't want alcohol. He wants to eat something spicy. We are not sure if we are annoyed or grateful that Regal just comes out and says that the dwarf guy had a lot of spices in his house, and maybe we could get a good recipe from him. We don't need to think of anything to solve this puzzle, we just need to go back and revisit the dwarf.
We were wondering if maybe we needed to visit the dwarf, now that Presea is back in the party, and they made such a point that a real dwarf needed to do the fix on her Key Crest for real. But Rosy reminded Denise that we needed to wait for there to be the ridiculous blinking lights, and not to make the same mistake again where we walked all the way back to save Chocolat, and just wasted our time. So maybe, now is the time that we will go back to his house for spicy food, and some sort of cutscene involving Presea, right?
So, we fly all the way back to the dwarf's house, and inside, we talk with the robot-girl Tabatha, and she informs us in all-caps that SHE WAS JUST COOKING CURRY, and she teaches us the recipe, and even throws in one batch's worth of ingredients for free. But nobody says anything about Presea or about the robot or about the dwarf or anything at all. In fact, after we are done with the lesson in making curry, the robot goes back to just reiterating that she will have a word with her master to persuade him to help. So, obviously, there was nothing to do here before we were assigned the task of fetching curry, and obviously there is nothing to do here after we completed the task of fetching curry, and obviously there was no way to get the recipe for the curry before this moment, and there was no reason to make us get the curry from the dwarf's house as opposed to any other location in the entire game. What was the point of this?
Considering that this game has an entire mysterious comic? relief? character known as the Wonder Chef, who is usually the one teaching us recipes, it is really, really strange that they made us go to the dwarf's house to learn about curry for no reason whatsoever. If there was no ulterior motive for getting us to go to the dwarf's house in particular, why couldn't this have been some sort of quest to locate the Wonder Chef and learn to make curry? Or, if not the Wonder Chef, why couldn't this curry quest have served to give some other place some relevance to the game. Altessa's House is already a hub of plot events, and, notably, he doesn't want us there at this point, and we're clearly going to go back some other time. But what about poor Snow Town (which is barely relevant twice for like five seconds each time) or any other barely fleshed-out places? The whole school has a whole cafeteria, if you wanted us to go there.
While we've been flying all around, there have been a ridiculous number of optional cutscenes, all at once. It's a bit strange how this game is really uneven with the optional cutscenes. For example, there wasn't a single cutscene while we were in Las Vegas (how did Zelos not have a single funny moment while we were doing research in Las Vegas?). But when we were backtracking from The Temple of Earth to the Mines to deliver the alcohol there were like FOUR cutscenes back to back.
The cutscenes had weird tone whiplash.
There were Lloyd and Sheena and Zelos all playing with Genis's kendama, and it's so hard, and they accidentally bonk Raine on the head, ahahahaha. (Somehow, Zelos was terrible at it too. We were expecting him to be a natural at that particular motion >_>)
Then there's a few scenes explaining how Zelos is actually a math whiz, and he sees mistakes in Genis's homework. Wait a minute, why are they doing homework while they are on a quest to save the world and are in an alternate dimension and haven't gone to school in months, and don't even know if they will ever go to school again???
And then there is Presea... talking to herself about all the time she has lost, and wishing for all that lost time back. Yikes.
In other cutscenes, Regal is suddenly like Lloyd's best friend. Why??
With Kratos, Lloyd initially didn't like him, but there was a gradual period of warming up to him, and slowly Kratos became something of a respected (cough cough) father figure for him, dispensing wisdom to Lloyd's questions, and encouraging him to always try to do what is best and to grow as a person and so on and so on.
Now that Kratos isn't in the party... his function has been split between Zelos and Regal. Zelos plays almost identically to Kratos in battle, and Regal has completely absorbed Kratos's character... with Lloyd talking to Regal as if he is Kratos who never left. This is especially odd since Regal was introduced all, we don't trust you, but within a cutscene or two, they become best friends. How this happened is never shown. Lloyd is just suddenly gushing about how cool Regal is, and how he wants to be just like him when he grows up -- by the way, Lloyd is 17, that's not really acceptable language or behavior for his age. Heck, he's even saying he sees Regal as his dad. And why? Where did this connection come from??? Because Kratos.
In one of these cutscenes between Regal and Lloyd, the point comes out that, because Regal's hands are restrained by manacles, he must have a hard time keeping his balance. This doesn't make any sense. We actually tested this out. Having your hands bound doesn't affect your sense of balance, if you fall on the ground you can stand up all the same. This is not something fictional and fantastic, you can try that in your own living room, just hold your hands together and try to do some fighting moves. Who wrote this?
Also, Regal for some reason keeps spewing sexist bullshit like "Women care about aging when they are 25, but men don't care until they are 30". Just, we don't have the energy to talk about how wrong this is right now.
Exactly what father-figure advice is Regal even giving Lloyd? How to be a sexist pig?
There also was a cutscene where Lloyd and Genis are wondering what the relationship is between Regal and Presea. Genis is worried if it might be romantic, and Lloyd says, "Don't be ridiculous, the age gap is way too big". To which Zelos pops up to chime in that such age differences are not unheard of, and he knows of a countess who married someone thirty years younger even. The conversation ends with Genis growling that Presea is HIS and Regal better back off.
Presea is not his, and Genis is becoming more and more of a monster with this stupid crush. It's gone too far. Can this subplot just die already.
And while we fully believe that Zelos is mostly just sharing the information about the countess to be able to see Genis's reaction, we are a bit surprised that no one mentioned that Presea is not actually that young? It was such a major point not that long ago that she is not a child, and she is actually much older than she appears. Why did no one say that? It would have flowed really naturally for Zelos to say that he knows of a countess with such an age gap, and besides, Presea is not as young as she appears to be, so the age gap might not even be all that big. How did the writers forget this point already?
Anyway, we got the recipe for curry, and we went back to the Temple of Earth to make this ungrateful gnome some spicy food. The game gives us the choice of who do we want to get out the stew pot and start cooking curry in the middle of the dungeon.
The most logical choice would be Genis, who is like the best chef, but we hate him, so no. The next logical choice would be Regal, but lately all the dialogue has been all about what an amazing chef he is, and blah blah blah, and we don't want any more of that. We pondered selecting Raine, who is notoriously the worst chef of the group, but since we don't know what will actually happen... let's not. In the end, we settled on Zelos, and we got a nice cut-scene of how he's made the curry and offers some to the gnome, who is just, eh, that's spicy, eh? Okay, I guess? And Zelos is clearly heart-broken, but trying his best to play it cool that he just winged it and it doesn't hurt to hear these things. To which the characters all point out that Zelos clearly did pour his heart and soul into making this the best curry he could possibly make, and that he must indeed be hurt by such a meh reaction. Lloyd chimes in that Zelos really did do a good job and made a good curry and should be proud, and Zelos is touched and tackle-hugs Lloyd and awww.
So, we completed the Temple of the Earth and we guess the most puzzle there ever was is pachinko. Then you escort the gnomelette, which was a non-point, and you can finally fight Gnome, which was pretty hard. Gnome is apparently male and with a spinning ribbon though, which is cool.
Next we're told to go to the ice place, which we already had fully explored. We only had spent five minutes exploring the ice place before, and there was nothing else to really see this time, so we spent a grand total of ten minutes exploring the ice city in which nobody said anything at all.
Outside of town, we saw a talky spot and Kratos appeared. We thought there was a glitch. Why is Kratos speaking to us in a completely optional non-voice acted cutscene. They even draw attention to it with Lloyd being like, "What are you doing here", and Kratos is like, "I'm looking at the sky". "No really, what are you doing here". And Kratos is all, "Okay, would you rather have me say that I'm villaining my evil plans of villainry and will that make you feel any better?".
But seriously, why make something that seems as important as this just pop out as a minor thing of who cares?
Let's shame the penguin furries!
So, within what could have been a maximum of like ten minutes of exploring the ice town, we're already to the next dungeon. There's no gap between the Temple of the Earth and the Temple of the Penguins.
When we were in the mines, there were fifteen million optional talking scenes. Now we've gone through a dungeon, a city, and another dungeon in essentially silence. This game has pacing like ass. Either it poops or it doesn't.
While we were in town, we learned all about the Tear of Celsius and how we can't touch it without special gloves, and to make the special gloves we need three Penguinist quills. By the way, the Penguinists are apparently... people in penguin costumes? So, are we stealing the quills from their costumes? Why is there a society of people in penguin costumes living around this cave, and why does the nearby town have a traditional art of stealing the quills from their costumes to make gloves? (Because we don't like them, they're freaks!)
Where do the quills even come from in the first place then? Is there another animal that grows the quills that the Penguinists then somehow change into Penguinist quills when they incorporate them into their costumes?
This whole thing is like... you need the plush fur hairs of a fox-furry's tail. Go to the local furrycon, punch a fox-furry until they pass out, and steal some hairs from their tail. You cannot just go to a fabric store and buy some plush, no, this must be specifically and violently gathered from a fox-furry that you personally knocked out to the ground. Let's just say it as it is: this town's tradition is to have any excuse to go punch these freaks.
No mention at all is made anywhere that the Penguinists are people in costumes. The game treats them as if they are the same as any animal. The bestiary doesn't give any information either. This is all very strange.
In any case, for these gloves, you need three Penguinist quills, and fighting a Penguinist sometimes drops even two quills. So, we fought enough Penguinists at the front entrance to the dungeon to then go back to town and get the gloves. This is so easy -- which is good; we're glad we didn't need to go all the way to the depths of the dungeon and back, and fight 20 of these things, and just, yeah, nobody likes fetch quests, and the town we have to go back to is even within walking distance -- but if this is so easy, why is it even a thing that you need to do at all? At this rate, why not just need to buy the gloves in town? Can't they go get the quills themselves?
We harvested these quills to get the gloves specially made... and they suck. They're not as good as the ones Colette already had.
But regardless for whatever you have to do to get the gloves, this shouldn't be mandatory for continuing the game. This should be some sort of optional side quest.
With it being mandatory, there are two things that can happen:
- You go to town first, learn how to get the gloves, go to the cave, get the quills immediately, go back to town, get the gloves, and then progress through the dungeon, and feel pretty stupid wondering what was the point of that.
- You didn't learn about the gloves first (somehow, considering the whole town is talking about them -- perhaps you saw the ice cave first and decided to explore it first), you progress through the dungeon until you get to the part where you need to freeze the water with the Celsius Tear and cannot progress. Or maybe you find the Tear and you can't pick it up? So, you back track out, go to the town, you must already have three quills if you spent any time in the dungeon, so, you talk to the right guy, get the gloves, go back, and feel pretty stupid that you had to go all back and forth and what was the point of that.
Either way, this is not fun.
This should be for an optional thing only. Since the task of getting the Penguinist quills is essentially a chore, the only way that it is even remotely, possibly excusable is that if you get some sort of nice bonus reward in the end. Then, maybe doing it was something of a chore, but you can feel accomplished in having done it to get the nice reward. And if that still is not your cup of tea, you don't have to do it. If you are choosing to do it, you don't need to feel any resentment in being forced.
Compare for example with Borderlands: while there are a lot of fetch quests, they all end with a bonus treasure chest (with a randomly generated prize), and the quest giver also gives you a reward. The fetching happens in a specific area that is fun to explore and it is always fun to encounter and fight the enemies, so this overall isn't just a slogging, go to the place, fight the penguin right there a few times, go back.
The penguinists aren't hidden, they always drop 1-2 quills, you only need three so that is between 2 and worst case 3 random encounters, there's nothing particularly challenging about encountering or fighting the penguins... so what is the point of this? And there is no reward, and you have to do it.
Compare with Agarest where the crafting system (requiring something of a fetch quest) is entirely optional, doesn't put any sort of quest in your log, it's just, you can decide that it would be useful in your particular playthrough that this character can use this item, and to get this item you need to craft this, and to craft this you need these items, and to get the items you need to fight however many whatevers, and whether the enemies need to be stolen from, defeated normally, or overkilled to get the item (which adds a bit of variety to the way you have to fight them and not just go mindlessly grind). And you yourself can decide to do this whole thing, or maybe you decide it is too much trouble for too little reward, and there is no penalty at all for not doing it, and there is no quest looming over your head saying there's something you could be doing when you don't actually care.
In Tales of Symphonia, with these Penguinist Gloves, you have to get them, and there is zero reward (because continuing the game is not a reward -- that doesn't count in the best of games, and with this game especially, it is not a reward!) This situation is even set up nicely for getting good rewards: the gloves are equippable, and being able to hold the Celsius's Tear lets you freeze large bodies of water to access new paths. However, the Penguinist Gloves, for how much they are talked up, are less good than the regular old Mittens we bought in Sylvarant like a million years ago (so much for the declining world, huh?), and you only can use the Tear in one specific mandatory part of the dungeon; there is no optional treasure it gives you access to.
So, this whole quest is just lengthening the game artificially by forcing you to talk to all the people in town to know how to make the gloves, and then forcing you to go between the ice town and the ice cave at least twice, and to make sure to fight at least 2 penguins on your way through the dungeon. It seems to be happening a lot lately that the game is desperately trying to make us need to do things in different places, but they are all ill-thought-out and just go get curry go deliver alcohol go get feathers, I don't know, just combine all three and set yourself on fire.
Once we finally go into the cave with our shoddy gloves...
The Ice Dungeon: how not to do a sliding on ice puzzle
In the Ice Dungeon, the ring changer makes the ring.... freeze things! Wow! Who'd have guessed! Except that it doesn't work how you'd guess. You shoot at the ice, nothing happens. You shoot at the water, nothing happens. You shoot at a drop of water falling from the icicles, and, if you manage to catch it, it becomes a giant ice block that now you can push. So this ring... makes blocks out of nothing for you. Brilliant.
Also, can this game just stop with its block-pushing mechanic anyway. It's not fun, it's never a puzzle, it's never relevant, and it controls like ass. This is not the game for this stuff. We thought it was bad in Baten Kaitos? At least in Baten Kaitos it was once, and it was for one puzzle. Here it's in every dungeon, and never once it makes sense.
This game is like we didn't have any theories on game design, that this was somehow the first RPG that was ever made, and they had to try to figure out what to do as they went. But this game is not from 1990, this is from 2003! There were books on this subject already. There are examples of good games you could play to experience these things done well. It's like they knew that a dungeon needs to have blocks that you push, but they didn't get why and how the block-pushing exists, and what is needed for it to be fun.
Once you get the Tear, you can freeze the lake with it. For the record, the Sorcerer's Ring that can freeze water into giant blocks is of no help freezing the lake... It must be done with the Tear. As we already know, it must be the Shit Sorcerer's Ring. But anyway, when you do that, you can then slide across the ice in such a way that you are only stopped when you collide with a rock or a wall, so that you need to solve the puzzle by finding the right way to slide into the right rocks to reach your destination.
This is a classic puzzle, in many many games, and probably the best example we can point you to is the Ice Path in the Pokémon Gold/Silver/Crystal, where you are deep in the depths of a mystical ice cave, and you, all alone, need to find your way through these ice-sliding block puzzles, which, as you solve them, feel truly clever and only heighten the feelings of how helplessly alone you are in the almost unreachable depths in this frozen cave.
In Tales of Symphonia, this sliding puzzle has none of that aura of mystery or unreachability. Everyone in town knows about the Penguinist gloves and the Tear of Celsius, it is no trouble at all to collect the quills to make the gloves to pick up the Tear. And it takes like, what, two screens through the dungeon with minimal use of the Sorcerer's Ring to reach this lake that you can freeze. So, we don't feel helplessly alone, and surely other people must come here all the time if they all know the solution to get the gloves and the Tear and what the Tear does. Nothing feels dangerous or mystical about this place at all. And the music is completely forgettable (which is true of the whole game, except where it is instead annoying music).
But, aside for these issues which may or may not have been the aesthetic they were shooting for, the worst problem is that... the camera goes overhead to ostensibly allow you to see the blocks better as you solve the puzzle... but the camera is so zoomed in on Lloyd that you CAN'T SEE ANYTHING to solve the puzzle. Should he go up or down? Who knows, we can't see either side to know what he will eventually collide with!
So, instead of using our brains to chart our course across the ice, it turns instead to something of a brute force memory test of, hm, last time when Lloyd was standing here, we think we tried going up and that didn't work, so this time we will try going down and see if that works out any better.
A second problem is that, even when you can see what is around you, because this game is in THREE DEEEE, and the blocks are not perfectly square, and you are not tied to a grid, it isn't always easy to tell what blocks are actually in line with Lloyd. The camera went somewhat overhead specifically to address these problems, but it is not quite overhead, and the rounded shapes still cause some perception problems.
Also, while Lloyd is sliding around, he doesn't move at all and is essentially in something of a T-pose as he just translates through space. He also moves at an incredibly slow speed for apparently moving in a way that is outside of his voluntary control.
Anyway, as you slide around on this ice, you will notice that the exit is at the top of the frozen lake, and there is a treasure chest to the left. There are also a few blocks that have tiki faces on them arranged in particular directions, but they don't seem to do anything and they don't seem to mean anything. At first we thought they were clues toward which way to slide through the puzzle, but that quickly proved not to be the case. So, they are just decoration, or they come up later, maybe later we change their orientation or the water level or whatever. In any case, we ignored them for now.
So anyway, as is usually the case in this sort of puzzle, we assumed that the treasure was an optional harder solution to the puzzle that we should strive for first, and later we will see about reaching the door. Actually, usually in this sort of puzzle, Denise winds up accidentally solving for the door while she was trying to reach the optional treasure, so she goes all, that's wonderful, but I want the treasure, let's try again. Which makes sense in game design, because finding the way to the exit is easier, and it gives you the chance to decide, nevermind, that treasure isn't worth it, or else makes finally getting that treasure all the more sweet, assuming it is worthwhile. For example, in Pokémon, most of the items you find in the Ice Path are TMs which are fuck yeah, and the NeverMeltIce, which is a unique, non-exhaustible hold item. It's worth it.
So, we have Lloyd translate around this lake, getting frustrated that we can't see what we are doing to solve this puzzle, and finally, we first find our way to that treasure chest (containing Rosemary). From there, we can walk two steps down, slide again, and quickly reach the goal.
So, getting to the treasure chest was a mandatory step in reaching the next part of the game. Fuck you. They only bothered making one mandatory solution, rather than an easy required solution and a hard optional solution. You're all fired.
Also, we are pretty sure that once you start sliding on the lake, there is no way to leave the way you came. You need to slide down from the exit to do the maneuver to get back to the entrance. This is also terribly designed. Because from every position on the lake, it should be possible to do the easy mandatory solution, the hard optional solution, and the super easy return to start "solution". These are the rules of this sort of puzzle. And can the developers go play Pokémon for reference, please.
So we arrive to the door, and there are these poorly-rendered ice blocks (Denise thought they were ghosts or holograms!) with the tiki faces on them again. And there is a stone slab that says in some not-very-cryptic cryptic language that we must go to the lookout point to find the solution to the way the tiki faces should be oriented!
Now, we found that lookout point before. It looks down on the lake where the tiki faces were before.
The game is expecting us to go back out across the lake, go through the dungeon, stand on the lookout point, and see how the tiki faces are oriented, and then do that whole sliding puzzle again to come back here and rotate the ghost tikis?
Fuck you, and fuck that! We are just going to slide down once, catch a glimpse of them, which, by the way, we were staring at for several minutes while we were brute-forcing the sliding puzzle, so we remembered most of it anyway... so we double-checked the one we had forgotten, slide right back up, turn the last ghost, and ta-daaa. It even has the audacity to play that, "you solved the puzzle!" noise, which this game only seems to do very rarely and at the least appropriate moments. And that's the entire dungeon. This is like the smallest dungeon in history. Even with the glove backtracking nonsense. Poor Celsius got no respect here.
Celsius and slut-shaming Zelos
So we walk into the final room, and when Celsius is first talking with the party, Celsius has just a disembodied voice... so that it can be a big reveal in three seconds when we see... she's in the form of a woman with boobies and everything.
Let's recap: Undine is a beautiful scantily-clad essentially human woman. Volt is a male voice with eyes and ball lightning. Gnome is a mole, male with a bow (good, okay). And Celsius is a beautiful scantily-clad essentially human woman. So male spirits can be ridiculous moles or ghostly electric eyes, and female spirits are beautiful scantily clad, essentially human women. Got it.
This whole delayed reveal is just so that we, the assumed straight male player, can go all, oooh, she has boobies.
And then after the battle, Zelos says, oooh, she's beautiful.
To which Raine snaps that he likes anything that has a female body. Which we have a lot of problems with.
The game just pulled this sexist crap in Celsius's whole design. Nothing is wrong with it in itself, but in combination with Undine and in juxtaposition with Volt and Gnome, the lack of variety in the female spirits when the male spirits can be ANYTHING is the problem. It had the whole delayed reveal thing, so how dare it go do this whole sexist setup and then insult Zelos (and indirectly the player) for noticing it. The game wanted you to note that Celsius is hot, and then insults you and Zelos for thinking so.
Also, Zelos doesn't like anything that has a female body. We think he might be bisexual. Despite talking about him in an aggressively hetero-normative way, they also show him do the whole, "gay is threatening" thing. He has hit on Lloyd in particular multiple times now. They've coded him as gay, with the flamboyant attitude, gay laugh, emphasis on his fashion sense, feminine long hair, vanity (which is assumed to be a feminine trait). But, in actuality, he was introduced with three women draped over him. Either this game is not making up its mind on his sexuality, or they're trying to paint him as the lusty polyamorous bisexual that hits on anything. And shaming him for it.
But, from what we see, all of his partners must be fully aware of the situation that he has multiple girlfriends. He openly talks about his "hunnies", nobody in his hometown seems bothered by this, we see not one stereotypical conflict over needing to dodge an ex, or two women getting mad at being misled, and all we really know is that he travels through the sewers to not be seen coming home late at night, which is for political reasons and to protect his partners, not himself (he doesn't have a family to be hiding from).
So... the game really needed to make up its mind here. We are sticking with our own understanding of this character that he is bisexual and having multiple positive open relationships. We know that he's very out regarding his sex life, he likes doing teasing flirting for fun, but is overall much more respecting than this game seems to treat him, and we are not going to accept this game slut-shaming Zelos of all people.
Much more questionable is Lloyd having an obvious sort of unrecognized relationship with Colette, but then as soon as she is out of the party for five minutes (in danger!), he's off to flirt with Sheena. That is just gross.
Also, calling Zelos out like that is way too mean. Zelos is their friend at this point, and even with Zelos being a bit of a playboy, that sort of remark was just uncalled for.
Also, this remark indirectly insults Celsius, because, what, she's not beautiful? She presumably chose this shape, since she's a presumably a shape-shifting spirit, and she chose to be a beautiful woman, and if that is true, she wants to be hot, and Zelos is recognizing and complimenting that. And, what, is he supposed to not notice? They are acting like he just started humping a statue, but Celsius is a real person who is hearing them, and why is it shameful to recognize that she is attractive? And to simply say that she's beautiful? He wasn't catcalling her on the street. It was just... yeah, mostly a comment to himself that happened to be out-loud (and so the player can know). Just... yeah, this game doesn't understand at all what is and isn't objectionable behaviour. Sexuality is bad. We guess.
Mithos, named after Mithos
We get out of the dungeon and we see a bolt of lightning strike Presea's town. We arrive and the entire town is in flames, houses are crumbling, and we see one lone body lying in the middle of the town. To which Lloyd's reaction is to run to the body and yell, "What's wrong". Well, Lloyd, what isn't wrong with this picture.
Oddly, nobody is casting any water magic here. Sheena is not asking Undine for help. No one is doing anything to stop the blaze, but they're just standing around discussing this body in the middle of the maelstrom of fire. Ladeeda...
Later, we go to Presea's house, which seems to be the last unscathed structure (we guess since it was on the edge of town), and we meet this person we saved.
It turns out that his name is Mithos. He's apparently a half-elf, and he looks ridiculously like Colette. Even their clothes are almost the same. When seen from the back, the only way we can really tell them apart is because Colette's back flap-thing has a triangle notch in it, and Mithos's does not. We can't fully trust the fact that Mithos's hair is shorter than Colette's, because sometimes Colette's hair gracefully clips through her body, making it appear shorter.
Everyone immediately assumes that Mithos is just named after the hero Mithos, and not that anything stranger has happened here. We don't know what's up yet, but obviously there is something more to it than that... We're been told that Mithos is a very common name, but, apart from the hero Mithos, this is the first Mithos we've ever met ✽. The game has done nothing to actually establish that Mithos is a common name. And lightning struck, and here is a Mithos. But there is nothing to think about here.
Meanwhile the party, has been annulling someone named "Mithos's" pacts with every deity, and not thinking twice about what implications that might have. We in fact just annulled Mithos's pact with Celsius when lightning struck, and here is someone named Mithos left for dead in a town that is now burnt to the ground. But there is nothing to think about here.
Mithos says that the town was attacked by angels... but there is no one else around, and there is zero evidence to corroborate that story. Mithos looks ridiculously like Colette, who has become an angel, and supposedly her appearance was an important factor in the whole thing of reviving Martel or whatever. But there is nothing to think about here.
And Raine just declares that Mithos is a half-elf because she can tell, because of her racist gaydar or something, and now Mithos can't stop talking about how much of half-elf he is. Mithos never said it first. Raine said it, and Mithos went "!", and now he won't stop mentioning it. He was supposedly living on the edge of the town that notoriously takes the hatred of half-elves to levels that even the run-of-the-mill racists find unacceptable. Somehow, he was living here. And is apparently a half-elf. And now the town is ashes. But there is nothing to think about here.
Now that we are all just dandy with Mithos's story, the dwarf and the robot show up, and the dwarf cries about how the destruction of the town was all of his fault because of all his sins, and then runs away.
We follow him to his house, and we learn that he worked for Yggdrasill with Kate to create Presea. What a surprise. And also, he made Tabatha, who actually is not Presea's sister as we were guessing, but is in some way connected, and maybe is metaphorically her sister at least. That revelation was really delayed in coming. We also talk about how Colette's angel transformation requires her to endure suffering, but not death, so the fact that Rodyle was trying to kill her proves that he's gone off the rails and is doing his own thing. Nobody says they are sorry for Colette going through that, and yeah, the point has been made like 20 times now that Rodyle is doing his own thing.
Game, it is not a revelation if we all knew it.
The dwarf asks Presea for forgiveness, and Presea is all, that's nice, but I can't just forgive you right now, because, god, you don't just say you are sorry and that makes everything that happened to me okay. And then all the characters start debating amongst themselves if Presea is mean or not to refuse to forgive him right now and can forgiveness really be something that you can decide to give, and what is the nature of forgiveness and what does it really mean to forgive, and Zelos is all, guys, maybe this is not the time??? While Presea is standing here processing all this disturbing information?
…Don’t apologize. Even if you apologize…I can’t forgive you right now.
PRESEA…I BELIEVE YOUR LOSS HAS BEEN GREAT. BUT PLEASE, DO NOT LOSE YOURSELF AS WELL.
I…can understand Presea’s feelings a little. Some things…never came back… Even if he apologizes…even if you want to forgive, you can’t control those feelings.
Not being forgiven…that may be punishment.
…I don’t think that’s right. Forgiving or not forgiving isn’t a punishment…I can’t really explain it well, but…
Ah, well, anyway, let’s not get into a philosophical discussion right now. Presea doesn’t need to force herself to forgive him or anything. Let’s just think about what we can do now.
And so Lloyd is all, "Right, fine, let's go inside. Presea, are you okay with going inside the house?" And Presea is like, "Whatever".
So they go inside, and they have more conversations about the nature of the two worlds and how they seem to be connected at two poles. The first pole is in Kharlan, and the other pole is thought to be at Stonehenge. And at these places, a door can be opened between the worlds without needing rocket ships! If Regal knew this, and Sheena knew this, and Raine knew at least part of this all along, why did we waste that time going to get the rocket ships? Why didn't this come up sooner? Now that it's finally been mentioned like 500 years too late, suddenly is of major plot importance. Here it comes... wait for it...
We have a drawn out, pointless discussion asking if Mithos is okay with spending the night in the dwarf's house. And the dwarf makes a disturbing point that, well, I'm a dwarf, she's a robot, you're just as weird, what difference is a half-elf staying here. Which is pretty insulting if you think about it, and if Genis and Raine are also half-elves, why does this point only matter for Mithos?
And we ask Presea if she is okay, and she's like, "Whatever".
- Tales of Symphonia Script transcribed by Oliver Kong
- This bridge was also the inspiration for the Cycling Road of Pokémon. It was in the works for like 30 years, cost over a trillion yen, and was something of a joke in Japan as the notorious project that will never actually be completed. It appeared in the first Pokémon games before the bridge was done, joking on, haha, in the imaginary Pokémon world, the bridge is done, lol. For Tales of Symphonia, the real bridge already existed, but it has such ridiculously high tolls that it's not really used much, so in this case, the joke is on how extravagant this absurdly long bridge is.
- In this game, there are two people named Mighty, though. Mighty Washington and some other Mighty (Mighty No. 2).