I did NOT do: Most of the hunts! Any of the Rare Game hunts! The Necrohol of Nabudis! Any optional superboss! Fishing! Collecting medallions! Getting most of the best weapons/armors in the game! Footracing! How can I possibly live with myself, missing all that content? You OCD types in the audience are squirming in your seats thinking of all the gaps in my collection, no doubt.
But it's too late. It's finale time. We're doing this, and we're doing it live.
WELCOME BACK, EVERYONE, TO THE BIG FINALE OF FINAL FANTASY 12 INTERNATIONAL! To start this finale, we... pick "fly to the Sky Fortress Bahamut" off a menu. Whee-hoo. The drama.
The Bahamut is kind of a weird final dungeon, because it just suddenly APPEARS through a plot hole. You get a couple lines like "oh yeah Cid was working on that, it wasn't ready until now" and then NOTHING IS EXPLAINED about it ever. Mind you, some Final Fantasy games have entire end bosses appear through a plot hole, or just weave their entire story out of plot-hole chainmail. While I may be here to explain these things, I advise y'all to just let that one go.
In any event, when it zooped through that plothole it picked up some momentum. Gale force winds wash over Rabanastre, leading many to look up, scream like second-graders, and run away. And why not? The Bahamut is so big it's leaving the massive royal castle washed in shadow and affecting weather systems all around the city. Vayne is naturally piloting the thing, with Larsa at his side.
Larsa, no. Did you finally turn evil? Will YOU be the last boss?
Vayne laments that Cid is dead, slain by his own son. "A common tale, of late." Oh well, no more crazyman. ... Well, Vayne is KINDA crazy, I guess. Vayne arms the nethicite cannons and takes aim at the resistance airships facing him down. Larsa, meanwhile, begs him not to fire on ships that have already surrendered. Yay, Larsa! You still have a soul! Vayne shrugs, and asks Venat what HE thinks. Oh look, Venat escaped from Cid's death scene somehow. I guess that's a perk of godhood.
There will be no holding fire. Larsa's pleas go unanswered as Vayne pegs an airship with a nethicite nuke fired from the main gun. Vayne explains that he doesn't want them to surrender, he wants them to attack FULL FORCE, so he can destroy them and show off. 'Cause Vayne is a jerk. "You are WRONG, brother." Larsa insists.
"If I am, then find the strength to correct me." Vayne shrugs. Then he brushes past to give a speech to his men about how today they're writing a brand new history, and this will be Page One. It's actually kind of stirring, if you don't mind that he's the bad guy. It's no "We celebrate our Independance Day!" or anything, but it's pretty good.
Then the rebels launch unfolding-wing fighters, and the imperials launch delicate-but-fast-moving ships, and there's a showdown, and... yeaaah this is basically Star Wars again, except every time a ship is shot down it kind of lands on Rabanastre. Into the middle of the melee a cloaked ship passes, contacting Ondore and the Resistance. It's Ashe and company, and they're there to board the Bahamut and stop Vayne. ...man, it is a REALLY good thing Vayne sat on his thumb and hummed a little tune while I went off and beefed up for this. Ondore tells Ashe to bugger off and quit trying to be a heroine.
Suddenly, Larsa comes on the comm line! He's totally with Ashe! He has the princess covered! They're fine! They're going to land and work this out! Ondore shrugs. "Well, in that case..."
Vaan and Ashe smirk at each other. Hey, look! It's that voice-changing gizmo Balthier had! WHO SUSPECTED THAT WOULD COME IN HANDY?
Penelo rolls her eyes. "I got the princess covered?" she asks. "Larsa'd say that." Vaan retorts. Sure he would, Vaan. Sure he would. The Strahl dogfights and weaves around between fighters and shoots and dogfights its way to a docking with the Bahamut, although I personally went into Ace Combat fan mode during this cutscene and was all like "YEAH FLY DOWN THE GUN BARREL AND SHOOT THE NETHICITE STORES". Sadly this does not happen. We just walk in like normal people.
The party huddles up. Remember: We don't have to personally stab EVERYONE IN THE EMPIRE to win. We just need to find Vayne. GO TEAM. Meanwhile, copious cutscenes as we work through the dungeon show that outside, the battle continues to pretty much be Star Wars. "We don't need to worry about that." insists Vaan. "We just need to win in here, and Ashe will be Queen!" Penelo enthuses that she can't even imagine trying to rule all those people, and Basch notes that if she ever needs a break, she might run away with some Sky Pirate, looking to raise his bounty?
...Balthier shrugs it off. "Our Queen would need no help from sky pirates." he asserts, looking over at Ashe. "Right! She's got good friends!" Vaan agrees, and the party gets like a +20 to self-esteem. Good thing too, because I need it. Fleeing from most of the empire feels silly.
Moreso when the party boards an elevator. "Boarding an Elevator" is one of the top ten causes of boss fight in an RPG, and this is no different. Out comes Gabranth, ready for Round 2. He's limping and visibly in pain, but ready to square off with the party and throw down for the Empire. Basch tries to calm him down, but only succeeds in making Gabranth throw a fit. Basch has FAILED everything, but he still has his honor! HOW?
"I have someone important to defend." Basch replies calmly. Gabranth goes DOUBLE-HISSY-FIT and attacks. Unfortunately for him, well... he's sort of ineffectual now. He flails and blusters and screams, but he's just -not- a credible threat anymore, and he goes down in spite of full-healing himself mid-battle.
"Let this -end-, Noah." Basch asks, and I finally get a first name on Gabranth. Even if he insists that he doesn't have the right to bear that name anymore. "Then RECLAIM it." Basch insists right back, and deliberately does not strike any final blows. Gabranth huddles up in the corner of the elevator and breathes hard, while the party head for the command room.
In the command chamber, Larsa and Vayne are staring each other down. Larsa seems downright relieved to see the group enter, even if they are there to kill his brother. Vayne just offers the party a welcome with a bow. "Are you seeking vengance?" he asks. "Or salvation?"
Ashe has had the entire game to put together the answer to this question. "I am simply myself. No more. No less. And I want only to be free."
Vayne gets visibly pissed off that she picked option 3 instead of one of the choices he had shit planned for, and declares her UNFIT TO RULE. He sneers and bids Larsa watch as he destroys this ruler who is unfit to rule.
Behind Vayne, Larsa has drawn his rapier. He's not going to sit and watch after all. It's time for Larsa to take action. To take a stand. To stop his brother's insane warmongering. Larsa Solidor joins the party as a guest in the boss fight against Vayne, and I cheer a little. Kid, whatever else you've got, you've got heart.
Meanwhile, in the elevator below, Gabranth hears Larsa's words and slowly gets back to his feet.
Vayne doesn't even bring a weapon to this fight, he just punches and kicks like he thinks he's a goddamn kung-fu hero. Halfway through the fight he starts ranting about bringing ORDER to the rebellion by destroying it. The crew and Larsa reply by beating him silly some more. Vayne starts throwing Quickenings at the party. There is healing and then counter-attacking.
I'm holding back, because I KNOW (this being a JRPG) that as soon as Vayne is defeated --
Mmhmm. Vayne collapses, unable to believe he's lost. "Lord Brother!" Larsa cries, and runs to him, only to get zapped with EVIL LIGHTNING. It's because Vayne is laced with so much manifacted nethicite that his skin actually bulges with the stuff. He starts glowing and pumping out Mist from his pores and then gets back up to keep fighting in a SECOND FORM. There's always a second form.
He also manifests about fifteen giant swords out of nowhere and has them orbit him. This'll be fun. Gabranth finally makes it up the stairs, and draws his sword to chip in... On our side. With Larsa KO'd, Larsa's sworn protector Gabranth throws in with the party. Brother or not, treason or not, Gabranth has decided this is the right thing to do and he's damn well going to do it.
You'd think with Vayne's friends and family abandoning him left and right he might slow down, but no. Into battle we go. Vayne Novus ("New Vayne") hovers around the room hurling magic spells while his fighting floating flaming sword brigade flail at the party. "WE ARE NO LONGER -PUPPETS-!" he declares proudly, while floating with his arms extended in the center of the stage-like boss arena. SYMBOLISM, y'all. Luckily I catch him JUST BEFORE he does something called "Limit Break", which I suspect would really have hurt. Vayne reels, and Gabranth steps in, discarding one of his swords on the floor and infusing the other with magic. All this to shove a FLAMING SWORD through Vayne's torso.
With Vayne defea--
Unfortunately, Vayne charges up like a Dragon Ball Z character and backhands Gabranth across the room so hard his helmet and mask fly off. "Here I pay my debt." Gabranth murmurs to Basch, who is trying to help him to his feet. "BURN IN HELL, GABRANTH!" Vayne suggests, and sends those flying swords straight at poor Noah's face.
The swords suddenly jerk to a stop, inches from Gabranth.
You remember how one of the properties of manufacted nethicite is that it inhibits magic? Larsa did. The swords can't move past him as he thrusts the glowing rock in front of Gabranth. Then it absorbs them, leaving Vayne nothing to strike with from across the room. NICE move, Larsa. Vaan follows up the power play by picking up Gabranth's abandoned sword and rushing Vayne down, smacking him off the central command dais with it. Vaan hops the command console and prepares to finish things off.
With Vayne defea--
It is at this point that Venat manifests, delaying Vaan long enough that Vayne can limpingly escape out a back door. Larsa quietly slumps, Penelo pauses to hug him, and Basch leans over his fallen brother, who collapses backward, apparently dead. I say apparently because I AM NOT RULING ANYONE OUT AT THIS POINT. The party tromps out on deck for ROUND THREE.
At this point, Vayne is looking UGLY AS SIN. He is wrinkled, limping, burned, scarred, leathery, visibly mutating from overexposure to nethicite. He looks like the really -late- days of Dragon Ball GT, after the art staff had left and the only thing anyone knew how to do was add more muscles to things. Touching him would probably feel like caressing a sack of potatoes.
Vayne tells Venat that he has failed them both. Vayne cannot be the Dynast-King he's meant to be. Venat should find someone else. Venat smugly remarks that his ... her... its... desires are fulfilled. With the Sun-Cryst broken, the age of the Occuria is complete. The reins of history are back in the hands of man. But Venat will not abandon Vayne, either. They join together... and when I say that, I mean they FUSE together. Venat enters Vayne, Vayne rips up huge chunks of the Bahamut to make himself bladed wings and mechanical armor, and they turn for ONE MORE SHOWDOWN with Vaan and Company.
Vayne is now Vayne The Undying, and holy crap is he PISSED.
Undying Issue Vayne likes Palings. A lot. He likes to be invincible while floating around and spamming attacks with names like "Gigaflare Sword" and "Tera Flare", which are all signature moves of Bahamut in the normal Final Fantasy games. It is at this point that I cut the fuck LOOSE, using every single resource I have. Summons! Quickenings! Items! Oh hell, I have been collecting motes from the START OF THE GAME and I pour them on Undying Vayne like water. It's a knock-down, drag-out fight that takes forty-five minutes to drag to a conclusion.
The conclusion: Vayne explodes. Violently. To the point where absolutely nothing is left of him and only his smoking metal wings clank to the deck of the airship.
WITH VAYNE DEFEATED ... ... ... hell yeah. Ahem. With Vayne defeated, Balthier and Fran trade fist-bumps, Basch and Ashe smile for the first time in a while, and Penelo and Vaan gaze towards the blue sky. Success is sweet, and truly their actions have ushered in an age without Imperial rule threatening Dalmasca. Now they can rest, hope for a brighter tomorrow, and...
...and then the Sky Fortress Bahamut begins to sink like a brick.
(Watch the ending sequence from Youtube, Part 1 and Part 2 or keep reading.)
The party races to the Strahl, but there is, rather inexplicably, no fuel getting to the engines. Balthier and Fran go back to get things running, leaving Vaan and Penelo in charge of the Strahl. I had kind of figured Balthier was grooming Vaan to succeed him, but is THAT why Fran was interested in Penelo? Huh.
In back, Gabranth charges Basch to look after Lord Larsa. He is, after all, the only hope the Empire has, or maybe even ever had. Penelo sees the power lines reactivated and Vaan takes off, startling Ondore over on the Resistance cruiser. While Ondore preps to open fire, over the radio comes the voice of Gabranth, ordering the Imperial ships to stand down. Basch doesn't have to do a lot to imitate Gabranth's voice, after all. He barely needs the voice changer. Larsa follows up, pulling rank on the Imperials, and Ashe catches the handoff to order the Resistance to stop the war. They're all free now.
Of course, the Bahamut is still falling.
The Imperials decide the best course of action is to ram the falling Sky Fortress out of the airspace of the city, which is... pretty awesome of them. Unfortunately, they are quickly out-awesomed. Balthier is casually hanging out in the engine room of the Bahamut, getting it working with wrenches and Fran's assistance. Ashe shouts at him, but Balthier isn't really impressed.
"Hope you haven't forgotten my role in this little story. I'm the leading man! Know what they say about the leading man?"
Balthier clicks the last piece into place. "He never dies."
Unfortunately, that doesn't extend to the leading man's sidekick. Balthier looks up to see Fran pinned under a heap of debris. Naturally, he drops what he's doing to free her, helping her out of the rubble and giving her a shoulder to lean on as she works free.
"I'd say you're in more of a ... supporting role." she notes.
(I LOVE THESE TWO OH MY GOD.)
The last message Vaan gets from Balthier is chiding him to take care of the Strahl, 'cause Balthier WILL be back for it... and the Bahamut crashes in the desert, far from the Rabanastre town borders. Successful save by the leading man.
The story picks up one year later. Penelo has become a hippie froofy crystal vendor with long hair and parachute pants. She happily narrates the text of her letter to Larsa, letting us know how things stand: Rabanastre is safe and sound and beautiful again. Ashe... is growing distant, since her coronation is soon. She has too many queenly duties to spend her time with a pair of street kids, after all. Larsa is of course invited to the ceremony, as is...
The armor says Gabranth, but the face is Basch. Basch has clearly 'become' Gabranth in the eyes of the Empire, taking his identity to protect Larsa. Those were Noah's dying words, after all, and Basch is nothing if not sworn to duty once he sets his mind to it.
Meanwhile, we see Penelo and Vaan head into an airship hanger as Penelo explains that the Strahl was... stolen! Or possibly -repossessed- by the original owner, as Vaan opens a note from Balthier. The note reads: "Something more valuable: the Cache of Glabados. I await in Bervenia." and contains Ashe's engagement ring to be returned to her.
A cache of treasure? Sounds like an adventure for a Sky Pirate, and Vaan's been doing his best to become one. Penelo thinks she'll come along too... every Sky Pirate needs a partner. So with the promise of adventure to come, and the knowledge that this was basically Vaan's ORIGIN STORY, we...
END FINAL FANTASY 12.
...wow, I can't believe it. I actually did it. We did it. Guys, we played a whole RPG! Start to finish! TOGETHER!
Next up: END OF YEAR POSTING!
This entry was originally posted at http://xyzzysqrl.dreamwidth.org/318974.h