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  -Part 1 :: [07.27.03]
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"Yuna, a crafty mistress of subtlety, tells the other two that maybe this time they should follow Laurel and Hardy instead of, you know, the other way around. Yuna, your plan is so cunning we could put a tail on its ass and call it a weasel."
     -Kelly, Final Fantasy X-2 Part 3

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Breath of Fire IV : Part 6
By Ben
Posted 06.06.11
Pg. 1 : 2 : 3 : 4
I won't embarrass myself by reminding you how many years it's been since my last visit to the BoFIV world. What do you mean you can just look at the date the last recap was posted? Uh...hey, look, a dragon! Oh, wait, this is the game where dragons don't actually look like dragons, so nobody's going to fall for that. Let's just say it's a number between 1 and 10 and move on, eh?

For those of you whose knowledge of the last recap's events has been eroded by time, a quick recap-recap is in order: continuing in their endless (at least to me) quest to track down Sandy's missing sister Elina, our party of morons spent roughly twenty years chasing brats all over the city of Synesta, the crowning glory of a particularly sadistic game designer. Sandy narrowly escaped becoming a fish-merchant's sex slave before discovering that Elina had been taken into the heart of enemy territory by Imperial soldiers, apparently of her own accord. Hey, if she was simply trying to ensure that Sandy and Clay couldn't follow her, she has nothing but kudos from me.

After a whole bunch of inane Minitortures that only served to extend the game's length and shorten my lifespan, Marlok agreed to smuggle the party into the Empire, and it's here that we begin our next thrilling hour in the land of nightmares. The first scene of the recap depicts Marlok's sandflier, now devoid of wankers (save for the perverted poisson himself), departing the dry dock of Kyoin at the speed of an arthritic tortoise. This doesn't bode well. After taking a long bath, re-reading A Song of Ice and Fire, watching my nails grow, writing 12 other recaps, and walking from Land's End to John O'Groats, I return just in time to see Sandy chirping "It looks like everything went as planned!" Or not, seeing as how I'd been praying for you to be caught by the border guards and incarcerated. "Yep..." Clay agrees, in his usual charismatic way. "Now that we've come this far, there's no way we're going back without Elina!" Now, I know it's been a while, but that line sounds mighty familiar to me. In a "95 percent of Clay's dialogue has been some variation of this sentence" kind of way. If he ever utters a line that doesn't involve him being aggressive or vowing to rescue Elina, I think I'll keel over.

God, not two minutes in, and I'm already about to give up hope. As if to reflect this, the background music for this area is the despairing howling of the wind. After I boot Sandy from the party in favour of the criminally-underused TikTok, the group wanders along a boardwalk into a small settlement filled with meandering merchants and various anthropomorphic NPCs. The community -- if two stone outbuildings on a raised platform can be defined as such -- seems to be built around a tall tower in the centre of the area. A helpful NPC reveals that this tower leads to the Imperial Causeway, the only way of reaching the Empire from the Eastern continent. Wait, aren't we already supposed to be in the Empire, hence the whole 'Marlok smuggling the party in' deal? I'm confused, and way more surprised at this than I should be, given the events of previous recaps.

It seems Marlok is a good friend of the game designers.

Hoping to make sense of this, I guide Ruley over to a couple of gossiping soldiers, one of whom says "Did you hear that they sent some troops in the other day? Heard they were supposed to be looking for a dragon or something..." Clearly, he's talking about some random dragon (or Non-Dragon) that we haven't seen yet, and certainly not Ruley or Hamlet. "Never mind that," his equally excitable friend replies. "Remember a while back, that pretty looking woman came through here? I wonder where she went?" Naturally, Clay is too dense to join the dots, but they're totally talking about his beloved Elina. Or, as she is otherwise known, his beard. The NPCs in these parts are just overflowing with exposition useful information, as another talking animal reveals that the Causeway hasn't been used much since the war ended. However, he's hopeful that the gate will be opened again soon. I would normally laugh at all this speculation over what should be a foregone conclusion, but it would be so like this game to spend an hour building towards the grand re-opening of the Causeway, only to throw a huge curveball and have me go in a completely different direction in a transparent attempt to eke out every possible minute of playing time. "An epic tale of magic and mystery!"

A lone soldier guarding a door atop a staircase reveals that the Causeway isn't a conventional gate or bridge at all, but "a magical gate that can transport people or things instantaneously from place to place." I'm not complaining -- a cross-continental walk in this game would likely see me die of old age before its conclusion, so let's just go with it. Even though the gate is currently closed and presumably off-limits to everyday folk, the guard doesn't bat an eyelid when Ruley and his not-exactly-innocuous companions step right past him and through the door of the tower. Maybe he's pissed that he didn't get a raise this year.

The first few floors of the tower are unremarkable, with not even a random battle in sight. There's a door leading outside to some kind of pagoda elevator, which takes the party up to the higher levels of the tower at -- you guessed it -- a painfully-slow speed. Further up, there are several battles with Bandits and Gongheads, and a couple of crappy treasure items to be nabbed, followed by another pagoda lift which carries the party up to the roof of the tower. Probably not a contender for Most Exciting Dungeon Ever, but at least it was short and refreshingly free of Minitortures, so I made sure to savour it while it lasted. Holy shit, I said something not-entirely-negative about this game. I must be going soft.

Did Tingle design this thing or something?

The group steps off the elevator and takes in its surroundings. Really, there's not a lot to say -- the architecture is generically East Asian, and there's a suspicious gate-like structure at the end of a narrow walkway suspended over a 1,000 foot drop. With crushing inevitability, Clay takes a deep breath and states the obvious: "So...this must be the Gateway, huh?" No, it's the fucking basement. As the other party members stare at him incredulously, the pagoda elevator begins to descend of its own accord. "The lift!" Sandy squeals, like her wings couldn't carry her back to the ground if she so desired. The previously slate-grey sky suddenly turns an unnatural blue, and lightning forks around the tower, heralding a White Screen of Something Mystical Is Happening. At the end of the precarious walkway, more lightning flashes for about thirty seconds, before a small distortion in the air expands into a diamond-shaped hole in the sky, through which can be seen a trippy rainbow void. Sometimes I hate having to describe this kind of crack-induced shit. More pertinently, the fabled Causeway appears to be the product of a game designer who was both acid-dropping AND gay, given the fabulous swirling colours and aesthetically-pleasing-yet-headfucking design. More lightning jolts from the four points of the diamond, just as the icing on the cake. You know, what with all the fanfare, this trip to the Empire had better be worth it; it would totally suck if, for example, the party ended up back on the Eastern continent within half an hour of passing through the Rainbow Gate, without ever finding Elina. Not that something like this would ever happen.

Character development?

Sandy steps forward and declares "It looks like it's been activated..." Hmm, I wonder what makes her say that? Sweet Jesus, the only person in this game with a clue is the walking trashcan. Kind of appropriate, I suppose, since that's where the game belongs. After that fascinating slice of dialogue, I regain control, only to find that the game designers have once again tried to make Clay relevant by sticking him at the head of the group -- a mistake I quickly rectify. As Ruley tries to lead his companions towards the walkway (hopefully to pitch them over the side of it), a familiar, somewhat large-nosed face yells "That's far enough!" from offscreen. Yes, it's the esteemed Imperial General Triple H, last seen being slashed across the face by Ruley way back in Part 2. "And just who taught you people your manners, hmmm?" he creeps, stepping off the pagoda lift and sloooowly walking towards the group. "Who do you think you are? This belongs to the Empire!" Uh, if he didn't want these dirty Easterners using his precious Rainbow Gate, maybe he should have had it properly guarded. Then again, his ego probably hasn't yet recovered from being made Ruley's bitch back in Sarai. Astonishingly, the usually-volatile Clay decides to use a little diplomacy for once: "We don't want any trouble...I don't suppose you'd be willing to let us go, would you?" Of course, the General isn't down with this, instead declaring that he owes "that runt there" for messing up his face. With that nose, it can only have been an improvement, but Triple H is after Ruley anyway on account of him being the other half of Hamlet's soul for reasons as yet unknown, so he's even more determined to exact retribution.

Reverting to type, Clay clenches his butt fists and snarls "Alright, if that's the way you want it. You must have been pretty brave to come after us yourself. Brave...or stupid!" God, being called stupid by Clay is like being called annoying by Tidus. Triple H seems to agree with this, as he laughs hysterically to himself. "Sticks and stones, sticks and stones..." he jeers, turning his back on the group. I'm actually kind of getting to like him, which probably isn't what the game designers were going for. "I came alone for a reason...I don't need any help to beat the likes of you!" he bitches, then summons one of his patented Scrap Metal creatures. Because that worked out so well the last time. Sandy can't destroy this one by herself, but it's still no real threat -- the ensuing boss battle is more tedious than challenging. After about fifty turns of hitting Scrap Metal with combo magic to throw it off-balance, TikTok lands the finishing blow with a charged fist to the face...uh, visor. After all that, the fucker doesn't even leave me any zenny. I hope it rusts.

Back in regular gameplay mode, Triple H is aghast that his latest creation has been defeated. Dude, it was a disassembled suit of armour, not a freaking tank. Before he can summon another ineffective boss, Sandy puts on her bug-eyed face and screeches "Look!" Apparently, the Rainbow Gate is closing, and there's no time to lose! Who the hell is controlling the thing, anyway? Is it sentient (which would explain it rushing to close itself back down after witnessing who was about to jump through it), or is it on a timer? Is someone down below operating a switch? Do I even care?

The group runs for the gate as fast as anything can move in this game (which isn't saying much), leaving Triple H shaking his head in bewilderment, like even he can't believe what clods they are. A few seconds later, a bolt of realization hits him: "A dragon...?...But...That's not possible!" Firstly, DURRRR, and secondly, that's exactly how his dialogue appears. I seem to run into minefields of erratic grammar and punctuation whichever game I'm recapping, to the point where it's starting to affect my own writing. One of these days, I'm going to open up a document I've typed and be faced with a billion ellipses, words with three different spellings, and random question marks where there should be none.

Imperial side of the Rainbow Gate. Ruley, Sandy and Clay emerge from the gateway and catch their breath just as it closes behind them. I guess TikTok got left behind. Oh, wait, she's a secondary character, so she can't possibly be allowed to intrude on Sandy's screen time. "Alright, let's get going," Clay says gruffly. "Elina's here somewhere, and I intend to find her!" Déjà vu all over again. From now on, I'm going to take a shot every time he behaves aggressively or mentions Elina. I hope the alcohol cabinet is well-stocked, or I'll be forced to move on to the paint-stripper before long.

No, they came from space -- their TARDIS is parked out back.

The trip down the tower is painless if unmemorable, seeing as it has the exact same layout as the previous one. I'll bet that was an easy day at the office for the dungeon editor -- he or she probably did the drug run that afternoon. Emerging at the foot of the tower, the group passes two Imperial guards, neither of whom seems particularly shocked by their appearance, despite the Rainbow Gate supposedly having been closed for a long-ass time. The only other living creature in the area is a large, floating, snail-like creature with a saddle on its back. It's inexplicably cute, but serves no purpose for the moment, so I just leave it to float around in peace. Quite frankly, I envy it right now, and I never thought I'd be saying that about a freaking snail.

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