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"Another old man right by the entrance eschews Cave of Trial policy and agrees to heal Alex and Gams as many times as they'd like. So basically, this place is a cake walk. Okay, then."
     -Sam, Lunar: Silver Star Story Part 4

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Breath of Fire IV : Part 7
By Ben
Posted 05.05.13
Pg. 1 : 2 : 3 : 4 : 5
Before starting this recap, I went back and read my last one, like I always tell myself I'm going to, but never get around to it do whenever I start writing. Imagine my surprise when I realized the last BoFIV recap was posted less than two years ago. I think this counts as me being on a roll, given the usually lengthy gaps between my recaps. Of course, by the time I reach the end of this motherfucker I'm probably going to wish I had waited another few years before writing it.

In the mindboggling Part 6, Ruley and the gang snuck into the Empire in search of the oft-mentioned Princess Elina, only to be caught within minutes and deported. For some reason, Clay was decreed the sole culprit and taken into custody to await trial, prompting Ruley, Sandy, TikTok and their awesome new guard Scias to set out for Worent, the home of Clay's tribe. Along the way, they cut through a haunted forest, where Sandy was shrunk by a trio of irritating faeries. Unfortunately, however, she was restored to her normal size after fighting off a bird that assumed she was one of its chicks. It's a good job I went back and re-read Part 6, because otherwise I would have been wondering whether that last part actually happened or if I'd just been hallucinating.

Starting on the Not!WorldMap, Ruley follows a new dotted line to Worent, located on the fringe of the "Golden Plains". Just reading that name on the screen gave me a shudder of dread, the reason for which will become apparent soon, but for now I shake off my misgivings and have Ruley enter the settlement of the cat-people. Upon entering the village, the first thing Ruley notices is that everyone in it looks like Clay. Usually this would be enough to make him run screaming back onto the Not!WorldMap, never to return, but since he has no other location to head to, he grits his teeth and begins the least enthusiastic round of Talk To Everyone in history.

Huh? What proofreader?

As a tribe, the Woren are every bit as charismatic and exciting as their leader. Which is to say, not at all. This is a both a good and a bad thing; while recapping their dialogue is going to be a simple affair, since none of them have anything important to divulge, I'm always going to know that I willingly gave up ten minutes of my life in order to do so. Really, all Ruley learns from his enquiries is that the Woren are a Proud Warrior Race™ who are constantly in training for battle, and that most of them idolize "Chief Clay". These sad, deluded people. One old woman inside a shack spits a typo at the group, while a younger catperson, presumably her daughter, gushes over how "romantic" it is that Clay ventured into enemy territory to search for Elina. Oh, girl. No. Hightailing it away from the poor sap who wants to have Clay's kittens, Ruley ends up running smack-dab into one of the huge, floating snails he first encountered outside the Imperial Causeway. Its...wrangler, I guess, reveals that they're called whelks and are used instead of horses by the Imperial cavalry. Fascinating stuff, but Ruley honestly couldn't care less right now--all he wants is for someone to give him his next fetch quest and an excuse to ditch this giant litter box.

The largest building in the village, sitting atop a hill guarded by a lonely, loincloth-clad Woren, seems like a logical destination, so Ruley ascends the steps and enters the manse of "the Elders" -- three tiny, wizened old men who, for that added creepy factor, all look identical. I don't even know if these guys have names, so I'm just going to assign them random cat names to avoid confusion. Fluffy, the first Elder, reacts quite nonchalantly to the news that the tribe's esteemed leader is currently under house arrest. "Sounds like [Clay]'s gotten himself into quite a fix!" he chuckles, like the guy's forgotten to file his tax return as opposed to doing something that could end up with him facing a firing squad.

The second Elder, Smudge, reacts a little more passionately: "How dare Ludia treat you like that! This is an insult to the entire Woren nation! This means war!" Oh, please. This talk of the "Woren nation" is pretty ridiculous since, by my count, there are fewer than 20 of them in the entire place. I mean, I'm not expecting the game designers to fill the village with hundreds of NPCs (the handful already here is plenty, thanks), but at least places like Ludia can give off an illusion of being larger and more densely-populated than they really are; Worent is pretty much a walled field with a few huts set up on it. This is where you email me to chastise me for not using my imagination or suspending my disbelief, even though I've had to do plenty of both already in the course of playing this game.

Because the Woren are a Proud Warrior Race™, the third Elder, Tigger, echoes Smudge's declaration of war. "We'll show them they can't treat us that way!" he cries, his tail twitching angrily. I don't know about you guys, but I'm cracking up at the thought of the fierce Woren hordes--all 20 of them--marching up to the gates of Ludia, brandishing catnip toys and rodent carcasses. Tremble in fear, Ludian forces!

These puns are just purr-fect (I'm so sorry).

Jesus Christ. I'm pretty much a younger, male version of a crazy cat lady, and even I want to tie the entire population of this town in a sack and throw it in the river. Fortunately, Fluffy tries to calm his brothers before they give themselves furballs, warning them not to get "too hot under the collar". Because they're cats, and cats wear collars! It's funny! Tigger concedes that calling the banners would be a fucking stupid course of action, but pleads that they need to do something since Sandy was brave enough to come here all by herself to tell them about the predicament "that cub" has gotten himself into. Again, I'm not sure why all the blame is being apportioned to Clay here, but if it means he's going to be executed, I'm sure as hell not complaining. The three Elders now coo over Sandy and how much she's grown, which squicks me the hell out for some reason, before namedropping the next important NPC the party will be forced to go and track down.

"Hmmm...if only Tarhn were here! She'd know what to do!" Smudge sighs dramatically. Smooth, game designers. Since Tarhn--sorry, Tarhn--has a special coloured name, we can assume she's a fucking oracle or something, not that this stops Sandy from asking them who she is. Tigger reveals that she's the wife of the previous Chief--in other words, Clay's mother. I dislike her already. Also, given that Clay and Sandy have supposedly been friends for many years, she really should know his freaking mother's name, but I'm just going to handwave it because she's such an airhead. "When [Clay] became Chief, she decided to leave the village..." Fluffy exposits, continuing that she decided to live "the life of a nomad" out on the Golden Plains. Ugh, there goes that shudder of revulsion again.

'Getting the hell out of dodge before that idiotic offspring of mine embarrasses me with his non-existent leadership skills', she meant.

So, what I take from this little revelation is that even Clay's mother can't stand to be around him, given that she left town as soon as he became Chief. Sure, you could fanwank that it's actually a "cutting the apron strings" situation, but I think it's more likely that Tarhn saw sense and realized the dickhead was going to shame her if she stayed around to watch him run their tribe into the ground. Personally, I'm astounded the Woren have even survived this long with that meathead in charge.

Tigger now makes a half-hearted speech about getting on a horse and setting out to find the all-knowing Tarhn himself if he weren't too old and decrepit. Oh, stop. We all know who's going to be looking for her; don't try to prolong my agony by pretending otherwise. It would be refreshingly convenient and unexpected if Tarhn were to walk through the door right now, having decided to stop by for a visit, but alas, I didn't make this game. Ruley walks over to Sandy and telepathically tells her that they should go and find Tarhn themselves, and then the cutscene abruptly ends. I love how they make sure to drag out the most inane and repetitive scenes yet can't seem to find a way to end conversations in a believable manner.

Figuring he'll get more detailed instructions--or, you know, a fucking starting point--Ruley talks to the Elders again, but they only offer such gems of wisdom as "Tarhn's traveling somewhere in the Golden Plains. If you want to go looking for her, you're gonna need a horse!" This is basically like saying "There are a lot of gay men in the Suikoden world. If you want to recruit them, you're gonna need a castle!" I thought Elders were supposed to be wise and helpful?

...So, do I have to go and find her?

Leaving the "Elders" to laze in the sun and lick their assholes, Ruley explores the basement of their dwelling, where he finds a sack containing "ManlyClothes" (which are presumably so masculine they didn't even need a space). Given what passes for "manly" in so many RPGs, I'm quite curious to see what these garments actually look like, but unfortunately equipment changes aren't visual in this game. Capcom are no fun.

So, what exactly are these "ManlyClothes"?
A leather jacket with a fur collar
A festive green tunic with a matching hat.
A silk dress, a blonde wig and a diamond tiara.
A fuchsia suit with a frilly cravat.
An orange cape, striped pantaloons and a floppy red hat.


Upstairs, the group bumps into a female Woren with a portrait, who asks if they've seen her "apprentice" Kahn anywhere. If you can cast your mind back to 2005, you'll recall that Kahn (the Crack Addict) is a musclebound goon last seen ineffectively guarding Marlok's groping den. After being soundly thrashed by Ruley and the others, he apparently ditched Synesta and ended up here of all places, because the party runs into him on the balcony outside. Still wearing his perpetual crack-crazed expression, he bellows "Hurrrrh!" so angrily that the word overlaps the others in the text box. "You again!? Grrr, I still own you for what you did in Synesta!" Uh, don't you mean "owe"? Whatever, he's about to get his ass kicked again, so let's just get this show on the road.

Kahn the Crack Addict very considerately says he'll catch up with the gang "down there", since fighting on the balcony would be incredibly impractical. Once they're back on ground level, he screams "Waaaiiit!" before jumping from the balcony as his battle theme, which is still in no way a ripoff of homage to The Beach Boys' "Wipeout", kicks in. A mini-earthquake shakes the screen as Kahn hits the ground and then he yells "Huuuuh! I've been miserable every minute of every day since you beat me in Synesta!" Jesus Christ, get over it. He claims he came here to learn from the Woren--the Proud Warrior Race™, remember--and that he's "worked day and night, training and studying their ways." And it's paid off--he's undefeated at the scratching post.

No, really. Did anyone proofread this script?

...I'll try to knock the cat jokes on the head now. Anyway, the second fight with Kahn the Crack Addict is much the same as the first, and within four turns he's sitting dazed on the ground again. The female Woren from earlier now calls down to him from the balcony, causing him to exhale a huge exclamation point and apologize profusely to "Master Una" for losing. "Hey, you!" Una cries, taking in the ragtag bunch of freaks that humbled her student. "Don't pick on Kahn like that! He's not as strong as he thinks he is!" We kind of figured that out already, Una. Also, way to shame your student even more by acting like an overprotective mother at the school gates. I actually feel a little sorry for Kahn right now, especially as I already know he's going to come back to get his roid-injected ass kicked at least once more before finally taking the hint.

Once again the scene cuts out abruptly, then we see a conversation between Kahn and Una where she admonishes him for getting into fights he can't win. "B-but mean...I'm weak?" he whines in response. Sensing that he's about to cry, Una tries to backtrack and spins him some bullshit about how helping her with the housework will soon build his strength up. Deflating faster than a balloon at a surprise engagement party for Squall and Rinoa, Kahn lets out a string of ellipses as we fade out. That was such a worthwhile scene.

Because the guide I'm using told me to I hate myself, I have Ruley head back and talk to Una as soon as I regain control. Kahn is nowhere to be seen, even though there's really no way he could have left without passing the group on the way out. Unless he just jumped off the balcony again. Either way, I don't care. "It's your fault that Kahn's gone," Una bitches, like they were the ones who launched an unprovoked attack on him. "He ran off because you picked on him. Now what am I supposed to do!?" My response to this is too polite to repeat here. Showing she isn't a total shrew, Una offers to train the party instead, becoming their latest Master. I can't remember if I've mentioned the Masters yet, or if I just skipped over it because it bores me, but all you really need to know is that Masters teach special abilities and offer enhanced level-up bonuses in return for the player fulfilling arbitrary and often ridiculous conditions. I think you can see why I haven't exactly been falling over myself to explain the complexities of the system to you all.

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