It's a me, barrio!
These two guys, I thought. They’re bad news.
I was twelve years old. At the cusp of womanhood, you might say. Up till this point, I’d spent my nights tripping on mushrooms with a fat plumber, or else crashing madly through crates as a bandicoot. This was it, I thought. This is the edge of the world. It can’t possibly get better than this.
Then these two guys showed up, Ramza and Delita. Strange fellows, no noses. Armed to the teeth. They were brothers in everything except blood. They were on a mission, they said. They were on a quest for truth.
[In Level Up, we discuss games that made us, and the industry at large, evolve.]
Before I knew it, they snatched me up on this wild adventure. Let me down, you mad men, you sons of whores! But they didn’t listen. We were racing from town to town, saving people, killing bandits. From the Magic City of Gariland to Zeklaus Desert, every raggamuffin mage and soldier went to join our crew. We’d pick up a chocobo or two and rode them in battle.
But these are chickens! Overgrown chickens calling meteors down from the sky. I’ll admit it’s not the strangest thing I’ve seen.
The plot unfurls like a ship’s sail. This land of Ivalice is not the colorful wonderland I’ve come to expect. The topography was a checkerboard nightmare. Swamps and bogs and grasslands were crawling with goblins and devil cats. We can’t possibly stop here! The populace is starved and depraved. They were either starry-eyed malcontents or highborn scoundrels. And the clergy, they were the worst. We put them all to the blade.
The men I traveled with were baby black holes born in the wake of imploded stars, sucking everything in their path. The whole world was out to get us so we decimated every town we passed. With my help, Ramza and Delita slaughtered wholesale. We tore our enemies down and waited for their souls to turn into diamonds that we then ate to fuel our roaring rampage. The thief skill let me poach my prey and revel in their skins. We littered the streets with ghostly ectoplasm.
I always keep a chemist at arm’s length. In battle, they cower behind stronger men. But when you’re on the business end of a heavily-charged arrow, the simpering dope fiend becomes a walking pharmacy.
On the road, you have to be ready for anything. I’ve traveled with a thief who can steal hearts and a priest who can bend time. The penitent monk turned double-wielding ninja can counter any attack twice. The mime, he says nothing but copies everything you do. And the lancers always know how to get high.
By now, I was getting the hang of courtly politics and church conspiracy. I grew unfazed at the sight of human-sized cephalopods lumbering through fresh pools of blood. I sniffed out traitors at cruise control. The road was full of them, crouching in the underbrush.
Here, a waylaid nobleman by the roadside and his vampire lord. There, a gun toting engineer, and twin sorcerers sold to slavery. Here, a female knight sworn to serve her princess. We dropped by a seedy bar on her birthday and gifted her with lipstick. When she took to the battlefield next, she was like a savage Amazon queen.
Jesus this is crazy! There was madness in every direction, at any hour. Time was nothing here. You could walk from one town to the next every day for a hundred years, then meet your brother who never aged a day. A monster friar ripped his belly apart with his bare hands, forcing us to gaze into the abyss within. I was fraying at the edges. Deep breathing was necessary.
The ride didn’t come to its dizzying end until it was too late, and even then it was abrupt. When it was over, I wasn’t sure I was the same person who bought the ticket. The story careened off into the mercury-colored sunset, leaving the taste of battery acid in my mouth. I shook my fists at the sky. How can I go back to playing anything else now, after that? I was broken, shaking and spent in the afterglow.
Strange memories of Ivalice bubble to the surface with every passing Final Fantasy game, but none could compare. I felt like I played it several lifetimes ago. Remembering the first time was like probing a toothache of the mind.
When the game was ported to the PSP, I felt fear clutch at my bones. Here they were again, the brothers Beoulve, come to take me down that path whether or not I wanted to. These poor maniacs, locked forever in their bitter fates. I already knew how it would end, but I keep coming back.
What a trip.