To The Great Wizard's Tower
Thanks to Tiffon, we have a lead that there may be another Dragonheart in Leith Torles's Tower, which can be accessed from Nivacolina. But we haven't visited Nivacolina yet, so there's no way for us to get there. So it's time to hunt around for a Carrier Mission that will allow us to get up north.
When we take any Carrier Mission that leaves from Longshank heading north, we'll find Francis on the road. Apparently, he's chasing down a carrier and demands information from Ventus. It seems this guy named Jack was supposed to deliver a package for Lord Galeos, but instead decided to keep the package for himself. Ventus tells Francis that it's the Guild's duty to deal with these kinds of things, and instead of chasing him around himself, Francis should report the incident to the Guild. Franics says that, rather, he's under orders from Galeos to murder the carrier when he's found. Ventus freaks out and tells Francis to wait for a bit.
Ventus runs back to the Longshank guild after confirming the name of the delinquent carrier and reports the incident. We're then tasked with the duty of a Carrier Hunt, when Carriers track down problematic guild members to ensure justice and order. So the Carriers kind of function like their own in-house Knighthood, which is kind of cool, but also seems like it could easily lead to corruption. Like, you know, the actual Knighthood. But since we're telling Francis not to kill anyone and Ventus is the one taking on the task, I'd say it's probably not that corrupt yet.
There's not much to the actual 'adventure' here -- we just walk up the road to the north a bit and then we end up running into Jack.
Francis runs straight up to Jack and starts threatening him. Jack quickly apologizes and says he only stole the package to help take care of his family. His mother is sick and his children are hungry. Francis will hear nothing of it and accuses him of lying, saying that he stole the package because he's spending the money on gambling or women (by which I am assuming he means prostitution...?) Then he says that the world would be better off if he just killed him immediately, getting right up in the poor guy's face.
Ventus interrupts and tries to calm everyone down. Ventus talks to Jack reasonably and asks if it's true that he got into gambling or something. Jack ashamedly admits that he did lose money on gambling and didn't know what else to do. Ventus scolds him and tells him the only gambling carriers are allowed to do is carrying packages (lol). Ventus asks Francis after he's calmed down if he truly intends to kill the man, and Francis says he'd rather not dirty his sword on the likes of him.
So Ventus is able to escort Jack safely back to the Guild where he will be dealt with appropriately. The rest of the adventure is just the regular Carrier Mission.
It's technically possible to never see this scene if you never leave Longshank heading north. But since Longshank is one of the first places you ever go to and is a central point between the southern areas and northern areas, it's fairly unlikely you'd skip it on accident if you were doing a normal amount of Carrier Missions. If you were just rushing through the story as easily as possible, though, you might never see this and thus never be able to recruit Francis.
Oh, yeah, in normal SaGa style, Francis is now permanently a member of our party with no additional explanation. If you don't remember him from before, he's Basil Galeos's most loyal pawn and bodyguard to Henri. He played a more important role in Laura's Scenario. While Galeos ended up being corrupted with lust for world domination and ultimate power, Francis was none the wiser and simply blindly followed orders. He may be a harsh guy, but he's not necessarily evil.
When we reach Nivacolina, there's still no new adventure in the inn. We drop off our package at the Guild and head into the inn to ask around for information. We find Mordeus who approaches us by saying, "Leith Torles's Tower is impregnable." Which is a normal greeting around these parts.
Ventus asks if he knows the Tower well, and Mordeus talks about wanting to die. Of all people to get information from, we had to end up with the weirdo...
But somehow this means Mordeus is now a party member, and we can go to the Tower now!
Leith Torles's Tower plays out exactly the same as when we encounter it as a subadventure, but instead of a treasure chest being sealed in the base of the tower, it's a Dragonheart. And Ventus says that the "rumor" that Leith was crystallizing (wow, I did not realize that word had two L's) dragons' hearts was true. Even though, as the player, we've never heard this rumor! So is that what Dragonhearts are...? Crystalized hearts of dragons...? I mean, the name fits, at least...
As we adventure through everywhere, I've been collecting data for The Strelitzia Inn, particularly the English names of monsters and their attacks. So many monsters have 'rare' attacks that they actually are guaranteed not to use until the battle has gone on for a while, and even then, it's quite unlikely you'll actually see them. So it takes forever to try to get them to do the attacks. I typically have been saving the game state when a monster with incomplete data in my database shows up, then uncapping the game's framerate and spamming a harmless Magic Art over and over and hoping the thing finally does the rare art before killing the entire party slowly.
So much fun! But yeah, in this case, green (and only green!) Treasure Slimes can do an attacked called "Cutting Board" that I'd never seen before. The only reason I even know these exist is because I had a list of the monsters' arts from the Japanese guidebook, but of course, that doesn't tell me what the names were translated to.
When we reach the top of the tower, we're presented with the five seals like before, and we have to break three of them in order to release the seal on the bottom floor that's guarding the Dragonheart.
Before attempting to dispel the seal, though, Ventus wonders if Kalandorn is just waiting for him to break the seal so he can take the Dragonheart for himself. It wouldn't be the first time that Kalandorn used Ventus's accomplishments to nab himself a Dragonheart more easily. Tiffon mocks him, attributing his hesitation to cowardice, making Ventus go on the defensive and stop doubting his actions and continue to break the seal.
Depending on which three seals we tackle, we'll fight three different bosses here. Of course, we go for the Gold Dragon like always, because it has such a great Glimmer Rate and we can try to Glimmer some nice Weapon Arts from it.
And indeed we do! Tiffon even manages to Glimmer both Arrow Rain and Parashots in the same round of combat! We get a few other nice arts like Acupuncture before dealing the final LP damage to the dragon, too. After that, I take some time learning the English names of the other bosses' rare arts.
One of the bosses is actually a monster we haven't fought before yet at all. Because we haven't defeated it, we can't even see its name. The Japanese name is "Black Ogre" and I kinda feel like that's not the name will have in English. It also took forever for it to do this stupid Megaton attack, which was really flashy when it finally happened.
I ended up defeating that as one of my other bosses so that we can get its name in the dictionary, so next time I come here, I'll be able to see what it's called. You know, when I continue playing more stories past the seventh...
And I think I just went with the Sabretiger or something for the third one. The other bosses are not too difficult. But this Ogre guy is pretty rough, and the Gold Elder Dragon is no pushover, either.
We break the seal and head to the bottom of the tower, where the Dragonheart is still resting for us to take. But as soon as we pick it up, we're mobbed by a gang of random NPC portraits!
The screen goes black and we're taken to the Growth Panel development screen.
In the tower, though, we did manage to pick up two L4 magic tablets! I always have great luck with tablets and treasures and stuff here, it seems. We got Forest Philosopher Guarneri's Tablet, which is the L4 Wood Tablet, and Black Fire Artist Amati's Tablet, which is the L4 Fire Tablet. The Fire Tablet goes to Daddy and Francis gets the Wood Tablet.
Despite his knight theme and Magic Making of 1, Francis actually has a Wood Making of 3, the highest available of all characters in Ventus's scenario. Since we're going to be doing lots and lots of Carrier Missions later, everyone is going to have a lot of opportunity to learn magic, so everyone's going to get built as at least a hybrid mage type character. So we're picking up Thunderbringer for Francis already :)
When we come to, instead of being in town, we find ourselves locked in a prison cell. With both humans and monsters working together, it seems we've been captured by the Ensanguined League. How many RPGs have a "you're trapped in a cell, how do you get out?" segment? Like, I can already think of four or five effortlessly. Why is this so common?
Anyway, we're presented with two options: to make a ruckus or to fake an illness. Making a commotion will prompt Ventus to just start shouting, "Let us out!" repeatedly, while feigning illness will cause Ventus to overdramatically and loudly start complaining about his stomach and his 'chronic illness relapse.'
When we make a ruckus, the guard (a Goblin) will leave his post and yell at us. When we fake sick, he'll ignore us. Neither work, and we're presented with the same options again. If we do either a second time, we'll get a slightly different version (the words used by Ventus and the Goblin guard will be different).
Whether we do both or do one of them twice, after two failed attempts, a third option appears so we can choose to "be at a loss."
If we choose to be at a loss, Ventus will sit down and start crying about how he lost Dragonheart and everything (he even says literally "boo hoo" lol). But while he's whining, he happens to notice a vent. Vent notices a vent. Teehee. And then we are able to climb out of it, which takes us to an air duct portion of the map with scattered entryways back into the main chambers.
I think this is the 'traditional' way to solve this, as it's the most obvious, and it's what I always had done before. But this time, I decided to play around and actually discovered there's another way to get out of the cell! And I had never known about it or heard about it before.
Instead of being at a loss, we can keep trying the other options. Once we've caused a commotion enough times, the guard will get so angry that he'll open the cell so he can come in and beat us up. Of course, it's just a wimpy little Goblin (well, despite being that in the story scene, the battle is against two Goblin Captains... still easy), so all we have to do is win the battle and we can escape!
So this is how I ended up escaping this time. I saved the state and then went back and loaded the game save from after Leith Torles's Tower to screencap the air duct part (once you discover it, you can't make noise or fake sickness again, so I wasn't able to see it the first time). We're able to freely explore the main halls of the Ensanguined League's base, gathering up lots of yummy treasures. I actually don't know what happens if you go back to the guard's post after sneaking through the ducts. Will he be there and try to fight you then...? Also I'm not sure if there are any treasures up in the ducts. I don't think there are, but...
Eventually we reach the stairs to take us out, but Ventus decides to go back for the Dragonheart. Tiffon tells him it's too dangerous and we just have to leave this one behind; this may be our only chance to escape. But Ventus is set on sticking it to Kalandorn. It really seems like that's the only reason he wants the Dragonhearts -- to spite Kalandorn lol.
So depsite Tiffon's warning, we head deeper into the hideout. Once we leave the floor with the cells, more guards have been alerted to our presence, and we run into lots more Goblins to battle. There are also some random Undead in here. I mean, it's a vampire's club, after all.
This place isn't too big so it isn't too long before we find the people who mugged us and took the Dragonheart earlier. They seem to be performing some kind of weird ritual with it. They refer to the "Blue Lazulia" and the "Red Rosalia," which is the only place in the game where the names of the two moons of this world are actually referenced.
The crystallized Dragonheart that we had released from Leith Torles's Tower turns into a liquid by the power of their ritual, and is placed into a wine bottle. So that must have been what the other Dragonheart was that Briza was carrying. Tiffon says it must be because Kalandorn can't use the Dragonheart when it's in its solid state. I have no idea why she would know that. In fact, she knows so much stuff about Dragonheart...
Ventus rushes in and grabs the Dragonheart bottle and rushes back out. He went fast enough the mob didn't even have time to react. He hands the bottle over to Tiffon and asks her to protect it. Did you not learn your lesson from the whole Vearst-and-Dagul-Bos thing, Vent? Carry your stuff yourself...
We run from the room, but now the place is even more guarded and everyone is looking for us, so we have no choice but to end up running to a balcony at the top of the hideout.
Kalandorn interrupts us at the last moment, though. But we're not that high up and Ventus is sure we can jump from this height. He brags to Kalandorn about being the one to get away with Dragonheart this time, but when he goes to jump from the balcony, he notices Tiffon isn't budging.
Kalandorn commands for Tiffon to bring him the Dragonheart, and she obeys. Ventus (and me, the first time I saw this XD) is completely baffled!
Ventus tries to ask her what her motive is for helping the enemy, but all she can do is apologize and say that she is scared. And that's when everything makes sense to Ventus -- this whole journey has really been Tiffon's doing. She's been working for Kalandorn all along, helping him find all the Dragonhearts, knowing that Ventus was the perfect naïve little pawn to do her bidding and fighting to make sure they tracked them all down.
This also explains Tiffon's Undead Phobia panel. Kalandorn didn't turn Tiffon into a vampire herself because he needed her to be able to work for him during the day. Instead, he killed Briza in front of her and instilled her with fear, using that fear to control her. I don't know if there's also some kind of vampire magic involved or something, but Tiffon is completely devoted to Kalandorn despite not wanting to be. That's a pretty powerful phobia.
This is also when Ventus realizes that Tiffon is in fact Elle, Briza's girlfriend from Team Lafarle. Which explains why she knew about Team Lafarle without Ventus telling her about it. That part wasn't Kalandorn.
Kalandorn reveals that Ventus and he are actually on the same side. Kalandorn was collecting the Dragonhearts to deliver to the Knights of the Round Table (remember those dudes from Mythe's final adventure?), who are some kind of rulers of the Undead who exist between the planes of living and dead. Or something. When he was collecting one from Briza, he had bit him and turned him into a vampire to use him as part of his legion. He decided to test him out first by telling him to kill Elle, but Briza instead refused and killed himself.
It was then that Kalandorn changed his entire plan. Briza's sacrifice had inspired him, and Kalandorn no longer wanted to be enslaved to the Knights of the Round Table. Now, instead, he wanted to defeat them. And the power of the Dragonheart would make defeating them easy, which is why they were having Kaladorn collect them in the first place. They didn't want something that dangerous out in the world. But now Kalandorn had most of the Dragonheart collection, and realized he could use them to defeat the Knights instead of serve them. He used fear to control Tiffon and eventually led her to meet Ventus and use him to help collect the reamining Dragonhearts.
Kalandorn says, though, that in order to use the power of the Dragonheart to defeat the Round Table, he'll need Ventus's help. He can't do it alone. Instead of manipulation, now he's just asking outright.
Ventus has no idea what to make of all of this. It's pretty confusing as the player, too, honestly. Is Kalandorn like... a once-evil guy doing a not-so-evil thing in a sort of evil-ish way...? It's hard to tell what side we should even be on at this point. Who should we believe? What do we do next? Ventus just wanted to steal some Dragonhearts and beat up Kalandorn so he could "catch up" to Briza. But now everything is way more complicated than that...
Somehow the Round Table finds out about Kalandorn's plot against them or something. Maybe they heard him talking? There is a battle scene, and the voiced lines don't have subtitles in the battle scenes, and I couldn't understand what they were saying, really. So I don't know exactly what was said here, but we hear the voice of the Round Table coming from nowhere and then Kalandorn gets teleported away.
Ventus runs off in his confusion and his anger, leaving Tiffon behind. And this makes the second and only time in the entire game that we ever actually lose a party member.
Before being teleported away, though, Kalandorn tells Ventus to go to Dragon's Haven. And that's the only lead we have now...
I have to say, this is quite a big plot twist for this game. The other stories are vague and subtle, but this is fairly concrete and complex. I forgot just how interesting Ventus's story was compared to the other stories in the game. The poor translation and lack of lines in the script overall make it a little hard to understand, but having to sit and write about it makes me have to think it over and puzzle out the parts that are ambiguous or confusing at first, and it really makes the story make so much more sense and it's a lot more engaging. I'm really, really enjoying it this time around!
I think the whole "Tiffon is working for Kalandorn" thing was handled so well. Usually this stuff is super obvious (like everyone but me thinks with Galeos hahaha) but honestly it's really easy to see Tiffon as being on Ventus's side from the beginning and having no relation to Kalandorn. Even when she is shown to know random stuff about Ventus and Dragonheart and stuff like that, this can also be explained by the reveal that she knew Briza and was a part of Team Lafarle. Revealing that she was working for Kalandorn all along is definitely unexpected, but also foreshadowed quite a bit! When you really think about it, there's no reason that Briza would know any more about Dragonheart than Ventus does, so it doesn't make too much sense that Tiffon would know all this stuff about it simply from traveling with him. Tiffon also seems to always find all the leads and point Ventus toward where to go next, without it ever looking like she knows what's going on. It's really cool.
I really appreciate the way it was handled a lot. For as low-content as this story is, I think this was some really great writing. If only all the stories had the finesse this one has put into their little bits of script... I like to believe the entire game could have been like this (with an unlockable eight quest starring Iskandar) if the game hadn't been rushed and had a bunch of content cut or never developed in the first place.
So, next time, we'll head off to Dragon's Haven to see if we can't figure out exactly what is going on. Maybe the Elder Dragons will have some information for us...