You go downtown and meet an old man who's stroking a pet rabbit-cat-type animal. Very cute. He wants you to give him a Sun Stone (太陽石) in exchange for a Crescent Stone and tells you to go to the south plains to find it.
I did. I died. I went too far down at first and got slaughtered by a group of owl bears and hyenas. That's the key to fighting in this game -- don't take on too many opponents at once. Anything can kill you if there's enough of them.
I tried again and found a camp. Talked to some people there who told me Jin-kun had wandered off and to tell the children if I ever saw him again. I also talk to Penelo, who told me the same thing and joined my party.
Jin-kun is out on the plains (in the lowest left-hand area, through a passage in the dunes to the right, if I recall correctly, which I probably don't), making a sun stone (太陽石). To make a sun stone, you need black water crystals (黒水晶), which you collect by walking up to the large shiny things on the plains, clicking to activate, and draining them of energy. Once you've got 100% power, you will be taken back to Jin-kun automatically.
After that, you go back to the old man. Just as you do so, Penelo appears and tells you that she's worried about all the fighting you do. She leaves your party for now.
The old man give you the Crescent Stone and tells you that you're looking for the fifth door and the second gate. You go to the top of the map to enter the Palace via the waterway. There are many rats and steels in here, and if there are enough of them, they will kill you. Kill some, avoid some, run away from some. It's not a great idea to take them all on, although I did level up for the third time here.
Once you get inside the palace, you open a casket and find a key, which opens the only door in the small room you're in. Once you're into the main part of the palace, you'll see a guard guarding some stairs. You need to go up these stairs, but he won't let you through. Talk to the big man nearby who will tell you how to shout at the guard by pressing the purple square. You shout and, as he approaches, make a big-ish arc around him and up the stairs. Once you're up, you'll be in the more impressive part of the palace. You'll also notice that the guards are arranged... yeah it's a sub-game, calling guards and dodging them. Luckily, kuroe had done this section already and told me exactly how to do it. Otherwise, I suspect it would be a rather frustrating experience. If the guards catch you, I guess you end up at the bottom of the stairs again.
So... it's something like this. You call the first set of guards, who come towards you. Run back down the passage and to the one they seemed to be guarding. You'll find a sigil on the ground that'll make you go '!!'. Activate it as usual. You'll be given an option whether to use the crescent stone or not. Use it (top option), and a blue flame will appear elsewhere on the map.
(In general, options are given with the top option being the one to do something and the bottom option being not to, if that helps. Buy/don't buy, talk/don't talk, push/don't push...)
You call the set of guards nearest the flame (get close, but not too close), then the next set of guards in the lower parallel passage, then the third set in the third passage along. The fourth passage is free, so run along it and up towards the flame. Don't stop -- the guards are now all behind you.
I think, here, you activate the flame, which opens a secret passage. Go through it.
Balflear and Fran are riding a flying motorbike. Balflear jumps off and poses. *love*
You're running up stairs now, if I remember correctly, though maybe that was slightly later in the game. Sooner or later, you'll get to a small room with a statue in it. I can't remember if you have to actually activate it or not, but eventually they'll be a cut scene in which the face opens up, giving you a Goddess Stone. Also, Balflear and Fran turn up.
Balflear is basically the 'gentleman thief' archetype. Although that might change. This being Final Fantasy, I don't really expect any character to be exactly who they say. I'm assuming that Vaan is probably someone completely different from what he seems.
My memory is really hazy at this point. But you are in a smaller room now, I think. There's a door. Find the secret switch (it makes Vaan go '!') and select the top option, push. The door is now opened.
Either before that or after that, there's a really cool cut scene where Fran and Balflear rescue you and take you on their flying motorbike over the Palace, which is being attacked.
One crash later, Balflear and Fran join your party, presumably only because you have the Goddess Stone. You now have to get out of the waterways, facing a variety of enemies - ghosts, gigantoads, steels and rats. It's a fairly linear path, and not much to it.
Fran and Balflear tell you that you can customise your gunbit. Not only can it target automatically, you can also set it so that it heals you when you fall below a certain percentage of hit points. They even give you a tutorial to show you how.
Just before the next bit, there's a save crystal. Afterwards, you fight some guards who are chasing a warrior-type and are led by Vayne(?). Once you defeat them, she'll introduce herself as Amaria. I scrabbled for the booklet at this point -- she looks just like Ashe. You might assume, that since she's running away from the authorities it wouldn't be unusual for her to give a fake name, but Balflear seems to know her. So what's going on?
Anyway, it's an easy fight, so I didn't even bother to go back to the save crystal. In the next room, there are a number of large Purins, which are quite powerful. However, it's really difficult to die, because the other people in your party keep healing you.
Amaria explains that she's a 'guest character' in your party, and then you move onwards. In the underground waterway, near where you started, you fight a huge Bushfire, that can poison and blind you. When it blinds you, you turn dark and you miss more often. The poison effect, however, happens in real time. You have to use an antidote very quickly. However, people are still healing you, so nothing bad can really happen. I died during this, which gave me the opportunity to temporarily name Balflear the leader and play him. He's cool.
Once again, it's very difficult for everyone to die. People keep healing you and there are always other party members once you're gone. Anyway, once you win, you'll be surrounded by palace guards who take you to the dungeons.
Cue the coolest cut scene so far.
There's a hospital room, sterile and white. It's quiet. You can hear a voice. "Nii-san?" (older brother). It belongs to Vaan, who's holding the same type of flowers that he found blooming in the desert earlier in the game. He stares at the patient in the room, who stares straight ahead.
The boy in the chair is Reks, and he fades into beams of light, leaving Vaan holding his ring. The flowers drop onto the chair.
Vaan wakes up and finds a save crystal.
Myself and kuroe have a had a small debate about what this means. kuroe says that quite obviously Reks was mentally scarred by his experience and lived the rest of his life in hospital room where he died. I say that's it's not at all clear if Reks died or not. Also, Vaan's face is not seen for the first part of the scene, when what he's wearing should make it obvious it's him. Is it really him...? As I've said before, I no longer expect any main FF character to be who they believe themselves to be.
Although I haven't played any further (kuroe and I are taking it in turns), I'm told that the next bit is really tough and involves a battery and a spoiler. Believe it or not, I don't really like spoilers! So I'll have to wait until tomorrow evening to see what that's all about.
From vanillafire and sharona1x2:
Tennis no Oujisama Live-action Trailer!
I can't wait to see it!
Official 'Fuyu no Semi' Site updated
Based on a story from Haru wo Daite ita, also known as 'Winter Cicada'. No changes to the seiyuu so far; they are Morikawa Toshiyuki, Miki Shin'ichirou and Morikubo Shoutarou.
In other news, I have a ticket for Bambino and Rock'n Jam II. I sadly failed to get a ticket for Metal Macbeth, possibly because I wasn't prepared to pay the higher seat prices. But I would consider it, if Loppi would just tell me where they were!