I confess that at this point in the game, the narrative starts to get a little disjointed. I know that Lynx wants to get to the Dead Sea because Harle has made some cryptic remarks about that being where he’ll find the answers he seeks, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why before we can go there we have to stop off in Marbule and sleep in an abandoned house.
No kidding, in order to advance the plot now, we have to go to this island that’s apparently abandoned and haunted, and sleep in one of the houses there on the advice of one of the local explorers.
Y’know, I don’t remember ever having this kind of trouble advancing the plot when I was playing through Final Fantasy VII.
Anyhow, in the middle of the night while Lynx and friends are crashing in the ghost town, Lynx is awoken by mysterious singing, which is coming from a mermaid who’s just kind of hanging out being all sad and mermaid-y. She’s startled by Lynx and swims away, and the next morning everyone figures that maybe she went to the S.S. Zelbess, a cruise ship where most of the demi-humans from Marbule now work.
This leads into our second run in with Fargo, the man who was the leader of the pirates back in Another World. Suffice it to say that whenever Fargo is involved in the goings on of the plot, it feels like a bunch of filler; the sequence revolving around the party getting stuck on the Zelbess after Fargo cheats them out of their boat is pretty tedious in a lot of ways, and it doesn’t even resolve the Marbule subplot at this point in the story. We get a lot of soap opera antics where it’s revealed that Nikki, a glam rock star who has a contract to perform regularly on the Zelbess is also the son of Fargo and the sister of that mermaid that Lynx spotted in Marbule (apparently, Nikki represents the last best hope for reconciliation between humans and demi-humans, and he’s the only person with the potential to successfully sing the Song of Marbule, which will apparently exorcize all the ghost monsters). There’s a bit in there where the party fights the Sage of Marbule, who’s essentially an almighty janitor (he fights with a pushbroom, and because he’s white innate, he hits hard against Lynx), but it’s kind of anticlimactic since the whole subplot comes to an abrupt halt after Nikki explains the plan to everyone, because the next step is getting Fargo to move his ship close to Marbule for the show.
Fortunately, the Sage gave Lynx a fiddler crab, which is what we needed to make our way into the Dead Sea.
As you can probably guess, I spent a good hour wandering around the Zelbess after it was time to leave because the only indication we get that we should move on is one throwaway hint from an NPC in Nikki’s dressing room (which is in the most out of the way place of the entire location) who says the Sage mentioned taking the fiddler crab to the Dead Sea before he took off.
There are some things about old JRPGs that are really nostalgic, but having to hunt for a single bit of NPC chatter that points me towards my next objective (when all of the story up to this point has been suggesting a different objective) is not one of them.
Recruited Party Members
Janice – This segment of the game carries with it a subtle emphasis that none of the local humans really trust Lynx, so most of his help comes from demi-humans whom he persuades to help him out. Janice is one such demi-human, though she’s more or less completely oblivious to larger politics in El Nido, seeing as she’s a monster trainer who works in the arena in the depths of the Zelbess. In order to get her to join you, you have to win three rounds against her trained monsters using your own stable; what monsters you have available to fight depends on what monsters Sprigg has learned to copy, so recruiting Janice at this point can be very easy or very difficult depending on how diligent you’ve been about making sure Sprigg learns new forms (I only regret that once Janice has been successfully recruited, you can’t do anymore monster fighting at the arena, because it’s kind of fun). As a party member, Janice’s most notable characteristic is her weapon of choice: a carrot.
Sneff – Sneff plays a minor role in the Zelbess episode by turning the party into cats so that they can sneak around the ship and discover how Fargo cheats in his casino. He’s a rather sad character who has a bit of a gambling problem and has accumulated a large debt to Fargo, although he’s eked out a decent life as a stage performer with a small group of friends whom he mentors. Once Fargo’s dishonest tactics are uncovered, Sneff is able to win enough money from the casino to pay off his debt, and in gratitude, he offers to travel with the party whenever they need him.
Irenes – As the soap opera unfolds aboard the Zelbess, we learn that Fargo used to be married to a mermaid, whom he named his ship after. She died tragically many years ago, and her death led to the estrangement of Fargo and her sister Irenes. Because Irenes has never given up on saving Marbule in Home World, she pesters Fargo all the time, and with Nikki preparing to sing the big important song that will save the island, she decides to accompany Lynx. Inexplicably, she has a pseudo-German accent and walks on dry land through jet bubble propulsion. No, I don’t know where the bubbles come from.