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"'Isn't Commander Lucil amazing? Such wisdom!' Elma creams herself, easily impressed. But seriously, if Lucil is basically telling people not to be like that dickcheese Yaibal, then I guess I'm down with that. She doesn't need to be all pretentious about it, though. 'I learned it all from my troops,' Lucil deflects the praise. Which I interpret to mean, 'I've learned how NOT to be from that raggedy band of losers.'"
     -Jeanne, Final Fantasy X-2 Part 8

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Legend of Dragoon : Part 10
By Kelly
Posted 08.19.05
Pg. 1 : 2 : 3
So, here we are at the next stop on the "games Kelly hasn't recapped for a long-ass time" tour where we pay a little visit to the Black Castle and see how many times I can get lost on a dotted-line world map. As we'll soon find out, I could probably get lost in my own bedroom if A. Our master bedroom wasn't a little small, and B. Our bed didn't take up most of the available space. That's more information about AG's Love Shack than you probably ever wanted to know, but there it is.

We start our adventures back in the war-torn basement where Red Cloud and the gang had holed up after the tragic death of Sarge to Lucius' Dragon Buster blade. Now, before in my recaps, I had said that Red Cloud's posse had ended up in Bale after the sinus-lockingly tragic demise of Red Cloud's one true love friend, but it turns out we were in Seles the whole time. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the fact that no rabid froth-at-the-mouth Legend of Dragoon fan emailed me to correct the errors of my ways. Well done, all three of you hardcore LoD fans out there. You can have a cookie on me.

So now we have to get to the Black Castle, preferably sometime before, say, the time the world's going to end. And yet, I'm supposed to be the navigator on this little pleasure jaunt. Feeling absurdly logical, and somewhat hopeful, I pick the blocky polygon structure that most closely resembles a castle in the color required, then map out my way to get there. Over the carnage and through the forest I go, whistling all the while. I'm also trying desperately to get the frickin' "Addition" battle system back down to something approaching competency. I end up back at the Lair of the Dragon, only to say to myself, "Self, I think you've fucked this up. Reset and start over." Lather, rinse, repeat. Cue screaming, and mad searching online for a walkthrough that will tell me where the stupid goddamned Black Castle is on the map and what direction I have to take from Seles to get there. Most of them say "Just head to the Black Castle straight from Seles." Gee, you think so? While my internal compass is irreparably broken, leading me into the horrors of leech ass-rape and goblin pee-fetishes in FFXI while my more nimbly-footed comrade barely escaped with his life, I think I can figure out that if we leave Seles, we should somehow end up at the goddamed Black Castle when we're done. Finally, I find a guide that tells me that I should be heading southwest from Seles, to a brown, wattle-and-daub-looking tower thingy not far from the Happy Little Forest of old. The sign outside says it's the Black Castle, so I guess I'm just going to have to take the game's word for it. The black-looking not-castle I was heading for earlier was the Shrine of Shirley, for those of you that care. As you may recall, the Shrine of Shirley is white. But it looks like a black castle structure on the map, I swear! Okay, stop looking at me like that. A goblin pee'd on my pathetic, leech-drained corpse earlier. What else do you people want?

Once inside this dubious excuse for a Black Castle, Red Cloud encounters precious little resistance from the guards wandering aimlessly up and down the dramatically pitched entrance route. He and his posse just waltz on in there, slick as you please without even having to show so much as a driver's license when they stop off at the local pub for a cold one before going on. Chocolate covered Jesus on a crutch, if I'd known it was going to be this easy to infiltrate His Majesty His Grace His Imperial Highness His Lordship the Emperor Doel's Supa-Secret Lair, I would've rolled on up in here ages ago and saved myself some time.

But then again, things are never quite that easy, are they? See, we still have to follow the pretense that someone in the Black Castle is going to get their knickers in a twist if Red Cloud and the others come sailing in without a care in the world. My NotBrady!Strat Guide tells me that I should take the "secret" path on the far side of the castle so I can take yet another secret path later on. In this case "secret" means "path that's on the far right of the screen with a specially positioned spotlight on it, you can't miss it." Thanks, game designers. You'll try to drive me to Bedlam for a goddamned chest of armor that I can see but not get to, but when it comes to a secret path, well you just can't be bothered to keep it a secret at all. Remind me to never tell you about that cute guy I've got the hots for in Math class.

Not-So-Secret Secret Path leads Red Cloud and the others to a pathetic looking jumble of shanties. This is where the head-beating starts and where I, predictably, start drinking. Everyone living in Sadsad Shantytown is a member of the Noble Poor, that most virtuous of races in all the land. They prattle on and on about the war, how horrible it is, their own meager lot in life and how sad it all is, blahblahblahmustn'tgrumbleblah. And yes, while I'm as peace-loving as any other girl, there's just something about the way the leaden words are hitting me upside my head with a slightly too-earnest thud that makes me less inclined to go out and sing protest songs and more inclined to curse, roll my eyes, and rant about the goddamned hippies and their goddamned Frisbees in my yard. "Make love, not war" is all well and good, kiddies, but if I catch you long-hairs wallowing in my begonias, I'm getting out the water hose.

The whole purpose of paying this visit to Sadsad Shantytown is to find the leader of the "New Serdio Party" who can get us inside the Black Castle via a secret path. First of all, I'd really like to know why we're bothering with all this, since it seems to me the guards in the castle are so laid back they'd let Attila the Hun and his army stop off for a little R&R before burning, looting, and pillaging their way across the wilds of Serido. Two, if the leader's "secret" path is anything like the "secret" path I took to get here, why the hell don't we just look for the most glaringly obvious path on the map and take our chances? Before that, though, why don't we just talk to this person standing off to one side at the bottom of the screen and see what he has to say just for the look of the thing. What do you say?

All your base are belong to Doel.

Well, what do you know! This totally randomly placed and not at all obvious person has ?? for a name, which we all know is game designer code for "You've finally found the person you were supposed to find ten damned minutes ago, dumbass. Way to go." ?? is a friendly sort of lad, and he wants to know all about Red Cloud and Albert, who stand before him with barely-concealed impatience to get their feet on that ever-so-secret path to the castle. ??, however, demands that they answer him these questions three before they can go on, so Red Cloud sucks it up and plays along.

Question #1 seems simple enough, a query on who Red Cloud would like to win the ongoing Serdian War. Now you would think that such a simple, straightforward question would have a simple, straightforward answer. Not so. If Red Cloud does the obvious thing here and chooses a side, ?? will not let him in to the New Serdio Party. This will make Red Cloud very sad, and he will spend a large portion of his time spamming the New Serdio Party's message boards with pictures of Paris Hilton's vagina to make them see the errors of their ways and let him in. He may also send pathetic, apologetic messages to ??'s buddies !! and ## in an attempt to win sympathy and get that evil bitchmod ?? to relent. What a pity Red Cloud's dad is already dead, or I'm sure that he'd be in on the fun, too. Fortunately, with my magical super powers of having played this game a few times before I know that Red Cloud cannot choose sides when answering the question and must instead give the most pacifist, long-winded reply available to him from the list of the three choices. Whew. Crisis and message board wank averted -- for now.

Question #2 deals with Red Cloud's opinion on what the helpless kiddies like ?? should do while the nasty war rages outside their doors. Now, for those of you who read my rather personality-revealing second Silent Hill recap, you already know that my answer is going to be "go outside and play, preferably in No Man's Land." However, Red Cloud is not the evil child-hating monster that I am, and besides, I don't get that option as an answer, dammit. Red Cloud tells the kidlets to keep their asses at home, winning approval points from ??, the little nancy boy.

Question #3 veers off into philosophical territory. ?? wants to know why people go to war. You can see poor Red Cloud damned near bust a gasket as his little fighter brain tries to process the big thoughts needed to give the correct response to this question, but he gets there in the end with a little help from the available options. Only one of them is wussy enough to satisfy ?? and though Red Cloud clearly sucks ass at pattern recognition, I, however, am not quite as bad at it. Wussy answer, coming up! ?? is all smiles and happiness, and just like that, Red Cloud and the others are bona fide members of the New Serdio Party. Instead of a secret handshake, Red Cloud and the others find out that our little inquisitor wannabe is named Popo. After introductions are made, Popo thinks he recognizes the gent in the green cape standing off to Red Cloud's right. Could it be? It is! Popo just about poo-poos his pull-ups when he finally realizes that King Albert is a member of Red Cloud's little traveling party. Apparently, everyone in Sadsad Shantytown has lived in hope for the day that good King Albert would come in on his white horse and rescue everyone toiling in the fearsome shadow of the Black Castle. Really? I wonder what they would've done if King Bohunk had gotten his noble ass PWNED in Hellena Prison, then? I'm thinking some kind of sad musical number would've come into play, or maybe a melancholy show tune sung by Popo under the light of a grimy-yet-honest lamp as he stared out at the sliver of moon visible through the rotting remains of his home. Just a hunch.

But Popo is both beggar and chooser in this little farce, and he expresses his doubts that Kingy and the rest of Red Cloud's gang can really go into the Black Castle and liberate the place. Kid, have you been outside lately? Have you even looked at the laissez-faire method of guarding practiced in this joint? I'm thinking Red Cloud could stroll up with a goddamned Whiffle Bat and lay half the garrison's troops to waste before breaking a sweat. Kingy makes a rousing speech about power, but he's got to bring some kind of card-playing analogy into it, and poor Popo gets lost. Oh, save it for Texas Hold 'em night back at the ranch Kingy, and let's get a move on.

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