In the last chapter, we covered various plot points, including Hope’s vendetta against Snow, Lightning’s regret for shunning Serah, and Snow’s determination not to let down either of the Farron sisters. PSICOM and the Cavalry are both seeking out the l’Cie, and it seems likely that something’s going to go down in Palumpolum.
However, as I noted before, we’re going to derail the story for a bit and find out some more about Sazh and Vanille. Contrary to any of the other party members, these two have done a relatively decent job of evading pursuit. While PSICOM failed to follow Lightning or Hope into the Whitewood, they did at least track them through the latter part of the Vile Peaks, and they’ve apparently figured out that they’ll show in Palumpolum. It takes a bit longer for PSICOM to catch up with this pair.
While PSICOM do fly past Sazh and Vanille, they’re heading for Palumpolum, and don’t notice the l’Cie below. Sazh wonders if the others are in trouble, and Vanille charitably suggests that they run the other way. With no disagreement from Sazh, their destination is set.
It’s worth noting that when Sazh and Vanille are later taken aboard the flagship of the Sanctum, the other party members are eager to rescue them, and assault it directly.
As they set off into the Waterscape, Vanille notes that Sazh seemed almost to forget that she was still there. I might joke about the slight sidetrack in plot here, but it’s more of an excuse for Sazh to come into focus, so it serves its purpose. Moreover, things are about to kick off big-time, so it’s nice to have a break before the major setpieces coming in the next few chapters.
Functionally, though, this chapter is no different from most of the others. You start at point A, fight monsters along the route, occasionally deviating for chests down minor side routes, until you finally reach point B. It’s a very pretty chapter if you like greenery and blue skies, so it suits me just fine. The music theme for the area is also a lot more upbeat than any of the previous chapters, so it doesn’t feel like anything (aside from humorously-named blob monsters) is threatening our two l’Cie.
However, something’s looming beneath the surface. Vanille notes from the start that Sazh seems distracted, and she pauses to ask him about his family once they leave the forest. Finally we confirm that Sazh has a son, and used to be married. It’s then time for a flashback.
It’s Day 11 in Bodhum again, and Sazh is with his son Dajh watching the fireworks. Much as with Vanille in the present, Dajh is concerned that Sazh is unhappy, and he shares that he’s wishing for Sazh to “cheer up and be like [his] old self again!” It’s quite a nice and human moment, and underlines their bond neatly. Sazh makes his own wish, which he won’t share with Dajh, and then they’re interrupted by a mysterious lady who gives a brief smile to close out the flashback. I’ve been waiting for at least one identifiable antagonist to carry the first part of the story, and while it’s not outright stated in this cutscene, we do at least have an introduction to one of the two we’ll be dealing with in this section.
Having villains all over the place isn’t a necessity for telling a story, and in many ways it’s been fine spending more time on the l’Cie arguing amongst themselves, but in a game that’s focused on combat, I personally feel it’s important to set up villains at least a little in advance. Final Fantasy XV suffered from this too; with one major exception, practically all of the villains were either introduced briefly and then largely forgotten, or they flew in for their boss fight, exploded, and then mysteriously reappeared for an optional boss fight again later. It’s a little like Professional Wrestling – like it or hate it, they spend a fair amount of time on building up their fights and rivalries.
Speaking of antagonists, it’s time for the deadliest yet:
Being me, I of course ran straight into it and prepared myself for victory.
Oops. Actually, it’s not a particularly tough fight, but I needed to adjust Vanille’s health a tad, as this charming fellow liked to one-shot her with his lightning breath. For the rest, I just buffed up, debuffed the scalebeast, and proceeded to Stagger him. I certainly did a better job here than with the boss at the end of the chapter.
Did I mention that I really like the scenery in this chapter? Aside from the sweeping view across the landscape, and the noticeable curve to show we’re inside a globe, we can also see land overhead:
I’m fairly sure that it’s still only been stated in the Datalog what Cocoon actually looks like, so for anyone who enjoys scenery but doesn’t read the Datalog, this sky must be a little unnerving. I spent a brief period in this section snapping pics of the landscape from various angles, but I think I’ll avoid pasting them all here. It’s certainly more to my taste than the dour Vile Peaks, that’s for sure!
In any case, once the tourism ended, I headed on down the track to initiate the next cutscene. Vanille and Sazh have a weird little conversation where she asks if he can’t sleep because he can’t keep his eyes off her. Perhaps it’s a sense of humour thing, but Vanille’s little flirts towards Sazh mostly just come across as awkward to me. Sensibly, Sazh ignores her and opts to nap instead. Vanille briefly empathises with his plight and tries to encourage him, before napping as well.
When she wakes up, Sazh is gone! For about ten seconds. You catch up with him at the edge of the nearby pool, where he finally shares his big secret – Dajh is a l’Cie as well. And yes, it’s time for another flashback!
It’s Day 5, at Euride Gorge, a location we’ll hear plenty about but never visit. It’s an energy plant that also serves as a tourist destination, and Sazh informs Vanille that his initial plan had been to surprise Dajh with a chocobo chick. Unfortunately, while he was making the purchase, Dajh ran off into the plant alone.
We get a not-so-subtle shot of Vanille apparently praying over Dajh, before she runs off with someone we can reasonably assume is Fang. Sazh discovers that Dajh has been made a l’Cie by the local Sanctum fal’Cie, who had apparently been attacked by some unnamed Pulse l’Cie. Personally, I might have waited for someone better qualified, like one or more of the many armed guards, but the unnamed fal’Cie (Kujata) chose Dajh, and only Dajh, for the task.
It might be possible to argue that Kujata was in a rush to pick a defender, since it was under attack, but Dajh’s purpose turns out to be to “find” the Pulse l’Cie, so it doesn’t seem to actually be a direct defence measure. The Pulse l’Cie in question are also standing right next to Dajh while he’s incapacitated from being made a l’Cie, so it’s both obvious where they are (did Kujata predict the l’Cie would successfully escape?), and also something of a misstep to leave him vulnerable next to the enemy. Additionally, since the Sanctum fal’Cie are hoping to let the Pulse l’Cie destroy everything as part of their overarching scheme, I’m not too sure why they also want to give their troops a super-effective tracking method. They already have a fancy owl robot who’s quite adept at tracking their “errant l’Cie”, and at that stage in the story they only have two Pulse l’Cie to worry about.
I’m sure I’m misunderstanding everything here, and it can probably be handwaved by the fact that the Sanctum fal’Cie specifically want the Pulse l’Cie to fight and grow more powerful, so they’re happy to throw PSICOM at them constantly, but I still feel Dajh was a poor choice by Kujata. Maybe it’s just Kujata’s automatic programming. The ways of machine gods are mysterious to us anyway.
Our mysterious lady pops in again, and we have it confirmed that she’s with the Sanctum. They took Dajh away and tried to work out his Focus, with little success in the matter. We can reasonably assume that she was keeping an eye on them in Bodhum as well, and, once we confirm Dajh’s Focus in Chapter 8, that Dajh was there to continue his Pulse radar work.
Sazh explains that he joined the Purge train in the hope that he’d get an opportunity to kill the Pulse fal’Cie, thinking that it might have been Dajh’s Focus. I’m not entirely sure what his plan was, since Lightning was a lucky coincidence, but he’s been brave enough so far so I guess he’d have worked out something. Possibly he also knew something of NORA’s intentions for rebellion, though the information I’ve found doesn’t seem to support this.
I’m also amused to find that in the web novellas, Final Fantasy XIII Episode Zero –Promise-, Sazh sneaks out of Sanctum supervision by asking Jihl Nabaat (our PSICOM commander above) if he can get Dajh a toy or book from Palumpolum. Running a tight ship, she gives him permission, and he manages to evade his captors in the city and get transport to Bodhum. They were in the middle of the capital city, Eden – surely it would have been more practical to buy Dajh a toy or book from there!
Ah well, these are all (probably) minor quibbles. The point is we now know what’s driving Sazh, and also what’s draining his strength. He believes that finding and destroying Anima was Dajh’s Focus, and as they killed Anima already, Sazh supposes that Dajh will have turned to crystal. Alternatively, he ponders, Dajh was meant to find the Pulse l’Cie, who have presumably escaped, in which case chances are that Dajh will have become a Cie’th. It really is a rotten system.
In the next area, we’re introduced to a new (and very temporary) mechanic. You can use these mysterious orbs to switch the weather between sunshine and rain, which swaps which sort of enemies you’ll encounter. If you’re fed up of fighting those irksome scalebeasts, then it’s wise to switch the weather over to sunshine. However, that brings out some unpleasant flying monsters. They’re all easily within killing range, but the scalebeasts take me twice as long to kill, so I opted to swap them out where possible.
I was expecting to see this mechanic again in other zones further down the road, or when I got access to the world map and could return to the Sunleth Waterscape. Naturally, I was wrong on both counts. Much as with the Dreadnaught battle sequence in the Vile Peaks, the mechanic doesn’t show up anywhere on Pulse or in Eden, and nowhere from Chapters 1-10 can be revisited. It’s not like it was a world-changing mechanic, but I would have liked to see it explored further.
Down the path a little, we run into our regularly-scheduled boss fight. Sazh and Vanille attempt to sneak past the monsters while they’re sleeping, but get approximately one pace before waking them up. The boss fight has one of my favourite Sazh-related themes playing during it, which is also used in the sequel’s Sazh DLC, when you play Poker. As such, it automatically gains quite a few bonus points from me.
As for the fight itself, it’s an amusing little encounter with bosses wielding opposing elements. I fumbled my way through it in this playthrough, and frankly I think the world is better off without any video evidence of just how badly I handled it. As I flailed in attempting to buff up and kill one of the pair, I instead ended up spending the majority of the fight healing. However, the bosses have powerful AoE attacks that damage each other, and between that and Vanille’s Poison spell I managed to win despite my incompetence.
Having murdered most of the local wildlife, Sazh and Vanille step out of the Waterscape and behold the gloomy docks that will take them to Nautilus. There’s an enormous hole in the fence that allows them through, but you’re out of luck if you think you’ll get to explore, as the final cutscene of the chapter kicks in.
Vanille asks Sazh about whether he hates Pulse, which he confirms, before taking a step back and considering that perhaps he’s not so sure just how much he can trust the Sanctum’s stance on it.
I’m not sure quite how wrong the Sanctum is to distrust Pulse. After all, through the story we do confirm that Pulse tried to destroy Cocoon before, that it is trying to destroy Cocoon again now, and also that, unless you’re a band of l’Cie, you’re probably going to get murdered if you try living on the surface. Let’s ignore that people comfortably populate the surface in the sequel for now.
Anyhoo, Sazh then continues his logic trail on to who he really should blame for his life’s woes, which turns out to be the Pulse l’Cie who provoked Kujata into branding Dajh. If you hadn’t realised that Vanille is one of the Pulse l’Cie by this stage, then this cutscene should probably make it clear. I can’t remember at which stage I worked it out, but I hope I was paying enough attention. Vanille starts crying and runs out into the rain to hide it, while Sazh remains oblivious.
And that’s the end of Chapter Six. We have a crisis-ridden chapter incoming, but at least we have the promise of Nautilus afterwards, right? It’s a theme park, so that’s got to mean mini-games, maybe arena combat, and plenty of character interaction. But let’s save that disappointment for later, as our next stop is Palumpolum.