Have I mentioned that I love FFXIII’s soundtrack? No? Well then, let it be stated now. And furthermore, the Nautilus theme is one of my favourites. It’s playful, grand, and reflective, and a nice contrast to the darker or more action-packed areas we’ve been through up until now.
As much as the music might be on point, though, the background voice-acting is pretty pants. I don’t know quite what was going on behind the scenes, but whenever any bystanders get voiced in FFXIII, it’s usually very low quality. It’s like the main actors were told to do all the regular citizens, and struggled to conceal their voices, so they just did some sort of pantomime impression instead. Actually, I tell you what it’s like – it’s the sort of quality voice-acting that you can expect from me.
So if we try to ignore the strange denizens of Nautilus, and lose ourselves in the magical atmosphere conjured by its theme, what can we expect? Shops, games, and chocobos? Well, I can promise you one of those (technically two, but the shops are still only accessed via the save points). And you won’t be doing any racing either.
Nautilus is a nice break from the norm. There’s no fighting, you’re surrounded by people, and you can eavesdrop on a bunch of conversations. What it isn’t, however, is interactive. There are plenty of terminals scattered around Nautilus, but you can’t use any of them, and I didn’t count a single NPC who could be directly spoken to, so you’re practically a ghost wandering the halls.
But at least it’s a break!
We last left Sazh and Vanille as they waited for a boat to take them to Nautilus, and Vanille was beginning to feel the strain of her guilt in causing Dajh to be branded. While Sazh seems to be oddly cheerful, Vanille is still morose. Sazh takes some small note of it, but he’s more involved in the theme park atmosphere, and he decides he wants to watch the Eidolons on Parade.
Shortly into their visit, the news appears on some of the screens, announcing the situation in Palumpolum, and showing the l’Cie under attack from PSICOM. Rather than having sensible footage, we instead get cutscene clips, so apparently there were some very talented cameramen flying drones around the l’Cie while the battle was going on.
Vanille spots Fang in the footage, while Sazh doesn’t seem to care at all. The nearby citizens idly remark that any hostages should be shot along with the l’Cie, and carry on with their business. I thought the very mention of Pulse was supposed to send the populace into a panic, but this news generates a mild response at best.
Sazh convinces Vanille to follow him to the parade instead, and you can have another wander around the lobby. If you peek over one walkway, you can catch a glimpse of a land lost in time.
The above screenshot might as well be a gif, because that’s how much the people down there move. It’s a bit like that frozen town in FFV.
So the two l’Cie head on to the Parade. Sazh is still eager to bully Vanille into being cheerful, while Vanille resolves to put on a brave face. After all the flashbacks to give us insight into the main characters, we now get a fancy light show to fill us in on some world history, albeit something of a propaganda piece. The Eidolons that populate the parade represent the various different fal’Cie, but bear more resemblance to their previous summon forms from older Final Fantasy games, instead of the machine gods of FFXIII.
Just look at Carbuncle! Speaking of whom, this show-version of Carbuncle appears from a magic CD that floats down into Vanille’s hands. If I’d caught a CD and that popped out, I’d be frankly terrified.
As for the Parade, it tells the story of the War of Transgression, in which the forces of Pulse attacked Cocoon. This war was what resulted in the scar in Cocoon’s shell, and much of the resulting junk ended up at the Vile Peaks. Two l’Cie battle in the skies, and then the Pulse one transforms into Ragnarok. This retelling hits at Vanille, who silently wonders if their deaths might not have brought back peace.
After the show, Sazh is eager to head on to the next attraction. Vanille agrees to follow along, while telling herself just to keep on smiling. I quite like this little exchange, because it caught me out a bit when I replayed it. Sazh is so carefree that it didn’t make much sense to me at first – shouldn’t he be at least a little worried by the stuff that’s going on? He seemed to be oblivious to everything all of a sudden, and that didn’t sit well with me.
And then I thought it through, and remembered that he’s doing exactly the same as Vanille. By this point in the story, he’s made his mind up to turn himself in to PSICOM and meet whatever fate is coming. He’d always wanted to come to Nautilus with Dajh, but that life was stolen from him. So when Sazh goes around the park being oddly cheerful, it’s because he’s making the most of his last chance for happiness, as he knows that handing himself in will only result in his death.
You can explore a little bit – you’ve got the entrance lobby, the small shopping area, and the park. It’s not much, and you can’t interact with anything. There aren’t any mini-games or otherwise to pass the time. The closest to that is a brief and somewhat odd game of hide-and-seek with the chocobo chick in the park. For the rest, it’s just sight-seeing.
It’s nice, but probably not enough to satisfy me, and you lose access to it all soon enough. There’s no way to return to any of the locations from the beginning of the game right through to the end of Chapter 10, so much as I might have wanted to become attached to Nautilus, that wasn’t to be. It’s a very short chapter in any case, especially after the sprawling city of Palumpolum.
Sazh and Vanille head on into the park, which holds importance for both of them. For Sazh, it was a place he’d promised to bring Dajh, who wanted to see the chocobos. As for Vanille, it’s a reminder of Gran Pulse, though the chocobos look somewhat different. They play with the chocobo chick for a bit, at which point Sazh finally reveals to Vanille that he intends to turn himself in.
Vanille rejects this plan, and nearly gives her own secret away. Believing, correctly, that Sazh will be drawn to have revenge on the l’Cie who inadvertently got his son caught up in this business, she tells him she knows who it was. Just before she can confess (or come up with a plausible lie), they are interrupted by gunfire. PSICOM has found them at last, and it’s time to return to the usual combat corridors.
Or corridor, should I say. This chapter’s combat area is one zig-zagging path up to the Fiendlord’s Keep. It’s another lovingly-designed location, with a strange space rollercoaster wheel thing buzzing about in the background, along with a few other attractions. Once you’ve got past the soldiers and droids, there’s a boss fight in front of the Fiendlord’s Keep that I’d forgotten. After it’s been destroyed, Dajh pops in to greet his father.
What with the ominous music and Dajh’s strange giggling, you might be forgiven for expecting Dajh to transform into some sort of frightening monster, but he instead just turns to crystal. There’s something slightly inconsistent about crystallisation in FFXIII; sometimes it’s a full-on transformation, and sometimes it just looks like when Crash Bandicoot fell into freezing water and got stuck in a block of ice. Dajh gets the latter treatment here, and then Jihl Nabaat makes her entrance.
Yeah, I know, I’m delighted – I finally got that villain I was waiting for… or did I? We can go into that in Chapter 9, I guess. In any case, Jihl is here to cement her position as bad guy, gloating about how Dajh led her to capture Sazh and Vanille, and thanking Sazh disingenuously. At times her English voice reminds me of Lightning during this scene, but she’s actually got the same voice actress as Lulu from FFX.
While Vanille gets between her and Sazh, Jihl tosses out some gadget that shows “security footage” of the l’Cie who inadvertently got Dajh branded. Much as before, it’s all regular cutscene clips, and it looks nothing like it was filmed by security cameras, but let’s try to ignore that.
Okay, if you’re going to directly reference the video quality, then I can’t ignore it. This is really daft! Don’t do this!
In the footage, Fang and Vanille have apparently lost their memories, so Fang comes up with a top-notch plan for getting their memories back – attack the nearest fal’Cie! Ready to fight, she draws her lance and adopts a battle stance, staring at the fal’Cie from a platform that’s quite a distance away from said machine god, and which I’d presume has some sort of glass window, given that it’s a volcanic area. I’m not sure if she was planning to just jump straight through the window and attack, or what, but the fal’Cie takes this as provocation enough, and brands Dajh, who’s in the process of bumbling into the scene.
Back in the present, Jihl continues her attempts to provoke Sazh, though it doesn’t seem that she needs to do much. Sazh is furious, and Vanille runs off into the Fiendlord’s Keep. Jihl opts not to follow for now, offering that opportunity to Sazh. Once the two l’Cie have charged off, she advises her troops to follow and observe.
It’s a little bit wonky, because once you get control of Sazh back, you can just turn around and leave the Fiendlord’s Keep, but there’s nobody there. Continuing the weirdness of this scene, when you walk along the short corridor in the keep, the game yanks control from you and forces you to walk across the small clock at the centre of the keep, and then gives Sazh back to you. You can just walk back onto the clock if you like. I have no idea why that bit was needed.
Anyway, enough quibbling – it’s time for the confrontation with Vanille. Though she’s actually busy confronting herself at this stage. She has a weird vision of a vengeful Sazh, similar to how Lightning saw Serah in the previous chapter. I don’t know if this is just her hallucinating, or an unnamed fal’Cie who we’re going to meet soon sending visions to torment her, but either way, it’s a little too on-the-nose for my taste. I’m totally guilty of writing similar scenes myself, mind you, but I think I might be past that phase now.
I’ve been grumbling for a bit, so it’s time to be nice again – I love Sazh’s delivery in this scene. In fact, I think most of this scene is pretty decent. While I struggle a little to follow Sazh’s view, I can get behind his anger at the situation, and his difficulty in finding a target to blame for it. Knowing that shooting Vanille won’t do anything to help, he falls to his knees.
At this point, and only here, the Eidolon Brynhildr is summoned. There’s none of that silly lightshow during the entire conversation like with Odin earlier – it comes after he hits the point of no return, and he and Vanille clearly react to Brynhildr’s emergence. Vanille steps in to protect Sazh, and this seems to give him his second wind. He gets to his feet, and the next boss fight begins.
The battle’s fine. It’s one of those Eidolon affairs where you have to find a way to increase its gauge quickly enough, which might take a couple of attempts depending on what you try and in what order.
It’s what comes immediately afterwards that is terrible. That seems like a strong word, but I mean it – this next bit is terrible. No, I’m not talking about the cutscene, I’m talking about the animation where Sazh drives around in Brynhildr. It’s in complete defiance of any of the mood that was built up this far, and it doesn’t match with the cutscene that follows either.
Anyway, Sazh turns his gun on Vanille again. People like doing that at random in FFXIII – remember Gadot back at the Hanging Edge? After his moment of madness, Sazh decides that shooting children isn’t actually a great thing to do. Vanille notes in her narration that you don’t forget kindness like his, but I’m really not sure that not-shooting-her-for-being-in-the-area-causing-a-fal’Cie-to-brand-a-child would rank as any major act of generosity.
Sazh then turns the gun on himself, and fires it. It’s off-camera, he just got a new summon, and he unlocked a new ATB Segment to boot, so I think we can reasonably assume that he didn’t go through with it, but I can still appreciate the mood of the scene. Sazh gets popped into some sort of weird coffin-like container, Vanille is condemned to wear her unfashionable Purge outfit again, and Jihl Nabaat gets to act all smug.
Are you looking forward to fighting her in the next chapter? I know I am!