IX. What if they moved?
It was always there in the back of my mind, since the opening cinematic, since I watched the simultaneous deaths of the titans. They had to remain frozen…right? Right. For all of Xenoblade’s impeccable spirit of adventure, there’s an underlying melancholy to it all. Of course the Bionis and Mechonis had died, and there was no coming back. It would take the power of a god to breath life into them, and the closest thing we saw to a deity had a spear pierce his almighty heart back on Prison Island. Of course, he still managed to say a few words to Alvis after that, so he must exist somewhere…
But I’m getting ahead of myself. There is still more exploring to do. If the Central Factory was like fighting in the artificial heart of an anime mech, then the trip to its head is like the over-active dreamscape of a Gundam. Agniratha, the capital of the Mechonis, is positively crawling with activity – you can pretty much pick a boss-level fight in nearly any part of the city, from Face-like mecha to spider-tanks to flying metal wasps. Sound like a lot of action? It’s more than that. It’s too much action. Odds are that finding yourself fighting one Mechon means another will happily wander over to join the fray (there are literally level 65+ “Mass-Produced Face” mechs just hanging out that would be bosses in most other parts of the game). As a result, the framerate takes a pounding here like in no other part of the game, frequently turning into a bit of a slideshow. However, to the credit of the battle system that I used to despise, it is more than up to the challenge of taking on multiple high-level enemies. It’s not all slicing metal – there are some quests to fill your time – but Agniratha is an area that can level you up in short order. In fact, I began to feel a bit over-powered. Back in the days of the glass-cannon sweepstakes in Tephra Cave, I wouldn’t dream of running up to an enemy above my level, let alone multiple enemies. In Agniratha? That’s simply what one does.
Vanea, daughter of Miquol (and sister to Egil), met us on our journey to the capital and dropped some knowledge bombs to upend the entire plot, for good measure. It turns out that after Fiora had been “killed” in Colony 9, and her body taken to Mechonis, Vanea brought her back to life using a mixture of the technology used to create “Face” Mechon and – more importantly – by transferring the soul of Meyneth, god of Machina, into Fiora. Why would Meyneth choose Fiora? Because Meyneth is no fool. She knows that Fiora is close to Shulk, the heir to the Monado, a weapon powerful enough to slay either titan, and allying with that force is of paramount importance. And that whole “Mechs are evil and Homs are good”-story? A good deal more complicated than that. The Bionis struck first, and it was Zanza (soul of the organic titan, god of Homs) behind it all. The entire war between Bionis and Mechonis really comes down to that battle in the first cinematic, which is Zanza attacking Meyneth. Neither god died. The High Entia wisely took advantage of Zanza’s severe battle wounds and sealed him away on Prison Island. Almost all Machina fled to the Fallen Arm after Meyneth went into an eons-long slumber, to strengthen herself for the day the battle would recommence. Relative peace reigned until Egil (Vanea’s brother, for those keeping score at home) decided it was high time for the Machina to get some payback. He is the one who orchestrated the attacks on the Bionis, including the opening siege on Colony 9 that killed Fiora.
So, to recap:
-Zanza attacks Meyneth.
-Egil is barbaric and kills Fiora, but he’s trying to exact revenge for Zanza’s attack on Meyneth.
-Our merry band of Homs is retaliating on Egil’s attack.
-Shulk inadvertently frees Zanza.
-Zanza, feeling frisky after a snooze, unlocks the full power of the Monado to Shulk.
-Fiora is brought back to life with Meyneth’s aid.
-Reyn doesn’t understand holograms, but that’s not important.
Whew. Took 60-ish hours, but there we are. Some people may bemoan that Tetsuya Takahashi makes dense stories, but you can’t fault him for lack of ambition. Xenoblade is a reach for the high of myth. So, all of that said? It’s time time to go stop Egil, even though we understand the tragedy of his life. After wading back into the quasi-boss battles of Agniratha, we hit the wall of a genuine boss battle. Gadolt pilots the Jade Face Mechon, and he’s in no hurry to let us go make war with Egil.
Remember all of that high-level grinding against powerful enemies all around the city? This was the reason. Gadolt isn’t so much a difficulty spike as he is a difficulty schism. I got my ass handed to me enough that I went back to grinding. The reward for surviving his boss battle? The second part of his boss battle, of course, which might rank up their with my proudest achievements in gaming. There’s nothing quite like coming back from being down to 6 HP and winning. Gadolt is a worthy adversary, and subduing him, trying to bring him back to his senses for Sharla’s sake, is one of this game’s most satisfying achievements.
Man, sure am glad I can rest now and rela-oh wait, it’s another boss battle.
Vanea couldn’t talk sense into Egil, so we go straight into battle with him (and some of his cheapest, most infuriating, Mechon buddies). After many healing arts and a lot of frustration, Egil takes a breather and…gets into Yaldabaoth, the Gold Face Mechon. Which is just fantastic, because who needs a breather when it’s 4 a.m.? No matter, it’s a relatively quick battle. Egil doesn’t really have time for us. He, within Yaldabaoth, offers his soul to the Mechonis. He isn’t a god, but remember all of that ether being siphoned off the Bionis? Welcome to its use. A shudder, a bolt. An energy rips through Agniratha. The force of the blast reaches closer to our heroes, closer to their path, closer to their very backs. But no closer. Gadolt, battered and beaten, but himself once more, sacrifices himself to give Sharla and her friends time to jump from the Mechonis. His selflessness is so powerful that it awakens Meyneth to her former power, however briefly, as she shields the party from their fall.
And it happens. The awakening.
The Mechonis moves.
(Continue to Part X.)