When you're talking about the damn near Biblical scope of Final Fantasy as a franchise, then you know there are plenty of scenes that will be forever burned into your mind. Things like Palom and Porom sacrificing themselves into stone statues to keep Cecil's party from being crushed to death in Castle Baron, the moment Zidane threw off his cloak to reveal he had survived the battle in the Lifa Tree and Dagger runs to his arms, and the death of Aeris at the hands of Sephiroth.
You remember those moments because we all saw them and talked about them. The thing is, though, there are plenty of great scenes in the games that you might never even see, but rival some of the best work that was mandatory to completing the game. Today we salute the Easter eggs, optional quests, and hidden stories that the average gamer might have missed in their first playthrough.
In FFVI Gau is a feral child whose father went mad when his mother died in child birth. The man left Gau on a vast veldt full of monsters believing the child was one himself. Gau grew up alone and tough, able to learn the skills of all the world's beast to become the single most powerful character in the game if you know the tricks.
Other than his introduction, though, Gau plays no significant part in the story. Even after the end of the world reuniting with him is as simple as going to the veldt with three people and fighting monsters until he jumps in. There's only one moment when he gets to take the spotlight.
If you get Gau in the World of Ruin, and if you return to his father's house, and if you have him and Sabin (and some reports say Setzer), then you will trigger a scene where the party dresses Gau in a suit to meet the man who abandoned him
Gau's father doesn't recognize Gau at all, but comments on what a fine person he clearly is, and how he still dreams of the demon child he left on the veldt long ago. Sabin threatens to hurt the old man only to be stopped by Gau. Gau tells the party in his broken speech that his father is happy, and that's enough for him.
FFVII's main antagonist Sephiroth was the son of two scientists who decided to start screwing around with magic, ancient demon DNA, and their own reproductive organs. The results worked out... actually better than you would think for a long time. Eventually, though, Sephiroth found out about his origin, went cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, and a looming planetary Armageddon was initiated.
His mother Lucretia is a very minor character in the story, but she is still alive in some form. She can even be found by carefully maneuvering the submarine to surface in an isolated lagoon. Once there, though, you'll get nothing of importance from her unless you also have the man who was in love with her, optional character Vincent Valentine, in your party.
Assuming you recruited Vincent and found the hard to reach lagoon, and know enough to look behind a waterfall (All gamers do, of course), Lucretia will recount the sad love triangle that ended with her child turned into an experiment, herself altered forever, and Vincent becoming a strange vampiric creature.
She will also ask Vincent about her son, and Vincent, who is otherwise a cold and emotionless character throughout the game, tells her that Sephiroth died rather than burden her with the evils he has committed. It's a desolate, lonely sequence that is among the most moving in the game. It's not the best though.
Aeris' death scene is one of the most famous in all the Final Fantasy games. Depending on which characters are in your party they will react in different ways. Here's the problem.
To see those reactions you have to save before the scene, then fight a big boss battle, then reset and change party members if you want to experience them all. That's a big pain in the ass, and most people aren't going to go to the bother. Besides, the character's reactions aren't all that great anyway. They don't even have any lines...
Except for Yuffie's. Yuffie, as a young, cocky, teenage ninja is another FFVII optional character, and harder to recruit than Vincent to boot. You may not even have her around by the time Aeris eats it. If you do, though, and she's in your party when you fight Jenova-LIFE, you'll get a fantastic scene.
Yuffie looks at Aeris' body and walks to Cloud. At first her sobs are small, but soon she can't even hold herself up and collapses into his arms in a pure, mournful release. It's the only time in the entire game she shows any emotion beside youthful anger and excitement. She completely opens herself at the death of her friend, and unless you have the right party you'll miss it.
It took some getting used to, but FFXII quickly became my favorite in the series.
There's a little hunting sidequest in the game that involves finding a Croakadile a region that is either a desert or a flooded plain, depending on the season. If you go there in the rains, you'll find a man named Sadeen. he was stranded when the flooding starts, and to top it all off the Croakadile swallowed a ring he was to give to his wife. If you go kill the monster and get the ring back, he'll thank you and ask you to deliver it to his wife because he's too sick and weak. Come back in the dry season and give it to her, and she'll start crying.
If you go back to the same spot in the rains afterwards you'll see that Sadeen was a ghost all along. He sinks to the ground as he talks about his wife, and how he can finally rest.
The worst part? This affects the story not at all, and the reward you get is almost completely useless. Square Enix basically just does this to depress the everloving hell out of you. Seems kind of mean to make one of the more annoying hunts in the game just an excuse to show you something moving, but terribly sad.
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Back in FFVI, Celes wakes up on a lobe island in the World of Ruin after having been attended to by her adoptive grandfather Cid for most of a year. Now, all alone on the island he is growing sick and takes to his bed. Celes becomes his caretaker.
Now, all you have to do is fetch Cid some fish from the beach and he'll turn out just fine. It's an easy sidequest that you actively have to try and mess up to not succeed in. Well, one day I did, and here's what happens.
If you don't get enough fish for Cid, he dies. Rather than the ultra happy ending where he gives Celes a raft to go looking for her love Locke, she decides to end her life. Seriously, Square wrote a scene where she throws herself off of a cliff in grief over her failure to save the man who saved her. The only way you'll see it is if you're terrible at the game, or, like me, you're terrible at being a good person.
Still, it actually adds a little to her character, having failed. If you ignore the fact that you just murdered a man to make your second act heroine a little more interesting then it's a beautiful scene.