Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Sacrifice of Palom and Porom

This is part of an ongoing series about my favorite memories from video games. You can find the original list and table of contents in last month's post or by clicking here. Please be aware that these posts are going to be full of spoilers which may ruin the impact of these events on anyone who wishes to experience them on their own in the future.

#5 - The Sacrifice of Palom and Porom

Final Fantasy IVis my favorite entry in the “Final Fantasy” series. From an objective standpoint, I would never say it’s the best game. Nevertheless, I would still point anyone interested in trying older games in the series to get a copy of Final Fantasy IV and see what it has to offer. It was the second “Final Fantasy” I played, and the first “Final Fantasy” to be released on the Super Nintendo. The depth of its story and characters shook my entire world. I daresay Final Fantasy IV was the final push I needed into creating my own stories. It was the first step in a process that would get me reading and writing in the fantasy genre. In a way, it changed my whole life.

The theme of “redemption” is prevalent throughout Final Fantasy IV. The main character, Cecil, gives up his unholy powers as a Dark Knight, to become a paragon of justice called a Paladin. It is a grand undertaking and something he must do to defeat the darkness within himself, before he can defeat the darkness that threatens the world. Although the game’s main plot focuses on this change of character, many of the finest scenes in the game are when other characters overcome past mistakes and really pull through to save the day. Palom and Porom are two such characters.

Palom and Porom are the youngest playable characters in the entire “Final Fantasy” series so far. These twins are stated to be 5 years old! I can’t imagine heading off into danger with two 5-year-olds tagging along, regardless of how skilled they are in magic, but Cecil doesn’t have too many options at this point in his adventure. He has recently arrived at a community that was seen attacking in the opening sequences of the game. He is not well received in Mysidia, but the Elder allows him an audience and tells him that in order to proceed he must climb Mount Ordeals and undergo the test to become a Paladin. Then in a glimpse of senility, he assigns the 5-year-old twins to accompany Cecil to this mountain that few ever return from. Perhaps the Elder is as annoyed with them as I soon get, but most likely he is just incredibly confident in their abilities as magicians and that they make unsuspecting spies.

Palom is the male twin, and a skilled Black Mage (destructive magic). He constantly refers to himself as a genius and a prodigy showing his cockiness and arrogance readily. He is disrespectful to adults and over-confident in his abilities. He is prone to run at the mouth and almost reveals they are spies to Cecil while traveling with him. In contrast, the female twin, Porom, is a White Mage (restorative and protection magic). She is equally skilled, but much more humble. She is constantly scolding (and beating) Palom for blabbing unnecessarily and being rude, arrogant, or too sure of himself. While Palom is often pompous and rebellious, Porom is modest and obedient. Palom is impetuous and Porom is calm and focused. They are truly like two sides of a coin, but what this amounts to for me is two characters who don’t have a lot of on-screen appeal.
I kind of want to slap them both.
I do not like Palom’s constant chatter, or his showing off, or watching him be a jerk to his elders. It makes him a very disagreeable little brat. I do not like Porom’s constant kissing up to elders, or her obsessive need to dominate and control her brother’s behavior. They are too extreme for my taste, and neither extreme is particularly enjoyable to be subjected to for several hours. Like my own kids, they almost never stop their incessant chatter. They always have something to say and it gets rather grating after a while. Palom and Porom are without a doubt my least favorite characters in the entire game – that is until they make up for all the annoying conversations and sibling arguments in one shocking moment.

After Cecil shocks the world and becomes a Paladin, the twins decide to stick with him. Though they didn’t like him at first, and admit their duty was to spy on him, they have come to respect and trust Cecil and want to continue to help him fight against the looming evil in their world. Since they survived the trials of Mount Ordeals, I assume the Elder thinks they’re up for anything and allows them to continue the journey with Cecil. The group infiltrates Cecil’s original turf, the Kingdom of Baron, and find that it has been occupied by agents of evil all along. They defeat the second of four fiends together and free  Baron from its dark master. But before the fiend truly dies he announces that the group is caught in his trap and the walls around them begin to close in on them.

The adults confirm that the doors are locked. There’s no way out and no way to stop the walls. Palom and Porom are oddly calm and Porom in a display of maturity drops his arrogant posture and speaks with an air of duty and honor. He announces there’s only one thing to do. They say they’re glad they could have become friends with Cecil and thank the Sage Tellah, also traveling with them, for everything he taught them. Then, in unison, they cast a spell that turns their bodies to stone. Their little statues can be seen holding back the walls and allowing the other members of the group to press on. The group tries everything in their power to revive them from their stone prisons, but their will to protect the group, and their willingness to turn themselves to stone prevents them from being returned to flesh. They make an ultimate sacrifice for the greater good, proving rather spontaneously that they did have a wisdom and character beyond their years.

Palom and Porom etch their ways into a player’s heart with their noble sacrifice. All their mindless banter is now forgotten. All the times they may have annoyed me is erased in a single moment of honor. When I was playing this game at the young age of 11, this scene really meant a lot to me. It demonstrated that kids can be brave, strong, noble and selfless. The unexpected loss of the two youngest members of the team really shocked me. It was the twists and unexpected turns in the narrative like this that made me realize how well a game could tell a story, and got me interested in telling my own stories. Even as an adult playing through this game, I admit I tend to choke up around this scene where the two little kids save a group of adults from certain death. It’s a moment in gaming that has really stuck with me since my childhood and will always among my most memorable moments.


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