Part 6: Chapter VI: Sandflier Graveyards and Imperial Fruitcakes
This update will be almost entirely gameplay! Holy shit!
On the way to the Sandflier Valley, we pop into a ? spot to look for loot and instead find gigantic scorpions. Scorpions are assholes. They're fast, can blind you pretty easily, and run away when low on health.
Now to demonstrate skill learning proper. If you are guarding when a monster performs a learnable attack (shown in blue if they use it when you guard) you have a chance of learning the attack. If you do, a small ! appears over the character's head as they perform the attack.
Now we have the skill for our own!
Fuck you, scorpion. Status debuffs in this game are pretty hard to stick on enemies, but if they do, they're generally crippling. This goes double for bosses: it's almost impossible to lower their stats, but if you manage to do so, you can generally go crazy on them from that point on.
So, here's the entrance to the Sandflier Valley proper. It's pretty small but the random encounter rate combined with a bunch of different paths pads it out quite a bit.
Mage Goos are cherry jello that can shoot fire at you. That's pretty much it.
Nina gets it this time, but we want it on Ryu. Simple enough fix. At camp, we have the option to swap skills around by paying one Aurum to access the interface for it. From there, we can add, subtract, or switch around learnt skills as much as we want until we back out. A quick jaunt outside means Ryu is now the one huckin' fireballs.
This is most of the first half of the Sandflier Valley. Note the two treasure chests!
Damn, the path to delicious treasure is blocked by this rudder. The other half leads to progress, but treasure is more important.
AW SHIT AMBUSH! The random encounter swirl changes color depending on initiative. Blue, which you'll see most often, indicates neither of you got the drop on the other. Green means you get a free turn.
Red is usually a sign you're about to get your ass kicked because the enemies got a free round, but since Eye Goos and Caps are morons they don't do anything.
First treasure chest holds a ton of Croc Tears. They heal 50 HP each and have a small chance of removing negative status effects. Pretty shitty, even in the early game.
Let's turn the rudder so we can get at that delicious treasure!
Eh, I can deal with this. Time to turn the rudder again.
On the way back, I get jumped by a pack of enemies when I was low on health and they begin to give me the business. I will brook no sass from a bunch of glorified vermin.
I have a pretty big beef with the fact that we can transform into a dragon from the very start of the game, but I'll talk about that later on in the storyline.
This is the same as Fou-Lu's transformation - I.E., unskippable - but with the people and colors changed.
That is still a goofy dragon hybrid form.
Here's my skills in Aura hybrid form. As you can see, the enemies kicked the tar out of Nina. Flame Strike is a punch that is on fire, Hwa is Burn but it hits twice, Rejuvenate is the second rank of healing (which is incredible overkill at this level), and Barrier halves magic effects on you for 3 turns. In addition to all the new skills, the Aura hybrid form boosts all of your stats.
Let's get Nina back up, though.
If a character is KO'd at the end of a fight, they get back up with 1 HP and their maximum HP is temporarily reduced by 1/10th. This is cumulative if they keep getting knocked down, and can only be removed by resting in an inn or the like. Resting at camp won't get rid of the penalty. So, if you're deep in a dungeon, it's best to just bite the item or AP cost and revive a character who gets knocked down even if you don't need to, as it might bite you in the ass later.
I love the Hybrid's standard attack animation. It's like a combination of chillaxing and elbowing somebody in the teeth.
After that little debacle, time to show off one of the best parts of combat in this game: Combos!
If you chain your attacks together in the right order (i.e. following elemental sympathies or just having a lot of the same type in order) they'll form a Combo. Obviously, enemies attacking in the middle of your group's turns screws it up, so it's best to either have all the participating members be really fast, or have the slowest guy start the combo so enemies go before you.
Toasty. Let's add Sever to the mix to show off Combination Magic.
When you put elemental skills together in the right order (Fire>Wind>Water>Earth>Fire), you make a Combination Spell.
The strength of the combination spell is determined by the spell used to trigger it, so even if we used Burn to start the combo, if we used Typhoon (the Tier 3 wind spell) we'd get the third tier Fire/Wind combo. As is, we get the first one: Firewind.
Firewind hits all enemies on the field with Fire and Wind damage, naturally. It's more powerful than either spell combined, and takes two single-hit spells and makes a full field attacker, meaning that it's always worth your while to use it when you want to clear a field. There's a total of 16 Combination Spells (though only 15 are accessible without Gameshark due to an oversight) and a handful of hidden combos that are kind of useless. There's actually even more utility to combos than Combination Magic such as beefing up healing spells and making completely insane enemy-annihilating physical attacks, but we'll see those later on. I absolutely love the combo system in this game.
After moving the paddle and going down the other path, we find a sandflier with a hole in it and a suspiciously well rendered anchor.
Let's check out the top deck first.
This goes in the accessory slot and gives extra armor. Ryu'll be putting this on.
Oh really, now?
The anchor lowers to the ground...
And we ride it back up.
Huh, a little shack made out of debris. Hopefully we don't find a crazy sand hobo.
Well, uh, hopefully he's not crazy.
: "Don't get many folks out here...ain't nothin' much here 'cept for odds n' ends. What can I do fer ya? Hmmm...I see. Lookin' for parts, eh? Well, I suppose ya might be able t'find whatcha need here..."
: "The parts yer lookin' for are all buried in the sand. Yer gonna need a shovel t'dig 'em out. If'n ya have a dog that can scent them out, ya might be able t'find what yer looking for."
Getting the dog without the shovel is totally useless, and getting the shovel without the dog will cost you more money in the long run. We'll take them both.
Renting the dog has him go across the small area, stop on spots, and bark to let you know there's something good there.
That's not useful at all! (It actually is way later in the game)
THERE we go.
Annnd one more before the shovel breaks.
There's a few items I'd have to do this again to get, but they're not really worth it.
I totally lucked out when I got this one the first try, though. This would have cost a pretty penny to buy in the city.
Speaking of which, let's take those parts back to the merchant now. Nothing can possibly go wrong with this.
Boss Video II: Something Goes Wrong
The cutscene in the video has been reproduced here in screenshot format for your convenience
: "I just want some information, that's all. I want you to tell me about the monster you say you saw."
We enter the room to hear glass shattering.
Hey, it's that merchant we saw in the crater!
: "I ain't got nothin' to tell you! Pah!"
: "Well!...I'd try to be a little more cooperative if I were you..."
The soldier blasts the merchant square in the face and sends him flying across the room.
: "Otherwise...Things might get a little uncomfortable...and we wouldn't want that, now would we?"
: "What do you think you're doing!?"
Nina rushes downstairs to check on the man.
: "I thought the war was supposed to be over!"
: "Why? Because I don't like people who try to hide things. Besides...the war's not over. There's been a cease-fire called, that's all. Do you understand the difference, missy..."
Rasso stops, and steps forward.
:"Wait...you're a Wyndian...well well, if it isn't the little princess!"
: We were sent out to find a dragon, but we found a little bird instead! Grab her, men - no reason we shouldn't take her as well!"
: "W...Wait! Do you know something about my sister...!?"
There are bigger things to worry about, Nina.
Rasso whips out a card and throws it to the ground, where it explodes into a Pink Floyd laser light show that summons up a big floating suit of armor.
: "Warrior spirit! Thou art summoned! Joh...I want you to capture that girl. Be careful not to hurt her...too much."
Nina proceeds to teach the hunk of tin the meaning of pain, and Ryu leaps down to her defense after she's already killed it. Sissy.
: "Ho...What's this? A dashing knight, come to save the Princess? How gallant. You know it's a knight's job to protect his lady, don't you? Where have you been all this time? Afraid, hiding in some closet or..."
We slice his face so hard our sword breaks. In the manga adaptation, Rasso actually gets a big scar from this and gets incredibly pissed specifically over the fact that his beautiful face got marred. Like I said in the video, he also speaks in an extraordinarily feminine manner, and he's drawn as a bit of a sissy in most official art. Take all that as you will.
: "H...How DARE you!? You filthy little..."
: "L...Let's get out of here...!"
: What're you just standing around for!? After them!!"
I guess all that competency Yohm got had to come from somewhere.