Part 34: Chapter XXXIII: There Is No Plot, Only ZUUL GAMEPLAY PADDING
Right, let's head for the Empire!
: "Some people caused some trouble here a while back...they did something to the gateway and caused it to shut down."
Oh buggery. Actions still have consequences.
: "You mean it was you who snuck into the Causeway and started the big fight there!? You didn't stop to think what effect that might have on the gateway device, did you?"
I kept this screenshot so I could show off Ursula's sprite for standing at attention. She shifts into it when she's on her high horse or generally when a military officer would be at attention. It's a nice little detail.
Yes, yes it is, Stoll recolor.
: "Really? Look, I need to get to Shikk. Think you could take me? I need to get to Hesperia, but the Causeway's not working, right? I hear there's like a big lake or something near Shikk that goes all the way to the western continent. So I figure if I can get to Shikk, I should be able to get to Hesperia one way or another. So, what do you say? Will you take me there?"
That sounds like a plan, actually.
One sandflier route full of SWEET MOVES later...
: "Thanks again. Whoops! I almost forgot...here - it's not much, but let me give you this as a thank-you."
A fishing lure. You know the way to a man's heart, Not-Stoll.
: "By the way, a friend of mine named Stoll's around here somewhere...if you see him, tell him I said hi, all right? See you around!"
He's way further south than this, Not-Stoll.
: "We should be getting on to Shikk and see if we can find some way to get to Levant."
Ursula aims her gun off into the distance.
: "That's simple - all we need is a ship, right?"
The party all cringes slightly. Nobody in this camp scene has much to say except Scias.
: "I've n-never seen an ocean w-without any m-m-mud."
But before we go toward Shikk and advance the plot, we still have some errands to run.
The Shikk-Shyde route has something special in it. See that little part of the minimap separated from the rest?
Jump a sand dune into it, and you'll find an oasis with our next dragon.
: "I watcheth o'er this world, and all things within it. Not e'en a single grain of sand in this, my desert, shifts without my knowing it. Tell me, young Yorae Dragon...dost thou needeth my strength?"
Of course, so long as you don't wreck our sandflier again.
: "Very well...let us then stand witness to the fate of the world together..."
Blah blah, light show, Sa Ryong looks pretty cool as a hologram.
Onslaught is awesome. It does six hits of Wind damage spread among all enemies and has a high chance of confusing them.
: "Another awaits your coming...to the south of the shifting sands, where earth and water meet. If thou seekest the dragon, seek ye there."
That'd be the Mud Dragon, who we already met.
Next on the agenda is Ch'o Ryong.
Also, Ursula getting more useful magic.
Ch'o Ryong is a major pain in the ass to find if you don't know what to do, but when you do, it's incredibly easy. Talking to Tarhn explains the whole thing:
: "What? You've come to meet with the Grass Dragon? Yes, it's true he lives here, but not in any one place. If you want to find him, you should look for a shining bird and follow it."
This is why I got confused about Ch'o Ryong's gender. While her sprite and dragon form are quite feminine (and the art book makes it very clear that she's a woman), Tarhn refers to her as male.
So yeah, go to the central rock, find the glowing bird, and chase after it without letting it get out of sight. Its glow is sometimes a bit wonky with the draw distance but you'll know it when you see it.
We get to Ch'o Ryong.
: "From the boundless plains, I watcheth o'er this world. I knoweth the cycle of the seasons, the rhythm of the earth, and I can counteth e'ery drop of rain as it falleth. Tell me, young Yorae Dragon...dost thou needeth my strength?"
Blah blah, holograms, blah blah.
Healing Wind is a full heal and status restore for the entire party. The only thing keeping it from being the best dragon move (or move in the game) hands down is that it doesn't restore KO'd party members.
: "Another awaits your coming...far to the north of here, in a place that knows not the touch of water or rain. If thou seekest the dragon, seek ye there."
Yep, we just did this backwards, folks. Next up is that smithy inside Mt. Glom we haven't seen since the King's Sword runabout.
: "If you've got any kind of material I can use, I'll make you some armor. What do you say?"
His new purpose is to make crazy awesome custom armor for Ershin with all the junk items you collect through the game. The complete list of what he can make is pretty gigantic due to the colossal amount of possible combinations (luckily there's a lot of overlap). If I make any custom armor, I'll be sure to show it off. I know I will be making at least one particular suit for the Bot EXP farming exploit.
Now that we've met some dragons, it's back to the Abbess!
: "It would appear that you have met with the ancient dragons. Very well. I will teach you how to Reck. It will help you learn skills you have never seen before. Now, which of you shall learn this skill?"
The Abbess is the ultimate Master for squishy wizards. She cranks your AP and Wisdom into the stratosphere but your attack and defense get pitifully low. You may be tempted to slap Nina under her tutelage and never remove her, but that means that by the endgame, Nina can be killed by a stiff breeze or a nasty look. It's best to crank up her magic with the Abbess then switch her to a more physical Master for a few levels to get her tougher again, or just leave her with Rwolf if you are lazy.
: "You must travel the world and see as much of it as you can. When you have seen more than 70 different kinds of monsters, come here again - I will teach you another skill."
Alright, now we'll head for Shikk.
Saruga are powerful Yaen that almost always appear with a Yaen escort.
They use Muffle, which is a physical attack with an added Silence effect, which can really get annoying if they hit Nina.
Also, if you kill the Yaens before the Saruga, they get incredibly angry and spam Blitz until you kill them. I believe this is where you could learn it for the first time if you didn't get Una's requirement or cheat with Fou-Lu.
One gondola ride later...
And we arrive at a maze of ledges.
Oh hey, rock candy!
Rock candy full of souls!
This is our fire-element dragon form, the counterpart to Serpent for Fou-Lu.
Since we have over ten thousand game points, we automatically evolve Wyvern to Weyr when we use it for the first time. Fou-Lu's Serpent form also evolves to Peist. Weyr is Wyvern, only with better stat bonuses, a slight recolor in the breath weapon cutscene, Hwajeh (the third level of fire-elemental dragon spells), and Protect. Gigaflame is a solid breath weapon, but the real killers here are how much better the stat boosts are compared to Aura, combined with Hwajeh giving us access to Level 4 Combos for the first time (Element1+Element2+LVL3 Dragon Element2). I'll be showing these all off in a boss battle relatively soon.
Fun fact about the elemental dragons, by the way: in the Japanese version, the names for Weyr and Peist can be anglicized to Jubjub and Jabberwocky. The name for an evolved form of a dragon we haven't seen yet is Bandersnatch, too. Lewis Carroll references, the lot of them, but they don't really make any sense. Also, Serpent/Peist's breath weapon is named Hellblizzard, which is way more than Waterspout.
A major upgrade to Nina's weaponry later, and we're outta here.
Oh great, now what?
Huh, seems quaint enough.
: "You folks wouldn't be thinking about trying to get to Shikk, would you?"
: "Apparently, some of the Alliance countries are fighting with each other, so Shikk's closed the road!"
God DAMNIT why do stupid and brash actions actually impose negative effects in this game's world
: "We should be able to handle the guards easily."
While Cray is just crossing his arms here, I managed to screenshot it in a fashion that makes him look pretty and hilarious. Also, Ursula is still amazing.
: "Um...Ursula? I don't know if that's such a good idea."
: "Why not? If we strike in the dark, the advantage is ours."
: "Let's try to keep things a little more quiet, OK? Ryu, you keep an eye on her and make sure she doesn't do anything stupid, all right?"
Ryu nods and holds an arm out in front of Ursula. This, actually, is the scene with the first instance of cut content. In the original version, as Cray continues to talk, Ursula looks down where Ryu's hand is, then glares/stares at him until he gets the message, leaping away and blushing redder than a tomato before rubbing his head in embarrassment. It's minor and doesn't really change anything, and I can see why they got rid of it. Three of the four censored scenes fall into this category of sexual humor that doesn't contribute much, and are removed elegantly. You'd never know they were there. The censoring of the fourth scene, though, is an abject tragedy as it's the most thing in the entire game.
: "I mean, sure, there might be a little misunderstanding right now, but we're still on the same side, right? I bet they'll let us through if we just talk to them."
: "You're Cray, aren't you!? Chief of the Worens!?"
: "It is him! He's wanted by the Ludian Kingdom! If we let him through, we'll be in a lot of trouble!"
: "No kidding! Come on, let's get him out of here!"
Raise your hand if you didn't see this coming. Then slap yourself.
So yeah, the two troops are dead easy and go down pretty much immediately. One uses a crossbow and the other attacks with a sword, or something. It's barely even a fight.
I guess we can go through now.
OR NOT. Cray leaps in surprise and runs for it.
: "It's all right...besides, I was thinking..."
: "Huh? Hmmm...maybe. Let's give it a try."
Sure enough, the wagons can be pushed into position to bounce clean over the wall.