Part 9: Magus' Castle
Sadly, but I suppose unsurprisingly, the Magic Cave is indeed another cave, though thankfully it's another screen-long dungeon reminding us that the ocean is about 100 feet from coast to coast. If we get use magic in battle, Frog will comment on it, reminding us to go back to the End of Time and introduce him to Spekkio. Oddly enough, this is the only time you'll ever have cause to do this; Ayla can't learn magic and Mystery Party Member #7 already has it. All things considered it's probably just to make you go through the mountain pass again.
Note: The Juggler in Magus's castle... strengthens his guard when attacked. Beware!
At the end of the cave, a man has written a note in blood, having made the poor decision to run back to this cave and leave a cryptic note rather than seeking medical aid. Ancillary dialogue suggests that there's a hidden switch Ozzie's troops use to open the mountainside, probably the same way this soldier got through, so in retrospect Frog's strategy might have been a little overkill.
I have no complaints.
On the other side we can see that, in addition to being taller than a mountain, Magus' Castle is larger that Guardia Castle and indeed the combined size of all other living spaces in the world. Magus is clearly compensating for something, that something probably being not having enough cats.
Seriously Magus, subtlety is not your forte.
Despite its imposing appearing, Castlevania: Madrigal of Fiends is slightly less than secure. You go to all the trouble of hiding your castle behind an undersea cave and don't even bother to lock the door? No moat? It's like Canada as depicted by Michael Moore, just with monsters.
Inside, I get to gush about the graphics some more, like the way the wall is textured to reflect incoming light and how the window that shouldn't be there is casting light onto the floor. We also get to not gush over not-unbelievably-creepy children, an obligatory part of any castle. Unfortunately we don't get to visit the equally obligatory hedge maze or private oratory, which were removed to make way for more hallways leading to hallways and OUBLIETTEs.
The right wing of the castle is inhabited by embodiments of Lucca (if you brought Robo), King Guardia (if you brought Marle), Taban (if you brought Lucca), Crono's mom, and Queen Leene, who together make up one of the least imposing security forces since I attempted to train kittens to defend my home with pepper spray. I'm not sure what Magus feels would be the best case scenario here; we agree with them that it's dangerous and that we ought to head home and then... do? Leaving them in a castle? By this point Magus just doesn't want to get one-upped by that cathedral.
After we've hit both dead-ends, Ozzie greets us back at the entrance, his initial plan of scaring us away having been slightly less effective than, say, locking the front door or summoning skeletons. Presumably this is some sort of Liquid Snake-inspired psychology and multilayered manipulation. In other words, he's basically making things up as he goes along.
Magus is a tad busy right now. You'll have to take up your business with me ...the swordsman, Slash, and Flea, the magician...
The proto-Brütal Legend naming convention is another one of Woolsey's, with the group originally being named Soy Sauce, Vinegar, and Mayonnaise. Even when retranslating the game ostensibly from scratch, the DS version kept these names and the Melchior-Gaspar-Balthazar name scheme (spoilers: There's a Balthazar. In an even more extreme spoiler, this game is eventually going to have items in it), when the important plot-important characters were originally named (sigh)... Bash, Mash, and Gash. I'm pretty sure Square of Japan picked those names by asking five-year-olds, having given up on their original plan to name everyone Fred.
And... You'll have to defeat all 100 of the beasts in Magus's castle...!
This, slightly more interestingly, is a complete bluff, and it's not even because of Woolsey's ability to write. Both the DS version and Japanese original also have Ozzie claiming a need to defeat "all 100 enemies", but it's a lie. Nothing in particular happens if you do so, and most of the enemies even respawn every time you exit the room.
Yes, I also made sure I killed everyone anyway the first dozen times I played this game. It's rather impressive how rarely villains feed you gameplay-affecting false information, but this is basically a psychological experiment akin to saying you need to taste-test every isotope of arsenic.
These six enemies, however, do need to be defeated, though this is as simple as pushing A a few times and letting non-Frog characters die. Meanwhile, Ozzie... leaves. This is the most effective security force since I taped knives to the heads of ferrets and had them nuzzle intruders to death.
We now have to re-explore both castle wings, taking care not to interrupt the skeleton square dancing class. Thankfully there are walls we can hug. Security!
The sunk-cost fallacy demands that the countless hours poured into learning transfiguration results in fiends finding any excuse to disguise themselves as children, despite the fact that we're in an evil warlock castle and we've already been attacked by both skeletons, henchmen, skeletons, bats, skeletons made of other skeletons, and more bats. I'm pretty sure the cat's out of the bag by this point, and I'm not sure Guardian leadership will be fooled into thinking they invaded a daycare center by mistake. Besides, do they honestly think we'll have some sort of problem with beating up children? Masa and Mune went down without a hitch.
Fighting that battle reveals the descendent of last era's manfish drummers, who will politely stand stock still until we approach him. This degree of acceptance allows us to respectfully prepare for a noble battle between men, embracing the honor and form of bushido even as the world seems to be leaving civilized conflict behind.
Yeah, that's boring. Let's go see what else we can do.
In a move that would make Cavia blush, we're going to fight a completely optional battle involving murdering four children solely because they're guarding a treasure chest. The unknown is always more exciting than the known and probably annoying.
Thankfully, we can exploit the fact that shadow children are too young to understand the concepts of ontological inertia or existence outside of themselves. On turning away, the heartache of neglect causes them to embrace despair and disappear. Or something.
The end of the right path leads us to Flea, who(m) Frog doesn't recognize despite having known Slash, Ozzie, and Magus for years. I have no idea why this is, but that's less important than the amazing opportunity that "Flea" provides. Other than Crono's two fights at the beginning, he and Marle haven't earned any Tech Points, and as such have lacked access to basic anything. Frog, however, has amassed some Tech Points, and fighting a single battle with the relevant characters (once both have met some prerequisites) is all that's necessary to grab a Dual Tech. This Flea is a decoy, and once you attack him he'll drain the attacker's MP and then disappear. Because of this, he gives out no Exp or Tech Points, meaning that we can all remain alive, have Crono attack, and trigger (ho ho!) some rewards:
This allows Crono and Frog to learn X-Strike, Frog and Marle Ice Water, and Crono and Marle Aura Whirl, a technique that slightly heals the entire party. Frog has already learned a few techs, notably Leap Slash, which is a stronger version of his normal attack with the downside of not being able to get critical hits. Fighting Spekkio would have allowed us access to a few of these techniques earlier, but a Level 1 fight against him is incredibly difficult and I didn't find it worthwhile to attempt. This should tell you a lot given that next update I'm fighting a boss that took three hours.
Wait! That isn't Flea... Where's the REAL Flea?!
Mwa ha... Here, over here...
The mysterious bat that's been following us since we entered the cave is, in fact, the actual Flea, whose shapeshifting undoubtedly makes her the most valuable resource a warrior could possibly have. She could impersonate the actual Queen to infiltrate Guardia Castle, or she could impersonate the king and give the knights orders to stand down. She could pretend to be a knight or guard and get close enough to the king to stab him, or she could impersonate Magus and draw the army into a trap.
Or she could trick somebody into using an Ether and say "Gotcha! I'm not actually a bat." How's this: we won't question your military tactics and leadership if you don't question ours.
Giving up, little tadpole?!
Keep your guard up! This is no ordinary woman! Meet Flea, the magician!
What the...?! Hey, I'm a GUY!
THAT is a GUY?!
I really have no idea what Frog does and doesn't know, and knowing the JRPG genre he's probably just making it up as he goes along as well.
Oh, incidentally, this game was made in Japan.
Because floors are such boring places to fight (come on, everybody fights on floors), Flea gets to be fought in the swirling ethereal void of a leftover sky texture. Frog's unfortunate hunchbackedness is revealed as he uses Leap Slash, which will basically become his default attack and can be supplemented by the MP-cutting Silver Erng. Marle can summon giant chunks of ice, and Crono can sometimes attack every now and then. With his sword. He kind of gets the short end of this battling stick, all things told.
The biggest obstacles in this battle are the Promethean curses Flea casts on us; at low levels, these status effects cause an inconvenience actually worth commenting on, which is probably the only time you will ever hear that phrase uttered about status effects in a game that's not FFX. In this attack, the all-seeing eye reminds us of the all-powerful banking conspiracy and prevents us from using Techs because of water fluoridation. Thankfully, some good old untreated water cures this nicely (warning: may contain radium).
The other status effect he likes using is confusion, in which Flea gives Marle's ice waving abilities a gold star and the culture of entitlement makes her decide she no longer has to try. Use Heals.
As long as you deal with status effects, this fight should be over very fast, and Flea's death should be a very non-parallel move. Rest in Peace, noble miscreant. You were not very difficult at all.
With that, we're back in a functional but rather drably-fashioned room. Flea probably could have used these shapeshifting and mind-altering powers to, say, delude us into thinking our party members were Flea, but I can understand why space battles took precedence over tactics. Maybe that soldier was right about
Having had a solid twenty minutes to think up his retort, Slash counters a pun with a G-rated insult, causing both sides lose the wordplay section of the competition to both Lucca and every four-year-old. With Frog readily securing the eveningwear portion of the exchange, the swordplay portion is all that's left. This is going to be a one-on-one fight, as keeping Marle and Crono alive isn't even remotely worth the effort. As such, Frog can get all of the best equipment as he's left to deal with this knghthood thing all by himself and wonder why we even bothered to show up.
I'm sure Slash is meant to be wearing a helmet, but I always see him as a bald river zora with angry eyes. Don't judge me.
Slash's aggressive PUA techniques are no match for Frog's phallic imagery, as the success of leaping from rafters and cutting things many times larger than his sword has led Frog to also try out the art of meaningless combat flips. Crono and Marle can get in a hit or two also, but that's nowhere near as exciting. They're weak, so it doesn't take long before they get whisked away from a position of useful fighting (through being dead).
Slash is equally ineffective at trying to compensate for his eveningwear loss by one-upping co-winner Terwilliger (you know what, I'll make convoluted references to whatever I like, thank you). Upset at nobody understanding what on earth he's saying half the time, Slash angrily pimp slaps nearby candlesticks and also kills everyone except Frog.
Part 1 of this fight is simple enough; hit A and heal a bit. Once Slash has taken enough damage, however, the main part of the fight begins as Slash grabs a sword, defies the perspective on those walls, and adopts what is undoubtedly the best positioning strategy possible in this room.
Slash follows a predictable pattern: Slash, Attack, Leap Slash, Leap Slash, Yes Indeed!, Slash, Leap Slash, Attack. During most of this pattern you have to play completely defensively, using Mid Tonics whenever you get the chance, but he hesitates enough between the two Leap Slashes to let you get in a Mid Tonic and an attack. This is the most attritiony attrition-fest thus far, and, while Frog will occasionally get an opening besides that, you only have the one position in eight from which to comfortably attack. All told, this boss consumed 45 Mid Tonics and a substantial amount of time, though he isn't really difficult if you allow yourself to play it safe and don't get restless / claw out your own eyes.
Unbelievable...! But falling in the line of duty for Magus...leaves me with few regrets...!
Beating Slash nets us his... wait for it... Slasher , the best weapon Crono can have at this point in the game. Its speed bonus can combine with the speed belt to give Crono max agility, making him an even more effective healer at the cost of never being able to slow down below 5 mph.
Akin to the load-bearing bosses principle is the warp point-suppressing bosses principle, as dispatching Slash and Flea opens up a warp to the second part of the castle disguised as a save point. This is a good time to go back to various villages and buy a few hundred more mid-tonics, since the second half of the castle is going to be a similar faux-final-dungeon gauntlet filled with all sorts of challenges, at least one of which may actually pose a challenge.
Challenge 1: Nothing. It's always encouraging to see monsters that accept our crippling shyness and will politely leave us alone if we just look away.
Challenge 2: Perspective. These axes damage us but, of course, don't kill us, meaning that charging through and then healing is a perfect strategy. That chest contains a Dark Mail, a useful armor that reduces Shadow damage and the most evil form of postage ever devised, and another chest contains Robo's weapon and Bond villain reject DoomFinger.
We spend most of this section chasing Ozzie through the castle, gradually realizing that this is honestly his entire security system. This castle is less secure than my doctrinal approach to defending my castle with thumbtacks.
(I'm using humorous examples to prove a point. That point is that this castle isn't very secure.)
(That's the joke.)
Challenge 3: Jumpman! The challenge is to avoid the patrolling enemies, which you normally want to fight because they give you EXP, but which you actually do want to avoid now because you're at level 1. You'd think they would have just installed a dumbwaiter or something.
Challenge 4: The dreaded trapdoor stone floors operated by very quickly turning a crank. Through trial and error (read: savestates) we can avoid these, but we actually want to fall down at least once even though it drops us into a battle.
The reason is to collect some treasure. In addition to a magic tab and some items, we can find another Barrier, without which it's impossible for a low-level party to beat Magus.
We can also kill save points. There are four "save points" in this basement, two of which are enemies and one of which is another warp. I feel bad for the doomed captors who were never motivated enough to walk to all four edges of the room, though this apathy may have been the reason Ozzie didn't just install a pit of lava.
Now for some tricky maneuvering.
First, thread the needle. Balance style with not referencing these types of things and don't try this on a Super Nintendo, if at all; the birds here are even trickier to avoid than the ones on Denadoro.
Next, exploit quirks in the tracking AI. For whatever reason, possibly to ensure that you will be the one to trigger combat, these birds follow you by homing in on whoever is the last character in your party. We can exploit this by hanging out on this ladder, walking away such that only Marle is still there, and running past the bird while he's down. Somewhat undermining that whole ordeal, the next room of the castle is an inescapable enemy gauntlet. Let nobody question my dedication.
The only thing worth pointing out in this section is the annoyance that the Jugglers (those yellow things) are. Jugglers alternate being invulnerable to magic or invulnerable to physical attacks every time they're hit, which would be fine if we actually had any reasonable quantity of MP with which to attack. As we don't, these things are bad. And dumb. Dumb and bad. Quite a bit. Yep.
After this there's a second enemy gauntlet, but it's triggered by passing between a group of statues you can easily walk around. Seriously Magus, this is your idea of fancy interior decorating? At least put in an accent wall or two.
Harharhar... I'm sure Sir Magus has already called for reinforcements...! Wait until Lavos arrives!! I shan't be defeated! No form of attack will break MY barrier!
If we do try to attack Ozzie directly, he'll counter with giant lifesavers and do far more damage than a low level party can comfortably absorb. Instead, the solution is to attack these cranks, which by the Taban school of engineering is the primary way through which humans interact with things in 1000 AD.
Well, with that taken care of (the holes appear in that order regardless of which cranks you target), the only thing left to do is change our battle speed. Up until this point, we've been playing with a high-numbered, low-speed battle setting so as to allow ample time to make moves, but for Magus we're going to need the extra time.
Extra time, you would ask were you not reading a pre-written forums post? Well, put simply, Magus was not intended to be fought at level 1. His first phase, which consists of constantly rotating elemental barriers, is less than stellar to face when you only have a handful of techs to use, and his second phase, which consists entirely of charging and using a single hugely powerful attack, is impossible to survive without completely exploiting a quirk in the engine.
Because Chrono Trigger doesn't have clearly-defined "turns", any effects that are time-based are just that - affected by actual, real-life time rather than performed actions. The reason we talked to the shadow-kids and intentionally sought ought the skeleton fight in the first trapdoor room (screw personal responsibility; you're reading this and hopefully giving me praise and are thus complicit in my suffering) was to get two Barriers, which temporarily increase Magic Resistance and let Frog (who has the highest HP total) barely survive the attack. With the battle speed at 7 or 8, there is literally not enough time for Frog to kill Magus before the Barriers wear off. At 1 or 2, however, there ever so slightly is.
This is the first real challenge in the game, and while obviously a fakeout final boss Magus is definitely one of the hardest challenges in the game. Everything we've seen so far, from the moment we went to a fair celebrating Magus' defeat, has been leading up to this. As such, the pre-Magus dialogue and boss battle is going to be shown in video, so you can see exactly what a Level 1 Battle of Attrition really means.
Alright Felix, for the 456,928th time, are you ready?
Felix, we've been standing here for four months.
Just give me another minute or two.
Alright Felix, for the 456,929th time, are you ready?
When playing at an actual level, the early game bosses are incredibly simple affairs, mostly serving as tutorials for target prioritizing and using techs. After the Lavos cutscene in the future, being able to survive attacks lets us play around and discover a few things that Low-Level Crono skipped over.
For one thing, if we do choose to walk through the ruins we can get this Race Log. This is a fairly useless bonus, but it's worth showing off only to further emphasize how strange the emphasis on this minigame is.
The legendary space recording robot will keep track of our high scores, though the goal isn't to beat a certain time but to spend as much time as possible in front of your opponent. That doesn't matter; what does matter is this:
Getting the log book allows you to rotate the camera, adding to the already existent but not shown off functionality of zooming in and out. I guess I can't really complain about this given that there aren't any obvious shortcuts that negatively impact the game, but I'm going to pretend there were just so I can say: Priorities!
I'm going to show off the sewers later when Crono's party takes them, but it's worth noting that you can actually make this journey now and be rewarded with some ridiculously extreme foreshadowing.
First, the mountain with a naming scheme that screams
Second, the Keeper's Dome. There's a lot more to this dialogue, but it's so foreshadow y that I consider it spoiler territory for things that really shouldn't be spoiled. Yes, this room is just a wee bit significant. Let's not speak of it for now and move on.
The left path in the factory is, as mentioned in its main update, entirely optional. The first main setpiece is this conveyor: a timing puzzle where you have to run against it while enemies are shipped along in patterns. If you get caught by an enemy, a crane takes you to a gauntlet until you eventually come out at the far left end, endlessly annoying the robots who were busy enjoying their favorite carousel.
Thankfully, these robots aren't extremely hard because Felix and his party have access to techs. If you haven't played Chrono Trigger before, know that Techs are such a key part of the battle system, strategy, and general play of the game that having to go without them is like LPing Chess with only pawns and a knight. Incidentally, knight-only Chess is going to be my next LP, followed by a special challenge game of Monopoly where I'm only allowed $5 bills. I'm also planning to play a game of Clue entirely with my shoulders and a version of Sudoku where I'm only able to write down the number 6.
This is one of those things you'll do your first time playing Chrono Trigger and then never do again, especially because it makes the factory almost twice as long. Oh well, I've shown it off. On to more interesting things.
This fight is suicide if you don't use techs and incredibly simple if you do, since four uses of Cyclone will take out everyone (you can target up to three at a time and it deals about half their health in damage). This is why standard line formation isn't often used against twirling men, assuming I have my grasp on military tactics right.
Once we learn magic, we can also learn one of the best techs in the early game, Antipode. Antipode consists of Lucca using fire attacks while Marle uses ice, and it tends to result in enemies that aren't immune to one of those elements quickly becoming dead. In Ted Woolsey's unparalleled descriptive voice, Antipode "attacks enemies with Antipode", and no, you will never convince me that this is something I ought to defend.
In particular, it destroys Heckran. An individual attack from a Level 1 party was dealing between 80 and 100.
By the time we fight Zombor, Crono is at Level 13. This fight is more or less the same, just painless.
God, everybody on this mountain is such a jerk.
Masamune, if you know the trick, can be rendered largely harmless by slashing. Somebody in the thread pointed out that an NPC will hint towards this, which I never actually realized and only discovered through trial and luck.
Alternately, we could continue attacking enemies with Antipode. I was going to liven up this update by composing an Ode to Antipode, but the meter sounded clunky.
By the time Nizbel rolls around, Crono is at Level 17. More importantly, the party has a solid tech lineup that I'm deliberately skipping over; I'll post a video showcasing all the techs around the time our main party gets access to more of them.
In the Mystic Village, we can use techs to dispatch bigoted shopkeepers. Though it isn't really worth it. While there are some good items on sale, if you're going to grind enough Voiced uvular plosives to afford them you'll pick up more than enough experience to not have to bother.
Last update I intentionally held off on showcasing this cutscene, and contrary to what some people may think it's actually not because I have a problem with it. Sure, it loses something by having Frog confident from the get-go and ignoring the Cyrus flashbacks, but this is one of two cutscenes I feel adds something, in this case by making Frog's mountain-cutting even more grandiose. The game plays the anime and then the normal version, which makes Frog's in-engine mountain slicing seem a bit anticlimactic through some sort of terrible devilry that ought never to be, but this cutscene is awesome and will make you feel like you're 14 again. Here's a mountain being chopped in half:
If we go through the cave without returning to the End of Time, Frog will demonstrate his profound insight that only people who can use magic tend to use magic. Incidentally, a sorceress is a woman who has inherited the powers of a sorceress and a priori knowledge comes from analytic judgements more often than it comes from cutting mountains.
Flea's gemini tactics are dealt with more or less identically at a decent level, but Slash is dramatically easier when your party is 200% larger and Crono can survive long enough to help Frog out. The trick is, essentially, spam X-Strike to win.
So, that's everything. Shall we go back to town and recruit some soldiers to help us in our final assault on the stronghold?
Nah, let's just finish this ourselves:
The normal-level playthrough (with in-engine cutscenes) is the first video, and the low-level playthrough (with anime) is right below. I suggest watching the normal-leveled one first to get a better idea of how his barrier-changing and Dark Matter usage works, then enjoy the 18-minute endurance match that is the low-level attack.
Oh yes, um, whacked. And and weak. And they go together. Because that's the thread title. So there's whacking involved... somehow.
You know what, never mind. Just watch the clips.