Part 19: GBA Bonus Run Part 1Welcome, everyone, to the FF2 Dawn of Souls run of the game!
Final Fantasy: Dawn of Souls for the Gameboy Advance is not the first appearance of FF2 on western shores, not the first FF2 remake to be based on the Wonderswan remake, nor the first compilation containing both the first and second Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy Origins for the Playstation came to the US and PAL regions a year prior in 2003. Dawn of Souls, however, is notable for making sweeping changes to the gameplay of both games. The changes to FF1, such as replacing the charge system with MP, giving you more EXP and money per battle, reducing prices, and other re-balancing changes honestly make the game way too easy and subsequently boring. The changes to FF2, on the other hand, have generally been received quite well. Not sure if I'm a fan of all of them, but many of them make the game less tedious.
Apart from graphical and gameplay changes, this version also adds in bonus dungeons. FF1 adds four dungeons, each of them semi-randomized. Each of them are linked to one of the elemental fiends. FF2 only gets one bonus dungeon, the Soul of Rebirth, and it, uh doesn't try nearly as hard. It's mostly notable for being kind of hard, especially early on. Since that's a good fit for this LP, and none of the other LPs have covered this dungeon, I figured why not add it in?
However, to access it we need to play the game again. So let's meet our new heroes!
It looks like we're going with the It's Always Sunny in Palamacia team suggested by Fister Roboto. I, uh, have to confess I've never seen the show. I know, I know, I've just never gotten around to it. Also, six character limit forces me to truncate Charlie's name. Sorry.
We get a real intro this time around!
"...and launches his campaign for world conquest."
Uh... that's the town the fan translation called Altea. Not, uh... the other thing. There's obviously some name differences between translations, although most of them are fairly easy to suss out, at times it can be confusing. Sorry. At least we're not bringing the Origins translation into the mix.
"They have lost their parents at the hands of the empire. And they are not free yet..."
After that intro, every else happens exactly the same. Grossly unfair battle, die, resurrected, whine at Hilda, and key word.
I will note that there's a little bit more movement during dialogue scenes in this version. You tend to see all of your characters during scenes, characters bow their heads and wave their hands, and whenever you talk to Hilda your party will all move back and bow. It's nothing fancy, but it's nice. Although for some reason they're always spotting Solid Snake.
But you don't really care about that. You're probably more curious about how I'm playing this run. A lot of runs were suggested, but the one that struck out to me was the one TheFattestPat suggested:
How about a super awesome Treasure Hunter Adventure
Build the characters however you like, but you're not allowed to buy any weapons or armor or use any that enemies drop. You can only use what's found in treasure chests. You have to open all of them, and when you get something new you have to equip it right away.
No re-equipping already worn gear, and you'll need to rotate between all the characters.
This and the "magic only" run had the most support. A magic only run would be very doable, if kind of boring and grindy at times. The treasure hunter run, however, sounds more interesting to me. That reminds me of the Living off the Land challenge Sullla did for FF1. A living off the land challenge entails buying nothing and surviving on pickups alone. Actually, that sounds really interesting. I'm doing that run instead.
...yeah, sorry. I never claimed this was a democracy.
A living off the land challenge is lots, lots easier in FF2 for multiple reasons. For one, we already start with equipment, and even if we didn't unarmed is always a viable option. Enemies drop items so we're not completely reliant on treasure chests. And most importantly we're not stuck in a no-magic variant, since chests and monsters drop magic tomes.
However, there are a few things to note: until midway through the first dungeon, we have no magic since monsters don't drop tomes this early. In terms of what magic we can find, you can't buy most black magic anyway, and every single black magic tome can be found, so we're sitting pretty for that. White magic on the other hand... the only white magic spells we find are cure (only one tome, and we have to wait until Kashuon), blink, exit, and Ultima. This means: no life spell (Tiamat apparently drops a life tome? That's way too late to matter) and no heal/esuna. Fortunately, enemies tend to drop antidotes and eye drops, and we don't have a limited inventory in this version, so we're not totally fucked by poison or darkness. However, ailments like stone or curse will be a bitch because enemies don't drop those healing items, and there's very few of those items in the game. Phoenix downs will be a bitch, too. Only one non-boss enemy drops them, and there's only three in chests, at least in the original game. This version changes around some of the chests, though, so we'll see how that goes.
With all this in mind, how will be build our characters?
Everyone more or less keeps the same equipment. Mac gets Charlie's shield, and Dee takes off her clothes. I'm going to keep Dee in the back, armed with a bow. She's going to be my main spellcaster once I've got spells. I'll have Charlie do some spellcasting, but Dee's doing the brunt. There's only one aspil/osmose tome in the game, barring any I get from drops, and since I can't build an elixir swimming pool MP conservation will be kind of important. There are a few enemies late in the game that drop ethers and elixirs, though, so that'll be helpful.
Since magic will be kind of tight, I'm keeping both Charlie and Mac in the front row. Mac will be my stereotypical warrior type, shields and heavy armor, while Charlie will be a jack of all trades.
After we get our first key word and so some minor equipment shuffle, what else can we do in town?
This is about it. As you'd imagine potions will be our lifeblood early on, so I have to make sure to grab what I can.
I will note, however, that's it's too bad we're not buying anything in this version, because the prices have decreased dramatically. In the original, if you wanted to buy, say, a fire tome with your starting money you'd either have to buy it and nothing else, sell some of your starting equipment, or forgo it entirely. Here, however, you can buy fire, cure, and have some left over.
(Ignore the money total up top. That was an accident, and this screenshot isn't even from the main run.)
It's not just spells. The phoenix downs were originally 5000 gil; their price was reduced by 90 percent. Obviously not all items were reduced equally. Elixirs are still the same price, for example. It's certainly nice that items are now reasonably priced, since money is usually tight early on, but it still feels a little unnecessary. Oh well, our gang took a vow of poverty so it doesn't matter.
Oh and Paul gets a unique sprite and a portrait in this version. Yay.
The ability to one-shot goblins at the start is really nice, although Dee can't quite manage that with her bow yet. Still, being able to kill three goblins in two turns is so awesome. Seriously, you have no idea how long it took Vivian to kill things.
After one battle, Charlie is midway through sword level one. Yeah. He only swung once. Early on, weapon skills level up stupidly fast, although they'll plateau around level 4 or 5. All three of them leveled up their chosen weapon in the next battle.
Like in Sullla's run, inns are in play for this run. Once Osmose comes around maybe I could dispense with inns entirely, but for now I don't see how that's possible.
The trip to Phin/Fynn was uneventful. Charlie got an HP increase and Mac got some strength. Baby steps.
This version adds a little scene warning you not to chum it up with the soldiers. That's cool.
Three potions! Sweet!
BORGA- oh, "Borghen." I can't make that joke anymore. Damn.
Anyway, he dies, we get his ring, and head back.
And everyone gets another weapon level. Oh, I'll note that in this version, the game only counts actions you actually complete, rather than input. So this means select-cancel is no longer possible, but level three weapon skill before you get Minwu! You don't need it.
As you can see, everyone's a little lagging in HP, but we make it back to town without incident.
Although this happens. In this version, everyone in your party gets regular HP increases, even if they didn't get hit in that battle. While hitting your own party members to increase HP is still viable, it's no longer necessary.
After the walk back from Fynn, we're on the pointless Mythril sidequest. Considering that we're vastly limited on healing for this run, having Minwu would be really, really nice. However, the condition I'm placing on myself for Soul of Rebirth is all the characters in it have to go in with their default stats and equipment. This means that Minwu has to die. Again. Don't worry little buddy. You'll eventually get your day in the limelight.
At least this time we can put him out of his misery quickly.
There's not much to report about on the way to Salamand.
Other than Dee's "happy" face portrait is terrifying.
Anyway, we're up to what I predicted was going to be the first stumbling block of this run: Semitt Falls.
And I had a right to fear it. Charlie already needs a potion, and I'm on the first floor. (By the way, when you see damage displayed in screenshots here, the HP total below is before the damage.) It doesn't help that I felt the need to grab the completely useless chests. They still have money in this version, although it's a higher amount. Another soldier sent him into the red again, forcing me to burn another potion. Two potions out of four just for the first floor.
However I'd say the attack I really feared was the bow. At least for attacks, Mac with his shield is building up some decent evasion percentage (the level is another story). But the bow will hit no matter what, and worse than that it'll hit Dee in the back. Even with a few HP increases her HP is sad.
The party clears the first floor with one potion left. Against my better instincts, I go on to the second.
Hey look running worked hows about that?
Sweet, precious life blood!
Although maybe I should have used it so the soldier didn't bow Dee to death.
This was only a regular potion in the original game! Getting a Hi Potion (the fan translation called them X Potions, but this is more accurate) is pretty nice! Maybe this was a net gain? Well, let's see if I can get this party back to town.
Nope! In case you're curious, this version lets you save anywhere, but I'm gonna be using old school saving rules: only on the world map.
Hm, I just don't see this working. Even if I run through the first floor and walked back, I still needed three potions to get past the first floor! Practice runs would result in a net loss. And I still need some potions for the snow cavern! I really see no way out but to get more potions. Thankfully, lots of enemies at this point drop them.
So... I grinded for drops. Yeah. Not proud. What's worse is that is that I spent a fair bit of time fighting and I didn't get anyway. The Vampire Thorn, the Queen Bee, and the Soldier all have a chance to drop potions, and other than the vampire thorn it's a 20% chance, but they wouldn't drop it. Or the game wouldn't put me in an encounter with enemies that dropped potions. I eventually gave up after only getting two potions and tried exploring the cave again. At least everyone got some HP and another weapon level out of it. That should help.
Also Charlie is starting to train his unarmed. Since everything levels so quickly early on, you can afford to train in a lot of different weapons. As you may recall, the two bosses at the end are hard to damage with physical attacks, so fisticuffs are my best option there.
I make it to the mid-way point without using any of my six potions. All right!
On the fourth floor, we have the first magic tome! I should probably turn back, but damn I want that teleport/exit tome. I had Dee practice with her magic a bit, but she didn't quite reach level 2.
Turns out she, uh, didn't need to. I didn't realize it before, but they re-did the unarmed attack formula. It was 8 * (skill level - one) plus 1/2 strength score. However, in this version you get plus 8 to attack even on the first level. Instead of the attack score of 2 Vivian was running around with at the beginning, Dee's unarmed attack power would start at 10. That's a huge difference. Admittedly stuff like the Masamune will still be stronger by the end, but this change makes fists way, way stronger.
Now that I've got Teleport, I warp out and walk back to town. Much to my surprise Dee nor Charlie died on the way back, and I got Fire level 2! Perhaps my luck is turning around! One more run, we just have the Sergeant left!
And then the game fucked me. You see, since I killed the Land Turtle so quickly Dee didn't get an MP increase. And now I have to waste some of her very precious MP on a random encounter. I managed to run away from slimes once, but it's so unreliable and considering that HP's at a premium too, trying to run might be more disastrous than just fighting them.
But I ran out of potions anyway. Shit. Well, the Sergeant only has 140 HP, so maybe I can blitz through it.
Yeah, uh, not quite. You see, they increased the Sergeant's HP! Son of a bitch! Dee does about 50 damage a round. Yeeeaaah I need the Sergeant dead quicker than that. Well, Charlie wasted the other fool, he can do the same here.
You know how I ran out of potions? It's almost as though the game knew it and went right after my most vulnerable and precious member.
This is how you can tell I'm getting desperate.
Didn't work. All right, do over.
Although that little failure gives me an idea...
Another run through the cave that doesn't quite make it to the end nets Dee a fucking MP increase. Hallelujah. Sadly, I only get one more potion on my way back to the boss, but at least I go into the fight with two potions. All right, let's go.
I don't know if level 2 teleport will actually work, but I just want to avoid a protracted fight.
And it does. That's... kind of disappointing, honestly.
Teleport has a low base accuracy, and Dee doesn't have a hell of a lot of spirit, but even level 2 teleport can wreck low level monsters. I'm keeping all the overpowered shit in play, at least until it bores me. Since Vivian ended up being a high defense/low offense kind of run, I'm hoping these guys turn out the opposite way. We'll see!
Anyway, we've cleared the first major challenge of the game. In case you're curious, this is the state of the party:
And next time will be the next great stumbling block; the second real dungeon of the game. Woo!