Part 3: Chapter 3
The trek from Salmando to Semite Falls is uneventful. You can't row up the lake due to the waterfall, so you have to take the long way around, but by following the river in the canoe you can reduce the number of random encounters you have to go through.
Semite Falls is the game's first real dungeon. It's long and dangerous (well, dangerous compared to the fights you've seen so far), but since you've got turban guy to hold your hand it's kind of hard to actually get into trouble... until you get to the bosses, anyhow.
Ok, I admit it, when I first played FFII I spent like 5 minutes examining the alcove with this weird blue things, pressing against all the walls and such, to no avail. I know I can't be the only one.
A few new enemies show up here. The yeti is a pretty generic enemy, kind of like the sprinter but slightly weaker. Balloons are kind of special, though--you may recognize them as the Bomb enemies that have become one of FF's staples. Like in later games they have a special attack that causes them to self-destruct for a sizeable chunk of damage, but the way it works here is a bit different from the norm--their explosion is just a solidly powerful attack, but if they're at maximum HP then it fails to work. The trick is making sure you take them out in one shot, which is easily accomplished by Fire or Bolt spells due to their elemental weaknesses.
Guido's magical addiction is starting to take its toll on his health. I missed the screenshot, but a little while later Fry gets a decrease in Power as part of his limp-wristed healer's ways, thereby completing the trifecta of FFII's stat nerfs--Power occasionally decreases Intelligence, Intelligence occasionally decreases Vitality, and Soul occasionally decreases Power.
Nothing impressive lootwise, but it's a start.
Descending deeper into the dungeon. Thankfully the water is not poison or acid or any kind of bullshit like that. It's just water.
More looting, although this floor doesn't cough up anything better than basic healing items.
Treasure chests are not the only source of loot--enemies' treasure drop tables include items as well as gold. Nothing exciting yet, but later on enemies start to drop all kinds of ridiculous treasure.
Turban guy manages to level up Exit from repeated usage. At level 2 it's much more effective; weaker enemies are reliably taken out and even on the tougher enemies like soldiers he has a decent shot of success. It uses up twice as much MP now, but he's got MP to spare.
FFII might be plagued by bugs, balance problems, and engine limitations, but for the most part it had quite a few good ideas with the best of intentions. Every now and then, though, it comes up with a plain old bad idea.
Like these doors. As you play through FFII, you will notice its dungeons have a lot of doors. What is behind the doors?
90% of the time, nothing.
Well, not quite nothing. Whenever you go through a door and get sent into this generic 9x5 room, there is a very high probability that the first step you take will be a battle, often against enemies slightly tougher or more numerous than what you normally encounter on the floor you were on. The gimmick of slimes in this game is that they are essentially immune to weapons and to most spells (including turban guy's Exit spell, which is a rarity), but the spells they're not immune to generally destroy them. Guido's Bolt does the job here.
The leftmost door is the only door that leads to anyplace but a horrible retarded boxy room full of monsters, letting the party head down again.
Marty finally gets her weapon skills up.
Higher weapon skill = more attacks. Note that it generally doesn't make your individual attacks any stronger, and enemies tend to have pretty appreciable defense with high defense enemies being fairly common--if your attacks aren't really doing any damage, then leveling up your weapons will just enable you to fail to do damage more often. The one exception is the unarmed combat skill, which does grow in attack power the higher you level it. This makes unarmed skill very tempting if you plan on abusing the select/cancel glitch to grind weapon skills up, although there are some significant drawbacks to going barehanded.
Guido's about tapped out, so he pisses away the $2500 Ether. Curative effects work a lot better in combat than outside combat for some reason, so to get the most bang for your buck it's a good idea to use expensive Ethers in combat whenever possible. I'm not sure Guido has enough maximum MP for it to really make much of a difference, but it couldn't hurt.
Now the dungeon is just taunting me.
Fry catches up to level 2 bow skill. He's a tiny bit behind Marty since sometimes he's healing in combat instead of attacking.
As usual, only one of the doors has the way forward, the other are just pointless bullshit.
The third door reveals the Empire's death camp. Frankly, I think the horrible pointless ambush rooms next door are probably a bigger atrocity.
: "The Mithril is somewhere deeper in the cave, but I couldn't find it... I'll help the slaves escape!"
It's hard to care about FFII's characters or plots, so things like this can be pretty disorienting. You're working your way through a dungeon, and hey, there's a room full of dudes you'd forgotten about, but don't worry because the ninja you also forgot about is here to save them for you! Whatever, ninja buddy.
If you're worn out this might not be a bad point to head back to town; I think the designers might have intended for you to do so, as there are substantial changes now that all the slaves have been freed. By the time you make it back you'll have a pretty big leg up on your characters' stats and skills, but it's probably not worth the backtracking.
(This should go without saying, since nothing has ever been worth backtracking in a game ever.)
Continuing onward. You can tell things get tougher now because the cave is darker, but the dungeon doesn't run all that much longer.
Huzzah! Now we're starting to see some decent loot. The Fire spell is a huge help for Guido, since for now it's a lower level and therefore cheaper alternative to his Bolt 2 spell.
It's also especially good at taking out the slimes that start appearing regularly down here; his Bolt usually takes two shots to wipe out a group of slimes, but with level 1 fire he can end the battle instantly due to their vulnerability. It works well for killing Balloons on the cheap too, but that's a bit riskier since sometimes they'll be left with a little bit of HP and end up exploding (this doesn't happen during any battles, otherwise I'd have grabbed a shot.)
One of the biggest risks of this dungeon is the big groups of green goblins that sometimes show up, since they can ambush you and spam Bow attacks at your fragile back row characters; getting arrowed to death is not a big deal since turban guy can resurrect as needed, but being dead makes it hard to gain the HP you need to survive. I don't generally recommend grinding for HP (because it involves grinding and therefore is terrible), but it's not a bad idea to get everyone up to about 50 HP before heading in here. It's kind of lucky that Fry made it through the dungeon in one piece with only 30 HP to start with.
Last floor. This bridge looks important, but it's a red herring: the real objective is just to the north.
Talking to imperial soldiers has never caused anything bad to happen before!
Meet the game's first boss enemy, the Sargeant. He's a major stumbling block for most players trying to make their way through the game; I wouldn't be surprised if he's single-handedly responsible for a great deal of the hate that this game draws. He can hit for about 100 damage, but with turban guy on your side that's not so terrible by itself even if you haven't been grinding HP. The real problem is this:
The Sargeant has a defense of 25, which is more than you'd get from taking your highest starting strength character and giving them the most powerful weapon available without sequence breaking (that would be the Battle Axe, which we didn't even buy because it was too expensive.) So unless you either grind heavily or break the game, you're not going to even scratch this guy with physicals.
The easiest way to kill the Sargeant is to simply have turban guy tanking in front while your other party members kill him with magic from the back. The one snag is that they might be out of MP by the time they get through the dungeon, so you might take it one step further and simply buy an extra spellbook for turban guy--he's got tons of MP, so if you have him learn an attack spell he can easily solo the Sargeant.
Marty's having none of that, though; there's no way she's stepping aside as tank. Fortunately she doesn't have to:
Generally you're not going to get a whole lot of use out of Blink. It's not something you're likely to cast in routine combats, so it's not really going to get leveled unless you deliberately grind it one way or another, and it doesn't get very useful until you've leveled it up a few times. It's not very effective if your Soul is low or you're using heavy equipment, and it also doesn't do a lot of good unless your target has decent evade% to begin with. But with turban guy here we've got everything we need to make Blink work for us, so we might as well take advantage of it while we're able.
The Sargeant might think he's going to hit that, but he's got another thing coming. With Marty's evasion levels through the roof, I can sit back and wait for Guido to magic this guy to death.
Ooooor I could get really lucky and have turban guy one-shot him with Exit. I was not really expecting that to work.
Of course, we're still stuck on the bottom floor of this long and annoying dungeon. We could have turban guy use Exit for its intended purpose, but that's not actually necessary.
Crossing the bridge and circling around takes us to a chest with an Exit spellbook. This had a 1500 G price tag back in Salmando, so it's a really sweet find.
It's also the first monster-in-a-box to appear in a Final Fantasy game, and it's a rather nasty one.
The LandTurtle hits about as hard as the Sargeant and has even higher defense, so again you're not going to get anywhere attacking physically. The game plan's the same as before, except Guido has to use Fire since this thing is resistant to lightning.
But wait! Guido is out of MP, and I already used the Ether I stole from turban guy. I could probably just spam Exit until I get lucky again, but turban guy has a solution in his bag of tricks. See this spell? This is Change, one of the most infamous spells in FFII. (The remakes name it Swap--don't ask me why the remakes managed to come up with a four-letter synonym and the fan translation didn't.)
Cast it on Guido, and...
Turban guy's HP and MP get transferred to Guido (and capped off, since he has lower max HP and MP), while Guido's HP and MP get transferred to turban guy. Now turban guy's out of MP, but that doesn't matter because Guido can finish slow-roasting the turtle.
There are a huge number of uses for this spell--you can probably figure some of them out, but I'll be showing them off a bit probably next update. Most of them are ridiculously impractical, but for some reason it's a pretty popular spell to abuse anyhow.
With the Exit spell in hand, Fry warps everyone out. For reasons that are unclear, the designers decided that having Exit give you a free ride was somehow too good, so they had it penalize the caster's HP. It's not a big deal; he just spends his last HP healing himself back up to full.
Guido's up to level 3 Bolt on the trip back. He can now reliably one-shot any wandering monster we've seen so far, and two or three castings tops will wipe out groups of anything except the toughest enemies (like Soldiers.)
Salmando is a lot more lively since the slaves were freed from the mine, but there's not really anything interesting. Right now it's just a waypoint on the long trek back to Altea.
Tobul's statement implies that we're about to receive all kinds of cool gear. But, no:
The rebellion still expects us to buy our equipment, at absolutely ridiculous prices (even considering the haul from the last cave.) Don't worry too much about trying to upgrade all your equipment right away (especially the armor, which is very powerful but still very heavy and therefore not very useful.) The mithril equipment is more powerful than what you really need at the moment and is going to remain high-end stuff for a while, so there's no big hurry.
That wraps up the mithril quest, so let's poke around town and see what the next quest will be.
Well, Marty agrees with you.
I can't help but think that the ellipses are sort of... unsettling. They make it sound like the kind of statement that has... implications.
Hey, is it just me or are there more people hanging around the base than there used to be?
What are you, the narrator? You're right here and you're part of that rebel army. You don't have to describe what you're doing from a third person perspective.
Still, it's pretty cool to see the rebel army expanding (even if the new recruits are a geezer and a kid, respectively.) It's gonna be okay guys, we can do this.
: "A group in Bofsk is trying to find a way to sabotage the Warship. Please destroy the Warship, or at least delay its completion..."
: "Wait, wait, wait. We've got an Empire, right. And the Emperor's left-hand man is a Dark Knight type. And the Empire's building a giant flying superweapon that we've got to go sabotage. Is this ringing any bells for anyone else?"
: "Many Bofskans died to bring us this information."
: "I've got a bad feeling about this..."