Part 6: Chapter 6
Before leaving Salmando forever, we stop and pick up one of the single most useful hints in the entire game. If you don't talk to every single person in Salmando after Josef's death (a town you've already been to at least twice before), you're unlikely to ever find the chocobo in this game. It's completely optional, but it can be easily abused.
I also pick up a couple of ethers. The money is really piling up now, so you can easily buy whatever weapons/armors/spells in this area you want if you don't have them yet.
Fry's HP total is looking pretty shabby, so on the way to our next destination I decide he needs some toughening up. Apparently there's a glitch where enemies end up targetting the first party position far less often than the others; since only a few enemies can even hit the back row in the first place, this makes for very low HP growth. That will change soon, but he'll need a bit more HP to work with.
Cid's prices are pretty reasonable now that we have more money than could feasibly be spent in this part of the game.
The ruined castle of Kashuon is a pretty good hike from civilization (you can just barely see Poft and Bofsk in the northwest, and bear in mind that the distance around the edge is distorted), so the airship ride saves quite a bit of time.
You can walk right in and say hello to the Sun Flame, but unless you have the right item there's not a lot you can do with it. You need to use the Goddess Bell from the snow cave to unlock the interior of the castle to get what you need.
As well as getting what you emphatically don't need.
: "It's somewhere in the castle... please help me find it!"
So basically the entire last dungeon could have been skipped if this jerk had told anyone where he was going and let us in his castle. Ninja Shakespeare's death is on your hands, Emo Guy, and now you want to tag along?
Although really, he's arguably a better party member than Ninja Shakespeare. Emo Guy gets a lot of crap due to his starting stats, but he's not actually that bad. 22's across the board is fairly decent for this point in the game, and although his HP and MP are pretty bad his 22 Vit and M.Pwr means that he'll gain HP and MP fairly rapidly (especially MP.)
The hallway where you meet Emo Guy is kind of a raised gallery that quickly returns you to the interior of the first floor. Whoever designed this place was a terrible architect.
In the southeast corner of the ground floor there's a free Cure spell, which promptly goes to Emo Guy. Congratulations, Emo Guy, you're almost as useful as Fry.
Up to the second floor (for real this time.)
Marty gets a well-timed mace level up, and we find some loose change in the next chest.
Some new enemies show up. Wererats are pretty much par with what we've been fighting lately, except with poison. Ogres are a bit tougher--at 100 HP, they're generally too strong even for Guido's Bolt to one-shot.
Floor three. We're making decent progress, but Guido's already almost out of MP. Thank god for ethers.
Yes, this thing just showed up as a boss monster last dungeon and now it's a regular random encounter. The same tactics take it out without too much difficulty, earning Fry a level-up in Blink. Really Blink is actually a pretty handy spell, but it does go more or less obsolete as your party gets stronger. (Or at least it should, if you're doing things right.)
The gold shield is one step up from mithril, and has a useful special property too. Of course, good loot like this means a monster-in-a-box. Like a lot of monsters-in-boxes lately it's a joke, though--the fight consists of all of two wererats.
Floor 4. Again I have to wonder why we did the snow cave and got Ninja Shakespeare killed, considering that there are big holes in the walls that we could probably have just climbed up to.
There are several doors scattered all over this floor, but by now you've probably caught on to the fact that these are stupid and you shouldn't enter them because you'll just get dumped in an empty room that probably has a fairly tough random encounter in it.
WRONG! This is the truly infuriating part of all the side rooms infesting FFII's dungeons. While 90% of them are pointless diversions that only serve to waste time and trigger extra encounters, a lot of the best loot is found in them too, and without prior knowledge there's no way of determining which ones are worth going into. This treasure room is in the middle of the floor, the door due north in the last pic. (The rest, of course, are all stupid pointless ambush closets.)
Free mithril stuff is nice, but the real find is this:
The Were Mace! We'd better hurry up and find a better weapon before the full moon subsides, because Marty is going to be pretty embarrassed when it turns back into a human and she finds herself wielding a naked guy. Although I guess that's not much different from how the party normally operates.
It's the strongest weapon available so far, at least by "normal" means, hence why it can pay to cross-train one of your melee characters in staff/mace. Obviously things like the Flame Bow are even more powerful, and that's not the only weapon you can get game-breakingly early--although there is also a staff that's about as strong as the Flame Bow that's not hard to get either (it'll probably show up next update.)
Axes are still Marty's best skill, but the Were Mace is stronger and more accurate than even the Mithril Axe. A lot of enemies around here have pretty high defense, so it's better to hit twice for a bit of damage than to hit three or four times for 0 damage a pop. As the name may suggest the Were Mace is extra effective against werecreatures, too--there are only 3 were-enemies in the entire game, but one of them is a fairly common encounter in this place so it's not a bad perk.
(And unlike Final Fantasy I, where all those enticing weapon special properties completely failed to function, they definitely work here.)
Another new enemy. Wraiths are slightly on the weak side statwise, but they have a nasty trick up their sleeves--their physical attack actually drains HP, which isn't such a big deal right now (if you've been using Fire enough you may be able to wipe them all in one spell), but such attacks will grow to be a huge threat later on. The NES version's interface is so primitive that it doesn't give you any indication that any draining is going on, although you can still identify life-draining attacks in this version due to another property.
For whatever reason, FFII's engine doesn't simply take the damage inflicted by draining physicals and give the same amount of HP back to the attacker as healing. Instead, the attack does damage as normal, and then on top of that it takes a 1/16th slice of the victim's maximum HP and heals the attacker by that amount. That's 1/16th per hit, mind you--get hit by a 4x draining attack, you're down 25% of your health.
That's why I don't really advise abusing the HP gain system any more than you strictly need to (and you probably won't need to do very much, if any at all.) Walking around doing the early quests with 5000 HP is all well and good until you start getting popped for several hundred HP a hit. It's also one of the reasons that evasion is supremely important, because no matter how much HP or defense you have you will die in 16 hits to an enemy with physicals that do HP drain--and late in the game some of them have 8-hit attacks with this property.
None of the other doors on this floor have anything interesting, so up one more.
Spamming Ice on enough Adamantoises earns Guido an Ice level up.
It proves pretty handy when another old familiar face appears. Guido can now one-shot the LandTurtles. Monsters are starting to drop some pretty appreciable loot, too (I think this comes from the Ogre.)
Another monster-in-a-box. The gold armor is way too heavy to be practical: even tanks will want to stay away from it due to its evade penalty, let alone mages.
Still, the monster-in-a-box encounter for this is actually a little bit tougher. The Mines are the strongest bomb-type enemies encountered so far, and they're too strong for Guido to safely split his spells. Luckily the Flame Bow speeds things up a bit
In the northeastern corner of this floor there's another treasure room, but all it has is crappy curative items. The Echo Screen is actually kind of useful, since it cures amnesia--this is important, since if Fry gets hit with amnesia he can't cast Heal on himself to fix it. (You might remember from turban guy's Fog spell that amnesia = Super-Mute, basically, which is apparently why the fan translator named it after the FF staple item for curing mute status. In the GBA translation the item you use to cure amnesia is the Mallet, which is much more amusing.)
A new enemy shows up! WzOgres are tougher than standard ogres, and throw spells around too. But virtually all enemy spells are multi-targetted (disregarding special attacks like Bow and the bombs' Blast), which means they're probably not going to do too much damage. Mostly you can just sit back and enjoy the easy HP gains for your back-row characters, assuming they have enough HP to begin with that they don't just get killed outright. Hence why I spent the first 2-3 fights this update throwing spells at Fry.
Marty's dual maces put her on the fast track to another level up, and the WzOgre drops a Blink book. I give it to Emo Guy, 'cuz why not?
We're already on the top floor, so the only place to go leads us back down to an odd little room in a walled-off tower. We're coming up on a boss fight, so even though it's largely useless Fry equips the Gold Armor as it shares an important property with the Gold Shield. He also chugs the second Ether--he's going to need the MP more than Guido.
Looks like we're fighting some kind of fire dude. The general theme of bosses seems to be ridiculous physical defense, so Guido just tosses an Ice 2 and
...huh. That's... different.
Red Soul (and other "Soul" enemies you'll encounter in this game) absorb every single element, so basically any spell you throw at him (including status spells) will be converted into a Cure effect instead.
He has some pretty decent spells of his own, too. Fry spams multi-target Cure to try to keep pace with the damage Red Soul is doing, although it's a battle he's losing.
Red Soul shows off a new spell, dubbed Aero in this version. In actuality it's the game's poison-elemental attack spell, which demonstrates the importance of the gold armor/shield: Aero is every bit as powerful as the other elemental attack spells, but Fry and Guido have resistance to poison thanks to their gold equipment. I'm not entirely certain what the logic behind that is, but a lot of RPGs tend to conflate poison/acid attacks and gold is noteworthy as being extremely resistant to acid.
Luckily Red Soul only has enough MP for 4 or 5 turns' worth of magic spam, because even though Fry is getting the occasional break from Aero spells he can't keep up with Red Soul's damage spells (Red Soul has all four basic elemental attack spells and uses them randomly, so Aero doesn't come up super often.) Once he's out of MP it's just a plain slugfest, and Blink + Shield = win.
Now that we have the Egil Torch we've actually got to go all the way back to the beginning and pick up the Sun Flame, but Exit provides a handy shortcut.
Welp, there goes Cid I guess. Thankfully we'll never need to return to any of his air taxi destinations, so I'm pretty sure this can't possibly affect us.
Besides, we've got more important things to do. Remember the one guy in Salmando dispensing obscure ornithological factoids?
Head due south of Kashuon's front door, and...
Chocobo! It moves around randomly at a decent pace, and it blinks in and out of visibility, which makes tracking it down kind of annoying. But once you do... well, nothing happens. This can be kind of annoying to figure out.
You need to exit the forest manually after having caught the chocobo. Then your sweet new ride shows up. No enemies attack you while you're riding the chocobo, so I could simply trace my path all the way back to Altea, but...
I've got a ride that can go anywhere without danger! How can I pass up a bit of sightseeing?
In the middle of this giant desert we catch a glimpse of Paramekia itself. You gotta kind of wonder how a nation stuck in a completely impassable mountain range ever managed to conquer the world. Then again, considering that the world mostly consists of empty wilderness this probably did not take an awful lot to accomplish.
Eventually we come to the end of the giant-ass desert. It's so big that Kashuon is no longer visible on the map. So yes, that desert covers approximately 25% of the circumference of the globe.
Beyond the desert is just one extended isthmus with a whole lot of nothing. Eventually it spreads out into a vast swampy region.
Hey, it's Phin! We've just about circumnavigated the world by chocobo. Chocobos don't swim, so the lake between Altea and Palm is once again an impassible barrier. If we went back the way we came we'd eventually come to Palm via the long way, which means technically turban guy's canoe is not actually necessary to get to any of the towns we've seen so far. It takes a hell of a lot of grinding to get through that desert on foot, though.
We haven't been everywhere on this world-spanning supercontinent yet, though. There's another big isthmus stretching out to the southwest of Phin.
Following it just takes you back to the other side of Paramekia. Boring.
That waterway we passed up looks intriguing, though. But we have to say goodbye to the chocobo in order to cross.
Straight south of the crescent lake (seriously, what's with these people and crescent lakes? it's not like they're ever in a position to be oxbow lakes) is the hidden village of Mysidia. It doesn't show up on the map, so there's no immediately obvious reason to abandon your chocobo and row across the river unless you already knew it was here.
: "'Minh'? Do we know anyone named Minh?"
: "Not ringing any bells."
: "How did this name even come up?"
You're not intended to get here until very late in the game, so none of the mages' dialogue makes any sense without the proper context.
Mysidia is home to a legendary library, with all of two bookshelves. Two. And one of them contains no information whatsoever. You can "talk" with the other one to get some background fluff on some of your conversation keywords.
"Sun Flame: In a time before castles or countries, a star fell on the land whree Kashuon exists now. One man harnessed the burning core of the star. He created an altar and worshipped it there. As humanity progressed, a Castle was built around it as a sign of power."
"Goddess Bell: Long ago, a wealthy King ordered an unbreakable lock, because his treasure had often been stolen. The first lock was broken in a day. The second lock was broken in two days. But, the third lock was never broken. The King hid the only known key, now called the Goddess Bell, deep within an icy cave. The Bell's sweet sound can open any lock."
So basically, Kashuon was home to a nuclear fusion reactor which they just leave sitting around in their antechamber while the entire rest of the castle is sealed behind an unbreakable lock whose only key is sitting deep in an icy cave beyond an impassable snowy wasteland. Yeah, it's not hard to see how those idiots managed to get conquered by the Empire.
Of course, the real reason to get here early is the shops. The weapons are pretty nice; the Ice Bow is even better than the Flame Bow, and the Power Mace is a couple steps up from the Were Mace. The big item here is the Ogre Axe, though. If you have any axe-users, it takes forever to get a decent upgrade from the Mithril Axe; if you're planning on having someone stick with axes for the entire game, a detour to Mysidia is incredibly useful.
The Flame Spear is a spear. If you use spears you are a silly person.
The real value is at the armor store. The Ice Shield is equivalent to the Gold Shield, just with a different resistance, and the Knight Armor is a typically too-heavy-to-be-useful piece of crap. But the Thief Gauntlet is one of the most useful pieces of armor in the game. Not only does it offer a good bit of defense at a relatively cheap price, it gives +10 Agility when equipped--your evasion actually goes up when you equip it, making it one of the few sources of evade% for unarmed fighters/bow users. Unfortunately, even though it doesn't ding your evade much it does carry a substantial spellcasting penalty. Still, if you get to Mysidia early it's definitely worthwhile to load up on these in order to help build agility at the start.
The Giant Gauntlet is similar, except it's much heavier and gives +10 Strength instead. It's not bad for physical attackers, but anyone who's attacking physically either 1) is on the front row and needs as much evasion as possible, so Thief Glove is better, or 2) is in the back with a bow and has very few options for raising evasion, so Thief Glove is better.
As might be expected in a town full of mages, the magic store is kind of a big deal. You can buy any spell that's shown up in any of the shops so far at the various counters.
More importantly, you can buy several spells that don't show up in shops anywhere else. Wall and Barrier are magical defense spells with ridiculously narrow niches, and Change has already been mentioned. Holy is something new, though. It's a non-elemental attack spell that does 50% more damage than the basic elemental spells, and extra damage to undead on top of that--although virtually all undead enemies are vulnerable to Fire, which will do more damage than Holy to them anyway. It's only really useful for two reasons:
1) It's the only white magic spell that does pure damage to non-undead enemies, so if you have someone with higher Soul than Intellect it may not be terrible, and
2) It's a non-elemental damage spell that's available far sooner than any other non-elemental spells. If you put together 20,000 gold and get Holy early enough, the Red Soul fight becomes a big joke--Red Soul absorbs all magic elements, but non-elemental spells have their regular effect on it.
I'll be wanting Holy on Fry eventually, but I don't have nearly enough money. Instead Fry picks up the Change spell, and everyone except Emo Guy gets Thief Gauntlets (I sold off some of the loot from Kashuon to afford everything.) Marty's starting to get a halfway decent Evade% even without a shield.
I brought up her stats to point out one other thing. You'll notice that Hit% is broken down into 3-77%; the 3 is simply the number of attacks she gets with her primary weapon, which as I mentioned earlier is just equal to the level of the relevant weapon skill (she still has the Were Mace right now.) Her evade rating is similarly broken down into 4-35%, but the 4 in front isn't related to any weapon skill (not even shields). Instead, Evasion is its own separate skill. Just as your weapon skill gives your attacks more chances to rack up more hits, and spell skills gives your spells more chances to rack up more successes, evasion skill determine your number of chances to dodge. Marty gets 4 dodges, each of which currently has a 35% chance to negate a hit from an enemy's attack.
How do you level up your evasion? Although it isn't displayed it has its own skill point accumulation like weapons/spells; for evasion, you earn skill points from being targetted by enemies, but at a rate much more slowly than you get from selecting weapons/spells. Consider: Marty's been getting targetted 5+ times in most battles, yet her evade level is only marginally higher than her axe skill (evade just recently hit 4)--a skill she only uses 1-3 times in most battles, and hasn't been using at all lately!
Think of what would happen if everyone was in the front row and all those attacks were getting spread out equally. In a lot of battles, no one would be earning any evasion experience at all, which means you can get to the end of the game and have everyone be stuck at level 2-4 evade. Now, a lot of the nastiest endgame enemies have 8 attacks with very high accuracy. If you have 99% evasion but only 4 levels of evasion skill, and an enemy rolls 5 hits against you, then the best you can hope for is to dodge 4 of those 5 hits--meaning one attack stills get through to fuck you up with status effects.
tl; dr: LEAVE SOME PEOPLE IN THE BACK ROW FOR MOST OF THE GAME OR YOU WILL GET RAPED FOR NO APPARENT REASON WHEN YOU GET TO THE END. It is possible to use Blink to compensate since Blink effectively raises your evade level, but you probably don't want to be wasting time casting Blink on your tanks every fight.
So that's Mysidia. Remember that, since everything is connected as one giant super-continent, you can get here and buy all this ludicrous stuff immediately as soon as turban guy joins you (that's when you get the canoe.) Just scrounge up 400 G for a ride to Kashuon, hop on a chocobo, and head on down here. Of course, you have to find a way to earn enough money to pay for the stuff. More importantly, crossing the river to reach Mysidia means letting go of the chocobo, which means...
You still have to walk all the way back from Mysidia, through many screens populated by monsters from much later in the game. These guys happen to be some of the more forgiving enemies you'll encounter around here. They have tons of hitpoints, but big elemental vulnerabilities. They hit reasonably hard, but Fry and Emo Guy each have both Blink and Cure. If you don't have enough money to pay for Mysidia's stuff, you could potentially use these guys to grind for it. There are better and less risky places for raising large sums of money early on, though.
Heading north, we run into a distinctly non-jolly green giant. I always thought the gigas in this looked pretty sad, something that's lost in the updated art the remakes have. They can do upwards of 300 damage if they land all their hits, so it's a damn good thing Marty lands a Curse with the Ancient Sword right off the bat. A bit of Blink spamming helps out too, especially since the Bombs hit pretty hard as well.
The Bombs are a credible threat--they've got so much HP that Guido's Bolt spell doesn't do enough damage to take them out. Even with the Flame Bow adding another hundred or two damage on top of that they still don't die in one turn, which means basically the only thing I can do is wound them and watch as they pop in my face.
Fry does get a bow level out of it, though.
These guys are nasty fuckers. They're got 500+ HP, they drain HP with their attacks, and they've got some horrible spells to throw at you. They also often appear in much larger groups, and I don't think you can run from them, either. If you've got a level 4+ Life spell, that's probably your best bet (assuming you don't have equipment penalties to worry about); otherwise, just throw Fire and Cure spells if you don't have flame weapons equipped.
This is probably their least horrible spell. Mini badly nerfs the target's attack and defense power--thankfully Fry's the only one doing meaningful physical damage, and he resisted. It's not a permanent status effect, either, so it will wear off at the end of combat (if not sooner.)
Aw, lookit the little guys go.
Another Bomb/Gigas group is defeated with no losses, although we're out of MP now.
Guido manages to get a shield level up in the process--while out of MP he can't do anything except wave his shields around uselessly, which apparently gives experience. This gives him a nice hefty boost to his Evade%, since he has two of them and the level up increases the evade bonus from both.
A river! Sweet, sweet salvation! No random encounters on the canoe, which means...
Hey, wait a minute. This place looks familiar.
Gatea? But... this is like, the second town.
Yes, if you wander about 20 tiles off your path when you're doing the opening quest, you will run into ridiculous late-game ubermonsters. There are actually intermediate-level encounters (which will still kill your starting party) even closer if you stray to the northwest as you're rounding the lake. You remember the "Peninsula of Power" from Final Fantasy I? This entire game takes place on the goddamn Pangaean Supercontinent of Power. I mean, watch:
Here, you fight Goblins.
Here, you fight Ghosts.
The juxtaposition of these two particular enemies is pretty apt, because if you take your starting party and wander into this part of the map, fighting the enemies I just showed would be almost as difficult as playing Ghosts and Goblins.
Fry has neither the MP nor the desire to cast Life on Emo Guy, so the party drags him to the town's temple. The game's designers were not completely merciless, since they made resurrection free in towns.
: "Remind me again why we're bothering with this?"
: "You're injured, he knows Cure, and he has MP left. I'll be damned if I'm paying your medical bills."
At any rate, we're home from our world-spanning journey. Time to head back to base and get our next mission from Hilda.