Part 10: Chapter 10
Hooray! The circus is in town!
Oh wait, it's only the rebel army. In a brick-and-mortar tent.
I wish it was the circus, they'd probably be more useful in battle. At least circuses have lions.
Asking Hilda about the Wild Rose codeword elicits a helpful reassurance.
But Emo Guy is acting uncharacteristically non-emo, and fails to provide any such reassurance. Evidently he is secretly a lamia too! Guards, arrest that impostor!
Although then again, I do notice that he's still being useless. Maybe he is the real deal.
As usual, it's up to us to do everything while the rebel army mills about uselessly. Oh hey, we got our wench back.
This is the world's most straightforward dungeon.
A few random encounters pop up anyhow. Which is good, because Guido's Toad spell still needs practice.
These things are some variety of flower. I think they inflict some status or another on hit, but it's kind of hard to say since they can't touch any of my party members to begin with.
These screenshots pretty much represent my entire path through the castle. There are plenty of treasure chests around if you want to go looting, but you can loot them just fine after the attack, too. I think you can find random Sorcerers here and maybe Wizards too if you want to go spell-hunting, but while they have some more nice stuff to drop I've got the one thing I really want from them. So on to the boss fight!
Particularly astute readers may be noticing a pattern around this point.
If for whatever reason you don't feel like ending the fight instantly, Goatass's main gimmick is that he can cast Haste and a Berserk-like special on himself to boost his attack all crazy-like. Simply having evade is not enough if you want to go toe to toe in a slugging match with this guy; you need to stack Blink like crazy, or else hope he doesn't haste himself up much.
He does have some interesting loot he can drop; considering how short the dungeon is (and the fact that you may have savestates at your disposal), you may consider trying a couple times for better drops. Nothing he has should be considered a dealbreaker if you don't get it, though.
There's a lot of exposition from Gordon and Hilda, and a lot of keywords to ask them each about, so I'll just summarize:
: "Phin Castle was saved thanks to you! We are forever in your debt. By the way, Minh still hasn't come back yet. Could you go to [Mysidia] and find out what happened please?"
: "Mysidia is a magical place. Their power may be useful against the Empire."
: "In Mysidia Tower, the ultimate magic [Ultima] is hidden."
: "However, Mysidia Tower is sealed by a magic barrier. You'll need two [Mask]s to break it. The White Mask was hidden in the basement of this castle. This chant will open the basement door: [Ekume]... I'm sorry, but I don't know where the door is."
: "Paul must know more about this castle!"
Bitches got no respect.
: "Hey, welcome to my world! Fuckin' hypocrite."
Another callout inserted by the fan translator. I've been kind of hard on him (DRAGON) but you have to give him credit.
Shopping time! The weapon and armor stores are laughably out of date. The Quartz Plate might be kind of useful if you didn't happen to score any off of Sorcerers, but it's not a must-have by any means.
The magic store has some decent finds, though. Well, one find. Almost.
Fog neutralizes enemy spells, which is really handy, but killing or toadifying enemies neutralizes them just fine too and is no harder to pull off. Slow decreases the enemy's number of attacks, which accomplishes pretty much the same thing as Blink except it's subject to magical resistance and a lot of enemies are outright immune to it. Dispel is bugged in this version of the game and does nothing; in the remakes it's fixed and is actually slightly useful against a few enemies.
Mini, though, is basically the white magic equivalent of Toad. It's slightly less accurate, although in the long run that's not a big deal; the main problem with Mini is that this is the earliest point you can get Mini, whereas you can get Toad 10 minutes into the game. It is fairly easy to catch up on low-level magic skills if you use them every combat, but this means you have one less effective attack. With a white magic specialist it's pretty useful, although just grabbing a full set of Toad spells in the beginning is generally better.
Speaking of Toad: now that the Empire has been evicted the castle is free of random encounters so you can loot it at your leisure, and there's a cache of black magic spells with a free Toad book along with Break and Death. Break petrifies enemies, removing enemies from battle just like death/toad/mini, but it suffers from the same problems as Mini (low accuracy and relatively late acquisition.) It's Intelligence-based black magic just like Toad, so it's always going to be overshadowed a bit.
The Death spell, on the other hand, is going to be overshadowed a lot. I've already mentioned five separate spells that defeat enemies instantly (Warp, Exit, Toad, Mini, Break); not only does Death tie for second worst accuracy out of this group, there are vastly more enemies immune to the Death spell than there are immune to any of the others.
Take note: like FFI, FFII uses a single byte to determine both elemental and status resistances, meaning that there are only 8 possible resistance categories. Four of these are used primarily for elemental damage: Fire, Ice, Lightning, and Poison. Three of them are used for status effects: one for physically-based statuses, one for mentally-based statuses, and one for polymorph/teleportation effects (observe that this includes all the instant-defeat spells except Death.) The eight, of course, is death effects. Which includes only the spell Death.
Of the eight categories of resistances, one is devoted exclusively to the Death spell and Death alone for the sole purpose of giving a lot of enemies resistance to it. One-eighth of the storage capacity for magic resistance information is allocated to deliberately making the Death spell suck. Generally you can at least see the reasoning behind FFII's balance, even where it completely fails, but this is just silly.
Elsewhere in the castle is an Aura spellbook, but it's guarded by a monster-in-a-box. This one actually is kind of dangerous for once.
Fortunately the sorcerers use their crappy damage spells instead of raping everyone with status or instakill spells. The high-level Fire spell looks a lot scarier than it actually is. (Spells do get gradually more impressive effects as they level up; for most spells this simply translates to more twinkly bits, but Fire actually goes up through a progression of unique animations.)
The sorcerers don't drop anything, which is a shame. The opportunity to snag choice spellbooks from the sorcerers is actually worth a hell of a lot more than Aura, which has an interesting but largely useless effect--which completely fails to work in this version due to bugs. More on that later, though, as its mechanics are kind of tied into a few other spells.
Whoever keeps pulling this crap must think it's hilarious. (This one is just a bunch of scrubby low-level undead anyhow, though.)
There's a couple thousand gold lying around in a few chests here and there, but money is basically worthless at this point.
The Empire does not have a monopoly on improbable secret passages.
Not that there's anything worthwhile behind these. This sucks, there's got to be more treasure around here.
Hmmmm! Now this sounds like a plan I can get behind.
Somehow I don't think Paul's original line was "Sup?" Paul is one chill dude.
There's suspiciously little treasure here, but Emo Guy did suggest that Paul might be able to help us solve the Mystery of the Basement Door.
(At this point I could go to Mysidia, but there's not much point considering I've already done all the shopping there I really need, and all that they'll do is send me back here to do this fetch quest anyhow.)
: "I don't know much about that, but I'll tell you what I do know... check the upper right corner. You're really a curious guy!"
Telling the magic word Hilda gives you to the unusually chatty wall in the upper right corner of the throne room (as hinted at by Paul) gets you into the secret passage to Phin's basement.
Secrets within secrets!
Unfortunately, like the other two secret passages this one sucks; it just contains a set of the gold/quartz equipment from the armor store.
On to the basement proper!
The first few floors are a tour de force of unbelievably shitty treasure. At least they don't have any gag monster-in-a-boxes guarding them.
Most of the monsters are every bit as impressive as the treasure. This is where you might start to notice something is up with HP drainers' attacks, since this dungeon revisits a lot of enemies from a long time ago and suddenly they're doing way more damage than they did the last time you saw them (when you coincidentally had less max HP.)
Some new enemies do show up too, though (although I think the Suckers at least are also found in the Coliseum.) The suckers drain MP with their physical attacks, and can take huge chunks of it, so they suck if you have a bunch of front-row mages for whatever reason. The Changers (pink) and Brains (yellow) do what you'd expect them to do:
They cast Change. This is actually fairly helpful--they have a good sized pile of MP, so as you go through this dungeon your MP supply periodically gets topped up a bit. They have less than 300 HP, which can get pretty annoying if you've been boosting your HP to four-digit levels and it suddenly gets swapped down to 200ish. It's not very lethal, though, since these groups don't have any real damage-dealing capability.
The brains do cast Fog, though. Make sure you have Echo Screens, and preferably someone with level 3+ Heal (you still need Echo Screens in case all your heal casters get hit.)
There is one odd little quirk in these two enemies. I mentioned that the game splits status effects into physical and mental statuses for purposes of resistances; 95% of the time this is meaningless, since most enemies resist both or neither, but there are a few odd cases where it does actually make a difference. The two brain-type enemies are actually vulnerable to mental effects and immune to physical ones. Toad and other matter-manipulating type effects work just fine anyhow, though.
Mantises start showing up on the lower floors, too, and they can actually make things pretty difficult if you don't have an evasion tank. None of the other enemies in this place are very tough at all physically, so it's a pretty nice break.
Brains show up less often around here, so Guido has to periodically use Aspil to refill MP. I only got one Aspil book to drop and I've got two heavy casters, but that's OK--Fry can use his own Change spell to mooch off of Guido. (As an added bonus, this causes a big drop in Guido's MP total, which easily triggers max MP ups. But that's largely irrelevant considering that I have more or less infinitely replenishable MP now.)
Some moderately less shitty treasure starts showing up. Not so much the Thread (one-shot Slow 16 spell), but the Flame Shield is another flavor of elemental resistance for my shield-users and that's pretty handy.
One of the most broken weapons in the game, guarded by one of the more laughable monster-in-a-box groups. The Blood Sword has no evasion bonus, worse accuracy than even the Ancient/Sleep swords, and 0 attack power--but it has the HP drain attack effect. Which, you might recall, automatically deals damage equal to 1/16th of the target's max HP on each and every hit. It's not a good idea to use it against undead, but a weapon that will automatically kill anything else in 16 hits has obvious potential considering you can easily get 10+ hits per attack by the end of the game.
The Fang is a one-shot Charm 16 spell; a nice effect, but not worth clogging up your inventory for (especially since it has a tendency to wear off very quickly even if it succeeds.) The Flame Armor is heavy armor and therefore terrible, but if you have someone who can afford the evasion hit it might almost be worth equipping for its ice resistance. It would be pretty effective on Marty, but I'd like to get her agility higher before I take any big hits to her evade%.
Last floor. This sure is a colorful place. It's a decently long dungeon, but reasonably straightforward and pretty easy in general.
Which is not to say it's completely safe. This here's a monster-in-a-box that means business.
(The Orhacon is supposed to be an Orichalcum Dagger, named after the mythical precious-metal alloy of Atlantis. It's a decently strong weapon about on par with some of the Mysidian stuff, and does critical damage vs. sea creatures.)
I've badmouthed this spell before, but it's about to save my ass. If I had multiple Toad casters, or some really overleveled melee characters, I could probably take these things apart before they'd have a chance to be relevant. But this is going to take me two turns, so I'm playing it safe.
I'm casting Barrier across the entire party, so being a level 1 spell in the hands of a guy with only moderate Soul it fails for most of my party members--but it works on Guido, which is good enough. Barrier adds elemental resistances; each successful level adds one more type of resistance in a certain order, so for example a Barrier 8 spell that succeeded perfectly would grant resistance to everything that can possibly be resisted. Unfortunately it doesn't stack--casting Barrier 1 eight times will still only leave you with resistance to the first element. Now it says "Ice Df", but that's not quite correct. What it's actually doing is this:
Resistance to polymorph-y effects, like toad/petrification. This isn't a translation error--the programmers got the order of effects precisely backwards. Resistance to ice (and all the preceeding elements) is the effect of a successful level 8 Barrier, not level 1. In order, the effects of each level of Barrier are resistance to polymorph effects, fire, mental effects, lightning, death effects, poison, physical effects, and ice. So if for example you had Barrier 3, it would at best provide resistance to polymorph, fire, and mental effects--but varying degrees of success are possible, so sometimes you might only get the first couple of resistances if your spellcasting isn't good enough. The NES version just incorrectly reports the descriptions of what you're getting resistance to. The remakes, unfortunately, don't even tell you what elements you're getting resistance from at all; all you get is an indication of whether the spell failed completely.
It's kind of insane that you actually have to get Barrier up to level 8 to get resistance from everything (and more like level 9-10 to reliably get full resistances from everything), but that's okay--the resistances happen to be ordered in a pretty decent approximation of most useful to least useful. If you can get Barrier up even to level 2 or 3, a halfway decent white magic user can protect you from a lot of nasty shit. Of course, two good spellcasters can pretty much end any fight instantly.
There are a few other spells that use this same kind of layered elemental effect. Dispel removes elemental resistances from enemies in the same order that Barrier adds them, except Dispel is completely bugged in this version. The Aura spell is a buff that adds elemental properties to a character's physical attacks--except it, too, is bugged and does nothing at all here. The remakes fix both of these, which makes Dispel kind of handy since even at level 1 it's capable of removing immunity to Toad/Warp/Break/etc. from the few monsters that actually have it. Aura is not especially useful even when it works, though, although it is kind of interesting in that it lets you lay the smack down on the rare few enemies that have a vulnerability to an element normally reserved for status effects (like the brains' mental effect vulnerability.) But you're still almost always going to be better off casting Berserk, especially since you'd have to level Aura up to a silly degree in order to exploit some of the more common elemental weaknesses like lightning or ice.
Fry's lengthy training with Heal finally pays off--it takes level 5 Heal (which he's just recently acquired) to cure petrification. With his current stats it's not likely to succeed in combat due to the degree of success required, but outside of battle Life/Heal spells are automatic successes, even if you cast them at the whole party. (You also get a quick 2 skill points for every time you cast something at the menu, regardless of what level it's currently at, which isn't a bad boost for how quick and convenient it is. Unfortunately the out-of-combat menu won't let you cast spells that would have no effect, otherwise healing magic would be ridiculously easy to train!)
DOORS! This is a much easier dungeon than the Dist cave, so at least I can easily afford to stumble through trial and error until I find the right one.
A quick roundup of all the level ups earned in this dungeon so far. At Toad 6, Guido can consistently take out multiple enemies at once. With the Mini level Fry manages to get his first successful hit, too, although it'll be a while before he can multi-target anything successfully (he's still not really single-targetting successfully, this one was just luck.)
No boss here, and a convenient warp outside too. This dungeon really does take it easy.
So that's the first part of the multi-leg Mysidia quest. There's been a lot of growth since I last posted everyone's stats, so I figure we're due for an update:
Fry's spell selection is starting to really come along. A level 6 Heal spell is capable of curing any permanent status condition in the game, and has a little bit of margin of error built in so it's reasonably reliable at most of them. Most of the second half of the list is just there for shits and giggles, but Mini will be useful enough once it levels up, and Barrier/Shell might get pulled out now and again.
Fry's up to a whopping 46 points of Soul growth. His Power is lagging badly, being only 9 points up from his starting score. Partly this is because he's not attacking all the time, and partly it's because all those soul ups cause occasional power downs.
I was experimenting with the Flame Armor for Marty. With her evasion she can certainly afford it, but if I switch her back to light armor then she'll gain agility much faster.
Marty's Power is falling behind the guys' magic stats; she's only gained 24 points since the beginning (the remaining 10 are from the Giant Helmet.) Power just seems slower to increase than Intelligence/Soul. In the process of gaining that 24 power, she's lost 13 intelligence, which is a pretty high ratio of stat downs--luckily I don't plan on having her really use any black magic of note. Agility at +22 is coming along nicely, especially since it rises pretty rapidly when she's not using armor.
Like Fry, a lot of the new additions on Guido's spell list aren't there to serve any useful purpose. At this point, Toad, Fire, Berserk, and Aspil are basically all that's really needed, although the Bolt/Ice/Aero spells will be a nice perk in a rare few fights.
Guido's up 42 Intelligence, almost as good as Fry's Soul. His Vitality is still staying mostly stagnant, thanks to the periodic vitality drops that accompany intelligence gains. As a result Fry has actually overtaken him for HP.
Pirate wench is still a pirate.