Part 15: Chapter 15So we're tasked with infiltrating Paramekia Castle to defeat Lenny the Dark Knight, in spite of the fact that it's completely surrounded by impassable mountains. Unfortunately, our hirDRAGON can't get us in--baby DRAGONS appear to be able to fly into hurricane force winds just fine, but fly a couple thousand feet to a castle in the mountains? Hell no.
As usual, we're going to go talk to the least useless person in Phin to see if we can get any answers (or failing that, more loot.)
So... I guess Cid just reappeared out of nowhere to hang out at Paul's house and be sick?
You can tell how hurt he is because he can't even gather the strength to say "ouch."
: "What do you think, dipshit?"
: "I'm a goner, guys... Take care of my airship. I need someone good like you to treat her right... ou... cough."
Fortunately, Paul is here to explain difficult concepts like death to Fry.
: "He decided to give the Airship to you guys when he knew he was going to die. It's his life's work."
Wooooo! It took pretty much the whole damn game, but we finally get an airship of our own!
Hmm... the overworld looks suspiciously airship-less, though. Unless...
Aw, dammit. Don't tell me...
We have to walk. Palm got meltified, so we can't even take the ferry to the airship pad at Poft.
Worse, while the newly upgraded random encounters aren't that difficult, the shift in encounter tables seems as though it upgrades the encounter frequency to dungeon-like rates. The sorcerers don't even have the decency to drop anything useful.
(I kind of forgot we had a boat, though, otherwise this would have gone faster.)
At any rate, that's done with. Now that we have the airship, we can finally go anywhere we want and explore all the cool places we couldn't get to before!
...oh, wait. We've already been everywhere and the world is 90% empty space anyhow. Nevermind.
Yes, you invade Castle Paramekia by landing the airship directly on top of the highest tower. Which is awesome.
The only place that this hallway goes is a dead end room, though.
Apparently the Emperor had the foresight to build a completely extraneous tower for the sole purpose of baiting airship-riding adventurers to fall into a five-story trap chute.
The first few floors seem to be back to the joke loot routine. Okay, so the Diamond Plate is fairly decent (this version is the "plate" version which is extremely lightweight, unlike the identically-named overweight piece of crap picked up in the Whirlwind.) But when other armors give incredibly useful status resistances and attribute bonuses in the same package, armor that merely protects you starts to look a bit shabby.
Here's some less crappy loot, guarded by a unique monster-in-a-box. This is supposed to be the Emperor's ghost or something I guess? Unlike the actual living Emperor, his shade is in fact immune to toad--hindsight is 20/20, and all that.
However, being undead he has other things to worry about.
A couple of new enemies--well, one very old enemy and a few new ones. You might recognize the Dk Knight (not to be confused with the Dark Knight Lenny!) from the curb stomp battle at the beginning of the game. It's rather cathartic being able to toadify them before they have a chance to do anything.
The skulls are a fairly generic undead enemy, except they have an irritating Stun 16 spell. Some of the good equipment you've got by now blocks it, but otherwise it's basically an auto-success since magic defense growth is broken. The Stone Golems are similar to the wood golems from the Whirlwind, except they're weak against poison instead of fire. Since fire is easily the elemental spell you use the most, and aero is easily the one you use the least, this makes them fairly annoying to kill. Non-elemental spells will do okay damage if you don't have Aero trained up, but your best bet is a decent level Berserk spell.
Also, remember that Bolt spear that I said counted as "less crappy" loot, even though it is a spear?
Here's why: it casts free Bolt 16 in battle. This... actually isn't especially useful. But then, "Actually isn't especially useful" is Richard's middle name. I think the spear may randomly break on use like the Earth Drum and WindFlute (which lasted all of 2 uses before breaking, awesome), but honestly I've never really used it enough to find out.
Looks like we're stuck on joke loot again.
That annoyingly out-of-the-way room in the southwest yields a pile 'o staves, including this new one:
I've got no idea how they came up with the name "Greed Staff." The effects of the staff are straightforward: it heals whatever you whack with it (even undead, if memory serves.) As usual the NES version is fairly opaque about what's going on, since it simply reports this as "0 damage", no mention of any other effect.
Holy shit, the generals are actually capable of hitting Marty. I looked them up in the beastiary and it turns out they have a ridiculous 10-hit attack with very high accuracy. Marty's evasion level has been stagnating at 8 for a while now--as mentioned it's fairly difficult to get evasion, and thanks to Guido's level 8+ Toad most fights don't really last long enough to accumulate any experience for evasion.
A side staircase leads to another interesting monster-in-a-box. We've already seen the Queen Lamia, obviously, and we'll be seeing more of the krulls (couerls) later. They're actually kind of dangerous, but they don't do anything threatening during the turn they're alive and untoaded.
The Sun Sword itself is the third strongest sword in the game, and the strongest weapon before the "ultimate" weapon tier (most of which are disappointingly non-ultimate.) Like every other Sun Sword in a Final Fantasy game, it's super effective vs. undead.
One good thing about Paramekia: it's refreshingly free of bullshit monster closets for the most part, so most of the doors you see are actually worth exploring. This one has 3 Elixirs, which would be pretty impressive if it weren't for the fact that fights are dropping more money than I could possibly spend on Elixirs to use.
This looks like a pretty significant area.
: "No matter. I am the Emperor now. Bow before me or be destroyed!"
: "No one does. Only power rules. I am the Emperor! I won't let go of that power! Get out of my way!"
Hey, who's this dapper fellow?
: "You monster! I won't let you have the Empire! It's MINE!"
: "Empire? Heh. I am above such child's play. I'm only interested in making this world a living Hell. I think I'll start with you."
: "Everyone on the HiDRAGON!"
: "What? That doesn't sound like something I would say. And why am I hiding behind Fry? Who's telling this story?"
: "...and that's when I put on my shades and dove into a barrel roll with my twin uzis and was like brupbrupbrupbrupbrupbrup pew pew pew!"
: "And then the castle EXPLODED and turned into this awesome demonic palace!"
: "No, wait, I think that part actually happened."
Thankfully, the game cutscene-warps back to Phin so we don't have to walk.
: "The Emperor rose from the dead."
: "Richard... In order to save us..."
: "Dot dot dot."
: "He followed us home! Can I keeeeeep him?"
: "What? Fry couldn't handle the responsibility of being in charge of a goldfish, let alone a dangerous backstabbing dictator."
This line is completely out of context, but the context is so horribly mangled in this translation that I figured I might as well use it as I see fit.
I've given FFII a lot of flack for its storyline and writing, and rightfully so, but I have to admit it: I actually like how it handles Lenny's character. It's rare to see a player character given convincingly evil motivations without inventing all kinds of ridiculous bullshit: he's straight up unapologetically evil, not misunderstood, not blinded by good intentions, not mind controlled (despite Marty's wishful thinking.) I'm not about to get on board the EVIL IS COOOOOOL DERP DERP bandwagon here, but it's an interesting layer of depth that you wouldn't really expect from a game with such terrible storytelling.
Anyhow, on with the plot:
: "Pandemonium is an ancient demon castle, restored by the now undead Emperor. Legend says the only way to enter the Hellish palace is through a portal called Jade."
: "Somewhere near Kashuon, a portal to the other side is said to appear in a time such as this."
: "The sages of Mysidia may know more about this."
It's about time to enter the last dungeon and take on the final boss! The real final final boss--next time you're complaining about them newfangled Final Fantasies shitting up nonsensical final bosses out of nowhere, remember that even back in 1989 Square was already pulling 2x double psycheout combos. I haven't been keeping track of level ups lately, so it's time for a status update:
First, a look at our new teammate. Lenny's stats aren't shabby at all, although his agility is only so-so and his magic stats are mostly awful (he has stupidly high M.Power though, which means he gains MP at a ridiculous pace.) His equipment is pretty bad, but that's easily remedied--conveniently he starts out with weapon levels all over the place, so you can hand him whatever loose junk you have lying around and he'll probably do okay with it. If you got him earlier in the game, he might dethrone turban guy for the title of least useless 4th slot character, but as it is he's not around for long enough to really do anything with.
Fry's power has been dropping steadily, since he's casting white magic exclusively instead of attacking. Guido is often carrying entire fights all by himself, so that gives Fry time to dick around training support spells of questionable usefulness. His Mini spell is enough to wipe out huge swathes of enemies as well, thanks to his ridiculous counter-breaking Soul stat. That's 109 Soul, thanks to the +10 from the White Robe.
Marty's stat growth is not quite so impressive, although her Agility is rapidly catching up. If I had used a shield on her the whole game instead of dual-wielding for a while she'd probably have maxed it out now thanks to the exponential growth curve for Agility.
Guido's been using hardly anything but Toad, although he has managed to level up Aero and Drain using them against toadproof enemies. His intelligence growth is lagging a bit behind Fry's soul, but it's still pretty damn high.
All in all things are sitting reasonably well for the final dungeon. Fry and Guido are going to need some more HP by the time I'm through, but as I've probably mentioned far too often in discussions about the game's balance, that tends to take care of itself rather nicely.