Part 49: Part the OnethLet's Low-Level Run Final Fantasy 6: Part the Oneth
Hello everyone. Blastinus has graciously permitted to supplement the present run of the game with a little thing I'm trying out for laughs: A low-level run of this very same game.
A low-level run, in a nutshell, is pretty much as it sounds: Don't gain any experience points. Many factors help us here (bosses do not give experience in FF6), but just as many harm us (the level averaging trickery). Fortunately there are many, many ways to twist, shank, and cheat the game to ensure the whole thing can be done with miniscule (but non-zero, unfortunately) experience gain.
I don't promise a perfect run, but I'm going to do my best to avoid gaining experience as I go. I'll only post the high points since Blastinus is covering most of the story and he and others are discussing glitches and tricks. I'll go over anything that I'm using, of course, simply because certain things are much more important in a low-level run than a regular one.
So here's the first question: What exactly does your level do for you in FF6? Regrettably, the answer is quite a lot. Your HP and MP totals are tied to your level (and they scale pretty quickly), and level is a huge factor in the damage you deal (particularly physical damage). Sabin and Cyan gain most (but not all) of their Blitz/SwdTech moves from leveling up. Level affects Locke's ability to steal and some other abilities not yet shown.
More surprising, though, is what your level doesn't have any effect on, such as:
- Anything you can learn from an alternative source, like Magic/ Lore /Rage/etc.
- The effectiveness of your equipment.
- Evasiveness (that's straight-out MBlock%).
- The effectiveness of certain abilities like Doom.
- How often you can take turns (technically, anyway).
Vicks and Wedge decide to put the mysterious woman on point, which is good, because it's very important that we get Terra killed ASAP so she gains no experience. Vicks and Wedge, as is the case with most but not all temporary characters, have no effect on the party's levels and can be safely leveled up. Their levels are basically irrelevant though, so let's avoid getting them TOO many levels before Whelk.
First things first, Vicks and Wedge order the strange woman to strip naked and then bravely hide behind her. Tapping left when looking at Equipment allows us to see what otherwise unequippable characters can use. Vicks and Wedge have gear that never has any use whatsoever.
The strange witch decides to take a nap on top of her Magitek Armor in the very first fight. Amusingly enough, MagiTek cannot be used against your own party, so there are only two ways to get Terra killed in the first battle. The most obvious route is to just stand around waiting for the Guards to kill her. I initially believed they wouldn't target her, but they do eventually. They seem to prefer the generic troopers though.
The second route is more insidious: Terra can't MagiTek herself, but she can cast spells, and Fire can be targeted on the party. So, have Terra set herself on fire and then mash A through the rest of the Narshe assault.
Whelk doesn't merit any special mention because there's something you can do to ensure he never actually does anything but use Slime to Slow Vicks and Wedge: Bolt Beam.
Yes, you're told at the start of the battle that Whelk "eats lightning." But his head is just as vulnerable to Bolt Beam as to any other beam. And if Whelk should drop into its shell while you have an attack queued?
Bolt Beam heals the shell. Since I'm fairly sure the shell and head have separate HP totals, and since absorbed or healing moves do not count as hostile damaging moves, Whelk will not retaliate. You are perfectly safe if you use Bolt Beam.
Not that this is really all that interesting or impressive in any sort of LLG context.
Terra wakes up from her nap, meets an esper, takes another nap, then goes running through the caves. Put her in the back row and remember to put her stuff back on. The screenshot shows what we'll be doing in 90% of the encounters in the game. There are enemies you cannot run from, but rather a lot fewer than you'd figure. I'll talk about can't-run enemies when I find one. Bosses of course can't be run from, but they also give no experience. That means I could've used Terra on Whelk if I had the means to resurrect her, but why bother.
If you say so Mr. Moogle. In fact, let's not have Mog or Locke do any of the work defending Terra from the Marshal, shall we?
Our glorious team of moogle losers not deemed important enough to hang out with a treasure hunter or moogle unterboss Mog. The C-Team is commanded by warrior-poet Kushu, anemic conscriptees Kurin and Kuru, and the veteran Kamog, the only moogle smart enough to bring a ranged weapon to this fight.
We immediately put everyone in the back row, where only Kamog can do shit-all for damage. Seriously, guys, he has the most HP and the best weapon. This is pathetic.
Now we must maneuver down to the Marshal. Only one or two battles are required; the rest can be skipped with a careful mix of timing, route choice, and a weird trick where you can walk right past an enemy that's walking past you on an adjacent tile if you start moving when they're halfway into their own move so you end up two squares away. In theory you can do this to skip all but one fight; in practice I wound up doing it twice.
You have to get lucky and hope the Vomammoth doesn't use Blizzard in each fight; if he chooses to attack he'll scratch your back-row moogles uselessly for 0 damage and all is well. If he uses Blizzard it hits everyone for 30-50. Kurin and Kuru will not survive two of these, and it's basically impossible to beat the Marshal without at least three moogles standing.
And nobody gets Tonics because this isn't a fucking charity.
Marshal is perfectly doable without using Mog or Locke. Just don't kill the last Lobo until he's dead.
Coincidentally, none of the moogles gain a level during the battle, but it fortunately doesn't matter if they do.
We next loot the newbie house and leave Narshe and OH MY GOD
AAAAAAAAAAAAAH IT'S A SMALL RABBIT FUCK WE AIN'T GETTING OUT OF THIS ONE STRANGE GIRL I JUST MET.
Buy a Noiseblaster in Figaro Castle and use it against the Magi-Tek Armors. Of course at this point you still probably wouldn't have many levels anyway, though Terra can be one-shotted if you're unlucky.
Head all the way through South Figaro, looting everything in the secret passage and whatnot that you can. Nothing else to do around here but head off to Mt. Koltz.
Vargas is no big deal. As long as you can take one Gale Fist you should be good to go. He needs to take about 1000 damage before Sabin appears. Bio Blaster is stronger than AutoCrossbow (even with Arlas Armlet equipped on Edgar) against Vargas alone.
Okay, so big deal, we're about level 3-6 (Terra's 3, Locke 5, and the Figaro brothers are 6). That's not really all that far off from where we would be, is it? Sure, the game will probably get harder eventually, but it can't have a sudden difficulty spike out of nowhere, can it?
Ohhhhhhhhhhhh right, this guy.
Random completionist fact: Although the Genji Glove should always be taken under pretty much any sensible circumstance, if your goal is to get the maximum possible number of items in the game you must take the Gauntlet here. That's because Genji Gloves can be stolen, but Gauntlets can't, so you can only ever have so many of them. Of course they're all useless and I really need that Genji Glove, so we're not doing that.
Also remember to loot the Returners Hideout. Get the White Cape; as a MBlock% item it's very useful in damage avoidance, which is more important to us than damage mitigation considering we don't have the HP to tank even a weakened hit yet. Also pick up the True Knight. Yeah, that thing. Holy shit you need the True Knight. In an ordinary game it's a laughable gimmicky item that you will practically never find any use for.
If you do not have this item, I do not think the next boss can be beaten at all. I tried. I'll show you. Put the True Knight and Atlas Armlet on Edgar, the RunningShoes on Sabin, and the White Cape on Terra. The rest doesn't matter.
At any rate, Banon joins up for the trip back to Narshe. Banon is an interesting example of the game's level averaging system, which kicks in whenever a new character joins the group. The game looks at the average of your party's levels and then adds or subtracts some number of levels. Generally whoever gets recruited later in the game gets a kick in levels on top of the party average to ensure they're competitive.
Notice how I said "adds or subtracts some number of levels?" Yeah. Banon subtracts. If you arrive at the Returners Hideout with a 3/5/6/6 party, as you should, Banon joins at level 2.
He has 57 HP. Total. Health heals 80-100 at level 2.
Did you remember that Banon cannot die, ever, or the game ends? Did you?
Welcome to the Lete River, chump.
Now you might assume, as I initially did, that the Lete River encounters are unescapable. After all, you're on a raft and you can't control where it goes or anything. Why should you be able to flee?
Well as it turns out, absolutely nothing prevents you from doing so. Apparently dashing over to the far side of the raft causes all the random enemies to give up. The good news is this allows you to preserve everyone from going up a level or so (Edgar and Sabin would gain 1, Terra 3, Banon 3-4). The bad news is that this means you must fight Ultros with a level 2 Banon.
"Well, how bad can Ultros be, really?" you ask, because you are an asshole. He's only the hardest challenge in the early game, one of the hardest in the game, and a gigantic difficulty brick wall early in the game.
Here's the skinny on Ultros: He is an incredibly scripted encounter. Ultros does the following:
- Physically attack. Usually rare and random. He'll sometimes hit twice for some reason. Does low damage (20-30). He always uses one physical attack at the start of the fight. It's inconsequential to your strategy.
- Single-Target Tentacle. Tentacle is one of the game's worst attacks. It's unavoidable, I believe it ignores Defense (but not back row and choosing to Guard), and it does enough damage that only Edgar and Sabin can tank it without Guarding. The good news is that his scripted Tentacle pattern is always identical: Terra at the start of the fight, then Sabin, then Banon, repeat. Edgar is never targeted because I guess Ultros refuses to be party to regicide. This is why Edgar should use the True Knight.
- Multi-Target Tentacle. Ultros usually weaves these in between single-target Tentacle moves. The good news is Terra and Banon can survive these. The bad news is Banon only survives it 25% of the time, and ends up with 2 health.
- Ink. Does about 20 damage and causes Dark status, which doesn't do anything. Every single time Terra casts Fire on Ultros he'll counterattack her with Ink. While this is bad, it also slows down his regular attack script, and we'd much rather deal with Ink than yet another Tentacle. Plus, to beat Ultros before he kills Banon we need Terra casting her ass off, so we'll just need to suck it up.
Two, Ultros is not entirely controlled by his script. Sometimes he'll do other stuff, just because he can. That failure video above? He solo-Tentacles Banon for absolutely no reason. That was not his scripted Tentacle. Sometimes he hits Banon with Ink or a regular attack unbidden. Sometimes he doesn't. So the problem is that Ultros does all his scripted stuff plus other stuff you can't really plan for. You just have to stick to the plan and hope everything works.
The True Knight can take the pressure off you immensely, but you have to make sure Terra and/or Banon actually fall into Critical. They have so little HP that you'd figure this is no problem, but unfortunately Critical status is based on your percentage of remaining HP.
What this means is that if Terra is knocked to 9 HP, she is not yet in Critical. She must actually be at 7 HP or lower or Edgar will not decide to be chivalrous. If Terra has between 9 and 20 HP, she dies from an Ink counter and your damage output is dead (and so is Banon, I assure you).
There is a nefarious solution to this, however: Since Terra always opens the Ultros fight by Guarding his Tentacle, Banon can hit her in the face with his stick and that combined with Ultros's damage will put her safely into Critical.
And thus, we come upon the strategy for actually beating Ultros without anyone dying (because we can't afford that). You'll notice two extremely lucky MBlock% kick-ins for Terra and what can only be described as a miraculous dodge on Banon's part. Plus Ultros hit for minimum damage on both a multi-target and single-target Tentacle, allowing Banon to scrape by on the skin of his teeth.
The good news is that the Scenario branches are a nice breather where a LLG is not completely hosed. The bad news is that Ultros is just the start of the pain. The silver lining is that this particular boss fight is one of the least player-advantageous in the game: You have a useless character you have to protect with no defenses at all, you have very few options for equipment or abilities, and you can't heal up immediately before the fight (short of whatever you choose to do in the random encounter right before Ultros).
Oh and Banon's level doesn't really affect anything so you could kill off Terra/Edgar/Sabin and grind Banon up to a level where he can survive Ultros, but if you do that you're a yellow-bellied slug.
Terra: Really useful in a LLG. Has some spells to start out, which are very handy for as long as she's available. Has a really good ability later when every bit of offense and defense helps. Can equip all the best gear in the game and we really need that.
Locke: Pretty shitty in a LLG. His stealing is his best feature and that's hosed somewhat by his low level. Otherwise he deals damage, whines about having to be in the back row until ranged weapons are available, and wastes space in a number of forced parties. Late-game he has some neat tricks, but he's really hurt by a low level. Good news is his gear isn't terrible in the end, though it isn't the best either.
Edgar: One of the shining gods of the early game. Tools are free, extremely powerful, and some such as Noiseblaster have a lot of utility. Still decent later due to great equipment choices.
Sabin: Probably top damage output before Gau, still extremely competitive after against single targets, and extremely powerful in the late game. The main problem with Sabin is that he begins to slack in damage output since he'll never level up to learn Fire Dance or anything like that. The good news is his best attacking option isn't level-based, so he makes a comeback. Rather poor defensive gear options late though, which really hurts.