Part 116: Part One Hundred and Sixteen: Das SchlossPart One Hundred and Sixteen: Das Schloss
Finally, it's time to see what's on the other side of these doors.
Before that, I'll link the theme of the place, appropriately called "The Castle":
As soon as the party sets foot in the castle, this comes up, introducing the gimmick of the area. It's an interesting one, and ties in well with the plot: the majority of these abilities are directly tied to junctioning GFs, which is SeeD's bread and butter. Since Ultimecia is fighting SeeD, it makes sense that she would take countermeasures to deal with their abilities.
This is meant strictly; if you walk out the front door, you can use whichever abilities you want to your heart's content. This is another reason the player has access to the outside world, if you're having trouble inside the castle you can pop out and level or collect resources to help out.
(This happens if you leave.)
After the tutorial, the nasty green filter goes away and we can get a proper look at our surroundings.
Over behind the pillar is the rest of the party and another gameplay quirk: the whole party has entered the castle and the player is free to switch between the two groups at these little green circles. This makes the final dungeon the only part of the game where there's no set party leader you have to take with you, which is kind of neat.
And over on the left of the screen here, there's a door. This door is important because:
Pretty much everything in Ultimecia Castle is optional. You can, in fact, skip right to fighting the final boss without getting any of your abilities back. And if you do...
...it's generally a death sentence. It's already a tough fight and even if you set up for it specifically, you're handicapped pretty severely. You can't even use the save point to make things more convenient. If you're wondering, there's not even any special reward for beating Ultimecia while your abilities are sealed, the only thing that changes is the text in the prompt.
Instead of getting killed, let's look at these stairs.
At the top of them is this guy. Each of the bosses in the castle shows up in the field like this.
Since you can run around this specific boss by being careful, you can fight the bosses in the castle in any order. But this one is probably the easiest, and he's right in the foyer, so we'll start here.
This is Sphinxaur. He is a joke.
Sphinxaur is meant to be the first boss any party fights in Ultimecia's Castle, and that means you're limited to attacking physically. It has nothing interesting to Draw or Mug if you come back later, by the way.
Once you do 10,000 damage to Sphinxaur, its mask pops off and reveals its true form as Sphinxara. The first form can cast spells at you, but seriously, it has a fixed 10,000 HP and a cap of 11 Vit. I don't know if I've ever seen Sphinxaur attack.
For the record, this is how the menu looks when your abilities are locked. Sphnixara is a bigger threat than Sphinxaur just because there's a chance your characters are all waiting for a turn to come up and it can get a free attack on you. If it does, it usually summons some piss-easy monster as backup.
It did not get the chance. Sphinxara also has a fixed 10,000 HP and, despite being one of the few bosses with a level cap of 100, a Vit cap of 14. This thing is a gimme for any party that's even halfway decent. The only real gimmick is the form change, which I believe means the fight take two turns even if you roll through with something that deals 20,000 damage all at once.
Sphinx drops a Megalixir and, more importantly, this screen. After each castle boss, you get to unlock one ability. There are eight bosses total, so you don't have to leave anything on the table, and the order is completely up to the player. I went with Draw here since it also unlocks Draw-casting magic, which is handy, and because the other bosses have some interesting stuff to draw.
Of course, there are also random encounters in the castle. Pretty much any regular enemy in the game can show up around the place, so there's a lot of variety at least.
Now, let's take a look behind this door for real.
It leads to a spooky hallway with a bunch of gargoyle statues.
This, in turn, leads to this place, the Grand Hall. This is where something becomes apparent about Ultimecia Castle - it's very dramatic, but a lot of the interior is in disrepair. You can see immediately the two broken staircases, but everything else also looks dirty and musty, and the chandelier isn't lit. Ultimecia tends to favour form over function and this is no exception. In a way, this final locale is a dark mirror of the first, Balamb Garden. Both are sprawling, but Garden is in great repair, full of people, and quite high-tech, while the castle is run-down, empty, and must be ancient by Ultimecia's time. There's so much visual character to this dungeon, it's great.
Getting back to the task at hand, there's a hatch in the floor.
...But it's busted. Guess we'll have to look elsewhere.
Fastitocalons can show up in this area, swimming around in the floor. I find this amusing.
To actually go forward, we'll take this door at the top of the stairs in the foyer.
Now we're up by the chandelier, which apparently also acts as a bridge to another door. An interesting architectural choice, to say the least.
Unfortunately, walking on the chandelier drops it to the floor below. Now we're just back in the grand hall, oops.
Dropping the chandelier solves a puzzle, naturally, but there's also a lever over here that's been having some troubles. We'll have Quistis &co. hang out with it for a while while we check on the boys.
And by "check on the boys" I mean "make the boys follow the same path to the hall."
While I was at the switch point, I juggled the party around so it was Selphie/Squall/Irvine, which I don't think I ever ran previously. I also made sure that Selphie and Irvine had Thundaga on Elem-Def, which meant bailing to refine some.
I only mentioned that I bailed because on the way back, something interesting happened: it turned out that I had actually fought enough battles between Ultima Weapon and here to not get demoted from SeeD rank A.
Anyway, returning to the hall, if you've dropped the chandelier, the hatch will be broken and you'll be able to open it.
Doing so leads to the wine cellar, where you can see one of Ultimecia's pets poking its nose out.
There's a better view from the bottom of the stairs. Pretty ugly.
There's really only one reason to be down here, so let's get it over with.
This weird-lookin' thing is Tri-Point.
Tri-Point: WHATEVER I DON'T USE, I DON'T LIKE.
Tri-Point has that gimmick we all do love, a shifting weak point. Thankfully, it only switches between Fire and Ice.
If you hit the boss with an attack it's not weak to, it counters with Mega Spark.
Mega Spark is fairly fucking brutal and ignores defence, as you can see, but there's a catch: it's an elemental attack. With Thundaga on elemental defence, you can absorb it and get consistent heals throughout the fight. On that note, Tri-Point doesn't have Fire or Blizzard in its draw list, so if you come down here with magic sealed you'll be in a trouble spot. I always tend to fight Tri-Point second, though, since it's easy to just lock it down with absorption.
Speaking of draw lists, though, there is something interesting here: if you don't already have it, Tri-Point will be carrying
While Mega Spark is the main battle attraction here, Tri-Point has one other trick: he'll cast Scan on someone, then nail them with Overrun the next turn, which is a powerful attack that ignores defence.
But, oops, I beat the shit out of him instead. His HP caps at 22,400, so even though it has a decent 63 Vit, it's not a long fight if you can deal with Mega Spark. If you stick to the weakness thing, it's probably even faster since the boss has a pitiful Spr cap of 6.
The non-Sphinx bosses drop GF abilities; the Rocket Engine is pretty useful but I don't think I actually used it. I have Auto-Haste on four characters, I'm not too worried about going first.
And after this one, I took GF. There are a couple situations where it's very useful to actually summon GFs in this game, plus the GF ability also gives you the ability to use the refine abilities and the like the menu, which is very handy since now I don't have to run outside as much.
Now, with these 7 Aura spells, we have seen everything in the wine cellar. Unfortunately you can't take a powder on fighting Ulty to get soused.
Outside the cellar, Squall is now the one on lever suicide watch.
This leaves Zell/Rinoa/Quistis as the active party. If I'm not mistaken, this is the only time in the game it's possible to run this party. When Quistis is leader, the party is fixed; when Zell leads, Rinoa's in space; Rinoa only leads when she's solo.
Editor's Note: Applesandoranges pointed out that you can actually run this party for two full screens when Zell is in charge at the quad during the Garden battle.
Having someone in the hall holding the lever down allows the second party to run across the chandelier without it falling. It would be kind of funny if the thing dropped anyway since, you know, it would murder half your characters.
Let's pop out for some air.
Of course one of these dickheads would be out here.
I wonder if it's the monsters saying this or some type of message left by Ultimecia herself.
Today's friend of the day is Krysta the crystal.
Krysta: SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT! YOU'LL REGRET FIGHTING ME!
Krysta's taunt doesn't really pertain to anything the way Tri-Point's does, it's just shit talking.
The "gimmick" of this fight is that Krysta has high Vit (base 201, cap 230).
It also counters physical attacks with the largely unremarkable Counter Rockets.
Given the boss's high Vit, the "trick" to this fight is to use powerful magic (or GFs). Krysta's Spr is fixed at 0 and its HP caps at 16,000. As long as you're not relying on physicals, there's not really much to this one.
Krysta usually only has Holy to draw, but if you don't have it already, the boss will carry
Basically, just imagine this for a few rounds.
Also imagine this, where I fucked up and pressed the wrong buttons.
Other than Counter Rockets, I honestly don't know if Krysta does anything but physically attack during the fight.
What I do know is that upon its anti-climactic defeat, Krysta will cast Ultima.
This can get very messy if you don't have high Spr! Other than the chance of getting surprised by Ultima or not having a way to deal magic damage, though, Krysta is probably easier than Tri-Point.
This also would have been good to have if while fighting Tri-Point. Squall wouldn't have had to die.
Oh and hey, Steve learned Boost. Good on ya, Steve.
This time, I released Item. In my opinion, items are the best way to heal outside of battle and the second-best inside, so I like to unlock the command fairly early.
Not a technical reward in gameplay, but defeating Krysta also gives you a great view of the back half of Ultimecia Castle. And you know what? I like that view so much I think I'll leave off right here.