Part 52: Episode 27 - StupidEpisode 27 - Stupid
Welcome back. I have not been looking forward to this update. Today, we're going to complete a stupid mission for Bikanel Island.
I can't overstate this. The mission is really stupid. The premise is stupid, the setup is stupid, the execution is stupid, the bosses are stupid, the minigame is stupid, recording lag is stupid, and the obsessive need to reuse every possible art asset that inspired this whole mess is a double stupid burger with stupid sauce.
I know in advance that I am going to be overly harsh here. And to be fair, this part of the game might be fun. I just can't tell because I'm distracted by how aggressively stupid it is. It breaks my immersion and kicks me out of what is, on average, a well-written game.
So, the Cactaur Nation. I've gone out of my way to ignore its existence up until now. We were introduced to it in Chapter 3, but those who've played the prequel should already have your passport stamp. In the previous game, the Cactaur Nation was just a region of Bikanel with a very high encounter rate for Cactaurs, a prime farming location for AP and ultimate armor reagents.
This game's addition to the Cactaur Nation mythos is to explain that the cacti growing there are actually sentient; that Cactaurs are actually a sort of pupal stage between being a small cactus and a tall cactus; and that, in the two years between games, the cacti developed language skills, taught their language to an eight-year-old boy, and used him as an ambassador to establish diplomatic relations with the Al Bhed.
It's really, really stupid.
The dig camp supposedly was attacked during a CommSphere transmission last chapter, right? You'd think Nhadala would care more about that than the cactaurs. Or that there'd be some visible damage from that attack.
Well, there's our old friend Angra Mainyu again. You didn't think we'd get away without having to fight that guy, did you?
Anyway, we head to the stupid Cactaur Nation to find out what's going on. The translator tells us that we need to repeat that stupid cactaur hunting sidequest from the first game in order to protect the Cactaur Nation by summoning something with a stupid name.
And in the meantime, the leader of the cacti will hold off the fiends (that we could probably just defeat ourselves pretty easily) by shooting Dragonball Z beams at them.
This is so stupid.
Like in the prequel, we have to search for some wandering cactaurs based on some stupid clues, then play a little minigame to get them to cooperate.
Gone is the red-light-green-light game of yore. Now we have to shoot the cactaurs until they like us. That's potentially awesome. Unfortunately, it lines up between two nearby objects that aren't cactaurs, and Yuna stupidly keeps switching her aim between all three of them, even though we have no reason to shoot the things that aren't cactaurs. This means we have to watch the left side of the screen to time our shots, listen for a counterattack with almost no warning that destroys some of Yuna's ammo, and hope that the cactaur won't just decide to dodge our shot anyway.
If you're playing this minigame, you'll probably lose the first couple of easy matches because you're still getting the hang of it, and you'll probably lose the rest of the matches because Yuna forgot to bring the gun with infinite bullets. But it doesn't matter, because you get the same result for losing as winning. My first time through the game, I think I only won two or three of the nine matches. This time, for the LP, I didn't win a single one, and I still got the good ending for the mission. This is another one of those EPCOMs you can never truly lose.
Then, after every stupid shootout, we have to go all the way back to Bikanel, then back to the Cactaur Nation to drop off the cactaur and get the next stupid clue.
The last cactaur is hiding in a sealed cave right there in the Cactaur Nation, which the other nine unseal the entrance to. It's another stupid corridor dungeon filled with random encounters with cactaurs. There's three fixed battles at the start of the dungeon that you can't evade, even with a Charm Bangle.
The third fixed battle also contains the weakest species of Helm, apropos of nothing. This is a gimmick fight, so we set up for it in advance.
It's been a while since Gunner's been in the spotlight, but she shines in this dungeon. Cactaurs not only have super-high evasion, they're also naturally immune to magical damage, rather than just having max Magic Defense.
Anyway, once we beat the weak Sallet, cactaurs pop out of nowhere and attack it with needles until it powers up. What can't you do with acupuncture?
The Heavy Sallet has a strong physical attack and constantly increases its own Defense, but it's vulnerable to darkness, which nullifies any threat it might pose. It's also good to have a Black Mage or equivalent along so you don't have to get into a buff-Break race.
Video: Boss: Heavy Sallet
There's at least one interesting thing this dungeon does, breaking up the corridor with sand traps. I know everyone loves sand in video games.
Finally, we find the last cactaur, but a bunch of evil cactaurs run by and transform into a giant cactaur! Seriously, this sounds like something I would have written when I was five.
We're set up for fighting cactaurs, though. Cactaurs are weak to water, and Lady Luck brings some unblockable, undodgeable damage to the mix.
It's a lot of preparation for not much payoff. Jumbo Cactaur doesn't actually have any attacks, so once I take out its escorts in the first turn, it just sits there while I plink it to death. It's a little more interesting if you manage to Oversoul Jumbo Cactaur (the long dungeon is supposed to either introduce a random chance of doing this, or get you to Oversoul normal cactaurs then run away until you hit the boss). But Oversoul Jumbo's attacks are all magic, and you can win the fight by casting Reflect and then putting the controller down and going for a brisk walk.
Video: Boss: Jumbo Cactaur
So we go on this quest for the power to defeat the fiends attacking the Cactaur Nation, but it turns out to just be a tornado that blows the fiends away.
Now they're attacking the Al Bhed camp. You know, the place where there's not a super-powered cactus providing close artillery support. Somehow, I don't think they thought this cunning plan all the way through.
We get the option to return to the airship before heading to camp, and you absolutely want to do that, because the big boss fight starts as soon as we land.
Didn't you hear me? The camp is in trouble!
At this point, we may as well let ourselves get dragged in all the way.
You know, the only problem with the non-linearity of Chapter 5 is that it takes the edge off of the immediacy of the threat of Shuyin. One thing Bikanel does well in this chapter is give a sense of impending doom, something urgent enough that it could reasonably be expected to split Yuna's focus.
We're no match for this fiend!
We've got company.
Nothing to do but have a boss fight. Since we already know who the boss is going to be, I'm going to break with my usual format and discuss the boss' attacks before my setup for beating it.
The thing to understand here is that Angra Mainyu is not really a hard battle. It's just a long battle, and our ability to win the battle is dependent on our ability to control the battle over its entire length. With that in mind, here's what we're dealing with.
Angra Mainyu is divided into three segments. The main body, aside from having a stupid amount of HP, likes to cast annoying spells at us. Bio is a minor annoyance, but Flare will probably one-shot you unless you focus on Magic Defense, Demi will pierce Reflect, Dispel will remove your buffs, and Osmose will steal your MP. On top of that, if you manage to kill either of the other two segments, the main body will restore it with Full-Life on its next turn, and it will also sometimes cast Curaga to undo your progress. Its ultimate attack, Perdition's Flame, deals ten hits of fractional damage for about 20% max HP each, so five or six of those ten hitting the same target means death.
The right arm, Tawrich, uses some weak physicals, but every so often belches gas over the party that deals damage and applies nasty statuses, including silence, darkness, and confusion, all of which will mess with your ability to hurt the boss. Tawrich is also immune to magical damage.
The left arm, Zarich, casts third-level Black Magic, but its ultimate attack, Glimmer of Despair, is the one we really need to worry about. Like in the Malboro fight, this attack applies all four Breaks to the party, and will make the battle harder the longer we fight it, but unlike the Malboro fight, it's simply not possible to end this battle quickly. Zarich, as you might have guessed, mirrors its twin and is immune to physical damage.
What to take from this is that our ability to control the fight depends on our ability to keep the arms dead. Not only will this keep the left arm from using Glimmer of Despair, it will keep the main body distracted reviving them instead of attacking or dispelling us.
So here's the setup. If there's one fight where there's no shame in bringing the Two Dark Knight / Alchemist Super Team, it's this one, not just because it's a setup capable of cheesing pretty much any boss fight, but because it specifically addresses the difficulties of this fight. Alchemist's Mix can apply the buffs we need very quickly, and Stash will provide us with sustainable healing throughout the long fight that doesn't rely on MP and can pierce reflect.
The Dark Knights, meanwhile, are immune to the statuses worth worrying about, and Darkness not only ignores defense, evasion, blind, and silence, it deals special-type damage that isn't blocked by either arm's immunity, and it lets us attack the main body at the same time as we're doing crowd control. The arms have about 5500 HP, and we ideally want to take them out in a single turn, so, with a little margin for randomness, we want Darkness to deal about 2800 damage.
The one missing piece of the equation is something to counteract the stat debuffs of Glimmer of Despair, but Songstress is simply too fragile to bring into this battle. The solution is to give the Dark Knights access to the Samurai skillset. Defense debuffs can be largely ignored through the use of protect and shell, but Nonpareil will be used to keep our Strength high. This isn't even the most optimal setup I could have gone with; I should have used the Samurai's Honor grid and doubled up on Strength-increasing accessories, but you get the idea.
A few of the game's missions to this point will have given us Chocobo Wings, and we will use them here to Mix up Final Wall, which grants Protect, Shell, Haste, and Reflect. In the initial exchange, the goal is to get the arms dead and gain breathing space for casting Nonpareil, stopping to kill the arms again as they get revived. As long as we can survive until our Strength is high enough to kill an arm with two attacks, we've basically won the fight, and all we need to do is reapply buffs after being dispelled and make sure our damage doesn't fall below that desired threshold. It takes about thirty stupid minutes to win the fight with this method at Level 37. Don't worry, the video below is only a highlight reel.
Video: Boss: Angra Mainyu
You're a real lifesaver! I guess you can always count on the Gullwings.
I guess. It's all relative. This is nothing compared to what happened to Home. Besides... What's done is done.
You're pretty tough.
Hm? I smell something good!
Hey, you're right!
Yeah! We whipped it up during the battle.
We've got heaps of food. I don't suppose you're interested?
Gullwings, at your service!
The whole time we were fighting that thing, they decided the most helpful thing they could do was... cook? Now what adjective would best describe that idea? Maybe the thread can suggest an appropriate one.
Beating Angra Mainyu yields us another Ribbon. I guess that's a pretty good reward.
For some reason I decided to head back to the Cactaur Nation to see what was up. Apparently the big cactaur Kamehameha'd itself to death, only to have a tiny cactus steal its name.
Oh, thanks, now it makes perfect sense.
But hey, look at that. All the Hotspot!s are gone, and the World Map is neat and tidy again. I bet we get something cool for that, right?
In fact, our reward for all those Episode Completes is...
What the hell is this?
...some stupid costumes.
Okay, I think we're done for today. Next time; we tell our ass from a hole in the ground.