Part 54: End-Game Content 1 - I'm On Chocobo RadioEnd-Game Content 1 - I'm On Chocobo Radio
Welcome back. Say what you will about Angra Mainyu (and I certainly did) it does delineate a clear transition between the game and the end-game. The next couple of updates will cover what I consider the game's "optional" content; bonus dungeons and superbosses that count towards 100% completion but aren't necessary for Mascot.
The two dungeons I'll cover today share the dubious honor of being unlocked through the Chocobo Ranch.
My basic opinion on X-2 is that it could have been a great game if the developers had cut about 15% of the content and used the extra man-hours to polish the remaining 85%, and I think the Ranch is a perfect example. There's so much depth to it; chocobos have a level, a maximum level, a temperament, and a morale gauge, you can keep up to fourteen chocobos at a time, there's four different types of vegetable you have to grow and maintain a stock of, and the various destinations you can send your chocobos are more or less suited to the different temperaments.
But you can accomplish everything I'm about to show you with four bold chocobos capable of reaching level 5, you can save-scum to prevent your chocobos from ever running away (unless it's scripted like in Bikanel) the four kinds of vegetables only do two things, and the only issue is how many battles you'll have to fight or flee in order to catch the right number of the right kind of chocobos. The whole reason this minigame has so much depth is because it's entirely menu-based, which is easy to complicate. I think I wrote something this complex in BASIC when I was ten. But if they'd streamlined the process instead (made the max level chapter-based instead of chocobo-based, eliminated temperaments, pared back to two vegetables and four or five stables) it'd be a better minigame, and instead of spending a whole day sketching out and coding this system, the programmer could have spent half a day doing that and the other half of the day telling his friend in the next cubicle that most people don't like math puzzles as much as he thinks they do.
The first optional dungeon on the list is actually hidden in the back of the Ranch. You have to send chocobos to the Calm Lands about a billion times before they'll find this hole, which suggests that chocobos aren't skilled in the ancient martial art of Looking Behind You.
The dungeon itself is yet another maze of twisty little passages, but this one tries to trip you up by hiding the minimap and switching camera angles all the time. That said, it's kinda fun to explore, with multiple paths crossing on multiple levels, and when you drop down someplace you can't jump back up and have to go all the way around, it's just as easy to blame yourself as the level designer. This place also requires some exploring, as there are five valid paths through the dungeon, each ending in a dead end like this.
One of those ends isn't quite so dead, though.
This boss is basically Chocobo Eater on PCP. I made sure it would Oversoul, which makes the battle way easier; while the Oversoul boss likes to cast magic on us, the normal boss has Auto-Reflect and likes to cast magic on itself. It also has a punch that deals target's max HP in damage like Lifeslicer, so that's good to avoid too. How did I manage to oversoul two bosses of the same species in a row? I'll show you next update.
With our setup Anything Eater is still strong with its physicals, but now it will shoot itself in the face with its own magic and waste a number of turns trying to dispel our permanent Reflect. Star Bracers can be Bribed from a pretty common enemy, so it's not hard to get a matching set.
Video: Boss: Anything Eater
Winning opens a passage behind the boss into a back room. But there's nothing there yet. Now the other four paths will open for us, and we have to traverse all of them. It's worth doing, as there's some nifty treasure around. But keep a Charm Bangle on, because Ultima Weapons roam around down here.
Once we've opened all the doors, one final secret door in the back opens to reveal a chocobo. I wonder how long it's been down there, in the sealed secret room, without food or water or sunlight.
Our reward for this dungeon, the Amazing Chocobo, can be sent out to escort a dispatched chocobo, improving its success chances and keeping it from running away. But by the time you uncover this place, you're probably basically done doing dispatches.
The other chocobo-uncovered dungeon is on the Mi'ihen Oldroad. Maybe it's hard to see in that screenshot, but the entrance isn't even a hole, it's a cloud of green smoke.
Inside, we find this is a nifty little gimmick dungeon wherein you have to use the explosive attack items you've collected throughout the game to excavate tunnels and dig straight into the middle of an insect colony. Again, there's no minimap, but you can tell the destructible walls from the solid ones by watching for a mysterious breeze that makes Yuna's skirt blow around.
This is one dungeon where you can't actually get away with skipping all the random battles, because you need to fight the enemies here to keep your bomb supply topped up. Not sure why the bugs are carrying bombs, but whatever, I'll run with it.
One issue with this dungeon is that it likes to hide YASDs behind specific walls. You'll see Yuna's skirt blowing, but rather than opening a passage, it summons an Epitath which casts Stone Breath on you. If you forgot your amulet of life saving, you get to enjoy the soothing Game Over music.
This dungeon could have been really fun with a little more polish. Make it longer, or even random, considering that everybody and their mother's dog knows how to look up maps on GameFAQs. Provide a minimap that only shows terrain as you dig it out - they could reuse some code from the Omega Ruins for that. Maybe some visual indication of how tough a wall is or how much damage it's taken, or whether it's a trap wall. Seriously, between giant birds and explosions, why did giant birds get all the attention?
The boss of this area is another spellcaster. I'm glad I finally got around to doing a Yevon-side run; Shining Mirror is a neat toy.
King VERMIN! will always ambush you, and in its Oversouled form it gains a triple attack, but it's not much stronger than the random encounters we've been dealing with in here. We can get it to cast Fire on itself, but it absorbs fire, so we don't get to taunt it the way we did the Anything Eater. It's still preferable to use Reflect over elemental absorption, though, because it will also cast Holy and Flare.
Video: Boss: King VERMIN!
I'd show you an Episode Complete screen, but sadly this dungeon doesn't have one; once you beat the boss, it dumps you back onto the Oldroad with nary a word of congratulation or fond farewell. It's really abrupt considering that even the smallest achievements in the game so far haven't gone unremarked.
Next time; Yuna's narration is a thumbnail. He's also a ladies.