The Let's Play Archive

Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword

by Melth

Part 14: Chapter 11 and The War Room Part 10 (Zero Requirement Chapters)

Here we go, the beginning of Hector’s story! As the title suggests, they assume that you’re already familiar with Eliwood’s story. This means they don’t tell you a fair amount of stuff that they do at the beginning of Eliwood’s mode, but I’ll splice some of the two intros together so those of you who’ve never played FE7 know what’s going on.

Chapter Summary:
11 months after Lyn's story concludes, Marquess Pherae (Eliwood's father) suddenly disappeared with most of his knights while traveling through Lycia. Eliwood is sure his father is still alive and sets out to find him a month later. Hector, Eliwood's best friend, fails to persuade Uther (his older brother) to use Ostia's military and spies to help Eliwood. Frustrated, he decides to leave on his own and try to meet up with Eliwood. On the way out of castle Ostia, he and Matthew (actually an Ostian spy) are attacked by Black Fang assassins.

Things look largely unchanged on the surface, but in fact a lot has happened in the year since Lyn defeated Lundgren. First of all, remember Eliwood? He was the son of the Marquess Elbert of Pherae in Lycia and helped Lyn out diplomatically.

His father the Marquess and most of his father’s knights- perhaps the most renowned fighting force in Lycia- have disappeared without a trace. Many people presume Elbert is dead, but Eliwood hasn’t given up hope

Eliwood now leaves home to try to find his father on his own.

Back in Ostia, Eliwood’s best friend Hector has been trying to convince his brother (the Marquess) to use their armies and spies to find Marquess Pherae. Uther insists on not getting involved, so Hector resolves to go help his friend on his own.
Hector may be pretty reckless, but he was at least clever enough to make his preparations to secretly leave BEFORE waiting for his brother to refuse to help Eliwood.


It’s Matthew! Surprise! Looks like he wasn’t just a petty criminal in Araphen afterall. He and Hector have a fun relationship- really Hector and his retainers are a bit more interesting than Eliwood and his in my opinion. Complicating matters is that all of Hector’s men are actually his brother’s men and Hector and his brother don’t get along, so he doesn’t really trust them to do what he wants. Having told Matthew to stay behind, Hector is immediately ambushed by like 12 assassins. One of the few consistencies between FE6 and 7 is that Ostia’s defenses are as porous as a sponge.

An FE7 action sequence ensues. I’ve got to say, this is one thing the game does not do very well. Hector just kind of runs into the red blob with the spear and the red blob disappears with a flash of light. Then Matthew appears and Hector runs at him but misses. All too fast to make out much of it clearly. Only when Hector and Matthew start talking to each other does it become clear that what happened is that Hector suddenly spotted Matthew, assumed he was another assassin, took a swing at him, and barely missed. This game and FE8 are actually surprisingly good at conveying action with portraits moving back and forth across the dialogue screen and flashes of light but not so much with sprites on the map.

The War Room, Part 10

Here we go, the first War Room meeting of Hector’s story! When reading about max ranking runs of this game, you will often hear a lot of talk about “Zero chapters” or “Zero requirement chapters” or the like.

You may recall my explanation of the various ranking categories in The War Room part 6. In particular, remember that every chapter has a number of turns you’re supposed to beat it in. If your total number of turns spent over the whole story is less than the total allowed number of turns for every chapter you played, you get a max ranking for Tactics. Each chapter also has a number of assets you’re supposed to gain from it and if your total assets gained over the whole story is 80% or more of the total of those asset numbers for every chapter you played, you get max ranking for Funds. And similarly every chapter has an amount of XP you’re required to get.

There are many chapters that are unique to Hector’s Story. Their numbers in Hector’s Story are: 11, 15, 19xx, 25, 30, and 32x. Each of these chapters has “Zero requirements”. This means that the amount of XP you’re required to gain is 0, the amount of funds you’re required to gain is 0, and the number of turns you’re allowed to complete it in is 0.

Obviously, finishing a chapter in 0 turns is completely impossible so you need to make up for lost time by finishing other levels faster than required. For this reason, a lot of people doing ranked runs try to avoid some of these chapters: particularly 19xx and 32x.

As I’ve said, I’m going to do every single chapter though, so I’ll need to work hard to save lots of turns.

On a zero chapter you want to win in as few turns as possible, get as much loot as possible, and get as much XP as possible.
So essentially they’re exactly the same as any other chapter. I don’t really understand why people make a big deal out of them; they’re not fundamentally different from chapters like normal mode Night of Farewells (26x) which has an insanely low turn requirement of 10. Speaking of such things, Hard Mode actually has more generous turn requirements in general, which is nice.
Really, the key is just to look at these charts and know thine enemy:

Once you know what your turn budget is, it’s easy to see where you can start making savings.
This chapter I’m doing now is a 0 chapter, and I want to beat it as fast as possible. I can do it riskily in 6 turns or safely in 7 and I’m going to go for 6.

Preparations & The Map:
Actually, you can’t do any preparations on this chapter or any chapter up till 14. This is a significant part of what makes these chapters hard: you can’t trade items around or switch people’s places to make your strategy work.

Objective: Kill Wire
Secondary Objective: Acquire the Red Gem
Secondary Objective: Steal the thief’s Lockpick
Reinforcements: None
Turn Limit: 0

My opinion of this map gets lower every time I play it. It’s just too luck-based because Hector can’t hit worth a darn. But before I talk about its design quality, let me point out a few notable features.

First, everyone except the boss and the thief will charge at you as soon as a door is opened or a wall is broken that allows them through. However, they won’t break down walls by themselves.

The thief will actually open every door on the level (grabbing the red gem on the way) and then fight you rather than flee (I did say every thief AI is different).

Second, you start with no vulneraries and therefore no healing capacity of any kind. Several enemies have stealable vulneraries and a couple have droppable ones, but staying alive long enough to kill these people and then start healing is non-trivial. Even pitiful archers and soldiers do serious damage on HHM before Hector starts getting some levels.

Third, the randomness of HHM enemy stat bonuses means Wire could die in either 2 or 3 Wolf Beil hits. If 3, there is absolutely no way to end the map in 6 turns without praying for a critical. 3 also means he’ll probably kill you unless you drink a vulnerary during the battle.
What does this mean you should do?

In a non-ranking run of HHM, it means you should open the southern door, put Hector on the pillar, and have Matthew steal the first vulnerary that gets close but otherwise keep him back. Turtle up and chug your vulnerary and flail away from your pillar until the hordes have been thinned. The enemy thief will stupidly walk back to you and try to fight, at which point you can steal his lockpick and red gem with impunity. Then just march through the empty level and kill the boss. Boring. And trying anything else is too risky to be wise because Hector’s accuracy is terrible and the enemies are far too damaging. A couple of improbable enemy hits or even a single miss from Hector can be a catastrophe.

In every subsequent chapter, you will always have at least one character who is better than Matthew at not dying and can hit accurately (Marcus for one). That means if you need to hit an enemy to win, you CAN hit the enemy. This makes a huge difference toward making things feel a lot less like betting your life on a coin flip. After this level if you lose, it generally means you applied your tools poorly. On this level if you lose, it’s probably because the game didn’t give you the right tools for the job and you had to make do with duct tape and prayers.

So this is possibly the most luck-based chapter in the whole game and I’m not too fond of that. However, I think it’s fairly interesting as a thought exercise on a max ranking run. Certainly I had fun figuring out all the different strategies I could attempt to end the game in 6 turns or 7 turns and what their odds of success were. On a non-ranking run the solution is to play in a boring fashion. On a ranking run, the level becomes a puzzle with only a few solutions, some much better than others. You still need luck to pull any of them off, but at least you need to think.

So the first ranked level. As always, I have 3 major concerns: winning fast, getting lots of XP, and acquiring lots of loot. Winning fast is especially important because I have to complete more chapters in the same number of turns as most max ranking runs.

On a zero chapter like this, it’s often unclear what fast actually means. One way to figure that out is to imagine how fast I could get to the boss and kill him if there were no obstacles or enemies in the way. The answer is 5 turns. Obviously, that’s just as impossible as 0 turns since there ARE enemies and closed doors and such in the way. But can I do it in 6? If not, how about 7? The answer, actually, is yes I can do it in 6. What’s more, I can do it in 6 while still getting the red gem. In 7 turns I could also swipe the lockpick (worth about 1000 since 3 charges will be gone) and kill 1-2 more enemies with Hector. However, that is not necessarily that good a trade. A turn spent here is a turn I must save elsewhere and on many other levels one more extra turn will let me kill like 5 other enemies or acquire much more valuable treasure. Maybe I made the right choice ending it at 6, maybe not. But if your goal is to end things at 6 turns, I believe what I’m about to show you is the approach with the best possible chance of success and I’m pretty proud of having developed it. But first…

The Characters:

“…I don’t care. I will help my friend. That’s why I’ve come this far.” –Hector, Chapter 30

The phrase “Hector’s Story” is something of a misnomer. Although this version of the tale is told from Hector’s perspective, he remains very definitely a supporting character in a story that revolves around Eliwood. It is Eliwood’s quest to find his father that drives the plot and Eliwood who typically speaks for the group. But Eliwood is Hector’s friend, and Hector believes above all else in sticking by your friends- even if that means fighting dragons. His leitmotif is entitled “loyalty” and it’s his dogged determination to stand by Eliwood no matter what happens that really defines him and his role in the plot.

That doesn’t mean that Eliwood is the only interesting one though. Hector is a well-developed and rounded individual and he deals with his own problems and has his own interesting relationships with his retainers as the story goes along.

Hector lost his parents at a young age and his older brother Uther has ruled Ostia ever since. He’s never been one for his studies or diplomacy or maintaining the family honor, instead amusing himself by sneaking off to local arenas and pit fights to hone his combat skills and generally behaving rudely and loutishly at all times. Several characters comment that it’s hard to believe he’s really a nobleman.

Hector is brash, confident, blunt, at least as violent as Lyn, and displays a steely stoicism no matter what happens to him. Lyn and Eliwood both have numerous different portraits showing them joyful, anguished, furious, and really displaying quite a well-depicted range of emotions. Although I might be forgetting something, I don’t think Hector has any portraits other than slightly smiling, slightly frowning, and slightly enraged.

At first glance, he’s more similar to Lyn than to the gentle and polite Eliwood, but unlike Lyn he was raised as a noble and believes his own violent and rude behavior to be a character flaw he should outgrow. Eliwood starts mature and clever but lacking the emotional strength to cope with loss and tragedy and the physical strength to deal with the enemies he will surely face as Marquess someday. Conversely, Hector needs to grow up and learn to be a responsible ruler, not just a strong one.

Hector’s tremendous power in battle has been praised ad nauseam since this game was released. Yes, everything they say about him is true. Hector is a fantastic character and there’s not much else to say that hasn’t been said a thousand times. His defenses are quite possibly the hardest in the game. His offensive power is nearly matchless and backed up by excellent skill and even solid speed and luck. His only real weaknesses are that as a promoted unit he still only moves 5 squares and that he promotes very late.
There’s one character nearly as good as Hector though:

“I am power. Power without peer. I am the dragonhunter. I am the fleshbiter, the bonecrusher, the skullbreaker, the doombringer.” –ArmadsThe Wolf Beil

You may remember Matthew mentioning that he brought “Hector’s beloved axe.” Well here it is. It’s only 5 less accurate than Lyn’s Mani Katti and this is an axe being compared to a sword. It’s super effective against knights and mounted units and (unlike the Mani Katti) it has enough power that that usually results in an instant kill on normal mode. It’s light enough to be no problem and it even has a minor crit bonus. Oh and about 70% of the bosses for the next 10 chapters are vulnerable to it. Hector barely needs to look at them with this monster in his hands to make many of them fall over dead.

And here’s its first victim. You will notice that this is a mere level 7 knight, but he’s nearly as good as Lundgren. HHM pulls no punches with its bosses. If you’re lucky with Wire’s HHM stat bonuses, you can kill him in 2 hits with Wolf Beil. If not, it’s 3. In that case, there’s absolutely no way to end this before turn 7 without hoping for a 4% critical on turn 6. So the map is luck based before you even get to make your first move! Either way, Wire will kill Hector in 2 hits- or 3 if Hector is at max HP, so you’re in for a rough and luck based fight if you don’t want to just sit there chugging vulneraries for several turns.

Now who is this mysterious black fang member? And… what is he doing here? At first glance, this kind of looks like a bit of a plot hole. Why would the Black Fang want to kill Hector before he’s even begun to interfere with them? Did someone just contract them to kill him? This seems unlikely given that Wire clearly knows Lord Nergal, suggesting a certain level of status in the organization.

But actually, if you think about what he says, it’s clear that Uther isn’t the only one who knew Hector was planning on sneaking out of Ostia.

“A fool like you, sneaking out of the country alone... You'll go missing, never to return.” –Wire, Chapter 11

Wire reveals that he knew just what Hector planned to do and points out that this will make it quite easy to get away with murdering him- it’s the perfect opportunity for them. Looking back with the benefit of having played through the game, it’s clear that the Black Fang is a lot more dangerous than people give them credit for. True, they lose in knock-down, drag-out fights like this. But they’re assassins, of course they’re not much good in a fair fight. And it’s clear they have a truly extraordinary spy network and they know their targets well. I mean, they knew Hector was going to leave almost before he did and were lying in wait for him.

No doubt they’ve been watching Eliwood since he single-handedly rescued Ninian from their clutches. Remember, Hector was right there waiting to meet him. The Black Fang learned of their friendship and studied them carefully. They knew when Eliwood planned to set out and they correctly predicted when Hector would leave on his own to join his friend and set a trap for him.

Playing through the game for the first time, the Black Fang looks like they lose every single battle- typically it’s not even close- and the whole group collapses into a pile of delicious, delicious XP. But looking back and putting the pieces together, it’s clear that not only were they several steps ahead of the heroes nearly the whole time, they only failed due to the blunders of one man who wasn’t even one of them. Plus they do win on several occasions. One of those was Heintz’s bid to prevent Lyn from rescuing Ninian. He succeeded, the only problem was that unbeknownst to anyone, Eliwood involved himself while Heintz was fighting Lyn. Another was every darned time Zoldam gets a critical with his Luna.

“My guise as a common thief was but a ruse. I’ve served House Ostia for some time as a spy of sorts!” –Matthew, Chapter 12

Same great character, same lousy stats. Matthew will prove his worth many times on this level though and Hector would surely have died without him- only his scheming flushed out the assassins so that Hector didn’t walk right into the middle of their ambush. He’s one of very few people to actually outsmart rather than just outfight the Black Fang and is perhaps the only character who consistently gets the better of Hector, manipulating him into doing the smart thing again and again.

His dialog with Wire is one of my favorites in the game as Matthew explains how he systematically figured out and countered the Black Fang plan. Unperturbed, Wire points out that he can totally just kill Matthew now and all the latter’s cleverness will have been for nothing. Unfortunately, I can’t actually get Matthew to Wire- let alone fight him- with the strategy I’ll be using.

Playing Through

Hector is quite well equipped and ready to deal with any situation. Except, you know, taking damage. Not so well prepared for that.

As I’ve said, my goal is speed- and also to get the Red Gem. For either purpose, I need to take the top route. To maximize speed, Hector and Matthew both work on tearing it down in 1 turn.

Immediately the soldier and archer advanced, as expected, so Hector stepped up and killed the soldier. Now unlike that video I showed you before, I’m going to try to take down this archer ASAP. This is partly because my Matthew can’t actually take 2 hits from him and partly because I figured out my movements for the next few turns and realized I could do exactly as well as that other video by just taking the archer down directly.

On the enemy turn, the archer will step back and shoot Matthew. So then I kill him with Hector and have Matthew open the door, right? No. Doing that ensures failure because it means Hector is too far away from the door when it opens, so he’ll be blocked in by the troops who come running.

Instead I kill the archer with Matthew and net an excellent level for everyone’s favorite lousy fighter.

The archer drops a vulnerary, so Hector runs up past Matthew to take it. This puts him in perfect position to move through the door once it’s opened and it gives him the ability to heal himself. Being able to heal removes most luck from this strategy: it doesn’t matter who hit Hector up till now, I can have him at full power as he engages Wire, so I can win. It’s only a question of whether I want to possibly win in 6 turns, probably win in 7 turns, or definitely win in 8 turns.

I think you experienced players out there can see the level is now in the bag except for Wire. On turn 4 Matthew opens the door and Hector just moves here. This puts him exactly 2 moves from being able to hit Wire and means the southern soldier and archer can’t block him- just inflict some minor damage at worst.
Meanwhile, you can see that on this turn the enemy will steal the red gem. While Hector advances, Matthew retreats to be near the remaining door to the treasury room.

Hector has healed himself and can now trounce Wire in a one on one fight. The trouble is that if either of those other guys hit him (and they will), I’ll still need to make a tricky choice: either attack Wire anyway and risk death but maintain the possibility of a turn 6 win or instead move next to Wire and chug a vulnerary and then finish Wire on turn 7.
Meanwhile, the foolish enemy thief is about to open the door and let Matthew swipe his red gem.

Hector got hit pretty badly, but I’ve decided to run the risk of attacking Wire anyway. Every approach to this chapter that’s viable for max ranking has a serious chance of failure and there’s not much I can do about that. Worst comes to worst, I restart and go with that 7 turn version I mentioned and grab the lockpick and some extra XP.

Say hello to the nice assassin, Wolf

Bam! Great level there. I would gladly trade all of that but the speed for some Def at this point, but it’s still great.

It sure was. There are thankfully few chapters in this game that you have to play with fingers crossed like that.

Hector has finally realized that Matthew just tricked him into telling Matthew to stay behind so that the assassins would come out and has been playing everyone masterfully from the start. Even Hector’s not stubborn enough to pass up an ally like that.

And of course, Uther knew all about it too and let Hector go. He just sends Oswin after Hector to make sure Hector has a much needed ally capable of fighting with him in the future. And a cleric. I’ve never been so happy to see Serra.

Total Restarts: 0 once I decided what my strategy was going to be. I lucked out there.
Current Turn Surplus: -6
Things I Regret Missing: The lockpick, that darned archer