The Let's Play Archive

Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword

by Melth

Part 40: Chapter 28 (part 1)

For some reason, I always call this chapter “Battle Before the Dawn” when saying it out loud.

Although it gets a lot of hate, I regard it as one of the best chapters in the whole game. Second or third best after the Dragon’s Gate and Whereabouts Unknown.
Not coincidentally, each of these chapters is either the end or the climax of the arcs they’re in, so they’re full of great story progress and character development. They’re also all fantastic strategic challenges in that they have huge numbers of scattered optional objectives that take a lot of planning to accomplish efficiently, while being pretty easy to just complete for novice players not looking for maximum challenge.

This is probably the only chapter for which I think Fog of War is actually a good thing. Sadly, it’s the last Fog of War chapter in the game.

I’d love to see more chapters like this one.

Chapter Summary:
Hector and the rest hurry after Jaffar and Nino but the latter have too much of a head start. Prince Zephiel is saved only by Nino’s kind heart and Jaffar’s newfound love for Nino. However, Sonia anticipated their treachery and sent Ursula in with a small army to kill the two of them and Zephiel too. As their battle begins, Hector arrives and they rush into the manor to try to save the prince, recruiting Nino and Jaffar along the way. The next morning, they meet with Queen Hellene at last and give her the Fire Emblem. However, when she is utterly unconcerned about her son’s near death the night before, Eliwood loses his patience for her scheming and the two part angrily- it’s all been for nothing. At that moment, Murdock, who the king tricked into leaving Zephiel alone that night so that he could be killed more easily, returns and quickly finds out the whole truth of what happened. He explains this to Queen Hellene and she realizes that the group she angrily dismissed had saved her son’s life and hurries to catch them, apologize, and give them not only the map to the Shrine of Seals but also all the help she can on their way

The king did his job of removing the guard very well.

Nino’s continuous babbling reveals she really is quite nervous.

Jaffar is such a buzzkill as he tried to shut her up. He sounds like he’s trying to convince himself as much as her though.

And again, he could just as easily be trying to persuade himself as to warn her. I’m not entirely sure what to think he’s really going for in their conversations up until his big decision. Is he trying to convince himself just to go through with his mission? To try to warn her into realizing something is up and leaving on her own? Something else?

Nino is definitely trying to steel herself for the assassination, reminding herself that if she succeeds then her mother may finally accept her.

I think they do a good job of capturing the psychology of abusive relationships and dysfunctional families in this game. Nino is desperate for affection since her step father more or less ignores her, her step brothers are always busy on missions, and her mother is constantly cruel or callous toward her. And she blames herself and the fact that she’s not, at age 14 or whatever, an invincible death machine like Jaffar for the abuse she suffers.

They’ve arrived at the prince’s room and catch him praying.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

All he wants is for his cruel father to love him

And for his screwed up family to get along.

Jaffar breaks in easily and for some reason knocks Zephiel out instead of killing him.

Just what is he going for here? He talked repeatedly about how he didn’t want her screwing up his mission, so why does he choose to rely on her here when he has everything in the bag?

My best interpretation is that he’s testing whether Nino is actually as kind as she lets on. I’m not sure what his plan is in either case at this point and that’s really part of what builds the tension of this scene so well.

Another of their great melancholy musical themes.

Nino is really more right here than she could possibly know. Both she and Zephiel are kind, talented, and decent people growing up in absolutely horrible families and blaming themselves for the abuse they suffer. And both of them are about to be almost assassinated by their own parents- and more specifically by Jaffar.

And she explains to Jaffar why Zephiel’s prayer means so much to her.

Indeed, the only time Sonia even agreed to ever do so was when she knew Nino would be killed before she could return and cash in on the offer.

And she decides she’d just rather face the Black Fang’s punishment and be killed than kill a boy so much like her. This is really Nino’s best moment and redeems her of her previous willingness to kill people for hugs in my opinion.

Indeed, she’s essentially offering to die for him, though of course she must know that Jaffar is unlikely to spare him if he’d kill her.

A very different kind of “……” than we usually get from him. His ellipses are quite expressive at times.

Man, I remember I had no idea how things were going to go at this point the first time I played this game. It was an exciting moment.

And bam! They run into Ursula! And we see once again that Sonia is really clever and always one step ahead. Previously it looked like she was being stupid sending Nino on this mission, but then we found out the point was to let Jaffar kill her. Then it looked like she was ignoring the warning signs that Jaffar might betray them, but actually she just wasn’t letting on that she was on to him so that he wouldn’t expect this trap.
Man I love Sonia.

Jaffar was about to bluff their way out of there when Nino idiotically blurts this out. Man, she’s new at this.

Well that’s a bomb shell for Nino and a dead giveaway that Jaffar has disobeyed his orders afterall.

It also really makes Ursula almost as nasty as Sonia herself, what with being ok with murdering children who aren’t even actually enemies of the Fang or anything and willing to kill anyone who disobeys orders to do so.

And Jaffar finally makes it clear exactly where he stands, to all three of them.

Yeah, this is big development for a guy who just said “…” and “Thy will be done” for most of the story. She hasn’t seen any of his private scenes with Nino that gradually built up to this.

Now this is interesting. We know she’s really devoted to Sonia and also relatively trusted by Sonia- hence she’s the one Sonia goes to when she might need Jaffar stopped. But to know about morphs implies she might really know a very great deal about what Nergal and Sonia are doing to the Fang.

She calls up Maxime, the most fabulous warrior in her retinue, and prepares to attack- being far too smart to actually just engage Jaffar herself immediately.

Jaffar doesn’t care a whit about Zephiel –or Jaffar- so he just hustles Nino to the exit.

But Nino has been growing fond of Jaffar too and won’t let him just die to buy her time.

Again, when Jaffar does say something other than “…” it’s almost always great and worth ten lines from most other people for developing him.

Meanwhile, the heroes have arrived and here Jaffar fighting Ursula’s men.

Let’s get to it then!

Battle Preparations & the Map:

Here it is, one of the most fun chapters in the game! It’s absolutely HUGE and actually fairly open for an indoor map. It doesn’t rely on being a maze or absolutely full of locked doors, instead it’s the sheer size of it and a few carefully placed enemies that makes it hard to get around.

This is the first “Protect the NPC” map where we don’t actually start near the person to protect, so the big challenge of the map is to get to him before he gets killed. After doing that, it’s much easier to complete the rest of the chapter. It’s essentially a giant race: can you cross the vast space and open the doors and cut through the enemies before the enemy gets to Zephiel?

Almost everyone says no, there is a single enemy who WILL get to Zephiel before you do. For this reason, many people say that you cannot beat this chapter without luck- that you have to hope Zephiel dodges at least one attack.

They’re wrong. Completely wrong in fact: not only can you intercept every enemy before any of them get to Zephiel, but it wouldn’t matter if that lead fighter did anyway- you could still keep him alive with 100% probability.

Jaffar does have a chance- albeit a very small one- of getting killed before you can get to him, but again good strategy can save him from further danger starting by turn 4 or so.

No matter how you play, Nino is perfectly safe EXCEPT that on rare occasions she will choose to walk the wrong direction to drink her elixir and therefore end up in bolting range, but once again you can completely guarantee this will never happen.

In conclusion, there IS a very small chance of losing this chapter as a result of allied unit choices, but it’s smaller than the chance of failure every time you, say, fight a single druid with Luna. People saying you can’t win without luck just aren’t thinking things through and considering all the resources at their disposal.

The key is Physic. You guaranteed have 1 physic staff and one person capable of using it at huge range (Pent). On a non-ranking run you could also easily have many more, better physic users. Even on a ranking run, I managed to get Canas the requisite B in staves (Why do you think I was grinding healing so hard with him for the last 8 chapters or whatever?) so I have 2 physic users. And regardless of run type, you should buy at least one spare physic staff from the secret store in Kinship’s Bond. Physic is one of the game’s god tier items.

Pent can heal from 9 squares away with physic, and better people can use it from further away. You can easily have Pent in range to Physic Zephiel long before the fighter can get to him- and this position also allows you to heal Nino so that she never uses her elixir and therefore definitely stays safe. If you have a second Physic staff and user, you can send it down the left flank- ideally with a rescue drop- to help Jaffar out, but his odds of death before you can get there are tiny anyway- probably smaller than those of one of your units getting killed on the way.

So yeah, don’t blame luck on this one barring a very rare turn 2 or 3 Jaffar death, just rethink your strategy a bit and employ all the resources at your disposal.

With that out of the way, there are several other things to say about this map. First of all, you can’t rely on physic alone. Physic would only keep Zephiel alive as long as he’s fighting a single fighter at a time, it’s no use when he can be killed from full HP on one enemy turn, so you still need good tactics or Zephiel WILL die. But that’s 100% preventable by moving very fast.

There’s a somewhat related secondary problem: similarly to Living Legend, you have an uber green unit here stealing all your XP. You can’t let him get away with that! Plus the enemy thieves will begin spawning very early on this chapter and will go for the left treasure immediately, so you’d better move fast to get to the Jaffar area as well as to Zephiel.

That’s quite easy though. Look at the map and you should notice something immediately: the left side is nearly EMPTY. There’s no resistance on that side to a full speed charge except for Maxime himself. The right side is where all the action is and even on that side the enemy numbers are very limited, with only two enemies of note.

This situation will actually reverse itself soon though. See, there are absolutely no right side reinforcements at all, before long you’ll have wiped out all of Ursula’s forces on the right. But on the left side hordes of mixed promoted and unpromoted enemies of various types will pour in from the bottom while a great many thieves and shamans come out of the stair case near Maxime. So you want to concentrate your forces on the right side initially, but have them come sweeping through to the left to join the battle there.

Ursula is hidden away in the bottom right corner where she’s not actually much of a threat once you know her location. Her Bolting is absolutely devastating, but she won’t move (for most of the map that is) so its effective range is limited.

So there are essentially 4 obstacles to saving Zephiel:
Time. You must bring fast units and charge full speed ahead. As a backup/stopgap measure if you can’t manage to get to him properly, bring a physic.

The second is Maxime, a very formidable enemy on hard mode. Bring anti-cavalry weapons and at least one very strong unit to deal with him. You do not want to get bogged down on the left front dealing with this violet villain.

The third is that hero in the top right.

He’s actually quite comparable to Maxime in power and is one of the strongest enemies fought to date.

And his silver sword packs quite a punch.

Fourth is his assistant:

That bishop has a physic staff. If you don’t kill the hero on turn 1, you WILL be fighting him for much longer than you want to thanks to this guy.

So you need to come prepared to cut down Maxime on the left and the hero and bishop on the right and should bring either Pent or another physic user.

And when I said you need to move full speed, I meant full speed. If a unit doesn’t have 7-8 movement and isn’t either Ninian, a thief, or your physic user, then don’t bring them. If you’re serious about max ranking HHM, you should have at least 2 and hopefully 3 promoted flyers ready for one thing, plus probably Sain. And if you absolutely have to, then break out Marcus and Isadora. If you promoted Rath, he’ll be great here. High level, unpromoted cavaliers and Priscilla are fairly handy too. But you must have several very good 8 movement characters, that’s non-negotiable.

And be prepared to flexibly and intelligently rescue-drop your slower characters along as you go, particularly Ninian.

I’m going to demonstrate roughly the bare minimum needed to completely ace this chapter, bringing along several weak units to train. If you actually go all out and bring a full set of 8-move great units, this chapter is much easier.

Without further ado, here’s the formation I used. Your own formation must be carefully tailored to the units you have and their stats relative to the enemies’.

Objective: Protect Zephiel for 15 turns
Secondary Objective: Recruit Nino with Hector or Eliwood
Secondary Objective: Talk to Jaffar with Nino to unlock the sidequest
Secondary Objective: Get the Boots from the leftmost chest
Secondary Objective: Get the Brave Lance from the second chest from the left
Secondary Objective: Get the Rescue staff from the second chest from the right
Secondary Objective: Get the Delphi Shield from the rightmost chest
Secondary Objective: Steal the Earth Seal from the bottom left druid
Secondary Objective: Steal the Lockpick from the first thief
Secondary Objective: Steal the Lockpick from the second thief
Secondary Objective: Steal the Lockpick from the third thief
Secondary Objective: Steal the Lockpick from the fourth thief
Secondary Objective: Prevent Nino from using her Elixir to save money
Secondary Objective: Prevent Jaffar from using his Elixir to save money
Secondary Objective: Prevent Jaffar from killing many enemies
Secondary Objective: Kill Ursula for honor and glory
Reinforcements: Starting on turn 2, 4 thieves from the stairs near Maxime will go for the left treasure chests. After that, pretty much one shaman will spawn from those stairs every turn till 14. There will be many reinforcements of many types: mages, monks, shamans, knights, generals, archers, snipers, uber heroes, and more from the southwest area along a fairly broad front from about turn 4 to 10 or so. They’re hidden by the fog so the details are hard to make out. By the last few turns, nothing is spawning but one lonely mage per turn up till 14 from the bottom left corner.
Turn Limit: 15 (It’s a survival type chapter, so you lose 1. For some reason, this chapter had a 20 turn limit in normal mode, so you actually gained turns. Not anymore)
Units Allowed: 9 + Hector (This hurts, but it’s enough)
Units Brought:
1) Hector. Required and useless except for recruiting Nino. He’s too slow for this map’s frenetic pace and should never see combat at all basically. Give him some keys and have him loot the right treasure room.
2) Kent. Yeah he’s level 3 and I’m taking him on the most intense mission in a long time. What about it? You cannot slack off on pumping your XP up. If you do, you will suddenly drop 2 stars after the final chapter and all your work will have been for nothing. It doesn’t matter how insanely hard the chapter is, bring people to train. Kent is decently well suited to this chapter in particular because of his great movement and because many of the fighters here have axereavers, which cripples them enough against his lance that he can avoid being hit very well.
3) Lowen. Same as Kent but higher level and slightly more usable, so he goes on the more dangerous right front.
4) Matthew. There are 5 valuable items to steal on this level so you must bring a thief. Originally I planned on bringing 2 thieves, but if you bring some chest keys for the right flank and work efficiently on the left one, then you don’t need a second one. Matthew is lower level than Legault by a decent margin and is also much weaker, which will help him feed fighters and shamans to Kent.
5) Priscilla. The left front needs a healer so Kent and Matthew can work to begin with and it has to be someone with massive mobility- and ideally a physic staff too, like she can wield. Priscilla will actually be my primary healer for both fronts eventually in this battle as you’ll see.
6) Canas. The reason is that Canas is pretty much my only character capable of taking down Ursula, so he needs to be sent off on his own during most of the later turns and can’t heal anyone else. Up until then he’ll definitely be healing and/or physicing the green units. His massive magic will let me use the torch staff to scout for the right flank instead of bringing a second thief.
7) Ninian. You need Ninian, as usual. Most advanced strategies depend on her and this is no exception. Unless your units are truly fantastically blessed, you can’t beat the top right hero on turn 1 without her, nor will the right flank be able to keep up the required breakneck pace as you charge to get to Nino and Zephiel.
8) Sain. Sain and Heath are my two biggest, baddest 8 movement champions. Which one to send to each front is a tricky question. Ultimately, I concluded that it had to be Sain on the left. Armed with a killer axe, he has a great chance to kill Maxime outright in a single round, and with Maxime’s broken HP cap and great defenses, that’s saying something. Either he or Heath could kill Maxime in two of course, but there are no other ways to feasibly beat Maxime in one. Even the halberd and horseslayer won’t do it because they’ll slow their bearers down too much. Maxime is fast.
9) Heath. Now Heath is in trouble because he’s just not quite strong enough to take down the top right hero with Filla’s Might. Sain could do that, but my Heath currently has below average Str despite his HHM bonuses. The big problem is that he can only attack at all with either a short spear or a javelin. The short spear would give him juuuuuust enough power, but it’s also slightly heavier than the javelin and would slow him down to just 1 point too slow to double. Darn. Fortunately, the filla’s might + javelin damage will reduce the hero to less than 5 HP, low enough that Lowen or Fiora will kill him when he attacks (which is before the bishop goes).
10) Fiora. The right flank needs more than one good 8 movement character, though it only needs one great one. Fiora will be just the kind of backup Heath and Lowen need.
Notable Units Rejected:
1) Eliwood. He’s darned good here and in my first attempt of the chapter I did bring him and he was devastating, but just not quite fast enough. If my Sain and Heath weren’t as strong as they are, I’d probably have to kick Lowen or Kent off the team and bring Eliwood or Florina instead to beef my forces up.
2) Florina. Definitely great here, but I can juuuust get by without bringing her too. Fiora wins out over her because of her better defenses.
3) Pent. Canas is better. Of course Canas is better.
4) Legault. He’d be good to have, but I can get by without him and he’s very high level and much stronger than Matthew- so much so that he’d one-round kill some units I’d rather weaken for Kent. Anything you can get by without should be dumped on this chapter.
5) Rath. I’m probably not promoting anyone else (well maybe Nino). Rath would be awesome here, but I have my team ready to roll without him.
6) Dorcas, Guy, Lyn, and anyone else I’m possibly training. Too slow!
7) Serra. Has she ever NOT been a bad Priscilla? Too slow!
8) Dart. Too slow! And even more importantly, he’s nearly max level and I want to use him next chapter so I can’t give him any XP this time.
9) Marcus and Isadora. I do sometimes bring Marcus back for this chapter depending on how good or bad my other 8 movement people turned out. This time there’s no need for him. Bear in mind, he can’t actually fight worth a damn here and will be ignominiously torn to shreds by fighters and shamans if you try to actually have him do so. He’s mostly just to be used for carrying people around and maaaybe getting one or two unpromoted units off your real fighters for a turn or two.
Proper gear is absolutely essential here. Canas has Flux and Luna and Heal of course, but he also has Physic and Torch staff. He’ll need a vulnerary before the end, so he’ll pass the torch to Merlinus and take one when I get to the part where he splits off. Without the torch, you can’t see on the right unless you waste one of your precious unit spots on Legault. Bring the torch. Without the physic, Nino will use her elixir- conceivably dying and definitely wasting money. And if you somehow get bogged down for a turn, the physic staff could save Zephiel’s bacon. Meanwhile Luna is absolutely essential for letting him deal with Ursula and he’ll need Flux for her personal guard.

Priscilla is packing a heal, a physic, a vulnerary and nothing else. I need to have 5 empty inventory slots on the left in order to steal everything. She doesn’t have the mag to use Physic very well, but if it keeps her 20 HP away from an enemy and keeps someone important fighting, it’s worth it.

Sain has a door key. He must have a door key. Don’t forget your door key. Did you buy door keys when I told you you should buy door keys? Door keys are the best, man. Buy them. He’s also brimming with weapons: an iron lance, an iron axe, a javelin (handaxes are too inaccurate, don’t get greedy to save 10 gold and miss a critical shot on a chapter like this), and most importantly Hawkeye’s Killer Axe with Maxime’s name on it.

Kent is carrying a spare vulnerary to pass to Sain after Sain uses his key. He also has an iron sword, iron lance, javelin, and vulnerary for himself. He’d better have every possible option available if he’s going stay alive this time.

Matthew has an iron sword, a torch, a vulnerary and nothing else. That makes a total of 5 empty inventory slots among the left party, just enough. Note that he doesn’t have a lockpick. I’ll steal more than I’ll ever use and the first enemy thief will be taking the lead anyway.

Ninian has Ninis’s Grace, Filla’s Might, and a vulnerary and my remaining Fire and Thunder to trade to Nino. Ninian and Nino will be working closely together so she’s a logical person to give them too.

Hector has an iron axe and handaxe in case I do need him to hit something as well as a vulnerary and a door key and a chest key so he can take care of the right chests. He too would be a good person to give Nino’s new gear too, but since I want him getting the chests and don’t know exactly how soon Merlinus will catch up to him, I decided not to do it that way.

Fiora has another door key. This is important. Yes one drops on the right front early, but you can’t count on her getting it and you really want her opening the door. She also has a vulnerary, iron lance, iron sword, and javelin of course.

Lowen has a vulnerary, iron lance, iron sword, and javelin. Don’t make the mistake of giving him the door key instead of Fiora.

And Heath is on point with a javelin, iron lance, iron sword, vulnerary, and a heavy spear. You will want a heavy spear very badly by the end.

Now this formation is optimized so that Sain can blow open the left door immediately and Priscilla and Kent can drop in a torching Matthew in a crowd behind him to push in as fast as possible. Sain will leave the other three behind as soon as that’s feasible to catch up to the enemy thieves and deal with maxime. Since Kent, Matthew, and Priscilla are all weaker than weak, they’ll have quite a time dealing with even these few enemies, but I believe they can manage it while Priscilla and Kent keep chaining Matthew along so that he doesn’t fall too far behind.

Everyone else will be going right. Merlinus and Canas will scout for the group so that Fiora and Lowen can take out the nearby fighter. Then with Filla’s Might on him, Heath will immediately hit and deal massive damage to the top right hero, who will then attack either him or Lowen or Fiora or Canas and then die. Hector will come along behind them. Heath will be in position to immediately massacre the bishop and most of the remaining enemies next turn after Fiora opens the door. From there it’s a mad dash south, picking up and dropping Ninian as needed, to try to get Fiora or Heath to Zephiel as fast as possible. Canas will heal those he can and then make his way south alone to wear down Ursula’s Bolting and then take her out in the last turn. Hector will recruit Nino and then go for the treasure. The rest will move left as fast as they can to join the real battle once Zephiel is safe.

The details of that battle will depend on exactly what Jaffar does and can’t really be planned in advance. Speaking of Jaffar, what are he and Nino like?

The Characters:

“I'm truly sorry... I've been useless.” –Nino, Not Quite Death Quote

What is it with Fire Emblem and female child soldiers who get married way too young? Ugh, well at least Nino isn’t as creepily fanservice-y as some similar characters in the series.

And she’s an actual character and rather critical to her plot, getting a ton of development as her own person as well as an adopted family member or colleague of many other characters. All in all, I think that was well done and she’s one of the better female heroes in a Fire Emblem game. I’m especially glad that it’s her, rather than Jaffar, who drives the next chapter in particular.

Nino is a sweet but willfully blind and naïve young girl who’s been raised by the cruel and abusive Sonia. She’s consequently illiterate, entirely self-taught in magic, and very insecure and desperate for affection with kind of a codependency type thing going on. She’s willing to do just about anything in hopes of finally winning her mother’s approval, but ultimately stops just short of murder despite having been raised to think it perfectly alright. In fact, she shows great courage in standing up to Jaffar- as well as Sonia and indirectly the whole Black Fang (including the few people who were ever kind to her: the Reeds) - by refusing to kill Prince Zephiel out of principle.
Her simple kindness and steadfast belief in the goodness of other people eventually warms even Jaffar’s heart and so is monumentally important to the plot- even if she never fully understood how.
The more I’ve played this game, the more I’ve come to think Nino is a really well done character. She also ties into several other characters rather well- and her support with Canas is golden while her one with Florina is one of the few times I’m not annoyed by the latter.

And as everyone knows, she’s very strong. That horrible, horrible Con is still good enough for Fire and her speed is absurdly high anyway. Other than Lucius (man, I wish those two had a support), she has pretty much the best magic power around and her equally massive luck makes her dodge-y enough that she’s not really a glass cannon.
Ultimately, Nino is a very strong character but you can’t really use her at all. By the time you’re done training her, the game is over. And she’s pretty useless on the final chapter. Plus she’s not THAT much better than, say, Erk and Lucius where it counts. Definitely worth training for the XP ranking bonus though. Much like Erk and Lucius, it’s really easy to get her rolling despite her low join level.

Better bring her some new equipment though, you don’t want her using this stuff.

“ I am a man.” –Jaffar, fighting Nergal

Not really so different from Nino, Jaffar is a very young man (18 or so at the most if I recall) raised all his life by Nergal and Nergal’s henchmen because Nergal saw their great potential as fighters. Nergal apparently found him sleeping atop a pile of corpses as a child, though I’m not sure whether we’re supposed to think he killed the others or just survived something they didn’t. In any case, since then he was raised to be nothing but a mindless killer, doing only as Nergal directed with no regard for himself.

His phenomenal skill and absolute dedication rapidly carried him to a position as one of the Black Fang’s four fangs and undoubtedly the most dangerous man in the organization, further solidifying Nergal’s hold on the group. He was entrusted with such critical duties as guarding Marquess Pherae and other prisoners Nergal would not have wanted the fang at large to ask questions about, and it was he who was often used for killing renegade Black Fang or anyone who threatened to be a problem for Nergal.

But being treated as a human being rather than a tool by Nino ultimately led him to realize he really was one and to cast aside his life as Nergal’s slave to protect her instead. He’s a man of very few words, but almost everything he does say is very poignant or awesome. In universe, his amazing coolness is probably second only to Raven’s, but we see a lot more of him being vulnerable or inwardly wretched and broken than most people are aware of.
Ultimately, the lords probably see him as really important because he was the one who really thwarted them at the Dragon’s Gate, but with the player’s omniscient perspective it’s clear he’s actually more a supporting character in Nino’s story. It’s refreshing to have a female character actually be the important one for once.

Jaffar really is about as good as his hype, but the problem is that he’s not going to get any better. He’s massively high level and his growths are terrible. Still very usable, but not worth the XP cost. If he was actually capable of performing as a thief that would be something, but he’s not: assassins can use lockpicks but they can’t steal. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve forgotten that and had to restart Night of Farewells near the end because I came up with a brilliant plan to acquire all the treasure that happened to require him stealing an item.

On this chapter he’s geared up to look darned cool while he steals your XP. With that killing edge he can mow down enemies without difficulty and his elixir and awesome avoid will keep him fighting for a very long time barring some extremely bad luck. Generally speaking, a whole wave of enemies can’t kill him from full HP even if they did miraculously all hit due to his awesome Def, and the AI is pretty willing to use its elixir to keep him ready to fight. The only thing that can kill him is if one wave does juuuuust enough damage to him that he doesn’t use his elixir and then the next wave all get amazingly lucky.

“I’ve tried my best not to be an embarrassment to my father.” –Zephiel, Chapter 28

As Nino herself points out, the two of them are very similar, each blaming themselves for the cruelty of their parents and each a prodigy in their own fields. Zephiel is more or less 100% different in outlook and character in this one than he is in Sword of Seals with absolutely no bitterness at all at this point despite ample reason for it.

He IS just as huge though. I mean, at 7 Con this guy is already as big as many adult men and he’s still really young. Does it make sense that he grows up to have 18 Con and thus be much, much bigger than Hawkeye? No, not really, but this at least does suggest he’s always been large.

Oh and to his credit he does a surprisingly good job of defending himself from professional assassins despite having no combat experience at all and being really, really young. He’s what, 14 at this point? At the most? Cut him some slack.

It helps that he’s armed with the best and will employ fairly good tactics to defend himself, though not as good as could be hoped for.

“Yes, I’m here.” –Maxime, Chapter 28

Yeah, uh, that’s the only thing he says. At all. Ever. He’s the third and last of the paladin miniboss trio and while he lacks the awesomeness of Camerone or Damian, he’s still a fun addition to the chapter. All we really know about him is that he’s a loyal henchman of Ursula’s, which might mean all kinds of interesting things vis a vis Nergal and Sonia. But his secrets die with him.

Look at those stats. Do you see something wrong? Yes you do, you see that he does not give a damn about your stat caps, he’ll have whatever HP he wants. Normal mode Maxime is nothing. Hard mode Maxime does not play by your wimpy little rules. He doesn’t have the normal hard mode bonuses, he has like +22 HP and +6 Str and +whatever the heck else he wants.

His Luck is terrible, but this is otherwise by far the most dangerous paladin faced so far. He’s the toughest enemy yet due to that HP and his absolutely spectacular Res and solid Def and he’s way too fast for almost anyone to double him and he hits really hard.

With a silver lance. Don’t get hit by this guy. Although a miniboss, he’s probably more dangerous than any actual boss up to this point. We’re finally get into the tough chapters of the game.

Much of my strategy is tailored specifically around finding the one way to beat him in a single round so that he doesn’t block me and ruin everything. That I eventually found a way does not make him less awesome.

“Tell me… are you afraid to die?” –Ursula, Chapter 28

The most enigmatic of the Four Fangs, Ursula is also the most devoted to Nergal and Sonia, apparently knowing not only that Nergal exists but that he’s now in control of the Fang and not minding at all. She can’t have been one of the Four Fangs for very long since she seems to have replaced Pascal to get the position, but we did see her one year ago in Lyn’s story. Whether she predates Nergal’s takeover or came in when he shook things up is not specified, but we do know that she’s been made privy to many secrets so apparently Sonia and Nergal trust her loyalty.
Ursula generally maintains an air of cool professionalism and absolute obedience to the Fang’s code, but this mask occasionally slips to reveal an obsession with Sonia (who she hails as ‘perfection”) and a willingness to do anything- even betray the Fang to impress her. Since it was the post-Nergal Fang that was the most gung-ho about killing anyone who failed a mission, Ursula has embraced this tradition completely and more than once threatens her subordinates – or other fellow Fangs like Jaffar- with death. Ultimately, it’s clear that her supposed loyalty to the Black Fang itself is a charade and in truth she cares only for Sonia. Indeed, given her raving about how Sonia is “perfection” and her jealousy when Vaida momentarily caught Sonia’s attention among other things, I suspect we’re supposed to think she’s actually infatuated with Sonia. Whether this was all a part of Sonia’s plan to control her or not is unknown, but seems likely.

Sporting one of the most epic boss battle quotes in the game, Ursula is a truly nasty surprise – the only one on the level really, it otherwise doesn’t really abuse fog much. Her stats are in a completely different league from anyone fought so far except possibly Maxime. This is a real boss. That speed Is absolutely amazing, fast enough to double ANYONE who isn’t my extremely lucky Sain or Heath and she’s completely immune to magic.

And she’s armed with a Bolting which deals enough damage to instant kill one of your weaker units or deal massive damage to just about anyone. What’s worse, she’s so fast- and has decent enough Con- that her speed is actually respectable while wielding it. She can double someone slow with Bolting. Crazy.
The Elfire is much less impressive and does slow her down a little bit to 21 or so speed, still enough to double nearly anyone.
Critically, she doesn’t move for most of the map. This means her effective bolting range is fairly small and there’s no risk of leading her to a much more dangerous position while trying to waste her charges.
However, starting on turn 13, with no announcement, she will begin to move. If you have not run her bolting out and are not watching her, she will kill Zephiel on turn 14 with close to 90% odds since she can double him. But that’s kind of your fault for doing nothing at all to prepare to deal with the boss.