Part 80: Trial Maps - PreambleInterlude: Things To Do Now That The Game Is Over
Once you finish a playthrough of Path of Radiance, a number of options present themselves to you.
Before we get to any of that, I may as well point out that if you've been holding back from reading Let's Play Radiant Dawn due to plot reasons you may cease doing so now.
1) Play again!
It was a fun game, right? In any case, maybe you want to try Hard mode (or Normal, if you were playing on Easy). More pertinently, there are some things you can avail of if you're playing a second time.
First, Bands - as seen in the LP already. You only get these in a second playthrough - not really sure why, since they're actually a pretty neat idea and they're not nearly as useful as their second-playthrough-exclusive status seems to imply they are.
More importantly, if you choose, you can play using Fixed Growth Mode. What's fixed growths mode? Well, I'd go into a big explanation, but why bother when it's already been done by a helpful reader?
Fixed Growth Mode -or- Needlessly Complicated Bullshit Mode
After beating the game once, when selecting a new game the player has the option of selecting either Random or Fixed Mode. Random is how Fire Emblem works normally; when a unit levels, it pulls eight numbers from the random number queue and compares them to the unit's growth rates. If the number is smaller than the growth rate, then the stat receives a point.
Fixed Mode, as its name suggests, is supposed to take away all the randomness in levels. When the unit levels, they receive a number of points equal to their growth in that stat. So, a 50% growth rate in Strength means a unit gets 50 points in Strength per level. Get 100 points and the stat goes up. And just so the first level up isn't completely worthless, each unit starts with a certain number of points in each stat. Ike starts with 80 points in Skill, for instance.
But, someone at IntSys felt this was too uncomplicated. Ensuring at every unit ends up average? Not enough bullshit involved!
Remember those bands that, when equipped, modify the unit's growth rates? Well, in Fixed Mode there are two more things that modify growth rates: the currently equipped weapon and the class of the enemy defeated upon level up. Let's use an iron weapon defeating a myrmidon for an example.
An iron weapon gives +5% Skl/Spd, -5% Str/Res and killing a myrmidon gives +5% Skl/Luck, -5% HP/Def. Depending on the unit in question, the trade-off can either be good or bad. Since band bonuses stack, you can potentially give a unit +15% to a stat or two. On the flip-side, a unit can suffer up to -10% at most. Weapon availability really hurts some while favoring others; Boyd loves the extra speed he gets from iron but Oscar and Mia hate having their strength lowered. Mia could use her slim sword to avoid taking a strength penalty, but then her damage output suffers. El-tomes lower speed, so Soren and Ilyana will want to avoid using them (and also avoid leveling off armors and wyverns). Because 20% Spd Ilyana is, you know, slower than Gatrie.
Essentially, its a big pain in the ass.
So now, I bet you are wondering how bonus experience works. Weapons still impart their modifications to growth rates, so equip whatever weapon (and band) you want. Since you can select how many points of experience you give a unit, the game will give the unit X/100 * Growth points to that stat where X is the amount of exp received. If we were to give a unit 15 exp and they had a 50% growth rate, they would get 7.5 points to that stat. The game rounds these points, so in this example the unit would get 8 points.
Exploitation time! Let's use Shinon this time. Shinon's growths are as follows:
Lv. 1 Sniper
HP: 32 (75%) Spd: 13 (65%)
Str: 9 (65%) Lck: 9 (35%)
Mag: 6 (20%) Def: 9 (50%)
Skl: 15 (70%) Res: 6 (40%)
Shinon has 19 levels until he maxes out. If we were insane enough, we could give Shinon 19 levels 1 exp at at a time. What will this accomplish? Like I mentioned, the game rounds fractions of points. By giving Shinon one point at a time, every growth 50% and above will round up, essentially giving him an effective 100%. Meanwhile, every growth below 50% will effectively be 0%, since it is always rounded down. Shinon will get +19 to HP/Str/Skl/Spd/Def and +0 Mag/Luck/Res.
This is an extreme example and something no one could pull off without hacking infinite BExp or losing their sanity. Still, the player could tweak a few levels for, say, Mist or unintentionally lose out on stat points for low growths.
That is all for Fixed Mode. It's easy enough to ignore all these details as units will end up around their averages, but everything is still needlessly complicated. If the point of Fixed Mode is to make the units average for their level... why not just do that? Give me Random Mode any day.
Finally, playing through multiple times effects Trial Maps; each difficulty cleared unlocks another map, and successive playthroughs will eventually unlock... well, I'll tell you later.
Oh, but hang on to your clear (Epilogue) save. You don't need to use it to start a second playthrough or anything, the game tracks your number of clears separately from your actual saved games. But you'll need that file in order to...
2) Import your Epilogue file into Radiant Dawn!
This is arguably The Big One. Fire Emblem (10): Radiant Dawn can reach directly into your Gamecube Memory Card and extract your savefile, and the numbers contained therein will have a few - mostly minor, but nice - effects in that game, mainly involving altering the stats of returning characters.
Most significantly, any character who reached Lv 20/20 will receive a +2 bonus to any stat they capped (+5 for HP). This will mainly benefit Ike, who has a habit of finishing most games with capped HP, strength, skill, speed and defence (sometimes resistance too). It's a nice boost to have, especially since by design it will often affect a character's "primary" stats, and double especially since if there's one thing Radiant Dawn rewards, it's capping your stats quickly. But I digress.
There are two exceptions to this policy. The first is Largo, who does not make a playable return in Radiant Dawn, but whose bonuses will instead transfer to Calill. Yeah, I don't know. It's nice that they acknowledged it, at least. The other is Sothe. If any of Sothe's stats are higher than their initial values in Radiant Dawn, these will transfer directly, and regardless of level. That's pretty neat!
Beyond this; anyone who reached A-Support in your playthrough will begin Radiant Dawn with a Bond (ie, +10 Crit when adjacent), and they'll receive a bonus to their starting Weapon EXP based on their wepaon ranks in your playthrough.
Incidentally, if anyone died during your playthrough, this will be conveniently forgotten in Radiant Dawn - but they won't get any bonuses, even if they'd otherwise be elegible.
Finally, remember Coins? Well, any Coins in Ike's Convoy will still be there in Radiant Dawn.
3) Play the Trial Maps!
Trial Maps is unlocked by beating the game once on any difficulty. There are six maps total, one unlocked for each of Easy/Normal/Hard difficulties (and yes, clearing Hard will unlock all three at once, don't worry), and one unlocked for connecting a GBA with a copy of Fire Emblems 6, 7 or 8 inserted. What's that, not-Japanese people? Fire Emblem 6 wasn't released in your region? Well, in that case, you can just use FE7/8 again; each unlocks its own map, plus either will unlock the map formerly tied to FE6. So that's something.
Trial maps are based off of your Epilogue save, so all your characters will be as they were when you cleared the game, as will your Convoy. You won't be able to buy items (though you can change loadouts and such before beginning each map), and your characters won't gain EXP - but the flipside of this is that you can use all of your fancy weapons up to breaking point and they'll come back every time you load up a new map.
(I will, of course, be showing all the Trial Maps and all... well, everything.)
Speaking of Trial Maps...
This is our first Trial Map, Hillside Battle. It is exactly what it appears to be; Ike and some friends murdering dudes on a hill while maybe dodging falling rocks. The objective is rout.
Now, a confession of sorts; I may have recently applied a whole plethora of "hax" and levelled our entire army up to 20/20, with interesting and varied consequences. Some of them turned out pretty well! Some of them turned out less well. I say this mostly to underline the point I am going to make next, which is this; all units are eligible for use in Trial Maps.
With that, I hereby pronounce the first round Voting Time Plus to be in session! The "plus" means there is a twist!
There are seven spaces available alongside Ike, one of which is reserved for Mystery Guest #1. So there are six spaces open for voting, right?
Well, before you go reaching directly for your favoured units, you should probably wait for the twist to be explained.
Here is the twist: once a unit has been fielded, they will be removed from the running for the other maps. Choose very carefully!
Here is a supplementary twist: I will only bring one of any given class (and at most two laguz). I am grouping units trained in staves (ie, Soren, Elincia, Mist, Rhys) together for the purposes of this rule, and also all laguz. This is mainly being done to keep healers available, but will also keep our class variety going in the face of whatever. I may override this rule with respect to healers where necessary (but I'll try not to).
Units still available: Titania, Oscar, Boyd, Rhys, Shinon, Gatrie, Soren, Mia, Ilyana, Marcia, Mist, Rolf, Lethe, Mordecai, Volke, Kieran, Brom, Nephenee, Zihark, Jill, Sothe, Astrid, Makalov, Stefan, Muarim, Tormod, Devdan, Tanith, Reyson, Janaff, Ulki, Calill, Tauroneo, Ranulf, Haar, Lucia, Bastian, Geoffrey, Largo, Elincia, Nasir, Giffca, Naesala.
Yes, we've got Naesala and Giffca but not Tibarn. I know. And no, I am deliberately not telling exactly how good all these various guys are. That's part of the fun!
You've got... uh... I have no idea how long you've got, although it'll be at least a day. Proceed!