Part 7: :spergin: 1: Turn orderThings you didn't know about Shining Force: Agility, turn order, and why bosses are such a pain in the dick
As I previously suggested, most people don't actually know that the dark smokes in the previous fight are literal bosses. Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself:
See the agility over 100? Remember how its agility was only 14 in the actual fight? The agility over 100 is the flag for an enemy that gets to take two turns in one fight. Unfortunately, it doesn't work both ways - If you hack a character to have over 100 agility, they just move as normal. Unfortunate, because one idea I had for "fixing" Slade was to give him more normal stats but to allow him two turns to everyone else's one. Either way, this suggests that there's a separate flag other than high agility for being able to move twice.
Now then, what's the importance of this? Contrary to popular belief, agility actually has nothing to do with counter attacks, double attacks, or critical hits. The previous image should make that much clear. I am also 99% sure that agility has nothing to do with evasion rates. All agility actually does is determine who goes first. Naturally, you would expect that higher agility characters go first, and it counts down to the lowest agility characters. That's what a sane game would do, at least, and it's what Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon does, which makes planning very easy and stable in that game.
Shining Force 2 is not nearly so kind.
While agility is the determining factor in who goes when, there is a very large random element which only grows larger as you level up. The short of it is that your agility varies from 50% to 150% of its actual value when generating turn order. You read that correctly: The higher your agility is, the more variable your turn order is. What this leads to is the possibility of illusory "back to back" turns: A high agility character generates a low number one turn and a high number the next, putting him as the very last to act on one turn and the very first the next. Due to confirmation bias, you are never going to notice when it happens to you, but see it happen on a regular basis with the enemy. In Challenge Mode, it's always going to lead to a dead character.
The volatile nature of Shining Force 2 turn order combined with the AI habits can lead to difficult situations. You the player cannot check the turn order, but the AI knows what it is internally. This will lead to "mysterious" leash breaking on the AI's part, only for you to discover the next turn that the AI is going to kill somebody before you get to act again. This happened many times to Slade during the last fight. An enemy leashed to a tougher character would break leash and hit a full HP Slade, and the very next turn would be another enemy to finish him off. Because I can't check the turn order, it becomes extremely difficult for me to defend against this.
But then, it gets worse.
Remember how I said that bosses get to act twice per turn? Part of being a boss is that you act first every turn, and then get another turn as determined by normal means. Combine this with what I just told you about back-to-back actions, and now you have an enemy that's much stronger than anything else on the map taking three turns in a row. It doesn't happen all that often, but you are going to notice when it does. In a romhack where bosses have received much more significant buffs than other enemies, it means a character going from full HP to dead with no way to defend against it. Always keep your fingers crossed and hope it doesn't happen to Bowie.
Just one of the hidden difficulties of Challenge Mode.