Finding the airship took longer than it probably should have. I kind of wandered around, finding the answer at Elfheim.
An elf who previously didn’t have anything interesting to say now told me exactly where it was:
I went down to that desert and, just like the elf said, it rose right out of the sand.
So I flew the ship around for a little while. I went back to Cornelia and rested up, because it’s super cheap there and I only have 300,000+ freaking gil. What the hell is gil, anyway? I never use the word “gil” in my head, just “gold”. I believe it’s also referred to in some spots (in at least some Final Fantasy games) as GP. Which makes me immediately think, “Gold Pieces”. Anyway.
Of course, once the game gives you an airship, it’s not like it’s going to make travel to new areas convenient. Sure, you can fly to new continents, but the airship can only land on specific spots — basically flat grassland. You can’t land in swamps, forests or deserts. Which makes sense, but then nearly all the towns and castles in the northern continents are surrounded by a great deal of these tiles. We’re talking about parking waaay out in the sticks and taking a long hike. Still, I found a series of islands with half a dozen caves that were not so inconvenient. Inside them were no enemy encounters, but there were a bunch of dragons. They were just walking around, half-bored.
They kept talking about taking some trials to prove worth or bravery. There was some mention of Bahamut. In Final Fantasy games, Bahamut usually (always?) a dragon. Sometimes he’s a summoned creature (though there don’t seem to be any summons in this game), sometimes a character. He’s the latter in this game. I found him in one of the caves. Told me to prove my worth, etc.
One of the other dragons mentioned a nearby castle. I found it quickly (just to the northeast of the islands), but I stopped at a town called Gaia first. There I found shops with a lot of spells and items that I couldn’t use. I was able to buy Blizagga for Yurto. The rest couldn’t be used by black or white mages. This, along with the whole “trials” business was a big hint pointing to something I already knew about this game — my characters would probably soon get a promotion of sorts. Mages would become Wizards, etc. Then I should be able to use those spells.
There was mention of an ancient city to the south, referred to as “Wing of the Hawk”. I think I’ve seen it — it’s one of those towns that I’ll have to park a long way from. Also, there was some discussion of a missing faerie and a spring, and some sort of water called oxyale that only faeries can get. There was a pirate-looking dude hanging out outside a church who claimed to have sold the faerie to a caravan.
Finally, someone mentioned a tower in the desert that I flew over, called “Mirage Tower”. There’s certainly no shortage of options at this point, but I really suspect that if I pass the trials I’ll get the character upgrades, and I was anxious to do that. This is the farthest I’ve got in this game. Last time I petered out sometime after beating Lich.
Anyway, I stocked up then hopped back in the airship. I had to park a good distance away from the castle (of course).
The walk to the castle wasn’t too bad. The monsters I encountered (mostly big cats of various sorts) were disappointingly easy — again, I think my levels are higher than are really necessary for this stage.
In the castle I had a brief discussion with a wizard or something. Then I found a throne, sat in it, and was teleported to another floor. There are a bunch of teleporters on this level. There wasn’t a lot of rhyme or reason that I could discern in what teleporter led where, but through trial and error I eventually made my way to a treasure chest with gauntlets that no one could use. Some more trial and error and I found some stairs going up.
On this level were a good number of chests. This game does some strange things with chests — I come across many empty ones, and many with very small amounts of
gold gil. Often these are next to chests with a large amount. Also, I’ll occasionally find a very good item in a chest, whereas a nearby one has a potion. Very weird.
So, I made my way to a room with a chest and a throne. In the chest was a Rat’s Tail. Gross. In front of the throne was a forced fight with some Dragon Zombies. They were pushovers. Afterwards I sat on the throne and was transported back to the first level.
I headed back to Bahamut and he promoted my peeps! Very cool. Now Frotz can use the gauntlets I had found, though I’m leaving him with a Protect Ring I picked up in Gaia. On that note, now the other characters can wear Protect Rings as well. Frotz was is able to cast low-level white spells now too. Oh, and I picked up a claw or something in Gaia that Yurto can use now. Also bought the rest of the level 7 spells for the mages.
Oh, and I still can’t buy the level 8 spells — the mages aren’t at a high enough level. This part of the game totally confuses me. My characters are at a high enough level that no enemies (except in the bonus dungeons) that I’ve encountered have posed a serious threat for for a long time. Why keep me from getting certain spells? It’s not like I need those spells, and I need to claw my way up to high enough levels by fighting dangerous enemies. The main obstacle is finding opponents that will give me enough experience to level at a decent pace. It’s just weird. They must have fiddled with the difficulty of the game for this version.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I am having fun. As I mentioned, this is the farthest I’ve made it in the game, and I’m happy to not deal with the idiosyncrasies of the NES version. Though I think I will still play a few hours of the original once I’ve beat this version, just as a point of comparison.
So that’s where I am now. I have freshly upgraded badasses. There are plenty of possible things I could try at this point. I still haven’t looked much at the other northern continent, so I may do that.