Final Fantasy: Airship

Finding the airship took longer than it probably should have. I kind of wandered around, finding the answer at Elfheim.

Legend has it that you should just tell me where the hell it is.

An elf who previously didn’t have anything interesting to say now told me exactly where it was:

Or, perhaps, by the power of greyskull?

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.

I missed the whole pokemon thing, but from my perspective as someone who has no idea what it's about, it nevertheless feels appropriate to make a joke about it now. Except I can't, because I don't know what it is.

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.

You, sir, are on questionable ethical grounds.

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.

Sure, random dude hanging out in this abandoned castle in the middle of nowhere. I've brought a fancy hat, so let me in.

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.

Really? A rat's tail? I killed Lich and Marilith. I raised an AIRSHIP out of a DESERT like I was freakin YODA. But this severed rat's tail impresses you? Sure, fine. You need anything else? Puke of a house cat?

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.

Frotz was most excited about his new tiara.

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.

Final Fantasy: From Hot to Cold

I ended the last post on the 3rd level of Mt. Gulg. There’s actually not much to tell — I headed down a couple more levels and confronted Marilith, the Fiend of Fire. There was a lot of lava to wade through to get there, but it wasn’t a big deal.

Neither was Marilith. Maybe it was the Protera, Invisira and NulBlaze (a reasonable guess, I thought) spells, along with Haste being cast on the two fighters, but this fight went fast and my characters were never in any real danger.

Anyway, the aftermath was the same as with the Fiend of Earth: the crystal sparked up and I teleported out.

I headed back to Crescent Lake, and the cemetery-loving goth dude had woken up.

Yet another “GO THERE” moment. I did head there. Turns out that this cave was actually an ice cavern.

The difficulty seems to be ramping up a little. There were a lot of Mindflayers, who I’m sure were in Final Fantasy IV as well. They can be fairly dangerous — their “Mind Blast” spell can potentially paralyze the entire party, though when it does work, it usually just paralyzes the two fighters. There were also Dark Wizards who, especially in groups of four, can be quite dangerous, as they frequently cast Firaga and stand up well to physical abuse.

The cave was a little bit of a puzzle, though nothing too crazy, and I’m not going to go into detail here. The end was a little anticlimactic — the Eye I fought was a pushover. Anyway, it was guarding the Levistone. I worked my way out (with just a touch of regret at not picking up the Exit spell).

That’s where I am now. The Levistone is somehow connected to getting an airship, so I’m going to poke around and see what I need to do.

Final Fantasy: Crescent Lake

After the confusing Earthgift Shrine debacle, I decided to hop back in my boat and search up north. One villager had mentioned a ruined civilization to the north, and it was the only lead I had. I sailed west and before turning north I brought up the map. I noticed that there was a large continent directly to the west with a couple ports. It was actually the large continent to the east, which Pravoka is a part of. 1 So I Columbused this route and landed at the more southern dock.

There wasn’t much there, though the world map showed a couple areas of interest nearby. I made my way to a town called Crescent Lake. It was mostly empty, except for a woman complaining about her sleeping husband and someone who was asleep — presumably the woman’s husband.

DUDE. You are sleepwalking in a cemetery. Creep.

Why are there so few houses in Final Fantasy towns? Especially these early ones — there are shops, temples, things like that. There are the occasional abodes, but usually nowhere near enough to support the villagers walking around. Crescent Lake is no different, because even though there was apparently only one couple living there, there wasn’t a single home.

I checked out the shops. The spells being sold were level 6, so I figured I was in the right spot. They weren’t cheap, but I am flush with cash at this point. I even loaded up on ethers, tents, potions and hi-potions. I bought enough to last me for the foreseeable future, and it only made a mild dent in my wallet. Anyway, I bought Stona, which cures characters who have been turned to stone. So now my lack of Gold Needles is considerably less worrisome. Unless Kai gets stoned.2

Final Fantasy gives your magic users 4 slots for spells per spell level. So Yurto, for example, can have 3 spells for level 1, 3 for level 2, etc. But they typically sell 4 spells for each level, so you have a decision to make whenever these spells become available. It hasn’t been too difficult so far. For Yurto, I strongly favor elemental magic: things like Fire/Fira/Firaga, Thunder/Thundara/Thundaga, etc. Then I go for spells that enhance my characters (Haste), and finally spells that negatively effect my opponents. I’ve largely ignored spells like Teleport and Exit, which move you out of a dungeon by one level or remove you entirely, respectively. That may come back to bite me later, but at least in this version of the game I can actually delete some spells and swap in other ones, apparently.

So I had some decisions to make. With Yurto, one choice was between Death and Stun. Death, well, kills an enemy. Typically this kind of spell costs a lot, has a fairly lousy success rate, and never works on bosses. Stun paralyzes an enemy. It has similar faults, though I doubt it’s as bad. There’s very little chance it will work on any significant boss either, of course.

If you’ve read previous entries, you know that I’ve decided that Yurto has had a rough life, and that his wife was eaten by a %&$^#@* unicorn. He’s seen things that have changed him, man. Dark stuff. Et cetera. I’ve also been listening to Dexter series in audiobook form3 while commuting to and from work. So I’ve decided that Yurto has been corrupted into a sick bastard. He doesn’t just want to kill his enemies. He wants to toy with them. Dark Passenger, foul-mouthed sister, arch-nemesis missing his hands, feet and tongue — the whole shebang. He’s a goddamn serial killer, if killing sharks, goblins and anthropomorphic plants counts.

So I bought Stun. The Death spell wouldn’t be as much fun for the weirdo.

But I digress.

I was a little confused at this point. While I felt like I was on the right track, neither of the town’s residents were helpful at all. I wandered around outside but couldn’t get anywhere. Then (facepalm) I noticed an area on the right side of town that I completely missed.

There was a big grove over there with a bunch of dwarves or wizards. I have no idea why they’re hanging out in the sticks like this, but okay. The main dude’s name is Lukahn. Before I get into what they said, I have to return to the earlier question — where do they live? Or at least sleep? Is this a campground? Perhaps a hippie commune? They’ve got beards and robes, so it’s not out of the question.

Awesomely, they thank me for beating Lich, which the ingrates in Melmond didn’t have much to say about:

You’re welcome.

They give some background to the story which, if a little overdue, is very welcome.

So the fiends have been making staggered appearances. Wind appeared 400 years ago, Water 200, Earth just recently, and presumably Fire in another 200. Except…

Er, sorry?

Oops. Well, it’s got to be done, right? Anyway, there’s another mention of the ruined north lands, and then the first “GO THERE!” hint in a while:

Could you be more speci— Oh. Really? Ok. 

To make sure I couldn’t refuse, making the situation super-awkward, he gave me a canoe. Funny, I didn’t see a canoe in the middle of this field. And, so, do we just lug this canoe around with us for the rest of the game? I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice canoe. Top brand. But, yeesh. A little inconvenient. NO, YOU’RE MAKING THIS WEIRD, YOU CREEPY GARDEN GNOME.

I chatted a few more of them up. The only other thing of real interest was a request that we return to Woodstock when we get all the crystals:

Will do, ZZ-Top.

With that, my guys all grabbed part of the canoe and we awkwardly weaved our way through the hippies back to the wilderness, and on to Mount Gulg.

Mount Gulg is hard to miss. It’s a big volcano to the northwest. I took the canoe down the various streams to reach it and headed in. Turns out buying all those potions and hi-potions was a fantastic idea — there are patches of lava that can’t be avoided. When you step on them, you take damage. I recall something similar in Final Fantasy IV — I think it was the Sylvan Cave? You could avoid damage there with a levitation spell. No such luck here. Fortunately it doesn’t do much damage and there isn’t very much of it, at least on the first two levels.

The first level was small and uninteresting, except for the lava. Level two had a lot of treasure chests, but most of them had equipment I already bought or found. Still, I found a few useful things.

Oh, and it was around now that I saw in the manual that monks can do more damage with their bare hands at higher levels. They’re around level 30, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I removed Qasi’s Iron Nunchaku, and WOW. He does a lot more damage — sometimes he’ll hit 8 times for around 400 damage. And keep in mind he’s fighting monsters made of fire. He is punching the shit out of monsters made of fire.

Anyway, I saved at the entrance to the third level. I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot more lava to trudge through.

  1. This world, while not quite spherical, at least wraps east-west, which makes it a cylinder. I don’t know if it wraps north-south. If it does, that would be weird. That would make the world something like a doughnut, wouldn’t it? Anyway, I think every Final Fantasy through 9 has a world map like this that you can roam freely, at least once you get an airship.
  2. Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re trying to be so good. ♫
  3. I’m on the fourth book. One line review of the series so far: Fun but formulaic. Kind of like Final Fantasy I.

Final Fantasy: Frazzled Cats

So I headed to the Earthgift Shrine. It did not work out very well.

Standing just inside the cave was a dwarf who I’ll call Bashful. Bashful said:

Keek? Lippin?

Then, like a million other characters standing outside a million other caves in a million other games, he said:

I, of course, totally ignored the dwarf. I went to the door and opened it. If you listened to every character in every game who said, “I wouldn’t go in there if I were you”, you’d never beat any game. That’s usually a big, flashing neon sign indicating: “GO THERE!” So I did. The screen went white, and I was suddenly standing in the middle of a desert.

Is this The Construct? Can I learn kung-fu?

This seemed very odd. Usually there’s a bit more prep for dungeons in Final Fantasy games. You at least get some kind of idea of what’s going on. Then I remembered something. The other day I had looked at the back of the game box. It mentioned something about new dungeons. Sometimes when they remake these games they add extra challenges, extra bosses. All are usually optional, and you usually can’t access them until much later.

I walked around for quite a while. Every now and then I stumbled across some palm trees. I kept running into Black Goblins and Desertpedes, which looked like scorpions. They were cannon fodder. I eventually came across a chest, then just west of that I found an oasis. Next to it was, naturally, some stairs. With no other choices presenting themselves, I headed down.

I came out into a forest. Why not? The stairs vanished. On the other side of some trees were more stairs, but even though I beat the shit out of Lich, the Fiend of Earth, apparently I can’t chop down a couple freaking pine trees. Frotz even has an axe. But no, I end up taking a very long walk through the woods. It probably took half an hour to get to the stairs. Again, the fights aren’t a challenge at all.

Oh, look! The next set of stairs. Too bad they're behind trees made of titanium.

Next I found myself in some typical underground caves. The enemies continued to be wimpy, and the items I found in chests were things like potions and whatnot. Nothing special. So imagine my surprise when another level or two down I stumble onto this:

This doesn't end well.

This creepy lady, or whatever it is, made short work of me. Remember that up until now in this dungeon I had been fighting the equivalent to slightly frazzled cats. Next thing I know, I’m in a fight with the chick from Species, who immediately kills my two fighters with an earthquake. Kai and Yurto are similarly killed in short order.

Moments later, they’re standing back at the entrance with Bashful.

They managed to gain a level on the way to getting killed, so it wasn’t a total waste of time. I’m pretty sure now that this is an optional dungeon that I should come back to later, though. I actually went back and tried multiple times. Not only did the Echidna repeatedly annihilate my people, other big baddies (I counted maybe 4 total) were down there, and I guessed they were about as badass.

So I slinked back outside, used a tent and decided to try to track down the main plot. But later, when they’re much higher level, I’m going to go back and turn that thing into a nice pair of boots.

Final Fantasy: First Crystal Obtained

So I went back to the Cavern of Earth. I did a little bit of leveling in that area where the giants appear on every square, but after getting to level 25 I started to feel silly. So I rested up and decided to make a go at beating the dungeon. I didn’t expect to have too much trouble. I was largely correct.

However, on the fourth level, Qasi was turned to stone by some cockatrices. I only had one Gold Needle, which is needed to un-stone my characters. That had me a little worried. If someone else was turned to stone I’d be in for some hurt, especially if it was Kai, my healer. I couldn’t remember if there were any sold in the nearest town. But since I’m able to save the game anywhere I like, I figured I’d try my luck.

A couple fights later, in front of a treasure chest,1 I received a Power Plus as a reward. This gives a bonus to a character’s strength. I gave it to Frotz.2

On the topic of treasure chests: most of them have money. That would be great, except I already have over 100,000. Things are getting more expensive (spells in particular, but I did buy a suit of armor in town for 35,000!), so I suppose I shouldn’t complain, but still.

In a room on the fifth level, I found a glowing ball. I talked to it and, unsurprisingly, it turned into a big bad guy. And he was a big bad guy. He was Lich, the Fiend of Earth.

The fight went a little longer than I thought it would, and he managed to do a good amount of damage right before kicking it. First I had Yurto cast Haste on Frotz & Qasi, who ended up doing about 70 points of damage per hit, which was pretty lousy. Kai spent most of the fight casting Diaga, which did about 144 points per casting, which wasn’t bad. But Yurto, my cold-eyed mage whose wife was eaten by a goddamned unicorn was the real powerhouse in this fight, dealing about 280 points per casting of Firaga. It lasted several rounds, and in the round that Lich died, he cast Blizarra, doing some fairly major damage. But everyone survived, and they all in fact gained a level. Everyone except Qasi, that is, who is a little behind due to getting stoned earlier. Let that be a lesson, kids.

Lich defeated, one of the shards my guys were carrying glowed and merged with a large crystal. The big crystal lit up. Awesome. One crystal down. Then I got a cut scene of a statue disappearing at some place called the “Earthgift Shrine”. I don’t recall visiting that place. Anyway, I half-expected to be magically transported out of the dungeon. I assumed that the game was going to wimp out and not force me to slog back out, so I was impressed that it didn’t. However, I walked around behind the big crystal to a glowing field and it transported me out. So I’m less impressed, though I suppose it was optional.

So it looks like I need to go to the Earthgift Shrine and find out where to head next.

I seem to be averaging about 1 hour of play per day. That’s not going to get me through this game very fast, so I’m going to have to find more time to play it. Still, assuming it’s a 40 hour game, that puts me at 20%. So maybe I’m not doing too bad.

I am finding that I’m struggling to keep focus, though. As usual, I find myself tempted to play other games, especially Fez. So far I’ve resisted, though. I am thinking that the next game I play after Final Fantasy should maybe be Dragon Age. Ahem.

  1. Nearly every square in front of a chest triggers an automatic fight, and it’s repeatable. That would be handy for leveling, were it not for the aforementioned area on the first level.
  2. I mentioned in an earlier post that he was named after a piece of software. That was nagging at my brain for a few days when I remembered that the software is named after a magic word used in several old text adventure games, including the Enchanter series.

Final Fantasy: I SHALL PASS

Star Ruby in hand, I ventured back to Giant’s Cave. I approached the magnificent Brobdingnagian1 rock eater with trepidation. Would he accept my gift? Should I lightly salt it?

Then he ate it and was persuaded. The gentle giant lumbered slowly away, out of my life forever. I chased him around the corner, but he was gone.

I went through the cave and came out the other side. Further south was a cave with a dude named Sadda, who gave me the “earth rod”.

This will open the slab with the cast of Rocky Horror Picture Show hidden underneath.

My guys are level 24 now. No one has died even once. I suspect that the original was harder. I remember playing Dragon Warrior with a cousin when I was a kid, and I could swear that it was difficult. I assumed that other games from the era were of similar difficulty. I may have to crank up the Wii in a week or so and play the original for a bit, just to get an idea of how it’s changed.

Of course, I’m very early on, I think. I haven’t even got an airship yet. So maybe it will ramp up. I suspect that deeper in the earth cave I’ll find one of the four fiends, assuming my memory is accurate and that this Final Fantasy established that pattern. I’m pretty sure it did.

I’m pretty sure the original also had orbs instead of crystals. Now I’m really curious. Anyway, when I have time I’ll head deeper into the earth cave find the baddie.

  1. I have a thesaurus.

Final Fantasy: The Ballad of Kai and Yurto

Ok, so I leveled for a little while in the aforementioned spot. One time when I headed back to town to reset up, I decided to try to buy those spells again. I was level 19 at this point, and I was able to buy them. Sweet.

I headed back to the cavern and decided to try to clear it. I enjoy leveling, but the whole point of this is to plow through games, and leveling slows it down and sometimes burns me out.

Every time I stood in front of a treasure chest, I got attacked by a nasty Earth Elemental. I still think my guys are on the high side of the levels they need to be, so it wasn’t too bad.

By the way, have you ever been in a cave? I have. Several. And you know what? No treasure chests. Of course, I’ve never seen dogs walk around with piles of money, either.

Anyway, I made my way to the third level. At the center of it was an obviously weird-looking bat. Would you believe it was a vampire? Because it was.

The fight lasted one round. Like I said, my guys may be higher-level than they need to be. To Lestat’s1 credit, he did get one nice hit in, smacking the shit out of Yurto. Yurto barely survived (the things he’s seen, man), though, and Kai cast Diaga on Count Chocula, who promptly exploded.

Behind Vampy was a chest which held a Star Ruby. I SHALL PASS. Later.

Oh, and it was around here that I noticed something. You can save in dungeons. No, I don’t mean save points. I mean anywhere. This is almost blasphemous. There’s no way the original allowed this, right? Don’t get me wrong — it’s super-convenient. Still, it just doesn’t seem right.

A couple rooms further in I found a stone slab in the floor. The game informed me that an evil force emanated from within. I don’t know what that means, but I assume it means if I pressed my ear up to it I’d hear Monster Mash or Time Warp.

Now I’m going to make my way out2 and head back to Giant’s Cave.

  1. Or Edward, maybe? I don’t know — I never saw those mormon vampire movies.
  2. From my save spot in the dungeon.

Final Fantasy

For my first game, I’ve decided to finally tackle Final Fantasy. As I mentioned, I won’t be playing the original version. I do have the original on my Wii, but I’ve also got the PSP version. That one is the 20th anniversary remake. It cleans up some awkward interface issues in the original. Plus, I can play it pretty much anywhere. I’m already that guy who eats his lunch at his desk at work, reading his kindle. It’s not a real drop in social status to swap the kindle for a PSP. It’s a sad, lateral social move.

Overall, this version feels a lot like Final Fantasy IV. Final Fantasy IV, by the way, was the first Final Fantasy game I played. It was called Final Fantasy II for the Super Nintendo and was less difficult than its Japanese alter-ego, but I loved it immediately. Before this I had primarily played computer roleplaying games like The Bard’s Tale and Wizard’s Crown. Those games were heavy on tactics, stats and level grinding, and very spare when it came to story. FF IV’s story, in comparison, was amazing. I’ll talk more about FF IV when I get to Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection.

Of course, it was the fourth game in the series. Earlier games were much lighter on story.

Final Fantasy has a very thin plot so far. You create 4 characters who show up at a castle holding crystals. There’s no explanation why, but there’s some prophecy or something about how they’ll save the world. Oh, and the world is dying. Or something like that.

When I first started playing this weekend, I decided to completely forego any walkthroughs or strategy guides. I wanted to have the pure Final Fantasy experience.1 That turned out to be a horrible mistake, as you’ll see.

I created my characters: Frotz, a warrior; Qasi, a monk; Kai, a White Mage; and Yurto, a Black Mage. That’s about all the customization that’s allowed, which is fine. Why those names? Frotz is the name of an text adventure interpreter program. So… sure. Qasi I just made up. Fantasy games throw q’s and apostrophes around. I could have really gone nuts, but I showed some restraint. Kai is short for Phenglei Kai. If you know what that refers to without having to google it (and good luck with even that), I’m impressed. As for Yurto, I have no idea. I threw some sounds together. Sounds kind of like Orko, which I guess he looks like?

I ran around outside the town for a while, getting into random fights with goblins and things. I gained a couple levels, then went and talked to the castle and talked to the king. I needed to save his daughter from knight of his named Garland who had turned bad. I stocked up in town and travelled north to a temple, found Garland and killed him, but not before he told me that he would knock me down. No sweat, though perhaps murder was an overreaction to the threat of a mere knock-down. I went back to the castle, the king agreed to fix a bridge to the north, and the princess gave me a lute. Rockin.

I crossed the bridge, got some neat story text, and continued on. This is where things started to go off the tracks.

Apparently I had either missed a conversation with someone who would have informed me of a witch living in a cave far to the north or I just spaced it. Either way, I just went to the east, where I came to a town called Pravoka. Some jerk pirates were terrorizing people. I beat them up and the head pirate begged for mercy. He gave me his boat. Cool.

After leveling some more, I got in the boat and followed the coast south until I found a dock. I walked south just a little bit and came across a town called Elfheim. You know what sort of humanoids live in Elfheim? I won’t spoil it, but it’s not the same kind of bipeds that live in Humanville. They told me that their prince had been cursed and was asleep. I needed to get some herb from a witch in a cave to cure him.

Of course, I hadn’t been to the cave of the witch (whose name is Matoya), so I headed off to the west to look for her cave. Along the way I came across a big castle. Someone had mentioned the castle, but I was looking for a cave. I decided to find the cave first, then I’d head back to the castle.

I found what looked like a sand whirlpool to the south. It was, in fact, the Marsh Cave. So I thought I was on the right track. Luckily I had leveled quite a bit, because the fights were a bit harder, at least cumulatively. I did one pass on all three levels in the cave and eventually found a crown and several locked doors.

The crown was a key item (like the lute), and there wasn’t any significant mention of one that I recalled. Weird.

After finding no big baddie in the cave, I made my way out. I decided to head to the castle, which turned out to be empty of bad guys. There was a king in the middle of the castle, though. When I talked to him, he laughed, called me foolish or something and turned into a dark elf. Then we fought.

I beat him, but I was confused. I won a crystal, which apparently was supposed to help the witch see, who I guess was blind.

This wasn’t making sense. At this point I headed down into my basement and scrounged up an old Final Fantasy strategy guide I had found at Coas Books in Las Cruces, NM about 15 years ago.

Some guys who auditioned poorly for Journey hanging out in a canoe with Saruman.

As you can clearly see, it is amazing. Look at that dude with the dead face and the Nazi helmet,2 crossing his axe with the sword of another guy with a dead face and a purple gown. Then there’s MacGyver or someone with one foot on the side of the ship, arms crossed, stoically looking off to the side with that 100-yard stare — probably at something super-awesome. He’s got a mean scar on his face. This guy has seen some shit. Some dark shit. He doesn’t let himself get attached to others. His wife was probably eaten by a goblin chieftan or a unicorn or something, and now he’s just trying to bring a modicum of justice to this sick world. Finally, there’s Saruman chilling in back, doing a lame floating ball trick (we know there’s a dowel superglued to the back, Dumbledore). Oh, and they’re all in what appears to be a very tiny helicopter boat. When I get my hands on that super-tiny helicopter boat, Hell will tremble. I’m not even going to get into that huge-ass castle that is floating back there.

Clearly, this is a book of wisdom.

It informed me of the location of Matoya’s cave. I went back there and (after talking to a broom — sure, why not? — who told me how to access the world map) gave her the crystal, which apparently is an eye. Now that she could see, she insulted my appearance and gave me an herb.

I actually knew what to do with that. I took it back to the prince, who woke up and gave me a key. I then opened various locked doors in previously visited caves, castles and towns. In one I found some nitro.

Looking at the world map, I determined the probable location of a dwarven town (surprisingly, it wasn’t named Dwarfopolis) mentioned by someone in Elfheim. I went there and met a dwarf who was very surprised to see that I had the nitro, took it, and blew the shit out of a narrow passage of land to make a canal. Don’t you need a permit to do stuff like that? And shouldn’t it take a bit longer than 15 seconds to make? It took 34 years to make the Panama Canal, but this dwarf just lobs some TNT at a wall and kablamo! Canal.

I took the boat through the canal and found a town that looks like crap, apparently due to some vampire who built an evil dam or something.

That’s where I am now. One obvious weakness in the game is that it’s linear, but you can do things in an order that leave you utterly confused. I go off and do things, then meet people who, though I’ve never met them before, feel free to take my stuff, sometimes giving me plants in return, and sometimes effecting major geological change in an insanely short amount of time. I’m going to keep the weird strategy guide handy, just to make sure I’m not doing things in completely the wrong order again.

I’ve got 5 hours clocked on the game and my guys are level 17. I’m pretty sure that’s much higher-level and longer play-time than is normal for the progress I’ve made. I guess I like to level-grind, which I think contributes to some of the burnout I experience with games like this.

But so far I’m loving it. As I said, it’s thin on story, but it’s classic Final Fantasy fun, without the annoyances of the NES version.

  1. Well, the pure Final Fantasy PSP remake experience.
  2. Prussian, Nazi, whatever.