Saturday, February 23, 2013

Game 12: Final Fantasy (NES) - The Magic of Grinding

The power of the orb shines again
When I first loaded this game I found my old save file. My party (Red Mage, Thief, White Mage, Black Mage) was sitting outside the town near the Earth Cave. I must have grinded for an obscene amount of time. I was level 17, and I hadn't even retrieved the ruby.
You wouldn't have stood a chance against my old party (or this one for that matter)
Grinding efficiently boils down to finding a good area to fight monsters that you can kill quickly for a net gain when you consider the resources and time used. Just after getting level 3 spells battles become quicker with group damage. There are a couple of places that offer good grinds at this time for experience.
There's even a need to grind in shops: "Yes, I'd like to buy 1 Heal Potion, 50 times"
The first is an area to the northeast of the second town, affectionately known as the peninsula of power. It has high level monsters that appear on the next continent to the north. In only four squares you can meet Frost Wolves, Zombie Bulls, Tyros, and Giants. Most fights will net over 10 times the experience of what you'll find 2 steps south. By the time I visited, I didn't see an advantage over Giants in the Earth Cave. Some enemies aren't weak (such as the Tyro), plus one bad fight meant death.
Enemies have group damaging spells too. Three Frost spells and I'm done for.
The second location opens up once you get the mystic key. In the castle northwest of elf town, inside the locked treasure room, is a group of mummies guarding a chest. They offer good experience, are a set encounter, and weak to two spells: harm 2 and fire 2.
Attack spells get an epileptic inducing animation
There's an area in the Earth Cave where it feels like the designers said, "here; grind here." On the first floor is a u-bend that offers constant encounters with Giants. I remember this being called the Hall of Giants in one Nintendo Power article.
Here, there be giants
When I was younger, I used to love spending hours grinding out levels. It wasn't so much the grinding that I loved, it was the knowledge that I could take on any encounter without fear of hours lost due to a bad fight. I didn't find the challenge of close battles enjoyable when I lost, so whenever I could I ensured victory.
Six chances to stone my four characters; yeah, I'm just going to run
Expecting tough fights ahead, I grinded for a level on the giants and another through my research of the other locations. This, as it turned out, was unnecessary.
Why isn't fire 3 doing more damage?
I navigated the cave until I reached an ominous looking building blocking the path. Inside I found the vampire. I expected a fight similar to Astos. I prepared some buffs, Fast to speed my attacks and invisibility to increase defense. Next round I went on the offensive and slaughtered him with one spell.
Ah, that's more like it
I really have to question the positive aspects of buffs and debuffs in this game if boss fights are going to last less than 3 turns. Fast basically doubles damage, so I need three turns of fighting to make it worth the turn taken to cast. Debuffs have a chance of missing, so they're basically out. Really my best strategy at this time is to come in hitting hard and quick.
Harder than the boss
So far, the dungeons (i.e. getting to the boss) pose more risk than the bosses themselves. With whole groups of enemies capable of incapacitating the entire party in single turn, I face the real possibility of not being able to react before meeting an untimely death, followed by a reload of my most recent save. Sometimes even grinding doesn't help survivability.

Not surprisingly, the lich was licked in a single round. The Earth Cave wouldn't have taken as much time if I hadn't taken a quick excursion to the next town just to check it out. Plus there's the whole take the ruby out of the middle of a dungeon to get a key in the form of a rod that destroys a plate covering the stairs down to the lich.
With the Orb of Earth restored, I'm finally making progress on the main quest.

Session Time: 2h30m (Total Time: 8h00m)

Current stats at last save: Almost have level 6 spells, I think


  1. Oh man the hall of giants on the iPad version. I got stuck there for awile cause I didn't realize it was a loop. And every step was a new giant battle. It took me along time just to get around that damned loop. While the fight wasn't particularly taxing. Fighting a new battle every step really drained me and left me almost depleted of healing items and magic by the time I exited the loop. It did net a lot of experience though. I don't think the vampire was that hard either. But later on doesn't he become a random encounter enemy and then even have harder versions?

    1. I do remember fighting groups of vampires in the very last dungeon, so I think you're right. I'm not sure if he's actually more powerful though.

    2. Ya I checked my bestiary, there are the more common vampires. Then last level have the stronger vampire lords. That may be just be the upgraded versions though. There may still be one stronger as I haven't filled out my bestiary 100 percent.

    3. Ah, the bestiary. It's nice to see the list of enemies I've beaten, but the empty slots always taunt me, dragging me back in to find them all. It's a wonder I never got into the pokemon games. I remember spending ages getting Gau all his abilities, Strago all his Blue Magic, and Mog all his dances.

  2. Ah grinding. I dislike it, because it breaks up the flow of the game. It's especially a problem if the difficulty of two adjacent areas are wildly different, and you get a situation where the battles in area 1 are too easy and the ones in area 2 are too hard.

    1. It's difficult to balance the grind in order to have an even-keeled experience. Unless I'm obviously losing, I try to fight all battles. Of course, some times it's not even worth fighting (e.g. 9 wolves) and other times I'm just trying to get to the boss without using magic points. I've tried to avoid walking back and forth to get more encounters in the games I'm playing for the blog, but in some games (like Dragon Warrior) it's necessary to even survive.

    2. I'm not ashamed to admit it took me three and a half years of on-and-off playing to finally beat Dragon Warrior II, just due to the sheer amount of grinding that was required.

      I spent a year just grinding at the last shrine, fighting monsters that could easily destroy your three-person party in a single round. They never got any easier no matter how much I leveled. Frustrated, I stormed the last area, figuring I could blow off some steam by dying against the back-to-back boss battles.

      I slaughtered all of them, including the final endgame boss, easily. The monsters leading up into the castle were more difficult.

      Go figure.

    3. Agreed on DWII! The game goes at a pretty good pace until you get to Rhone, and then it just busts your balls and the narrative kind of grinds to a halt while you commit genocide on the local monster population.

    4. With all the talk of grinding in DWII I'm not really looking forward to it anymore. The copy I used to have would lose its battery save as soon as it was removed from the NES. This meant my brother and I needed to play through from beginning to end, and only this game. I never beat it myself, and my brother took the game out when he finished.

      It does seem best to make a charge for the end boss rather than fight monsters on the way to him since they're really just there to drain your resources.

    5. Zenic, don't be afraid of DWII. It's still a great game, if you like old-school RPGs that don't hold your hand or coddle you. You seem to be enjoying the original FF, so DWII will be right up your alley. As Raifield and I said, though, be prepared to grind in the last area. Somehow, though, this doesn't make the game unenjoyable.

    6. Yeah, I'm sure it'll be fun. If I can get through a game like Double Dungeons, then I'm pretty sure I can get through most any game on my list.

    7. Haha! Yeah, Double Dungeons looked like a chore.

  3. Zenic, it's interesting that you also find the bosses much easier compared to the encounters leading up to them. I want to say that the PS1 version doubled the bosses HP, but even on that version (which I replayed about five months ago), the bosses were pretty much cake.

    1. I remember the game being a lot easier in general in the GBA remake. Magic points instead of spell level points made a big difference.

    2. You are correct, Zenic. The GBA remake, while pretty, is kind of a joke.