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

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Game 12: Final Fantasy (NES) - From Cave to Cave

Last we left the adventuring party, they were camping outside the Cave of Marsh. I anticipated dying to the wizards guarding the crown many times because of their paralytic touch and massive damage. Their attack on the mages can quickly take them out.
That's nearly half his max HP...
I retrieved the crown and prepared for the battle coming next. Astos is the first real boss to face off with the party. Garland is too early to be much of a challenge, and the last two plot related fights (pirates and wizards) are more like mini-bosses. Astos has a spell, Rub, that has a good chance of instantly killing a party member. In fact, it's usually his first action followed by either Fire 2 or 3.
Sorry Gioz, you'll need to sit this one out
Astos decided to focus his efforts on buffing himself instead, while Kili took MVP for the fight, basically killing him single-handedly (I'm not sure Tont's 2 HP of damage really pushed it over the edge). With the crown I was able to get the Crystal Eye, which the witch Matoya requests in exchange for some powerful herbs that revive the elf king who has a mystic key to unlock magic doors. Behind one of the doors are some explosives that a dwarf needs. This is the longest chain of fetch quests I've seen in the games for this blog.
Is this room really empty? I didn't bother exploring at the time
Beyond the TNT, I also uncover a lot of powerful equipment that I can't use. At least it gets me a lot of gold to help afford the costly spells. With the TNT, a dwarf blow up a land bridge that opens up the wider world . Now the main quest really begins and I can finally do something about these orbs. I've just reached the first town beyond, and the Earth Cave is awaiting my approach.
I don't know why I remember there being an animation for this opening
Session Time: 1h30m (Total Time: 5h30m)
Current party stats; Gioz is lower because he missed out on Astos, and I'm hoping the mages get level 5 spells next level

Sorry for the lack of updates. Life has been really stressful and work is crazy. Still is, but I've spent too long away from this, so I'm trying to get back into it. Thank you all for stopping by again and checking it out. I'm definitely devoting more time to this project going forward.