Questus interruptus.

FFXIV FanFest in Frankfurt Germany: February 18th – 19th, 2017

First, let me apologize for the lack of posts recently.  Game On:Final Fantasy is definitely not going anywhere!

A plague of real life descended last month, beginning with the decision to change my publication schedule from two days a week to only one.

 

My now-dead controller was blue, but I like the pretty gold one in the picture better. Though at this point I’ll take anything as long as it’s for the correct system…

Then there were technical issues with the equipment I used to play FF1 – I ended up ordering a new controller, and then ordering it again when the first package contained the wrong item.  For a grand finale, I was given a last-minute opportunity to attend FFXIV’s FanFest in Germany next week, and so of course I grabbed it.  If you’ve ever traveled internationally (for the first time!) with 10 days’ notice… well.  Yes.  Things are stressful here at GO:FF right now.

But don’t worry.  OB, Calla, Dizzy, and Cookie will be back after FanFest.  Just wait and see!  I’m going to Frankfurt, and they’re headed for Melmond and the Fiend of Earth, Lich.  They just don’t know it yet.

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All that glitters.

This gallery contains 29 photos.

After finally getting my grubby hands on the coveted Mystic Key, I wasted no time before embarking on a round-the-world looting spree to unlock every door which had previously denied me entrance.  As promised, here are the vacation pictures from … Continue reading

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The key to the kingdoms.

A hole in the ground leads into the Marsh Cave.

Most caves look like openings in the sides of mountains. This one, in marshland surrounded by ocean, is a hole in the ground. WTF?

Before I leave the Marsh Cave, I do a little exploring to make sure I’m not missing any unopened treasure chests.  It turns out there are an additional two little alcoves to the south of where I fought the Piscodemons for the crown – but they’re locked by the Mystic Key.  By now I have a checklist of places to visit after I get myself a set of professional burglary tools, because I have no idea how to wake the Elven Prince and it seems I’m not getting that Key until I do.  Annoyed, I backtrack through all three floors of the dungeon and finally emerge into the light once more.  Now I can return the crown to its rightful owner and maybe he’ll give me a reward.  What I really need is a magic herb or something to wake the prince, but failing that I’ll take some Gil. A lot of Gil, please.  Or an airship, that would be cool.

A rare look at all four party members, during a cutscene I’ve spared you from only because the quality on my video was shit.

When I finally make it back to the Western Keep every member of the party is filthy from marsh mud and the blood of our defeated foes (some of those foes didn’t exactly have blood so there’s probably a decent amount of burnt slime ooze in the mix too).  I briefly wonder if there’s established protocol for addressing a king when you’ve just tracked mud all the way up the carpet to the dais in the throne room, but a simple bow will have to do.  His Majesty looks pleased to see me return so quickly, or at all, and I present the crown in all its glory, expecting praise and thanks.  And maybe an explanation as to how a crown is meant to somehow restore this crumbling wreck of a castle to its former glory.

Muahahaha! You've fallen right into my trap, you fools! I am Astos, King of the Dark Elves!

Finally, the big reveal! It’s been really tough to keep this a secret for so many blog posts, when I knew all along who the King really was, and where to find Astos. I’m sorry for deceiving the .01% of you who’ve never played this game. Wait, no. I’m not.

Instead of any of those things, the King instead laughs in my face.  He tells me that he is Astos, himself, and promptly drops the “kindly old man king” disguise and transforms into his much skinnier, much greener true self.  Cool, so that’s what dark elves look like.  Then he laughs at me again.  Okay, I guess I deserved that.  Man, what a moron.  He’s been right here the entire time!  I came face to face with the guy and didn’t know it.

With the combined power of the crown you now hold, and the crystal eye I already possesss... I will become the true elf king! It is useless to resist me! I will take what is mine by sheer force!

So let me get this straight.  You sent me to retrieve the crown from the Marsh Cave because it was too dangerous to go alone, and I did.  Now, you think you’re going to kick my ass? Did you maybe not think this through all the way?

Our prince was meant to become the elf king, but what will happen now?

Why isn’t he already the king, anyway? Did he come of age in the past five years since Astos cast the curse, or did the former king die, or… ?

At least now I know why he stole Matoya’s crystal eye.  Someone in Elfheim told me that if the Elven Prince doesn’t wake up, there will be no true king and the entire race will be in danger from the power of Astos and the dark elves.  Of course, Astos is the one who cast the sleeping curse on the prince, which I suppose was step one of his evil plan.  Then he stole the eye from Matoya the blind witch, and had me unwittingly fetch the crown for him.  It makes me wonder: Why, if the Elven Prince is asleep, does Astos still need the two magical items in order to take over as the true Elven King?  Clearly the crown and eye aren’t a prerequisite for becoming king, since the current prince doesn’t have either one and besides, the eye has been in Matoya’s possession since forever.

An NES screenshot of Mario and King Koopa on a bridge over red lava.

I’m not naming any names here, but at least Final Fantasy does have some semblance of a plotline.

For that matter, if the idea behind collecting magical artifacts was to take the kingship by force, then why does it require the Elven Prince to be out of the picture?  Maybe there’s some kind of hereditary royal magic (I’m looking at you, Final Fantasy XV) he could use to stop Astos?  Something tells me I’m never going to get the answers to these questions, because we’re playing in 8-bit where stories more complicated than “kill all the monsters and rescue the princess” are few and far between.  I don’t have time to think further on the matter – once he finishes his Villain Monologue, Astos attacks me.  (I lied, I have one final thought: It would have been so much easier for Astos to get the crown if he hadn’t revealed himself – I was five seconds away from simply handing it to him!)

It will be 200 gil to resurrect Calla. Will you pay?

Seriously, if you bring your deceased loved one here for a resurrection and the cleric asks whether you’ll pay, are you really going to change your mind and be like “Oh, in that case, how much for a burial plot?”

The fight isn’t that difficult, partly because I’m at a higher level than usual for this point in the game thanks to my Peninsula of Power shenanigans, and partly because, well, the fight isn’t that difficult.  I take Astos down with only one casualty, and it’s not who you expect: Dizzy makes it through unscathed, but Calla does not.  This is her first death so far (if you don’t count the full-party wipes) and the three guys are a little broken up about it.  They stay in the castle long enough to collect the crystal eye that Astos stole from Matoya, then carry Calla back to Elfheim to be resurrected.  The cost is 200 Gil, more than twice what the cleric in Pravoka charged, and I have a feeling I got fleeced because when three frantic men rush into the church holding the dead body of a woman, any cleric knows he can jack the price up.  But Calla would have been pissed if they’d loaded her corpse into the ship and sailed across the Aldean to save 120 Gil on having her brought back to life.

I didn’t really have time to ask him about breaking the curse while I was busy fighting for my life, dodging spells, and dying.

Once she’s alive and breathing, I splurge on a stay at the expensive Elfheim inn for a rest after delving into the Marsh Cave and then battling Astos, and all the traveling in between.  The inn’s bath house runs out of hot water, but everyone is clean and happy.  Unfortunately I still don’t know how to help the sleeping prince, and now I have to admit to the rest of the elves that when I killed Astos I may also have killed the prince’s best chance of lifting the curse.  I was hoping that the death of the caster might break the curse, but no such luck.  It’s a problem, and instead of going to the elves and discussing the situation in a calm and mature way, I board my ship and flee to Coneria.  I can at least return Matoya’s crystal eye to her.  That’s got to count for something.

Hmph! You're not even as attrative as I thought you'd be.

Yeah well, you’re no beauty queen yourself, babe. Looked in a mirror lately? Oh, wait. HAHAHA.

Indeed, it does.  The (formerly) blind witch is overjoyed to have her sight restored, and gifts me with a powerful magical tonic in return before shooing me out of her cave.  I imagine now that she can see the cobwebs in there, she’d rather not have visitors until it’s been cleaned throughly – by her animated brooms, of course.  As soon as I’m back outside I take a look at this supposedly all-powerful potion.  Jolt Tonic, says the bottle.  That’s it, no description of what it is or how to use it.  But it smells a lot like strong black coffee, and based on the name… I’ve got a great idea.  Everybody back on board the ship, we’re sailing for Elf Castle and I intend to test out my theory.  If I can force OB to drink an Antidote, I bet getting a tonic into an unconscious elf will be a piece of cake.

You... you're the legendary warriors. Something tells me I''m not dreaming.

You mean you’ve never had a dream where attractive, strong warriors appear in your bedroom and… No? Just me, I guess.

In the blink of an eye (and the press of some buttons) I’m back in the Elven castle.  OB and Dizzy hold back the guards, Cookie props the prince up and Calla carefully pours it down his throat.  A moment later, he opens his eyes.  Yes!  It worked, and I’m not going to be arrested and imprisoned for attempted poisoning of a monarch.  Strangely, the very first thing the Elven Prince does after awakening from a 5 year slumber is to decide that the time has come to pass the Mystic Key down to its rightful bearers:  the Warriors of Light (that’s me).  He doesn’t even ask for some water or wonder why all these people are in his bedroom, just gets right down to it.  Finally, finally, the Mystic Key is mine!

Next week I’m going to try to post screenshots of all the treasure found behind the doors that I can now unlock.

 

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Uneasy lies the head party who wears fetches the crown.

This door has been bound by the Mystic Key.

If it turns out Astos has been emptying treasuries as he goes and re-locking the doors on his way out, I am going to be pissed.

After meeting the King who for some reason lives entirely alone in the Western Keep (previously known as “creepy abandoned castle”), I’m told that my pal Astos has been busy while I was sailing around and kicking pirate ass.  He tricked the King into… something, it’s not quite clear exactly what, but whatever it was seems to have led to the ruin of the Keep.  Anyone who lived there is now dead or fled, and the King remains alone on his throne.  It’s weird, but I’ve learned not to question video game plots.  The King asked me to venture into the Marsh Cave and retrieve his crown, which he’ll use to restore the castle.  Maybe it’s a magic crown or something.

The map screen with a pointer on the unmarked location of the Marsh Cave.

I admit that I already knew where to go, and it’s a good thing I did because the Marsh Cave won’t appear on the map until you find it first, and good luck finding it without the map.

Like so many of the people I’ve run into, he sent me off on his little errand without telling me where I’m supposed to go.  This time I didn’t even get a “to the west” or anything.  I know it’s a cave and that’s it.  Helpful!  For all I know it’s back on the newbie island, or east of Pravoka, or north of Mt. Duergar where the Dwarves live.  Those are all locations about as far apart from each other as it’s possible to get, by the way, for those of you unfamiliar with the basic geography of every Final Fantasy you’ve ever played.  Filthy casuals.  There’s no way in hell I’m wandering around blind until I stumble across the right place, so I take a shortcut by checking out my map to see if the Marsh Cave is marked.  It isn’t, but there are symbols for important locations, and one of them is on the southern tip of a marshland.  Bingo.

Inside Elfheim, near the river.

Waterfront property, gorgeous view, and plenty of shopping! What more could you ask for?

The Marsh Cave will be the first real dungeon of the game.  Naturally the guys are excited and Calla is nervous, as she’s the one who has to keep them all alive.  OB solves problems with his axe, Cookie is a believer in “Kill it with fire!” and Dizzy just plain likes to punch things.  In a few more levels he’ll do more damage unarmed than with his nunchaku, but we’re not there yet.  For now, I deem it practical to visit the shops of Elfheim before setting off for the cave.  I’ve already bought weapons for those who needed them, but the party could use some new armor – and Elfheim is the only town in the game that can boast four magic shops rather than the usual two.  Level 3 and 4 spells are for sale here and I’m pretty sure Calla and Cookie can use both.

The weapon shop, buying copper armlets for the party.

I don’t understand why OB can’t wear a bracelet along with his armor, but whatever the reason, he is thankful for it. And definitely not compensating for anything.

One of the Mt. Duergar Dwarves recommended that I try out armlets in place of full body armor, which sounds incredibly foolhardy on the surface, but I’m guessing these must be enchanted armlets because the armor shop sells copper ones that offer upgraded protection for everyone except OB.  No pretty bracelet for him.  He’s not particularly disappointed by this, but Calla is!  Partly because she wanted to see him wearing one, and partly because she knows he’s going to spend most of the game tormenting Cookie and Dizzy about their unmanly jewelry.  In lieu of an armlet OB gets a helm and an iron shield, while the rest of the party don new leather caps.  It’s not the most fashionable ensemble, but I don’t think they read Vogue down in the Marsh Cave.

The black magic shop menu, level 4 spells.

Still haven’t figured out why Sleep and Sleepara are AOE and single-target respectively, while every other spell in the game with an upgraded version works the other way around.

At the black magic shops Cookie picks up level 3 spells Fira and Thundara and level 4 spells Blizzara and Haste.  Those first three do exactly as you’d expect, only they’re AOE rather than single-target like their  prior incarnations.  Haste speeds up the party member it’s cast on, which causes them to hit more times per attack.  It’s one of the most useful buff spells in the game.  There’s one slot still open for both level 3 and 4 magic since I only chose two spells each, but the other options aren’t worth paying for.  Hold will paralyze one enemy but since it almost never works on bosses, it’s easier to just use a spell that kills the monster in question instead.  Focara lowers the evasion of all enemies, and again, while it isn’t a bad spell per se, there’s nearly always something else you can cast that’s a better use of the turn.  I also ignored Sleepara, a spell that puts a single enemy to sleep for longer than the Sleep spell (which is an AOE), for the same reason as Hold.  Lastly there was Confuse, which sometimes causes random enemies to attack one another.  It can be fun, it’s just not very useful.

The white magic shop, level 3 spells.

Man, it sucked to have to walk out of this shop without the Heal spell. There’s a weapon which grants it later in the game, fortunately.

In the white magic shop, I chose Cura, Diara, and NulBlaze for Calla’s level 3 slots, and Poisona and NulFrost for level 4.  Again, these are exactly what they sound like: the Nul spells prevent much of the damage from their respective elements, Cura and Diara are more powerful versions of Cure and Dia, and Poisona removes the poison status.  So much for the pile of Antidotes I just bought!  I had a much tougher time deciding which spells to take this time, as the other level 3 option was Heal, which restores HP to the entire party.  But it’s only a small amount of HP, and I decided the other choices were more useful.  I also skipped over Vox at level 4; it removes the silence status, which almost never occurs and is easily handled with a cheap item when it does.

The save game screen.

I was never in any real danger of a full-party wipe inside this dungeon, but I saved a bunch of times anyway because fuck you NES version and your shitty lack of save points!

All geared up and ready to go, so I do my customary “everybody is alive and not at 1 HP, right?” check and then set out for the Marsh Cave.  It’s about the same distance as I covered on the trek to the Western Keep, only I turn south in the middle instead of north.  After passing by some mountains the ground turns into marshland so I know I’m closing in.  And there it is at last, my first dungeon!  Huzzah!  I top up everyone’s health with Potions and head inside, all fired up with anticipation.  And then I immediately come back out, and save my game.  Oops.  In the NES version it wasn’t possible to save inside a dungeon, so if I met an unfortunate end in the cave and hadn’t saved just outside, I’d have to start back in Elfheim and walk all that way again.  That lovely “feature” is gone in the remakes, and I can save wherever the hell I want – but it’s still a good idea to do it before entering a dangerous area.

The first things I notice in the Marsh Cave are the weird rainbow swirls of… something.  Mist, fog?  In the Chaos Shrine and Western Keep the atmospheric fog was a proper fog-colored greyish white.  This, is not that.  It changes from gold-brown to blood-red to deep purple and back again as I watch, mesmerized, and it rolls in and out of the cavern.

The strangely beautiful fog in the Marsh Cave.

It actually looks a lot cooler than this, but you just try getting screenshots of moving, swirling, color-changing, fading-in-and-out swirls of mist.

A Phoenix Down obtained from the chest!

I also found one of these, and they’re expensive, so all in all it’s not a bad haul of loot. I wish there’d been a Cabin since I can’t buy those yet, but I guess it’d be tough to fit one in a treasure chest.

For once, OB and Calla are in agreement; they want to stay and watch the pretty fog awhile longer.  But Dizzy and Cookie disagree and it’s not worth finding out whether it’s possible to parry a fireball using a large axe.  Besides, I guess I did come here with a goal in mind: the crown.  The fog will still be here when I’ve finished saving the world or whatever else people keep asking me to do.  So off we go.  There’s a fork in the path right at the entrance, so I head north first and climb some stairs down to floor B2 of the dungeon.  I fight off a few Gargoyles and some Green and Grey Slimes, but there’s no crown here, only some assorted Gil and a broadsword.  OB is not giving up his axe, so that’s useless.  There’s also no exit from this place other than the stairs I came down, so I go back to the entrance and take the south fork.

A treasure chest surrounded by statues.

It’s missing a flashing neon sign that says “Step in here to trigger an inescapable battle!” but really it doesn’t need one.

Unsurprisingly, this leads to a ladder and a different section of floor B2.  It’s one very large cavern with no distinct path, so I kind of crisscross back and forth as I move downwards, making sure I don’t miss anything important.  There are a couple of doors that lead to little interior rooms within the larger area, and I find a bunch more Gil, some Potions, and no crown.  But there’s a way down to floor B3, so I’m making progress.  I still haven’t fought anything that’s given me much trouble.  The Slimes were a pain in the ass until I realized they’re practically immune to physical attacks – but they burn nicely.  B3 is another huge, open area containing a bunch of smaller rooms, but it’s much more symmetrical than the floor above and therefore easier to navigate.  I make my way down through the rows of box-like interiors opening treasure chests that don’t have much of interest, and some are oddly empty.  Finally, I enter a small room with a chest surrounded by intricate statues.  Something tells me this is what I’m looking for.

These guys look like a cross between Cthulhu and… no, just Cthulhu. Only with a staff. I don’t want to know what it looks like without the robe.

As I step forward to claim the prize, I’m instantly attacked by four Piscodemons.  I remember these were called Wizards by the NES, and that they were vulnerable to lightning spells, which was a bit strange.  Now I understand why; the prefix “pisc” or “pesc” refers to fish, and if they’re meant to be water creatures it explains the abhorrence of electricity.  It’s standard Final Fantasy lore that water-based monsters are vulnerable to lightning-based attacks, for reasons that are clear when you think about it.  Zap!  I also remember dying to these guys a whole bunch of times as a kid, but they don’t give me any trouble now. Zap! Zap!  They’re fried, and the crown is mine.

Now I get to retrace my steps all the way back out of the damn cave.  Damn.

 

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A king’s home is his castle.

No one knows where Astos, king of the dark elves, has gone.

Here’s the first person to mention that Astos really is literally a royal pain in the ass. No one else has referred to him as the king of anything. I wonder if this guy is secretly a dark elf in disguise?

Time to visit the creepy abandoned castle I was told about in Elfheim.  It’s the only place left I haven’t thoroughly explored, and I’m hoping I can find some clues inside as to the current whereabouts of the evil Dark Elf, Astos.  I now know that he’s the one who stole Matoya’s crystal eye, and he’s also my only hope of lifting the sleeping curse that was laid on the Elven Prince 5 years ago.  You know, because he’s the guy who did the cursing to begin with.  I found out from one of the townsfolk that Astos styles himself King of the Dark Elves, though whether he’s a legitimate monarch is doubtful.  I haven’t met any Dark Elves to ask.

Not a soul could be found inside - and the whole place gave me the creeps, so I got out of there as fast as I could.

If Astos lived in this castle before he disappeared, what the hell happened to his staff? There’s no point to being king of anything if you can’t have a butler.

Regardless, all my recent explorations have made it clear that if I want to go anywhere outside the Aldean Sea, I’ll need to provide the nitro powder that Nerrick the Dwarf needs to finish digging his canal.  Once it’s complete I’ll be able to sail my ship westward, to Melmond and places beyond.  To boldly go where – well, I guess where many men have gone before.  And one of the Dwarves tipped me off that there coincidentally happens to be some nitro powder of the very sort I’m after in the castle’s treasury – I don’t know which castle, but the two I’ve visited so far have locked their treasuries with the damn Mystic Key so I’m out of luck there, at least for now.  It’s one more reason to lead an expedition to this abandoned castle.

The status screen shows that party leader OB is poisoned.

His poison status forces the afflicted OB to kneel, which Calla finds deeply amusing. It’s a Kodak moment, but fortunately this game’s setting isn’t advanced enough for disposable cameras.

It shouldn’t be a dangerous journey, so I’m not going to bother hitting up the shops in Elfheim before setting out.  I do take a quick look to make sure all of my party members are alive and at full health, because that sort of thing has tripped me up twice before.  I was told that the abandoned castle lies to the west, so off we go!  It’s only a few steps before I run into two Cobras who manage to poison OB before they die, which is quickly taken care of by an Antidote, and I continue onward.  I’ve just barely made it out of view of Castle Elf when I’m once again set upon by wild beasts; this time it’s a pack of three Warg Wolves and another Cobra.  Easily dispatched – but OB is poisoned again.

Promotional picture for Grand Theft Auto V, showing a blonde girl in a red bikini.

There’s really no telling what Calla looks like under that voluminous robe. Believe whatever you choose!

Again!  Oh come on, you have to be fucking kidding me.  I’ve got 3 more Antidotes left after pouring a second one down his complaining throat (seriously, I think OB would rather walk around slowly weakening with each step than swallow the admittedly nasty-looking vial of potion) but I can already see that I’m going to need more than that.  Fine.  The party trudges back to Elfheim for a visit to the Item Shop, and I pick up 7 additional Antidotes and a second Gold Needle as well, in case someone manages to get stoned.  Ah, turned to stone that is.  This is Final Fantasy, not Grand Theft Auto.  Now that I’m appropriately stocked, I set off for the abandoned castle (again).

Inside the ruined castle, crumbling statues and swirling fog.

It’s a little bit embarrassing how long it takes me to finally realize that it’s a beautiful clear day outside the castle, and where the hell is this spooky indoor fog coming from?!

It’s a longer trek than I’d realized, and I head the wrong way more than once before it occurs to me to check my built-in map.  I mean, “to the west” isn’t really an example of clear directions and it turns out the castle is just as far north as it is west. But I finally do find it, and once inside I can immediately tell why the elf was creeped out by this place.  The castle is a crumbling ruin, full of bats and eerie fog – it reminds me very much of the Chaos Shrine, and even the background music is appropriately threatening.  At least it’s abandoned instead of teeming with monsters.  I locate the treasury easily, and once again find myself cockblocked by the Mystic Key.  Great.

In the ornate throne room, a royal figure is sitting on the throne.

Why is this guy sitting all by himself on the throne in an empty castle? I can picture him pretending to give orders to the statue knights out of loneliness. Or schizophrenia.

As I’m wandering the castle looking for artwork or any other loose treasure I can carry off, Dizzy and Cookie decide to find the throne room so they can take turns sitting on the empty throne just to see what it feels like – I mean, Jaime Lannister tried it, so why not?  Unfortunately, the plan comes to a screeching halt when I discover that the seat’s already taken.  There’s a guy wearing a green robe and looking very royal, surrounded by empty suits of armor standing precisely at attention.  At least, I hope they’re empty.  It’s a little nerve-wracking to walk directly into the center of the grouping of statues, but fortunately it turns out this isn’t one of those cutscenes where formerly inanimate objects spring to life and attack from all sides.

I was tricked by Astos, king of the dark elves, and now my castle has fallen into ruin. If I could only retrieve the crown from the Marsh Cave, I would be able to restore my castle. Might you bring me the crown?

Astos again? Seriously, is there anyone that asshole hasn’t fucked with? Between the theft of a blind witch’s crystal eye, the sleeping curse cast on the Elven Prince, and now this, that’s three ass-kickings I owe him so far.

The exterior of the castle, a magnificently elaborate edifice with stone walls and blue tiling on the eaves.

This castle, which is actually the Western Keep, looks a lot fancier and larger than the ones in Coneria and Elfheim. I don’t believe I’ll mention that to the other two monarchs.

I meet the King of this castle, which obviously isn’t abandoned after all.  I’d been thinking the place must have belonged to Astos before he went into hiding, simply because Astos is also a King (at least in his own mind) and whose else would it be?  But I guess the monarchies around here are either very friendly or very tiny, what with three different royals claiming kingdoms in the same general area.  It’s odd that there isn’t a town nearby to support the castle, and I wonder where everybody else went and why the king isn’t with his subjects or at least the rest of the royal family.

He did say that Astos tricked him somehow, and after my spectacular foot-in-mouth faux pas with Matoya I judge it best not to ask what happened.  I suppose I’m off to retrieve a crown, and perhaps all will become clear.

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Astos and the Seven Dwarves.

It is a truly pitiable sight... the earth rots, and monsters attack in the night.

I can show up and kick some monster ass, but what exactly did you want me to do about the other thing? Maybe try rotating your crop fields every year?

When we last left our heroine (that’s me), there were a number of quests yet to be accomplished.  I still don’t know where to find either Lukahn or Astos, or who stole Matoya’s crystal eye, or how to wake the sleeping Elven Prince, and the guy who implored me to deliver the town of Melmond from its dire fate neglected to mention where exactly Melmond is.  Or what dire fate it needs saving from.  I could go looking for the abandoned castle someone in Elfheim told me about, but I haven’t yet had a chance to take the ship out exploring.  For all I know there’s an island nearby full of helpful citizens with the answers to everything I need to know, and a sign that says This Way To The Dark Elf’s Evil Lair.

Okay, let’s stop here for just a moment while I let OB go ahead and take his axe to the 4th wall.  If you’ve been with me a while you know I’ve already played and completed this game more times than I can remember (and if you haven’t, you’re missing out, go check out the archives!) so you’re probably wondering what’s with the confusion. Shouldn’t I quit wandering aimlessly and skip right ahead to the location where I know the plot is waiting to be picked up, instead of pretending I don’t know exactly which Dark Elf scum stole the witch’s crystal eye?

I could.

We’ll get to this guy eventually, I promise. Stay tuned.

Only then, half of this blog would be me saying “I know from previous playthroughs where the NPCs are going to send me next and what I need to do there, so I’ll just skip the exploring and head right into this dungeon with no explanation nor sarcastic commentary.”  Where’s the fun in that?  This isn’t a difficult game and 90% of my readers have probably played it multiple times, so if you’re interested in a cutscene-skipping speed run, I’m afraid you’re in the wrong place.  For everyone else, let’s continue on for the reasons you’re here:  the hilarious sarcasm, corny and inappropriate jokes, and addictive will-they-or-won’t-they sexual tension between Calla and OB!

The ship faces the mouth of a river, but cannot sail further.

I could make a “wet” joke here, but all the lube in the world is not going to help the big ship slip into the tight opening of the river.

Leaving Elfheim and its monarch in peaceful slumber for now, I re-board the ship and set off exploring.  I can tell from the map (dash button + select if you’ll recall) that I’m at the southern end of a large body of water, the Aldean Sea.  The furthest due north I can go is Coneria and I’ve already been there, so the only possible areas of interest will be to the east or west.  I head east first, following the coast, but find myself back at the bay near Pravoka without seeing any ports I can dock at.  I do find the mouth of a river, which prompts Calla to observe that the ship would be “far too large to fit into the tight opening.”  A split second too late she realizes what she’d just said, and the rest of the voyage is devoted to immature jokes about big ships.  Westward ho it is, then.

A cave opening in the side of some mountains.

Caves are a secret dread for Calla, because she knows that she’ll shriek like a little girl if a spider touches her boot, and the guys will never let her hear the end of it.

I’ve slaughtered at least a few dozen Buccaneers and many assorted sea creatures when I finally come across a port somewhere vaguely northwest of Coneria.  It’s blocked off from the newbie island by a mountain range, so I wouldn’t be able to get here any other way.  I drop anchor and everybody disembarks.  The lay of the land is very mountainous and the party runs into and quickly dispatches a couple of Ogres before noticing something unusual – there’s a cave opening carved into the side of a cliff.  Excellent, this is exactly the sort of thing I’m looking for.  I take a moment to heal everyone to full HP before venturing into the Cave of Potential Plot Twists.  It would be just my luck to stumble into the Dark Elf Astos hiding out here and end up having to tag my post “stupid mistakes” for the third time.

Fortunately, it’s someone else whom I find inside.  A lot of someones, actually.  This is Mount Duergar, home of the Dwarves.  Lali-ho!  Less than five minutes later I’m already lamenting the lack of an auto-translate feature because while I’m pretty sure they’re speaking English, I can’t tell if they’re actually Scotch-Irish or just making fun of Calla and OB’s red hair.

When it comes tae defense, a guid armlet can be ivery bit as stoot as body armor.

I have serious doubts that a bit of jewelry is going to replace full-body plate mail, but I’ve been wrong about stupider things before. That, and I want to see OB wearing a pretty bracelet.

I do find some treasure in here – about 1500 Gil give or take – but far more valuable is the information gleaned by talking to each of the Dwarves.  I now know that not only is Astos responsible for the curse laid on the Elven Prince, he’s also the dick who stole Matoya’s crystal eye.  I’d been planning to kick his ass anyway so that works out.  I also learn that one of the Dwarves is in the midst of digging a canal through the thin strip of land that is all that’s preventing me from escaping the Aldean Sea and sailing west to the town of Melmond (so that’s where it is!).  He’s run into a stubborn boulder that blocks the canal’s progress, and tells me that he’ll need some Nitro Powder to remove it.  Another Dwarf recalls that some of that exact powder was locked up in the castle treasury years ago.  Of course, he neglects to mention which castle – I’ve visited two so far and know of at least one more.

A thin strip of land south of Mount Duergar, with a whirlpool in the sea to the west.

I’m sure that Melmond’s problems have nothing to do with the freakishly large whirlpool right near the site of the proposed canal.

Unfortunately, none of the Dwarves know where Astos is hiding out or how to wake the sleeping Prince.  But I’ve gotten answers for two of the problems I’m facing: the mystery of the stolen crystal eye, and the location of Melmond.  I’m additionally told that there is a rot spreading through the earth from the west and I can guess that this is what’s at the heart of Melmond’s plight, but “a rot” is pretty non-specific and I’m not offered any clue as to the source or how I might stop it.  And I meet a Dwarf who is searching for something called a levistone, which has the power to float in the air.  That doesn’t seem terribly helpful but I file it away in case it makes more sense later.

If only Ah could have some o' the leegendary metal adamantite! Ah'd be habile tae make such a magical sword...

The Dwarven accent is still heavy Scots by way of Japan, but now with a touch of Southern charm.

Last but not least, a Dwarven blacksmith named Smyth muses to me that he would be able to create a bad-ass magical sword using the legendary metal adamantite, if only he had some.  I know a hint when I hear one, and this wasn’t even particularly subtle.  OB and Smyth engage in a heated debate regarding the usefulness of swords versus axes, and Dizzy has to drag him out of the smithy before it becomes violent.  Never hold an argument in a small room containing hot metal, flames, and weaponry!  And never, never insult a man’s axe while he’s holding it.

ZZzzz...

The sheet prank is juvenile, but kind of poetic in this case. A little.

One thing has become clear at this point: I need to find Astos, and convince him to lift the sleeping curse from the Prince and return Matoya’s crystal eye to her.  And by convince I mean intimidate, threaten, and/or beat the shit out of.  I still haven’t found anyone who knows exactly where he is, but by now there’s only one accessible place I haven’t explored: the creepy abandoned castle west of Elfheim.  Castles don’t appear naturally in the wild, and there is no local royalty besides the Elven monarch.  I’d bet good Gil that this castle must have belonged to Astos before he fled, and maybe I’ll find a clue as to his whereabouts inside.

At the very least I can raid the treasury, eat all his food, paint some rude graffiti on the walls and maybe shortsheet his bed.

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To sleep, perchance to dream.

The ship sails away from Pravoka's dock.

It’s OB’s turn to captain the ship, and he immediately decrees that every day shall now be Talk Like A Pirate Day.

“Did you hear that? Rivendell! Elfheim!  We’re going to see the Elves!” 

Yes, we are!  It feels good to finally leave Pravoka behind. But I only make it about ten meters out of the harbor before I’m set upon by a trio of Buccaneers, and it becomes immediately apparent that my triumphant departure may have been premature.  After concluding the Peninsula of Power bloodbath from last time, OB had returned to town with the bodies of his fellow adventurers in tow.  Once again I paid the cleric for a batch resurrection, stopped by the item shop to replace the Potions used during the battles, and then… didn’t stay at the Inn?

There are many monsters in the Aldean Sea. Be careful!

I talked to this guy right before leaving town. I bet he noticed most of the party was a blink away from death and didn’t say a thing. Asshole.

Instead, dumbass me obliviously set sail for Elfheim with three of my party members at 1 HP apiece.  It wouldn’t be quite so embarrassing if I hadn’t just done the exact same fucking thing once before.  Only pure luck gets me through the fight with the Buccaneers without any fresh casualties – no, dying of mortification doesn’t count.  Thus chagrined, I turn the ship around and quickly return to Pravoka for one last night at the Inn to restore everyone’s health.  I also do a quick check to make sure the new armor and weapons I’ve bought are actually equipped, because it’s just been that sort of day so far.

Outside the Elven Castle and the town of Elfheim.

The town of Elfheim and its castle are in the middle of a forest, with no walls or fences. Elves live in trees, right? I mean, I’ve heard, I’m not racist or anything.

Let’s try this again.  I depart Pravoka for the second time, waving to the townsfolk from aboard my ship as I pretend that my first attempt to get out of here was just a practice run-through.  It’s tempting to spend some time sailing around and see where I can go now that I’m free to explore the world, but I’ve got urgent business with the Elves.  They have the Mystic Key and I want it – it unlocks the doors to at least two treasure rooms I’ve found so far, at Castle Coneria and inside the Chaos Shrine.  Something tells me the Elven King isn’t going to just hand over the key because I asked nicely, but I have to try.  Maybe he’ll want me to rescue someone.  I’m pretty good at that by now!

There must be some medicine that can wake the sleeping... but where?

Hell if I know.  I’ll add it to the list of items that I wouldn’t be at all surprised to randomly stumble across during my adventures.

After sailing directly south from the port at Coneria, I arrive at Castle Elf or whatever it’s called and immediately I can tell something is wrong – everyone seems quiet and subdued.  It turns out that first of all, there is no Elven King.  There is however an Elven Prince, and he was meant to become the king, but an evil Dark Elf called Astos has put him under a sleeping curse.  This happened 5 years ago and he’s still asleep.  Worse yet, nobody has any idea where Astos went so I can’t simply march over to his evil lair and solve the problem by the application of extreme violence, which has been my usual method until now.

Then Astos carted away the castle's treasures!

I guess Astos never found the Mystic Key because the treasure room is still locked tight.  Unless he emptied it and re-locked the door on the way out.  That seems like the sort of dick move someone like him would pull.

I can’t get into the castle’s treasury because – surprise, surprise – it’s locked by the Mystic Key.  And I can’t ask the Prince about the key because he’s been cursed to sleep by Astos, whom I can’t confront because I don’t know where he is.  That about sums up the situation here at Castle Elf, so I decide to visit the local village of Elfheim in search of a clue as to what my next move is.  Maybe there’s an apothecary shop having a sale on magical anti-curse herbs, or failing that, I can probably pick up a 6-pack of Red Bull and see if it helps.  On the way out of the castle, every guard I speak to begs me to aid their slumbering prince.  Why does every single person I meet ask me to solve all their problems?  Can’t it ever be, like, “Yo, Light Warriors, great job you’re doing.  Wanna sit down awhile and have a smoke and a beer?”

Elfheim was a lovely little place in the NES version of this game; even in 8-bit it was full of summer trees with a creek running through the town.  In the PSP remake, it’s downright gorgeous.  Better graphics allow for a sunlight effect, the rippling water is crystalline blue, and the warm color of the wooden buildings pulls it all together.  I’m definitely retiring here if this isn’t the sort of game where everyone dies at the end.

A pretty view of the village of Elfheim.

Elfheim weapon shop menu. Dizzy is cheering at the iron nunchaku.

I also pick up a dagger for Cookie to replace his small knife, but if he’s ever low enough on magic to resort to using it, the party is probably fucked.

The usual array of shops can be found in Elfheim, but I feel like it’s barely been five minutes since Pravoka’s economy spiralled into chaos (probably) after the amount of Gil I spent there.  Still, I wasn’t able to buy anything for Dizzy and he’s the one party member who really needs some upgrades.  It couldn’t hurt to step into the weapons shop for just a moment, and I step back out with a new pair of  iron nunchaku for Dizzy and a feeling of relief that the shop didn’t hold anything of interest to OB.  My purse is still reeling from the cost of his iron armor and battle axe – but I admit that the results have been worthwhile.  Also, OB now sleeps with the axe lovingly tucked under his pillow, which Calla finds adorable when she’s not worrying about the potential for axe-related mishaps.

Here lies Link, an epitaph on a gravestone.

I guess things didn’t go so well the last time a fated Hero set out to save the world.  Maybe I’ll find the Triforce in the Elven treasury?  I’ve got four people in my party and that could be awkward.

There are several Sages in the village, but none have anything to say about Lukahn or his infamous prophecy concerning the Light Warriors.  No mention of crescent moons, either – the last person I encountered who knew anything useful on the subject told me that Lukahn had left Coneria to go looking for something like that.  I also meet an elf who tells me about a creepy abandoned castle, listen to several more pleas to help the sleeping Prince, and learn that if the Prince doesn’t wake up and take his place as King, the Elves will be left vulnerable to the Dark Elf’s power.  I don’t precisely understand how this is my problem, but everyone seems convinced that I’ll be able to save the kingdom.  No pressure or anything!

Not a soul could be found inside, and the whole place gave me the creeps - so I got out as fast as I could!!

If only there were some way to knock off multiple items from my list all at once, such as the creepy castle, Astos, and the crystal eye. Just wishful thinking I guess.

So now what?  My to-do list is getting pretty long:  I need to find a way to wake the Prince, ask him to hand over the Mystic Key, locate Matoya’s crystal eye, figure out where Lukahn went, puzzle out the meaning of the crescent moon, investigate the abandoned castle, deliver a beat-down to Astos for causing so much inconvenience, and oh, that one guy in Pravoka asked me to save a town called Melmond from some unspecified horrible fate.  I still haven’t taken the time to sail around and see where else I can go in my ship, and in the mean time the lovely Princess Sara is waiting back in Coneria for her hero.  Or heroine, as the case may be.

And I have no idea how to do any of it.

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It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

And now for what you’ve all been waiting for!  There’s just one more place I need to visit before leaving Pravoka.  Presenting: the Peninsula of Power.  This mythical area first appeared very much by accident in the original NES version of the game, although it’s not exactly a true bug so much as an unintended consequence or programming oversight.   Let me explain.  Here’s a map of the full game area:

You begin the game at Castle Coneria, on the newbie island roughly in the center of the map (this is important later – much, much, later).  Notice how the world is divided more or less evenly into an upper and lower landmass?

I don't think there are any ports in the north. A ship can only make landfill at a port, you know.

You just know this guy has made it his life’s work to sail around the world desperately searching for a northern port. Should I tell him he’s using the wrong sort of ship?

The first half of the game takes place on the southern continent; it’s opened to you little by little as you progress, rebuilding the bridge and acquiring first a ship and then a canoe which allow you to go places you couldn’t before.  Eventually you can sail across the entire world, but it’s only possible to leave the ship and walk around by docking at a port, and the ports are all located on the lower half of the map.  In order to reach the northern continent you need to first unlock the airship, and that doesn’t happen until well after the halfway point of the game.  Still with me?

A low-resolution view of the peninsula, with the northern landmass clearly visible across the water.

In the version I’m playing the tip of the northern continent is barely visible, so please enjoy this 8-bit screenshot from the NES.

It’s only natural that as you continue through the game, the monster encounters increase in difficulty.  By the time you reach the northern continent, you’re going up against some of the biggest baddies the game can throw at you.  Now, take a look at that map again.  On the far right side just about midway up, there is a point where a piece of the southern landmass reaches up and the northern landmass reaches down, until they almost – but don’t quite – touch.  The very tip of that land on the bottom half is the Peninsula of Power.  It’s only four squares, and the game engine treats it as part of the northern landmass, which means it’s teeming with late-game, hard to kill monsters.

And you can reach it at the very beginning of the game, as soon as you exit the newbie area across the bridge.

My party status screen. Dizzy is level 7, and the other three are level 9.

Ideally, you should be a good 10 levels higher to avoid being curbstomped by the Peninsula’s monsters. Kids, don’t try this at home.

The Peninsula of Power became legend for a reason – the phrase is now a general term for any area that allows access to enemies not meant to be fought until later in the game – because if you can manage to bring down the monsters found there, you’ll earn the kind of XP and Gil rewards that a low-level adventurer can only dream about.  It’s the ultimate grinding spot, and it’s such a popular and fun little secret that it’s been part of the game in every remake so far.

My party faces four really big monsters across the battlefield.

To his credit, OB marches bravely out to face the foes. He probably knows I saved the game right before this.

Naturally, I need to pay it a visit.  My levels are still a bit low to be efficient here and I’ll end up wiping more often than I succeed in a kill, but I can’t help myself.  It’s just so damn sweet to take out a quartet of Hill Giants in a pitched battle that ends in only one character still alive with 20 HP remaining, and it puts a bit of exhilaration back into what can sometimes be a slow game.  The Peninsula of Power exists to be conquered, and so I perform one last equipment check before heading off to my doom!

The party was defeated.

Okay, okay, so this isn’t from the same battle – by the time I left the area, I’d been thoroughly reminded of my lowly place in the pecking order. I’ll be back, assholes.

The instant I step onto the peninsula, the nature of that doom becomes immediately apparent.  Two Zombie Minotaurs and two Trolls aren’t the kind of odds I was hoping for.  I do better than I’d expected, managing to take down both the Minotaurs before their purple Troll buddies wipe the grass with my entrails.  I chose to have Cookie and Calla attack rather than support, mostly because I wanted to know what kind of damage to expect against these guys.  As zombies, the Minotaurs are undead and vulnerable to Calla’s Dia spell, but it doesn’t hit hard enough to be worth sacrificing the opportunity to layer Protect and Invis or keep Dizzy’s HP up.  Cookie does better using Fire against all four monsters, although the Trolls regenerate a bit of HP each round, the bastards.

The battle is won, although only OB remains alive.

Yes! Take that! You messed with the wrong warrior, fucker! You know, the one with friends who know lots of buffing spells.

Let’s try this again.  Zombie Minotaur, the Rematch!  This time there are three of them, but no Trolls.  I change tactics and have the mages begin boosting OB with every buff I’ve got.  Three turns later he’s smacking the Minotaurs for 200+ damage while they can’t hit him at all.  Dizzy is already dead and Cookie goes down next, but I’ve killed one of the Minotaurs with another at less than a quarter health.  Calla tosses out another Invis to OB, because I’m not sure about the spell’s duration.  A second Minotaur falls.  I’m feeling good about this one, and although Calla’s health is very low I use her last turn to make sure OB survives because I refuse to come this close and lose.  Success!

I’m exceedingly proud of myself, and immediately save the game before taking a single step.  The Peninsula of Power isn’t far from Pravoka, but anything can happen when only one character is left alive.  So of course, something does happen.  I run into two lone Ghasts, whose first move is to paralyze OB.

Two Ghasts wipe out the party by keeping the only remaining character paralyzed while they take down his health a little at a time.

It’s heartrending, infuriating, and strangely hilarious all at the same time. Poor OB. I’ll have to make this up to him somehow. I have an idea as to just how Calla could offer to do that… give him the Captaincy of the ship! Why, what were you thinking?

He’s at full health thanks to a couple Potions, but the Paralysis status means the Ghasts just keep attacking while OB never has a turn.  It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion and I have to sit there for several minutes as he’s torn apart 10 HP at a time.  Damnit.

I may return to the Peninsula of Power sometime to take my revenge for the slaughter I experienced.  For now, I’ve picked up several levels and a ton of Gil.  It’s time to visit the Elves.

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Assume the position.

The item shop menu. I have more than 6 thousand Gil.

No particular reason to stop here, I just enjoy flashing my 6 Gs which I won’t be spending in this shop at the merchant who refused to give me a discount.

At long last, it’s time for a little retail therapy.  I’ve got several thousand Gil burning a hole in my pocket!  You might think my first priority would be to buy as much armor as possible for Dizzy – and quickly, while he’s still alive.  And you’d be right, but when I arrive at the armor shop, it turns out there’s nothing available for his class (Monk) that’s better than what he’s already wearing.  But I don’t leave empty-handed; Calla and Cookie each get a pair of leather gloves, and OB exchanges his chain mail for some expensive iron armor.  It’s so heavy the shopkeeper is nearly crushed while taking it from the shelf, and OB shows off by putting it on easily and doing a few jumping jacks.

The weapons shop, with cursor pointng to a scimitar.

Meanwhile, I’ve barely taken one step into the weapons shop when OB spots a curved scimitar that’s far nicer than the rapier I bought him in Coneria.

I know from experience that keeping a Warrior geared up is going to cost me a large fortune over the course of the game, easily more than buying spells for both mages combined, but it’s Gil well spent.  As my tank and head of the party, OB’s job is to take the brunt of the attacks.  In this game, battle formation is important; the lead character has 50% of single-target attacks directed at him or her, with the 2nd in line taking 25% and the rest of the damage going to the last two.

The weapons shop, with cursor pointing at a broadsword.

5 minutes later the scimitar is forgotten as OB swings a double-edged broadsword experimentally while the shopkeeper hides in the corner.

This is how Calla and Cookie manage to remain relatively unscathed – I kept them in the back because they are by far the most vulnerable members if the party.  Until now their only protection was some weak Cloth armor.  Even with the leather gloves, the two mages are more susceptible to damage than OB or Dizzy.  Still, it’s probably a good idea to have Calla take Dizzy’s place as 2nd for now, because her HP is so much higher.  I’ll try it and see what happens.

The weapons shop, with cursor pointing at a battle axe.

OB swears the gleaming battle axe was made just for him. I know better than to come between a WAR and his axe, so I buy it for him. Quickly, before some other instrument of death catches his eye.

Calla’s death mid-battle would be more problematic than Dizzy’s, not because she’s the only healer – at this early stage of the game, a Potion is just as useful as her Cure spell – but because the opportunity cost for using her turn to heal the others is so much lower.  As a white mage she has pitiably low strength and hit percent stats, and some of the worst weapons in the game (the Masamune being an obvious exception, but we’ll get to that much later).  She attacks for only a paltry 15 – 20 damage while OB can deal more than 50 in one hit, with Dizzy and Cookie not far behind in DPS.

Calla casts Dia on a group of Skeletons. The spell effect is a beam of rainbow light.

Calla invites these Skeletons to taste the rainbow – and it’s deadly delicious.

Later on when Cookie gains access to the more powerful AOE spells, he’ll far outclass the others in amount of ass kicked per turn, but even his level 1 Fire spells do three times the damage that Calla is capable of against a regular monster (undead being another story due to her nasty Dia AOE). Because of that, it’s much more efficient for her to cast Cure than for any of the others to waste their turn drinking a Potion.

At the Black Magic shop.

These are considered Level 2 spells, although Cookie’s actual level is far higher by now. There are only 8 levels of magic in the game, but I’ve got a ways to go.

After purchasing a shiny battle axe for OB, it’s time for a little magic.  Cookie’s first two spell selections at the Black Magic shop are Blizzard and Temper, the latter of which hones a character’s weapon and temporarily raises the strength stat – and the effect can be stacked with multiple castings.  The remaining choices are Dark and Slow, neither of which are very useful.  Dark inflicts the darkness status on enemies, which makes it harder for them to hit you, and Slow reduces the enemy’s speed.  I’m going with Slow, because the darkness effect doesn’t interfere with magical attacks, but I probably won’t use it very often if ever.

Interior of the White Magic shop, decorated in a soft and feminine style.

Why is it so very pink in here? And why is the white mage sprite female to begin with? It’s obvious that Calla wears the pants in this party.

Over at the White Magic shop, Calla picks up three new spells with almost no deliberation.  NulShock can negate the damage from lightning-based magic and attacks, Silence prevents enemies from using magic, and Invis raises a character’s evasion and causes enemies miss him or her more frequently – and like Temper, it can also be stacked multiple times until the target is nearly impossible to hit.  The last spell choice is Blindna, which removes the darkness/blind status from one character; Eye Drops can do the same thing for 50 Gil, and not many enemies can inflict that status effect to begin with.

After picking up a couple of extra Potions and a second Phoenix Down at the item shop, I’m finally ready to hit the road.  But there’s one last stop to make before visiting the Elves, and it’s a doozy.

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The not-so wicked witch.

My ship sails under the bridge on our way to Matoya's cave.

So who got to be the Captain? Why, Calla, of course. Were you ever in doubt?

As tempting as it is to hop in my new pirate ship and sail into the sunset, or at least the next town, there are things to be accomplished before I leave Pravoka.  First on the list is a visit to Matoya, the blind witch I learned about back in Coneria who lives in a cave to the north of town and needs a crystal eye to see with.  If the unarmed townspeople were able to return unscathed and uneaten, it’s a good bet that she’s friendly – and that the game wants me to talk to her.  Besides, it gives me an excuse to try out my ship, as there’s a dock nearby Matoya’s cave which will save me a long trek by foot.

Standing in front of a door inside a dark, purple cave. There are two torches with blue fire.

Cookie is fascinated by the glowing blue witchlights. Fortunately Calla notices before he can stick his hand into the torch.

Inside the cave, the looming darkness is illuminated by torches with a strange blue flame, and I find a door with two horned skulls decorating the wall beside it.  Unlike the Chaos Shrine, it feels spooky but not dangerous.  The threatening fog is missing, and the bats are replaced by animated brooms who whistle cheerfully as they swish about.  That, and the cave walls are bright purple.  Purple’s just not an evil color.  Belatedly, it occurs to me that the dim lighting is probably not so much for effect as for the simple reason that the torches are pretty useless to a blind witch.

I can't see a blasted thing without my crystal eye!

I think she’s talking to me, but since she ends up staring intently at the table while making this declaration, I can’t be sure.

I meet the witch herself pacing back and forth across a rather lovely patterned red carpet further inside the cave.  It’s a pity that Matoya can’t see it anymore, as it turns out that the reason she’s blind is because someone has stolen her crystal eye.  She doesn’t actually ask me to retrieve it for her, to my surprise.  But the poor woman is literally bumping into her own furniture, and I’m not completely heartless.  Neither she nor I have any idea who could have taken the eye, or for what purpose, but I promise her that I’ll keep an eye out — er, that was awkward, I meant that I’ll definitely be looking — you know what, I’ll just be sure to let her know if I find it.

The broom recites instructions for viewing the map - spelled backwards.

In the original NES game, the brooms said, “…TCELES B HSUP” and in the Android versions it’s “Wodniw Sutats Dloh Dna Pat.”

As I’m hurrying out of the cave before I can inadvertently say something even worse, one of the magical brooms swishes its way over to say hello.  Okay?  Um, hi.  Broom.  It’s a very unusual conversation, but I don’t speak Broom-ish so for all I know I’m implying that its mother was a pencil.  I assume that would be quite insulting.

Front-words, back-wards, any way you see!  Such a strange spell to swish swish-aree! Tceles Nottub Hsad.  Swish-swish-aroo!

The map screen showing an enlarged view of the current area.

The map also shows the locations of ports where the ship can be docked. Sadly, you can’t just select your destination and have it determine the easiest route.

The hardest part about translating this is figuring out which one is the Dash button.  I’ve somehow managed to play for several hours without realizing that I could speed through towns and interiors instead of plodding slowly along.  Too bad it doesn’t work on the overworld screen.  Once I’ve found the correct button, I hit Dash and Select at the same time and to my complete lack of surprise, an interactive map pops up.  It’s pretty small on my 9″ tablet and would be downright miniscule with a smartphone, but you can still get an idea of where you are and far more importantly, where your ship is.  Forgetting where you parked is a thing that can happen easily later in the game.

Bestiary entry for Goblin.

Hard to believe I’ve exterminated 74 of these little bastards already. Every single one of them deserved it.

After crossing the blind witch off from my To Do list (um, that didn’t come out right) my next order of business concerns something I’ve never paid much attention to in previous playthroughs, but I’m determined to complete it at least once.  Why not? I’m referring to the Bestiary, an in-game compilation of monsters that fills itself in automatically each time you encounter a previously undefeated enemy.  They’re listed in order of appearance, and it’s easy to tell when you’ve missed one because a series of ????? are displayed beside the number.

The in-game Bestiary list.

If you’re sharp-eyed enough to notice the discrepancy in number of Goblins murdered, I admit I took the screenshots out of order after realizing I needed one I didn’t have.

The entries display all the data you could possibly want for each monster; level, hit points, stats, weaknesses, how much Gil is dropped and experience earned, even the number of them you’ve killed.  And it includes bosses.  It even displays a picture and plays the appropriate battle music for each selection!  The Dawn of Souls remake includes 195 monsters in its Bestiary, but the version I’m playing (20th Anniversary edition) also includes 8 different forms of the same boss who appears in a special dungeon, bringing the total to 203.

The Bestiary again, with Skeleton and Black Widow displayed in bright yellow text.

Monsters I’ve encountered since the last time I checked the Bestiary are highlighted in yellow. I will eventually figure out what the stars mean.

A quick look at the Bestiary tells me that I’m missing two monsters from earlier in the game, and a quick Google search gives me the names I need – Skeleton and Black Widow.  I don’t need help to immediately guess that both of them must be lurking inside the Chaos Shrine.  How I managed not to encounter either one there I don’t know, but the situation is easy to rectify.  I sail the ship into the port directly south of Coneria and backtrack to the Shrine.  By some quirk of coincidence, the first two battles I fight there are the ones I needed, and 5 minutes later I’m sailing back to Pravoka with my Bestiary all filled in.

I’ve also got enough Gil by now to hit the shops there, mostly earned from the Buccaneers who attack in groups and drop 120 Gil apiece.  Time for a long-awaited shopping spree!

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