Monday, January 9, 2012

TEXT PLAY: Final Fantasy 4 (SNES, 1991): Issue #15: Side Questing Across The Underground, Part One

These two caves are probably my favorite areas in any video game I've ever played, visually speaking. I like the way Square made use of the SNES's graphics to make the honeycombed floors so that the floor beneath the one we're on is visible.

The poison tiles that fill some of the cells in the floor are a pain in the ass, but avoiding them is exactly what Rosa's Float spell is for.

There's an order I like to do this in. I'm not sure it really matters, but it's the way I do it. I'm going to start with the Land of Summoned Monsters and then go to the Sylvan Cave. There's also a blacksmith's shop down in the underground that's worth paying a visit to, but I'll do that after the first two caves.

The Land of Summoned Monsters is on an island in the underground that looks like South America or Antarctica. It's a decent length for a side quest. The cave itself is three or four floors, I think, and there's a village at the bottom that's another three levels. And best of all, there's a ton of cool stuff to be found the whole way, culminating in a double boss fight. But first, let me tell you about the trip itself.

It seemed like I ran into a lot of back attacks this time around. Maybe it's because my levels are a little low this time around, but that's OK. That should be remedied by the end of this. I like these monsters. They're cool. Amongst them are demon knights called Warriors. On the very bottom floor of the actual cave, there's a box with five of them in it that you have to fight off to get the Defense Sword. It really boosts the attack and defense stats for whoever has it. It might also be a good throwing weapon for Edge later on, so it might be worth cloning later just for that.

In chests without attached fights are the Poison Ax for Cecil and/or Kain, which inflicts the poison status ailment, and the Ninja Sword for Edge that really puts his attack through the roof, too. Worth cloning that because it'll give Edge the highest attack at this point.

Other neat monsters in the cave include the Conjurer, the first organic summoning monster; and the Aracne, based on the mythological being that's part woman and part spider. I think this is one of, if not the, most obvious examples of censoring in the game. Arachnes were originally supposed to be bare chested, with their breasts exposed, but I think they got covered in the US localization.

Once in the village proper that is the Land of Summoned Monsters, there are a few important items to be found or, for once, bought. Probably the most important is the Rat Tail. Remember that guy in the Grotto Adamant by Silveria who said he collects tails? He'll be wanting that, and in exchange, you'll get something that'll be handy, if not critical, later on. But more on that later. And on the very bottom floor of all this is the Samurai Bow and some Samurai Arrows for Rosa. I usually give her the bow now but hold off on the arrows until there's nothing left of the other ones I've either bought, found, or stolen for her.

In the shops, there are a few items worth buying for a change. In the weapon shop is an upgrade for Rydia's whip. There's a chain whip and a Blitz whip. By now, I've got the gold for the Blitz whip, which is what I think we find on the moon, in the final dungeon. If I'm wrong on that, I'll say so when I find out. The rest of what's there can be bought or found later somehow, or is entirely unnecessary. Fun if we can find it, but not worth blowing the gold on.

In the Armor shop, there are Sorcerer Robes for Rydia and Rosa. Cecil can wear it, too, but it's not as good as what he's already got, so save the gold on that for what's to come later. Also there is the Ageis Shield, which is worth it for Cecil and Kain, but there's other equipment that might be better later, so only buy one and use the cloning trick to get one for whoever you don't equip the purchased one to.

And now on to the boss fights. The villagers, the summoned monsters, are all happy to see Rydia again, but nervous about Cecil and the others. They say to go see the King and Queen of Summoned Monsters, in the basement of the, the Library, that is. Talk to the queen first and she'll offer to help, but you've gotta beat her ass first. The trick is for Rosa to know the Wall spell. Have her use it on the queen, so that the queen's healing magic will be reflected onto the party. It's also good to be stocked up on life potions and have full MP and HP, because Queen Asura can really put the hurt on the party when she attacks physically. Beat her down and she'll be a healing summon for Rydia. She'll also say the dude next to her is Master Leviatan. That's right, the dude that sank the ship on the way to Baron when Cecil was still a black knight.

The fight with Leviatan is technically easier because it doesn't really require any special tactics beyond just hitting him with your strongest lightning spells and pounding away on him, with Rosa as a healer, until he dies. The downside is that this battle is just a slog. It takes quite a while to take the guy out, but then again, he's also the acting king of the Summoned Monsters. There'll be a couple others we'll meet later on who will say that, too, and one will actually mean it. But we'll get to that in a bit. For now, though, go back to the floor where we got the Samurai bow. There's a hidden warp tile just south of the one that gets you to that floor that warps the party to the entrance of the cave, in the underground. This area is officially done unless anybody reading this is curious about what happens if the party goes back there.

Once we've got both Asura and Leviatan helping us, it's time to move on to the next cave I'm gonna do here, the Sylvan Cave. This cave is the closest thing to a classic D&D maze as I think I've ever played. There's tons of stuff to be had in here, but I'm not going to worry about it because getting through here is a little tricky and I know I'll be back. I just did my best to find the quick way to the Sylph House down there. Along the way, I got the Elven bow, the Charm rod, and a few expendables, including a some Charm arrows. The Fairies are surprised to see humans there. In a bed, we find our good buddy Yang, who's been unconscious since the Fairies found him near their place. Remember that for when we get back to the surface. It's one of two things that'll be important then. That's about all we can do here for now, so go to the upper level and use the hidden warp tile there to get back to the underground.

From there, take the Falcon to the southeast corner of the Underground. There's a blacksmith's shop there. The Dwarves on the main floor say the head guy, Kokkol, has lost his will to work. The man himself is on the next floor up, sleeping his day away in depression. He's depressed because he thinks he sucks for not being able to find any Adamant ore. Keep that in mind for later, too. It'll be somewhat important when we use the Rat Tail we got in the Village of Summoned Monsters. But as I said, we'll get to that later. For now, it's off to the town of Tomra.

Tomra is the one village in the Underground outside the castle that doesn't require extreme measures to get to. The folks there say their rally phrase is “hi-ho” instead of the “Lali-ho” we learned in the castle. They tell us about the side quests we just did and things I'll explain when we're actually in the Sealed Cave next issue.

I'm going to end this one by buying some Diamond gear for Cecil, since I've only got enough cash for one set. Kain can use it, too, but I won't bother. You'll understand why by the end of that part.

Until then, folks, see you in Issue #16, for which I don't have a cute title just yet!

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