Off we go into the Haunted Forest for a ride on the Phantom Train, Samuel L. Jackson style.
I'll say right now that I'm going to use the original version of the line I linked to above when we get to the boss fight in this segment. But that's a ways off yet. For now, though, we've gotta get to the train's boarding platform in the forest.
Getting through the forest is not really that big a task. The path through is left, down, left, up, left, and up, if memory serves. I've been through this part of the game enough times I can do it without really thinking too much about it. It doesn't help that I started dozing off and almost went to bed before getting this part written. The good news is that the background does change, and so long as it looks like the train we're headed for is getting closer, we're going in the right direction. As we enter the forest, we have our first encounter with a healing spring. There are a few of these, mostly in the early part of the game.
Once we get to the platform, we see that there's a train there. Cyan and Sabin talk about how it's weird because Doma's rail system was supposed to have been taken out by the Empire. Cyan recognizes it as the Phantom Train, but can't convince Sabin until they've already boarded and the train has started moving. The only option for escape is to go to the engine and try to shut it off.
The way to the train's engine is to the left, but if we go right, there's a guy there who gives a little info on the train and how to stop it. There's also the train's schedule book on a table. It's empty, and the guy tells us that's because the dead don't keep schedules.
An interesting thing about this part of the game is that it's possible, on several occasions, to recruit ghosts into the party. I can only have one, but it's possible to have two at a time if you don't get Shadow, or if he leaves the party along the way. The ghosts don't have much in the way of physical attacks, and since they're undead, curative and poisonous items and spells will have reversed effects. What makes up for that is that the ghosts have a battle command called Possess, which allows them to sacrifice themselves to kill one enemy. It's got a varying success rate, and since I usually only have room for one Ghost at a time, I try to save it for the mini-boss that comes up a little more than halfway through the train.
At more or less the halfway point, the party is surrounded by hostile ghosts that force them onto the roof of one of the cars. Sabin tries another special technique to get his allies away from the horde of ghosts. Fortunately, it works, and the party gets away just quickly enough to detach the rear cars of the train before the ghosts get them.
Also luckily for me, there was a save point here, because I needed to use it and get some sleep before continuing on. It's not so much that this is a particularly difficult chapter or anything. It's just that, per usual, I'm doing all this late at night, after what at least seems like a long day at work.
What does make this second half of the train a little more difficult is that there are no ghosts who sell items in the cars, whereas there had been one in every car before. One thing that makes it a little easier is that at about the three-quarters point of the train is the dining car. Sabin sits down and digs in when a ghost brings food. Cyan's worried, but Sabin tells him it'll be OK because they still need to eat. There are different animations for Cyan, Sabin, Shadow, if he's with the party, and the ghosts who join, if there are any. They're only minor differences, really, and since the first time refills everybody's health, there's no real point unless you've got time to kill.
The ghost who brought the food has a friend, and they're blocking the exit that leads to the next car. There's a reward to going back out the original door. Behind the ghosts is a treasure chest with a Hyper Wrist relic in it. This one raises the vigor stat on whoever has it equipped, but I haven't yet done that.
The next car is where the mini-boss is. It's a guy named Sigfried. Or Ziegfried. Or Siegfried, I think. I know there's at least two alternate spellings to the character's name, and I just now thought about it. Continuity errors aside, though, this isn't a particularly hard mini-boss. This man blusters in to claim a treasure chest for himself, claiming to be the best sword-fighter in the world, and promptly starts a fight so he can demonstrate with a series of low-damage blows to the party. Of course, this would wind up demonstrating something entirely different. What happened this time around is something I don't think I've ever seen happen before, but should have expected, I guess. What I was kind of hoping to do was use the Possess command the ghost has here, since I'd talked it up. Thing is, though, Shadow has this dog that sometimes takes a hit for him, and when the dog does come in for him, there's like a one in three chance of the dog doing a special attack as well. I don't think I've ever seen that particular scenario happen before, though I may have. Either way, though, it would happen and cause a one-shot kill of a boss when I was really sort of counting on a more dramatic “noble sacrifice” sort of thing instead.
Having lost the fight, Sigfried steals whatever's in the chest and escapes with whatever was in the box. I think this is what we could call pointless, because if there was an intended sub-plot here, it was either dropped or forgotten about after this, as I don't think we ever see Sigfried again or find out what was in that box. I may be wrong, of course. I'm familiar enough with the game to be comfortable with and knowledgeable of what's going on, but I'm nowhere nearly as familiar with this game as I am with its immediate North American predecessor.
Moving to the next private room in this car, there's another line of treasure chests, this time with a monster in a box in the far left box in the row. This time, it's a fight with a Spectre, for an Earrings relic. This enhances magical abilities. It's intended for one of two female characters we'll have in the very near future, since for the time being, only they can use magic to any real effect. Anybody can equip it, though, since before too terribly long, everybody will be able to use magic.
The next car after this is the last save point before fighting the train's engine. Any ghosts in the party leave here because they've gotta go on to the world of the dead.
In the main engineer's cab, there are three switches in a row. The first and third need to be pulled down and the middle one should be left up. There's also a switch on the outside of the locomotive that needs to be hit before the fight can begin. The train acts surprised that the three meatbags that had gotten aboard were the ones slowing it down. This isn't a hard fight, either, though it is harder than Sigfried or the Spectre. I didn't get the classic Sabin Suplexes a train to death scenario, but it was still a quick fight, all things considered, though Shadow did wind up dead by the end. I guess this is what happens when our heroes decide that enough is enough.
I suppose I could have stripped him of his equipment without reviving him, but I needed him alive for any battles I might encounter along the way to the next segment of the game. We'll be needing his stuff, and even if he doesn't decide that his services are no longer needed by the time we get where we're going, he'll leave soon as we get there.
We'll get there next time, in Gau of Baron Falls. Until then, have fun, stay safe, keep gaming, and DFTBA!