Suffering from Cloud Strife syndrome, Kyle-the-character was unable to think of any way to revive his father with our collection of curative potions, spells, and a MAGI literally designed to revive people from death. One of the party members, Liz I think, suggested we combine the 78 MAGI and hope that they could do it, so we set to work. In doing so, we restored the statue of Isis… and it promptly came to life. Isis claimed not to be a God but an Ancient, but whatever she was, she was able to save Dad, though he remained unconscious. But by this point, Apollo’s explosion had caused the entire Pillar of Sky to shake, an extension of those earthquakes from before. Isis explained that the world was going to come apart if she couldn’t get to the centre of the world to fix it, and asked for an escort. We provided. She then broke the fourth wall by turning from a two-tile high New God sprite to a one-tiled high NPC sprite and even talked about doing so in the script!
Isis was a nice party member: she not only has Flare (the Mutant ability, not to be confused with Flare-the-tome. Liz had two one-use tomes, for reference) and a high enough Mana stat that Flare will wipe out any monster group she used it on. In fact, Isis’ stats were straight-up maxed! I guess that’s what you expect from a pseudo-goddess. She was otherwise armed with her own MAGI: Aegis, Heart and Masmune. With her assistance, we descended into the Central Shrine and down stairs after stairs, all of which worked like slides for some reason, I suppose to speed things up (this honestly went on too long, a little more variety in this segment would have been appreciated). The stairways were inhabited by a menagerie of top-tier Monsters that we could not run from. It should be noted that one of the monsters at this point of the game was the strongest version of the cells we once fought in Ki’s body. It was called…
“Cancer.” We were fighting Cancer.
It was in this area that we finally got the explanation for Rei’s delayed development throughout the game, and were not happy about it. It seems the game had stored the entire final tier of monsters to be player-exclusives, and had held off the semi-final tier of monsters to be enemies for this dungeon alone. Thanks presumably to memory restrictions, there are only five Monster tiers in the game! This means that two-fifths of the monsters in the entire game only show up in the last fifteen minutes! No wonder Rei could never get any stronger for any reasons! You get into your fifth-tier form pretty fast, too, only able to enjoy Tier 4 for all of five minutes before you kill one of the area’s midbosses, TianLung and Fenrir, who drop top-level Meat. (You’ll note that FFLI gave your four pieces of top-tier meat, enough for a full party, but this game only gives two, so I suppose if you’re doing a Monster-centric party you’ll have to stick around on Tier 4.)
After eating the meat of the TianLung, Rei ended up as a Treant, a monster with the ability to group heal three times (for some reason, this spell was called “Life” and has a potion icon next to it. This was the ability FAQ writers mistook as a revival from death power). We decided to stick with this form in the end, though the walkthroughs might not have agreed with us. In our opinion, sure, Rei would not be of much help killing the final boss, but we hoped he help us survive against it. Perhaps we would have been better off with a swap, but we’ll never know for sure.
Since we’re talking about Rei’s development, I’d like to talk about Kyle and Liz’s development. Since you couldn’t escape from any of the monsters in Central Shrine, we had to fight them all. And remember, stronger monsters have a higher chance of upgrading your Humans and Mutants’ stats! So let’s talk about the dungeons we skipped and wonder if skipping them really hurt us that much, or if this game is just crazy unbalanced? It comes down to two simple questions: how many more points of stats would we have had if we hadn’t skipped the enemies in the last few dungeons? Would it have saved us from Apollo? Our best guess is that we would not have gained that many, and we would have still been left without a chance in hell. I feel doubly sure after all the trouble involved in taking these screen shots despite my cheating party!
We gained about three points of Strength for Kyle during our dive into the Central Shrine, one Mana for Liz, and one batch of HP for Kyle. Adding double of that for the two dungeons we mostly-skipped, and you get jack shit. None of that would have made a dent. I hate this RNG based training. I have no problem with usage-based training, but the RNG breaks it. Kyle would have still died to Apollo’s Flare if he had had ~50 more HP, and Liz didn’t gain any HP at all so her results would have been exactly the same! The only thing that could have been a game-changer is if Liz had gained another Mutant ability, but I can’t imagine any of them really changing things on their own! As I understand it, the AMuseum unofficial patch for this game great eases the grinding, so I see I’m not alone in this!
After a long, long, very long walk/fall down the steps, we entered a maze room, where one can encounter the Haniwa, the game’s sort-of superboss, armed with its Seven Sword and the ability to attack seven times. No thank you. We got through the room as fast as possible to avoid this random chance, and headed for the final area. This area, at the end of the maze, which was guarded by two giant war machines created by Isis and her fellow Ancients, and was apparently the control room for the entire world. Isis said she would take on one of the weapons, the “Arsenal,” while we did the other, and with that, our final boss fight began.
The first phase of the Arsenal fight is almost more of a test of your stats, and we passed with flying colours between KilB and Liz and her Psi gun. All you have to do is kill all four of Arsenal’s turrets before it can repair them one by one, and it never managed to repair a single gun (again, compare this to all the trouble we had against Apollo and the final dungeon’s lesser monsters). After this, it started to use “Smasher,” which was pathetic, and we knew it. “I’m waiting for the final boss theme,” I told Kyle, and after some provocation, it came, as the Arsenal began to “launch the Smasher.” This nearly wiped us out. Once again, Liz and Kyle dropped dead on the spot, and it came down to the wire: could KilB destroy the Arsenal before Rei ran out of group heals? And could Rei even use his three precious group heals at the right time, relative to the Arsenal, or would the turn order get wonky and have Rei heal too early or too late!
Yes. Yes he could. It was something to see, the fight getting that close to the line, a real photo finish, even if it doesn’t come across in text. It’s not one of the most quotable moments in the Marathon, it’s not “and then we got the jump on god,” but it was a championship nail-biter. After all these years, I had finally beaten FFLII with Kyle’s help.
(In the remake, this is only the beginning of the battle, as the second Arsenal escapes from Isis and merges with the first, the two turning into a giant mech that absorbs Isis to use as a power source. Thankfully, that did not happen to us here in the original game!)
Isis told us that fixing the world was actually her job all along, and the reason for this stupid MAGI hunt. She explained that the world needs repair every few millennia, and she uses the MAGI to sleep in stasis. She said we’d never see her again, but maybe our descendants would.. We returned to Dad via an elevator, and found him back on his feet. Indeed, he was actually trying to run off again, but Kyle had to remind him of his promise in Giant’s World to go back to his fucking wife, the irresponsible jackass. Where does he even want to go? The game pretends that you haven’t begun to explore the world, but the world map has clear boundaries and the Pillar of Sky has been exhausted!
But sure enough, after a brief montage (showing us, among other things, that Venus’ city walls had been torn down and replaced with… flowers?), Dad was soon sneaking out the window, yet again. This time he was trying to find “the Lost Ark,” a translation that would nip them in the ass a little during FFLIII. Dad is supposed to be looking for the three crown jewels of Japan, and those are actually items in FFLIII! You’ll see how this confuses things just a little once we get to that game, but more on that later. Kyle-the-character told Dad he was coming along this time and… well thank goodness for familial love because Kyle was junk by the end of this game, there’s no better way of putting it. Still, Dad accepted, but before they could leave, Kyle’s mom (“Alice,” her name was introduced in the Central Shrine, in the last five minutes of the game), came in and said she was coming too! The more the merrier! And they all jumped out the window, forgetting that they had a freaking front door. They then presumably flipped off their hometown, and stole the Killbot 3000 on their way out like any responsible adventurer would do at this point.
As I said to Kyle on the ride home: playing the original The Final Fantasy Legend in the Marathon made me go from disliking the game in my teen years to liking it and wanting to play it again. Maybe I’ll even play the Wonderswan version someday? On the other hand, Marathoning FFLII, a game I really like and really do feel is the best quality 8-bit Final Fantasy, only made me like it less it compared to where I started. I’ll always love the game for a lot of good reasons. The New Gods, the MAGI both thematically and mechanically, the Robots mechanically, and even several of the worlds are all fantastic (First World through Ki’s Body is great, Venus’ world is fantastic, Odin’s role an unforgettable inversion…). But on the other hand, the gameplay can be just spiteful, the monster selection for the player too sparse. Edo went better this time, I’ll admit, and maybe if we hadn’t run through Valhalla and the Final Dungeon things might have gone a bit better. Maybe one day I’ll try the AMuseuem patch, but for now, it really seems that the only true inevitability in FFLII is that, given time, the game will sock you for no good reason. And that’s a sad end to a nostalgic tale.
As I said for FFLI, the Game Boy games unfortunately don’t keep internal timers, so we don’t know our final play time.
This journal’s screenshots come from me! My monochrome reign will live on!