We travelled to Elan, Kyle finding it in only a few seconds! The town was underground, and built inside the high mountains west from the North Tower. There we first learned that Sol was “sleeping” on Floatland, which was not very reassuring to anyone. We could also find the town’s elder, “Granny,” who was hiding out in a hidden magic shop with little to say that you couldn’t learn elsewhere and nothing worthwhile for sale, making her hidden status all the stranger.
While in Elan, we bought some Bronze armour and new weapons and visited Cronus, who explained the purpose of the Radar (not that we couldn’t have worked that out by using it) and gave us Unit Past, which would allow the buried Talon to jump 15 years into the past where we might have better luck finding the other Units. Cronus reasoned he could keep looking for Unit Future while we were gone, which once again shows an awful understanding of time travel.
One thing to note about Elan is the Psi knife they sell, which is one of the few weapons in the game to do Mana-based (Magic-based) damage. While it’s supposed to be outclassed by Agi-based Mutant weapons before too long, the sad fact is that the damage formula gives Mutants a special bonus while wielding Mana-weapons, and you might as well never stop. I mean it: the wisest course of action is to equip two Psi knives to Curtis and Gloria, and then equip nothing else until you get the Psi Sword or Psi Laser later on. At that point, equip nothing else until you get your ultimate weapons at the end of the game. I wish I was kidding.
On our way back to the Palace, we ran into trouble: a WaterHag. Technically this was just a Sahagin from the Final Fantasy series, but it’s worth noting that the Sahagins come from Lovecraftian lore (via D&D), being based on the Deep Ones of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” You’ll see why this is relevant later. He spouted some nonsense about us not confronting “the Masters,” our first mention of this lot, and fought us to no real avail. Inside, however, Myron left the party as he was worried about the village and wanted to stay to protect it. We headed into the Past without him.
In the Past, the Water Entity had not yet wiped out the half the world and there was a lot more to explore. We found the Elder early on, inadvertently sealing a paranoia in him that other groups were looking for the Units, and headed back to Elan, where young Cronus told us that Granny had gone looking for a woman named Lara in “the cave,” a place that they refuse to locate for you, which would be fine if they stopped acting like everyone knew where it was, as if it were the only one cave on planet. Guys: you live in a cave. It’s the only one we’ve ever seen! After some exploration, Kyle found the cave, but I redirected him from there to another place: the town of Lae, which had been flooded in the intervening years (leading to it being called “Lae’s Bay” in the Present, which is more than a little macabre).
Inside Lae we found new weapons and spells, but also signs of an “infection” that was turning the townspeople into WaterHags. The people had tried to find a cure, including the Talon Unit Flushex. Unfortunately, Flushex only works to turn you back to your original form (i.e. from use of Meat or Parts), and it was their “original form” that was being changed! At least, that’s what they seem to be saying. This is a moment of nuance lost by our early-90s translation. Having no further use for Flushex, they gave it to us, and we eventually installed it in the Talon for use if we ever decided to mess with meat or parts. I showed Kyle the more-or-less secret passage the game designers foolishly used to hide the Unit. Flushex is essentially a rimmed, rounded rectangular device installed in the floor of a very small room. Kyle remarked that it looked like a toilet. I was glad he said it first.
Taking our new weapons, we went to the South Cave, future site of the locked South Tower we had encountered in the Present. There, where we found Granny and told her to leave this to the professionals. Now, I have never been able to memorize this dungeon’s layout for some reason, but lucked out early this time, finding Lara almost at once. Unfortunately for the party, she had lost her mind for one reason or another (presumably related to the area’s boss), and growled and spat at us until we resolved to get her back to her senses with our usual high-calibre therapy methods. Lara’s not that dangerous so long as you don’t waste time casting spells at her, since her Mana (and so her magic defence) is so high, and so there was no real trouble here. She joined the party after we cut her up and beat her with nunchuks, and became our new best friend. Video games.
Oddly enough, the game does not encourage you to go further into the cave at this point, even though a boss awaits you within and is guarding a critical item. One of these days I’m going to have to figure out if it ever does point you in that direction, because even as a kid I went in on my own and never did much asking around on the overworld after the boss within kicked my ass. Still, his kicking my ass helped me develop a strategy to skip ahead to a later town and come back with its weapons. But for fun and challenge, Kyle and I decided to see if we could unequipped and underlevelled!
The boss is Dogra, a hideous winged worm-thing with an eyeball in its mouth, who is the first of the Water Entity Monsters and is one of the Pureland “Masters,” and is thus a god. Get the list. Dogra mistakes you for Borgin for some reason, even though no one else will ever do that again and you look nothing alike. Accompanied by two witch-type enemies, Dogra attacks. We set the main party on his allies while Lara lit Dogra up with her advanced Lightning spell. Then we turned on the worm-god as a group with swords from our Humans and Fire spells from our Mutants, and he really wasn’t that hard to keep on top of. I can’t imagine what I was doing wrong the first times I played the game. The fight was tight, sure, and had to be carefully managed, so it’s possible that I only lost to Dogra in the past because I was too young and inexperienced with RPGs, but here in my adult life I don’t see it as being hard.
Dogra was guarding another Talon Unit: Rover, one of its engines. Not a lot of use while the Talon is embedded in the ground, but obviously we’d need it in the long run. We took the Unit and returned to Elan, where Granny rewarded us for Lara’s rescue with the Dive spell, which we could use to search for shipwrecks and visit Muu, the underwater city north of Elan. In Muu we found some equipment that would soon be outdated by Muu in the Present, but also an “Ifram” seed, which we could use to plant a talking tree in a patch of “Ripesoil” near the South Cave. This accomplished, we headed back to the Talon and returned to the Present, where the party arbitrarily dumped Lara off with the Elder in Dharm, even though she expressed no desire to go there, he no desire to keep her, and we the players no desire to let her go. And that’s the end of her storyline! The party just chucks her aside, she shows up with one line of dialogue later in the Future, and we enter the single longest period in the game where you lack a Guest party member.
We started this period by searching for shipwrecks, both one from the Past and the two that had been scuttled since. We also visited modern Muu to peruse its wares. This included powerful weapon, armour and magic upgrades designed to deplete your wallet, including some gauntlets and greaves likely three or four levels higher than the ones you’re wearing! The most interesting upgrade in town was Elixirs, easily available in this game and able to revive party members from death. Pretty expensive at this early point in the game, however. Unfortunately, Muu had contracted Lae’s infection, and was slowly turning into a town of WaterHags.
Speaking of Lae, we spoke to Cronus, but before he could really give us his news, there was an earthquake, and the palace of another Water Entity Monsters, Chaos, rose from Lae’s Bay (the castle’s entrance is underwater, and is actually there before it rises, but to get to the top you need a key you can’t get without witnessing this scene. Still, I wonder where the top actually… was until it rose from the water?). Cronus informed us that the third Water Entity Monster, our old buddy Ashura, had already seized some Units and was holding them in South Tower. He gave us a forged copy of the key to get in. Kyle loved this forged key and just how brazen the party was to use it. Forget nuance and side quests, we’re just going to make our own keys! Though it does raise the question of why no one forges any other keys for the rest of the franchise (or at least hasn’t so far!). It helps that there are very few keys in FFLIII in particular, I suppose. Indeed, the only one I can think of is the one in Chaos’ castle, and that’s used deep inside the dungeon itself, where it would be hard to forge without running into patrols.
South Tower was a copy of the North with different holes in the ground, so was relatively easy to navigate. At the top, we found Ashura and his lizardman bodyguards, and tore the guy one last new one for this third and final appearance. Okay, okay, it wasn’t quite as easy as I’m making it sound, and it helped that we had picked up a few sticks of TNT en route and again in Muu. See you around, Ashura, you will be missed. Unfortunately he had the last laugh: the Units he had been collecting had already been shipped to Chaos, and all we got out of the deal was the key to Chaos’ castle. Knowing Chaos was bad news, I advised Kyle that we buy a full inventory of 9 sticks of TNT in Muu before leaving. We would not regret this. Honestly, being at this lower level feels like I turned up the game’s difficulty a full increment, from Normal to Hard, or more honestly, Easy to Normal. It’s nearly as significant a jump as a traditional difficulty level!
Chaos’ castle is a bit of a pain, one of the more complicated dungeons in the game (a list that includes the first dungeon in Pureland and also the final, you’ll see what I mean when we get to each). Like the final, this dungeon shares a trait unusual in RPGs even to this day: it is essentially two distinct dungeon “types.” The first is a maze with secret passages, treadmills and weird eye machine on the walls; the second opens into a grand Greco-Roman plaza with multiple exits, and eventually becomes a long and twisty hall to the man in charge.
Chaos himself mades it all worse, topping off this doubled dungeon with one of the harder bosses in the game. Like Dogra, this was a fight that seemed (Kyle did this one, not me) to require tight management, but it was also harder overall. Chaos can use Quake ages before you have anything resembling a group cure spell. Indeed, you’re limited to the hardly adequate Cure 2 (Cura), which only heals what comes out to about half of our characters’ current HP. We pulled through but only with use of our remaining Elixirs and all of our TNT. The former was something we were going to have to stock up on in the future, but for the time being, we promised to hold off until we had bought the best available equipment in the Future, which as of this writing is something we’re still in the process of gathering. Tough fight. Good fight.
Official Deicide Tally: Chaos (FFI), Dark Emperor, Light Emperor, Creator (Legends), Ashura (Legends II), Dunatis, Venus, Magnate, Odin, Apollo, Julius / The Mana Tree, Creator (After Years), Dogra, Ashura (Legends III), Chaos (Legends III).
This journal’s screenshots come from me! They shall infest all timelines!