We picked up the game outside the Dwelg village, and headed west to the twin Western Towers. There, Kyle stumbled on the only treasures we really wanted (a Fire stone and the Crystal segment of the final Mystic Sword) in under five minutes. In fact, this was so fast that I don’t think he worked out what was up with the Towers and I forgot to tell him! Here’s the deal: the Towers are linked at the top by a bridge, and past that bridge is a device that actually reverses gravity and puts you on the Towers’ ceilings. The Fire Stone is at the top of one tower (a room you might miss if you head for the obvious bridge door), and the Crystal is on the ceiling of the first floor of the other tower. I’ve always been impressed with how well the low-res platform communicates this gimmick but it probably helps if you stick around long enough to check it out! Maybe if there had been a third valuable item on the bottom floor of the second tower, instead of a Cure3 potion.
From there we headed off and told the Dwelg guarding the exit to take a hike and eat some Human, as ordered. In hindsight, he… probably marched right off and ate somebody. Wow, we are bad at this. But hey, plus for us! On the surface, we once again ran into Kyle and his family from FFLII, and Dad told us he had the Katana portion of the final Mystic Sword, even though in this version he’s supposed to be looking for the Lost Ark and not the Three Imperial Treasures of Japan that make up this Mystic Sword. Either way, he handed over the Katana before mysteriously disappearing.
Heading out, we found ourselves topside in Goht, but with the Barrier still around us, keeping the Talon out. We found a shrine nearby where the Barrier Machine was housed, and there we met Borgin, the man who had kidnapped us as children, sent us off into the whirling rapids of time and only now shows up with a how-do-you-do. He tells us to press on and destroy the Machine: in the meantime, he’s going to go investigate the fortress atop Mt. Goht, a building that serves as the Masters’ headquarters. This building is located over many miles of smaller mountains, not to forget Mt Goht itself, which as we’ll see later is also impassible on foot. Borgin says he’ll be back to meet up with us after we do fifteen minutes of dirty work. Seems legit.
At the bottom of the Shrine, we found the Barrier Machine guarded by Agron, an amorphous Master made entirely out screaming faces trying to escape the whole. This handsome fellow promptly informed us that he was also one of the few sane and intelligent people in all of video gaming, as he had used the Machine to cast the Barrier over himself as well, making him invincible. Unfortunately for him, Dion picked this time (without a moment’s hesitation, or indeed, thought) to reveal that when he had been revived after the incident with Maitreya, Dr. Belski, the man in charge, had implanted a large bomb inside of his body, as you do. Dion promptly threw himself on the Machine and destroyed it. Nevermind that the entire party is so heavily armed and the Barrier Machine so obviously unprotected that we could have surely torn it down given the time, and surely an attempt was at least warranted, but…
Of course, we still had to deal with the Master (oh, and I guess the characters wanted revenge or something, but you know, Kyle and I have our own checklist here). Unfortunately, Agron combines the worst parts of Guha and strips out their primary. Not only is he stronger in general (strong enough to deal with the Mystic Swords to which he is weak, as the bosses have been soaring ahead in HP since you picked up the Durend for exactly this reason), but he replaces Guha’s FireX group spell with White, the spell I just lauded for having no effective defences.
Virtually the only way to beat him is to have Cure A and/or especially Cure B to counter the damage, and to use it near enough every single turn while the Humans use XCalibr and Masamune to cause damage (RNG help you if all you have is the XCalibr and the Durend…). If you do this with both casters, you will be functionally invincible, especially if those casters are tricked out to be immune to Instant Death and have the stats to survive some of the game’s strongest attacks. Unfortunately, even that would not have been perfect, because Agron has one more advantage over the later bosses as well: the Guest party member is dead. During a locked-down turtle fight, the Mutants should be aided by the Guest member tossing out Elixirs or, in an emergency, Life spells when things go bad. Sure, the Mutants are better at it since they can learn Life B, but that’s the general strategy. Us? We’re Marathoners, we only used it when it was necessary. Anything else would be slowing us down.
Just in time to be of no help whatsoever, Borgin arrived, told us to tough it out (“it” being the part where our friend exploded into a million pieces in front of/all over us), and informed that as a result of his totally legitimate and feasible excursion to Mt. Dwelg, he now knew that there was a secret passage through the final fortress via a “trap hole.” He then shoved his way into our party and drop-kicked a baby. Did I mention that this guy is a secret villain in the remake? I can’t tell where the writers got that impression from. We plucked the final Unit, Soar, from Agron’s stores and headed to the surface, where we called in our deathship for its final flights. For the first of those flights, we hit up some caves in Goht, finding the Metal for the Aegis Shield in one, alongside another Fire Crystal. We found a Ribbon and fourth Fire Crystal in the next. The Ribbon and Shield went to Curtis, making him functionally immune to every status effect and power but instant death (which would have been a good idea for his second Accessory slot, in hindsight) and physical Damage (which is never conveyed by equipment, only transformations if ever). The Fire Crystals became Flare spells for both casters.
Around the same time, we had Sharon’s head and humanity surgically removed to make her a Cyborg of the “Headless” line called a “Removed.” After some (extended, boring) puttering around, we then changed her into a final-tier Robot called a Venus, which we plugged full of enough stat boosting pills to put her at around 160 in her stats and 1550+ HP. Of course, since the game stopped showing us those stats at 99 and 999 respectively, we can only really guess at each based on the amount each robot part/pills boosted at a time (they look like pills). That said, her Selfix power did restore about 155 points a turn, so it may have been doing 10% of her health. While Robots have no Magical power, I can’t really recommend them enough, since their HP more than makes up for the magical weakness in the end, and Cure 3 does 100% healing no matter what species you are!
To wrap up, we filled Borgin’s empty equipment slots, as he would be sticking with us to the end. We also combined the pieces of the Emperor sword to have it along for the ride, but never used it with any seriousness. I think Gloria may have swung it around exactly once.
This retrospective’s screenshots come from me! There’s not much time left but I can still conquer the world!