This is the second post today! Read this post first!
We opened the game about how you’d expect, trouncing early-game enemies and rapidly progressing through the first few floors of the tower without a care in the world. In between floors, the loading screen shows a map of the tower with a glowing dot marking your current position, and there are 80 floors in total. The biggest threat in these early floors is the Ahriman, which has a few long-range casts of Gaze before it runs out of MP and basically waits to dies on you. Lesser Drakes soon follow, with a triangle-shaped breath attack that’s hard to avoid.
Alongside all these monsters, you may also run into… rocks. Like, big honking boulders. These come in two kinds: gold rocks, which give you Gil proportionate to the damage you land on them, and rock-rocks, which require 9 separate hits before they die (even using the two-hit Thief attack won’t hurry things), but will usually give you an item. Boulders can also block corridors or even sit on top of the elevator leading to the next floor! The game is kind enough to show the boulders breaking apart as their HP goes down, which is a nice touch, which I mean both genuinely and because you’ll be so bored landing nine attacks in a row that you’d appreciate any graphical flourish.
At Floor 5, you run into your first sealed elevator, which appear on every five floors except boss floors. These elevators are marked with a glowing prayer seals, like a sci fi version of the ones you used in Japan. Obviously you’ll have to unseal the elevator to move on, but the game gives you no hints how to do this. And you will never get one! You basically have to Tower of Druaga your way through the floor to figure out what to do, and I don’t doubt the reference is intentional: just like Druaga, you advance up the tower by doing arbitrary actions until something breaks, and you probably just end up checking a walkthrough! One of these days I’m going to have to talk about that seminal nonsense game, Druaga, but today is not that day. Oh well. On Floor 5, you just have to kill a certain number of enemies to unlock the seal, not unlike the early floors on Druaga itself.
Things were going pretty well across these first few floors. With our low MP I didn’t even use many special attacks, so I felt pretty comfortable in a long-range Job, an advantage that didn’t cost me any mana. Unfortunately, I eventually lost our Gunner Dressphere when wedged between a Lesser Drake and an Ahriman. At this point, I swapped to a Level 2 Songstress. Songstress is not a strong Dressphere in Last Mission and I could tell pretty much right away. On the plus side, the devs were forced to give it an attack animation, and watching Yuna smack someone with a microphone is worth the price of entry. Its Unique ability is Lullaby, which puts enemies on every adjacent square to Sleep, which is also pretty decent. But is it worth putting up with the stats: Defence, Magic Defence and Evasion, meaning no attack stats whatsoever? It is not. Songstress’ most interesting secondary ability is Change Out, which allows you to change to one of the other three characters to use their few differences!
But there is one reason you’d want Songstress above everything else: the audo-ability Evade Traps, an ability that renders you immune to the hundreds of nuisance traps littered about tower. We’ll talk more about that later, but it also requires Psychic and Thief. It’s also connected to Iceproof.
For what it was worth, actually trying to use Lullaby was fun for a while, but it mostly just left me surrounded and taking multiple hits. After a few fun jaunts, Songstress was dead too, and a few inconsequential Job swaps later, I was forced to retreat with that special magic spell I’ve mentioned. When you return to town, you can visit either a standard Item shop or your storage of any items you might have extricated via magic. After that, it’s back into the tower!
I passed to Kyle, who was left in charge of a stack of mostly-depleted Dresspheres, but the first few floors are forgiving and a full-health Psychic was able to give him some traction. Psychic’s Unique ability, Teleport, moves you a random number of squares forward, which is niche but has its uses. It also has an area attack, and a spell to warp an enemy randomly away, for better or worse. Its stats are unrelated to one another: Magic+1 but Accuracy+2. Besides the aforementioned Evade Traps, it has an ability called Impenetrable Front, which makes you immune to all attacks coming straight at you, which isn’t one of Auron402’s recommended abilities, but Kyle did make good use of it once we got the other required Jobs!
Kyle’s run went much better, but because of the nature of the game there’s not much I can say until he actually reaches new content on Floor 10. He did encounter the first Item Shop that can randomly appear between floors. He also encountered a Dark Knight Dressphere that got equipped as secondary and will crop up briefly before the session is over. Dark Knight is odd: instead of charging you MP for its abilities, it drains HP from your Freelancer HP. Since you basically don’t ever want to use Freelancer, it’s got a basically unique pool of resources, which I’m sure is handy. Its Unique ability is an area attack, but it’s actually got a secondary ability that’s even better, basically its signature: Doom, which can instantly kill an enemy inside of a few turns (Ed. seemingly a variable number of turns based on HP). Unfortunately, you don’t get EXP for a kill from Doom! Dark Knight is also tied to some of the most important auto-abilities in the game: the previously mentioned Confuseproof, an MP regeneration ability called MP Heal Over Time, and another of the most important abilities in the game: Doomproof. Yes, it’s not a Roguelike unless enemies can cause instant death, and it starts around mid-campaign! This ability is earned from Dark Knight, Samurai and Trainer and is apparently absolutely essential. Dark Knight’s stats are Defence, Magic and Accuracy.
Kyle made it to floor 10 in fairly decent shape, where unmoving plant enemies and machina debut. The seal here is once again tied to beating enemies, but I’m sure the weird stuff is just around the corner. After clearing the floor, we finally got some story progression. The trio, apparently still travelling together despite not appearing in the field, have arrived on a sort of greenhouse layer on the tower, with the windows shattered and the surviving plants having overgrown the place. (Ed. All the game’s plot interludes take place on these “exterior” locations.) The three talk about what they’ve been up to, Paine teasing Yuna about falling completely out of shape and back to Level 1 after only three months away from the Vegnagun battle, which is silly, but hey, RPGs. Sora from Kingdom Hearts once reverted to Level 1 because a wizard called him an amateur. True story! Rikku talks about how busy she is, and as she goes, characters pop into existence from her imagination, which is a cute way of doing things.
She says that she’s been working with Shinra, who has left the Gullwings to go into business with Rin, but is still hiring his old crew for remote missions. Rikku then starts rattling off multiple clients, as though the writers were desperately trying to name-drop as many characters as possible for a “where are they now” sequence… set only three months later? I-I can’t get over this, it’s absurd. The short time span just doesn’t justify this kind of tone. Okay, let’s see… Cid and Leblanc have started a business rivalry trying to somehow capitalize on the Gagazet Hot Springs. And yes, that’s yet another holy site that Cid is apparently trying to desecrate, though at least Rikku put Leblanc in contact with Kimahri… to no effect. Tobli, Barkeep the Hypello, Clasko and the Kinderguardians are also mentioned in a general gloss. Then Rikku starts talking about some undefined mission for Clasko and the Kinderguardians, prompting Kyle to say that Rikku and Clasko were dating and had “adopted some children,” and now I want to read that fic. Rikku tried to use this horribly busy itinerary to lure Yuna back to the Gullwings, which obviously didn’t work, prompting her to tease Yuna about not wanting to see her personally, which Yuna took far more seriously than was probably intended.
Kyle passed off to me at this point, but I made the fool mistake of walking in between two machina, which basically screwed the rest of the run. Treating this as a de facto loss, we reloaded back to floor 10: the game allows you to save every 5 floors, or whenever you use a save “spell book” at the end of other floors. Kyle took over, but he only got as far as the first few Protean Gel enemies. These giant blobs took up a whole 2×2 spot on the map, and had huge HP pools, and were dangerous to boot. And they, more than anything else, marked the end of our run. Kyle tried to avoid them instead of fight them, using Doom to pick them off without contact, but they were still fairly common despite their size, and he was soon demoted to Freelancer. (Ed. And he wasn’t really doing anything wrong! But more on that in Session 2.) He got lucky and picked up a fresh Dark Knight sphere soon after, but that only lasted so long. At that point, I asked him if we could put the game off so that I could better gather information from Auron402’s guide, and to test his strategy on my own copy of the game between sessions. We wrapped up and went to play our first session of FFTA, instead.
So let’s talk about some of Auron402’s strategies, preferably without repeating his entire walkthrough (this section originally was written in full, with me planning to send it to Kyle, but now I’m coming back to it with a chainsaw). As previously mentioned, the first thing you want is to buff your Primary Dressphere as high as possible. Higher. No, higher. They’re the primary determiner of your stats, especially HP (Ed. this is what really helped us out against the Protean Gels: enough defence to land multiple attacks).
Once that’s done, it’s really important to corner your auto-abilities. Your biggest threats are status effects. Without Confuseproof you’ll be in trouble early on; without Doomproof, you’ll be dead by midgame. But even more important than those is Evade Traps. And it’s not just out of convenience, though with hundreds of traps that’s definitely a factor. No: traps can inflict two special status effects that exclusively impact your items, either by Cursing them in the Roguelike tradition, or literally blowing them up right in your inventory! And you can’t cure it with the usual methods: the only choice is to disable traps entirely with Evade Traps, or to equip the Alchemist Dressphere and use the “Item Esuna” spell. Between disabling hundreds of traps, defending your inventory, and freeing you up from having to use an Alchemist if you don’t want to, Evade Traps is maybe the most important skill in the game. Unfortunately, gathering these three paramount abilities will force you to lug around seven whole Dresspheres that you might otherwise never use, at least until you train the Accessories, but you’ve got to do it! Naturally, this also makes those seven Jobs more appealing for your final set, too!
Oh, and don’t stop with those three auto-abilities, and those seven Dresspheres! You’re probably going to want a means of restoring MP, since otherwise you’re forced to rely on random Ether drops. You can either take the ability that restores MP when you kill monsters, or the one that restores less MP, but does so every few turns. The latter’s probably better, but I get the appeal of the former, too, not least because it only requires two Dresspheres! Then there’s the elemental immunities and all sorts of other powers that might factor into your potential build!
Obviously gathering all these spells is going to rely on heavy RNG, and you’ll want as many random draws from the great gatcha machine in the sky as possible. And just wandering around and using your spells intelligently doesn’t seem to be enough! Kyle and I might not have known everything, but it’s not like we avoided merging Dresspheres, even if our choice of Spheres might have been mostly experimental. There’s got to be a trick to it, right?
Well, there’s a fair way and an unfair way to do this. The fair way would be to get as high as you could – i.e. barely past floor 10 – while praying you pick up good Dresspheres and spells to let you retreat from the tower while keeping your progress. Or you could cheat! And given the way the game’s so reliant on luck, I say it’s almost encouraging us to exploit in turn! Just like traditional Roguelikes, knowing the game’s secrets is almost the only way to win, so this is almost genre-standard!
Next time: Session 2 begins, and Kyle and I burn this fucker straight to the ground.