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Sprite Machine

Final Fantasy from the beginning (Currently @ FFX-2)

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It's got me intrigued about the early ones you are playing as I wasn't entirely sure on the re-make history, but realising the PSP is the last remake of the first one, and that you are enjoying the look of it too is pulling me in a bit. I most likely wouldn't have got into the NES versions, but that might be a better option. So are you planning on trying out the offshoots to the main numbered series as well? The old GB titles come to mind.

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Just the mainline series for now. 1 - 10 are playable on Vita. :)

There are some mechanical differences between the NES original and the remake(s). In this version, all your characters start the game with a basic weapon and armour and 500G(il). In the NES original, you were completely bare-handed. You had to immediately walk into the town to buy equipment (how the hell did they get here without it?), otherwise it was possible to get into a battle barehanded, which you'd most likely lose or flee. Harsh!

Harsher still, in the original battle sequences, if an enemy you selected to attack was killed first by another character, the next character would attack the empty space where the enemy was (and therefore miss) instead of targetting the next enemy. It made you choose carefully which enemy to attack rather than hammering the OK button repeatedly but it did make battles drag on. The remakes are much more streamlined and easy-going. You can also save anywhere!

-----

I stock up on some magic spells, items and weapons in town and head to the Chaos Shrine to the north. Random battles are frequent, more so in the forest areas it seems. We've got goblins and wolves and spiders - a Tolkien ensemble. After levelling up, I notice a significant boost in my stats. Battles become easier very quickly in this game. The Chaos Shrine is the first dungeon. It's very small and Garland is easy to find, and not particularly difficult to defeat.

Because the graphics are so much better now, the static enemies seem all the more ridiculous. Garland just stands there in his dramatic pose, flashing when he attacks and fading away when he 'dies'. It looks like a bunch of paintings having a fight.

I rescue Princess Sara(h) and am immediately returned to Castle Cornelia, where the king rewards me by fixing the bridge connecting to the next land mass. I can now continue with my quest. Approaching the bridge activates the game's brief title sequence and then I'm across into the unknown lands beyond!

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I'm considering doing this as well but damn it's daunting.

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Doing this with Kingdom Hearts at the moment - very slowly. Might line up Final Fantasy next - or Resident Evil or Silent Hill or Zelda or Mario. Or, more likely, get distracted by something new and shiny after the first couple.

Although hearing the combat has been updated for the PSP versions is good news. Slogged through then years ago and it was painful in places.

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I started doing this several years ago with the GBA 1 & 2 and DS 3 (it was 3 that was remade with polys for the DS wasn't it?). I enjoyed 1, loved 2 (and was disappointed to find its "level up weapons not characters" system was never re-used) but found the last dungeon or so of 3 an utterly tedious slog, so I lost the will to carry on.

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Getting between towns is a struggle, and I make it to Pravoka (just east of Cornelia, through forests and deserts) with my HP and MP depleted from battle. I immediately stay the night at the inn to recover.

Just as well I didn't venture too far before resting, as the town has been ransacked by pirates! Talking to them engages a battle, which I wouldn't have survived without resting first. With the pirates defeated, their captain gives me his ship, so now I can roam the oceans!

Before I do that, however, I like to make sure I've bought everything I can from town and have a little explore around the area. It can be frustrating trying to get around the map and having to battle every three steps, but in the process I earn lots of Gil and EXP and level up a few more times. Those tough enemies around the town seem easier already. With the excess cash, I buy some more equipment, items and magic.

The magic system is fairly simple. You buy spells for your mages and you can have up to three in each level of spell. Fire and Thunder are level-1 spells, whereas Blizzard is a level-2 spell. I've also learned Temper, which boosts a character's attack stat, and Sleep, which is my only multi-target spell so far. White mages learn support spells like Cure. I need a few more so I'm battling for cash for a bit longer. The ship will be waiting for me in the port.

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I discover Matoya's cave where a blind witch with an army of living broomsticks resides. She needs some kind of seeing crystal. I'll keep an eye out for it (hurr hurr).

Returning to Pravoka, I board my ship and set sail. There is no map so I have to navigate by sticking close to land. I decide to follow a clockwise pattern. Sea monsters attack quite regularly but the ship has good pace and covers a lot of ground (er, sea) in a short time.

First, I find a town called Elfheim, inhabited by Elves. The Elf-Prince has gone missing and I need to find him. Maybe later. I get the feeling I'm not supposed to be in this town yet because the prices are astronomical. 2500g per magic spell! Way out of my price range right now, so I head out of there and back to the ship.

The ship can only stop at a port, and there aren't many of them. The next one, north of there, leads me to a cave and some Dwarven mines. The Dwarf blacksmith needs some metal for a new sword, while another needs some explosives to blow a new path through the ground. I have none of these things, so I leave, but not before raiding some chests for a few hundred G.

Following the coastline, my next port is back at Cornelia. I quickly stop at the white magic shop and pick up the third L1 spell that I missed, Dia. Interestingly, this is an attack spell for using against undead enemies.

There's more sea to explore so hopefully I can find another port leading to somewhere useful soon.

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Nice idea, Sprite Machine.

The thing I found really difficult about Final Fantasy was that it gives very few hints about where you're supposed to go next, you just have to remember who was interested in whatever object you just found. More than once I had to simply visit every location I could get to in turn until someone said "Hey, that's the Awl of Maktar isn't it, give it here"! To that end, I imagine this thread will make a useful notebook.

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Sailing around, it seems I'm hemmed in by land masses in every direction, so I can't get very far just yet.

I head back to the Elven town. It seems they have L3 spells that I missed before. I also somehow missed that you can enter the bloody castle! Must remember town castles are separate!

And the Elven prince? He's just asleep, not missing. A curse. Let's see where this leads...

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My quest involves a lot of fetching. South from Elfheim is the Marsh Cave. I battle undead foes, skeletons and more through its three levels and find a treasure chest containing... a crown. I didn't need this, but somebody must do. I leave the cave and travel north.

Ah, I should have come here first. In the ruins of a old castle is a lonely king asking for his crown. Pleased that I brought it to him as asked (erm?) he reveals that he is actually the evil dark elf king Astos, who cursed the prince. We battle, I win. But I don't get a cure for the sleeping curse; instead, I get a crystal eye. Aha - off to Matoya's Cave!

I sail all the way back there and give Matoya the eye. She's not pleased to see my face but she gives me a waking potion that I can use on the elf prince. Back to Elfheim!!

I use the potion on the prince and he wakes up. He gives me a Mystic Key. I've encountered a few doors locked with the Mystic Key in my travels around the area, so this is good. I can use this.

I learn that the Dwarven nitro powder is located in a locked room in Cornelia castle, so head back there to find it. Sure enough, there's a room full of treasures behind a mystic lock and there's the explosive powder amongst it. I take it and make my way back to the Dwarf mines.

The dwarves, judging by their dialogue, are supposed to be Scottish, right? 'Cos all dwarves are Scottish. One of them uses the nitro powder (I believe it was TNT in the original game) to blow up a gap in the land mass (nice little cutscene, this is new I believe), large enough to fit my ship through. Finally, I am free of the enclosed sea and can venture out in the wider ocean!

I take things slow at first. I stick to the coastline, so now I'm sailing around the outside edge rather than the inside. There are ports on this side as well, most of which land me back at the same towns I've already visited, but I've found a couple so far that are new.

First, I find Crescent Lake, a pleasant and peaceful little town with nothing happening, but lots of equipment to stock up on. I've lots of powerful magic at this point, but some of it is beyond my current level (and funds!) to purchase. The enemies around here are pretty tough - good for training.

The next town I find is Melmond. This is a desolate place, the earth is rotting and apparently they've been attacked by vampires. I buy some more kit here, stay the night and then head off towards some place southwest of there called the Cavern of Earth. I suspect this will lead to a crystal or something important anyway.

It's a tough dungeon and I find myself going around in circles. One particular corridor is like a gauntlet of enemy encounters every single step. I fail to find a good route through the rest of the cavern, and random battles are becoming a drag, so I leave and head back to Melmond. I will need to refresh and try again later. I've got some good equipment now, though. My Warrior is rocking a full set of Mythril gear.

In my travels, I've also found a couple of caves (one underwater) containing some kind of rotting statue. I suspect (or perhaps recall) I'll be able to push them aside soon and travel further into those caves, possibly when I've restored some of the crystals. Currently, all four are still dark.

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For all the improvements to the graphics, this game is very much the original. Wandering around the world map with only four directional controls, rigidly stuck to a grid, makes it such a pain to navigate around the jagged mountain ranges, not to mention constantly bumping into people in towns and having to wait for them to move out your goddamn way!

Anyway...

I return to the Cavern of Earth and this time manage to make my way through its many levels until I finally reach the vampire. He's been causing the earth to rot so I have to put a stop to that. We fight, and it's over surprisingly quickly. Was this supposed to be a boss? It was too easy. He drops a large ruby.

I follow the path behind and it leads to a stone slab. I can do nothing with it, the ruby doesn't have any effect on it, so I leave the cavern. I enter the giant's cave where a giant is blocking the path. He loves eating precious stones, so I give him the ruby, which he eats and then lets me pass. I pass through the caves and exit back out into the world map on the other side of the mountain.

I now have access to another cave where a wise old sage lives. He gives me the Earth Rod. This is what I need! Back to the Cavern of Earth!

Now that I know where I'm going, I reach the bottom level of the cavern easily enough and use the Earth Rod on the stone slab. It is removed and I can pass through into the lower levels. Fighting my way through, I finally encounter the true boss of the Cavern of Earth - an undead monster called Lich.

This is a much tougher battle. Lich hits hard and I have to use Healara to top up my health and powerful fire and dia type spells to defeat him. Being an undead enemy, I instinctively know these will damage him the most.

Once Lich is defeated, I restore the light to the Earth cystal and a portal teleports me out of the cavern and back to the world map. I return to Melmond and the people thank me for helping to restore the earth. Nothing looks any different yet but the earth will now apparently heal.

That's one crystal down, three to go!

Fairly sure of what I have to do next, I make my way to one of those strange caves I found before. It's called the Earthgift Shrine, and I noticed the statue of Lich disappeared when I killed him. The dwarf there warns me it's dangerous inside but I go anyway because I can't think of anywhere else I can reach right now. This turns out to be a mistake, however.

There are several floors in the Earthgift Shrine, some cavernous, one of them a forest, another a sprawling desert (weird!). The monsters aren't particularly tough to beat down here, which leads me into a false sense of security, so when I finally reach the end of the path (and the way back becomes blocked at every floor), I am completely and utterly trounced by the boss enemies that are down here. Frankly, I don't stand a chance against any of them. I am completely wiped out and decide to give up when it chucks me back at the entrance. I suspect I am not ready for this part of the game yet!

That leaves me somewhat lost right now. There must be somewhere else to go, but without a map, it's difficult to get a feel for the landscape and work out where I haven't been yet, particularly as the world map appears to scroll infinitely in all directions. One thing I do know is that the landmass to the north has no ports, so I cannot land there. At least, not until I find some Levistone to upgrade my ship.

I may make a trip back to Crescent Lake to see if I missed anything there. If nothing else, I can probably afford to buy everything there now.

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I started this several years ago. Just finished ff3 this year finally not doing them in order. Still have to finish off 13 but really not happy with that one. Top three:

3. FF8

2. FF4

1. FF12

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I made the right call with heading back to Crescent Lake. Tucked behind one of the shops, I notice a pathway leading into a forest clearing. Several wise-looking men, including one named Lukahn, whose prophecy we are following, are gathered there in a circle, each offering advice and information.

I learn that the four crystals hold the power of the "elements" (earth, fire, wind and water) and that four elemental fiends wish to control it. Defeating the earth fiend Lich has awakened the fire fiend in the west. He lives inside a volcano called Mt. Gulg. One of the sages gives me a canoe!

With the canoe, I can now travel across rivers and shallow water. This gives me access to the western parts of this landmass. I leave the town and start my journey along the river winding through the mountains. The enemies here, crocodiles, piranhas and more, are very strong - I've definitely stepped up to the next notch! This is a good opportunity to train for a bit, and it isn't long before all my characters reach level 30. I rest in town and return to my canoe for the next stage of the journey.

Mt. Gulg is easy to find, on a little island surrounded by water. I head inside. There's lava all over the place and no apparent way around it, so I have to walk through it, which damages me slightly. I'll have to be make careful short routes through it. The enemies are mostly fire-based in here, so I use ice spells to fend them off. There are lots of treasure chests but the maze-like structure makes it difficult to reach them easily. I've begun to wear down my MP so I think I'll retreat out of the volcano, rest up and come back inside. This tactic is becoming a habit.

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Mt. Gulg was designed by a masochist! Dead ends, long routes to get around everywhere, enemy encounters in front of every treasure chest, half the floor covered with lava... getting around is an ongoing drain on my HP, which means topping up regularly. Being my thorough self, I can't let any part of the map remain unexplored, so I must take every route and open every door. Thankfully, this proves useful as I find loads of fire armour and an ice sword. My Warrior now kicks some serious arse!

At the bottom level of the mountain, I reach the room where the fire altar resides, guarded by the second elemental fiend - the fiery half-dragon woman Marilith. As before, it's a tough fight and I have to revive my KO'd Black Mage and keep my White Mage curing everybody every turn. Physical attacks seem to do little damage and most of my magics don't hurt her much either. Nevertheless, a constant barage of attacks eventually whittles her down and she's defeated. I claim my prize, crystal number two, the element of fire, and use the portal to return back outside the dungeon.

Two down, two to go!

I return in my canoe to Crescent Lake and go back to the forest clearing to talk to the sages again. They have no additional info regarding my next destination, other than telling me that the wind and water fiends can be found to the northern island. I had assumed I needed an airship to reach there as there are no ports, however now that I have the canoe, I may be able to reach inland via a river. I set sail to find out.

After sailing around most of the island, I find what I'm looking for - a river connected to the sea. I'm able to park the ship at the mouth and float down the stream, then get off on land. Excellent, I now have a whole new island to explore. :)

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Theatrhythym got me all nostalgic too, but I just went straight in at 7. I'm really tempted by 5. I've never played it, is it as accessable as 6, or are there cruel difficulty spikes from a bygone era?

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I'm able to park the ship at the mouth and float down the stream, then get off on land. Excellent, I now have a whole new island to explore. :)

Turns out the extent of my exploration is limited by mountain ranges every which way. It almost seems like I can get further than I can and then I run into another dead end! Very annoying. The only reachable structure from the river is a... another castle, but this turns out to be less useful than expected.

It's the Citidel of Trials. I gain access by presenting the Crown that I picked up earlier. The castle is split into isolated rooms, with teleport pads connecting them. By choosing the right pad, I progress from room to room, occasionally fighting enemies that don't test me too much. It isn't much of a trial and I easily get to the end and receive a prize for my 'bravery' - a Rat's Tail. Erm... thanks?

Whether this is a key item or some sort of optional extra, I don't know. But there's nothing else in the Citidel of Trials that I can see, so I call it quits and head back out to the world map, walk back to the river and canoe back to my ship.

I spend the next hour or so lost, without direction or a clue where to go. As I still can't access the majority of the upper continent, I have to find somewhere else I can canoe into. My sense of direction is hopeless and because there's no ingame map, I'm truly struggling to get around. All the landmasses look the same and with battles every five seconds breaking up my journey, it's easy to forget where I'm going. If anything is going to repel a modern audience from old Final Fantasy games, it's this sort of thing. :(

But, I continue onwards. I decide to have another look at the original starting continent by sailing around the outside again. I'm about to give up when I find what I was hoping for - another river! Unsure whether it will lead to a new part of the map or somewhere I've already been, I excitedly travel around it, through the mountain ranges. It certainly looks new, I think.

Yep. I see a couple of caves, one directly on the edge of the river and mountain, that's definitely new. This one leads to another of those sealed boss rooms, which I can't get into yet anyway. The second cave entrance, further long after leaving the river, leads to the Cavern of Ice! Given its name, this must be important. I'm guessing it's the next crystal location. :)

Inside, it's icy, unsurprisingly. There's no slippy-slidy mechanic in this game, thankfully. There are some spiky floors in a few places. I reach what looks like the final room fairly quickly, however approaching the middle sends me falling through the floor to the one below, so now I have to make my way back up again. A treasure chest reveals some ice armour. Makes sense. I'll probably find a fire sword somewhere too, I reckon.

Current level: 38

Current playtime: 13.5 hours

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The Cavern of Ice yields its treasure. It's not a crystal and there is no boss to fight. Instead, I pick up a Levistone. This ancient magical floating rock was mentioned by one of the dwarfs earlier, so I think I know what to do next.

This is what I expected to happen: travel back to the dwarf mines, talk to the dwarf who mentioned the Levistone, watch as he says something like "I'll make ye ship fly wi' this suff, laddie!" and then proceeds to upgrade my ship, and then I fly off in my newly upgraded floating boat.

This is what actually happened: attempted to travel back to the dwarf mines, failed to find my bearings or remember where anything is for a good thirty minutes, eventually found the mines and went looking for the dwarf. He told me he wanted to find some Levistone but didn't react in any way or say anything else about the fact that I had some of the bloody stuff. I left, dejected, decided to sail back to the circle of wise blokes in Crescent Lake, got lost again trying to find it and parked up by the nearest river I could find and floated inland in search of the town. By absolutely astonishing coincidence, I passed a small circular desert surrounded by mountains with a small opening and I just happened to wander in there to see what it was. Suddenly, a cutscene started, I dropped the Levistone on the ground, the sands parted beneath my feet and a BLOODY GREAT AIRSHIP CAME OUT OF THE GROUND! :o

Which was nice.

I can only assume somebody would have told me this eventually, or else I'd've wandered around the world map for hours. Still, not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I board the airship, the mode-7-ish 3D map tilts away into a foggy horizon and some lovely new airship music plays. It's a fast vehicle and appears to be immune to enemy encounters, however it can only land on grass, and I notice some of the northern locations are surrounded by forest or desert, so some legwork will still be required. Nevertheless, this is a marvelous development and an absolute relief to be free of the constant random battles. Now I can explore in peace and try to get a feel for the layout of the world.

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Hovering above the northern continent, I'm like a kid in a sweet shop. So many new places to visit!

First, a little town called Onrac. It's a watery sort of place, with canals running all through the town. The people here tell me various things: Onrac used to be nicer before the water fiend appeared 200 years ago, Mermaids living under the water are in danger, somebody is selling something strange over in the desert to the west, someone spotted a light in the sky near the waterfall to the north. That last point gets my attention so I head there first.

Upstream from Onrac is a waterfall with a cavern behind it. I travel deep inside and find a strange robot creature... thing. He gives me something called a Warp Cube and tells me I will need it for something or other. He says the name Tiamat. This will be related to the sky/wind element. Tiamat is, I believe the wind fiend. I leave the waterfall cavern and return to town.

Next, I head west of Onrac across the small-ish desert. A caravan has been set up there and someone is selling a fairy in a bottle (sorry, faerie... this isn't Zelda). I purchase it and return to town. I stock up on new spells and some supplies but I can do nothing else here right now. There is a girl with a home-made submarine (a barrel) who wants to visit the mermaids, but her submaraine doesn't work without an air supply. Perhaps I can find one!

I take the airship across to another desert, this one gigantic and with a tower at its centre. I land outside of the desert and walk across it towards the tower. Unfortunately, I don't seem able to get inside. All I can do is bump up against it, I can't enter.

The next place I find is a town called Lufenia, east of the large desert. It's a bit harder to get to because it's entirely surrounded by forest, but there's a small patch of grass to the north, so I trek the rest of the way. It's a wasted trip, however. Lufenia is populated by people who speak a different language. No matter who I talk to, I can't understand what anyone is saying. Perhaps these are related to the ancient sky people or something? They're all very blond(e) and robed and their city marbled and dazzling. I leave and return to my ship.

East of there is a more accessible town, tucked between some mountains. It's called Gaia and its residents call it the Eye of the Hawk, I guess due to its position in the mountains that looks like a bird's head. It's another nice peaceful town and has level-7 and 8 magics available in its shops. This isn't much good to me, as my Mages can't use them, only Wizards. Yep, I'll need to upgrade my job classes soon. :)

As soon as I enter Gaia, the faerie I bought from the desert seller escapes its bottle and flies away. I head to the back end of town and find a water spring. The faerie thanks me for returning it and brings me some oxyale from the spring. It's a magical water that can be breathed. This is exactly what I need for that submarine in Onrac!

I return to Onrac and show the oxyale to the girl with the barrel submarine. She seems to float away and disappear. Was she a mermaid herself? Very strange. I board the submarine, a little cutscene plays and then I find myself inside the Sunken Shrine.

I encounter palette-swapped "sea" varieties of previous monsters, but thunder magic sees them off. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to find down here...

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I went down a bit of a rabbit hole by looking up the differences between the various versions of FF1. Apparently, the GBA and PSP versions (ie. this version) are, like, super-easy mode, according to the die-hard fans. Easier enemies, cheaper weapons, faster level-ups. To be fair, I had completely forgotten that the original game didn't use MP, it used a set number of 'charges' per magic spell, and you couldn't recharge them mid-dungeon. Now they've added ethers and such, it's much easier to hold out longer between rests and turn boss fights into a war of attrition.

That said, however, I never completed it on the NES because it was too sodding hard, even with save states, so I'm fine with that. But it's largely true. I encounter the Water Fiend, Kraken, and although he's a tough bugger who hits hard, I can hold my own in the fight and just keep hitting him with spells. A few Thundagas sends him to a watery grave and the third crystal is saved! I teleport back out.

Three down, one to go.

Someone in towns implies the Sunken Shrine could hold the Rosetta Stone, a tablet for translating the ancient language. If so, I missed it. Truth is, the Sunken Shrine is hard to navigate (most of the dungeons in this game are, annoyingly) and I most certainly missed a load of stuff. So I head back to the barrel sub and go back down under the sea.

Yep, I find loads more rooms with chests, equipment, diamond armour (can't equip these yet, needs a Knight class), a whole floor with mermaids living in it and finally one chest containing... the Rosetta Stone! Now I just need to find a way out of here again. Easier said than done...

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Have nothing to add to the thread other than to say I'm really enjoying reading this fur some reason.

It's kinda reinforcing why I don't play RPG's though, I just don't have the patience for all the times I don't know exactly where to go...

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I find my way out of the Sunken Shrine and leave Onrac. I travel back to Lufenia, however I still can't understand the residents. Maybe I have to take the Rosetta Stone somewhere first?

In the meantime, I land on some small islands near the north continent. There are lots of sink holes and they all lead down into different chambers of some kind of dragon city.

The dragons are all friendly and they talk about the Citadel of Trials and testing their bravery for their King, Bahamut. Since I've already won the Rat's Tail for passing the trial, I take it to Bahamut inside his throne room. He recognises my valour and upgrades all my job classes!

Result!

My Warrior is now a Knight.

My White Mage is now a White Wizard.

My Black Mage is now a Black Wizard.

My Thief is now a Ninja.

I can earn MP for all characters now, equip new weapons, spells and and I've probably been given a stat boost too. Plus, the new sprites are more elaborate and cool.

Still don't know where I'm going but I'll be going nowhere in style . ;)

Current level: 45

Current play time: 17 hours

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Similar to Scouser, I'm enjoying reading this thread, hope you stick with it.

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Now that my two former non-magic-users can now use magic, I take a trip to each of the old towns to buy them spells. My Knight can only use up to level-3 and my Ninja up to level-4, and they don't have much MP yet (kinda wish I'd upgraded them earlier) but they can be useful. Because each characters can only have three spells per level and there are usually four available, I can pick up the ones I had to previously discard, such as NulShock and NulBlaze (elemental damage reduction).

When I reach Melmond, I run into a scholar named Unne. He studies languages and he reacts to the Rosetta Stone! He teaches me the Lufenian language (that was fast), so now I an speak and understand it. Having finished my magic-buying rounds, I head back to Lufenia on the northern continent.

The Lufenians, it seems, are descendants of the ancient Sky People, and they tell me many things about the floating city in the clouds, the Mirage Tower that leads there, and give me a magical Chime to allow me access. I gladly take it and head west to the massive desert. I can now enter the tower.

There are some more robots inside the tower, the same as the one I found at the waterfall cavern. They tell me I need the Warp Cube to access the Flying Fortress, but of course, I already picked it up earlier, so I can go straight through. It's a circular route around the tower and into the middle, and again, before I reach the teleport pad that will shoot me up into the sky.

The Flying Fortress is a castle above the clouds. Its people are no longer around so it's populated by yet more robots, and plenty of random enemy encounters. It's not especially tough but it's been a long old slog getting through the tower and the fortress without a resting point. In one of the many rooms up here, I find a big chunk of adamantite, the legendary metal ore that the dwarf smithy wanted.

There's one more interesting thing up here: a lookout spot. I can see down and, for the first time, get a glimpse of the layout of the entire world. As I imagined, there is one large continent in the southern region that has a contained ocean within it (this is where I started). To the north, two more large landmasses, one to the east with a huge desert region (with the tower in the centre) and another to the west that's slightly smaller. Little islands (the dragon city) are sprinkled in between. The four elements occupy four corners of the map and their different coloured energy beams are converging on the centre of the world - the Chaos Shrine. Once Tiamat is defeated, that will be my destination.

After a slog through a seemingly endless open space at the top(?) of the castle, I finally encounter Tiamat, a large multi-headed dragon. He is, undoubtedly, the toughest of the four Fiends, but I use strengthening spells (Temper) on my physical fighters, keep my HP topped up with my White Wizard and hit Tiamat with any spells I think might hurt it. My physical attacks are by far the most effective and Tiamat goes down. I light up the final crystal at the altar and then leave through the portal, instantly beaming back down to Earth.

First things first, I visit the smithy at the dwarf mines. He takes the adamantite and forges the legendary sword, Excalibur. It's a rather powerful blade and I can't see it being replaced any time soon. Only my Knight can equip it, so I do so.

Onwards to Crescent Lake, I enquire with the circle of sages and they have some new information for me. This is the point where there is some kind of plot twist (or, at least, some kind of plot). It's something to do with time travel, the orchestrator of this whole plan to sap the four crystals' power has gone back 2000 years and time is on a loop somehow. The Warriors of Light exist outside of the loop and we have to go back and stop it from looping again. Something like that. I don't really understand it. Nice to see that nonsensical plots started right at the beginning, though.

The Chaos Shrine, then, would appear to be my final destination, however I decide to hold off for a bit and see what those new optional/bonus dungeons are like. I find where I left my original sailing ship and take it north to the whirlpool near the dwarf mines. This is where I access the Lifespring Grotto, the dungeon that became accessible when I defeated Kraken.

I didn't expect it to be so bloody massive. Like the Earth one I tried (and failed) before, it's a one-way path. At each level, the stairs disappear behind you and you have to keep going or die trying. Some of the enemies are a bit tough (the Great Sharks have 1200 HP each) but most of them are dispatched easily enough with Excalibur. After TWENTY floors, two bosses (Gilgamesh and Atomos) and a chunk of ethers used up replenishing my MP, I finally meet my match. The third boss, Shinryu (a silvery dragon) is just too tough for me. Every hit does hundreds of HP damage to the whole party and despite trying to stay alive for long enough to bash him repeatedly, I'm wiped out. It's not a totally wasted journey, however, as I get to keep everything I picked up across those 20 floors, and I levelled up a few times too. I get sent back to the entrance with 1HP. I don't know if I can bring myself to return to this one later.

So, I decide to go back to the Earthgift Shrine, the first bonus dungeon that I accidentally wandered into several hours ago. My thinking is that I am well able to take on the bosses in here this time, and it's only about four or five floors to reach them. First up, Cerberus...

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Cerberus is a walkover! A handful of attacks finish him off. Hard to believe he wiped me out just a few hours earlier.

I don't get much for winning - an obsolete sword - but then I discover I can't exit the room. The door is blocked and I have to carry on to a teleport pad that takes me back outside.

Now I realise why there are only five floors of the Earthgift Shrine - to be beat all four bosses, I'd have to go through them four times. That's the twenty floors again.

I push myself through the ordeal once more (the purple forest with the guards blocking the way is the worst bit) and take on the second boss, the Two-Headed Dragon (also a pushover) but I cannot bring myself to go through it all again.

So, I decide to move on. These bonus dungeons weren't part of the original game, so they're not an essential part of the experience. I'd rather push on and get it over with. I head to the Chaos Shrine.

How fitting that the first dungeon should turn out to be the last as well. Inside, I see a hooded figure who runs away. I approach the black crystal at the centre of the altar and the four crystals of light activate a time warp. I step into it and am transported, apparently, 2000 years into the past.

This is still the Chaos Shrine but now there's a lot more of it to explore, and the enemies are a tad tougher...

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I've been carrying around a Lute, a key item, ever since I rescued Princess Sarah from Garland. I've finally used it. To pass further into the Chaos Shrine, I play the main Final Fantasy theme (you know the one) on the lute and it unlocks the way. :)

The labyrinthine Chaos Shrine sends me around its many corridors, blocking me off this way, funnelling me that way. Enemies are manageable in strength but plentify in supply, and I'm earning bucketloads of experience points from it (1500 - 2000 per battle). I've also maxed out my money at 999999 Gil. That Excalibur sword I had the dwarf make for me just recently... yeah, I've found an even stronger sword in here - the Masamune. I've given it to my ninja. It's ludicrously strong. I've also discovered the Temper spell can be used more than once, so I can continually increase my attack strength in a battle. I pack some serious punch now!

Which is just as well, because the four elemental Fiends that I've already beaten are alive and well in the past and they appear at key points throughout the castle to block my path. Without warning, invisibly ambushing me in front of doors or stairs, with no time to prepare. Lich, Marilith, Kraken and now Tiamat again. It can't be long now before I find the true mastermind.

Current level: 60

Current playtime: 24.5 hours

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