Of Nests and Mermaids
Last time, we helped (?) avoid a WAR OF SUCCESSION in Douglass with King Harold's kids, and somehow also solved this problem with this rando Cyfreet manipulating this crying kid to kill everyone else and take over or something. I don't know exactly, but apparently Cyfreet is still at large, hiding out somewhere. Sofia thinks it's a good idea to go after him right away, but Georg wants to wait until things calm down in Douglass a bit first.
And while I think Sofia is right...
I really wanna go check on my tree! Look! It's grown more!!
I love my cute little tree buddy...
And since we're back home, we stop by the R&D Peeps' place and find that Weapon Peep has finished the Spear he was developing! We're awarded with the prototype of the Diamond Spear, which has an attack power of 24 -- 13 more than our current best Spear! After picking it up, Armor Peep wants to develop a new cap, and we are rollin' in the Crowns now, so we fund him the 400k he wants, too.
We head back to Douglass via the boat in Somon. It's a little annoying, but also kinda cool in a way the way the world map works. You have to finish certain tasks (it seems) in each area before you can quick-travel to there on the world map (by zooming out to see the whole thing and then selecting that section of the map). Otherwise, you have to get there either by clicking on passages on the zoomed-in sectional world maps if you can, or if you can't do it that easily, you'll have to go somewhere and take a boat or walk through another area or something.
Anyway, back to Douglass. Upon arrival, we see that Fort Cyfreet is now available in the far north of the area. Heading there we find... much of nothing. The door just says "Do Not Enter" when we approach it, and there doesn't seem to be any kind of secret door or something -- I tried going around the side like where the hidden entrance is in Dagul Bos's Castle (and I just got to that part in Ventus's story and couldn't stop thinking about the "sixth sense" joke during this). But it's a no-go. We can't do anything here at all, it seems.
And heading back to Douglass, instead of the trio of Harold's kids standing in the throne room, we just see Thomas now, stating that things are going well. I thought maybe Georg had taken his army and settled stuff with Cyfreet while we were gone, but it seems he's still waiting for stuff to settle in the kingdom before messing with it. I don't know if maybe we could have gone and confronted Cyfreet if we had done so right away when Sofia said we should have, or if having to wait for Georg's Green Light of the Dreadnaught is a requirement whether or not you leave the area before trying to go to the fort.
Either way, it seems like there's nothing to do here now, so it's time to start exploring the other areas we haven't been to.
We head back to Somon and take the boat to Miles, the other destination we could choose from there. We probably could have just taken a boat from Douglass, but I like to make things more frustrating for myself. Miles is a small town much like all the other small towns we've seen. While I think it's reasonable for there to be lots of similar small-town areas, like many other SaGa series games have, I wish there were a couple towns that really stood out. Douglass kind of stood out for its story, but outside of that, it looks exactly like everywhere else.
Anyway, Miles is to the south of Douglass and Castle Nerak and stuff, but we can't simply walk there because the Great Cumberland Wall is in the way, and I can't find a way to just walk to the other side of it. Maybe it has increased security since the Cyfreet thing and they're not letting anyone through? Reconnoitering in the bar, we learn that to the east is some place called "The Steppe" and that Bokhohn, one of the Seven Heroes we heard about before during the Canal reclamation thing, build a boat-shaped fortress out there. Exiting back to the world map, though, we still don't seem to be able to select any Steppe area or anything, so it looks like there's not anything we can do here for now. Actually, we could have gone straight to the Steppe; this is just another bout of me being stupid and unobservant. But I'm kinda glad we didn't, because we got to go see other things instead.
We take another boat from uh... that town where the "Merchants" were harassing people (I forgot what it was called and don't want to sift through all these screencaps to remember, oops) and take another boat to a place called Toba. Not Tefal. This is Toba. Tefal is the mine place. Remember that. Because I won't.
Everyone here says that "men row and women dive" and that it's always been that way and I have no idea what the hell they are referencing. I mean, I'm imagining that they go out on boats and the men row and women dive, but like... why? What is this talking about? Is this like a sport? Some kind of like ... fishing... thing...???? I have absolutely no idea. But people keep saying "men row and women dive" over and over and it only just reminds me of that Kindergarten Cop scene and it just feels super weird.
Not everyone talks about rowing men and diving women, though. A few people talk instead about sea swallows. Apparently sea swallows build a nest on the cliffs nearby, and when the sea swallows leave, monsters flood the area. And then "when the time is right, they snatch 'em!" But I don't know what the antecedents of these "they" and "'em" are, so I don't know if the swallows snatch the monsters or the monsters snatch the swallows, or if they were referring to eggs without ever mentioning them before or something... I really don't know.
This place is a little unique looking because everything is on some steep cliffs. There's also a sign that says "do not enter," and after being told that at Cyfreet's place and not being able to do anything, I am very ready to disobey. We head on past the sign to find... monsters! Yay...
This little area is pretty cool. There's a bunch of cliffs with some vines and we can climb the vines to reach different cliffs. It makes a little bit of a maze, and we can see monsters and stuff around, always noticing there's something ahead but never knowing exactly what or exactly how we'll get there without taking a chance climbing a vine here or there and hoping a monster doesn't ambush you.
While exploring the cliffs, we run into a plant monster called Monster Shroom. How harmful could a big mushroom be, right? Well, the answer is pretty damned harmful. This thing is nuts. It has a wide variety of attacks, from massive-damaging ones to multiple gaseous sprays that inflict the entire party with status effects and a hypnosis wave that deals a big chunk of damage to everyone's HP. I also learned that while you can flee from battle with 100% success rate, only the emperor can flee. So if Crow dies, there's no fleeing. And if the battle is too hard, we have to struggle through and watch everyone die.
I also learned that there seem to be different 'levels' of the Confusion status effect. When you're inflicted, the color of the word "Confuse" that pops up by your character indicates which 'severity' you've been afflicted with. And if you're already inflicted with one level and you get hit with an attack that would inflict you with it again, you'll move up to the next level, making your confusion worse.
The first level is grey, and it seems to function a lot like UNLIMITED:Saga's confusion status. You choose the action for the character that turn, but there's a chance they might just... not do it.
The second level is green, which is a little more dangerous. It's much like grey, but now instead of randomly choosing not to act, they can also choose to switch targets. And this includes switching between different enemy targets as well as switching over to attack your own party members. You still get to choose the action, though, so you can just choose Ki Meditation or something to avoid any problems? Or they might actually be able to switch commands as well. It was rare I was at the green level, so I understand it the least.
The third level is red, and by far the most dangerous. You don't get to choose an action for that party member each turn, but rather they will choose their own action and target completely at random. That means it's much more likely for them to choose one of their strongest damaging skills and use it to knock out the Emperor or something like that... Very scary! This also seems to be referred to as "Berserk" in the game sometimes (as I've seen things say they will "inflict Berserk" and then they just inflict red Confusion). At least there's still a chance they will actually attack the enemy, or do something harmless like randomly healing themselves or something, unlike the Charm status effect in which the character basically becomes an enemy temproarily and focuses on fighting the party and aiding the other enemies.
As far as I know, this weird shroom wasn't able to charm anyone, though.
We managed to barely scrape by. There were a couple moments I really thought we were doomed. The thing seemed to have a lot of HP, too, taking many turns to take down even with the powerful Blades of Wind and spamming some stronger Weapon Skills...
We're rewarded (kinda) for overcoming the monstrosity, though, as climbing up one of the cliffs, we see what seems to be the swallows' nest! There are no eggs, even though this reminds me of the dino egg hunt from Minstrel's Song a little. But no one in town actually mentioned anything about eggs -- they all talked specifically the nest, and even referred to a soup made from the nest and stuff, so... this seems like something that might be cool to go steal. Even though I feel bad for the swallows.
It takes quite a bit of climbing around to find how to even get up there, though. We run into another plant monster that looks pretty terrifying on its own, and I really hesitate to start fighting it. The cliffs are too narrow so if we run away, we still can't proceed. If we want to get to the nest, we're going to have to fight. But if this thing is even slightly stronger than the Monster Shroom, we are going to die.
Thankfully, though, it wasn't. In fact, it was harmless. As a precaution, I went in spears-a-blazing and used all of the most powerful skills and spells I had from the start, and it died in like a couple rounds of combat without getting to do much itself.
We do make it around to the nest, and when we touch it, it disappears, and we get the message, "Received Sea Swallow Nest." Cool. I have no idea what we're supposed to do with this thing, but we have it! And we can't jump down that little cliff to get back easily. We have to go climbing vines and walking all the way back. Or maybe we could have but I just didn't realize how. Anyway, we run into another Monster Shroom on the way back, and now Taurus only has 5LP remaining.
Back in Toba, no one seems to acknowledge that we have the nest, so it must not be useful here, or at least not for right now.
We head to Atlantica, the other place we could have gone by boat, that we can easily reach from the world map outside of Toba. This is a little town surrounded by water, and all the talk is about this new dancer at the pub who performs every night. Oh, and apparently mermaids used to live here.
This one lady says her louse goes to the pub every night. She didn't say "louse of a husband" or anything so at first I actually interpreted it as like... she had head lice and one like jumped away to go see the dancer or something and I thought this was SUPER weird. And then I talked to this old guy and he was like "DEHEHE I PERV OVER DANCR" and I was like oooooh. This is how stupid I am lol.
Anyway, as we continue to talk to people, time passes and it becomes evening, and people start heading inside. After talking to enough people, it becomes nighttime and no one is outside anymore, so I figure this is supposed to let us see the dancer, and we head to the bar.
And there is indeed a dancer. I'm a detective. And she actually has several unique animation frames solely for dancing, which is pretty cool. They didn't touch up or add sprites to this game at all, keeping them identical to their SFC counterparts as far as I know. Which means this dancer had unique sprites back then, too. That's really nice considering other big-name titles like Final Fantasy would just use generic sprites and have them turn around a lot and bounce to-and-fro. But we get to see a well-choreographed little sprite scene here. I mean, it's not super amazing but it's still really cool to see the unique sprites.
Anyway, afterward, we learn that the girl is not from this town, but rather a nearby village. And she leaves before we can talk to her or anything. I went around to see if the townspeople would say anything new now. Nobody really was, but I noticed it was getting dark again. So I decided to catch the dance again because I thought it was pretty neat.
The second time, though, there's a new dance. Same sprites, but now it involves different music and dancing on the bar itself. And the old men like kind of crowded her from below, which is... wow. Afterward, again, we're left to talk to the bar patrons only, again, though. Intrigued, I decide to run around and talk to everyone some more to see if we can't see another dance.
Oh, and if you're wondering, after this, it just becomes day again suddenly when you exit the bar lol. There's also a little back exit that leads to nowhere, and if you exit that way, it will be night still. Only exiting out the front resets the day.
The third night, the dancer pulls Crow from the audience and dances with him to a slower, more romantic tune. This time there are no special animation frames and it's the typical walk-and-turn animations you see in other games. I guess because they didn't want to make unique animation frames for every last possible emperor or something? After the dance, the dancer says, "You always show up," and then runs out the back door.
So of course, we head out that way, too, to go see what she's doing back there. It literally just leads to a small little stretch of land surrounded by water, so it's not like she can go anywhere.
Unless, of course, she's a mermaid! Oooooh! Even my daft self saw this one coming. She says she didn't want us to see her like that and runs away into the water. I guess she was trying to get in there before we caught up to her or something? And that's why she ran out the door? Because saying something kinda cryptic and then running out a door is a pretty good way to get someone to follow you, and if you're not wanting them to see you, then...
Also I don't know if she's referring to the fact that we saw that she is a mermaid or that we caught her topless. I mean, I'm assuming it's the former, but I was really surprised to see the topless sprite. We never got the pixel boobies back in the SNES days!
Well, anyway, somehow we formed a relationship with this mermaid or something, I guess. But now she's gone and won't come back and dance anymore. A few people in town change what they were saying, because now they don't talk about the dancer. And one girl says that there is a witch that lives nearby that can make special potions or something, and once she made a potion for a man who fell in love with a mermaid so they could be together.
I don't know if we're supposed to be in love now, but it sounds like a cool thing to go check out, because I want to see more dancer mermaid stuff. And I'm sad she stopped dancing.
We head out of town and now a place called Witch's Sanctum has appeared on the world map to the east of Atlantica. It's a bit narrow and pretty crowded with monsters, but somehow we manage to walk right past them all.
In the back of the cave, we find the witch's little hideout. It's kind of amazing that she just lives right next to all these roaming monsters. But she probably has some kind of barrier around her little cove. She says she'll sell us some potions, but they won't be cheap. In fact, they'll cost 10,000 Crowns, which is the maximum amount of money we can even carry.
The first thing on the list is Mermaid Potion. Well, that was easy! And we have max money, too, so we can buy it! The second thing is an MP "potion," which is funny because MP restoring items are always alcohol, so we can buy some kind of weird witch cave moonshine here. And then the last is LP potion! Which is amazing because it's an item that restores LP. This is probably the only place in the game to get something like this. I wonder if there is a limit to how many you can buy, like how there's a limit to how many LP-restoring herbs you can get in UNLIMITED:Saga...
But we're not here for that stuff. We have a bare-chested fish person to attract by drinking something we bought from a lunatic in a cave.
But when we try to buy the Mermaid Potion, the witch tells us she needs some ingredients. Of course it wasn't going to be that easy...
One of them is the Sea Swallow Nest, so we're already a third of the way there without meaning to be! The other two, though, are in places I hadn't heard of before. Except for the Lake Aqua one which we had heard about in Tefal or something but I completely had forgotten about it by the time I got to this point in the game. Even though that wasn't even that long ago. And the other is from a "Savannah" which I'm pretty sure I have not even heard mentioned yet.
We didn't get a potion, but it looks like we have a new, interesting objective to work toward in our adventures!