A Slippery Mess
So we beat up some goblins. It seems like... we're doing a lot of petty tasks like this at the beginning of the game, hahaha. But, it's about to get much more epic! We're going to go avenge our family and rematch Kzinssie. Who just kinda chills in that one house all day, I guess. So it's back to Somon! Well, but first, we're going to stop by home and see how the kiddos are doing. Hopefully that one girl's cat is still OK.
Well, there really wasn't too much to do here, actually. We visit the R&D guys and it seems the Gauntlets are already done! Yay! They say that they're eventually going to mass-produce them (I'm assuming this means later we'll be able to buy them or something, like you can at Nora's place in RSG3?) but for now they're just giving us the one prototype. Sadly, they're nothing particularly amazing, at least as far as I can tell (since equipment is a giant stupid mystery in this game!!!) ...
Anyway, I checked around everywhere else in the castle and town and there wasn't really much I could do it seems. After going back into the R&D, both guys said they had no idea what they wanted to develop next. I tried sitting on the throne like you can do with Mikhail in RSG3, and it made Gerard just sit and go "Whew." So I'm assuming this will actually do something later, but for right now there's nothing. So it just does this instead for now. And I know there's some kind of way to like... start construction projects and other stuff in Avalon, but I haven't found anywhere to do that yet, and Mikhail did all his 'management' from the throne, too, so...
So, we head back to Somon. On the streets, we run into some little common enemies, which look pretty harmless but this one little Mandrake is able to put the entire party to sleep at once! And it's pretty fast, too! This is just one example of the general challenge behind this game -- even in random battles you're going to have to think. You have to actually pay attention to what enemies are there, remember what they can do, and react accordingly. I was just talking about this on GameFAQs; if you're used to games like Final Fantasy where 99% of random battles are just fodder for you to gain experience and you can just mash attack without thinking at all and still win... you're going to be very surprised by this game.
Of course, if you've read any of the other SaGa diaries I've been doing, you'll know this pretty well by now. But yeah, I think that's part of what makes these games so fun for me. I like learning about all the little details of the enemies and thinking about what actions to use in battle. If you remember, Gerard was our fastest dude, so from now on, when we encounter Mandrakes, it is imperative that we make him target the little things with something that will take them out in one hit, or at least disable them. Thankfully he has access to a bow and the Fireball spell, and the Mandrakes are actually very fragile, so we can take them out with one of those pretty easily. Fireball is better, because magic has 100% accuracy (AFAIK), while bows are kind of prone to missing.
We head into the house again to find Kzinssie, where now we're finding Rotten Beasts from the last entry as regular enemies. Oh, and now they're accompanied by Mandrakes and stuff, too... Funtimes!!
Inside the house, we try fighting a doppelganger again, because all the chests that contained them before have now closed back up, so we can trigger the battle. (Before, after running, they would just stay open and we couldn't fight again even if we wanted to.) We're a little stronger now, so we should be able to take it on. They have the ability to confuse the party. Overall we just drained some SP and a few LP to defeat it, and got nothing for it at all. Aries did level up both his Water Level and his Wind Level. I realize before I was calling them pyrology and hydrology and stuff, which the characters in the game refer to them as such when talking about the schools of magic in general, but the game refers to the actual Levels as "Fire Level" and stuff, so I'm going with that. I wonder if we'll have a Purple Level...
We get in fights with some other new monsters, like this fun horse called Mustang. It's able to kill any character in the party in a single hit! Getting one-shotted is surprisingly common in this game. Way moreso than in the other SaGa games. But since the game seems to revolve around replacing dead characters rather than keeping the same ones alive for the whole game, I guess it makes sense that death is going to be more common.
Fortunately Therese and Gerard both have the Stunner skill for their bows, and we can paralyze these things. Aries is able to take care of the spirit in the back (and there was a Siren, which is a type of baby wyvern or something) with his magic and heal those who fall to Mustang, too. These encounters came up a couple more times, and it seemed to work best to have Gerard start the battle by paralyzing the buffalo thing, and everyone else focusing their attacks on Mustang to take it out before it could cause much damage. It didn't seem very fast despite being a horse. Or maybe I just got lucky a lot (which is very possible).
See, in what other games do you get to talk about the strategies you have to develop just to clear the random encounters? XD
I was actually pretty fortunate to be able to run up the rest of the house while avoiding all the encounters, despite there being many tight corridors with multiple monsters in them. (Random gripe about myself: I consistently misspell corridor as "cooridor" like every single freaking time I type it...) So we arrive at Kzinssie once again. He seems almost annoyed that this family keeps trying to fight him when they all just die so easily.
Little does he know that Gerard has a dodge skill that makes it so Soulsteal can never hit him. Evasion skills are a lot of fun. They're the same as they were in RSG3 -- as long as you have the skill, the respective skill can't hit you, and the character will do this crazy little thing where they like jump back away from the attack while spinning around a lot. It's like a Sailor Moon dodge or something.
Kzinssie keeps trying to use Soulsteal on Gerard for a bit, but goes back to trying to kill the whole party after a couple of turns realizing it really isn't working. We spam the strongest skills we have, like Double Cut that Gerard inherited from Leon. Kzinssie gains the Regen effect at some point, though I have no idea how -- and this is something I've noticed with a lot of bosses in this game; they all just suddenly get Regen for no reason. Anyway, this is particularly annoying because his Ill Storm skill causes poison to the entire party at once. Fortunately, Balms can cure poison in addition to restoring HP, but having everyone spend a turn giving themselves a balm rub gives Kzinssie a whole turn to heal for free. And at most a character can only have four items equipped, and most of the characters have one or two weapons filling those slots. Aries has four balms, though.
It ended up being a really close call, as I ran out of balms and everyone was dropping from Poison. But we scraped through, and Kzinssie was defeated.
After losing to Gerard, Kzinssie makes some kind of cryptic threat about how he's going to bide his time sleeping before coming back (dehehe, sleepy Kzinssie~) and it seems to worry Gerard a little. But there's nothing he can do now but go home.
Kzinssie slept for at least a year, I guess, because we get a little time-lapse screen to let us know time advanced a year. We're also told that having reclaimed Somon, we've opened a path from North Varennes to South Varennes. I guess Varennes is this continent we're on or something.
Since a year has passed, that means Gerard has been emperor for a whole year now! And he's got a super cool gold suit of armor with green adornments to prove it. Seriously he looks soooooo cooooool. He talks to one of his ... Avalon peeps, who tell him that all of the internal affairs have been taken care of thanks to him (we did good!), but someone has taken over the Victor Canal and even built a fortress there, controlling all the traffic through it. There's also a mine in the southern Ludon region that might contribute well to the Empire's reserves.
I didn't pay attention properly when I first read it and thought I was going to choose between prioritizing claiming the mine or reclaiming the canal, but... there's really no choice here. I'm guessing the Ludon area is on the other side of the canal, so the mine is supposed to be our incentive to take it back. But shouldn't we want to stop weirdos from building a fortress over the Empire's own canal anyway?
The first thing I did was go to bed, but I kind of ran in and out of bed really fast and instead of Gerard closing his eyes and the little resting song playing, it just... stayed dark and I could walk around! It even let me go outside into town and everything in the dark. That creepy guy who tells me I can't come to the bar when it's light outside is not in the bar when it's dark. Strangely there's no one ANYWHERE, not even sleeping in their beds. All NPCs have just completely disappeared. So I figured I must have encountered some weird glitch and you're not supposed to actually walk around at night...
I wanted to see if I could get some weird stuff to happen, so I was going around and trying to examine all kinds of stuff, like random barrels, and see if maybe there was some area that I couldn't access before because a person was standing there that will be accessible now. I didn't find anything like that, really, but when I walked into the fireplace of the weapon shop...
I ended up on the roof! It's hilarious because there's a sign up here that says something like "Absolutely no dashing! -Dad" which is hilarious because one of the kids in town always talks about how his dad scolded him for dashing on the rooftops. I thought it was weird that they always used to word "dashing" to refer to it, though, so I tried running around (which is called 'dashing' officially, and that's what that giant ugly "D" button on the screen is -- a remnant of the mobile version where you'd press that to dash) but running didn't seem to do anything. I walked back into the chimney from the top, and it teleported me back to the castle for some reason. I was pretty convinced this was some kind of glitch at this point, so I went into the bed to see if it would let me 'finish' the resting cycle, and it did, and I woke up like normal.
The first thing I did after waking up was try sitting on the throne again. Maybe it will do stuff now that I have cool armor? AND IT DID!
Peep comes out again and Gerard mentioned he has been thinking about starting an orchard for the Empire (aww, that's so cute, Gerard XD) and inquires about building one. Peep says that it will cost about 300,000 crowns, and we currently have over 900,000. So, I tell him to build the thing. I think the orchard is a new thing added to this game, from what I remember it saying on the official website about new features.
When we head to R&D, the armor guy wants to make a new kind of light armor, and this time it's going to cost 400,000Kr. Well, we still have like 600,000 after ordering the construction of the orchard, so why not?
I got curious if I could go up on the roof during the day, so I went back to the weapon shop. The shop owner actually talks about how the chimney is being cleaned so the fireplace can't be used right now, and starts apologizing. I guess maybe it's cold in there? I don't know. I head up to the rooftops. Then I noticed there were little "ridges" on the castle wall and stuff where it looked like an opening. Dashing toward them, I was able to hop across. Eventually, after quite a few hops, I got to this weird little room in one of the castle's towers with an opened treasure chest and a bed in it...?
I also found this little path in town that I never noticed before, and when I went down it, I found a cemetery. And in place of one of the graves, there was just like... a big hole in the ground. Not a coffin-shaped hole, mind you. Like a circular one. Which was weird enough on its own, but there was also this old creeper standing next to it, and if I talked to him, he would just say "..."
Everyone in town seems to say the same kind of stuff, though I didn't bother talking to everyone after a few of them were all repetitions. A shame they did it this way, especially when you have a hub town you are required to come back to regularly. I like how in Ys games, NPCs get new things to say after pretty much ANY event in the game.
Anyway, my town exploration complete, we head out of town to the world map again. Now we have access to "S. Varennes," which opens up a new map, now having only two locations we can reach: Nibel and the Victor Canal.
Since we're supposed to go to the Victor Canal, we head to Nibel. It's a very tiny place. There's the inn, a bar, a shop, and one house. That's it. And the whole place has a fence around it. There's a well in the center, but you can't interact with it. When we enter, we find a sign that reads, "Woe be to those who accost this town. Dragon Lair" which is possibly even weirder than the creepy old guy staring at a hole in the cemetery. Especially since this is the very first thing you see in the town, but then the rest of the place seems normal. Though after talking to a few people, we learn that there's a group of vigilantes called Dragon Lair who protect the town. But we also learn that as of late, they're not really reliable, and they're not doing anything to take care of the threat of the monsters coming from the nearby caves, and it's getting dangerous.
We head into the bar and order a drink. After saying "Whew," Gerard actually gets to listen in on a conversation from a couple other patrons. It seems like they're considering going and trying to fight the monsters on their own or try to join Dragon Lair or something. After that, if we talk to them, they mumble about how maybe they should join Dragon Lair. We have the option to ask them what they're talk about, or say "I am the Emperor!" lol. If we ask what they said, they just say, "Oh, nothing." But if we tell them we're the Emperor, they tell us that the monsters in the west are a big threat, and they can't rely on the Dragon Lair Brawlers to take care of them, so they ask us to take care of the problem instead.
I think "I am the Emperor!" is a really weird thing to say to get them to say this but whatever XD I also am curious if it was the eavesdropping that triggered this option to even appear. There were times you had to eavesdrop in Minstrel Song to trigger stuff. So it's quite possible this was something we had to do, which personally I think is very fun.
After talking to the two guys at the bar, we now have access to the Fiends' Cloister and Dragon Lair. I don't know if we had to do specific things to trigger each or if they both appear together, but I like how this presents now another important choice without having it just be a choice in a text menu. We know that the Dragon Lair Brawlers are causing trouble by not fighting the monsters, so now we have the choice to either go confront them, or just go take out the monsters ourselves.
Of course, I'm curious about who these Dragon Lair people are and why they're not helping with the monsters when they apparently are the protectors of the town, so we're going to head there first.
The Dragon Lair's Lair seems to be not much more than a little cave in a mountain where a bunch of monk-like guys with yellow ponytails are training against training dummies all synchronized like some kind of weird muscle-building cult. In the back room, we find the leader Karl who is trying to figure out what to do about a monster stopping their progress in the monsters' cave, which is immune to physical attacks. And of course, these guys are all martial artists who don't do any magic spells at all.
We have the option to offer our aid to the Dragon Lair or to tell them that this is their own problem to figure out. Since Gerard and Aries are both great with magic right now, we agree to help them out. Karl tells us that the problematic, slippery monster is on the second floor of the cave, and once we take it out, they will take care of the rest. He also warns us that it releases electricity, so we shouldn't use "tight formations," whatever that means. The only formation we really have is Imperial Cross, other than the Free Fight formation which is what it forces you to use when your formation is broken.
There doesn't seem to be much else to do here, so let's go to the cave and check out this monster!
The cloister is yet another small and straightforward dungeon, with one tiny room as the entrance that leads to stairs to the second floor, which is just a backward C-shape. When we reach the end of it, we find a TON of slimes running around everywhere. Time to get some magic practice in before we fight this boss we're looking for! Gerard and Aries use Light Ball, Fireball, and Blades of Wind against the small fry slimes in hopes of getting a Level up in one of the magic arts. It didn't work though; we just ended up using a lot of MP. But that's okay because we have liquor! Oh yeah, I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I like that they actually kept the "liquor" name in this game. I think I talked about how all the magic-restoring items were alcohol in the Romancing SaGa 3 diary, too.
And as we're knocking out these weaklings left and right, we run into one that is... very much not a weakling. Introducing our new best friend, Gel Matter! We very quickly run into what Karl meant by "tight formations," as Gel Matter can send an electric beam through an entire row of characters, doing massive damage to all of them. In fact, this is enough damage to take out everyone except Bear in a single hit. And Bear almost dies from one hit.
It's probably important to note at this point that there's no kind of special "revive" item in this game -- being knocked out is not a special condition really, and you can just heal your HP like normal even when it is at zero, and you'll no longer be knocked out. So you can just use a normal Balm or healing magic to 'revive' someone in battle.
At least if Gel Matter decides to target Therese or James, we only have to deal with one character being knocked out, but it doesn't really like to do that since it's smart enough to know to target the row of people. Though when Gerard and Aries are both dead in the center, I guess it realizes it can kill the same number of people by attacking any of the three "rows," so it will choose one of the others. So we try to keep only Therese, James, and Gerard alive, so each turn, Gel Matter will only kill one of the three. Then on each turn, we have Gerard attack with Blades of Wind if he's alive, and the living flank heal the other. If it's just both flanks, James defends while Therese heals Gerard, because James isn't particularly fast, and Gel Matter can sometimes attack before him in a turn. Though sometimes while defending, James will tank an electricity attack.
Anyway, this pattern seems like it could go on forever, but there is one major flaw in it. Characters only have access to the four items they have equipped, so each one has at most three Balms and a weapon. But Therese and Gerard had two weapons equipped, so they only have two Balms each. Which means even with this "strategy," we have very limited time to take this thing out. Blades of Wind seems to be doing pretty decent damage, though, so hopefully if we get lucky and it distributes its attacks evenly enough, we'll get enough hits in with Gerard to destroy it before the whole party faints.
But that didn't happen.
We get a scene of Gerard falling in battle in front of the Gel Matter...
And we're taken to a screen and asked to choose Gerard's heir. At this point, I was really torn about what I wanted to do. I had saved the game before getting into battle with the mass of slimes, and after dying I realized that I had bumped the one stationary slime guarding the door to initiate the boss fight, so I would be able to easily identify it the next time. It wouldn't be that hard to reset, change to the Free Fight formation, and possibly win.
But at the same time, I want to play the game "honestly." If you know me from Twitch, you know I absolutely abhor savescumming and refuse to abuse the save feature in any way at all. But is this really abuse? I mean, it's normal to retry a boss when you die, right? Well, it wasn't long before I came to the conclusion that that is not the normal thing to do in this game, as dying is meant to bring on a new Emperor.
Since Gerard was largely magic-focused, I decided to pick Sagittarius, figuring he would be able to make the most out of the inheritance.
At first I was surprised at the list of possible heirs, because I was thinking it was going to be the other four party members (as in, other than Gerard). I don't know why, but that's just... kind of how I assumed it would work. But then I realized that it wasn't just Gerard who died... Therese, Bear, James, and Aries all succumbed to Gel Matter. So we actually lost five characters all at once...
After choosing the heir, we're taken back to the throne room, where we see that sparkly light pour down on Sagittarius that we saw when Gerard inherited from Leon. So that means Sagi has both Leon and Gerard in him now. Wow. And then he does a really silly pose and says he'll avenge his "predecessor," like... they wanted to use a generic line because they didn't even want to bother recognizing the name of the last Emperor, I guess, hahaha.
But yeah. I was curious exactly how this inheritance system was going to work out, and it looks like we're going to find out way earlier than I had expected. I'm really sad to lose CoolArmor!Gerard so early (this was his FIRST ADVENTURE lol), but it's also something to look forward to in future playthroughs, getting him to last longer.
I may be screwing myself over by choosing a new heir this early in the game, but hey, that's how blind runs go. If I ever get to a place where I absolutely cannot progress in the game, I will just start over again from the beginning. Don't worry, I won't make long entries like this again for everything; I'll just catch back up to where I was and continue from there, with a little recap of what the new game was like.
But yeah, I'm starting to feel like this might be a game where a complete restart might end up being necessary until I really learn my way around the whole thing...
So next time, we'll begin the adventures of Emperor Mage Sagi! And we'll go avenge Gerard!