Crystal Ruins

Since we're low on money but want to buy some new magic arts, we're going to head back into the desert to go to a place that I bypassed before.

When we return to the desert, we have to start all over from the beginning. Actually, it may have been possible to walk backward from Mung Village, but I didn't even think of trying that... If you can do that, it would have been much closer.

Anyway, if you remember from before, we had to fight these plants before we could really get into Akbar Ridge. Thankfully, we're a lot stronger this time, and they were a lot easier to take out.

Ward glimmered Dimensional Cut, an axe art which is similar to Daybreak in that it has a chance of instantly killing every enemy.

And so we hop down the sand... fall... thing once again. And like before, there's no easy way of getting back -- we're going to have to walk all the way to the Mung Village if we want to get back to the world map from here.

Mikhail glimmered a weird spear art that makes the enemy... become squiggly. I don't really know what I should call it -- it's literally like "Brain Shaving" lol.

The main difference in our travels this time is that we're taking a different exit out of the canyon area. This time, we leave through the north instead of the east.

This brings us to a weird road in the desert! We haven't seen anything like this before...

This is the uh... crystal... palace... ruin place. Probably someone hinted about this in a town somewhere before and I've already forgotten. But it's just a big castley-looking place with lots of crystals hanging around on the walls and stuff, and it's like all decaying and stuff inside.

Entering, you can see there are holes and stuff in the ground. And the walls are kind of sparkly.

The monster rank keeps rising and we're now fighting some trees with faces. I always love tree-with-face monsters or characters. I even have a crush on the Great Deku Tree. They fall pretty easily to axe arts, especially the Lumberjack art, which deals extra damage to plants.

We also start encountering this enemy called "Mushroom Men."

If it wasn't for the name, I probably would not have paid much attention to the design, and just assumed it was a zombie with some kind of weird growth or brain on its back or something.

But seeing the name, I was like... why MUSHROOM Man? And then looking at the sprite, I realized what the thing on it is supposed to be. The thing sticking out the back is based on Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, a parasitic fungus that infects ants and essentially mind-controls, driving them kind of a like a biological mech, using the ant's body and mobility to feed itself and stuff, until eventually it is time to reproduce, when it kills the ant and explodes from its body making that iconic bumpy balloon shaped mushroom, sticking out of the corpse of its victim.

But of course here, they decided to use that concept on a human. Even more, it looks like the body is facing away from the battle party, and the fungus burst from its chest. The head then rotted and somehow turned around, so its head is now facing 'backward.' Or maybe I'm just seeing it weird. And it seems in the case of Mushroom Men, the mushroom still controls and moves the host body even after 'sprouting.'

So, this instantly became one of my favorite monster designs in the game. It's totally creepy, especially since it implies that a fungus that can take over a human exists in the world the game takes place in. Plus, it's based on a really fascinating part of the natural world in real life. How cool is that? What's even more fun is that the Mushroom Men seem to be mechanically similar to both fungi and undead creatures!

Anyway, design gushing aside now, we continue to travel around the ruins. There are a lot of little treasures scattered around, and lots of random hallways and stairways. Descending a particular staircase, we find a woman surrounded by these frog enemies.

But after defeating a few frogs and approaching her, it seems she's really just a demon herself...

Also, I don't know what the heck it is with the creature designers in this game, but there are so many bugs and sea creatures that have like... conventionally 'hot' women's bodies sticking out of them, and they're always wearing like... some strip of cloth over their breasts while the underboob is clearly visible (and highlighted).

And why are their heads like that? What are they looking at up there??

Continuing on, we find a room full of treasures... but also there are two serpent enemies wiggling all over the place down here!

These are Crystal Dragons! They're not super tough, but they're not pushovers. Definitely a lot easier than the Water Dragon we defeated behind the waterfall before...

Its scariest feature is its ability to turn our party members into stone. It doesn't do this very often, but it's pretty terrifying. It takes quite a lot of time to take one down, so we need to use potions and ethers to restore our WP and JP after the fights.

Sometimes, we run into particularly large holes in the ground. Walking over these actually causes us to fall in! By falling in these holes, we're able to reach areas of the ruins that weren't accessible to us before.

Mikhail glimmered the martial art Counter, so we moved over to the Desert Lance formation so he could try to master it.

If we head back to the room with the Crystal Dragons (and they respawn...) we can fall down a hole there, and eventually get to a basement room where there are a bunch of cyclops...es... (?) roaming around. They don't chase us, but they're very large, so navigating past them can be difficult.

But we're adventurers! We should just run up to them anyway! The Cyclops is a bit harder to take down than the Crystal Dragon, as it has way more HP. But it mostly just uses plain physical attacks. While they can dish out a lot of damage, we have Ward with huge defense, a nice shield, and parrying abilities. So we can negate most of the damage the cyclops sends at us.

It also can use a hypnosis attack using its eye -- but fortunately we mastered the Evasion art to avoid Hypnosis, so equipping that to every character before the fight makes it completely useless! It's always nice to watch everyone spin around while the enemy wastes an entire turn.

The best treasures in this whole place are down here -- we have one chest with 3,000 Aurums inside, and another with a Titan Suit.

The Titan Suit is a full-body armor that upgrades even Ward's protect suit! Like other full-body armor, it also protects against Darkness. But what's even better is that it raises the wearer's Endurance by 2! So Ward is becoming quite the damage sponge...

There's no real story or anything to the ruins, so after plundering all the treasures, we head back out. We're able to turn in our Monster Hide now to create the Beast Leather at the workshop.

But more importantly, we finally have the money to go buy some magic arts! First up, we buy Shadow Servant for Herman. This is a Lunar Art that creates a double of the caster that will copy all of their actions until damaged.

After buying it, which took all but one of our Aurums, we went and sold a lot of the extra treasures we found so that we could buy Glamour Lights for Trucks, which we'll talk more about soon. But it was important to sell the items after buying Shadow Servant, since 10,000 Aurums is the max amount we can carry, and the rest of the money we earn after having that much goes to Loanne's treasury, which we can't touch.

And with that, we're done with our little treasure hunt.