Monster Hunters ~
Fugar's Mansion

In our last exciting episode, Kurt and friends adventured into a weird house with weird keys just for the hell of it and ended up taking down a creepy necromancer who had for some unknown reason locked himself in the far back of a basement. And since we passed enough time, we learned that Leon has started to show his own interest in the gauntlet, in a sort of ominous way, and we've gained access to three new cities -- Longshank, Chapa, and Loch Vaan. We traveled around to them to see what's up, and in the Loch Vaan magic shop, the wizard there asked Kurt to take along his apprentice, so we gained a strange-looking new friend.

Today, we're off to Longshank, where there seems to be some hubbub around town.

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Apparently, a lot of people in Longshank are rich, and frequently hire mercenaries to take care of nearby monsters. It's not really explained, but now "the 87th Monster Hunting Troupe has been formed" so it sounds like there's some kind of ritualistic monster-hunting event in which lots of mercenaries are hired at once to clear out a cave or something.

Hearing these rumors, we head to the inn and find an adventure called "Monster Hunters," which has a description that makes everything even more confusing: "The monster hunters, formed by mercenary soldier Mordeus, are taken over by the Temple Knights."

This brings up many questions. And more than just "... What?"

First, what exactly are these Monster Hunters other than being the 87th and some kid plans to join them? What do they do? Why were there 86 of them before?

Secondly, if they were taken over by the knights, why is no one talking about this, and just talking about the Monster Hunters like normal?

And thirdly, why aren't the Temple Knights, you know, in the Temple???

With not a clue in sight as to what we're supposed to make of all this, we just... head out on adventure. Because, I mean, that's what we do. Adventure.

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Upon setting out, we arrive on the highroad through the forest north of Longshank. This is the beginning of the road that eventually leads to Zomar, but we're not going to be going that far. There's a battle-worn mercenary here commanding what I assume are the 87th Monster Hunters Troupe. Though, we don't actually see anyone else on the screen, but it sounds like he's addressing a group.

Once they decide to get going, Kurt asks if he can join, and the guy is fine to let Kurt tag along as long as he thinks he's "good enough." Pretty lenient entry into Monster Hunters.

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This is Mordeus, the mercenary people were talking about before, who is leading the troupe. I don't know why I know this, because it's not mentioned in the game explicitly as far as I know, but Mordeus is a 'deathseeker' who wishes to die in battle. Though most of his voiced battle quotes are stuff like, "Can't I find anyone who can kill me?"

And somewhat fittingly for being a death-themed character, his gear and bandages and things make him look sort of like a mummy or a ghost, and his name -- though this is just an etymological assumption -- seems to be related to death.

He at least seems very offended by traps, claiming he'd rather die in battle whenever he springs one.

Anyway, Mordeus has a high Strength Making, as you'd expect of a mercenary sword dude. But surprisingly, he not only has a very high Magic Making, but great Earth Elemental Making, which happens to be in a position on his Growth Panel that doesn't interfere with any of his other useful stats.

His Endurance and Spirit Makings are not bad, so he can shake off status effects well enough, and combined with his great HP recovery rate, this almost makes up for his lousy 9 LP. But, hey, Pharr had 8, and she was fantastic.

Mordeus is a surprisingly powerful mage if you can get him some Earth Arts... in fact, despite Kurt being the burly knight adventurer, his party (including Kurt himself) seems to be very magic-oriented. Even Armand, with his amazing physical potential, had a Fire Making of four.

Though that's one nice thing about this game -- everyone's Makings allow you to build them in a variety of ways. They typically have more than one strong point you can focus on, sometimes even many.

Anyway, Mordeus comes with a L3 Axe Arts panel, which is pretty nice for a beginning panel, as well as Iron Will and Iron Body panels that greatly increase his resistance and recovery of status effects. For someone who supposedly wants to die, he seems very good at survival.

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But let's not forget our other friend! This is Norff, the apprentice of Yun Crimsonrain (yeah, that was that guy's name) who has tagged along with us to train, I guess.

Norff's Magic Making is 5, the highest in the game, but even then, his Strength and Skill Making are both 3, which is not bad at all. He'll be able to handle any kind of weapon with respectable prowess, and his Wood Making of 3 means he will also be able to deal some good damage with the somewhat rare Thunderbringer magic art if only we can find it like we did for Sapphire in our very first game...

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Oh, yeah, that's one of the really great things about Norff. He already knows Thunderbringer from the start. He's got a mixed bag of other magic arts, too, including the very useful Magic Lock that we can use to completely immobilize Treasure Slimes.

Not only is Kurt's party surprisingly good at magic, they're generally a pretty strong bunch all-around. We have a lot of powerhouses here, and a lot of characters who start off very useful from the beginning without having to wander around hoping for the right panels.

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Not long along the highroad we turn to enter a nearby cave. To illustrate the cave, here's a cap of Josef using his telekinesis to stab someone. I'm going to try to make him useful not just with magic, but also with weapon arts -- something I've never done with Josef before. He has that Skill Making of 4 that is begging to be used, though, and his unique weapon animations shouldn't go untapped!

Sadly, this is the only scenario in which we'll get to use Josef, despite him being one of the more prominent minor characters.

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After moving a bit into the cave, Mordeus is about to give out directions to his crew, when an annoyingly cute long-haired beardie shows up and stops him. Yup, the knights are being stupid again. This guy declares that the 87th MH Troupe is under command of the Temple Knights now, and that everyone must follow his command.

He issues orders to split into several groups, to which Mordeus objects. Many of the mercenaries are young and inexperienced, and splitting them up that much is a death sentence. Beard gets upset that anyone would question the Knights -- as Knights seem to do -- and threatens with his authority. All of the mercenaries leave with the Temple Knights, save for Kurt's crew and Mordeus himself.

Kurt expresses how ashamed he feels that the Temple Knights are so reckless and ignorant. I noticed that he mentions specifically the young Temple Knights, and he seems surprised. Even though I said before that the Knights aren't supposed to be the generic "government is evil" trope, pretty much they've been exactly that in all these little substories. But I like to think that this is some kind of new change in the Knights, as Kurt seems to have respect for the Knighthood overall, and seems surprised that all of this is happening.

Kurt asks Mordeus what he will do now that everyone is gone. Mordeus replies that he's going to do his job. He's a mercenary.

So, the group sets off on the task of... whatever... Mordeus's job is. We're just... given control of Kurt with no explanation of what we're actually supposed to be doing in here. Is it just hunting monsters? Are we looking for something in particular? Is there perhaps a lost person we're searching for? No one knows.

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This cave may look familiar -- we came here before in a subadventure. This is the place where we had to take the Keyaxe and hit the walls and the ground and the Keyaxe changed colors... I think it was Vanished Mogul, but there are lots of cave-related subadventures, so I can't remember if that's the one. The donut-shaped "storage" areas would fit that story, since it was about that guy hoarding all the treasures and not wanting his wife to sell them.

Anyway, that cave. But now there's no Keyaxe and no weird barriers or anything, just empty cave. Randomly some areas are inaccessible because they're blocked by walls that didn't exist before, similar to how parts of Iskandar's Mausoleum were blocked off in Mythe's story adventures, but these actually have walls put in place to make it seem like there's a reason for blocking off parts of the cave. Plus you normally need a Keyaxe to explore this whole place, so that makes sense, too.

Even without the entire cave open to exploration, this place is still huge. I was running around in here for maybe hours. I "fought" (as in, died on purpose to) Agares like four or five times over the course of this adventure.

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Kurt deciphered Purify from his tablet, which was awesome. Sadly, the tablet indeed did not have Bubble Blow, so we still have no offensive magic for Kurt. But Purify is definitely welcome, especially since this is our first access to it in this scenario.

Norff's clothes released Life Protection, so I swapped it for Kurt's Silver Mail to see if it would give me a better chance against Agares. Even later, Mordeus's Leather Armor released Life Protection, too, but even the 9 defense and Life Protection didn't seem to help.

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With Purify, Kurt was able to restore a bit of HP, but Agares would do about 8 times that much damage to Kurt each round anyway, so his HP was always at zero. Using magic arts did help manipulate action speed, though, so I was able to do stuff like combo three Fuji Views in a row, and Kurt even glimmered the rest of the Hammer line axe arts.

But still, no dice. In one battle, I actually managed to deal a whopping one LP damage to Agares! But I think it was complete luck. Kurt also died within two rounds of combat every time.

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There were many floors and mazelike passages throughout the cave, and I had no idea what the objective was supposed to be, so we did a lot of fighting. Going up or down stairs, or any kind of area transition, repopulates an area with monsters, and there are a lot of little stairways. Many would lead to dead ends.

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But with a full party already, and a pretty buff one at that, it wasn't too scary. The repeated Agares fights were certainly a pain, though. And I was always worried that when I took Kurt's axe off to quick-fix it, I'd suddenly get into a Gauntlet battle before I could even re-equip it. Not that it really mattered, since I had glimmered Fuji View already.

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There were even areas that I used Obstacle Crossing to get over some rocks, and explored thoroughly behind them. I was started to get really fed up and considered actually doing a Quicksave and returning to the game later. But I felt like I had to be close, and I didn't want to have to re-explore the cave in the next play session because I forgot which stairs I had and hadn't climbed.

And then, out of nowhere...

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Mordeus declares we're done. I have absolutely no idea what triggered this. I don't think it was defeating a certain amount of monsters, because it happened as I stepped on a space, not after a battle. But I didn't thoroughly explore the area I was in, so maybe it's just... that space? Or maybe uncovering enough spaces in general? I have no idea. But we're done. Thanks, Mordy.

Mordeus says that they had so much fun thanks to the knights, and I'm not sure if it's meant as sarcasm or not.

As the screen fades out, we hear Kurt's thoughts. Annoyingly the voiced line is a little different from the line that is printed on the screen, but he says that the Temple Knights are using Jeanne Maure to manipulate the knighthood. It's a dangerous situation.

What does he mean by this? Again, no idea. Though Kurt does know a lot about the Knighthood and recently left. And I mean, his dad is the Daddy Knight, so I guess he would have an idea about the goings-on of the Knighthood. But he seems to know something about Jeanne that we don't.

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Panels weren't anything particularly amazing overall, but Josef did get a L3 Dagger Arts panel which is nice. But I had to put it in a weird place, because all his magic tablets are in the way.

I put a Punch panel on Kurt that boosted his strength a bit more by making a joint combo with his Throw panel.

Everyone got L3 or L2 panels, but Norff got the first L4 panel we've seen. A Pacifist panel, of all things.

In town, I saw an Obsidian Mask that cost way more money than we were currently carrying, which made me sad.

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Importantly, though, I grabbed a hunk of Lead from one of the shops and made a new Steel Axe for Kurt. If you don't remember, making an axe with an axe as the base material causes you simply to repair the axe, rather than craft a new weapon. So I actually had to make a Steel Dagger first out of it, using a random item from the inventory as the secondary material , then make that Steel Dagger back into a Steel Axe, using the Lead as the second material. Because I specifically was trying to change the ability set on the axe, not simply repair the durability.

In the process, I actually lost both of the released abilities, so the final Steel Axe only had Woodchopper on it. Now and then, when repairing or crafting an item, you can release or unrelease abilities on it. So I dropped a few metal items I had (since using materials from the same 'family' as the base increases your chances of releasing and decreases your chances of unreleasing) and fortunately I was able to at least re-release the second ability.

And this second ability is very important to the future of this entire run, and something I've been intentionally avoiding for this entire play diary. In fact, for a while, I refused to even use axes at all in this game because of this ability.

But because I would really enjoy getting the Gauntlet battles out of the way so they will stop interrupting the game constantly, so I'm going to do it.

You'll see what I mean here in a moment.

Despite being tired, I really wanted to run through the Fugar's Masion subadventure. It's very short and there's not really anything that can make it take longer, since there are no battles at all. So we set out from Longshank to Fugar's Mansion.

If you don't remember Fugar, he's that rotund rich dude who everyone secretly hates but they like looking at his fancy collections. He's the guy that had bought and showcased the photograph that sent Mythe into a tizzy.

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This adventure starts with Fugar's butler panicking because Fugar had asked the butler to fetch his wife's jewelry for a party. The problem is, he forgot where he had stored it, but was too proud to admit it to Fugar directly. Now that it's almost time for the party, he's scrambling to find it and asking for help. Because when you are rushed for time, you go to the inn and post a notice in the pub there and wait for an adventurer to come to your house to help you look for some jewels. That totally makes sense.

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Fortunately, Kurt and friends I guess got there immediately, because there's still time before the party. But not much, because the butler gives us an axe and tells us to smash the whole place apart looking for the jewelry. I'm not even kidding.

There are no monsters at all here, since we're literally just trashing someone's house, so it's always a quick adventure.'

Or you know, I thought it would be. But uh, guess what happens as soon as we set foot in the mansion?

GAUNTLET BATTLE!

Honestly, I'm so tired of these things already. The concept is honestly pretty cool and I do like seeing the different enemies but... just... please, no more... Especially since Agares is way above our level.

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Kurt has more of a fighting chance, now, though. Since he finished studying his tablet in the last adventure, I can equip his deflecting sword again. He's still wearing his Life Protection suit he borrowed from his new buddy Mordy, he has a new panel boosting his strength, and he has a bit of Water Arts. So over the course of a single adventure, he's gotten small but myriad buffs.

But honestly, none of those things are really enough to help him out. A few points of strength is not great enough to go from dealing no damage at all to crushing Agares's frightful nine LP. Deflect and Life Protection only prolong Kurt's agonizing otherworldly death. And his Purify art means nothing when it heals only around 200 HP and Agares can do over 1000 HP per round of combat.

There is one thing, though. One thing that just might give Kurt a significant advantage.

And, well.

It happened. In the very first round of combat.

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Kurt glimmered Reverse Delta.

I'm going to explain a bit about how the game determines damage. Every damaging art in the game has several hidden statistics (of course they're hidden!) that factor into its effectiveness. You have, of course, accuracy, a base HP damage rate, a base LP damage rate, the damage types (like cutting, bludgeoning, hot, colt, etc.), and the added effects (like paralyze or strength down).

But there are two more less expected metadata that every damaging art has -- a growth rate and a number of hits.

Growth rate essentially powers up the ability the higher level panel you have. For example, imagine two sword arts were completely identical except one had a higher growth rate. With no Sword Arts panel, they would both do about the same amount of damage. But with a L2 panel, the one with the higher growth rate would do more damage. And with a L5 panel, the difference betweent the two would be even greater.

The number of hits is a little easier to understand -- even though only one number of damage is displayed after attacking an enemy, sometimes the game calculates the damage more than one time, and sums all that damage together. It usually makes sense -- for example, Bloody Mary's animation clearly shows the character stab four times in a row, and Bloody Mary actually calculates four hits, even if there's no way to see this calculation is happening in the game. You can usually guess the number of hits something is doing just by watching the animation. (No, Thousand Needles does not hit 1,000 times -- but it does hit 5, which is a lot).

So let's talk about Reverse Delta, compared to some other powerful arts we've seen. When talking about growth rates, generally you see a lot of the better weapon arts hanging out around the 5 level. Puree, Bloody Mary, Thousand Needles, etc. all have a 5 growth rate. 6 is common, too, like on Fuji View, and the impressive Doppelgangers even has a 7. There are some weaker weapon arts that actually have a higher growth rate, but their base damage is so terrible it doesn't even matter.

Reverse Delta has great base damage. Its base HP damage is 30 (twice that of Doppelgangers) and base LP damage of 7 (the same as Bloody Mary). Base LP damage of 7 is kind of a big deal -- it's really unparalleled. Shadow Arrow's is 5. Poker's Wild (the even stronger L5 Spear Art above DHS that I still have not been able to glimmer) is only 6. Seal of the Abyss, a forbidden magic art, is only 2. Reverse Delta has 7, along with big HP rate.

But it doesn't stop there. It's growth rate is nine. High growth rates are generally only given to the weaker arts because they're meant to be weak from the beginning, but having a high panel makes them a bit less worthless by the end of the game.

But Reverse Delta is already very powerful from the start. And it only gets ridiculously more powerful as you level up your panel (and Kurt has a L3 Axe Arts panel already).

And not only all of this, but it hits three times. I know this is all just numbers, and it makes a lot more sense if you have a good idea of the relativity of all this, but hopefully with these few comparisons, you can see that Reverse Delta is just... leagues above everything else.

If those numbers don't speak for you, maybe these will:

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Kurt, who was struggling to do more than 200 HP damage to Agares, and took the entire battle to maybe squeeze out a single 1 LP damage even chaining together three Fuji Views... did over 700 HP damage and three LP damage in a single attack. We're only on the seventh adventure of the entire game, and Kurt is able to deal 3 LP damage in one attack to what is intended to be something you can only defeat at the end of the game.

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And, well, Agares went down.

To be honest, I wasn't expecting this. I did want to get access to Reverse Delta to ease the pain of the Gauntlet battles a bit, and I did think it would make Agares much easier, but with Kurt's frailty, I still thought Agares would be able to smash through Kurt even before he could deal enough LP damage to defeat it.

At first, it still seemed that way, even after the 3 damage. Since this was the first Time Lapse art Kurt had glimmered, there was still just one little orange space on the reel, and it was ridiculously difficult to hit. And Reverse Delta didn't consistently do 3LP damage, so I was pretty lucky on the first. But it always did at least 1, and 2 wasn't uncommon. If I could actually hit the reel panel, which I didn't hit often.

But Kurt was deflecting a lot and now and then absorbing a bit of LP damage with his leather armor. And soon enough he glimmered other arts, making it easy to see when the orange panel was coming up on the reel.

And with only a couple of LP left himself, Kurt defeated Agares.

In a way, I started to regret using Reverse Delta at all, because honestly, it's so ridiculously overpowered.

But at the same time, there's something very satisfying about defeating Agares this early in the game. And honestly, especially after that long last adventure, I'm already sick of seeing that stupid thing pop up every 30 minutes or so.

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After Kurt leaves the gauntlet battle dimensional realm thing after having defeated Agares, he hears a voice summoning him to Starship Anchor. Kurt replies -- as in he literally talks to the gauntlet -- that he'll go there if it means unraveling this mystery.

But, uh, we had a house to bust up, remember?

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If you remember from Mythe's scenario where he had to run around in here while the place was on fire, Fugar's daughter keeps a magic tablet lying around in the middle of her room. And that's the big draw to this adventure. No battles, free magic tablet. The only downside is you get an annoyingly weak and random selection of panels afterward, which can be very disappointing if you're used to seeing even a decent assortment of panels at the end of your adventures.

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We come to a "custom-made door," and honestly, whoever "custom made" this needs to get another job, because what kind of style is it to have a rickety old wooden door with a big hole chopped out of it? This is before we decide to demolish it with the axe instead of, you know, opening it and walking through like normal people. I mean, the butler is following us around, so he could just unlock it if it was locked, right?

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In the room, there are a bunch of "custom-made" dressers, and we get a notification that "there is a custom-made dresser" six times in a row. Because we need to be told about each one, apparently.

You can then select them to smash them with the Keyaxe. Spoiler: the jewel is always in the fourth one. Every time. Just open the fourth one. It's not particularly fun to smash them up, as there's no animation or anything, and you have to hit a reel, and missing the reel does nothing but lets you try again.

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Hammering a huge axe into a dresser apparently just causes... the drawers to open. You know, we could have just... opened them. Like with our hands? We need to use our hands to wield the axe and honestly opening a drawer with your hands seems easier than smashing the top of the dresser with an axe until the drawers happen to shimmy open.

But, you know, ADVENTURRRRREEE

It says "Let's hurry and give it to the butler" but he's been stalking us the entire time. Then he thanks us for allowing him to keep his "snore-inducing" job.

This is honestly one of the strangest adventures in the game.

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Afterwards, though, we see that the magic tablet is a L2 Water tablet! Pretty awesome, Kurt gets a new tablet. This one has pretty much the same arts as the L1 one did, with a few extra -- including importantly, Bubble Blow.

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Josef got a downgrade to his Water familiar. Honestly, I didn't know what to do with any of his panels so I just went with this one. Better than downgrading the dagger, since I don't really use the water familiar at L3 or L2, since Josef already knows much better magic arts than it can provide (and Kurt now knows all those, too). I don't want to dump the tablets since he hasn't mastered them yet, and his other panels are pretty useful, too. So, the center is just going to be like... a game-long dump panel, I guess, until he finally finishes mastering his tablets.

Though I'm considering only having him use forbidden arts, so maybe once I get an item with forbidden arts on it and he's learned the forbidden arts from his L4 tablet, maybe I'll go ahead and start overwriting them. In fact, in that case, I could go ahead and get rid of the other two tablets. It seems a shame to dump tablets like that without even learning them, but I don't think I'm really going to make use of the magic arts on them, and it would be more fun to actually get to try out building Josef instead of just dumping whatever in the center during the long learning process of his tablets.

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Mordeus also got a L2 Sword Arts panel, which is nice, because I've been having him use a Sword, and he didn't start with a Sword panel. Despite spamming Sword Arts with him for the entire Monster Hunters adventure, he didn't get a Sword panel there, but now that the panels are completely random as he's done no actions at all since the last panel selection, he gets one. SaGa!!

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Back at the inn, we have found a new adventure available: "To Starship Anchor," following up on Kurt's promise to his talking gauntlet.

This is Kurt's final adventure. We could go to the final boss right now. Still in the beginning of the game. With like... half of everyone's Growth Panels empty.

Of course, that's a death wish that would make even Mordeus blush. So we're not going to go there yet. But this is essentially where Kurt's story paths diverge -- we can go there now and see one version of the story, or we can continue adventuring until enough time has passes that certain events take place, and we get a different final adventure.

And don't fret -- if for some reason you enjoyed being constantly interrupted out of nowhere to fight either an easy or hopeless battle, that's still going to be happening! Kurt still hasn't uncovered the mystery behind the gauntlet, and he's still under its curse. Defeating Agares and unlocking this adventure is just a way to see a different version of the story -- there are still many more Gauntlet battles to come, until we are even able to level up Kurt's Gauntlet panel to L5! And they only get even harder from here on out.

It was actually my first play of Kurt's scenario long ago that opened my eyes to the power hidden in Doppelgangers. Kurt glimmering it allowed me to advance in the Gauntlet challenge where I had been stuck for a long time. And my first time, I did beat Agares early enough to open this path, and I think I even ended up finishing the final Gauntlet battle before switching to the other story path. So I don't even know if I've seen the other story path. Maybe the reason I don't remember Kurt's story well is because I never saw all of it? I mean, besides the more-than-10-years-ago thing.

But yeah.

I apologize that the defeat of Agares was anticlimactic like this, and that we are able to approach Kurt's ending at such a jarringly early point in the game. But I'll keep adventuring, and possibly even try to showcase both story paths. I call them story "paths" but really it's just the option to clear the game early -- though it does change the events that happen within Starship Anchor, and of course, following it early means missing out on the rest of the events that happen over time.

But, uh, stay tuned next time for some more adventuring, when we'll get to see Kurt start blowing bubbles!