Ice Slab Sea
So, to advance the story, Ruby and Sapphire need some time to think about what the old lady said. The game doesn't tell you this, but I guess you realize it after going on a subadventure. That's all that's really available for you to do at this point anyway, so it's not like you really have a choice. But you do have a choice of many subadventures, depending on which town you want to adventure from.
Main adventures are activated from anywhere and then you essentially teleport to the place you need to go and start the adventure. Subadventures, however, are unique to each location in the game. Essentially, you're going to the inn (which I assume must also have a pub or something in it haha) and picking up rumors of stuff you can go out and do solely for adventuring's sake. Unlike other game's sidequests, subadventures are a pretty big part of the game, and only playing the main adventures will leave your party extremely underpowered for the end of the game (in a not-so-fun way -- I tried it as an LLG...)
Often the description of the subadventure is not helpful, like this one is just "Seek out Eternal Ice." But once you go on the subadventure it usually gives you a lot more context.
Subadventures also expand the lore of the world... some not so much and some a lot. Ice Slab Sea doesn't add too much but does give a little flavor at least.Basically, a merchant is looking for some ice that never melts, and you're gonna go find it. Stupidly, there is no cash reward for finishing this... in fact, you almost never get any kind of reward for completing a subadventure (but the panels and treasures you find along the way are well worth it).
The first thing that's important to note about subadventures is that they have a turn limit. In the main/story adventures, there's no turn limit so you don't really have to think much about turns. But now the adventure has a set number of turns... If you break the limit, you fail the adventure and have to go back to town. You don't get any panels and the shops do not restock their inventory. Basically you waste a bunch of time and weapon durability if you fail, though you don't lose money or treasures so anything you found along the way, you still get to keep it.
"Turns" refer to game turns, not just battle turns. You use a turn whenever you move to a space, rest, or use any kind of action. Each round of combat in battle also costs one turn, though if an aggressive enemy initiates a battle with you, the first round of combat doesn't cost a turn (as it's still part of the enemy's phase of the turn you were already on). Turns affect story adventures, too, as enemies move once per turn, but since there's no limit, you don't have to think about it nearly as much.
Turn limits tend to be ridiculously tough and tight, or really lax. There's not too many that are in-between. Ice Slab Sea is probably a well-balanced turn limit, though. 200 turns can be hard to finish the whole thing if you're really, really unlucky or if you don't use your turns wisely. But if you're smart at spending turns and don't get too lost while exploring, you'll probably cut close enough to feel the pressure by the end of the adventure.
A little side note, during battle sometimes characters will say stuff (like, voiced lines will play). There are generic ones they say over and over, like upon winning battles (not all the time, it just is a random little bonus you get sometimes) or when you encounter enemies you've never seen before, etc. But then there's unique ones that you'll only hear once, like going on an adventure here, the first battle Hiro will complain about how cold it is (and Ruby probably tells him to toughen up -- I can't even remember now but that seems very like her LOL).
This is how much the bar moved after studying Holy Seal once... yeah... didn't even move :\ It moves about every 2 battles and only a little... gonna take forever to learn it :( (Detect Vegeplasts, on the other hand, could probably be finished in 3-4 battles haha)
Subadventures usually have some kind of special task or puzzle you need to figure out, and often have their own little gimmick. These can actually get pretty clever and interesting, and figuring out solutions to most subadventures is pretty fun.
Ice Slab Sea's, though, is not the most interesting in the game, but you can see how it has a different feel from main adventures, which are almost always just 'get to the end of the map and maybe fight a boss.'
You have to explore the ice slabs and try to find the never-melting ice. There are tons of aquans and undead here. but importantly, there are these ocean waves that you have to brace for. They occur kind of at random in certain areas, and at some fixed positions, too. When they come at you, you get a map reel to see if you are able to find safe shelter from the waves, or if you get hit by them.
The reel patterns for the waves are the ones I consider 'easy enough' -- I'll always feel comfortable using a skill if I expect that pattern, but it's not an easy pattern. Of course, the ocean wave reels are just a fixed pattern and aren't based on any skill levels.
If you roll a success, nothing happens and you successfully evade the wave. If you roll a failure, you take damage and are knocked back one space. A critical failure does even more damage. Just like traps, if your HP is reduced to 0 or below, you take LP damage. Unlike traps, though, the waves hit the entire party.
Because all the spaces here have the 'cold' attribute (and some probably have 'wet' too), resting does not restore very much HP. Atmosphere attributes like cold and wet decrease the amount of HP you restore for resting. And resting costs a turn. You may have to rest 10 or so times to restore your HP. That cuts into your 200 turn limit pretty badly, especially since you'll probably drain all your HP after every couple battles and lose a lot from being hit by a wave, too.
So, I decided not to rest at all. I wasn't able to avoid battles for the most part because aquans and undead are both annoyingly aggressive. But part of the fun of subadventures is trying to ration your turns and make decisions. Since there are a lot of random elements like if you get hit by waves a lot, how many monsters you run into and where, etc., there's never a single solution or strategy, but rather you have to respond to what the game throws at you. That's part of what I really love about this game, is that you always have to be thinking. Even if it's easy anymore, it's still not a single solution that you just learn once. It's always thoughtful.
The layout of the area is not nearly as linear as the roads we've been traveling with Iskandar so far. You often have many choices of where you can go, and some places you can use the Swimming panel skill to traverse that you wouldn't be able to go to without that ability (Iskandar has Swimming now but I never ended up using it). If you explore to dead ends there seem to be a lot of treasures here. The treasures here come in the form of dead bodies to loot instead of chests. These are the best treasure types because they will never contain locks nor traps. They're always safe and easy to open! The only thing you need to do is open them! You can read them with fortuneteller to try to increase the value of the goods, though, of course.
There are also a lot of undeads here so I was able to use Ruby's familiar to Detect Undead. If you use this spell on the map, it shows the position of undeads on the map. If you use it in battle, it "shows the weak point" of undeads, lowering their defenses.
Since the turn limit pressures you not to rest, and I don't have any healing magic to use in battle to try to counter the lack of resting, everyone fell to 0HP pretty early on and is now very vulnerable to LP damage. Here is Sapphire taking 2LP damage :(
By the time I got to the third map of this area, I had already used half the turns. I didn't know how many maps there were going to be because it's been a long time since I played this lol. Up until this point I had not rested at all, and never spent a turn on battle despite getting into a ton of battles because the aquans are so damn aggressive (and always seem to travel in groups, too.)
BTW the reason it says Earth Familiar Lv3 is because familiars can have the ability to have navigation skills like Road Guide, Architect, etc., which allows you to see more of the map at once. So when you use this expanded map view (which also tells you the number of turns), it lets you know what the highest navigational skill you have for the current map is, which it's using to determine how much map you can see. I had just entered the area though, so I had only "uncovered" the first space lol.
When I got to the final ice floe, I was really hoping some kind of boss monster would not appear. I only had like 30 turns left and Sapphire only had like 2 or 3 LP (everyone else only had a bit more than that...) and everyone was still at 0HP. Imagine if I had been trying to rest or spent too much time in battles or playing with treasures (I did do like maybe 15 turns worth of fortuneteller across the whole adventure, though...)
Anyway, you have to pick up the Eternal Ice like you do with the key XD Once you use "Action" on the Eternal Ice, you'll grab it and it just says like "Got Eternal Ice" and then the adventure just ends, and you're on the Growth Panel screen. This is how like... most of adventures seem to end LOL. I don't think you get any kind of special reward aside from the panels... but all the dead body treasures everywhere and new panels are a great reward.
Upon returning to the Leith Torles's supposed birthplace, apparently Ruby and Sapphire have had some time to think about the old lady's "riddle" (????) and can now see this scene lol.
Iskandar asks Sapphire if she's ready to face the Seven Wonders. It... really does not explain why we're doing this LOL. We just... have to? Though it seems that Sapphire and Iskandar do a lot of talking in private, and we're seeing the story from Ruby's perspective, so maybe this was part of what they had already discussed before.
A lot of stuff seems to go on "behind the scenes" like this in this game. A lot of the story is left implied or vague and you're just supposed to guess or interpret it how you'd like. Personally I like stories like that but they really could have put a BIT more into the stories honestly.
Anyway, he then asks which they should go to, and a little thing appears as if it's going to be a menu (they put the little hyphens when they make a speech bubble into a menu) and Ruby interrupts the menu and asks why there's only 6?!? I don't think it's supposed to be breaking the 4th wall or anything, but rather we're just supposed to assume that Iskandar discussed which 6 are available to them, but it just displayed it to us, the player, in the form of a menu/list.
But... then it goes to a totally different menu view for you to actually choose, so IDK. Anyway, he says Hanging Gardens is in the sky so it's hard to get to, so we should choose one of the other 6. The Seven Wonders are a part of the game's overall lore and every character has one that is important to their story (so I'm assuming Hanging Gardens will be Ruby's 'big one').
Nakle Lines is my favorite wonder because the gimmick is very fun and some of the puzzles really surprised me with their solutions, and I still enjoy running through it now even though I know it very well. But I think I'm going to go with Starship Anchor first because it's fairly short, but could be a good challenge for a smaller party, and I know who I'll meet there and I want that person in my party :P Actually the character you get at Nakle Lines is one of my fav sub-characters in the game so I'll probably go there second.
Every subcharacter appears in only two scenarios each, so you'll be mostly seeing new characters every game until you get to the last one or two stories. The only character who only appears in one story is Iskandar. Even the main characters act as sub-characters in other main characters' scenarios.
Of course, this means that none of the scenarios make sense to canonically coincide with one another. And not just from the characters you recruit, but the way each character's story ends implies that the other characters' stories do not happen the way they do.
A lot of people feel that rather than one character being the canon story, there was probably an eighth character planned to be unlocked once you clear the other seven (maybe Iskandar would have his own scenario, since he's the only character that doesn't appear in two scenarios, and if he's related to 'the' Iskandar, it would probably make sense as a final scenario) as a sort of 'true story,' and it would allow you to recruit most of if not all the characters in the game, not just 7-9 of them (there seems to be plenty of room for more characters on the character select screen before setting off on adventures once you have more than 7 characters). But this was probably cut before the game was released.
Other SaGa games have had such major stuff cut from the game before release... in SaGa Frontier they did have a similar thing with a story to be played after all the others, and a lot of content from it is still in the game itself but cannot be accessed through normal play (but there's not enough to try to 'recreate' what the experience should have been). The idea for the final character was actually detailed in one of the guidebooks for the game.
SaGa games have a history of being rushed and cutting a bunch of major features or leaving important things unfinished because Square shoves a sudden deadline on the game during development. The series doesn't sell as well as others so they don't want to continue spending money on the development, but Kawazu likes to slowly make overcomplex games... so they end up turning into these convoluted messes that only people like me love XD
Anyway, Ruby and Sapphire are ready to start conquering wonders for... whatever reason, so we'll head out to one next time!