Travels with Iskandar 1~2

When we last left off, Ruby's finally got caught for her fake fortunetelling, and her sister Sapphire had an apocalyptic vision with a man named Iskandar. Now it seems that Iskandar wants to take Sapphire on a journey, and Ruby and Hiro decide to tag along with them.

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Sapphire is really interesting. She starts with Fortuneteller LEVEL 4. This is a big deal!! Level 4 panels usually do not appear until pretty late in the game. The highest level is 5, and those are pretty hard to reach. LV4 is like endgame stuff.

Fortuneteller is great because you can 'guess' the content of a treasure. This will let you know what's inside, and your guess will always be right. But what's great about it is you can keep doing it to change what's in the box, and level up the treasure chest at the same time! This has dangers, but I won't get into it now.

Artiste is also nice; it's not a battle skill, but you can use it to see the "hidden" inventory of shops. Pretty much it just adds a few items to a shop's inventory when you use it.

As for Makings, she has a Skill Making of 4!! That's really high?! Endurance is 5 (!!) and Spirit is 4. So she's quite durable to status ailments, and can deal deadly blows. It's pretty amazing. And then Magic is 4, too! I can't believe she is this powerful O_o I don't remember her being this strong XD I'm going to focus on making her good at dealing those LP blows with daggers and bows for now. If I get some good magic stuff for her I might have to rework how I'm building her XD

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Iskandar starts out with some weird stuff. Weapon Meister is not a panel you will see very much at all across the course of the entire game... but it helps you glimmer new weapon arts. Glimmers (actually they're called "sparks" in this game, but Glimmers in other SaGa games, and I like Glimmers better xD) are how you learn new weapon arts -- basically when using one, you'll get a lightbulb over your head, and use a new one in its stead. Then you'll have that new one permanently.

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Speaking of glimmers, the first battle I got into on this adventure, I decided to try having Ruby use her staff once. I set up a bunch of throws for the first four actions, and then the staff... I figured if I didn't kill the enemy in the first four actions, maybe I'd glimmer Drag Down.

And then I did!! That's... not really something I expected to happen, since you are more likely to glimmer against stronger enemies, and this was just some rando...

Drag Down is extremely useful because it lowers the enemy's strength. It's one of the easiest STR-lowering moves to find (the other easy one is a kick, but without martial panels, that's WAY too unreliable). If the move connects, the enemy will always lower their STR. You can only do it once per battle, but it can effectively cut their HP damage in half.

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Kawazu Throw Throw Throw XDDD The early-game enemies are easy enough that I can use the martial arts even without panels and still take them out. Throw is a pretty reliable art early in the game. Kick gets you access to Sinker (lowers STR), and punch... IDK, punch is kinda useless, honestly, unless your character does light martial arts (complicated LOL) in which they're a little better. Throw has decent LP damage chance for a LV1 technique, plus all Throws have a chance to stun (removes an entire action from the enemy's queue for that round).

"Kawazu Throw" is the name of the LV2 throw. Basically how arts (both martial and weapon) work in this game is that there are certain 'base' arts, and then you glimmer higher level arts in that 'line.' So you have "Throw" and you can glimmer "Kawazu Throw" from it. Then next time you do Throw, you can turn it into Kawazu Throw instead. Instead of just being able to pick Kawazu Throw from a list, though, you have to pick Throw, and when it's time for the Throw, this like... slot-machine-like Reel comes up, and you have to stop it on the blue space (blue = LV2). Pretty much it will just be a bunch of green spaces and one blue space... the blue space is pretty hard to hit. But if the character had a Throw Panel on their Growth Panel, there would be more blue spaces on the reel. Even just from a LV1 Throw panel on your board, there's enough blue spaces that you can react to them and time it so you always hit blue (well, you'll probably make mistakes sometimes). The higher level, the easier it is to hit them.

A lot of people really hate this part of the game, but personally I think it's very fun.

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My first treasure of the game :D

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It's time to put Sapphire's LV4 fortunetelling to work ^_____^ I successfully read the box, and it said there was money inside. Money chests will always only have money, so you can keep reading the box, and it will keep having more and more money inside as it levels up.

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But on only my second attempt, I failed and it forced the chest to LV1 and immediately opened it, so I just got 8kr... :(

Map skills have a 'reel' thing like the battle skills, but instead of hitting different levels for different moves, you try to hit either green ball (success), red X (fail), or bomb (REALLY fail). The bomb is what makes you open a level 1 chest like this :( The regular fail will level down the chest a bit and make it so you're not sure what's in it anymore. Successful fortunetelling raises the level of the chest and lets you know correctly what is inside.

The map reels have a chance to "slip" so you can't time them with 100% accuracy as you can the battle reels. So these are a mix of luck and skill. The level of your ability and the level of the target also matter and you'll have different patterns of icons to hit on the reel. It's a bit much to explain but really simple if you're playing it. A lot of people think it's random, but there are set patterns for each relative level of difficulty, and the "slip" will only make it land on one of the next 4 panels instead of the one you stopped it on (it doesn't always slip), so you can just time it so that you stop it on a green ball, but also so that none of the 5 spaces in your 'range' include bombs. You should be fine. I just kinda mashed the button because I thought the level was low enough that it would just be all green balls (it's never ALL green balls, but it will just be like 30 of them and then like one X lol) but it wasn't and it was like 4 green balls and a bomb and I slipped into the bomb -_-;;;

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I found another chest not long after this, though...!

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This one had a monster in it :( Monsters are not the contents of treasures, but rather they are traps that are set on treasures. If you trigger the trap, you have to fight the treasure slime. They can drop magic tablets (very rare and useful item that pretty much this is the only way to reliably find them) but they can be hard to fight early in the game, and your chance of getting a tablet is not good enough to warrant fighting too many of them, really... even though I ended up running into like 4 of them on this adventure and was dying by the end T_T Thankfully this is a very easy adventure with no boss or anything. It's just walking to the next town XD

I know the game well enough that I can kill them in like 3 rounds or less even with a beginning party like this, but they can do like 300+ damage with every hit, and multiple LP damage too :(

You can get an ability called "Sharpeye" that lets you see all the traps and locks on a chest, so you can make informed decisions about it... but I don't have that so I just have to attempt to open every chest and hope there are no traps... but there's almost always traps >_> I just have to pray for no mimic traps or explosion traps. But almost all the chests ended up having both... explosions destroy the contents of the chest and hurt the party member who was acting on the box (as well as other party members a bit too sometimes).

You can also get an ability called "Defuse" that removes traps from the boxes lol. It also disarms field traps!

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Isky and Hiro seem to be the most reliable LP-damage people at this point. Even with Sapphire's good Skill Making, she doesn't actually have a high Skill Level yet, and she doesn't have any good weapons or anything, either.

Here's an example of the battle reel, too. You can see it's all green spaces because I only have the LV1 ability in this "line."

Another interesting thing about battles -- you select your five actions, but you don't have to do them in that order. Like, you see as the reel is spinning, Iskandar's action is selected, but instead of doing that action, I can actually choose any of the five.

Battle works a bit like this: you select your 5 actions for the round, and the enemy selects a number of actions (random and based on number of enemies in battle). Then these are all placed into a turn order based on their speed (speed of actions is based on how "properly distant" you are from the target... for example shooting a bow very close to something will be very slow, but shooting it from far away will be very fast... IDK I didn't make these rules!).

Then, whatever the highest speed is will go first, and actions continue in that order. So like, if ANY of your 5 is the next fastest thing, it will become your 'turn' and the reels start spinning. Then you can pick any of your 5 things -- you don't have to pick the fastest thing (it will just default to the first one, not the fastest one, anyway). But, whatever you pick, if it's not the fastest, then ALL the enemy actions that were faster than that on the list get to go next. Basically, you slow down ALL your actions to be slower than the one you picked. You can manipulate the order of actions this way. But you can't actually SEE the turn order or how many actions the enemies have or anything so it's also based on luck and intuition.

Instead of just hitting the reel to do your action, you can "hold" the reel. Basically you're saying you want to try to chain that action into the next one. Enemies can also 'hold' their actions, and you can combo into enemies and they can combo into you. So let's say you 'hold' your reel, if the next action in the turn order is yours, then that reel will appear in the background, and you'll have two reels spinning... so you can stop both at once and you'll do the moves together as a combo (you also have to try to time two reels at once, but it's better to just concentrate on one and let the other hit whatever it hits... background reels move slower and you can see more of them at once, so they're very easy to time!)

If the next action in the turn order was the enemy's though, you won't get to stop your reel (it will automatically hit the weakest/LV1/green panel) and the enemy will 'cut you off.' It sounds complicated but it's not really when you're playing. Basically you just push a different button to try to combo your reel instead of use it normally, but it might combo into an enemy instead.

All actions used in a combo get powered up, so if you combo into an enemy not only do you have to use your green ability, but the enemy gets a boosted attack too.

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But I got a magic tablet... :D

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I read a chest up to almost 10,000kr ...! but then it was locked with magic, and I have no way to undo magic locks right now........................ X_X;

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Then later I bombed a reading, and the LV1 chest gave me this?!?!? This is pretty good for LV1!

Anyway, opening chests was all that really happened on this adventure besides a few simple fights. The adventure is just walking on the road to the next town so there's not much to it.

Once we arrive at the next down, the adventure ends and we get to go to the Panel Development screen. Sadly, we didn't get very interesting panels or anything.

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In ... Zomar, I think? you can see Hendrick :) There are like these random pub characters that you can talk to and they can give you little hints or just flavor text. Some of them are pointless like this lol. But a lot of them give better hints or neat lore stuff or whatever, and sometimes you can even meet characters you can recruit here. Too bad you can't recruit Hendrick... :(

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The only option we have from town for now is to leave and continue our journey. I spent a lot of time trying to get a screencap of Iskandar stabbing XD The camera moves all around and they go so fast it's kinda hard XD

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Random Arrowshot!!! This is especially nice because it hits all enemies :D I don't know if I explained this before, but all items have a particular ability set, though it's often hidden at first. At the end of battles, you have the chance to release the next ability on the item. Each weapon ability is access to a new "line" of arts.

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I have a hard time imagining Sapphire saying the word "whopping" XDD But everyone says this if they open a chest that contains a "large" amount of money.

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Normally this is the kind of stuff you'd expect Sapphire to say XDDDD She just falls into a pit of spikes and says "My vision is weak..." LOL. Everyone has unique little quotes for the random stuff like this... triggering a trap, escaping a trap, failing to escape a trap, attempting a skill, succeeding in the skill, etc. My favorite is Thomas (Judy's dad) because he calls himself "Daddy" and when he falls into traps he says "Daddy's fine, don't you worry." LOL

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Another ... interesting thing you can do is put equipment where it's not supposed to go. Like here I am putting a lead knife on Ruby's feet. IDK exactly how that works (do you stab it into her foot??? strap it on somehow??? Is she using it as a shoe?!) but basically it makes it useless (you don't get any defense or anything from it, and you can't fight with it), but it still has the potential to release abilities during battle. Since I don't have any shoes for her anyway, and releasing abilities is very helpful, I put the knife on her foot. Actually I put things all over everyone's bodies so everyone just has all these weapons like glued all over their clothes or something idk.

And not much else happened on our second little trip with Isky. Once you get to this point, you have control between adventures (before it was just cutscene - adventure - cutscene - adventure). Now you can actually shop and move between towns freely, as well as embark on subadventures. From here on out, when at the inn and choosing your next adventure, you can either choose "Travels with Iskandar" to continue traveling to where Sapphire needs to go, or you can choose a subadventure if one is available there. Each town has different subadventures available. Unlike story adventures, subadventures have a turn limit and often have some kind of special goal or puzzle or something to figure out. It's surprising the variety of things they put into what seems like a very simple little board game system. They really use it to its fullest potential.

The Magic Tablet that I found ended up being a Metal LV1 tablet. I gave it to Sapphire. Basically, it appears on the Panel Development screen at the end of adventure, but instead of being one of the four random ones each character gets, it appears in one of those top three slots and can be given to any character. You still have to place it as your one Growth Panel, just like any other panel, though, so you don't get to get both a Magic Tablet and a Skill Panel in the same adventure.

Anyway, I'll explain learning from tablets next time I guess, because it's kind of complicated, too...

Hopefully this wasn't TOO confusing (this is a super confusing game honestly). Once you get the hang of all the weird mechanics and shoddy UI, the game gets super addictive and interesting. There's a lot of strategy and even just walking around the board is really fun with all the little random events and things you have to manage and think about. The only part that wears on me anymore while playing is shopping in between adventures. Eventually you will have access to TONS of towns, and between adventures, shops change their inventory, so you'll want to go to every single town and look through every single shop inventory (there's no walking around between towns; it's all just menus, but it's still VERY tedious to look through them all).

That's kinda part of the reason I wanted to do a challenge run that involved no shopping :P Because not only is it challenging since shopping is pretty much your primary source of equipment (that combined with the blacksmith, but you're going to be buying materials first!), but you also don't have to worry about all that shop-checking so it removes that tedium completely XD I mean, you could go without checking shops but it really is your only real source for equipment (treasures are way too unreliable, to the point where I often stop opening treasures that contain anything other than money in a normal game XD) so you'll be missing out on important things. And you'll want to be continually upgrading your equipment for pretty much the whole game. Usually you can get to the end without optimal equipment so you can keep doing subadventures until you find everything you want. Though you can even run out of subadventures XD

For now, though, we'll just continue with our main objective.