: Malroth, huh?
: What a horrifying creature.
: Where... where did we see it before?
: In the Tower of the Moon.
: Ah, those eerie carvings, I remember now. You were right, Gwen, it was a demon after all.
: I wonder how the Moon Fragment and the Eye are connected. The tower must have been built by cultists.
: Not that this knowledge would help us much right now.
: We can't just go home now, can we?
: Of course not.
: It's obvious that we're the only ones who can end this threat.
: So we have to. Right. I knew that. Just... Just making sure, I suppose.
: Shall we set off again, then?
: As many times as it takes.
I made a point not to read up on either Hargon or Malroth before we fought them, so I clearly made a bunch of mistakes back there. (Especially trying to use the Leaf in combat; I did not know it only worked outside of battle.) Next time though, we'll know what we're doing.
Hargon has 230 HP, with a Strength of 180 (a bit less than Zarlox), and a defense of 180 (exactly as much as a Metal Slime). He can attack twice, as well as breathe sleeping gas, and cast Explodet, Sleep, and Healall. He's immune to most magic, except he only has a resistance of 3 to damage spells, and of 4 to Stopspell. In addition, just like with his guardians and his patron, you can't roll crits against him.
Obviously we want Zed to attack every turn. Glynn needs to cast Stopspell until it hits, because we do not want to deal with Explodet and Healall; once that's done, it's best for him to cast Increase and otherwise stay on healing duty. Apart from more healing, Gwen doesn't have a lot to do, so trying to sneak in Staff of Thunder blasts is a decent idea. Explodet would of course be more effective but she really needs to save her MP, and it feels bad to blow 8 MP and fail to overcome Hargon's resistance.
Overall he's difficult, because he still hits hard, but you can shut him down with relative ease.
Malroth though, oh boy, different story. He's got 250 HP (so not much more than Hargon), but he has both Strength and defense at 255, making him the strongest creature in the game (and tying his defense with Metal Babbles). His standard attack may cause "fainting" (like Man O' Wars), he has the game's most powerful fire breath, and he also knows Healall.
That Healall is especially bad news, given that Malroth is completely immune to Stopspell. He's also immune to most other magic, except a resistance of 4 to Surround and of only 2 to Defence. There is literally nothing you can do to prevent him from restoring all his HP any time he likes.
However, he cannot recover his defense power if Gwen reduces it with Defence. That's the real key to winning this battle: debuffing his defense until Zed and Glynn can chunk him down between Healall casts. There's a lot of randomness involved, since nothing stops Malroth from casting Healall every other turn, but as long as you keep Gwen casting Defence, he's never completely resetting the battle, and the window he has to heal himself in grows narrower and narrower.
If Glynn isn't busy keeping his cousins or himself alive, sneaking in Increase casts is also very helpful, until such a point as he can actually deal damage with his Falcon Sword. However, since he has no resistance to Malroth's incredibly powerful fire breath, he tends to be the most fragile party member, so he doesn't have that luxury often.
That said, knowing what to do isn't quite enough, since this clever plan means nothing if we can't outheal his damage or if we run out of MP before he runs out of HP. Malroth hits hard, and right now Glynn can't even survive two fire breaths in a row if he's not continuously pointing his shield-arm at the sky. So we have to gain more levels. If nothing else, higher max HP will make our own Healall casts more efficient, and reduce the amount of turns Glynn and Gwen have to spend on mere survival.
A point could be made that we got reallllly close last time, but I feel we got incredibly lucky with a long stretch of turns where Malroth didn't heal himself, and I'd rather tip the scales away from requiring even a little bit more luck than we had then, which means we could use better stats.
We've exhausted everything that the game has to offer before Malroth shows up. We have everyone's best gear (barring the nigh-unobtainable Mysterious Hats), we've seen every enemy, we've cleared every dungeon, opened every chest, mapped every continent. As much as I enjoyed the flow so far (...mostly), it comes to a screeching halt here. Even the utterly unpleasant instakilling enemies here offer much higher experience gains than any other monsters anywhere else, so the only thing left to do is to run around Rhone and make an attempt at Malroth every time all three of our party members have gone up a level each. (Which is to say, not an attempt every single level up, but every time all three have leveled up at least once since the previous attempt.)
At least we don't have to save up our MP while grinding, so we can use Explodet and Defeat at will. Small comfort, I suppose. I'll even use Gwen's Chance spell a bunch and see if anything interesting occurs.
I'll get to it, then. Gotta line up the old "watch later" playlist on youtube and zone out for a bit. See you on the other side, true believers!
14 minutes: Zed reaches level 34, for 2 Strength, 2 Agility, 2 HP.
16 minutes: Gwen reaches level 26, for 1 Strength, 3 Agility, 4 HP, 9 MP.
22 minutes: Glynn reaches level 31, for 2 Strength, 2 Agility, 6 HP, 4 MP.
Judging from how our first battle went, I don't think this'll be enough margin of error for my tastes. Let's get everyone another level before we start making attempts.
39 minutes: Gwen reaches level 27, for 5 Agility, 1 HP, 7 MP.
43 minutes: Zed reaches level 35, for 1 Strength, 2 Agility, 2 HP. Good grief.
50 minutes: Glynn reaches level 32, for 3 Agility, 1 HP, 3 MP.
Wow. It's as if the game saw the previous three levels, and challenged itself to give us even worse ones. Let's go for another set.
1 hour, 11 minutes: Zed reaches level 36, for 2 Strength, 1 Agility, 5 HP.
1 hour, 15 minutes: Gwen reaches level 28, for 1 Strength, 4 Agility, 1 HP, 5 MP.
1 hour, 23 minutes: Glynn reaches level 33, for 10 Strength (HOLY SHIT), 2 Agility, 1 HP, 3 MP
Man, considering he has a Falcon Sword, that Strength increase on Glynn is incredible. On paper, it's a bigger upgrade than going from the Dragon Killer to the Light Sword.
Fooling around with Chance, there were the expected Sleep and Defeat effects. It also occasionally casts an equivalent to two stacks of Increase or Defense, and it can even heal our entire party, which is a completely unique effect, since no other spell can heal more than one target.
There is also a chance of...
...which gives enemies a chance to attack each other instead of us. It doesn't check individual foes for resistances, so I presume it always works, though probably not against the enemies who would also be immune to Sacrifice.
Also, there is...
...the Sorcerer's Call, which causes our entire party to fall unconscious and all enemies to flee, ending the battle immediately as if we had used the Run command.
Overall these are mostly good and useful effects (apart from maybe the Sorcerer's Call), but considering how random it is, 15 MP is way too steep. I mean, it couldn't be like 2 MP, it has too much potential power, but if it cost 8 instead it would be a lot more usable.
Alright. Zed only needs a bit over 10k to level up again, so let's give him one more chance at a good roll before we have a go at Malroth again.
1 hour, 33 minutes: Zed gets to 37, for 2 Strength, 2 Agility, 3 HP. I know he's already our toughest party member and he needs big stat increases the least, but this is pretty silly.
Anyway, it's about time we put our serious face on and try to reach the end. We're actually getting pretty good at taking out the Rhone ménagerie quickly and Glynn is kind of a powerhouse by now, so we take have to facetank a lot fewer Explodets and Defeats on the way. It probably won't take thirteen trips again, but I'm not going to promise it, because that sounds like tempting the Fates.
Whew, okay, first try. Or, well, "first" try. Be that as it may.
Zed can now one-shot Metal Babbles with a normal blow. We've come a long way.
We run into surprisingly few enemies on our way up. I'm definitely not going to complain about that!
: Crap, he's back.
: ...he could probably say the same about us.
: Oh, uh, right.
: Malroth must have revived him.
: Doesn't matter. He's gonna wish he had stayed dead.
: Hey, Gwaelin.
: Yes dear?
: I think those kids are alright.
: Heroes, descendants of heroes!
: Yeah, but, also, no. Erdrick didn't kill that monstrosity. I'm not the one who took it down either. They did.
: With a little help we left them, right?
: Ha, true enough. Gotta pay it forward.
: ...guys, this is weird, but, uh, hear me out here, I have this strange feeling. Like we've just killed Hargon and Malroth.
: That's because we did.
: They've been consigned to oblivion, where they belong.
: Will wonders never cease, eh?
: Come on, Zed. You were there too!
: Yeah, I guess I was. Wow.
: We did it.
: We did do it!
: Holy hell, we sure as balls did it!
: You were right, Gwen. This place is kinda nice without all the demons in it.
: Hahaha, isn't it, though?
: Doesn't look as good as home sounds right about now.
: You can say that again.
: Nice work, by the way.
: You sure stabbed the crap out of that abomination.
: Oh, I couldn't have done it without you both. I mean, I don't know how your stuff works, but it sure let me do my stuff in the first place.
: I wonder if all of us put together are basically worth one Erdrick at this point.
: Pffft. We're worth three Erdricks and a half, easy.
: I'm thinking four.
: At least!
: Malroth was the source of all the monsters, then. Who knows what would have happened if it had been let loose in the world?
: Well we sure don't have to worry about that now.
: We couldn't have done it without both your help. I don't know who you are, or where you're from, or... how you made it here. But you have our gratitude.
: Huh. How is he still here?
: Redemption is available to all who would seek it, even to devils.
: ...I suppose.
The trap tiles here no longer cause damage.
Ah, we're getting repeating dialog here. NPCs with the same sprite tend to all say the same thing. I'll only show the new stuff.
We can't save anymore, of course. I wonder what the Dragon Potion might do, then.
: Ha, we killed him dead for sure, don't worry.
: And his patron as well. There should be peace now.
We have free roam of the world. I suspect there's a lot of repetition among the townsfolk, but there are a few places I can think of where there might be unique responses. Let's start with the only children in the world, in Zahan.
Welp, I don't know what I expected.
In Tuhn, Don Mahone has the "old man" dialog.
: You know, I wouldn't mind if you renamed the Armor of Gaia as the "Armor of Zed". I've had it for a while, it was important. Just saying!
Rubiss' sanctuary is still empty. The sage at the island shrine northeast of Midenhall and the folk we helped in Lianport all have their sprites' generic dialog.
: I wonder if the Dragonlord even expected us to win.
: Be on your guard, he might try something.
: Heh, we're stronger than a creature stronger than the wizard he was afraid to take on himself. I think we'll be alright.
: We kept our side of the deal.
: Are we going to have a Problem?
: Yeah, I thought so.
: Deceiving us?
: Oh, please.
: You've been wearing the crown all this time. You weren't fooling anyone.
: I hope there's nothing left to find, but...
: We'll help you rebuild, of course. Whenever you're ready.
: Thank you.
: Father!? How?
: We thank thee for all that thou hast done.
: It should be... It should only be a matter of time, now.
: ...I see. Take care, dad. I love you.
: Rubiss isn't just some "good wizard", there's no way.
The other spirits here say the same thing as the king.
: So that's why it's actually bad to steal. I hope you learned your lesson.
: Sister! I have returned!
: Well... haha, shucks.
: Ooooh, that Halla! Always a kidder!
: Heh, it was hardly any trouble at all.
: Glynn, my heir, thou hast gained a great victory, and I am proud of thee.
: I am honored by your recognition, father.
: He sure did well.
: To thy new duties must thou go now, Zed.
: Ooof. After all this I don't know how I'll ever be able to sit through another audience with the peasantry squabbling over chickens and fenceposts.
: I would rather adjudicate a thousand chickens and a thousand fenceposts than see the world threatened again.
: Yeah... yeah, this is better, in the end.
: Good grief, if my dad doesn't want to build me a room after this...
And here we are again.
Dragon Warrior II has more than its share of substantial flaws, as we've seen. Very often, this is just not a game that people finish, for absolutely understandable reasons. Thinking about Rhone almost made me decide against doing this Let's Play series at all in the first place. When we cracked that mountain in half at the swamp of the hidden valley, we opened the gates of despair in more ways than one.
But there's a lot of good meat around that bad bone. In so many ways, this is a brilliant evolution over its predecessor. It's no longer concerned with simplification at all costs, and it has so much more depth and personality to it. Considering it predates fellow early JRPG juggernauts Phantasy Star and Final Fantasy by almost an entire year, everything that it does well, it does far ahead of its time. And if the mistakes it committed here helped shape its successor into the genuine triumph that it turned out to be, then I'll say it's been worth it.
Anyway! Thanks for coming along with me on this thrill ride, good readers. This may have been the installment I've been least looking forward to, but it's still always a pleasure to share the highs and lows with all of you.
: Wait a minute... My reward for all of this nonsense is the crown I was going to inherit anyway? I was sold a bill of goods!
: Well, you do get to live in an undestroyed world.
: You have to admit it has its advantages.
: So does everyone else who didn't decapitate an arch-demon from the Shadowtime!
: No worries, kid. You also get to sit in on Dragon Warrior 3 with us.
: ...eh what? Who are you?
: Oh! That's Gwaelin and her husband!
: Hopefully there will be more dragons next time.
: I can hardly wait!