: This is your only warning. The Ruler of Evil doesn't leave this pit alive.
: A warning?! What are you even talking about?
: I know the pain you feel. You gave it to me. But if there's anything left of the one who loved Rosa in there, he can come with us. We'll figure out a way for him to make amends. If there isn't...
: Then we're cutting you apart!
: Who are you?
: He is the merciful light above!
: Find in us your salvation, or perish in darkness!
: Which is it? Who are you
: I'm Necrosaro.
: Wrong answer.
: Fie! Mercy is wasted on fools.
: I have just awoke as the Ruler of Evil. Urrggg...! Can't remember anything...
: He... he's gone.
: You have a fresh start, then! Don't-
: But I know what I need to do.
: You. Will. Die. Trying.
: Alright, you had your chance. Come then! I wasn't looking for vengeance, but I'll take it!
(In case you don't usually watch videos, I'm going to put in a special recommendation to make an exception here; there's more to this one than there is to your usual Dragon Warrior fight.)
Whoa, dang, that could have gone a lot worse!
Necrosaro starts the battle as a melee-only variant of Esturk's form, with 800 HP, 210 attack, 250 defense, and 70 agility. He always attacks twice but has no other special abilities. He's weak to lightning, slightly resistant to Firebal, wind and ice, highly resistant to Blaze and Sap, and immune to everything else.
However, this only lasts until your party manages to cut one of his arms off.
The current round ends as soon as his HP pool is depleted, and he gains a new set of stats as the next one starts: 650 HP, 190 attack, 220 defense, and 60 agility. Of course, seeing as he's partially dismembered, he only has one attack per round.
He has 1023 HP this time, with only 100 attack, 180 defense, and 50 agility. He's obligated to switch up his tactics, because, well, no arms. He gains sleeping gas breath, as well as the Firebane, Snowstorm, Beat and Increase spells. Strangely enough, his slight resistance to ice goes away.
Once you deplete his HP a third time...
You'd think that would be the end of him, but the Secret of Evolution hasn't had its last say yet. In a surprisingly creepy bit of animation, Necrosaro's belly starts "writhing grotesquely" at the beginning of the following turn, and...
This is where it starts getting weird.
New and improved Green Necrosaro has 700 HP, 100 attack, 200 defense, and 60 agility. He drops the spells and the sleeping gas, gaining mid- and high-tier fire breaths instead, along with the ability to shoot freezing waves (of course), and to "meditate silently", which heals him by a certain amount. His resistances also change: he gains slight resistance to lightning and ice, high resistance to wind and Firebal, and his high resistance to Sap becomes low resistance instead.
He's just about done letting you chop bits off of him, though. Once that 700 HP is gone...
...his arms regenerate, bigger and stronger than ever, giving him 800 HP, 230 attack (!), 220 defense, and 70 agility. He gets his second action back, though at this point he only has normal attacks and mid-tier fire breath. Also, his high resistance to wind falls back to low resistance, for some reason.
That's Necrosaro's fifth form.
We're not done.
We cut his legs off, and he immediately trades them for a more proportionate set; we practically did him a favor there. He gets "only" 700 HP back, but increases his other stats to 290 attack, 230 defense, and 80 agility. It's otherwise a reprise of his big-arms-small-legs phase, though of course those normal attacks are that much deadlier.
Whatever lordly posture the body of the former Ruler of Evil might have once possessed, Necrosaro has shed it entirely, revealing his hate-twisted final form to be a mutated bicephalous killing machine. He also gets his own boss theme, discordant and plodding where Esturk's was majestic and sinister. There is no ambition to reign here, only a desire to bring an end to all things.
Necrosaro's seventh form has 1023 HP, 290 attack, 230 defense, and 80 agility. He still gets two actions per round, and he gets his freezing waves back, on top of the highest tier of fire and ice breaths, and the occasional Bounce cast. In essence, the first six phases are slowly whittling your party down, so that when (if) you reach the last one, you're in no position to survive or recover from a relentless barrage of violent blazes, icy winds, and 290 power strikes.
The Hero has significant attack power, but he's generally not allowed to make much use of it in this fight, seeing as there's often some other important thing for him to do, like casting Healusall or Awake or using the Zenithian Sword, depending on Necrosaro's current attack pattern. I did spend a few too many of his turns on putting up and then trying to cancel his Shield's Bounce effect, though, which is definitely one aspect where my strategy could have used improvement; I just didn't know how long his spellcasting phase would last. If you've got MP to spare (and a turn where you don't have a fire to put out), it's actually not a bad idea to use Zap or Lightning at the start of the battle before lightning resistance becomes a factor, since either will often be stronger than a sword strike.
Ragnar fulfilled his usual job of being nearly (nearly!) indestructible, while offering a reliable amount of moderate damage. It says a lot that it took the final phase's high-tier breath weapons to bring him down.
Alena's 200+ damage crits are much more spectacular of course, but it takes a lot more effort (and luck) to keep her alive. The reward's there if you can manage it, though! Keeping the Dress of Radiance on her was something of a mistake, in retrospect; Necrosaro just didn't cast as many spells as I thought he would, and it just put her in danger of being deprived of healing effects.
Cristo's offense depends on what weapon you give him, but he's always a superlative healer, and I'm happy that he didn't actually try Beat all that much. I would have liked to see him try Increase a few times, though.
Brey didn't get much time to shine, unfortunately, apart from a few instances of ice damage; let's just say I would have preferred seeing more Bikill and less Chaos. Necrosaro's freezing waves make buffs less valuable than usual, but few of his forms actually use that move and a well-placed Bikill or two will definitely accelerate the fight a great deal. Dying to Necrosaro will absolutely make subsequent attempts much easier, since your casters will eventually learn his resistances as usual.
Taloon's not quite as sturdy or powerful as Ragnar, and I suspect most of his tricks just don't work on Necrosaro, so for me he mostly tends to be the Sage's Stone dude. It's still an important role, but it's a bit of a shame he doesn't get to flex his unique muscles quite as much.
Nara ends up being a lesser Cristo in most regards, especially before she figures out Sleep effects won't work, but judicious and steadfast use of Barrier in the final phase can easily make the difference between victory and defeat, and her Farewell is the only way to resurrect multiple allies at once, so it pays to keep her alive until the end.
Mara's a two-trick pony here, typically either going for BeDragon or rolling the dice on Blazemost every turn. It's generally worth it on average, with her damage output per round occasionally approaching Alena's, but she does tend to be enormously squishy, which keeps your healers busy. The Water Flying Cloth's breath resistance goes a long way in that final phase for sure.
And Doran, well... I figured I'd give him a chance, but I'm fairly sure Necrosaro's immune to his sleeping gas breath, and he always has a chance to skip his turn, so I changed my mind on that right quick.
: We'll end you as many times as it takes! Give it up!
: Is this my end? I'm burning... my body is melting away...
: Be GONE!
: Ugrrr.........! Gufff!
At this point, Necrosaro's sprite flickers quickly between his Esturk form and Saro's original body (I didn't manage to catch a screenshot of that one, unfortunately), and he disappears.
: It's... it's over. It's finally-
The ground starts shaking violently, and the entire plateau sinks into the swamp underneath with alarming speed.
: Ugh! No way! We can't die down here!
: Wh... What's this?
: Haha! Nice!
: I guess it's good to see him getting off his butt.
: You "guess"?
: Look, I'm still not used to giant dragons not being a huge problem for everyone, okay?
Master Dragon swoops in from the darkness, and flies us all right back to Zenithia.
: Would have been nice for him to fly them all down in the first place.
: Heh, I bet he was too scared.
: He did get nearly beat by the original Ruler of Evil.
: Francois, the Hero, a Zenithian and human descendant! Thanks to you and your friends, the Secret of Evolution, along with Necrosaro, has been driven deep down into the abyss of the world.
: Huh. If the whole place collapsed, I guess it would be a real pain to find the Bracelet down there.
: With the threat gone, peace will rule the world again!
: Not that this means we should let our guard down, of course.
: The Eight Chosen Ones! I thank each one of you. Ragnar, your performance was splendid.
: Oh! Heh. Well. A-all for king and country!
: Pfft, drop the humble act, please. You did deliver the final blow.
: Alena, you've performed with bravery and courage.
: That's weird, all along I thought I was just too angry to quit.
: Oh dear.
: I'll still count that as bravery and courage!
: Ha, okay, I'll take it!
: Brey and Cristo, I commend your devotion to Alena and your contribution to the quest.
: Ahem! Your gratitude is much appreciated. So would be anyone else's!
: I-I-I was only following my heart.
: In... i-in devotion and contribution of course.
: You're hopeless.
: Mara and Nara, I'm sure your father would be proud of you!
: Thank you, Your Grace. That's... that's very kind of you to say.
: I'm not even your dad and I'm still proud of you.
: Taloon, continue to benefit the world and its people with your genius in trade.
: Haha, don't mind if I take a bit of a vacation first! Just climbing that hill back there was exercise enough for a lifetime!
: Yeah, don't bet the house on that one.
: And Francois!
: You've proven to be an extraordinary leader! You won't have to return to the earth.
: ..."have to"?
: I shall allow you to live with us in this Zenithian Castle.
: Well, what can I say, young man. You've earned it. Bringing the lot of us together in the first place was no small feat!
: Eh? What's wrong?
: I'm honored, I really am, but... I can't imagine... I mean, ever since my home was destroyed, I've spent every moment fighting to protect everyone else in the whole world.
: It's about time you get a chance to enjoy the fruits of your labor, eh?
: Well... More like time to figure out what the rest of my life looks like. I just... I'm pretty sure it doesn't look like this
. No offense!
: You wish to return to the earth with them? Hmm...
: What's there to think about? You can't keep him here if he wants to leave! We won't let you!
: P-princess! Please settle down! This is no place to make enemies!
: I'd like to see someone dumb enough to make enemies of us now!
: Very well. I'll honor your wish.
: That's better.
: Thank you.
: This friendship which has grown among you during this journey is so firm, no one can ruin it.
: Couldn't have said it better myself.
Just like that, we have free run of the castle again.
: Can't quite argue with that by now.
: Ha, I knew it from the moment I saw you.
: So did I!
: Heheh, no you didn't.
: You looked at me for maybe half a second before you started watching that slot machine again.
: Well hey, when Nara introduced you to me, I could see you were the hero right away, and that counts for something.
: Sure, you just needed someone to point it out first. I get it, no harm done.
: Good! Now let's never speak of that casino again!
: That's a promise!
: It wouldn't hurt if you lot came to visit sometimes. It's easier for Zenithians to come down that for humans to come up!
: Better take care not to end up like Lucia, though.
: If I hear about monsters breaking a Zenithian's wings again, I'll personally vaporize them.
We're intentionally prevented from walking right out of the castle through the outside stairs. Looks like we'll have to take the long way around.
: I don't know how having wings would have helped.
: I guess we could have gotten out of reach of his claws.
: So he'd just breathe that freezing wind more. No thanks.
: Heh, good point.
: Thanks, but no thanks. I'm glad I saw Zenithia, but I'll take a patch of grass next to a stream over clouds and stone any day.
: Ah, well said.
: You've sure changed your tune. I wonder why.
: Heh, sure, why not.
: Oh, goodness, this library... I don't suppose Master Dragon would allow me to remain here in your stead, Lord Hero?
: Not a chance, we still have to figure out what happened to my people. Our people.
: Ah... I... I suppose you're right...
: ...yeah. He went through a lot of suffering, that's for sure.
: All pain, no hope. A tragic figure.
: A foolish one, you mean. Everybody gets hurt, it's what you do with the pain that counts. And I can't think of a worse way to handle it than the one he chose.
: I guess, in a way, he was gone before we got to him. Bastard to the end.
: Wow, really? Our words will be recorded?
: Oh. Oh no. Taloon, don't-
: What only bothers people when it's not their own?
: I don't know, Taloon. What only bothers people when it's not their own?
: It's FARTS. The answer is FARTS, because people who FART don't mind the smell of their own FARTS, and that's FUNNY somehow if you're FIVE YEARS OLD. And now everyone who comes to this library will know us all for the Chosen Ones Who Left With A Fart Joke. Good work!
: Actually, I was gonna say "success", but I like the way you think.
: Dear sister, I do believe you've just walked into that one.
: ...I give up.
: Wait, I don't get it.
: ...really now.
: Chancellor, common folk are often jealous of each other's small victo-
: No, no, no, come on, that I get. It's just... it's not a joke. It's barely a saying.
: The joke is that I baited Mara into yelling "fart" in a library staffed by angels. Several times!
: And that's funny.
: A little.
: I bet my son'll laugh.
: High bar, I'm sure.
: You'd be surprised!
: Hey, it was good to meet you too. Do come visit next time you're collecting leaves, okay?
: Ha, thanks for your help, little guy. You put a lot of bad guys to sleep! Yes you did! Yes you did!
: Oof, yeah. I know what you mean, believe me.
: That's... one way to put it.
: I'll say! A little glib, maybe.
: At least we stopped the situation from getting a lot worse.
: Right, let's take comfort in that.
: He never stood a chance against the lot of us.
: Huh. News travel fast.
: I don't think a creature as evil as Necrosaro was can exist without even common people being able to feel their presence. Do you remember Stancia? That was no ordinary despair.
: I bet it's like a shroud has lifted off their shoulders now.
: Sure feels like one's been lifted off mine.
: Yeah, I do. I don't... I don't know where I'd be without them.
: Everyone, please be true friends to Francois forever. Sob... Sob...
: O-of course! Don't worry about it!
: Is that all it took? Bringing down the ultimate evolution of the Ruler of Evil? Bah!
: Heh, the world ought to be a safer place now than it was yesterday, but I appreciate the sentiment.
Breaking with tradition, we don't get any kind of free roam segment at the end: from this point on, it's straight into ending and credits!
As tempted as I am to word up what follows, I sincerely believe I cannot improve on how the game handles this sequence on its own terms, so I'll leave you to it and meet you back on the other side.
And for the no-videos crowd...
Thus ends Dragon Warrior IV, and with it the series' history on the console that saw its birth. Good grief, what a journey, and what a journey.
When I started, I was a little worried that my nostalgia would find itself disappointed, but to be honest, after playing the four NES games in sequence, I'm even more impressed with IV now than I was before.
Of course the narrative structure is the biggest improvement, what with all parties having the game's full attention for a time and coming together in such a fun and organic way, but also with the subversion of the whole "the big bad is prophesied to return!" deal, with Esturk getting taken out before the final act. It's a bit unfortunate that your party members don't have much to say once they join the Hero's group, but they've been sufficiently defined in their own adventures that they're still far from the interchangeable ciphers of III.
Having a variety of neat characters in your party is also a step up from II's fixed trio and the clunkiness of Luisa's Place in III (relative to the wagon, at least). To me, while Alena and Taloon are stand-outs in who they are and what they do, everyone's got a good bit of personality and unique gameplay role, even though functionally you have three melee combatants, four casters, and the hybrid Hero. You can build close to any kind of party you want to build, and the generous experience sharing mechanism ensures you can't ever make a mistake in that regard that would be very costly to recover from.
There's also a lot more emotional resonance in what's going on, too. Of course Necrosaro himself is more interesting than the Dragonlord, Hargon, Malroth, Baramos and Zoma put together, as low a bar as that is to clear. But even without considering what immediately surrounds and flavors our various protagonists, the game is peppered with engaging little moments, vignettes and characters, like Healie's whole deal, or Aktemto's gradual decrepitude, or the old man in Haville longing for his past as a gladiator in Endor, or Tom's son going on the straight and narrow with his new wife, or... I could go on. I'm not going to pretend it's all profound, but even today I still find it affecting, and it helps give the world that impression of being a fairly believable place where ordinary people live plausible lives.
I can't really say enough good about the overall dungeon design, too. The dungeons generally feel shorter than what the series has gotten us used to, but they're much more varied and creative this time around, so you don't ever really have any one type wearing out its welcome. Even those that re-use mechanics (like the slide tiles) use them in different ways; for example, in Soretta's seed cellar, the slides try to get you to loop back on yourself, while in Endor's Royal Crypt they make you traverse the whole place from the bottom up, with your prize being steps from the entrance.
Of course the accompanying visuals have been superlative. Having so many tilesets that get used for exactly one dungeon is remarkable for the time, and even those that make multiple showings are used in sufficient moderation as to not wear out their welcome.
I thought combat could benefit from being tuned a little harder. Though considering the vagaries of the Chapter 5 AI, and taking into account that we've had practically no grinding to do, it almost seems like a petty complaint. If anything, the monsters tend to be more interesting than they are difficult, and I can't exactly find it in myself to have a huge problem with that. It's certainly tough enough to make it feel rewarding when you use proper party composition and tactics, at the very least.
And speaking of the AI, I have to say I had a lot more moments where I thought "oh, that's a good choice, I'm glad it worked out that way" than "cripes, what an infuriating blunder". Yeah, I'd occasionally have appreciated the option to take direct control, but seeing as it's the first system of its type (as far as I know), I'll call it competent enough. I know I don't resent it, but again, the game's not tuned so hard as to test it as much as it could have. Probably the biggest drawback here is that many spells get way underused. I think I saw Explodet happen once, Increase maybe three times, BeDragon not at all, and SpeedUp was cast one time... by an Impostor passing for Brey.
Alright, uh... Heh. I kind of don't want this to be over already, but I can't think of anything else to opine on. Man. Whew.
Thanks to all of you who accompanied me on this journey, whether we started together in Tantegel for the original Dragon Warrior, or you joined us somewhere along the way. It has been an honor and a pleasure to have had you by my side, and to have been by yours, in revisiting and in some ways rediscovering these favorites of mine.
Take care, tempt not the Fates, and be sure to press and hold in the RESET button as you turn the power off.