One might think that getting Taloon and Neta their own shop would be the end of Chapter 3, but any merchant can own a shop. It takes more than that to be the greatest arms trader in the world!
: Of course not!
: I'll stay at the shop and you bring in the merchandise, OK? When you speak to me over this counter, I'll take the goods you bring and put them up for sale.
: Got it. We'll have something before long, no sweat.
: It'll be yours one day, so be sure to help your mom out, okay?
So, the shop. You can give Neta any item that you could sell to a regular store, and the next day, she'll have sold at least a few of them for more than you'd buy them from another shop. It doesn't make a lot of economical sense, but you can buy weapons from the shop across the street, give them to Neta to sell, and turn a profit. Looks like folk don't shop around much!
Now it would be very tempting to unload the Broad Swords and Half Plate Armors we have, but we better hang on to those specific items for now, for a reason that will become clear very soon. Sooo we can't really sell anything right now.
: Just for the form, please.
: Working on it!
: Do we have business at the castle?
: Actually, yeah, we do. I got a hot tip from the logistics folk: the soldiers here could use new gear. I've got an in with the king, so maybe I can leverage that into a supply contract.
: ...I could use new gear.
: Heh, I'll tell Neta to give you guys a discount.
: Ah, good day, Your Highness!
: It's all thanks to your kind permission.
: How about taking a big order from me?
: I'd be honored!
: I want you to collect weapons and armor for my soldiers and deliver them to the people downstairs.
: Alright, anything specific?
: My order is 7 Broad Swords and 7 suits of Half Plate Armor!
: Seven, and... seven. Perfect! I'll get these to you as soon as possible!
Aaaaand this is why it's unwise to give those to Neta.
: I... Um... I won't pretend I'm much of a merchant, but I can't help but notice you didn't negotiate a price.
: Kings don't haggle with commoners, Laurent. I figure I'll bill him once all is said and done. Seven Broad Swords for two grand each, seven Half Plates for twelve hundred each, that's 22400 gold's worth of steel, so let's say an even 25000 to make it worth my while.
: So you're going to make 2600 gold from outfitting seven royal guards?
: It looks bad if I have to source the gear through retail, but whatever I can scrounge up from those critters in the wild is pure profit.
: Won't the soldiers mind that their equipment is used?
: They're using Copper Swords and Leather Armor right now. Trust me, if it's sturdy, they won't care where it's from.
: Good day, my fine fellows, I'm here about the king's request.
: Wait, didn't you say twenty-five-
: T-that'll be fine, gentlemen.
: You can buy them in other towns if you want. Do your best.
So, yeah, we'll be getting almost three times the value of the gear if we can fulfill the whole order. It's like the king is grateful for something!
: Absolutely, let's get started.
: Then I'll take your Broad Sword and Half Plate Armor. 3 Broad Swords! 1 Suit of Half Plate Armor! I've made a record of the delivery. The rest of the order is... 4 Broad Swords! 6 Suits of Half Plate Armor! Keep bringing them.
: Will do!
: Sixty thousand!
: With that kind of money, I could open a branch in Bonmalmo!
: What about that old guy in the tunnel? Didn't he need that kind of money?
: Hmm... Trade with Santeem is cut off for some reason, so it might be a good idea in the long term to open a path to the east. Ah, it's too bad Endor doesn't have shipyards.
: So what's the plan now?
: Eh, while I've got you guys with me, I might as well pick that cave clean. We left a bunch of good stuff down there.
: I'm all for bashing a few more heads.
: How about we bring some Antidote Herb this time?
: Oof, right, good call.
We only have 24 gold left, so we pick up two bundles, they'll have to do. And we can't afford to replace the Iron Shield we sold to buy the shop, so Taloon has to go hatless and shieldless. Good thing he's gained a few levels since we first went to that cave.
Oh, hmm, that's right, we didn't get a free heal while Taloon's family traveled south, and Laurent only has 29 MP. I'd go to the inn, but our crew's contracts are running out soon, so we should make the most of it.
Sweet! Aaaand we retrieve one Broad Sword and Half Plate from the flooded level without much incident. That's all of the loot in here!
: Yeah, that'll be fine.
: Alright, I'll put it up for sale.
Considering Morning Stars and Iron Spears usually go for 1250 and 880 respectively, that's a lot of profit!
: The rest of the order is... 2 Broad Swords! 5 Suits of Half Plate Armor! Keep bringing them.
Having found so many Broad Swords is very, very fortunate, since they're the most expensive of the two. We've just about run out of guaranteed chests, though. From this point on, we fulfill the rest of the royal order through more random drops, or buy the gear with our shop's profits. There's functionally no rushing that: you pretty much gotta get into a bunch of fights, or spend several days stocking Taloon's shop with store-bought gear.
There is one more trip I'd like to make, though. We earned about 700 gold from fighting in the cave, so we buy a Chain Sickle, give it to Neta, and leave north.
Night falls just as we're out of sight of Endor. Laurent's still running on empty, but most overworld monsters are not dangerous at this point.
As the sun rises next...
: No problem, I understand. Thanks for your service!
: I sure earned that 600 gold, haven't I?
: We can call it a learning experience. Don't undervalue your skills, and maybe try not to fail to put Vampire Bats to sleep quite so often in the future.
: Strom, it's been real!
: Take care, bye!
Aaaand they're both gone immediately. It's okay, we're almost there.
: Hey hey hey!
: I practically own the city now!
: I bet it's a bustling place.
: Heh, kidding aside, I guess we'll see if we made any money off of it when I get back. Fingers crossed!
: Actually, no. I have my own shop in Endor now, sooooo I won't be working here anymore. I won't be long, I just wanted to say thanks for giving me my start. So... thanks.
: No problem. Do what you want. If you want to work here again, come back.
There's nothing stopping us from working here again, and it would give us more chances to get Swords of Malice, but we have better things to do! It'd very inconvenient at this point besides, since we can't sleep at home anymore and the innkeep won't rent us a room (given that he still assumes we have somewhere to stay).
: Oof. Wonder if we'll find a buyer soon.
: It has walls and everything!
: You know, you could really get your son to do this for free.
: Oh, it's not just the same without you, Taloon.
: Oooooookay then.
: Likewise, kid. Hope it all works out for you.
And at night...
: Huh! I don't know if I like thinking of it that way, but... I guess I am!
: Wait, what?
: Ooooh crap, it must have been that Full Plate!
: Someone else was also tricked by foxes. What was his name? I think it sounded like da Gardi...
: Eh, that's old news by now.
: He's a good kid, it just took a while for it to get to the surface.
We find a Wooden Hat after a Giant Worm fight here. Might as well keep it on this time; if we're going to be fighting solo, it's best to do it with full gear. We'll get that Iron Shield replaced too!
: Oh, I trust you to set sensible prices, sweetheart.
We haven't sold anything yesterday, and we need a rest badly, so we spend our 350-odd gold on a Chain Mail for the shop, and take it easy for the rest of the day.
: Yeah, I just came back from Lakanaba to say goodbye to everyone in person, so I'm pooped. Let me know if you need a break at the counter, alright?
: Ah, it's still so good to be here. I missed you.
: Here's your lunch. Have a good day.
Of course we still get our Lunch!
Now, if we go to the counter and say we have merchandise...
: Oh, that's the stuff! Excellent work, Neta.
: What shall I put up for sale?
: Let me get back to you about that, okay?
Everything sold! (Except the Leather Armor we just handed over of course.)
The plan now is to go back to the cave, get into fights until we have to turn back or our inventory is full, then return to Endor, deliver any portion of the king's order we can, unload the rest at the store for Neta to sell, and spend all our gold on extra stock. Once we've made enough cash to buy the rest of the order in one go, we'll do just that.
We get our replacement Iron Shield, and that'll be enough to get our routine started!
Even Vampire Bats only scratch Taloon through his complete gear at this point, so we're in very little danger. Poison Lizards would still be a bother, but I don't think they appear at all on the upper level.
Taloon gets to level 12 before long, for 3 Str, 2 Agi, 3 Vit, 1 Int, and 6 HP. That's better than usual.
Alright, that'll be enough for today.
: Oof, that'll be a little late, maybe. But that's how far the cave is, it can't be helped.
: I got some good stuff though!
Gah, right, if our inventory is full, we don't get Lunch. Oh well. And the Leather Armor didn't sell yesterday. Now, see, if I had thought things through, I would have bought stock before I left. This time, we get three Morning Stars, a Venomous Dagger and a Chain Sickle for the store before our trip.
We get an Iron Spear drop just out of the castle, so we bring it back to the shop right away.
Okay, that's day two. Having only three slots open felt a little stifling, so we left the Wooden Hat behind after all. We did get a few Coppers Swords and Leather Armors on top of this, but at this point I don't want to bring back anything less valuable than Chain Mail.
: The rest of the order is... 1 Broad Sword! 2 suits of Half Plate Armor! Keep bringing them.
Back home, we deliver the extra Chain Mail and another Morning Star we bought with the cash we made fighting in the cave. At least we'll have room for a Lunch tomorrow this time!
: Dang, but that Neta is an ace!
All that's left is a Copper Sword and one Morning Star. We could go through the whole cycle again as long as we like, but for now, we have more than enough to save ourselves some time and buy the rest of the royal order directly. We can get the two Half Plate suits right here in Endor, but the Broad Sword requires a trip to Bonmalmo. That'll only be be 4400 gold, so we can use the rest to restock our inventory before we leave.
: At least one of them will be brand new, heh.
We make it back home past sunset, so we spend another night.
Still a decent amount, considering we had less stuff!
: Aaaand we're done.
: I never doubted it.
: It's a pleasure doing business with you!
: Goodness! Gonzalo, why didn't you ever get us a royal contract?
: I... Ah... Um... I didn't exactly... quit my job at the castle in the most graceful way.
: Oh dear.
: What. Did you do.
: It may have involved calling everyone "gigantic cowards" and saying I was "impossibly ashamed" of the entire royal guard, very loudly, several times. Many times.
: Oh, that must not have gone over well.
: It did not.
: I'm sorry.
: If you think the king of Aliahan would have spent sixty thousand on equipment for his soldiers, I have news for you.
: Oof, yeah, good point. Never mind.
: I appreciate your effort. I wish you good luck in your business.
: I think I already got more than my share of good fortune so far, but I won't say no to even more!
: You can say that again!
: Use it wisely.
: Yeah, I will. I have something in mind already.
: That's sixty thousand alright. Oh me, oh my.
: If it helps keep everyone in Endor safe, I'd do it all over again.
: By the way, have you heard of the Zenithian Sword?
: I have, actually!
: I hear it's the most powerful sword in the world. It can even break rocks, they say.
: That can't possibly be good for the edge.
: I wish I could get it...
: Do get in line, Your Majesty!
: The Zenithian Sword, eh? Hmm...
: I don't know where it is, but it's clearly not here. Or in Lakanaba, or Bonmalmo.
: It's... somewhere out there. Across the mountains. Across the sea, maybe. And at the rate things have been going, we could be making another sixty thousand in a week. If I want to be the world's greatest weapon merchant, there's only one thing I can do with this money.
: Heh, here's to hoping Neta continues to see things my way.
: Let it not be said I don't give back to the community! I've got your tunnel right here, my good man.
: You do? Yes, I've received 60000 gold pieces. I'll use this money to hire people and restart the excavation. Be assured it'll be finished.
: You have my full confidence. I'm looking forward to good news!
: Welp, the dice are cast. Either I'm on my way to being the world's greatest merchant or I'm on my way to being the world's dumbest sucker.
We spend the 7000 we have left on more stock, and call it a day.
So, yeah, here's the thing. Both dungeons we've been to are completely optional, and you don't strictly have to take the king's order to progress. Neta's amazing salesmanship is more than equal to the task of funding the eastern tunnel.
Speaking of which, let's visit the dig site today!
A Lilypa drops a Wooden Hat on the way. Might as well keep that one, heh.
: That's the spirit, lads!
: They say the Casino in Endor reopened. I'll go there soon!
: I knew you could do it!
: When it's done, I'll send a message to your house. It will be soon.
: Yeah, it probably would be a little soon.
: Anyway, aren't you a little tired of working?
: Heh, it's not too bad. As far as I'm concerned, you have the hardest part of the job!
: I hear the Casino reopened. Why don't you go there and relax?
: The Casino, eh? It's not really my thing, but sure, I'll kick back for a bit.
Yup, it's open again. And Ragnar has moved on. Everything's the same as it was in Alena's chapter. In fact, it's so much "the same" that...
...we have Alena's coins. The game doesn't keep track of individual parties' casino coins, it's just the one amount for everyone. That's why we spent all of our money on them at the end of the last chapter... and also why we're about to spend almost all of our money now.
Okay, there's one difference after all: where Alena would have paid 10 gold for one coin, here Taloon would pay 200. Cash is too easy to come by for him, so it would kinda break the game to have coins as cheap as they used to be.
So here's the thing. Chapter 3 is almost over, and I don't think it spoils too much to say that this won't be the last we see of Taloon. Casino coins carry over as we've seen, and characters keep their respective inventories (mostly), but for all intents and purposes, any gold left unspent at the end of a chapter is lost. Ragnar can mitigate this by filling his inventory with expensive equipment, and Alena can buy coins for cheap. Ideally, if you're going to minmax this, Taloon sells all his stuff and fills his inventory with Swords of Malice (if available in Lakanaba) or Broad Swords (since they have the highest gold value per inventory slot otherwise).
However, that kind of throws off the intended game flow a bit later on... so I'm not going to do it. It's not a dramatic effect, but I just want to go without this time around.
I also don't want to just throw away the cash we have now, so we buy a hundred hideously overpriced coins and leave it at that. Plot-wise we'll have to pretend Taloon leaves his money at home, because I'm not about to try justifying him blowing his family's liquid assets on gambling.
: Well, at least the drinks were okay.
: Whoa, dang, how long was I in there?
: I didn't understand what it meant...
: ...yeah, I am. It's just... I'm really happy I got this place for us. But I still don't want to be just another merchant.
: Alright, I won't say anything.
: You know you can if you want to, right?
: You're always chasing dreams... But that's what I love about you.
: I don't think I have the words to say how happy I am to know you still have my back.
: Why don't you go? I'll be waiting for your return.
: If there's anyone in the world who could convince me to stay here, it's you. So I'll be on my way, then, and I promise I'll take a bunch of Wings with me. I love you, Neta. So much. See you soon.
: I guess they just have that sort of marriage.
: She reminds me of your mother, Zofia.
: It's not an easy life, but I don't think she would have traded my father for anyone else in the world.
: Surely she would have liked him to be home more often.
: Yes, but... She used to tell me that she didn't wish he was different. Even if being who he was meant he wasn't with us very much.
: It's all about making good use of the time you did have with each other, right?
: Hey, champ. I, uh... I know I've already been on a bit of a trip. But I need to head out again, maybe for a while. I can't be the kind of merchant I want to be without learning about all kinds of gear from all around the world, you know? I promise I'll be back as soon as I can, so in the meantime I'm going to need you to keep taking good care of your mom for me. We have enough money right now, so make sure she doesn't work too hard, okay?
Taloon's son doesn't get any new dialog for this, which is a bit of a missed opportunity. Oh well.
: Here we go. Again.
: Well that was money well spent! Good work!
: Carry on my dream and collect as many treasures as possible.
: Heh, I can hardly wait to show my son what I find out there.
There are already people traveling through the tunnel in both directions!
: May the best man win on that one!
: If you go through the cave and reach an eastern country, you may find out something about it.
: There's plenty of money to be made there. I'm sure you'll do great!
: Dang but it feels good to help out.
: Taloon, I wish you good luck on your journey.
: Much appreciated, lad!
Whew, that's it for Chapter 3. I remember fulfilling the king's order took me a lot longer than this in other runs, so I have to presume I got extremely lucky with the random drops this time around.
Anyway, that sure was a palate-cleanser after the end of Alena's chapter, wasn't it? In a shocking turn of events, nothing bad happened to Taloon's family, and the man succeeded at everything he attempted! It wasn't just a difference in tone, either. Chapter 3's dungeons are (technically) optional, there are no boss fights, and we're given the means to make all combat nearly trivial. It's just not what the series has led us to expect... so in that way I'm not surprised it turns out to be extremely divisive even among fans of the game. I personally like what it does a lot, even if mechanically-speaking it could stand to be a bit deeper with its trading focus. There is something refreshingly unique about getting to play a sales clerk in the boonies working his way up to being able to throw tens of thousand of gold coins at a tunnel digging project, and there's some real thematic strength to getting to hire your own employees and progress being measured in being able to get the right supplies to the right people, from Wings for a friend's son to equipment for Endor's royal guards.
That's all we see of the shopkeep mechanics for the rest of the game though, so the following chapters will have to find other new notions to bring to the table. And find them they do, for better and for worse!
other new notions
my name is Cristo and I will kill this boss with Beat
The man's got rhythm in his soul, he can't help it!
François wrote:Ideally, if you're going to minmax this, Taloon sells all his stuff and fills his inventory with Swords of Malice (if available in Lakanaba) or Broad Swords (since they have the highest gold value per inventory slot otherwise).
However, that kind of throws off the intended game flow a bit later on... so I'm not going to do it. It's not a dramatic effect, but I just want to go without this time around.
I definitely extremely always did and do this every time I play the game.
Honestly, an inventory full of Swords of Malice isn't that huge of a thing? When you find Taloon in Konenber, they're already selling you Broad Swords and you probably already got one to clear the Lighthouse. The Sword of Malice is only 5 attack power above it, and at that point only the Hero and Taloon can equip it - and the very next town sells them anyway. The dude bringing eight to the party is mostly useful as a way to get a free 21000 gold, 15750 if you keep two to use, which really doesn't last as long as you'd think.
Yeah, it's easier to cheese in the remakes where you have access to the bottomless Bag; my previous playthrough was on the DS so that might be coloring my remembrance of the impact somewhat.
: No, I mean him. Our sworn enemy, Balzack!
: Oh, right. No, I didn't see him either.
: I see.
: Here, I'll pay you up through today. Thanks for performing for us.
: You're so popular. I want you to stay longer, but I don't want to interfere with your pursuit of revenge. Rest well tonight and leave in the morning. Have a safe journey.
: A fortune-teller and a dancer? What's next, an accountant and a turnip farmer?
: Don't judge a book by its cover. I was a dancer once.
: Eh. I guess we'll see.
Alright then, the sisters! Let's start with Nara.
Despite her labeled occupation, Nara's definitely not afraid to get into a scrap or two. In fact, she's essentially a Pilgrim, just like Cristo. Going against gender stereotype, she starts out a bit stronger and slower than he did, with slightly less Intelligence but triple the Luck. (Their Vit, HP and MP are identical.) Their spell lists partially overlap, but both get magic that the other does not. For example, only Cristo has access to instant death effects, and only Nara has access to wind damage.
Nara starts with a Copper Sword, the same sort of Silk Robe as Alena had, and she knows the Heal spell.
As for Mara...
...she's a Wizard, just like Brey. Their Strength and Agility scores start out the same, but she has much higher Vitality and Luck, and lower Intelligence (the advantages and disadvantages of youth, one presumes). Where Brey is a support/utility caster with ice magic on the side, Mara is a war-mage through and through, almost completely focused on the various types of fire damage spells.
: Haha, now we're talking!
That said, her only spell for now is Blaze, the weakest single-target fire spell, costing 2 MP. She starts out unarmed, wearing only her Dancer's Costume. It offers 8 defense power, which is only one more point than Wayfarer's Clothes, but it can be sold for a whopping 300 gold.
Before we get going, I just have to point out how the game plays with party composition here: we have two backliners in the front line. All previous chapters' parties had a robust character who didn't particularly mind being in harm's way. Heck, you could say the same for all previous games in the series. But for now, even Taloon was a stronger, sturdier melee combatant than Nara. It's an interesting way to bring variety, but this chapter definitely cranks the difficulty up a couple notches.
Oh, and there's something else to note here. Nara and Mara's sprites have lily-white skin due to the NES' limitations on color palettes, but not only is this party remarkable for being all-women, it's also remarkable for being all-women-of-color. If I may breach my "no outside art" rule one more time...
The sisters here are meant to be Romani ladies. Or, well, this game doesn't take place on or under Earth as its predecessors did, so it would be whatever this world's equivalent of the Romani people is. (The remakes give them Indian accents, but I don't think that was the original design intent any more than it was for Ragnar to be Scottish or Alena to be Russian.) And that's rad.
Aaaaaanyway. Revenge quest! Let's go.
: That'll be one way to say goodbye to a colleague. "Hope you get the bastard!"
: I still don't know how I feel about everyone knowing that.
: It's good, it'll put the fear in him.
: I'm not sure he'd be that scared of us.
: Not yet. But he will be.
Every bit helps!
: Yeah, that's... that was our father.
: What? You're his daughters? Oh, I feel so sorry for you.
: Feels weird to be on this side.
: Do you think you'll perform here again?
: Once we're done with this, then sure.
: Don't forget to visit your father's grave. Take care...
Hmm... We'll give it to Mara. Her Strength is low enough that it'll make a difference early on when we want to save MP, and I'm not worried about her late-game attack power.
: Huh. I wonder what got into her.
: We all have our secrets...
The new item of note here is the Leather Dress. It offers 14 defense power, which is two points better than Leather Armor, and it can only be equipped by women. We'll probably want two, but I want to check out the weapon selection first.
Nara can equip everything here, while Nara is limited to the Thorn Whip and Boomerang. It's tempting to sell the Dancer's Costume and get a Boomerang, but it'd leave Mara squishier than I'm comfortable with, especially at level 1.
In the end, we sell the Costume, buy Nara a Leather Dress, and hand her Silk Robe down to Mara.
Nara's Copper Sword and Mara's Blaze spell should be enough punch for now.
: Why you-
: We'll keep an eye out, sir.
Just like Assaram, this town has more going on at night.
: Just be careful, okay?
That's probably Lynn in the corner there, but if we try to go around the outside of the inn...
...we just leave town. Oh well.
Oh man, that overworld music. Good grief. I really like the themes for Alena and Taloon, but this one's easily my favorite at this point, by far. (If you're listening to it for the first time, lucky you, let it play past the moment where you think it loops, there's fifty seconds to it.)
It would probably be reckless to try to go north to Kievs right away, so let's get into a few fights around Monbaraba just to test the waters.
If the overworld theme wasn't already enough, the sisters have their own battle music. It's the full version of the track that plays during Mara's performance at the beginning of the chapter, and it's so good.
Aaaaanyway, Monjars! They have 8 HP, 10 attack, 6 defense, and 5 agility, with no special abilities. They're worth more gold than any other critter in the area though (8 apiece), so it's always good news to see them pop up.
In addition, thanks to helpful reader Lilput linking me to a Japanese monster guide, I can also say with confidence that Monjars and Kaskos Hoppers are vulnerable to all spells one might want to cast on them. Huzzah!
Red Slimes also make a come-back. Neither sister can always one-shot any of those critters yet, even with Blaze; when there's only one enemy left, we resort to physical attacks to save MP. Fortunately we don't take very much damage in return either; upgrading our body armor at the start looks like it was a good choice.
Mara levels up here, for 1 Str, 2 Agi, 1 Vit, 1 Int, 2 Luc, 2 HP, and 5 MP. That's two more extremely welcome Blaze casts! Nara follows suit after the next fight, for 2 Str, 3 Agi, 1 Vit, 2 Int, 3 Luc, 2 HP, and 3 MP.
: A six damage critical hit... Wow.
By the time night falls, Mara is out of juice, but Nara hasn't even had to cast Heal once. Better head back in for now, though.
As we enter the room here, the girl runs away outside.
: Don't worry about us, we have no intention of turning you in.
: The castle?
: I heard that a coup broke out at Keeleon and the King was overthrown.
: ...is that good or bad?
: The new King, calling himself an alchemist, is performing horrible experiments.
: An alchemist? You don't think...
: Balzack isn't the only evil man in the world, but it's worth having a look for sure.
: That man's on to something.
: She's been summoned to Keeleon Castle.
: Pfft, she skipped town for sure, you're wasting your time.
The suspicious man runs all the way to the eatery counter.
: We couldn't even if we wanted to.
: That's right!
: Did he succeed in turning iron into gold?
: Not... that we know of.
: If he did, he could become a king.
: Unless someone else got to him first.
: ...if Balzack took over Keeleon Castle, it'll make our job a lot harder.
: But we're not quitting.
: We're not quitting.
: I don't care what his reasons were.
: Oof, let's just get out of here.
: Good, because I don't want to hear it!
Aaaaaand that would be the first appearance of the notion of "Pufpuf" in the North American version of the series!
: If I was her, I'd be far away by now!
: It's a lot more than that, but... you might be correct.
: Mara! I thought you left town. You're back!
: Eh, not for long, the roads are just in bad shape.
Of course, this is another animated crowd scene using the background trick. The only regular townsfolk are the ones next to the aisle.
: I still don't understand why your boss keeps selling this seat.
: He likes money, what are you gonna do?
: I'm so excited to talk with you.
: Welp, we're busy! Goodbye!
: Can't he act like a gentleman?
: Not a lot of gentlemen watching that kind of show!
: Case in point.
: To no virtuous end I'm sure.
: Where's the castle again?
: Where's the Castle? It's far north from here beyond Kievs.
: I'll try to become as popular as Mara, the former star here.
: Heh, good luck with that.
: Ah! Oops! Wait, I'm not-
: You could give it a shot, sis.
: I'd rather not!
: Oh, this is just a cameo for now. Don't get used to it!
: No girl ever returns from there!
: Ugh! Even if Balzack has nothing to do with this, we should-
: I can't say I disagree, but let's just have one quest at a time, alright?
The Thorn Whip is only two points better than Nara's Copper Sword, but seeing as Mara has no weapon, I think it'll be worth the money for her.
Heh, they'd have the same attack power if we hadn't given Mara that Strength Seed. Combat should go smoothly enough to make it worth trying to travel north this time, though. Let's go.
: Well, that's home alright. I wish we were back under happier circumstances, but...
: You must be Edgar's daughters! You're back!
: It's good to see you again!
: I can't accept money from you. You're from this village.
: No, no, we can pa-
: Hey, that's really nice of you!
: Ah, maybe tonight then. We've only just arrived.
: I see. Be careful on your journey.
We've come a long way from the hero of DW1 not having a hometown and the Prince of Midenhall not having a room in his own castle.
: I never liked the smell of him.
: It's not like alchemists ever smell very nice...
: That's not what I mean!
: No, yes, I get it.
: Say, didn't Edgar have another pupil? Orin... that's his name, I think.
: Right, he did.
: He sure was a lot nicer.
: He was terribly injured too. Where is he now?
: If he's not here, then I can't possibly begin to guess.
: I'd... rather not think about it.
: The stray puppy Nara took in back then has grown up.
: Oh! That's great news!
: At least Balzack didn't get to him too.
: He did seem the type. I'll never know why father took him in.
: Under the circumstances, it could be better. But now that I'm here, I did miss it.
In case you're wondering, the villagers speak directly to Nara even if you put Mara in front of the party.
There's only the one store in Kievs, so it's good see that wide selection. Only Nara can use the Chain Sickle, but both sisters will want a Feather Hat at some point.
This dog runs up to us as soon as we get close.
: Hoho! It's you! I missed you so much!
And it starts following us around.
: Yeah, that'll explain it.
: By the way, this is a secret...
: Orin, Edgar's other pupil, is hiding in the cave west of this village.
: ...what? Really?
: Orin may know Balzack's whereabouts...
: We'll find him!
: It's... smaller than I remember.
: I don't know, it seems bigger to me.
: Well... it's emptier.
Ehh... We'll let Nara have those. Since she's in front, she needs all the HP she can get right now. It gives her five.
: Wow, what a mess!
: Powerful magics were unleashed here.
: Dad sure didn't give it up easy.
: Ugh, of course.
: It's a good thing the innkeep is letting use have a room for free. I wouldn't want to stay here tonight. Not while it's... like this.
: Maybe once we're done with this whole thing, we can come back and clean up.
: Right. I mean, it's not like I could live in this little village again, but, you know, just so it's...
: Sorted out.
: Orin first, though.
: I hope he didn't get himself stranded in that cave. It's a long time to be in hiding.
I don't expect we'll be able to clear the cave in one go without better gear, but we might as well give it a shot!
I haven't really mentioned this yet, but I love the style and bright colors of the NES DW overworlds. It's really amazing.
Oh they're vibrant AF. There's no doubt that the monster/character designs have a lot to do with the DQ look we recognize today, but the palettes for the terrain in the first games count for a lot too.
We're headed for the western cave where we've heard our father's least murderous pupil has taken refuge... but I went back to town off-camera to buy a Wing of the Wyvern. We don't have the Iron Safe anymore, better be careful!
A battle against a pair of Monjars gets Mara to level 3, for 1 Str, 1 Agi, 2 Int, 1 Luc, 5 MP, and the Sap spell.
Angel Heads have 14 HP, 13 attack, 13 defense and 7 agility, with a poisonous normal attack. Oof, maybe I should have picked up some Antidote Herbs while I was at it. At least they're highly vulnerable to all magic we care about right now.
Ha, great timing. We didn't even get poisoned, but Mara took a couple of 3 damage hits. She levels up here, for 2 Str, 1 Agi, 1 Vit, 1 Int, 3 Luc, 2 HP, and 3 MP.
: Hmm, this floor... This isn't the kind of cave I was expecting.
: Do you think dad knew about this place?
: He lived in Kievs for too long not to know of an underground structure like this nearby.
Aw crap, Ragnar could shrug off a couple Blaze casts from Sizarmagi, but neither sister has close to his HP pool. They're slightly resistant to Blaze, too, so it's good we got Mara that Thorn Whip. Fortunately Demon Toadstools have no noteworthy resistances, and we leave it for last.
Gah, Nara's poisoned and Nara's in bad shape. It might be too early for us to be in here after all!
We end up both poisoned and in a world of hurt. Nara gets the Herb because she's the healer, and we limp back out. Mara levels up as we reach the stairs, for 1 Agi, 1 Vit, 2 Int, 2 Luc, 2 HP, and 3 MP.
Whoops, I forgot Kievs doesn't have a House of Healing. We stay at the inn for free, then head south; I think Nara's Heal spell will be enough for us to get to Monbaraba.
For a moment I'm tempted to buy both sisters a Leather Hat, but if fire damage and poison are the biggest threats right now, they wouldn't help much. We pick up a few Herbs here for now, and we'll get another Wing when we return to Kievs.
For now though, let's explore the area between Kievs and Monbaraba completely, and earn some more gold and experience.
Troglodytes start appearing after sundown. They're also weak to magic, so Mara lets loose before they summon a horde.
Nara reaches level 4 as we finish up, for 1 Str, 1 Agi, 1 Vit, 1 Int, 3 Luc, 1 HP, and 4 MP. I'm not sure it that's what will make a difference, but it'll help. Let's call it a night for now.
: So if Balzack was the one who took over Keeleon, he didn't do it with wealth. Hmm.
: But he made an extraordinary discovery. Ah... the Secret of Evolution... that's it.
: What's that?
: I... don't know.
: I have to work late every day. Grumble... Grumble...
: Oh... that's...
He stays by Edgar's grave this time.
: What the...!
: Prove it or you're toast!
: Do you know? Orin used to break open locked doors.
: Huh. That's a handy skill.
: ...I wonder if he had much occasion to use it.
: The new King of Keeleon has allied himself with the evil ones.
: Oh, what a surprise.
Alright, three Medical Herbs, four Antidote Herbs, one Wing, we're set.
: Um, nope.
: Wait, aren't you that woman's-
: I've come from Monbaraba. I think you'd better give up. I just can't find a way downstairs.
: The Sphere of Silence, eh?
: I don't know what it is, but if it's a powerful magic item, it wouldn't surprise me if it really was in a vault like this.
Mara levels up off a pair of Sizarmagi here, for 1 Str, 1 Agi, 1 Vit, 2 Int, 2 Luc, 2 HP, and 4 MP. Dang, her next damage spell can't come too soon.
Lava Dolls have 15 HP, 17 attack, 15 defense, and 5 agility, with enough MP to cast Upper once. Now that's starting to be enough attack power to make us worried about physical damage. They're slightly resistant to Sap and Blaze, but considering how tough they are, Mara's Blaze is still worth the attempt. In fact, we defeat this one before it gets to do anything.
Gah, I was hoping we wouldn't start running into multiples of those. Mara's first Blaze fails, and they get to Upper each other, which is enough to make it so we can't do more than one damage with our regular attacks. A few more Blaze casts do the job, though. Lava Dolls can drop Magic Potions, and those would be quite welcome at this point.
I was kinda hoping this would be a weapon maybe, but we have the inventory space to carry an extra Wing, no sweat.
Xemime have 20 HP, 20 attack, 17 defense, and 12 agility, with the ability to cast Heal and dance the MP-drainin' dance. It's like these guys are tailor-made to be run-enders for Nara and Mara. They're slightly resistant to all magic damage, but weak to Sap.
This fight gets Nara to level 5, for 2 Str, 2 Agi, 2 Vit, 1 Int, 2 Luc, 4 HP, 3 MP, and the Sleep spell. It costs 3 MP, and still attempts to put one group to sleep; the critters we've met so far seem only slightly resistant to it, so it'll be a big help. That's one Cristo didn't learn.
As intriguing as this place is, I'm calling this run here. We haven't touched our supplies yet, but we've lost too much MP to Xemimes and if this gets any tougher I'm not sure we'll be able to walk out of our own power.
In fact, we make it out of the cave poisoned and out of juice. We use our extra Wing to return to Monbaraba, heal up, then make the trip back to the cave again. We have 389 gold to our name and could have bought a Boomerang... but if we're going to upgrade our weapons, I'd rather save up for a Chain Sickle.
Mara gets to level 6 on the way back north, for 1 Agi, 1 Vit, 1 Int, 4 Luc, 2 HP, and 6 MP.
: Hmm, no stairs, that man was right.
: What's this, though?
The entire room slides off the bottom of the screen, then back in from the top. It's simulating an elevator going down!
: ...well that was weird.
: Did... did we descend somehow?
Before we can exit the room again...
: Oh no! SIS!
At the end of a fight against two Toadstools and a Lava Doll, the remaining Toadstool finished off Nara before she could heal herself. I should have healed a turn earlier, but I thought I could leave it for after the fight.
: Ugh, better get out of here.
: Wait, that's not... Oh crap. I better try to get back up.
: Goodness, that vault would give an entire squad of professional fighters a run for its money.
: Let alone a couple civilians.
: They're brave, at the very least.
: Yeah, and look where it got them.
: It's... hard to argue with that.
: This did happen to us, too.
: And we trained in swordsmanship and magic just about all our lives.
: Still, they have potential. I think that makes it all the more admirable that these are the odds they choose to face.
So that's 262 gold down the drain, plus 30 for the revival. And to think I almost bought Nara a Feather Hat when we passed through Kievs this time. We'll get her one for sure now.
Oh hey, we run into Rabidhounds near Kievs. Slightly resistant to Sleep, weak to Blaze and Sap, no prob.
Welp, that's already better. Meet you back at the cave!
Nara leveled up on the way, for 2 Str, 2 Agi, 1 Vit, 3 Int, 3 Luc, 2 HP, and 6 MP.
: We'd bettter explore the rest of this floor before we try to go deeper.
Mara levels up here, for 1 Str, 2 Agi, 2 Vit, 2 Int, 3 Luc, 4 HP, 4 MP, and finally, Firebal. It costs 4 MP this time around, targeting a group of enemies for a fair bit more damage than Blaze. It turns out that the Firebal spells and Blaze spells operate on different resistance stats in DW4 though, so some enemies who are resistant to one may be weak to the other. For that matter, I think all critters we've seen so far except the Xemimes are weak to Firebal.
These go straight to Nara again, for 6 points. She needs 'em!
: Another one?
: Let's just finish up here and then pick one, there's no sense overthinking it.
Heh, that almost makes up for what we lost last time. That's the last of this floor, at any rate, so we head back to the elevator in the northwest.
This one goes down too.
Blazeghosts are only slightly resistant to Firebal, so this is a lot easier than it looks.
: Oh! Is that...?
: Fancy meeting you here!
: Wow, it's been a while!
: Do you know where Balzack went, by any chance?
: We're going to kick his ass.
: You're after revenge? I've been recovering, dreaming of revenge, too. Balzack allied himself with the evil ones and gained great magic powers.
: That'll explain the mess...
: But the Sphere of Silence should help you overcome his magic powers! I'll accompany you. Let's go!
: It's great to have you along!
: Ah, yes, it's always good to find yourself a sturdy meat shield!
Despite his Alchemist class, Orin is a soldier type, much like Strom, if a fair bit tougher. He's got more HP and attack power than Mara and Nara combined, so we put him in the frontline, where he'll remain for the foreseeable future. He's basically guaranteed to kill one enemy every round in this pit.
: Huh, that's not what we came here for.
: I'm sure we can still put it to good use.
Just as in DW3, the Lamp of Darkness turns day into night at will.
Gah, we're not in immediate danger, but that'll be almost the last of Mara's MP. We better head back. Nara does level up here, for 2 Str, 2 Agi, 2 Vit, 3 Int, 2 Luc, 5 HP, and 5 MP. As we climb out, Mara follows suit, for 1 Str, 2 Agi, 1 Vit, 2 Int, 3 Luc, 1 HP, 4 MP, and the Return spell, extremely welcome.
: It's been a long time since I've been back here.
: We know the feeling.
We reached town with 1234 gold, so it's time to upgrade. Nara gets her Chain Sickle, and Mara gets a Leather Dress and a Feather Hat.
Ah, that's better.
We rest up and head for the cave once more, hopefully for the last time. Nara levels up on the way, for 2 Str, 1 Agi, 1 Vit, 2 Int, 3 Luc, 1 HP, 4 MP, and the Infernos spell! Costing 2 MP, it deals wind damage to one enemy group; it's cheaper than Firebal, but slightly less powerful.
That's all for this branch. We return to the second floor, and take the elevator in the south this time.
Magemonja come with 25 HP, 30 attack, 30 defense, and 17 agility, with the ability to cast IceBolt. They're slightly resistant to Sleep, wind and Blaze; if we didn't already have Orin, they'd be pretty scary.
Mara reaches level 9 here, for 2 Agi, 1 Vit, 2 Int, 2 Luc, 2 HP, and 4 MP.
: Do you know what this is about, Orin?
: I've never been any deeper, to be honest. It's too dangerous alone.
: Eh, we'll figure it out.
Going down again...
: Oh, the south side's shut this time.
: That's an impressive mechanism!
: Could be magic.
: Eh, right.
: I knew it had to be here somewhere!
: It really didn't occur to you to get it?
: I was hurt really bad, okay?
When used in battle, the Sphere of Silence casts StopSpell for free, attempting to block one enemy group's magic. Mara is a touch faster than Nara, so she gets to carry it.
That's all for this dungeon! We get back out without further difficulty.
: I hope I wasn't your only lead for Balzack, because I honestly have no idea what he could be up to these days.
: Oh, we hear he's probably the king of Keeleon now.
: We don't know for sure, we've just put together a few rumors.
: I suppose it's too much to ask for that he's a just and fair monarch?
: He summons women from all over the place to the castle, and they don't get back out.
: Ugh. Right. Of course. Yeah, that's him alright.
: Do you know why father took him in?
: He was really smart.
: That it?
: Pretty much.
: That's... not enough. It's not enough to be smart.
: Well, it helps.
: Until it doesn't.
: Until it doesn't.
: ...until it doesn't.
: So, to Keeleon Castle, then? We have everything we need.
: Right. It would be nice to have a plan, but I suppose we should at least have a look at the place first.
: It's not like we'll have a chance to be sneaky about it. He knows all our faces.
: So we fight our way in, then? I can make that happen.
: Yes, yes, I'm sure you can, but unless Balzack himself is standing guard at the entrance, we might still be able to keep a low profile. Let's save the pyrotechnics for Plan B, okay?
Liclicks have 43 HP, 32 attack, 30 defense, and 15 agility, with the ability to cast Surround, which attempts to reduce our entire party's accuracy with standard attacks. They're also slightly resistant to wind and Sleep. These guys hit hard enough to make trying to reach the Keeleon region before completing the western cave extremely dangerous!
Viceters have 35 HP, 38 attack, 28 defense and 30 agility, with a slight resistance to Sleep. They can call for reinforcements, which is no joke considering they're a bit tougher than the creatures we're used to so far.
Even Orin can't one-shot either of these critters alone, which makes it fairly difficult to coordinate attacks; if the sisters help him, they can bring down one foe per round, but he's a guest character and there's no way to know which one he'll try to hit. This fight is easily harder than anything Taloon's had to face. A couple Viceters join to fray though, at which point it's a no-brainer to combo Infernos with Firebal. Nara levels up immediately afterwards, for 1 Str, 1 Agi, 1 Vit, 2 Int, 3 Luc, 2 HP, and 4 MP.
Keeleon isn't all that far away from Kievs, and we rearch the castle without further encounters with dangerous monsters.
: ...once great, maybe.
: Of course.
: Heh, this is nothing.
: Oh my.
Orin can straight-up muscle through Magic Key doors. If the tough critters outside weren't deterrent enough to coming here first, we can't get inside without him.
: Al, there's no way you're less strong than this guy. Why did we have to look for the Magic Key, again?
: I'm not sure... This must be some alchemy trick!
: Some kind of performance-enhancing medicine, maybe?
: Security seems pretty light.
: With the power he's obtained, Balzack hardly has to fear for his life anymore.
: What, you don't think we can do the job?
: What I think, is that we're not backing down either way, so it doesn't matter.
: I'll take your word for it, miss.
: What kind of magic is the king having you research?
: What type of magic? I wouldn't tell you. Ha, Ha, Ha.
: It's evil magic, no doubt.
: Nice sleuthing there.
That man is chasing the girl to the west, and they're moving at the same speed we are so there's no use following them. However...
...they're running in circles around the second floor, so we can just wait them out.
: I can't set him even a little bit on fire, can I?
: Better not blow our cover yet.
: Follow him and you may find it, but be careful.
: So the King's room is in a secret place, then. Somehow I don't think he's concerning himself much with the affairs of the kingdom.
: So Balzack is surrounding himself with worthless flunkies. Typical.
: Try making a big noise by his room. He'll run screaming into the King's room.
: A big noise... Hmm.
This warrior is pacing around the parapet here, and occasionally lying on the ground.
: Maybe that's the king's room.
: We didn't see a way north from the corridor below. There must be a hidden passage somewhere...
: Some time ago, the man who made a big sound by the Counsel's room was thrown into jail in the port town.
: Which port town exactly?
: Where's the port town? It's on the shore north of this Castle.
: Looks like we'll have a word or two with him, then.
: I wonder if he knew it'd make the Counsel lead him to the king or if he was just playing a prank.
: This is my room. Leave now or I'll have you put in jail.
: Remind me again why we aren't just putting the squeeze on him right away?
: If he's not a complete idiot, he won't knowingly take us to the king, and who knows what predicament he's going to get us into. Better try the noise thing.
: They say the new King is always in the secret chamber.
This guy isn't moving from his post, so we couldn't have Orin bust us in even if he could handle jail bars. Oh well.
Now we could get into a few scuffles to wait for sundown, but why not use our nice new Lamp of Darkness instead?
: You can't just eavesdrop on the king all night out here, you'll catch a cold!
Now the girl is standing still while the creep just runs around her.
I presume that's as far as the game is comfortable going in its depictions of the lascivious behaviors we've heard about.
: In order to complete the Secret of Evolution, the essence of girls' youth is needed...
: Okay, that's ominous as hell.
: Did our father really come up with a ritual that requires "the essence of girls' youth"?
: If he did, it sure explains why Balzack was so keen on making use of it himself.
: At least that one's enjoying herself for now.
: Until her youth gets stolen, whatever that means.
Each letter in the word "HAPPY" appears individually with a slight delay. That's... pretty creepy.
Anyway, there's nothing else of note at night here. Better set off for that port town.
Oh hey, it's literally within sight of the castle, no sweat.
The inn's right there, but let's check the place out at night first.
: Endor must be dear to him, but we can't see Endor from here...
: The next ship may be the last one to leave this town.
: Heh, at least Balzack didn't just leave the country. It would be a real hassle to track him down.
: ...I wonder what that thing did to the king to get put in here.
: With a tongue like that, I'd rather not know.
: This could be the man we're looking for.
: Better come back tomorrow, then.
: That's right!
: The name of Keeleon's new King is also... I think... Balzack... No, must be someone else.
: Well, that clinches it.
: Heh, not for free in a sailor hangout, no thanks.
The waitress is frantically rushing from customer to customer and to and from the bar. Dang but those are some heavy drinkers.
: We came here to see him, but he died before our arrival.
: Oh! I'm sorry to hear that.
: You have our condolences.
: What should I tell my little brother, Pipin? Sob...
: I understand your dilemma, but... the longer you wait to tell him, the worse it'll be when you do. Maybe you can take him by the sea and have a quiet moment.
: Best of luck to you.
: I guess I'm glad you're not that much younger than I am, Nara. I don't know how I would have broken the news to you if you were still little.
: I'm sure you would have found a way.
: ...yeah, maybe.
: Haha, good for you.
: Who's the lucky lady?
: Who's she? Her name is Joy! Hee ha!
: Oh, the... barmaid.
: Oof, one more broken heart for the pile, coming right up.
: Have you tried looking wherever you left him?
: We'll keep an eye out, miss.
Ooh, new stuff. The Iron Fan is a weapon that only Mara can equip, for 22 attack power, which is a bit stronger than a Chain Sickle. The Venomous Dagger is +24 though, with the paralysis effect on top of that, and not that much more expensive. Of course, if you can afford it, the Poison Needle makes a welcome return, with the same mechanics it had in DW3: high chance of doing exactly 1 damage regardless of your attack power, small chance of inflicting instant death. I suspect the odds for the latter are still 1 in 8, but I don't know for sure.
We get Nara a Morning Star, taking her attack power from 38 to 51. Selling her Chain Sickle and Mara's Thorn Whip leaves us with just enough for a Venomous Dagger as well. I'll want a Poison Needle for Mara at some point, but the Dagger will be a decent enough upgrade for now.
: I used to fight in the coliseum when I was young. I long for those days...
: I think your granddaughter is looking for you, so maybe let her know you're alright before long, okay?
Welp, nothing for us here.
I'm always nervous when I see Full Moon Herb for sale. Let's pick one up.
The Fur Coat is a +22 piece of armor that everyone but Brey can equip, making it better than Chain Mail but not nearly as good as Half-Plate Armor. Nara can wear Half-Plate, and we'll end up getting a Coat for Mara at some point. As far as shields go, Mara can't use either Leather or Scale, and Nara can use both, so that'll be another expense later on.
: It's very difficult to get boarding passes these days.
: I wonder why Balzack doesn't want anyone to leave. Things are bad, but they're not "everyone flee the country bad" yet.
: Maybe he just doesn't care about issuing passes. Men like him don't become kings to worry about administrative work.
: I just accidentally ignited gunpowder near the room of the Castle's Counsel...
: What's gunpowder?
: Oh, it's an alchemical concoction with explosive properties. Now that Edgar's gone, I wouldn't know where to find some these days.
: The gunpowder? I got it at Aktemto Mine when I was working there.
: Ah, of course, it'd be useful in mining work.
: Do you know where Aktemto is?
: Eh, if that miner's daughter came through here on her way there, it can't be all that far away.
: But we open only at night.
So that's it for Haville. We don't have directions to Aktemto Mine yet, but we've got money to make and plenty of places to explore, so let's get started.
Oof, Xemimes come in fives now. As strong as Orin is, he only kills one critter at a time at best. Better keep using Infernos and Firebal, even though they're slightly resistant to both.
Mara reaches level 10 here, for 1 Str, 1 Agi, 2 Vit, 3 Int, 3 Luc, 4 HP, 2 MP, and the extremely welcome Outside spell.
Five Slimes jump us as night falls. No biggie, right? Well, some Keeleon Slimes are special. They have up to 40 HP, with 0 attack (for some reason), 30 defense, and 15 agility, with the ability to call in more Slimes to the fight. They're also slightly resistant to all fire and ice damage, and highly resistant to wind. It's a strange way to keep them up to date, but they're still basically speed bumps.
Zappersabers have 30 HP, 40 attack, 30 defense and 16 agility. As if that didn't already make them tough customers, their standard attack can inflict the Numb status, paralyzing their victim until a random amount of steps are taken outside of battle, or a paralysis-curing effect (i.e. a Full Moon Herb) is used.
Those are regular, non-augmented Slimes, weird.
: We could use some good news, sister.
: The man you seek revenge upon is protected by a tremendous evil force.
: We already knew he was evil to the core, but this idea that he's allied to something worse than he is... We might be missing something.
: Worry not. I see you are protected by radiant lights... They are small and frail now, but more lights will join them and they'll fuse into one powerful force.
: Well, we've found one of them, haven't we, big guy?
: Heh, you two sure have been lights to me, but I'd never call you small or frail.
: Be patient. When you are sunk in the depths of despair... then shall your true journey begin.
: The depths of despair? Our father was murdered! If this isn't our true journey, then I sure as hell don't want to hear about it.
: Ugh, come on, let's get out of here.
: Say, Nara, you're a fortune-teller, right? These "radiant lights", is that news to you?
: Well... There are always risks to telling one's own fortune, or so it's said. It's not an ability that should be used selfishly. So I've never looked into what we're doing. Besides...
: ...I'm not sure I want to know where this leads.
: You're not thinking about giving up on us, are you?
: No. No, of course not. Don't worry, there's more to me than just telling fortunes.
Ah, there are Magemonja around here too. They're not too worrying by now, but let's just say we don't want to see Mara tanking a couple IceBolts.
So this is the Keeleon Slimes' real trick: they can only call for reinforcements, and once there are eight of them, they merge into a gargantuan King Slime!
King Slimes have 150 HP, 40 attack, 24 defense, and 17 agility. They have a special move with mechanics I'm not sure of that can deal a ton of damage at once (more than enough to one-shot Nara and Mara, if I recall), and as we've seen, they can cast Fendspell, which blocks all magic directed at them. Let's just say I'm glad Mara managed to sneak in a Sap before it put its defenses up. They're slightly resistant to Firebal, Sap and wind, and highly resistant to Blaze and Sleep. On the plus side, they have a small chance to drop Mystic Acorns, consumable items that permanently increase max MP.
Aaaanyway, we finish this fight with about 900 gold to our name, so let's head back to town and buy Nara a Fur Coat she'll be able to hand down to her sister when we can afford Half-Plate.
We had enough for a Scale Shield too, nudging Nara's defense ahead of Orin's. She has half his HP though, so she stays behind him. Next upgrade comes in at 1200!
This better be it, because that's the entire continent mapped.
That's no mistake. As we enter Aktemto, the "party wipe" music starts playing. I can't stress enough how effective that is at conveying what's going on before we've even taken two steps inside. Just as the silence in Santeem was eerie, the atmosphere here is tragic.
: Wh... What happened here?
: When we heard about that dead miner back in Haville, I expected an accident in the tunnels, but this is not... this is not that.
: Ugh, it's on the orders of that Counsel asshole, for sure.
: If you need gunpowder, take some of what's left in the mine. Cough... Cough...
: My wife died here too...
: I'm... sorry.
: Hey, what's going on here exactly?
: Gah, that'll explain it. Cave gas is no joke. They must have cracked open a pocket at some point.
: Would that really make an entire town sick?
: Well... just look around.
: We... we kinda have to.
: When the foul gas began welling out of the mine, monsters began appearing... Cough... Cough...
: Monsters? That can't be a coincidence.
: Maybe they just like kicking people when they're down.
: Well, it doesn't matter, we can handle monsters. Orin, do you think the gas will make us sick right away?
: As long as we don't stay there too long, I think we should be alright.
: Either way, we can't let it stop us.
: Mara, dad wouldn't want us to die in a mine.
: I know, I know. But he also probably wouldn't want us to go after his murderer. We're doing this for us.
: I'll go alone. You two should just wait for me up here. Or... maybe just out of t-
: Cram it. We're all going. That's final.
: Oh, lights above, that's...
: Let's just get what we came for.
: Ready as I'll ever be.
Aktemto is a lot when you're a kid.
Dragon Quest is a weird mix, because while it's colorful, vibrant and cheerful, it also doesn't shy away from just showing dead people on the ground. In fact I'd argue that its generally nice, storybook atmosphere makes moments like Aktemto a lot more impactful.
Yeah, the contrasts and changes in mood are super important, especially in a game with the length of a typical JRPG. There wasn't all that much of it in 1 and 2, but even just starting from the flavor of the Noaniels segment in 3 you can see the shape of things to come. And considering the limited toolset that could be used to put Aktemto together, I find it difficult to imagine how they could have crafted that atmosphere of overwhelming despair with more skill.
Alright then, back to our dive into the toxic mines of Aktemto.
Oof, four Liclicks right off the bat. It's good that both Nara and Mara can inflict magic damage, because all those incoming Surround casts can easily make Orin near worthless.
Those go to Nara; she has less MP than Mara, and we can always use more healing juice. She gains three max MP!
Metal Scorpions have 42 HP, 50 attack, 50 defense, and 25 agility, so that's another monster Orin would take forever to kill on his own. They can parry, attack twice every turn, and roll crits, so we definitely want to end this fight quickly. They're slightly resistant to Blaze and Sleep, but Sap, Firebal and wind damage always work.
Nara levels up here, for 2 Str, 1 Agi, 2 Vit, 3 Int, 3 Luc, 4 HP, 3 MP, and the NumbOff spell, curing the Numb status from all allies for only 2 MP. That's another one Cristo doesn't get.
Vampdogs have 38 HP, 40 attack, 41 defense, and 28 agility; their attacks can put their target to sleep, and they can outright cast Sleep on top of that. They're slightly resistant to Blaze and Sap, but everything else we have now will work, which is good because we do not want to let these three live any longer than necessary. Nara's own Sleep comes especially handy here.
For the most part, the previous chapters had gotten us used to dealing with monsters that were either dangerous damage dealers, or had some other debilitating ability, but rarely monsters that were both. But we're definitely getting a taste of the combination now.
Rogue Whispers have 40 HP, with 20 attack, 40 defense, and 1 agility. They have a chance to start the fight confused, and they have a very high chance to waste their turn ("Rogue Whisper is flustered!"), so running into so many of them at once isn't as bad as it first seems. However, they will rarely use a flip-out attack instead, where they deal a butt-ton of damage to the entire party, then die of exhaustion. They're highly resistant to all magic damage except for a vulnerability to wind, but they're only slightly resistant to Sleep, and Expel will always work, if you have access to it (which we do not).
At this point our best bet is to have Nara open with Sleep, them spam Infernos. Wind spells tend to have low mininum damage though, and hitting a bunch of Whispers for about 9-20 each isn't the best. But we manage.
Mechanics aside, let's take a moment to think about these creatures in this context. We're going down in this mine, under a town full of the sick and dying, and we run into crowds of silent blue ghosts just milling about. It looks like they're more afraid of us than we are of them... but the moment we start thinking they're harmless and let our guard down, one of them goes berserk, mauls us half to death, and disappears.
Man, that's the kind of stuff you'd expect to find in Lordran. Things in Aktemto are effed all the way up.
: Ha, it's good to see you excited about something for once!
The Silver Tarot Cards are unique weapons that only Nara can equip. They're not all that great to equip though, as they only offer 21 attack power, compared to the +33 Morning Star she's currently using. However, if she uses them in battle...
...she draws a random card from the deck, causing a random magical effect!
There are nine cards in all, most being quite helpful, and a few... not so much.
-The Card of Justice casts Expel on all enemies.
-The Card of the Moon casts Surround on all enemies.
-The Card of the Stars doubles the amount of gold and experience earned after the battle.
-The Card of Strength, as we've just seen, casts Bikill on a random ally, doubling their inflicted physical damage until the end of the fight.
-The Card of the Sun restores the entire party's HP to maximum.
-The Card of Evil casts StopSpell on a random ally.
-The Card of the Tower casts Zap on all allies, inflicting a high amount of lightning damage.
-The Card of Perfection casts Defeat on the party, which is a group-targeting instant death effect.
-The Card of the Terminator instantly replaces the enemy party with a Necrodain, a high-level, extremely dangerous skeletal monster. (Fortunately, it only appears if all the other cards are drawn in a single battle.)
The odds are weighted towards the beneficial effects (it's definitely not equal odds of each card), but you're still drawing cards at your own peril! Later versions of the game allow Nara to read the cards outside of combat for a bit of flavor text, but if we try to do this here, nothing happens.
Aaaanyway, Mara levels up after this battle, for 1 Str, 2 Agi, 3 Vit, 4 Int, 2 Luc, 7 HP (!), 5 MP, and the Bang spell. For 5 MP, Bang deals explosive damage to all enemies on the screen regardless of grouping, and it's about as powerful as Firebal. Just as Firebal and Blaze roll against their own monster resistance stat, Bang-type spells also have their specific resistance.
Baby Salamands have 40 HP, 42 attack, 36 defense, 27 agility, and come with the ability to "emit a fireball", which is the same low-grade group-targeting fire damage attack we saw all the way back on Saro's Shadow. Considering how two of our party members have low HP, this is pretty spooky to deal with. They're highly resistant to Blaze and Firebal, but not at all to explosion and wind damage, or to Sleep and Sap.
Garcoil Roosters have 52 HP, 47 attack, 40 defense and 26 agility, but no special abilities, which is a relief considering those stats. They're only slightly resistant to Sleep and wind, no biggie.
Welp, Nara's out of juice, and we're getting pummeled besides. Time to call it a run; Mara casts Outside for us.
Unlike the cave west of Kievs, Aktemto Mine isn't only hard when your entire party is squishy. Orin's tough, but he'd get obliterated on his own and we have to rely on spells to get through fights without taking disaster-grade damage.
While we're at it, let's use the Lamp of Darkness and see if the town has anything new going on at night.
: Dear Helga, the time of our reunion seems to be nearing...
: You ought not to give up on life. I know... I know it hurts to lose someone to tragedy, but you can't let it end the both of you.
If we didn't already have enough clues about how messed up Aktemto is, we can't save at night because the House of Healing attendant is too sick.
: ...what the-
: Oh no...
: Wait, why do they want to curse us? Aren't those... Weren't those villagers?
: They're... enraged by their suffering. They can't find peace, it hurts too much. Oh, lights above, I wish we could do something.
: Wait. When people die in torment, they just stick around and curse others?
: No, not always. Not even usually. This is not normal. Maybe it's too many people at once. Maybe there's just something about this town. I don't know.
: Either way, we really shouldn't be spending any more time here than we have to. Let's get going.
:: How can you be thinking about gold at a time like this?
: I won't give up... Cough... Cough...
: Ugh. I'm not afraid of monsters and I'm not afraid of gas, but that's the kind of crazy that spooks me.
: "Enjoy your stay", he says.
Vileplants have 37 HP, 39 attack, 40 defense, and 15 agility, with the ability to cast StopSpell. On their own they're among the least dangerous critters here, but we definitely don't want to have our magic taken away if we have to fight other monsters at the same time. They're immune to Sleep and slightly resistant to wind and Sap, but vulnerable to all flavors of fire/explosion damage. They're also only slightly resistant to the Sphere of Silence's effect, so if they show up in numbers, you can turn the tables on them.
Weretigers are rather brutal, with 50 HP, 58 attack (!), 44 defense, and 20 agility. If they weren't already powerful enough, they can use a party-stunning roar. They're slightly resistant to Blaze and Sleep.
: Well you're going to join them soon if you don't GET OUT OF HERE! Come on, come on, get out!
Nara levels up as we get out of the underground graveyard, for 2 Str, 1 Agi, 2 Vit, 2 Int, 4 Luc, 4 HP, and 3 MP. Gotta love those caster levels.
Hoooooly crap, the difficulty curve has officially Stopped Messing Around. Time to spam Bang and hope for the best!
Gah, look at those "ST" marks on our status window. We all got StopSpelled on the first turn. Better bail out.
Whew, we manage a narrow escape on our first try. Goodness. There's more to explore on this floor, but we'll probably have to teleport outside before long, so let's just keep going down.
: Wait, they're STILL digging?
: Some folk just have a death wish, I guess.
: Well best of luck with that, dumbass.
: By any chance, do you guys know where we could find any gunpowder?
: But it's damp and may not work except to make a loud noise.
: Good enough for us, thanks.
: Just... be careful with it, alright?
: Okay, we're done. Get us out of here, sis.
: I think that's the nicest thing I've ever heard you say.
So, Aktemto Mine. Not exactly the longest or most complicated dungeon, but man, that's some cranked-up combat challenge right there. Our early times with Orin might have given us a false sense of superiority there, so it still pays to be careful.
Before we go make use of our new explosives, we drop by Haville's armor shop.
As hard as the mine was, it sure made us a ton of money. Nara finally gets her Half-Plate, handing the Fur Coat down to Mara. Heck, this leaves us enough money to buy a Poison Needle, if we sell our Venomous Dagger. Mara has more than enough MP to use Blaze as a regular attack when she has to at this point, so the loss of damage is more than compensated by the chance of instant death.
Mara's nearly as tough as Orin by now (HP notwithstanding), which is excellent news.
: Huh. We're... really doing this, aren't we?
: Having seconds thoughts?
: No, not a chance. It's just, it feels weird to know that after all this, we're going to see Balzack again today.
: And kill him.
: And kill him. Gah, what an asshole.
: That's one way to put it.
: Anyway, let's go. With any luck I'll be on stage in Monbaraba tonight.
: Fingers crossed.
Three Brahmirds attack us on the way to Keeleon.
Bad move, chickencows.
: What did that guy say? "Next to his room"?
: That's it.
: Alright then, shouldn't be too hard.
: Heh, look at that idiot.
: Don't let him out of our sight!
: No worries, there's only one way to go.
: What did he do?
: Pressed a button, I think... or something. Let's have a look.
: Yup, there it is. Cleverly made little thing.
I don't think the game lets you find this button until you've actually seen the Counsel use it.
: No going back.
: Hit it.
: Hmm-mmm. No other exits.
: He's not getting away.
: Ha, better find yourself new boots to lick, little man.
: Not. For. Long.
: Remember us?
: You came here to avenge your father. Yes, I'm Balzack.
: What did he ever do to you?
: Edgar tried to destroy the Secret of Evolution which he accidentally discovered. What a fool. With it, he could have ruled the world...
: It's not gonna help you rule much of anything now, that I promise you.
: Look at me! At my strength! At my superior body!
: HAHA! YOU'RE FINISHED!
: W-wait... What-
Some kind of lion creature suddenly appears on the smaller throne in the back.
: Who the-
: Don't worry. I can't let you die now.
: Don't you dare take this idiot from us!
: You, Edgar's daughters! Come! I'll fight you.
: Come and get it!
So, Balzack and Keeleon.
Balzack comes in at 240 HP, with 80 attack, 43 defense, and 22 agility. He's strong, but none of these numbers are too far out of the ordinary; by comparison, Saro's Shadow had a bit more HP, but only fifty-something attack power. However, besides his normal attack, he can emit a fireball, as well as cast Firebal and... Healall. In an unpleasant callback to Hargon and Malroth, he can in fact restore all his HP anytime he likes. Of course, this is not such a big deal if you come in prepared, as he is completely vulnerable to StopSpell effects, including the Sphere of Silence. Once his spells are gone, Nara can undo any harm he does. In fact, we ran into tougher fights in Aktemto's lower levels.
Other than that, Balzack is immune to Sleep, very resistant to wind, and slightly resistant to Sap and all other magic damage. Sap is worth a shot as we've seen, and it'll make Orin more than capable of pounding him into paste within a few turns on his own.
Keeleon, though! Oh boy. He has 999 HP, 170 attack, 120 defense, and 30 agility. He gets two actions every round, he can "emit a scorching gas" (which is the mid-grade fire breath effect), as well as cast Firebane (the upgraded version of Firebal) and Healall. I'm not sure of the exact mechanic here, but apparently he also regenerates an obscene amount of HP every turn. He's immune to all disabling magic and debuffs, highly resistant to Bang and Firebal, and slightly resistant to all other magic damage.
As you may have guessed, this is not a fight you can win. No matter how prepared you may be, Orin, Nara and Mara are no match for Keeleon's monstrous strength. Even if you hack the game to make the fight winnable, the game just makes you fight him again and again until you lose.
...we don't wake up at the House of Healing. We wake up...
: I... I can't believe...
: We could have done it. We had almost done it.
: What the hell is this Keeleon creature? And why does it even care?
: That monster is far out of our league. We need to focus on Balzack.
: Or on getting out of jail.
: But if Balzack's under Keeleon's protection, it's not like we can do anything.
: Ugh... right...
: If the kingdom is ruled by a demon like this, I can hardly blame you for trying to run away.
: You're still young. I'll give you my Boarding Pass. It's in the chest in the back.
: Wh... But what we would do with a Boarding Pass?
: Sis, they're not going to let us in the castle again, even if we manage to get out. The moment they figure out we're gone...
: All they need to do is find us and tell Keeleon where we are.
: As much as I hate to say it, this may be our only chance to get away from him.
: If you remember, there's just the one last boat out of Haville.
: But... Balzack...
: I know how you feel. Believe me, I know. We'll find another way. Somewhere.
: Escape for me and live...
: ...right. Thank you, sir. We will.
: At least Balzack is too incompetent to mind the upkeep in here.
: Well then, looks like we're home free, for what it's worth.
: Aw crap!
: NO! ORIN!
: Beat it, sis!
: ORIN! COME! QUICK!
: We gotta go!
And we're out. If we try to go back inside...
: Oh no...!
: Wait, is he...?
: I know you regret what happened, but leave this country and build up your strength. I'll be wishing you... a safe journey... Gasp!
The Aktemto music starts playing.
: Orin... no...
: ...Nara... Little sis... we need to leave. It's not safe here. Come on. I get it, but come on.
: ...o... okay...
: Hooooly crap.
: That's... that was the depth of despair, wasn't it?
: Hopefully it doesn't get any deeper than that for them, because...
There are no more monsters on the overworld, and even the Lamp of Darkness won't make the sun set. We're just about done here.
: We're... We're really running away. This is a nightmare.
: We're not done yet, though. Remember what Orin told us.
: ...I'll never forget.
: It'll have to do, I guess.
: Why don't you talk with the passengers and the captain?
: I'm not in the-
: Right, we'll do that, thank you.
: I don't know what you've been through, but cheer up. Good things will come if you live...
: Darn! I could marry another girl! Weep... Weep...
: ...the world just keeps turning, doesn't it.
: ...until he's old enough to bear agony and despair...
: Well if you find out what age that is, let me know.
: Hello Pipin. I'm Mara, and this is my sister Nara.
: We came to this country to see our father. But my sister says we're going back. I don't understand.
: I'm sure she has a good reason. Be strong for her, okay?
: They almost did it, too.
: Might be a little late for that.
: No, we're all done here. Whenever you're ready.
It's a good thing Taloon's light-hearted chapter came in after the end of Alena's, because the sisters' revenge quest sure turns into a tragic failure cascade right quick. Not only did we not overthrow Balzac's evil regime, but we also lost a party member, and we're forced to flee the country. As far as the story goes, we're worse off than we were when we started.
It's cleverly done though, because the plot gets there without making it seem that Nara and Mara are weak. They are in fact strong enough to defeat Balzack, and their plan was going to work. It only started to fail when they unwittingly intersected with the interests of one of Necrosaro's underlings, a demonic entity so crushingly powerful than normal folk clearly have no chance to defeat it. The sisters could easily overcome one man's greed and lust for power, but there are more profound evils at work than they could imagine.
Mechanics-wise, there's also something smart going on. In a traditional RPG structure, Balzack would have been the boss of the Aktemto mines. Separating the boss from the dungeon allows for a different type of difficulty tuning, in that the dungeon monsters are allowed to be harder, and you can adjust the strength of the boss without having to worry about attrition from the dungeon trek. In a way it's a repeat of the Mirror of Ra quest with the Boss Troll in DW3, so even though the greater structure of the two games is fairly different, it's nice to see good ideas for specific segments carrying over. Of course it's not that having a typical dungeon boss is a bad thing, but variety has value!
Alright then, that'll do it for now. I think we're overdue for a bit of cheer, so let's see how Chapter 5 treats us, shall we?
That's also the first scripted battle loss in a DQ game, isn't it?
Ortega vs King Hydra comes close, but yeah, as far as battles where the player's party is involved go, I think that's the first. In JRPGs though, FF2 opens with a losing battle, and Phantasy Star 2 has a party member lose a duel and die, plus another battle where you either die and get a game over, or stay alive for a few rounds and get captured and sent to a prison satellite where the story continues. PS2 is a huge downer of a game plot-wise though, so it's not quite as much a study in shifting tones.
Alright, so, I hate to do this, but the holiday stress is hitting me almost as hard as the sources of that stress, so I'm gonna take the next couple weeks off to catch my breath and make time-management a touch less harrowing. I guess I'm just going to be glad we're between chapters right now, so it could be worse. :3
take your time it's been great
: Ahhh, your cooking always smells so good, mom.
: Alright, sure thing.
: Oh, wait, what? Dang, there he is!
: Greet everyone you pass, OK?
: Heh, you say that like I ever don't.
At last, Francois. Later versions of the game get us to spend a few moments with him in short scenes at the start of every chapter, but here, we don't even get to see the character we got to name until now. I understand why they added the scenes, but I do think it's more an interesting change than an actual improvement. I'm quite fond of how we've only heard about him in vague rumors for all this time.
As if to clear up any possible doubt, his class is "Hero". It's basically equivalent to DW3's Hero class, with great combat stats, excellent equipment selection, and a good spread of all types of spells. However, where the DW3 Hero has no magic until they level up and learn Blaze and Heal, the DW4 Hero starts out knowing Expel, which none of the other spellcasters we've met so far ever learn.
Aaaanyway, we've got a Lunch to deliver.
: Well, it would be nice, someday.
: You're not ready to go out yet. You must be much stronger.
: Eh, I guess so.
: Aren't they all?
: Wow, really? That's odd.
: Against village rules, I let him in.
: If it's half as dangerous out there as everyone says, I can't blame you.
: I hope it won't cause trouble.
: Lucky for you!
: I didn't know there was a village deep in these mountains.
: Yeah, we don't get much in the way of visitors, so I'm not surprised.
: That sounds cool, I look forward to it!
: You look hungry. I'll teach you after lunch.
: Sure, I'll drop by then.
: Pfft, that's not happening on 5 MP.
: Hiya Celia!
: Good thing you don't have to deliver lunch then, heh.
: Francois, I hope we can stay friends forever.
: I know we will.
There's actually the in-battle sound effect for damage being taken playing here.
: Ha, Ha, Ha! Francois, you must always guard yourself. Mastery of swordsmanship is harder than it appears. Understand?
: Heh, I'll get you next time I see you carrying food around, we'll see how it goes!
: World's greatest sandwich delivery, coming through!
If we had happened to eat the Lunch ourselves...
...but we wouldn't do that, right?
: Wasn't my idea, but I don't mind.
: Ripe old age!
: Listen, Francois, you must always be righteous and strong, whatever happens.
: O-okay. I mean, I wouldn't want to disappoint you or mom, right?
: Uh, thanks for the info.
It looks like we might be able to find a hidden passage in the south wall here, but the one accessible tile doesn't go anywhere.
: Welp, time for my own lunch then.
: It can wait.
: Gah, I'm kidding! Lunch please!
Suddenly, the innkeep rushes into our house.
The standard battle music starts playing. This is not a drill.
: Wait, what? Did that traveler-
: "Flee?" I'm not leav-
: Where are we even going?
: No way! I can fight!
: Celia! Come along, quick!
: Nothing's going to-
: What do you mean, "soon?" If we're not fighting, then we all need to go! H-hey! Celia! Where-
: If I'm that great, you need to let me fight!
: Dad, what's going on?
: What? No!
: Let me go! I don't care about any of that, I want to stand with you!
We're taken through a secret passage in the second tile from the east.
: All the more reason for me not to stay down here!
: How am I supposed to do that without all of you?
: YOU BETTER COME BACK!
We can distinctly hear combat sounds outside, spells being cast, melee attacks being made, and the ground is shaking. Whatever exactly might be going on topside, the villagers sure aren't giving it up easy.
: Celia! You made it!
: No, no no no, don't you give me that.
: Don't you dare do anything stupid!
: No, Celia!
: Don't leave me like this!
Clamors of battle again... then nothing. Silence. Absolute silence.
Nothing else happens. We have control again.
This is a video of the entire sequence, from returning home for lunch until this point. As limited as the series' toolbox is when it comes to cutscenes, it's hard to imagine doing better with it.
: Celia...! Why... what...
: Oh no.
: I can't... I can't stay here...
We have a new overworld theme; as far as I'm concerned, it's best one. Though it would be better to get it under brighter circumstances.
: ...holy crap.
: It's not... It's not any easier seeing someone else go through this.
: And he's never even been outside of his village. The boy doesn't have anyone left.
: Hmm. So Ragnar was too late after all.
: His quest was doomed from the start. He would not have found this village.
: I wonder if that wandering poet they took in was the one who betrayed them.
: Yeah, he definitely sold them out, there's no way that's a coincidence.
: For all we know, he may not have been truly human himself.
: So that's how monsters repay kindness, then.
: At least they failed too. The Hero lives.
: H-hello? Is there anyone here?
: Um, hi, sir, I-
: Sorry, I'm... uh... lost.
: You look so gloomy. I hate gloomy kids.
: I apologize for my countenance, sir, I-
: Get off this mountain right away! You can go to the Castle.
: Ah, okay then. Sorry again. I didn't mean to disturb you.
At the moment we turn to leave...
: Oh, I didn't... really have time to take anything else along.
: You'd better take the things from those jars in that room!
: Thank you, sir. I'll just be on my way, then.
That's a very welcome upgrade to our Basic Clothes. Male Heroes can't wear Celia's Feather Hat... but neither can female Heroes, in fact. I guess there's just something about putting on the clothes your childhood friend had on just before they died.
: So, the castle, then. Maybe... maybe I can find someone there who's heard about this Necrosaro creature, whatever it is.
We don't get specific directions to the castle, but it's so close as to be hard to miss.
Do you remember that other castle to the northeast? As the crow flies, the Hero's village is even closer to Burland than Izmit was. How's that for dramatic irony?
As we come in, a group of adventurers is leaving town.
: Defeating monsters, huh? Count me in!
: Oh, sorry! Our party is full.
: You should find your own allies.
: I bet that's easier said than done.
: Don't worry, we will save the world.
: Best of luck.
: Heh, it's good to see more than one party trying to do something for once.
: Ah, well, right, sorry.
: I... don't know about that. But I hope you're right.
: Good to see you've got your priorities in order.
: So a Soldier, a Pilgrim, a Goof-off and a Merchant?
: I could see it work.
: Needs more fire.
: You say that about everything.
: Doesn't make it wrong.
We can equip any of these, but that's a lotta money.
I could understand wanting to hang on to the Feather Hat for sentimental reasons... but 210 gold is a fortune right now and inventory space is always dear. It has to go.
This leaves us with enough money to buy a Scale Shield, which is a bigger upgrade than going from Leather Armor to Chain Mail would be. Sold!
: When a great evil arises, a Hero will emerge.
: ...I'd prefer that the great evil stay put, to be honest.
Nothing unexpected here.
: Yay Taloon!
: Because his cave opened a pathway between countries, the monsters are after him.
: Whuh-oh, Taloon.
: So the monsters really were trying to isolate kingdoms, then. That can't be good.
: I hear the Hero who was to defeat the Ruler of Evil was destroyed.
: I don't know what's so special about that Hero. It's not like there isn't anyone else who can pick up a sword.
: Nope. I guess it's already hard enough to get four people to agree on anything, they couldn't take on one more.
: Many people, claiming that they can defeat the monsters, come to see the King.
: That's... one way to put it, Your Highness. My name is Francois.
: Your name is Francois? A good name!
: It's the best!
: It's alright.
: Man, it'll get confusing up here before long.
: I'll tell you what you must do. Prevent the resurrection of the Ruler of Evil at any cost!
: Wait... He's not already here?
: Francois, I wish you luck!
: Well that's a little light on actionable details... But even if this Necrosaro isn't the Ruler of Evil after all, it should still pay off to track him down.
: The northern...! Please go on.
: She fell in love with a young woodsman, and they had a baby.
: Wh... What happened then?
: Where is the baby now? Oh, it's just a fairy tale.
: Well I've sure never heard of it before. Hmm.
: Oh I know where this is going.
: It must feel really strange for him to hear that.
: Hmm? What do you mean?
: Do take a moment to think about it, dear.
: Think about what?
: Huh. I sure could use some of that, if she's the real deal.
: I want to consult her.
: If this is only an imitation, she must be really skilled!
: She told me she was searching for the Hero with her little sister.
: Hmm... Endor... I don't know if I can trust anyone who's looking for the Hero, but maybe I can hear them out.
From our hero's point of view, the whole thing is a bit iffy, but as players, we know exactly who those sisters are and of course we want to go to Endor right away!
Let's get a bit of fighting under out belt before we go, though. Can't hurt to get our feet wet exploring the Branca region.
Facing three Monjars at once would have been tricky even for Nara and Mara in their early travels; it's tough to be alone at level 1! This time though, Francois two-shots two of them, and the third runs away. Buying that Scale Shield paid off too, as they only deal 1 damage per hit.
Oof, it's way too soon to run into three Giant Bantams after sundown, this may be too far east for safety.
Yyyup, we get put to sleep and killed in four hits. Maybe we ought to save that general direction for later!
: ...better not let that happen again...
That cost us 55 gold. Not good! Let's just spend the day fighting around the castle for now, then.
Yeah, those are more our speed.
If we let that old man make his way to the pond in the east...
: Long ago, a woodsman's family lived in the northern woods.
: Did they, now?
: The son met a beautiful girl in the woods and fell in love with her. One day he was struck by lightning and died. His father is still a woodsman and lives alone in the mountain.
: Ah, yeah, I've met him. I guess that explains why he's so bitter.
The game doesn't ever make it any more obvious than this, so I'll put it out there for the form: the woodsman who let us take his Leather Armor is clearly our hero's actual grandfather. You only get this bit of info if you wait for this old man to walk across town at night though, so it's pretty cleverly obfuscated!
: It's creepy!
: He's just looking at the moon, don't mind him.
Now we could stay at the inn, but...
...if we visit the woodsman again at night...
...the dog immediately runs to us and barks as we come in. It's almost like we have a familiar scent or something!
And our grandfather lets us stay for free. It's never made explicit whether he knows we're related... but I suspect he does. He's probably still mad that his son was seduced by some mysterious girl and was likely punished for his forbidden love.
: Your words may be harsh, but you've been a huge help.
: Oh, c'mon! Get lost!
: Alright, don't mind me then. Thank you again.
And of course we can hazard a guess as to who might be buried in the back...
Anyway, back to combat training!
More early Chapter 2 critters, no problem. Francois gets to level 2 here, for 2 Str, 1 Agi, 2 Vit, 1 Int, 5 HP, and 3 MP. I don't know if that'd be enough to reach Endor, but let's drop a save and give it a shot.
Well isn't that a familiar sight, eh?
: That Taloon guy is pretty famous! I don't think I'm going the same way, but I'll give him the word if I see him.
Oof, Babbles again, haven't seen those in a long time. We can handle this one, though.
Endor ends up being a very pivotal location for this entire set of adventures. Ragnar went there for nothing, Alena went there for glory, Taloon went there for wealth, and Mara and Nara went there for safety. What will our hero find this time around?
: Right, Mia and Reed! Nice.
: At least, we must avoid conflict among ourselves.
: Right. Isolation... doesn't work out.
: Good to see Laurent doesn't hold a grudge towards Taloon, then.
The price of coins has fallen to 20 gold (twice as much as the price for Alena, and a tenth of the price for Taloon), and it will remain there for the rest of the game. But we have no money to spare for gambling right now!
Well look who it is! What a beauty indeed.
: Excuse me miss, are you that famous dancer I've hea-
: Oh... Uh... Sorry.
: I'll recover my losses and surprise my little sister, Nara.
: B-best of luck to you, then.
: ...oh dear. Oh goodness.
: NECROSARO was in a TOURNAMENT? And people thought he was HUMAN?!
: It's just a rumor, but I thought he was too strong to be a human.
: Soon after, I heard the Hero who was to save the world died.
: You... probably shouldn't believe everything you hear.
Welp, Strom's getting busy right there.
: Why don't you let her tell your fortune?
: Hmm, might as well!
: Ah... that's a lot of money.
: A fortune is like moonlight in the darkness. If you change your mind, come see me.
: Well... okay, I came all this way. Here.
: Alright, I'll tell your fortune. I see seven lights around you. They are small now, but they will soon grow... what?
: Hmm? What's wrong?
: You are the Hero!
: I... Um... Maybe don't say it quite so loud, please!
: I've been searching for you, the one with the untapped power to defeat the evil ones.
: Well if you want to finish me off, I won't give it up easy!
: Let's go. My sister, Mara, should be at the Casino.
: Sorry about losing my temper there... I just... I've been through a lot these last couple days.
: Times are tough for everyone. My sister and I... we've lost a good friend recently. Monsters were involved.
: Oh. You have my sympathies.
: So you're Mara, right? I can see the resemblance.
: You spend all the money I earn on gambling! We're broke!
: I'm sorry...
: That... doesn't sound good.
: Huh? Who is this?
: This is the Hero we've been searching for.
: How nice! You can take care of us from now on, right?
: Um. I'll do my best?
: Let's go!
So here we have the beginning one of Dragon Warrior IV's greatest triumphs... as well as its most terrible downfall.
On the up side, we get to recruit characters with a place in a world, with a piece of backstory we're familiar with. We know who Mara and Nara are. We know where they're coming from. And earning their company right now lets us imagine that we might yet meet Ragnar, Alena, Cristo, Brey and Taloon later on. From the start of the series, our party members only had a personality if we chose to give them one. For all the flexibility of DW3's party system, only the Hero matters to the in-game plot in any way. The chapter-based narrative structure begins to shine and come together; we've started from level 1 five times for a reason, and it is made clear.
On the down side... well... We've had enough tragedy for one episode, I think. Let's leave that for next time!
the tragedy is Alena doesn't turn out to be the main character
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