Final Fantasy: The Berserkers

So I bought a typical set of starting equipment: Wooden Nunchucks for the black belts, Rapier for Hit, and a small dagger for Kill. Also to Kill goes the spells LIT and FIRE, and with the rest of the starting funds I bought two TENTs. (TENTs are considerably more cost-effective for healing than potions.)

As is typical, I intended to simply walk to the Temple and whack Garland right at level one. (Most parties with starter weaponry and spells can do this, actually -- try it.)

Well, that wasn't an auspicious start. That lack of armor Absorb is already showing. In my second battle, against two GrIMPs, I had bad luck and missed on all my attacks in the first round. And the enemies all concentrated on one of the black belts... and killed him. So after that death, I had to go retreat back to the Clinic and an inn stayover in Coneria. This doesn't count as level grinding. :)

(By the way, the town is CONERIA. The 1990 8-bit NES ROM never calls it anything else. Cornelia comes from the misguided Playstation port. Corneria comes from 8-Bit Theater either by typo or intentionally blending the two versions. It's Coneria, folks.)

So back to the temple, and after two fights and a TENT to heal the scratches, I entered. The party was still level one, and did in fact kill Garland right away.

And back in Coneria, I bought three more TENTs, and headed to Pravoka. The battles along the way were risky but ultimately not fatal. I used a TENT after almost every battle.

The battle for the Ship was no trouble at all. My characters had hit level 3 and boasted 70-80 HP each (except for Kill), and easily killed each pirate in one hit or FIRE spell.

I bought a short sword for my fighter, and set sail. Right away I suffered my second character death, with a SHARK landing three straight hits all on my fighter, who bit the dust. LIT spells from Kill saved the day and the party made it back to Coneria's Clinic.

Next destination was Dwarf Cave. Experienced players often skip it until delivering the TNT for the canal, but there is 1000 G to be had in chests there, to cut some time off gold grinding for Marsh Cave. On the way out of the cave, I suffered yet another character death, when one BB died to an Ogre and three Creeps. Back to the Coneria Clinic again.

I made a return trip to Pravoka to buy ICE for Kill, then Coneria for more TENTs, then to Elfland.

So here's my party. We're ready to leave and assault Marsh Cave. Their stock of healing items totals three potions and three TENTs. Okay, how is our intrepid hero going to manage this notoriously difficult dungeon with only level-4 characters?

Well, I'm not. I'm going to go as far as I can, until I clearly have just enough resources left to limp back to town, and then I'll do so. This is effectively cash grinding, which is completely unavoidable at this point in the game. But each departure from town is intended to be a genuine attempt at the cave, never just grinding for the sake of grinding.

Well, the party got wiped by a pack of GEISTs outside the cave. I was at full strength going in, but the paralyzing shots packing 10-30 damage per strike just wiped everybody. Lacking that Absorb stat is a killer indeed.

After reloading, the party's first fight out of Elfland was against another three-pack of GEISTs. This time we won, but my fighter bit the dust, so back to the Clinic again.

Next trip, it took a whole TWO fights before Hit hit the dirt, this time against a six-pack of GrWolf and Wolf enemies, and it took most of Kill's spell capacity to win that fight. Back to the Inn and Clinic again.

With all those doctor and hotel bills, my party couldn't make a profit! Nearly every fight required a retreat and heal at the Elfland Inn, and anybody that got poisoned cost me another 75G on top of that. (Staying at the Inn doesn't heal poisoned status, as it would in most more modern RPGs.) Kill had gotten his first level-3 spell points, but I was nowhere near affording 1500 G for FIR2.

Here's another shot of a near-party-wipe. That was Kill's last spell point. Fortunately this battle was literally one square outside the safe haven of Elfland, and also this finally leveled Hit to 5, where he gets 2Hits with a Short Sword. That was a big turning point in the party's offensive capability, and finally provided enough offense to win most battles in two or three rounds with need for only a TENT to recover. (Yes, Sulla is laughing at me; he'd still be poking MADPONYs around Pravoka until his fighter got to 2Hits.)

Shortly later, I did suffer my second party wipe, again to a trio of GEISTS.

Also, around this time I realized it was better to put the Black Belts up front and the Fighter third. I'm quite sure I've never before had a party containing a fighter that didn't bat leadoff! This tactic was correct because of the Black Belts' inherent absorb rating. It didn't help survivability: Hit at 140 HP would die in about seven 20-damage blows, while the BBs at 105 HP with 5 absorb would also die in about seven 15-damage blows. But it did mean taking less numeric damage, meaning fewer HEAL potions or TENTs to recover. Finally, losing a BB's mediocre offense was less of a blow than losing my primary hitter.

And if the lead BB took a scratch that wasn't worth spending an item to heal (10-20 HP worth), I'd swap him to the second spot in order to even out the damage taken by the party before spending a TENT.

Anyway, here's the party as they're ready to make the first serious assault on Marsh Cave. I intend just to clear out the north wing and then return to base; I'm not delusional enough to think that these guys can yet beat the Wizards and get out safely. They're at the doorstep of Marsh Cave now, at full health, with full spell points for Kill, and supplied with five PURE potions.

And, well, we weren't ready.

The very first fight encountered four GHOULs and three ZOMBIEs, who paralyzed Hit on round one. With even 15 Absorb from Chain Armor, all those hits would be 1-damage scratches; but lacking that, every hit was a serious hurting. It took all four of Kill's FIRE charges to get out of there with only Bash as a corpse.

So yet another trek back to the Elfland clinic, suffering my third party death on the way, again to three GEISTs. At least on this visit back to Elfland, I had enough gold (2300) to finally pick up FIR2. I also sailed back to Coneria to buy a new supply of TENTs. Elfland doesn't sell them, strangely. Never buy a CABIN - two TENTs recover just as much HP for less gold.

During that, the whole party made level 6. Level 6 I think is the right point for a Black Belt to go unarmed rather than wielding his Iron Nunchuck. With the weapon, they deal 20-40 damage at one hit per round. Without it, they deal 12-24 damage on each of two hits. Depending on the target's absorb rating, those usually come out about equal, but the unarmed combat is more reliable since 2 hits are less likely to miss completely than 1 swing.

My next run to Marsh Cave ran into two packs of ARACHNIDs, and way too many poisoned hits - I was out of PUREs. Back home again.

So here we go with another real attempt at Marsh Cave North Wing. I'm stocked with 10 PUREs, 10 HEALs, and 5 TENTs.

I made it in to clear out the chests, but was already out of HEAL potions, and Kill had launched one of his two FIR2 nukes. Can I make it out alive? Well, the next fight was 2 GARGOYLES, no problem. Next was two Arachnids and two Spiders, also not a problem. Back on the first floor, 3 SCUMs (of the 250 Absorb) - not worth my last FIR2, so we ran away. I'm approaching the exit.... oh no, more GHOULs. Time for that last FIR2.

And I'm out! Time to lock in my gains with a TENT or three, and retreat for more supplies. Made it back to Elfland with 4000G on hand, just enough for a Silver Sword. But, I can't in good conscience do that just yet. If I buy loads of HEALs and PUREs and TENTs, I can have a pretty good shot at getting the CROWN on my next expedition. If I just buy the sword, I'm still going to have to grind on a few more failed excursions until I can accumulate the supplies to get through.

Ready for another attempt.

I had to pop one FIR2 against three GHOULs, but other than that everything was quite easy and I got to the boss.

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I re-equiped the Iron Nunchuks to the BBs for this fight, since the WIZARDs' Absorb would nullify all the bare-handed damage they could deal. How many WIZARDs will I get?

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