Final Fantasy: The Berserkers

And now it's time for the grand finale. I'd been hoping for the Black Belts to reach level 32 for their 8Hit attacks, but that clearly wouldn't happen. Now at level 24, they possessed less than half of the needed experience for that level. Even Hit probably wouldn't make his level 29 for 5Hits with XCalber.

My first casualty arrived quite soon: a pack of Frost Dragons killed Kill. This battle wouldn't faze most Ribbon-equipped parties, but it was deadly here. The Berserkers have absolutely no way to acquire ice resistance. Hit can cast AFIR and ALIT, but AICE is a level-4 White spell. (Gas Ds pose a similar and even worse problem. No spell for poison resistance even exists, and that POISON attack deals more damage than BLIZZARD.)

Well, with the only caster of WARP dead, the only thing to do was forge ahead and see what happened. What happened was losing another warrior to another FrostD battle, and the last two warriors beat the PHANTOM but died to four EARTHs. (This was my first party wipe since Kill's solo row out of Ice Cave. I've only suffered seven reloads total the whole game. Offense is ninety percent of the game in Final Fantasy.)

Try two at the Temple of Fiends became more promising. I got through the PHANTOM with no deaths again and to the relative safety of the Earth floor. However, I quickly realized that I'd run out of HEAL potions long before the end of the dungeon.

This took some strategy to work around. I needed to use the free healing items during battle as much as possible. What I'd do is have the three physical attackers kill all but one monster, while Kill used the White Shirt to INV2 the party several times. Then I could sandbag against the last monster with the top three warriors healing, while Kill kept Shirting.

I found myself wishing that this game had Diablo-style life steal equipment. :) No, this 8-bit RPG is way too old to have concepts like that. Actually, is it really that old? Final Fantasy was released in 1990 in the US, and Diablo came in 1996. Doesn't seem so, but it's true - only six years passed between the granddaddy of old-school console RPGs and the first modern PC action RPG.

Anyway, I got to LICH at full strength. He got off a NUKE, but fortunately it didn't kill anybody, and the three physical attackers beat him in the first round! Hooray for the Berserkers!

The Fire floor was easy, with plenty of opportunities for free healing.

KARY took two rounds and one FAST spell. She only got off one physical attack which was no threat.

However, my easy cruise through the Fiends hit a brick wall at KRAKEN.

He killed two of my guys in single physical attacks. With the WARPer dead again, all I could do was bravely forge onward, but it was not to be. Without FAST, Slam and Bash died to TIAMAT before they could kill the dragon.

Well, I kept trying to reach CHAOS, but it was brutal.

Try 3, four GAS Ds casting POISON wrecked the party.

Try 4, I ended up slipping in a little stealth leveling. I won a couple fights, but then lost one party member (to RUB from a MAGE). Kill was still alive, so I was able to WARP out and keep the gains.

Try 5 saw my party wiped by Frost Ds casting BLIZZARD.

Try 6, wiped by 8 BADMEN that got a surprise round.

Try 7 and 8 both got wiped by three GAS Ds.

Try 9 found a novel way to lose: the PHANTOM got off a STOP then a ZAP! to kill everybody. (Yeah, who loses to the PHANTOM? Ribbons and ProRings provide immunity to everything he's got.)

Try 10 saw one BB get killed by 7 BADMEN, and the party WARP out again.

Try 11 finally became promising. I reached LICH for the second time. The Berserkers killed him in one round this time - he never even got to fire his dangerous NUKE! Hey, if the monsters can beat me by going first and wiping me before I can act, at least sometimes I can return the favor.

KARY was easy, as before. Hit got his AFIR off before she went with FIR3, and that ended any threat.

Against Kraken, I led with ALIT, FAST, and fighting. I beat him, but not before he killed Bash and Hit in one smack each.

With the two remaining warriors, I decided to try to press on for the Masmune, then WARP out. My intrepid pair ran from three fights, and beat a pack of ZombieDs and WzVAMPs thanks to a surprise round. They got the Masmune!

But, Kill had insufficient spell charges to WARP out all the way! The best I could do was back up to the PHANTOM's floor, saving one WARP for the final exit. But I still had to fight, and Kill got wasted by a couple of WORMs of all things.

Well, if I can get that far once, I can do it again. Stickin' to the plan, though now I'm mixing in more running against anything that can wreck the party, like Gas Ds and Frost Ds.

Try 12, once again GAS Ds sent the Light Warriors six feet under.

Try 13, I beat LICH again; he did get off his NUKE, killing nobody but costing 33 HEALs. KARY went down in two rounds as usual KRAKEN only killed one warrior, my best showing so far! I grabbed Masmune again, and WARPed back 5 floors, but then AGAIN got wasted by Gas Ds before getting near the exit.

I tried several more times, but ultimately gave up. Kraken was just too much of a brick wall. With no way to get any Absorb, and insufficient hit points to survive an attack, he would always kill a warrior and I'd be left shorthanded. Perhaps I could get lucky with all four Warriors acting before the fiend, with enough criticals to amass 900 damage for the first-round kill. But I haven't got the appetite to keep crawling through the Temple each time to try, and I'm not willing to resort to emulator savestates.

I'm sure that winning with the Berserkers now is possible with enough tries. But much as I hate to admit it, the real solution is to go level up.

And there's also a bit of unfinished business from earlier. I'd love to test the Berserkers against the infamous WarMECH. So for my leveling, I ascended to the top floor of the Floating Castle again. Unfortunately, even THAT wasn't easy - Kill got floored by two lucky criticals from NAOCHOs, and a SORCEROR slew a BB. I had to retreat and revive yet again.

But eventually I reached floor five. The fights were easy enough: three or fewer monsters would get smashed in one round by the brawlers. Larger groups would also drop in one round from a combo of Thor Hammer - Zeus Gauntlet - Mage Staff - Black Shirt. If SORCERORs showed up, the brawlers would attack them while Kill fired a LIT3 or NUKE.

I fought monsters until I ran out of heal potions, about thirty fights in all. No WarMECHs, though. I then used up Hit's healing spells over a couple more fights. With no healing left, I went for one more fight before exiting to use a HOUSE...

Holycrap! Hello! There's my quarry!

Woo.. 32 damage. OK, this might be a bit tougher than I thought.

Well, the party endured one NUCLEAR without anyone getting killed. Kill got the FAST on Slam, but little damage was done this round.

Next round, Kill went first and landed another FAST on Hit. The warriors landed about 400 damage total. We're certainly in the game here.

WarMECH went next, and got both Bash and Kill with the NUCLEAR. So it's two FASTed warriors versus one WarMECH. Who will win?

In round three, Slam went first, dealing another 100 damage. Who's next? It's Hit!

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Holycrap, 433 damage on the WarMECH! That must be at least three criticals! Light Warriors win by knockout in round three!

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That put Hit two full levels above everybody else, 29 to 27. The funny part is that Hit's the only one who doesn't need the levels. 32 is the big 8-Hit breakpoint for the Masters of course, and also level 32 would get Kill a seventh charge of WARP. But my fighter doesn't gain anything new beyond level 29.

After getting out of there and recovering, I considered other places for leveling. The classical premier spot is the EYE in Ice Cave, 800 XP per single-round fight. But that wouldn't do for the Berserkers at all - with no ProRings, they'd die to the EYE's instant attacks. ZombieDs in Castle Ordeal are another popular encounter for powerleveling, but I also rejected that - they hit a little bit too hard for the armorless Berserkers to really stay safe.

So I went to my personal favorite spot for leveling: the encounter in the Waterfall just inside the door of the treasure room. This contains WzMUMMYs, MUMMYs, COCTRICEs, and PERILISKs. None hit hard at all, and SOFT potions are trivially cheap now. Depending on the exact mix, each fight is worth up to 1600 XP for each warrior. Every fight would be won in one round by the combination of Light Axe - Mage Staff - Zeus Gauntlet - Thor Hammer.

I put Hit in the lead spot, and fed healing potions to everybody except him. He eventually died, leaving more XP for the three warriors who needed it. It didn't take long at all, about an hour with the emulator running at double-speed most of the time, to reach level 32. I only needed to retreat once to refill on potions, and actually never once got stoned or squinted.

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