Now I knew I got the variant right when I had to start thinking about what characters to take. At least one Fighter is surely essential. Thief/Ninja is the easiest to rule out; the Thief stinks as always, and the Ninja isn't anything special shorn of his Throwing and 2-Handed abilities.
But the rest of the roles are pretty open: pick three out of Monk, White, Red, and Black mages. (A second Fighter is also a possibility, but I'd rather pick for a bit more variety.) All have their upsides. The Monk is the same plug and play damage brawler as ever and doesn't lose much without Kick and BuildUp. A White Mage for defense sounds good, but it's possible that a Red mage with access to Armor and Raise might suffice. Similarly, a Black Mage in FF5 is stronger than in FF1, but a Red mage for elemental damage might be good enough. I do need either a White or Black mage for Holy or Flare, but not necessarily both. Or I could take all three mages, squeezing out the Monk.
And I figured it had to be that last. I love the Monk but he doesn't quite measure up. I don't think there are any situations calling for physical damage where a Fighter + Monk will win but a Fighter + Red Mage can't pull it off. Final Fantasy 5 demands versatility. Tough situations and bosses most often call for one specific approach, and the Red Mage can jump in on attacking or magic offense or defense, whatever is required. He provides backup for the important spells of Raising and Exiting. And he's my favorite character in FF1 for most of those reasons so he's earned a spot here.
Here's Phil. (Only my brother would get that. It's a personal in-joke; for the longest time in RPGs, from FF1 and Ultima 3 and Quest for Glory 1 all the way up to Diablo 2, my character was "Phil the Phighter". He would sometimes team up with "Nate the Night" too, and once or twice "Karl the Kleric".)
Assigning characters to the classes was easy. The lead character is the strongest Fighter. Lenna is a natural white mage, versatile Faris slots in as the red mage, leaving Galuf/Krile to the black role. And we started with the enable-all-jobs code right from turn zero. An oldschool party doesn't need to earn its classes from some silly crystals.
So here's the party.
Wait, something's wrong. This isn't oldschool enough. Let's fix that.
Wing Raptor, no problem. Phil used those 5 ABP to easily graduate Find Passages 101. Karlabos, zero problem with two mages slinging Thunders.
Siren, epsilon problem with two mages slinging Fires against the undead form. I did have Lenna attack Phil out of sleeping once. (You can't do that in FF1 but it's on the table here. Otherwise the Healing Staff couldn't be used and we couldn't get party members out of confusion.)
Magisa and Forza - actual problem! She pasted Faris the red mage with a Drain spell. Fortunately, Lenna got Armor spells up on everybody else before Forza appeared. The warriors concentrated fire on Magisa until she fell first, and Forza's half damage was easily outCured.
And versus Garula, the versatility of the Red Mage shined in spades. First Faris doubled up casting Armor spells on everyone alongside the white mage. Then she jumped in on sword offense. Finally, when party HP ran low, the red mage doubled up on casting Cure spells as well. (Would this fight have been harder with a Monk? Or would a Monk have simply clobbered the boss without needing any of those tricks?)
Then I actually encountered some difficulty just walking to Karnak. I kept running out of healing, and even ran out of Tents. How did that happen? Oh, I never remembered to visit Castle Tycoon and pick up the Healing Staff. Time to backtrack. This wasn't a bad thing; I'd been rushing through pretty quickly and the party was a bit under-leveled. (Leveling doesn't mean much in the later game of FF5, but the HP boost and even a small increase in the attack multiplier means a lot early on. Gaining level 11 for Phil boosted his multiplier from 51*10/128+2 = 5 to 51*11/128+2 = 6. 20% more damage.) All told we went from level 9 on the first step through the meteor to 12 upon entering the Steamship for real (after a quick first trip in for items.)
The next few bosses posed no difficulty. (Very little with an elemental weakness should for a party with two black spellcasters.) LiquidFlame went down to twin Blizzard cannons. So did Ifrit in the library. We
alertly coincidentally just happened to level to 15 on the very last fight in the Library, avoiding any problems from L5 Death. Byblos also died easily to Fire 2 spellcasters, although did wipe Faris with a one-two punch of Drain and Wind Slash. Remember that FF1 characters cannot raise party members in battle.
On the walk back to Karnak town, I came thisclose to suffering my first party wipe to a Dhorme Chimera. But Phil survived with 8 HP to run away! (I had thoughts of using the Brave Blade, but nah, I can't expect this underpowered party to really get through everything without ever running away.)
Sandworm took a few minutes but was no danger, the Quicksands could easily be outCured. (Both attackers had Coral Swords bought in Jacole, but they don't get the 8x water damage multiplier of AquaRake.) I am reminded that curing magic in FF5 is substantially stronger than in FF1; it's much more feasible to simply outrun enemy damage with healing spells.
CrayClaw and Adamantimi, the airship bosses, also highlighted the choice of the Red Mage. Faris did great in serving as a second physical attacker against the former then a second Blizzard 2 caster against the latter.
But I am starting to feel how this party will end up underpowered in the end game. Missing any means of Haste and Slow is a big blow compared to a nonvariant party. And we'll be hurting for physical damage when the fighter doesn't get to scale up with Double Grip or X-Fight. But the variant is working - the party playstyle really does feel like I'm playing Final Fantasy I-2, if that makes any sense.
Sol Cannon illustrated that underpoweredness. The Launchers were, unusually, a moderate threat, not irrelevant but not major. We had the Heal spell available to fix the aging status, but it consumed many turns from the non-Hasted white mage that could have gone into healing instead. Faris died to one Wave Cannon that hit us unprepared, and we had to survive three more with both Lenna and Galuf going to the end of their MP reserves, but then Sol Cannon died just in time to Phil's reliable 500-damage sword hits. (This fight would have been nigh impossible without a White Mage along.)
Yes, this is very much Final Fantasy 1 style gameplay, where we finish most easy fights by waiting for the Healing Staff to heal everybody up. One upside here that FF1 lacks: predictable action order! How often did you curse when the monster hit your Light Warrior and then the fighter killed it before the healer got a turn? Not here! Lenna's Agility is exactly one point higher than Phil's, so she always gets the heal in first.
ArchaeoAvis was a long fight, over 10 minutes. The attacky mages ran out of magic as the last form started (I wasted a few spells not having looked up the sequence of weak points.) We had to rely on Phil... who couldn't use my best available weapon Coral Sword because the lightning damage healed the boss. The actual best weapon Ancient Sword is also off limits due to a forbidden spell effect (aging). So he had to swap down to the Mithril Sword, and grind out the battle swinging for 250 damage (to the boss form's 2000 HP), while Lenna desperately tried to keep up with Cures and the Healing Staff. We did win in the end.
Manticore - HOLY CRAP WE WON BY TWO HIT POINTS! He killed Faris early with a big physical attack then Frost; Lenna was busy putting up Protect spells so she didn't heal inbetween. It was up to the fighter, with Lenna barely losing the Cure race against Frost and Aqua Breath. Phil got in about ten hits, then Lenna died too. One more Aqua Breath and it's over... no Phil is still alive! He hit, and Manticore didn't die. Then Phil BLOCKED the next attack with a shield, giving him a new lease on life... and he made the MOST of it!
Titan's Earth Shaker also dropped Faris. That low Red Mage HP total is becoming a serious liability.
Finally the Puroboloroses ended my perfect run. Faris went in slinging Thundaras as fast as she could, but that only hit for 150 each time knocking the Puros to only 1050 from 1500. Two exploded killing both of my mages, then one cast Arise and that was that.
Argh. Is the only answer here to go insanely grind job points for Dualcast?
No. I beat them the usual way, just retry the fight until none cast Self-Destruct on the first go-round. Figuring the chance correctly this time, it's (2/3)^6 = 64/729 = 9%, but I got lucky and had it happen on the third try. A full six rounds of Thundara plus one sword hit on each from Phil brought each bomb to a survivable 300 HP. Only one exploded on the second cycle for no kill, and it was easy from there. I killed a couple with sword hits, carefully hitting only ones on which Lenna had landed a Mute spell to block their Raise, and the rest exploded harmlessly.
So that was world one. Pretty easy with just the one party wipe. That's about what I expected, with the Red Mage at the peak of her powers and the Fighter still doing fine. But things have to get harder.Index | Next