Now into the third world, Rathma continued blasting through the Pyramid with his Dark Arts... and what have we here?
Ooh, Drain Touch! I knew it existed, but hadn't looked up exactly where it was available and thought it was later in the Cleft. Let's see what it does:
Draining for 900 is pretty solid. According to the GBA algorithms faq, it's 80 attack strength, almost twice as strong as the regular Drain black spell, plus it's fully accurate rather than 75%. So that's pretty good and it should be enough for healing against bosses. The limiting factor is MP consumption; 16 MP isn't too expensive and can be halved and the Necro has a good tank of MP, but it does run out eventually since the Necro can't restore MP during battle. (besides the Dancing Dagger at 12.5% odds.)
Drain Touch proved the key to the Merugene battle, since she is immune to Rathma's attack elements of poison and air. Rathma picked up the usual collection of goodies with airship access to the third world: Magic Lamp, Haste Shoes, Black Robe, Assassin Dagger, Magus Rod.
Stalker was cake; Rathma was powerful enough to just smash him with Hellwinds for 4000 damage and eat the weak Frost counterattacks for 240.
For the Minotaur fight, it turns out that Dark Arts are indeed classified as magic and forbidden in the fight. Oath was permitted but the damage was peanuts. The Magic Lamp worked for one shot of Bahamut damage, although Minotaur absorbs the elements from the next few summons. Rathma got the fight done with a page from Merlin's book: get full heals by self-attacking with the Assassin Dagger, alternating between that and attacking Minotaur.
Omniscient was simply blown away by hasted boosted Hellwinds, with Rathma having enough HP to withstand his dying Flare.
In Istory Falls... well, pretty much every character demolishes everything in here, and Rathma was no exception. The question would be whether he had enough mojo to knock down a Tonberry before it reached him?
Not quite, but Rathma did simply have enough HP to survive its hits.
And whoa! Another Dark Art! That caught me by surprise, what kind of sense does that make? Tonberrys have nothing to do with magic and aren't even undead. Anyway, Dark Flare sounds promising, what does it do?
Looks like exactly the same thing as Bahamut's Mega Flare with the graphics in negative video. The GBA Algorithms Guide says it's attack 200, somewhat below the real Flare and Mega Flare. And it gets no elemental boost, rendering it significantly weaker than Evil Mist or Hellwind, and would hardly ever see use.
Leviathan dropped easily with a Coral Ring, though could have been done without it simply with Drain Touches.
The pigs were blown up with Hellwind as well, Reflect Ring in hand to bounce Delta Attack. Hellwind would sometimes kill a pig outright by inflicting Stone status (they're not immune), so it took a few cycles for everything to line up and Hellwind to kill them all together.
I'd also read through one of the faqs more thoroughly by now, and saw that two more Dark Arts were available in Phoenix Tower, from Lemure and LiquidFlame enemies. I never would have bothered to take Rathma there on my own, plus LiquidFlame is only fought when you hit the wrong wall panel which I know the pattern to avoid (mostly left-left-right.) Weird stuff. But let's pick them up anyway to see what we get.
Dark Haze inflicts Confuse and Aging status on all enemies; might be useful on occasion, but most bosses are immune and most random fights could simply be won with a damage spell instead.
Meltdown is a fire element version of the other attacks, with the same 190 strength, except that oddly it defaults to a single target and does get halved against multiple targets. Again not too useful except against a weak victim, such as say Apanda here.
Apocalypse was shredded on the first try with 9999 hits into his poison elemental weakness. Catastrophe actually turned out to be the hardest boss of the ending gauntlet, needing a dozen retries until he didn't stone Rathma with his Demon's Eye attack.
Rathma beat both Halicarnassus and Twin Tania by simply winning before anything dangerous happened, with 5000-damage Hellwinds, and Drain Touch to make up for minor injuries. Rathma had enough HP to survive their Holy and Giga Flares but neither ever came.
Same went for Necrofobia. Turns out that the Barriers are vulnerable to Stone status from Hellwind, which worked out great. Two vanished right away to Stoning, leaving Rathma plenty of time to use Drain Touch to refill against the two remaining barriers. Rathma then went to town with Hellwinds, coming in JUST under the 9999 damage limit. Four hits of that and Gilgamesh showed up.
One detail - Rathma was still under a HP Leak status there and in remote danger of dying. Had to hit buddy Gilgamesh with a Drain Touch to avert that. (Necrofobia becomes invulnerable again during the dialogue.) Anyway, got Necrofobia on the first go.
Rathma claimed the final save point at level 57, which seems the standard number for a solo that didn't need to powerlevel and rarely ran away. And now to finally test what I've been wondering and hoping. Does the Necromancer being undead protect him from the death status effect of White Hole?
Dang. The Necromancer really doesn't work like the Bone Mail much at all. Immunity to Dead status is granted as a property of the Bone Mail armor, not by being undead. All the other effects are also properties of the armor: Rathma didn't get the immunities to confusion, sleep, aging, or elemental modifiers to poison and ice and fire. (I'd known this all along, it just never really came up until now.)
So it looked like we had to play White Hole Roulette after all. Still, with Meltdown dealing 5000 damage and Shell from the Wonder Rod giving a chance to evade White Hole, Rathma could get through the Tree form on about one try in five. (Meltdown preferred over Hellwind or Evil Mist because supposedly it inflicts HP Leak status. I have no idea if that works on monsters or bosses.)
Then on Neo Exdeath, Rathma ran into a similar set of problems as Bone Mail engarbed Merlin. Without Elixirs, there's no reliable way to heal fully. Drain Touch would heal back somewhere over 1000 per turn, the same as Merlin could do with Venom Rods. That could just about keep up with the physical attacks and Almagests. But eventually Rathma would get killed exactly the same way Merlin would -- he couldn't kill the Grand Cross part quickly while spending all his turns on healing and the dice would eventually catch up.
Also, Rathma could not land Aging status from Dark Haze on the Almagest part. Dark Haze inflicts both Confuse and Aging, but like most dual-status attacks, immunity to either means immunity to the whole attack. (I experimented with 50 Dark Haze attempts from quick save-state reloads and it never worked.)
Argh. If only Rathma could do something to reduce his physical damage taken and get more turns to pitch his 5000 damage spells. But he was really limited in the armor department. Because his healing and offense both cost lots of magic points, he would run out, and a Gold Hairpin was absolutely necessary for the head slot. And the Running Shoes were essential, leaving Rathma with just 14 physical defense from a Black Robe armor.
After about ten attempts at the Neo Exdeath portion of the battle (about 50 overall counting White Hole and Meteor deaths) battle, the answer finally hit me. The good old Guardian Dagger! Whenever Rathma was casting his elemental Dark Arts, he needed to wield the Wizard/Magus Rod for the damage boost. But no weapon did anything to help Drain Touch, so Rathma was free to swap to that weapon whenever he was busy healing.
With a third of the physical and Vacuum Wave attacks now blocked, Rathma might have enough mojo to knock off the Grand Cross part. He survived one Grand Cross dealing Mute (repaired with Heal/Esuna from the Wonder Rod), a second dealing Toad, a third dealing nothing, and now one Evil Mist hit away from killing it:
Oh dear, we're doomed. A Vacuum Wave had just hit to splatter Rathma's health, along with a Grand Cross for Toad status again which blocks Drain Touch this turn. And Almagest is about to hit (you can tell when Neo Exdeath starts shaking like crazy) for an inevitable kill.
But Rathma had one miracle chance at salvation: a Death spell out of the Assassin Dagger! 25% odds, minus magic evade, and I didn't know if it even could work as a toad... but it did! (I swear I didn't save-state that!) That full heal kept Rathma in business, and the next Evil Mist wiped out the Grand Cross part! So now because Evil Mist had been hitting all three boss parts all along (the Grand Cross part dying first with the added Drain Touch damage), the two remaining parts were very low on health too.
But Rathma was still in trouble. He was out of magic for Drain Touch, his only way to keep healing. But he had one more trick that I'd tested before and was ready to bust out now:
Although an Elixir sets the undead Necromancer to critical health status, it DOES still refill his MAGIC. By carefully timing an Elixir when Almagest was clear and Vacuum Wave had just hit, Rathma could indeed get a magic refill then Drain Touch himself back to health.
It took just a couple more Evil Mists to finish off the last two parts, and there's the victory.
So that was a really powerful solo character indeed. Oath and rod-breaking took care of the first world and Hellwind and friends took care of everything from then on. The Necromancer only ran into trouble on the two Exdeath battles, but got through both in just an hour or two of retrying. It is quite odd how early the Dark Arts become available even though the Necromancer job itself is locked not just until you finish the main game content, but also until you finish the bonus dungeon.
I think I might be done running solo characters now. I played a good combination of spellcasters, meleers, hybrids, and an oddball in the first half of the Necro game. That might be about enough, especially since the power level of the Necromancer became addictive and I'm not sure if I'd have the patience for any weaker solos now. (I did the White Mage first for a very definite reason.) Turn the page for some parting thoughts on FF5.Index | Next