Final Fantasy V - Solo Necromancer

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So Rathma descended deeper and deeper into this dungeon. Full disclosure: I used the emulator's rewind capability to undo a few deaths to random battles. I was totally not in the mood to redo as much as 30 minutes of gameplay just walking through these gigantic rooms with ridiculous amounts of encounters. Several of the random encounters had no answers for a solo character: two Iron Giants could always kill with Hurricane - physical, or five Exoray enemies could catch Rathma in the "front" row with a back attack and hit for 1600 damage each. Or the guy in the next shot below, who could respond to attacks with a "Strong Fight" for over 9000 damage. There was no point in rerunning the entire dungeon every time that happened, so I save-scummed past some of this nonsense.

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But I did fight most of the fights. Over and over and over. The sheer amount of grinding was absurd. Rathma ascended to level EIGHTY-FIVE which is beyond ridiculous at over FIVE MILLION experience. (The original game totals about one million.) I really wished Rathma could have the thiefly Flee ability, which you're obviously supposed to have here with a fully powered party. I looked back at my original nonvariant party that did this dungeon years ago (on my GBA cartridge), and they had only leveled to the mid-fifties, so they must have run from most encounters.

Seriously, I had now been working on the dungeon for six hours and fought a whopping two bosses. It's really uninteresting. The difficulty is entirely artificial, based on its sheer size and number of encounters and distance between save points. It's a brutal grind to get through, but not at all challenging intellectually. I finally cried uncle and revived Faris to be a Time Mage in order to Teleport out of all these uninteresting battles.

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Finally, finally, about ten floors down in an area called "Hall of Tranquility", there was another save point. Also there's this guy who gives you the key to fight a boss that's way up on the first floor. Yes, you have to walk out since the Exit spell doesn't work. More fake difficulty, wonderful.

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Anyway, that next boss is called Archeodemon, who looks to be a souped up clone of Twin Tania. He did the same thing as his precursor, taking a round to power up and cast Giga Flare. He had a few other moves, including the regular Flare spell, Meteor, his own Drain Touch back at me, something called Curse that inflicted random statuses like mini and toad, and comically a Death spell that healed my necromancer. None of this was really any danger given that Rathma could outrace all the damage by casting Drain Touch continuously. Rathma readily claimed victory on his first try here...

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Until Archeodemon pulled out a ???? move for 9999 damage. Nuts.

So I looked him up in the GBA algorithms guide. The AI script was pretty complicated with flags turning on and off, but I pieced together what was going on. ???? appears only as a counterattack when he is below 20,000 HP, and does not appear in the brief moments between his "Powering up" message and Giga Flare. So all I had to do was avoid attacking at any other time, right? Not that simple, since Rathma had to attack because Drain Touch was his healing!

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Rathma fell back on his favorite trick: self-attack with the Assassin Dagger for the healing death spell. That kept him healthy while waiting for those "Powering up" openings to hit with Drain Touch or Dark Flare for damage. This worked on the first try, though I needed a bit of luck in risking and avoiding the ???? counterattack for a couple Drain Touches after Hurricane had hit me once.

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So now Rathma had to walk all the way back down the dungeon. (this took fifteen minutes even with Faris teleporting away from all the battles.) Now you can access the final area. Hey, this looks familiar.

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The two last Dark Arts were finally available here. First Curse (the move that Archeodemon used), which inflicts a variety of status effects at random. Not really useful against bosses.

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Then Rathma had to beat this Hades random encounter to get the last Dark Art. When struck by magic, he would have a 1/3 chance to respond with Flare for a monstrous 7500 damage. The answer was to use Deep Freeze for its chance to inflict Stop status (he's not immune) since a stopped monster can't counterattack. The other answer was to prepare the Wonder Rod for one shot of the Holy spell for 9999 damage at Hades' holy elemental weakness.

That took some repetition but Rathma got it. (Yeah, 50,000 EXP too.) What does Doomsday do?

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An impressive spell animation, and a perfectly ordinary 5000 damage. It's attack 254, non-elemental, but does not pierce magic defense like the Flare variants. So nothing really here that the other Dark Arts couldn't already do.

The next boss is a clone of Sol Cannon. It absorbed lightning damage (ha ha, hilarious, designer guys), so Rathma fell back on good old Hellwind for damage.

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(Valiant Attack)
{Missile,Rocket Punch,Rainbow Wind}

The Launchers did the same "Valiant Attack" inflicting Aging status. Rather than wear an Angel Ring giving up haste status, a better approach was simply to retry like Merlin until it missed. These Launchers use other stuff besides Valiant Attack on the second round of battle, so Rathma could kill them by then with the third Hellwind. The next component is called Wave Cannon. After a bunch of Nothings and text output, it does this:

No Interrupt{
     Display Text:FIRING
     Wave Cannon
     Wave Cannon

Yes, that would be TWO Wave Cannon (Surge Beam) attacks in a row. At 50% of max HP, that is guaranteed instantly fatal. The attack is literally unsurvivable, except for dodging via Jump or Hide. The only answer is to kill the boss before that happens. Anyway, that was well within reach for Rathma, as it has only 22,000 HP and four Hellwinds could kill it in time.

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That left one piece of the cannon remaining, called "Guardian". To start the battle, it is invulnerable and inactive. But then it swaps to a new form once the other three pieces are destroyed. How does the AI script for Guardian form 2 begin?

Delta Attack. Pfaugh. Nuts. Delta Attack always hits, it is not subject to the level-based hit formula and magic evade. And unlike most appearances of Delta Attack in AI routines, this one always appears rather than picking from three possible moves. And Delta Attack seems to inflict Stone status all the time. (The algorithms guide says stone is 99% but I am not going to try to fight those odds.)

A Reflect Ring can stop Delta Attack. But losing Haste status was fatal. Now the launchers had three rounds instead of one to hit with a Valiant Attack missile, which would send Rathma into the abyss of aging. And what else goes on here?

Delta Attack
Set Variable:Var00=01
{Encircle,Off-Guard,Reverse Polarity}
{Atomic Ray,Electrocute,Electrocute}
No Interrupt{
     Set Variable:Var00=00
     Display Text:The armor has been completely restored
     Unhide Monster:(Form Change):0 Guardian[F.1]
                                  4 Launcher(L)
                                  5 Launcher(R)
     (Start Script)
Counter(HP Damage & Var00=01){
     No Interrupt{
          Set Variable:Var00=00
          Unhide Monster:(Change Monster):3 Guardian[F.2]
                                          6 Wave Cannon
          (Start Script)

This looks complicated, so here's an explanation. What you want to do is hit the Guardian right after it sets that Var00 flag to 01 and does that Encircle round. That triggers the bottommost branch of the script starting with Counter, where the Guardian revives the Wave Cannon component and restarts its script. This is acceptable, since the Wave Cannon component can simply be killed again before it reaches the double Surge Beam attack. The problem comes if you don't hit the Guardian in time and it reaches that first "No Interrupt" section. Then it revives the dangerous Launchers.

Also a critical obstacle was the Rainbow Wind move from the Launchers. It would inflict Mute status of all things, blocking the Dark Arts. Couldn't use the Wonder Rod to fix that since the Heal spell would bounce off the Reflect Ring. Dispel goes through walls and can also be cast by the Wonder Rod, but Dispel does not remove Mute. Once Muted, Rathma could no longer deal damage and couldn't even heal with Drain Touch and he would shortly go down.

Allowing Valiant Attack to hit and going through the battle aged was not an option, since the revived Wave Cannon could no longer be killed in time before it would hit with the fatal double Surge Beam.

I could see a path to get Rathma through the battle, but the odds were impossibly long. He had to dodge six Valiant Attack attempts at 34% odds (the best magic evade available from the helm and armor slots). He also had to avoid Rainbow Wind popping up four times at 2/3 odds each. Rocket Punch needed to either not show up (2/3) or miss (about 1/3) twice, or else Rathma would get killed while confused. That all multiplies out to literally worse than one in a million. And that was only to survive the first part of the battle without getting aged. Then Rathma would need to avoid Encircle for about eight iterations of the Guardian's AI routine, another longshot.

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Yeah, there's Encircle. This was simply not going to happen. It was finally time to fall back on my original plan: allow Rathma to turn back into a Bare job with the powers of the Necromancer available. This after all is what you're supposed to do, use the Bare job with the full accumulated powers of other jobs mastered.

In particular, this task cried out for a Ribbon. You're totally supposed to have one here. It protects against both aging and stone in one neat package, and leaves the accessory slot open for something better.

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Here's his equipment setup. That Sorceror's Mantle is a new item found in the bonus dungeon. That tagline "Cloak that nullifies all elemental attacks" is misleading; it really just gives resistance to all eight elements for half damage, but that was still immensely helpful. The Robe of Lords armor is also new but doesn't do anything special, just a high amount of magic defense. These two items would be Rathma's usual choice in most of the remaining boss battles. Why no Running Shoes? The Masamune casts Haste when used as an item in battle, then he'd swap over to the usual Magus Rod.

This worked on the very first try. Hellwind took out the Launchers easily now that Valiant Attack was not a threat. Encircle came three times, but missed twice and ran into the Aegis Shield once. The Wave Cannon revived once but Hellwind destroyed it again in time before the double Surge Beam. And a few more Hellwinds and just one Elixir later, the main Guardian blew up.

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That gives access to Enuo, the final boss.

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