Final Fantasy V - Solo Hardcore

For Exdeath's Castle, I chickened out and reverted Daniel to Bare/Freelancer. The encounters here are a bit too scary with some death and stoning spells, so I felt much better with a Ribbon and Aegis Shield equipped. Also before the castle, I took Daniel up to a Monk job mastery (needed about 100 more ABP) to transfer over the big HP, counterattacks, and barehanded damage. Now Daniel was making pretty good use of the job system, having essentially all the abilities of a Monk (minus Kick), a good set of defensive equipment, plus also level 5 Black and Time magic.

Also before Exdeath's Castle, Daniel ran another errand. He had been short of funds quite often throughout the game, needing to buy all kinds of spells and weapons, and I'd made heavy use of throwing scrolls. He'd even done the Forest without most of the spells available at Moore.

So I took Daniel down to play the Gil game. He's a Bare with the masteries from Monk, and Mix and Time magic equipped. The plan was to kill each Gil Turtle boss entirely by way of the Monk's counterattacks. Gil Turtle packs a dangerous reaction to damage, two specialty physical attacks that inflict some status ailments. But that reaction doesn't trigger if Gil Turtle was himself damaged by way of a counterattack! So all Daniel had to contend with was the boss's regular Fight move, which was easily overcome. With mixes for Armor status and increased level, Daniel just had to sit there defending (literally selecting the Defend command) and health restored by the Regen spell would outrace the incoming damage. Throw in a few cans of Turtle Soup mix to cut the turtle's defense, Float to evade the final Earthquake, and Daniel won these easily.

Also while chemistry was on the mind, Daniel picked up a substantial stock of Turtle Shell and Dragon Fang mixing ingredients. I didn't intend to use these in random fights but certainly against bosses.

Anyway, all this gallivanting brought Daniel to level 54 and about 1600 total ABP between the classes. This was a bit overleveled for the end of the second world, but not unreasonably so. 1600 ABP is about twice what you'd usually have here: Daniel had Monk mastered, Time and Black magic at level 5, Ninja about halfway to mastery, and odds and ends including Blue Mage up to the Blue command, Chemist up to Mix, thiefly Flee, and bardly Hide. Daniel would be spending increasingly large amounts of time as a Ribbon-headed Bare from now on, so it was reasonable to have trained these jobs ahead of time.

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Daniel did make it through the castle without incident thanks to the Ribbon, including picking up Carbunkle by way of a Break spell against his vulnerable form. I skipped the Gilgamesh fight for the first time ever, he packs too much dangerous stuff in Hurricane, Time Slip (Stop status) and Rocket Punch (confusion). Which brings us to Exdeath.

Daniel borrowed heavily from Newton the Chemist here, except he had the extra advantages of a Ribbon, Aegis Shield, and Time Magic in the second ability slot. First I pulled the extremely boneheaded move of trying to Haste myself, which bounced off the Reflect Ring onto Exdeath! Well, that's what the Reset spell is for. :)

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Anyway, Daniel mixed up Dragon Kiss ("Heavy" status to block Condemn and Hurricane), a Haste mix (which doesn't reflect), Goliath Tonic (double max HP), and five Samson Powers (+10 level each, enough to reach the GBA level cap of 99.) Drain Kiss, boosted by level and the improved magic power stat conferred by having Time Magic equipped, hit for over 6000 damage and healing! And...

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Nine nine nine nine. That was a crit from a barehanded counterattack. You think the Blue Monk is some good synergy? How about Monk with level-up Chemistry!

In the third world, Daniel made his way past the Antlion and through the Pyramid with no trouble. The dangerous thing here is confusion from the BlandLamia/Lamia Queen enemies, so I kept Daniel in Bare mode wearing the Bone Mail, until he turned up a Lamia's Tiara helm which prevents confusion. Merugene's only threat is also confusion so she went down easily.

Stalker called for mixing Dragon Kiss, since he packs Hurricane. Other than Hurricane, this boss has almost no offense at all (seriously, Mind Blast for 400 at this stage of the game?) and anybody can sleepwalk over him. Daniel did with mostly Chicken Knife attacks. He would pick up all the Legendary Weapons and make use of several, notably the Magus Rod, dual-wielded with Masamune for its initiative effect to make sure back attacks weren't a threat alongside either the .

Fork Tower gave me some pause. I suppose the Solo Hardcore challenge would still be legit if the three girls happened to lose a fight without Daniel, but still wanted to get through with a clean record. The girls could elect one Thief to prevent back attacks and one Time Mage to Teleport away from random battles, so should be safe through the tower sections.

I do know how to handle Minotaur with three baby unleveled warriors: wear Haste Shoes and they can raise each other with phoenix down faster than Minotaur can kill them. Tilt the odds in your favor with shields and Guardian Daggers and the Samurai's Evade skill. Then any halfway decent offensive skill suffices to make the kill, GilToss being the easy option. (The girls didn't have to fight Omniscient, since Minotaur comes first for Daniel to fight, then reset and send Daniel up the magic side.)

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As for the star of our show, he slugged it out with Minotaur easily, and beat Omniscient with good old black magic spells. No need for weird Mage Masher trickery here.

Great Sea Trench was finally a good time to drop out of Bare for a while and pick up some ABP; this time for the Ninja since he can throw Water Scrolls into the blob Unknowns' weakness. The three little pigs died easily to a hail of Bolt 3 spells, Aegis Shield in hand. Leviathan needed nothing but a Coral Ring as always. (No screenshots because nothing new happened here. Standard stuff.)

I continued to fight in Istory until Daniel mastered Black Mage, which took about 500 extra ABP and raised him to level 62. Daniel had now mastered Monk, Ninja, and Black Mage... and he was done. These three classes cover the gamut of a high stat in each category. What else was there to add? No other innate ability was worth grinding a class to master, the Samurai's Evade being about the only relevant one. Thiefly Vigilance wasn't needed either with Masamune in hand. Other command abilities like Dualcast or Summon wouldn't fit since I expected Daniel to equip Mix and Time for almost all the late game boss battles. White magic can be almost entirely duplicated with Mix and items. Other offensive skills like Spellblade or X-Fight or GilToss also couldn't fit and weren't necessary; the Mix and Time commands already included enough power with Drain Kiss and Quick/Meteor. Or just plain barehanded Fight.

So into the Void. Daniel dealt with most random encounters by attacking with the Chicken Knife (dual wielded with Masamune); either it would deal 6000+ damage or run him away, either outcome being fine. Sometimes he'd kill groups with a black spell, and use Psych/Osmose to recharge against the next suitable target.

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Calofisteri was stopped as always by the Bone Mail backfiring her Drain spell, and Daniel used Meteor for the kill going through her reflect wall. Apanda to three Fire 3 spells.

But Apocalypse should not be bullrushed. He's wicked dangerous, packing Condemn, Roulette, L5 Death, and Death Claw. Daniel could get immunity to all of those between equipment and Dragon Kiss, but the remaining threat was ????. That deals up to 9999 damage with no way to dodge or reduce it, and has caused many a re-run from the previous save point for both Sullla and myself. But Daniel gets one and only one try.

As always, enter the Algorithms Guide. Apocalypse's gimmick is operating as a Blue Mage, learning Blue Magic that you cast against him. (Not truly so, he's a monster not a classed player character, it's really just an AI script with different branches in response to several different blue spells. But it looks like he's a Blue Mage.) This looked quite promising:

     {AquaRake,AquaRake,Aero 2}
     Set V00=00

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Hit him with AquaRake and he'll only cast a set of weak spells. Even better, there's nothing that prevents him "learning AquaRake" more than once! Wait for that fourth turn when the AI flag resets, then hit him with AquaRake again, and he starts over! As for offense, Daniel mixed himself up to level 99 and simply attacked with the Chicken Knife for 8000 and Masamune for 3500 or 7500 with a crit. (That Chicken Knife gets into some serious quadratically scaling mathematics at the high end, with those twin multipliers, high stats from multiple mastered classes, and level-up mixes.) Four attacks and two more AquaRakes later, with me still nervous as all hell that I might have missed something...

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blam. Daniel's perfect record remained intact!

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Catastrophe we know how to lock down: Float yourself and wear a Reflect Ring, and he'll try to "100 Gs" you forever and never succeed. For Halicarnassus, Daniel took off the Bone Mail and its Holy element weakness, but won before Holy came anyway in four rounds with Chicken + Masamune attacks.

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I stupidly forgot to put on a Coral Ring for Twin Tania, but Daniel just survived Tidal Wave anyway. He's got a Monk's vitality, a little bit of overleveling at 63, plus a Goliath Drink mix to take him all the way up to 9999 HP. Daniel could pretty much ignore any damage that wasn't an outright kill, and of course Dragon Kiss and the Ribbon did protect against outright kills. Does it look like Daniel might actually pull off Solo Hardcore?

Next up was Necrofobia... no he wasn't. Screw him. He's optional. What does this hero care about save points? There will be no reloading here. Exdeath must fall on the first strike! Bring it on!

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As detailed before, Daniel would be a Bare with the Mix and Time abilities. Time Magic conferred the Quick spell, virtually a second haste effect doubling Daniel's action capacity again, and the Reset spell just in case anything went horribly wrong.

Tree Exdeath could be completely neutered giving Daniel all the time he needed for Mix buffing. Packing 9999 HP would trivialize all the boss's damage spells. Daniel would wear the Bone Mail, like Merlin the Red Mage did, for immunity to White Hole. Turning off healing from items is no problem when Drain Kiss is around to restore mountains of health. There's also a mix to drain and restore MP too, Ether + Maiden's Kiss.

As always, Grand Cross is the monster threat from Neo Exdeath. But it looked like Daniel could defend himself against every possible outcome!

Dead - Bone Mail, Ribbon
Stone - Ribbon
Toad - Ribbon
Mini - not a problem
Poison - Bone Mail
Zombie - Angel Ring
Darkness - Ribbon
Aging - Bone Mail, Ribbon
Sleep - Thornlet, Running Shoes
Paralyze - Genji Shield, Running Shoes, Genji Glove
Charm - Bone Mail, Rainbow Dress
Berserk - Bone Mail, Ribbon
Mute - Ribbon
Stop - Running Shoes
Condemn - Dragon Kiss mix
HP Leak - Bone Mail
Weak - Dragon Kiss mix

... but not at the same time. The sticking point was Zombie status, which isn't covered by the Bone Mail or Ribbon; the only preventer is an Angel Ring. That means no Running Shoes which leaves Sleep and Stop and Paralyze as possible outcomes. Still, I bet that none of those would be lethal; at 9999 HP, Daniel should last long enough to recover. Every other outcome from Grand Cross was covered by the Bone Mail or Ribbon or Dragon Kiss mix or just not a problem (Mini.) Or perhaps Daniel could just kill the Grand Cross part before it ever fired. Only one way to find out!

Well, unfortunately, I didn't play that well against Neo Exdeath. I forgot to apply Haste at the first opportunity more than once, forgot to use the Quick spell a few times, and didn't accurately track my total damage against all the parts. But, watch the video anyway.

Turn the page for some parting thoughts.

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