Saturday, January 13, 2024

Final Fantasy VI: Strago Solo Game (Balance Edition)

I'm feeling ultra-nostalgic as of late. Know what I'd like to do? Play FFVI solo... as Strago. Nowadays, Final Fantasy games just aren't what they used to be. They have titles like Fabulous Nova Whispering Dawn that sound more like feminine hygiene products than video games.

Once upon a time, though, the series was great. And FFVI might have been the highest point. It might be the first true "epic" RPG story. Like the first legitimate sprawling epic that transcended the medium. It's also noteworthy for having a female main character for the first time in that series.

I wanted to do a solo run of this game for the challenge of it, but couldn't settle on which character to play as. Who'd be interesting, and challenging yet not a PITA? I settled on Strago, the spell-slinging hip wunderkind from the upper east side of Thamasa. Can I beat this game (well, the second half of it) with just one character? Read on.

(Reposted from July 2013, with corrections and new notes)

Why Strago? Because I've always wanted to get all of his Lores, and never have. I've also always wanted to try a solo-game, where to survive I need to do stuff like pay attention to esper stat gains and get the Paladin Shield, but I never have.

Problem is, FFVI's structure of character debuts doesn't lend itself at all to doing a solo game, much less a solo game with one of the LAST characters you get. So a full solo run is out. The actual solo run that I'll be doing only covers about half of the game tops. With the way the game is set up, doing a solo run with any particular character would be difficult. Even Terra, the main character, is unavailable during two major parts of the game.

Back to Strago... what I CAN do is solo with him as much as the game lets me.
I'm thinking regular level-ups, best equipment possible, rely on Lores, avoid regular magic. Not gonna go all Ultima spam. Don't need to, Lore covers pretty much all your basics.

Here's the gameplan:

1. Speed-run through the WoB, don't level up any more than I need to, until I get Strago.

2. Get Strago, kill everyone else.

3. Build his levels up solo with Espers somewhere in WoB. Equipping Zoneseek is probably a good bet here. This is so he can survive the Floating Continent.

4. Solo to the Floating Continent, learn Lores there from the enemies. Can pick up quite a few of them there.

5. Speed-run through the first part of WoR (skip Sabin's part), don't level, get airship (Tentacle boss may be a problem)

6. Play normally through Jidoor (run from fights, though), get Relm

7. Go retrieve Strago

8. From here on I can solo-play him. 
Once I level him up a bit, my first order of business is going to be to get Mog and the Moogle Charm. I'm alright with using characters "as items" basically, like Mog for avoiding encounters or Locke for opening locked doors. So long as I don't use anyone except Strago in battle.

9. Once he's tough enough to not get mauled in Kefka's Tower, I'll go there and fight Dark Forces to get most of the remaining Lores.

10. Now Strago will be a complete badass. I'll do the rest of WoR until he's ready to finish the game.

11. Kefka's Tower might be a PITA due to the three-party requirement. We'll see.
Gonna get him a Ribbon and Economizer for relics, ultimately. Most likely. Getting every Lore in the game, for the first time ever for me, is top priority. Should be awesome.

And now, let's have some images. Be warned, this post is for people familiar with FFVI. It isn't my usual in-depth post, nor will there be much for explanations, and lots of spoilers.

We start off with bald-faced lies! Duncan lives!

This fight was ROUGH because I avoided leveling before this. As a result, I quickly abandoned the whole "low level game" thing (really isn't that important if Strago is "low level" or "regular-level-for-that-point" when I get him) at this point. That didn't last long.

Looks like it's possible to get a Ribbon in WoB. It's hidden in a wall during Locke's Scenario. I had no idea you could get one this early in the game. There are a bunch of them in WoR (in very lategame areas) and this is the only one for WoB (or the first 80+ % of the game). This is great and sets up one of Strago's two relics early. In a solo game, status effects can be game-enders.

This is one of my favorite screens in FFVI. Such a mystical place.

When near-death, Dadaluma did something I wasn't expecting and have never seen before. He threw two Dirks at our heroes, doing 5XX damage to the two that got hit. Wow.

The infamous sex scene, which involves a lot of flying around and both participants dripping sparkles everywhere. Eww.

This is a huge and important part of my strategy. This is because of the level-up bonus to Magic Power, which is going to be Strago's level-up bonus on nearly every level early on. Will have to also do some Speed later on with Odin.

After the Esper attack, you have to walk out of the airship of your own accord with no music playing. It's surprisingly dramatic for something so simple.

Something else I don't get. In Narshe, didn't Banon send Our Heroes to the sealed gate? Yet here he doesn't know what they're talking about. It's weird. Makes me wonder if, the last time we saw Banon in Narshe, it was actually Kefka in disguise. Also creepy the way this (real?) Banon just disappears after this. He doesn't attend the Banquet, either. It's likely that the game designers just dropped the ball with his character, but I wonder if the idea was something a bit more nefarious.

Look at the time. Just barely finished talking to the 24th and final soldier as the timer ran out.

The man himself finally debuts. Now I can kill off my other characters! DIE!

Utilized this relic setup at first for survivability while he gained a few levels, but soon switched the Cure Ring out for the Ribbon. I guess I'll keep him hasted with RunningShoes until I find an Economizer. While magic power is great, I really need to get Odin as early as I can to beef up Strago's speed. He's sloooooow.

Yura should have been one of the new Espers in FF6 Advance. Wonder what powers he has. Yeah, I know Kefka eats him, but Kefka also eats Ifrit and that doesn't stop him from being in your inventory.

This fight was REALLY DIFFICULT. However, the boss seemed to be weak to Stone, oddly enough, which was the only way I eked out a win. I imagine this is one of the tougher spots for solo-playthroughs.

(2024 Editor's Note: Turns out that the Stone spell does a whopping 8x damage to an enemy the same level as the caster. NOW I understand why sometimes the spell would do some huge chunk of damage and other times it'd just do normal damage. I must have lucked out here by having Strago be the same level as the boss. While this is a cool bit of insight for the Stone spell, I'm not sure I can really use it for any workable strategy. Enemy levels jump around too much and it'd be too micromanage-y to try and have Strago be a consistent level to bosses. Also not necessary considering he has plenty of other spells that get it done.)

Wonder if there are any other solo-character runs that would be particularly compelling. The Blue Mage (that's Strago) seems like it'd be the most compelling, and it is. Gau might be as well, but I feel like I'd end up using the same few Rages endlessly for the whole game. Another possibility is Mog, but that seems like it'd take ages, and again I'd probably just use the same couple dances for most of it. You could go with Sabin if you wanted the whole game to rely on your manual dexterity, fighting game style. As far as overall time that you can actually use them solo, Terra is the most available character. All of that said I think Strago is the best choice, and Lores are diverse enough in their effects that you aren't reliant on the same few for the whole game.

On the Floating Continent I can learn some Lores. Blow Fish does a guaranteed 1000 damage. This was important... for the twenty more minutes of gameplay that it'd take for Aqua Rake to reliably out-damage Blow Fish due to my rising M-Pwr.

And Atma... knocked me the F out. Time to regroup.

This fight is a big problem for any kind of solo-playthrough of this game. When the damage isn't diffused four ways, Flare Star does around 3000 damage. You're not gonna have that kind of HP until level 40+. I've been told that DragoonBoots (which give you the Jump command) are the solution. I didn't have those in this playthrough, so I ended up having to kill Atma before he used Flare Star. Couldn't do it at first, and went back to level-up.

Before finishing WoB, I have a couple more things to do. This guy casts blue magic uberheal Pearl Wind, so I pick that up. Before this playthrough I didn't know Pearl Wind existed in WoB. It isn't very good for a solo game, though.

Protip: I'm actually relying on Strago hitting himself with a Heal Staff (which consistently heals about 60% of his HP) for heals.

I don't use heal spells in battle, but I decided that menu screen heal spells are okay for recovery purposes. Same deal as buying more potions, really. And Osmose is a normal spell that I'm using in battles, since it saves me a huge amount of time and tedium when I don't need to run back to an inn or use up all my ethers.

This is kind of a soft "no regular magic" playthrough, not because I'm trying to nuzlocke, but rather because I want the focus to be on Lores and getting the most out of them. Spamming Ultima or heal spells would mess with that. Lores can get the same jobs done without being totally OP.

Atma rematch, and here's the result. Talk about barely surviving. Check out the power disparity between Strago and the other characters, which is only going to grow.

First order of business in WoR... KILL CID. I'm not doing this for the story, I'm speed-running. IF HE DIES, HE DIES.

(2024 Editor's Note: That and I consider "Cid dies" to be the canon story of the game. Celes' heartbreak and loss here makes her eventual triumph mean even more. But saving him is also a nice thing to do and makes the game a little less depressing in the second half.)

If you actually wait here, you'll be waiting FOREVER. He doesn't clear out any monsters, either. That rat bastard!

This fight was rough. I basically poisoned them with Bio Blaster (yes, what you see here is poison damage... it only goes up, too) and then turtled for the entire fight while the damage slowly snowballed. The top left one is immune to poison, however, so it's still a threat at the end. This is the most useful I've seen poison be in a Final Fantasy game. Well, aside from the final boss of FFXIII, which takes mega-damage from poison.

Dullahan was an absolutely brutal fight with my jobber squad. Here's how I won. I put the Wall Ring and Ribbon on Edgar, since the boss is 95% magic offense and uses a super status effect spell on anyone with reflect up. Wall Ring deflected his spells, Ribbon stopped his resulting status effects. Once the fight started, I had Edgar use Debilitator until the boss' weakness became Ice. Before that, he absorbed Ice. This means that his barrage of Ice 2 and Ice 3... bounced back and damaged him. A lot. From there I literally just stood there and defended while he blasted himself. Occasionally I'd have to make use of a Hi-Potion to heal if he did a physical attack, but that's about it.

Eventually Dullahan ran out of MP, and still had a few thousand HP to deplete. So from there, I used Phantom (since he was out of MP, he wouldn't dispel it) to avoid his physical attacks, and pummeled him with tools. He often countered with physical attacks, but they missed.

Despite all of this careful planning, it still took me a good five or six tries to win this. Dullahan, an epic battle? Who'd have thought? That was actually awesome, most fun Dullahan has ever been. Playing with low-level characters is pretty awesome, maybe I should try a low-level game next time.

GOT STRAGO. Finally. Now the "solo run" can begin for real.

First order of business: get Big Guard. Wouldn't you know it, this spell is quite a pain to get. You have to sketch that desert ray over there, which isn't easy when it auto-dies so fast. Took a little while because I needed a preemptive attack to do it. So I get out item-Relm to sketch and then quickly die her off again.

Strago then buries her next to Cid. RIP.

Thought about getting Odin next but figured I'd stick with ZoneSeek a bit longer. Strago's slowness is a real problem, but he needs a bit more magic power to be able to run over enemies by himself.

Next I went and got Mog (and his charm). This solved the second party issue for the Phoenix Cave. The second party doesn't have to engage in any battles, making this dungeon a solo affair.

First dragon I attempted. I didn't win...not even close.

I've always wondered, what's that red spark in the last room? The Locke events teleport you out before it can be investigated, and if you come back here later, it's gone.

Uncursing this is something I've never done before. Kinda like getting all of the Lores, which I'm doing this time. So this is an interesting playthrough for me on a few levels.

Went to the Solitary Island of exploding foes, threw Phantom on Strago, and that's that. The enemies can't hit him, so all I have to do is get into battles and give them a few seconds to end on their own. Just 256 of these and I'll have the greatest shield in FFVI for the first time ever. However, this is quite an exercise in tedium. It takes a solid hour+ of grinding, even here with the gimme fights.

The big question is, what to do next? Getting Odin is a possibility. Aqua Rake is outdated at this point, so going for Grand Train is another possibility.

(2024 Editor's Note: I sold Aqua Rake a bit short in this post. It's actually the best attack Strago has for a WHILE. Pretty much up until around this point where better things are available.)

Got the Paladin Shield for the first time ever. It took 180 battles, by my count. What the hey? Not 255? This is a good weirdness counter-balance to the time when I did 300,000+ HP worth of damage to Doom Gaze in The After Years without him dying, when he's supposed to have 120,000 HP.

The stats are really good, particularly for evade and block. The best part of the shield is what we can't see, though. It blocks half of the elements in the game and absorbs the other half. Nice. And of course, it teaches Ultima at an unseen 1x rate, not that I want it. Gimme more Lores.

  I used to have a theory that this ancient ruin is in fact Baron Castle from Final Fantasy IV. ...this theory was backed up by nothing, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was supposed to be a reference, given that Odin is featured prominently in both places.

Got Odin quickly and painlessly. Strago spent level 17 through 40 (he was level 17 or so when I got him) building up MagPwr, time for Speed.

Next stop... this place. A while back I contemplated doing a post where I figured out how tall and wide this tower would be in real-world terms, to see if any comparable structure exists.

The White Dragon is probably the easiest dragon in the game. Strago ran it over with little difficulty, and that's one down. It has something like 16,000 HP, which is the lowest HP of any dragon IIRC. The rest range from 25,000 to 45,000, though I think the Ice Dragon is also a bit below average.

The big loot of the tower. Gonna trade this for an Economizer. Now, Gem Box + Economizer is overpowered to the max, but having both items requires farming Brachosaurs. Since I'm using Lore, I'll pass. Can't double-cast Lores, but they DO take advantage of the Economizer's massive casting cost reduction. So I can safely trade the Gem Box for the Economizer.

THE DUEL OF THE FATES. Who is the real Magi Master? 

Spoiler Alert: Strago is.



  1. I always thought the Ancient Castle was Baron, too. Not Cecil and Rosa's era but another one. It's a good side story for sure.

    1. I agree. Maybe it's the ultimate fate of Baron, well after Cecil and Rosa's era.