Saturday, March 26, 2016

Final Fantasy Tactics, Part 5 - Chapterhouse

Today on Final Fantasy Tactics... the hardest, most unfair, most obnoxious fight in the game. A fight that ended many playthroughs.

We begin in the pouring rain. This game has more rain than any other game I've ever played, I think. It's a wonder none of your characters ever get pneumonia.

At this point Ramza is public enemy #1, having slain Queklain The Cardinal.

The search for Alma now leads our hero to... ::thunder crashes, horses whinny:: Riovanes Castle.

Riovanes Castle ::thunder crashes, horses whinny:: is the graveyard of many a Final Fantasy Tactics playthrough, including my own first run at the game. Not only does it have the hardest battle, it tricks you into saving before said battle and trapping you into it. The fight itself requires some specific abilities on Ramza to be able to win, and if he doesn't have any of those abilities... winning can be outright impossible.

For people who have only been keeping one save file, it's a recipe for disaster. It's about two thirds of the way through the game, and a hell of a place to have to start all over.

New PSP cutscene! Ovelia is lurking in some ruins. You'd think she'd change into better travel clothes at some point. That dress should be grungy as hell by now if this game were realistic.

Delita shows up to announce that he is no longer a puppet of the 1%.

He's smitten with Ovelia. She'd be into him...if he had a nose.

Nevermind, she gave him a big hug. Is this just a case of Stockholm Syndrome, though?

After a desert fight that I don't remember existing in the original game, I run into a new character. Luso here is from Final Fantasy Tactics A2 on the DS. I believe he's the main character. You can tell right off the bat that he's someone important here; he's MUCH more powerful than most of the generic characters. He starts with access to the all-powerful Shout ability, which previously only Ramza got (and not until Chapter 4).

He hits hard and moves fast, so he'll be a party mainstay for a while.

Shops get some new items in at this point. A lot of these knives made return appearances in Final Fantasy IX as parts of Zidane's weapon lineup. I believe Orichalcum was actually his ultimate knife, but it has been a while.

Oh, and shops finally carry lances. Not sure why they took so long to show up, given that a bunch of lower-tier lances are on the list. They could have shown up quite a bit earlier.

Now Dragoon is a viable class. Their skill lineup is odd; unlike nearly every other class, their skills replace one another. In other words, you don't need to buy all of them unless you're consciously trying to master the class. Buying Horizontal Jump 8 will make all the previous jumps redundant since the game allows you to jump to any space up to that point. Vertical Jump is also important since very few of the battle maps are remotely even-terrained.

The main problem with Dragoon is that the jump ability doesn't home in on enemies if they move. Much like Archer, they'll whiff on their special attacks if they target an enemy that is anywhere near close to moving.

The next battle is yet another fight between Ramza and some guys he doesn't actually want to fight with.

Ramza is all "plz, let me just walk by" and they're all "NO! YOU WON'T TAKE US ALIVE, YA RAT BASTARD!"

...more or less.

Moving on, we meet Rafa and Malak. They're sorcerers with some odd randomized magic that no one else gets. Right now Malak works for Duke Barrington, the lord of Riovanes Castle and a real a-hole. Rafa on the other hand is trying to convince Malak to leave the dark side. Oh, and they're siblings.

Malak slaps her in the face! How dare she speak ill of the Duke!

She runs away...right into our heroes. This is a tricky fight since you need to protect Rafa and she tends to stand right there in harm's way. Probably in the top ten most difficult overall.

Great, another guy who lusts after the Iron Throne.

(To avoid confusion: Rapha is her PSP version name; Rafa is her PS1 version name)

Malak sends some kind of enchanted frog in to speak for him. Weird.

Cut back to the ruins where Ovelia apparently lives now. She's praying for peace, when what she should really be praying for is a roof.

A couple of ninjas show up, and it's time for another new PSP battle!

Delita now has all of the Holy Knight abilities, and unleashes destruction on the ninjas quickly. These Delita fights are really cool, and I just wish they were longer/more difficult. They're usually over in two turns.

The next battle is a creepy fight in the woods with various undead hellspawn. I don't wanna talk about it.

Elsewhere, we meet Duke Barrington. He has invited the NWO (now including Wiegraf) over for dinner.

Vormav sends Wiegraf out to deal with Ramza and company as they approach the castle. His son, Isilud, senses a disturbance in the force. That's right, kid, your father is now a DEMON.

Vormav has had enough of Barrington already, and goes into Lucavi form off-camera to completely tear apart the Duke and his entire castle. Isilud must then face the truth, and gets taken out in the ensuing melee. My only question is... why didn't they hook Isilud up with a Zodiac Stone too? Were they just running low? More likely, Isilud simply isn't important enough.

Also, these Zodiac Stones are starting to remind me of the flowers in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. If someone gives you one... IT ISN'T A GIFT.

Arriving at Riovanes Castle, the first fight is against Malak and some goons.

(Note: His PSP name is Marach...yeah, 9 times out of 10, I stick to the PS1 names I grew up with)

This battle is quite easy; Malak isn't anywhere near as tough as most of the other named foes in the game. It helps that he's a sorcerer, and thus squishy. The only real problem in this fight? The Archers on the wall. Enemy Archers are so much better than Archers on your own side because the game always seems to give them the high ground.

Alma is prisoner here in Riovanes, and we get a scene right out of The Terminator as Vormav rampages around the castle. All Alma can hear are the screams...and some very cool music:

 Can't find it on the soundtrack, so here's the track in action.

Barrington's soldiers have seen the leader of the Lucavi: Hashmalum, the true form of Vormav. We won't see him until very late in the game. There are three more Lucavi to deal with between now and then, and we're about to face one of them.

Here's the single worst trap in the game: Saving the game after the fight with Malak and his goons. The next fight is the hardest in the game, and saving here means you can't leave to grind out any abilities you might need to win. Save here without being prepared or having a backup save, and it's game over. Best of all, the game gives you very little clue of any of this beforehand. The closest thing we get to a warning is the Queklain fight having a save beforehand; if the player had trouble with Queklain, they might be wary of a mid-area save happening again.

Problem is, Queklain is easily surmountable with some on-the-fly strategy changes, while this coming fight can be outright impossible without the right preparation well in advance.

Ramza and Wiegraf run into each other, and it's time for the big fight.

Wiegraf with the single best line in the entire game.

Wiegraf UNLEASHES HELL. His Lightning Thrust attacks have a long reach and can down Ramza in two hits. Combine this with Wiegraf's decent movement range and Ramza can't easily get away from him to heal, much less launch any kind of real offense.

The solution?

...beat Wiegraf in one hit before he can do anything.

It's all in the preparation, as I mentioned before. Abilities that are worth bringing some or all of:

-Squire abilities like Tailwind and Focus
-Teleport (Time Mage) or Move +3 (Bard) for evading Wiegraf
-Auto-Potion (Chemist) and make sure there are no standard Potions in your inventory, which means selling them at a shop before going to Riovanes
-Dual-Wield (Ninja)

It also helps to make Ramza a Monk for the speed. It's definitely a requirement to be able to outrun Wiegraf. Once that's accomplished, you can Tailwind every turn until Ramza has a lot more speed than Wiegraf, then start using Focus until you can one-shot him.

Trying to do this battle normally... doesn't work too well. If you get really lucky with Aurablasts and Ramza is a sufficiently-leveled Monk, it might be possible to beat Wiegraf straight-up in a slugfest. Other than that, the whole battle is a recipe for disaster.

Wiegraf channels the Aries stone to go Lucavi.

Here's Velius, the most difficult Lucavi boss in the game. The fact that he immediately follows the most difficult one-on-one fight in the game is both a blessing and a curse.

It's a curse if you're playing normally and struggled past Wiegraf, and it's a blessing if you powered Ramza way up in that fight. Since it's part of the same battle, Ramza's stat-raises carry over, so you can obliterate Velius with Ramza quickly.

For this fight, Ramza's friends arrive... so do Velius'. These things use some very cool attacks like Gigaflare and Dark Holy; they're also immune to Light-based attacks. Weird.

Luso unleashes Shout, the ultimate power-up move. Looking forward to checking out Final Fantasy Tactics A2 eventually to find out who this guy is.

Velius' strongest attack is to summon Cyclops, probably the second-strongest summon in the game besides Bahamut. It unleashes death and destruction on your party, often before some of them even get to move once.

In this case, I didn't have Ramza powered up too much, and he fell to the Cyclops summon. IT'S UP TO YOU NOW LUSO!

...yep. After all these years, and with careful preparation, I can still lose this fight pretty easily. No wonder it ended my game back in 1998.

This time I powered up beyond all reason. First I annihilated the Archaeodaemons with area-effect attacks from Ramza, then warped to Velius to administer a beatdown. It was over before he even got to move, and I'd almost feel bad about it if the game weren't equally cheap to me sometimes.

Alma finds Isilud dying in the great hall. The sad thing is that he meets his end not knowing why his father isn't his father anymore.

Speaking of which, Folmarv has arrived. He senses something about Alma and takes her captive, leaving the castle. So she went right from one captivity situation to another.

Here's another good track that plays during cutscenes; it doesn't actually play during this part, but since it's common for Vormav scenes it's a good place to link it. I like the "bwaaaaa" at :04 and :08.

Beating the most difficult fight in the game doesn't mean Riovanes Castle is over yet. NOPE. Now we get a rooftop battle that might well be in the top five most difficult battles in and of itself. Duke Barrington is facing off with Rafa up here, but he isn't the real threat.

Some assassin lady shows up and hurls Barrington off the rooftop to his death. We hardly knew ya, Duke.

Marquis Elmdore shows up, looking as Magus-like as ever. As the third Lucavi boss, he'll be the primary antagonist for a little while from here on out. Not only is he extremely formidable by himself, his two assassins are highly-dangerous as well.

And the worst part?'s another protect fight, and Rafa is even flimsier than Malak.

Of course, Elmdore gets to move before any of your characters do, because the CPU loves to do that in this game. He can easily cut Rafa's HP in half or send her to critical with his first move.

The assassins generally finish her off quickly with moves like Ultima, seen here (which can be learned by Ramza if he's a Squire here and takes a hit from it...I didn't bother, though it IS a good attack that makes him even more OP).

Doesn't help that the guest AI is still terrible, and Rafa sees no issues with running up to tank half the time.

While Elmdore is very hard to take down, his assassins have a lot less defense than he does, and defeating one of them ends the battle. Your characters merely need to be able to hit hard and hit fast in order to stop one of the assassins before Rafa gets blown up. Ramza carries the brunt of the responsibility there. Oh, and my Summoner never even got to move due to her super-low speed. I think it's time to retire that character, as helpful as Golem can be when I actually get to use it.

Alas, Malak was shot by Duke Barrington beforehand, and is no more.

But wait! He gets revived by the light of the Zodiac Stones that Ramza wields...or something. For whatever reason, he doesn't get turned into a demon, and pops up good as new. He also now realizes that his sister was right all these years about Duke Barrington being corrupt. Now that he knows Barrington's word was all just a PACK OF LIES, he's willing to jump over to the side of good.

Well, I more or less just devoted an entire post to Riovanes Castle. Next time on Final Fantasy Tactics, I begin murdering my way through the final chapter.


  1. Pretty much all of Ovelia's actions we can take at face value, but I wouldn't say that Delita is smitten with her at all. He doesn't think she's a bad person by any means but she's still a means to an end for him. Which Ovelia eventually realizes.

    I'm a bit rusty but I'm going to say that lances show up earlier than this. They're only sold at castles though, and you may not have stopped at any after they became available. ::checks:: Yeah, at the start of Chapter 2 you can get them from Igros. You have no plot reason to go there, but if you want the heavier gear it's castles or bust.

    Man, and it's a bunch of Squires and Chemists who can't possibly be a threat to you.

    Looks like Delita has a Knight Sword now as well, which is likely a Save the Queen.

    ...and it sounds like Wiegraf (or perhaps Velius) has been reading some Karl Marx.

    If you power Ramza up too much though in the Wirgraf fight, you go into Chapter 4 with only Ramza way-overleveled and chocobos will annihilate your party.

    Light may not work, but having a Summoner around is great because Lich completely wrecks Lucavi.

    Whoa, the assassins don't usually use Ultima here in my experience. Of course it could just be that this is such a TERRIBLE place to learn it...

  2. I'm with Brayn. Delita doesn't really feel for her.

    This Luso character seems pretty impressive! This is a great part of the game to get good characters, too.

    Rafa must've been really hurt by Malak refusing to believe her. Glad he figured it out eventually. ...after he was revived from the dead.

    A remake of this game would have to make Rafa and Malak better characters.

    Riovanes Castle having not 1 but 2 of the game's hardest fights is really something. I remember using Teleport and Auto-Potion (with only X-Potions) to take out Velius.

    Vormav wiping out the castle off-camera is fantastic theater.

    I'd forgotten about Isilud. His is a sad tale.

    Congrats on clearing the hardest part of the game.