Man, I can think of two things Marquis Elmdore can suck — and they’re both in my scrotum. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Chapter Three immediately caused me to revise my previous opinion re: “Chemists are broken, man.” Within the first few fights it was more like, “Oh my dear god what have I gotten myself into?” Interspersed, of course, with broken sobs. Actually, it wasn’t so much difficult as it was a series of puzzles. Until now all my Chemist upgrades had pretty much just come straight at me; the next town had better gear, or better potions, or whatever. But those days were behind me now. The Cartoon Brigade had mastered the job and new upgrades were not forthcoming. They would have to be more proactive in carving advantages for themselves.
The chapter opens up on a laughable fight against some joes where Orran features as a guest character. Orran is a superhero who spams an infinite-range attack spell that deals no damage but adds Stop, Disable and Immobilize. The narrative here is that Orran is being picked on and you have to swoop in to his rescue, but with tricks like that in his arsenal he would probably be able to go head-to-head with anything in the game.
The gloves come off in the fight against Grand Inquisitor What’s-his-name. The goal here is to kill the leader, who is a white mage that loves to constantly refill his health. He has a hard time retreating out of range because Chemists with guns have a range of 8 squares, but the battle still gave me a lot of trouble because eliminating his support proved impossible. Just as I got one of the enemy units low on health, the priest guy would step forward and heal them. What’s worse, he had a passive skill that enabled him to regenerate MP each round. It was like fighting some kind of infinite healing battery.
After pounding my head against it for a while, I realized the solution was obvious: instead of eliminating the support units, I had to concentrate fire on the leader. This was dangerous because the rest of the enemeis would have a field day coming in at my flanks, and because missing a volley of shots would enable the Inqusitor to refill his HP and MP. Until now I had made sure to eliminate every unit in every battle, probably because I had a mental block in place that made me believe eliminating the leader was a degenerate tactic. It was something I relied on way too much back when the game was new — before I really understood how to play it — but I hadn’t done it at all during my first PSP replay, and I was quite proud of that.
But that’s what challenge runs are for: they force you to eliminate those pesky mental blocks and focus on learning the game for real. Rules is rules, yeah? If the game says “Defeat This Guy”, that’s what you do. And this fight made me realize that’s exactly what my Chemists would have to do, too.
The next wall was in the Orbonne Monestary. The first fight was against a trio of Dragoons backed up by a Chemist and two Time Mages. This was the first fight in the game I had to do any scumming. If any of the support rolled White Magic as their second skill, they would be able to keep the Dragoons alive indefinitely. And the Dragoons could one-shot my Chemists. And they took like six shots to kill as it was. This was frustrating for a long time. After maybe a dozen tries I realized that there was simply no way to get ahead in the damage game; their output trumped mine three times over, and they were being Hasted besides. This was a game-ending fight. But people had completed this challenge before, so what was I doing wrong?
I knew that shops in FFT upgraded their wares periodically, but I had never understood the mechanism that controlled this. Additionally, these fights in the monestary were the first ones that took place in old territory; I was no longer following a daisy chain of new towns with new shops to check. What I needed to do was take a break and look for new equipment in the hopes that someone would have new guns for sale. Of course the first place I checked was the Clockwork City, and of course the guy there had Mythril Guns for me. This was a severe boost to everyone’s damage output, and was exactly what I needed to get a leg up. I was also able to get everyone a Green Beret, which offered +1 Speed. So my Chemists were faster and dealing more damage per shot. Ye gods, I should have gone shopping before that Inquisitor fight.
The Dragoon fight was still no pushover, but the new gear made a world of difference. The next fight against Isilud went fine, and I was even able to clear the map. And after that was a coin flip fight against Wiegraf, where half the time he will step backwards through a doorway to a place you can’t reach him (and the fight takes forever because you’re immediately mobbed by mages while he gets healed), and half the time he steps forward directly into your fire. I wasted no time taking the freebie and feeding the knucklehead six bullets. I considered it payback for giving me so much trouble on the Windflats.
Next a couple of new guests joined me. I robbed Luso of some gear before dismissing him, beefing McGinnis’s stats slightly. That ended up not mattering because the next town had better stuff anyway. Then came Rapha with her infuriating flashbomb magic. Rapha is all about dice. She uses these attacks which target random squares, and hit a random number of times. Sometimes she’ll nail a unit four times in a single turn, racking up huge damage and putting a big smile on your face. And sometimes you just watch seven or eight totally ineffective attack animations while she wastes her turn in the stupidest way imaginable. We’ll come back to Rapha and her inadequacies in a moment.
Riovanes Castle is the most notorious map in Final Fantasy Tactics. It contains four battles, three of which would make anyone’s list of Hardest Battles in the Game. First you have to clear a small army away from the castle gate; easily-enough accomplished if you have guns and a ton of healing potions. No sweat.
Next, McGinnis has to solo Wiegraf. This is the fight that caused ten thousand ragequits. An unsuspecting player who hasn’t been cycling through his save slots (and remember, this game originally premiered on the PSX, which involved using memory cards with very limited space) who saves his game after clearing the easy fight can find himself in a totally unwinnable battle against Wiegraf. The only way to win this fight is through preparation, but if you’re locked down to one game save there’s no time to go back and prepare. Whoops.
I knew the fight was coming, of course, so I had a safe save outside of Riovanes. I didn’t do any preparation, though, because I couldn’t think of anything to do. Wiegraf punished me severely for my ineptitude. Getting ahead in the damage was impossible because Auto-Potion wasn’t enough to cover the 150+ damage he was whacking me with every round. There wasn’t even any range advantage, because his Move and Speed were both so great. The solution ended up being selling off all my Potions and Hi-Potions. This way, when Auto-Potion triggered, it would use an X-Potion instead and restore 150 HP, instead of 30. This not only made the fight winnable, but impossible to lose. Every round Auto-Potion triggered I was able to shoot Wiegraf instead of healing, and he wasn’t able to take much of that.
So begins the third fight, where Wiegraf transforms into Belias and both parties call in their reinforcements. Belias’s reinforcements are a pack of demons who, like Belias himself, can one-shot poor, hapless Chemists who don’t line up on the Zodiac compatibility. This battle was brutal, but I was able to stay on top of things. The Chemists who didn’t die from a single attack were highly durable thanks to Auto-X-Potions. Plus, the demons themselves were not very durable; a couple shots each and I was able to take them out. Aside from that it was just a matter of making sure no two Chemists were within four squares of each other; far enough away that Belias couldn’t squeeze them both into one of this summon spells, but close enough that I could step in with a quick Phoenix Down when required.
It was a satisfying fight.
And then Marquis Elmdore.
Fuck Marquis Elmdore.
If you’ve played FFT you already know why this fight is awful. I’m going to describe it in detail anyway.
First, you have to sit through a long cutscene. A loooooong cutscene. If I were using these posts to analyze FFT’s narrative, it would probably rate as one of my favorite scenes in the game. (Finally a practical hero who understands he shouldn’t trade superpowered magic stones to monstrous villains in exchange for a single human life! Cecil could learn something from McGinnis.) But man, I had to reload the game so many times that I began to hate every line of this scene. It was more like, okay, just hammer the X button while I’m reading a webpage or something, and then check back in four minutes and maybe I can start entering commands.
Second, the goal of the battle is “protect Rapha”. Rapha, as previously stated, is, while powerful, extremely inconsistent. Much of the time her only action will consist of “step forward, summon nine sparklies that do nothing, then get hit and die”. And if that happens, you get a game over.
Third, Elmdore is fast and has two ninja sidekicks. These ninjas both have debilitating attacks that can Stop or KO at a 100% hit rate. Or they can simply stomp someone to death with their dual-wielded ninja swords. All three opponents get an action before any of the heroes do, which means it is entirely possible for Rapha to be dead before you even do anything.
Fourth, while McGinnis starts right up in the thick of things, the other party members all begin the fight down in a little niche alongside the main arena. Even with Germinas Boots (+1 Move/+1 Jump) they have to spend a whole turn just getting upstairs. Since McGinnis will probably be dead by the time they get there, this means two full rounds of enemy actions before you can do much of anything.
Fifth, because Rapha’s brother Marach counts as a guest for this fight (even though he is unconscious and never makes any moves) you don’t get your full five-man party. So one of my Chemists had to be benched.
The canonical way to win the fight is to make Ramza a Ninja and use his innate speed boost to (hopefully) take out one of the targets before they get Rapha.
The way to win with a Chemist party is to leave two open spots down in your starting crevice, pray to god that Rapha moves there on her turn, pray to another god that one of Elmdore’s bitches follows her onto the second square, then open fire with three Chemists. That should get the job done.
It took about two hours of constantly failing, reloading, and sitting through that goddamn cutscene to finally get that shining moment to come through for me.
Friends, countrymen… let us join hands in our hatred for this bullshit random-ass luck-driven fight.
One chapter left. With any luck the absolute worst of it is behind me. To be honest, I don’t know how much worse I could stand it to get before giving up. In any case, thank you for reading.