Let's Play FF1!

We're in the home stretch here, gang!

The Temple of the Fiends is a humungous dungeon, seven floors of terror. To give you an idea of how murderous this dungeon can get, here's a shot of one of the very first battles I ran into. These Frost Ds cast BLIZZARD, which is the rough equivalent of ICE3. Fortunately you can RUN from them, but not from their big brothers the Gas Ds upstairs, whose POISON attack is even stronger and whose HPs are even higher. Successfully navigating the dungeon means knowing when to fight and when to RUN, and having a few tricks up your sleeve doesn't hurt either. Parties that rely solely on their stash of HEAL potions will not have enough supplies to reach the end even if they enter with 99 of them. I don't have much need for spells like FIR2, LIT2 and HRM2 in here, so all of my L3 spell charges will be wisely spent on CUR2 instead. Even with all his armor ADAM is going to take a sound beating up front; this is where you really need a KNIGHT in your team (KNIGHTS also come with a few charges of CUR2).

Oh, for the record, these Frost Ds are the reason I stayed far away from the treasures of the Ice Cave.

A few floors up I run into the Temple's sub-boss, the PHANTOM. Compared to the creatures I've been fighting up until now the PHANTOM is a total pushover, even moreso than his cousin the EYE. Death spells like ZAP!, BRAK and RUB show up early in his spell rotation, but I'm well insulated with ProRings and Ribbons, and even if I weren't I've got lots of charges of LIFE handy. Like many of the game's bosses the PHANTOM appears on a spiked square, but there's no reason to pop this one since he's only worth 1 GOLD and 1 EXP.

No, seriously. One of each.

Behind the PHANTOM is a stone tile in the ground, but the ROD won't work on this one. Instead I play the Princess's LUTE to gain access to a ladder leading down. It leads me back down the ground floor, where I can reach a new area with stairs leading down into the Earth Level. This floor is populated with earth elemental creatures like MudGOLs, RockGOLs and, uh, EARTHs. And at the end of the floor...

LICH is back, and he's badder than ever. His opening spell is NUKE, yes that NUKE. As you can see it outright killed my Ribboned NINJA in one shot and leaves the others considerably weaker. Fortunately I have two things going for me: LICH's HP is pretty low, and he has lots of spells to cast before he gets back to NUKE in his rotation. FIR3 and HRM3 are options, but I really want to kill him faster than that, so I rely on FASTed hits instead. By the time his ZAP! spell whiffs I've finished him off.

LICH v2.0 is really the breaking point of the Temple. The worst of the random encounters are behind you now, but the curveball NUKE throws at you is mean to the point of being outright cruel. It was years before I realized that the FIENDs in the final dungeon were different than the ones you fight earlier in the game, so for a long time we would powerlevel like crazy at the PNEOP before the Earth Cave to be certain that we could kill LICH before he NUKEd us. Rest assured, early-game Earth Cave LICH doesn't have access to this spell, and the other three FIENDs don't really get any new nasty tricks of this calibur.

Two more quick things: LICH (and the other FIENDs too, I assume) is worth exactly 666 EXP if you finish the fight with three people alive, like I do here. Fitting coincidence or tricksy hidden Satanic message? The world may never know. Number two, all the FIENDs appear on spiked squares now, so you can pop them as much as your little heart desires. My little heart desires a rematch with NUKE-happy LICH about as much as it desires a shit smoothie, so it's down to the Fire Level with me.

The Fire Level is a good place for respite. It's populated with monsters from Gurgu Volcano for the most part, many of which can be tricked with the White Shirt to the point they are harmless. Once there I can essentially restore all my HP for free by asking EDIT and SKUB to wave around the Heal Staff and Heal Helmet respectively. Doing this saves a ton of spell charges and HEAL potions, and trust me, I'll need them later.

Here's the first of two treasures that are actually worth getting in the Temple: a second ProCape for one of my RedWizs. Also on this floor is a free ProRing and a second Katana, neither of which I have a use for. If for some reason you have two NINJAs in your group that Katana is worth the trek to get, but if you have two NINJAs in your group it means you beat ASTOS and LICH v1.0 with two THIEFs and therefore are clinically insane or a goddamn American hero and I salute you, soldier.

KARY doesn't have any new tricks except FIR3 and goes down to a couple FASTed hits. She's by far the easiest of the second cycle of FIENDs. Down to the Water Level!

This floor contains most of the monsters from the Sea Shrine, but GHOSTs aren't among them, thank all that is good and pure. ADAM's Bane Sword and SKUB's Thor Hammer make short work out of the large packs of SeaTROLLs and SeaSNAKEs, and before long my party has reached L20.

Here's a shot of KRAKEN to hopefully make up for the missing one earlier. I admit it's not a very flattering one for me.

KRAKEN has more HP now and his hits are absolutely devastating. Unless you have KNIGHTs meatshielding for you, you'd better hope you have a way to RUSE up quick. This fight started out with Defense Sword/RUSE/RUSE/White Shirt, but as you can see it still didn't go well for me. By the time I'm RUSEd enough that KRAKEN is consistantly missing me I'm down to BOSS's Sun Sword and SKUB's Thor Hammer to deal damage. No matter how little damage I do, though, it's a losing battle for the FIEND. He can only damage me with LIT2 now, but I've already ALITed myself. I end up slowly poking him to death 20-40 damage at a time, and still have plenty of L5 charges for LIFE spells. It takes a lot of HEAL potions but everyone is back in top condition when I head down to the Air Level.

Literally six motherloving steps away from my target treasure box on the next floor, this shit happens. Years and years of playing this game and I have never once encountered SORCERERs on the Air Level, and of course even if I had I would have been all, "Oh, no big deal, I have ProRings!" Well, if my ignorance hadn't already been remedied on that issue it sure as fuck would have been now because it took about three rounds for these fartknockers to TRANCE me into submission and then slaughter me with their broken death attacks.

A NetHack epitaph comes to mind: "Brain sucked by a master mind flayer, while helpless." If genociding h wouldn't also take out my good pal Jim back in Melmond, I would have done it before coming out all this way. (Anyone who gets that joke has my respect and admiration.)

Well, on the plus side, I have much better fights with LICH and KRAKEN my second time through. LICH unwisely chose to attack me rather than NUKE, and KRAKEN decided to open with LIT2, so maybe it was for the best.

Moment of silent awe, please.

The Masmune, simply put, is the best weapon in Final Fantasy. And I don't mean "the best weapon in Final Fantasy, the NES game from the early 90s". I mean "the best weapon in Final Fantasy, a series of RPGs produced for various home consoles over the past 18-odd years". I don't want to hear Atma or Ragnarok or Ultima Weapon or Ridill or Zodiac Spear or any of that nonsense. The Masmune, misspelled though it may be, puts them all to shame. Simply put, any character weilding a Masmune (and any class, promoted or not, can indeed equip it) can do sick amounts of damage. It packs 50% HIT -- that's enough for nearly three hits right out of the box -- and a whopping 56 DAMAGE. For comparison Xcalber (the second-best weapon) has 45 DAMAGE and 35 HIT while the Katana (the third-best) packs only a measly 33 DAMAGE and 35 HIT.

Your first instinct may be to drop this directly on your best attacker, but with some thought that's a bad idea, especially if that character is a KNIGHT or a NINJA who is already weilding a very good class-specific weapon that nobody else can use as a hand-me-down. Your second instinct is probably to give it to your worst attacker, and that's certainly not a bad strategy. Personally I'm going to be giving it to BOSS instead, because I like to keep SKUB as a dedicated healer in battles, and he's unRibboned anyway meaning any use he gets out of the Masmune in boss fights is going to be momentary at best.

Speaking of SKUB, right here is UST #5. I'm running low on resources now, both spell charges and HEAL potions, so it's time to EXIT out to resupply. Oftentimes you can just plow right through and win the game right now, but I have plans for this Masmune back in the present and besides, gaining L20 gives my RedWizs their first L6 spell and SKUB his first L7. Saving those levels and this sword is worth replaying the dungeon.

Without any further ado I present to you: your endgame LIGHT WARRIORS:

(BOSS's spell list not pictured because it is identical to EDIT's.)

The strategy guides will tell you this party is not ready to win the game. The walkthroughs will tell you this party is not ready to win the game. Nintendo Power will tell you that. The GameFAQs monkeys will tell you that. Everything you thought you knew about FF1 will tell you that.

I'm telling you different. These guys are ready to win the game.

After one last night of drink and debauchery at the Coneria INN, and after one more extra-long HEAL-buying session, the LIGHT WARRIORs are ready. Past the talking bats and back into the Time Gate they go.

Here are some of those Gas Ds I mentioned before. As you can see they've already put a bit of a hurt on me with their POISON attack. Even off to this rocky start, though, the second trip is way easier than the first, and it's all thanks to the Masmune. In fact, BOSS now deals so much damage that I don't need EDIT's damage output anymore; he falls back on his Heal Staff and joins SKUB in keeping my team alive. This enables me to save way more HEAL potions than I did last time.

You'll note my Masmune weilder is on the back line. This is not an accident. Up until this point I've been swapping EDIT and BOSS back and forth to spread their damage around, but now I want BOSS planted where she is, in the back line where only 12.5% of the attacks are getting her. She's also carrying my Power Gauntlet, so as I make my way back through the KARY and KRAKEN fights she can murder them almost instantly with a devastating FAST+SABR+Masmune combination.

Fighting is not a priority anymore, but some enemies can't be RUN from and others are good spots to White Shirt up and top off my HP with free heals. If you have EXIT and insist on powerleveling, you could do a lot worse than to run around inside the Temple, especially the very first floor where WORMs are plentiful.

TIAMAT, take two. She's not BANE-able anymore, so I have to fight her the old fashioned way. (Well, she is, inasmuch as even BANE-immune monsters "only" have a 255/256 shot of surviving, but you know.) I actually started by having BOSS stack two SABRs up, and by this point in the fight she is well-FASTed and dealing enormous amounts of damage. ADAM won't survive the final round, but BOSS has plenty of LIFE spells to bring everyone back to their feet.

If you're not after the Masmune the Air Level is actually extremely short, and once you've killed TIAMAT you're essentially safe to use up every last HEAL potion in preparation for the last battle. One of the game's three super-rare monsters is found here, but I'm not really in any shape to run around looking for it, and I'm terrified of the SORCERERs running around anyway. One more staircase down leads me to...

...GARLAND!? What a twist!

Yes, it seems that the four FIENDs gathered up their power to send good ol' princess-snatchin' GARLAND back in time. He takes a few moments to explain his devious plan to you here (which involves sending the FIENDS to the future so they can send him back to the past so he can send them back to the future) before assuming his ultimate form and ruining your day.

Behold CHAOS, the final boss of FF1. I'm pretty sure he's using the owl from the movie Labyrinth as his right leg, but I couldn't really say why.

CHAOS has 2000 HP and some of the nastiest spells in the book. In addition to the bog-standard ICE3, FIR3 and LIT3 he's got unique spells like SWIRL and TORNADO, not to mention good old NUKE. About halfway through his spell rotation is CUR4, which restores his HP back to maximum. This is less of a problem for some teams than others. It's essentially a lose for some of the solo games, but my team won't have any trouble...

...yeah, I'm good. FASTed, SABRed, Masmune-weilding BOSS is my powerhouse for the fight, and believe it or not this isn't even the strongest hit she gets in. Somewhere in between CUR4 and NUKE in CHAOS's spell rotation BOSS lands the winning blow. I estimate that I dealt something like 3700 damage to CHAOS over the course of the fight, the majority of which came from BOSS.

Not for nothing, but I've seen a high-level MASTER kill CHAOS in a single shot after a couple layers of the Power Gauntlet plus FAST.

Unlike most monsters which just vanish, CHAOS dramatically crumbles to dust along with the background. As you can see, being unRibboned eventually took its toll on SKUB and he doesn't survive to see the victory. We intend to cremate him and spread his ashes over Lefein so he can be with his people, Lu....pa....ing to his heart's content in the hereafter.

The epilogue essentially consists of a series of text boxes tripping over themselves to explain what the hell this Time-Loop had to do with anything. It does a poor job, even going so far as to contradict itself in places. I thought about loading an endgame save I have on Dawn of Souls (my awesome Black Wizard party: Glurge, Egads, Icky and Zniff) to try and clarify what exactly the plot is trying to do here, but then I remembered that Dawn of Souls isn't the NES version and therefore doesn't count. The ending works a lot better if you just imagine every text box reading "You beat CHAOS! You're totally badass, bro!"

Then, one final empty box opens up, and the words "THE END" are drawn onscreen as though someone were using an Etch-a-sketch. The music comes to a triumphant crescendo, and you are left in silence, alone with your accomplishment.

And that's the end of the adventure!

Next: So I beat CHAOS, big deal. Certainly there's something harder than CHAOS...?

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