Sunday, August 1, 2021

Game 66 - The Last Battle

The Last Battle (ザラストバトル)
Released 12/2/1994, published by Teichiku 
 
 
 
Commenter Carlos warned me about this game a little while back, and he was right. This is by now a familiar story -- a game with some good ideas, which are torpedoed by bad design. The three most common bad design features are all present here: cumbersome interface, ridiculous random encounter rate, and bad game balance. Sometimes the game remains playable and average, but in this case I think The Last Battle is one of the worst games I've played so far.

Many Japanese sites seem to regard this as a スルメゲー, literally "squid game", named because squid gets better the more you chew it (supposedly). These kind of games are garbage at first, but once you get used to the system and figure things out, it gets more interesting. I personally never found that to be the case, but usually the Japanese players agree with my labels of kusoge. In this case it seems like there are some people who like the game, so maybe you should give it a try?

Anyway, on to the game. It was developed by three studios working together, and some of the designers worked on games like Metal Max, Jungle Wars, and Shin Momotaro Densetsu, so you wouldn't expect it to be bad. But the development was delayed several times, and maybe all the different cooks never worked well together. It was released by Teichiku, which is a music/record company and only ventured into video games a couple of times.

 

The game begins by asking your name, and then introducing the main character Kult. One bizarre decision in this game is that his name is クルト (Kult) and the evil empire is グルド (Guld) -- I thought maybe they were going for something there, but as far as I can tell there's no reason for them to have such similar names.

So why did we put in our name? It turns out that at 16 years old, people undergo a coming of age test, and then receive their true name in secret. They need that true name in order to use magic. So the beginning of the game has Kult doing this test, which involves recovering an item from a nearby cave. First Kult can buy and equip some things. The walking speed is very slow, and the interface for everything is quite cumbersome. To equip something you have to do A->item->equip->Kult->dagger->Kult, and the opening of each menu is fairly slow. This is a huge problem with the game and really unacceptable for late 1994.


On the way to the cave, you'll meet the first encounters, and find that this is another auto-battle game. At least in this one you can issue commands (through a typically slow interface) and there are some AI settings. But I continue to not particularly like the way these systems work. You can never get the people to do what you want to do, and they move into danger and do stupid things (trying to command them all in every battle would be a nightmare).

You will also discover that the random encounter rate is ridiculous. Even among the SFC games I've played, which generally have high encounter rates, this one stands out. 


I also died in my third battle in the cave, so I also discovered very early on that the game balance is not good. This game required more grinding than any other game I've played up to now, and that's with the fact that you already fight a ton of battles just going through the dungeons. I think emulator speedup is a must for this game. You can hold down the Y button to make the battles go a bit faster as well.

I leveled up a bit and then went into the cave. With a few levels and Kult's cure spell, the dungeon isn't so bad. One odd thing about this game is that enemies don't drop money. Instead, you get "jewel bags" every so often from the enemies that you can sell. This is annoying because the inventory space is limited -- not as severely as some games, but there's no item stacking and you need a free inventory space to be able to equip things, so it can get frustrating.

When you get back to the village, Guld has attacked. This is the first appearance of a common gameplay element -- you have to avoid (or fight if you want) the soldiers on the map and make your way to a boss. Once you beat the boss, the you win against Guld and the area is freed.


After this, the mayor sends Kult up to Silveil Castle to deliver a letter saying they were attacked. There, Kult meets captain Yuri as well as the elf Mei. Mei joins the party and there's another war event as Guld attacks the castle; some birdmen have managed to breach the walls. The dialogue indicates that you will fight the birdmen while the other soldiers will take care of the other enemies, but in fact the bird enemies are endless and you have to make your way to the boss like normal (who is not a birdman). After that, we have to escape the castle and leave Yuri to an uncertain fate.

Mei is an annoying companion because it's so hard to keep her away from the enemies. Even if she casts a spell against the enemies she runs into the middle of them. So she dies a lot.


From here we head to Febenels' house, a mage who helped out at the beginning. He decides that we should become full fledged magic users, which requires undergoing a trial in a nearby tower. It has a bunch of puzzles to complete; this is the only dungeon in the game that has any construction other than rooms and chests.


Once this is complete, we get access to the magic crafting system. This is one of the original aspects of the game. There are 4 different types of mana (earth, fire, water, air) and by combining them you get new spells. For instance, Water + Earth gives you a lightning spell. By varying the amount of each type of mana you put in (1-100), you change the area of effect, damage, and MP cost of the spell. There are also three special items in the game that allow you to make special spells like Escape and Teleport.

Although this system is interesting, the main problem with it is how long it takes to build up the mana needed to create good spells. You only ever get a tiny amount from a battle (1-2 of a couple of types) and so building up a good stock of spells is a hassle.

After the tower we get our other two companions -- Bolg, a "yak" (sort of a bipedal dog race), and Regina, who is actually the daughter of the king of Guld, but she thinks her father has been tricked or controlled. These are the four companions for the rest of the game.

I made a paralyze spell, which is one of the most useful spells in the game because of how long it lasts. Other useful spells are heal (which you can remake periodically stronger -- if you do 100 water mana as the second ingredient it will heal all), Protection, lightning, and earthquake.


The rest of the game is basically just taking over a series of castles and towns from the Guld empire. Next up is Belkstat, but we need the Yak's help to do a battering ram to knock down the gate. So there's one war event at the Yak town and then another at Belkstat. The Belkstat one is quite challenging; I followed a Japanese walkthrough's advice and got Bolg a max effect Earthquake, which immediately kills the grunts in the boss battle. You still need to do some level grinding even after that, but I beat it eventually.

In Hanstad we get knocked out and taken to a prison island, and find out that Yuri is still alive. So we manage to rescue him and a number of other prisoners, and then escape, but there is a war event on the ship as you leave.


Back in Hanstad we get a ship. Now you can go around the world and there are actually a lot of side things you can do; by using the paralyze spell you can defeat enemies that are somewhat above your level and get a lot of powerful equipment. Some of the possible things you can get are the strongest armor in the game, and Mei's best weapon. Now we can retake Silvel castle, and then head to Wood in the desert to continue the fight against Guld.

One of the places you can go is this raft town

From Wood we continue to Belgderen, which is the hardest and most annoying place in the game. There's another huge leap in enemy strength, you have random encounters in a long confusing dungeon, and a tough boss. This was the point where, more than anywhere in my whole blog, I regretted my rule that I have to finish games that don't have patches. And so I broke down and used cheat codes -- an unlimited money code, unlimited mana, and no encounters. Even with all of that, and the 10 or so levels I had gained before using the codes, it was still challenging.

Next up is Guld castle itself, but we can't get in without the Dragon's Tear. This comes from going to a dragon cave with two specific items. Kult also learns that he's actually a prince who was abandoned at birth because of a prophecy that he would destroy the kingdom.

After defeating King Guld's strongest warriors, we learn that he's actually being controlled by Ice Queen Iskar, who pulls us into an underground world for the final war event.


Finally, we reach Iskar.

 

And the world is saved.


Phew. As I said at the beginning, this game does have some decent ideas. The auto-battle system is actually not as bad as some of the other games -- I felt like I had more control over it. But any good ideas they had are completely ruined by the slow pace, the ridiculous random encounter rate, and the game balance. If you want to play this game legitimately you will need to do a lot of grinding. More grinding than in any other game I've played up to this point. That's just not my cup of tea.

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As a side note, Blogger has been getting worse and worse since I stared blogging here with successive updates. I'm no longer able to deal with the sidebar information except as a mess of unformatted HTML code, so I'm removing the "recent and upcoming" section (which isn't visible on mobile anyway). If anyone really misses that I can try to find a way to add it back. If my blog weren't already established here I don't think I would start a new blog with Blogger.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Energy Breaker

No post this week, check out Energy Breaker (a 1996 Super Famicom game) on my SRPG blog. Back next week with The Last Battle, a game with slow movement, insane encounter rate, and a cumbersome interface. Fun.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Game 65 - Breath of Fire II, Part 3 - Defeating God

In the last post, we had gained a way to fly on the world map at a cost. This was in order to fly to the Evrai temple to deal with the problems they were causing. Unfortunately we get trapped in the town and they want us to convert to Evrai.


Fortunately there's a resistance group we find that leads us into an underground tunnel. The place you escape has the best fishing rod, allowing for fishing the most powerful sword for the main character -- the best way to do this is with Coins ("gold" in the English translation), although I noticed that bsnes' turbo feature does not register fast enough, at least mapped to the middle DS4 pad, to do it. So I had to mash.

Now joining up with the resistance, time to storm back into Evrai? No, we need money, meaning we have to find everyone's favorite thief Patty. Once we do this, we can break into Evrai. I don't know what boss this next picture is but it must be around this point.

This might be the fight against the Dragon that gives the main character the G. Dragon power, which does 999 and is very useful against future bosses. In any case we launch the assault on Evrai church but the leader is more powerful than we thought. As we continue to chase him, there's a sad scene with Rand:


His mom sacrifices herself to let Rand go on and join the party.This is a long dungeon, but eventually we reach the boss:

There are three endings to the game -- one bad one, and then two others that I've seen called "normal" and "good" although both have sad/happy parts. If you want the "good" ending you have to avoid killing the old man here (hurting him is fine). So no Dragon powers, which makes this fight one of the harder boss fights.

The old man Ganer then puts himself in a machine at Community so it can fly. I'm not sure what happens if you defeated Ganer instead because the machine has to fly for the rest of the game to work.

Unfortunately you lose the bird which is dumb because the bird flies faster, and I believe it locks you out of some of the fishing areas.

 

Now we finally can go back to Gate, the town from the beginning of the game. This is the final sequence of dungeons. I created some MP restore items through the cooking guy (although not enough as I found out later) and some Biscuit items (hard senbei) that restore everyone's HP and add defense.

I didn't really bother with the shaman fusions because they get removed when someone gets to low HP, and this happens constantly (especially since so many enemies in the final dungeon have instant death attacks). This was a really poor decision by the designers and made the shaman fusion much more of a hassle and less important than it could have been.

Before we can enter the final battle, we need...Patty? Yes, it turns out that she is the main character's sister. The villagers foolishly decide to bomb the dragon out of the way, but this just opens the gate

At this point you can choose to have the Dragon continue to protect the gate. This leads to the bad ending, where the demon in the gate eventually gains enough power to overwhelm the world. So instead we should have the Dragon move aside so we can go in and kill it.


The final dungeon is long, although it has several places where you can rest, save, and one place with shops. I needed the levels from the dungeon to do the final boss. Midway through the dungeon, we happen on an underground village with the remnants of the Dragon clan who tell Kurisu that his destiny is to defeat Death Evans, the "god" that the Evrai church has been following. There's also a long flashback scene with Kurisu's mother.

First, though, we have to beat Barbary.

My first try I had a lot of trouble, so I left the entire dungeon and got more Wisdom Balls (+100 AP) which let the main character use G Dragon every other turn. This helps a lot.

Now in the final boss Kurisu uses the Infinity Dragon to make Death Evans vulnerable. There was a long sequence indicating that Kurisu would have to sacrifice his life to use this -- maybe I've forgotten how they dealt with this but he doesn't die. Death Evans is much easier than Barbary, though. 

Now after the fight, if you didn't save Goran, Kurisu has to become the dragon to guard the gate. If you did save Goran he'll use the town to block the entrance. And the game ends.

The ending sequence goes through the "chapters" of the game and lists all the characters that were in each scene.


 The end!

I think Breath of Fire 1 was a better game. BoF2 has some pretty severe balance issues that make large stretches of it not very fun to play. The plot doesn't really do anything until the last section. The shaman system is hard to use, and the Dragon breath system is not as robust as the first game. I also didn't think the dungeons were as creatively designed as the first game. On the whole I had much more fun with the first game than the second -- Carlos in the last post said that BoF2 is an objectively better game but I'm not so sure about that.

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With this game I am halfway through my quest! (65 games out of 130). I'm playing Energy Breaker (SFC) on the other blog and then we'll come back here for The Last Battle. I'm done with vacations so we should see fewer "gap" posts in the next few months (although probably there will be one next week).

Saturday, July 10, 2021

The Magic Bells (Deadly Towers)

(This is a scheduled post while I'm away on vacation. I've beaten BoF2 so that final post will be up next week.)


This is another action game, and an infamous kusoge both here and in Japan. I think there's a perception that Japanese players liked these games better than we did, but this one got bad reviews in Japan as well. It's clearly in the lineage of Druaga, Hydlide, Zelda, and such. You have a (small) open world, most of the game content hidden with no hints, and a protagonist who starts very weak compared to the monsters. But it's closer to Hydlide and Adventures of Valkyrie in that the initial difficulty is quite high, and you're going to die a lot before you even come across the basics of what to do. One thing that Zelda got right is that you can make a fair amount of progress at the beginning of the game before you run into the really difficult hidden stuff or nasty monsters.

I vaguely remember playing this game as a kid -- I may have rented it or just played it at a friend's house, but I didn't play it much.

Although the reviews are mostly negative, I have seen some that defend some parts of the game, at least. It really seems like the main problem with the game is how weak you start, and how difficult it is to make any early progress. Unlike Valkyrie and Hydlide, there's no XP, so fighting the initial enemies gets you nothing but a few Ludder (the money). And in order to spend that Ludder, you have to find the hidden dungeons and then the shops within those dungeons.

Here's what the dungeons look like (credit to GameFAQs):

S is where you start, X is the exit, and the other letters are the shops (the green blocks are just what the walkthrough writer used to show where you should go). These dungeons seem unnecessarily large given that most of those rooms have no purpose. So you have to deal with a lot of game content to just get even basic upgrades for your character. There are heart containers you can find early in the game (and easily) that raise your max HP by 10, but these provide little help at the beginning because whenever you die you start with 100 HP regardless of what your max is.

So I think this is where a lot of players get frustrated and give up early; it's hard to keep playing a game when you don't feel like you're making any progress. I think it would have helped this game's perception quite a bit if there were a basic shop near the starting location and if the starting enemies were a bit less hardy.

I'm going to try using a walkthrough to see what the game is like if you know where the secrets are.

The problems with the system are well known -- you shoot out a sword, but only one can be on the screen at a time. The enemies take tons of hits to kill, and any time you get hit you get moved down the screen, and if you fall off the bottom you die. Sometimes you get hit back into a previous screen and then immediately hit more enemies.

The first goal is to get stronger equipment, so I headed to dungeon 4.

Using the map it's not too tough to find the shop, and there's a certain enemy that is very useful for earning Ludder -- it's a large enemy but if you stunlock it as soon as you enter the room you can kill it easily. It still takes a lot of enemies to get enough money to buy stuff. I got the Hyper Boots, Chain Helmet, and Shield.


I then headed to a second dungeon to get some Armor and a glove to increase attack speed, but I was dying a lot. And I figured that I should be playing BoF2 instead of this so I quit.

The goal of the rest of the game would be to find the hidden areas that have seven bosses, each of which has a bell when you defeat it. You then have to destroy the bells by using a magic fire in the main castle, and then you can progress to the final boss. The areas with the bosses also have additional secret rooms with the most powerful equipment in them. All of these hidden areas (including the dungeons and towers) require you to step on specific places on the maps, that aren't marked in any way.

So is it more tolerable with the walkthrough? Marginally, but it's still not a good game. With the walkthrough you can at least avoid the problem at the beginning where you're making no progress, but even with the additional equipment, Prince Myer is weak. You get knocked back by enemies, often into other enemies that then knock you further. You can enter a dungeon room and die before you even see what was there. 

Just as playing early SRPGs revealed to me how well designed Fire Emblem 1 was (for its time), playing these early action games has shown me how well designed Zelda was. Zelda certainly isn't perfect and I think the obscurity of its secrets would be unacceptable now, but it stands out from the crowd.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Game 65 - Breath of Fire II, Part 2 - What's wrong with the world?

The quest we're given by the Guild has to do with a demon near Gate town, which is the same demon that attacked Bosh and Kurisu when we were kids. So of course that's something that we have to investigate, but this will require a "grass person" to help us talk to the wise trees. Since the beginning of the game a grass person has been in the circus that appears here and there, so that's our next destination. But first, we have to get a way to sail around the world -- in this game that's not a ship but a whale.

 

The whale "grandpa" appears to have something wrong with it that makes it sleep -- of course we can guess it's some new monster. We go inside of it, and need Rinpu along to hit various places with her staff and open routes.

Once the monster inside him is beaten, he wakes up and we can use him to sail around the world. Now we can head out to the circus with our recruitable grassman.


 

Unfortunately the head of the circus refuses to part with him(?) unless we bring him a rare Uparupa. They live in a cave where we have to use bait to get them. This part is a little annoying because you can only get one bait in the cave, and if you fail to get the right Uparupa you'll have to do another fetch quest with a pretty difficult boss. But if you get it right the first time you can avoid that...although we decide to let the Uparupa go because we feel sorry for it.


So how do we get the grassman? Just threaten to beat up the circus runner, of course. What a surprise, he is a demon as well.

After he's beaten, it turns out Aspar could have gotten out at any time but was waiting for a group of heroes that could save the world (was there not a more efficient way to do that?) Anyway, with Aspar we can talk to the trees and find out what's going on.


 

The giant tree is having problems with its memory (shades of the opening sequence?) and we need a Therapy Pillow to help, which the Music Country has. Just as in the first game, we can't communicate with the Music Country people without a flute. This whole section is nested fetch quests.

The flute seems to be in Highland Castle, which is actually Sten's homeland, where he was a knight. This is by far the most annoying section of the game for me. The monsters are incredibly strong and you can't leave until you finish the quest. I got a lot of game overs here and had to retreat to heal pools many times. To add insult to injury there's a set of warps near the end of the dungeon that warp you one-way back to the beginning (I wonder if they intended this to be two-way so you could leave and heal?)

The kingdom is being ruled by yet another demon, who is strong but I managed to beat with only Kurisu left alive. And now we have the flute. Unfortunately the queen of the music country is sick...another demon? By enlisting the help of a dietician we're able to use a magic mirror to get inside her and clear out all the enemies. Fortunately this is a pretty easy dungeon. And now with the therapy pillow we can help the tree out, entering is dream to beat Alzheimer who is afflicting him. This area is a strange dreamlike world where you go to towns made of young, old, and middle-aged people.


It turns out that Alzheimer is the one that made everyone forget Kurisu at the beginning, as well as the tree, and he says the tree was in the way of God.

Now we head south through a fog valley...as soon as we clear the fog by convincing a wind spirit to stop making it (and adding it to our spirit inventory). This dungeon has underwater areas that you have to complete in a time limit.


We then reach Rand's home town, where this church of Eva seems to be causing problems. Rand's mom wants us to help farm and then go pray to Namamda, but after we do, she's suddenly gone and we're told that the Eva church has obtained her field for a church. So it seems like we need to deal with this Eva church, but their place is only accessible by the air. How do the believers get there? Oh well, in order to reach it we need to return to Windia where there is a legend that older winged humans could turn into birds.

 

Nina reunites with her parents, who are sorry for throwing her out just because she had black wings. She plans to become the big bird (a transformation that can't be reversed) but her sister steps in and does it instead.


Now we can fly.

I'm going to end there -- I'm on the last dungeon so I'll be finished soon. Next week is a scheduled side post, though.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Game 65 - Breath of Fire II - Part 1, Hunting the thief

Breath of Fire II: The Destined Child (ブレス オブ ファイアII 使命の子)
Released 12/2/1994, developed by Capcom

About a year and a half after the first Breath of Fire, Capcom released a sequel. The game has no immediate or obvious plot connection to the first game, but the game system is very similar and the "Ryu" and "Nina" names return. 

The game starts off with a mysterious introduction, where Kurisu (Ryu, of course) is a child. His dad wants him to go find his sister Yua, who is talking to a giant dragon that supposedly protected them. After this scene, Yua is suddenly missing and no one recognizes Kurisu. He's taken in by an orphanage but escapes with Bosh, a dog-human hybrid.They are confronted by a monster and beaten badly, and the monster recognizes Kurisu as the destined child (a more literal translation would be "child with a mission" but that doesn't sound as good).

Then it's 10 years later, and they're working with the Rangers' Guild elsewhere.




Bosh can hunt things when you see certain grass spaces on the world map. I was never able to kill anything so I just started ignoring them. There's also fishing places but I haven't used those either. The battle system is essentially the same as the first game, although this time you only get to see the HP of an enemy after you've won one combat with that enemy in it (so it doesn't have the thing from the first game where bosses have extra HP at the end of their life bar).

This game has balance issues, and it's really one of the things I'm having the biggest problem with. Monsters hit hard, the random encounter rate is high, and XP and gold rewards are low. Revive items are expensive, and enemies will frequently gang up on a character, killing them sometimes from full HP. The GBA remake doubled all the experience awards, which makes sense. I've gotten more game overs in this game that any other game I remember playing up to now for this blog.

The first mission Kurisu and Bosh get from the rangers' guild is to find a pet pig who is lost. The owner, Mina, is one of the winged people like in the first game.


First we have to cross a mountain. There's a revive pool which is useful, but the first boss battle is pretty tough. The key is that the left and right harpies are weaker and can be defeated more easily.

Now we reach a ruined hut where the owner is beset by nasty cockroaches. Japan has giant flying cockroaches (which can also be found in the southern US, called "palmetto bugs").



He is quite happy afterwards and offers a meal -- it's the pig! Fortunately we get to it before it gets cooked and return it to Mina. Later at night, someone visits Bosh with a mission. He wants to recover something that the town's rich man stole; unfortunately someone else gets to it first and Bosh is accused of the theft. We manage to smuggle him out of the town, but the first major quest is to find the woman thief to clear Bosh's name. Kurisu is on his own again, while Bosh stays back to help the man build the ruins of his house. 

These ruins will become a town throughout the game; one of the new systems is that this town grows and you can invite people from around the world to live there, opening shops and such.

Kurisu heads to the next town, Colsea, where there's a battle tournament. It seems like the thief might have entered the tournament, so Kurisu hopes to catch her by entering himself. But the only way to do that is by replacing the person that's scheduled to fight her, so we have to go to the north woods.


I don't feel like the dungeon designs are quite as creative as they were in BoF 1, but here there are some zip lines to ride around. I had to die a lot to finish this, but when you die you reappear back at the last place you saved with some lost gold. You can store gold in the bank to prevent this.

Once Kurisu beats Babadel, the original fighter, he can take his place (and your name temporarily changes to Babadel). Now it's time to fight the woman in the colosseum. Kurisu gets 1000 gold because this dude has set up a pro wrestling like situation where after the fight, the woman will get hit with poison darts. Kurisu takes some antidote to protect against it.

 
She's tough (and not the thief, as it turns out). Once you beat her you have a split second to press up on the controller to block the darts from hitting her; I didn't do this so she gets poisoned. This doesn't have a big effect on the game, though, it just delays her joining your party a bit.
 
Now we decide to deal with the dude who set this up, and he changes into a monster!


We're joined by Rand, one of the other fighters. His in-battle ability can revive someone or heal their status effects, although it's a low chance. I don't believe he has a map ability. Afterwards, the thief whose name is Rinpu (Katt in the US version) joins. She can break some obstacles in dungeons with her staff. We all head back to the 共同体 ("community", the name for our new town). Rand stays there and Rinpu joins us as we get further sidetracked in the first town. Mina's older sister Nina is getting blackmailed by a Joker thief group, and they kidnap Mina, so time to save her.

Nina is a magic user. Her special ability is to recover MP (which works better if her MP are low). Of course when we reach the thieves' hideout we find out that Joker has also been possessed by a monster (or perhaps killed and replaced? Or changed into?)


And once he's taken down, we save Mina. Now Nina and Mina need to go back to their home, Windia, and we accompany them there. Unfortunately their mom only recognizes Mina as her daughter, seeming to not like Nina's black wings.


We then pick up the fourth members, Sten, a monkey. He is able to cross short gaps that have poles he can grab on to. The thief went west so we continue the chase. The next important town is Capetan, where some children are stuck in a well.


The well also has these nasty parasite things that grab onto people's faces, and a monster at the end. This game really likes bug-based horror movie like monsters. This is a tough monster that has an area effect spell. I basically had to try several times until by luck he did not use that spell as much, and I also used all the damage inflicting items I had.

There are also some alternate formations you can do although I'm not sure how useful they are (Nina should definitely be in the back in that screenshot above).

Once you save the villagers, one heads back to your town ruins, which has now become the Community. Rand rejoins and we can now choose our party from among the 5 members (although Kurisu always has to be there, of course). We can also add a witch to the town who gives Kurisu some spells and also begins the "fusion" system where you can get shamans to fuse with your guys. They'll add stats and powers, and if done on the right people in the right combinations, can change their sprite and result in additional effects. Unfortunately at low HP the fusions break -- my guys are at low HP very frequently resulting in a lot of fusion breaks, and you have to go all the way back to the Community to be able to re-fuse. Then we continue back west to chase down the thief.

Next we meet a big frog named Tapeta (Jean in the English version) who tells us to find a witch to turn him back to normal.

 
The witch tower has a lot of pits and tricks in it, and the witch Nimufu at the top. She seems rather upset that nobody likes her, and even when we beat her she's still complaining that this frog is the only one who ever seemed to pay attention. But all we need is a maiden's kiss to turn it back to normal.
 
"Normal" is still a frog, just not as big. But now he can join our party. Tapeta's power is to turn into a big frog, which lets us cross some rivers and other places like that and also decreases the random encounter rate. Finally we can get the first of Kurisu's dragon powers, behind a waterfall. In this game they use up all the MP of Kurisu for big damage.
 
At this point we can also get some new tenants for the buildings in the Community. I just recruited three shopkeepers, including one who has some nice flame equipment. It's expensive, but I bought at least a flame sword for Kurisu. Near the waterfall is a restaurant where they try to eat us:


 But they're no match for the dragon power.


I gave the power you get here to Nina, a 0 cost damage spell seemed good for her.

The last destination in our thief catching mission is Castle Swimmer, where we learn that Tapeta is actually the prince. But a fake prince has come in to take his place, and his sister Patepa wants us to help her prove the fakery. In order to do this, we have a cooking contest, but Tapeta needs good ingredients that we have to recover from beneath the castle. Of course being frogs, they want a bunch of bugs. Time for more yucky boss fights.


This dungeon was especially annoying because the Swimmer store has no poison healing items, and there are enemies in the dungeon with an area effect poison spell. I had to leave this dungeon (via game overs or walking out) more than any dungeon up to this point.

Eventually we get all the ingredients but the taste testers throw the competition to the fake prince. As you may guess, the fake prince is yet another transformed monster.

Once he's beaten, Tapeta is finally recognized as the real prince, although he decides to keep adventuring with us. It also turns out that Patty, the real thief, was locked up in the dungeons, so we take her back to the first town.

Patty lets us know that Trout, the rich man she stole from, is actually a bad guy that's stealing a bunch of stuff himself, which we already knew. And by this point it should not be a surprise that he is yet another monster, who Bosh and Kurisu go beat by themselves.


At this point the initial quest is complete, but Bosh and the rest of us decide that there are too many weird things going on -- we need to investigate where all these monsters are coming from. And the Rangers' guild sends us out to help solve this problem.

--

I am going to be gone the next couple of saturdays. I will schedule the next BoF2 post for next Saturday, and a Deadly Towers post for the week after that. I hope I can do the next BoF2 post the week after that but there might be a one week gap. Hope everyone is having a good summer.