Money is very limited in the beginning so I haven't bought much yet. I've been trying to get some spears and bows so that I can have 6 people (2 per row) all able to attack. The only magic I've bought are two basic heal spells.
The way your characters advance doesn't make much sense to me. The only clear aspect is that if you attack with a weapon, you will eventually level up the weapon, which gives you special attacks with it. Am I right that the weapon levels are tied to individual weapons, and not to weapon types? Maybe I'm wrong about that. In any case, beyond the weapon levels, advancement seems totally random. I had one character at the back of the formation, guarding every time, and she got gains in all of the stats.
So last time I had just finished my first quest, defeating a cultist group under Merubiru. After this, I didn't see any other quests in the area so I tried taking ships around to various places. It took a few tries because several of the ships took me nowhere interesting.
|This jungle area had really strong dinosaur monsters|
Eventually I came to Crystal City, where I finally had some luck. First off, the Pub had 4 recruitable characters, so I was able to ditch the bear and wolf and fill out my party.
The other characters have no real character or backstory, they just give you a little line or two about who they are, and then they join.
I now have Katarina, Grey, Albert, Shif, Jamil, and Aisha. Shif and Albert come with swords; Albert is weak but I stuck him up in front with Shif and Grey. Katarina now has a spear so she's in the middle part, and Aisha and Jamil are in the back until I can find a place that sells bows.
|Spread out a little, maybe?|
Crystal City also had a quest; to go to Crystal Lake and recover an Aquamarine gem. This was a fairly simple quest that involved walking through a huge lake and then a small cave where there was a chest. It took a few tries, though, because it was easy to get swarmed by fish monsters and lose too many HP to proceed.
|The tombs of West End|
Also I'm still a little worried that the person who wrote the FAQ on GameFAQs was unable to beat the final boss without cheating.