Fresh off Kambei the Samurai's massive success, I decided to return to FF5 yet again and explore more of a finesse approach to melee damage, embodied by the Hunter. This job (also known as Ranger and Archer in different translations) is all about using bows to do damage from the safety of the back row. Let's go through the strengths and weaknesses of this class first, before getting to my individual playthrough.
One great advantage of this class is its ability to equip bows. These weapons do good damage and can be used from the back row with no penalty, although they do have the drawback of barring use of a shield (or the Knight's Double Grip ability). There are also a number of bows with interesting effects: three elemental bows for fire, ice, and lightning damage, plus bows that inflict status ailments like darkness and outright death. Finally, most of the high-end bows have a chance to critical hit, with the Legendary Yoichi Bow getting an impressive 30% crit rate, which I believe is the highest in the game!
The Hunter also has three abilities, one of which is among the best in the entire game. The job's innate ability is "Aim", a command that increases the to-hit number to 100%. You will always hit the target when using Aim. This is necessary, as bows are rather inaccurate to use if not fired with Aim. For most situations it's not all that great, although in a few places it can come in handy. The Ninjas in the Dimensional Castle at the end of the game have a really high Evade rate, for example, and Aim can bypass that.
The second ability of the Hunter is called "Animals", which is like a woodlands version of the Geomancer's "Terrain" move. This ability has one of my favorite descriptions of all time: Call upon our forest friends. It really says that! Anyway, the command randomly summons an animal that will either attack the enemies or heal the party. You have no control over what animals appear, unfortunately. What animals will show up depend on the level of the Hunter; at low levels, you can only summon squirrels and bees, while at higher levels more powerful animals with better abilities will show up. Although this isn't a great move, it does have its places, especially early in the game.
Finally, the last and best of the Hunter's abilities is X-Fight. This works pretty much the same way as the Offering in Final Fantasy 3/6, where the Hunter gets four attacks each conducted at half strength. (Technically the modifier M gets divided by two, not Attack; this can be important in one or two places.) Furthermore, X-Fight always hits, just like Aim, and it ignores enemy Defense. No matter what the Defense of the enemy, it gets set to zero when using X-Fight. This is very useful for taking on the optional Omega superboss! The one drawback is that you cannot select your target when using X-Fight; the Hunter attacks randomly amongst all the enemies. This makes the ability less useful in some places, like the final Neo Exdeath boss. Still, this is an awesomely good ability. Non-variant playthroughs should definitely have at least one character master the Hunter job to get access to X-Fight.
I looked around for a good name for my character, and couldn't find one initially. The two most famous names from Western folklore (Robin Hood and William Tell) both didn't fit with the 6 letter restriction. Most of the mythology I could find online involving archers dealt with elves (e.g. Legolas), and elves don't have much place in the Final Fantasy mythos. "Apollo" was a thought, but we associate him more with the sun, music, and oracles than with archery. Plus, it makes me think of Apollo Creed from the Rocky films! Eventually, I dipped into Hindu mythology and came up with "Arjuna", one of the heroes of the Mahabharata. Arjuna was a peerless master archer so renowned that he is referred to as Jishnu - the undefeatable. Sounds like what I was looking for, plus the name has exactly six letters! A little more world history will do us all good.
Everything was uneventful up to the Wing Raptor, at which time I made the swap over to Hunter (again using the emulator to change to a job not normally available):
The Hunter's stats are somewhat different from those of the pure melee classes like Knight and Monk. This job still has excellent Strength, nearly equal to that of Samurai, but much lower Vitality. The lower hit point totals largely confine the Hunter to the back row, outside of a few special circumstances. On the plus side, the job has very good Agility, only a notch below the game's two great speedsters: the Thief and Ninja. I noticed right away that Arjuna was attacking faster than my previous solo characters, and often getting in attacks before the enemies had a chance to strike. That was a fun change of pace. Overall, the stats for the Hunter are most like that of the Mystic Knight, who has a similar emphasis on Strength and Agility.
Alright, time to unholster that bow and get to work. Only - there are no bows anywhere to be found at the start of the game! Like the Samurai job, you're not supposed to have access to the Hunter at the start, so there are none of the class-specific weapons present. Rather than having to rely on his Dagger, however, Arjuna could call on his animal friends:
The way Animals works is that the game rolls a random number between 0 and your current level. Depending on the result, you end up with different animals, with higher ones usually being better. Here in the early game, there were three possible results from that dice roll: Squirrel (1-5), Bee Swarm (6-10), or Nightingale (11-20). Squirrel has an attack value of 45, which is quite good in the extreme early game (the Dagger has an attack of 14), and the drawback of only hitting ground targets. Bee Swarm hits all targets and does extremely variable damage; the attack value can be anywhere from 10 to 100 depending on a dice roll. A useful attack if you get lucky, but overall not too reliable. Nightingale heals the Hunter like a Cure 2 and also removes minor status ailments like Poison and Darkness! The little bird is thus a great help in all sorts of situations, although again it's hard to rely on it since you can never tell which animal is going to pop up.
Against Karlabos, Arjuna needed to land 3 or 4 hits with his animal friends before getting eliminated. There was one great difference from my prior characters: Arjuna was faster than Karlabos! It was usually the other way around. That was like getting an extra attack in for free. Eventually, the boss went through a series of rounds of using Fight rather than Tailscrew or Tentacle, making for an easy victory. Arjuna didn't have too tough of a battle here.
Siren was mostly a matter of getting Nightingale to pop up at the right moment, when Arjuna was getting close to death. I had to do the battle about five times to get everything lined up properly. Squirrel did most of the damage here, pounding out about 200 damage per attack.
North Mountain was irritating in a lot of places, as several of the foes were designated as flying and were thus immune to Squirrel. Arjuna spent a lot of rounds slowly waiting for Bee Swarm to pop up, as his physical attack was still much to weak to count on using the Dagger from the back row. At least running out of Potions was a non-issue with Nightingale on hand.
Magissa and Forza were just like Siren, requiring a couple of trial runs until Nightingale appeared in timely fashion. Overall the battle was definitely easier, as Arjuna was now level 16, and that meant his odds of getting the bird were higher. (Much easier to roll over 10 on a dice roll of 0-16 than on a dice roll of 0-12!) Garuna was pretty much the same story with even less trouble. One appearance of Nightingale would heal back 400 or more hit points, essentially healing Arjuna to full. So long as he didn't go through a long dry streak of other animals, Arjuna could win these boss encounters in relative ease.
Here's a shot of the little bird in action; I had to circle it because it's hard to see. Unlike my other characters, the Steamship was NOT a fun place for Arjuna. Almost every enemy in here is classified as having float status, making Squirrel useless. Bee Swarm only appeared about 25% of the time now, and it constituted Arjuna's entire offense for the moment. I spent long rounds of combat selecting the Animals command, only to keep doing needless healing with Nightingale or a failed attack with Squirrel. Argh! Very tedious.
As I mentioned in Kambei's report, I've finally got Liquid Flame's attack routine down. Let the Tornado form heal itself and waste its magic points, after which you can take your time and heal slowly with potions. Only a long sequence of avoiding the Tornado form causes serious problems. Keep in mind too that the Human form will always use Flame before transforming, and the Hand form will always use Fire 2 in the same spot! With the right knowledge, you can do this fight without too much trouble.
Arjuna had the additional challenge of having to kill Liquid Flame in the Tornado form, so that she would drop a Fire Bow. I stuck him in the front row for this one (as Liquid Flame will pull you there regardless with her Magnet ability) and went with the Mythril Dagger. Animals too random to rely on here. It took a few tries, but I was in position to pull it off on about my fourth attempt. Arjuna attacks... and leaves the Tornado form with 2997 damage taken out of 3000 - 3 HP left! You gotta be kidding me! The boss shifts into the Hand form, and I have to use a Potion on the boss to heal it (!) Then Arjuna unequips his dagger, attacks with fists, gets Liquid Flame to shift back into the Tornado form, where he finally kills her with the dagger. Sheesh.
There was the Fire Bow reward in a drop after the battle. This is the earliest bow you can get in the game, and Arjuna darned well needed this thing to take on Byblos in the Ancient Library. See, this is why it's not a good idea to try one of these wacky variants until you REALLY know the game inside and out. You kind of have to have a clear path ahead of time, knowing when to get key items in the right places at the right times, often in rather obscure fashion. I started out with a non-variant group myself, because I didn't know this stuff either at first!
With the Fire Bow, Arjuna could finally act like a real Hunter and fire away at enemies from the safety of the back row, rather than just using Animals endlessly. Nightingale was still highly useful for healing purposes, of course. Unfortunately, the next boss Ifrit was immune to fire damage. Arjuna was forced to fall back on the Guardian dagger for this one, and had to move back into the front row again. I struggled initially here due to the low Vitality and hit point growth of the Hunter class; I went back and added three more levels to Arjuna (from 23 to 26) to increase his damage and overall health. Along with the use of a few Elixirs, that did the trick.
Byblos is where the Fire Bow really came in handy, as this boss is weak against fire. Arjuna could do plenty of damage; you can see him banging out 880 of Byblos' 3600 health above. The problem was Byblos' use of Sonic Wave, which crippled Arjuna's damage output. Two castings of Sonic Wave and Arjuna couldn't do enough damage to overcome the Drain spell that Byblos starts casting when he gets low on health. I got royally pasted in a couple of fight attempts, but then got lucky: Arjuna began with a pre-emptive attack and thus got in two big shots before Byblos could cast "Armor" and increase his physical defenses. For whatever reason, Byblos avoided using Sonic Wave and Arjuna wore him down over a number of combat rounds. I used Elixirs when needed, did just enough damage to overcome the Drain recovery rate, and eventually won out. A nice victory!
Arjuna only needed a little more gold to purchase a Flame Ring, so I went ahead and did that by fighting some random battles. I also made sure to pick up the other two elemental bows (Ice and Thunder) at the weapons store in Crescent. Now it was almost like playing a Black Mage again, swapping out different bows depending on the elemental weakness of the opponent. Fire was the default one to use though:
Because that allowed Arjuna to heal himself with the Flame Ring! No more fooling around with Animals; Arjuna could shoot himself with fire arrows and get roughly 500 health back each time. This made a number of fights vastly easier, such as the one against the Sandworm. No need to use Elixirs, no problems. Just heal up when health starts to get low. Crayclaw was a pain in the behind and still managed to kill Arjuna several times, even though he only needed to fire three shots with a Thunder Bow to win. Eventually the stupid monster used "Attack" instead of "Tailscrew" and died. The Adamantium turtle was the same story: Ice Bow to attack, Fire Bow to heal self. Arjuna had to heal himself a LOT, but was in no danger and won easily on the first try.
Now I needed to grind out another 50k gold for an Angel Ring to do the Sol Cannon fight, which seems to be an unavoidable aspect of the solo playthrough. I made the process less painful by fighting random encounters on Crescent Island, where each fight tends to give out 500-600 gold, plus a lot of the monsters there drop "Doom Axes" which sell for a whopping 2950g! That's some nice loot. Therefore, it didn't take too long overall to get this done. I think Arjuna was level 32 when he finally took on the boss.
Thunder Bow was again the weapon of choice here. The Launchers took two shots each to take down, then Arjuna started in on Sol Cannon, who thankfully is weak against lightning. There was no way to do this battle without drinking an Elixir after every Surge Beam fire, which really felt like a waste. What else can you do though? I couldn't give Arjuna the Flame Ring for Fire Bow healing, because he needed an Angel Ring to counter the aging effect of the missiles. Took a grand total of 7 Elixirs, but Arjuna accomplished the mission.
There was another treasure to pick up in the Lonka Ruins beyond the normal ones: the Whirl Demon enemies had a chance to drop the Darkness Bow. You usually can't get this weapon until the second world, as it boasts slightly increased damage (from 39 to 43) and a 66% chance to inflict Darkness status on the opponent. Darkness is a non-trivial matter in FF5, as it reduces the to-hit chance by 3/4. If it was 100% before, the to-hit chance drops to 25%! That's a big difference. A surprising number of bosses are vulnerable to Darkness too, as there are very few ways to inflict it on the monsters. ArcheaoAvis is one such susceptible boss:
I caught him attacking and missing above, which would not have happened without the Darkness Bow. Arjuna was going with a Flame Ring for healing purposes, and thus didn't have any physical evade from the Elf Cape. This was a tense, long engagement - lots of self-healing using the Fire Bow - and served as a fitting close to the first world. The undead form had a golden opportunity to kill Arjuna, as it used Maelstrom and got to attack again before I could respond with an Elixir. It used... a physical attack that missed due to the Darkness! Whew. That was the last chance to lose, and Arjuna finished off ArchaeoAvis in style.
That pretty much ended the first world. Only one problem: Arjuna was now out of Elixirs after my heavy use in the last few boss battles! Moving ahead in the game with none in stock did not seem like a prudent move, so I went ahead and farmed a few in the best place to do so: the Ship Graveyard. The Carcuser enemies there are a common battle, and they have a chance to drop Elixirs. I stocked up on about 6 of them through a long sequence of random fights, and felt prepared for the battles ahead.
The Chimera Brain and Titan were both non-challenges. As usual, it was the Puroboros that were going to be the monkey wrench in the plan. How to defeat six different enemies at once, any of which could explode and kill Arjuna instantly? I had the beginnings of a plan brewing...
The Elixir farming in the Ship Graveyard had given Arjuna enough ability points to max out his job and open up X-Fight. That was a good thing, because it was sorely needed here! I had exactly three rounds of combat before the Puroboros would get to act, and each of them had a 1/3 chance to use Exploder. Keep in mind that Exploder does damage equal to (Max HP - Current HP). The Puroboros each start with 1500 health, enough to finish off Arjuna easily. By using X-Fight, Arjuna could get off 12 total attacks during those three rounds, each of which would do a little over 350 damage.
Now here's where the luck factor comes in: I needed the Puroboros who had taken lots of damage from X-Fight to be the ones using Exploder, while the ones that didn't take much damage (or any damage) attacked normally. This was chance, pure and simple. The fewer the enemies using Exploder, the better off I would be. As you can imagine, most of my attempts simply had the wrong guys blow up at the wrong time, and that was that. Still, with enough repetitions you can bend probability in your favor and get some unlikely results. On attempt #12 overall, only one Puroboros used Exploder, and that was one who had already taken 1400 damage. Arjuna took virtually no injury from that explosion. I now had three rounds to act before they moved again, so I used a Hi Potion and attacked the two opponents with the most remaining health. Two explosions followed this time, but they each only did about 500 damage, because I had worked down their HP total. A final Elixir, and Arjuna was in the clear! The last four explosions did too little damage to matter. What a great victory!
Arjuna was therefore level 37 when I entered the second world, and had already maxed his job class. That's further along than any of my other solo characters, but Arjuna had been hard-pressed to beat the Puroboros even with those extra abilities. Although I try to avoid over-leveling these characters, some battles are really tough.
Galuf the Samurai took down Gilgamesh in the solo battle, as has become my pattern. In the repeat fight on the bridge, I tried to follow a tip I had seen online: hit Gilgamesh with Mute from the Mage Mash dagger, and he won't be able to cast Haste/Armor/Shell on himself! Apparently I did not do this fast enough, as he still managed to cast the spells after being Muted (the spell has a very short duration against bosses). Didn't matter, as Arjuna defeated Gilgamesh anyway using the Darkness Bow and X-Fight. I will definitely keep this in mind for future characters though.
Not much to note from the Rugor/Moogle diversion, aside from picking up the usual items in chests along the way. Rugor is the first place where you're able to purchase the Darkness Bow, but of course Arjuna had gotten it from an enemy drop earlier. Kelb was more interesting: a new and better weapon called the Killer Bow was on sale there. This unique weapon automatically kills enemies 8% of the time - and the game checks that roll on EACH of X-Fight's four attacks!
The Killer Bow essentially functions as a "Doom" spell, in other words. But this is earlier in the game than you're supposed to get the spell Doom, and so the programmers didn't bother to protect most of the enemies from the spell, including some of the bosses! The poor Hiryuu Plant is not immune from the insta-kill effect of the Killer Bow, as you can see above. I had actually been worried about this fight, as Arjuna couldn't multi-target the flowers the way my other solo characters did. However, the Bone Mail automatically protects the wearer against three of the five status elements that the flower inflict (Poison, Charm, Darkness) while an Angel Ring will stop Aging/Old status. All I had to do was make sure to keep killing the Paralyze flower, and Arjuna was completely safe. Could have won even without the Killer Bow, although it would have taken longer.
The Gilgamesh boss on the ship is not immune to the Killer Bow's insta-kill effect either! Now 8% might sound like low odds to connect, but just two rounds of X-Fight (eight total attacks) brings the chance of death all the way up to 50%. Poor Gilgamesh took a bad hit and was finished off before he could even call for Enkidou. Sucks to be him!
Arjuna managed to turn up a Wall Ring relatively quickly in the Barrier Tower. He had been slightly ahead of the pace of my other solo characters before, but after breezing through the early parts of the second world, he was right back on the normal track. Arjuna went up to the top to face Atmos at level 41, which is exactly where my other characters had been (plus/minus one level either way). Arjuna could do about 500 damage per attack at this point, or 2000 damage total using X-Fight. That was nowhere close to the amount needed to beat Atmos, so I followed the same strategy I outlined with Solo and Black, killing off the other characters periodically during the fight rather than starting with them all dead. Arjuna COULD do the fight, but only after gaining enough health to go Fight/Elixir/Fight/Elixir, and that would require a level somewhere in the 60s. As I've stated before, this battle is broken for solo characters, and I'm not going to work up to insane levels just for this one instance.
Mua offered up another bow with slightly improved damage and a new special ability. The Elven Bow had a 15% chance of doing a critical hit, and that was cumulative with all of X-Fight's attacks as well. Normal attacks did around 600 damage, crits twice that. I continued to give Arjuna the Flame Ring for random battles, and his constant shooting of himself with fire arrows kept the use of Hi Potions to a minimum.
The Crystals had to be fought in the correct order, which meant the randomness of X-Fight was off limits. Aim it was then. As usual, the standard operating procedure was injuring the Fire Crystal (the one at the top) first, so that it would cast Fire 3 and heal Arjuna in the process. Then take out the other three crystals one at a time, minimizing their use of elemental magic. The Air Crystal actually killed Arjuna once, when I didn't line up the attacks properly. Aero 3 does a lot of damage! Still, this remained an easy boss fight. Flame Ring equipped = win.
Normally Exdeath's Castle is pretty uneventful. Arjuna had a key weapon to pick up in there, however: the Gale Bow. This item is found in a hidden treasure chest, and does significantly more damage than the Elven Bow. Its special ability is a 25% chance to use X-Fight, which was rather pointless for Arjuna! The random enemies were fairly tame and gave good experience, except for those unfair battles against two Thunder Dragons, argh.
Exdeath relies on his high Defense to thwart melee attackers, but that was no issue for Arjuna. (X-Fight ignores Defense, remember?) Each arrow volley did about 700 damage, for a total of 2800 per attack. While that wasn't as good as Black or Kambei, it was still excellent for this point in the game. Aside from getting hit by Condemn a number of times, this was as routine as it gets for a challenging boss. Arjuna made sure to stay in the back row, healed with Elixirs when appropriate, and relied on X-Fight and Exdeath's own reflected spells to clear a path to victory.
The third world was where Arjuna could really start to shine. After dusting the Antlion in mere seconds, he headed to Mua and picked up the Chicken Knife, his ultimate weapon. The key weakness of the Chicken Knife is that the attacker has a 25% chance to "Escape", or run from the battle, whenever it is used. But the game is somewhat broken in one respect, because X-Fight cancels out the Chicken Knife's flee effect! Even better, the Chicken Knife gets a bonus modifier to damage based on the Agility stat (all knives are supposed to get this, but only the Chicken Knife actually does, due to a bug in the game). The Hunter job has great Strength and Agility, for a huge overall damage modifier. It's the perfect weapon for nearly every situation!
Just look at Arjuna annihilating the Machine Head robots in the Pyramid. That's 2159 damage x 4 = 8600+ overall. I stuck him in the front row to get full damage, and equipped the Cursed Ring to improve his Defense. In situations where the enemies all used melee attacks, and I was confident that the battle wouldn't last too long, the Cursed Ring wasn't a bad choice to use. Why worry about the Condemn status if the battle never lasts long enough to reach zero? Perfect for random encounters.
Merugene/Mellusion took three attacks from the Chicken Knife and expired. She attacked once and did about 200 damage. Wow, not much of a threat there. With the airship in tow, Arjuna now headed to Mirage and picked up a pair of Running Shoes. With his own natural speed, along with the +5 Agility granted by the Chicken Knife, and permanent Haste Status, Arjuna started attacking like a bat out of hell. The speedy son of a gun could often get off two X-Fights before the enemies even got to act ONCE, and with X-Fight dealing insane damage, most monsters were dying without even getting the chance to attack. I picked up the Yoichi Bow from the repository of Legendary Weapons and didn't even use it. Chicken Knife was owning all comers.
Stalker/Stoker killed Arjuna a few times, only because he used Charm and that resulted in Arjuna attacking himself with the Chicken Knife for instant death! He he, gotta be careful with that.
Arjuna annihilated the Minotaur, using the X-Fight and Chicken Knife combo. Against Omniscient, I used the same Mage Masher strategy as I did with Kambei, reflecting Mute off of the Wall Ring and then attacking with X-Fight. This was even easier than expected, because Omniscient cast Wall on himself, then idiotically reflected a Fast spell off of that onto Arjuna. It took four total X-Fights here to get Omniscient into his death spiral of constant Fire/Ice/Bolt 3s, whereupon his own reflected spells did him in.
The final two dungeons in the third world were total non-events. I kept Arjuna in permanent Haste status with the RunningShoes, and he continued to get off two X-Fights before the enemies could even react. Most battles ended without Arjuna taking any damage at all - therefore being in the front row didn't cause any problems. The undead trio at the end of the Great Trench were one group where X-Fight wasn't an option (due to randomness), so Arjuna wore them down with normal attacks from the Chicken Knife and then finished off the group with a Magic Lamp Bahamut summon. Leviathan was easy prey for X-Fight though, taking over 10,000 damage with each attack. Four rounds of combat and he was dead.
Normally things get more difficult in the Cleft of Dimension, but not so for Arjuna. His ability to do roughly 20k damage before the random enemies got a chance to respond crushed pretty much all opposition. Even the dreaded Land Crawls fell in three rounds of combat, with no chance to do their sneaky Maelstrom/Crush combo. Ordinarily, I hate the long sky passage between the "falls" area and the Dimensional Castle, where all the random encounters are against Ninjas and Avis Dragons (see picture above). These battles are tough to run from, the Ninjas have extremely high Evade and are tough to hit, while the Dragons have 6000 health and use a Breath Wing attack that does 1/4 of max hit points. Usually my characters have to use a lot of Hi Potions crossing through here. Arjuna had no problems though, with X-Fight destroying these opponents just as easily as everything else. A refreshing change of pace!
The bosses fared no better. Wood Sprite, Apanda, Apocalypse, Catastrophe, Halicarnassus, and Twin Tania; they were all taken down the exact same way, with the Chicken Knife and X-Fight. All that I did was swap around the appropriate defensive equipment for each fight. Never have I had an easier time with any other solo character, including Kambei. Everything just... died. Even Twin Tania, who has 50,000 hit points, fell in a mere five attacks, never getting to use Giga Flare. I went ahead and fought the Jura Avis, just because I could:
These mini-bosses are pretty tough to defeat, and the only reward for beating them is some Dancer-only gear like the Red Shoes. Totally useless battles. Arjuna went ahead and took them out for novelty's sake.
Against Necrophobia, the difficult half of the battle was the first part, against the four barriers. At level 55, Arjuna had right around 3200 max hit points. That was not enough to survive four castings of Flare/Holy, so Arjuna had to take out one of the four Barriers right at the start to avoid death. Fortunately, he had just enough speed with the Chicken Knife to pull this off. However, he couldn't kill off a second Barrier before they attacked the second time with reflected Fire/Ice/Bolt 3s, each of which did around 1075 damage. Multiplied by three, that was 3225 damage - just slightly too much for Arjuna to handle. So I went ahead and gained one extra level, up to 56, and that made all the difference:
Arjuna had JUST enough health to survive that second casting, as the screenshot demonstrates. He would not have survived at level 55. From this point, the rest of the battle was routine. The three remaining Barriers were taken out one at a time, and Necrophobia's attacks were blocked with a Golem summon from the Magic Lamp. Necrophobia does a LOT of damage to characters with light armor in the front row, and yes, Arjuna would have been killed if Golem hadn't blocked the attacks. Instead, Arjuna won successfully on his first attempt at the higher level.
Once again, I had to retreat all the way out of the final dungeon to recharge the Magic Lamp, and the long walk in and out took Arjuna up to level 58. Then it was time for the last battle:
Exdeath's attacks did too much damage in the front row, so I had to move Arjuna to the back. With the row modifier in place, it was better to use the Yoichi Bow, which of course didn't lose any damage when fired from the back. The special property of this bow is a whopping 30% chance to do a critical hit; Exdeath took about 1200 damage from a normal hit, and 2500 from a crit (shown above). The average damage per X-Fight command was roughly 6000, which fluctuated up and down depending on how many of the attacks went critical. That compared very favorably with my other solo characters, and as a result Arjuna didn't have much trouble with the initial "Tree" form. He could get to the second form in as little as eight rounds of combat, which meant less time to get hit by White Hole and Condemned.
Things were tougher against the second, Neo-Exdeath form. The problem here was that there were multiple parts that X-Fight could target, and I couldn't control where the damage would be going. Even worse, the final boss has two extra "dead" targets that X-Fight will sometimes go after, wasting those attacks. I suspect the designers put them in there just to screw around with people using X-Fight and Meteo. I had to devise a slightly different plan for this final encounter.
Part #4 could be taken out with Odin via the Magic Lamp, as usual. I wanted to take out Part #3 (the physical one) next, so that Arjuna could move into the front row and then start using the Chicken Knife to attack. The best weapon for this was again the Yoichi Bow, which would do about 1700 damage on normal hits, and a hair under 5000 on critical hits. I put both in the screenshot to demonstrate. Wearing down this part was a long, slow process, but Arjuna had plenty of Elixirs on hand. So long as he wasn't taken out with Grand Cross, he would eventually get it done.
For the final two parts, I could now move into the front row again, as these two (mostly) don't use physical attacks. I went ahead and used X-Fight with the Chicken Knife, accepting the misses that targeted the dead zones because the damage when the Chicken Knife did hit was so high. I remember one round of combat where all four attacks hit Part #2 and did almost 11k damage! Doing damage wasn't the real problem here, it was evening it out so that both parts died at the same time. The next summon in the Lamp (Syldra) did pathetic damage due to Arjuna's low Magic Power stat, only about 1000 to each target. Thus Arjuna had to take each part down under 1000 damage (without killing them!) by using a variety of weaker weapons like the Assassin Knife and even the Killer Bow. I had Arjuna get killed by an ill-timed Weak attack from Grand Cross, and again a second time by a Grand Cross zombie status. But I actually succeeded on my third try against Neo Exdeath:
So overall, that wasn't too terribly painful. It's patently obvious by now that Grand Cross is the only real threat in the final battle. I'm thinking of maybe trying a new strategy in the future, whereby I take out Part #1 (the Grand Cross part) first, and leave Part #3 (the physical one) alive with Part #2 (Almagest) until the end. We'll see if that works better. Anything that cuts down on the dice roll aspect of this encounter can only be a good thing.
By way of conclusion, Arjuna had an easier time in each of the three succeeding worlds. World two was easier than world one, and the final world was (by far) the easiest one of all. I've rarely seen a character as dominant as Arjuna at the end of the game, with his insane combination of speed, strength, and multiple attacks.The beginning parts of the game were actually the hardest! Kinda weird, almost reminds me of the original Black Belt Solo from the original Final Fantasy. Overall, speed really does kill in this game.
Next up: Knight, the Double Grip specialist!