Ironcore Team: Part One

For once, I want to do a Final Fantasy 5 variant that doesn't involve a solo character.

One of the ideas I've most wanted to try is T-Hawk's Ironcore team, introduced the following way on his website:

"After playing the Berserkers, my thoughts turned to a different variant goal. See, most Final Fantasy variants, like weak parties or solo characters, turn into an exercise in retrying. FF's battles include enough random elements and variance that almost every fight can be won with enough reloads and retries. Victory rings somewhat hollow when there's no possibility of defeat.

I want to WIN the game, without losing. The goal is to complete the entire game without ever suffering a party death and reload.

For even this victory to have meaning, we must specify no level grinding, same as the Berserkers. Let's not spend about a month leveling to 50 before Marsh Cave. :) The Berserkers had a bit of a loophole for "stealth" level grinding, in that I could call a retreat from a dungeon to revive and heal, if necessary. That possibility can't be avoided -- I'd rather retreat from Ice Cave than throw into suicide a solo remaining character -- but I'll carefully note any such instances."

T-Hawk successfully achieved that goal for the original Final Fantasy on his second attempt (darned Sorcerers and their instant-death attacks...) Final Fantasy 5 is significantly easier in one major respect: the random encounters are a lot less dangerous. All the challenge in FF5 comes from the boss encounters, which can be predicted and planned around, making them a lot less scary than random battles in which anything can pop up. On the other hand, FF5 is a much longer game than the original, and has roughly 50 different bosses to contend with, which means that things do balance out somewhat. This Ironcore game is going to be somewhat of a war of attrition, seeing if I can use the proper execution for a long period on end without making any mistakes.

I'm going to stick with the same basic premise as T-Hawk: no grinding for gold, experience, or ability points. If you stop and fart around until the characters have all maxed out their job classes, this game is a total cinch. I'm going to play this game the way it was meant to be played, with a balanced party of mixed job classes with normal amounts of levels and ability points. I will track down all the Blue magic spells, and open all the treasure chests, plus I almost never run from battle - but otherwise, it's a straight run through of the game. No fooling around or dragging the feet.

I plan to avoid four job classes because they're too powerful or have abilities that break the game's balance. Samurai (GilToss) and Chemist (Mix) are the two strongest jobs in the game. It's so easy to win with them that any variant would just be a joke. They are out for my Ironcore team. I'm also removing the Hunter class, as X-Fight is by far the strongest physical attack in the whole game. I'd rather show that it's easily possible to win the game without using it, so no X-Fight and no Hunter job on this venture. Similarly, I will also refrain from using the Red Mage class and its X-Magic ability, although that's more due to the fact that the Red Mage job takes an insane amount of ability points to master, about 1200 total. My characters will only have time to gain roughly 2000 ability points before the game's conclusion, which means mastering X-Magic wouldn't leave them with much to spare. Yes, you can do also sorts of crazy stuff at Level 99 with X-Magic, but in a "no grinding" game, it's a lot less useful.

Almost every other job class should see action at some point, aside from Berserker (really tough to find a good use) and Dancer (not a good fit for my planned skill distribution). Here's my intended job breakdown.

Butz/Bartz: Let's call him Bartz for this variant, for ease of reference. The game leans Bartz slightly towards physical attack, and that's as good of a role as any for him to take. I will have him master the Knight [690 ABP], Ninja [690 ABP], and Mystic Knight [680 ABP] jobs, which together should take him the whole game to master, at a whopping 2060 ability points. The Knight's Double Grip should get Bartz through the first world all alone, then interchange with the Ninja's Two Handed and the Mystic Knight's Magic Sword as needed. At game's end, Bartz will have high Strength and Vitality, plus great speed from mastering the Ninja class, and decent Magic Power from the Mystic Knight. Our team's tank and physical fighter.

Lenna: Lenna's stats are geared towards magic use, so that's how I plan to use her. Lenna's primary role will be support magic, concentrating on learning the White Mage [280 ABP] and Time Mage [280 ABP] jobs. There's no need to master these jobs, just learn them up to Level 6, because no one really needs the "Equip Rods" ability. Instead I will have Lenna master the Black Mage [680 ABP] job to buff her Magic Power stat, and skip learning the Summoner job entirely. Yes, I know this is FF5 heresy, what with the slight edge in Magic Power that the Summoner job gets, but the fact of the matter is that the extra two points don't make any noticeable difference, and I've found Black magic to be more useful (and less MP intensive) than Summon magic. This saves Lenna 750 ABP, allowing her to pick up two auxiliary jobs: first the Beastmaster [460 ABP] for help in Controlling enemy monsters and learning Blue magic spells, and secondly the Geomancer [175 ABP] for use on those lava floors. Lenna ends up needing 1875 ABP (good because she disappears for awhile in the third world), with excellent Magic Power and midrange Strength and Vitality from the Beastmaster class. Agility, of course, is a non-issue for a master of Time Magic.

Galuf/Cara: The stats for Galuf lean towards physical attack, but he won't be around at the end of the game, and Cara is entirely magic-based, so I intend to build this character as another mage. With Lenna handling the defense and support half of things, Cara can specialize in attack magic. I will have her train as a White Mage [280 ABP], Black Mage [280 ABP], and then master the Summoner job and its 750 ABP cost. I plan on skipping Time Magic entirely with Cara, as one such user tends to be enough in my experience. (After everyone is Hasted, there's little for the Time Mage to do until you land Meteo.) That allows Cara to master one other job, and my unorthodox pick for that role is the Dragoon [600 ABP]. That sounds silly initially, but hold on, there's a good synergy there. The Dragoon learns the Dragon Sword ability, which functions as a free Drain and Psych spells. You can pair Dragon Sword with the Summoner job and endlessly steal magic points to fuel Syldra or Bahamut summons. And of course the Dragoon also passes on high Strength and Vitality to the Bare/Mimic jobs once mastered, making the investment in points worthwhile. Cara's build takes 1910 ABP, which should be finished just before the end of the game.

Faris: I like to use Faris as a jack-of-all-trades, able to do a little bit of everything, and the game seems to intend that as well since her stats are not concentrated in any one area. Faris' primary jobs will be the Monk [700 ABP] and Thief [635 ABP], which combine very nicely together to pass on the game's highest Strength, Vitality, and Agility stats. The Thief also learns the Capture ability, which will allow Faris to use the Chicken Knife at no penalty while stealing from the enemies. I will build onto those two jobs with the Blue Mage [350 ABP] and Bard [175 ABP] classes, getting the "Blue Monk" synergy and picking up decent Magic Power in the process. The plan has Faris finishing the game as a Mimic with the Capture, Blue, and Sing commands in tow. This is where swapping out Thief for Hunter and picking up X-Fight (with Chicken Knife) would just be crazy, but as I said, we don't want this whole thing to be TOO easy!

Hopefully the result will be a balanced party, making use of most of the jobs in this game and not relying on any one broken game element. That's the theory, anyway. Let's put it all into practice!

OK, start with the meteor and the pirate cave. If I can do these sections with a solo character, I can certainly do them with a normal party. It was nice to be able to use the recovery spring/healing pot without having to worry about all the dead characters reviving! I gave each character equipment as I found it, and headed up to the top floor of the Wind Shrine for the first boss encounter.

Wing Raptor
Bartz Lenna Galuf Faris
Level 5 Level 4 Level 4 Level 4
No Job No Job No Job No Job

I figured I would put in these tables for each boss, to let the reader see what job configurations I employed against each one. There's very little to say about the Wing Raptor, who went down in a matter of seconds from physical attacks. Never even closed his wings or used Breath Wing, just a straight gangbang. Sucked to be him.

With the first six job classes now opened up, I turned Bartz into a Knight, Lenna into a White Mage, Galuf into a Black Mage, and Faris into a Monk. The only change in the immediate future was a temporary swap for Faris into the Blue Mage job to learn some local Blue magic. I loaded up on the entry level equipment in Tule village (while purchasing the first-level White and Black magic spells; been a while since I had to do that!) and then went out and picked up the Goblin Punch and Vampire Blue magic spells. I detailed the process in my Blue Mage report, same deal here. I'll just mention that it can be tough getting the Blue spell to hit your character - the enemies often keep picking the other characters! Need to get that Beastmaster job and the Control ability to make this easier.

Anyway, soon enough the party arrived at the Torna Canal and Karlabos:

Bartz Lenna Galuf Faris
Level 6 Level 6 Level 6 Level 6
Knight L1 White Mage L1 Black Mage L1 Monk L0

One of the banes of my solo variants, this guy is really easy when confronted with a full party. Karlabos would indeed use Tentacle over and over again in this battle, paralyzing every time that he attacked... but unfortunately for him, there were another three characters able to keep on attacking with no problems. 4 vs 1, not particularly fair for the monster! This is one battle where the Monk class (double damage from both fists, Karlabos has 0 Defense) and Black Mage class (lightning magic) really shined. Bartz the Knight wasn't doing much at this point, without his trademark Double Grip ability.

Faris the Monk carried the party through the Ship Graveyard. While I'm not saying that this was a tough area, her double-fisted attacks brutalized the enemies inside and downed everything in one round of combat. The Knight job was clearly inferior at this early stage of the game, a nice reason to have one of each job. The Ship Graveyard is a fun place because the White Mages can get in some of their own licks, by casting Cure on the undead enemies, haha. Halfway through the area, Lenna and Galuf reached Level 2 for their White/Black Mage jobs, leading me to reverse their job roles. Now they could both cast White and Black magic, serving as uber "red" mages for a little while.

Bartz Lenna Galuf Faris
Level 7 Level 7 Level 7 Level 7
Knight L1 Black Mage L0 White Mage L0 Monk L1
No second ability White L2 Black L2 BuildUp

Siren was pretty smooth sailing as well. She cast Slow immediately on poor Bartz, and that more or less took him out of the fight completely. (Never underestimate the power of the Slow/Haste spells!) Faris did the bulk of the damage against Siren's human form, and when she switched over to the undead form, repeated castings of Fire from the two mages took over and completed the job. Having double White and Black magic users on hand made this battle a cinch. Siren perished before making through even a single AI cycle of actions - never got back to her initial human form a second time.

Bartz saw a noticeable increase in his damage once I picked up a Regal Cutlass for him in the next village (Carwen). Just like in the original Final Fantasy, the Fighter/Knight class is always inextricably tied to the power of their equipment. Faris continued to dominate against the enemies on North Mountain, eventually unlocking the Brawl ability. This was my cue to switch her over to the Blue Mage job again, taking Brawl as the sub-ability so that Faris could continue to fight with bare fists just as effectively as before. (Why Blue Mage now? I wanted to unlock the Blue Magic ability quickly, so it could be subbed with other jobs.) Of course, the downside is that a Blue Mage has a lot fewer HP than a Monk, so there was some careful going at times. I was able to learn the Blue spell "Flash" in the process, using the same trick of feeding an Ether to the Blocks enemies, who otherwise cast the spell endlessly without having enough magic points. All of the other characters continued using their previous jobs for now.

Magisa and Forza
Bartz Lenna Galuf Faris
Level 9 Level 9 Level 9 Level 9
Knight L2 Black Mage L1 White Mage L1 Blue Mage L1
No second ability White L2 Black L2 Brawl

Like the other early bosses, Magisa and Forza posed few problems for a well-balanced team. Magisa missed on her on Drain spell, and that pretty much finished her off. I could have killed her without Forza even appearing, but held off the death blow so that the big guy could get into the fight as well. Flash and Sleep neutered his physical attack, plus there was lots of White magic on hand to counter the minimal attacks that did land. Not too tough.

Between dungeons, I had the party loot their fill of the treasures in Tycoon and Worus castles. There's a ton of good stuff in there, much better equipment than the party should probably have access to at this point. I made sure to grab the Healing Staff, which my White and Time Mages would be using for a very, very long time. Then it was up Worus Tower, pausing only to pick up the Frog Song spell along the way, and time to face Galura.

Bartz Lenna Galuf Faris
Level 9 Level 9 Level 9 Level 9
Knight L2 White Mage L2 Black Mage L2 Blue Mage L1
No second ability Black L2 White L2 Brawl

Faris cast Flash, cutting Galura's chance-to-hit dramatically, and that along with some messing around using Frong Song was enough to win this battle. Still, Galura was the first boss that I could see legitimately causing some problems for new players. About halfway through the battle, Galura will start counter-attacking twice every time that he takes damage, and he dishes out decent return blows. If you don't know what you're doing, and keep attacking willy-nilly without making sure to heal, this battle could pose some problems. I had plenty of offense between Bartz, Faris, and Galuf, while Lenna kept everyone safe in her support role with White magic + Healing Staff. The yellow glow in the picture comes from Armor status, which I piled on each character when there was no need for healing.

I left the remaining treasures in Worus Castle for now and headed over to Karnak, where there were many goodies to pick up for the party. I had a serious money crunch trying to outfit the party with new spells, weapons, and armor. Still short of enough gold even after selling the Katana from Tycoon! That's one good thing about this game, it makes you prioritize your purchases with limited resources. I had enough gold to pick up all the new spells (Fire/Ice/Bolt/Cure 2) and outfit Bartz with Mythril gear: sword, armor, and shield. That would have to be enough for the time being, although the mages really could have used an armor upgrade.

The enemies in the Steamship are mostly weak to ice magic, and Galuf made good use of some Ice 2 casts to wipe out entire random encounter mobs. I did a lot of job-swapping in here as different characters unlocked new abilities. First of all, Bartz became a L3 Knight and opened up Double Grip, allowing me to swap him over to the Mystic Knight job. At this point in the game, the Mystic Knight can use all the best swords that appear, just like the Knight, so I would be keeping Bartz as a Mystic Knight for quite some time. Next, Lenna and Galuf reached L3 in their primary jobs (White/Black Mages) allowing me to turn Lenna into a Time Mage (with White L3 sub-equipped) and Galuf into a Summoner (with Black L3 sub-equipped). This let them keep all of their former powers while training up a second job. Finally, Faris alternated between Blue Mage and Thief, as I had a mind to start using some of the Thief abilities in the near future. She used the Monk's Brawl with both jobs, taking the high Strength of that job and continuing to fight bare-handed. This helped save a little money on equipment costs too!

Liquid Flame
Bartz Lenna Galuf Faris
Level 12 Level 12 Level 12 Level 12
Mystic Knight L0 Time Mage L0 Summoner L0 Thief L1
Double Grip White L3 Black L3 Brawl

Liquid Flame can be a difficult boss if you don't understand her AI routine, as it changes between the three different forms. By now, of course, I could probably do the whole thing in my sleep. Faris knocked Liquid Flame into her Tornado form right away, and I took advantage of that interval to Haste up everyone and buff Bartz with Ice 2 Sword magic. From there it was a rather predictable slaughter, with Bartz doing 990 damage via his Double Grip/Magic Sword attacks, and Galuf kicking in 950 damage with his Ice Rod-buffed Ice 2 spells. Lenna used Cure 2 to heal away any damage that popped up, and Faris even contributed by smacking the Hand form (which is immune to ice element) with a critical hit. The battle was over in about thirty seconds after I switched over to the attack.

There are a few extra things to pick up in Burning Karnak Castle for a normal party, most notably the Ribbon pictured above. I kept the same party formation, aside from one swap changing Faris into a Monk with the Blue Mage's "Learning" ability attached. I was hoping to pick up Aero 2 and/or Death Claw from the enemy monsters, but no such luck. I even had two full minutes to wait and try to get Death Claw from the final battle against Iron Claw, however I accidentally killed the boss without expecting to do so. Ummm, whoops. Though he had 1000 HP but he actually only has 900 HP. Well, I probably wouldn't have used Death Claw anyway, since it's completely broken against the few bosses who are vulnerable. The Ironcore team had no problem getting all of the normal treasures: the Elf Cape, Guardian Dagger, and 11 Elixirs.

Now I headed back to Worus to pick up the missing items in the basement of the castle. With a Thief and the Escape ability on hand, Faris could run the party away from the Garkimasra super-enemies in complete safety. Another Elf Cape accessory gained, very nice. Then I went up to the top floor of the old water tower to confront Shiva:

Bartz Lenna Galuf Faris
Level 14 Level 14 Level 14 Level 14
Mystic Knight L2 Time Mage L2 Summoner L2 Blue Mage L2
Double Grip White L3 Black L3 Brawl

I remembered this battle as being very difficult, but that must have been back when I didn't really know what I was doing. A little Fire 2 Sword, a little Fire 2 magic, and some Haste on the side wrapped this one up in a hurry. I guess I should have done this area before going to Karnak - better safe than sorry though. Of course that meant no Shiva to use against Liquid Flame (but shhhh, Ice 2 is a better spell anyway).

Next up was the Ancient Library, however by the time that my team reached the dungeon they were all Level 15, and I could *NOT* venture into there and face instant annihilation from Level 5 Doom. The Page 64 enemies are very common random encounters, which would be able to wipe out this whole variant in one shot. Therefore, I did pause to take the Ironcore team up to Level 16, which was unfortunate but completely unavoidable. I did pause and kill Faris, leaving her at Level 15 while taking everyone else to 16, allowing me to pick up the Blue spell:

That would have been the end of the whole variant if I hadn't been careful! The Ancient Library has a lot of Blue spells, as I was able to pick up Aero 2 and Moon Flute from other "Page" enemies inside. Quickly enough, the group was facing Ifrit:

Ifrit and Byblos
Bartz Lenna Galuf Faris
Level 16 Level 16 Level 16 Level 16
Mystic Knight L3 White Mage L3 Summoner L2 Blue Mage L2
Double Grip Time L3 Black L3 Brawl

I used the same job combinations for both boss battles, which are grouped together here. Ifrit's weakness is ice element, making him easy prey for Ice 2 Sword and Ice 2. Byblos, as an evil book of sorts, has the opposite weakness and is vulnerable to fire. Lenna made good use of Haste in the Byblos fight, allowing Bartz to go wild with his Fire 2 Sword and win quickly. 1000+ damage with each attack, against bosses who have 3000 HP and 3600 HP respectively. You could easily do the whole game just with the Magic Sword + Double Grip combination, which was almost too powerful for this party setting. Can't outlaw every job combination though, or even this challenge wouldn't be doable.

With the Library in the rearview mirror, I decided to face the optional D. Chimera miniboss which only appears in the desert region between Karnak and the Ancient Library. This enemy casts the powerful Blue spell Aqua Rake, and I wanted to learn it for Faris before proceeding any further in the game. Well, I knew this was going to be a tough fight (which is why I skipped it earlier), but even I was surprised when Aqua Rake did 300 damage to each character! Ummm, they only have ~450 life at max health. Faris had already taken an earlier blow, and Aqua Rake finished her off, with all other characters in the red. It was Lenna's command next, and I paused for maybe 30 seconds on the magic screen, trying to think about what to do next. Casting Cure 2 on all characters was pointless, because another Aqua Rake would still finish everyone off. The right play was therefore to cast Cure 2 on Bartz, who was doing the most damage with his Double Grip attacks. Even if everyone else died, he would survive another Aqua Rake, and should be able to get in two more attacks. Well, none of that mattered because Bartz did kill the D. Chimera on his next attack, but the logic was sound. Faris learned Aqua Rake even though she was dead at the end of the battle - huh, thought a Blue Mage had to survive to learn spells. Apparently not, you just have to win the battle (can't run away). Good to know for the future.

The Ironcore team went back and grabbed the ship, then went sailing to some of the world's far flung island cities. I went to Jacohl first, most notably picking up the Coral Sword for Bartz along with some slightly improved armor. I decided to venture into the Cave of Jacohl next, an area that I usually skip because there's not much of interest there for typical solo games. The goal was to acquire the Thunder Whip, as it would do strong damage for this point in the game and I had Lenna picking up some ability points for the Beastmaster job. Needed Control to learn some more Blue magic spells. The Cave of Jachol has only two types of enemies: the pathetically weak Nut Eaters, and their palette-swapped cousins the Skull Eaters:

Half of the time, the Skull Eaters will run away instantly without even fighting. The other half of the time, they'll attack and kill one of your characters in a single blow! 800-900 damage per attack; Bartz was already down in the picture above. The only solution was assigning Faris with the Thief's "Escape" ability once again, and hightailing it out of there whenever the Skull Eaters appeared. This was a very nervous dungeon, even if it was quite short, as I pretty much grabbed the Thunder Whip and got the heck out of Dodge! Probably would have been smarter not to go in there at all, knowing the risks involved.

From there it was on to Istory, where the team picked up the Toad spell and the Love Song (both hidden in the village). I also took on Ramuh, who appears as a random encounter in the forests immediately outside the town:

Bartz Lenna Galuf Faris
Level 17 Level 17 Level 17 Level 17
Mystic Knight L4 White Mage L3 Summoner L3 Blue Mage L2
Double Grip Time L3 Black L3 Brawl

How would you ever know to find this guy in the woods without some kind of guide? Anyway, Ramuh lacks an elemental weakness to exploit like Shiva and Ifrit, making this a semi-credible boss battle. I had Bartz cast Mute Sword on himself (removing the lightning element from his Coral Sword, heh) while Galuf cast Fire 2 because none of his spells were especially strong or weak. This was one place where magical damage was more effective than physical damage, with Galuf carrying most of the offensive load compared to Bartz and Faris. Now I had all of the second-level Summoner spells, and Ramuh would be useful against many of the machine-type enemies coming up on the horizon.

Crescent was up next, which didn't have any new weapons but did have the Vitality Song, one of the more useful Bard songs for a party setting. Then I took the Black Chocobo to the remote village of Lix, and picked up yet another Bard song there, the Charm Song. Too bad I had no intention of turning any characters into a Bard at the moment! The Sandworm and the Quicksand Desert followed next:

Bartz Lenna Galuf Faris
Level 17 Level 17 Level 17 Level 17
Mystic Knight L4 Beastmaster L2 White Mage L3 Monk L3
Double Grip White L3 Black L3 Blue Magic

In many ways this boos is actually more difficult for a full party than a solo variant. His Quicksand spell hits all four characters, and any attack that incorectly attacks one of the "Holes" will result in a Demi spell counterattack, also against the full party. The Sandworm is quite easy to defeat if you take your time and make sure only to attack the Worm itself, not the empty pits. (Do not bring a Berserker!) I did this for a little while, then when the Sandworm was almost dead broke out the big guns and had Faris cast Aqua Rake, which instantly did 4200 damage and slew the monster instantly. Be very afraid of Aqua Rake and its 8x damage bonus against desert enemies!

Crayclaw and Adamantium
Bartz Lenna Galuf Faris
Level 18 Level 18 Level 18 Level 18
Mystic Knight L4 Beastmaster L2 White Mage L3 Monk L3
Double Grip White L3 Black L3 Blue Magic

The Quicksand Desert that follows is very short if you know the correct path through the shifting sands. That takes you right to the airship and Crayclaw, who is pathetically easy for a full party group. Like Karlabos, his whole gimmic is dropping your health to nil by use of Tailscrew, and that's just not a problem when there are four characters instead of one. Bartz beefed up with Bolt 2 Sword, and then did 1700 damage on his first attack - Crayclaw only has 2000 HP. Problem solved. The Adamantium battle was a little bit tougher, since the big turtle can inflict some serious punshiment when attacking. I had double White magic on Lenna and Galuf, using one of them to heal and the other one to buff my characters with Armor status against Adamantium's physical attacks. Meanwhile, Bartz powered up with Ice 2 Sword and hacked away, taking advance of this boss' one weakness to ice element. Fortunately there was never any real danger here.

Before facing off against Sol Cannon, you have to defeat four different smaller guns, each of which consists of a battle against either Flameguns or Rockets. (Which enemy group you get appears to be random, as best I can tell.) The Flameguns are really easy to beat, since they just cast a mid-level fire spell over and over again. The Rockets are a lot harder; they cast two different spells, Missile (which drops the life of one character by 3/4) and Rocket Punch (which cuts life by 1/2 and Confuses the target). The Rockets themselves will never kill you, but they will drop your life to almost nil and then confuse your characters so that they attack and kill themselves. Devious! I had Faris equip the Knife (weakest weapon in the game) and Lenna equip the Healing Staff (no attack power at all), then used one or both to attack Confused party members and knock some sense back into them. Against both Flameguns and Rockets, lightning magic and Bolt 2 Sword dealt huge damage and eliminated the enemies quickly. Faris picked up Emission and Missile for her Blue Magic arsenal.

Sol Cannon
Bartz Lenna Galuf Faris
Level 18 Level 18 Level 18 Level 18
Mystic Knight L5 White Mage L3 Summoner L3 Monk L3
Double Grip Time L3 White L4 Blue Magic

Sol Cannon isn't a boss to mess around with, between the missile attacks of the two Launchers and the "Surge Beam" of the main gun itself. My party went after the two Launchers first, taking them down with physical attacks from Bartz and Faris along with a Ramuh summon from Galuf. The Launchers actually are not weak against lightning, or any element, but Ramuh was the spell that did the most magical damage at this point. Lenna was hit with one of the missiles in the process, and suffered from "Old/Aging" status, but fortunately I had plenty of White magic on hand to Heal that away. Then it was down to just the main gun, and Lenna buffed everyone with Haste status as they wailed away. Eventually I remembered to cast Slow on the boss as well, which I should have done immediately... Anyway, Sol Cannon did get off one Surge Beam, but that's why I had brought double White magic on the two mages, and together Lenna and Galuf healed away the damage instantly. Sol Cannon never fired a second time.

The Lonka Ruins contained a new sword upgrade for Bartz (Ancient Sword) along with slightly stronger Gold Armor. I continued to stick with the Mystic Knight job with Bartz, as the class was still able to Double Grip all of the best swords that appeared, which wouldn't be the case later in the game. I also picked up the critical Blue spell White Wind, through means of Lenna's Beastmaster ability Control (pictured above). The Whirl Demons like to sit in the back row and cast this spell, which heals all allies equal to the amount of the caster's remaining HP, but I could turn the table on them and use the same spell to heal my party! White Wind combines extremely well with the Monk's high Vitality and HP growth; Faris at max health could cast White Wind and completely heal the rest of the party to full life. That was a nice insurance policy to have in case the casters somehow were unable to cast White magic.

That brought the Ironcore team to the last boss in the first world:

Bartz Lenna Galuf Faris
Level 19 Level 19 Level 19 Level 19
Mystic Knight L5 Time Mage L3 Black Mage L3 Monk L3
Double Grip White L4 White L4 Blue Magic

I went with Black Mage for Galuf instead of Summoner because I knew that I would need multiple elements for this boss battle, and the non-Ramuh summoner spells are weaker than the Fire/Ice/Bolt 2 combo. The boss ArchaeoAvis goes through five different forms, with the first few forms having high physical Defense and the last one being immune to most forms of elemental magic. You want to hit the early forms with magic, and finish off the last undead form with physical attacks. I had Bartz concentrate on attacking normally (not using Magic Sword, which was useless here) while Faris kicked in more Monk blows and the occasional Blue spell. Lenna healed and buffed the team, while Galuf started out the battle casting Bolt 2, then switched to Fire 2 against the boss form immune to lightning element. For the final undead form, Galuf's offensive magic was useless, and he effectively became a second White Mage. I had taken the time to Haste up all the party members, then double their physical defense with Armor, as well as casting Slow and Flash on the last ArchaeoAvis form. The Ironcore team had the situation well in hand, only the boss used his "Maelstrom" ability right before dying, which took everyone down to nil:

So it might *LOOK* like the party is about to die here, but a few more seconds and a double Cure 2 would have solved the problem completely. Darn you for making my screenshots look bad, ArchaeoAvis!

That took the Ironcore team up to the end of the first world (aside from the meteor miniboss trio, which I'll cover in the next section). As part of this venture, I recorded each of the boss battles and then went back and spliced them together, adding some of my comments in the process. I'd do the whole game, except that it would be ungodly long, and random battles generally aren't too challenging. Well, D. Chimera aside, anyway! Take a gander if you want to see what these bosses look like in real action.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Click on the "Next" icon for Part Two.