Samurai: Kambei Shimada

I haven't gotten tired of Final Fantasy 5 as yet, and have been enjoying the solo runs enough that I wanted to keep going with different jobs. However, I don't want to continue writing the massive reports that I did with Solo and Black, not least because I end up spending almost as much time writing as playing! Besides, I've already discovered and talked about most of the central gameplay mechanics, for both melee and magical characters. I'd just be repeating myself a lot for most situations. Instead, I'm going to post (relatively) quick spot reports for different classes that I tried out. Let's see how brief I can be, heh.

Feeling somewhat burned from Black's horrid experience with the ending boss, I decided to take the Samurai class for a spin next. Samurai are insanely good in FF5: they can equip all the heaviest armor, they use katanas which do great damage and have a high percentage of critical hits, and come with two different extremely useful innate abilities. The first is called "Evade": the Samurai always has an inbuilt 1/3 chance to evade all physical attacks. It's like they're wearing an Elf Cape at all times! Melee characters in non-variant games should strongly consider mastering the samurai class just to pass on this ability to the Bare job as an innate ability. Secondly, the Samurai starts with the "GilToss" command from the beginning of the game, and always has it active as a selectable option. This unique attack hits all enemies and does massive damage. The quick formula is:

Damage = ((Level + 10) - Defense) * 150

Even at level 1, GilToss will do 1650 damage against a foe with no Defense - that's a lot! The one drawback is that it costs gold (gil) to use: 50 * Level per use per enemy. Still, it's not that hard to come up with money. GilToss is a one-stop solution to virtually any problem the game throws at you.

Of course, the Samurai job isn't normally available until the very end of the first world. That's an easily solved problem though - I am playing this on an emulator, after all. A simple code makes all the jobs available at the start of the game. I named my character Kambei, after the lead character in the famous movie The Seven Samurai. Kambei Shimada is one of the few samurai who DOESN'T die in the film, which I hoped would be an auspicious omen. Everything was normal up to the Wing Raptor, after which I swapped Kambei over to his permanent class:

There was just one problem: there are no katanas available in the early part of the game, since you're not supposed to have access to the samurai job! Kambei had to make due with a Dagger instead. It didn't matter too much, as GilToss decimated bosses regardless. Random fights were easy thanks to heavy armor and inbuilt evading of physical attacks. Even with the minimal protection of a Leather Shield (10% evade), Kambei was dodging nearly half of all attack (40% total).

Karlabos went down quickly to GilToss. One hit kill. Siren was no better:

I tried three times to get Siren by attacking normally with Dagger, then said "screw it" and killed her with GilToss. This was supposed to be a relaxing run, after all. No point fooling around with Magisa and Forza. Kambei killed her with his Dagger (to save money), then downed Forza with one volley of cash.

Galura couldn't get through Kambei's defenses. That's not a screenshot of an attack missing - that's an attack hitting and doing 0 damage. In the front row, no less. There was no need to throw money at the problem here, and Kambei won the fight with his normal attack.

Post-Worus, Kambei could travel to Tycoon and pick up a katana for the first time. That increased his attack a bit:

Triple damage was a nice boost! What a difference having an actual samurai weapon made.

The Steamship was ridiculously easy, even more so than with Solo and Black. Most of the enemy attacks did 0 damage when they hit, and they continued to miss a fair amount. With Kambei, I finally got the strategy down perfect for Liquid Flame. The key is taking advantage of her tornado form; this one will never attack offensively, and simply heals itself with Fire 2. However, it only has enough magic points to cast Fire 2 a total of five times before running out. The best strategy is therefore to sit back and let it heal itself endlessly until it runs out of MP; then you can heal yourself using Potions in complete safety. The battle is only difficult if Liquid Flame sticks with the human and hand forms, which has a low probability. Kambei had no problems winning with just his katana here.

Kambei picked up an Elf Cape and Guardian Dagger in Karnak Castle before it exploded, and now his physical evade was getting ridiculous. 1/3 innate Evade plus 1/3 from the Elf Cape plus 1/4 from the Guardian Dagger plus a final 1/4 from the Mythril Shield = 75% evade overall. With almost every attack in the game physical at this point, Kambei was nearly invulnerable. Wow.

Ifrit went down in one shot of Kambei's Gil cannon. Byblos took 3450 out of 3600 health in one attack, so he did require a second normal attack to do the final 150 damage. Even getting surprised from behind wasn't a problem! (Kinda crazy that you can get a surprise attack against a boss.) Sandworm was slowly worn down through a lengthy fight using the katana. He was actually pretty tough for Kambei, since I didn't want to use GilToss unless it was absolutely necessary.

Kambei had far less gold than any of my other solo characters at this point in the game, in part because he was flying through the game at a lower level, and in part because he was firing off cash against a number of different bosses. I actually had to save up for a little bit for a Flame Ring to use against the Flameguns prior to facing Sol Cannon. There was no need for an Angel Ring here though: Kambei could get off three GilTosses before Surge Beam fired, and that was enough to win. I guess that's one way to avoid having to save up to buy one...

Kambei fought ArchaeoAvis normally, and won at the cost of three Elixirs. Then I hit the reset button and mowed him down with repeated tossing of gold:

The poor fossil couldn't even hit Kambei, with a Flame Ring to defend against most elements and massive physical evade. The samurai really doesn't do that much offensive damage; I was surprised to find how reasonable Kambei was in that regard. When you're not using GilToss, the offensive performance is fairly modest. (Of course, if you use the Knight's Double Grip ability on the katanas, it's another story...) The defensive abilities are what make this class shine so strongly. I really hadn't been expecting that. I'm gonna miss dodging a gazillion attacks when I go back to the other jobs!

Yeah, this one kind of speaks for itself.

Neither Gilgamesh fight was particularly difficult. The solo Galuf one was done with GilToss, as in my last game with Black. The second encounter on the bridge saw Kambei kill Gilgamesh before he even went through his ending "Jump" attack pattern. Quick and easy. The Rugor/Moogle diversion was full of physical enemies that had trouble hitting Kambei. In the Hiryuu Valley Kambei picked up the Bone Mail, making him even stronger against melee damage. The Hiryuu Plant and its little flowers went down in three volleys of the Gil cannon.

Enkidu hit the deck from a single GilToss. Gilgamesh at least lasted for three of them, this time around. That brought Kambei to the Barrier Tower, where he had to wait for a Wall Ring to drop. Well, the darned thing just refused to do so! I started looking for one at level 37, and Kambei went all the way to lvl 42 before getting one!

This picture reflects that. Wall Rings are dropped by Wall Knights, and Kambei encountered them along with two other enemies, Neons and Travelers. Neons have a chance to drop Speed Potions, Travelers have a chance to drop Dream Harps. Kambei got SIX Dream Harps and SEVEN Speed Potions before the first Wall Ring dropped. Insanity! (Then a second Wall Ring dropped two battles later. Probability is a strange mistress.)

For once, I had a solo character powerful enough to kill Atmos naturally. You must take him out in four attacks, in other words average more than 5000 damage per round. Kambei could do that using GilToss, and thus I got that bastard fair and square this time around. Ha!

Mua gave more excellent experience, as it always does, and the Bone Mail pulls the teeth out of most of the magical attacks there. (I explained this with Solo in more detail.) There was a hugely important piece of gear in there for Kambei: the Aegis Shield. While there are other shields that have higher Defense and physical evade, the Aegis Shield is unquestionably the best shield in the game, for two reasons. First, it protects against Stone attacks - no more getting killed by Delta Attack or Demon's Eye. Secondly, the Aegis Shield has a 1/3 chance to block ANY magical attack in the game! Doesn't matter how powerful the spell is, the Aegis Shield has the chance to block anything and everything. This came in handy in more situations than I can possibly mention.

The Crystals/Seal Guardians went down in two volleys from the Gil cannon. These guys are not difficult in the least if you have a Flame Ring equipped. Next, Kambei finally maxed out his job in Exdeath's Castle and gained access to his final ability, the "Slash" attack:

Slash works pretty much like the Monk's Kick attack: the Samurai charges up, then goes flying across the screen to hit all enemies. Only with Slash, any opponent that gets hit dies instantly! The Golem and Wall Mage in the above shot have just been terminated, as I've captured the little yellow slashing animation in mid-action. You'd think that the probability would be pretty low, but no, that's not the case at all. The base chance for each enemy to die is actually 85%! (There are some complicated numbers that modify this stat, but that's the base chance.) Although Slash doesn't work against bosses, or anything that has the "Heavy" flag in the code, it wastes most random encounters. Someone wrote in one of the online FAQs that Slash doesn't work on most endgame enemies, but that's simply not true. I found it to work against virtually everything. And you can use it from the back row at no penalty too.

Take a look at Kambei's setup at this point in the game. How crazy is this:

We've got a standard katana, nothing special there. As mentioned above, the Aegis Shield defends against Stone attacks and grants a chance to block all enemy magic. The Diamond Helmet resists lightning, cutting attacks from that element in half. The Bone Mail absorbs Poison element and blocks most instant-death attacks, like Doom, plus provides incredible physical Defense. The Flame Ring aborbs Fire and neutralizes Ice elements. That's defense of one kind or another against fire, ice, lightning, poison, stone, and death elements. Plus Kambei has a total of 56% physical evade. Seriously, how do you hurt this guy?!

Starting to understand why the Samurai is so uber by now? I certainly hope so!

I've never had an easier time against Exdeath, not even with Black. GilToss did massive damage, and Kambei was protected against everything that he could do, aside from Condemn. My favorite part was watching Kambei block Exdeath's "Hurricane" weakness move with the Aegis Shield! This took no time at all to win.

Antlion died in about five seconds. Kambei paused to pick up the Chicken Knife and power it up in the same fashion as Black, and I used it a fair bit in the Pyramid. I finally swapped over to the Guard Ring after turning one up in here; Kambei used an Elf Cape for most of the game up to this point, aside from Flame/Wall Rings against bosses. The Machine Head robots were taken down one at a time from the save point on the above floor, and despite all my caution, Kambei was still wiped out once or twice. I used the Chicken Knife there to save money. Mellusion/Merugene's spells were completely neutralized by a simple Flame Ring, everything except Bolt 3 anyway, and Kambei sliced her to bits with the Chicken Knife. Getting "Can't Run!" a couple times was a minor impediment.

With Tablet in hand, Kambei could go grab his ultimate weapon. The Masamune does slightly less damage than Excalibur (107 vs 110) but is the better weapon overall. The Masamune has a 15% chance to critical hit, which Excalibur lacks, and can be used in battle to caste the spell Haste! This is extremely good for a variant like this one. It also grants "Initiative" to the one who equips it, just like the Ninja skill of the same name. Excalibur's one big plus is that it can be used with Magic Sword. Overall though, the Masamune is better for most situations. Certainly it was an amazing find for Kambei.

Stalker/Stoker went down readily to GilToss. I wondered if the gold would hit the "fake" replicas of the boss as well, and the answer is no. Kambei had just gotten hit with Maelstrom in this picture, which is why his health is at 1. I knew I would win on the next attack, so no need to bother with healing!

I fully planned to have Kambei do both sides of Fork Tower. The Minotaur I did first, and he was so easy the fight's not even worth discussing. Omniscient was clearly going to be tougher. My initial plan was to have Kambei attack himself with the Air Blade, which has a 12% chance to cast the Geomancer spell "Gale Cut". Omniscient is weak against wind, and Kambei had enough defense that he wouldn't hurt himself much by attacking. The only problem was that the Air Blade also has a 12% chance to critical hit! After Kambei critted himself three times for massive damage, I decided to look for an alternate solution. I found one in the Mage Masher Dagger:

This dagger has a 33% chance to cast the spell Mute when attacking. By attacking himself, Kambei reflected the spell Mute off of his Wall Ring, and onto Omniscient. Now it didn't last for very long, but it did last for exactly one round of combat... and that was long enough to use GilToss for massive damage. Omniscient tried to respond with Reset (as he does when he's hit by any non-magical attack) but the spell was blocked by Mute. Two GilTosses and he was dead. While I'd like to take credit for this strategy, I actually found it a while back in an online FAQ. Kudos to the creator! See, this is why you always keep a bunch of outdated equipment with unusual properties around in inventory, just in case it might be needed. You never know.

Slash decimated all the random foes in these final dungeons. What a fun skill to use: Kambei paused for a second, then flashed across the screen to deal instant death. Usually there would be one enemy left standing, which Kambei would finish off with the Masamune. I don't think I've ever used so few High Potions with any other solo character. The trio at the end of the Great Trench went down to two GilTosses. Leviathan was neutralized with a Coral Ring, then paralyzed with a flurry of gold pieces. I skipped Odin and Bahamut this time around, as there was no point in fighting. I already knew I would just throw more money at them, and there was no reason to drag things out further.

Kambei neutralized all of Calofisteri/Wood Sprite's attacks by equipping the Bone Mail and Angel Ring. That Bio you see there is HEALING Kambei, not hurting him. The Masamune was easily enough to win this fight normally. Apanda's only dangerous attack was Sonic Wave, and Kambei blocked that with the Aegis Shield when it came out. Sweet. Apocalypse hit with Dark Shock (another spell that cuts level by half) the first time I fought him, and he killed Kambei with a one-hit spell called ?????. Apocalypse wasn't so lucky the second time around, when he was buried under a mountain of cash fired from Kambei's Gil cannon. RunningShoes + GilToss = a lot of damage in a hurry. Tell that to Catastrophe, who only got to act twice before being killed. As I've said before, he just doesn't have enough hit points. Halicarnassus was killed by her own reflected Holy spell, which did 9999 damage. GilToss is considered a physical attack, so that meant using a Coral Ring against Twin Tania. Tidal Wave healed damage and more Gil Tossing took care of the rest. Twin Tania's Giga Flare did do 3200 damage, but Kambei had just enough health to survive it.

For the Gilgamesh encounter in the Void, Kambei swapped to the Thief Knife:

Too bad the Thief Knife comes too late in the game to get the Genji Helmet, which is a steal item from Gilgamesh in the second world. Kambei never used the Genji Shield either, preferring the Aegis instead for its magic blocking. A neat little trick to pull off regardless.

That brought Kambei up to the endgame duo: Necrophobia and Exdeath. I had already prepped Golem for the first battle, and didn't expect any problems. Kambei blasted through the Barriers in a mere two rounds, hitting them all with GilToss. Then he goes after the boss himself, and GilToss hit its first real obstacle in the entire game thus far:

Ugh. What's with the paltry damage? Necrophobia actually has very high physical defense - his Defense stat is 50! GilToss as an attack has fairly low base damage, the big output coming from its gigantic multiplier of 150. Kambei was level 55 at the time, and was thus doing (55 + 10 - 50) * 150 = 2250 damage per strike. This was quite a bit better than attacking with the Masamune or Chicken Knife though, so I kept it up. The Golem summon quickly wore off, and Necrophobia had a couple of opportunities to kill Kambei with his ridiculous Maelstrom/Attack combo. However, each time this happened Kambei either dodged the physical attack or blocked Maelstrom with the Aegis Shield. I think he avoided three such patterns overall. Luck seemed to be on my side here, because Kambei wore down Necrophobia over the course of a tense battle and held out until Gilgamesh showed up and triggered the little cinematic sequence. Whew. Victory on the first try, but a tough one. Kambei used more Elixirs here (four) than in any other battle in the game. And that includes the final one.

Kambei did the whole Cleft of Dimension up to Necrophobia in one go. After leaving to recharge the Magic Lamp, he returned and prepared for the final battle. Between the Aegis Shield and natural evade, Kambei made it past the first Tree form with ease. White Hole showed up once and missed. Against the multipart Neo Exdeath form, Kambei first took out Part #4 with Odin, as always for my solo characters, then started tossing Gil around. By a fortunate coincidence, it took exactly 10 GilTosses to take out the final three parts. Part #3 has 50k hit points and Parts #1 and #2 have 55k, so that was an unplanned lucky break. No need to even out the damage to make sure everything dies at the same time.

Highlight of the final battle: blocking not one, but TWO Almagests with the Aegis Shield. That was sweet!

Being able to do 5000+ damage to all targets at once, rather than one at a time, just makes the final encounter so much easier. Kambei saw a total of three Grand Crosses, one of which turned him into a Toad and the other two did nothing. Wonder what status ailment they were? Regardless, Kambei had by far the easiest time of any of my solo characters, and won the final battle on the very first attempt:

No class can ever top that performance, only hope to equal it. Impressive stuff, Kambei. Just what I was looking for in the wake of Black's agonizing struggles!

By way of final thoughts, I'd say that the Samurai is probably the strongest class in the game for a solo run. It just has everything going for it: awesome attack power with GilToss and Slash, incredible physical and magic defense, multitargeting of all foes at once, and the power to use all abilities from the safety of the back row. What more could you want? Yeah, the Chemist is ridiculously powerful too, but you have to hunt down a gazillion ingredients and learn a bunch of mixing formulas. The Samurai just says "screw all that!" and beats everything down with his pure awesomeness. If you want to try a single class challenge, or a solo challenge, this is a good place to learn the ropes. Whenever you get in trouble, throw gold at the problem, and it will solve itself.

Next up: Hunter. Animals and archery, woot!