Tonight, I traveled from San Jose to Ontario Airport to visit my parents. For clarification, I flew to the Ontario that's next to Riverside, not the Ontario that's in Canada.
For a moment, I almost didn't get to play Final Fantasy on my flight. You see, my flight was slated to depart at 7:50p on a Friday, so I left work in a hurry and completely forgot to undock my laptop from the workstation. It wasn't until I reached the airport that I realized my backpack felt suspiciously light. With my flight a mere 50 minutes away, I called my girlfriend (who had just dropped me off at the airport) for help. Her kind soul braved the heat wave and tedium and drove all the way back to work, picked up my computer, and dropped it off to me outside Terminal A. I then dashed back through security and made it onto the plane just before they closed the doors.
So thank you. This post is dedicated to you.
Anyway, when we last left off, the Warriors of Light had traveled to Melmond, a desolate town plagued by a vampire problem and lacking an item store and church. The villagers were practically begging the heroes to save the land from rotting, blaming the vampire for everything. We also met Dr. Unne, a boastful scholar perpetually strolling in the north-west part of town. His self-indulgence became tiring, so the heroes stocked up on the latest weapons and magic spells and set off to the west to slay the vampire.
The vampire hid on the third basement floor of the Earth Cavern, a big, sienna-colored dungeon featuring numerous dead ends and one a particularly nasty corridor with a 100% encounter rate. Deeper in the dungeon, the party also met cockatrices with the ability to turn our heroes to stone. Luckily, they dropped gold needles. So when they did petrify someone, there was always a means to turn them back. A lot of the chests were useless and guarded by Earth Elementals, who were a pain to defeat thanks to their high defense. However, one particular chest contained the Coral Sword, which was a nice prize for the thief.
Eventually, they made it to the throne room of the evil vampire. Sadly, he was all talk and a simple act of casting Haste on the fighter turned him into a battle machine. He felled the undead lord in a single blow, dealing about 350 damage. The reward was a Star Ruby from the vampire's cache. Why did the vampire have a Star Ruby? Was he secretly a titan?
Behind the vampire's room, our heroes noticed a slab and evil energy emanated from beneath it. Whatever was rotting the earth had not gone away with the death of the vampire. It was still waiting. Try as they might, the slab could not be moved.
In the first Final Fantasy, there was no such thing as a mid-dungeon warp point. When you defeated a boss in the middle of a dungeon you couldn't save, you couldn't rest, and you couldn't leave. You literally had to fight your way back out. This meant boss battles weren't the end. They were the midpoint of every dungeon. If you depleted more than half of your supplies by the time you reached the boss battle, you might not have had enough to make it all the way out.
The GBA version of the Earth Cavern pales in comparison to the original experience. With the charge system replaced by MP, my white mage was able to case cure magic on my party repeatedly. This made the return trip easier, though still tedious.
It's unfortunate that my black mage was unable to learn the Teleport spell. This spell would have allowed the party to exit the dungeon instantly. However, the game prevents black mages from learning the spell until they've been upgraded to the black wizard class. So why did the developers put it in the magic shop in Melmond? Three words: to taunt you.
Anyway, our heroes returned to Melmond briefly to rest in the inn. But then, it was off to the tunnel. Our heroes gave the vampire's prized ruby to the stone titan blocking the path. He stuffed his face like a fat kid with candy and lumbered off the screen.
In the cave at the end of the peninsula, our heroes consulted Sadda the Sage about the earth rot. His advice? Look under the slab, stupid. Clearly, the evil living deep below the earth's surface must be responsible for the... you know... rotting of the earth. However, Sadda did give our heroes a key piece of the puzzle: the Earth Rod. With it, they could shatter the slab and proceed deeper into danger.
Next Time: The Fiend of Earth