Final Fantasy: Four White Mages

Final Fantasy: Four White Mages

Gag courtesy of Brian Clevinger’s 8-bit Theater

I’ve played through Final Fantasy several times before, but I’d never attempted the ultimate challenge of beating it with four White Mages. And since I needed to beta test a new ROM Hack I’d been working on, this seemed like a good opportunity to accomplish both. Prior to this run, my usual party was Fighter, something (usually another Fighter), White Mage, Black Mage. The first fighter was my Tank and Damage Dealer, the second fighter was his backup, and the Mages did their thing. This is the first time I’ve actually needed to use some real strategy in this game. Having Four White Mages meant I had to decide their roles for them. The first thing I did was make my 3rd slot my primary Damage Dealer. There’s a big advantage to putting my main offense in a lower slot, as the 3rd and 4th slots take a lot less hits than the 1st and 2nd. It also made sense to me to break up the Tank and Damage roles. I’m actually not sure why I didn’t do this earlier; it’s a sound strategy regardless of your party composition.

Meet the Party

Illi ended up with significantly more HP than the rest, so she serves as my Tank in that first slot. She has the best armor, and is the only one who doesn’t carry a damage-dealing magic item. She has some magic, but not as much as Atty or Taya. She also carries the Defense sword so she can Ruse herself, making her even harder to hit.

Lana is my secondary Tank. She’s the Red Mage of the group–she has both a healing item and a damage item, but most of her magic is similar to what Illi has. She tends to be used in a support role to either heal, use defensive magic, or damage as needed.

Atty is my primary physical Damage Dealer. She’s the fighter of the group, though she may not look it. She carries the Thor’s Hammer which can cast Lightning 2, but she also carries the Power Gauntlet (which in this ROM hack, actually works). The Sabre spell the gauntlet has stacks, so she can cast it multiple times on herself, then start doing respectable (or more…) physical damage wielding the hammer as an actual hammer. It takes a while to prep, but it’s particularly useful vs. anything with a high magic defense, like bosses. She also carries a healing item which also gets plenty of use in non-boss battles.

Taya is my primary magical Damage Dealer and clean up. Like Lana and Atty, she carries both damaging and healing items. She carries most of the odd-ball spell casting items like both Robes, the Wizard staff (which casts Confuse), and the Bane sword. She and Atty both have a full compliment of the higher level spells like Wall, Holy, and Dispel. Atty and Taya also both carry a few more specialty spells, most notably Mute. Mute isn’t very useful except versus Astos–where it’s absolutely essential because at that stage in the game, there’s no defense against the instant-death Rub spell. But as it turns out, Mute was useful to us on one other occasion (more on that later).

Together, I have a party with a well-defended tank in the first slot, 3 healers in the first 3 slots (with the 4th carrying the White Robe–which doesn’t heal, but is very effective for defense, raising the evade of the whole party), and 3 damage dealers in the last 3 slots. The beauty of this is all of those roles are accomplished without even taking proper spells into account–they’re all granted via magical items. And magic items can be used indefinitely. Versus bosses, I whip out the real magic, but most fights actually require only the items to both do damage and keep HP up. This means running out of spells was a rare problem for this party, at least once we reached the mid-game.

Save the world? Sounds easy enough, let’s do this!

The early game was rather uneventful. I spent our allowance on hammers and some cloth “armor” and we marched straight up to Garland, not even bothering to level past 1 first. He was no trouble. The pirates of Provoka got the hammers dropped on them, too–frankly the journey there was more dangerous than they were. Then came a pretty decent grind to earn both experience and money for spells and potions (including several Pures–ugh, the poisonous creatures in and around Marsh Cave/Elfland). I ran away as often as I could in the Marsh Cave, and skipped a lot of the treasure, too (much of it wasn’t relevant to Mages anyway and there are better ways to gain experience and gold).

DAMAGE! FINALLY, I CAN DO DAMAGE!!! It took a while before we could do anything other than use our pitiful little hammers (missing half the time). Harm 2 allows us to do some real damage–but unfortunately, that magic only works on undead. Technically, Harm 1 does some real damage, too, but you don’t really run across any of those enemies until you already have Harm 2.

I got somewhat lucky with Astos as Mute worked early on. Once silenced, he was wimp. Then, in preparation for the Earth Cave, I grinded a little bit more vs. a guaranteed-fight spot in the North West castle (a pack of undead in front of a treasure chest–easy XP for my gang of Harm-wielding brutes!).

We did a lot more running in the Earth Cave. It wasn’t pretty, but we got through it, did the Rod errand, and returned to the Earth Cave to put Lich in his place. The 2nd visit wasn’t as hard as the first, and we were able to run often enough. We even looted some treasure. Lich, like his undead friends in the NW Castle, didn’t know what hit him when all four of us blasted him with Harm 2.

Next we took a detour–a rather large one. We went to the castle of Ordeals, which was much easier than I thought it would be, and fetched our first magic item, the Zeus Gauntlet. Finally we had a decent, general-purpose attack spell: Lightning 2! This was game changing: now instead of pecking away, one at a time, with hammers (and still missing a good part of the time), we could fry entire parties of bad guys at once. Next stop: the Ice Cave!

The scourge of the Ice Cave. The only good Cockatrice is a lightning-cooked, extra-crispy Cockatrice (drizzled in olive oil and sauteed garlic, if you have it).

The Ice Cave is always ugly. We did a lot of running, but we were also able to take care of Cockatrices before they could stone us thanks to the Zeus Gauntlet (usually…). It was still rough–we went through a lot of Heal potions, but we got to the Eye. The fight went well–right up until it XXXX’d Atty, my Zeus Gauntlet wielder. Fortunately, we’d done enough damage that the hammers (by this point silver) were enough to finish him. Of course the problem with the Ice Cave is you then have to make your way out of it. White Mages can’t learn EXIT until they class change to White Wizards, which you can’t do without the Airship–which means you have to do the Ice Cave without a convenient means of escape. We made it out and used a House (the only time in the entire run that we used one) the moment we were out, then fetched the Airship.

Getting the Airship is as fun as getting the Key. The Airship opens up the shops in the north as well as some treasure hunting, and Class Change. By the time we had finished our shopping spree and reached the Volcano, we blasted through it like a party that wasn’t entirely composed of defenseless little healers.

This little baby got a lot of use.

Kary was not happy to see us, but Mute came in handy a second time so we didn’t have to hear much about it from her. Kary, as it turns out, is weak to status. Once silenced, it was a long, drawn out (though not particularly dangerous) battle of the Zeus Gauntlet and our Hammers. Kary resists lightning, so it really didn’t do much more damage than the hammer would have, but at least lightning never misses. Two fiends down, two to go.

We ran into this little guy on the way to Onrac. He must have gotten lost–what was he doing in a forest??

The sea shrine was next and the standard encounters were not bad thanks to ol’ Zeusy. Kraken was a real challenge, though. We had dispatched Lich with Harm 2 easily–and Kary, weak to status spells (including Mute) was neutralized pretty quickly, even if it took a while longer to actually finish her off. While she was slow to kill, she wasn’t dangerous. But Kraken is known for massive physical attacks. This one took some strategy. We opened with everyone but Illi casting Invis2. Illi cast Ruse (which is stronger than Invis2, but only works on the caster). Then for good measure we did it again–and then started stacking Fog 2 (Fog 2 raises your armor, and even though the odds of being hit at this point were very low, I didn’t want to leave anything to chance) until we ran out of Level 6 magic. The next 15 minutes then followed a clear pattern. Illi, Lana, and Taya would use their hammers and do 1 damage or just miss entirely. Kraken would miss or cast Ink (a fairly harmless spell vs. mages, though it did cause the hammers to miss even more), and Atty would use the Zeus gauntlet and do a decent amount of damage thanks to Kraken being a sea creature and therefore weak to Lightning. It still took a while, and every time Kraken attacked, I feared he’d roll that natural 20, land a hit, and one-shot one of my girls. Thankfully, he never connected.

I just love your robes–where do you do your shopping??

Then it was time for a few more errands. Fetching the Cube (and a Ribbon!) from the Waterfall was a breeze thanks to Exit. And by this point, my “little defenseless mages” didn’t even have much trouble making the long trek to Leffein and back. We skipped most of the treasure in the Tower and the Sky Castle (a lot of it just wasn’t relevant to white mages and we weren’t hurting for gold, either).

So far, we had Harmed Lich, Muted Kary, and dodged Kraken. Tiamat was not much trouble either thanks to a little anti-Lightning magic and, more to the point, the Bane sword. Tiamat is weak against poison attacks, so we took the cheap way out and poison smoked her. Compared to the slogs Kary and Kraken had put us through, she was a breeze. What do you mean no fair?? She would have done the same to us! (As it turns out she did do the same to us the next time we met…)

Eye #3 was glazed over, #16 rolled at us, #23 clearly looked askance, and Eyes #27, 28, and 31 were all a bit twitchy. They all met the same end. The real question was where did they keep coming from??

That brings me to 2.5 hrs of grinding the EvilEye in the Ice Cave to up the girls from Level 21 to Level 28. The Ice Cave was littered in Eyes when I was through with the place. At Level 28, our HP comfortably above 400 now, we dared to venture into the final dungeon, the Temple of Fiends. Here’s our loadout at that time:

We entered the Temple of Fiends and shortly made Level 29, no thanks to an unfortunate encounter with a pack of four Gas Dragons. These nasties knocked Taya out in one round, and nearly got Atty, too–and you can’t run from them. Fortunately, Taya had managed to fire off Ice 2 from the Black Robe before they got her (Gas Dragons are weak to Ice). It was enough to allow the remaining three to finish the job.

After that little episode, we happily Life’d Taya back (running four White Mages does at least have that advantage) and went on our way, pausing to take advantage of a Dark Fighter and Heal up on the cheap with items instead of potions or magic.

This poor sap mostly cast support magic on himself and his no-longer-with-us party while we healed ourselves up.

Things were then pretty uneventful until Lich. Lich was actually the worst of the fiends–straight off, the punk Nuked us. It was the right call leveling everyone up past 400 HP beforehand: we only barely survived that opening salvo. As is, I hope he enjoyed his brief moment because after that, we opened up a few cans of Harm 3 and the Light Axes to remind him of who he was messing with. Unlike when you meet them the first time, none of the fiends have a weak spot when you encounter them again in the Temple of Fiends. Fortunatley Lich is at least still susceptible to Harm. The ROM Hack also has some nice palette swaps so the fiends look pretty cool when you meet them again here.

The Ribbons largely protected us from Kary. As before, she wasn’t much of a threat–we Sabre’d up Atty who went at her with the Thor Hammer. We did much the same to Kraken, who wasn’t nearly as scary as last time now that we all had over 400 HP. Taya took the one big hit of this fight (why is it always Taya?) before we managed to stack up enough Invis to make us untouchable. Then we Hammer’d him like Kary before him–Atty even managed a whopping 400 HP hit (giving Kraken a taste of his own damage).

After Kraken we were accosted by five Sorcerers. Now these guys, if you come across them, you run from. At any level, with any party. We were about to do just this when I noticed we got a first strike. Unable to resist, my girls struck them all down–I mean why not, that’s five less the next adventurers to wander through here will have to deal with, no?

We made our way deep into the basement where, just before encountering Tiamat, we obtained the Masmune. This turned Atty into a true, bona fide fighter. My little damage dealing White Mage could bring some real pain now and for what little time we had left on this adventure, at least one of my girls started using physical attacks again, something we hadn’t done since our days in the Ice Cave.

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Our stats/loadout before facing Tiamat and Chaos. Note Atty’s damage vs. the others:

Tiamat used Bane on us (just what kind of inhuman monster uses Poison Smoke, I ask you???) and poor Taya was KO’d again. This would have been a real problem had it been Atty–but it wasn’t, and with a Sabre’d Masmune, we made short work of her, even down a hero. With Taya Life’d up again, 65 Heal potions still on hand, and Tiamat toast, we made the short trek to go meet destiny and save the world.

Taya: “Atty… Avenge me!”
[blarg]
…and Taya’s good as new. Our final stats before facing Chaos. On the stock ROM, this party would have little chance of success, but thanks to bug-fixes, we can use the mighty Power Gauntlet! And everyone still has all three Level 8 spell charges left.

Chaos required some strategy. Being fully aware that he could cast Cure 4 and nullify any damage we did, we didn’t waste any of the big spells on him. Illi and Lana spent the first few rounds casting Invis 2, as did Taya with the White Robe; meanwhile, Atty milked the Power Gauntlet for all it was worth.

Our best friend, the Power Gauntlet.

The Masmune is powerful, but in the hands of a White Mage vs. Chaos, it still only does maybe 100 Damage. Eventually, we started to get a bit bored waiting for our moment to strike. All we could do was heal with the magic items or a Cure 2 or Cure 3 when the need arose, and hope, meanwhile, that he didn’t do anything too nasty to us. Physical attacks missed, but Swirl did a couple hundred damage to everyone. And still we waited.

Then it happened–Chaos used Cure 4. That was our signal–the window had opened, and it was now or never. Illi, Lana, and Taya all let loose with round after round of Holy (each had 3 charges, save Taya who had used one charge of Wall on herself–being the only one without a Ribbon). Meanwhile, Atty went at it like a berserker with her super-enchanted Masmune. Holy did anywhere from 100-250 or so damage, and these added up quickly–but not quite quickly enough. The Masmune, meanwhile was doing about the same amount of damage. But the thing about magic is it doesn’t make critical hits. The Masmune on the other hand…

Ba-BAM! Yo Chaos, I heard you liked big damage!

That hit didn’t finish him, but he certainly never recovered from that blow and it was only another couple rounds before Chaos had fallen to my Four Level 29 White Mages. I couldn’t be prouder. The story of the Light Warriors passes into Legend, as do I for having accepted and defeated the Grand-daddy of all Final Fantasy challenges.

Rumbly Chaos Death!
Yes it’s true, I am pretty awesome.

The ROM hack was a big win. The game is a lot more enjoyable with so many of the bugs fixed and with the many graphical and functional enhancements added. The end result is a game that’s a bit more fair, a lot more polished, and loses a large portion of the grind while retaining the right amount of challenge and charm.

With respect to my White Mages in particular, the now-fixed Power Gauntlet was game changing. Without it, we would have been forced to make an immense grind to make ourselves powerful enough to take down Chaos after the Cure 4 window opened. We would have been constrained to pretty much using Holy alone to inflict any kind of meaningful damage, which I roughly guess may have needed five charges each. I’m not sure what the math is on what level we’d have to be to have five level 8 charges, but I’m glad I didn’t have to do it.

The Eye population of the Ice Cave is no doubt also grateful.

I’m all Final Fantasy’d out!

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