The Return of Talking Time

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  #91  
Old 04-16-2018, 05:37 PM
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(continued from previous page)



South of the stairs is a doorway, which leads out to this overly-cloudy area with a Rope Bridge.



As we make our way across, a monster appears! And someone else walks out of our body!



Sure thing, guy we've never seen before.



The battle ends poorly for our would-be savior, and SHORTS takes it upon himself to avenge him.



Which is, you know, fine



The strategy for this battle is to keep trying Exit until the Mummy uses Poison Flour, the only attack SHORTS can survive. (Flour, though?)



SHORTS seems to know the stranger, who assures us he's okay even though he's clearly not.



Conveniently, Tristam shows up and joins us.



The area after the Rope Bridge has extremely heavy cloud cover, which probably has something to do with the Wind Crystal.

We'll explore it next time. Are you excited? I know I sure am.

Next: Woodwork

Last edited by Mogri; 04-16-2018 at 06:47 PM.
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  #92  
Old 04-16-2018, 05:43 PM
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mmm

underflows sound fun
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  #93  
Old 04-16-2018, 06:08 PM
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I... see...

I DON'T SEE.
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  #94  
Old 04-16-2018, 07:23 PM
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Originally Posted by aturtledoesbite View Post
mmm

underflows sound fun
Our dear old friend. (Along with its occasional partner the item upgrade / spawning bug.)

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Originally Posted by Mogri View Post

This is fine


Everything is fine


Which is, you know, fine
This is Fine-al Fantasy
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  #95  
Old 04-16-2018, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by JBear View Post
I... see...

I DON'T SEE.
Basically, instead of checking for event flags to control a good chunk of the events in the game, it's run by key items out of the inventory--most notably the coins. The coins are the only things that really gate your progress, since it controls your pathing through Focus Tower, and once you get the first level of claw there's only one type of tool-blocked terrain left (which is a weapon upgrade you get in the Wind Crystal chunk).

So they never implemented safe guards against people sequence breaking, because they assumed that inventory control would handle their problems for them. And then they screwed up the inventory handling.
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  #96  
Old 04-16-2018, 07:31 PM
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You, uh... and the fire cryst- oh. Oh. Okay then.

If anytime a shrug was more necessary
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  #97  
Old 04-16-2018, 10:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Vaeran View Post
Not to put you on the spot here, but what did it look like to you? I think alternate interpretations of sprite art are really interesting.
I usually thought it was something like the "but you're still hungry" machine in Chrono Trigger, even though that never made complete sense to me.

Occasionally it looked like some sort of placard with an abstract design on it, but that made even less sense.
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  #98  
Old 04-17-2018, 12:02 PM
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This was already good and it's gettin' good-er.

So anyway, why "Poison Flour?" Great question! The typical name for such an attack in video games is "毒の粉," pronounced "Doku no kona." It's the same spelling for the Pokemon move that in the West is called "Poison Powder."

"粉," the word that can mean "dust," or "powder," can also mean "flour." Even though FFMQ was designed for a Western audience, it was still designed by Japanese folks and probably had to go through a localization process. So somewhere down that line, someone had to make a call, and it was the wrong one. Or, well, it was a slightly wrong one.

It is fun to imagine those mummies shuffling off a cloud of deadly baking flour.
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  #99  
Old 04-17-2018, 12:18 PM
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Meanwhile Dracula here's a completely unassuming cake I baked for you!
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  #100  
Old 04-17-2018, 12:19 PM
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Oh hey thanks - WAITAMINUTE
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  #101  
Old 04-17-2018, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Dracula View Post
This was already good and it's gettin' good-er.

So anyway, why "Poison Flour?" Great question! The typical name for such an attack in video games is "毒の粉," pronounced "Doku no kona." It's the same spelling for the Pokemon move that in the West is called "Poison Powder."

"粉," the word that can mean "dust," or "powder," can also mean "flour." Even though FFMQ was designed for a Western audience, it was still designed by Japanese folks and probably had to go through a localization process. So somewhere down that line, someone had to make a call, and it was the wrong one. Or, well, it was a slightly wrong one.

It is fun to imagine those mummies shuffling off a cloud of deadly baking flour.
I wonder if it has anything in common with the "poison mist" from Japanese pro wrestling.
http://prowrestling.wikia.com/wiki/Asian_mist
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  #102  
Old 04-18-2018, 11:49 AM
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What Actually Though

OK, so this last chapter was a real ride. You're wondering what happened. You're not alone. I, too, was burning with curiosity about how exactly this trick works, so I did Research, and I present to you now the fruits of my labors.


To prepare for this trick, we need a specific arrangement of consumables. We need some Cure Potions, Heal Potions, and Refreshers -- it doesn't matter how much of each, so long as we have at least one -- and the slot before the Cure Potions must be empty. This isn't too hard to set up as long as you know where to acquire some of everything.



After that, we talk to the Seed salesman. As mentioned, the first opportunity to buy Seeds is in Fireburg, which is why this trick isn't available earlier. Consumables salesmen allow you to buy any amount that you can afford, which includes zero. If we were to buy zero of an item that we already have, nothing would happen, which is why we need to have no Seeds before the purchase. Aside from Refreshers, you can use consumables outside of combat even when they would have no effect, so that part's not hard to set up.



Once we buy zero Seeds, we have zero Seeds in inventory. Why? To answer that, let's look in the game's memory.



This it what the memory looks like before we buy zero Seeds. Item #10 is Cure Potion, #11 is Heal Potion, and #13 is Refresher. All of these numbers are hexadecimal, so instead of the digits going from 0 to 9, they go from 0 to F. You don't need to understand hexadecimal to follow along, but keep that in mind for later.

Each of our inventory slots has two numbers associated with it. The first is the ID -- which item is this? -- and the second is the quantity -- how many do we own?

The ID of our first item slot is zero, meaning there's no item in that slot. When we acquire an item, the game first looks to see if we already own it, and if so, it increments our quantity of that item. If we don't already own it, then it finds the first empty item slot and sets it to that item. So after we buy zero Seeds, it looks like this:



How many Seeds do we own? Actually zero, but since the game sees that the first item slot contains zero Seeds instead of zero nothing, it's happy enough to allow us to use one. What happens when you use an item? Why, the quantity goes down by one, of course. What's zero minus one?



Um.

Okay, let's see what the memory has to say about this.



UMM.

Let's get a little more fundamental. Everything in computer land is ones and zeroes. Each one of those boxes holds eight ones or zeroes, so when we have zero Seeds, the number zero looks like this:

0000 0000

When we subtract one from that number, it rolls over to this:

1111 1111

That's FF in hexadecimal, or 255 in our normal numbering scheme. But we subtract by carrying the one from somewhere, and in this case, the one came from the item 2 ID slot. The computer kept going until it found a digit it could subtract from.

Item #0F is the Sky Coin, which is why we now have a Sky Coin in our second item slot. This doesn't work like a normal Sky Coin; the game will not recognize us as Sky Coin owners at this time. But it's relevant that it's no longer a Cure Potion. (What happens if you use the Sky Coin, you ask? Out of battle, nothing. In battle, the game freezes. Maybe don't use fake Sky Coin.)



Why do we care that it's no longer a Cure Potion? Well, recall what happens when you buy an item that you don't already own: the game finds the first empty item slot and sets it to that item.

But all four of our item slots are full.

What's to the right of those four slots in the game's memory, anyway?



Oh.

Why does the game decide to stop there? I can't answer this definitively without access to the source code, but the most likely explanation is that it looks something like this:

Code:
for (slot = 0; slot < 4; item++) {
  if (itemID(slot) == 0) break;
}
In other words, it fully expects to find an empty slot in one of our four inventory slots, because that's how the game is meant to work, but if it doesn't, then the value of "slot" after leaving the loop is one more than it should possibly be. Whatever the case, we have the ability to overwrite those inventory slots with the item ID and quantity that we choose.

How do those blocks of memory work? Each 1 or 0 corresponds to a key item. The first block's current value is E2, which looks like this in binary:

1110 0010

Those eight items are, in order, Elixir, Tree Wither, Wakewater, Venus Key, Multi-Key, Mask, Magic Mirror, and Thunder Rock. We have the first, second, third, and seventh of those.

The second slot works the same way, but for the items Captain Cap, Libra Crest, Gemini Crest, Mobius Crest, Sand Coin, River Coin, Sun Coin, and Sky Coin.



After buying 19 Cure Potions, our inventory looks like this. Let's take another look at the memory.



The first key items block now contains the value 10, which is the ID of Cure Potion. The second block contains the value 13, which is hexadecimal for 19 -- the amount of Cure Potions we bought. Let's look at both of those numbers in binary:

0001 0000 = 10
0001 0011 = 13

We have one item in the top two rows: the Venus Key. In the bottom two rows, we have three items: the Mobius Crest, Sun Coin, and Sky Coin. Unlike our fake consumable Sky Coins, these are the real deal: we can open the door in Focus Tower with these ones. (You might notice that the positions of the 1s in the binary correspond to the positions of the items in our inventory.)




So now that we know how the trick works, why don't we use it to get anything else? And why wait until Fireburg when we could do the trick with Cure Potion vendors?

Let's answer the first question first. What else could we get with this trick?

In our first two rows, we could get the values 10, 11, 12, or 13, corresponding to Cure Potions, Heal Potions, Seeds, and Refreshers, respectively. That could potentially get us the Thunder Rock and Magic Mirror in addition to the Venus Key. The Magic Mirror is no longer useful by Fireburg, but Thunder Rock is a necessary plot item later.

In the bottom rows, we could get any of those items except for the Captain Cap -- our limiting factor is that we can only buy 99 of an item. The River Coin and Sand Coin are no longer useful by the time we get to Fireburg, and the Mobius Crest is the only one we really need from here on. While we could have gotten more here, we also need enough money to buy the Cure Potions.

With that in mind, why wait until Fireburg? Fireburg is important, not because it sells Seeds specifically, but because it sells two kinds of consumable. In Aquaria, we could buy Cure Potions, which would have been sufficient to trigger this glitch, but then we would have been on our own obtaining a second type of consumable, which would have involved gathering it from chests three at a time to hit a very specific value. (This is a good time to mention that we can never take Cure Potions from a chest ever again if we value being able to win the game.)

This glitch is used for speedrunning FFMQ, and for the purposes of the speed run, it's fastest to play normally until Fireburg. Purchasing the Seeds and Cure Potions is extremely quick and allows us to bypass an enormous chunk of the game. For non-speedrunning purposes, we can probably do a lot more; I hadn't really looked into how exactly the glitch works until I went to do this writeup.

We haven't seen the last of this glitch, and after SHORTS's adventure has concluded, we'll revisit what exactly we can do with this. Just how badly can this game be broken?
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  #103  
Old 04-18-2018, 04:09 PM
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...Huh.

I'd kind of just assumed that the locations of consumable items were hard-coded.

The more you know!
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  #104  
Old 04-18-2018, 11:16 PM
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From a game design standpoint it's generally a better idea to do floating pointers; if you hardcode your inventory locations, what happens when your game designers decide to expand or contract (remember, console memory is at a premium) the inventory size/range of items after you've put the code together? Doing it dynamically mostly sidesteps that problem, though you do have to put in checks to guard against these kinds of shenanigans.
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  #105  
Old 04-19-2018, 07:13 AM
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In this case, there are a bunch of little points of failure. The only one that strikes me as glaringly wrong is assigning the item ID when you acquire zero of an item, and even that could have been salvaged if they treated zero quantity as an empty slot. Everything else in the chain makes sense if you don't check the inputs too carefully, but this glitch wouldn't have worked if even a single one of these were true:
  • You can't buy zero of an item.
  • Acquiring zero of an item doesn't assign that item an inventory slot.
  • Zero quantity is treated as an empty slot.
  • You can't use an item with zero quantity.
  • Using an item with zero quantity doesn't decrement the quantity.
  • Decrementing a zero-quantity item doesn't spill over the subtraction.
  • When all inventory slots have other items, you aren't allowed to gain a new kind of item.

That looks like a big list of mistakes to make, but most of them are reasonable inside of the assumption that there are only four kinds of consumable and no way to underflow.

Nowadays, this kind of bug can't possibly happen. Modern programming languages prevent this sort of spillover. That doesn't come without some additional overhead, but today's machines are also way more powerful than they were 25 years ago.
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  #106  
Old 04-19-2018, 07:29 AM
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So what you're saying is we'll never have a game as rad as mystic quest ever again
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  #107  
Old 04-19-2018, 07:30 AM
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Not too many people code things in Assembly anymore, no.
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  #108  
Old 04-19-2018, 07:43 AM
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These bugs and quirks are what give these old games life and humanity

but that doesnt mean new games don't have wonderful bugs as well
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  #109  
Old 04-19-2018, 08:25 AM
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True. I will never forget how hard I laughed in skyrim when my ice spell sent a bear into space.
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  #110  
Old 04-19-2018, 08:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Loki View Post
These bugs and quirks are what give these old games life and humanity

but that doesnt mean new games don't have wonderful bugs as well

Quote:
Originally Posted by estragon View Post
The Steam version of Ys 8 has a bug where Dogi turns into a crab.



(Dogi the Crab is on the ground. That's Dogi's dialogue box.)
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  #111  
Old 04-19-2018, 09:05 AM
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Mystic Quest, huh? I have to admit, I've never been much of a fan of this game, but it sure is fun to see it broken wide open like this. STORY TIME: When I was 12 or 13, I went to New York for the first time with my parents. I believe it was on the ground floor of the Empire State Building that I found a Toys'R'Us (rest in power) that had copies of this game and FF II (IV). I had already rented FF II and played about 2/3 of it, so I decided to go with Mystic Quest...but I wound up regretting my decision. This game isn't necessarily too easy or simplistic, but for all the cute enemy drawings I found it very dull from a presentation standpoint. After the bouncing and popping spell effects of FF II, combat seemed really dull and ugly in this game. There's also the fact that damage is super predictable in MQ: if you don't land a critical, then every attack to a given enemy will do the exact same damage until your stats change. In practice, that doesn't make much of a difference to how the game is played, but it really drove home how repetitive the random encounters were when you could predict exactly how many hits each enemy was going to take for an entire dungeon. In the end, I didn't hate the game, but it seemed shallow and boring compared to FF II. It's possible that I was slightly too old for MQ by the time I got to it, too.

Anyway, you're doing great work here, Mogri. Let's see what else you can break!
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  #112  
Old 04-19-2018, 08:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mogri View Post
Nowadays, this kind of bug can't possibly happen. Modern programming languages prevent this sort of spillover. That doesn't come without some additional overhead, but today's machines are also way more powerful than they were 25 years ago.
That does make me wonder what is the last game released to have an under / over flow bug like this.

(Actually, Symphony of the Night had a bug like this so maybe they didn't stop appearing until the PS2 era?)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dracula View Post
So what you're saying is we'll never have a game as rad as mystic quest ever again
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Not too many people code things in Assembly anymore, no.
C is only a step above assembly so I think it's still possible for errors like this to occur in games coded with that.
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  #113  
Old Yesterday, 01:50 PM
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What Actually Though

OK, so this last chapter was a real ride. You're wondering what happened. You're not alone. I, too, was burning with curiosity about how exactly this trick works, so I did Research, and I present to you now the fruits of my labors....

Amazing and educational. And I'm curious about what else you plan to achieve using this trick.
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  #114  
Old Yesterday, 08:03 PM
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Chapter 6: Can't See the Forest for the Tree



The Alive Forest is an odd name for an area swarming with undead. This is also the point at which the level designer got bored and inserted dumb messages with the trees (and not for the last time).



Tristam has leveled up since we last met, but that's about the extent of his improvements. He's not with us long, though.



Like, not long at all.



But as long as he's here, let's grab this.

The Giant's Axe is the third and final axe. The second is available for sale in Fireburg, but there's no reason to buy it when the Giant's Axe becomes available basically immediately after.

At the moment, the Giant's Axe is actually a bit more powerful than the Jumbo Bomb, even with our pathetic stats, and more enemies are weak to it. But the Giant's Axe is the weakest top-tier weapon, and it confers no stat bonuses. It's a nice weapon upgrade for now, but Exit is a more reliable method of dealing with anything that's not a boss.



We also pop back into Doom Castle to pick up the chest we couldn't get before.

This is a very curious enemy group. The Minotaur Zombie was a regular encounter in Bone Dungeon (and yes, it's exactly the same monster), and the Chimera is a palette swap of a boss we haven't fought yet.

Anyway, Aero is the last and most powerful Black magic spell, nearly as powerful as the other three combined. Hardly anything resists wind, but there's also not a lot that's weak to it, although a few upcoming bosses are included in that number. Against those bosses, Aero might actually be SHORTS's best attack.



Kaeli is sleeping in Phoebe's house. At this point, Kaeli has spent most of the game in bed.



We missed this plot point somewhere along the way, but Spencer (who is Phoebe's grandfather) is digging this enormous tunnel not because he's insane (though let's not rule that out) but because he's trying to save Captain Mac, whose ship was stranded in a very improbable manner.



Spencer notices Tristam, and the two hit it off, resulting in the pair leaving together on a much more lucrative adventure.



Did you almost forget, too? The awesome-looking weapon that Tristam pulled from our adventure in Bone Dungeon is ours now. I guess it wasn't his style.



It works for us as it did for him, allowing us to assault unsuspecting old ladies from afar. (It's also a hookshot too whatever)

The Dragon Claw is the third-tier claw; we never saw the area that holds the second. It's weaker than the Giant's Axe, but not vastly weaker. Like the Cat Claw, we get +5 Magic while we hold it; also like the Cat Claw, we want it because of the status effects, comprising almost every last one in the game. The full set is Petrify, Paralyze, Sleep, Confusion, Poison, Blind, and Silence. There's something there to love against most enemies, but the most attractive of those is clearly Petrify. The game doesn't have a special animation for it, so anything we hit that's vulnerable will appear to simply die in one hit.

It's also just really fun to play with.



Phoebe then decides to take the tunnel into her own hands, with disastrous results.
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  #115  
Old Yesterday, 08:04 PM
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Captain Mac is Kaeli's dad. We missed that somewhere along the line. It's not especially clear what Captain Mac has to do with the crystals, but then there's a good chance Spencer would've cleared that up for us if we'd bothered visiting Spencer the first time around.



Kaeli has gotten a significant overhaul since the beginning of the game. She now wields her own Giant's Axe, which might be the most disappointing of the top-tier weapons, but it's still a very contemporary weapon and one that's particularly well-suited for the dungeon we're about to face. Besides that, she now has Cure and Heal in addition to Life, and she has her own copy of Aero -- and actual stats to back it up. Not bad.



Kaeli casts Aero on a lone target that's weak to it, dealing 1671 damage. This is our first attack to break four digits. This is highly acceptable.

Not to be too far outdone, SHORTS lands a critical hit with his Giant's Axe, killing a Mummy in one hit. Pretty impressive, little guy!



NEW OBJECTIVE: Whack the monsters



Giant Tree is our next dungeon. It's got a lot of the undead we were fighting as well as smaller trees (???) and worms (makes sense).

Of course, our true objective is not to whack everything in here. Our real goal is the boss at the end.

On the higher level, you can see some Angry Birds slingshots that serve as grappling points for the Dragon Claw.



SHORTS reaches a new high here, landing a critical hit against a tree that's weak to the Giant's Axe. It's not unreasonable that this could be the most damage he does in a single attack in the entire game.



Hookshots are never not great. Are you making a game? Put a hookshot in it.



On the second floor is this chest we aren't going to get. That's partly because I can't remember how to get there and partly because it contains Meteor, a Wizard spell that deals earth-elemental damage to all enemies. As the third Wizard spell, Meteor deals highly respectable damage, but the earth element saddled to it will never do you any favors. I'm not sure there's a single thing weak to earth in this game, and anything that flies resists it.



Speaking of "I can't remember how to get there," this whole dungeon is a bit more labyrinthine than is typical of this game, and I wind up going the wrong way as often as not.

Oh, but see the face with the closed mouth? You stab the face with your sword to open the mouth. It's delightful.



Pictured: incredible enemy variety.

Between the worms and the trees, the game is giving you ample opportunity to give the Giant's Axe the workout of its life before it becomes practically obsolete. Even at level 1, SHORTS can fell an axe-weak enemy in one hit.



With no fanfare or pre-battle dialogue, here's the boss of the Giant Tree. Gidrah and the Skuldiers are all weak to Aero. A spread cast of Aero isn't enough to kill off the Skuldiers, but even SHORTS can kill off a Skuldier with a focused Aero.



With Aero dealing over 1500 damage a pop, the danger isn't Gidrah outpacing your damage but the petrification. We've had to deal with it throughout this dungeon, but it's especially frustrating here, when Gidrah isn't consistently slower than Kaeli. In this case, Gidrah petrified both characters without Kaeli getting an action in.



At three casts of White magic and one Aero, SHORTS doesn't last long before running out of steam, which is a shame, because his magic is actually quite potent in this fight. SHORTS's Aero is just under 1500 damage, and Cure lets Kaeli focus on damage.

Gidrah's extra heads die off one by one as it nears defeat. This, too, is delightful.



Gidrah is one of the harder bosses we've faced recently, but eventually, he stops petrifying Kaeli, and we score a win.

When Gidrah is defeated, all of the common enemies also disappear from the Giant Tree. I guess we could go back for Meteor now if we had any Wizard spell charges.



Grateful, the Giant Tree offers us a ride. Tristam has spent the past hour of his life engaged in creative deforestation -- a careful eye can see the message "GO ON KID!!" written in the background trees.



There's this really cute animation of the Giant Tree walking across the overworld that we can't see thanks to the heavy cloud cover.



This is as the designers intended, I'm sure.

Next: Just Throw It
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