Hey, glad someone else got around to playing!
I might just take out the ability to buy the Zen Staff period. If I recall, there is a treasure box with it inside, so it would still be attainable, just later in the game.
It seems to be responsible for a lot of the imbalances so far.
There is a Zen Staff in a treasure chest; I forget where I picked it up, but Grimoire's notes list it somewhere after Calbrena and before Lugae, which is pretty late in Yang's life to get it. Maybe move it to pre-Dark Elf Toroia? Even without having heard about its powers, I would have still bought it in Fabul since Yang has no weapons at that point, and once I had it equipped, it was a long time before I encountered a compelling reason to take it off. If I had started with some early claws and gotten the staff later, I might have decided to stick with the claws, which would have let me put Yang's other abilities to use.
Also, Valvalis should not be taking damage even from Zen staff during her spin phase. I will check the script there and see what's up. She is supposed to be able to take MAGIC damage while spinning, just not physical.
Yup, Valvalis was definitely taking physical hits during her spin.
Unfortunately I wasn't keeping detailed notes as I was playing since I hadn't originally planned to post anything here, so this won't make for nearly as interesting reading as Grimoire's commentary, but it'll have to do for now.
With access to the rest of the Underworld, I decided to head for the Sylph Cave first to grab loot and levels before taking on the boss fights in the Land of Summoned Monsters. Unfortunately, I forgot to talk to Yang's wife while I had the chance, so I already knew I'd have to make a second trip later, but at least at that point I'd be able to make a bee-line for the Sylphs.
I think I was about 3 points of Agility away from Kain getting to act before ToadLady and her croaking cronies, which would have completely nerfed those fights since the Toads won't act independently once ToadLady is dead. On the plus side, monsters apparently have infinite items, so Edge was able to steal what ended up being a lifetime supply of Ether2s, which were especially welcome here since Float is just so darn expensive.
The Warriors en route to the Land of Summoned Monsters should probably be toned down a bit. They were each getting twice as many turns as I was and attacking 3 times per turn; 2 Warriors was usually enough to annihilate everyone except Edge before anybody on my side got a turn, and an encounter with 5 Warriors meant they were dishing out 30 attacks between each of Edge's turns, which aside from being completely unfair also made that battle take forever. I saw no realistic option other than relying exclusively on Edge's godly evasion, and didn't even bother wasting resources on reviving the rest of the party. Edge dragged everyone else's corpses through the entire cave and went up at least 10 levels. I was, however, fortunate to make it completely through the area without meeting a single Arachne, though on a return visit I did have the displeasure of making their acquaintance
After the semi-hellish trip to get to the bottom, having an exit tile is a nice touch, but it was practically the first thing I stepped on. Seeing myself unexpectedly back outside again was so not cool.
Ashura was a fun fight! I had to switch gear for Leviathan, but once I had better magic defense that fight went reasonably smoothly too. I think that was my first time seeing a level 4 spell
In the Sealed Cave, you might want to check on the Trap Door script - in vanilla, I'm pretty sure if you injured the Trap Door enough to trigger the monster after it Targets somebody but before it Disrupts them, the targetted character survives, but here the targetted character dies when the enemies swap.
EvilWall went down on my second attempt. It was actually one of the easier bosses, but this being a challenge hack and all, I was still feeling some increased tension watching it creep across the screen all too quickly.
Back on the surface, Odin looked to be pretty much impossible at my current level of power, but I did find a way to win the race. Or, looking back after having seen this in a few later fights now, maybe I just managed to bug him into not killing me?
I had some ideas about where I might find the remaining Paladin spells, but I was not expecting *that* to be the way to learn Judge! 11 down, 2 to go.
Ooh, neat music for the dance quest reward! Is that new? I don't remember it from vanilla.
I found a Prism from the chest near Bahamut. It looks like an out-of-battle usable item, but it has an empty description and does nothing when I use it. Maybe something for FuSoYa or Kain when I get them? Hmm, nope, still does nothing.
Even after pumping Agility as high as I can, nobody has time to get a spell off before Bahamut annihilates me, and with that counter physical attacks seem like a bad choice. Various hints suggest Bahamut is supposed to be fought once you get Kain back, so as much as I want to follow the advice of completing side quests as early as possible, I'm going to leave this one until later.
FuSoYa's stats seem unimpressive for his level, but I love that Regen is no longer a useless ability.
Okay, I lied, I tried Bahamut again with FuSoYa, but it made no difference. Still going to wait for Kain.
Last Arm's script might need some checking too, as it just sat there, letting me beat up on it until it died. And what a reward: Cecil finally gains some evasion!
Ooh, Scarmiglione was *not* happy about getting dropped into a ravine at the end of our last encounter.
Attempt #2 went much better, with the first 3 fiends falling to their weaknesses quickly. Valvalis was still challenging, but Rydia eventually saved us all. I decided to go back to the save point to sleep afterwards due to being low on MP.
I roamed the section with the 4 fiends for a little bit, hoping that maybe this was WarMech's bridge, but no luck there. On the other hand, I did get an Alert to summon a Dragon Mech, and stocked up on Samurai swords as Throw fodder for later.
Cecil was dealing 9999 damage per hit against the CPU. I really wanted to berserk him and watch the mayhem unfold, but that turned out to be a really bad idea, as he is required to do other things in this fight.
Woah, Kain has more MP than Rydia now! And he gains more than she does per level? I guess it's because his spells are so expensive.
Bahamut still wipes the floor with me, but in a couple of levels I might have enough HP so that Light isn't a guaranteed game over. I guess it's time to go exploring; I've got all 8 Crystal shards, but haven't found where to use them yet. Cecil still needs 1 Paladin spell (presumably from Bahamut), Rydia has room for 1 more Black, Rosa for 2 White. I'm not sure how many spells Edge and Kain are supposed to end up with, but I think I'm also missing some Summons.
Ah, that's what Prism is for. Thanks for the hint!
Speaking of hints, that explained what I was doing wrong on Mt. Ordeals.
Bug report (that you sort of already know about): if you use the non-key item Crystal Shards in the wrong order, you lose them.
And another: in a battle against a Warlock and a Kary on my way to try Bahamut again, I immediately told Edge to attack the Warlock on his first turn; while Edge was doing that (resulting in the Warlock's death, either to HP loss or the Death weapon effect), I told Cecil to attack the Kary. Before Cecil could act, Kain started flashing and waving his arms around despite it not normally being his turn next, but no menu window ever came up. The music kept playing, and the pause and run buttons still worked, but otherwise I was completely stuck and had to reload. Fortunately, changing the timing or target of Edge's attack bypassed the lock and I was able to complete the battle. I've actually had this happen in multiple different battles now, always involving Warlock + Kary, but sometimes also including a RedGiant.
After gaining some levels from all that running around, Cecil, Kain, and Rosa are lucky enough to survive Light, which lets me bring back Rydia and Edge. I'm guessing this is Kain's time to shine. I'm not sure how I did it, but I managed to stop Bahamut in his tracks (i.e. he took no more actions for the remainder of the battle despite having ample time) and Kain/Rydia brought him down fairly quickly after that. I only know about 2 more spells I'm still missing (Ultima and Rukh), unless I've forgotten about another Summon.
Time to assault the core! My entire party is at levels 56 - 57.
Random battles in the core aren't that bad, it turns out. There's some weapon swapping to hit the right weaknesses, but it seems like I've always got somebody, and sometimes multiple somebodies, who can hit some enemy for max damage, so it doesn't take long to tear through the random encounters.
Sigil Staff = love. Possibly OP, but I don't care, and it sure does fix Rosa's main problem in this part of the vanilla game. It also makes a great combo with Rydia's Punisher
All that Samurai Sword farming in the Giant made finding another one in a chest here rather underwhelming
Found the Zeio, but the Pink Puffs were too much. As long as I'm careful they can't kill me, but I also can't kill them, and aside from their attacks changing with the music, it doesn't seem to be a time-based battle, since I looped through the music a couple of times while trying every single spell in everybody's arsenal. However, it takes a moment for their immunity to kick in, as I can actually land some blows and even kill one of them at the very beginning of the battle, so maybe if I were super fast... or maybe Ultima will be able to hit them?
Alright, I admit it: I cheated a bit and dropped the battle speed for the Plague fight. So sue me
Wow, the Prism Shield is spectacular, *and* it grants a party-wide effect.
Also loving Magicite
Most of the core bosses have been manageable, but getting Ultima is going to be tough. I won't spoil the fight too much for anybody else reading, but I will say the intro was pretty awesome. Assuming he doesn't get hit first, Edge with 99 Agility is able to perform 1 action before the entire party perishes. Even with the nice stat bonuses from endgame gear, I don't think I can get anybody else to 99 Agility yet, so I might need to level up some more. I'm guessing the Zeio is supposed to be used in Toroia, so I'll have another trip through the core to gain experience before trying again.
Well, since I'm here anyway, let's see what Zeromus has in store... Okay, I think I see how this is going to play out. The first few phases were pretty easy (Prism Shield FTW), but Rosa went down to the first BBang and I wasn't able to get her up in time to heal before the second BBang hit; RIP. Oh well, I'm getting low on Life potions anyway.
Zeio reward: even if it doesn't help against the Pink Puffs, who doesn't love an extra +15 to all stats?
Ooh, I got a new racial gauntlet on my way back to the core!
Alright, core revisited, here we go! Due to being the sole survivor(s) of some high EXP battles, Edge and Kain are both at level 74, with the rest of the team at level 70.
And the Pink Puffs are toast! Assuming whatever I get for a Pink Tail will be awesome, I farmed 5 of them. Thanks for not keeping them a rare encounter!
Ugh, all 5 Pink Tails consumed, but only 1 reward item. There's no way to split inventory items, right? I guess I'm going to be doing a lot of walking back and forth :/ Why did we have to park so far awaaaay? This has been the only part of the game that's boring.
I also spent some time wandering around on the long stairs down here that might qualify as a bridge hoping for WarMech, but no luck.
By the time I was ready to try for Ultima again, my levels were Kain: 86, Cecil: 87, Rosa/Rydia: 88, Edge: 92 (by far the highest levels I've ever had in any FFIV playthrough).
And Ultima is mine! Mwa ha ha!
I'm still missing Rukh (the library suggested it might have been a rare drop like some of vanilla's summons were, so I wasn't too enthusiastic about tracking it down, though there was a bit of seemingly irrelevant bird-related dialogue that might actually be a hint for where to look) and haven't found WarMech; there aren't many bridges in the game and aside from the limited-time-only passage inside the Giant and the 2 long stairs in the core, none of them qualify as long and I wouldn't want to encounter something like WarMech anywhere before the endgame, so I'm not sure where else to look.
Zeromus: Wow, that was a truly epic final battle, and once again, it was Rydia who saved my bacon when all hope seemed lost. It might have been easier if I had remembered to raid my cache for all those Megalixiers I've been saving up (I had 24), but, well, what can I say? Sometimes I'm unprepared like that
. Since I had some idea of what was coming from my earlier attempt, I actually did Berserk Rydia with the Punisher - she was dealing over 5k damage per hit, and considering the speed difference vs. casting, I don't think I could have topped that DPS with magic. Cecil was spamming Light, and Edge was just attacking, though if I had brought my good consumables, he should have been spamming Skean instead. Kain was on Jump duty out of principle (good thing too...), and Rosa was busy with support magic since Holy was useless. The battle was going well until the Doom/Demi fest started, after which things became... frantic. I lost count of the number of times I was at most one second away from Game Over. Life potions were absolutely essential, and I'm not sure I would have survived without the Prism Shield. After somehow making it through that phase and regrouping during the next phase, it was pure luck that Kain was airborne when Ultima hit, otherwise that would have been the end. I had just enough time to get everybody revived in time for the finale. All in all, I think it took me over an hour to finally KO Zeromus, but it came with a well-earned sense of accomplishment