Final Fantasy VI: Tower of Mages

I’ve finally conquered the tower of the Cult of Kefka — not the tower of Kefka himself, but a lesser imitation, which can actually be climbed. It provides a nice bit of variety by changing the way combat works: within the tower, neither you nor the monsters can perform any attack other than casting spells. A largish fraction of the monsters seem to have the Reflect effect on them, too, even if they don’t explicitly cast Reflect first. This means that you can’t rely on direct-damage spells. At least, not targeted ones — area-effect spells do fine, and that includes most Esper summons, which count as spells. Alternately, you can cast Reflect on one of your own guys, and then cast direct-damage spells at him, reflecting them back at the enemy. (Spells can only be reflected once.) My favorite tactic here is to summon Carbunkle, which is the equivalent of casting Reflect on everyone in your party at once. Then you can cast a whopping big direct-damage spell like Fire 3 on your entire party at once, splitting the reflected effect four ways — and, of course, get the added advantage of complete protection from the enemy’s direct-damage spells while you’re at it. So, basically, most of the encounters here are a breeze once you figure out these tactics, as long as you don’t run out of mana — Carbunkle is one of the cheaper Espers to summon, but I still had to bring a load of mana restoratives in with me, and used most of them. Which wasn’t strictly necessary: Osmose, the mana-leeching spell, works really well here, if you can bear to waste valuable attack opportunities on it.

Anyway, the whole experience is a nice rules-puzzle. Encountering the Reflect-enhanced creatures for the first time, my reaction was basically “Aaaaah! What do I do? I can’t hurt it with spells, and I can’t take it down with a melee attack, like I’d normally do to something that I can’t hurt with spells!” But really, there are quite a few things you can do, once you think of them. You just have to get out of the rut of thinking like you do in normal encounters.

Even having mastered all that, though, I wound up basically playing through the whole thing three times, because of the tower’s boss. It’s not that he’s hard to beat — he has randomly-changing elemental resistances, but by this point, my entire team had mastered some non-elemental damage spells. I trounced him handily on first encounter, only to find that my entire party somehow perished during his death throes. On my second attempt, I was careful to keep everyone at full health and have some protective buffs on at the end, but the same happened. I resorted to hints to find out what was going on: apparently dying there is inevitable, and the only way to continue is through the Life 3 spell. Life 3? I had that spell, but hadn’t used it — generally speaking, the resurrection spells are ones you want to avoid needing to use. The in-game description of the spell was “Protects from wound”, which didn’t seem to justify its insane mana cost: there were other spells to protect you from damage, and other spells to heal damage as well. What I had forgotten is that “Wounded” is the game’s name for the status I had been thinking of as “Dead”. Life 3 is a preemptive resurrection, like the Ozmoo spell in Enchanter. Cast it on someone, and they’ll be automatically resurrected after the next killing blow.

I’ve been told by now that the edition I’m playing is not a very good translation. I keep finding more and more evidence of this. Some of the creatures in the tower had a spell called “Merton”, which seemed to be an area-effect heat-damage spell, judging by the graphics. Merton? I finally figured out that it was probably a bad re-romanization of “Meltdown”, and a glance at Wikia confirms it. But that didn’t impede my ability to play the game. This confusion over the meaning of the word “wound” did. I suppose “death” isn’t really a good description either — this is an effect that can be cured by a stay at an inn. “Unconscious” or “Knocked Out” would be good, and apparently some games in the series use the latter term. Maybe even the better translations of FF6 do. But I’ll keep playing the one I have.

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