When we last left off, we had gotten the OPART from Herman’s Cave and returned to Oceania in order to find a whale now residing in the waters nearby. It turns out that the whale can talk, but he doesn’t seem too keen on taking us to the next continent. After a bit of persistence, it is revealed to us that his tail is injured and his turtle friend (affectionately referred to by Blue as “Mr. Turtle”) claims that if his tail is healed he may regain the confidence to swim. Knowing that a pharmacist is in the inn in town, we talk to him and he tells us he can make a healing potion if we find a special frog that lives in Neko Forest – a strange wooded area to the northwest.
The forest turns out to be a very strange place. There really isn’t a lot we can do here in terms of exploration and we end up at a dead-end with some kind of strange man-eating plant. As it turns out, the ever-mysterious Rain can speak with plants and determines that it wants to eat us. If we let it, nothing really happens other than it spitting us back up.
So, with no idea what to do, we head back to Oceania to see if anyone there has any suggestions.
~PORT TOWN OF OCEANIA~
After talking to some of the various townspeople in Oceania, one NPC tells us that there is a medicine that we can use in order to become slippery and, as such, be able to be spit at a great distance by the plants in Neko Forest. While this doesn’t sound very appealing, it seems to be the only way to progress further in the forest because, you know, we don’t have the ability to cut down bushes or whatever that is in our way. Typical RPG stuff, right?
Well, it turns out that one of the villager’s grandmother, who resides down in Sebia Village, can make the stuff for us.
So, the party leaves Oceania, runs back down through Irato Forest, and arrives in Sebia…
Other than looking for that guy’s grandmother, there’s not a whole lot for us to do here in Sebia Village. Thankfully, the old woman isn’t very hard to locate and she seems to be very cooperative with us. She hands us the medicine and wishes us good luck and we decide to head back to Neko Forest, but not before taking a quick pitstop to our hometown of Rouen.
As you will recall, Rouen was burned to the ground in the onset of our journey and most of the people ended up heading to Sebia. Well, apparently that was some time ago in game time and the people of Rouen have returned to their village and are planning to rebuild it. They say they are going to build a giant house for them all to live in because they are tired of living off of the generosity of other people. So, it’s nice to see that they are making something of themselves again.
With all of these pleasantries out of the way, the party treks through Irato Forest one more time and then heads northwest to Neko Forest.
~Back to NEKO FOREST~
This time around, our trip to Neko Forest is a bit more eventful. The plant we encountered earlier does indeed take us in its mouth and spit us way across the forest, allowing us to progress. Not only is Neko Forest a strange place, but it is designed to be a maze of sorts. While the general layout of the areas you can explore on foot are fairly straight-forward, the main puzzle here is figuring out which plants will send you where. At first, it really isn’t clear what the goal here is, other than finding that frog, but as we explore we realize that there is a castle located in the middle of the woods. It appears to be an odd, spooky sort of place, but being the only identifiable landmark here, we seem to have no choice but to head for it.
The tricky part of the plant puzzle here is that some plants will send you to little traps – dead-end areas where you will get ambushed by a bunch of enemies. Thankfully, now that our party is at a decent level and has some pretty nice skills, none of these enemies are a particular threat.
After very carefully picking the correct plants, we make our way to the center of the forest and to the entrance to the castle located here. It seems kind of odd that the castle was not visible from the world map and that none of the NPCs mentioned there being a castle in the deep of the woods, but as strange as this place is, maybe no one bothered to venture in this deep in order to know about it. We can only hope that it is a peaceful place rather than some hell-hole filled with dangerous creatures!
Oddly enough, Neko Castle is actually a peaceful place. While certainly dark and spooky inside, it seems to be inhabited by some anthropomorphic animals of some sort. Many of them seem kind of dark and brooding, going on about the nature of life and death (and commenting that they think death is final and that there is no afterlife…Thanks for the philosophy, horse man!), but talking to a few of them reveals that they were once human. It isn’t perfectly clear what happened to them, but a couple of the soldiers here in the castle mention something called the Hilbade Tsunami – apparently a magical ecological event that transformed them into what they are now. And, apparently, they are cursed to remain like this for eternity (although in most of their cases I can’t see why it would be bad for them to be immortal).
There are many vases to break that contain helpful items like SP Potions for us, but some of them contain annoying monster battles. Here, some of the grids contain magic vases that have genies inside. The genies will randomly teleport any player or enemy nearby them, so it is best to break the vases early on in order to prevent any further annoyances. The guards also joke about how they can glue back any vases you destroy, likely meant to be a out-of-character reference to the fact that the player is going to bust as many pots as possible!
One of the guards mentions that the princess would likely be able to help us obtain the frog, but he suggests that she would never want to speak with the likes of us. Still, we seem to have little choice, so we head to the second floor throne room and seek an audience with her, only to be accosted by her in battle!
The Princess of Neko Castle is an anthropomorphic cat as it turns out, but now the name of the Forest and the Castle makes sense. Neko is a play on the Japanese word for cat, so basically the forest and the castle were meant to be the “Forest/Castle of the Cat.”
Anyway…The Princess is no push-over. Her battle grid is filled with those fire slime enemies, so the best thing to do is to take them out early on so that they aren’t much of a problem. However, during each of her turns, the princess will cast a fire spell twice, either hitting one person two times or attacking two separate characters. The attack deals 35-45 damage per hit, so we definitely have to watch our health during this match. Getting close to her though is tricky because she will cast a confusion spell on any nearby enemies, wasting several of their turns if no one has a remedy spell to use on them. Thus, the best strategy seems to be to either use magic against her or to have a melee character attack her and then retreat at the end of their turn.
After several rounds of fighting (having cleverly used Meteo 2 in order to quickly dispatch of the slimes), the princess is defeated and seems more keen on talking to us.
As it turns out, the old feline was once the Princess of Atlantis. Having apparently been cursed by the Hilbade Tsunami, her and her court seem to have taken up residence here in Neko Forest, away from the rest of general society. She seems to have accepted her fate and wishes to remain in peace for now, and as an apology for the trouble she gave us by attacking us, she reveals a hidden staircase beneath her throne that leads to a marsh behind the castle where she says we can find the frog we are looking for.
Things like this are never that easy, of course, and upon reaching the plant we seek, we are attacked by an immense, evil looking flower!
Despite the upbeat and epic boss music that plays, the plant isn’t quite as scary as it looks. During each phase it has several different things it can do. Sometimes it will summon ice-themed slimes to attack the party, sometimes it will release spores that have a chance to put people to sleep, and other times it will release one of a couple different AOE attacks to harm the party. If everyone is of a sufficient level, though, none of these are too terribly dangerous, especially if someone (like Rain or Ponga) has a Remedy spell to use if things get tough.
The plant ends up being weak against ice-based attacks, and since I equipped Ponga with an Ice Boomerang, he ends up being the star of the show in this fight. The other characters join in for some melee and support, and within a few minutes the plant goes down, revealing the frog we were seeking all along.
Now all that’s left is to leave the forest and go back to Oceania, right?
If only it were that simple! We use one of the plants nearby to get blasted near the entrance, but as we try to leave we are attacked by Hel and her minions once again!
While you might think that Hel would be the dangerous part of this fight, as far as I could tell here she had the same general stats as she did in our earlier fight. So, given that we have become quite a bit stronger since then, she isn’t a real threat to us. Instead, her two friends are the problem, but the best way to defeat them seems to be to simply have everyone focus on one of them at a time. They each have a few hundred HP to them and fairly reasonable attack levels, but after a few rounds they go down and then we focus on Hel. Aside from her annoying knock-back attack (which only affects one character anyway), she isn’t a problem and is quickly dispatched.
After her defeat, we are treated to a cutscene where we see her kneel before the Dark Lord and beg for his forgiveness. She says that she does not fear him because she feels that if he kills her, her death will simply mean her rebirth as one of his servants. He decides to spare her life and tells her to head to the Old World immediately, but at present we have no idea what this means.
Anyway, with everything seemingly finished here in Neko Forest, we return to Oceania.
~Back to PORT TOWN OF OCENIA~
A quick visit to the pharmacist at the inn produces the Hi-Potion, but the whale seems pretty stubborn and doesn’t want to take it. Exasperated for now, the party decides to spend the night at the inn, only to have Red woken up by the sound of the whale in pain. He goes to speak with the whale and tries to get it to take the potion, but the whale pretty much refuses. As Red is about to give up, the rest of his friends join in and Rain finally convinces the whale to take the potion. Apparently, as expected, the potion really helps him and, in his renewed vigor, he agrees to take us across the ocean to the northern continent.
So, after picking up a few final supplies from the shops in town, and selling off goods we can’t use anymore, we hop on and head out into the open sea!
The whale talks to us as we journey across the sea, explaining that the reason he can talk is because his grandfather’s grandfather fell into a rift in the open seas and, upon awakening, somehow had the ability to speak with humans. He claims to not know about this rift or what caused it, but he does say that he suspects that it is a mystery that our group may one day be able to solve. One cannot help but wonder if the whale was from a distant world and fell down to this one somehow, or if perhaps this rift sent him to a mystical place (which is what seems to be implied). So, apart from some random battles at sea, the journey continues until the whale gets tired. He suggests we make a pit stop at Carbuncle Island so that he can rest and we can stretch our legs.
Lucky for us, Carbuncle Island is a location that was marked on Red and Blue’s father’s map, so perhaps it was fate that they ended up here because the whale was tired. Carbuncle Island also seems to be the home to a miniature race of gnome-like people called…*drum roll*…The carbuncles, and apparently they have a rat infestation here. Rain, who can also speak with them, learns of this and we quickly dispatch some rats hiding in the clearing. As a reward, they offer to show us the secret entrance to the cave on the island, hidden beneath some thick bushes.
Unfortunately, though, the entrance is actually a hole in the ground and the party falls a great distance into the dark cavern. While Red and Blue end up landing together, Rain and Ponga fall below down into some unseen location.
With the party now split up like this, we must try to locate the others and hope to get out of here alive, but that, dear readers, will have to wait until next time!