Chapter 3 is deceptively important, and failing to do one simple, easily-missed thing can result in you being unable to recruit one of the better characters in chapter 9, and another character further down the line as a direct consequence of not having the chapter 9 character. Surely I wouldn’t mindlessly make that mistake and then save over it, forcing me to replay through the early chapters again to get back to the same point. Surely! Also, Ike is a little stronger than he used to be and Boyd is a little weaker, much like they would be if such a crazy thing happened and they both received slightly different stat gains. Even though that definitely didn’t happen.
Ike-dad gets mad about his son disobeying orders and issues punishment. Punishment that Ike will never actually receive since it’s set aside until things get slightly less crazy, and that won’t truly happen until the very end of Radiant Dawn. Still, it’s an interesting look into the culture of the mercenary group, and you can start to see over the course of both games how Ike starts to take after his dad. For now, there’s work to be done, so Titania grabs Shinon, Gatrie, and Ike and heads out.
This is the first chapter that gives us access to the preparation screen. This thing lets us scout enemies (mostly to look for recruitable NPCs and potential item drops), swap ally placements before the fight begins (not really helpful until later), save after all of the early chapter cutscenes (super convenient), and trade items among characters. That last one is absolutely crucial since we have no access to a convoy at the moment, so picking up a new item when we don’t have room will force us to drop something. This is especially wasteful when a nearby ally has plenty of room, so making sure that any characters you’re planning on finishing off enemies or visiting buildings with can pick up an item or two will save you later headaches.
Here we’re introduced to the idea of bonus damage. Basically, some units suffer bonus damage when attacked by other units, like beast units can be especially damaged by Beast Killer weapons. This at least doubles the damage inflicted (I think some games triple it), and the example shown is that flying units are weak to archers. That’s actually a helpful example that’ll be an immediate factor.
The mercenary group has been hired to deal with some pirates at a port.
Shinon doesn’t need experience, but will be useful for mopping up one or two enemies who need to go down quickly for reasons I’ll explain later. Same with Titania. Gatrie and Ike are the ones we’re trying to convince the pirates to attack, though we have to be careful since we don’t have a healer for this mission. There’s one building to visit here, so Titania heads over in that direction to start things off. Inside, she encounters a figure whose name we aren’t given. He gives her an elixir, which is an incredibly rare healing item that restores all HP, but only has 3 uses like a vulnerary. We’ll be trying to avoid using this thing for as long as we can.
And now, for a lesson on weapon types. A humble iron weapon has a high hit rate (and many uses before breaking), but does less damage to enemies.
Stronger weapons have a worse hit rate and fewer uses before breaking, but do more damage. Some of them also raise the user’s critical hit chance. This is where you really start to feel the effects of your skill stat—characters do more damage with a higher strength, but can reliably use stronger weapons when their skill is high. High strength and low skill characters are infuriating to have to deal with because of how often they miss in crucial moments, which isn’t what you want to happen when that attack is what’s separating a win from the death of a character.
This is why Gatrie is a good meat shield. His defense is absurd at this point in the game, and he receives enough experience to justify throwing him into the middle of the action. Even more so since we need to get rid of that archer on the left.
And this is the reason why we need to cleanse this stage of all archers. I don’t remember if they actually go after Marcia, but we need her alive, and flying units take bonus damage against archers. That means that we need to kill anyone who poses a risk to her, even if it means wasting experience on Shinon or Titania.
Of course, she’s not entirely helpless, and she’s bound to kill off 2-4 guys before you get to her, but the axe-using pirates can damage her quite a bit if they get to her.
Thankfully, these games have an “other” phase for units that aren’t enemies or controllable allies. We’ll see computer-controlled units doing lots of stuff when we start dealing with armies (there’s a ton of this in Radiant Dawn), but for now this phase mostly exists for Marcia to attack or heal herself with a vulnerary.
The goal here is to get Ike to her so that the two can talk. If you don’t, she doesn’t become recruitable in a later chapter, and neither does her no-good brother (who she came to the port looking for). This is one of the stranger recruitment requirements since you don’t realize that you’ve missed out on a character until much later, and simply killing the pirate boss to end the stage isn’t enough.
Once the two talk, she runs off and leaves the rest of the enemies to you. My Ike was run down a bit by this point, so I had to use one of his vulneraries to avoid getting killed by the boss. It was worth it, though, because both he and Gatrie leveled up quite a bit over the course of the stage. The boss drops a thief band (apparently because I started from the end of an existing playthrough and these bands only show up after beating the game once). These bands improve character growths, but we could easily accomplish the same end result by abusing bonus experience between chapters once that becomes a thing. I’ll get into all that later.
With all of the pirates dead (we only had to kill the boss pirate, but we’re not going to be wasteful about our slaughter), the villagers thank us and Shinon and Gatrie annoy Titania by talking about how they’re better than running off pirates in tiny port towns. They pretty much want money and fame and all of that jazz because they’re shallow, awful people, but Titania manages to talk them down for now.
Anyway, we now have the option to recruit Marcia when she shows up later. It just goes to show that you really need to check the menu to see if any conversations are available, because you never know when you’ll miss out on something big.