Shining in the Darkness: Progress Log #7

[Click here to start from the first progress log]

The Orb of Truth is mine, and lizard guy is going to be so jealous. I hope we run into each other again so that I can rub it in. The orb takes up yet another valuable inventory space, though, so I’m rapidly running out of room. The glowing grass stuff that drains MP has me worried enough to always carry an Angel Feather in case Pyra runs out of MP and can’t cast Egress to quickly escape from the Labyrinth, so I really only have 3-4 free slots. That’s not enough space to take everything in every chest I find, and leaving things behind really grates on my OCD.

People keep mentioning that the Orb of Truth helps see past false walls, and that the next trial’s entrance is behind a false wall to the north. Taking the hint, I head north (which requires the use of magic to figure out which direction that actually is) and stumble across a glowing wall. I certainly don’t remember it glowing before, so it seems like a safe bet that using the orb on this thing will produce results.

Ooooooookay. It turns out that it’s not a false wall so much as an alive and evil wall, and I have to brutally murder it in order to get past. Granted, I’ve murdered walls before in games like Final Fantasy 4, but here I can’t help but feel like the aggressor, especially considering how many delightful walls I’ve already met in this game. Its hands have mouths, though, and I don’t care to learn about the digestive system of the Labyrinth, so I murder it and cause it to collapse. Maybe I’ll get lucky and it’ll turn out to be a load-bearing wall. Destroying everything would definitely be a much easier way of getting into new areas than all these trials.

A bit beyond the dead wall, I find the stairs down to the Cave of Truth. Yet more identical wooden walls. Time to indulge our wall-hugging fetish!

The puddles are still dangerous, but the happy face enemy has been replaced by an angry seahorse, and this seahorse means business. It doesn’t end up killing anyone, but it hits everyone with magic and forces me to waste a bunch of MP healing my party back up afterwards. You know, I expected puzzles or something for the Cave of Truth. Instead, the titular truth appears to be that this is where the game has decided to start crushing JERK into goo. The seahorses aren’t even the only annoying enemy here! There are a bunch of baddies who can use magic, and while it doesn’t do a ton of damage, it really starts to add up after awhile. Even that’s nothing compared to the enemies who can put your entire party to sleep and/or paralyze everyone, though. Paralysis persists between battles, too. It wears off naturally after awhile (or can be removed using an item), but it’s still a huge inconvenience.

The Cave of Courage was easy if you ignore how no one ever told you that you needed the Orb of Truth to continue further into the game until you had already cleared it. The Cave of Truth, on the other hand, lives up to the “labyrinth” moniker. Not only are there Minotaur enemies, but it’s a maddening maze where walls can fall to block your progress, important items are hidden away, and everything is designed to turn you around. These blue things literally spin you around three times to the right before spitting you out. It’s worth pointing out that I’ve been playing this on PC (part of the Genesis/Mega Drive Classics pack I bought way back) and using Xpadder and custom Cheat Engine hotkey to save, make screenshots, and turn the speedhack feature on and off. Grinding through countless fights is only bearable at 3-5 times normal speed, and even menus are only bearable when sped up.

Being spun around against your will is incredibly disorienting when things are sped up, though, and while my wall-hugging tactics still kind of work, I’m also finding myself spending long periods wandering around with no idea where I am.

Oh, and sometimes there are chest ghosts. They do a ton of damage, and they even have an attack that can kill an ally outright. My party gets a little fourth-wall-y with the save states to avoid Milo (the only character with a resurrect spell) getting hit by it. As they say, all’s fair in love and war and surprise chest ghosts.

I eventually come across a giant red wall like the one from earlier. As it turns out, the Orb of Truth is the magical thing for noticing obvious other things that I was looking for all this time! As soon as I use it, a doorway appears and opens, but doesn’t actually lead to the exit. That seems kind of pointless since I needed the orb to get in here in the first place, but sure. One random door down!

A bit farther on, someone pretending to be the princess is locked up. Putting aside the fact that this is the middle of the game and story structure of the time wouldn’t allow her to be rescued before the end of the game, we’re in the Cave of Truth. This being a trick couldn’t be spelled out any clearer. Plus I’m like 80% positive that the real princess is inside of a crab’s stomach right now. The obviously fake princess tells me to rescue her by finding a False Idol item and putting it in a conveniently-placed wall relief, but that sounds like a lot of work to be taken advantage of, so I ignore her like a proper gentleman and continue on my merry way. Bards will one day sing the story of JERK heroically leaving a maybe-princess to starve to death.

See? I passed the trial and it didn’t require letting someone take advantage of my kindness. This is an example of good game des—

OH FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY.

I’m promptly told that I need the “Rune Key” to get to the next trial, and that it’s hidden away in the Cave of Truth. No one has brought up this key’s existence before this point, so I didn’t even know to look for it. I’m betting that I have to go save that fake princess to get the key, though, and that means running through that stupid maze for another hour looking for the stupid False Idol. Stupid stupid stupid.

Yep. This went about as awfully as expected. The MP-draining grass and random enemies can eat a bag of dicks. And feral cats. A bag of dick-eating feral cats.

The princess was a fake! Who could have ever seen this totally unexpected outcome coming? Anyway, his days of being a dainty princess have obviously weakened him, because I promptly curb-stomp princess dude and steal the Rune Key.

I check back in with the castle people and Eyebrows questions my intelligence. That’s rich coming from the guy so senile that he keeps forgetting to tell me what I actually need to grab until I’ve already left each cave. And let’s not forget that he signed off on that whole “give the hero 200 gold even though the competent equipment costs well over 10 times that” thing. The king may be the lead dummy here, but Eyebrows is unquestionably complicit in his buffoonery.

[Click here to go to Shining in the Darkness log #6]
[Click here to go to Shining in the Darkness log #8]

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