Released on November 15, 2005, The Darkest Faerie was released to satisfy the lack of Zelda clones in the market. The game is based on the popular virtual pet site, Neopets, and the characters are anthropomorphic versions of the Neopets. As Tormund "Tor" Ellis, you set out to break the Dark Faerie's evil magic to restore texture in the vast, empty land, repair the inconsistent framerate, and even cure the inhabitants of Neopia.
Best time: single-segment 4:25 by Alex 'AquaTiger' Nichols on 2007-10-18.
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Ah, Neopets. I have some fond memories of it, mainly because I've been to that place three separate times already. The first was when a friend of mine convinced me to join up - there wasn't really much to do at the time. The second was when they finally unveiled the Battledome, something they'd been working on a long time. I have the best memories of this second visit, as this was my longest stay there. I also frequented a Neopets forum - Neopetropolis, I think it was called - and some really strange discussions occurred (one concerning the frequency of food-related Battledome items). We even had our own Neopets fantasy football league (I believe my team in that fantasy league, the Sunfire Scorchios, made it to the final match of the playoffs). The third time I went there was because some people on a roleplaying forum I used to visit a lot before I found SDA started frequenting the site. After that third time, I never went back. It's been at least two years since I've spent huge amounts of time with Neopets.... maybe three years by now. (These do not count the numerous times I visited recently to get information I needed to write this commentary, as the information gathering did not involve me actually logging in.)
Enough reminiscing though - let's go back to the game. I would claim this game's something of a 'kiddy Zelda', except that's saying too much for it. It's more open-ended than Zelda in the sense that main quests don't need to follow an exact order - there's some leeway. You just need them all done to progress past a certain point. I would also say the game's balance of programming is very different than a Zelda game - there's fewer glitches that can be abused for speedruns, but there's a few worse glitches that can frustrate even a casual gamer. While on the subject of runs, I submitted one speedrun in March 2006 and it took 15 months for it to find verifiers. But two weeks before it did, I began to have misgivings about my old run, after having read prinisse's guide on GameFAQs. So after the run found verifiers, I decided I'd cancel the old run and try again.
I decided to stick with a single-segment run, because the game isn't very difficult except for a couple of things at the end. (If you doubt me saying the game's easy, note that it took me only three tries to complete the original run and just two tries for this version - I'll note where the failed runs ended in my comments.) Then again, I'm a bit of a veteran gamer who's been playing video games ever since I could walk (and maybe for a short time before I could walk). This game was not really designed for veteran gamers - it was designed for kids, and it shows. Stuff that's important tends to be highlighted in a different color, the battle system is so simplistic that it got bad reviews for combat limitations, and falling into deep water doesn't always mean a "Game Over" until later areas. Don't forget, there's no foul language here either (I will do my best with this in my commentary). There's some things in this game that games designed for veteran gamers should have more often, though - real-time menus for healing and mote switching (I can name maybe four other games that have real-time menus at all), animals that can be persuaded to follow you and boost stats while they do so, and a very low amount of 'railroading' (railroading just means the game forces you to do something a very specific way and prevents any other solution, through logic-defying means). Finally, after the experiences of some of the other games on my speedrun list, particularly the Mortal Kombat games, a kid-oriented game is the closest chance I have at redemption.
For the rest of this, I'm going to give a complete detail of my run and why I did what I did, including explanations of anything specific to the Neopets world that I am capable of explaining (I may have been away from it for two years, but I still remember it well enough to explain it when needed). For younger viewers (I know there's going to be at least a few people in single-digit years here), if you have problems understanding a word and I didn't explain it, feel free to get your parents or an older sibling to help you out. (If they try to scold you for visiting a site they don't approve of, I can't help you there because I don't entirely control what goes on the rest of the site as a whole, and for all the violent games that have had speedruns done on them, SDA is still much cleaner than the sites people should be blocking.) For my more literate viewers, yes, I am aware some of my grammar isn't perfect. There's a few grammar rules about which I was never seriously taught until the year I graduated from high school (to put that in perspective, I graduated from college around half a year ago), and using those grammar rules is very awkward for me. With other grammar issues, it's somewhat close to how I actually speak. I was originally going to provide an audio commentary for this run, but my voice just isn't that capable (the farthest I could ever handle was to the end of the first act, and even with a lot of dead time my throat actually started hurting at that point).
Last notes before you watch:
Some quick links, in case you want to skip to a specific part of the commentary:
Act 1 Part 1: The Dreams of a Farm Boy
Act 1 Part 2: The Trials of a Squire...
Act 1 Part 3: ...and Tribulations of a Knight
Act 2 Part 1: The Emissary to Faerieland
Act 2 Part 2: Escaping Chaos
Act 3 Part 1: Prepare for Trouble
Act 3 Part 2: Saving the Villages
Act 3 Part 3: Like Wolves and Dogs
Act 3 Part 4: Underneath the Rotting Castle
Act 3 Part 5: Return to Faerieland
Act 4 Part 1: The Legend Will Never Die
Act 4 Part 2: Simple Tasks
Act 4 Part 3: The Six Bindings
Act 4 Part 4: Ending the World's Nightmare
"There are legends that dwell within the hidden places of Neopia. Some are of the light. But others...... others are of the darkest kind."
This part you don't even see hints of in the video, but it's the part before the game's main menu. This is how we, the gamers, find out that the Darkest Faerie is released from her sealing at the bottom of an ocean. And what previously was sealing her.
Then we hit the title screen and main menu. Before starting the game I max out the sound. I don't know why, honestly - I just do. Consider it an identifying mark.
Allow me to introduce the first of the two heroes of this story, Tormund Ellis. He's a Lupe (essentially wolves, but certainly more appreciable) who has dreams of becoming a Knight of Meridell. We first get a hint of this in the opening cinematic, where he and his little sister are kind of imitating a fight that was probably part of a story their parents told them - Tormund plays the part of a Defender of Meridell, and his sister, Lucy, plays the role of a villain named Darigan. (I'm actually not familiar with this part of Neopets history, but according to some research I did on this matter, Darigan was after an orb stolen from his kingdom, went insane after recovering it when his army defeated Meridell's defenders, and his spectre was then defeated by many Neopians from both sides working together.) This is all while several children from the local farming village watch. Once the fight concludes, the children - Peter, a Scorchio, Luke, a Gelert, and Claire, an Aisha - ask if Tormund really is going to be a knight. While answering, Tormund (abbreviated "Tor" from here on in) leans against a fence, causing it to open and letting his sister's Whinnies (very small horses that, as far as I can tell, are kept by Neopians mainly as their own pets) run loose. Before Tor can get the children to help, they bolt (as most children probably would in such a situation), leaving Tor to herd the Whinnies back into their pen.
And thus begins our roughly four-and-a-half-hour epic. I believe timing starts right when Lucy starts speaking.
The first part of the game is a basic movement tutorial. Herding the Whinnies back into their pen is actually a challenge, because the positioning needs to be fairly precise to actually get them into the pen. Oftentimes the Whinnies just REFUSE to cooperate. I probably take quite a bit more time than absolutely necessary to do this task. As soon as I finish, Tormund's mother, Patricia, calls for him. Believing that you're in big trouble for the Whinny incident, Lucy tells you to go talk to her.
Turns out she just needs a bucket of water for her gardening. Normally you're supposed to talk to her first, but I think it was on this attempt that I decided to try going right for the bucket. I believe you're supposed to walk all the way around the wall to reach the water pump from here, since the game hasn't taught you anything on jumping yet, but in all my playing I have simply jumped up the wall and went straight for the pump.
Then of course, the pump breaks. We'll get back to that in a second, but I just make a beeline for Patricia. I'm surprised none of the water spills when Tor rolls from the jump. I'll also get back to that rolling later as well. Once Tor delivers the water to Patricia, she sends him to go look for his father, Hubert - with a slightly humorous line: "...tell him he'd better fix it for good this time or he's sleeping in the barn again." So this pump's broken a lot before? Can't the Ellis family do something about it? Another jump later and we find Hubert in the barn, probably busy putting something together. When we relay the news he says he left his pliers on the roof, near the weathervane. How long, exactly, have those things been up there? They might have rusted by now for all I know.
I think now might be a good time to discuss some pushing tricks used in this run. When pushing or pulling in a certain direction, you can pull in directions adjacent to that one faster than you can push back in the same direction, if you time it right. For instance, if you pull a block to the left, you can push it forward or pull it backward faster than you can push it left again (or right again, but why?). I occasionally botch this, but minimal time lost at best. Anyway, I assure you I could not push that block any less and still get to the ladder. And you have to jump manually from the box - you can't just walk into this particular ladder (you can with most of them, but this one's base is off the ground), and you will walk off the box if you go off the edge, rather than automatically jumping like a lot of other ledges allow. Too bad the game doesn't tell you this explicitly - as obvious as this sequence appears, this has to have frustrated at least one newbie gamer.
As far as climbing, you can climb ladders faster by jumping repeatedly, to a point. The last one or two rungs of a ladder must be climbed manually. Anyway, walk outside, get a tutorial on jumping across gaps, up another ladder and across the roof.... what do we have here? Pliers! Right next to the weathervane like he said. Now, I believe you're supposed to climb down. But Tor, for whatever reason, can fall from any height without being hurt. If he falls any appreciable distance (I think it's farther than his own height that I'm talking), he rolls, just like jumping down from that wall earlier. I warn you kids out there - do NOT, under any circumstances, try this at home.
We deliver the pliers to Hubert and find that he has a special job for us. At this point, we can explore the farm a bit (probably could have earlier, but I haven't bothered to test it) if we want, before we go talk to Hubert. While I don't bother with the exploration, I will take notes on it. There's some creatures in the back of the property past one cornfield, but we don't have a weapon so we can't do anything about them. (This one we'll get back to later.) In another cornfield there's a wrecked tower of some sort and a hole - a hole I just discovered when playing through again to write this commentary. At the bottom of the hole is a chest that had 200 Neopoints (the game's currency, which can be abbreviated as NP) last time I checked it. From here I'll only note treasure contents if they are certain, but in some cases I'll say what I've gotten from them in the past. By the last cornfield, there's a shed with a chest, and that chest has always had 103 Neopoints when I've checked it.
Anyway, back to the story. We have another cinematic, in which Hubert tells Tor to deliver a package to Meridell (rather than to Farmer Addison, as Tor thought - Tor's complaining is what cues Hubert to tell him that the package is for Meridell) and gives Tor the key to a chest with a sword he had when he was younger. He tries to instruct Tor on the responsibility pertaining to that sword, but Tor seems to know already (he's read up on knights), so Hubert explains a bit more about chivalry. With that done, we go upstairs only to find that the weapon Hubert was talking about was just a wooden sword. Whatever, we can still use it for self-defense. Let me go over a few aspects of sword fighting now. You have a basic three-hit combo, a repeated stabbing attack, a lunge attack (which, as far as I know, I never use in this run), a spin attack, a charge-up attack (to unleash magic mote power) and a drop slash. The drop slash is useful outside of combat because Tor drops fastest using this rather than just jumping. We technically don't learn about the three-hit combo or spin attack until Meridell, but the former's stronger than just repeated stabbing.
Now before I pick up the package, I examine the fireplace and pick up our first mote - a fire mote. It's at that point that we pick up the package and head out, with some parently advice sent our way. We run onward to find our first save point. Even though the game tells us about these, know that I do not use a single one in this run. They can occasionally be useful as landmarks, however. Just before getting to the next bit I equip the fire mote to my weapon, something that I think you're not really supposed to know how to do just yet, but it saves time. We then get our first taste of combat when we encounter a beggar being accosted by three bandits. I'm not sure at all what Neopets species the bandit with the big face (Sid) is supposed to be, but I suspect that the other two (Drub and Darrick) are Kougra (tiger cubs, essentially), based on the physical features we can see and how Darrick walks. I'll talk about the beggar in a moment, but I'm not sure whether driving the bandits off relies on the number of hits dealt to them or the damage dealt. I believe it's the damage dealt, though, hence me equipping a mote first.
Another cinematic. The beggar, a Techo (walking geckos, essentially - Techos are the extroverted type, put quite simply) by the name of Kell (really Kelland), thanks Tor, and gives him an amulet. Tor tries to refuse, and attempts to use knight principles as an excuse, but Kell interrupts him by claiming a true knight "knows when to accept an honest gift". He also tells Tor never to take it off. We'll worry about this amulet later, but despite Tor having it, it never shows up on his character graphic in-game, nor in the menu. I could understand in an RPG with very small character graphics why this would be the case, but I don't think there's much excuse in this game for that kind of thing.
After the cinematic we have a cutscene of sorts where Kell discusses equipping motes. He even hands us a light mote to test it out. Where he goes after that, I have no idea. The game explains the menu quickly and then we can do some stuff for the others in the area.
Here we pass by Prince Tourin, a pitiful green Gelert (they're the equivalent of dogs in the world of Neopets - I believe they're supposed to be most similar to the greyhound breeds of dog. Regardless, as far as I know, Aishas and Gelerts have real problems coexisting) whose ride has broken down. There's four sidequests involving him, and the first one is to retrieve his golden rose from bandits that have taken it from him. Prince Tourin is actually pretty modest and calm compared to what I think of when I hear the term 'royalty' (or 'celebrities', which add up to pretty much the same thing in the modern day). A little too lovestruck for my liking, though. In the previous run I actually did the first three Prince Tourin sidequests, because I believed I needed the Neopoints and Red Negg (I'll explain what these do when I actually get one), and all of his sidequests save for the last one are fairly slight detours. I believe it was the planning stage of this updated version that I finally decided this quest series was just not worth the time - I found I did not need the Red Negg, so even detouring for this first part became unimportant.
Unfortunately for me, the bridge to Meridell is in severe disrepair. Thankfully the bridge fixer (who happens to be a Skeith - Skeiths are normally, as far as I can remember, quite lazy, but quite strong) gave me a way across. Now, there's some actual climbing that can occur beneath the bridge, but it's just an isolated mote. Speaking of motes, you might wonder why I jumped into the Leaf Mote near Meridell. Quite simply, I kept encountering issues where if I walked into it, the game would take a long time - a good fifteen to twenty seconds - to load the text for the acquisition of the first Leaf Mote. It only happens with this item and no others. I found that jumping into it skips this text altogether, saving me some loading time.
Finally, after all that, we're in Meridell. I'll explain things that can be done here in a moment, but first, I have an encounter with two Meercas. Two thieving Meercas. Now, Meercas are, as far as I know, the fastest Neopet species out there. And they get around this fast on their tails. This I don't quite get, but I have no time to contemplate this as they steal the package I was supposed to deliver! I follow them across the city until they lure me into an alleyway, where we have a cinematic where a bunch of bandits try to ambush Tor. Tor starts approaching them but a very old Lupe knight enters the scene and scares them off. As for the package, Tor throws his sword (how often do you see such a thing in a game? Yes, I know it has been done before, but still not very often) and knocks it out of the hands of the Meercas. The old Lupe, whose name I'm not telling now for various reasons, commends Tor's bravery and says he'll make a fine knight. Finally, some encouragement!
Now with that cleared, there's a lot that can be done in Meridell. There are six shops where I can spend my money on various items (with a patch of golden grass near one of them - also, exactly half the shopkeepers have sidequests associated with them), a shadow Kacheek (the best I can describe them is kind of like a really weary, short fox - except the face is a bit more humanlike) that sells maps, a wheel-based minigame called the Wheel of Chance where I can wager Neopoints and earn even more, and an arena where I can fight to earn massive amounts of money. Let's focus on that last one....
Now, you might wonder why I jump into the water here. Quite simply, in order to prevent new gamers from being frustrated by frequent Game Overs when falling into water, a system was implemented in this game where if you fell into most bodies of water, you'd get deposited somewhere else. On some occasions you can go to the next place you need to be much sooner. So this is actually faster. I checked with Mike on this and he tells me that it is neither death abuse (since I'm not actually dying) nor mysterious warping (since this isn't a glitch). In any case, jumping into Meridell's moat spits me out right in front of the Arena.
Fight rewards are as follows:
First off, that Shadow Kacheek (whose name is Rory, by the way). I spent quite a bit of time plotting out which maps had the most usefulness (reward-to-effort ratio, roughly speaking) and the second map available from this guy was one of them. The next person I visit, the Skeith (Gamon) that runs the oddities shop, owns another map I considered viable. I also talk to him to enable a quest that gets me some money later - I'll detail this when I get there. Finally, I go drop off the package, which has probably dried off from my dip in the water earlier. I believe you're supposed to do this before you get the shield, and then the Techo here behind the counter tells you that you need one. I skip this bit because I already got the shield.
We're instructed to get a knight to sign sponsorship papers. What you're supposed to do is go to the tavern first to talk with this knight, but I go and climb the scaffolding nearby first since I believe this flows better. And it saves minuscule amounts of time because Tor's "get item" monologues are one box shorter. You might notice that I pass by some other dragons with large ears. Those are Draiks, a Neopet species I'm not actually very familiar with. Anyway, once on the scaffold I make the needed jumps (jumping is slightly slower than running without any effects, but it sure beats walking the balance beam here) and slide down the rope, finding three of four pieces in the process. I then need to talk to the knight to be able to get the fourth piece, so I visit the tavern.
Our knight in question is a blue Grarrl who's been having a very bad day. His name's Torakar (we'll just call him Torak though) and he is important to the story. So was Kelland earlier, but I'll explain why when we get there. Anyway, Torak's sword got shattered and there apparently wasn't enough to reforge it. So we can't get him to help us yet. You're supposed to talk to other people, such as the Draiks in front of the castle gate, after this to find out that Torak was apprehending a criminal (who stole money from the Wheel of Chance) when the sword broke (he hit it against a wall, so either Torak's super-strong, or the sword is made from something like 440 stainless steel), but I just head to where they sent the criminal - the Meridell Recruitment Center. Speaking with the criminal and paying him off (it's a mere 100 NP) gets us the fourth piece of the sword, so we can now reforge it.
Heading to the smithy (and preparing my equipment for Shadowglen on the way), I tell him of the situation and find that Torak's sword can be reforged for free. Before I do that, I make a purchase of my own, buying a Squire Sword to replace the wooden one. In previous runs I believe I skipped this opportunity, but this time, the Squire Sword is my weapon of choice until the Battle Blade becomes available. Anyway, after buying the Squire Sword, I have Torak's sword repaired (in what feels like an instant despite the fact that repairing a sword likely takes quite a while - this is another reason why I claimed the sword's really made from 440 stainless steel, as I imagine it'd take a pretty cheap sword to get repaired this fast) and head back to the tavern. At which point I exchange the sword for getting my sponsorship papers signed.
Of course, when I get back to the Recruitment Center I find that it's not that easy. We still need one more thing - parental permission. So (after accidentally talking to the guy twice) I have to rush back home. The only thing I'll note of this is that as far as I know, you cannot do the farmer's quests at this point in time. When we get home, we stumble upon a cinematic, where we find that little Lucy went into that most creepy of places, Shadowglen Forest. And when she was supposed to be picking Juppies for dinner, too. (This is gonna be important later, trust me.) Since they're so focused on little Lucy, there's nothing to do but head to Shadowglen. Nothing to note until we pass by Prince Tourin again. You might have seen me run by a little dog-fox hybrid creature. That is the Doglefox petpet, and it boosts attack power. In all runs prior to the two attempts on the new version of the run, I fed this one. The attempt before this one, I'd forgotten to feed him, then noticed there wasn't much difference in time lost. So I skip him this time.
Now, Shadowglen proper. One sidequest's important item is here. In addition, there is a place where you can get Ergyfruits (little glowing berries that are the third-level magic restoration item) and also a Nova Mote (which counts as all elements but gets drained faster than the specific motes, making it a no-go on my part most of the time, but a no-go on enemies when I do decide to use it). I skip the Ergyfruit location and the Nova Mote (which is located near the treasure cited on the map from Farmer Addison's sidequest), however, because these are too far off the path. I start by going to the left and taking care of the enemies at the base of the ledge. If you are attacked, your character automatically draws their weapon. Also, if you are hanging on to or climbing upon a ledge when struck, you will automatically fall off. So I'm spending a little time to prevent myself from losing a lot of time. Then I head up and around, down the watery side of the platform, and finally grab a pungent Arbendus flower, which is needed for a sidequest in Meridell. Then (with a little difficulty) back onto the main path, up one rope bridge and down another (grabbing a Fog Mote, which is air-element and important for this boss). Now, I suffer my first really notable mistake here. When trying to get some healing items (I went for Chokatos due to them being better than Juppies), I get grabbed and spit out twice by the plant monster. Combined it costs about ten seconds. At least I did manage to secure three Chokatos from here. From here, I just keep going up and across the forest, suffering a near-miss on the makeshift bridge, and snagging a Bubble Mote (weak water mote) before reaching the boss.
What do we have here? Lucy is tangled up in vines. And a monster with a Juppie for a head emerges out of the marsh. Yeah, Lucy would really have been in for it if I had not shown up. Now, before I cover the details of my first boss fight in the game, there is apparently a glitch in this game that causes bosses to leave the area and make further progress impossible. If I've ever been victimized by this "boss coward" glitch, it's been during normal play. Not once during a run have I had this occur to me. So now, after an instance of in-game clipping silliness (watch the boss fight's intro to see what I mean), onto actual boss strategy. This version of the fight is easy. I have to attack the tentacles that he uses to attack me first. With the Squire Sword and a Fog Mote (this boss is earth element, so air deals extra damage), the tentacles drop very fast - most of them in just one hit. Any time a tentacle falls, one of the larger Juppies on the roof of the room drops to the ground. The next part of the fight is a little random. His only attack in this version of the fight at this point is slamming onto you. While he stays down long enough to be struck anyway, you can only damage him (well, okay, I presume this is a guy. It's not like you can tell obviously) if you lure him so that he slams down on one of the large Juppies. My goal during the first two rounds is to maximize damage dealt, so that in the third round I can finish him off on one pass. As it turns out, I finish him off in one blow in the third round. So Lucy's safe and.... what? There's a secret tunnel to get to home from here? Let's take it! (You need to return home anyway, and this is the only way you can go.)
We come out at the path that had monsters before. Perched atop is a strange plant that, at initial glance, looks like lettuce to me. But when we cut this, we find out that the plant harbors a Red Negg! Red Neggs are like Zelda's heart containers - they increase your maximum health. There's quite a few out there. Also, below us is a patch of golden grass - except that it's not necessary in our case. With nothing else to do, I enter the house, where we get a cinematic of Lucy recounting Tor's fight with the Juppie monster. His parents are overjoyed, but Tor tells them his plans of becoming a squire. Hubert signs the permission slip and now we can head back to Meridell. But before we leave I snag another fire mote. Nothing else to say about this trip really, except that I unequip my motes to save them for later.Part 2: The Trials of a Squire...
Once we reach the Meridell recruitment center, I give the permission slip to the Techo and, along with discussion on persistence being important for squires, immediately get a new set of armor. Despite it being referred to as plate mail by a lot of people, I insist that this is actually chain mail that's just atrociously rendered (since I believe only proper knights would have enough wealth and reason to use full plate mail - squires in medieval times would have worn something lighter and cheaper for blacksmiths to make, like chain mail, and I don't even think most local militias could have afforded metal armor at all). Since no cinematic in the game shows Tor in this armor (all cinematics have the characters carrying the most likely equipment for the area, usually the strongest available), we have no hope of seeing what it really is. In general, the graphics in this game are pretty low-quality - though for the most part they serve the setting sufficiently. It's not like the target audience cares much for exceptional graphics anyway (well, at least I don't think they do.....). Personally, I think Tor's armor for this part is a bit too weak in the graphics department. But I'll tell you right now, get used to seeing this poor rendering, because I do not get a better set of armor for Tor for about half the game.
Anyway, right off to the castle, where we meet Torak again. His plate mail glistening in the light, he gets to know us and then gives a lecture on how Tor is to act as a squire. Then he orders us to get some sleep, claiming we won't get sound sleep again for a while. Well, at least he has the respect to let us get accustomed to the place.... Anyway, as soon as I sleep we get a cinematic. The Darkest Faerie emerges from the water onto a beach, complaining the world is too nice and bright and planning on fixing that issue.
In the morning we get awakened by another squire, a green Lupe by the name of Grayson. We need to go pay Torak a visit, and the fastest way to get there, which I did not take in my original run for some unexplained reason, is through the door in the barracks. Torak's first lesson to us is the three-slash combo, a technique I've been using quite a bit in the run already, but you're supposed to formally learn about it here. So this lesson is easy. Afterwards we need to find the cleaning lady and follow her orders, but first, a detour. Remember the map we got from Gamon? Its treasure location is here in the castle's courtyard, and is worth a little less than 800 NP. Then it's off to find the cleaning lady, Faun (yeah, just like Kelland and Torakar, she's important). She loves Miamice (another petpet type, basically walking mice with big ears), but the castle can't stand them so she needs the skittish little critters captured. Gently. This particular Miamouse sequence is very irritating (because their hearing ranges are huge compared to how close you need to get to them) and can make me lose a lot of time. The worst that can happen is that they all gather around Faun, making it impossible to catch them, since the Square button counts for sneaking, grabbing, and talking. Truth be told, I think it went awesomely this time around. Now, back to Torak for our second lesson.
Remember the spin attack? Zelda fanatics especially will know this trick. Anyway, my goal is to hit all three dummies in the same attack. Another easy task. But what's this? Torak's giving us another chore, and this time it's.... clog duty. He seems to get some sort of twisted pleasure out of assigning new squires this duty. Well, nothing to do but go to the guy he's talking about and ask about said duty. Turns out the sewers beneath the castle get clogged a lot (I mean, when I was capturing Miamice, Grayson was stuck with clog duty), so I need to bust up five clogs. I will mainly let this speak for itself, except for the fact that the chest I needed the water element to unlock tends to have random contents. In this attempt, it had a Potion of Power, which is perhaps one of the best results I could ask for. There's also a chest that has always had a Potion of Revival. I got it in the majority of my attempts but finally decided to do away with it because I felt it was unnecessary.
Now, for the real reason I got Fire Motes earlier. Normally, you need to walk over to the barrels and grab the Fire Mote there, then assign it to your sword. But by equipping the motes to your sword before getting there, you trigger the needed dialogues already. This particular mote lesson is also one of the few times I use the charged attack in this run. (The others are required too.) After this, on to the castle's second floor to meet with Lazlo, the King's Chamberlain, who tells of a Crokabek problem in the courtyard. For whatever reason, I can never pull this part off without at least one problem. Thankfully the two miscues I suffer are fairly minor - the first Crokabek knocking me down, and the troubles with the scaffolding where the third one resides.
Anyway, after that ordeal, a new sidequest opens up. Though I skip it, here's the gist of that quest. Lady Prunella has put two knights to the test: whichever of the two, Lawrence (a red Techo) or Cadmere (a yellow Scorchio), finds her charm wins her love. You can actually find the charm and give it to one of the two knights and get a Silver Negg out of the deal. Anyway, on to more important matters. I meet with Torak again and he shows us how to use mote-enhanced shields to reflect attacks. This is crucial in a couple of places, but only late in the game. After finishing this we're allowed to go to bed again..... only to be woken up by good old Grayson, who claims Torak called upon you for a mission.
Turns out the king assigned us on a mission to save Cogham from Ixi raiders. (For reference, these Ixi raiders are not the delicate type that the Neopets site describes the Ixi as - these are tough, brutal guys who look to me like what might happen if you replaced the 'horse' part of a centaur with a deer.) By 'us', I mean myself and another of the knights, a green Grarrl by the name of Sir Harlag. When we find Sir Harlag (although you can't completely tell by the graphics of his character, he's stuffing his face full with food. This is a more extreme graphical faux pas in the game), we learn that he refuses to head out to Cogham until he's done eating. Insulted, I head out there myself (talking to the old knight near the front door is your normal cue for this, but it's not a mandatory cue), using the fastest route available (and thereby skipping out on a chance to harvest Drackonack fangs and turn them in for NP).
Besides the Drackonack thing I mentioned, there's a few other things to do in the ridge. There's an abandoned mine where I used to go on previous attempts to find a Nova mote. There's a mote shop that sells the better motes and, if you collect all twelve normal types and tell this shopkeeper, you can buy Nova motes for 400 NP. There's also a couple of treasures - one of Rory's maps that I got points out a buried Kauvara's Potion (best health restorer). Lastly, there's a small group of Poison Spyders that give the venom needed for Gamon's sidequest.
When I finally reach Cogham, I find that the village is already being attacked by a number of Ixi, and I need to take care of them first. Actually, most of them don't seem to care unless the Ixi are chasing them specifically. The fights with these Ixi go decently but not exceptionally. Once we beat the seven here, the mayor comes out and is shocked that only a squire showed up. He also says that until either the Ixi leader or Cogham's residents are beaten, the attacks will not stop. Since I need Cogham later (and this is still a story quest anyway), I go into the steppes to take out the leader. (I used to buy the sword and shield available in Cogham in previous attempts but I decided in the most recent planning that I needed the money elsewhere.)
On my way through, I snag a strange-looking pod. Somehow, even without talking to the right person, Tor knows this one's for Elspeth in Cogham. Anyway, I then keep going, dodging attacks as best as possible. I jump when they attack because otherwise, if you are struck, your momentum stops. If you're jumping you keep going forward. In fact, I even think you get a short speed boost when you land after being attacked in midair. Once I cross about the fifth bridge I head down for a reason I'll explain in a moment. But first, I need to point out that around this area I get victimized by a glitch that I'm going to call the "mute glitch". At some point in this area around the cave, the music and ambient sounds (including fanfares) go quiet, but Tor's sounds are still clearly audible. In all of my playing, I believe this has never happened to me anywhere (well, not before - when playing through again to write this, I had it happen again), so the lack of music and sound frustrates me. I tried several ways on the fly to fix it, but to no avail. I hope my verifiers will understand this.
Anyway, about that cave. It's really the location of an item needed in a much later sidequest (it's gotten by breaking the white crystal I pass by), but I go in here for some other goodies - mainly the Supernova Mote up top. I need a couple of these for the final boss so I chose to get this one. I'm not sure if it was the wisest one to pick, but what's done is done. Anyway, I then leave the cave and continue my ascent. Not really much to say until I turn on the water-powered lift. Here's the second instance of me abusing the water to my advantage. I fall in and get deposited on the side opposite the lever, where it's a short walk to the lift. For whatever reason, the lift is hard to get onto immediately. At the top, there's another petpet, a Noil (hint: spell 'noil' backwards). It grants health regeneration, but I don't need that so I skip it. Next notable thing is the mine cart - I need to unblock it to make it break the door open (normally with somewhat badly-synched sounds, but the mute glitch is still in effect). As for the final climb before the boss, I found later that you don't need to jump to the ledge with the Sun Mote, but this is the first one I've easily been able to get in this run so I'm not sure there's enough difference.
Anyway, the boss. Actually, you first have to fight the boss's minions, who make tons of excuses before being ordered into battle. These guys are easy, so I'll just cover the boss himself. The first half is one-on-one, but the second half has his archers shooting at you. Frankly, if I were to do this again, I'd have actually used the Fyora's Potion (best magic restorer) that I'd gotten in the cave right here. I believe my lack of magic made my motes useless, but they still drained mote power. Fight's still okay, though. Afterwards I grab the eyepatch, which lets you finish this quest when you get back to Cogham. I was lucky to get money from the close-by chest, and then I leave with the third instance of water-warping. I have to go down this far because otherwise it will put you back by the boss fight. And I believe some of it's actually a Game Over trigger, too.
Now, back in Cogham, I get greeted by a young Techo, who leads me back into the village to see everyone gathered around. I show the mayor the eyepatch and earn a Red Negg, then immediately go to Elspeth and hand her the strange pod for a third Red Negg. From here on out, I do not collect any other Red Neggs, nor any Starry or Golden Neggs. I don't need them. Outside of Cogham I use the fourth instance of water-warping - jumping into the water to the side of Cogham's bridge (there's enough invisible wall that I can't just jump over the bridge - undoubtedly to prevent young gamers from accidentally doing it) spits you out near the Mote shop. With that done, back into Meridell I go, and I also enter the castle.Part 3: ...and Tribulations of a Knight
What? I have an audience with King Skarl? To the throne room, then. We have basically three cinematics in a row now (which for whatever reason fixes our audio woes even though I skipped them. See, cinematics do have a use for us speedrunners after all!). First, Tor gets knighted - he is now Sir Tormund Ellis of Meridell.... at least I think that's his full name and title now. Whatever, the point is he's met his childhood dream now. But before we can leave, a messenger from Illusen's Glade shows up, telling us that Illusen herself is in trouble. The attacker? The Werelupe King. Normally Illusen would trounce him, so the king sends our messenger to the dungeon, but the messenger pleads with him, saying dark clouds are gathering over the glade and Illusen hasn't been herself. This changes the king's mind, since Illusen isn't known for dark clouds, so he sends the knights of Meridell. But Tor isn't allowed to go because "that's enough heroics for one day", according to Torak (this is another of those optional quest cues, so you don't get to see this conversation). So time to head to bed, where we get our third cinematic, which just shows the Darkest Faerie laughing, really. Must be Tor's nightmare or something. Regardless, once we wake up we learn that the knights haven't returned. Furthermore, the old knight from before shows up again, telling us that the knights are actually in grave danger. He knows a little too much about what's going on......
But before I go rushing headlong into danger I have some errands to finish. After the incidents in Illusen's Glade, you cannot complete the Act 1 quests any longer, so I have to deliver the venom vials and flower now. That being done, I reveal the reason I needed to save all this money - I buy six Potions of Meerca Speed. (By the way, I need to note that my usage of these was based on getting the most time spent constantly running, where the potion can do its thing. I will not cover this concept again in this commentary.) Why only six? I need to save money for the Battle Blade, and I have a reliable thousand NP coming in which, with the money I saved up here, will be enough. I head out for Illusen's Glade using another water warp to get out of Meridell faster.
Things look quite normal when I get there - no huge dark clouds, nothing. (By the way, the shop I pass is a Negg shop.) But that changes when I get further in, as we see Werelupes here. Normally it's in your best interest to get enemies out of the way, since these guys will give chase and interrupt at the worst times (however, these are not the worst enemies for it). But since this is a speedrun, I ignore them and head onward, trying to get Chokatos and various Neggs (these bushes only cough up the dual-restore versions, not the increaser versions). Not much luck on this pass. I eventually get pissed and fight one that chased for too long, before proceeding to find.... Torak? Indeed, the Werelupes caged the Knights of Meridell and now I have to free them. Technically the triggers that allow the cage locks to be destroyed are tied to specific Werelupes, but I sometimes brawl more than I must because extras are distracting. Freeing Ebard first, then Lawrence, then Cadmere is the most logical progression, leading me to the lift where Torak is. Embarrassingly, after the knights are free, I go the wrong way, but then I finally right myself and get to the lift.
The treetop path is actually pretty straightforward. Once we get to the end of it, we encounter a cinematic where the Werelupe King insults Tor and calls on Gnarfas to distract him. I did try to damage Gnarfas as best as possible in the first phase, but I don't think it is possible to win the fight without getting hit three times, as Gnarfas is truly relentless here. Once Gnarfas inflicts three hits, we encounter another cinematic, where the old Lupe we've seen so many times helps us out again by swatting Gnarfas away. This time, however, the Werelupe King backstabs him (with a boomerang, of all weapons - how on earth is a boomerang a suitable backstabbing weapon?), much to Tor's dismay. With that out of the way, the real fight starts. This is one of the rare cues the game gives on what element an enemy is. This Gnarfas fight was pretty good, owing to the fact that I've found there are times when you can strike him that are not obvious. I probably should have resorted to repeated jump attacks rather than combos, but this suffices.
Two more cinematics. First off, we find that the Werelupe King steals Illusen's charm right off her neck. Whether there's a protection spell cast on it or just some serious value I'm not sure, but either way Illusen passes out from the experience. Then, we find Illusen knows well about the Darkest Faerie and asks Tor to warn King Skarl. But then she gets suddenly possessed by The Darkest Faerie, and swipes at Tor, causing him to fall from the treetops.
Getting back to the castle is a pretty simple and straightforward affair. When we get there, however, we find that, in addition to everyone being gone, the door into the throne room won't open. So upstairs we go, in an attempt to find a way in. It's up there, alright, in the form of a lever that opens a balcony in the throne room. Once we get in that way we see a cinematic, where we learn that the Darkest Faerie has taken control of King Skarl's mind and turned him into a servant. We also learn that the Darkest Faerie plans to destroy Meridell entirely... she plans to flatten it. With what, we aren't supposed to know quite yet, and you'll probably figure it out soon. Tor tries to get away but the Darkest Faerie's sisters are ordered to kill him. Now we must get away!
Tor actually can't even harm the Dark Faerie Sisters. Nor can he open the door himself. No, we must get the Dark Faerie Sisters to blow open the door. Of course, they then block the likely exits with fire, so we need them to knock down a pillar to create an escape route. They didn't cooperate for a while but I eventually get them to wreck the right one. In escaping from this room I got knocked down once. No big deal, but still an irritating thing to have happen. Our next escape is over a wall of fire heading towards the banquet hall, and then through a closed window into the kitchen. Then finally, we encounter a cinematic, where Faun (the cleaning lady that we helped when doing chores) leads Tor into a chute to the sewers to escape. The Dark Faerie Sisters, not wanting to follow him down that far, send a fireball down there. Then Tor lands into sewage, grabs a floating board, and just rests on it, hoping the current will carry him somewhere safe.
We'll get back to Tor in a little bit.
Now on to Faerieland. Our first scene is that of a royal carriage (flown by a Uni - basically what you'd get if you crossed a pegasus with a unicorn) flying into Faerieland. Once it lands, out steps Roberta (our other hero, and the niece of the King of Brightvale - we'll learn about this later) and Seradar (the royal sorcerer of Brightvale). Roberta seems to hate diplomatic missions and would much rather be a sorceress, but Seradar insists that is not going to happen, claiming that sorcery and diplomacy are mutually exclusive (else he'd be the diplomat and Roberta would be the sorceress, he claims. Whether this is a vague compliment or not, I'm not entirely sure). Our mission is to talk with Queen Fyora about the dark clouds.
While some useful things can be bought here, I choose to have Roberta hold on to her money. This is for reasons I've already explained when discussing why I need to hold on to Tor's money.
You'll notice that instead of following Seradar immediately, I take a detour. This is because one of the three necessary components to make a wand is in here - I'll explain in due course. Now, after informing the council herald, Seradar goes into the library, and an old Aisha approaches Roberta seeking help. Roberta agrees and the old lady gives her an ancient amulet as advance award. I'll cover this old lady's sidequest in a minute, but first I need to fetch the other two wand components. Yes, you have to talk to the painter to get the bottle that can store fairy dust - giving it to the painter is optional and nets nothing more than information. Information that I'll tell you soon. The other piece of the wand, the Faeriewood Stick, is high up in a tree opposite where I need to go now. Anyway, about the old lady and her Harris (I'm not exactly sure what way to describe this petpet, but we'll meet more than one Harris so you should learn to recognize them). While her sidequest is technically optional, I have always done it every time I have played, mainly for the Potion of Power reward, which I usually need. So I don't know if there's repercussions for skipping this sidequest. And you just need to get close to the Harris to accomplish the objective.
Once in the library, I walk around the front desk (you can jump over the desk, but it's a minor timesaver at best this far into a run) and meet up with Seradar. Seradar's supposed to teach Roberta some magic after the council meeting, but there's enough time now for such instruction. Except Roberta left her training wand in Brightvale, so we have to get three components for it. The reason I got them earlier instead of now is because even though there's one extra text box if you grab the items before you are supposed to, it's much faster because you don't have to backtrack at all.
This magic lesson is basically Roberta's version of the tutorials we got when playing as Tor. Some new quirks, however. Roberta actually has use for charged shots without motes equipped. Plus, she can rapid-fire projectiles. Lastly, we learn about aiming, which has more uses than just for Roberta's shots. Let me warn you right now, however - the majority of bosses are immune to Roberta's shots, usually due to being able to deflect them. So Roberta's overall usefulness is limited. Afterward, we get a new set of armor, which is really the last armor Roberta needs in my case. Finally, the council awaits us, and we get a cinematic, where Seradar explains the dark clouds to Fyora. Apparently, she already sent for Illusen for further information on this matter, but the Earth Faerie has not answered. Hmmm.... I wonder why? Anyway, Fyora's going to look into this "when Faerieland next passes over Meridell". A bit slow IMO, but whatever.
Now, we are to be shown to our rooms. But first, let me cover up a couple of odds and ends that aren't seen in this run. You might have seen a purple cat running around Faerieland, with one yellow eye. This is a Meowclops, which grants magic regeneration if you let it follow you. If you were to give the faerie dust to the painter, he uses it to make the tower in his painting invisible, and tells us that Meowclops can see the invisible. Speaking of said tower, there's a circular spot on the side nearest where we have to go next that, if approached when a Meowclops is following you, reveals the infamous Hidden Tower. From what I remember of it on the Neopets site, the Hidden Tower was the area where the rarest and best items are able to be bought (usually Battledome items). The costs of such things usually were in the hundreds of thousands of Neopoints, but it was not unusual to see multi-million NP equipment there. This has been made a tad more realistic in this game, where some of the best equipment available still is purchased here, but at prices that are still attainable.
Now, as far as being shown to your room. Yes, you have to follow the council herald (his name's Kekou, but we won't see him again after this), otherwise you can't trigger the next part. It can't be triggered until he says his line about an 'excellent tipper' - I had to run back to get this to happen. He's also supposed to say something about waiting at the entrance after a certain time interval, but this doesn't happen until the next part because I go too fast. Once asleep, we get a cinematic where the Darkest Faerie ambushes Fyora and ties her up.Part 2: Escaping Chaos
Now, to escape Faerieland, which has been taken over by the minions of the Darkest Faerie. Very straightforward but I have some things to cover anyway.
As I said, I went too fast earlier so Kekou says his line now. Making the whole thing seem like nonsense. Anyway, if you go into Seradar's room you get a cinematic, where Roberta tries to find if he's alright, but Seradar turns out to have been already possessed by the Darkest Faerie. However, this is one of the few cinematics in this game that's truly optional, meaning it can be avoided entirely rather than just being skipped. Anyway, nothing to do but head out towards the main hall, where we hear a scream for help. However, the door where it's coming from is locked, so we have to go and find another way to see what's happening. Turns out going across the hall, then down, leads us to a grate where we can see what's happening (yes, you have to jump once on those crates to trigger it).
As a cinematic shows, it turns out that the old Aisha from before is being interrogated (rather, about to be tortured. Between this, the backstabbing, and some random things in other parts of the game, how did this game ever get a rating of E-10+ rather than Teen?) by the Darkest Faerie. We need to distract her... somehow. There's an old bell tower nearby that should do the trick, so I head that way now. Now, I believe you're supposed to head down the stairs fully, set the bells in place first, and then turn on the machinery. However, because I know the right place to jump, and due to the lack of fall damage in this game, I'm able to take a shortcut by jumping down to the machinery (reminder: do not, under any circumstances, try this at home), pushing the weights into place first, then putting the bells in the right spot. Even if I miss this jump slightly and land on the stairs near the machinery - or even on the floor, close to the bells - I still save plenty of time by jumping over the side. When it's all in place, we learn through a cinematic that our plan worked, and the Darkest Faerie goes to investigate the "infernal racket", putting down her branding iron in the process.
Returning to the old Aisha gives us a cinematic, where Roberta tries to free the lady, but she insists on having them separating. Before she pushes Roberta out, she asks Roberta to find the amulet's "twin". You've probably already guessed who has it, but if you haven't I'll be keeping you in the dark until it's relevant. Leaving the way we entered (yes, you must do it this way first, because the other path is inaccessible for now) gives us another cinematic, where a minion crashes through the staircase walls, blocking the path. We find that we need to go to the Endless Staircase - which, of course, is on the other side of this floor, in a door that was locked. Entering gives us another cinematic, where the Darkest Faerie returns to find her captive missing. Boy, is she pissed.
Now, the Endless Staircase. When I first played the game, this puzzle actually had me stumped. The answer turns out to be in the frog statues - or rather, statues of Quiggles (the aforementioned frog Neopet) - within the pillar. If its hand is up, go up - if its hand is down, go down. Following the statues leads us back to the library, where exiting gives us two more cinematics to end the chapter. First, the Uni who brought us here (she has a name but we don't see her again) is being chased by minions. Second, as Roberta tries to escape on the Uni, the minions give chase and she's knocked loose.
A cinematic occurs right away. Tor's just floating onto a beach when Roberta falls all the way from Faerieland into some brush. I know I said before that there's no fall damage in this game, but the fact that Roberta's essentially 100% okay after this fall is just ridiculous. Before they can chat much, the minions of the Darkest Faerie catch up. This is the part where you learn how to switch characters and fight all the enemies. I won't try to lie, this part went just plain horribly. If I ever do this run again - which is unlikely unless this record gets trounced, or some groundbreaking trick on par with skipping entire quests is discovered - I will be handling Tor's fight first, so that I may shoot at the minions without a big guy blocking shots. Anyway, another cinematic occurs where the two encourage and introduce each other. Then Roberta realizes Tor has the other amulet and explains Faerieland's situation to him. It's decided that the two need to go to Brightvale. (You can't go anywhere else until you do, by the way.)
Just as we get into Brightvale, we get another cinematic, where the Darkest Faerie proceeds to summon an assassin (as a small detail note, the assassin is strangling a Buzz - what you get when you cross a dragon with a fruit fly... I'm not even making this up - when we first see him) and ask him to remove Tor and Roberta. After pay negotiation, the assassin (a Gelert, by the way - since I'm not all too familiar with the Gelert Assassin, or whether he has a seriously evil reputation, I'll just have to assume the few readers who are devoted Neopets players know about this guy) heads out. Now, back to Brightvale, there's quite a bit that can be done here. Shopping, a few sidequests, a maze minigame of sorts (my best time in it is about 37 seconds, by the way).... but all we want is the castle, so off we go.
In the castle throne room, we have two cinematics. First, the King of Brightvale's herald, Johfrit, opens the doors to the king's chambers and Roberta explains the situation to her uncle. The king thinks the situation is hopeless but Roberta explains the power of the amulets she and Tor were given. Initially the king is reluctant to let her niece find and defeat the source of the dark clouds, but Tor vouches for her spellcasting ability, finally convincing him to let this mission go onward. When we leave, Roberta explains to Tor that research needs to be done. Tor's a bit incredulous, which prompts Roberta to ask if there are books in Meridell. When Tor mentions King Skarl's use for a library (to impress princesses), Roberta tells him that Brightvale is quite serious about its library.
So what we need to do is head to the library and find out about the dark clouds. I won't read the information as you find it out, but rather summarize it in a moment. But first, a detour for two things. I don't know why I switch to Roberta here - probably to keep a small amount of sense in this run, since if you pick up Roberta's training wand as Tor, it'll make it seem as if it's his and not Roberta's. (By the way, considering the few times you have to use Roberta before she gets any awesome weapons for free, I decided I actually needed this wand.) Also note, in previous runs, this is where I'd drop off the golden rose for a Red Negg. Then it's to what I presume is either a guest's or noble's bedroom, unlocking the chest. I've gotten Meerca Speed Potions from here before, but this time I only get an Unguent of Curing, which removes any status effects. Actually not one of my best results here. Then the library. After much book shuffling and acrobatics, I've learned the following:
But not so fast! I get attacked by the Darkest Faerie's newly-hired assassin, who is clearly quite disappointed that he's being sent after what he perceives as children. Now, damaging the Gelert Assassin enough, or taking enough damage yourself, triggers the next cinematic (which gets Brightvale's guards against him and makes him decide to leave). What I learned in playing through to write the commentary is that despite the fact that he can reflect Roberta's shots right back at her, using Roberta is actually faster for triggering this battle's ending than using Tor. The secret? Using her 3-hit combo, since the last bolt is so powerful. Whatever, Tor did just fine here, and the difference in time is a few seconds at best.
There's a lot to do from here, and I believe the order you're expected to do things is something like this:
Now that we have some room to choose, let's get a nearby mandatory quest out of the way, okay? Though before I cover Market Town, a note. You may see a Skeith with a merchant cart in a couple places on my route. His name's Gord, and he's the last of the NPCs that are crucial to the story.
Also note that from here on out, unless it actually adds to the story, I will not be detailing cinematics. I've determined that playing casually and then writing my analysis will be more trouble than it's worth, but I chose to leave the earlier stuff in because I feel it's important enough to the game. Plus, I believe you know enough about the game by now to follow along with me. I'll detail sidequests in brief with each area as I approach them. For instance, there's a coastal area near Brightvale that is home to both the final part of the Prince Tourin sidequest and the lighthouse sidequest.
Lastly, fighting minions of the Darkest Faerie is simply not worth it for a speedrun, and is almost not even worth it in normal play. They dodge both Tor and Roberta's attacks way too much and have this habit of staying just out of range. They're almost too difficult for a veteran gamer like myself - are the developers trying to say something about fighting to their target audience?
But you didn't go here for my ranting. You went here to learn how I handle things when speedrunning. And so, I must get back on topic.
First things first, Market Town. I need two things out of this: the Battle Blade and the merchant guild's treasure. In order to enter the gates, though, I need to dispose of the dark knights outside. I was pretty lucky to get money from not one, but two of these knights - I am able to buy more speed potions with this money. With just a Squire Sword, this is pretty difficult, but still manageable for a decent gamer. Market Town's trouble is that the Black Knight has arisen, taken over the town, and imposed a 300% sales tax. And I thought 8% was bad! You're supposed to go into the guild first, but I go right to the castle instead because I know what to do and what's at stake. The castle itself went pretty well, owing to my memorization of the dark areas (so even if there was glare on the screen I could tell where to go), although I embarrassingly went into the wrong door after dealing with the darkened path. As for the Black Knight himself, I use single slashes instead of combo attacks because I find them more accurate - and this is one of a few fights where accuracy matters. To be honest, I've never tried this fight with Roberta, and I don't believe she'd be useful.
With Market Town free from its taxes, I go to purchase my Battle Blade (and Doglefox, its work done, is allowed to go free so I can conserve healing items) and buy as many potions of Meerca Speed as I can. Now, I could have saved up some money for later, but at this point I am trusting my luck and hoping I get another thousand NP before reaching Meridell (where I need it). Because I did not enter the guild before beating the Black Knight, the dialogue that triggers is of the Market Town merchants complaining about the taxes. This is one of the most minor (in terms of time and real effect), but silliest, sequence breaks I've ever seen. While here, I could decide to do some deliveries to various places, but it takes a long time to do this.
My next target is Bogshot Swamp, where I can put my new weapon to use. I deal with another water warp and break open the locked chest. To my surprise, instead of a potion (I usually get some sort of potion from here), I earn enough money to clear my last absolute requirement. It was here that I noticed I was running out of room on the first DVD, so I stopped the game and switched DVDs. Unfortunately, in my editing to put the video parts together, I didn't take out most of the delay involved. At this point I highly encourage you to pause the run and stretch, get something to eat, do what you need to do. Once you're done with that, start it again and fast-forward until the screen changes.
Back with us? Good. I go right for the first of three sets of berries, disrupting the game's cutscene flow in the process. (You'll see what I mean when you get there.) When progressing to the next part, I should note that I have not found a consistent way to avoid this cutscene in both directions. Meaning even if I avoid this sequence where the Gelert Assassin treats you like an ignorant child when going out, I'll still trigger it when I go back. It's only about twenty to thirty seconds, though, so in a long run like this it's not a huge problem. The level of 'flow break' is much lower with the second set of berries, but it's not like it saves time. Of course, I need to fight that serpent that's been taunting me to get the last set. I can occasionally get him to attack me right away for the second lunge, but he does not cooperate. In order to fix his inability to cooperate, I tried moving to another platform. This worked admirably well, but I probably should have done it sooner (I lose about thirty seconds from this debacle). I used a Power Potion here to ensure that he does not get left with a sliver of his life - which has happened before and pretty much ensures that he won't cooperate for several minutes, a situation I consider run-killing.
It is in the cinematic of the serpent's death that Tor and Roberta are supposed to realize that defeating trouble monsters in the areas affected by dark clouds is what will free the land. At any rate, we can finally get the last set of bogberries (falling into the swamp in this area is an instant Game Over, by the way) and get out of here. When you've finished the mandatory portion of Bogshot, you can try to find the missing kid (who runs a set of Mortog races - Mortogs being frog-like petpets), get some poison pods to cure someone who tried to cure himself of the plague we just cured using his own methods, or get the smithy to make us a sword using metal from a mine near Cogham. I don't have time for any of these, however, and thus I need to just worry about talking to the bridge builder.
Though I can now head to the Meridell area, I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. First, I need to enter Werelupe Woods. You're supposed to talk to the local swamp witch to find out that you need a special necklace to enter the Werelupe Burrows. I eschew this and just go with prior knowledge. There's three crypts in the graveyard here (and another session of the Gelert Assassin's taunting, which is unskippable to the best of my knowledge), but you only need to enter the one that actually has the necklace. It's here that I first truly put Zhegan's information about Roberta's pushing speed to work - though I really wish I could consistently put the pushing tricks to work. I do get a little lost (again - look, I don't know about you, but there's only so much I can memorize about a game, and perfect knowledge of the areas has to fall by the wayside sometimes), but I quickly right myself and take on the knight who guards the necklace.
Necklace in hand, I am finally able to enter the burrows. Roberta's unavailable for most of this area - no big loss for me. Tor handles just fine anyway. The Werelupes get in my way a few times but I'm not fazed. The battle against the Werelupe King himself is.... well, the guy clearly cheats in this fight. And his mobility presents a problem too. I handled this decently, but not perfectly. With Roberta saved and the charm recovered, I can get out of here. Unfortunately, I wind up going down a path that, until now, I have never gone down. I may have been faster going this way, if I had practiced it, but since I haven't, this made me lose my bearings entirely. Another thirty seconds gone, and a huge embarrassment, bigger than any mistake to this point. Maybe you can accuse the graphics, since many of the passages initially look the same. (Not quite on the level of Quest 64, but they're still pretty confusing.) The only other hitch on the way out is screwing up the platform with the Spyder on it - however, this one's a frequent troublemaker.
Now, over the bridge, we get to head over to areas we actually know. Such as Cogham, our next stop. Before we get there, remember when I said the Werelupes were not the worst when it comes to chasing and interrupting? That's because the Drackonacks fill that role. The giant ones are worse with interrupting - in all honesty, fighting these things with Tor is beyond stupid. They only drop fangs for an Act 1 quest, so I ignore them entirely and head into Cogham proper - where we find that everyone's been kidnapped except for a Techo named Gershwin. And they've been forced into the mines. Heading to the mines, the first sign that the villagers are here is a smithing hammer, which is actually the item needed for a sidequest in this area. The reward's pretty helpful right now, so I pick it up. Now, let me explain something with the crystals. The blue ones occasionally drop a few NP, but it's the purple/red/pink/whatever-color ones that I want to break, as they frequently contain valuable items. I'm looking for speed potions (explain any potion coming right out of the crystals), money, or Nova/Supernova Motes. The mine itself went okay, and as far as those crystals, I got a little too much money for my liking. After we've rescued Stanley, I take the rail area slow because falling into the lava is an automatic Game Over, and the second of my attempts the first time I ran this game actually ended in this very area. Shouldn't need to cover the Dark Ixi Chieftain - it's the easiest of these fights by far.
After saving the mayor, I go back with a long fall rather than using two ropes - it's faster this way (a friendly reminder: do not, under any circumstances, try this at home). Enter the village, get the Cloak of Heroes, and then three more sidequests open up. I could go get a lodestone for the explorer here, or I could go get some crystal to help fix the mayor's pocketwatch (I also would need to save the farmers in Shadowglen before I could do this, since Tor's father needs to be involved). I don't need these rewards, however, so I only return the smithing hammer to the local armorsmith and get my first armor upgrade in a long while. This is obviously plate mail, and unlike the plate mail we could have bought after saving Cogham the first time (it had leather boots and gloves), this one comes with metal boots and gloves (the boots are also specifically forged to fit a Lupe, unlike the leather boots from the other armor, which were designed to be worn by just about any species). Since I haven't gotten armor upgrades until now, this one's defense bonus is sorely needed.Part 3: Like Wolves and Dogs
Technically, we are still saving villages, but we're close enough to finishing that part that I decided to give the title of the next part now.
My next objective is once again in Shadowglen, so I engage one more water warp and head that way. I need to feed the Doglefox this time because of how weak Roberta is right now. I then head toward the area where we fought the Juppie monster last time, only to have the Gelert Assassin set a trap for us. No matter, we still get back to the Juppie monster in due time. This time, farmers Tor knows are trapped (Lucy is back at the farm in this one, by the way, and that's yet another optional cue), and the Juppie monster has been.... transformed by the Darkest Faerie's power. Perhaps switching between Tor and Roberta would have been faster (Tor'd be better at damaging the tentacles), but only Roberta can damage this boss this time around, so I decide against it. I had a bit of bad luck in this fight, not being able to finish him off on the third volley, but it's not too bad.
My reward for this quest is a device that Hubert found one day and rigged into a mechanical fruit picker. We, however, have other needs for this - we use it like the infamous Hookshot. Roberta's at an advantage using this because she can aim while still holding the button used for the ropegun - because of the nature of Tor's charged attack (the button for the ropegun, R2, is also used as an attack button), he needs to aim and lock on before hitting R2.
In any case, thus equipped, we can now head over to Illusen's Glade and give her back her charm. I had outright terrible luck harvesting Neggs here, but it's not a big enough loss to worry me. We head over to the lift I used before, only to have the Gelert Assassin wreck it. That guy is seriously getting on my nerves by now. Luckily, we have a ropegun to get up. You're supposed to use several different targets to get to the treetops, but I discovered a nice little angle where you can shoot all the way up immediately. It involves passing through the floor of that area, but whatever. I'm not sure if the Doglefox actually matters in this fight, but I decided to keep him around as I don't need him after this.
Of course, just as we get to Illusen, the Gelert Assassin shows up again. This time, he sends us a death threat, which I'll sum up as follows:
Saving Illusen by giving her charm back grants us magic to pierce the barrier around Meridell. Going back, the luck I get with Neggs easily makes up for the bad luck from the way in. Unfortunately, I'm a little concerned that we still won't have enough, so I buy some more from the local Negg seller (he actually vanished when Illusen was possessed, so the store wasn't open at that time). This far into a run, I believe my concern is understandable, but if you have complaints, direct them my way and I'll explain the entire logic. Anyway, we can finally advance the story to a point where there's a single path. I first make a stop to buy Meerca Speed potions, only to learn that you can't buy items when wearing the cloak. This is one thing I'd never tested, because I didn't count on having that much excess money. I buy four, saving me 1000 NP to give to Rory to access the thieves' guild. I hand over the treasure (well, Tor makes them give him what he wants first, and just when it looks like he reneges on the deal, the treasure gets thrown out the hole Tor entered), and we're on our way.Part 4: Underneath the Rotting Castle
Ick. Sewers. The first part is the hardest, as the water level rises and falls, and being in the water at its higher points causes your character to drown, meaning an instant Game Over. This is how the first attempt of this new version of the run ended, and considering that's three hours into the run, I'm surprised that I did not break the controller in disgust. (This also means that any attempts that got past this point finished the game. There's one where I wish I hadn't, and I'll cover that in a moment.) The area goes fine this time, taking into account my over-conservative approach. Of course, we then find out that these sewers are home to a set of ancient crypts. Normally, you're supposed to break open the cracked wall to help in figuring out a puzzle, but I've already got this puzzle committed to memory, so I don't need the help. Getting the Potion of Revival in the meantime was probably unnecessary, considering that I get more later, but what's done is done.
Next area of concern: the Oubliette. Dismal? I suppose it can be. Most of this area is done with Roberta, due to her pushing speed, but I switch to Tor at the end to deal with the monster I need to fight for a key. Aside from going the wrong way once (sick of it? I am too), this went very well. No troubles when I go to use that key, and the death knight room is pretty fast too (this room is the reason why I did not truly need to get Potions of Revival earlier). After all this, the Battle Blade that's served me for most of the run is no longer needed, because we now have the Ancient Sword... which mainly seems to be there so that people get caught up with weapons.
We get to test this weapon immediately against a boss, an undead and supersized Draik skeleton. I equip my Nova mote to my shield because this boss attacks with fire and water, and reflecting the elemental attacks (from far enough away so that it's possible) is the way you make him vulnerable. Since my shield now covers both elements, I don't need to switch mid-fight. Unfortunately, the boss's defense is so high that even with a mote equipped to my blade, he does not take much damage at all from any of my attacks. Once the boss loses his legs, I do something that I have never tried before - try raiding the treasures here mid-fight. Except for the money chest, this goes pretty well. Of particular note is the armor upgrade - Golden Gilded Mail is the second-strongest armor in the game (the strongest being a purchased armor in Altador), and quite stylish to boot. Wearing the boss down to a skull and then destroying it knocks loose a pillar that lets us get to our prize - Fyora's Rod. I would say this is by far the strongest weapon in the game, except it is impossible for me to compare this to the closest alternative because Fyora's Rod is the only weapon upgrade that's temporary.
Getting out of the sewers, I do have some issues, but this is normal considering how long I've been playing and how cheap the enemies are. It turns out we're spit into Meridell Castle's dungeons, and this time, we need to head further up than the throne room. We, in fact, need to go into King Skarl's bedroom. The one mandatory fight here demonstrates why I feel Fyora's Rod is the true strongest weapon in the game, and I'm going to assume the artillery minions are not well-affected by Light, considering how many more hits it takes to smash through them. And the fight itself goes amazingly, considering that these enemies like to go hidden and take forever to emerge.
Then for the real reason I'm up here. Dark Faerie Sisters. Tor still can't do a thing, and even if he could, he's the worse choice because he always would have to catch up to the sisters. So Roberta's all alone for this fight. The first hit dispels their magic shield, making harming them possible. Then I can lay on some serious damage with Light-based attacks. I don't know what the skull attack of theirs does, however. Once I defeat them, the cinematic shows King Skarl being freed, and the heroes find that they need to go to Faerieland.Part 5: Return to Faerieland
So let's get there already. I quickly reveal why I needed to get money in the treasure vault. Well, this is only half the reason, and I didn't have the optimal amount of money to get everything I wanted (I wanted about 10 Meerca Speed potions, but I needed to save money for both the other thing I need and the Neggs I get for safety reasons). We'll learn the other half of what we need in Altador.
Back through the Infinite Staircase I go, and I meet with Queen Fyora to find (in a cinematic, so you don't get to see this) that the Darkest Faerie is tied up and Queen Fyora needs her rod to finish things. Except it's a trap - the Darkest Faerie put an illusion over herself and Queen Fyora to switch the real places of the two. Here, Roberta's weapon gets demoted to the Witch's Wand, despite the fact that I had never bought it. Another catch-up issue I guess. No matter, we just have to activate a portal to get out of here. I'm not sure if it's the angle or if I just needed to shoot it a lot, but the first part just wouldn't go. I play the second part by ear a bit and am lucky to get it right quickly. From there, on to Altador!
Time for our second DVD switch. I did this now rather than closer to the next two-hour mark because I did not want to have to switch in the middle of an exciting portion. Makes sense, right? Again, I apologize for the massive delay.
You have to excuse my lost look in the first room - I'm mentally preparing myself for what is by far the hardest part of the run. At least I pick up another Supernova Mote. Anyway, assembling the mosaic opens the door out of here, but a cinematic reveals some history behind Altador. There were twelve heroes involved in founding the city. And guess who one of them was?
.....yeah, now you know why everyone's hiding from the Darkest Faerie.
Rather than go for the area right in front of me, which would probably wind up a tiny bit faster, I instead head towards the most nerve-wracking part of the entire run. Altador Sewer Shrine. Note that I was at around 3 hours and 54 minutes - or something to that effect - at this point in the first run, so this is a pretty sizable run improvement. The first area is not what's hard, even though you absolutely have to light up the needed paths before you can cross, which gets annoying. (Notice how the statues are of Techos? This has relevance, trust me.) Of this first puzzle, the first area went fine, the second was a little rough (but would have been worse if I had tried to avoid these enemies entirely), and the third goes decently.
But then, we have the hardest part of this shrine. The guardian eyes. This is why I wanted to redo the run so badly - I screwed up to a point beyond what I should have allowed in my last attempt, and I regret ever submitting that one. I learned that using the Cloak of Heroes and not trying to rush this area helped more than anything else. The first two of these sections I find pretty easy, but I need to be very paranoid around the last two, or else I'll trigger the eye. It took me a couple of viewings when writing this to realize that I did not get caught by the eyes even once in this attempt! More than three hours and thirty minutes into a run, that's pretty much impossible luck - I was expecting one or at most two puzzle resets from getting caught. More might have been cause for concern.
Finally, the racing portion of this shrine. My first two parts are not spectacular, but not awful. The third is the only notable, within-my-reasonable-control screwup I have in this shrine, and it's pretty minor considering how early in that part I screw up. I'm not sure how you're really supposed to handle the fourth, but the only way I know is to make this particular tricky jump. Nailing it on the first try is even more stupid luck.
Now I finally get to reveal the importance of certain characters earlier in the game. See the Techo statue at the end of this shrine? It's none other than the trapped body of Kelland, the beggar who gave Tor his amulet. Reaching him frees him, and he tells the heroes that they could make passable thieves.Part 2: Simple Tasks
With Kelland free, the worst part of this run is over. There is one more challenging area, but it's nowhere near as tough as this one was. I keep going around the circle, heading into the Arena District. Here I must face three fights, each one getting harder. I did not label this as a tough area because the speed at which I clear these fights is essentially random. This one is definitely one of the worst parts of the run, even taking into account the amount of time I've been playing. If anyone dares try to beat this run, the Arena District is a crucial point to target for improvement. Beating the Arena Challenges frees Torakar - yes, the same guy who trained Tor in Meridell.
Next up is the Money District. After buying a new weapon for Roberta (the Wand of the Ancients makes the final areas easier - although I should have probably trusted my luck and bought more speed potions in Faerieland, as I had more than enough money here), I head over there now. Up the stairs, across an aqueduct, and bypassing a free Starry Negg, it isn't very clear immediately why I use Roberta here. After pushing the first block, I should note that I did practice the maze a little, but I still haven't learned it by heart, and this may be a place to examine for future attempts. I did, however, make sure to memorize the lock puzzle. The final puzzle here shows why Roberta is so important. Not only does she push faster, but she is better able to take care of the enemies than Tor is. Solving this puzzle (and not falling into the money, since these money piles are so massive that you can suffocate beneath them. I'm not joking) frees the travelling merchant.
Finally, the Park District. The Mortogs you need to lead over the switch to keep the door open like to avoid cooperating with me. Once I finally get inside, my first challenge is to navigate the maze without striking a single blow against the Drackonacks - or, the harder part, getting struck myself. I have to redo the maze once because of getting struck early, but I don't mind it this late in the run. Then our first fight in a long while, which Roberta is definitely better equipped to handle. We have another Miamouse capturing sequence, in which I spooked them once to attempt to get them closer to the cage. I fail pretty miserably, but don't do too badly otherwise. Now to free several Harris by luring them into a light beam. Very fast, if I do say so myself. Lastly, we have to herd Whinnies onto switches. I start by getting them to go around the switches, and then go back and make them stay still on the switch. These guys again fail to cooperate, but when they all stay still, I free Faun, the cleaning lady.
With all four heroes free, I go back to where I entered Altador.Part 3: The Six Bindings
What do you know, the old Lupe is alive and well. He turns out to be none other than the King of Altador. But we are still missing one person. To help us out, the King of Altador gives us his Golden Sword, the best weapon Tor can get. Downstairs, we encounter six elemental gates. These represent the final challenge this game has to offer me. I use Roberta for every one of these because she can end the challenges sooner than Tor. This also explains me equipping a Nova Mote on her - I believe you need to strike the eye with the right element to end each challenge. I find Shadow to be the hardest challenge, followed by Light and then Earth. I feel up to the challenge though, so I wait on Light.
With these challenges done, the run is pretty much over. All that's left is to solve a few more running puzzles, one last element puzzle, and then the Darkest Faerie fight. I won't cover the running puzzles, so let's skip to the last elemental puzzle, where I have to shoot the six elemental barriers with their matching element to free the lady that Roberta helped. This is the only puzzle where the Nova Mote does not work at all. After the six elements are prepared, the lady that we were missing before is freed. Her name is Jerdana, and she provides us with the means to stop the Darkest Faerie - an amulet with a crimson sphere. If I had left the game's intro in, you'd have seen the same amulet breaking off.Part 4: Ending the World's Nightmare
We head through a portal back to Faerieland to find that the Darkest Faerie has actually put Fyora in a jar. She is also finally ready to set her plan in motion - crashing Faerieland into Meridell. We have three minutes to stop her. The way this fight works is that you need to reflect the Darkest Faerie's shots back at her to leave her open to Tor's attacks. The best option is Nova Motes, because her attacks are of all different elements. Also, to damage her, you must use the three-hit combo - nothing else is viable as an option. After landing three combos, it becomes Roberta's turn. Here, I just need to mop up the minions, then use the rapid-fire attack to get the Darkest Faerie out of the air. When I approach her then, a cinematic takes over and Roberta throws the amulet back on to the Darkest Faerie, turning her into stone.
In several cinematics, we get quite the congratulations. And at the end? We learn just where the Darkest Faerie is being put.
Finally, some people to thank. First the usual group (since their real names are elsewhere on the site, I felt using their first names here would be okay):
Mike also handles page HTML (and when DJGrenola was on the staff he handled a long list of other things I believe Nate specified in one of the updates - don't quite know where Enhasa's role in this is yet), and I know several major veins and arteries of his would burst if he had to take the time to put the needed HTML into these comments, so to save him some frustration I wrote the HTML into these comments myself. This also gave me room to do more complicated stuff than I would get if I had the HTML put in by him - while he undoubtedly knows it well enough, he wouldn't have the energy to put tons of extra stuff into pages.
Now the people that pertain to this run in particular:
And that's all. I am officially done with this game unless one of two things happens:
....oh, almost forgot. If you're going to ask me whether I'll run the PSP Neopets game, the answer is 'no'. I don't even have a PSP, and besides, I've got enough games on my list as it is. If you really want me to run the PSP Neopets game that badly, you need to send me a PSP, the game itself, and the necessary recording equipment.
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