The gameplay in Final Fantasy 5 is based around using the different abilities of the various job classes, finding the right skills to pull your way through each situation that arises. However, you also have the option of playing the game without selecting any job at all! The default "Bare" class has absolutely no abilities whatsoever; all that you can do is select the "Fight" and "Item" commands, leading T-Hawk to speculate at one point that it might be one of the hardest solo challenges to undertake. And yet, that overlooks the gigantic advantage that the Bare class has going for it:
YOU CAN EQUIP EVERY WEAPON AND ARMOR IN THE GAME!!!
That's right, there are absolutely no equipment restrictions on the Bare class. If it exists in the game, you can use it. That means that you can combine together the best gear from every other class. Excalibur? Check. Masamune? Check. Aegis Shield and Ribbon? Check. All the Genji gear? Check. You can even take your pick of the Brave Blade or Chicken Knife, either one can be used. And since the Bare job can equip everything, that means that all of the items that function as spells are also in play. You've got your Healing Staff for Cure 2, Defender Sword for Armor, Ancient Sword for Old, Darkness Bow for blind status, Doom Axe and Killer Bow for death spells, paralyzation status from whips, all the stuff that comes out of the Wonder Rod, not to mention the ability to break rods and staves to cast high-level attack magic! That also doesn't include all of the weapons that have elemental properties, like the Flame Bow (fire), Icebrand Sword (ice), Trident (lightning), Air Lancet (air), Venom Rod (poison), and Excalibur (holy). In other words, the Bare job doesn't really lack special abilities at all - it's overflowing with all sorts of crazy little tricks for the savvy player! Just make sure to hold onto all those weapons and armor, and customize accordingly for each battle...
The gameplay for this class reminded me of the Bruce Wayne/Batman character of superhero fame. Batman doesn't have any superhuman or mutant powers - he's just a normal guy with a whole lot of specialized weapons and gear. Despite this seeming handicap, Batman still seems to do pretty well in those crossover Justice League things. Anyway, the name fit well enough, and it led to very funny screenshots like this one:
"I'm Batman!" Dunno about the traveling with a chocobo part though, hmmm...
The early parts of this game were routine, as I did my standard drill up through the Wind Shrine. Unlike most other playthroughs, I did not change class at the end, sticking with the default Bare job. This had the odd effect of removing Ability points entirely from the game; Batman would never earn a single AP throughout his whole quest. It was strange not seeing the AP printout appear at the end of battles, along with the gold and experience numbers. Weird.
The stats for the Bare job are exactly what you would expect, completely average across the board. The base number for all stats is actually 24, which is modified by the character's job class (nothing in this case) and a slight bonus for each of the four characters. For example, Butz gets +4 Strength, +3 Vitality, +1 Agility, and +1 Magic Power to reach the numbers you see above. Because his stat bonuses lean towards Strength and Vitality, Butz is probably the best choice for a solo game even leaving aside the fact that he almost never leaves your party. (You don't need Magic Power for the physical classes, while even the magely classes still need Strength and Vitality to get past some situations, as my Summoner and Time Mage reports demonstrate.) None of these numbers are terrible, but the Strength was a little low for a character who had to rely on the "Fight" command for nearly all situations. Fortunately some items like the Ribbon would increase these base stats significantly later in the game.
As usual, the first obstacle for a solo character involves getting past Karlabos in the Torna Canal. I had Batman fight in the Wind Shrine until reaching Level 14, where he would pick up an extra attack multiplier, accumulating 4 Elixirs in random drops in the process. Then it was just a matter of fighting the big lobster over and over again until the luck factors lined up, and those dreaded Tentacle attacks were avoided. I nearly won on the very first try, coming within one attack of victory, only to lose out and have to face the boss some two dozen times before emerging victorious. Blah to that. Batman couldn't do anything interesting with the weapon selection at this early point in the game, just equip a Broad Sword and hope for the best.
The Ship Graveyard provided the first weapon swap:
The Flail is usually associated with White Mages, but for the moment it was the strongest weapon available. This is a really strange item in terms of how damage is calculated; like all axes, the Flail has an extremely random base damage, misses often, and pierces physical defense. I would post the formula, but it isn't worth going into full detail here. In practical terms, the Flail would generally do anywhere from 40 to 120 damage with each attack, and it missed about a quarter of the time. No reliability at all! But it did full damage from the back row, and that made it better than the Broad Sword.
Siren can often be difficult for melee classes, because of the high Defense of the undead form. However, as I said above, the Flail has the property of piercing through physical defenses, and that cut right through both human and undead aspects of the boss. Batman was able to sit in the back row, minimizing the damage from her attacks, and kept hammering away with the Flail until she croaked. Only needed to use 2 Elixirs to get past.
Carwen Village had the Regal Cutlass on sale, a higher-damage and more reliable weapon, so Batman quickly swapped over to another new weapon of choice. I used this throughout North Mountain, Batman doing just enough damage to kill each enemy in a single hit. I used this setup to defeat Magisa, attacking from the front row with the Regal Cutlass, and then swapped over to the Flail and moved into the back row to deal with Forza after she was finished. Batman blocked one attack from Forza that would have killed him (using a Bronze Shield with its sad little 15% evade), giving me enough time to drink an Elixir. There were just enough healing items in stock to get Batman past this fight, after which I knew things would become a bit easier. I guess I could have broken the Ice Rod that Batman found back in Carwen, but that seemed like a cheese solution.
Once Batman was past North Mountain he could go to Tycoon Castle, which had all kinds of goodies. Quite aside from the Elixirs and Hi Potions inside, the castle's treasury contained the marvelous Healing Staff and the Katana. Now ordinarily you wouldn't have a Samurai to use that katana until vastly later in the game, but Batman could and did make use of every tool he found:
The Katana was a very noticeable increase in damage (base attack 42) over the Regal Cutlass (attack 22), and as a bonus it had an eight percent chance to do a critical hit with each strike. I also had the option of falling back on the Whip won from Magisa (attack 26) if Batman wanted to retreat into the back row. Naturally the Healing Staff provided infinite free healing in battle, enough to restore Batman to full practically on demand. This assortment of gear - along with all of the best armor from the stores in Walse Town - was enough to decimate the monsters inside Walse Tower. Poor Galura does 0 damage per attack against a character outfitted with the heavy armor set, which of course I made sure Batman was wearing.
I did not retrieve an Elf Cape from the Walse Castle basement, even though it would have been possible to get through there with the Healing Staff. I refrained because I wanted to use the Brave Blade in the endgame, and that meant never running from battle, including from those Garkimasra minibosses. Batman would get an Elf Cape in Karnak Castle soon enough.
I continued to use the Katana as a weapon in the Steamship, although Batman picked up some improved Mythril armor in Karnak village to beef up his defense. The dungeon had two nice treasures: the Full Moon (providing another back row attack option) and the Thief Glove. Batman might not be able to steal anything, but it was the best accessory for the moment. The enemies fell pretty easily to the Katana (which was a really nice weapon at this stage of the game), with Batman breaking out the Healing Staff whenever his health began to drop. Here you see the staff in use during the Liquid Flame battle:
With infinite free healing to play around with, Batman could take his time and wear down the boss in complete safety. I made sure to finish off Liquid Flame in her Tornado form (which took a little extra work; Batman actually had to heal the boss at one point to line up the killing blow correctly!) so that the Fire Bow would drop afterwards. That item was going to see some use a little later on. During the Karnak Castle escape sequence, Batman had just enough time to get the usual Elf Cape and Guardian Dagger, plus a Ribbon and the full complement of Elixirs. Made it out with 20 seconds remaining on the clock, nice timing!
Have I mentioned again how amazing the Ribbon is in this game? It has a Defense rating of 12 (only one less than the 13 of the Crystal Helmet) which was ridiculously high for so early on. The Ribbon also adds +5 to all stats, which was a huge deal for an "average" character like Batman, and grants a bevy of status immunities. Batman was protected against Dead, Stone, Toad, Poison, Darkness, Aging, Berserk, and Mute status ailments - wow! Unfortunately it did not protect against two of the statuses that I feared the most, Paralyzation and Confuse/Charm attacks. I remember that being an issue for Arylon the Dancer as well...
In the Ancient Library, Batman used a combination of the Katana, the Guardian dagger, and the Healing Staff to wear down Ifrit. I alternated attacking and healing, which meant doing a whole lot of healing, to be honest! However, the danger was very low and Batman slowly wore down the boss, without need for Elixirs or other recovery items. For Byblos, I had another gadget ready:
All the trouble of landing a Fire Bow from Liquid Flame paid off here in the battle against Byblos. His well-known weakness to fire element allowed Batman to deal the equivalent of a critical hit with each attack, with the predictable results seen above. Of course Batman wasn't a true Hunter and he lacked the Aim command; the one drawback of using bows in this game is their low accuracy rate, and the Fire Bow only had a 70% hit rate. Batman missed a fair amount of shots. Nevertheless, 800 damage per shot meant that this battle was over very quickly, and I won on the very first attempt with minimal fuss. It was all about having the right tool for the job!
With ship in hand, Batman hit the sea lanes and traveled about accumulating even more weapons for his growing arsenal. I purchased the Coral Sword and Mage Masher in Jacohl, which provided a lightning-element weapon and the potential to cast the Mute spell, respectively. Since Batman had few expenses, I actually had enough cash to buy a Flame Ring in Istory as well, another item useful in many situations that I use as a staple of these variant runs. Then I fought outside Crescent Island against the "Crescent" enemies (appropriately named!) until getting a Doom Axe drop, yet another weapon which has 1/3 odds to cast Doom when used in battle. All of these items expanded my grabbag of tools further... now if Batman could just get some Shark Repellent...
The boss rush that followed wasn't particularly tough, since I had the proper weapons on hand. Batman used the Katana and a whole lot of recovery from the Healing Staff to defeat the Sandworm without issue. Next, he used the Coral Sword's lightning property to inflict double damage against Crayclaw (~700 damage per attack), which had the steel lobster hitting the deck very quickly. The Healing Staff saw more use again in that fight to recover from Crayclaw's Tailscrew move. Winning the battle against Crayclaw resulted in an Ice Bow autodrop, and that new weapon in turn saw use against Adamantium:
The big turtle is of course weak against ice element, eliminating his very high Defense and dealing double damage. The only reason the Ice Bow did 400 and not 800 damage was due to Adamantium's permanent Armor status, cutting the effectiveness of physical blows in half. As usual, Batman had the appropriate tool for the job and made his way past the latest boss with minimal fuss.
Fortunately Batman did not need to save up for an Angel Ring to deal with the Sol Cannon battles, since the Ribbon already protected him from Old/Aging status. Whew, saved a cool 50,000 gold there! Batman neutralized the Flameguns by the simple means of equipping the Flame Ring, and countered the Rockets by arming himself with the Flame Bow and Flame Ring combo. Whenever Batman was confused by their Rocket attacks, he would shoot himself with fire arrows... which of course healed Batman because of the Flame Ring. Took a while to wear down these guns, but there was no danger at all. When it came to Sol Cannon itself, Batman took down the Launchers with conventional attack, then swapped to the Coral Sword and slowly began whittling down the main gun, taking MANY breaks to cure himself with the Healing Staff. After a very long battle, with three rounds of healing for every one round of attacking, Sol Cannon finally blew itself to pieces.
The enemies inside the Lonka Ruins can often be pretty tough to defeat, especially for a solo character. The Whirl Demon opponents like to sit in the back row and use White Wind, which will normally heal all of the monsters up to full health. I often run away from these encounters, but of course that was out of play for Batman due to Brave Blade purposes. So it was time to break out another gadget weapon:
Remember that Doom Axe Batman picked up back on Crescent Island? If I couldn't wear down these enemies over time due to White Wind healing, I could have Batman go for the instant kill via castings of Doom. This worked really well, these foes not having immunity against death spells, and along with Healing Staff recovery, Batman made it through without too much trouble. On an unrelated note, look at the graphics for that Doom Axe. That weapons is just EVIL-looking. I wouldn't want to get slashed with that thing!
Against ArchaeoAvis, the real danger always comes from his status-inflicting attacks, particularly the ones in the last two forms that inflict paralyzation and confusion. Since Batman could use the Healing Staff to recover from the boss' elemental attacks, they posed little danger in this fight. Therefore I went with the maximum physical evade combination: Gold Shield (30%) along with Elf Cape (25%), combined with use of the Darkness Bow. This last item had helpfully dropped when fighting Whirl Demons earlier, and has the special property of inflicting Darkness status 66% of the time on a successful hit. If I could get Batman to plug ArchaeoAvis with said bow and blind the boss, ArchaeoAvis would only have about 5% odds to hit! This worked out really well, with Batman using the Darkness Bow against each of ArchaeoAvis' five forms and then swapping over to the stronger Ancient Sword after blinding his opponent. None of those nasty "Claw" attacks ended up hitting, and I won the battle on the first attempt.
Wrapping up the first world, both Titan and the Chimera Brain were defeated through a combination of the Darkness Bow, Ancient Sword, Flame Ring, and Healing Staff. That left only the Puroboros, and so Batman had to turn to his one method of dealing mass damage:
I broke one Ice Rod and one Fire Rod, which took all of the Puroboros down into near-death status, from which point they could explode themselves harmlessly and end the fight. This was the first time that Batman had done any rod-breaking at all, and while I agree that it's a cheese solution to get through situations, I wasn't going to rule it out in one or two special cases. You should check out this hilariously bad FAQ hosted at Gamefaqs, where someone attempting the same challenge with the Bare job advises breaking rods to get past each boss. "Break rods" is his solution to *EVERY* single situation in the entire game! Worth reading just for the humor value - if all you're using are rods, you're crippling the massive advantage of the Bare job!
In the second world, Batman proceeded to make his way out of Exdeath's Castle, although I couldn't have solo Galuf run from battle due to Brave Blade purposes, and he actually won a single engagement, going up to Level 4. Blah to that, usually I can finish the game with all of the other characters at their default starting level! Batman planned to use most of the same equipment in the battle against Gilgamesh on the Big Bridge. The Ancient Sword inflicted Old status, slowing him down significantly, and then the Darkness Bow blinded him. I tried to use the Mage Masher dagger (Mute status) to prevent Gilgamesh from executing his buffing spells, but the 1/3 odds to cast Mute ended up failing. Neverthless, Batman was able to wear down the boss even in his Haste/Armor/Shell mode, by taking care to heal frequently with the Staff and only attack when health was near full. Slow, patient play carried the day.
Rugor village had an improved weapon for sale, the Slumber Sword. As the name suggests, this weapon has a 50% chance to inflict Sleep status with a successful hit. This was very useful in random battles:
These Dilure foes could each be tagged with the Slumber Sword, putting them all to sleep one by one. Then Batman could recover with the Healing Staff and defeat them one at a time at his leisure. Nearly all random enemies are vulnerable to sleep, so this weapon saw a lot of use throughout the second world, and even afterwards in some key boss battles.
All of the enemies in the underground river (leading to the Moogle village) were weak against either lightning or fire elements, so Batman broke out some of his old weapons and switched back and forth between the Coral Sword and Fire Bow. This was really useful against the Acrophese crab-like monsters, who have high defense but fell readily to the lightning damage of the Coral Sword. The Tyrannosaur at the end was weak against fire, so Flame Bow time again. Seriously, who was it that said the Bare job doesn't have access to any magic or special abilities? This almost felt like a Black Mage game here!
After picking up the Epee Sword and Chemist-only Angel Suit inside Bal Castle, Batman moved on to the Hiryuu Valley. I was pleased to once again grab the Bone Mail here, but Batman had the disadvantage of being unable to run away from any battles. Including the Golem subquest encounter, heh:
To obtain the Golem summon, you have to "save" him by defeating these two monsters in a random battle. Most of my solo characters run away when this encounter pops up, since they can't make use of the Golem summon, but Batman didn't have that option. You can see him shooting Fire arrows at the two undead dragons. I actually got this battle about three times, since Batman was never fast enough to kill the two enemies before they defeated Golem. More troubling was the random encounter with two Bone Dragons, which is an incredibly dangerous fight for a solo character. They have the ability to paralyze you with their "Tail" attack, and also drop hit points to under 10 with their "Bone" move. If one does Bone followed by the other using Tail, your character is dead and that's game over. This situation was made infinitely more dangerous by having a character who couldn't run away from battles! Batman was wiped out by this random encounter no less than seven times before I cleared the Hiryuu Valley, making for some very tedious repetition and backtracking. Sheesh.
At least the Hiryuu Plant boss was easy to defeat. A single swipe from the Doom Axe and down it went! (The Hiryuu Plant is not classified as "Heavy" and lacks immunity to death spells, for unknown reasons. An oversight in the code?) Batman wasn't complaining in any case.
The tactics for the third Gilgamesh fight on the ship were the same as in the previous one, hit him with a combination of Darkness and Old statuses from the same weapons as before, then hope and pray that Death Claw wouldn't end the battle. I also had the advantage of killing Enkidou instantly with the Doom Axe because he has the same lack of protections as the Hiryuu Plant, ha! Batman got lucky here and won on his second attempt, dodging two Death Claws (which each had 66% odds to hit) in the process. Very fortunate there, as this was a bit of a tough battle. Gilgamesh had no particular elemental weaknesses that Batman could exploit.
I fought for a while in the Barrier Tower, long enough to get a Wall Ring, then headed up to the top. Some of the treasure chests here are trapped with battles against Red Dragons, so I amused myself by switching ahead of time to the Ice Bow and Flame Ring, which together countered basically everything that those monsters could do. Atmos awaited at the top, and fortunately Batman had a strategy planned. First hit Atmos with the Slumber Sword and put him to sleep, Atmos' one weakness, then follow that up with magical attacks. Only physical attacks will wake up someone who has been put to sleep - you can cast away to your heart's content. And the one option that Batman had for casting spells was...
Breaking more rods, of course! This was the only legitimate way to defeat the Atmos boss, so I was happy to take it. Unfortunately, I only had 9 Fire/Ice/Thunder Rods saved up from the first world, and that wasn't enough to defeat Atmos at roughly 1500 damage per rod. This meant that Batman had to walk all the way back down from the top of the Barrier Tower, go to Kelb village and purchase some Venom Rods, then walk all the way back up to the top again (never running from any battles all the while!) and then break the new rods to get the victory. It was a huge waste of time, but I considered it a fair punshiment for myself not planning ahead properly. D'oh!
Next it was on to Guido's Cave, where once again the enemies had elemental weaknesses to exploit. The Radiator slime-like monsters were weak to the Fire Bow, while the Metamorphas were vulnerable to air element:
Batman uses the unwieldy-looking Wind Spear above, which got the job done pretty well. The Metamorphas have a rare chance to drop the Light Staff, which would be used later on in the Exdeath battle. Batman picked up one of them for the moment, and would return after running the Forest of Mua to grab a couple more. I'll explain further in a bit.
I used the Epee most of the time in the Forest, switching over to the Flame Bow for the enemies that were weak against fire or to heal Batman in battle. Because he had equipped the Bone Mail for defensive purposes, that meant that the Healing Staff would actually cause damage if I tried to recover health, but the Flame Ring + Flame Bow combo filled in nicely. The Crystals at the end were countered with the typical Flame Ring strategy described in so many other solo reports. Best of all, Batman picked up his Aegis Shield here and became the first character of mine to combine the awesome power of Ribbon + Aegis. Defense against virtually all status ailments!
Batman also acquired the Flame Tongue sword at the very end of the Forest of Mua, which did the most damage of any weapon for the moment and had fire element properties. This allowed Batman to replace his old Flame Bow and use the new sword for self-healing as needed, which I did very frequently throughout Exdeath's Castle:
Always looks a little funny to see in action, heh. Most of the monsters here had weaknesses of one sort or another for Batman to exploit. The wolves were weak against fire, the Magic Dragons were weak against air, the Golems were weak against lightning, and the Red Dragons of course could be hit by ice, including the new Ice Brand sword Batman found in the dungeon. Other foes lacked protection against death attacks; Blue Dragons and Yellow Dragons could be killed with the old Doom Axe, which was easier than running them out of health. For the few foes that didn't have any weaknesses, Batman could switch over to the very nice Double Lance found inside Exdeath's Castle, getting two attacks at high damage. Between healing, status protection, and swapping between a half dozen weapons, this area went pretty smoothly.
Nonetheless, I knew that Exdeath himself would be a very difficult battle, as Batman lacked any abilities to increase damage and get the fight over sooner. I could not simply wear him down over time, due to that awful Condemn move that Exdeath likes to pull out. That was where those Light Staves from Guido's Cave came in, since they can be broken to cast the Holy spell:
Holy element is Exdeath's one real weakness, and thus Batman was able to produce very high damage despite his modest Magic Power stat. (I did this previously with my solo Time Mage, Marty McFly, although the same Light Staff breaking did 50% more damage due to the Time Mage's higher magic stat. Will almost certainly have to pull the same move if I do a solo Red Mage and White Mage game.) Breaking three Light Staffs resulted in roughly 13k damage, a little over 4000 each, meaning Batman only needed to do another 3000 damage to trigger the Exdeath AI change, after which Condemn wouldn't appear anymore. That was doable with the Double Lance, after which I sat back and relied on Exdeath killing himself with Fire/Ice/Bolt 3 reflected off of Batman's Wall Ring. Despite me screwing up use of healing items at one point, the Aegis Shield blocked an attack that would have killed Batman, and because both Condemns missed I was actually able to win on the very first attempt. That may have been the first time I ever did that with one of my solo characters, not entirely sure.
Entering the third world, I didn't want to fool with the possibility of Sonic Waves from the Antlion, so Batman opened up another special gadget:
The Power Staff (turned up from an enemy drop in Exdeath's Castle) does no damage, but casts the spell Berserk when used in battle. Berserk actually increases the damage done by 50%, however it also overrides the monster AI programming and has them do nothing but attack. If you can combine Berserk with Darkness status or the Knight's Guard ability, you can render enemies all but helpless. (The Chemist has a mix called Kiss of Blessing which allows you to inflict Berserk status on any enemy, even overriding immunities - yes, this is a known bug!) For this Antlion battle, Batman was thus able to avoid getting hit by Sonic Wave and win with ease. This wasn't the last time that he'd be using the Power Staff either...
Batman was finally able to pick up the Brave Blade in Mua, which had maximum power because he had never run from any battles the whole game. Even with an attack of 150, the damage from the Brave Blade was somewhat underwhelming, at a little over 2000 per attack. Perhaps I should have taken the Chicken Knife instead? But no, Batman would only have gotten slightly more damage from the Chicken Knife, and that would have been canceled out by the Flee effect, which he had no abilities to counter. The real problem was Batman's low character stats, and lack of any abilities to boost damage. Even with +10 to Strength from the Ribbon and Brave Blade, Batman was never going to have the raw power of a Knight or Monk, which limited his attack multiplier. I would simply have to make due with creativity, instead of brute force.
The Slumber Sword put the two Gargolyes to sleep, preventing them from reviving one another. (Using the Power Staff again for Berserk would have been another option.) Batman combined the Brave Blade with the Flame Tongue throughout the Pyramid, the latter being used for self-healing and against some of the undead foes who were weak to fire. I had no trouble with the Machine Head robots, but Batman was wiped out twice in a row by Mummies, getting zombied at low odds right before reaching a save point, argh! Shouldn't the Ribbon have protected against that? Guess not.
Anyway, the other big treasure find in the Pyramid was the Flame Shield. This actually became Batman's default shield for random, non-boss encounters in the third world! It had two major advantages over the Aegis Shield: slightly higher physical Evade (40% against 33%) and the ability to use the Flame Tongue sword for self-healing, without having to equip a Flame Ring. That allowed Batman to go with the Running Shoes for Haste Status, and still keep himself alive while wearing the Bone Mail. Now I did still want the protection of Aegis for boss fights, but in your run-of-the-mill random encounter the Flame Shield was a great help!
Defeating Merugene was a non-issue with the Brave Blade, and then it was off to gather up the key treasures of the third world. Batman first bought the Running Shoes in Mirage Village, and then started plundering the best of the Legendary Weapons from Kuzar Castle. I took Excalibur, the Masamune, and the Hardened Dagger on my first trip. Each one has a special ability: Excalibur does Holy-element damage, the Hardened Dagger has the same "weapon block" property of the Guardian dagger (25% physical evade), and the Masamune casts Haste when used in battle, as seen above. This allowed Batman to swap over to another accessory against certain bosses, getting Haste status back by using the Masamune. For instance, against Stalker I think that I went with the Guard Ring, and piled Haste for free on top of that. Batman was stealing a page from the Time Mage's playbook here!
Fork Tower had two more key pieces of gear inside. The magic side of the tower held the Wonder Rod, which Batman wanted mostly for Shell status in the final boss encounters. Love that Wonder Rod, so useful if you take the time to prep the right spells. Over in the physical side of the tower, Batman found the Defender sword, which casts Armor when used in battle:
Armor effectively cuts physical damage in half (divides the multiplier M by 2), thus letting Batman fight in the front row as if he were in the back row. A melee-only boss like the Minotaur didn't have a chance, especially with Batman having Haste status as well. Then in the second tower versus Omniscient, I tried and failed to inflict Old/Aging status by bouncing it off of a Wall Ring with the Ancient Sword. So Batman waited until Omniscient used up all of his 20,000 magic points and then killed him with physical attack. Boring, but effective.
One thing that had always bothered me was the fact that my solo Knight Arthur had been forced to skip the Great Trench dungeon, because he could not run away from battle and the Unknown enemies down there would have killed him with their "Possess" attack. I was in a similar situation with Batman, who also was using the Brave Blade, but this time I had an answer:
I used the Power Staff to Berserk the "Blob" Unknown enemies, the ones who use Possess, and then cut them down once their AI routine had been overridden! Batman had to do the same against the "Skeleton" Unknowns as well, since they will cast Condemn in battle when they get hit. While it was a convoluted solution, it did in fact work. The best weapon against these enemies was Excalibur, not the Brave Blade, as all of the Unknowns are weak against Holy element damage. The graphical display for Excalibur, captured above, looks pretty cool. At least the boss trio at the end was easy to defeat, combining the Bone Mail and Flame Ring to neutralize their elemental attacks, then piling Haste/Armor status on top of that!
Istory Falls is an easy dungon, and verily it was so again. The most interesting battle was against the Tonberi monsters found in random encounters, who hit extremely hard with their "Cleaver" move. Batman couldn't survive that, so the solution was to use the Power Staff again for Berserk and then the Darkness Bow to blind their attacking. Another time-consuming, slow method - but it worked, and better than having to start over again from the last save point after dying. Leviathan was pretty easy, Batman equipping a Coral Ring and then adding his usual buffs on top of it.
With a huge assortment of gear in tow - more weapons and armor than I've saved for any other character ever - Batman entered the Cleft of Dimension at Level 53. The first three "desert", "Lonka Ruins", and "forest" sections were very easy to complete. The Land Crawls in the desert were the biggest threat, but they could be killed instantly with the Doom Axe. Wood Sprite and Apanda were also quite easy to defeat. It was the monsters in the "caves" section of the final dungeon that were the most difficult:
These Achelone random encounters were a huge pain in the rear. They had 70% physical Evade, took three hits to kill, and had the potential to use the devastating Sonic Wave ability. Normally I run from these guys, but of course that wasn't an option here. While Batman was usually able to survive unless I got really unlucky, it made for difficult battles and slow going. Ditto for the Ninjas in the "sky" part of the Cleft of Dimension, who also had really high Evade and took ages to kill with the Brave Blade. Since I could heal using the Flame Tongue there wasn't any great danger, but sheesh, such a long time to fight out each individual battle! Missing over and over again wasn't much fun.
I bring this up because Apocalypse proved to be a very difficult boss for Batman. He had all kinds of Blue Magic spells which would make victory nearly impossible: Dark Shock (cutting level in half), Condemn, Death Claw, ???? (always an instant kill against a solo character), and the Level 2 Old, Level 4 Quarter, Level 5 Doom collection. Depending on Batman's level, these last three could pose real problems as well! Now if there had been a save point right next to Apocalypse I could have bent probability in my favor with repeated boss runs, but every time Batman failed he had to walk all the way back from the prior save point in the caves, and I've already mentioned how the random enemies in these places were tough customers. I needed a better way of doing things than attacking with the Brave Blade and hoping for the best!
One tool at my disposal was the Wonder Rod, which helped a little:
When used in battle, the Wonder Rod casts Reset and starts the fight over again from the beginning. That wouldn't save Batman from the instant death of ????, but it did mean that I could begin anew if Condemn or Dark Shock appeared. Still, I was trying to defeat Apocalypse by using physical attack at Level 54, and it wasn't working. I decided to back out of the Cleft of Dimension and increase Batman's level to 57, where none of those Level X spells would be effective anymore. I also saw that if I swapped gear around to increase Batman's Magic Power stat, taking it from 30 to 36, he would get an additional multiplier for magic damage at Level 57. The alternate magical strategy involved buying Venom Rods and breaking them to cast Bio, as Apocalypse's one elemental weakness is to poison damage. Long story short, this worked out successfully as I planned, breaking 11 Venom Rods in the process. While I'm not a big fan of breaking rods, it seemed appropriate here as the best way to go after a boss' weakness. And the Bio spell was hardly overpowered this late in the game!
With Apocalypse out of the way, the remaining boss run was rather tame. Catastrophe, Halicarnassus, and Twin Tania were all defeated with little difficulty - the random encounters in the Dimensional Castle were more fearsome! (Especially those Iron Giant monsters, who can deal 1000+ damage per attack, have a natural counterattack when you hit them, and cast Hurricane and Rocket Punch. Nearly impossible for a solo character to win against them.)
That took Batman into the Void, where he continued to fight the random encounters that I normally run away from. He actually had a lot of success against them too, as these guys aren't really all that tough. So long as Batman kept healing as needed with the Flame Tongue, he was pretty tough to kill. One of the enemies in the Void is the Crystal Dragon, which had an important rare steal I wanted to pick up. Now rare steals are hard to get, so imagine my shock when I got this result from the very first use of the Thief Knife:
Holy crap, Dragoon Spear on the very first steal attempt?! The Thief Knife only has 33% odds to use Capture when attacking, and the odds of getting the rare steal over the normal steal are only 3%. This was a *WILDLY* improbable result, but one which I was extremely thankful for. Saved me a ton of time and effort trying to find that Dragoon Spear. Batman hadn't even beaten Necrophobia yet, so I walked all the way back to the save point in the Dimensional Castle to record my progress and make sure I didn't lose this awesome steal result.
I wasn't too worried about old Necro, since the Defender Sword's Armor status would blunt his attacks, and Excalibur would do tons of damage. Batman also had the Wonder Rod queued up for Shell status, but of course I tried to be a wise guy on my first attempt and see if I could kill one of the Barriers without using Shell. That obviously didn't work, and I had a fun ten minute walk back from the waaaaay far away save point to mull over my brilliant tactical choice. Second time, I wised up and used Shell to keep Batman alive, without which he would have been horribly dead many times over. Wore down the Barriers with physical attacks, prepped for the second half of the battle with Armor status, and then took out Necrophobia with repeated Excalibur usage. Necro has really high physical Defense, but he is weak against all eight elements, so Excalibur did 4000+ damage with each strike. Victory followed quickly.
And Batman was able to steal the Genji Armor successfully from Gilgamesh at the end of the Necrophobia fight, the first time I've managed to land the armor with a character who could actually equip it!
After cycling through the Wonder Rod's spells to prepare Shell once again, Batman was ready for the final battle. I had him equipped with the Brave Blade, Aegis Shield, Ribbon, Genji Armor, and Running Shoes. That's just about the most powerful combination of equipment I can think of in the whole game, so well done Batman! The Running Shoes were necessary because Neo Exdeath will use Dispel, and you don't want to lose your Haste status at a critical moment. Even my Time Mage went with the Running Shoes in the final battle - too risky to do otherwise.
Batman started out the Exdeath "Tree" battle by beefing up with Armor and Shell status, effectively doubling his health against physical and magic attacks. With his heavy armor (Aegis + Ribbon + Genji) poor Exdeath was only doing about 600 damage per attack, even in the front row! This was sort of a good thing, because Batman was only doing slightly over 2000 damage per attack himself, which is lower than any of my other solo characters. Against bosses with no elemental weakness, Batman really didn't do that much raw damage. Taking down Exdeath's 49,000 health was a slow and steady process. The real danger zone was cutting away the final 10k hit point, where Exdeath had the possibility to cast Meteo. Batman was very lucky here, dodging a possible Meteo three separate times (odds of that were roughly 30%).
Then it was on to the second Neo Exdeath battle, where Batman could break out that Dragoon Spear:
The Dragoon Spear was important because it not only has a very high Attack rating (119), but it will always do a critical hit against "Dragon" type enemies. And, as you might remember from my Dragoon report, Neo Exdeath Part #1 is classfied as a Dragon! That allowed Batman to inflict roughly 4000 damage per attack against the dreaded Grand Crossing part of the last boss. I has used the Magic Lamp's Odin summon to remove Part #4 instantly, as all of my solo characters do, then went after Part #1 to eliminate those Grand Cross dice rolls from the battle. Batman was protected against almost everything thanks to Aegis + Ribbon, but there were still a few status ailments that could spell doom, such as Condemn. I didn't want to mess around with a possible bad dice roll, so Batman took out the first part as quickly as possible. He had to survive four Grand Crosses, none of which had any discernible effect.
That just left Part #2 (Almagest) and Part #3 (physical attacks). Batman kept using the Defender Sword to preserve Armor status, which was repeatedly Dispelled during the fight. Fortunately, Part #3 does not have an immunity to Darkness status, so the hoary old Darkness Bow came out of storage to blind it. Once Darkness status was in effect, Part #3's physical attacks only had a 16.7% chance to hit Batman, plus I had Armor status piled on top of all that physical Evade. Even better, the Aegis Shield had a 1/3 chance to block every Almagest from Part #2, and it did in fact block quite a lot of them during the battle. So for Batman to be killed, not only would I have had to mess up my Elixir usage, but he would have to get hit simultaneously with an Almagest and Vaccuum Wave at incredibly low odds.
Needless to say, that didn't happen:
Batman joined the very short list of solo characters who defeated Neo Exdeath on their first attempt. There are several solo characters where I wrote something like, "I won on the first try where I wasn't killed by a cheese move", but it remains something special to get it done perfectly on the absolute first try! All of these characters shared an ability to equip the marvellous Aegis Shield... except for Spoony the Bard, who was in a unique situation of his own. Not everyone can Hide for ten hours until Neo Exdeath uses up its 65,000 magic points!
Wrapping up here, this was a very entertaining character class to use. The Bare class lacks raw power of any sort. But the flexibility - my goodness! There's so much potential for customization that it's almost unreal. Depending on equipment, I could shuffle Batman's stats around as much as 10 points in any direction. Most of the time I wanted to emphasize Strength, but you saw against Apocalypse how he could switch over to Magic Power if needed for spellcasting. And there are a ton of different spells available to the Bare job, so long as you save up the proper equipment ahead of time. Batman really did have a gadget on hand for virtually every situation. I just feel sorry for someone who played the whole game with this class and did nothing but break rods to get past every boss fight. You missed out on the whole fun of this job!
Finally, take a look at the screenshot above: ZERO abilities learned! You'll never see that happen again!