But so do I! Yes, the game lets you win by joining Nikademus. Read on for more.
When I last wrote, I was quite close to the end of Phantasie III in a physical sense, but far from it in a logistical sense. Physically, all I had to do was get through the Castle of Darkness, one small outdoor map, and Nikademus's castle. In reality, this took a couple of days because I needed to engage in a massive level-building effort.
|The Castle of Darkness. Being a mirror image of the Castle of Light, a screenshot of Light helped me avoid traps in Dark.|
The trouble came first in the Castle of Darkness, where waves of devils, vampires, and high-level mages assaulted my party and, ultimately, wiped them all out. My visit to the Astral Plane didn't go so well, and four of my characters were turned into undead (they had been around Level 12 before), meaning I essentially had to start over from scratch. Slowly, I built my way up to Level 11-12 again, re-assailed the castle a second time, and lost my entire party again, although this time losing just two to undead status. Crikey.
Fortunately, my wife and I have an annual January tradition of watching the entire Lord of the Rings saga on a single Sunday, so I spent yesterday in front of the TV but simultaneously playing the game. The Plane of Dark offers up some fairly tough but rarely fatal battles, so I literally spent all day on this one map, wandering around and slaughtering monsters, finally getting all of my characters up to Level 16. I also explored the map and came across two "optional" dungeons, one in which a nice old man offered me bowls of soup that increased any statistics I chose.
I used the increases on constitution (some of the characters were in the single digits after multiple resurrections). The old man turned out to be Nikademus in disguise, but the attribute increases still held. The other dungeon was a series of dragon caves that yielded a lot of treasure I didn't need--by the end of the game, I was well over the $4 million mark.
When I went back to the Castle of Darkness, it became clear that in my zeal to avoid a repeat of Saturday, I overdid it a bit. The battles weren't easy, but I got through the dungeon fairly quickly and found a room in which I had the choice to do several things with a wand.
|I didn't try "straticonuble," but it doesn't even show up in a Google search, so I'm guessing it didn't do anything.|
Messages sprinkled throughout the Castle had spelled a message: "Welcome, adventurers, to my castle. If you join me in my evil ways and destroy Lord Wood, you will be greatly rewarded. To find me, break the wand in the magic circle in my room." Thus, I broke the wand I had found in the first dungeon and was granted passage to another plane, where I at last found Nikademus's Castle.
His castle was about as hard as the Castle of Dark--the high devils were particularly difficult--but by then I had some major damage spells like Firebolt IV and plenty of magic potions, so I got through it in one try. There were a lot of secret doors which made navigation difficult. At last, I came across the evil sorcerer. I remembered to cast "spell 57," which a wizard in the Gnome Caverns had given me. The spell summoned none other than Lord Wood.
Here's where things took an interesting turn. Nikademus told me that my actions had been "completely evil" (I guess that was the consequence of smashing those statues in the Castle of Light) and I could join him by killing Lord Wood.
The game gave me the option of attacking Wood or Nikademus. I thought about it and decided, what the hell do I care about this idiotic land for? I'd rather rule in hell than serve in heaven. That sort of thing. Thus, I launched myself at Lord Wood and brought him down quite quickly in a barrage of swords, bows, and Fireflash spells.
Next thing I know, Pluto, god of the Underworld, was personally congratulating me for my evilness and encouraging me to teach others my evil ways. And I guess Nikademus gets to take over the land. Well done me.
All right, all right. I couldn't just leave it at that. I re-loaded and made another trip through Nikademus's castle and this time killed Nikademus. He was even easier than Wood. In fact, neither of them were anywhere near as hard as any of the random battles in the castle.
In any case, this time I found myself in front of Zeus with an identically worded congratulations, only this time with "evil" replaced by "good."
Both endings load you up with equipment and experience points and then let you continue playing the game. I generally like this in later CRPGs, but in this era, where none of the NPCs even acknowledge that you've won the game, it seems rather pointless.
This isn't the first game to offer "good" and "evil" endings; Wizardry IV offered several of both types. But it's still unusual for the era.
After winning, I read Andrew Schultz's walkthrough (I covered Schultz and his work a few months ago) and discovered that I missed a bunch of stuff. First, there was an entire dungeon--Lord Wood's tent--that I must have mistaken for a town or inn when I walked by. Apparently, I was supposed to battle my way to him and get the final quest to kill Nikademus. Whoops. More important, some of your dialog varies if you imported characters who won previous Phantasie games. More important, the sage Filmon, who bafflingly said he chose my party because "Nikademus would never suspect us" says something else to a party who has previously won: "because you have proven yourself worthy of the task." It's still unexplained why Nikademus keeps reappearing, but I guess whereas my Level 8 priest can resurrect my characters, and Nikademus is a multi-dimensional villain who has his own castle in the Netherworld and is favored by the god Pluto, I can allow the series some artistic license.
GIMLET coming up, and then I promise I'll finish up with NetHack.