Well, since the previous map introduced unions, I think it's high time I discussed them and how they work. I'll also throw in an explanation of the game's...unfortunate inventory system.
Unions: Not the Kind Big Companies Hate
Unions are this game's major gimmick mechanic, which is used to make battles more interesting. The short version is that they allow your team and the enemy team to attack with multiple units at once, but there's a bit more to it than that.
When you decide to make an attack, the game will project a formation of sorts around your character—it's shaped like an X if it's a male unit attacking, if you're using a female unit it's a straight cross, and it extends two spaces from the attacking unit in all directions in either case. Any allied units within this formation will get to attack along with the unit who initiated the attack. The target will also form a union, however.
The order in which units fight in a union is determined simply enough. After the union leader, the first unit to fight will be the one in the top-right position closer to the center of the union. After that, the next unit to fight will be the one in the bottom-right position on the inside, and so on in a clockwise pattern. This then repeats for the outer part of the formation. Knowing the order in which your units will fight is vital to your success in battle, as you can use this information to keep units from fighting enemies with an advantage over them.
Each union can have a maximum of five members, though you often won't get that many units to use even when you have that many. If your union is outnumbered, the priority formula will restart from the leader, but everyone who has fought before will go into battle missing one unit for each fight they have done (or, in the case of large units, you'll have one of your members at half health). The "No Battle Penalty" ability negates this effect entirely, allowing any unit that has it a significant advantage.
The reason to use large unions, naturally, is to get rid of multiple enemies in one turn. You can also use this to cut through bosses much more effectively.
Items and Why You're Going to Hate Them
The inventory system used in Yggdra Union
is, to put it bluntly, terrible. Items are, however, often the only thing standing between you and a horrible death, so you'll have to put up with it.
Items are found either by placing a unit on a totally arbitrary space or by taking them off of your enemies. To get an enemy to drop an item, you need to deal the finishing blow using a unit whose Luk is greater than or equal to the Luk of the unit whose item you want. This isn't really that much of a problem because the Royal Army contains many very lucky characters, but it does limit you a fair bit early on.
Quite a few items you find on maps are in the most dangerous place anything of use to a JRPG character can be: in the hands of NPCs. Some of them will give you stuff with no strings attached out of the goodness of their hearts, but you usually need to give them something, which you may or may not have. Sometimes you might need to have your Reputation at a certain level to get an item, which is problematic because Reputation resets after every single loss (though these items invariably use your army's total Reputation, so you can usually get away with one or two losses). The worst items to get are the ones locked behind both a Reputation check and a trade, which in many cases can render something you've been carrying for several maps useless simply because one enemy inflicted a critical hit.
Now, items are used for a few things. You can trade them for other items, use them to recover your morale (which, contrary to years of SRPG tradition, remains as-is after every single map), or you can equip them. Using an item to recover morale consumes it entirely and gives you an amount of morale dependent on the character you used it on. Do note that there are very few items whose only use is to recover morale.
Equipping items is where it's at. Equipping an item will alter your stats, with the change generally being by a certain number of small stars for each affected stat. You also usually get some sort of effect from the item. Some effects are good, some are bad, and some are so situational that they might as well not exist. Once you've equipped an item, it will remain on the character using it for a set number of maps, and they will be unable to equip anything else.
Now, here's the issues with this inventory system:
- Item Issue #1: Almost every single item in the game is optional. The only ones that cannot be missed under any circumstances are the ones belonging to enemies with only 1 Luk, who will drop their item no matter who kills them.
- Item Issue #2: You are given absolutely no hints as to the locations of items. Quite a few valuable things are hidden simply by putting them in places you would never think to actually put a unit. Some items require high Reputation. Some items require low Reputation. In short, if you want to get anywhere with item collection, you need to have a walkthrough open while you're playing the game.
- Item Issue #3: Items used to recover morale are destroyed. Sometimes this makes sense. I mean, you wouldn't expect to still have any sort of food after consuming it. However, this applies for everything, implying that grapes, suits of armour, and slabs of Unobtainium all suffer the same fate when you use them for morale recovery. Because the game doesn't specify how this works, you end up in a situation where you can only assume that your characters have eaten the item in question, no matter how little sense it makes.
- Item Issue #4: You can't unequip items. If, say, you have an item that gives you advantage against knights, you can't use it on one knight then unequip it for use against future knights. Now, to be fair, the game does make semi-clever use of this by having some items persist for longer than they're actually needed, but that's honestly a lame excuse for setting RPG equipment mechanics back 20 years.
- Item Issue #5: This system makes no freaking sense! WHY can't Durant use a lance and ride a horse at the same time? Why can't ANYONE wear a hat and a cloak at the same time? Why do legendary uber-weapons fall apart like they're made of toilet paper after only one battle? DSGBASFENWME...I should probably stop now, but for one more thing...
- Item Issue #6: A whole crapload of Milanor's weapons are named for scythes from Riviera, but he uses an axe instead. Now, I understand that there's game balance to think about here, but still. Way to troll every Serene fan in the world, Sting.
Well, that should explain things decently enough, I think.For the record, here's a list of all the items I have as of map 3, with notes on their effects and what I think of them:
- Fur Coat: A winter cloak lined with beasts' fur.
- Stats: Gen+4
- Ability: Void Ice
- Duration: 3 maps
- Used by: All
- Notes: This is only useful on three maps, which is conveniently exactly the number it lasts for.
- Hair Band: A simple hair ornament that Yggdra often wears.
- Stats: Gen+2, Luk+4
- Ability: Instant Charge
- Duration: 2 maps
- Used by: Female (but not Rosary)
- Notes: Instant Charge is a really good ability, but I can't use it yet because it works with skills. I can't equip it prior to the map that introduces skills, though, so no foul there.
- Iron Choker: A dangerous bladed iron choker.
- Stats: Gen+2, Tec+2, Luk+2
- Ability: Evade Criticals
- Duration: 2 maps
- Used by: Female only
- Notes: Those stat bonuses are better at high levels when you're likely to have multiple stats at 4 or 5 large stars. The ability is definitely worth it, too.
- Kokorinut: An addictive snack food.
- Stats: None
- Ability: Eat: Luk Up
- Duration: 1 map
- Used by: All
- Notes: This is one of the many food items, which give you a full big star in one stat. Obviously, they're best used when the stat they increase is at an even big star, because you'll still get the small stars that you would've gotten without eating. These are best used on a stat that maxes out at 4, and they're best used when it's at 3—that way you'll max the stat without any wasted levels.
- Leather Hat: A simple hat made by stitching skins together.
- Stats: Gen+4
- Ability: Evade Panic
- Duration: 2 maps
- Used by: Not Rosary
- Notes: That ability will actually let you counter after a critical hit. It's otherwise of no use, though, so this is a safe item to use for morale recovery.
- Ruby Staff: Staff with a ruby embedded in the head.
- Stats: Atk+4, Tec+2
- Ability: Fire attack Up
- Duration: 5 maps
- Used by: Staff
- Notes: I may or may not be able to use this to incredible effect, depending on a choice that'll be made later on. This thing allowed Eudy to tear through my team last mission, and being able to do the same would be quite welcome.
- Trap: A huntsman's snare.
- Cannot be equipped.
- Notes: This is a trade item. There's one character who can recover morale off of it, but the item you get from the trade is better for morale recovery (in addition to being usable in battle).
- Medallion: A medal for distinguished service in combat.
- Cannot be equipped.
- Notes: These things are your lifeline. A character can use them to recover 20% of their morale. Having a good supply of Medallions allows you to avoid having to burn stuff you can actually equip for the morale.
As a final note, I have heard that PSP Exclusive Character #2 might not be exclusive to Hard mode after all, instead merely being restricted to a second playthrough. If anyone could confirm or deny this, it would be most appreciated, because with the results of that last fight, I'm seriously doubting the possibility of me finishing the game on Hard mode...