"Would you like to go on an immortal journey?"

*********************************************************************
 _______          _________ _       _________ _        _______ 
(  ____ \|\     /|\__   __/( (    /|\__   __/( (    /|(  ____ \
| (    \/| )   ( |   ) (   |  \  ( |   ) (   |  \  ( || (    \/
| (_____ | (___) |   | |   |   \ | |   | |   |   \ | || |      
(_____  )|  ___  |   | |   | (\ \) |   | |   | (\ \) || | ____ 
      ) || (   ) |   | |   | | \   |   | |   | | \   || | \_  )
/\____) || )   ( |___) (___| )  \  |___) (___| )  \  || (___) |
\_______)|/     \|\_______/|/    )_)\_______/|/    )_)(_______)
                                                               
 _______  _______  _______  _______  _______ 
(  ____ \(  ___  )(  ____ )(  ____ \(  ____ \
| (    \/| (   ) || (    )|| (    \/| (    \/
| (__    | |   | || (____)|| |      | (__    
|  __)   | |   | ||     __)| |      |  __)   
| (      | |   | || (\ (   | |      | (      
| )      | (___) || ) \ \__| (____/\| (____/\
|/       (_______)|/   \__/(_______/(_______/

 _______           _______ 
(  ____ \|\     /|(  ___  )
| (    \/( \   / )| (   ) |
| (__     \ (_) / | (___) |
|  __)     ) _ (  |  ___  |
| (       / ( ) \ | (   ) |
| (____/\( /   \ )| )   ( |
(_______/|/     \||/     \|

*********************************************************************

#####################################################################
Supplemental Guide/Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Version 1.12
by Kamatari47 (guitarotoko@gmail.com)
#####################################################################

DISCLAIMER:

This guide is intended for private, personal use.  Any unauthorized
reproduction, publication, or distribution of this guide without my
express written permission is strictly prohibited.  At this time,
this guide may be published with permission by gamefaqs.com only; any
unauthorized publishers of this guide is committing a violation of
copyright.  Of course, I can't really do anything to stop you from
ripping this thing off GameFAQs and putting it up wherever you please,
but it'll be interesting to see if you take the time to delete this
sentence first.  All information found in this guide was derived from
and/or verified through my personal gaming experience.  I have
endeavored to properly credit all contributions to the best of my
knowledge.

Table of Contents:

I.   Introduction
II.  Tips and Tricks
III. Lists
IV.  Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
V.   Glitches
VI.  Save Files
VII. Update History/Special Thanks

=====================================================================
I. Introduction
=====================================================================

This guide is intended to be a comprehensive repository of in-depth
information for Sega's Shining Force EXA.  It contains little-known
information on gameplay principles and strategies derived through
the simplest method possible: lots and lots of gameplay.  I've spent
well over 400 hours on this game, as can be verified through the
save files I've contributed to GameFAQs (the latest of which is a
Chapter 12 save that shows 300.2 hours of game time).  I've made a
thorough effort to verify all of my findings, though it's possible
that you disagree with the relevance of some of them.  You may also
disagree with some of the conclusions I've drawn where game strategy
is concerned.  In both cases, I exhort you to write me -- I will
endeavor to post all valid reader contributions in this guide and
give proper credit where credit is due.  To contribute your tips and
tricks or to ask me questions (I will try to post all quality
questions, as well as my answers to each question, in Section IV:
Frequently Asked Questions), you may either email me at the address 
listed at the top (and bottom) of the guide or post to the Shining
Force EXA board at GameFAQs.

The five main sections of the guide are as follows:

- Section II: Tips and Tricks is where I will offer strategy-related
  suggestions and make observations on key points of gameplay.  This
  is also where I will talk about some of the more obscure Shining
  Force EXA gameplay principles.

- Section III: Lists is where I will present a few lists of interest
  (Ancient Arena locations, Healing Water locations, a complete listing
  of Core Metal locations, etc.) which, so far, have not been covered
  in any of the existing guides found on GameFAQs.

- Section IV: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) features popular and/or
  "good" (i.e. thought-provoking, intriguing, and/or worthy of detailed
  exploration) questions I've collected from emails and the Shining
  Force EXA message board here at GameFAQs, as well as my attempt to
  answer each question to the best of my ability.  Feel free to ask
  me questions -- you just may see them answered in this section.

- Section V: Glitches charts some of the most unusual (and most likely
  unintended) occurrences in Shining Force EXA.

- Section VI: Save Files is simply a place for me to post more detailed
  descriptions of the game saves I've uploaded to GameFAQs.

Please note that this is NOT meant to be a comprehensive walkthrough.
Others have already written those and, for the most part, the
walkthrough portions of their guides are functional and useful (many
other points of gameplay advice they offer are less useful to
erroneous, however, and will be addressed in this guide).  This document
is meant to be a "companion" text for those in need of further
elaboration of points mentioned in the walkthroughs, as well as for
those who simply wish to be better Shining Force EXA gamers.

You're advised to use the CTRL + F search function to quickly scan
this document for a particular topic of interest.

=====================================================================
II. Tips and Tricks
=====================================================================

GEO-FORTRESS BUILD ORDER

*  Energy Generator (Mandatory)
1. Training Ground
2. Radar
3(tie). Repair Function
3(tie). Robot Factory
5. Barrier
6. Cannon

The above is my personal recommendation for the order in which you
should seek to upgrade the Geo-Fortress.  The Energy Generator must
be upgraded before you can raise the levels of each individual function,
so there isn't much to say there.  The Training Ground is by far
the most useful Geo-Fortress upgrade -- prior to beating the game, it
is simply the most effective way to level up and find top-notch
equipment corresponding to your current power level.  With one notable
exception (see the "Infinite Healing Water" sub-section), there is
simply no need to "grind" anywhere out in the world (i.e. outside the
Geo-Fortress) if you've been spending your Core Metals on the Training
Ground.  Radar is the second most useful Geo-Fortress upgrade --
aside from its ability to show you the locations of boss monsters,
monster generators, and treasure chests, Radar is particularly
valuable for its ability to pinpoint the locations of hidden treasures
on any map within its effective radius.  No matter how good you are at
ferreting out hidden treasures, believe me when I say that Radar will
show you many items that you'd never find without it.  Even better,
once you've upgraded this function to its maximum level, you do not
even need to switch the Geo-Fortress into Search Mode in order to
receive telemetry -- Radar will automatically be "on" regardless of
which map you're currently exploring (it still doesn't work on most
locations accessed solely from within the Geo-Fortress, however, so
you can't scout the Training Ground, Dimension X Metal Tunnel, or Dungeon
of Ordeal with it -- though Radar does work within Xeyon Castle) and
regardless of which Geo-Fortress mode is currently active.

If you've maxed out both the Training Ground and Radar, it's time to
pay some attention to the defensive functions.  If you've been actively
acquiring and spending Core Metals, though, defense is not a problem
for you -- the high level of your Energy Generator is enough to ensure
that, outside of the last couple of chapters, few Defensive Battles
will seriously threaten your Geo-Fortress.  Since there isn't anything
else to upgrade, however, we might as well invest our extra Cores in
one of the three defensive functions (Repair, Robot Factory, Barrier).
As you can see above, I favor the approach of upgrading Repair and
Robot Factory in equal increments.  A souped-up Repair function
coupled with switching the Geo-Fortress into Recovery Mode will allow
your Photon Converters to rapidly and continuously regenerate any HP
they lose during Defensive Battles, and the Converters will also heal
any allied units standing near them.  Beside your main character and
his/her NPC party, there is another group of potential beneficiaries
of this healing effect -- robots purchased from the Robot Factory.
Defensive-type robots will always hang around the Photon Converter
and, as long as you've upgraded your robots to a decent level, they
will serve as nigh-impregnable defense for your Photon Converter,
leaving your party free to seek out the strategic targets you need to
destroy to end the Defensive Battle.  It does take a good bit of gold
to upgrade the Robot Factory and all its robots, but gold should come
easily from your Training Ground runs (selling equipment that you
don't need is a particularly profitable endeavor), and with the
Repair-and-Robots upgrade approach, you do not need to ever pay any
repair fees for your army of robots (unless, of course, you activate
the special S-Type robot, which I recommend against except in an
emergency -- the firepower it adds is seldom necessary with the
overall strength and healing ability of your Geo-Fortress setup, and
it simply isn't worth the repair costs to activate the S-Type).

An alternative to the Repair-and-Robots upgrade approach is to devote
singular focus to upgrading the Barrier function.  There are many
gamers who swear by Barrier; I am not one of them.  The Geo-Fortress
Barrier serves as all-purpose damage reduction, and a high-level
Barrier does indeed make it nearly impossible to damage your Photon
Converters.  If you diligently acquire and spend your Core Metals,
though, you will seldom need Barrier to make your Photon Converters
hard to damage -- the high HP value granted by a high level Energy
Generator combined with steady healing from your Repair function once
the Defensive Battle has concluded will almost certainly ensure that
your Photon Converters all have full HP by the time the next Defensive
Battle starts.  The Barrier upgrade approach is inferior to the
Repair-and-Robots approach in that you lose the robot army defending
your Photon Converter (or, to be more exact, the robot army earning
experience and gold for you while you go off destroying strategic
targets) and that you also lose the healing aura around the Photon
Converter, which can be a lifesaver in certain particularly nasty
Defensive Battles.  You're free to choose whichever approach you like,
of course (or experiment with both and try to decide which one you
like better), with one caveat: do NOT prioritize the Barrier above the
Training Ground.  That proposition is just crazy -- there is no way
that some damage reduction on your Photon Converters offers equal
value to all the character levels/quality equipment/gold/Mythril you
stand to gain from making runs through the Training Ground.

The Cannon function is useless.  Do NOT spend any Core Metals on it
whatsoever unless you've already maxed out every other function.
Upgrading the Cannon only affects the blast radius of a Cannon shot
(a higher-level Cannon has a larger blast radius), the recharge speed
of the mechanism (a higher-level Cannon recharges faster), and how
much damage it deals when you "call in" a shot -- contrary to what some
believe, it does NOT extend the range of potential blasts.  Cannon
range can only be extended through storyline advancement.  With
adequately powered-up characters, you should never need to resort to
your slow-firing, limited-area-of-effect Cannon to deal damage, and
you certainly should not spend any Core Metals on it when there are
far worthier functions to upgrade.

THE EXPERIENCE SYSTEM

Ever wondered how your newly-acquired NPC allies gain levels so
quickly at first before dropping to the same leveling pace as your
main characters?  That phenomenon demonstrates one aspect of Shining
Force EXA's experience (EXP) system.  Every location in Shining Force
EXA has a hidden statistic that I like to call its "area level".  The
amount of experience your characters receive from each monster kill
is never fixed -- rather, the amount of EXP each character receives
from a kill depends on two factors: the character's current level and
the area level of the location.  If the character's current level is
lower than the area level, the amount of EXP you receive will be
multiplied -- the larger the difference between the two, the higher
the multiplier.  This is how you receive EXP in the tens of thousands
for a low-level NPC ally when you kill a monster, even though the
typical "base EXP" (that is, the amount of experience a character
receives when his/her level is only slightly lower than the area level)
is almost always several hundred to a couple thousand EXP.  This is
the secret mechanism behind the "super-rapid leveling" phenomenon you
experience when you take a low-level character into a high-level
location and defeated the enemies populating that area.

On the flip side of the token, once your character level equals the
area level of a location, your EXP gains will grind to a halt -- you
will receive one (1) EXP point for every kill in that area, regardless
of the size and power level of the monsters you kill.  In the deeper
parts of the Training Ground, this can cause a twisted phenomenon
where enemies can one-hit KO your characters (due to their inherently
high power levels, your inadequate gear/Power Art/Secret Art setups,
or both) but will yield only 1 EXP each when you kill them.  Please
note also that there seem to be a few glitches related to the EXP
system -- I've personally noticed that, in the lowest levels of the
Training Ground, NPC party members need to be within one character
level of the main character in order to advance to the level "cap" of
a floor.  If they're not within one character level when the main
character hits the area level of the floor, they will start earning
the minimum of 1 EXP per kill just as if they have reached the level
cap (even though they actually have not).  For example, on Training
Ground floor B49F (area level 184), any NPCs who have not reached
level 183 when your main character reaches level 184 will only earn
1 exp per kill made on that floor (assuming that you keep using the
same lead character and that he/she stays at level 184), even though
they *should* be earning several hundred to a couple thousand EXP per
kill (because they have yet to reach the level cap of the location).
Perplexingly, any NPC allies who did manage to reach level 183 when
your main character "hit the cap" will earn the normal amount of
experience.

I do not have a complete list of area levels for every location in
the game (compiling such a list might consume the rest of my natural
life), but here are a couple of tidbits: prior to the game-ending
chapters, the highest character level you can reach through "normal"
adventuring (i.e. journeying through locations out in the world that
are easily accessible prior to the game-ending sequence of events)
is level 111 (the area level of the Lake Bark Caverns), whereas the
highest character level you can reach through specific training (i.e.
through usage of the Training Ground) is level 187 (the level cap of
the Training Ground Depths/B50F).  After beating the game, you can
advance your characters to the maximum level of 200 -- but only one
location in the game has sufficiently high area level for you to do so:
the Place Beyond Darkness located within the depths of Xeyon Castle.

GETTING AHEAD OF THE POWER CURVE

The "power curve" is a term I use to refer to the rate of increase in
the power levels of the monsters you face at each point of storyline
progression.  "Getting ahead of the power curve", therefore, means to
train your party so that they comfortably exceed the power levels of
the threats they face at each storyline juncture.  The simplest way
to do this is to increase your character levels and collect powerful
equipment drops by "grinding" the Training Ground.  This method,
however, requires that you obtain lots of Core Metals, and it largely
neglects a key component of character strength in Shining Force EXA:
Power Arts and Secret Arts.

There is a simple but often-overlooked way to remedy both problems:
explore the "optional" areas!  In Chapter 3, you'll be allowed to
access a number of locations that may prove initially challenging but
will yield great rewards in the long run.  These areas contain many
Power Art tablets, Prison Rocks (each of which yields a Secret Art
as a reward for defeating the imprisoned monster), and Ancient Arenas.
If you clear them all, spend the Core Metals you obtain on the
Training Ground, and make a few runs through the lowest block of
floors you can access in the Training Ground, and you'll find that
your characters are now powerful enough that the next few chapters,
at least, will be a walk in the park.  In other words, you'll have
effectively gotten ahead of the power curve.  Some of these areas are
accompanied by a marked increase in the ferocity of the local fauna,
however (your first trips to the Stone Arena, the Dragon Arena, the
Lake Bark Caverns, and the Golem Arena located within the Lake Bark
Caverns can be nasty surprises of the fatal variety), so you're advised
to mix up your exploration with time devoted to strengthening your
characters (leveling up, collecting equipment, acquiring Mythril for
your Power Arts) at the lowest block of the Training Ground that you
can access.  The areas you should explore (and what's to be found at
each location) are as follows:

- North Paora Plains (Prison Rock, Critical Resist Lv2, Ancient
  Arena: Wolfling)
- Northwest Paora Plains (Knockback Resist Lv3)
- West Paora Plains (Lightning Resist Lv1, HP Boost Lv5, Ancient
  Arena: Giant, 3 bottles of Goddess Tears)
- West Paora, Sewer (Critical Rate Lv3, leads to Prison Rock and
  Ancient Arena: Stalker)
- Paoraburr Cavern (leads to Altar of Darkness and 5 Darkness Runes)
- Paoraburr Trail (Ancient Arena: Lightning)
- Ranburr's Tomb (Prison Rock, Critical Rate Lv1)
- Ranburr's Tomb, Underpass (Master Guard Lv4, leads to Ancient
  Arena: Stone)
- East Paora Plains (Ancient Arena: Lizard)
- Ancient Runed Temple (Prison Rock, Flame Resist Lv1, Avalon's
  Torso)
- Rune Mountain Path (just to see the place)
- Clanup Island (ditto)
- Paora Plains, East Coast (Prison Rock, Skill Boost Lv5, Ancient
  Arena: Dragon)
- Lake Bark Cavern, North (Concentration Lv2)
- Lake Bark Cavern, South (HP Boost Lv8, Ancient Arena: Golem)
- Lake Bark, South Point (Petrify Resist Lv2, 5 Darkness Runes)

Later in Chapter 10, don't forget to employ the same principle and
explore the Sidora Snow Mountain, Canyon optional area, which leads
to Ancient Arena: Demon and a crucial Power Art -- Darkness Resist Lv2.

DEFENSIVE BATTLES

There are two categories of Defensive Battles in Shining Force EXA:
mandatory Defensive Battles (which occur when you reach a certain
point in the storyline) and "timer" Defensive Battles (which occur
after you spend a certain amount of time out in the world).  I'm not
here to teach you how to fight them; instead, I'm here to explain how
you can use Defensive Battles as a primary resource for obtaining
precious Core Metals.  Up to a certain point in the story, Gilnay, the
young Foxling who lives in the Geo-Fortress, will "stock" a Core Metal
after every mandatory Defensive Battle you win (you get about 7 of
these total -- Gilnay stops stocking Core Metals once all four exits
of the Geo-Fortress have been unlocked).  Gilnay will also stock a Core
after every five "timer" Defensive Battles you win (there is an infinite
number of these, of course, but Gilnay does have a "cap" on his stock:
by my calculation, he'll stop selling you Core Metals this way after
you complete your 12th set of five "timer" Defensive Battles, or 60
"timer" Defensive Battles in all).  When you return to the Geo-Fortress
after a Defensive Battle, you can buy each Core Metal in Gilnay's
inventory for 10,000 gold (if you're crazy, you can also pay him
1,000,000 gold -- you would still get only one Core Metal in return).
Early in the game, you can "farm" the timer-based variety of Defensive
Battles in order to obtain a large number of Core Metals and use them
to upgrade your Training Ground (thus gaining access to a facility
where you can strengthen your characters to the point that you really
out-distance your opposition in overall power level once you choose to
resume the storyline).  "Timer" Defensive Battles occur whenever a
timer of fixed length (about 20 minutes of real time) counts down to
zero (the indicator on the top-right corner of the screen will flash
red).  The timer will run as long as you're out in the world (i.e. not
inside your Geo-Fortress or at one of the locations where no combat
normally takes place -- Ruins of Yi'el Village, Cantore Village, and
Emperor's Hall, just to name a few): you do not have to be running or
fighting for the timer to run down.  A little simple math tells us that
you'll be allowed to purchase a Core Metal from Gilnay for every two
hours of real time (an hour and 40 minutes of waiting around on the
world map, about 20 minutes total to fight the five Defensive Battles);
that might seem like a lot of time, but hey -- no one said you have to
pay attention to your PS2 at all during the waiting!  During every
20-minute waiting period, you're perfectly free to (and should) surf
the internet, do homework, work on your house/lawn/garden, or even
play another video game on a different console -- do whatever you feel
like and just check in every 20 minutes to fight a quick Defensive
Battle.  24 hours of this will mine Gilnay dry of his 12 Core Metals
allocated to "timer" Defensive Battles, and you can easily combine
these with the Cores you've found from other adventures to open up
four to five new blocks of the Training Ground (strictly speaking,
you only need 4-5 Cores for the Training Ground itself, but you'll
also need a handful to upgrade your Energy Generator).  This is how I
managed to upgrade to Training Ground Level 7 before finishing
Chapter 3: I found a good spot to grind at Lake Bark and ended up
fighting 40 "timer" Defensive Battles there).  You can do the same
(or better, since I didn't actually milk Gilnay dry of all his "timer"
Defensive Battle Cores until much later).

NPC (NON-PLAYABLE CHARACTER) PARTY MEMBER RANKING

1. Avalon
2. Garyu
3. Faulklin
4. Duga
5. Maebelle
6. Amitaliri
7. Adam
8. Gadfort

First, let's make something very clear: all your NPC party members
stink compared to the main characters.  Once you start carving Power
Arts and finding good equipment, your main characters will outgrow
their NPC buddies rapidly (it's a terrible pity that NPCs do not have
access to Power Arts), so from the midpoint of the game on, you
should not be depending on your NPC allies to deal damage.  Instead,
you should use them as "meat shields" who draw enemy fire, as support
characters who can aid you with healing and status ailment-curing
spells (this is why Faulklin is rated so highly), and, once in a while,
as characters who can hurt a monster that has an elemental weakness to
one of your NPCs' attacks.  Also be cautioned that ALL of your NPC
allies have terrible resistance ratings versus magic attacks (except
attacks of any elemental types they may be immune to) -- against a
high-level monster such as a Ghost Master, your NPCs may end up being
hindrances which drain your of your Healing Water as you spend bottle
upon bottle trying to save them from magic attacks that drain their HP
precipitously with every hit.  With that said, let's look at the
rankings in a bit more detail.

Avalon and Garyu are the Tier I NPC allies (and, incidentally, the two
secret NPCs) in Shining Force EXA.  They have the highest hit points
of all the NPCs, and their physical defense values aren't bad, either.
With his high-level Light spells, Avalon is probably the most
offensively-gifted NPC of them all; Garyu, on the other hand, is the
best "meat shield" in the game -- he can really soak up all kinds of
damage -- well, unless it's magic damage -- and has the largest sprite
among all your characters, making him a perfect candidate for Cyrille
to hide behind.  Do be advised, though, that neither character has any
natural HP recovery -- if they take damage, they will never heal any
of that damage if you do not expend a Healing Water or visit a Goddess
Fountain (well, they'll get a little extra HP if they level up, but
the effect of that is miniscule and whatever wounds they've taken will
not go away as a result of the level-up).

As the best healer of all the NPCs (though there isn't much
competition -- Maebelle is the only other character with healing
capabilities), Faulklin is in a tier by himself.  His healing is
always helpful (and don't overlook the power of his Defense Charm-like
spell that reduces petrification time), and he's also capable of
dealing a little damage once you've upgraded his equipment to Saint
of Light or better.  He's physically weak, though, and he does have
a penchant for running straight at powerful monsters that can (and do)
knock him out with one blow.

Duga is the next best character.  He moves fast, heals fast, and is
particularly good versus enemies who petrify or are weak against Frost
Magic.  He is not, however, very sturdy at all versus either physical
or magic attacks.  Maebelle is listed next simply because she has the
ability to heal (though her healing is vastly inferior to Faulklin's
healing) and because she can do a little long-distance damage,
particularly after she learns her Light Magic spells.  Amitaliri is
actually one of the best damage-dealing NPC allies due to her large
variety of potent magic spells, but she just isn't sturdy enough to
be ranked any higher.

Adam and Gadfort are clearly the most inferior characters of the lot.
Both of them take damage badly from physical or magic attacks (and
especially from magic attacks), and neither offers enough of an
offensive punch to counteract their defensive shortcomings.  At least
Adam heals fast; Gadfort is just a failure all around.

THE PRIMER ON CHARACTER STRENGTH

When RPG gamers talk to each other about a game, it's common for them
to refer to their characters by character level ("hey, my Undead
Warlock got to level 60! He's awesome now!").  You really can't do that
with Shining Force EXA, however, because character level alone is a poor
measuring statistic for character strength.  This is because, relatively
speaking, character stats rise very slowly if leveling up is your sole
method of character advancement.  In fact, leveling up probably ranks
a distant third in terms of impact among the various factors that
contribute to overall character strength:

1. Power Arts
2. Equipment
3. Character level
4. Secret Arts

Power Arts are by far the speediest and most substantial way to "beef
up" your playable characters, though it is highly expensive in terms
of the Mythril required -- it costs a lot of Mythril just to max out
one level of a given Power Art, and there are certain Power Arts that
you absolutely want to keep maxed (i.e. fully carve every level of
that Power Art that you've so far obtained) at all times.  If you
devote some time to Mythril collection and carve your Power Arts
dutifully, however, you'll certainly like the results -- a well-carved
set of Power Arts can easily make advancement through the storyline
segments a breeze, and you're going to have to max a slew of Power Arts
to stand even a chance of surviving the toughest monsters in the game
(i.e. those found on the lower floors of the Training Ground and in
Xeyon Castle).  In the next sub-section, I will talk a little more
about which Power Arts you should prioritize over others for each
character.

The next most important thing to do on your quest for stronger characters
is to seek out better equipment for them.  Finding "better" equipment
is only a very small part of this endeavor: for the most part, you can
find higher-class equipment in places with higher area level (there
are a few "activated drops" which require a little work -- more on
this later).  You'll also spend a little time getting together the gold
necessary for Gantetsu to temper your gear for maximum enhancement
bonuses (especially if his forging level is high).  However, by far
the most time-consuming -- yet ultimately the most rewarding -- part
of equipment hunting will be to find gear with a proper combination of
useful enchantment mods (hereafter referred to as simply "mods").
More on all of this in a later sub-section.

Character level ranks a distant third compared to the two factors
discussed above.  Yes, you do gain some HP, MP, STR, DEX, and INT (and,
towards the end of your character level progression [i.e. from level
100 to 200], a few points of Absolute Defense as well), but the
magnitude of these stat increases is pitifully small compared to the
overall strength you gain from Power Arts and premium equipment mods.
In fact, it could take upwards of 30-40 level-ups for you to match the
stat gain from fully carving just one level of a Power Art.  This is
why you can't really say "my character is level xx" and expect that to
mean much of anything -- it'd be much more productive if you list the
Power Arts you've maxed and the general equipment setup you're using 
instead.  A level 50 character with maxed Power Arts (insofar as the
ones you can find at that stage of the game) and decent equipment can
easily outfight, say, a level 100 character who hasn't been carving
Power Arts or swapping for better gear.

Secret Arts are fairly limited in scope -- you can only carve one per
equipment type at a time -- and that translates into their generally
low impact on gameplay.  Aside from one notable exception (Goddess
Blessing), Secret Arts are mostly used so that their special
characteristics can help cover up some weaknesses in your characters'
stats (e.g. carving Conceal Weakness on Toma's shield to protect
yourself against high-critical rate monsters such as Arc Dragons), to
add an extra dimension to your strategy (e.g. using Devil Spark to
raise two-handed weapon attack speed up a class, using Darkness
Awakened to add a HP Absorb effect to your melee attacks), or to
simply get a minor boost for your stats (e.g. Oracle's Shield, Earth
Talisman).

"BEST" POWER ARTS

The first rule of carving Power Arts is this: if the Power Art is of
the "Killer" (increases attack power against an enemy race/type) or
"Pursuit" (increases attack power against enemies of an elemental
classification) type, max it.  Yes, it'll cost an arm and a leg (or
whatever the Mythril equivalent is for such limb loss), but it's
worth it -- maxed Killer/Pursuit Power Arts can and often do make the
difference between a long, grueling 30 minute fight (longer if you're
only dealing 1 damage per hit and therefore trying to give a monster
the death of a thousand paper cuts -- trust me, something like this
will happen to you sooner or later) and an easy, breezy 10-second
skirmish.  You also have a far higher chance of surviving against
hard-hitting monsters if you can deal enough damage to finish them
off quickly, and that's exactly what Killer/Pursuit Power Arts are for.

The next Power Art you should try to max is HP Boost.  As I will
explain in greater detail later on, HP is the most important stat when
it comes to survival -- your characters simply have a lot more HP than
DEF (physical defense), elemental resistance, and Absolute Defense, so
any percentage gains you make in HP nets you a larger numerical increase
compared to similar gains in any of the other defense-based stats.
HP Boost is more effective for Toma than it is for Cyrille, because
Toma has a far higher base HP and a higher HP increase multiplier
(meaning he gets much more HP from leveling up than does Cyrille),
but both characters should definitely prioritize this Power Art and
keep it maxed.

The next most important Power Art is Master Guard.  This is also a Power
Art that both characters should keep maxed at all times, because it
boosts the DEF (physical defense) stat, and the majority of the enemies
in the game attack with primarily physical attacks (as opposed to heavy
usage of magic attacks, a strategy employed by a much smaller percentage
of monsters).  This Power Art isn't as effective as HP Boost, however,
because there still are some tough enemies which primarily use magic,
and 100% magic attacks (i.e. a pure magic spell as opposed to a
physical attack boosted with some magic damage conferred by an elemental
magic property like Lightning Attack) against your characters ignore
the DEF stat when calculating how much damage will be inflicted.

There's one more "vital" Power Art that you should try to keep maxed:
Weapon Attack.  This increases base attack power and is another Power
Art better suited for Toma's game than Cyrille's.  In fact, if you favor
a magic-based approach for Cyrille, you do not NEED this Power Art at all;
however, I would advise you to keep it maxed nonetheless, because Cyrille
is physically fragile (a function of her relatively low HP) and you'll
probably need to use some of her crossbow tricks to dispatch a few of
the toughest monsters or to get yourself out of a tight spot.  By maxing
your Weapon Attack Power Art, you'll be able to deliver more damage with
each crossbow bolt, and that could be a timesaver (and, occasionally,
a lifesaver as well).

After those "big four" Power Arts, what you carve is largely up to you.
A melee-minded Toma should max Quick Swing and then start carving the
various tech-effect Power Arts: Critical Attack, Critical Rate,
Knockback Attack, Stun Attack, etc.  An "archer" Cyrille should probably
carve the same set of Power Arts -- except for Quick Swing (which has
no effect on crossbows).  A "mage" Cyrille should instead go for MP Boost,
MP Regenerate, Concentration, and Magic Casting before moving on to the
various magic attack-boosting Power Arts (i.e. Flame Magic, Frost Magic,
Lightning Magic, Light Magic, Dark Magic).  If you're having trouble
dealing with enemy magic attacks in the latter chapters of the storyline
or in the various dungeons (Training Ground, Dimension X Metal Tunnel,
Dungeon of Ordeal, Xeyon Castle), prioritize the elemental magic resistance
Power Arts (Flame Resist, Frost Resist, Lightning Resist, Light Resist,
Darkness Resist) and Absolute Defense.  If petrification is a problem,
you could try to max Petrify Resist, though it's usually more effective
to carry some Defense Charms, take Faulklin along to "thaw" you if you
do get petrified, and collect equipment that increase your Recover Stone
rating.

EQUIPMENT HUNTING

The quest to find quality equipment comprises a key component of the
overall drive to bolster character strength, and there are a few things
you should be aware of.  First, don't pay any attention at all to
Bornay -- the power level of the equipment he sells is tied to the
advancement of the storyline, and if you get ahead of the power curve
early on and use the Training Ground, the equipment drops you'll
collect will generally be much, much better than anything Bornay has
to offer.  Secondly, be sure to limit your gear hunting to locations
with a sufficiently high area level -- while area level does not affect
your probability of getting a particular piece of gear as an item drop,
you MUST grind places with high area level in order to get quality mods
on an item.  For example, you can find the Storm Shot -- a top-tier
crossbow -- from the low-level mobs at Raska Snowfield, and it drops
about equally as often as the lower-tier items the monsters there drop.
If you want a Storm Shot with a high-end mod like Attack +100, however,
Raska Snowfield is completely useless to you -- that mod is simply
"too good" for that area, and you must grind locations with higher
area level to acquire a Storm Shot with that mod.  Chests and monsters
in Xeyon Castle will yield the highest-tier gear in the game (including
the best equipment in both the armor and headgear classes for each
character) with the best selection of mods and highest enhancement
numbers (though you can get gear drops with an equal range of possible
mods and an equal "ceiling" for enhancement numbers -- +9 -- at Training
Ground floors B46F to B49F), but that's not a practical spot for
equipment hunting because you can't access it until after you beat the
game.  Those looking to jump way ahead of the power curve in the early
chapters should grind Training Ground floors B34F to B49F (gear is
only available on the non-boss floors, of course).  "Elite" (large and
glowing) monsters and treasure chests on those floors will yield the
best possible equipment, in terms of both gear types and potential
mods, that you can get prior to beating the game, and I personally
recommend heavy usage of either B34F (the Legion swarms on that floor
are far less threatening than the fauna found on B36F and later) or
B36F-B39F (by repeatedly grinding this block of the Training Ground,
you can rack up a ton of Mythril by exploiting the Hell Guardians on
B40F before you warp back to the Geo-Fortress).  Keep in mind that
mods with higher Mythril values (this being how much you get from that
particular mod when you go to the Power Arts/Secret Arts control panel
and choose to extract Mythril from a piece of equipment) will drop
less frequently than mods with lower equivalent values,  so some
patience is necessary during your equipment-hunting runs if you want
to find gear with a set of two fantastic mods.  If you ever run into
a room containing three to six treasure chests on an equipment-hunting
run at the Training Ground, it's a good idea to hit R3 and save your
game at the Geo-Fortress before opening the chests -- that way, you
can repeatedly load your game until the chests yield a quality piece
of gear.

Some of the best equipment in the game are what I call "activated
drops" -- they will not drop even in areas with sufficiently high area
level unless you've found your first specimen of that type of gear at
a specific location.  After you get your first item of that type, it
will be "activated" and start dropping from the usual sources (chests,
elite monsters) just about anywhere in the game (yes, you can get the
likes of the Metal Pain and Evil Worship as drops from, say, the
Monster Generator in Lakton Highlands -- as long as you've activated
those items).  After activating these drops, however, you should try
to hunt for them in high-level areas -- since the quality of equipment
mods is tied to area level, you'll get drops with much better mods
in places with high area level.  Here's a list of the items I'm aware
of that are activated drops, as well as the locations that contain the
first specimens of each of these items:

- Stone Bracelet (Ancient Arena: Ice)
- Quickness Ring (Ancient Arena: Succubus)
- Necromancer (Ancient Arena: Skeleton)
- Mephisto Brace (Ancient Arena: Steel)
- Evil Ring (Ancient Arena: Impact)
- Chaos Breaker (Ancient Arena: Stone)
- Evil Worship (Ancient Arena: Demon)
- Metal Pain (Ancient Arena: Sand Worm)
- Berserk Ring (Ancient Arena: Dragon)
- *Aurora Bow (Ancient Arena: Golem)
- **Phoenix Clothes (Xeyon Castle)
- **Phoenix Helm (Xeyon Castle)
- **Noble White (Xeyon Castle)
- **Blue Rose (Xeyon Castle)
- ***Kill Bracelet (Ancient Arena: Legion)

* You can also "activate" this item by talking to Maebelle after she
  reaches level 90.

** These are not exactly "activated drops" in the same way as the
   other items -- they're not found in specific spots like the
   Arena-based items, but will instead drop normally (i.e. from
   monsters and chests) in Xeyon Castle.  You must, however, get your
   first pieces of these items in Xeyon before they will drop anywhere
   else, which means that they're strictly post-game equipment (and
   shouldn't be counted on to get you ahead of the power curve).

*** This is the key reward from the 21st and final Ancient Arena.  You
    will not be able to acquire this item before beating the game,
    though it does drop normally once you've "activated" it by
    clearing the Legion Arena.

"BEST" EQUIPMENT

The first thing you should be aware of is that the term "best" is far
less dependent on the name of the gear than it is on what mods that
piece of gear carries; you'll often find that great mods can and do
make inferior base material better than higher-class gear with weak
mods.  You should also know that some statistically inferior items may
have "keep value" because of the special properties unique to that item
(the Pandemonium is a perfect example).  Look below for summaries on
what's generally considered to be the "best" items of each equipment
class, as well as which mods are considered to be the most effective
when found on those items.

A. One-Handed Weapons

The Oni Cleaver has the highest base attack rating, but it's disqualified
from the conversation on account of being extremely slow and unreliable.
The Aerial Saber and Chaos Breaker are basically tied as the second-best
items in this class -- the Aerial Saber has faster attack speed and longer
combos, whereas the Chaos Breaker has a higher base attack rating
(second-best among all one-handed weapons, in fact).  It is the Darkness
Sword, however, that takes the prize as the hands-down best one-handed
weapon and, indeed, the best weapon in the game.  It has a base attack
value of 62, good for only third among one-handed weapons, but nothing
can compete with the Darkness Sword for the length of its combo -- a
whopping 16 hits!  Because you deliver more damage with each successive
hit of a combo, it's possible to cobble together a setup which combine
the Darkness Sword's obscenely-long combo with combo damage multipliers
and the HP Absorb status effect to deliver unparalleled damage AND
healing with every hit (more on this setup later).  The Darkness Sword
also has fast attack speed (on par with the Aerial Saber), MP Absorb
(you absorb some MP from the enemy with every hit you land), and Stone
Attack (this is particularly useful, as it petrifies enemies and allows
for quick kills).

The mods you're looking for on one-handed weapons are Attack +100 (which
dramatically increases the attack power of the weapon) and Chain Attack+
(which increases attack power by 20% with each successive hit of a
combo -- highly useful because the best one-handed weapons are known for
long combos executed with blinding speed).  Life Drain+ is also a mod
of some interest, because the HP Absorb effect it offers is a key
ingredient in the ultimate Darkness Sword setup, and you should certainly
seek the mod for your Darkness Sword if you're unable to find an
"ultimate" specimen with both Attack +100 and Chain Attack+ (and trust
me, this exact combination of mods is very hard to find -- you can get
one or the other without too much trouble, but these two mods just
don't appear together very often).

B. Two-Handed Weapons

The best two-handed weapons are the Taros Sword and Metal Pain.  Those
two weapons have the highest base attack values among two-handed weapons
(243 for Taros Sword, 263 for Metal Pain).  With higher base attack,
longer combos, a higher critical attack multiplier, and a higher Knockback
Attack rating, the Metal Pain is generally superior -- do note, however,
that the Taros Sword has a higher critical rate and slightly faster
attack speed.  It may behoove you to use the Taros Sword over the Metal
Pain if, by some combination of Quick Swing and Secret Arts (Rough and
Ready, Devil Spark), you can raise your Taros Sword to a higher attack
speed class and can't quite do the same with a Metal Pain.  Another
two-handed weapon of interest is the Pandemonium.  This weapon simply
can't compare with the top two for attack power (its base attack value
is only 181), but it has a slew of useful effects: HP Absorb, MP Absorb,
Stone Attack, and a charge attack that confers temporary invincibility
(Unrivaled Attack).  The Pandemonium's ability to petrify enemies and
critical-hit them to death while absorbing their HP makes it Toma's
weapon of choice for the middle floors of the Training Ground, though
you really want to switch to a Darkness Sword for the lowest three
blocks of floors -- the number of monsters immune to either HP Absorb
or Stone Attack will increase on those floors, and you'll be better
served there by switching to a one-handed weapon to improve your
physical defense, as well as allow your shield protect you from
Float/Knockdown/Knockback/Stun and other unsavory/potentially fatal
tech effects.

Two-handed weapons specialize in sheer attack power, so the primary mod
you're looking for is Attack +100.  Just one of these mods will net you
a major increase in attack power, and it'll be even better if you can
find a Taros Sword or Metal Pain with Attack +100 & Attack +50 (rare)
or two Attack +100 mods (two-handed weapons are the only weapon type
capable of this amazing mod combination, but it's nearly impossible
to find).  A second mod of interest for two-handed weapons is Godspeed,
which can combine with Devil Spark to elevate your weapon's attack speed
rating to a higher class -- a highly useful combination to utilize if
you don't yet have enough levels of the Quick Swing Power Art to really
rev up the speed of your two-handed weapon swings.

C. Crossbows

Three crossbows share the highest base attack value of 32 for this
weapon class: Lunar Shot, Aurora Bow, and Storm Shot.  Since the
primary strength of crossbows is their ability to get off a lot of shots
in a short amount of time, the Lunar Shot is not going to be what you're
looking for -- it has by far the slowest attack speed of the three.
The Aurora Bow has an 8-hit combo to the Storm Shot's 4-hit combo
(though the impact of this is limited by the fact that crossbows do not
inflict more damage with each successive combo hit like the other three
weapon types), a higher critical rate, and a higher critical damage
multiplier; that said, I'm going to give the Storm Shot a slight edge
as the "best" crossbow because, in addition to a better Stun Attack and
Knockback rating, the Storm Shot has the best attack speed of any
crossbow, and attack speed is everything for this weapon type.  Note
that the Storm Shot has an elemental attack attribute (in this case,
Lightning Attack): this means that bolts from this crossbow will inflict
extra damage on enemies vulnerable to Lightning magic (on the flip side,
it will inflict less damage on enemies with high resistance against
Lightning magic), which can be an extra boost if you find yourself trying
to peck to death monsters with high physical constitution but a general
weakness to elemental magic attacks.

Like with Toma's weapons, the first mod you're looking for on a crossbow
is Attack +100.  Since you're not going to find a crossbow with two
mods of the "Attack +" variety (that type of mod combination only
appears on bracelets and Toma's two-handed weapons) or a combination of
the Attack +100 mod with the Power +100 mod (the "Attack +" series of
mods and "Power +" series of mods are mutually exclusive for crossbows),
the secondary mod you should be looking for is Critical++, which raises
your critical rate and critical damage multiplier -- a way to deliver
even more damage to your enemies when you roll a critical hit with your
crossbow bolts.

D. Books

There pretty much isn't a "best" book: there are six books that each
offer something the others don't. The Volcanon Logs has the highest
Flame Magic attack power and the most complete collection of Flame
Magic spells; the Absolute Zero has the most complete collection of
Frost Magic spells; the Book of Thor has the most complete collection
of Lightning Magic spells and the highest melee attack power for books 
(for whatever that's worth); the Creation Book has the highest magic
attack power for Frost Magic and Lightning Magic, as well as the
second-highest attack power for Flame Magic, but does not have the
most useful spells for any of the three elemental magic types (though
it does give access to Hell Blast Lv.3); the Evil Worship has the
highest attack power for both Light Magic and Dark Magic, as well as
the best Dark Magic spells and some of the best Light Magic spells
(i.e. Holy Lv.3, Avalon Nova); and you'll need the Gaia Codex
(second-highest Light Magic attack power) to use Gaia Nova, a very
powerful class of anti-unit Light Magic spells.

Unlike the other three weapon classes, you are NOT looking for the 
Attack +100 mod for your books: slow attack speed and pitiful reach
make books the most pathetic weapons in the game when used in melee
situations (you also have to get very close to enemy mobs in order
to use your books as melee weapons, and that could be a fatal disaster
for Cyrille -- her HP is simply too low to risk going toe-to-toe with
powerful monsters instead of picking them off from a safe distance).
The mod of choice for books is Chaos Element, which raises the attack
power of all elemental magic types by 30%.  If you cannot find Chaos
Element for your book, you can also try for the "Element" mod that best
suits your book, where the specific element you're looking for is
whatever elemental magic type your book specializes in.  In other words,
Flame Element is good for Volcanon Logs, Ice Element is good for Absolute
Zero, Thunder Element is good for Book of Thor, Shining Element is good
for Gaia Codex, so on and so forth.  The secondary mod you're looking
for here is Soul +50, which gives you quite a bit more MP to cast all
those nifty spells with.

E. Shields/Chains

The Zenus Shield is hands-down the best shield in the game: it has the
best stats all around (DEF, tech resistance, petrify resistance), and
also confers a +15 boost to your resistance against all types of
elementally-aligned (that is, non-neutral) magic attacks.  Likewise,
the Zhirra Chain offers the same caliber of bonuses for Cyrille: best
stats for its equipment class, +15 boost to elemental magic resistance,
as well as 20 extra points of Absolute Defense to boot.  One thing to
keep in mind is that at a high character strength rating (i.e. maxed
Power Arts, character level 100 and above), top-tier shields and chains
completely eliminate any possibility of a Float/Stun/Knockback/Knockdown
attack succeeding on your character (even if your character is not using
Secret Arts or equipment mods tailored to counter those tech effects).
Have Toma switch to a two-handed weapon, however, and you'll find that
you're once again susceptible to all such effects despite your maxed
Power Arts.  This is another reason why, against high-level monsters,
it's far more productive for Toma to swap to a one-handed weapon
(preferably a quality Darkness Sword) instead of sticking with a
two-handed weapon.

The developers of Shining Force EXA did something really annoying when
it came to shield/chain mods: they made the top four mods for this
equipment class -- Shield Guard+, Counterattack+, Medusa Guard, and
Resist Critical +30 -- mutually exclusive.  In other words, it is
impossible to find a shield or chain that carries two of those four
mods in any combination.  The best mod of the four is probably Shield
Guard+ (simply because every little bit of physical defense helps
against the toughest monsters in the game, and that's what this mod
provides), though you really should store backup shields and chains
with the Counterattack+ mod (in situations where you find that you
need to deal some extra damage) and ones with the Medusa Guard mod
(to be used when venturing into areas populated by enemies with
powerful Stone Attacks).  In case you're wondering -- no, you cannot
find two Shield Guard+ mods on the same shield or chain, and the same
holds true for Counterattack+ and Medusa Guard.  Resist Critical +30
is also useful, but it's not as useful as the three mods listed above,
and you could always just carve the Conceal Weakness Secret Art on
your shield/chain or the Third Eye Secret Art on your armor to
compensate for not using a shield or chain enchanted with this mod.
The best candidate for the second mod slot on your shields and chains
is Technique +100.  The Balance +50, Resist Knockback +30, and Resist
Stun +30 mods may provide larger numerical stat boosts, but as I've
mentioned, you're practically immune against those effects at a
sufficiently high character strength rating (this characteristic is
evident for Cyrille at all times and for Toma when he's using a
one-handed weapon), so there's no point in further improving your
defenses against them.  Technique +100 will provide minor boosts to two
of those three non-essential stats (Resist Knockback and Resist Stun),
and it will also confer a bonus to your critical attack rating,
which in turn grant you a higher chance of scoring a critical hit.  Note
that your critical attack rating only applies to melee attacks -- those
who play "mage" Cyrille (who usually does not do any melee fighting at
all) may want to grab the Balance +50 mod instead.

F. Headgear

The Phoenix Helm (for Toma) and the Blue Rose (for Cyrille) are widely
held to be the best defensive headgear in the game.  Problem is, they
do not start dropping until after you've beaten the game and gained
access to Xeyon Castle.  Since you'll be doing the bulk of your
training/grinding long before you gain access to Xeyon, you should cast
your sights on the headgear you can acquire prior to finishing the game.
The best among them are the Shining Guard for Toma and the Geo-Circlet
for Cyrille.  Both provide some of the highest magic resistance values
you'll see for items of this classprior to Xeyon, and resistance against
magic attacks is the strong suit of headgear in general.  Toma's Blood
Helm also deserves a mention, because while it does not offer as high
of a DEF increase and tech stats boost as the Shining Guard, it does
have superior magic resistance values against three of the five elements
(Light, Flame, Lightning), and it also has a special property that
grants a decent boost to attack power.  I recommend keeping a
decently-modded Blood Helm in storage and using it whenever you feel
the need to use a setup dedicated to maximum offense.  Also, please
note that the Geo-Circlet increases attack power, whereas the Blue
Rose does not.  Even after gaining access to Xeyon, it may behoove
you to equip a Geo-Circlet when using crossbows as Cyrille (and use
the Blue Rose instead when you're using books).

The best headgear in the game have a peculiar tendency of only showing
up with one mod instead of two, and you'll be looking for different
mods to fill that one slot for each character.  Toma players and
"archer" Cyrille players should seek the Resist Chaos+++ mod, which
offers a marked increase in magic resistance against all five elemental
magic types.  "Mage" Cyrille players, on the other hand, should shoot
for the Magic Power +50 mod, which will dramatically increase the potency
of her magic attacks, thereby making them even more devastating.

G. Armor

Toma's Phoenix Clothes and Cyrille's Noble White are hands-down the
best armor in the game; however, they're also not available until after
you've beaten the game and reached Xeyon.  In terms of base statistics,
the second-best armor for each character are actually the Wild Vest 2
(for Toma) and the White Coat 2 (for Cyrille) acquired from the Magus
Blacksmith sidequest -- since you cannot find them as normal item drops,
however, you probably won't be using them much (the White Vest 2 and
White Coat 2 you'll receive from the sidequest have terrible mods).
For training and grinding purposes, the armor to keep an eye out for
are Toma's Shining Armor and Cyrille's Saint Armor.  These have the
third-best base stats among all items of their class, and they do drop
normally in places with sufficiently high area level.

The mod combination to pursue on your armor drops is a set of two HP
+100 mods.  For damage calculation purposes, one point of HP is the
equivalent of one point of Absolute Defense (and also the equivalent
of one point of the DEF stat -- that is, physical defense -- if the
source of the damage is a 100% physical attack).  All other factors
being equal (maxed Power Arts, sufficiently high character level),
your characters have much more HP than they do DEF and Absolute Defense
(the differential is especially marked with the latter, because your
characters will never get more than about 1000 Absolute Defense each,
even at level 200 and with all three levels of the Absolute Defense
Power Art maxed).  Therefore, you'll get much more "extra" HP from
a HP +100 mod on your armor than you will DEF from a Guard +25 mod and
Absolute Defense from an Absolute Defense +100 mod.  Two HP +100 mods
on your armor will go a longer way toward ensuring your survival than
any other combination of armor mods, and that's why that mod set is
absolutely the #1 mod combination you should look for.

H. Rings

There are no clear-cut "best" rings in Shining Force EXA.  Outside of
the special properties offered by each particular ring, all rings, with
the exception of the Mythril Ring (which is clearly inferior to all
other rings), grant similar bonuses to physical defense (the size of
the bonus is contingent on the ring's enhancement level) -- in other
words, there's no "tier" hierarchy for rings the way there is for other
equipment types.  Therefore, the main thing you should do is to look
for rings with special properties that either compensate for your
character's weaknesses or is a good fit for your character's fighting
style.  When using one-handed weapons as Toma, equip a good Chain Ring:
its special property bolsters your combo damage multiplier and lets you
deliver even more damage with each successive combo hit, an effect
particularly useful for the Darkness Sword.  When using two-handed
weapons, Toma should equip a Berserk Ring: you're no longer as
dependent on combo damage multipliers, and the Berserk Ring grants a
healthy attack power bonus against all enemy types.  An "archer" Cyrille
should equip a quality Berserk Ring as well.  A "mage" Cyrille should
use a quality Quickness Ring (because this ring has built-in increases
in attack power for all types of offensive magic spells) or a quality
Evil Ring (because this ring increases Dark Magic attack power and can
potentially match the benefits offered by the Quickness Ring -- as long
as you use Dark Magic instead of magic attacks with any other elemental
alignment).

Most of the time, you should shoot for two HP +100 mods on your rings:
what I said in the "Armor" sub-section above is just as valid for rings.
You do, however, want to keep an eye out for a Chain Ring with the Life
Drain+ mod -- the HP Absorb effect it confers is a key ingredient in
Toma's devastating Darkness Sword setup.

Keep in mind that rings cannot be enhanced at Gantetsu's forge; in order
to find rings with high enhancement level numbers, you should grind
high-area level locations.  The highest enhancement level number you
can find on a ring drop is +9, and +9 rings are found primarily on
Training Ground floors B46F to B49F and in Xeyon Castle.  Also be
advised that accessories (rings and bracelets) drop less frequently
than all other equipment types, so some extra patience is necessary
during your hunt for a quality ring.

I. Bracelets

Except for the clearly inferior (plain) Bracelet, all bracelets in the
game offer similar increases to elemental resistance ratios (as with
rings, the size of the increase is contingent on the bracelet's
enhancement level).  Therefore, there aren't any clear-cut "best"
bracelets either -- the Chaos Moebius, Mephisto Brace, Stone Bracelet,
and Kill Bracelet are all useful in particular ways.  Beware, though,
that it takes a Herculean set of labors to acquire the Kill Bracelet,
one of the best bracelets for melee fighters (because it adds to attack
power against nearly all enemy races): you must beat the game, access
Xeyon Castle, and then clear the Legion Arena (which is not accessible
until after you clear all 20 other Ancient Arenas in the game).
Of the bracelets you can find prior to beating the game, the Chaos
Moebius is better suited for Toma and "archer" Cyrille (because it
boosts attack power), whereas the Mephisto Brace is better suited for
"mage" Cyrille (it offers a +10 boost to magic attack power for all
five elemental magic types).  You should also look to store a Stone
Bracelet (which raises your Recover Stone stat) with good mods as a
"backup" bracelet to equip when venturing into areas infested by
monsters with potent Stone Attack capabilities.

When using a Chaos Moebius, the mod set you want above all others is
a set of two Attack +100 mods.  This is, however, rare to the point
of being impossible to find (the mod set is actually possible, but
it has a most miniscule probability of appearing on any type of
"eligible" equipment).  You can, however, find a Chaos Moebius with
one Attack +100 mod and one Attack +50 mod, and the attack power
increase offered by this mod set will be only slightly less potent.
You should also keep an eye out for the Chain Attack+ mod (increases
attack power by 20% for each successive hit in a combo), which is a
key ingredient of Toma's ultimate Darkness Sword setup.  When
searching for a quality Mephisto Brace for "mage" Cyrille, the mod set
you want to see is two Magic Power +50 mods, though this is very rare
(I've yet to see this mod set on a Mephisto Brace, though I have found
it on a Chaos Moebius), so you'll likely have to settle for a single
Magic Power +50 mod (or Magic Power +40/Magic Power +50 if you're lucky
enough to get that mod set to appear on a Mephisto Brace) instead.  In
any case, utilizing the Magic Power + series of mods will bolster
Cyrille's magic attack power and make her even more efficient at mob
control, the pillar of "mage" Cyrille's game.  When considering what to
get for "mage" Cyrille's other bracelet mod slot (if you did not get
two Magic + mods on your Mephisto Brace), you should give consideration
to the Guard +25 mod (which boosts physical defense dramatically) and
the Medusa Guard mod (which grants a significant increase to your
Recover Stone stat).  As for the Stone Bracelet you'll be using against
monsters with high Stone Attack ratings, the mod set you want is a pair
of Medusa Guard mods, a combination which elevates your Recover Stone
stat dramatically and can combine with the Oracle's Shield Secret Art
to help you shrug off petrification attempts from even the most fearsome
"stoner" monsters.

Bracelets also cannot be enhanced at Gantetsu's forge; in order to find
bracelets with high enhancement level numbers, you must do your grinding
at high-area level locations.  The highest enhancement level number you
can find on a bracelet drop is +9, and +9 bracelets are primarily found
on Training Ground floors B46F-B49F and in Xeyon Castle.  Also remember
that accessories (rings and bracelets) drop less frequently than all
other equipment types, so some extra patience is again necessary for
the duration of your bracelet-minded equipment hunting.

"BEST" SECRET ARTS

Generally, the most useful Secret Art to carve on one-handed weapons,
two-handed weapons, and crossbows is Hymn of Power, which grants a bonus
to STR-based stats as well as attack power.  You may also want to consider
Devil Spark for those weapon classes: as a rule of thumb, carve Devil
Spark instead of Hymn of Power if doing so will elevate your weapon
attack speed to a higher letter class.  Players utilizing Toma's Darkness
Sword setup, however, should carve Darkness Awakened: this Secret Art
simulates the Life Drain/Life Drain+ mod class's HP Absorb effect, and
it essentially frees a mod slot on your ring that you could fill with
a HP +100 mod (provided you find a ring enchanted with that mod, of
course) to make a more durable character.  Magic-casting Cyrille players
should carve the "Nucleus" class of Secret Arts (which boosts magic power
and resistance for each of the five elemental magic types) on their books;
the specific Secret Art to carve on each book should correspond to the
elemental magic type that that book specializes in.  In other words,
carve Fire Nucleus on Volcanon Logs, Ice Nucleus on Absolute Zero,
Thunder Nucleus on Book of Thor, Light Nucleus on Gaia Codex, so on
and so forth.  Players using the Evil Worship, which is strong in both
Light Magic and Dark Magic, should carve whichever Nucleus would give
Cyrille a higher neutral magic attack power (your neutral magic attack
power equals the highest elemental magic attack power found among all
five elemental magic types, so this is really a question of whether
your Light Magic or your Dark Magic is more potent at that point in
time).  If you keep your Light Magic and Dark Magic Power Arts maxed,
then the answer here will most likely be Light Nucleus (because you
can carve all six levels of the Light Magic Power Art before beating
the game, whereas you can't do so for Dark Magic until you gain access
to Xeyon Castle).  Note that I have not addressed the Demonic Pact
Secret Art -- it's potentially more useful than the Hymn of Power
Secret Art for Toma (because it grants a massive HP increase at the
cost of MP, which Toma doesn't use anyway), but the focus of this
guide happens to be on equipment, Power Arts, Secret Arts, and mods
that you can obtain prior to beating the game.  By the time you
acquire Demonic Pact, you've already effectively beaten the game -- at
the very least, you will no longer be able to train or explore the
world in a "normal" fashion and with your entire complement of playable
and non-playable characters.  You will also not be to acquire Demonic
Pact if you're going for Cyrille's ending.

The most useful Secret Art for shields and chains is Oracle's Shield,
which raises magic resistance, resistance against stun attacks, and
your Recover Stone stat.  You'll also find it necessary to carve
Conceal Weakness (raises resistance against critical hits by 100%)
against certain boss-level enemies (*cough* Arc Dragon *cough*), and
this Secret Art can be a real lifesaver when used properly.

Toma and "archer" Cyrille should employ the Earth Talisman Secret Art
on their headgear -- doing so will bolster resistance against magic
attacks of all elemental alignments.  "Mage" Cyrille, on the other
hand, should carve Wizard's Lore, which will further supercharge her
myriad of deadly magic attacks.  The most powerful Secret Art for
"mage" Cyrille is actually Magic of Insanity (greatly increases magic
attack power at the cost of HP), but I decline to recommend it for
much the same reasons as with the Demonic Pact Secret Art for weapons.
It is simply not available for training and exploration prior to the
sequences leading up to the end of the game, and you can't obtain it
if you're trying to beat the game as Toma.

Goddess Blessing, which grants a dramatic increase to physical defense,
is hands-down the best armor-based Secret Art to use at all times.  If
you've advanced far enough in the game to have found this Secret Art,
carve it and keep it carved.

DAMAGE, DEFENSE, AND ABSOLUTE DEFENSE

In Shining Force EXA, the basic equation for the relationship between
attack, defense, and damage is as follows:

Attack Power [of attacking entity] - Total Defense [of defending
entity] = Damage

Attack power comprises of your base attack value (the stat you see
listed under "Attack Power" on your character's info screen), plus
whatever bonuses apply to that particular attack (elemental and Killer
Art-based attack bonuses, combo damage multiplier, critical hit multiplier
[only applies if that particular hit is a critical hit], charge attack
multipliers [only applies if that attack is a charge attack], etc.).
Total defense is equal to the DEF stat (i.e. physical defense) plus
elemental magic resistance (your elemental magic resistance values are
represented as percentages, but they're actually stored and calculated
as integers similar to the DEF stat -- otherwise, it would not be
possible for a sufficiently high elemental resistance percentage to
reduce the damage you take from a magic attack to the bare minimum of
1 damage) plus Absolute Defense. For 100% physical attacks, elemental
magic resistance is ignored (your resistance values do not add anything
to the Total Defense number regardless of how high they are); for
100% magic attacks, the physical defense stat is ignored (basically
the reverse of the 100% physical attack scenario).  Absolute Defense,
the third component in damage reduction, is always "on" -- its value
is always subtracted from the attack power value prior to the output
of a damage sum for any particular attack.  After all three components
of damage reduction take effect (i.e. are subtracted from the attack
power value), the difference is how much damage the defending entity
takes from the attack -- this is the amount of HP the defending entity
will lose from being the recipient of the attack, down to a minimum
of 1.

At a glance of that system, you might think that Absolute Defense is
very good... after all, it's always active and reducing damage for you,
right?  The problem with that conclusion lies in the fact that you'll
never get much Absolute Defense -- under 1000 even if your character
reaches level 200 and max all three levels of the Absolute Defense
Power Art.  It's useful to max this Power Art, of course -- free damage
reduction is free damage reduction, even if the size of the reduction
won't be much help in offsetting damage from high-class monsters that
deal 15000 or more damage with every hit.  Some players, however, assert
that an Absolute Defense +100 mod on your armor is better than a HP +100
mod, and that is just not true.  With level 180-ish characters who enjoy
a moderately high level of HP Boost (level 8) and a high level of Master
Guard (maxed out up to level 10), swapping a HP +100 mod for an Absolute
Defense +100 mod results in the gain of about 800 all-purpose damage
reduction and the loss of around 6000 (for Toma)/3000 (for Cyrille) HP.
Since the "attack-defense=damage" equation tells us that for physical
attacks, one point of damage reduction is equivalent to one point of HP,
the above trade in armor mods simply makes no mathematical sense: you're
absorbing a net loss of about 5000 (Toma)/2000 (Cyrille) whenever you
make the trade.  The outlook is slightly better for magic attacks: there
is the possibility that the extra little bit of damage reduction you
gain helps you attain a sufficiently high elemental resistance value
that reduces the damage you take from a particular magic attack to the
minimum value of 1.  This is not a practical possibility to count on,
however -- magic attacks that weak aren't likely to deal that much more
damage to you had you utilized a HP +100 mod instead, and you'll
frequently find that the scenario simply does not materialize -- you're
still receiving massive damage from magic attacks, at which point you'll
probably really appreciate getting back that extra 5000/2000 HP you
traded away via the mod swap.  Also, high-level monsters tend to use
powerful physical attacks far more often than they use magic (though
there are a few that wield magic predominantly -- for example, Ghost
Masters and Hell Queens), and you've already seen how bad a proposition
it is to trade HP +100 for Absolute Defense +100 when dealing with
physical attacks.  Absolute Defense is a nice "bonus", but it's nothing
more than a distant third among the stats you should increase when
trying to improve your durability.  HP is the main key to survival.

STONE COLD: THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO PREVENT DEATH BY PETRIFICATION

Petrification is one of the most pernicious sources of instant death
in Shining Force EXA.  This arises from the fact that once petrified,
every hit you receive is automatically scored as a critical hit
(critical hits ignore physical defense, so they will hurt -- A LOT).
In order to construct more effective defenses against petrification,
we had best take a look at the basic equation that governs the amount
of time a character will be petrified after being hit by an attack
bearing the "Stone Attack" special property:

Inflict Stone - Recover Stone = Time Petrified

Every character, enemy or ally, capable of using a Stone Attack
possesses a hidden "Inflict Stone" (my word for it, not official or
anything) stat.  On the flip side, every character is also equipped
with a "Recover Stone" stat (unlike the Inflict Stone stat, this is
visible on your playable characters' info screens).  When the Inflict
Stone stat of the entity launching the Stone Attack is numerically
larger than the Recover Stone stat of the entity receiving the attack,
the difference between the two numbers will be used to determine the
amount of time that the receiving entity will be petrified (and
vulnerable to follow-up critical hits).  When the receiving entity's
Recover Stone stat is numerically larger than the Inflict Stone stat
of the attacking entity, however, then the receiving entity will not
be petrified at all.  In other words, the best way to render enemy
Stone Attacks totally ineffective is to boost your Recover Stone stat.
Below is a list of mods, Arts, and accessories that improve your
Recover Stone rating:

- Petrify Resist (Power Art)
- Oracle's Shield (Secret Art)
- Stone Bracelet (accessory)
- Cockatrice Guard/Basilisk Guard/Medusa Guard (equipment mods)

I hope the above has sufficiently illustrated why I advised you to seek
out a Stone Bracelet with two Medusa Guard mods in an earlier sub-section.
In addition to doing that, maxing your Petrify Resist Power Arts, carving
the Oracle's Shield Secret Art, and equipping a shield that also has
the Medusa Guard mod, there are a couple of other things you could do
when facing monsters with potent Stone Attacks.  For one, you should
always pack a couple of Defense Charms -- when used, these confer a
temporary but dramatic boost to your Recover Stone stat, an increase
that is usually enough to render you invulnerable to all Stone Attacks
for the duration of the Charm's effect.  You can also slot Faulklin as
one of your NPC party members, as Faulklin is capable of casting a
spell that cures petrified allies.  Duga is also a useful party member
against "stoner" monsters, because he typically casts magic that renders
him immune to petrification before leaping into battle, and that makes
him an effective "meat shield" who should be used to draw enemy Stone
Attacks while you get busy hacking to pieces the monsters launching
those attacks.

INFINITE HEALING WATER

Another thing you could do to ensure your survival is to, well, drink
a bottle of Healing Water every time you get hurt.  However, since
you can only obtain 23 bottles of Healing Water for each main character
via normal methods, that kind of approach is going to leave you dry of
Healing Water in a hurry.  Luckily, there's an inexhaustible source of
Healing Water -- Diablo's Palm.

Diablo's Palm is an area to the north of East Balcan Desert that you
will not be able to access until Chapter 10 at the earliest.  It's
populated by Medusae, Blaze Golems, and Sand Worms of all shapes and
sizes.  Diablo's Palm is "quirky" in a number of ways -- the Medusae
there will occasionally drop enchanted (i.e. equipped with mods) Chaos
Shields and the Blaze Golems there will occasionally drop enchanted
Laevateinns and Volcanon Logs, a highly unusual phenomenon since there
are no "elite" (i.e. larger, fiercer specimens glowing with a reddish
aura) or mini-boss (i.e. larger but not glowing like elites) versions
of these monsters present in the area, and you almost never see
non-elite, non-mini-boss enemies drop enchanted items anywhere else.
It's the Sand Worms in the area, however, that are truly remarkable.
The Worm Master of Diablo's Palm (large red-and-brown Sand Worm found
inside a pit in the center of the area) will drop 2 bottles of Healing
Water for each character when you defeat it the first time, and if you
defeat it on any return trips to the areas, you will almost always
score an enchanted accessory drop (that is, a ring or bracelet).
However, the Worm Master is capable of occasionally dropping 2 bottles
of Healing Water of either color instead of an accessory.  Likewise,
the Greater Worms (both the green ones and the blue-and-green "alpha"
variants) in the area are capable of occasionally dropping 1 bottle
of Healing Water of either color.  In fact, it's more productive to
"farm" Greater Worms rather than the Worm Master for Healing Water:
since an "alpha" Greater Worm spawns a pack of normal Greater Worms
half of the time (the other half of the time, they spawn the much
less useful Lesser Worms), you give yourself more chances at a Healing
Water drop by hunting packs of Greater Worms (as long as you try to
kill all of the normal Greater Worms before killing the "alpha" Worm),
and there are also many more Greater Worms in Diablo's Palm than Worm
Masters (you'll only be able to fight one Worm Master each trip, after
all).  Please note, however, that there are three "alpha" Greater Worms
which are rooted to specific spots at the corners of the map, and those
do not spawn packs of other Sand Worms.  Both types of drops are rare
occurrences, so you shouldn't expect to rack up any appreciable sum
of extra Healing Water in a short period of time. With that said, a
good 20-30 hours invested in Diablo's Palm after I hit Chapter 11
left me with 50 bottles of Healing Water for each character, a
tremendous boost in my late-game/post-game battles against the toughest
monsters in the game.

TOMA'S ULTIMATE DARKNESS SWORD SETUP

I've talked about it in previous sub-sections, but here I will outline
the exact details behind Toma's most potent Darkness Sword setup.  The
ingredients are as follows:

- Darkness Sword with Attack +100 mod (strictly speaking, the mod is
  optional, but I strongly urge you to find it so that you can craft
  the most potent setup possible)
- Zenus Shield with good mods (bolsters defense and eliminates any
  chance of being stricken by unsavory tech effects like Knockdown
  and Float)
- Chain Attack+ mod (either on your Darkness Sword or on a bracelet)
- HP Absorb status effect (either via the Life Drain/Life Drain+ mod
  on a ring or the Darkness Awakened Secret Art carved on your
  Darkness Sword)
- Bracelet with at least one Attack +100 mod (again, this attack boost
  is optional, but I really recommend it)

The star of this setup is Chain Attack+.  The mod increases attack power
by 20% for each successive hit of a combo, and since the Darkness Sword
has the longest combo of any weapon at 16 hits and a natural combo
damage multiplier to begin with, the amount of damage you can deliver
with a Chain Attack+ Darkness Sword bloats to astronomical numbers
once you get a few hits into your combo.  By the back end of the combo,
you'll be dealing upwards of ten million damage to many enemies (as
long as you've kept your Power Arts maxed), and few monsters in the
game can withstand that kind of onslaught.  The HP Absorb effect is
fantastic compensation for the one weakness of the setup -- the Darkness
Sword's lack of reach.  The need to melee enemies at close range to
get a Darkness Sword combo going means that you'll be at higher risk
of being swarmed by enemies in return, and that could easily result
in a speedy and untimely death.  HP Absorb nullifies that danger:
you'll be gaining as health a percentage of the damage you dish out,
and since you're dishing out humongous chunks of damage with your
Chain Attack+ Darkness Sword (particularly as you approach the end
of your 16-hit combo), every hit is pretty much guaranteed to replenish
your entire life bar.  As long as you're fighting enemies vulnerable
to the HP Absorb status effect, you have enough defense that no monster
in the area can knock you out in one hit, and you take care not to fight
too many monsters at a time, your Toma literally cannot die.  You do
need to amend your tactics against enemies immune to HP Absorb (among
others, several classes of demons and golems possess such immunity,
and they're fairly common sights on the lower floors of the Training
Ground and in Xeyon), but this Chain Attack+/Life Drain approach is
amazingly effective against most of the toughest monsters in the game,
including the quintet of powerful Arc Dragons that populate the 50th
and final floor of the Training Ground.

Visit the link below to see a video of how I utilized this setup to
conquer the final floor of the Training Ground in Chapter 6:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJPLb-zC_54

You can attempt a two-handed weapon version of this setup with a Metal
Pain (preferably one with the Godspeed mod), but it's not going to be
quite as effective -- the length of a Metal Pain combo is only 7 hits,
so the maximum damage of the setup (on the 7th hit of your combo) would
fall far short of the maximum damage of the Darkness Sword setup (which
comes on the 16th hit of its combo -- the Darkness Sword has 9 more 
hits to let the Chain Attack+ damage compound-multiply).  Furthermore,
the attack speed of the Metal Pain will almost certainly be slower,
and you will also be vulnerable to the Knockback/Knockdown/Stun/Float
series of tech effects because you're no longer equipping your Zenus
Shield.  On the plus side, you do enjoy greater reach and a higher
damage value for each hit of your 7-hit combo, since the initial attack
power of your Metal Pain will certainly be much higher than that of the
Darkness Sword.

CYRILLE'S CROSSBOW TRICKS

Leveling Cyrille up to her level cap is a terrible chore -- while Toma
eventually gains enough HP and total defense to survive just about all
single-hit attacks in the game, Cyrille's HP will always be too low for
her to be anywhere near as sturdy.  This means that Cyrille will always
be at risk of receiving a one-hit knockout from an enemy physical attack.
You really can't try to duplicate Toma's Darkness Sword setup to improve
her chances of survival -- you don't get an opportunity to constantly
replenish your HP if you die from a single blow.  Cyrille is capable,
however, of exploiting certain "glitches" in monster behavior and use
a couple of crossbow "tricks" to pick off monsters too powerful for her
to fight in a normal manner.

A. The Phasing Arrow Trick

Cyrille's crossbow bolts can shoot through most unopened doors (this
works just about anywhere inside Training Ground, for example) if you
stand right behind the door, so you can kill a lot of monsters idling
in the next room without fear of retaliation (most of the time).
Beware, however, of monsters capable of opening doors and monsters
which "phase" through walls (e.g. Ghost Masters).

B. The Off-Screen Arrow Trick

Against monsters with large enough sprites, you can also figure out
where exactly they're standing relative to your position and stand just
far enough that the monster is off screen and therefore does not detect
your presence (thus preventing retaliation), but close enough that your
crossbow bolts can hit the enemy as they fly off the screen.  This is
difficult to grasp the first couple of times you try it, but it can be
a foolproof (if often time-consuming) way of killing boss-level monsters.
As a matter of fact, this crossbow trick is how I was able to clear
many high-difficulty areas (e.g. Ancient Arena: Dragon, Ancient Arena:
Golem) when I first encountered them in Chapter 3 during my exploration
of the areas outlined in the "getting ahead of the power curve"
sub-section.  This trick also works with some magic spells, though that
variation is even more time-consuming, given the time you'll need to
allocate to natural MP recovery (since you'll always have a very limited
number of Goddess Tears to use for "instant" MP recovery).

C. The Boar-Slaying Arrow

This is not really a separate trick, but rather an extension of the
Phasing Arrow tactic.  It is possible to slay the giant mother boar
at North Ilnad Forest with a very low-level character by luring the
boar toward the exit to the southeast, trapping it behind the
signposts, running back to the other side of the signposts (you should
now be standing to the northwest of the trapped boar), and then using
crossbow bolts or two-handed weapon swings (provided that you use
a two-handed weapon with good reach) to give the boar the death of
a thousand paper cuts.  The boar's sprite is too large for it to
navigate back out of the obstacles, and it can't reach you with its
charging attacks if you position yourself carefully.  Credit goes to
_MasterQ_ for originally posting this on the Shining Force EXA board,
and you can watch a clip of the trick in action here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoPB_tCxFmo

Video courtesy of 4skwhyme.

MYTHRIL FARMING

As you no doubt know, it takes A LOT of Mythril to keep your Power Arts
maxed (especially if you're trying to max out all your Killer Arts, the
most prohibitively expensive Power Arts of the lot).  Millions of Mythril
will come easily once you gain access to Xeyon, but what are you to do
before then?  Well, the first thing you should know is that the Training
Ground is a better source for Mythril than any location out in the world:
comparatively speaking, you may not get much Mythril from breaking the
crystal formations inside the Training Ground, but they're renewable,
which you can't say for the crystal clumps found out in the world.
The Training Ground will also provide a lot of equipment drops, and
you can and should extract the unwanted drops for Mythril back at the
Geo-Fortress.  Be advised, however, that the amount of Mythril you
receive from extraction is not at all dictated by how "good" the base
material is; instead, the Mythril value of a piece of gear is equal to
the combined Mythril value of its mods -- the better the mods, the more
Mythril you get when choosing to extract from that piece of equipment.
A Dark Edge with Attack +100, for example, will trade for 32400 Mythril,
whereas a Darkness Sword with Anti-Lightning would only fetch 2000
Mythril, despite the fact that the Darkness Sword is generally a much
better weapon.  You can find out how much Mythril a piece of gear is
worth by having Bornay identify the item -- the cost of identifying an
item is equal to the combined Mythril value of its mods.

A few locations you should visit frequently to gather a lot of Mythril
in a short amount of time:

- Training Ground B10F
- Training Ground B15F
- Ancient Arena: Steel
- Training Ground B30F
- Training Ground B40F

All of these places feature heavy concentrations of certain mechanical
enemies (specifically, Artillery and Hell Guardians) that always drop a
piece of Mythril when defeated.  Your strategy should be to ignore the
boss monsters at these locations and concentrate on taking out every
enemy capable of dropping Mythril.  Note that the four Training Ground
locations are "boss" floors -- unlike other Training Ground floors,
these are not randomly generated, so any Mythril you leave on the ground
at these locations will still be there on a future visit.  Therefore,
it's both possible and recommended for you to use these floors as
"Mythril banks" where you can accumulate Mythril drops for future use,
especially if you've already hit the maximum Mythril cap of 9,999,999.
I'd like to note that Training Ground floor B40F is particularly good
for Mythril farming -- as long as you refrain from engaging the Dragotts
and Dragonian (the bosses of the area), you can trigger two spawns of
reinforcement Hell Guardians (for a total of three sets of Hell Guardians)
by killing all Hell Guardians on the map.  Since each Hell Guardian will
drop a crystal containing 15,000 to 19,000 Mythril, you'll be able to
accumulate an incredible sum of Mythril with some repeat visits to
this floor.  I've personally "banked" 15-20 million Mythril on B40F as
a result of repeat visits to the floor, as you can see in this screenshot:

http://i90.photobucket.com/albums/k253/Kamatari47/Shining%20Force%20Exa/
Mythril.jpg

While the Change Mythril equipment mod and Reincarnation Secret Art are
also capable of boosting your Mythril acquisition (by turning defeated
enemies into Mythril), they're not really worth the effort.  Change
Mythril's conversion rate is simply too low at 10%, and the paltry
amounts of Mythril it adds to your coffers just isn't enough to justify
sacrificing a valuable mod slot for it.  Quantitatively speaking,
Reincarnation is better than Change Mythril, as its conversion rate is
higher and it occupies a Secret Art slot rather than an equipment mod
slot.  The fact that you can't get it until after clearing Ancient
Arena: Legion, however, renders it even more useless than Change
Mythril: by the time you're finally able to acquire Reincarnation, you'll
already be able to access areas where a 15-20 minute training run can
get you millions of Mythril, thus eliminating the need for the meager
gains made by using Reincarnation.

WILD VEST 2 & WHITE COAT 2

In Chapter 13, careful exploration will lead you to a Magus blacksmith
who's just chilling amid all the chaos and carnage at the Roof level
of the Crimson Palace.  Context clues gained from conversation
throughout the game will tell you that this is the blacksmith who taught
Gantetsu everything he knows, and he will demonstrate his skills for
you if you bring him the right kind of ingredients for his armor alchemy.
The ingredients he's looking for are your Wild Vest and White Coat:
the armor-class equipment your two main characters were using at the
very beginning of the game.  Bring the Vest and Coat to the blacksmith
to have him transform them into the Wild Vest 2 and White Coat 2
(you'll have to make two trips -- he'll only work on the Wild Vest if
Toma is the one bringing it to him, and likewise with Cyrille and the
White Coat), sturdy armor with probably the second-best base stats for
all items of their class (surpassed only by the Phoenix Clothes and
Noble White, respectively).  You will not be able to obtain the Wild
Vest 2 or White Coat 2 via any other method (you can't find them from
treasure chests and monster drops), so you should certainly pay a visit
to Fadrin, the Magus blacksmith, once you hit Chapter 13.  The mods
found on your Wild Vest 2 and White Coat 2, however, are substandard
(Resist Darkness+ and HP +60), and I would not advise equipping them
in place of a good HP +100/HP +100 Shining Armor or Saint Armor.

A WORD ABOUT HIDDEN TREASURES

There are secret treasures (i.e. treasures hidden in places other than
inside treasure chests and locked chests) to be found on at least 75%
of the non-Dungeon maps (that is to say, locations out in the world)
in Shining Force EXA.  The majority of these require very little work
to procure -- simply position your character near the right patch of
grass/cluster of rocks/storm drain and press Circle.  Many of these
secret treasures are VERY well-hidden, however, and the aforementioned
Radar function of your Geo-Fortress will be a tremendous help in your
effort to sniff them all out.  There are, however, a few treasures
which can be frustratingly hard to procure, and here I'll give a few
pointers on how to get them:

- West Il'Gonia Valley (treasure chest on a faraway cliff near Narda
  Checkpoint): 1 Goddess Tears
- Cantore Snowfield (treasure chest on an unreachable island): 1
  Healing Water (Green)

Both of these treasures are contained within chests that you simply
can't get to.  Luckily, you don't need to make physical contact at
all -- simply call in Cyrille, equip a crossbow, and let a crossbow
bolt break the chest.  The contents of the chest will home in on
your location, thereby allowing easy pickup.

- West Paora Plains (treasure chest on an island in the stream):
  2 Goddess Tears

Your first instinct might be to use the crossbow here as well, but
that just doesn't work.  Instead, try equipping Cyrille with a book
capable of casting the "Dark Arrow" class of Dark Magic spells (the
level of the spell doesn't matter, since all Dark Arrow spells behave
similarly).  Cast Dark Arrow toward the island and the energy wave
will home in on the chest, and you'll be able to pick up the Goddess
Tears after the energy wave breaks the treasure chest.

- Raska Snowfield (treasure chest lodged inside a pillar of ice):
  3 Light Charms

This treasure has probably stymied more Shining Force EXA gamers than
anything else in the game.  The trick here is to have Cyrille equip a
book capable of casting the Ice Spike Lv.2 spell, position her to the
northwest of the pillar, highlight Ice Spike Lv.2, and then press
AND hold down the Triangle button.  Adjust the area-of-effect radius
of the spell until the indicator circle is climbing up the northwest
face of the pillar, and then release the Triangle button to cast the
spell.  If done correctly, your ice magic will break the chest and
allow you to make off with your hard-earned Light Charms.

- Great Bridge, Lower (hidden treasures located on top of lightposts):
  Gold

There are four secret treasures hidden atop the light posts in this
area.  Only two magic spells are capable of reaching that high --
Hell Blast and Avalon Nova.  Equip your character with a weapon that
gives access to either spell, stand beneath the light post, and let
loose with your spell.  Collect the gold when it drops to ground
level.

=====================================================================
III. Lists
=====================================================================

DARKNESS RUNE LOCATIONS

Darkness Runes come in sets of 5.  There are four sets in the game,
which are respectively located at:

1. Ancient Arena: Birdling.
2. Paoraburr Cavern (defeat the Lesser Vampire mini-boss).
3. Gradium Mine (destroy the iron fence with the Geo-Fortress Cannon
   -- the effective radius of which will not reach this area until
   Chapter 10 -- and look within the circumference of the fence).
4. Lake Bark, South Point (defeat the Devil Mother mini-boss).

Rune set #1 is found in Chapter 2.  Sets #2 and #4 can be found as
early as Chapter 3.  You will not be able to get set #3 until Chapter
9.

ANCIENT ARENA LOCATIONS

These are sorted according to area level.  The earliest chapter during
which you can access each arena is parenthesized.

*1. Birdling - Lakton Highlands (Chapter 2)
2. Orc - South Ilnad Forest (Chapter 3)
3. Ghost - Cantore Snowfield (Chapter 5)
4. Wolfling - North Paora Plains (Chapter 3)
5. Giant - West Paora Plains (Chapter 3)
6. Lightning - Paoraburr Trail (Chapter 3)
7. Stone - Ranburr's Tomb (Chapter 3)
8. Ice - Raska Snowfield (Chapter 7)
9. Lizard - East Paora Plains (Chapter 3)
10. Impact - West Balcan Desert (Chapter 9)
11. Stalker - West Paora Plains (Chapter 3)
12. Vampire - Gradium Mine (Chapter 10)
13. Succubus - Lake Sidora (Chapter 10)
14. Skeleton - Sidora Snow Mountain (Chapter 10)
15. Steel - Gundestor Cavern (Chapter 5)
16. Demon - Sidora Snow Mountain, Canyon (Chapter 10)
17. Sand Worm - East Balcan Desert (Chapter 10)
18. Flame - Magma Prison, B3F (Chapter 11)
19. Dragon - Paora Plains, East Coast (Chapter 3)
20. Golem - Lake Bark Cavern, South (Chapter 3)
**21. Legion - Xeyon, Central 1F (post-game)

* Does not have a Geo-Fortress warp gate entry
** Not accessible until after you clear all 20 of the other arenas;
   does not require a Darkness Rune to access

AVALON'S BODY PART LOCATIONS

This is a list of locations at which you can find altars containing
body parts you need to collect and assemble before resurrecting Avalon
as a NPC party member.  The locations are generally well-known, but
I've also included (in parentheses) information about the earliest
chapter during which you can acquire each body part.

1. Sword - Lakton Village (Chapter 2)
2. Left Arm - Altar of Darkness (Chapter 3)
3. Right Arm - Goran-Goran Cave 1F (Chapter 5)
4. Left Leg - Gundestor Cavern (Chapter 5)
5. Right Foot - Old Noswald Castle, Yard (Chapter 5)
6. Torso - Ancient Runed Temple (Chapter 6)*
7. Right Leg - Gradium Mine (Chapter 10)**
8. Left Foot - Mt. Fyrgarum, Base (Chapter 11)

* This body part isn't actually inside the Ancient Runed Temple itself;
  it's found on a mountain path to the south
** This body part is inside a small cabin beyond the iron fence that
   cannot be destroyed until Chapter 10

HEALING WATER LOCATIONS (GREEN)

This is a list of locations where you'll find Healing Water for Toma,
as well as how many bottles are found at each location.  You can acquire
23 bottles in all without making use of the "infinite" source in
Diablo's Palm.  The list is sorted according to how early you can
acquire each batch of Healing Water, though you may need to visit
optional areas or employ the Radar function to find some of these.

1. Ruins of Yi'el Village - 3 (Chapter 1)*
2. Geo-Fortress, Control Room - 5 (Chapter 2)
3. Ancient Arena: Wolfling - 1 (Chapter 3)
4. Ancient Arena: Giant - 1 (Chapter 3)
5. Ancient Arena: Lizard - 1 (Chapter 3)
6. Goran-Goran Cave, 1F - 1 (Chapter 4)
7. Cantore Snowfield - 1 (Chapter 5)**
8. Ancient Arena: Ghost - 1 (Chapter 5)
9. East Il'Gonia Valley - 1 (Chapter 5)***
10. Tsungura Ice Field - 1 (Chapter 5)
11. Dimension X Metal Tunnel - 2 (Chapter 8)
12. Gradium Mine - 1 (Chapter 10)****
13. Geo-Fortress, Engineering Block - 1 (Chapter 11)*****
14. Diablo's Palm - 2 (Chapter 11)******
15. Crimson Palace, 3F - 1 (Chapter 13)

* Talk to Hikanay
** Treasure chest on an island in the frozen lake -- use a crossbow
*** Hidden treasure located near the entrance to the Temple Ruins
**** Access via Gradium Mine, North Quarry
***** Talk to Adam after he joins your party
****** Dropped by the Worm Master the first time you defeat it

HEALING WATER LOCATIONS (RED)

This is a list of locations where you'll find Healing Water for Cyrille,
as well as how many bottles are found at each location.  You can acquire
23 bottles in all without making use of the "infinite" source in
Diablo's Palm.  The list is sorted according to how early you can
acquire each batch of Healing Water, though you may need to visit
optional areas or employ the Radar function to find some of these.

1. West Il'Gonia Valley - 3 (Chapter 1)
2. Geo-Fortress, Control Room - 5 (Chapter 2)
3. Ancient Arena: Birdling - 1 (Chapter 2)
4. Ancient Arena: Orc - 1 (Chapter 3)
5. Paoraburr Cavern - 1 (Chapter 3)
6. Ancient Arena: Lightning - 1 (Chapter 3)
7. Ancient Arena: Stalker - 1 (Chapter 3)
8. Il'Gonia Valley, Lake Narda - 1 (Chapter 4)
9. Goran-Goran Cave, 1F - 1 (Chapter 5)*
10. Geo-Fortress, West Tower - 1 (Chapter 8)**
11. Ancient Arena: Vampire - 1 (Chapter 10)
12. Gradium Mine - 1 (Chapter 10)***
13. Geo-Fortress, Engineering Block - 1 (Chapter 11)****
14. Diablo's Palm - 2 (Chapter 11)*****
15. Ancient Arena: Flame - 1 (Chapter 11)
16. Crimson Palace, 3F - 1 (Chapter 13)

* Use the alternate exit from Goran-Goran Cave, 2F that leads to an
  isolated section of Goran-Goran Cave, 1F
** Check Cyrille's dresser
*** Access via Gradium Mine, North Quarry
**** Talk to Adam after he's joined your party AND you've advanced
     him to at least level 60
***** Dropped by the Worm Master the first time you defeat it

GODDESS TEARS LOCATIONS

This is a list of locations where you'll find Goddess Tears, as well
as how many vials are found at each location.  The list is sorted
according to how early you can acquire each batch of Goddess Tears,
though you may need to visit optional areas to do so.

1. East Il'Gonia Valley - 2 (Chapter 1)
2. Geo-Fortress, Engineering Block - 1  (Chapter 2)
3. West Il'Gonia Valley - 1 (Chapter 3)*
4. West Paora Plains - 2 (Chapter 3)**
5. Cantore Village - 1 (Chapter 5)***
6. Geo-Fortress, Engineering Block - 3 (Chapter 11)****

* Located inside a chest perched on a distant cliff to the northeast
  of the entrance to Narda Checkpoint; use a crossbow to break the
  chest
** Inside a chest sitting on an island in the stream; use the Dark
   Arrow (any level) magic spell to break the chest
*** Inside a chest found within Elder Yoseph's dwelling
**** Talk to Adam after he's joined your party AND you've advanced
     him to at least level 80

LIGHT CHARM LOCATIONS

This a list of locations where you'll find Light Charms, as well as
how many Charms are found at each location.  There are 9 Light Charms
total that you can find as "treasures"; do note, however, that Bornay
will occasionally put up Light Charms for sale at a price of 5 million
gold each, so there is technically an unlimited number of Light Charms
in the game (especially after you beat the game -- Bornay will always
have Light Charms available for purchase once you have done so).
This list is sorted according to how early you can acquire each set of
Light Charms, and you may need to visit optional areas to obtain some
of them.

1. Geo-Fortress, Engineering Block - 1 (Chapter 2)
2. Geo-Fortress, Residential Block - 1 (Chapter 2)*
3. Il'Gonia Valley, Lake Narda - 1 (Chapter 4)
4. Raska Snowfield - 3 (Chapter 7)**
5. Gradium Mine - 1 (Chapter 10)***
6. Geo-Fortress, Engineering Block - 1 (Chapter 11)****
7. Great Bridge, Front Gate - 1 (Chapter 12)

* This Light Charm is lodged within one of the bookshelves in the
  library
** Found in the chest frozen inside a pillar of ice; use the Ice Spike
   Lv.2 magic spell to break the chest
*** Investigate a bookshelf in the small cabin just beyond the iron
    fence
**** Talk to Adam after he's joined your party AND you've advanced
     him to at least level 110

LEGION GENERATOR LOCATIONS

This is a list of areas in Chapter 14 which contain a Legion Generator.
You must use the Geo-Fortress Cannon to destroy a Legion Generator, and
doing so will earn you a Core Metal.  There are 13 Legion Generators
in all, and destroying them all may or may not be related to the chest
of gold which appears in Lakton Village after you beat the game.  This
list is sorted according to area level.

1. Lakton Village
2. Northwest Paora Plains
3. Old Noswald Castle, Yard
4. East Paora Plains
5. Ranburr's Tomb
6. Gradium Mine
7. Ancient Runed Temple
8. Clanup Island
9. Raska Snowfield, East Valley
10. Lake Sidora
11. Sidora Snow Mountain, Canyon
12. Mt. Fyrgarum, Base
13. Mt. Fyrgarum, Halfway

NPC REWARDS

Each of your eight NPC allies will give you items or Power Arts as
gifts once you advance them to a sufficiently high level.  This is
a list of the rewards from each NPC ally, as well as the character
level number that triggers each reward.  To receive a reward, simply
visit the NPC ally and converse with him/her.  Some NPC allies will
only give their rewards to a specific main character (for example,
Gadfort gives his rewards to Toma, Maebelle gives hers to Cyrille, and
Garyu gives his to whomever was the active character when you defeated
him).  The designated recipient for each NPC ally's rewards is listed
in parentheses at the top of the sub-section; the word "active" means
that the designated recipient is whichever character who was the active
character when you recruited that ally.

A. Gadfort (Toma)

Curved Blade - Level 5
Fang Tienchi - Level 25
Dragon Slayer - Level 45
Ordeal - Level 85

B. Maebelle (Cyrille)

Steel Crossbow - Level 10
Guard Crossbow - Level 30
Air Crossbow - Level 50
Aurora Bow - Level 90

C. Amitaliri (Cyrille)

MP Boost Lv1 (Power Art) - Level 10
MP Boost Lv2 (Power Art) - Level 20
MP Boost Lv3 (Power Art) - Level 35
MP Boost Lv4 (Power Art) - Level 55
MP Boost Lv5 (Power Art) - Level 95
MP Boost Lv6 (Power Art) - Level 120

D. Faulklin (Cyrille)

Light Magic Lv1 (Power Art) - Level 10
Light Magic Lv2 (Power Art) - Level 20
Light Magic Lv3 (Power Art) - Level 35
Light Magic Lv4 (Power Art) - Level 55
Light Magic Lv5 (Power Art) - Level 95
Light Magic Lv6 (Power Art) - Level 120

E. Duga (Toma)

Critical Attack Lv1 (Power Art) - Level 30*
Critical Attack Lv2 (Power Art) - Level 50
Critical Attack Lv3 (Power Art) - Level 75
Critical Attack Lv4 (Power Art) - Level 90
Critical Attack Lv5 (Power Art) - Level 110

F. Adam (Active)

1 Healing Water (Green) - Level 40*
1 Healing Water (Red) - Level 60
3 Goddess Tears - Level 80
1 Light Charm - Level 110

G. Garyu (Active)

1 Core Metal - Level 60*
1 Core Metal - Level 70
1 Core Metal - Level 80
1 Core Metal - Level 90
1 Core Metal - Level 100
1 Core Metal - Level 110

H. Avalon (Active)

Absolute Defense Lv1 (Power Art) - Level 80
Absolute Defense Lv2 (Power Art) - Level 130
Absolute Defense Lv3 (Power Art) - Level 150

* Denotes a situation where the NPC ally joins your party with a
  character level equal to this level number; no leveling necessary
  to receive this reward -- simply converse with the NPC ally

CORE METAL LOCATIONS

This is the big one: my attempt to list the locations for all the
Core Metals in the game, as well as how many Cores you can find at
each location.  For the most part, this list is sorted according to
how early in the game you can access each location.  The last 4
entries address Core Metals you can acquire via Defensive Battles,
Ancient Arenas, Legion Generators, and conversations with Garyu.  You
need 117 Core Metals to max out every function in the Geo-Fortress,
and there are 119 Core Metals to be found in the game, though you
need to beat the game at least once to find all 119 Cores (you must
beat the game once in order to access the Dungeon of Ordeal with both
main characters).  Since you can acquire 117 of the 119 Core Metals
before beating the game, it is therefore possible to fully upgrade
your Geo-Fortress before finishing the game.

1. Geo-Fortress, Control Room - 1 (Chapter 3)*
2. North Ilnad Forest - 1 (Chapter 3)**
3. North Paora Plains - 1  (Chapter 3)
4. Altar of Darkness - 1 (Chapter 3)
5. Lake Bark, South Point - 3 (Chapter 3)
6. Ilnad Forest, Cave - 2 (Chapter 3)
7. Narda Checkpoint - 1 (Chapter 4)
8. Il'Gonia Valley, Lake Narda - 1 (Chapter 4)
9. Goran-Goran Cave, 1F - 2 (Chapter 4)
10. North Il'Gonia Valley - 1 (Chapter 4)
11. Goran-Goran Cave, 2F - 1 (Chapter 5)
12. Goran-Goran Cave, 1F - 2 (Chapter 5)***
13. Old Noswald Castle, Yard - 1 (Chapter 5)
14. Tsungura Ice Field - 1 (Chapter 5)
15. Ranburr's Tomb - 1 (Chapter 6)****
16. Above Ranburr's Tomb - 2 (Chapter 6)
17. Gradium Mine, Inside - 3 (Chapter 7)
18. Ancient Runed Temple - 1 (Chapter 7)
19. Geo-Fortress, West Tower - 1 (Chapter 8)
20. Dimension X Metal Tunnel, B5F - 2 (Chapter 8)
21. Dimension X Metal Tunnel, B10F - 1 (Chapter 8)
22. West Balcan Desert - 1 (Chapter 9)
23. North Balcan, Underpass - 1 (Chapter 10)*****
24. Diablo's Palm - 1 (Chapter 10)
25. Northwest Paora, Falls - 1 (Chapter 10)******
26. Ancient Ruins, B1F - 4 (Chapter 10)
27. Ancient Ruins, B2F - 1 (Chapter 10)
28. Magma Prison, B1F - 1 (Chapter 11)
29. Magma Prison, B2F - 1 (Chapter 11)
30. Magma Prison, B3F - 3 (Chapter 11)
31. Great Bridge, Lower - 2 (Chapter 12)
32. Great Bridge, Front Gate - 2 (Chapter 12)
33. Emperor's Hall - 2 (Chapter 12)
34. Magma Prison, B1F - 1 (Chapter 13)*******
35. Crimson Palace, Roof - 3 (Chapter 13)
36. Crimson Palace, 3F - 1 (Chapter 13)
37. Crimson Palace, 1F - 3 (Chapter 13)
38. Dungeon of Ordeal, Depths - 2 (Chapter 14)********
39. Ancient Arenas - 21 (various)#
40. Mandatory Defensive Battles - 7 (various)##
41. "Timer" Defensive Battles - 12 (various)###
42. Garyu - 6 (Chapter 4)####
43. Legion Generators - 13 (Chapter 14)#####

* Acquired through conversation with Zenus
** Defeat the mother boar sleeping in the center of the area
*** You have to descend back onto 1F from 2F to get these Cores
**** Defeat the Life Drainer mini-boss
***** Inside the tunnel, there is a contraption with two lights (one
      red, one green) and a statue that glows either red or green;
      strike the "switch" in front of the light that corresponds to the
      color of the statue's glow and repeat this procedure until the
      statue breaks, granting access to the Core Metal
****** Use the Geo-Fortress Cannon to destroy the rocks blocking the
       entrance to a cave at West Paora Plains; pass through the cave
       to reach the entrance to a second cave containing this Core
       Metal
******* Use the alternate entrance at Mt. Fyrgarum, Base (near the
        exit to Mt. Fyrgarum, Halfway)
******** Both Toma and Cyrille can get a Core Metal here, but you must
         beat the game at least once in order to access the Dungeon of
         Ordeal with both characters and get both Cores

# There is a Core Metal to be found in every Ancient Arena in the
  game; refer to the "Ancient Arena Locations" sub-section for location
  information and the earliest point in the storyline at which you can
  access each arena
## You can buy a Core Metal from Gilnay after each mandatory (i.e.
   occurs once you reach a certain point of storyline progression)
   Defensive Battle, up until the point that all four exits of the
   Geo-Fortress have been unlocked; there is, by my count, a total
   of 7 mandatory Defensive Battles that take place before then
### You can buy a Core Metal from Gilnay after every 5 "timer" (i.e.
    occurs because your Defensive Battle timer elapses, not because
    of storyline progression) Defensive Battles you win; the number
    given here is extrapolated from the fact that there are 19 total
    Defensive Battle Cores available and that 7 of those (by my count)
    are tied to mandatory Defensive Battles: 19 - 7 = 12 "timer"
    Defensive Battle Cores
#### Obtained by speaking to Garyu after he reaches a specific
     character level number; refer to the sub-section above
     ("NPC Rewards") to find out the exact levels at which Garyu
     rewards you with Cores; the "chapter 4" in parentheses here
     refers to the earliest chapter during which you can recruit
     Garyu
##### Each Legion Generator you destroy in Chapter 14 yields a Core
      Metal, and there are 13 Legion Generators in all

CURE METAL LOCATIONS

Yeah, this is a bit of a "joke" of a list, because I think everyone
knows by now that there's an infinite number of Cure Metals available
in the game -- most Defensive Battle bosses drop one when they die,
and upon reaching Chapter 8, you can farm an infinite number of these
from the Dimension X Metal Tunnel floors B5F (yields 1 Cure Metal on
every visit) and B10F (yields 2 Cure Metals on every visit).  The
other locations at which you can find Cure Metals, as well as how many
Cure Metals you can find at each location, are listed below.  These
are sorted according to the earliest chapter during which you can
access each location.

1. Geo-Fortress, Hallway - 4 (Chapter 2-6)*
2. Goran-Goran Cave, 1F - 1 (Chapter 4)
3. Dungeon of Ordeal, Depths - 2 (Chapter 14)**

* There is a Cure Metal near each of the four teleport pads leading
  out of the Geo-Fortress; you will not be able to acquire the Cure
  Metal located near a currently-locked exit -- the Number 2 Gate opens
  in Chapter 2, the Number 4 Gate opens in Chapter 5, the Number 1 Gate
  opens in Chapter 5, and the Number 3 Gate opens in Chapter 6
** You can obtain a Cure Metal at this location with both Toma and
   Cyrille, but you must beat the game at least once in order to
   access the Dungeon of Ordeal with both characters

MYTHRIL VALUES FOR EQUIPMENT MODS

As mentioned earlier, the rule of thumb for equipment mods is this:
the higher the Mythril value, the more useful the mod.  For gear
enchanted with one mod only, the Mythril value of the mod is equal to
the amount of Mythril you receive when you choose to extract from that
piece of equipment (and also the amount of gold it costs to identify
that piece of equipment).  For equipment enchanted with two mods, the
total Mythril value of the item is equal to the sum of the individual
Mythril values of both its mods.  Since the cost to identify an item
is equal to its total Mythril value, you can generally expect gear
with high identification costs to provide better mods than gear with
low identification costs.  The list below is an attempt to document
the Mythril values of all equipment mods in the game, and it's a
complete list as far as I know.  Special thanks to SolidSnake X for
filling in the necessary blanks for completion of the list!

---------------------------------------------
Mod Name                |       Mythril Value
------------------------|--------------------
Balance +10             |                 200
Knockback +10           |                 200
Resist Critical +10     |                 200
Resist Knockback +10    |                 200
Resist Stun +10         |                 200
Soul +10                |		  200
Striker +10             |                 200
HP +20                  |                 200
Technique +20           |		  200
Quick Recover           |                 200
Resist Flame            |                 200
Resist Frost            |                 200
Resist Lightning        |                 200
Guard +5                |                 300
Intellect +20           |                 300
Power +20               |		  300
Knockdown               |                 300
Resist Darkness         |                 300
Attack +10              |                 400
Counterattack           |                 400
Shield Guard            |                 400
Beast's Weak Spot       |                 400
Harpy's Weak Spot       |                 400
Lizard's Weak Spot      |                 400
Orc's Weak Spot         |                 400
Snake's Weak Spot       |                 400
Healing Wisdom          |		  400
Magic Power +10         |                 500
Critical                |                 500
Flame Seed              |		  500
Ice Seed                |                 500
Thunder Seed            |                 500
Life Drain              |                 500
Balance +20             |                 600
Knockback +20           |                 600
Resist Critical +20     |                 600
Resist Knockback +20    |                 600
Resist Stun +20         |                 600
Soul +20                |                 600
Striker +20             |                 600
HP +40                  |                 600
Power +40               |                 600
Technique +40           |                 600
Quick Recover+          |                 600
Resist Flame+           |                 600
Resist Frost+           |                 600
Resist Lightning+       |                 600
Holy Lv.2               |                 600
Dark Seed               |                 700
Shining Seed            |		  700
Chain Attack            |                 800
Float Attack            |		  800
Dragon's Weak Spot      |                 800
Giant's Weak Spot       |                 800
Blaze Lv.2              |                 800
Blazing Feather         |                 800
Charged Shot            |                 800
Death Critical          |                 800
Gaia Quake              |                 800
Grand Uppercut          |                 800
Ice Arrow               |                 800
Rolling Buster          |                 800
Stun Smash              |		  800
Unrivaled Attack        |                 800
Vital Drain             |                 800
Guard +10               |                 900
Intellect +40           |                 900
Knockdown+              |		  900
Resist Darkness+        |                 900
Resist Chaos            |                1000
Chaos Seed              |                1000
Cockatrice Guard        |                1000
Bone Drill              |                1000
Counter Straight        |                1000
Dark Arrow Lv.1         |                1000
Dark Arrow Lv.2         |                1000
Impact Crush            |                1000
Power Press             |                1000
Rush Blade              |                1000
Spark Lv.2              |                1000
Spin Attack             |                1000
Sky Slash               |                1000
Wide Shot               |                1000
Attack +20              |		 1200
Absolute Defense +25    |                1200
Power +60               |                1200
Accelerate              |		 1200
Counterattack+          |                1200
Shield Guard+           |                1200
Demon's Weak Spot       |                1200
Golem's Weak Spot       |                1200
Robot's Weak Spot       |                1200
Undead's Weak Spot      |                1200
Assassin Needle         |                1200
Ice Shell               |                1200
Ice Spike Lv.1          |                1200
Shine Lv.2              |                1200
Stone Shell             |                1400
Magic Power +20         |                1500
Critical+               |                1500
Life Drain+             |                1500
Flame Spirit            |                1500
Ice Spirit              |                1500
Thunder Spirit          |                1500
Anti-Armor              |                1600
Anti-Scale              |                1600
Anti-Weapon             |                1600
Anti-Wing               |                1600
Avalon Nova             |                1600
Gatling Arrow           |                1600
Balance +30             |                1800
Knockback +30           |                1800
Resist Critical +30     |                1800
Resist Knockback +30    |                1800
Resist Stun +30         |                1800
Striker +30             |                1800
Soul +30                |                1800
HP +60                  |                1800
Technique +60           |                1800
Quick Recover++         |                1800
Resist Flame++          |		 1800
Resist Frost++          |                1800
Resist Lightning++      |                1800
Angel's Smile           |                2000
Speed Up                |                2000
Anti-Darkness           |                2000
Anti-Flame              |		 2000
Anti-Frost              |                2000
Anti-Light              |                2000
Anti-Lightning          |                2000
Anti-Multiple           |                2000
Character Flaw          |                2000
Crush			|                2000
Dark Spirit             |                2100
Shining Spirit          |                2100
Power +100              |                2400
Chain Attack+           |                2400
Bless                   |                2400
Curse                   |                2400
Electric Charge         |                2400
Freeze                  |                2400
Inflame                 |                2400
Fire Breath             |                2400
Hell Blast Lv.1         |                2400
Ice Breath              |                2400
Spark Lv.1              |                2400
Spark Breath            |                2400
Guard +15               |                2700
Intellect +60           |                2700
Knockdown++             |                2700
Resist Darkness++       |                2700
Resist Chaos+           |                3000
Chaos Spirit            |                3000
Basilisk Guard          |                3000
Air Buster              |                3200
Brutality               |                3200
Attack +30              |                3600
Absolute Defense +50    |                3600
Ultrarapid              |                3600
Chaos Gate Lv.1         |                3600
Stone Breath            |                3600
Magic Power +30         |                4500
Critical++              |                4500
Flame Element           |                4500
Ice Element             |                4500
Thunder Element         |                4500
MP Drain                |                4500
Aura                    |                5000
Balance +40             |                5400
Soul +40                |                5400
HP +80                  |                5400
Technique +100		|                5400
Resist Flame+++         |		 5400
Resist Frost+++         |                5400
Resist Lightning+++     |                5400
Angel's Blessing        |                6000
Speed Up+               |                6000
Dark Element            |                6300
Shining Element         |                6300
Guard +20               |                8100
Intellect +100          |		 8100
Resist Darkness+++      |                8100
Resist Chaos++          |                9000
Chaos Element           |                9000
Medusa Guard            |                9000
Change Mythril          |               10000
Attack +50              |               10800
Absolute Defense +75    |               10800
Godspeed                |               10800
Magic Power +40         |               13500
MP Drain+               |               13500
Balance +50             |               16200
Soul +50                |               16200
HP +100                 |               16200
Angel's Kiss            |               18000
Guard +25               |               24300
Resist Chaos+++         |               27000
Absolute Defense +100   |               32400
Attack +100             |               32400
Magic Power +50         |               40500
Angel's Embrace         |               54000

=====================================================================
IV. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
=====================================================================

Credit for the questions go to the people who asked them (mostly on
the Shining Force EXA board at GameFAQs).  Many of these questions
have been paraphrased for brevity and precision.


QUESTION>> Where is Gundestor Cavern?

ANSWER>> Veterans of the Shining Force EXA board should recognize this
         one: it is by far the most frequently asked question in the
         history of the board.  To answer the question, you can reach
         Gundestor Cavern by leaving the Geo-Fortress via the Number 4
         Gate (which does not open until Chapter 5) and take the exit
         leading south from the Defensive Battle area.


QUESTION>> Where is the Altar of Darkness?

ANSWER>> Clear out the enemies inside Paoraburr Cavern and look for
         an exit on the northeastern side of the area.


QUESTION>> How do I extend the range of the Geo-Fortress Cannon?

ANSWER>> You don't.  Cannon range is automatically extended as you
         advance the storyline -- nothing else affects Cannon range.


QUESTION>> How do I reach Ancient Arena: Stalker?

ANSWER>> Find the entrance to the Sewers at West Paora Plains, and
         make your way through the sewers.  You will eventually
         emerge on an isolated plateau, and the entrance to the Stalker
         Arena is practically "next door."


QUESTION>> I'm trying to train inside the Training Ground, but I keep
           getting killed when large numbers of monsters spawn after
           I open a treasure chest.  What should I do?

ANSWER>> "Chest spawns" is one of the more pernicious characteristics
         of the dungeons in Shining Force EXA.  Large numbers of
         monsters can and will spawn from the opening of a treasure
         chest, and this can cause abrupt, premature death for your
         party.  If Cyrille is your lead character, you should always
         try to break chests with crossbow bolts or a ranged magic
         attacks instead of opening them manually (of course, this is
         not going to work for locked chests).  Doing so will put some
         distance between you and any potential monster spawns, thereby
         ensuring that they won't be able to surround you.  Toma,
         however, will just have to brave it -- short of using weapons
         capable of ranged magic attacks (these weapons are seldom
         comparable in power level to the best weapons you possess),
         the most you can do is equip a two-handed weapon with a large
         radius of attack (i.e. a lot of "reach") and try to swing at
         the chests from as far away as possible.


QUESTION>> I've picked up a lot of bottles of Healing Water, and
           they're really taking up space in my inventory.  Is there
           any way to combine them into larger lots?

ANSWER>> In Chapter 4, a "suspicious individual" will start hanging
         around the Geo-Fortress hallway just outside the door leading
         to the Number 1 Gate.  He will bundle your Healing Water into
         lots of 9 bottles each in exchange for some gold.  Note that
         the price for his services increases as you advance the story:
         since the cost of his services is equal to 2000 times X, where
         X is the Chapter number, it'll cost quite a bit more to bundle
         your Healing Water in, say, Chapter 12 than it does back in
         Chapter 5.


QUESTION>> How do I transfer items between characters?

ANSWER>> Access your storage bin and hit either L1 or R1 to change to
         the inventory of the currently inactive character.  Select
         the item you wish to transfer and hit X to move it from one
         character to the other.


QUESTION>> What am I supposed to do with the snake statue in the
           North Balcan, Underpass area?

ANSWER>> Keep striking the switch in front of the light (red or green)
         that corresponds to the current color of the light glowing
         atop the large statue in the center.  Make enough "correct"
         responses in a row (by my count, you need to make 9 straight
         correct responses) and the statue will break; you will earn a
         Core Metal for your efforts.


QUESTION>> What is the difference between the Nullify Knockdown
           Secret Art and the Golem's Soul Secret Art?

ANSWER>> As far as I know, there is no difference.


QUESTION>> Why does the sign outside of Ancient Arena: Steel read
           "Ancient Arena: Legion"?

ANSWER>> This is a careless mistake made by the localization team.
         Shining Force EXA recycles many of the maps from its
         predecessor, Shining Force NEO.  The location of the Steel
         Arena in Shining Force EXA is the same as the location of
         the Legion Arena in Shining Force NEO.  The programmers of
         EXA simply did not bother to change the text on the sign.
         As far as I know, this mistake did not make it into the
         Japanese version of EXA (one of the game testers probably
         caught it), but it is obviously present in the overseas
         release.


QUESTION>> So, um, where exactly IS the Training Ground?

ANSWER>> Provided that you've unlocked the function and upgraded it
         with a few Core Metals, you can find the entrance to the
         Training Ground by going south from the Geo-Fortress Control
         Room and keep heading south along the Engineering Block
         corridor.


QUESTION>> Where is the Geo-Fortress Library and Armory?

ANSWER>> Head toward the exit leading west out of the Control Room and
         take the stairs down into the Residential Block.  Take the
         stairs up to the second level of the Residential Block and
         head north through either exit.  You should now be in a
         hallway just outside your destination(s): the Library
         occupies the western half of this area, while the Armory
         occupies the eastern half.


QUESTION>> Ancient Arena: Stone is sealed off from the rest of Ranburr's
           Tomb.  How do I get to it?

ANSWER>> Search the fenced plots of tombs for the entrance to an
         underpass.  The underpass leads straight to the entrance of
         the Stone Arena.


QUESTION>> Where exactly is the Fire Dragon party equipment? I've
           searched throughout Ranburr's Tomb, and I can't find it.

ANSWER>> There is a mini-boss fight that starts after you investigate
         one of the graves in a fenced plot of tombs.  Win the fight
         and the chest containing Fire Dragon will appear at the very
         top of Ranburr's Tomb (at the apex of the tomb structure
         itself).


QUESTION>> What exactly does the "Heaven and Earth" Secret Art do?

ANSWER>> Confuse you with description text that can be nothing but a
         terribly botched attempt at translation.  To actually answer
         your question, the Secret Art increases attack power against
         floating enemies (Harpies, Ghosts, etc.).


QUESTION>> Should Toma use a one-handed weapon or a two-handed weapon?

ANSWER>> This depends mostly on your playing style.  The most powerful
         weapon setup in the game features a one-handed weapon (the
         "ultimate" Darkness Sword setup), and one-handed weapons
         tend to have faster attack speed, as well as the ability to
         allow you to equip shields -- an invaluable bonus against
         higher-level enemies (since the shield completely nullifies
         most, if not all, of the most annoying tech effects -- Float,
         Knockback, Knockdown, Stun).  Two-handed weapons are great
         once you've strengthened your characters and start journeying
         through "easy" areas -- your axes and hammers are much better
         at clearing large crowds of enemies with one swing.  Two-handed
         weapons tend to deal much more damage in a single hit (rather
         than letting the damage build up via combo damage multipliers
         like one-handed weapons), and their attack speed deficiencies
         can be addressed with the Godspeed mod and the Devil Spark
         Secret Art.


QUESTION>> Why doesn't my physical defense stat increase when I
           pay Gantetsu to enhance my shield or chain?

ANSWER>> The stats of emphasis for shields and chains is not DEF but
         rather your DEX-based stats (Resist Knockback, Resist Knockdown,
         Movement Speed, etc.).  These WILL increase when you enhance
         your shield or chain.


QUESTION>> Which is better, Nullify Float or Nullify Knockdown?

ANSWER>> Nullify Float is the better of the two, but you don't actually
         need either Secret Art.  At a sufficiently high character
         strength rating, your characters are effectively immune to
         both Float and Knockdown as long as they're equipped with
         a shield or chain.


QUESTION>> How many floors are there in the Training Ground?

ANSWER>> 50, grouped into ten blocks of 5 floors each.  Each block
         consists of 4 randomly-generated floors and 1 "boss" floor.
         Unlike the randomly-generated floors, the layout of the boss
         floor never changes, and any items/gold/Mythril you leave
         lying on the battlefield of a boss floor will still be
         available for retrieval the next time you visit that floor.


QUESTION>> Does Bornay ever sell any decent gear?

ANSWER>> Not really.  You can always find far better gear via treasure
         chests and monster drops.


QUESTION>> Where exactly is Ancient Arena: Legion located?

ANSWER>> The entrance to the arena is a magic circle found in Xeyon
         Castle, Central 1F (look on the southeastern side of the
         map).  The door leading to the magic circle will be locked
         unless you've already cleared all 20 of the other arenas in
         the game.


QUESTION>> If I have the MP Drain+ mod on a book, do I gain the
           benefits of the status effect when I use the book's magic
           spells?

ANSWER>> No.  The effects of Life Drain/Life Drain+ and MP Drain/MP
         Drain+ only kick in if you hit an enemy with a melee attack.


QUESTION>> Why is my weapon highlighted with a different color?

ANSWER>> You hit L1 or R1 by accident while checking out that weapon
         in your Equip or Item menu.  L1 and R1 allow you to change
         the highlighting color of your items for sorting purposes.


QUESTION>> I've destroyed all 13 Legion Generators, but why is it
           still raining in the Ruins of Yi'el Village?

ANSWER>> No one knows for sure.  Some have suggested that it's
         because the Gusk is hovering over the area, and that's as
         valid a guess as any.


QUESTION>> Those Ghost Masters are just murdering me.  What should I
           do?

ANSWER>> Find both levels of the Darkness Resist Power Art and fully
         carve both levels.  That should raise your resistance against
         Dark Magic to a high enough level that Ghost Masters can't
         do anything that really hurts you.


QUESTION>> Malxatra is kicking my butt.  Are there any Power Arts that
           really help in the fight against him?

ANSWER>> Beef up your character's defensive capabilities by maxing out
         HP Boost, Master Guard, and the aforementioned Darkness Resist
         (you should also carve the Goddess Blessing Secret Art on your
         armor).  Offensively, max out Weapon Attack, Armor Killer,
         Robot Killer, and Darkness Pursuit.


QUESTION>> What should I do to increase the power of Toma's magic
           attacks?

ANSWER>> Don't bother.  Magic is a lost cause for Toma -- he is
         simply incapable of ever doing much damage with magic attacks.


QUESTION>> What's your favorite team of NPC allies for each character?

ANSWER>> For Toma, Avalon and Faulklin.  For Cyrille, Garyu and Faulklin.


QUESTION>> Where do I find Fiend Horns and Black Wool Caps?

ANSWER>> A poster said that Devil Fathers drop Fiend Horns, but I have
         yet to see them do so myself.  Devil Daughters in the Lake
         Bark Caverns occasionally drop Black Wool Caps.  Both of these
         items are among the class of inferior (compared to what you
         can find in the lower floors of the Training Ground) gear
         that aren't dropped in the dungeons; you'll most likely
         encounter these items only when looking through Bornay's
         inventory.  Other examples of such items are Cyrille's Twin
         Ribbons and Mitra Tiara.


QUESTION>> What are the most powerful magic spells in the game?

ANSWER>> There are several magic spells which can lay claim to the
         title of "most powerful", and each of them is particularly
         effective when used in a certain capacity.  For area-of-effect
         damage and crowd control, the best spell is Holy Lv.3 (Light
         elemental magic); for concentrated anti-unit damage, the best
         spell is Gaia Nova Lv.3 (Light elemental magic); for
         area-of-effect damage with status ailments, use Chaos Gate Lv.3
         (Dark elemental magic); and for the highest damage output
         -- with a chance to petrify the enemy -- at the cost of
         massive MP expenditure, use Avalon Nova (Light elemental
         magic).


QUESTION>> Which class of mods is better, Attack+ or Power+?

ANSWER>> Attack+.  The attack power boost from this class of mods is
         always much larger than the boost from comparable Power+ mods,
         even for Cyrille. The higher Stun Attack, Knockback Attack,
         and similar STR-related stat bonuses you get for a Power+ mod
         are never enough to offset the much higher boost in attack
         power you gain with an Attack+ mod.


QUESTION>> Which status ailment is the best to use against enemies?
           And which status ailment is the worst to get hit with?

ANSWER>> The answer to both questions is petrification.


QUESTION>> Does changing the party equipment used by your NPC allies
           also effect any changes to those character's stats?  Or
           does it simply change which attacks they use?

ANSWER>> Generally, party equipment found in higher level areas
         have higher attack power, both for physical attacks and magic
         attacks.  Garyu's Iron Dragon is particularly notable for
         also boosting physical defense.  It's hard to tell if any
         other party equipment affects DEF or if any party equipment
         affects stats other than attack power and physical defense.


QUESTION>> I've played through all of the storyline sequences thus
           far with the same character.  Am I missing out on any of
           the story?

ANSWER>> Well, the two main characters do have different lines of
         dialogue depending on which one is "active" for a particular
         storyline sequence, but you don't really miss anything of any
         real significance.


QUESTION>> Which "Anti" class mod is better, Character Flaw or
           Anti-Multiple?

ANSWER>> Anti-Multiple, but a simple Attack +50 (or, even better,
         Attack +100) mod is better than both of those mods and should
         be what you're looking for instead.


QUESTION>> I'm trying to fight a monster that has an impenetrable
           barrier around it.  How do I get the barrier to go away?

ANSWER>> If a monster is surrounded by a magic barrier, simply kill
         all other enemies in the general vicinity and the barrier
         will disappear.


QUESTION>> There are two Barrier system-like devices found on Block 2
           of the Gusk.  What is their significance?

ANSWER>> Those are energy collectors used to siphon Malxatra's power.
         If you've already beaten the game at least once, you can hit
         Circle when standing near these devices and choose to turn
         them off.  Turning off the energy collectors will make
         Malxatra much stronger in the final battle -- think of it as
         a way to "ramp up" the difficulty level of the battle if you
         find Malxatra to be not much of a challenge.


QUESTION>> I'm having a hard time killing Mythril Golems, as I'm only
           dealing 1 damage per hit to them.  Any suggestions?

ANSWER>> Mythril Golems have a very high physical defense rating, so
         physical attacks don't work well against them unless you've
         maxed out Weapon Attack, Golem Killer, and Light Pursuit.
         You can also use high-class Dark Magic spells against them.
         The wisest thing to do against them, though, is to just
         ignore them and move on -- Mythril Golems are so sturdy
         and hit so hard that they're what I classify a dangerous
         waste of time.  Devil Fathers are another type of enemy
         that qualifies for this category, because they combine
         incredibly high HP with powerful physical and magic attacks.
         You save a lot of time and effort if you just skip them (if
         you CAN skip them, anyway -- these enemies sometimes appear
         as mini-bosses you must fight) and move on.


QUESTION>> What does the Aura mod do?

ANSWER>> Aura grants you an extra attack (press the attack button
         after using a charge attack) that isn't really an attack at
         all: instead, it's a spell-like effect that heals a decent
         percentage of your HP (as well as the HP of your NPC allies
         if they're standing reasonably close to you).  The strategic
         value of the Aura mod lies in the fact that it allows you to
         field a lineup consisting of two "brute force" NPC allies
         backed up by Cyrille's ranged attacks and group healing (the
         healing will be done via the Aura effect, of course).  As
         a matter fact, usage of Aura means that you no longer have to
         worry about protecting a fragile NPC healer (i.e. Faulklin)
         or trying to survive while your NPC healer ...slowly... casts
         her healing magic (i.e. what happens when Maebelle is your
         designated healer).  Aura is also extremely valuable in the
         early game (i.e. before Faulklin joins your party), because
         the availability of a healing effect in your arsenals allows
         you to challenge higher-level monsters while maintaining a
         fair chance of survival.


QUESTION>> What is the highest level that a character can advance to
           in the game?

ANSWER>> Prior to beating the game (and gaining access to Xeyon Castle),
         level 187.  After gaining access to Xeyon, level 200 (be
         warned that only the Place Beyond Darkness has a sufficiently
         high area level to advance your characters past level 187).


QUESTION>> Is there no way to improve the enhancement numbers on
           rings and bracelets?

ANSWER>> Correct.  Since Gantetsu doesn't do accessories, whatever
         enhancement number you get when you acquire the ring or
         bracelet is the number it'll keep for the rest of the game.


QUESTION>> Is it possible to fully upgrade all Geo-Fortress functions
           in one playthrough of the game and without farming "timer"
           Defensive Battles?

ANSWER>> It's possible, but not very likely.  You need 117 Core Metals
         to fully upgrade all functions of the Geo-Fortress, and you
         can indeed acquire 117 before finishing the game.  By my
         count, 12 of the 117 Cores are tied to "timer" Defensive
         Battles, meaning that you must trigger at least 60 such
         battles throughout the game.  Most players trigger no more
         than 30 in one playthrough of the game, and some finish the
         game have triggered no more than 15 "timer" Defensive Battles.
         You'd need to be a mighty slow and... thorough... player to
         spend enough time out in the world that you trigger 60 "timer"
         Defensive Battles prior to beating the game without trying
         to "farm" that variety of Defensive Battle.


QUESTION>> What is the best party equipment item for each NPC ally?

ANSWER>> Party equipment generally get stronger the higher the area
         level of the location you find them at, though this is less a
         stone-cold fact than a rule of thumb: certain "less powerful"
         party equipment items offer useful effects and attacks that
         may prompt you to use them over higher-rated party equipment.
         A good example is Maebelle's Tender Archer, which you'd likely
         equip over more powerful "Archer" gear if your party is in
         dire need of healing.  Overall, the list below indicate what
         are considered the most powerful party equipment items in the
         game.  Aside from Avalon's Hero & Emperor -- which is a reward
         for clearing the lowest floor of the Training Ground -- all
         of these are found near the entrance of Xeyon Castle, Central
         1F:

	 Gadfort - Golden Knight
         Maebelle - Enraged Archer
         Amitaliri - Witch Teaching
         Faulklin - Noble Saint
         Garyu - Black Dragon
         Duga - Berserk Wolf
         Adam - Break Virus C
	 Avalon - Hero & Emperor


QUESTION>> I'm trying to do my equipment hunting on the lower floors
           of the Training Ground, but the monsters there are
           slaughtering me.  How do you manage to do your training
           and equipment hunting with such ease?

ANSWER>> I would never say that my grinding was done "with ease," as
         I died quite a lot my first few times through the bottom 15
         floors of the Training Ground.  The monsters there are
         fierce, and you will always be at risk of suffering a one-hit
         knockout (especially if you are unable to max out some of
         the key Power Arts).  The keys to breezing through those
         floors is to prioritize HP first (pay special attention to
         finding and equipping armor and rings with two HP +100 mods
         each), address physical defense second (don't forget to carve
         the Goddess Blessing Secret Art on your armor), and then try
         to pump up your physical attack power (as "mage" Cyrille, your
         point of emphasis should instead be magic attack power) as
         much as you can without sacrificing HP and DEF.  Always carve
         all the Power Arts you've found, and place special emphasis
         on Killer Arts and Power Arts which add to magic resistance
         (since some of the most insidious enemies on the lower floors
         of the Training Ground are the monsters which wield Dark
         Magic).  Try to kill your enemies before they get an opportunity
         to try and hurt you: before you piece together Toma's deadly
         Darkness Sword setup, you should probably look for a Pandemonium
         with good mods and petrify your way through the more powerful
         mobs.  As Cyrille, you should employ "meat shield" NPC allies
         and try to crossbow everything to death from a distance and
         through obstacles if necessary (by utilizing her crossbow
         tricks).  To master the lower blocks of the Training Ground,
         it is essential to study your opposition (in order to learn
         the kind of behavior each monster is likely to exhibit) and
         to plan assiduously (to set up your equipment, carve the right
         Secret Arts, and implement more effective tactics).  You should
         certainly expect to die every now and then, but eventually
         you will gain the necessary experience to employ more effective
         strategies against your enemies.  You'll then find that you're
         having a much easier time.


QUESTION>> I just found a weapon with the "Puppet" special ability.
           What does it do?

ANSWER>> Puppet is a special status effect unique to the Soul Stealer
         (one-handed weapon), Scarecrow (two-handed weapon), Caster's
         Book (book), and Necromancer (book).  To use Puppet, simply
         strike the corpse of an enemy with a Puppet-capable weapon
         (you must use a melee attack -- using magic from either of
         the two Puppet-capable books will not work), and the monster
         will be temporarily resurrected to fight as your ally.  Puppet
         does not work against monsters that don't leave corpses behind
         when they die (e.g. ghosts), golems, boss-level monsters,
         mechanical monsters (i.e. those with the "robot" race type),
         and several species of undead.  Puppet also does not work
         against monsters with character level equal to or higher than
         that of your active character.  Most enemies in the lower blocks
         of the Training Ground and in Xeyon Castle are immune to
         Puppet, so it's a mostly useless effect once you move on to
         the tougher areas of the game.  You shouldn't expect Puppet
         to do much of anything in any area with area level greater
         than 110 or so.


QUESTION>> Must I use Toma as the active character to recruit Garyu?

ANSWER>> No.  You can recruit Garyu with either Toma or Cyrille as
         the active character.


QUESTION>> Who is the better character, Toma or Cyrille?  Which of the
           two should I use to tackle the toughest areas of the game?

ANSWER>> As a rule of thumb, it's more practical to use Toma against
         high-level enemies which pose a credible threat to you -- Toma
         has much better durability than Cyrille due to his higher
         physical defense and his much higher HP.  Toma also enjoys
         huge combo damage multipliers with a number of weapon setups
         (such as the ultimate Darkness Sword setup), which allow him
         to deliver much more damage in a given period of time than
         Cyrille is capable of.  With her magic-related Power Arts
         maxed, Cyrille can probably deal as much or more damage than
         an one-handed weapon-wielding Toma on the scale of a single
         hit, provided that you're hitting a monster that's weak
         against Light Magic (many of the most menacing monsters are,
         though some -- Mythril Golems, for example -- are actually
         immune to Light Magic) and you use a powerful spell like Gaia
         Nova Lv.3.  Over time, however, Toma's multiplier-enhanced
         combo damage quickly outdistances anything Cyrille can do,
         and he doesn't have to worry about his MP depleting from
         casting all those high-level spells.  Cyrille is, however,
         much better against enemies that both characters can kill
         easily: a good area-of-effect spell (e.g. Holy Lv.3) can
         eliminate 15-20 monsters with one use, and thus achieve in
         2 seconds a result that would take Toma 20 seconds of
         slashing to match.

         To summarize, use Toma in the lower blocks of the Training
         Ground, in the other optional dungeons, and in any other
         places where the indigenous fauna are credible threats to
         your prospects of survival.  Use Cyrille in "storyline" areas
         and other low-area level locations where the monsters are no
         threat and where your primary goal is to get from point A to
         point B in a short amount of time.


QUESTION>> What exactly do I get from technique boosts and agility
           boosts?

ANSWER>> Anything that increases your "technique" is raising your DEX
         (Dexterity) stat.  The stats that increase with higher DEX
         are the following: Stun Attack rating, Critical Attack ratio,
         Resist Stun ratio, and Resist Knockback ratio.  Equipment
         with high DEX stats also tend to confer better Movement Speed,
         but the Movement Speed stat is not determined by Dexterity;
         rather, it's an independent stat that's also referred to as
         "agility" by the game.  The Secret Arts Rough and Ready and
         Devil Spark, as well as the Speed Up and Speed Up+ family of
         equipment mods, are the most common ways for you to raise
         your character's agility, and when you do so, Movement Speed
         is the only stat being increased -- none of your DEX stats
         are affected.


QUESTION>> You recommend the Earth Talisman Secret Art for headgear,
           but isn't the Modest Charm Secret Art better?  You lose
           4% to 6% of magic resistance per element, but you gain
           about 1000 more DEF.

ANSWER>> By my count, you gain 990 points of DEF/physical defense, and
         that's just not enough of a boost to constitute a worthy
         trade-off.  Since magic resistance values are displayed as
         percentages but are actually stored (and calculated) as
         integers, 4% of the total resistance value for all five
         elemental magic classes almost certainly computes as a larger
         integer sum than 990.  High elemental magic resistance values
         help tremendously -- life is so much easier down on the lower
         floors of the Training Ground if you don't have to worry
         about taking any damage from magic attacks (especially the
         HP Absorbing attacks from those pesky Ghost Masters), and
         that's why I prefer to build toward impregnable defenses
         against magic attacks rather than getting another small boost
         to my physical defense stat.  If your elemental magic
         resistance values are already high enough that you suffer no
         damage from any enemy magic attacks, however, you should
         certainly carve Modest Charm instead.


QUESTION>> Since you preach that HP is more important than DEF/physical
           defense, then isn't the Source of Life Secret Art better
           than Goddess Blessing?  I get about 2000 HP from Source of
           Life and about 2000 DEF from Goddess Blessing.

ANSWER>> Yes, HP is generally more useful than DEF (because HP adds to
         your durability against both physical attacks and magic attacks,
         whereas DEF affects resilience against physical attacks only),
         but that doesn't mean that Source of Life is better than
         Goddess Blessing.  Most of the time, Goddess Blessing is vastly
         superior, simply because you gain much more DEF from carving
         it than you'd gain HP from carving Source of Life (you do gain
         some MP from Source of Life as well, but MP is usually rather
         unimportant in Shining Force EXA).  This is because both
         Secret Arts confer a percentage increase to the key stat in
         question (DEF for Goddess Blessing, HP for Source of Life),
         and Goddess Blessing simply increases its stat by a larger
         percentage value than does Source of Life.  It's a quirk of
         your current character strength level that you happen to get
         approximately equal increases with both Secret Arts (your HP
         is probably much higher than your DEF at the moment -- a
         phenomenon possibly caused by having carved a higher level of
         the HP Boost Power Art than you've carved the Master Guard
         Power Art).  With "maxed out" characters, both Toma and Cyrille
         would gain about 6000 DEF from Goddess Blessing.  In contrast,
         Toma would gain about 4000 HP from Source of Life, and Cyrille
         would only gain about 2000 HP.  It's fairly easy to see that
         you get a much larger boost from Goddess Blessing there, and
         that's why it's considered the "better" Secret Art.


QUESTION>> Why am I getting less Mythril from the crystal formations
           on a floor of the Training Ground than I did on a previous
           visit to that floor?

ANSWER>> The amount of Mythril you get from destroying the crystal
         formations on a floor (and from killing all the monsters on
         that floor) of the Training Ground (or a similar dungeon
         like the Dimension X Metal Tunnel) is determined by the
         total number of enemies found on that floor.  Since non-boss
         floors are randomly generated, you'll get less Mythril from
         crystal formations (and from completely clearing that floor
         of monsters) if the luck of the draw happened to deal you
         a smaller floor populated by fewer enemies.


QUESTION>> What is added to the game after you finish it?

ANSWER>> After beating the game, you'll be given the opportunity to
         make a "cleared data" save in any slot you wish.  When you
         load this save file, you'll be returned to the start of
         Chapter 14, and several significant things have changed:

         -- You can now access Xeyon, Castle of Mysteries (a tough
            yet most rewarding optional dungeon) via a new Warp Gate
            entry.

         -- The Geo-Fortress is now capable of Defense Mode.  While
            the Geo-Fortress is in Defense Mode, no Defensive Battles
            will occur and your Cannon range is maximized (despite
            the fact that the Geo-Fortress is not in Cannon Mode).

         -- You can now fulfill all of Gantetsu's requests and raise
            his forging level to the maximum level of 18.  At forging
            level 18, you can pay him to temper your equipment up to
            a maximum enhancement bonus of +18.

         -- Bornay will always have Light Charms in stock from now on.

         -- You can now warp straight to Lakton Village to fight the
            first "storyline" battle of Chapter 14 (instead of having
            to walk through Gundestor Cavern, Ancient Runed Temple,
            and Lakton Cave).  There will be a large chest of gold in
            the center of Lakton Village -- another reward for having
            completed the game.


=====================================================================
V. Glitches
=====================================================================

Aside from Cyrille's crossbow tricks (particularly the Boar-Slaying
Arrow), which exploit enemy patterns which may either be "glitches"
or intended behavior (it's hard to say for sure), there have been
several other ...interesting... occurrences reported by Shining Force
EXA gamers which are definitely bugs or glitches with the programming
code.

EXP FREEZE

As touched on earlier, some of your NPC party members will hit the
level cap a few character levels earlier than the area level of the
place you're grinding.  This occurred to me on the lowest block of
floors in the Training Ground, where I discovered that NPC allies
must stay within one level of your main character when your main
character hits the level cap of the area.  Otherwise, your NPC allies
will "hit the cap early" and only receive 1 EXP per kill, despite the
fact that their own character levels have not yet hit the level cap
of the area.

AVALON'S VANISHING HP

First reported by _MasterQ_ on the Shining Force EXA board, this is a
phenomenon where a high-level Avalon (i.e. level 190-200) suffers
sudden and massive HP loss without having engaged in battle.  Those
reporting the glitch say that it typically occurs near the staircases
in Xeyon Castle where, upon entering/leaving an area through the
staircases, Avalon will suddenly emerge with only 1 HP.  Since Avalon
has no natural HP recovery, this glitch has largely been a Healing
Water-draining inconvenience to those who've experienced it.

MALFUNCTIONING FENCE

First reported on the Shining Force EXA Japanese Wiki, this is a
phenomenon tied to a fence that goes up during a mini-boss battle in
Xeyon Castle, Central 2F.  For reasons unknown, this fence has, for
some gamers, failed to lower even after the destruction of all enemies
in the area (thereby forcing a game reset).

CHARMED WORMS

First reported by tera_majin on the Shining Force EXA board, this is a
phenomenon where Sand Worm-class monsters will pop out of the ground
but neither attack nor approach you if you're standing sufficiently far
away from them (the proper distance is almost the full length of the
screen).  I've noticed this myself during my frequent trips to Diablo's
Palm, and I believe this may simply be scripted behavior for this
enemy type -- they're simply not programmed to either attack OR move
unless there is a hostile within a reasonable distance, and it creates
a "glitchy" look where the Worms appear to be doing absolutely nothing
besides hanging out above the ground.

DUPLICATE ALLIES

This is an extremely rare occurrence: by my recollection, no more than
than two gamers have reported having this happen to them.  Those players
report that, for reasons unknown, duplicates of their NPC party members
appear following a normal attempt to switch party members.  I have no
idea what causes this glitch, and you can view a video of it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yh6x30T60ek

Video courtesy of ChangeV.

UNATTAINABLE TREASURE

Put your Geo-Fortress in Search Mode (if you've already maxed out the
Geo-Fortress's Radar function, any mode will do) and use the Number 3
Gate to access the Geo-Fortress Arena Stage.  Go as far north as you
can and press L2 to access the radar view of the area.  You'll see a
glowing red dot -- the radar view indicator for a secret treasure --
at a location off the northern edge of the map.  Since this presumed
secret treasure is located at a position outside of the boundaries of
the Arena Stage map, you can't get to it, nor can you get anything to
happen by launching crossbow bolts or ranged magic attacks toward that
position.  The majority of Shining Force EXA gamers believe that
the glowing red dot is caused by a glitch in the programming code,
but we may never know for sure.

=====================================================================
VI. Save Files
=====================================================================

This section is dedicated to offering more detailed (and, in some
instances, more accurate) descriptions of the series of Shining Force
EXA save game files I've uploaded to GameFAQs.  In these save games, 
all available Power Arts have been maxed (insofar as the Power Arts
you're capable of acquiring at that stage of the game), and I've
acquired all Secret Arts and party equipment for NPC allies available
at that point of the game.  Except for Saves #1 and #2, gold and
Mythril are maxed in each of these saved games.  You may view and
download these files using the URL below:

http://www.gamefaqs.com/console/ps2/save/934417.html

SAVE #1: Uploaded 5/14/07, occupies save slot 20.  Saved in Chapter 2,
         just before the first battle against Philip.  Both main
         characters at level 16 with better gear than the "starter"
         items following training at the Path of Carnage in the Lakton
         Highlands.  Visit Ancient Arena: Birdling and collect the Red
         Metal to advance the storyline.

SAVE #2: Uploaded 5/14/07, occupies save slot 19.  Saved in Chapter 2,
         just before the encounter with Amitaliri and Faulklin in
         Ilnad Forest.  Toma, Cyrille, Gadfort, and Maebelle are all
         at level 21 following training at Lakton Highlands.  Head
         west from the Ruins of Yi'el Village to advance the storyline.

SAVE #3: Uploaded 5/14/07, occupies save slot 17.  Saved near the end
         of Chapter 3.  Toma and Cyrille are at level 130, Amitaliri
         and Faulklin are at level 131, and Maebelle and Gadfort are
         at level 58 following training at the Training Ground and
         in Defensive Battles.  10 Ancient Arenas cleared (Birdling,
         Orc, Wolfling, Giant, Lightning, Stone, Lizard, Stalker,
         Dragon, Golem).  The Energy Generator and Training Ground
         functions of the Geo-Fortress are both at level 7.  Both
         main characters are outfitted with quality gear found from
         the Training Ground.  Warp to the Wild Boar Cave to advance
         the storyline.

SAVE #4: Uploaded 5/14/07, occupies save slot 16.  Saved near the end
         of Chapter 4.  Garyu has been recruited and is at level 153.
         Toma and Cyrille are at level 153 as well, whereas Gadfort,
         Maebelle, Amitaliri, and Faulklin are at level 150.  10 Ancient
         Arenas cleared (Birdling, Orc, Wolfling, Giant, Lightning,
         Stone, Lizard, Stalker, Dragon, Golem).  Energy Generator and
         Training Ground both at level 8.  Main characters have
         slightly better gear than in Save #3.  Warp to the Noswald
         Encampment at North Il'Gonia Valley to advance the storyline.

SAVE #5: Uploaded 5/14/07, occupies save slot 15.  Saved near the end
         of Chapter 6.  Toma, Cyrille, and Faulklin are at level 177,
         whereas Gadfort, Maebelle, Amitaliri, and Garyu are all at
         level 175 following training on the lowest floors of the
         Training Ground.  Both main characters have high-quality
         equipment acquired from the lowest floors of the Training
         Ground.  12 Ancient Arenas cleared (Birdling, Orc, Wolfling,
         Giant, Lightning, Stone, Lizard, Stalker, Dragon, Golem, 
         Ghost, Steel).  Both the Energy Generator and Training Ground
         functions of the Geo-Fortress have been fully upgraded, and
         all 50 floors of the Training Ground have been cleared.  Use
         the mini-teleport in the center of the Geo-Fortress Control
         Room to warp to Ranburr's Tomb and pick up the Blue Metal
         there to advance the storyline.

SAVE #6: Uploaded 5/14/07, occupies save slot 14.  Saved near the end
         of Chapter 7.  Toma and Cyrille are at level 178, Faulklin is
         at level 180, Duga is at level 177, whereas Gadfort, Maebelle,
         Amitaliri, and Garyu are all at level 175.  13 Ancient Arenas
         cleared (Birdling, Orc, Wolfling, Giant, Lightning, Stone,
         Lizard, Stalker, Dragon, Golem, Ghost, Steel, Ice).  As noted
         in Save #5, the Energy Generator and Training Ground functions
         have both been "maxed" and the Training Ground has been fully
         cleared.  Main character have roughly the same gear as in
         Save #5.  Use the "Gradium Mine, Inside" warp gate entry to
         proceed to the battle against the Zircon Lotus.

SAVE #7: Uploaded 7/3/2007, occupies save slot 13.  Saved near the end
         of Chapter 12.  Toma, Cyrille, Gadfort, Maebelle, Amitaliri,
         Garyu, and Adam are all at level 187 (the level cap of Training
         Ground floor B50F/Depths), whereas Faulklin is at level 185,
         Duga is at level 185, and Avalon is at level 184 on account of
         the "EXP Freeze" glitch.  All 20 non-Legion Ancient Arenas have
         been cleared.  Four of the seven Geo-Fortress functions have
         been fully upgraded: Energy Generator, Training Ground, Radar,
         and Robot Factory.  The Barrier function is at level 7, the
         Repair function is at level 5, and the Geo-Fortress Cannon is
         at level 2.  Each main character owns 50 bottles of Healing
         Water following many trips to Diablo's Palm, each main character
         is equipped with gear of the highest quality obtainable prior
         to beating the game, and there is also quality "backup"
         (i.e. enchanted with mods that are particularly strong in
         certain specific situations) equipment in storage.  All secret
         treasures on maps accessible thus far have been acquired through
         usage of the maxed Radar function.  Use the "Emperor's Hall"
         warp gate entry and enter Ragnadaam III's throne room to advance
         the storyline.

SAVE #8: Uploaded 1/15/2008, occupies save slot 12.  Saved just before
         the Dungeon of Ordeal event in Chapter 14.  All character
         levels are the same as in Save #7.  All 20 non-Legion Ancient
         Arenas have been cleared.  Character equipment is largely the
         same as in Save #7, and all secret treasures available have
         been obtained.  Each main character now owns 54 bottles of
         Healing Water.  All Geo-Fortress functions have been maxed
         except for Cannon, which is at level 9.  Choose the main
         character you want and head to his/her Geo-Fortress quarters
         to tackle the Dungeon of Ordeal and embark on the sequence
         of events that ends the game.

=====================================================================
VII. Update History/Special Thanks
=====================================================================

January 21, 2008 -- Minor fixes and a new FAQ entry.
January 15, 2008 -- Minor fixes here and there.
January 14, 2008 -- Made some grammatical/stylistic corrections, added
                    many entries to the Mythril Values list, and added
                    another entry to the "Glitches" section.  Fielded
                    some more questions in the FAQ section.
January 9, 2008 -- Version 1.0 completed (talk about some serious
                   slacking, eh?).
May 2007 -- Started work on this guide.

Special thanks to Sega for producing and localizing this great game
for us all to enjoy.  Thanks to the contributors to the Japanese
Shining Force EXA Wiki (http://sfx.gkwiki.com/) for providing a great
deal of raw data used in many of the lists in Section III.  Thanks to
my fellow Shining Force EXA board denizens at GameFAQs for inspiring
me to write this guide, for contributing to the content found in this
guide, and for providing the kick in the pants that spurred me to
finally finish it.  Thanks to SolidSnake X for reminding me to talk
about Demonic Pact and Magic of Insanity (and why I included neither
in my recommendations for Secret Arts), and for providing some missing
Mythril values.  Thanks to Sherry Covert for letting me know that it's
possible to access the East Balcan Desert locations as early as Chapter
10.  Thanks also to GameFAQs for generously hosting this guide and for
offering a great place for Shining Force EXA lovers to congregate and
converse.  ASCII art header courtesy of the ASCII Generator at
http://www.network-science.de/ascii/.

Questions?  Comments?  Corrections?  Was there something I missed?
Or do you think I'm just flat out wrong about something?  Send email
feedback to guitarotoko@gmail.com.

(C) 2007-2008 Wei Chen