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The problem I find is striking a balance between the number of characters I use and the limit of 50 characters and items on Phantom Island.
It's really, really nice to have lots of items laying around on Phantom Island because this means lots and lots of free Mana is generated on them each time I'm out (and some free Exp if you have a leveled Old Man), particularly if you have a leveled Fusionist. Over the course of several dozen While You Were Out's, I can accumulate many thousands of free Mana this way.
Having a large party of characters on the island is nice, too, because that means I can rotate out damaged and exhausted (and dead) characters with fresh ones, which is extremely handy in long dungeon treks of many floors.
Anyway, I figure I can maximize my return by limiting myself to a few characters and character classes that have good starting stats, skills, and skill potential and just level up those few, rather than relying on a large party of weaklings. This would leave more room for items on Phantom Island.
Yes, certain classes are more or less essential. You have to leave at least one Dungeon Monk out just to explore a random dungeon, so you might as well level him up. The Fusionist I find essential for the Mana alone (and fusing), and one or more Bottlemails. And you really should have at least one healer class, if not several, with both healing and Revive. Aside from selling useful weapons, the Merchant gives lots of free money, so I like to keep one leveled up.
And, yes, certain classes have really useful skills. The Archer has Swift Attack, the Knight has Healing Steps, etc. Though, aside from insanely expensive ones like Energy Saver, most of those can be fused onto any other character class. And even with a Remove of 8, I found the Soldier to be far too weak, so I fused him (her?) into another character.
Certain classes you more or less need at least one of, like the Blacksmith and Titlist. But there is no real advantage to leveling them as they perform their tasks just as well at level 1. Though, I do find it a pain to have to talk to Marona to pull them out of storage to use them, only to put them back when I'm done and pull out other characters or items in their place. So it's nice to just leave them out all the time. But then, if you do that, you might as well level them and use them... right?
What about the Putties: PuttyShaman, PuttySmith, PuttyMage? Can anyone recommend them over their human counterparts? I find the idea of using a PuttySmith instead of a Blacksmith to be rather tempting. They seem to have certain advantages and disadvantages. Among other things, they have a higher steal rate, which is helpful in both obtaining and preventing enemies from stealing from you. (Actually, many non-humans have higher Steal.)
I will say that I am very tempted to use the owls - Owl Sage, Owl Mage, Owl Knight, Owl Sentry - over their human phantom counterparts (Healer, Witch, Knight, Fighter?). These have a much bigger movement range and jump height, making them strategically advantageous. Though, I was very disappointed to learn the Owl Knight, unlike the human knight, does not come with Healing Steps. I am undecided on the Owl Ninja.
The Old Man and Granny are clearly the worst characters in the game. Their stats are absolutely atrocious and are F in every area but one, which is E, making them a huge pain to level. And then there's the Remove of just 2! Even with their special abilities (free Exp and reducing dark points), I'm not sure they're worth the bother.
The Blob looks worthless at first glance, esp. with a Remove of just 1. But game faqs talk about the amazing strategy of giving them Big Bang + either Parting Gift or SuiSlime for HUGE damage potential. (Maybe even add Healing Birth/Healing Steps or Swift Attack to the mix?)
The Slime... I'm not so keen on. Their advantage is having SSS fusion compatibility with everything. But I don't see how leveling them is necessary to use them. Why bother, aside from being able to get them early?
You can get the Whisp right at the start of the game by killing the Unknown Phantom over and over 20 times. But is the Whisp worth it over other classes?
How about the giant monsters, like the Behemoth? Anything in particular to recommend them over other choices? Higher HP, perhaps? (Lady Zombie seems to have high HP, too, which seems weird.)
Looking at the Phantom Brave Wiki gave me some insight in certain classes. Because of certain advantages, I think I may try out a Scrabbit (excellent jump and high SPD and Steal), Saber Kitty (high SPD and ATK and decent jump), Funguy (a tank with high HP and DEF and a super impressive 40 Steal) and Fenrir (Swift Attack + excellent movement and jump). Perhaps a Werewolf (balanced stats + Swift Attack), too.
Also, I like the fact that the Scrabbit and Saber Kitty have an "A" skill proficiency in Nature skills. Unlike the Fusionist with weak ATK, these two have decent or nice ATK, making them a good choice to use with either a powered-up Cactus or a powered-up Bone for those Absorb skills.
One other thing I will say is that I find certain classes tempting to play just to hear their attack voices. The Witch, in particular, is hilarious. I never tire of her "Come here" and classic Oz-esque witch giggling. The Old Man's lines are quite funny, too. Though, while the Scrabbit's voices are nice the first few times you hear them, I think they'll become irritating after a while.
Sadly, unlike humans, it seems like most demi-humans and monsters do not have attack voices. I think I prefer the characters with voices. Maybe I should just try each class and character at least once to see which I like best? That's a lot of character creation and leveling, though...
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