Shortly after waking up, Squall and company will be met by a Presidential Aide from Esthar, who will drive you to Presidential Palace. After some chatter you'll finally be left to your own devices in the technological marvel that is Esthar. There's exploring to be done and cards to play, but first, why not find a Save Point? Exit the room with Odine by heading down to reach a hallway, then exit to the right and ride a lift to exit the presidential palace.
Once outside, head down and to the left to reach another screen where you'll find forks to the left and right, as well as a Blizzard draw point. Huh. Exit to the right to reach another screen with a three-way split, but more importantly you'll find another lift. Use the lift and pick the option Via Inner Skyway, and when you get the option to get off, pick Keep going. When you finally come to a stop, exit via a path at the bottom of the screen to reach an exit to the city - just get on the elevator and you'll find yourself on the world map where you can save your game. Do so, then head back north to the end of the road to enter Esthar again.
To return back to the presidential palace, leave the room with the exit elevator, ride the lift back To Presidential Palace, pick the option Keep going when asked and when you stop exit to the left then ride another left at the top of the screen back into the palace. Back inside the palace exit to the left, then go through a door to return to the room with Odine.
All this trouble was to provide you a safety net of sorts, as you'll want to challenge Odine to a game of cards. Odine uses the Esthar rules, which thankfully aren't too terrible, consisting of merely the Elemental rule. If you last played with a safe rule set, mix them and try to spread Open or abolish Elemental, otherwise decline Odine until he finally stops asking to mix rules and just plays with Esthar's rules. Keep playing Odine until you win the Ward Card, which is one of the few Level 10 Player cards left for you to find.
The Ward Card is a decent playing card, having two sides (top and left) that are proof to everything up to Level 7 Boss cards. The right face is also strong (7) although not insurmountably so. If you don't care to keep it, you can refine it into three Gaea's Ring items, which can teach a GF the HP+80% ability. If you want to teach more GFs this ability, by all means, refine the Ward card; you should only need one, as both the Brothers and Diablos GFs can learn it natively, and you'll find a Gaea's Ring shortly, but it's your call.
Occult Fan IV
With the Ward Card secured, it's time to go get some more treasures in Esthar. Return to the exterior of the presidential palace and once outside exit to the left and in the next screen (another three-way split). Use the lift to Odine's Laboratory, pick the option Via Airstation and when prompted during the ride, opt to Get off. Here you'll find an Esthar man in blue-gray talking to a woman. Talk to him - a Presidential Aide - and he'll say nothing of apparent consequence, but it's a necessary step to getting some treasure. Use the lift, ride it back to the Presidential Palace and return to the interior to find a woman standing outside the room with Odine and Rinoa. Talk to her and she'll mention some books the president has been collecting before walking off. Search the ground where she was standing and you'll find Occult Fan IV.
Now that you have all four Occult Fan issues you can read them to gain some clues as to the mystery they're obsessing over. It's really a series of clues that'll help you acquire an obscure GF, although it's fairly obtuse. What do Steel Pipes, Malboros, some "ST Full Recovery Medicine" and a "ring belonging to a royal family" that summons a GF if you have 666 items have to do with anything? Don't worry, you'll find out shortly, but there's a reason you've been told to consider accumulating some Malboro Tentacles throughout the guide.
Esthar Shop Gifts
Leave the palace again and exit to the right, then use the lift and pick the option Via the Shopping Mall and opt to Get off when prompted. Behold, the shopping mall! Approach one of the stores and a store directory will pop up, allowing you to choose which store to grace with your commerce. You'll want to enter them all for two reasons - first, doing so will add the shop to Tonberry's Call Shop ability, which is definitely worth-while considering what can be done with some of these shops... More on that shortly, but in the meantime the second reason is because some of these shops offer you a variety of gifts for visiting! The shops and the rewards they offer can be found below:
|Shop Directory Name||Call Shop Name||Gift|
|Rinrin's Store||Esthar Pet Shop||N/A|
|Cloud's Shop||Esthar Shop||Hi-Potion or X-Potion|
|Johnny's Shop||Esthar Shop!!!||Hi-Potion or Mega-Potion|
|Don Juan's Shop||N/A||N/A|
|Karen's Shop||Esthar Book Store||Hi-Potion or Mega Phoenix|
|Cheryl's Shop||N/A||Rosetta Stone|
Each store has a chance of giving you a gift when you visit. If you don't get a gift from a store on a particular visit, you'll need to exit the pop-up store menu, then enter it again by running into another physical store stall. For most stores you may end up getting one of two gifts; and while a Hi-Potion is definitely inferior to the alternative in either case, it's probably not worth going out of your way to hunt for the better restorative - especially since you can buy all of these items from Johnny's Shop and there are, of course, ways to earn infinite Gil. It should also be noted that some shops aren't available at any given time, but this doesn't seem to impede your chance of getting gifts, and even if the store isn't open it'll still be added to Tonberry's Call Shop menu.
Run around and get all the gifts, but particularly be on the lookout for the Rosetta Stone, which is rarely given by Cheryl's Shop. If you didn't get any of these from the prisoner in the D-District Prison... well, you now have one and can later acquire a GF with the Ability x4 ability, leaving you with one more to acquire. Getting your hands on a third Rosetta Stone without the convenience of the D-District Prison requires a bit of effort, but we'll cross that bridge when the time comes.
Now it's time to talk about the shops themselves, as there's quite a few interesting things you can buy from them, especially when you consider your ability to refine items...
Esthar Book Store
Karen's Shop - aka the Esthar Book Store, as it's listed under the Call Shop option - is pretty straight-forward in that it sells you a variety of books. These include the "Weapons Mon" books, the "Combat King" books and two issues of "Pet Pals" and "Occult Fan". Their stock is as follows:
|Esthar Book Store||Cost|
|Weapons Mon 1st||37,500|
|Weapons Mon Mar||750|
|Weapons Mon Apr||750|
|Weapons Mon May||750|
|Weapons Mon Jun||750|
|Weapons Mon July||750|
|Weapons Mon Aug||750|
|Combat King 001||750|
|Combat King 002||750|
|Combat King 003||750|
|Combat King 004||750|
|Combat King 005||22,500|
|Pet Pals Vol.1||750|
|Pet Pals Vol.2||750|
|Occult Fan I||26,250|
|Occult Fan II||26,250|
You should have found most of these while playing through the rest of the game, save for Combat Kings 004 and Combat Kings 005, which you haven't had an opportunity to obtain yet. If you missed any of these books before, or you just don't feel like waiting for the next issues of Combat King, buy them now. Not that you really need most of them - Zell's basic limits are easier to spam than his higher-end ones, you don't actually needs the "Weapons Mon" magazines to make the weapons showcased within, nor do you need Occult Fan to acquire the GF they sensationalize. If you missed Pet Pals Vol.2 earlier, however, you might as well get it now. Speaking of Pet Pals, if you didn't get Pet Pals Vol.3 and Pet Pals Vol.4 from the Timber Pet Shop... well, no reason you can't use Call Shop to take care of that at any time.
Note: All prices listed assume you have Tonberry's Haggle and Sell-High abilities and all store inventories listed assume you have Tonberry's Familiar ability. There's really no good reason not to have them by now.
Esthar Shop!!! - Faster Infinite Gil!
Next turn your attention to Johnny's Shop, which, like most item shops sells a variety of restoratives. Unlike most item shops, however, Johnny's Shop (aka - the Esthar Shop!!!) sells some higher-end restoratives that others don't. A list of his goods follows:
The most interesting thing this shop provides is a refinement to the infinite Gil process, which is largely the same as it was at the start of disc 2. Your goal is to make a profit by refining items into Mega-Potions, then selling them at a profit. In the pre-Tonberry days you'd have to suffer for a mere 1,000G profit for every Mega-Potion sold, but now the math is more favorable: Tent x4 = 3,000G (with Haggle) = 1 Mega-Potion (Recov Med-RF) = 7,500G (with Sell-High). That's a tasty 4,500G profit per Mega-Potion, constituting a significant increase in your rate of Gil accumulation.
If that's not enough, you can now buy Cottages from the Esthar Shop, two of which turn into a Mega-Potion: Cottage x2 = 2,700 (with Haggle) = 1 Mega-Potion (Recov Med-RF) = 7,500G (with Sell-High). Cottages ultimately provide a 4,800G profit, but there's no point in being choosy - they're adjacent on the shop menu, and if you pick the "Rearrange" option in the "Items" menu you can assign Tents, Cottages and Mega-Potions to the top three slots, making it easy to buy 100x Tents (75,000G), 100x Cottages (135,000G), refine them both into a total of 75x Mega-Potions and sell the lot for 562,500G - a tidy profit of 352,500G per go. If money was an issue before, it shouldn't be anymore, as it's trivial to raise millions of Gil with this method, which is good, because there are some other combos that can get pretty costly.
Now that we've discussed the most interesting thing you can do here, we might as well talk about the most obvious: refining some of this easily acquired medicine into higher-grade stuff.
|Base Item||Refines Into||Sells For|
|Phoenix Down x50||Mega-Phoenix||7,500|
As you can see, this isn't a good way to make money. In fact, you'll probably lose money upgrading medicine if you want to do this in any sort of timely manner. Still, it can't hurt to build up stocks of Megalixirs and Mega-Phoenixes as a safety net, although it's not really necessary, either. One thing you will want to do, however, is refine yourself at least six Remedy+ items, as they're necessary for summoning that elusive GF mentioned repeatedly through the Occult Fan issues. This will set you back 45,000G.
Esthar Pet Shop
But wait, there's more! The Esthar Pet Shop is perhaps the most interesting store in the game, as it not only sells the otherwise unobtainable Pet Pals Vol.5 and Pet Pals Vol.6, but it sells the Giant's Ring, Power Wrist, Force Armlet and Hypno Crown items. A full list of this store's inventory follows:
|Esthar Pet Shop||Cost|
|Pet Pals Vol.5||750|
|Pet Pals Vol.6||750|
Pet Pals Vol.5 will allow Angelo to learn the "Angelo Search" ability - your best bet for getting some rare items if you don't have access to Chocobo World - and Pet Pals Vol.6 will teach "Wishing Star". Angelo Search has been a topic for some time - mostly during the early-game when you were in Timber. Since then, Pal Pals magazines have been... well, there haven't been any for quite a while, but if you refrained from learning Angelo Recover, Angelo Reverse or acquiring the Odin GF, you should be in a good position to exploit this. You know, if Rinoa ever stops acting like a turnip. Should the stars align and Rinoa go back to her insufferable self, the Angelo Search trick will be discussed in greater detail, but until then, just keep it in the back of your mind.
The Stat+40% items - Giant's Ring, Power Wrist, Force Armlet and Hypno Crown - are also a case of delayed gratification. With an as-of-yet unobtained refining ability you'll be able to ultimately turn these items into higher-tier versions (10x Giants Rings turn into a Gaea's Ring), which can then in turn be refined into permanent stat-boosting items. This can be an expensive - and hence time-consuming process, but it's a way of strengthening your characters, one worth keeping in mind.
Fortunately, not all your options here are the subject of future gains. Hypno Crowns and Power Wrists can be refined into 10x Aura Stones apiece via Tool-RF, which in turn can be refined into the Aura spell via Supt Mag-RF. There's no good reasons why you shouldn't stock up on Aura spells while you have the chance - getting three full stocks of Aura should cost at most 450,000G. Once you have Aura spells you'll be pleased to find that it junctions well into HP-J (5th), Str-J (3rd) and Hit-J (3rd), but it's arguably a spell best used for casting, as the Aura spell will allow an affected character to use their limit break at any time, regardless of their HP. It'll come in handy during future fights, and is well worth having.
Whew. With all that out of the way, you can finally turn your attention elsewhere. These shops will still come in handy in the future, especially when you gain a certain refining ability... but more on that later. For now there's one more thing you can do in the city of Esthar if you want to get a trivial reward later... or you could just spend the 750G to buy Combat King 004 from Karen's Shop - aka the Esthar Book Store and save yourself the bother. In any event, exit the shopping mall by heading down, then on the next screen head over to the lift hub and exit by heading up past the central of the three hubs. On the third screen go up some stairs and exit to the left then continue left across a bridge on the fourth screen. Finally, on the fifth screen talk to an Esthar Soldier standing on the bridge - he doesn't have much to say right now, but talking to him now is, oddly enough, a prerequisite for future gains.
When that's done, exit back to the right until you return to the lift hub near the shopping mall, then exit the city by heading down. Now that you're done in Esthar, you can either continue on to the Lunar Gate, or take a short detour to acquire a new GF. Or at least, an item that allows you to acquire a new GF.