Stage 21 between a rock and a hard place
Beat Lithos, if the "true" final boss proves too much trouble I'll just do a write up of her stage.
Here's her Last Word◊
, Ra's Al-ghūl Gorgops. Or... Ras Algol Gorgops? It's mixing different languages together. Head of the ghoul, eye of the gorgon. Three guesses what it does and the first two don't count.
The good news is that Aya can survive in the front row (using evasion) and isn't really any weaker than Youmu in that position. The bad news is that she doesn't have elemental attacks, Slayer effects or Youmu's stance bonuses to make her worth hitting things with. It seems she's supposed to go first and stun things, but that never works. I have don't have enough induction accessories to make everyone good at statuses.
between a rock and a hard place
Fresh from our victory against Bio, the party advances further into the... temple? Uh... this isn't a temple anymore, this is what we call floating in space standing on glass hexagons. Very final dungeon-esque. Technically this area is the Gorgon's Barrier, so I guess it's another dimension or something.
The party goes through roughly the same logic that I just did, and Byakuren concludes that this means the enemy is serious now. She establishes that the entire area is shrouded by a barrier, whose purpose is not to slow us down but rather to not let us escape. Sakuya interprets this as this being the hunting ground, and we're the prey. Reimu prefers to look at it the other way: the enemy's trapped in here with us
. How convenient. The table is set, all that's left is to dig in.
This is actually a pretty short dungeon, and breaks a few of the "rules" that have been established in previous dungeons. Despite the huge confusing rooms, it's pretty linear in that split ups lead almost immediately to a dead end with treasure. Because we're floating in space, the exits of the rooms are all teleporters, but it's not a teleporter maze. There's one both vertically and horizontally looping room (torus shaped?
) but other than that it's straightforward.
The enemy field sprites are black shadows with simple faces drawn on them. Unlike other areas, running away from them causes them to disappear so you can easily get past anything. Heck, even dying to them causes them to disappear. As soon as you touch them they're gone. The area music also sticks around during battles here, which is kind of annoying since I don't like it much. I can hear strains of Border of Life in the beginning, but that doesn't last long. At a guess, it's a hard rock medley of a bunch of final boss themes, but the SNES quality synth can't seem to handle it so mostly it's annoying.
The enemies are ridiculously high level here, although that doesn't necessarily correlate with difficulty. As I mentioned long ago, each area has a "par" level, below which you get XP bonuses and above which you get XP penalties. "Par" here is about 65; most of my party is 45-55. So my high level people get double experience and my lower level ones get triple. That's a lot. Many levels were earned.
Well, for the people I was using anyway. After a brief flirtation with using Aya to accomplish... something, I settle on a party of Alice, Sakuya, Nitori, Marisa and Sanae, which is pretty much what I had to second half of the previous stage. I basically need to exploit weaknesses to kill anything ever, and Nitori seems to be quite powerful when she loads elemental bullets and
uses her elemental attacks. I suppose they stack somehow.
Frankly, I can't beat most of the enemies here. You've got double headed dragons, Ying Yang elementals, Elder Demons and a ton of other boss-esque encounters that I quickly decide to give up on before I try. Looking at enemy charts on the Japanese wiki, it seems these guys drop rare materials needed to make the ultimate weapons for each character. If I have to grind, I know where to find these guys, I guess.
Of the subset of the enemies I can beat, they're hardly pushovers, although they tend to rely on their allies more. First off are the Death Riders, which spam life drain. A really strong life drain. It can kill Sakuya or Nitori in one hit (but not the mages, since it seems to be heavily mitigated by small amount of magic defense). They cast this twice a turn, and it's absolutely vital that they hit Alice with it. Secondly are the Queen Flayers, which as implied are super Mind Flayers. nothing notable there except that I still hate Mind Flayers.
Third are the Sphinxes, who have tons of evasion and heal other enemies for about 4000. They don't always do it though, so being persistent pays off. When they're the only ones left I use Sakuya's Killing World to finish them off. And lastly there are the sandworms, the oni, the Alastors, etc. Let it be known that all of them could easily kill me if I let them. Every fight is a boss fight now. I run back to heal a lot.
About halfway through we get treated to a mid-dungeon cutscene. Lithos is sitting in her throne room, which is now apparently part of this alternate dimension. A turtle arrives to give her the rather late report that her sisters have been defeated and that the intruders are on their way here. When told that she already knows, the turtle asks what her plans are. She orders the servants to evacuate, as this place will become a battlefield. I suppose this would normally be a dramatic moment where the subordinates tearfully see off their leader, but he's a turtle.
Now that the herald's out of the way... how about you come out from wherever you're hiding? "Oh, you noticed?" A portal tied with a ribbon opens up in the middle of the room and a certain purple-clad umbrella holding youkai steps out. "Who are you?" "Gensokyo's gap youkai, Yukari Yakumo, at your service. I've finally found you, little miss mastermind." "I see, so you're one of the youkai sniffing around for us. So... what's you're objective?" "...I just told you that I'm here for the culprit." "Oh yeah, you did." Lithos is kind of a ditz.
"So you've come to exterminate me then." "Nope. Incident resolution is the Hakurei Miko's job. I don't do troublesome things like that. I'm just here to get an appraisal on the newcomers." "And what will you do with the result?" "As expected of the three legendary sisters, you three are strong. And especially you: even though you're the youngest sister you're pulling all the weight. Good job!"
Lithos starts blushing and ranting about how she's not that strong, and not that great a person. "Oh, so you find it troublesome?" "I didn't say that!" At this point Yukari decides to give up on the banter because Lithos isn't very good at it. So, cutting to the chase, what's your goal with this whole thing? "What obligation do I have to tell you?" "Well, I am
one of the victims." "You sure talk big for someone so weak." "Well, this is about what I expected. You don't have to answer. All that's left is the continuation of the appraisal." "Guess I'll have to deal with you before the Miko gets here." Fight time!
This is not actually a battle, it's a cutscene with some animations. Lithos decides to end it quickly, like she did with her servant (she recognized Ran as Yukari's servant?) but Yukari already knows this trick and closes her eyes. But with your eyes closed you can't dodge... this! Yes she can. Okay... maybe you can dodge one shot, but how about this! Yes, Yukari is dodging danmaku
with her eyes closed. Well, apparently not. Yukari disappears when the barrage hits her and Lithos assumes she's been blown away. How foolish, I thought she seemed stronger than that.
Of course Yukari isn't dead. "Did you forget I could teleport?" That is
how she entered the room in the first place. Lithos is eager to continue the fight, but Yukari claims that Lithos is already in checkmate. While Lithos is processing this statement, Yukari opens up a bunch of portals behind Lithos and pelts her with bullets from behind. "I can also use my power like this. Okay, playtime is over, this is the end."
Cut back to party. Wait, what are we even doing anymore? Yukari just beat up the final boss for us, not that we know it yet. Oh well. If there's anything we've learned from this game it's that when in doubt, charge ahead. The second half of the dungeon is more of the same, except with a higher ratio of unbeatable enemies. I'm sure I ran from more than I killed. Amusingly added to the enemy set are some old enemies from way back in stage 18. While they're quite weak now, they come in huge hoards and they can heal each other or summon reinforcements. While they could actually kill me quite easily if I'm careless or unlucky, I think of them as piles of experience. These guys prove that the "par" level is based on the area rather than the specific enemies you're fighting.
Shortly enough, there's a heal point and teleporter back to the entrance of this area. It's getting really
annoying having to run back through the whole temple all the time. Luckily, this should be the end of that. Step forward, cutscene.
Yukari is... petrified in the middle of the room. Furthermore, she's in a kneeling position, so she wasn't just caught off guard but was losing beforehand. Go go Worf Effect
! The party is suitably shocked by this turn of events. That
Yukari was defeated?! The enemy's power isn't something half-assed.
"Of course". Lithos is apparently standing just off screen and the party moves to confront her. "You must be the Hakurei Miko. This is the first time I've seen you." Sanae sense that Lithos is no ordinary god, whatever that means, and that this will be troublesome. Lithos introduces herself, again, as the master of the Lakebed Temple, Lithos Medusa Gorgon. When asked if she was the one who defeated Yukari, she confirms and adds that Yukari was a bit too full of herself so she put her in her place. So Lithos is both a ditz and really arrogant.
Sakuya asks why she's still alive, given that the Medusa of legend was killed by Perseus. Lithos admits to having died, causing Sanae to wonder if she's a ghost, and then decides to elaborate. Apparently being a poor girl who you can't look in the eyes of counts as being dead, well it has the same meaning anyway. Marisa doesn't get it, and neither do I so I'm chalking it up to "ditz".
Sakuya decides to steal Byakuren's role and explain herself, using quotations from Anastasis. "The legend was a bunch of bullshit" and "part of a plan to make them fade into fantasy". Since the plan obviously worked, in some sense we could say she's dead. Nitori thinks that being dead in "reality" doesn't mean much when she's causing incidents in Gensokyo. Either way, she's definitely a nuisance now.
"Now you've said it! Not only are you rude, you come crashing through my temple without permission! What do you want anyway?!" Yeah, she's a ditz. We're. Here. To. Stop. The. Incident.
"...I don't get it. I thought humans were untouched? Youkai, the natural enemy of humanity, are being exterminated. Isn't this your job? Isn't this convenient for you?" "That's part of my job, but the other half is to resolve incidents." Marisa points out that Reimu used Lithos' argument in the beginning of the game as an excuse to slack off, but Reimu continues her Kirk Summation
anyway. "Anyway, all you're doing is agitating the youkai. To humans, it's an unwelcome favor."
"I see. Gensokyo has its own power balance." "Now that you understand, how about we stop this incident?" "No way, we haven't accomplished our goal yet." "So, tell us what your goal is." "No way, you have to beat me first." "Well, at least that's easy to understand, let's go!" "I'll show you my power and get revenge for my sisters!"
Byakuren decides to ruin the mood by pointing out that Lithos loves her sisters. Lithos, easily flustered, denies this for some reason and Byakuren gives a cheesy speech about how even youkai have feelings like family love. Well, she is Byakuren, I guess preaching this is her job. But enough talk, have at thee! And we finally start the battle. And she kills us.
As you might expect, Lithos is a status ailment boss. Unlike her sisters, she goes all out right from the beginning and casts her Last Word on the first turn and every few turns thereafter. It petrifies your entire party. Other than than, she also has party-wide charm, field-wide dispel, and some relatively weak physical attacks. Note that her sword isn't drawn though. She's vulnerable to fire and has high magic defense.
If you've been following this you'll know that I have a pretty standard method of dealing with status ailments, just cast resist up on my party. That doesn't work too well here. While resistance is always helpful, her induction is too high to completely nullify it and it only takes one unlucky petrify or charm on the wrong person to ruin my day. If my healer gets petrified there's no one to cure it, and if an attacker gets charmed they're quite good at killing their allies.
So I decided to combine a few different things I've learned recently. Induction too high? Lower it! Can't hit with debuffs? Youmu's commander ability! Ultimately I go with a party of Alice, Sanae, Byakuren, Marisa and Patchouli. Even though she's strong against magic, she also has a ton of evasion so I'd rather pierce her defense with overwhelming power than bother with evasion down or accuracy up.
I start the battle with a Youmu boosted Unresist from Byakuren, which also lower Induction, as well as the standard resist boost. After that, I cast Hyper Trigger (induction up) on Byakuren and protect her from dispels by spamming cover with Alice. Whenever Lithos dispels herself I reapply Unresist using Youmu's commander ability. And... that's pretty much it. Marisa and Patchouli do their standard elemental land boost combo, Alice covers Byakuren, Sanae and Byakuren keep the buffs and debuffs up while healing. There's very little offense in this party, but Lithos falls shortly enough.
There's another cutscene after this followed immediately by another boss, but it saves your progress in terms of beating Lithos so that'll be part of the next installment, if I ever win. Spoiler: all three at once.
PS: I'm really proud of that pun my stage caption.