The Witches' Stray Ball
Ball as in dancing, not as in sports. It's a reference to this song
. Which I'm aware is a remix, but the original wasn't technically a Touhou game so neener neener. Anyway, that's now the official soundtrack for this installment. I have a thing for violins.
As you may be able to guess from the title, our dance partners this time around are Alice and Marisa◊
. And the dance floor is the Forest of Magic which they both call home. That's pretty much all I know about dancing so I think I'm gonna stop now.
Again, the location is listed as "everywhere" so I just have to be thorough. I'd want to be anyway, for the items at least. The enemies are steadily getting stronger, but I have a new trick up my sleeve. Lithos has learned a spell called "Ra's Al Gul, Maenades" which does 6666 damage to all enemies. That's a lot. Not enough to kill them in one hit anymore, but definitely enough to finish them off. Presumably it does less to bosses though, like her Last Word. It's a Last Spell, meaning it costs 2 bombs, but previously I had been using "Aging Drizzle" which also costs 2 bombs as well as more MP. Incidentally, these◊
are not centaurs. Their names are lying to me, clearly they're actually Gundams. Just look at them!
Remilias celebrates her 50th level◊
, which again isn't too important but I showed you Reisen's so I might as well let them be directly compared. It looks like Remilia actually has pretty low HP, which is disappointing. I'm not sure how she's supposed to survive. Then again, there are
formations without front and back rows. Like the one I'm in right now.
The Forest of Magic is much bigger than the library was, so it takes quite a while to explore, although I find some interesting things like this house◊
which was through a hidden path. Is this Marisa's house? One of the boxes in front of it contained a witch's staff, which has an awful lot of magic power on it. I actually died in this dungeon and lost two random drops, so this strategy won't be able to carry me forever. That's both a good and a bad thing. I just hope it's enough to get through all the repeated stages.
After locating the boss and then re-locating them after saving my items, I start the battle with Alice and Marisa.◊
Alice is a Stone Wall
. Marisa is a Squishy Wizard
. You do the math. This fight is deceptively simple, yet ends being one of the most troublesome bosses in the expansion so far.
Alice guards Marisa, so she has to die first unless you just get really really lucky. She starts most turns with "Little Legion" which makes her take all damage for Marisa. This has two effects, other than the most obvious one. First of all, it causes her to be hit twice by area of effect attacks, which is always nice. Second of all, it counts as a free action for her and
always goes at the beginning of the turn. This is very very bad, because it puts her first in the turn order while at the same time letting her do something else at the beginning of the turn
. Before healing spells can go off, and healing spells are usually damned fast, which I rely on.
This wouldn't be a problem if Alice did no damage like she does when she's in my party, but her melee attack is no slouch, stronger than Sakuya's was. She also has an ability called "Straw Doll Sacrifice" which hits the entire party for about 400. At the beginning of the turn. Before I can heal. It also hits herself for all the damage done, which is significant, but I'd rather survive than hurt the boss a bit more, personally. Rounding out her abilities is the ability to cast some sort of barrier on herself that makes her practically immune to physical attacks. This will pretty much always be up for the entire battle.
While Alice is good at finishing me off, Marisa does the bulk of the damage. Unlike the Scarlet sisters, she actually does
get two actions per turn, although only when she's using her single target spells, which tend to be not quite enough to finish someone off. More dangerously, she can do "Blazing Star" which hits the entire party for 500 of what seems to be physical damage, enough to instantly kill weaker characters and weaken non-tanks enough for them to be finished off by Alice at the beginning of the next turn. She also has a few other all-targeting spells, like Non-directional Laser, that use up her full turn, but they're all weaker than "Blazing Star".
Defensively, she counterattacks physical damage by using a single target form of Master Spark for 500 damage, making attacking her pretty much suicide when combined with other sources of damage. She can do this as many times per turn as there are people who hit her. If
you can hit her that is. While obviously she spends most of the time being guarded by Alice she also has about 50% perfect dodge. Which cannot be mitigated by hit bonuses and affects magic too.
The overall problem with this fight is that I need to balance attack and defense. When you put together Alice's defense and Marisa's counters, it might seem obvious that the best choice is to use magic damage to win, but this has a not-quite-as-obvious problem in that magic users will
die. There is far too much party damage to let them survive more than a turn or two. So you can either choose to do no damage or to die instantly. Worse still, it seems that Marisa has an ability called "Final Master Spark" that she'll do if you spend too many turns in this battle. I never saw it, but that's something to take into account. For the record, I only looked at her spell list for the purposes of this write-up, honest. I didn't know that at the time. Although I don't see how a persistence strategy could work anyway: once you run out of MP you'll just be doing 0 damage to Alice.
Anyway, this fight requires a lot of party-swapping on my part. A lot
. Luckily you can run away, although I did die completely once. Mokou is useless here: she can't do damage and I don't really need a tank. Lithos is likewise useless: she can't hurt Alice except with relatively weak magic attacks that have long cooldowns. Nitori is out as well. Remilia can pierce Alice's shield with her defense-ignoring physical attacks, but at the cost of removing points from her defensive specialties, so she just dies. Reisen can theoretically dispel Alice's shield, but it never happened, possibly because doing 0 damage counts as a miss in some sense. Also, death.
Ultimately, the party I win with is Reimu, Sanae, Sakuya, Patchouli and Cirno. I know, I know, that party makes no sense given what I've said about the fight. Sakuya does physical damage while Patchouli and Cirno are the squishiest of the squishy wizards. How does this work? Well, first it's important to realize that Sakuya's Infinity Plus One Sword
is called the Ice Sword and does water damage. That's... pretty much the key to everything. I'll give you a moment to think about that.
Basically I go for a Land gauge battle with full water. Patchouli only needs to live long enough to get off "Arctic Chill" which is her field effect that buffs water damage (admittedly, she doesn't
always live long enough), and Cirno can cast Magic Reflect on herself, which lasts long enough for her to fill the water gauge with her spells while being immune to Marisa. The cooldown is too long for her to cast it again, but all I need is for water damage to be as buffed as possible, so Sakuya can finish the job. She is
level 80 with an awesome sword after all.
On the defensive front I need Sanae to use HP buffs and Reimu to constantly top people off using expensive bomb-requiring heals, at least until the buffs are in place. Sanae has a new spell called Miracle Wind that's basically a buff-buff. It doubles the power of any stat-changing effects on the character. So I start with the HP buff, heal with Reimu, and then follow with the buff-buff and another heal. Increasing total HP by... some large percentage. Enough for Patchouli and Cirno to sometimes
live. But probably not.
As for Master Spark it helps to realize that non-elemental is an element in this game. It's completely impossible for any attack not to have an element. For physical attacks this is usually slashing, piercing or bludgeoning, but for magic there's a special non-elemental element called "magic". This is the element of Marisa's lasers, including Master Spark. "Magic"-resistance is really very rare. But not
unheard of. I have exactly two accessories that increase "magic"-resistance, one of which also makes you really vulnerable to physical attacks. So one useful accessory. Obviously I give it to Sakuya so she can survive being Master Sparked in the face repeatedly.
It was somewhat scary at moments, but this strategy is enough to pull out a win◊
. It was much easier after Alice dies. With full buffs (including "Sakuya's World") I was doing over 15000 damage a turn to Marisa. All told, it was a nice and satisfying fight that forced me to change my party around for maximum efficiency, like the good old days. And then the game crashed◊
. So I have to do it again. I don't know why Windows bothers trying to find solutions, it's never found one ever. You're just delaying the force quit!
The second round is simpler than the first because I already know what to do. I also know that Cirno was probably the weakest link here, being dead for the entire fight and all, so I replace her with Byakuren who has enough HP to survive and can help buff Sakuya. I can use the extra time that Sanae has to revive Patchouli and have her work on the land gauge herself, as well as throwing out spells when she can. Byakuren also managed to weaken Marisa, but only after Alice died and stopped covering her. Alice was always immune to the debuffs and it kinda didn't matter by the time she was dead.
This time around the game doesn't
crash, which is always a relief, and we're treated to the standard recruitment scene. Nothing really out of the ordinary here, other than the fact that we realize that they're back to their senses when they start their Boke And Tsukkomi Routine
. Unfortunately they don't let that play out very long.
Next up, Satori. I think. Or maybe Youmu. One of those.
And yes, I did listen to that song on repeat during the entire process of typing this.