Anyway, so here I am on the world map. The world, or rather Gensokyo, is actually pretty small and I can run around its entirety right from the beginning. There aren't any mountains in the way or Broken Bridges
or anything, but the areas that I'm not supposed to go to yet are grayed out and I can't enter them. So... not a very interesting place overall.
Currently available are Akyuu
's house, where I can talk to Akyuu to get some crafting recipes despite the fact that I can't craft things yet, Byakuren's Buddhist temple, where Byakuren is not, and the Scarlet Devil Mansion. I forgot to mention this last time, but Reimu decided to go beat up the vampire Remilia
because she was behind the mist in Embodiment of Scarlet Devil
were also on the list for being known troublemakers, but were determined to be harder to reach and the SDM is right over there so c'mon, let's get this over with!
It's worth noting that there are two secret characters available at this point. Well, not really secret so much as recruitable early. You can recruit Byakuren
by sitting in her temple for a hour. A real hour. As in leave the game on and go watch TV.
Apparently she was out investigating the exact same stuff you are so when returns she joins up with no problem because you have the same goals. You can also recruit Mokou
by talking to Akyuu again which will unlock the Bamboo Forest of the Lost, which is really just one room that loops you back into itself in one of those stock puzzles. If you enter the Konami code into it you'll meet Mokou and she'll join because she likes helping people.
Needless to say, I did not recruit either of them because that's ridiculous. They both join you anyway much later in the story. If you do recruit them, they don't show up in cutscenes until after the relevant place in the plot.
Anyway, to the SDM, so maybe we can actually fight a battle or something, yeah? When we get there we see a brief scene of Meiling
, a martial artist in Chinese-esque clothes, trying and failing to stay awake while guarding the gate. The party walks up to the gate, notes the useless guard and opens the gate. That wakes Meiling up, and she starts yelling at Marisa about how she always comes here to steal books (which she does).
Sanae wonders who she is and Meiling's attempts to introduce herself are interrupted by Marisa and Aya claiming that her names is "China". Reimu says "shut up, let's just fight her" so we fight her and I guess she's the tutorial battle except without the tutorial. I have no idea what I'm doing at this point so I just attack with everyone. Despite the fact that she kills Marisa in one hit (a sign of things to come), she still goes down in one round, making her officially the weakest enemy in the game. No levels.
Meiling collapses dramatically and tries in vain to clear up the issue of her name before falling unconsciously. Sadly it was not to be. I think her name is actually China in this game.
So we let ourselves into the front yard and lo and behold the door is locked. And we can't get in. Well, I guess that's that, time to go home for tea and pickled mushrooms. The door's locked, can't do anything about that. Marisa suggests sneaking in the back though the library, leading to questions about how she knows all this stuff, which triggers Aya paparazzi radar.
Anyway we head around back to where there's a poorly built doghouse apparently covering up the secret entrance. After some comments on the bad taste of the doghouse and some wondering if there's even a dog living here (a reference to the Dog of the Devil?
), Reimu blows it up and we head inside. Stage 1, the library!
Yeah, the stages are conveniently numbered. After a short scene wherein Sanae freaks out over the number of books (she's quite excitable in this game) and Marisa explains their value to Aya who thinks they smell musty, I get control again.
There are a lot of hint icons floating around presumably telling me what the hell I'm supposed to be doing, but since I'm too lazy to translate them I'm just gonna stumble around blindly for a while. There's a chest directly south of the entrance guarded by a flying fairy maid thing. This is one of those RP Gs
where encounters are triggered by running into enemies on the map, and they actually stay dead for a quite a long time even if you change rooms or leave the area. Or save and quit. So clearing a path actually matters and none of this random battle hell stuff.
Anyway, the enemies here are fairy maids wielding various weaponry as well as floating books and such. Somewhat logical, I suppose. I note that the mist doesn't seem to be doing much of anything, as these guys are quite strong. My characters are dying in one hit each and I barely manage to kill the enemy and open the box.
For the record I'm spamming magic at this point because MP seems less valuable than life. HP heals to full after every battle, so basically they're all damage races at this point. The chest has a dagger or something in it. It doesn't really matter because I can't actually equip it right now. The way the game works is that items you pick up in a dungeon don't actually go into your inventory. They go into some weird limbo where you can look at them but not use them until you leave the dungeon, whereupon they suddenly exist. If your party dies, all the items in limbo disappear.
Treasure boxes get refilled with what they had before, but enemy drops vanish into the void. And given that enemies don't respawn very quickly at all, this means that you get less total items. Luckily, this is the only
penalty for losing. You keep all your experience, enemies stay dead, switches stay hit, etc. You just get popped back outside the dungeon and your limbo items disintegrate.
This becomes relevant almost immediately because the next enemy kills me. Yes, it's that kind of game. After I reorient myself, I head back in, pick up the dagger again and start exploring a bit while avoiding the enemies.
The library is a small and simple maze of bookshelves and ladders that let you walk on top of the bookshelves. Most of the paths are blocked by fallen books so it's pretty simple. There's a golden door with a keyhole mark on it, as well as a golden key lying on the floor. This isn't rocket science. And then I die again after being cornered by a fairy.
I pick up the dagger again, note that the door is still open, and decide to go the other way first because the locked door is clearly the way to advance and I want treasure. The other door leads into a narrow attic type thing and has some enemies and some treasure. I pick up some... other stuff which are mostly accessories that I can't understand the descriptions of so I ignore them. I also get some limbo armor that I can't equip for aforementioned reasons. Then I go through the locked door and die.
Well, not immediately, this time I saw that the enemy had four fairies at once, which was a clear death sentence so I try running away. And it works! Half the party is dead, but they heal up between battles. But... the fairy is still in my way so I try again. And it's the same group. Apparently it doesn't randomize them, so this doom group will continue to be a doom group. And doom they are, so I die.
At this point I have the bright idea of grabbing all the limbo stuff and then walking outside instead of going deeper in the dungeon. Unsurprisingly, this works and now I actually have a dagger and some armor, which helps a bit. Regardless, I decide to avoid that danger route for now and fight some of the weaker fairies, and yay, level 2! And my hit points double
. Yeah, apparently growth is linear in this game and level 1 is ridiculously weak. The rest of this stage is smooth sailing now.
The old doom party? Psh, no match for level 2
. Opening another locked door I find an ominous heal point so I turn around and finish exploring. I meet Koakuma
(little devil) as a miniboss guarding a treasure chest and barely win with my berserking strategy, as Marisa finished her off with a Magic Missile immediately before certain death.
At this point I decide that maybe healing wouldn't be a bad idea, on bosses anyway. If only I could tell which spell was healing and which ones were cure poison or whatever. Conveniently they have icons so I don't have to memorize their names, but is it the green orb or the pink orb? Or maybe one of those prayer tags?
Heading back the heal point and beyond, my instincts were correct and there's a cutscene slash boss fight. We see Patchouli
, a frail mage wearing pajamas sitting at a table reading a book and being served tea by the head maid Sakuya
. After some small talk about the tea, Patchouli starts lamenting how the mist is aggravating her already ill body and Sakuya mentions there's a report of intruders in the library. And then of course they get interrupted by the party.
Sakuya immediately makes it clear that she'll fight to the death to protect Remilia and Reimu immediately makes it clear that she'll beat up anyone who gets in her way. And then the scene gets derailed by Patchouli wondering how we found the back entrance and then oh hey its Marisa stop stealing my books! To Marisa the correct term is "borrowing" but Patchouli will have none of that so Witch Fight! Sanae tries to calm them down but Aya tries to egg them on because she thinks she can get a story out of it. And then Reimu says "shut up, let's just fight them" so we do.
It's a double boss battle against both of them at the same time, which is pretty common in this game. Using the magical and wonderful strategy of "healing" they go down without too much trouble. Don't worry, future bosses will be more interesting. Levels all around and a ridiculous amount of power. 1000 when you only need 100 to get to the next level. Unfortunately, it doesn't overflow so it's more of an insult than anything.
And that's stage 1.