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Stage 18 bosses

Maybe Lithos isn't quite so Genre Blind, because these bosses kill me. A lot. I referred to this obliquely in non-blog posts, but I was seriously considering quitting the game after dying over and over again. As you might expect, it's a sequential boss battle with three different bosses using three different parties. The first boss killed me about 20 times, and on the 21st time when I got to the second boss she killed me on the second turn. I couldn't replicate this miracle. It seemed cheap and unfair, but that's just because I made a simple mistake in my assumptions. I'll get to that later, first I'll cover each boss' cutscene and nature in a separate section before I get to the solution.

Boss A

Before heading forward, I switched Byakuren into Mokou's party in place of Marisa because I'm kind of guessing a healer might be nice on a boss. So it's Mokou, Sakuya, Byakuren and Patchouli. We walk forward and encounter a maid with glasses. Because of the separated party members, the dialog on our side is pretty generic, although I can say from having died a lot that it varies slightly based on the speech patterns of the party leader.

Anyway, the maid introduces herself as Akame, one of the Three Gorgon Servants. Mokou clarifies that she means she's a maid here, right? She's not a Gorgon, just the Gorgon's maid. Sort of a generic ocean youkai maid. Mokou thinks that if she's just a maid she should get out of our way, because she's a maid, not a warrior. Sakuya points out that she's standing right here. Actually, she doesn't point that out, but she says something which I now recognize as generic "second slot" lines about how you shouldn't underestimate youkai no matter what their profession is.

Akame is indeed a battle-maid, and has the power of needlework and poison. Sakuya calls this a doll-like skill set, which I suppose is probably a reference to Medicine. Anyway, Mokou acknowledges her threat as a enemy and decides that we should go all out. Akame kills us. A lot.

Akame is sort of a puzzle boss, in that she'll ruthlessly slaughter you if you make a single mistake. She'll start the battle by casting a field spell that buffs poison. By a lot. If you take a single tick of poison while this field is up, you'll die because it does over a thousand damage. Her normal attacks do a ridiculously small amount of damage but cause poison, and she gets two attacks per turn. In addition to that has a slightly stronger line attack that also causes poison. She can also heal herself for about two thousand by stitching herself up with thread, but is vulnerable to fire damage.

More importantly though, she can kill you. She has two attacks that do even more ridiculous amounts of damage than her poison. First of all, she has a single targeting attack that does 5000 damage by stabbing you with a bunch of knitting needles. 5000. I don't even have 500 HP on anyone but tanks. After seeing it many many times and even having it blocked, I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't actually do 5000 damage, 5000 is just the damage cap, at least for this particular ability. It also doesn't always do 5000 damage, but it always does a very round number, like 1000 or 3500. The minimum I've seen it do is 500, which amazingly enough failed to kill Mokou. It also seems to be affected by armor very drastically, ie: Mokou can survive.

The conclusion I've come to is that it does a rather small amount of damage, mitigated by armor normally, but is multiplied by 500 before it gets applied. So anything less than an absurd amount of armor will get you killed. There's a bit more to it than that but that's the gist of it. For my purposes, it just kills people who aren't Mokou.

Other than that though, it's pretty simple until she just kills everyone. One of her moves kills everyone, again with the needles. 1500 damage to everyone. Everyone dies. Game over. Rinse and repeat. She doesn't telegraph this, and if by some fluke someone actually survives it she'll just spam it twice a turn until they die. This move made me curse the heavens and the designers of the game, for being utterly cheap. The Touhou wiki's walkthrough basically says "hope she doesn't do it before she dies by using burst damage such as Sakuya's Private Square" and indeed that worked exactly once. I even bought Sakuya a new sword just for this battle! And I'm seriously running low on materials now. I'm not here to gamble with low odds, especially since I need to fight her again if I lose to either of the next two, which is pretty likely all things considered.

Boss B

Team B, led by Youmu, walks up a different corridor and encounters a different maid. She introduces herself as one of the Three Gorgon Servants, Chihiro, and this conversation plays out in pretty much the same way as the other one. When she gets to explaining her power though, she suddenly grows a bunch of octopus tentacles which retreat too fast to get a picture of. I guess she's an octopus youkai. Maid. Octopus maid. I'm also kind of nervous having just beaten the previous person by the skin of my teeth, so I don't remember to take many pictures. The gist of it is that even though she's outnumbered she has all these arms to even the odds. So we fight, and she kills us. Millions of voices suddenly cried out in frustration and were suddenly silenced.

Chihiro (I forgot to take a picture of her at the time; I have others from later but they're spoilers), is really quite similar to Akame in many ways. Her normal attacks are really quite weak and she specializes in a status ailment, which is in her case blind. Because she squirts ink in your eyes. She's also has a pretty major vulnerability, in this case lightning. Honestly, I know much less about her abilities because I rarely got to fight her.

What she does have though, much like Akame, is a way to instantly kill your entire party. She has an ability called Octopus Maelstrom that summons a tsunami which kills you. Well, it merely does around 500 damage to the entire party. My dead party helpfully informs me that this move is water elemental, so I should pay attention to the land gauge. Given I need tons of fire to kill Akame before she kills me, asking me also to have tons of fire here when she's vulnerable to lightning feels quite insulting, and I take Youmu's comment personally because I'm not in a right state of mind.

Unlike Akame's needles though, Chihiro does telegraph her Maelstrom. At the very end of the previous turn she casts a buff on herself, which I now recognize as "bomb charge". Quite a number of bosses have done things like this, although not all bombs are created equal. There isn't really much I can do about it though. Alice's elemental guards? I wish I had three Alices.

Boss C

Spoiler alert: I eventually get to the third boss. I only saw her once though, because in the meantime I had read up everything about her so it wouldn't be as risky. Although I did manage to come up with somewhat reliable strategies for the previous two.

The final team, led by Alice, walks up yet another corridor, and surprise surprise, meets another maid. This one tries a sneak attack first though, dropping onto us from above and slamming into the ground. This shakes the screen. She introduces herself as one of the Three Gorgon Servants, Kagami. It might be worth noting that Akame's name is written in hiragana, Chihiro's name is written in kanji, and Kagami's name is written in katakana, despite the fact that it's clearly the Japanese word for mirror. I can't think of a reason for her name to be written in katakana, usually reserved for foreign words and ALL CAPS-equivalents, to be used for a Japanese name other than to fit a pattern.

Anyway, her scene goes the same way with the whole maid thing, other than the fact that she has an accent of some sort. I wanna say Kansai Regional Accent, but that might imply that I can read Japanese. It sorta vaguely reminds me of Komachi, but I don't know what accent she has. I can only tell by ear! Alice has the exact same lines that I now know she would also say to Akame if she was in that party.

When we get to the part about her powers, she claims to be a shellfish-youkai with an unbreakable shell. The party takes this as a challenge and vows to crack the shell and get to the juicy and tasty meat inside. And she doesn't kill us, because I am a cheater. I was frustrated, okay?

Kagami (again no battle picture for spoilers) is the physical fighter of the three. As she claims, she has an unbreakable shell, which manifests in-game as 600 physical defense and resistance to all physical elements. You are not going to hurt her with physical attacks. She has no magic defense though, so that's the obvious thing to do. Unlike the previous two she has no vulnerabilities.

She has several abilities, but they're mostly just different variations of physical attacks with different areas of effect. She has only has two notable abilities. First of all, she can buff herself with immunity to the four main elements, and this buff lasts for many turns. So in addition to being immune to physical, she's immune to elemental magic. So you can only hurt her with light, dark, and non-elemental magic. Well, technically non-elemental magic is "magic" element, but basically nothing resists magic. Sanae also has the ability to dispel though, which is something I was looking for earlier if you remember back to stage 10.

Kagami other ability is her version of the super death attack. Like Chihiro, she charges it up before, and then she just sort of bites you. It does 1-2 powerful hits on each party member, each of which is likely to kill a weaker party member. It's not as dangerous as the two before it, but still pretty scary, because you certainly don't want to be behind on healing.

The Solution

As I've already said, Akame caused me to give up on this game. Seriously, I decided to stop playing. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, my obsession is not so easily dropped. The next morning I found myself in the shower brainstorming ways to survive Akame's needles, because even a single extra turn might turn the tides of battle. Alice? I guess she could cover them, but how can I predict when it happens? "Little Legion" has a cooldown. Mokou's 3-bomb commander ability? It buffs the party such that cannot die that turn, instead surviving with 1 HP. While I can spam that in theory, Mokou only has at most 6 or so bombs, so I'd need to use it on the exact right turns. Moreover, I need Mokou in the battle itself to do massive fire damage with "Fujiyama Volcano". I can't waste her in a commander slot when I already have only 4 people per party.

Later, I checked the Japanese wiki and discovered something interesting. Akame's needle ability, which luckily I remembered the name of (harisenbon), was listed as only being after turn 10. I immediately tested this and it turns out to be false, because she casts it on turn 5, but it was still the key to everything.  * She doesn't cast it until a certain turn. So it is a damage race, but not in the way the Touhouwiki described it.

The other key here is Sakuya's "Private Square" and how it works. "Private Square" gives Sakuya 2 free turns, 3 with power allocation to Time Stop, but since it takes a turn to cast, it only really gives her 1-2 extra actions (making that power investment quite good). But... this doesn't stop the turns from rolling over. What happens when Sakuya casts "Private Square" is that is causes an irresistible 2-3 turn stun to everything else in the battle, ally and enemy. Poison can tick and buffs can run out during this time, but otherwise it's truly "Sakuya's World" where only she can act.

But this doesn't actually make the battle go faster. In fact, it makes it go slower because it's preventing the rest of your party from acting for 2-3 turns, and even wastes one of Sakuya's own actions. In terms of pure turn count, "Private Square" delays the battle absurdly. So by the time the first Private Square runs out, I'm already on turn 5 or so and Akame just kills me. So Touhouwiki's suggestion was actually causing me to die even more excessively, and to not notice the fact that I actually get a decent amount of time before the doom phase. If I take Sakuya out of my party.

The other other key is to stop thinking of this as three 4-party battles. It's not. It's actually three battles involving a total of 12 characters. I can allocate them however I want. As it turns out, the other battles, Kagami in particular, don't need a full parties, so the correct solution is to stack it towards Akame because she's the only damage race.

So, in the end I approach Akame with Mokou, Nitori, Patchouli, Youmu and Reimu. Patchouli both overwrites the Akame's poison field and buffs fire damage by starting with Hotspot Volcano and then spamming "Agni Shine". Nitori equips fire bullets and spams a gun attack. Youmu just does her standard damage rotation with auto-crit spellcards. Mokou, the MVP here, gets to spam "Fujiyama Volcano" for 2500 per turn, 5000 on a crit. Apparently Hotspot Volcano also lowers the cooldown on fire spells, because normally she can't cast this every turn. Reimu, whose heals are much weaker than Sanae's but are area of effect and cure permanent status ailments, spams heal on the enter party, hopefully going after Akame in the turn order and curing poison before it ticks.

It's close, but by turn 5 I... fail to kill her. Barely. Like a superhero though, Determinator Mokou finishes her off with her bare knuckles, having run out of bombs. And ironically gets an extra bomb. And there was much rejoicing.

On the Chihiro front, I decide to carry over the "Private Square" strategy on a boss whose turn count doesn't kill me. The party is led by Satori, who is sadly just a meat shield because Sakuya cannot afford to die, and supported by Byakuren and Sakuya. Aya is in the commander slot, because she can't hurt things. She has a role to play though.

Satori is supposed to cast defense down on Chihiro, but it never hits and I win anyway so I guess she does nothing in this fight. Byakuren casts lightning on Sakuya's weapon, and then when "Private Square" ends casts attack up. The buffs run out in the middle of the second time stop after they're cast, so she basically just alternates them whenever she gets a turn. Aya, supporting from the sidelines, casts one of her commander abilities that grants a perfect dodge chance to the party. This is actually what let me survive without a tank or a healer, but she can't use that too often so it required the battle to be short.

There's something that should be noted here. "Private Square" always goes at the end of turns. This is presumably to prevent it from interrupting actions on the turn she casts it in addition to her free actions. However, Chihiro's bomb charging also happens at the end of the turn, after her own actions. So... "Private Square" was overwriting that, and it's literally impossible for Chihiro to cast Maelstrom. It feels kind of like an exploit, but hey, they had 7 patches to fix this. Anyway, despite Satori's non-contribution, Sakuya with Byakuren's buffs is strong enough to finish Chihiro off in 3 "Private Squares", which is exactly as many as she can afford. Because it's actually a Final Spell and costs three bombs each.

Last and actually kind of least is Kagami. As you might be able to derive, the party is Alice, Sanae and Marisa. Alice is the tank among tanks, Sanae keeps the small party alive, and Marisa says "screw your immunity to all elements including physical, Master Spark, bitch!" Alice uses "Little Legion" to eat the bomb attacks from the boss, and otherwise just spams a move called Marionette Pareil which I didn't really understand early in the game but basically has her to use her shield to block for other people. So while she doesn't cover them, they take reduced damage as if they had Alice's shield and shield buffing talents. Only on her vertical line though, so it wouldn't be nearly as effective in big parties or with my normal formation.

I hadn't actually fought this boss other than my winning attempt, so I was caught off guard by her bomb attack. I started with "Little Legion", and it was on cooldown for turn two when the attack actually came out. Despite the shields from Marionette, Marisa died and everyone else was in critical. To put that into perspective, it is literally impossible for Kagami to hurt me with anything else. Her other attacks do 0 damage from the blocking. Anyway, Sanae had to revive, but other than that brief scare the battle went smoothly. When Marisa ran out of bombs, she just spammed Magic Missile. But slow and steady wins the race, right?

So, now that I've actually won we get to move on to the defeat scenes. Technically I saw these before fighting the next boss, but I don't think that flows too well. I know I was too nervous to pay much attention to them, so they were reviewed via picture gallery.

Post-Akame, she's lying on the floor groaning. She acknowledges our surprising strength, but the party is more interested in figuring out what kind of fish she is, since she didn't actually say in her introduction. She tries to answer, but they keep interrupting her with more random speculation before they give up and move on. To no one but the audience, she reveals that she was a porcupine fish.

Post-Chihiro, she's just sitting on the floor. Satori (who's now the leader) claims that our victory was because while Chihiro has 8 or 10 limbs or however many she has, we have 16 between us. So her thought that she could even the odds was based on a false premise. Chihiro seems to understand this, somehow. I wonder what would happen if I managed to beat her with only 2 characters, which effectively I almost did.

Post-Kagami, we remember that she's a shellfish that we promised to crack, and discuss how we like our shellfish cooked. Alice likes them with butter, Sanae likes them simple, with just salt, and Marisa remarks that she's used them as soup stock once. This conversation causes Kagami to faint, prompting a "don't take us so seriously, we're not Yuyuko" from Alice. I really wonder how idiosyncratic these lines are.

All that done with, the party meets up again and well, meets up again. Amusingly, Mokou takes charge of the party and leads the way, presumably because she's in slot 1 of party 1.