Well, that was fast. The next stage is really short.
in which we run away a lot
Although this stage, known simply as the Lakebed Temple Depths, is very short, it's also really really hard. It has the same tileset as last time, and it filled to the brim with enemies. Literally. The enemy density is at least four times higher than it normally is, and it's not unusual to fight 3 or more battles trying to move a single step. The theme here is wading
through enemies. There are no treasure boxes or puzzles, just enemies.
The enemy set is mostly the same as last time, but that's actually the problem. As you may recall, the previous stage was divided into three sections each with their own troublesome enemy that mandated specific ways to deal with them. This time, all three sets have merged into one super-set, that it exponentially more troublesome because of its variety. While I do have access to a 5 person party this time, the enemy group sizes have scaled up appropriately and honestly 5 doesn't seem like enough.
I need to deal with dragons resistant to everything but the dragonslayer, mind flayers spamming and blast and strong against everything but slashing, robots immune to everything but lightning, slimes that drain, elementals that I need elemental damage for, light and dark and poison oh my. Basically I need a 5 person party that can deal with everything
at once, as opposed to a 4 person party that can deal with whatever subset they had to.
As you might expect, Aya lacks a place on such a team. I don't have the materials for a new weapon for her, so I don't know how her damage would play out, but either way she's just not particularly versatile. She can't do elemental attacks or burst damage. Upon examining her moveset again, I note that she can actually do physical attacks that cause status ailments. When given the induction accessories, her poison ticks for 450, which isn't bad, but it's single-targeting and has a chance of failure, so if I wanted poison I'd definitely take Satori. Aya can
do blind though, which seemed unreliable here but could be useful elsewhere. I don't believe anyone else can do blind at all. Aya also has petrify, as well as a few abilities that aren't on the wiki (added in a later patch?)and could theoretically be awesome I guess.
Anyway, I decide to go with the tried and true here, settling on Youmu, Sanae, Sakuya, Marisa and Patchouli. Except... they can't deal light or dark damage very effectively so I so swap Patchouli for Byakuren. Byakuren ends up spending most of her time buffing Sakuya with attack power or elemental damage, which ends up working quite well. The groups of 5 Mind Flayers prove quite troublesome, since they're basically immune to magic and I only have 2 physical fighters, but an attack buffed Sakuya with Transcendent (?) slayer can quickly finish them off, if I get lucky.
On that note, I have no idea what the transcendent category is supposed to be. It includes Devils like succubi and Remilia, but also youkai Magicians like Alice and Patchouli. As well as some ghosts and stuff. Just looking at the bosses and the name the only thing that makes sense to me is "used to be human" but ultimately I think of it as the "other" category. So Sakuya's new sword is the Etc-slayer.
Compounding the problem are the new enemies, which are all large single enemy archetypes. 2 out of 3 of them are no real problem, but the last, the Greater Demon, is unbeatable. It has ridiculous magic resistance and is strong against everything but light. Even setting up a party designed entirely to kill it fails. So i just run away. This becomes a recurring theme: me being chased by unbeatable enemies. Luckily, after running away you cannot trigger a battle with that enemy again for a few seconds, so it's often possible to slip by them. I get quite skilled dodging enemies here.
That's... about it. As I said, there are three rooms. You start in the center room, to the right is another room with a key, to the left is a locked door. The final room, past the door, is a small maze with nothing in it but enemies. Luckily, since everything is so close to the beginning, I can run back to the heal point every other battle while I slowly exterminate the infestation (or run away from everything). Honestly, I think this place exists for you to grind levels or something, but I can't see much other point to it. It is sort of a gauntlet, but I soon clear just enough to run past everything.
Upon entering the third room, I'm treated to a mid-dungeon cutscene. We see the three sisters in their throne room, somehow "feeling" that the three servants have been defeated, a generic turtle servant, who is not in fact Genjii and is actually probably the one who has been reporting everything all this time, come in the report such, but Lithos finishes his sentence for him and he stutters a bit before asking for the new orders. Lithos just says "strengthen the defenses!" and off he goes.
Bio points out that given what's happened up til now that's almost certainly not going to stop the Miko, so what should we do? Lithos has no answer, but Sis volunteers to head out herself. As the eldest sister she has a responsibility to protect her younger sisters. They have sort of an emotional "please don't go" response, but ultimately understand her decision and leave it to Sis
. Well, it's not like she expects to lose. She'll show these troublemakers the power of the eldest Gorgon Sister, Anastasis Stheno Gorgon.
So, after only a few short hours of troublesome enemies, I find myself at the relaxing save point, no longer ominous because of my experiences in the dungeon. Ah, a boss, how reassuring compared to those normal enemies.
Cutscene: the party is walking through a hallway lined with pillars when Youmu suddenly stops. She can hear something. Reimu can't hear anything, but Aya seconds Youmu that there's definitely something. At this point even the player can hear a slowly growing rumbling noise coming from the wall. Marisa has a bad feeling about this before Youmu yells "it's coming!" and every dives for cover as the wall explodes.
Anastatis just punched through the wall. Um... There Was A Door
. Isn't this your own temple? Sadly, the party is too rattled to make the appropriate snarking, so I have to take their place. Byakuren continues her trend of helpfully explaining what's going on even when it's ridiculously obvious. Anastatis simply says "I've found you! Hakurei Miko!"
Reimu asks who she is, and Anastasis introduces herself with her full name again. Patchouli picks up on the Gorgon part in a thought bubble, but Anastasis continues with a simple "I'm sorry, but you're not getting past this point. I'm gonna stop you here."
Satori starts to ask her something but Anastasis lunges at her mid-sentence. Somehow Satori dodges, and Mokou tells her to save her breath, she's still attacking. After a little bit of jumping around and punching, the party is now gathered on the same side and there are small craters in the floor. Sanae and Aya are shocked by her strength, and Nitori claims it's almost oni calibur. Speaking of onis, what happened to Suika
? They mentioned her in the beginning as a potential culprit with a history of mist incidents, but we haven't seen her. Yukari's been implied to be off doing stuff on her own, but couldn't we at least have had a Suika boss battle?
Nitori notices something about the craters, they seems somehow familiar... Aya catches on and... oh yeah! The craters on the path to the youkai mountain! She's the one who thoroughly and mercilessly beat up Chen until she had no part untouched! Uh... I tried to go easy on her...
Anyway, Reimu realizes that Anastasis is one of the masterminds behind the incident. Sis doesn't deny it and introduces herself again
, this time as one of the masters of this temple. Yes! After all this work, we finally found you! I, Hakurei Reimu, will exterminate you! And then they stare at each other for a while. Don't just stand there, say something! This is the part where we banter and taunt each other! Sorry, I'm not too good at chatting.
"By the way, you girls think this is our first meeting, but I've seen you before." Mokou realizes that Anastasis was the one who was spying on them in Eientei (stage 10), which Anastatis confirms and then adds that she was also spying on them in Hakugyokuro (stage 6). Reimu calls her a creepy voyeur and demands that she apologize, so, uh... she does. Why is the mastermind apologizing to us?
Interrupting the pointlessness, Patchouli suddenly remembers something about the Three Gorgon Sisters. She'd thought she'd heard that somewhere before but just remembered what it was. You're the eldest sister Stheno, right? Anastasis seems pleased that she's famous even as far as Gensokyo, but before that this is exposition time, and you don't interrupt exposition time!
Anyway, Patchouli has access to books from the outside world, and in a book about Greek mythology read a story about some immortal ugly monsters called gorgons. Mokou latches onto the "immortal" part, but Anastasis seems to care about the "ugly" part. She claims its all a bullshit rumor spread by the jealous Athena, who I suppose never got around to cursing them in this version. Um, I didn't quite get this, but basically someone wanted to make them disappear into fantasy by changing their legend, and originally they were guardian deities worshiped by humans. Or something like that.
"So anyway, Anastasis—" "Call me Sis, my sisters do." "Geez, I don't care what your loved one call you, just let me talk— So Sis, while I guess I can understand how you feel, why are these guardian deities causing this incident here?" And then they stare at each other for a while. "Come on, say something!" "Sorry, I'm not too good at chatting. I have no desire to answer that. If you really want to know, defeat me and ask my sisters deeper in the temple." "Eh, I didn't really expect an answer, and I'll have to beat you all up in the end anyway, so let's go!"
"Do you really expect it to go that well? While it's interesting to hear what the myths and legends have to say about us, it's not entirely groundless." Meaning? "Immortality. Well, my actual power got badly communicated by the legends. I have the power to manipulate my body's regeneration rate. There's no such thing as a fatal wound to me, I can regenerate from anything. Well, I'm also super strong. Do you think you can stop me?" I don't know why that's a "manipulate X" power instead of just having super-fast regeneration, but that's the standard template for Touhou powers, so I guess that's that.
For some reason the party finds this intimidating, despite the fact that it sound kind of weak to me. I mean come, we've got a true
immortal in our party already. I don't care if you can't die, we're just going to beat you up. Reimu shares my sentiment. Eh, she's seen worse. We've probably beaten worse in this game already. So, enter battle poses, and time to fear the wrath of the crocodile god! I guess she's a crocodile. She kills us.
Anastasis is a pretty simple fight. She punches us. She regenerates. She has about three times as much health as previous bosses. That's all you need to know. Simple does not mean easy though. While her much advertised regeneration is overrated (only a 1000 per turn), she is
superstrong. She can kill anyone but a tank in one punch and can randomly punch the entire party at once, killing everyone who's not a tank. Two actions per turn, which is pretty standard. So she just numerically kills me with her better stats. She is
weak against lightning, but with her health and regeneration you can't exactly hope to kill her before she randomly kills you.
As they should say, the best offense is a good defense. The trick is figuring out how to survive and I must say it took me a while to figure it out. The solution isn't exactly complicated though, so don't expect another amazing twist. My first thought is to approach her the same way I approached Kagami: keep everyone in a vertical line and let Alice block everything with her doll-shielding. Unfortunately Anastasis has much more attack power than Kagami did, and just sort of tears through the shields, so that's not an option.
I can't just cover every turn because it's a long fight and I'll run out of bombs. I can't use too many tanks in the party because I need to overcome her regeneration. It's a simple fight, but it seems unwinnable simply because her stats are just too good. Do I need more levels or something? They did have this big grindy dungeon immediately before her, maybe that's a clue... I do not grind though. It's against my principles. If you can't beat a boss, try harder. It's just, her stats, you know. You can't strategize away stats, can you?
Actually you can. I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier, but for one of my deaths Marisa, lying on the ground, suggests I use variety status ailments on her. For reference, "variety" statuses are things like defense down and attack down
. That's... really it. I took the advice of my dead party. The game told me exactly how to win. Thanks game.
So, my party is Alice, Byakuren, Sanae, Marisa and Patchouli. Alice stands there looking pretty, Byakuren casts stat downs, Sanae casts stat ups, and Marisa and Patchouli nuke her with lightning. With stat ups and stat downs, I figure I can even the odds. I underestimate them. When Byakuren casts Power Down with full Induction bonuses, more than evening the odds I turn Anastasis from an unstoppable force of nature into a kitten. That's really just everything there is to this battle.
Execution is a bit tricky though, because if Byakuren misses with Power Down, my entire party dies instantly. This is somewhat likely to occur. After a few rough starts where it misses or falls off halfway through, I get the initial Power Down up and get a Hyper Trigger (induction up) on Byakuren and with my free time decide that Unresist and Meltdown (defense down) can't hurt. With Hyper Trigger, missing is rarely an issue.
Other than that, Marisa and Patchouli just go all out with Heaven's Crack and full Lightning Land gauge. Patchouli proves herself the true master of the elements by managing to score several new damage records in this fight, critting for 6000 and randomly double attacking, causing up to 9000 per turn (she never crit twice in a row). Yeah, I don't think your piddly 1000 regen is going to do much. So despite the extra health, the fight doesn't seem too long.
When at low health Anastasia starts to use her Last Word, which is a first for bosses, so I didn't expect it and didn't get a picture. It's just a single targeting attack though, which while somewhat scary at first ends up doing 0 to Alice because of all the forces in play (defense up, attack down, blunt damage resistance, block). She casts it every turn for her final moments, but always targets Alice so I dunno how threatening it would be otherwise.
Defeated, Anastasis finally understands why we keep winning: we're strong. Reimu's response? Well duh. She routinely beats up newcomers who don't know their place. One or two gods is no problem, heck we already did that in this game. Why are these guys so baselessly confident? Maybe they were a big fish in a small pond, but this is Gensokyo
. So, uh... could you please stop all this incident nonsense?
Rather than admit failure, she chooses to self destruct. Or retreat with a smoke bomb or something. I really can't tell. She "disappears" according to the party. Reimu is annoyed that we were so close to winning, so I guess she probably retreated. Byakuren points out that we have to go forward to beat her accomplices anyway, so it really doesn't matter what Anastasis does here. So, let's go beat up some gorgons.
Back in Gorgon-land, the remaining two sense that Anastasis has been defeated, and while this is shocking they have no plans to give up here. Bio volunteers to go next, but it sounds like she has a plan rather than just wanting to rely on her strength. I suppose she's the cunning one. Just like last time, the scene ends with her declaring that she'll show us the strength of the Gorgon's middle sister, Biotopos Euryale Gorgon.