I realize now that I haven't actually described this game, visually. So while I'm explaining what happens you don't really have any kind of picture of it at all in your heads. While they may or may not be a good thing depending on your imagination, I'd like to take this opportunity to give your imagination some framework. Or you could go look up screenshots, I guess.
The graphics are 2D sprites on 2D backgrounds. The sprites are about SNES quality, but more Chrono Trigger
than FF 6
in their detail. There are a lot of stock poses for reaction shots or common expressions (I mentioned Marisa's hat, right?), but there are also a number of animations that as far as I can tell appear exactly once and are never seen again, like Patchouli sitting down drinking tea and Sakuya pouring it. It seems like a waste of budget to me, but conversely you could say that a lot of love went into the game. Whatever it is, it's not half-assed.
In battle, the sprites are of similar size and quality. Each character has unique weapon animations for each weapon they can equip, and each weapon looks slightly different among the same categories (I equipped the knife on Reimu, by the way). Enemies, however, are large static sprites that have more details but no animation whatsoever, Final Fantasy
style. They appear on the left, while the party appears on the right.
Spell animations clearly use particle effects and polygons and such instead of sprites, but don't look out of place, usually. Last Words use Super Move Portrait Attacks
and Spellcards add these border things with English text on them they I haven't had a chance to thoroughly read. "Spiritual Power something something"
Oh yeah, I almost forgot (hint, I did forget), the battle menus. When you're choosing a character's command there's a circular emblem that's symbolic of the character (stopwatch for Sakuya, for example) in the center of the screen. The commands available to the character are spread evenly around the circle as large icons. The names and descriptions of the abilities don't appear until you select them. Reminds me of Secret Of Mana
You have up to 8 commands at a time, 1 for your basic attack, 6 for the spells you have equipped, and 1 for the Last Word when it procs. There are no consumable items at all (potions, etc). You can also press a button to pass your turn, which is technically called defending but it doesn't actually raise your defense in any way so yeah.
Moving on, having beaten up both Sakuya and Patchouli, we enter the main mansion (although not before Marisa reminds Aya to report that she won the epic Witch Battle). There's immediately a three way split up and I arbitrarily decide to go left. Which led to another split etc etc. When I came back later it turns out that all the routes I didn't take were immediate dead ends. Go figure.
Going back to the initial left turn though there's a switch that opens the locked door from earlier when we were outside. So now we can walk in and out the main door. I take this opportunity to step outside and bask in my item-ness. There's something very reassuring about leaving a dungeon in this game, as if everything's going to be alright. The game also autosaves when you do this, and in fact you can't save manually.
I'm about level 4 at this point, and have allocated all of Reimu's power into Concentration (defense), Marisa's into Lasers (non-elemental), Sanae's into Miracles (healing), and Aya's into Air War (speed). Not that I have enough points to get anything useful yet, about three each.
Moving back inside the mansion the enemies are the same as before except more powerful. Notably there are now shield-fairies who have a lot of physical defense making magic the only efficient way to kill them. So only Reimu and Marisa can hurt them, since Sanae and Aya's are all physical. They also hurt a lot.
This area is basically split into two halves, the east and the west, that each lead to a switch. Both switches must be hit in order to advance up the center, where the boss is. Compared to stage 1, there are a ton of enemies and even though each branch is vaguely linear, the rooms themselves are mazes of balconies and stairs, as well as switches that open other paths.
I was quite frustrated by this place, actually, because it wasn't until I'd finished exploring a full wing that I realized the fundamental simplicity of it rather than being bogged down by the details. The shield fairies didn't help matters. This time I was paranoid enough to periodically leave to save my items, which turned out to be a worthy investment of time, since I died a few times. It's not fair when they target Marisa first so I can't kill them! I made frequent use of the strategy of running away to reset the battle.
In this dungeon they introduced a new mechanic. In addition to gold keys that open gold doors, there are now silver keys that open silver treasure boxes. Your key count is conveniently tracked in the lower right corner of the screen, and as I have had the pleasure of testing when you die with a silver box item you get the key back instead of having to go pick it up again. Eh, it's not very interesting but it kind of makes me think I'm playing Zelda which is always cool.
All said and done, I opened up the center door and found an ominous heal point. Satisfied in my healdom and my awesome level of 10-ish, I arrogantly headed forward, triggering the boss scene. Remilia, the loli vampire, is in her room having tea with... Nitori
? The Kappa tinker who has nothing to do with anything? Sensing my confusion, they immediately clarify that Nitori fell asleep in the river due to weakening from the mist and woke up in the lake nearby the SDM and I guess decided to drop by as a guest.
...wait a minute. Perfect strangers can drop by as guests and have tea with Remilia. Why didn't we just ring the doorbell
? We could saved all that trouble of storming the place and fighting off legions of fairies as well as boss fights. And all that running around pointlessly and dying. And the looting! Well, I guess the looting was the good part.
Anyway, Nitori has some awesome animations of leaning back in her chair, such a waste. They should add more chairs in the game and have people sit in them instead of standing around. No, wait, anyway
Remilia is griping about the mist, considering it a shameless rip-off of her and worst of all she can't go beat up the culprit because this mist doesn't even block the sun which was the entire point of her mist (she's a vampire, remember?). Deciding that she needs someone to vent her anger on, the party shows up at the perfect time.
While Sanae and Nitori exchange polite greetings, Reimu accuses Remilia of being the source of the problem and not having learned her lesson last time, and Remilia, wanting to pick a fight, doesn't deny the accusations. Completely not sensing the tension, Sanae and Nitori talk about cucumbers. And then Nitori decides to fight on Remilia's side, 'cause hey why not? And then Reimu says "shut up, let's just fight them."
And then they kill me. Not immediately, but first they killed Aya and I don't have revive yet, and then Marisa runs out of MP because for some reason I thought Hellfire was a water spell with a funny name and therefore that Cold Inferno must be fire even though it's blue. And well, water on a Kappa doesn't work out too well. I accidentally boosted the water land element, and apparently that causes Nitori to regenerate and then I just run out of MP and die.
And that's when I realized that heal points, despite triggering the auto-save like going outside, do not in fact count as going outside for your items. So I had to run around collecting the last batch again, which also gave me another level which I guess can't hurt.
For this attempt I decided to redo my power allocation into something that might matter. Marisa went into Magic Mushrooms for the MP, which would actually let her cast her Spellcard Master Spark which had previous cost pretty much all of it. Aya went into Tengu and Sanae into Faith, both for the HP, so they could actually survive a hit.
Luckily, as part of the lack of death penalties, I didn't have to watch the cutscene again and entering the room immediately skips to the part where everyone has their weapons drawn. The new allocations, combined with the understanding that Hellfire actually does fire damage, let me win rather handily. This is the last boring boss fight, honest. No levels since I just leveled up, but another 1000 power (that's mostly wasted).
Post-fight, Remilia is realizing that losing
a fight would create stress rather than relieve it and Nitori just wonders what the hell she was thinking. Enter Sakuya and Patchouli from behind, but the fight's already over. Remilia explains that no, beating her won't stop the mist because she had nothing to do with it in the first place. She also questions what happened to Reimu's famous intuition that leads her to beat up the right people at the right times, which is a good point. Reimu unconvincingly suggests that her intuition led her here.
Anyway, lacking a lead, Patchouli chimes in that obviously blah blah Magibabble blah blah
so the culprit is probably a magician. Not that she spent more than 5 minutes thinking about this, because isn't this your job Reimu? Given that there are roughly three named magicians in the setting and two of them are standing in this room, it is determined that Alice
is probably behind it. Or not, but it can't hurt to ask her, so we're off to the Forest of Magic next.
As we're about to leave, Remilia, frustrated at her lack of ability to go outside (this is accompanied by an amusing animation of her chewing on her hat), decides that Sakuya and Patchouli should go as her representatives and apply her beatdown to the appropriate party by proxy. Sakuya accepts without much trouble, but Patchouli is horrified that she might have to leave the house
. Nitori decides to tag along just because, although personally I like to think it was to rub it in Remilia's face.
Three new characters!
- Last Word: "Sakuya's World", all stats up for herself. By a lot.
- Specialties: Illusions (random chance of extra attacks), Time Stop (attack power and Spellcard boosts), Murder (accuracy and chance of instant death), Maid Arts (HP)
- Weapons: Zweihander (wtf?! why not knives?), massive power, pierces physical resistances
- Overall: Oddly enough, Mighty Glacier. While she's not inherently slow, her weapons are, but also pack a punch. She gets a lot of multi-hit attack spells but nothing that can target more than one enemy. Also, her Final Spell, "Perfect Square" gives her an extra turn so she's good at burst damage.
- Last Word: "Big Bang", Non-elemental all targeting magic attack
- Specialties: Spirit Magic (elemental damage), Magic Mastery (cooldowns and casting speed), One-week Girl (MP, magic defense), Library (physical attack (?))
- Weapon: Book, a surprising amount of physical attack. I guess there's a melee Patchouli build for some reason?
- Overall: Squishier Wizard. Less HP than Marisa, but has access to every element and lots of all targeting spells. Not too good on bosses unless they have a particular weakness, which most of them don't, but very effective on normal encounters. If she lives long enough to get her spells off.
- Last Word: "Atomic Kappa", powerful physical attack
- Specialties: Research (elemental attacks), Strengthen Weapons (Physical attack + defense), Invention (regeneration), Kappa Wisdom (HP + MP)
- Weapon: Gun, lots of multi-hit attacks, can imbue normal attacks with elemental bullets
- Overall: A physical elemental attacker. She also has a set of moves called "Chasers" which cause her to follow up any ally's elemental attack with one of her own on the same target. Put her in the right party and she could hit every enemy on the field 3 times with one action.
So, now that I have 7 characters — 3 of which are still level 1 because everyone joins at level 1, no exceptions — I have to choose who will be in my party. I didn't mention this before because it wasn't relevant, but you actually have 5 party member slots and one "commander" slot. The commander doesn't fight, but provides a small passive stat boost as well as having the ability to use bombs to cast a variety of effects that could change the battle.
Or they would, if I had used it. I didn't really bother at this point in the game, so the commander is being used here to give free experience to someone who doesn't fight. Since I have 7 characters, that means exactly one won't get experience. I choose you, Nitori. She gets to sit in the corner twiddling her thumbs. She does, however, get power at a reduced rate which I haven't investigated the details of. I'm assuming that this is the point of the 1000 power that bosses give, to give power levels to even your unused characters.
Oh, and Sanae's the commander because while healing and buffing is awesome on bosses, it's not too useful in the fast paced world of normal encounters.