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Let's Play a random Touhou fan RPG!
Clarste

[table of contents]
Stage 3 the forest of computer circuits and evil trees
Stage 3 the forest of computer circuits and evil trees

This is actually a compulsion of mine right now. I cannot sleep because I'm thinking about what to write. So please forgive me if I go crazy and accidentally kill myself halfway through, and somehow land on the send button so you see a half-finished representation of my decent into madness.

Back on the world map, I head to Akyuu's house again just because and she has even more recipes that I can't use yet. Apparently she gets new ones after every stage, but I didn't check last time. So I head to the Forest of Magic which is now conveniently marked by a big floating banner. This makes it easy to find where to go next.

Outside the forest our suddenly huge party stops and talks about whether it makes sense for Alice to be the culprit. Marisa says it feels weird to be returning home in the middle of the mission (cause she lives here) while Reimu, impatient as always, wishes she were returning home because it'd imply that she was done. The party decides to go and ask Alice while Reimu decides to beat Alice up. Just in case.

Before we step inside, it is noted that that Rinnosuke's shop, Kourindou, is right here, and didn't he just start this fancy new synthesizing business? Maybe we should check it out later. Later, of course, is right now, so I immediately turn around and leave the forest to go check out his shop.

It's filled with junk from the outside world, most prominently a large undetonated torpedo in the center. Nitori and Aya seem very interested by it while Reimu and Marisa head up to the counter. Rinnosuke is basically the only male character in the series with a name and a face and isn't made of clouds. And isn't a turtle. Anyway, he's a male half-youkai and noted Non Action Guy. He explains his okay-ness despite the mist by appealing to his human side.

We can't actually buy stuff from him, and enemies don't drop money or anything. We do however have a lot of crafting materials from boxes and stuff. I think I just assumed they were accessories or something. Apparently we're his first customers, which makes Reimu nervous, but also apparently synthesizing is super-easy. Just give him the materials and he'll give you the item. But... what do you do with the materials Rinnosuke? He doesn't seem to know either.

Because I figure weapons matter most to fighters, I make a 2H sword and a fan for Sakuya and Aya. Who am I kidding, I'd have made one for Sakuya no matter what she does. Note that the character's unique weapons can only be acquired by synthesis. The stuff in boxes is all generic swords and staves. Presumably this is to give you more freedom to choose your party without being limited to whoeever you found the best weapon for. Anyway, that's about all I have materials for. I can also make armor and stuff, but who needs armor?

I allocate points to attack power for Sakuya, points to fan for Aya (for an AOE attack), and points to MP for Marisa and Patchouli, since running out of MP is a pretty big danger in dungeon crawling. In the forest, the field sprites of the enemies are no longer fairies but instead walking blue mushrooms. The enemies themselves are similarly bizarre and that's about the end of the random battles making any sense for the rest of the game.

There are a lot of plant and insect monsters that are weak against fire, so the Marisa-Patchouli tagteam makes short work of them. There are also these bizarre computer chip bug things that just make no sense in any context at all. I run into some trouble early on because Sakuya and Patchouli are both level 1, but they get up to speed pretty shortly because in addition to requiring less experience, they also get bonus experience for being underleveled. Luckily you earn experience while dead at the end of battles. Apparently you also get experience penalties for being overleveled, but I've never had that happen.

In terms of dungeon design, it's a forest. Lots of trees and arbitrary looking paths and clearings. It's more dark and shadowy than bright and cheerful, but nothing excessive. It also introduces a running theme of forest areas, which is invisible paths underneath trees. It's not too bad because if there's a clearing on the other side then there's a path, but I can't claim to have found any of the paths that I missed. Periodically there are magic circles blocking the path, but they're cleared by picking up dolls that are lying around randomly. So basically you have to explore everywhere, which I was doing anyway.

At this point I got complacent. The enemies didn't seem dangerous anymore, so I didn't bother running out to save my items. As should be obvious from the phrasing, that was a bad idea. After clearing a large dead end of treasure, I encountered an enemy that I had run past before. This battle involved 3 of the computer chip bug enemies that I mentioned before, but they hadn't seemed particularly dangerous so I wasn't worried and proceeded to line up my routine attack pattern. Oh, how wrong I was. As if on cue, all three of the bugs cast a spell called "Error".

Actually, I don't think they actually cast anything, just the screen sort of glitched out and then it said Error on the screen in big letters. And then everyone was paralyzed but Patchouli. I can't cure paralyze without Sanae. I wasn't too worried yet, and was thinking I could just wait it out until it cured itself. And then they killed Aya and Marisa. And then they killed Reimu. Patchouli was still the only character who could move, but she can't kill them herself without exploiting elemental weaknesses (later color swaps are weak against lightning, but I didn't realize this at the time). Desperate, I ran, and Sakuya died while Patchouli barely escapes in critical. Whew glad that's over.

If only, if only. The enemy was standing on a narrow log bridge between me and the exit. The enemy sets are not randomized after you run away. The only way out was through them. So I bit the bullet and re-engaged. Everyone paralyzed on the first turn. Game over. I hadn't exited the dungeon once since I started. Luckily most of the enemies hadn't respawned, but I had to run around everywhere collecting all the items again. Except the one behind that enemy. I was terrified.

I exited to save my items, but this time I was going in with a plan. Reimu has a spell that blocks status ailments on the party, but you have to choose what kind to prevent for that turn. Luckily I can read katakana and the ailment types are written as Permanent or Variety or Quick in katakana. But... which one is paralyze? Thinking that clearly it wasn't permanent or else it'd be no different from petrify, I bet on Variety. Oh how wrong I was. They shortly showed me the error of my ways.

Third attempt, faster this time because I didn't have to get the items again, but the enemies were also starting to respawn, so I just ran past them. This time I bet on Quick. Note to self, also wrong. Luckily I just got lucky this time and paralyze happened to miss 3/5 people, so I could barely pull a win anyway.

Knowing that the horror was dead, I didn't think it was important to save again so I just went forward past the last doll. No problems, and I found the heal point of doom. Conveniently, there was also a switch that activated a teleporter that took me to the beginning of the dungeon so I could just hop back here anytime. That becomes a feature of future dungeons.

Cutscene time. Alice is hanging out in front of her house talking to one her dolls that talks in ALL CAPS OR RATHER KATAKANA WHICH HAS THE SAME VISUAL EFFECT and uses the same Verbal Tic as Marisa. The doll apparently went around interviewing the weakened youkai, which incidentally I haven't seen any of since the prologue, and apparently they all said that the mist "felt like death". Alice thanks her for this report and ponders the meaning of this when the party enters.

Reimu accuses her of... attacking herself with the mist? To which Alice reasonably responds with "What? Why would you think that?" Patchouli comes forward that she felt the touch of a magician in the mist. Alice is stupefied. "Well, duh, of course you felt it because I've been researching the mist with magic. That'd be obvious if you spent more than five minutes looking into it."  * Alice takes the opportunity to feel superior to Patchouli until Marisa asks why she was researching it.

"W-well, it's not like I did it because I knew you'd want to look into it eventually and so I could seem helpful and get closer to you." Oh, apparently this is Tsundere Alice. Anyway she redirects her embarrassment into anger at Patchouli and Aya gets ready to write on Witch Battle 2: the Sequel. And then Reimu says "shut up, let's just fight her." And she kills us.

Somewhat surprisingly for the first solo boss, she's also the first hard boss. Who knew she had it in her to win 5 on 1? Her strategy revolves around a series of doll formations with different themes. On the beginning of the first turn she summons a doll formation randomly out of three possibilities. For each doll that's alive, she takes less damage, and when all are alive she's practically invincible. However after you kill all the dolls she immediately summons the next formation on the next turn.

She cannot run out of dolls, she just cycles through the three formations. The obvious response is to leave one doll alive, but the longer she stays in one formation the more powerful the dolls gets until they can single handedly kill your party. She also starts regenerating. The different formations have different strengths and weaknesses: simply put there's an elemental formation that's weak against the correct element, an attack formation that's weak against physical, and a defense formation that's weak against magic. In other words, you have to know what you're doing to beat Alice, and I did not know what I was doing.

She started with the elemental formation, and I kind of ignored that and did non-elemental damage except with Patchouli, who did all targeting elemental damage. Do not hit the fire doll with fire! Bad things happen! It counterattacks with its own all targeting fire, and well, that's bad. I eventually managed to kill the dolls while doing minimal damage to Alice and then she summoned the attack formation to clean up. End of story. Honestly it seemed kind of hopeless at this point, in a "what the hell, they expect me to beat that?!" sense.

But it was not hopeless, nor did it involve a grind of any kind. And that, my friends, is the mark of a good turn based battle system. Cutting out the other failed attempts (and there were many) I ultimately switched Patchouli out for Sanae because the AOE was more trouble than it was worth and having two healers is always nice. I also respecced Marisa for Astronomy (elemental damage) and unequipped some of her laser spells to make room for her elemental spells (goodbye Master Spark). Sanae was respecced to Wind Priestess to improve the power and duration of her buffs.

Long story short, I won. Sanae's defense buffs made the attack formation trivial, her resist buffs did absolutely nothing against the elemental formation because I misunderstood what it does (a story for a later chapter), and Marisa's newfound elemental powers were enough to tear through the elemental formation. Oh, and Non-directional Laser and Magic Napalm for the defense formation.

The people who weren't useful in that phase would focus on Alice, so she consistently took damage and she went down pretty quickly, before the second cycle. I didn't just win, I won thoroughly. And it was satisfying. I'm around level 15 with my original characters and 12-ish with Sakuya and Patchouli, which I suppose implies a certain pattern, as it were. Nitori gets a back row power level from the 1000 boss power. Don't worry Nitori, you'll get to shine someday. But for now you're level 1.

Post-battle, Alice is on the ground and the party asks her what she knows about the mist. Couldn't you have asked nicely in the first place? Did we really need to fight to get here? The answer is yes Alice, because you are a Touhou boss and Touhou is all about fighting bosses.

Anyway, she shares her findings when they ask nicely and they quickly reach the conclusions that it's probably Yuyuko, princess of the netherworld, what with the touch of death and all that. However, Yuyuko is not known for her... straightforwardness. So they figure that walking up and asking her wouldn't be very helpful. Thinking on the "lie detector" track gets them to Satori, the mind reading Crazy Cat Lady who lives in the abandoned hell.

So now our goal is to venture into hell itself to pick up a lie detector. Yes, Satori has been demoted to an object, and yes we're going to kidnap her. Oh yeah, and Alice joined us.

Alice

Now that Alice has joined us, I might as well mention shields. Everyone has a shield slot in addition to a weapon slot, it's just that for most people it's useless. Casters can't block, and neither can people with two handed weapons (ie: Sakuya). Furthermore, the low level shields have negligible block rates, and pitiful stats anyway. Blocking just adds a flat amount of defense at a small chance, so it's kind of useless.

Unless you're Alice. Alice will block, because her specialties support it. She will block a lot, and she will block often. When she blocks, she takes no damage. It's no exaggeration to say that Alice's shield is more important than her weapon. Later we'll also get shields that can block magic, which is even more useful since that's Alice's primary weakness.

Maybe I can go to sleep now.
27th Jan '11 10:50:52 PM flag for mods
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