Three StepsAs you may already be aware, Touhou is this ridiculously popular... thing in Japan. Technically a series of Bullet Hell indie shooting games made by one alcoholic in his spare time, a twist of fate has rendered it the most popular subject in Comiket by an order of magnitude. People make fan-comics, fan-music, fan-anime, and of course fan-games. So it's no surprise that there'd be a Touhou RPG or two or a dozen. This particular one, by a group called Strawberry Bose, is called Touhou Soujinengi ~ The Genius of Sappheiros and no I don't know what that means either, although I'm sure it's explained in the plot. Which is in Japanese. And well, I'm not too good at reading Japanese. This game is pretty new, having been released last August and only about the first third has been translated in my brief search of the Touhou wiki. So if you're curious about the plot, this isn't the place for you. From what I can tell though, it's mostly an excuse to run around beating up familiar characters, so it shouldn't matter too much. If you're unfamiliar with the setting, the basic gist is that there's a sealed off world in Japan called Gensokyo that's a Fantasy Kitchen Sink for everything that people don't believe in anymore, mostly Japanese folkloric monsters (called youkai) but also some Western immigrants like vampires. Oh, and they're all Cute Monster Girls, or at least the named ones are. In this particular game there are nameless male NPCs, but interpretations vary. Come to think of it, I'm not sure why I'm explaining this because this game makes no friggin sense at all if you're not familiar with the characters. That said, let's get to it. The game starts with our shrine maiden hero Reimu cleaning her shrine and complaining about the summer heat. Suddenly, a mysterious fog rolls in, cuing an appropriate "What? A mysterious fog?" reaction. Cut to Yukari, our resident Trickster Mentor/Big Good hanging out by the Sanzu River for no particular reason, when the fog rolls in there too. And then she also goes "What? A mysterious fog?" followed by the classic "It couldn't be..?!", appropriately cluing in the audience that if she doesn't know what's going and thinks it's important, then something big is happening. Cue montage of various characters in various locations having pretty much the same reaction repeatedly. It's quickly made clear that this isn't an ordinary fog, it weakens youkai yet leaves humans unharmed. Clearly this is an Incident, and Yukari, back at home and talking to her familiars, makes it clear in a convenient exposition way that Someone is behind it, even if she doesn't yet know who. But she's gonna leave it to Reimu anyway. Because hey, why not? Then we get a title screen, so I guess this was the prologue. Cut back to Reimu, who is... not doing anything. She's back to sweeping the shrine and complaining about the heat again, and the fog seems to have disappeared. She wishes aloud she had a ghost to cool off with (because of their unearthly chill) when Marisa shows up. Marisa is a witch. With a hat and broom and everything. She also talks in a sort of manly way and has this cool animation where she pulls her hat down over her eyes like a cowboy. Anyway, apparently she came with a gift, causing Reimu to excitedly ask if she brought a ghost. But alas, they are merely pickled mushrooms. But why did Marisa come here anyway? No reason, she was bored. And then they complain about the heat together. And then Sanae (other shrine maiden, actually dutiful to her gods who are a bit more in-your-face than is traditional) shows up, also bearing a gift. They repeat the gag about the ghost, and Sanae expresses surprise that Reimu hasn't done anything about the incident, which is apparently still happening even if we can't see the fog anymore. Reimu notes that Sanae came to the shrine with a gift despite expecting her to be out, so apparently all three of them have nothing better to do than sit around. Anyway, Reimu doesn't consider this an incident because it only hurts youkai. And her job is to exterminate youkai, isn't it? So isn't this just helping her do her job? Yukari suddenly interrupts the conversation by popping in through a gap in space, which both Reimu and Marisa take in stride but nearly gives Sanae a heart attack. Yukari wonders if she should have brought a ghost, which at first I thought was an awesome Strange Minds Think Alike moment, but apparently she was just eavesdropping. Anyway, Yukari thinks that this incident might trigger a war between humans and youkai because the youkai might assume that the humans are behind it, so yes this is an Incident, and yes you have to go solve it Reimu. Good luck, bye. Marisa and Sanae decide to tag along for their own reasons (boredom and excitement respectively) and then Aya the tengu reporter pops in and forces her way into your party so she can report on the incident solving right from the scene. Reimu's attitude is "sure, do whatever you want, just don't get in the way" which we'll see a lot of. And finally we can control. I'm not sure if that cutscene was particularly long or not, but I almost certainly won't go into that much detail in the future. Most of the time less "stuff" happens. Anyway, we're on the world map now with a party of 4 characters and I guess I might as well explain the basic RPG systems. It's a turn based RPG, both parties line up on the sides and take turns hitting each other. There's the basic physical vs magic and elemental properties for attacks. Each character also gets a unique ability called a Last Word that randomly activates when things happen in battle. Basically a Limit Break, although they tend to be very situational. Using elemental attacks fills up the land gauge for that element, so the more fire spells you cast in a single battle the more damage future fire spells will do. Conversely, the opposite element, water in this case gets weaker. So even if the enemy aren't weak to something you have a motive to weaken the element that they use against you, or at least prevent them from building it up. You've got MP as well as a separate Bomb counter. All spells take MP, but only a few take bombs and those are called Spellcards. They tend to be more powerful versions of the basic spells, but you only get about 4-5 bombs depending on the character and you can't replenish them except by resting at save points. Spellcards also trigger a cooldown on themselves and all other Spellcards, so you have to wait a few turns before you can use them again, depending on the Spellcard used. Unlike MP, your bomb count does not increase with level. Some spellcards take 3 bombs and are called Final Spells and are even better, but mostly not worth it in my experience. You can only equip 6 spells at a time, so you have to choose what spells you use carefully and Final Spells don't make the cut. There's also a SaGa style life point system, where you lose a point every time you die and if you run out you can't be revived and are removed from battle completely until you heal at a save point. I've run out of life points exactly once, so I mostly ignore them. You get two kinds of experience from battles, experience points and power. XP gives you levels, which give you stats and spells like normal. Power gives you power levels, which are points that can be assigned to different categories that vary based on character. Each character has 4 idiosyncratic skill categories as well as 4 weapon categories, the 4th of which is a unique weapon for that character. the other 3 are generic weapons like swords and axes that don't really make much sense for the characters to use. So 8 paths per character, and they max out at 25. This is most of the character customization, but how much that matters depends on the character. You can reassign points at any time and you often have to. Currently I have: Reimu
edited 17th Nov '10 8:57:27 PM by Clarste
Welcome to Purgatory!Hmm...that little bit about skill points reminds me of how you learned new abilities in Dragon Quest VIII. But anyways, best of luck in this endeavor, dood.
Three StepsAnyway, 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. Suika and Tenshi 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 RPGs 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.
edited 7th Nov '10 4:54:32 AM by Clarste
Hmm...that little bit about skill points reminds me of how you learned new abilities in Dragon Quest VIII. But anyways, best of luck in this endeavor, dood.Yes, it's very much like that. It's the same mix of passive stat bonus and new skills that come at various levels. Unlike Dragon Quest though, they actually tell you ahead of time what abilities you'll get at what levels, and as mentioned you can remove points freely whenever you can access the menu. I pretty much have a random battle set-up and a boss set-up, as well as unique set-ups for specific encounters.
THE MEEKLinear growth! Huh. This game seems... weird. Touhou Wiki doesn't have any screenshots, either... I'll see if it's something I'd want to play myself.
SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH
Three StepsStage 2 the non-Library 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 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! Sakuya
edited 7th Nov '10 6:19:57 PM by Clarste
Linear growth! Huh. This game seems... weird. Touhou Wiki doesn't have any screenshots, either... I'll see if it's something I'd want to play myself.Most of your attack power and defense power and such comes from equipment and power allocation. So other than HP and MP the linear growth doesn't affect too much. I don't think the game is weird so much as a combination of a bunch of good ideas from other games mixed in with some weird ones from its Touhou origins. Level 1 certainly could have been balanced better though.
edited 7th Nov '10 7:12:10 AM by Clarste
Three StepsStage 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
edited 7th Nov '10 9:48:36 AM by Clarste
Three StepsI lack... quality control. If anyone's actually reading this, I would appreciate any advice on what kinds of things to cut out. This is turning out to be much denser than I had imagined. I'm just sort of rambling, if you hadn't noticed. In the case that no one's actually reading this, hello me. I'm considering adding random line breaks into the longer paragraphs to improve readability. Stage 4 tonight we dine in hell Oh great, more gameplay exposition. Here we go again. I addition to everything else I've mentioned, there are also party formations, and you get new formations after every boss fight. They tend to give you stats bonuses like "front row attack up, back row magic up" but they seem to use idiosyncratic language compared to the rest of the stat page so I can't figure them out, nor are the translated on the wiki. They also determine positioning for enemy AOE spells. The most important part though is that the character in the front slot will be attacked far more often than anyone else, so Alice goes there, replacing Reimu who honestly isn't that useful. The party heads towards the underground to get to hell, but apparently the road is closed (Yuugi got drunk and went on a rampage or something). So we have to go through the back door, through the geothermonuclear power plant that the kappas built and conveniently Nitori knows about. And Sanae does not. There's a subtle "no one tells me anything" vibe to Sanae in this scene, and considering how she was introduced in the beginning of this game it wouldn't surprise me if she's on a Snipe Hunt. It's noted that the mist doesn't extend underground, so the people down there probably don't know what's going on. So we head on down to the fiery part of hell and proceed to work our way backwards to the Palace of the Earth Spirits. This dungeon is not particularly notable. It's a cave, and there's a bunch of fire, but it doesn't hurt you so it's closer to a wall than an obstacle. The enemy field sprites are now giant feet stomping around without a body. ... Anyway, the enemies themselves are all fire elementals and demons, so I just do the same thing I did in the forest except with water instead of fire. Nothing really notable here, although they introduced a new "strong single enemy that doesn't come in packs" archetype which is kind of annoying for my AOE focused party. The dungeon layout revolves around hitting switches to turn off purple flames that block paths so there's a lot of criss-crossing and backtracking as new paths open up. I was fairly paranoid at this point so I left the dungeon a lot, and sometimes went to go heal outside because I would run low on MP, but that just made the layout more familiar to me. Shortly enough, ominous heal point and teleporter to the entrance. Pre-boss cutscene time! Our favorite nuclear hell raven Utsuho is noting that, yes, the place is still on fire. Since keeping it on fire is her job, this means that all is well, which means she's bored. While lamenting her boredom and hunger, her good friend Orin, the necromancer kasha, shows up and commiserates with Utsuho regarding her similar non-problems. The party shows up and after some brief greetings (Utsuho doesn't remember who we are) and some question about what we're doing here, the party huddles to confirm that we probably won't get through if we tell them that we're here to kidnap Satori. Using some quick thinking Aya determines that, as housepets, if we give them food they'll love us forever. A flawless plan. Conveniently, Nitori is hanging on to some cucumbers. Reimu hands Orin some cucumbers as a gift for safe passage and Orin start chowing down, prompting Utsuho to scold her for being so easily influenced. "Don't worry, I have some for you too". Nom Nom Nom. After a moment of this, they both realize that they're being bribed and that that is in fact more suspicious than anything. The cucumber still hanging from Utsuho's mouth. Reimu says "shut up, let's just fight them". And then they kill us. There's actually a recurring theme in boss fights for this game: they always start with their best attack. Maybe it has something to do with cooldowns or something, but there are very very good odds of you dying on the first turn if you're unprepared. That didn't happen this time, but one survivor when I can't revive is pretty useless. So, back to the drawing board. Relying on outgame resources of the wiki to explain how this fight works, it's pretty straightforward. Both of them do a lot of fire damage, so use water to weaken them. Utsuho attacks quickly, so use cover with Alice until you can get your defenses up. More interestingly, Orin apparently revives Utsuho, so you should kill her first (although I didn't see this myself). She can also revive your dead party members as zombies who will attack you. Well, not dying was a good strategy from the beginning. The big problem is Utsuho. When she's below half health, she'll start every turn by casting Giga Flare, which will kill you. 300 damage to everyone, when we have about 80-120 HP. If she gets a turn below half health, you die. The entire fight revolves around addressing this problem. There are several ways of dealing with this. Alice can cover people, taking multiple hits herself but she was gonna die anyway. This gives you an extra turn to finish her off. Sakuya can stop time and get multiple actions on the same turn, especially effective when combined with her Sakuya's World self-buff that makes her attacks much stronger. Aya can cast a spell that makes your entire party go first for that turn, getting a chance to act before Giga Flare. There are also some others, sometimes involving the secret characters that I didn't recruit (Mokou can self-rez). Needless to say, I did all of them at the same time and it worked. It's more of a puzzle boss than something that's actually hard, but at least there's more than one solution. Post-battle, nothing much interesting happens, although Utsuho's defeat pose involves her lying in Orin's corpse cart. We promise not to hurt Satori (this is a lie) and head past. No new characters, nothing of interest. The next stage is more hellish than hell.
edited 7th Nov '10 8:29:16 PM by Clarste
The wiki does, in fact have formation translations. Don't believe it's all of them, though.
Three StepsThat's about a quarter of them so far, and I keep getting more.
edited 7th Nov '10 8:21:09 PM by Clarste
Three StepsAs an apology there have been quite a number of factual inaccuracies in the preceding posts, mostly revolving around my level. I'm actually doing this mostly from memory rather than as I'm playing, and I didn't really take notes or anything because I didn't expect to do a liveblog. So that's why I'm being vague about some things (items and such) while at the same time excessively detailed about weird anecdotes like the bugs in the forest. Regrading my levels in particular, I have a vivid memory of being level 10 or so after Remilia, but based on the enemy guides I've been referring to to refresh my memory this is completely absurd. Maybe that was my power level? Or did I just pull it out of my ass? Anyway, my level should theoretically be around 10 right now, at the start of stage 5. The newcomers are about 2 levels lower. Apologies for the confusion, especially if you were playing the game yourself and were wondering what was up with my absurd levels. Stage 5 this house makes no sense I didn't mention this at the time, but Remilia's house made some amount of sense. There were bedrooms, the main hall was physically close to everything else, and if you ignore the locked doors and blocked hallways it seems like a place one could reasonably walk around in without being a marathon runner. Satori's house is not like that. It is first and foremost a dungeon. You have to go down stairs and back up stairs to get to certain areas, some rooms have no entrances other than secret passages and most of it's filled with absolutely nothing but monsters and treasure. There are some shortcuts that open up later, but it still makes absolutely no sense as a house. Visually, it's kind of cool. Tiled floors with what seem to be stained glass style images of Utsuho on the ground and portraits of both characters and generic stuff lining the hallways. The whole place is lit by candle stands. Downstairs, it's just classic "dungeon" with stone floors, suits of armor, and that's about it. The music is a remix of Lullaby of Deserted Hell, maybe combined with something else. This is the first time I noticed the music in the game, and while they're mostly remixes of Touhou songs they did a good job of making them sound pretty generic. The enemy field sprites are now ravens, which make a lot more sense than giant feet, and the enemies themselves are, for the first half anyway, a continuation of the last stage, with less focus on the fire and more on the demonic. Many of them are vulnerable to light, but I switched Reimu out so neener neener. Patchouli has exactly one light Spellcard, Royal Flare, but it costs far too much to use in random battles. Dungeon design revolves around invisible passages, by which I mean randomly being able to walk through some walls and not others. Yeah, that's the dungeon. While there are sometimes there are indicators, sometimes there aren't and later on it ends up being just a bunch of seemingly unconnected rooms that you feel your way through by running into every wall. About a third of the way through we meet a new enemy type, some sort of bird thing that begins every turn by casting a spell that randomly cancels the actions of everyone in your party. and then it gets another turn. And it regenerates. So whenever there's one of these things only about half your actions get through, and you better hope you can kill it before it and its allies kill you. In retrospect I think Reimu could have blocked it as a "Quick" status ailment but I switched Reimu out so neener neener. At the same time, we head into the aforementioned dungeons of the area, which are much less visually interesting. It should be noted that this place is huge, or at least feels that way. Around the time I'd normally expect to finish a dungeon, I was actually about halfway through. There are two places where you can hit switches that open up shortcuts back to the entrance, which is a godsend because the enemies will kill me when they have birds in their party. Unfortunately, I discovered these switches after the birds killed me be I arbitrarily took the wrong turn. I actually lost quite a few valuable-looking drops from this. Oh yeah, and the Mind Flayers, you can't forget the Mind Flayers. As in their D&D variation they will flay your minds, which in this game is represented by casting an all targeting damage + paralyze skill called Mind Blast and then casting the instant death status with their normal attack. Which is I believe exactly what they do in D&D. Luckily you don't fight them in big groups in this dungeon, but when paired with the birds they can easily wipe your party. After feeling my way around blindly, I finally reach the ominous heal point and teleporter. Which means cutscene. We see Satori at a desk stacked with papers, complaining about her... bills? Weird. Anyway, apparently her pets are causing a lot of trouble for her, financially. She hears the party enter and walks down to greet her guests. Sanae starts to explain why we're here, but of course Satori is a mind reader and quickly clues herself in on the situation. And refuses. Because Reimu had been thinking of her as an object, and anyway she's really busy so bye, don't let the door hit you on the way out. She also takes the opportunity to randomly state other people's thoughts out loud and generally piss off everyone in the room one at a time. Well, she's a hermit for a reason. For some reason though, she seems surprised when the party's reaction to this is not to leave politely but rather to surround her and attack. In this case, Reimu does not have to say "shut up, let's just fight her" but she was thinking it. Satori kills me in about three turns. Surprisingly, Satori's abilities have nothing to do with mind reading. She just changes her element between the 4 basic elements (fire, water, earth, lightning) every few turns and regenerates. When she is in an element she resists it, is vulnerable to its opposite, and casts spells of that element. That's... about it. She's marginally less dangerous than her dungeon. The most dangerous part of the fight is that at the end of her earth phase she can petrify your entire party, which is what killed me the first time. Alice has a spell that protects your party from an element of your choice, so for the second attempt I just spammed that and went all out with attacking. Sakuya has ability that nullifies all healing for the entire field (allies and enemies), so I used that to cancel her regeneration and she died before she finished her next earth phase. In that sense I suppose I just got lucky, but I'm pretty sure I had some anti-petrify accessories somewhere in my inventory, if only I could read them. Post-battle, we bully her into joining us and she reluctantly joins our party. Poor Satori. Next stop Hakugyokuro! We don't really have a plan, but thinking is such a pain. Or so says Satori, prompting Reimu to hit her for reading her mind aloud. Satori, you really have to work on that. Satori
edited 16th Nov '10 6:30:31 PM by Clarste
Three StepsSorry for the delay imaginary readers. I'd like to say that I have less time during the weekdays, but truthfully I'm just lazy. That burst of whatever that caused me to write all that in the first place has passed, but I still think about what to write here when I'm not writing here, which is always. I'm somewhat afraid of forgetting stuff, but I'm sure my mind will embellish the memories and come up with something better than what actually happened. This liveblog is now a work of fiction and any resemblances blah blah blah. Stage 6 this would normally be the final stage except it's not Fresh from picking up my lie detector, I check back with Akyuu and lo and behold, new weapon recipes! Or rather, a whole bunch of new recipes that later turned out to be weapons when I visited Rinnosuke afterwards. This is the second tier of crafted weapons, and a rather significant jump in power. I buy weapons for Sakuya, Aya, and Alice because they're my physical fighters, although it later turns out that Alice can't hurt anything at all no matter what weapons she has. I also buy a broom for Marisa, because I notice that her Broom tree has MP regeneration, which seems sort of awesome at this point. For the record my party is still Alice, Sakuya, Aya, Marisa, and Patchouli, with Sanae as commander and replacing Patchouli for bosses. The party heads over to the Netherworld (who left the gate open?) and notices that the mist doesn't seem to reach into it. This is used as evidence of Yuyuko's guilt, but they still don't quite know what they're going to do with her. Other than fight her, of course, because that's how things work. The Netherworld seems at first to be a gloomy place, reminiscent of a haunted graveyard or something. It's vaguely swampy, with no plant life except dead trees and the whole place is littered with those Japanese grave marker sticks. And of course the ever present floating ghost orbs and the walls are made out of the moaning souls of the damned. After exploring the rather large entrance room though, the only exit is a teleporter. Hmm... The teleporter takes us to something more like what I had imagined, a narrow walkway seemingly floating in the sky above the clouds and surrounded by Japanese shrine trappings (the arches, etc). The walkway itself seems modeled after a dragon flying through the sky, with a somewhat scaly underside, a floor paved with irregularly shaped stones, and of course it's really twisty. The dungeon is basically split between these upper and lower halves with teleporters between the two as well as some one-way broken floors that let you fall from the upper area to the lower area. The goal is essentially to fall in the right places to hit switches that let you go back up through new teleporters. The enemy field sprites here are those doofy ghosts from the older Touhou games. The enemies themselves are split into two distinct sets, one for the upper heavenly area and the other for the lower hellish area. There are angels/dragons in heaven and demons/undead in hell, logically enough. Neither are particularly dangerous but the angels sometimes come in huge swarms which can be troublesome. It's here that I discover a rather interesting property of Sakuya's sword, which has the rather banal name of "Greatsword" or something like that. While fighting swarms of angels, I noticed that Sakuya always got crits on them, for roughly triple damage. Given that she's already the strongest character, that's a lot. At first I pinned it down to luck, but when it's so consistent... In the other half, I started fighting big tough single enemy demons (I mentioned this archetype, right?) and she also got only crits on those. Or so I thought... until she got a real crit and did even more massive damage to a demon. More damage than I believed it was possible for me to do. Turns out there's a property that certain weapons can have, translated as the Slayer property on the wiki. It makes them do a lot more damage to certain types of enemies. And this weapon, the unnamed greatsword, is a Godslayer. Yes, the second random sword in the shop has the Godslayer property that makes it ridiculously good against angels and demons. And gods. Who'd have thought? Anyway, that helps a lot against the big demons, which I have few other ways to hurt. The huge swarms of angels die quick to Patchouli's Silent Selena (moon sign, therefore darkness element) but that takes a bomb and a lot of MP. The enemies not being a problem is helpful, but the stage itself is often confusing given the dual-layered map. Eventually though I connect the loose routes in my head and finish exploring. All that's left is a gold door. And then a cutscene. Oh shit oh shit there wasn't a teleporter or a heal point I haven't left since opening those chests am I gonna die? I'm gonna die aren't I? Why is there a cutscene now shouldn't they warn me where was the heal point? Panic aside, we see Yuyuko sitting at a table in a Japanese style and throwing a tantrum. "Youmu! Gohan ma—da—?" She's basically acting like a child impatiently demanding dinner, but it sounds kind of funny when I hear it in my head. Luckily, dinner actually is ready and the half-ghost gardener/swordsperson Youmu arrives with two trays of fried Night Sparrow. After a bit of eating, Youmu notes that Reimu is invading and Yuyuko goes into "fufufu" mode (that's a sort of arrogant chuckle) and tells Youmu to go guard the entrance. Yuyuko is looking forward to this. And there's no fight! They tricked me! Apparently that was just a random point in the dungeon where they decided to give me a cutscene. Whew. This is about the halfway point, but the rest is just more of the same. To the right is a shortcut back to the beginning but I don't discover it because I go left first. Go me! In the second half of the dungeon there's an enemy that I can't beat. It's called Hręsvelgr (incidentally, I had to google the katakana because I would not have gotten that) and it's a four-winged bird that gets two actions per turn, has a ton of life plus a life drain attack, begins every battle by casting evasion up on the enemy party, and has no elemental weaknesses. I can't hit it with physical attacks, I can't quickly kill it with magic, and then it just kills me. Also, it comes with other enemies who I also can't hit with physical attacks. Classified as a giant (nod to mythology) so even the Godslayer doesn't help. I just run away from them. Despite that obstacle, in due time I arrive at the ominous heal point and accompanying teleporter to the entrance. Knowing the drill by heart now, I save my items and enter for the cutscene plus obligatory death. The party is walking up the steps of Hakugyokuro (The Tower of White Jade) and complaining about their excessive length (they are pretty long). At the top we see Youmu guarding the gate, and we immediately start pressing her to confess to Yuyuko's sins. Youmu claims to know nothing and Satori confirms that she does indeed know nothing, because Yuyuko never tells her anything. Youmu is shocked that her mind has apparently been read and decides to test this by thinking something random. Satori correctly guesses the "Yuyuko is an idiot" mantra and follows up with a "at this rate they'll even discover the bedwetting incident!" Yeah, Satori, you gotta learn to stop reading things out loud. Satori gets a smack from the party for reading too much, again, but it's too late. Youmu turns completely red and attacks. This is not actually a battle, but simply a cutscene using the normal out-of-battle engine. Remember what I said about wasted animations that only appear once? Yeah. Youmu slashes at Reimu who sidesteps and starts shooting seals at her. Youmu deflects them with her "Roukanken, forged by youkai, (that) can cut through almost anything" and at the same time attacks with her other sword. Her ability to attack and defend at the same time surprises Reimu who nearly gets hit. Then Marisa reminds us that we're outnumbering her 9-1, and the party starts bombarding her with danmaku, forcing her to defend with both swords. Things are looking bad for our antagonist until a bunch of butterflies come out of the gate and injure the party. Yuyuko pulled a Big Damn Heroes. "If you come out now then all the work I've put into guarding the gate is pointless!" complains Youmu. But Yuyuko simply can't allow herself to miss the fun. Yuyuko starts cheerfully teasing the party with her face behind her sleeve when Satori finishes one of her sentences. And she's shocked. "...I've never seen you before." Yuyuko has a grim look on her face, one that actually seems completely out of place. Given how cheerful this Yuyuko is being characterized as, it's pretty shocking. Satori introduces herself and is asked to check Yuyuko to see if she's the culprit and... it doesn't work?! Yeah, Yuyuko's that awesome. Realizing what's going on, Yuyuko blocks off her mind. Because she can do whatever the hell she wants. And this mind reading stuff pisses her off. "Such a tactless power, time for some punishment." And then she kills us. Apparently this is That One Boss for this game. This is another duo boss fight, obviously with Youmu and Yuyuko. Youmu attacks with powerful AOE physical attacks (which means you can't just taunt with Alice) and counterattacks while Yuyuko uses weak magic attacks that have a chance of instant death or curse, which basically makes you kill yourself when you hit things. I still don't have revive. When one of them dies, the other gets two actions for the rest of the battle. When Yuyuko dies, she casts Saigyouji Flawless Nirvana, which kills you. Instant death to the entire party, no saving throw. There are two keys to this fight, killing Youmu quickly before she tears you apart and resisting Yuyuko's status ailments. Well, three keys if you count Saigyouji Flawness Nirvana, but that's sort of gimmicky. Killing Youmu is simple enough, but resisting status ailments requires understanding how the game works. Ah, the manual, my only weakness. Yes, I know the manual is translated on the wiki, but seriously, who reads manuals? In addition to the basic stats like STR and INT which have only their English abbreviations listed, there are a whole lot of derived stats in this game. And they're all in kanji so I kind of skimmed over most of them, although I figured out which ones were attack power and defense for both physical and magic. The others are things like hit, evasion, and speed which while relevant aren't really necessary to pay attention to. In this game however, there's another pair of opposed stats that I hadn't really expected, called Induction and Resistance. In addition to being an electricity pun (seriously, the resistance buff has an Omega icon for ohms), these stats affect the odds of afflicting and receiving status ailments, sort of a separate hit rate. Furthermore, they also affect the power of status ailments, so with high induction and/or low resistance poison does more damage, paralyze lasts longer, etc etc. So they're combined attack power and hit rate vs defense power and evasion stats, but just for status ailments. If I ever want to use Satori, I should stack her with Induction. This is mostly irrelevant since you can't control it, except for two things: in-battle buffs and accessories. You may recall from earlier that I cast Sanae's resistance buff to no effect when fighting Alice. I had simply assumed that resistance affected magic damage, but it doesn't. Undaunted by the fact that I never noticed any difference, I would routinely cast it against bosses that did magic damage. Remember how Satori was so easy last time? She's supposed to be a status ailment boss spamming poison and silence and blind and whatnot. So Yeah. That's not enough for Yuyuko though. A poison or two getting through is no problem, but death is death. I can't cure death. Furthermore, two actions per turn. I needed something else. I needed accessories. By this point I had accumulated a huge list of random Japanese kanji that I couldn't read. Surely some of them would help against death, right? Having recently read the manual and memorized the kanji for resistance, I managed to stack Alice with a small pile of resistance, and crafted an anti-death accessory for good measure. I also take the opportunity to equip completely random accessories on everyone. What could possibly go wrong? Newly prepared to deal with instant death by tanking all the butterflies with Alice, Youmu slaughtered me. Oops. That's a simple matter of changing the formation though, so Alice would be separated from the group. The revised strategy worked like an anti-death charm and they went down without too much trouble after only a few attempts. I dealt with Yuyuko's final attack by covering someone with Alice so she'd die twice (still no saving throw) and they miraculously go down like a Final Fantasy boss. You know, with the shaking and everything. Post-battle, we still can't get anything out of Yuyuko. She had been prepared to tell us everything we wanted to know and more, but the whole mind reading incident pissed her off enough that she's going to let us figure it out on our own. So apparently that whole sidetrip to get Satori was more than a waste of time, it actually hindered us. Oops. Yuyuko can guarantee that she's not behind it though, by temporarily opening her mind again. Yuyuko also decides to send Youmu with us, as punishment for a certain "Yuyuko is an idiot" incident that she happened to overhear. Seemingly back at square one, the party decides to reexamine their evidence and comes to the conclusion that they were on the right track with the whole "death" thing, but maybe it was supposed to be that other death. So we're going to go seek out the shinigami and see if she knows anything. After everyone leaves and Yuyuko goes back inside, a mysterious cloaked figure pops out and worries that we're getting closer to them. Wait, there's an actually antagonist?! I thought this was "Wild Goose Chase: the Game"? And with that, that's all the translation I have. Future cutscenes will be much abbreviated as I skimmed through them almost entirely. They can usually be boiled down to "Satori reads someone's mind, pisses them off, and we fight before being directed somewhere else." Sometimes people are immune to the mindreading, which pisses the party off and we fight anyway. I'll note what little bits I bothered to read, but it's not much. New character: Youmu
edited 14th Nov '10 12:33:19 AM by Clarste
Youmu sounds really awkward to use.
Three StepsDepends on what you want to do with her. I normally just use her to hit things with her decent normal attack and hopefully proc death. It's worth noting that all her special attacks are extremely cheap MP-wise and have a chance of doing death and can randomly happen twice. If you get her into Asura Stance, which has her AOE attacks, it's not unreasonable to just wipe out the enemy the next turn. So I think it's not really awkward, she'd be completely broken without this weakness. It's worth noting that since you can only equip 6 abilities at a time, I find it easiest to just focus on one stance and ignore a third of her moves at a time. Constantly switching stances might be troublesome, but each stance lasts something like 8 turns if you max out the relevant specialty.
edited 13th Nov '10 11:41:28 PM by Clarste
Three StepsOh, I forgot to mention, Youmu also has the "Slowly Cut" which cuts slowlies, or rather yukkuris. Yukkuris are, in addition the being disgusting things that we should avoid mentioning at all costs, Metal Slimes in this game, having about 6 hit points but taking 1 damage from all attacks and having ridiculous evasion and perfect evasion (which I think ignores hit; sometimes misses are green and Aya has some perfect evasion raising abilities, that's all I know). They drop a 1000 XP each, which is a lot. Slowly Cut, which as the name implies is a slash animation slowed down to a crawl, does 3 damage flat to these guys. Given that they run away before I get an action half the time and that Slowly Cut doesn't have a boosted hit rate, it's not that useful but it's better than nothing. That's the primary reason Youmu's in my party. The secondary reason is that Katanas Are Just Better. Stage 7 the other afterlife And so we find ourselves in Muenzuka, which is... honestly I don't know. The English Touhou fandom seems to ignore it despite it showing up pretty much constantly in Touhou fangames. As far as I can tell it's the place kinda near the Sanzu river which is basically the River Styx in Japanese mythology. Maybe it's the riverbank? It's associated with flowers for some reason. Wikipedia just leads me to the Touhou article. The name translates into something like "Mound of the Nameless Dead". I guess it could also just be the "Nameless Hill", but "muen" seems to connote unmarked graves and no mourners and such. Anyway, in this game it's a dry wasteland looking area covered in red flowers. Oh, and it's also a junkyard filled with tires and refrigerators and such for no explicable reason. The music is a rather nice remix of Higan Retour ~Riverside View. There's no water in sight, so I dunno what this might have to do with the river. It's kind funny since in another fangame it was a poisonous marsh. The enemy field sprites are now hopping umbrella monsters, which makes me think of Kogasa except not. It's just speculation, but I think this game was in development when UFO came out so while it has Byakuren as a playable character it mostly ignores the new stuff. Up to the point I've played to anyway. The enemies themselves are like, robots and stuff. Seriously. We seem to be drifting back to the surreal, and we get tank-turtles with cannons as well as the comeback of the beloved computer chip bugs, which you might remember from stage 3. In addition to their old Error attack that does paralyze, they now have a new Hard Disk Failure attack that does instant death. What fun. Luckily Alice still has her anti-death accessories from Yuyuko, so I can easily run away if I get unlucky. And it's very hard for them to kill Alice when I'm trying to run away. The "big" enemies are still demons so the Godslayer works wonders. Around this level I look closer at the Specialties and realize that Sakuya, who I'd had on Time Stop for the attack power (and a minor in Murder for the hit), would get a ton more attack power in 2H Swords. Like, double the bonus. I'm not sure why I hadn't noticed until now, but mostly I had dismissed it as a tree full of abilities I didn't have enough MP to use. Realizing the error of my ways, I respec her to 2H swords, which gives her A) more attack power, B) a chance to hit twice on a normal attack (which synergizes with her Illusion specialty which increases the multi-hit rate of all attacks), C) a bonus to slayer effects for even more Godslaying, and D) a vertical line attack called Ultimate Division which is basically the only way she can hit more than one target at a time for quite a while. Needless to say this makes random battles easier. The dungeon design is basically a big spiral or circle or something with two floors, the ground floor and an upper ledge. Nearly every entrance or exit to a room has two parallel upper and lower paths running next to each other. So unlike the previous dungeon where figuring out how they connect was the problem, in this one you can also see the other path and the trick is getting up or down a level. Working towards this is the new concept of flippable switches. There have been switches in previous dungeons, but now we have switches that we can hit more than once. In general, hitting a switch will lower and raise spikes such that they open one path while closing another, often on different levels. Luckily it's never a mystery what's being opened or closed so it's just a matter of paying attention and closing paths behind you that you don't need anymore. It's pretty straightforward, although at one point I was temporarily stuck because I didn't realize that I could hit the same switch from two different sides. I use up a lot of MP nowadays. While Marisa can go on forever with her MP regenerating Broom, Patchouli runs out at a decent clip and now Sakuya is actually using her MP sometimes. There are only so many demon-turtle-tank-robot-computers that you can fight before running dry. Many trips back outside were made, and I'm once again thankful for non-respawning enemies. Anyway, soon enough I reach the ominous heal point, and we all know what that means. Cutscene! That I can't read! Komachi, the psychopomp, is taking a nap and, well, we walk up to her. And then some stuff happens and we fight. I skipped through this scene super-fast since I was under the impression that it would be translated shortly, having not paid attention to the dates on the translated youtube videos (which are linked to on the wiki, if you want to see unsummarized versions). So I have not the slightest clue what's going on here, but of course the fight is no surprise. Komachi kills me. Second turn. This fight hearkens back to Alice, who as you may recall was the Wake-Up Call Boss. Like Alice, this one felt hopeless. On the first turn I attacked with everything I had, and she counterattacked with instant death. I still can't revive. So Sakuya is dead from counters (Youmu was changing stances) and the next turn starts with her shooting a ton of money at me which does about 400 damage. I do not have 400 HP, even on Alice. So yeah, instant death in two ways, no hope at all. Worse still, this also happens to be the point where the wiki's walkthrough section becomes rather sparse. As opposed to before, where they broke down the boss's abilities and offered suggested strategies, at this point they sort of suggest that she may have an ability like this, maybe, and by the way here's a way to beat her. With exactly these characters at this level with these abilities in this many turns. In this case all they said was that Komachi's coins probably have something to do with how much damage she takes, maybe, so slow and steady is good (or kill her in three turns using ___). That's not fun. That's not why I play RPGs. I'm not here to blindly imitate people, I'm here to execute my own plans based on my own reasoning. Which, admittedly, was kind of hard when I had no idea what anything did. So I guess I was cheating all this time, and while I'll admit that, this was my first test. It's time to get pushed off the cliff and grow my own wings or whatever. A trial by fire. Against the most dangerous boss I've ever faced. Cue the dramatic music. Honestly, it wasn't that hard. Komachi just isn't that hard. Yeah, I died more than a few times, but I've died more than a few times on most of these bosses. And the hint was actually pretty awesome, so I guess I'm still a cheater. Oh well. First of all I removed Youmu from my party in favor of Patchouli since Sakuya still does more damage and melee is risky when she counterattacks with instant death (and I can't revive). I cast resist up and gave her the anti-death accessory, but Sakuya died 3/4 through anyway. The important thing is of course the coins. Like the hint said, it has something to do with how much damage you do, and thematically I suppose it has to do with karma or the weight of your sins or something. Strictly speaking the coins are her toll for crossing the river after death. Anyway, slow and steady is not the answer, but rather the opposite, quick burst damage. What she does is cast a buff on herself that lasts a turn or two. When she does, stop attacking. All the damage you do to her when she has the buff gets reflected back when it runs out, and if you do no damage the attack is trivial. When she doesn't have the buff, kill her as fast as possible. Pretty simple really. Not the best test of my newfound "actually try myself" technique, but you have to start somewhere. So, with Komachi thwarted we save the day from the mist! Or not. I again fast forwarded through the cutscene but I'm pretty sure the game didn't end here. The party leaves and Komachi lies back down as if nothing happened. I'm pretty sure she had a Snot Bubble. I now have enough obsidian to buy Youmu a katana and respec her into katana mastery as I detailed in the previous post. Next stop is... I have no idea. That's the other side effect of not knowing what's going on. Conveniently enough, a short bit of running around reveals that a conspicuous sunflower field now has a giant banner over it... Edit: This post is the king of typos and for some reason I forgot to edit it until a few hours later.
edited 14th Nov '10 3:50:10 AM by Clarste
Three StepsStage 8 in which I beat the boss on the first try Remember the good old days when I used to die a lot and would report the number of times I picked up the same items over and over again? Welcome back to those days, although I can't predict how many times I'll detail the item-picking-up thing. The sunflower field is a sunflower field. It's... a field and it's got sunflowers in it. It satisfies the necessary conditions of being a sunflower field perfectly. I suppose it's really more of a sunflower maze though, with the sunflowers being the walls. It's pretty short, but kind of hellish. Skipping the enemies for now, the dungeon design is simple but loops back on itself a lot and feels very frustrating to explore because I always feel like I'm leaving behind split-ups (if you've played any older RPG you know what I mean). The main gimmick here is that there are two kinds of flowers blocking some of the paths, red ones and blue ones. There are also some... gas vents? Pollen? I dunno what they are but there are things coming out of the ground that make you blue or red. When you're red the red flowers will wilt around you and when you're blue the blue flowers will wilt. The colors will stick with you through several screens, but the flowers will respawn so you can't necessarily go backwards and you can't just kill all the flowers and forget about them. There's also a colorless gas vent that will wipe any color off of you. But there's a switch that turns it off. Behind a colored flower of course. Puzzle dungeon! I'm sure you can imagine the sorts of things I needed to do, such as running forward through a red path to get a blue color that I needed to take backwards to get another red color closer to the path I needed to open so it wouldn't run out before I got there, but I'm not going to go into too much detail about it. It involved an awful lot of running around, but not too much thinking. It should suffice to say: enemies were respawned. And, oh, the enemies. Field sprites: bees. Theme: bugs, plants, and lizards. Difficulty: priceless. The major theme here is status ailments. Paralysis? The plants to it. Poison? The lizards do it. Petrification? The cockatrices do it. With all targeting attacks. That also do damage. You name it, it can wipe your party. If you're lucky, you'll get a chance to run away. I got into a pretty good rhythm actually. Up-left-box-box-up-right-die. Up-left-box-box-up-right-die. Up-left-box-box-up-right-box-right-die. It was disheartening to say the least. Damn cockatrices. But then I had a revelation. I can use Sanae in random battles. I had taken her out in favor of Patchouli because she has no offensive capabilities, and battles used to be damage races that simply ended faster with more offense, but given the circumstances being able to cure status ailments and more importantly raise resistance seemed like it might be kind of, well, helpful. Because she was specced into buffs for bosses, they got a boost in casting speed and pretty much always went first in battle. Who'd have thought that random battles would take strategy too? Like a divine miracle, it worked. Switching in Sanae let me survive to cockatrices and start actually exploring the dungeon instead of getting the full party petrified on the first turn. While the high of success didn't last long, at least I could get to the aforementioned colored flower puzzle thing and start working on it. And then, after what seemed like hours of struggling in this dungeon, I advance past the last flower and the lizards killed me. I had only been bothering with the resist up spell on the cockatrices. The lizards do poison, which is "just damage". But this was more than a lizard, this was 3 lizards. And they poisoned me. A lot. They must have an absurd amount of induction because this poison did more than half my health per tick. Anyway, I died. So I do the whole puzzle thing again, pick up all the boxes again, and this time cast resist up against the pack of lizards. It turns out that was the last enemy of the last room and the heal point/teleporter was just ahead. I had discovered the exit and turned around to get one last chest when I fought the lizards. Go figure. Anyway, given the theme of this dungeon I figured I'd need status ailment protection on the boss. So I equipped as many resistance or status ailment accessories as I could and left Sanae with all her anti-status spells, as well as giving Youmu an ability that could cleanse herself. And then I entered the boss room. Cutscene time. Invincible flower youkai Yuuka and poisonous doll youkai Medicine are just kind of hanging out talking to each other. Medicine seems confused and Yuuka seems authoritative here, but that's pretty vague. Enter party, minds are read, Yuuka has a sinister smile and begin battle. As predicted, Medicine does lots of all targeting poison attacks while Yuuka mixes physical attacks with all targeting flower attacks. Flower is apparently a physical element because defense up works. Resist up also works on the poison. Now prepared to survive, I focus on Medicine first because she feels weaker, health-wise. No evidence, just a feeling. Poison is also pretty nasty when it hits. It should be noted that I can't handle all-targeting attacks. My strategy relies almost entirely on Alice taking the majority of the damage and Sanae topping her off. That's just how it works. Sanae has a single all-targeting heal spell, but it takes a bomb and has a cooldown, and most importantly I don't have it equipped to make room for all the buffs I need (including attack buffs). So healing happens one person at a time, it just happens to be the case that that one person is usually Alice. Reimu has cheap AOE heals, but I switched her out so neener neener. Let it be known that Marisa is a Squishy Wizard. While one of the accessories I gave Marisa apparently lets her regenerate when the land meter leans towards fire (remember the land meter? fills up with elements and buffs them while weakening the opposite), that's not exactly enough to survive two bosses consistently spamming AOE attacks. So Marisa is dead. That is the premise of this battle. It's here that I devise a bold new strategy: strategy. It's pretty basic, but it served me well in this new world of bosses who just do things all willy-nilly instead of just hitting Alice like a good girl until some gimmick comes into effect. What happens is that Alice spams cover ("London Doll") on Sanae, Sanae alternates between healing Alice and Youmu, and Sakuya heals herself whenever she can with "Soul Sculpture" which is a decently powerful HP drain attack that costs a bomb. By decently powerful I mean it does around 400 damage buffed (equivalent to one of her best attacks) and heals for the same. 400 HP, as you may recall from Komachi, is ridiculously more HP than Sakuya has, so it heals her to full. Luckily Sakuya has a lot of bombs, because when she runs out of bombs she dies. I cannot afford to heal her. Good old self-sufficient Sakuya. Anyway, I survive. And as well all know, the trick to beating any boss is to die after it does. It's not a particularly long fight or anything, but after Medicine falls it's just a matter of patience. Yuuka was strong, but not strong enough. And I beat a boss on the first try, the first time since Sakuya and Patchouli. It feels good, but also somewhat hollow. That was a pretty boring boss, come to think of it. They talk and we leave. Next stop, Eientei, the House of Eternity. Just because, I dunno why. Because this one is probably shorter than the next one, I'll add this here. At this point I had read ahead slightly and discovered that the next dungeon would split my party into 2 full groups. Frankly, I think this is awesome since leaving people unused doesn't sit right with me but more importantly I only have 10 party members at this point so the 6th commander slot would be wasted. I had expected to get Mokou or Byakuren at some point in the story so I didn't recruit them early, but after 2 dungeons of no new characters I was starting to get worried. Had I misinterpreted it and I did in fact need to recruit them manually? More importantly, was I willing to go into the next dungeon with 2 incomplete parties? So, sadly, I recruited them. In case you don't want to refer back to the earlier post on the subject, this involves leaving the game on for an hour and entering the Konami code into a forest. They are both level 1, but have a decent power level and won't say anything until the proper place in the plot. As it turns out, the proper place in the plot for Mokou is the beginning of the next dungeon, rendering the secret early recruitment thing pointless, but hey, that's how I roll. I have no idea how Mokou is supposed to join the party, but she talks when I enter Eientei. That's a story for the next post though. And honestly, I don't think I could've beaten the boss without Byakuren anyway. Mokou
edited 14th Nov '10 2:47:00 AM by Clarste
THE MEEKCaught up! I'm torn between really wanting to play this game and being kinda intimidated. It looks very well-designed, if very, very complex. And the writing seems very Touhou-like in a good way. The liveblog is pretty fun, too. It's a long read, but it's pretty interesting and occasionally funny.
SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH
occasionally funnyOh, whew. That's reassuring.
THE MEEKAnd I'm not easily amused, either! Sort of.
edited 14th Nov '10 2:40:26 PM by Fawriel
SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH
Three StepsStage 9 we've entered an endless recursion of corridor First of all, new weapon recipes. I suppose this happens every other stage but I'm just constantly checking. Now, technically I can't buy them right now because I need an ingredient that I'll get in the next stage, but in the interest of not interrupting the dungeon section I'll just act like I have it now. I run into a problem, or rather notice a potential future problem. The way this crafting system works is that, for weapons anyway, there are three categories of ingredients. First of all, there's a character specific ingredient. Silver trays for Sakuya, shed snakeskins for Sanae, bird feathers for Aya, etc. Second of all there's a semi-generic ingredient that's shared between a few characters. Obsidian for Sakuya and Youmu, pickling stones for Marisa and... sorry I don't actually pay attention to anything but obsidian. There are about 3-4 of these items divided evenly among the 12 characters, so they're shared by 3-4 characters each. Last of all there's the "level" ingredient that changes for each tier of equipment. It's pretty common, but you have to go to higher level stages to get it. That's why I can't make new weapons until I enter the next dungeon. Anyway, I previously lamented my lack of obsidian, but this time I notice that I don't have very many silver trays for Sakuya. In fact, it's taking more and more of them each time and I don't actually have enough for the third tier weapons. Combined with the lack of obsidian from Youmu, I'm pretty sure I don't have enough resources to upgrade weapons every time. So I decide to start rationing it. No need to go gung-ho on weapons, I'll just get them every other tier. In the meantime I can upgrade some other people's weapons who I've been skipping. So I get Aya and Sanae a new fan and snake respectively. On that note, apparently Sanae also uses obsidian, although I realize that afterwards. /facepalm Finally I enter the dungeon. Eientei is a large Japanese style mansion hidden in a bamboo forest. So tatami mat floors, paper walls with wooden frames, and lots of sliding doors. The party, now accompanied by Mokou for some reason, enters with no problem but immediately encounters a split up in the entrance. Unlike the last three billion split ups, its decided that we need to split into two parties, despite the fact that it's actually a three way split up if you look closely. I suppose it's plausible that there's some magical reason for this, but whatever. In splitting the parties, I decided that the obvious thing to do was put half my high leveled people on one side and the other half on the other. For party A, hereafter referred to as the Alice team, I decided to put both my tank and my Squishy Wizards in the same group because Alice can actually taunt the enemies. To round out the front row fighter slots I put Nitori and Reimu (doubling as healer). Satori fills in the commander slot because honestly I'm not sure what I'd do with her in battle. For party B, hereafter referred to as the Youmu team, I decided that since we had no actual tank I should have as many high level people in the front rows as possible, to give them a chance to survive. Youmu takes the tank slot because she has the second most defense, with Sakuya and a newly respecced attack-Sanae in the front rows (that's one of the reasons Sanae has a new weapon). Aya and Byakuren fill in the back row, with Mokou as commander because a level 1 tank is no tank at all. Because the party is split up, we can't have actual cutscene conversations because there are too many permutations for the writers. Only the team leader talks, and I assume they have fairly generic dialog. To make up for that, we're treated to a cutscene of the enemies' perspective immediately. This time I'm pretty sure it's not a boss fight, and I actually try to read it this time. It's probably wrong. Kaguya, the spoiled and whimsical moon princess, is sitting on the floor at a table, reading a newspaper. Her loyal servant/manager Eirin is also in the room, pacing back and forth. Apparently the newspaper is the Bunbunmaru, self-published by Aya, and Kaguya's reading up on our exploits. Huh. I guess Aya was actually reporting all this time. Anyway, the newspaper makes it clear that Eientei is our next target, and Eirin is thinking about how to deal with this while Kaguya doesn't seem to care much. Coming to a decision, Eirin summons her two rabbit servants, Moon rabbit Reisen and Earth rabbit Tewi. "Go guard the entrances!" "Yes ma'am!" "No way~". Hmm, it's somewhat annoying to convey this in prose, but there's a pattern here where Reisen and Tewi will respond at the same time with opposite responses. It doesn't work when I type it out sequentially like that, so I guess I'm going to have to tell and not show. Reisen is the dutiful former soldier, while Tewi is a relaxed prankster who does what she wants when she wants, in case it wasn't clear who answered what. Tewi's apparent dereliction of duty flusters Reisen, who seems to believe it will reflect badly on her, and indeed Kaguya cannot tell the difference between her pet rabbits. Eirin though is used to working with Tewi and cuts her some sort of special deal which gets her to agree reluctantly. This whole process flusters Reisen even more. Anyway, they head off to their guard duty with a "Right away!" and a "Yeah, yeah" while Kaguya either notes to herself or hopes that they will fail to stop the Hakurei maiden. Eirin doesn't believe that it's dealt with yet either. Back to the dungeon, I find myself in control of the Alice team. There's a designated button for switching teams that I've never pressed before, so I test it out and it works. Somewhat annoyingly, I can no longer change equipment or rearrange my party order, presumably because the menus were programmed to act as if you had your full party with you. It also averts the oddness of the shared inventory between the two parties, but I'd prefer convenience to realism. Heading back to the entrance to examine the third path, it turn out it's just an empty room with a not yet active teleporter. And I can't go back the way I came from: I just run into an invisible wall. Apparently returning to the entrance room recombines my parties and the dungeon itself cannot be accessed by a combined party. There's a floating hint book thing, which I haven't seen since the first few stages, and talking to that takes me to the party splitting interface again. So I just quickly reassemble the same teams. I decide to just stick with the Alice team first until I reach an obstacle which the other team needs to clear for me or something, which ends up happening exactly once. On the Alice team side, the enemy field sprites are rabbit-girls that look somewhat like a color-swapped Tewi. Very shortly, we end up leaving the mansion and entering the bamboo forest where most of this side of the dungeon takes place. Much like stage 3, it's a dark forest with paths hidden by leaves, but we also routinely return to the edge of mansion, where paths are hidden by the overhanging roof. It's pretty easy to guess where they are though. The enemies are rabbits with weapons, bugs and plants and such. Most of them are vulnerable to either fire or lightning, and what do you know we have Marisa, Patchouli and Nitori on the same team, who as you may recall are the elemental attackers of the party. I gave Nitori some random sword that I found in a box at some point, and was disappointed when she didn't seem to have an animation for it as she pulls out some large gun-like thing. Then it turns out she has a giant swiss army knife and the sword comes out of it. Anyway, as you may recall Nitori has these abilities called "Chasers" which let her follow up other elemental attacks with her own. So Patchouli would cast an all-targeting fire spell and then Nitori would hit all of those targets again with her own fire attack. Marisa could clean up with her powerful single-target spells. So this place was pretty easy, although I had some MP problems. After a bit of running around I find a pressure plate next to a teleporter with a mirrored set-up on the other side of the wall. Common sense says the teleporters turn on when both switches are hit at the same time so I switch over to the Youmu team. Unlike the Alice team which went outside into the forest, the Youmu team goes deeper into the mansion. It's composed of long hallways lined with doors that lead to small rooms. Most of the hallways go in large rectangles surrounding a room-block, but a lot of the paths are blocked off so you have to go into the rooms. The rooms themselves are laid out in a grid, but have either secret or obvious passages between them. Reminds me of stage 5, but less annoying. What is annoying is the sense of leaving behind split-ups. The enemy set is completely different here, composed of crocodiles, demon things, and walls. Not stone walls, but Japanese paper walls. Just sitting there on their own, taking reduced damage. In a stroke of accidental brilliance, this side is weak against physical attacks. I just completely randomly split up my party in a useful way. Youmu tanks, but she also counterattacks while entering a stance, so that's pretty useful, Aya's a bit low level but she can still hurt things a bit, and Byakuren does not pull her weight. She runs out of MP almost instantly, and I can't switch Mokou in because I can't change my party order. The real surprise, to me anyway, is Sanae. As mentioned, I respecced her into attacking for this section. In her case, that means putting a bunch of points into Snakes and whatever's left into Youkai Extermination, which gives her attack power. If you were paying far too close attention and remembered all this stuff from the first post, there's an interesting combination that has been foreshadowed but I didn't notice until now. Sanae is not a fighter. She's a healer and a buffer. Her STR isn't too high and her weapons aren't awesome. However, all her special attacks are based on her physical attack instead of her magic. I just dismissed this as strange quirk of hers. However. Putting points into Snakes makes her drain MP with her normal attacks. That's not so weird on its own, so does Marisa, it's just a way for her to recover MP when she's out, right? It's not like she has much attack power. Wrong. She drains MP with her special attacks because they're physical. Her physical attacks have huge areas of effect, as well as some of the more uncommon elements like earth. She can spam her best moves and because they hit so many targets she drains more MP from them than she uses. As the cherry on top, her weapon causes paralysis randomly and applies that chance to all the targets of her physical attacks. So while she may not be particularly strong, she hits every every enemy on the field every turn with a chance of paralysis. Now I know what it's like to be the Mind Flayer. Why did I have her in the commander slot all this time...? Anyway, the enemies here are basically no problem with this new strategy, other than the walls which are resistant to physical elements (slash, bludgeoning, piercing) and rarely cause death with their attacks. Sakuya's 2H sword bonus pierces slash resistance though, and Youmu can just randomly kill them. Moving back to the dungeon itself, I accidentally take a correct turn and run past every single dead end and treasure chest, as well as the switch my other party is waiting for, and end up in the Endless Corridor. As the name implies, it's endless. You can just keep running in one direction forever, and there are infinite doors lining both sides at regular intervals. Going through one of these doors takes you to a room with four exits, NE, NW, SE, and SW. Every one of these exits takes you back to the same corridor. There are no enemies here, just one corridor and a lot of doors. Well, what I said above isn't quite true. I believe every third door or so take you to a different room, with only two exits. The south exit takes you back to the corridor and the north exit takes you to the "resting room" or something which has a treasure chest, a bed that does nothing, and a hint book. The hint book gives me some slightly complicated Japanese text that I assume is the riddle that I need to solve to get out of here. Except I can't read it. So I'm stuck here, in an infinite room puzzle, with a clue that I can't read. I can't even get out to save. I flail about randomly for a bit but end up getting nowhere, and it seems pointless to continue. So I just leave the game on and take a break. During this break I scour the Internets for a clue, but alas this game is not exactly a popular subject of conversation. I find one post asking about it, but it's also edited with a "nevermind, I figured it out" and no one bothers to respond. Real helpful, thanks. So I put the game on hold and do some other stuff. I got quite a few rare-ish material drops so I'm very reluctant to quit the game. I leave it open in the background and do whatever for a few hours. Later, someone comes into the room (in real life, not in the game) and, wanting to show off my frustration, I start running around randomly for a while to demonstrate the hopelessness. And in perfect narrative logic, I get out during this demonstration. See, all it takes is a healthy dose of irony, and we can solve any problem. In case anyone actually wants to play this game later, the actual solution is to keep running through the same door over and over again (it's aligned such that if you hold the "down" direction you'll go through a loop of corridor-room-corridor-room for a while). I'm guessing the hint said something about being persistent, but don't quote me on that. Anyway, newly freed from my prison, I find my way back to the entrance and save. Glorious, glorious saving. After getting Alice team back to the switch, I start exploring with Youmu again and clear out the dungeon. Turns out the switch activates a teleporter which is roughly the halfway point in the dungeon. The Endless Corridor is at the end of the dungeon. I just randomly ran past the whole thing. I have to go back into the Endless Corridor to get to the exit of the dungeon (as opposed to being spat back out at the entrance), but it's a simple matter of running repeatedly through the other door. So, double ominous heal points, check and check. Both parties have to move into the boss room before the scene starts. Well, it's not much of a scene really. Since no can talk because of the freedom of character choice, it's really just Team Alice walking up to Tewi in the forest and fighting her. The gimmick here is sequential battles rather than a duo of bosses but that doesn't matter yet because Tewi kills me. Tewi is kind of a weird boss. She seems to have roughly three attacks, an all-targeting physical attack with about a 50% hit rate, an all-targeting sleep spell with a slightly lower hit rate, and an all-targeting laser attack that does massive damage (ie: instant death) to anyone who's asleep and misses everyone else. Oh, and she can buff her own Induction stat. The trick is of course to cure or prevent sleep while simply surviving the random physical attack. However, you may note that my party is full of Squishy Wizards and low level people so even the non-instant death attack can be instant death. To beat her, I switch my parties around a bit. I switch Reimu and Sanae for defense, evasion, and resistance buffs as well as the ability to cure sleep and switch Youmu and Alice because I don't really need a tank against Tewi. Also, Sanae can revive now, yay! I also need to put her back into support mode, which involves both reassigning power and changing pretty much her entire move set, which is kind of annoying. The fight's fundamentally pretty random, but it was won. Consistently, because if I lose the next one I have to do Tewi all over again. Youmu proccing a double attack on her Last Spell made me once again appreciate how awesome she is. The next fight is Reisen. She uses area of effect physical attacks that have a chance of applying berserk or sleep, as well as some party-wide attacks. She's really quite troublesome, especially after Tewi, but there are three keys to how I won: formation, Reimu's AOE heals, and Byakuren's debuffs. First of all make sure that the people around Alice can survive a hit or two, ie: not Byakuren who will die instantly because she's both low level and pretty fragile in the first place. Those people will take the bulk of the damage which will be both instantly healed and wake them up from sleep. Berserk doesn't necessarily need to be cured. Byakuren, as you may recall, has both single-targeting buffs and debuffs. Casting attack-down on Reisen makes her do negligible damage, and when combined with defense up it actually becomes 0 damage. I'm pretty sure that's the only reason I won, but it's trickier than it sounds because bosses have quite a lot of resistance and Byakuren's spells have cooldowns. So I needed to stack her with induction (stolen from Youmu) and cast induction-up on herself before I even had a hope of getting attack-down working. After several attempts it worked out but the fight wasn't pretty. Both Tewi and Reisen fall with little fanfare, again due to the lack of character-specific dialog. Team Alice (led by Youmu) and Team Youmu (led by Alice) somehow meet up again deeper in the mansion, but that's the beginning of the next stage.
edited 14th Nov '10 9:15:33 PM by Clarste
Three StepsAlice does everything with her dolls. Her dolls hold her weapons, she block with her dolls, etc. I think it's supposed to be assumed that they're taking all the damage for her. Further evidence of this s that when she does a doll sacrifice attack she herself takes damage. I think all her hit points are dolls. Byakuren... well I haven't used her much. She's still just really low level. She does wear light armor though. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the armor types. Eh, it's not important.
edited 14th Nov '10 10:27:34 PM by Clarste
Three StepsI just had the bizarre realization that it's possible for me to post screenshots. I'm not sure why I didn't think of this before. I guess I'm not really a picture kind of person. Here's◊ the title screen. That's also the art style for the cut in images for the Last Words, which I was too lazy to wait for. The file select screen.◊ The empty ones say "from the beginning". Yes, that's my current level from a few stages ahead, and yes I've been playing for 37 hours although I've left it running a few times. Here's◊ the world map. Not much of interest. Alice is the field character because she's in the first battle slot. This◊ is the edge of it along with the entrance to the Netherworld, and this◊ is one of those floating banners I've mentioned a few times. We're going back to the Forest of Magic next. This◊ is the menu screen, home of my greatest defeats and greatest successes. Come to think of it, I have no idea what the stuff in the top right means. The flag is Reimu and my something is something type. This◊ is Youmu's status page and this ◊ is Byakuren's specialty page. You can also allocate points into base stats but I never do. This◊ is what battles look like, or at least the menu part. Note the emblem with the swords and all that. Most of Youmu's abilities are grayed out. This◊ is Sanae attacking, although it's not the best moment to take a snapshot. Note Sakuya's ridiculously huge sword that she pulled out of nowhere. This◊ is Sakuya casting a spellcard and the accompanying border stuff. I think she stole that pose from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Finally, this◊ is the post-battle experience screen. I'm getting small amounts because I'm much too high level for this area. Speaking of which, in case you were wondering those battles were set in the Netherworld. This◊ is the upper heavenly level while this◊ is the lower level. Lastly, this◊ is the entrance to Eientei with the stage introduction and music still on the screen. The floating book separates my party and the blue thing is a teleporter to the next area. I'm guessing the next posts will include screenshots to set the stage. But maybe not.
Three StepsOh my, I just realized that I have access to an enemy list on my menu. I can open up the Bunbunmaru and it's got enemy and item lists and stuff. Yeah, that's basically how much I know about this game. So I'm gonna show you all the old bosses. I suppose you could also interpret their stats and tell me how much of an idiot I was when I fought them. Meiling does have a name!◊ Sakuya◊ and Patchouli◊ Remilia◊ and Nitori◊ Alice◊ Orin◊ and Okuu◊ (that's how they write her name here) Satori◊ Youmu◊ and Yuyuko◊ Komachi◊ Medicine◊ and Yuuka◊ Finally: Tewi◊ and Udonge◊, I mean Reisen. Again, that's how she's listed.
edited 14th Nov '10 11:52:23 PM by Clarste
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