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Let's Play a random Touhou RPG
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Let's Play a random Touhou RPG:

 76 Clarste, Sun, 21st Nov '10 11:17:58 PM Relationship Status: Non-Canon
Three Steps
Stage 18 romance of the three dungeons

Picking up immediately where we left off, the party enters the long awaited Lakebed Temple. Marisa is startled by the fact that there's suddenly air, and Nitori notes that the building isn't even airtight, so she's curious about the trick. Sanae lampshades the fact that being underwater wasn't a problem last stage, although apparently their voices sounded funny. Reimu thinks it doesn't matter why, as long as we can move as if we're on land, since she doesn't want to fight the gods with a handicap. Then she starts laughing to herself evilly. Yeah, Reimu has an "interesting" personality in this game.

Byakuren wonders if they're actually inside in the temple now, because although the style looks roughly the same as outside it's a lot bigger than they thought it would be. This starts a little conversation about how impressive it is. However, Patchouli notes that because it's so big it'll take a long time to search for the culprit, so we might as well get started. Reimu is eager to latch onto an excuse to get moving, as always.

Walking forward slightly, we see that the only path forward is blocked by water, which is now an impassible barrier for some reason. Byakuren notices a sign off to the left, and walks over to read it. The gist is that we're not allowed to proceed as one group. There are three switches in front of the water (labeled with the Caduceus for some reason), and when all three are pressed at the same time, three paths will open up. So we'll have to split into three teams. Yay! I was really looking forward to this again! Except, three teams? Don't we have only 12 people?

Anyway, Patchouli thinks this is obviously a trap, and Sanae agrees but points out that there's no other way forward. Reimu's response is obvious: "traps or whatever, we'll just force our way through!" It's decided that we'll go with this simple plan, so party splitting time! After we do so, three bridges of light appear across the water and the three teams cross them before I get control again.

Quite frankly, this dungeon is really really hard. First of all, we split into 3 groups of four, which means smaller parties than usual. I suppose that's why 4 person formations exist. Second of all, most of my party is underleveled, as defined by getting bonus experience from monsters. Level 50 seems to be par here, and most of my girls are 10 levels too low. Last of all, and as a result of the previous point, most of my party cannot take a hit. I have 3 tanks, Alice, Mokou and Youmu, and other than that only Sakuya has enough armor and health to take more than a hit or two. Everyone else is a squishy mage of some degree or other.

Furthermore, the enemies aren't going easy on you. Despite the fundamental limitations of your parties and the fact that there are different enemy sets on each route, the game has no problem throwing Cockatrices on one route and Mind Flayers on another, making me wish I had two Sanaes. Or having a route primarily vulnerable to Light and Darkness and then throwing a giant robot immune to everything but lightning at you. You need well balanced teams that can handle almost anything thrown at them with only 4 people. Well, not quite, you need exactly the right balance for each route, which can only be discovered by trial and error. It takes a lot of tweaking, most of which I can't remember.

Visually, all three routes are the same and indeed they cross paths quite often. Some rooms are underwater, and some rooms aren't, but there doesn't seem to be any distinction between them. Most of the rooms are divided into upper and lower levels, and generally one team's route will take them on one level while another is stuck on the other levels. Paths are often blocked by giant floating crystals for some reason, but it's not like there's anything on the other side, it's just a fancy looking wall. There are switches that open and close paths for other teams, and switches that need to be pressed simultaneously to advance. Basically, everything I expected from the last time this happened back in Eientei (stage 9), except it didn't there. The enemy field sprites are now turtles.

About halfway through the dungeon, there's a cutscene showing what the Gorgon sisters are up to, but it's not too important. Genjii reports his failure, again, and the Hakurei Miko has now infiltrated the temple. Lithos is shocked, but decides to leave it up to the last three servants who are now the final line of defense. I'm sorry Lithos, but always assuming that your next plan is sure to thwart the heroes when the last few failed spectacularly is the sign of a dangerously Genre Blind villain. Anyway, I'll treat the paths as separate sections.

Path A

For this team, my logic is "squishy wizards + the best tank". I put Alice, Marisa and Patchouli in here, with Nitori to round it out and provide some potential for physical damage. This turns out to actually be a pretty good party here, because most of the enemies are weak against magic and/or have strong elemental weaknesses. Unfortunately, they also have strong elemental attacks and both Nitori and Patchouli are vulnerable to fire right now. Fighting fire elementals (Dragon Souls, technically) and firebreathing Orthrus led to much death, but Alice is good at retreating. In Nitori's case, this is not because of an accessory but rather because of her character. She's just naturally weak against fire and strong against water, but accessories can fix that. Too bad I can't change accessories in the middle of a split-party dungeon. So I exit and reenter with the proper resistance.

Adding to my woes in this area are the dragons. First there's the Lamia, which is strong against all elements and casts charm, annoyingly enough. I barely manage to kill one, but in the future I just run away from them and avoid them. There's also the "Rokomo Dragon". I can't tell what Rokomo is supposed to be, but they're certainly dragons. They can can kill two people a turn (other than Alice of course) and they have some move where they breathe in menacingly. I've never seen what happens next, and I don't care to. They're also strong against all elements, so I just run from them. Note that running from an enemy leaves it on the field, so this strategy is doomed from the beginning.

Rounding out my troubles are some bird thing that spits light at me and Medea. Medea, who happens to look exactly like Caster from Fate/stay night, isn't much of a problem because of her lack of HP, but Alice's elemental guard doesn't work against light, and the birds have tons of evasion so Nitori can't hit them (her fire resistance replaced her hit accessory ;_;). Eventually I figure out that they're weak against lightning, but it took several battles to figure out this unintuitive fact.

Eventually I replace Nitori with Sakuya for the dragonslaying and Alice with Mokou because Alice is needed elsewhere. Given that Mokou isn't much of a tank because of her level and lack of taunting, the new paradigm for team A is kill them before they kill us. I also forgot to give them a healer. Oops. Better kill them even faster then. Mokou is actually a surprisingly good fighter when specced into it, although she has very few bombs, but Sakuya makes up for it by spamming "Perfect Killing Doll" every battle. This ability hits a random number of enemies 1-4 times each, so it's a good way to start battles to thin the herds.

Path B

Going down the list of tanks in my head, I gave this path to Youmu. Since Youmu is the most offensively powerful of the tanks, I back her up with support-type characters: Sanae, Aya and Satori. Sanae keeps us alive while hitting things when she can, Satori poisons everything, and Aya is useless. Maybe she just needs a better weapon, but she seems really weak now. Weaker than Mokou. Heck, she might have been more useful in the commander slot, come to think of it.

Anyway, it's a good thing I brought Youmu, because she carries this path on her own. The first enemies I encounter are Void elementals, who are immune to all magic and ailments, but weak against slashing. I think you can imagine where that goes. That's the basic trend of most of the enemies here: weak or neutral to physical and strong against elemental attacks. Which would make Aya an awesome addition if she could actually hurt anything. I'm actually quite confused by how weak she is.

Luckily poison works on everything, and now ticks for 500 because of Satori having more Induction accessories. Except for some reason it ticks for 460 if I cast a resistance buff first, which really confuses me. This makes Satori one of my best random battle damage dealers, although she's bad at focusing down priority targets. At some point I switch Satori with Byakuren because I really want to scan the enemies in another path, but I switch her back soon enough because everything's also strong against light and dark here, so Byakuren is useless.

Other than the Void elementals this place also has chimeras, computer chips, some... elephant-faced thing (?) and Mind Flayers. They're not actually Mind Flayers, being squid-devils, but they have squids for faces and use Mind Blast so they kill me like Mind Flayers. Like everything else, they die to the sword, but I'm really glad I have Sanae here. This actually ends up being the easiest route, all thanks to Youmu, Sanae and Satori.

Path C

This is actually the hardest path, although that may be because it ends up with leftovers. Hey, it's hard to organize three parties in your head, and by the time I got here there wasn't much left. Mokou is the tank, Sakuya is the fighter, Reimu is the healer, and Byakuren is the other healer who I put in the same party for some reason. I mean, Byakuren nukes, and casts elemental weapon buffs on Sakuya.

Honestly, it's not a bad party, in theory. Sakuya is strong, Mokou is strong, and the enemies here are often vulnerable to light so Reimu and Byakuren can do lots of damage with light magic. Actually, I think Reimu is the MVP here, in a gross turnaround from last time. I'm not sure what the problem was last stage.

The problem with this path is the enemies. I'll start with the worst: the slime. It's immune to physical elements (slashing, blunt, piercing), has lots of life, and drains with its physical attack. While I can kill them decently fast with a fire enchant from Byakuren, they hit really hard and drain three times as much as they do. So while I'm dying they don't lose much health. If they decide to spare me from the drain, they do an all targeting psychic attack that does confuse, which gives the character a quite high random chance to fail to use spells or abilities. So basically its blind and silence combined, except not-really mitigated by a small chance to get your ability through.

Backing them up are cockatrices, who will randomly petrify the whole party. Remember that? From stage 8? Except now Sanae is in a different party so I'll have to deal with them without a resist buff. Reimu has a spellcard that makes the party immune to ailments for a turn, but it costs a bomb so it's not like I can use it every turn. So these guys are quite a problem, despite being vulnerable to light. At this point my only hope is to kill them really fast and pray, although luckily they seem to have much less induction than their predecessors.

The nail in the coffin though are the minotaurs. They just kill me, with single target physical damage. Mokou is no tank at all when she's being chopped in half by an axe. It's at this point I decide that I need Alice and implement the aforementioned character swap with Team A. Alice provides a solution to all my problems. She can taunt the slimes to reduce their healing by reducing the damage taken (she also has abilities that reduce damage to herself), she can protect Reimu from petrify by covering her and having high resistance herself from accessories, allowing Reimu to cure whoever gets hit, and she can tank the minotaurs and actually survive. Go Alice!

Unfortunately, Alice can't actually kill things, and I just swapped out Sakuya too since Team A had a dragon problem. While neither Nitori nor Byakuren nor Reimu are particularly weak, they're not that strong either. Indeed this entire party fits into the "underleveled" category, as not one is getting normal experience from this dungeon. However, Alice is here to save the day and with two healers the best offense is a good defense. I still run away from slimes if there's more than one though.

Just when I get comfortable with this haphazard team, they throw a wrench at me. As mentioned, giant robots! They actually look like Gundams this time, and they're immune to light. I can very slowly kill them with Nitori's lightning attacks alone, but the robots aren't exactly weak offensively either, so I have to treat them like boss battles. Pair them with a slime and no thanks. Luckily I managed to not get trapped by that one.

Overall

Splitting your party is harder than it sounds. While I also had to do it before, I had the option of putting less useful seeming party members in the commander slot where they can get experience without doing anything. This time, I actually have to use every character, and the enemies weren't going easy on me while I did so. While it was sometimes frustrating and I certainly died or ran back to the beginning an awful lot, enough to respawn the enemies at least twice, it was ultimately rewarding to use everyone to their best potential. Except Aya.

My saving grace though was that for two of the three paths, the endpoint with the ominous heal point was reached halfway through the dungeon. It's just that the door forward was block by three switches that needed to be hit at the same time. So these two parties (B and C) had the luxury of fighting next to a heal point, which means bomb spamming time! It's surprising how quickly you can use up your resources when you're not attempting to conserve them at all though.

Anyway, boss time! I think that'll be another post.

edited 21st Nov '10 11:30:27 PM by Clarste

 77 Fawriel, Mon, 22nd Nov '10 12:17:27 AM from the bottom of my heart Relationship Status: If it's you, it's okay
dead but happy
Aww, poor Aya. Maybe there's some trick to making her rock... Not that I would have any idea.

I'll definitely be grinding a good bit when(if) I play this game, at least enough to not have people constantly dying. I'm used to playing easier RPGs where getting a Game Over means you really fucked up, so I always feel pretty bad when that happens.

PS: My god Clarste used an emoticon.
in spite of it all
 78 Clarste, Mon, 22nd Nov '10 1:37:33 AM Relationship Status: Non-Canon
Three Steps
Maybe Lithos isn't quite so Genre Blind, because these bosses kill me. A lot. I referred to this obliquely in non-blog posts, but I was seriously considering quitting the game after dying over and over again. As you might expect, it's a sequential boss battle with three different bosses using three different parties. The first boss killed me about 20 times, and on the 21st time when I got to the second boss she killed me on the second turn. I couldn't replicate this miracle. It seemed cheap and unfair, but that's just because I made a simple mistake in my assumptions. I'll get to that later, first I'll cover each boss' cutscene and nature in a separate section before I get to the solution.

Boss A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boss B

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

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

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

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

Boss C

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Solution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

edited 22nd Nov '10 2:05:31 AM by Clarste

 79 Clarste, Mon, 22nd Nov '10 2:14:40 AM Relationship Status: Non-Canon
Three Steps
Lastly, Dungeon images. This stage has been divided into three posts because it's three times as long, honestly.

This is basically a corridor with water. Look well preserved I guess. This is the second level looking down. This party can never reach the bottom floor. This is team B's starting room, quite relaxing with the pool. The teleporter takes us to the pre-boss room, but it's not on yet.

This is an underwater section and a floating crystal. I didn't know what to make of it so I took a picture. This is me controlling team B and looking at team A standing on a switch. This is immediately before the boss. Mokou's already standing inside the door waiting for everyone else to get in position so the cutscene can start.

There are a ton of enemies in this stage. I gave up taking pictures halfway through, because they were killing me and I already had a ton of pictures. It does amuse me that I had exactly enough for that one sentence though. I did not have to stage that, it just happened as I was typing it.

This is a preview of the next area, which I had to run through to turn on the teleporter. Lots of doofy ghosts.

Here's the whole gallery, although it's not much more than I posted. I have more than 200 pictures on my computer though, despite the many times I forgot to take them.

edited 22nd Nov '10 2:17:56 AM by Clarste

 80 Fawriel, Mon, 22nd Nov '10 2:39:49 AM from the bottom of my heart Relationship Status: If it's you, it's okay
dead but happy
This game is pretty unrelenting. I'm glad that you still managed to beat those guys. That would be a Bad Ending to a great LP.

Gotta say, I'm not too fond of the monsters. They seem pretty random, and the art style doesn't mesh well with the rest of the graphics.

And of course, no one is surprised that Mokou is a badass.

It does amuse me that I had exactly enough for that one sentence though. I did not have to stage that, it just happened as I was typing it.
That's lovely.
in spite of it all
 81 Clarste, Mon, 22nd Nov '10 2:48:32 AM Relationship Status: Non-Canon
Three Steps
The enemies are pretty random. The style is pretty clearly meant to resemble the old SNES Final Fantasy games though. There are a few with a more anime-ish style though, like the Lamia from that set.

 82 Clarste, Tue, 23rd Nov '10 6:33:15 PM Relationship Status: Non-Canon
Three Steps
Well, that was fast. The next stage is really short.

Stage 19 in which we run away a lot

Although this stage, known simply as the Lakebed Temple Depths, is very short, it's also really really hard. It has the same tileset as last time, and it filled to the brim with enemies. Literally. The enemy density is at least four times higher than it normally is, and it's not unusual to fight 3 or more battles trying to move a single step. The theme here is wading through enemies. There are no treasure boxes or puzzles, just enemies.

The enemy set is mostly the same as last time, but that's actually the problem. As you may recall, the previous stage was divided into three sections each with their own troublesome enemy that mandated specific ways to deal with them. This time, all three sets have merged into one super-set, that it exponentially more troublesome because of its variety. While I do have access to a 5 person party this time, the enemy group sizes have scaled up appropriately and honestly 5 doesn't seem like enough.

I need to deal with dragons resistant to everything but the dragonslayer, mind flayers spamming and blast and strong against everything but slashing, robots immune to everything but lightning, slimes that drain, elementals that I need elemental damage for, light and dark and poison oh my. Basically I need a 5 person party that can deal with everything at once, as opposed to a 4 person party that can deal with whatever subset they had to.

As you might expect, Aya lacks a place on such a team. I don't have the materials for a new weapon for her, so I don't know how her damage would play out, but either way she's just not particularly versatile. She can't do elemental attacks or burst damage. Upon examining her moveset again, I note that she can actually do physical attacks that cause status ailments. When given the induction accessories, her poison ticks for 450, which isn't bad, but it's single-targeting and has a chance of failure, so if I wanted poison I'd definitely take Satori. Aya can do blind though, which seemed unreliable here but could be useful elsewhere. I don't believe anyone else can do blind at all. Aya also has petrify, as well as a few abilities that aren't on the wiki (added in a later patch?)and could theoretically be awesome I guess.

Anyway, I decide to go with the tried and true here, settling on Youmu, Sanae, Sakuya, Marisa and Patchouli. Except... they can't deal light or dark damage very effectively so I so swap Patchouli for Byakuren. Byakuren ends up spending most of her time buffing Sakuya with attack power or elemental damage, which ends up working quite well. The groups of 5 Mind Flayers prove quite troublesome, since they're basically immune to magic and I only have 2 physical fighters, but an attack buffed Sakuya with Transcendent (?) slayer can quickly finish them off, if I get lucky.

On that note, I have no idea what the transcendent category is supposed to be. It includes Devils like succubi and Remilia, but also youkai Magicians like Alice and Patchouli. As well as some ghosts and stuff. Just looking at the bosses and the name the only thing that makes sense to me is "used to be human" but ultimately I think of it as the "other" category. So Sakuya's new sword is the Etc-slayer.

Compounding the problem are the new enemies, which are all large single enemy archetypes. 2 out of 3 of them are no real problem, but the last, the Greater Demon, is unbeatable. It has ridiculous magic resistance and is strong against everything but light. Even setting up a party designed entirely to kill it fails. So i just run away. This becomes a recurring theme: me being chased by unbeatable enemies. Luckily, after running away you cannot trigger a battle with that enemy again for a few seconds, so it's often possible to slip by them. I get quite skilled dodging enemies here.

That's... about it. As I said, there are three rooms. You start in the center room, to the right is another room with a key, to the left is a locked door. The final room, past the door, is a small maze with nothing in it but enemies. Luckily, since everything is so close to the beginning, I can run back to the heal point every other battle while I slowly exterminate the infestation (or run away from everything). Honestly, I think this place exists for you to grind levels or something, but I can't see much other point to it. It is sort of a gauntlet, but I soon clear just enough to run past everything.

Upon entering the third room, I'm treated to a mid-dungeon cutscene. We see the three sisters in their throne room, somehow "feeling" that the three servants have been defeated, a generic turtle servant, who is not in fact Genjii and is actually probably the one who has been reporting everything all this time, come in the report such, but Lithos finishes his sentence for him and he stutters a bit before asking for the new orders. Lithos just says "strengthen the defenses!" and off he goes.

Bio points out that given what's happened up til now that's almost certainly not going to stop the Miko, so what should we do? Lithos has no answer, but Sis volunteers to head out herself. As the eldest sister she has a responsibility to protect her younger sisters. They have sort of an emotional "please don't go" response, but ultimately understand her decision and leave it to Sis. Well, it's not like she expects to lose. She'll show these troublemakers the power of the eldest Gorgon Sister, Anastasis Stheno Gorgon.

So, after only a few short hours of troublesome enemies, I find myself at the relaxing save point, no longer ominous because of my experiences in the dungeon. Ah, a boss, how reassuring compared to those normal enemies.

Cutscene: the party is walking through a hallway lined with pillars when Youmu suddenly stops. She can hear something. Reimu can't hear anything, but Aya seconds Youmu that there's definitely something. At this point even the player can hear a slowly growing rumbling noise coming from the wall. Marisa has a bad feeling about this before Youmu yells "it's coming!" and every dives for cover as the wall explodes.

Anastatis just punched through the wall. Um... There Was a Door. Isn't this your own temple? Sadly, the party is too rattled to make the appropriate snarking, so I have to take their place. Byakuren continues her trend of helpfully explaining what's going on even when it's ridiculously obvious. Anastatis simply says "I've found you! Hakurei Miko!"

Reimu asks who she is, and Anastasis introduces herself with her full name again. Patchouli picks up on the Gorgon part in a thought bubble, but Anastasis continues with a simple "I'm sorry, but you're not getting past this point. I'm gonna stop you here."

Satori starts to ask her something but Anastasis lunges at her mid-sentence. Somehow Satori dodges, and Mokou tells her to save her breath, she's still attacking. After a little bit of jumping around and punching, the party is now gathered on the same side and there are small craters in the floor. Sanae and Aya are shocked by her strength, and Nitori claims it's almost oni calibur. Speaking of onis, what happened to Suika? They mentioned her in the beginning as a potential culprit with a history of mist incidents, but we haven't seen her. Yukari's been implied to be off doing stuff on her own, but couldn't we at least have had a Suika boss battle?

Nitori notices something about the craters, they seems somehow familiar... Aya catches on and... oh yeah! The craters on the path to the youkai mountain! She's the one who thoroughly and mercilessly beat up Chen until she had no part untouched! Uh... I tried to go easy on her...

Anyway, Reimu realizes that Anastasis is one of the masterminds behind the incident. Sis doesn't deny it and introduces herself again, this time as one of the masters of this temple. Yes! After all this work, we finally found you! I, Hakurei Reimu, will exterminate you! And then they stare at each other for a while. Don't just stand there, say something! This is the part where we banter and taunt each other! Sorry, I'm not too good at chatting.

"By the way, you girls think this is our first meeting, but I've seen you before." Mokou realizes that Anastasis was the one who was spying on them in Eientei (stage 10), which Anastatis confirms and then adds that she was also spying on them in Hakugyokuro (stage 6). Reimu calls her a creepy voyeur and demands that she apologize, so, uh... she does. Why is the mastermind apologizing to us?

Interrupting the pointlessness, Patchouli suddenly remembers something about the Three Gorgon Sisters. She'd thought she'd heard that somewhere before but just remembered what it was. You're the eldest sister Stheno, right? Anastasis seems pleased that she's famous even as far as Gensokyo, but before that this is exposition time, and you don't interrupt exposition time!

Anyway, Patchouli has access to books from the outside world, and in a book about Greek mythology read a story about some immortal ugly monsters called gorgons. Mokou latches onto the "immortal" part, but Anastasis seems to care about the "ugly" part. She claims its all a bullshit rumor spread by the jealous Athena, who I suppose never got around to cursing them in this version. Um, I didn't quite get this, but basically someone wanted to make them disappear into fantasy by changing their legend, and originally they were guardian deities worshiped by humans. Or something like that.

"So anyway, Anastasis—" "Call me Sis, my sisters do." "Geez, I don't care what your loved one call you, just let me talk— So Sis, while I guess I can understand how you feel, why are these guardian deities causing this incident here?" And then they stare at each other for a while. "Come on, say something!" "Sorry, I'm not too good at chatting. I have no desire to answer that. If you really want to know, defeat me and ask my sisters deeper in the temple." "Eh, I didn't really expect an answer, and I'll have to beat you all up in the end anyway, so let's go!"

"Do you really expect it to go that well? While it's interesting to hear what the myths and legends have to say about us, it's not entirely groundless." Meaning? "Immortality. Well, my actual power got badly communicated by the legends. I have the power to manipulate my body's regeneration rate. There's no such thing as a fatal wound to me, I can regenerate from anything. Well, I'm also super strong. Do you think you can stop me?" I don't know why that's a "manipulate X" power instead of just having super-fast regeneration, but that's the standard template for Touhou powers, so I guess that's that.

For some reason the party finds this intimidating, despite the fact that it sound kind of weak to me. I mean come, we've got a true immortal in our party already. I don't care if you can't die, we're just going to beat you up. Reimu shares my sentiment. Eh, she's seen worse. We've probably beaten worse in this game already. So, enter battle poses, and time to fear the wrath of the crocodile god! I guess she's a crocodile. She kills us.

Anastasis is a pretty simple fight. She punches us. She regenerates. She has about three times as much health as previous bosses. That's all you need to know. Simple does not mean easy though. While her much advertised regeneration is overrated (only a 1000 per turn), she is superstrong. She can kill anyone but a tank in one punch and can randomly punch the entire party at once, killing everyone who's not a tank. Two actions per turn, which is pretty standard. So she just numerically kills me with her better stats. She is weak against lightning, but with her health and regeneration you can't exactly hope to kill her before she randomly kills you.

As they should say, the best offense is a good defense. The trick is figuring out how to survive and I must say it took me a while to figure it out. The solution isn't exactly complicated though, so don't expect another amazing twist. My first thought is to approach her the same way I approached Kagami: keep everyone in a vertical line and let Alice block everything with her doll-shielding. Unfortunately Anastasis has much more attack power than Kagami did, and just sort of tears through the shields, so that's not an option.

I can't just cover every turn because it's a long fight and I'll run out of bombs. I can't use too many tanks in the party because I need to overcome her regeneration. It's a simple fight, but it seems unwinnable simply because her stats are just too good. Do I need more levels or something? They did have this big grindy dungeon immediately before her, maybe that's a clue... I do not grind though. It's against my principles. If you can't beat a boss, try harder. It's just, her stats, you know. You can't strategize away stats, can you?

Actually you can. I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier, but for one of my deaths Marisa, lying on the ground, suggests I use variety status ailments on her. For reference, "variety" statuses are things like defense down and attack down. That's... really it. I took the advice of my dead party. The game told me exactly how to win. Thanks game.

So, my party is Alice, Byakuren, Sanae, Marisa and Patchouli. Alice stands there looking pretty, Byakuren casts stat downs, Sanae casts stat ups, and Marisa and Patchouli nuke her with lightning. With stat ups and stat downs, I figure I can even the odds. I underestimate them. When Byakuren casts Power Down with full Induction bonuses, more than evening the odds I turn Anastasis from an unstoppable force of nature into a kitten. That's really just everything there is to this battle.

Execution is a bit tricky though, because if Byakuren misses with Power Down, my entire party dies instantly. This is somewhat likely to occur. After a few rough starts where it misses or falls off halfway through, I get the initial Power Down up and get a Hyper Trigger (induction up) on Byakuren and with my free time decide that Unresist and Meltdown (defense down) can't hurt. With Hyper Trigger, missing is rarely an issue.

Other than that, Marisa and Patchouli just go all out with Heaven's Crack and full Lightning Land gauge. Patchouli proves herself the true master of the elements by managing to score several new damage records in this fight, critting for 6000 and randomly double attacking, causing up to 9000 per turn (she never crit twice in a row). Yeah, I don't think your piddly 1000 regen is going to do much. So despite the extra health, the fight doesn't seem too long.

When at low health Anastasia starts to use her Last Word, which is a first for bosses, so I didn't expect it and didn't get a picture. It's just a single targeting attack though, which while somewhat scary at first ends up doing 0 to Alice because of all the forces in play (defense up, attack down, blunt damage resistance, block). She casts it every turn for her final moments, but always targets Alice so I dunno how threatening it would be otherwise.

Defeated, Anastasis finally understands why we keep winning: we're strong. Reimu's response? Well duh. She routinely beats up newcomers who don't know their place. One or two gods is no problem, heck we already did that in this game. Why are these guys so baselessly confident? Maybe they were a big fish in a small pond, but this is Gensokyo. So, uh... could you please stop all this incident nonsense?

Rather than admit failure, she chooses to self destruct. Or retreat with a smoke bomb or something. I really can't tell. She "disappears" according to the party. Reimu is annoyed that we were so close to winning, so I guess she probably retreated. Byakuren points out that we have to go forward to beat her accomplices anyway, so it really doesn't matter what Anastasis does here. So, let's go beat up some gorgons.

Back in Gorgon-land, the remaining two sense that Anastasis has been defeated, and while this is shocking they have no plans to give up here. Bio volunteers to go next, but it sounds like she has a plan rather than just wanting to rely on her strength. I suppose she's the cunning one. Just like last time, the scene ends with her declaring that she'll show us the strength of the Gorgon's middle sister, Biotopos Euryale Gorgon.

edited 23rd Nov '10 6:34:17 PM by Clarste

 83 Fawriel, Wed, 24th Nov '10 12:39:05 AM from the bottom of my heart Relationship Status: If it's you, it's okay
dead but happy
Oh, game, that was so sweet of you! Come here, I'm gonna give you a hug.
in spite of it all
Hows giving Biotopos the beatdown coming?
panic
 85 Clarste, Sat, 27th Nov '10 3:30:18 AM Relationship Status: Non-Canon
Three Steps
Haven't played it since then. Thanksgiving, so I went to my grandma's house, etc. I entered the dungeon and got the intro cutscene, but...

edited 27th Nov '10 3:53:23 AM by Clarste

 86 Fawriel, Sat, 27th Nov '10 9:36:30 AM from the bottom of my heart Relationship Status: If it's you, it's okay
dead but happy
... The cutscene killed you?
in spite of it all
 87 Clarste, Sun, 28th Nov '10 12:59:43 AM Relationship Status: Non-Canon
Three Steps
Okay, cleared. I guess I'll start writing now.

As a gift, here's Biotopos Final Word portrait. So that's what she's supposed to look like.

 88 Fawriel, Sun, 28th Nov '10 4:29:54 AM from the bottom of my heart Relationship Status: If it's you, it's okay
dead but happy
... Nice.
in spite of it all
 89 Clarste, Sun, 28th Nov '10 5:17:52 AM Relationship Status: Non-Canon
Three Steps
As you may have noticed, I didn't have any pictures last time, nor did I edit the post like I usually do (I'm sure bits are unreadable). I was in a hurry to finish it up when I posted it, and haven't felt like going back. I'll do it after this one, maybe.

Anyway, tip of the day: When enemies get hit, they shake. When enemies get hit more, they shake longer. When Sakuya casts her random-targeting random multi-hit attack ("Perfect Killing Doll"), and one enemy takes 6+ hits while all the others take 1, that one enemy will shake for a really long time, well into the next turn. This is hilarious. I've known about it for a while, but it's hard to work that kind of thing in.

Stage 20 so close yet so far

Intro cutscene! This occurs immediately as you exit the previous boss room. The area is now the Great Temple instead of the Lakebed Temple Depths, and it looks completely different. It's now reddish and kind of evil looking, with statues of demons and whatnot. Most tellingly, the water is now purple.

The party is somewhat surprised by how different it suddenly looks. Patchouli claims that more than just the appearance, the air down here is also different. Was the temple this kind of structure? Byakuren starts explaining in her roundabout way, as always. "Rather than 'was the temple this kind of structure' we should be asking 'how did the structure change into this?'." Come on, Byakuren, can't you just say stuff? You really remind me of Itsuki. Byakuren isn't allowed to say things with less than three quotations, apparently.

So, uh... actually I can't understand Byakuren's explanation very well, if it even is an explanation. She felt a flow of power when she arrived on this floor, and while she can't tell what the flow did, the fact that she could feel it at all implies... something. Something was replaced. So I figured she was saying we were teleported here, or maybe the temple was teleported. Alice also felt someone's flow of power, so Byakuren's explanation is not unthinkable. Go double negatives!

Youmu wonders why now of all times and Mokou thinks it's obviously because they're backed into a corner after we beat one of their leaders. Given this, Sakuya thinks it's obvious that there will be more traps, but of course Reimu doesn't care. Charge on through, as always.

So anyway, if the last dungeon was minimalist, with few rooms and nothing but enemies, this dungeon is attempting to make up for lost time by having huge rooms and puzzles. Huge, mazelike rooms. That are also filled with enemies! What fun!

The dungeon is divided into two large halves, left and right. Each half is again divided into two routes, up and down. The up route for each leads to a locked door with a switch behind it. The down route is a long section eventually leading a key. Once both doors are open and both switches hit, the way forward is opened up. The up route is a single puzzle room involving switches that create temporary bridges across moats, basically one-way doors. The down route is a long trek into the basement through mazelike rooms. In the lower right there ends up being a repeating room structure where running off the bottom takes you back to the top, but it's pretty simple. The lower left simply requires you to hit a few switches.

Enemy field sprites are fairies. Just plain old fairies. How appropriate. The enemy set is a mix of some older enemies from two stages ago and some new ones, who now seem to have ridiculous amount of HP, relatively. Seriously, it's getting quite hard to kill things now, with them taking many turns. It doesn't help that I'm playing defensively with both Alice and Sanae not contributing any damage, so my only attackers are Sakuya, Youmu and Marisa. In general though my attacks do a much lower percent of enemy health than I'm used to. I find myself forced to go all out quite often, and to run back and heal a lot. I often felt like I was just sort of slowly clearing out the enemies so I could advance.

Notable enemies include Ammonites, rock snakes and cloud things. These are notable because they use really powerful all-targeting elemental attacks, forcing me to spam Alice's elemental barriers. Luckily, it doesn't seem possible to fight more than one at a time because the area is roughly divided into elemental quadrants, based on the enemy set anyway. Rounding these out are fire witches, who are relatively harmless because they count as Magicians, which Sakuya has Slayer for right now (her latest sword has three slayers, "Etc", Warrior and Magician), and multi-element elementals which are weak against physical. Oh, and giants that take forever to kill but are harmless.

After what seemed like ages of trying to clear this place, I finally open the main switch door. Only to find out that we're not quite there yet. That was the first half of the dungeon, although to be fair more like two thirds. This second half is composed of a single puzzle.

Basically you have to light up the eyes of these plaques on the ground. To do so you have to enter the room from a door next to one of these plaques. If you go through the same door again it turns off. The area is a four room loop, but there are some extra doors that lead between the same rooms but have plaques on different sides. Ultimately the key is to run all the way around using one set of doors and then run back around the way you came from using the other set of doors, maximizing the amount of running you have to do, and these rooms aren't exactly lacking enemies. There are no clues or anything, just RPG "puzzle instincts" and a bit of trial and error.

There are also some new enemies here, notable ones including two headed turtle things and griffins. The griffins are just sort of generically strong and dangerous while evading a lot and the turtles cover their allies, heal, revive their allies, and have lots of defense. The turtles can only be hurt by water, so to kill them I switch Youmu out for Nitori to get some more elemental damage. This works out surprisingly well, but I still have to use Sakuya's Killing World to prevent them from healing. Which is really freaking scary when they're paired with griffins.

Puzzle solved and foes slain, I find the miraculous heal point. It lacks a teleporter though. The closest teleporter is back before Anastasis' room, but distance-wise it's only a few rooms. It was kind of annoying though, running through so many rooms to save my items when I was doing the dungeon. Anyway, boss time!

The party is walking through a hallway, when all of a sudden... mist! Wait, could this be...? Yes it is, as Satori collapses shortly followed by Patchouli and then the rest of the party minus Mokou who's all like "is everyone okay?!". I guess that's their relative stamina ranking. Reimu confirms in dialog that this is probably the incident-mist that weakens youkai (remember? that was the plot). And then a voice from nowhere confirms her suspicions.

Biotopos partially appears, heavily shrouded by the mist I guess, and introduces herself, with the full introduction thing again before appearing completely. I guess the writers really love their full names. Alice wonders if this fog is her doing. Correct. Then... the incident fog is also your doing? Ahahahaha, yup. I like Biotopos. She's all laid back and laughs a lot, but not in an evil way. None of this "fufufu" nonsense, she goes all out with her "ahahaha". Given that she's smoking all the time, she's probably high.

Sanae asks the obvious question of why our human characters are also suffering right now. Well, this isn't quite the same mist. The incident mist was adjusted by her so as to not damage humans. But if she feels like it, ''this'' happens. Cue standard villain "I'm surprised you got this far" speech. Anyway, this fog is much stronger than the other stuff, and the fact that we're still conscious is impressive. One more course ought to settle it.

Reimu stands up and says "you say all that, but you don't sound very pleased". Bio clears up the fog and starts laughing again. You think? Apparently she'd much rather be drinking sake together with us, but they ended up as enemies so here we are. Mokou gets around to asking what exactly this mist is, and Bio suddenly notices that Mokou's been perfectly fine all this time. This is quite mysterious to Bio.

Anyway, Bio's power is the manipulation of life force. With the mist she can suppress other people's life force, but she can also amplify it. Thus, she earned the title "immortal" by amplifying her own life force. Mokou is all like "that does resemble immortality, doesn't it?" and Patchouli finally points out to them that Mokou is, you know, actually immortal. For reals.

This shocks Bio. To think someone actually has such a power. Even a god of longevity like herself is surprised. Apparently she's a turtle goddess and turtles are associated with longevity. Haven't you heard? "If cranes are a thousand years, turtles are ten thousand years!"  *Although now her reputation's ruined, ahahahaha. While Alice lampshades the oddness of Bio laughing at such a statement, Aya starts laughing along with her, just because.

Anyway, Reimu doesn't care what power she has, we're gonna beat her up. Because that's what we do. Bio knew it would come to this, and she has to pay us back for beating up her sister and cute subordinates anyway. We futilely ask what exactly their plan was supposed to be, but again are directed to ask her little sister if we manage to get past her, same old same old. So we fight her. And... she doesn't kill us but I decide to give up because it's taking forever and I might run out of MP before she dies at that rate.

As you might imagine, Biotopos is a pretty defensive boss. While she doesn't regenerate, she has a lot of defense and evasion and the same absurd HP value as Anastasis. Which I suppose is relatively less absurd now that we're a dungeon's worth of levels higher. She mostly does normal attacks which are decently strong but not overwhelming (Alice can tank them easily). Her "thing" though is her mists.

She has two mists which last about 6 turns each. When they run out, she'll immediately cast the other. The first mist is the Guard Mist which raises her defense absurdly. She takes about 90% less damage when this mist is up. Her other mist is the Poison Mist, which isn't actually poison but makes your party take 100 damage per turn anyway. This cannot be mitigated.

Frankly, those are both kind of annoying. It's hard for me to heal constant damage like the poison and having phases where I can't hurt her is really annoying. So on my first attempt that's all I could do, although Satori managed to scan her (weak against water) and apparently poison pierces her guard mist. Not that that's relevant.

Because her mists have a fatal flaw: they're field effects. Which means I can easily dispel them by using my own field effects. Like Patchouli's Arctic Chill which increase water damage. So yeah. I switched my party to Alice, Sanae, Nitori, Marisa and Patchouli and spammed water spells and water chasers. While she still has more magic defense than Sis did, she can't exactly kill me when her mechanics do nothing. At first I was afraid of her reacting to my field effects like Tenshi did, but she didn't. So it was pretty simple. When she dies, she casts her Last Word, Aging Drizzle, which does about 500 damage to everyone. Tanks can survive that now though, and Sanae has a max HP up buff as well, so that's not really a problem.

Bio thinks it's mysterious that we managed to win. Reimu thinks it's more mysterious where these people get all this self-confidence. "So are you gonna stop this incident or are you gonna run away like your sister?" "What, Sis ran away? What a good idea!" And then she runs away in a cloud of mist. Stop giving her ideas Reimu! Well, nothing to do but move forward.

Back in the Gorgon throne room, Lithos senses that Bio has been defeated, leaving her all alone, without her sisters to help her. ...and then she starts laughing to herself, in the evil way this time. The people who managed to beat her two sisters are surely on their way here. It's just what she's dreaded, or rather what she's hoped for. How fun! Still talking to herself, she invites us into her barrier, where she'll show us the power of the final and strongest Gorgon sister, Lithos Medusa Gorgon. She also draws a golden sword.

Next stop, Lair of the Gorgon. I think it's the final dungeon.

Here's the gallery for this stage.

edited 28th Nov '10 5:30:49 AM by Clarste

 90 Fawriel, Sun, 28th Nov '10 6:12:48 AM from the bottom of my heart Relationship Status: If it's you, it's okay
dead but happy
1) That... is the power of a smoker!

2) Ahahaha!

I like Biodome, too.
in spite of it all
Next stage is indeed the final stage. And, according to the wiki, it's a pretty nasty difficulty spike.
panic
 92 Fawriel, Sun, 28th Nov '10 2:22:12 PM from the bottom of my heart Relationship Status: If it's you, it's okay
dead but happy
Oy. I fear for the future of this LP! It would be a pity to prematurely end it so close to the end, but if the final dungeon requires a lot of grinding...
in spite of it all
 93 Clarste, Sun, 28th Nov '10 6:58:23 PM Relationship Status: Non-Canon
Three Steps
Yeah, I've been terrified of such an eventuality for a while now. From what I originally heard though the final three stages were the large difficulty jump, and I've managed to scrape past the last two with no real problems. For Anastasis in particular, the wiki's recommended strategy just sort of assumed you could survive her attacks and didn't mention anything about reducing her stats like I was forced to do. So while I may need to grind levels at some point, I'm already pretty used to beating RPGs at significantly lower than the recommended levels. This game gives me enough options that it seems plausible, although of course I haven't tried yet.

I'm actually more worried about weapons and materials. Right now, only Sakuya's physical attack is worth anything and I'm pretty sure that's due to weapons. Youmu and Nitori can make up for it with powerful abilities, but Aya is just sort of weak. Sanae's much adored MP draining physical attacks are now also pretty useless.

edited 28th Nov '10 6:58:58 PM by Clarste

 94 Clarste, Tue, 30th Nov '10 1:23:16 AM Relationship Status: Non-Canon
Three Steps
I didn't play today, but I'm gonna make a post about the commander bonuses which I've been mostly ignoring. You may recall that Mokou's commander ability lets her revive people. That's pretty much the only one I've ever used. So now I'm gonna go through all the characters and see what I've been missing. Each character has two, the first one costs one bomb and the second one costs three bombs. They all happen at the start of the turn before anything else happens, and their effects last for only that turn. This will be enlightening for me too. Maybe some of these could have saved me a lot of trouble.

Reimu Hakurei

  1. Hakurei Border - Reduces all damage taken by 20%. 20% isn't a huge amount, but it could useful for surviving unstable periods like before the buffs go up.
  2. Fantasy Seal Explosion - All attacks gain the "Exorcism" property. I don't know what this means and that scares me. A number of weapons also have this property.

Marisa Kirisame

  1. Hakkero - Increases damage by 15%. There are point where I want to do as much damage as fast as possible, but generally Marisa is a part of those parties. If I had different main characters maybe.
  2. Stardust Sanctuary - Nullifies Magic-element attacks. Um... this would be awesome if I could think of any magic elemental attacks that bosses do. Call me when we have to fight Marisa.

Sanae Kochiya

  1. Miracle Fruits - 25% healing to party. 25% is pretty low for costing a bomb. Maybe for random battles.
  2. Summon Takemi Nakata - Increases party's stats. Doesn't say how much. If it's anything like her Last Word, then not bad for balanced offense and defense. I'd still prefer to have her in my party though.

Aya Shameimaru

  1. Tengu's Flight - Gives allies a chance to Perfect Dodge. Doesn't say how high, but I'm pretty sure it's not 100%. It did save my life again Chihiro, but it seems unreliable in general.
  2. Paparazzi - Allies act first this turn. Most of my party is slower than the enemies, so if I can actually manage to kill something with this fast turn it could be awesome. Or it could be useless.

Patchouli Knowledge

  1. Sunshine Reflector - Reduces magic damage taken by 33%. Again, I'm not really worried about small reductions. Either I die or I don't. Failing that, I either take one hit or two. The odds of this saving my life seem pretty low to me.
  2. Royal Diamond Ring - Increases magic damage dealt by 33%. Pretty awesome in concept I guess, except that Patchouli is one half of my two massive magic damage characters. Maybe if Byakuren had a good weapon or Satori learned more spells?

Sakuya Izayoi

  1. Perfect Maid - Increases Induction and Resistance for the party. Um... huh. That's odd. Not sure what this has to do with Sakuya's playstyle, but interesting. Could've used it against Anastasis or Eirin for a smoother encounter.
  2. Deflation World - Stops all enemies. I'm assuming that rather than doing her time freeze stuff this just casts the stop effect on the enemies. Could save my life in random battles, or it could miss and do nothing. Not the worst back-up to have.

Nitori Kawashiro

  1. Bad Camouflage - Reduces enemy evasion to 0. Remember those sylphs from Tenshi's stage? This would've been nice. There's actually quite a large number of highly evasive enemies, and missing is a pretty recurring problem for Sakuya. I tend to deal with them using magic, but this would work too.
  2. Hyper Camouflage - Allies gain camouflage. I don't really know what camouflage does. I would normally think that it makes the enemy not target you, but then what's the point when the whole party is camouflaged? A number of boss strats on the wiki have implied that this makes you invincible though, which would be awesome for predictable massive damage.

Alice Margatroid

  1. 7-Colored Puppet - Shield activation chance becomes 100%. You will block every attack on this turn. Shields are actually pretty good, but many character can't use them while doing their thing. No casters or Sakuya. My party never looks like that, but I guess it could work. I'd rather have Alice in the battle blocking for everyone though.
  2. Alice Formation - Formation bonuses doubled. I have no idea how big these bonuses are, so I have no idea how effective doubling them might be. Given that this is considered a 3 bomb ability, formations must be pretty awesome. Maybe I should look into them more.

Satori Komeiji

  1. Attack Prediction - Gain 15% deflect chance. How is this different from Aya's perfect dodge? Was that also 15%? Seems pretty low though.
  2. Enemy Arts - Randomly uses one enemy skill. Um... thanks? This is never useful because it's unreliable.

Youmu Konpaku

  1. Half-Phantom Attack - Halves Resistance. This is probably better than Sakuya's induction boost for my purposes. The more resistance they have the stronger it is, and it doesn't share space with a frankly pointless-seeming resistance boost.
  2. Six Realms Sword - Attacks have a high chance to crit. I like critting, but I prefer to plan around known quantities rather than vague "high chances".

Byakuren Hijiri

  1. Magic Butterfly - Recovers 10% MP. This would be awesome for dungeon crawling. I should spam it until she's out of bombs and then switch someone else in. I'd never run out of MP.
  2. Devil's Recitation - Reduces enemies' HP by 50%. Demi! Doesn't sound very useful, because the enemies it's most effective on would probably have a high chance to resist it. I wonder if it takes into account Byakuren's induction.

Fujiwara no Mokou (she's got an old fashioned name because she's ancient)

  1. Phoenix's Tail - Randomly revives one dead ally. This is my bread and butter. Sanae has a revive spell, but I rarely use it.
  2. Phoenix Rebirth - This turn, allies survive fatal attacks with 1 HP. Another "get out of jail free" card. Again, relies quite a bit on timing and frankly I'd rather save her bombs for reviving.

Overall, I'm probably going to stick with Mokou. As you've noticed, I like to play defensively when possible, so just being unkillable is high on my list of priorities. Youmu's ability looks good for bosses where hitting with stat downs is really important, and Byakuren looks good for dungeon crawling. Most of the offensive ones seem pointless to me because of who you have to sacrifice to use them.

Other than that, I've learned that there's something called the "Exorcism" property which is probably awesome and that formation bonuses are huge. Since the beginning of the game I've stuck with the standard 1 tank, 2 fighters, 2 mages formation and upgrades to it. I've never had anyone actually out of formation though, such that they'd lose their relevant bonus, so I guess I haven't—

Oh yeah, Aya. That's probably why she's weak. I should've changed my formation back then to account for a melee heavy party. I'm bit skeptical of her being able to survive in the front row though. I'll have to look into this.

edited 30th Nov '10 1:31:13 AM by Clarste

 95 Clarste, Tue, 30th Nov '10 11:51:28 PM Relationship Status: Non-Canon
Three Steps
Beat Lithos, if the "true" final boss proves too much trouble I'll just do a write up of her stage.

Here's her Last Word, Ra's Al-ghūl Gorgops. Or... Ras Algol Gorgops? It's mixing different languages together. Head of the ghoul, eye of the gorgon. Three guesses what it does and the first two don't count.

 96 Fawriel, Wed, 1st Dec '10 12:56:13 AM from the bottom of my heart Relationship Status: If it's you, it's okay
dead but happy
Oh, oh! It.... ... iiiit... it analyzes your characters for weaknesses!

Right?!
in spite of it all
 97 Clarste, Wed, 1st Dec '10 5:34:13 AM Relationship Status: Non-Canon
Three Steps
The good news is that Aya can survive in the front row (using evasion) and isn't really any weaker than Youmu in that position. The bad news is that she doesn't have elemental attacks, Slayer effects or Youmu's stance bonuses to make her worth hitting things with. It seems she's supposed to go first and stun things, but that never works. I have don't have enough induction accessories to make everyone good at statuses.

Stage 21 between a rock and a hard place

Fresh from our victory against Bio, the party advances further into the... temple? Uh... this isn't a temple anymore, this is what we call floating in space standing on glass hexagons. Very final dungeon-esque. Technically this area is the Gorgon's Barrier, so I guess it's another dimension or something.

The party goes through roughly the same logic that I just did, and Byakuren concludes that this means the enemy is serious now. She establishes that the entire area is shrouded by a barrier, whose purpose is not to slow us down but rather to not let us escape. Sakuya interprets this as this being the hunting ground, and we're the prey. Reimu prefers to look at it the other way: the enemy's trapped in here with us. How convenient. The table is set, all that's left is to dig in.

This is actually a pretty short dungeon, and breaks a few of the "rules" that have been established in previous dungeons. Despite the huge confusing rooms, it's pretty linear in that split ups lead almost immediately to a dead end with treasure. Because we're floating in space, the exits of the rooms are all teleporters, but it's not a teleporter maze. There's one both vertically and horizontally looping room (torus shaped?) but other than that it's straightforward.

The enemy field sprites are black shadows with simple faces drawn on them. Unlike other areas, running away from them causes them to disappear so you can easily get past anything. Heck, even dying to them causes them to disappear. As soon as you touch them they're gone. The area music also sticks around during battles here, which is kind of annoying since I don't like it much. I can hear strains of Border of Life in the beginning, but that doesn't last long. At a guess, it's a hard rock medley of a bunch of final boss themes, but the SNES quality synth can't seem to handle it so mostly it's annoying.

The enemies are ridiculously high level here, although that doesn't necessarily correlate with difficulty. As I mentioned long ago, each area has a "par" level, below which you get XP bonuses and above which you get XP penalties. "Par" here is about 65; most of my party is 45-55. So my high level people get double experience and my lower level ones get triple. That's a lot. Many levels were earned.

Well, for the people I was using anyway. After a brief flirtation with using Aya to accomplish... something, I settle on a party of Alice, Sakuya, Nitori, Marisa and Sanae, which is pretty much what I had to second half of the previous stage. I basically need to exploit weaknesses to kill anything ever, and Nitori seems to be quite powerful when she loads elemental bullets and uses her elemental attacks. I suppose they stack somehow.

Frankly, I can't beat most of the enemies here. You've got double headed dragons, Ying Yang elementals, Elder Demons and a ton of other boss-esque encounters that I quickly decide to give up on before I try. Looking at enemy charts on the Japanese wiki, it seems these guys drop rare materials needed to make the ultimate weapons for each character. If I have to grind, I know where to find these guys, I guess.

Of the subset of the enemies I can beat, they're hardly pushovers, although they tend to rely on their allies more. First off are the Death Riders, which spam life drain. A really strong life drain. It can kill Sakuya or Nitori in one hit (but not the mages, since it seems to be heavily mitigated by small amount of magic defense). They cast this twice a turn, and it's absolutely vital that they hit Alice with it. Secondly are the Queen Flayers, which as implied are super Mind Flayers. nothing notable there except that I still hate Mind Flayers.

Third are the Sphinxes, who have tons of evasion and heal other enemies for about 4000. They don't always do it though, so being persistent pays off. When they're the only ones left I use Sakuya's Killing World to finish them off. And lastly there are the sandworms, the oni, the Alastors, etc. Let it be known that all of them could easily kill me if I let them. Every fight is a boss fight now. I run back to heal a lot.

About halfway through we get treated to a mid-dungeon cutscene. Lithos is sitting in her throne room, which is now apparently part of this alternate dimension. A turtle arrives to give her the rather late report that her sisters have been defeated and that the intruders are on their way here. When told that she already knows, the turtle asks what her plans are. She orders the servants to evacuate, as this place will become a battlefield. I suppose this would normally be a dramatic moment where the subordinates tearfully see off their leader, but he's a turtle.

Now that the herald's out of the way... how about you come out from wherever you're hiding? "Oh, you noticed?" A portal tied with a ribbon opens up in the middle of the room and a certain purple-clad umbrella holding youkai steps out. "Who are you?" "Gensokyo's gap youkai, Yukari Yakumo, at your service. I've finally found you, little miss mastermind." "I see, so you're one of the youkai sniffing around for us. So... what's you're objective?" "...I just told you that I'm here for the culprit." "Oh yeah, you did." Lithos is kind of a ditz.

"So you've come to exterminate me then." "Nope. Incident resolution is the Hakurei Miko's job. I don't do troublesome things like that. I'm just here to get an appraisal on the newcomers." "And what will you do with the result?" "As expected of the three legendary sisters, you three are strong. And especially you: even though you're the youngest sister you're pulling all the weight. Good job!"

Lithos starts blushing and ranting about how she's not that strong, and not that great a person. "Oh, so you find it troublesome?" "I didn't say that!" At this point Yukari decides to give up on the banter because Lithos isn't very good at it. So, cutting to the chase, what's your goal with this whole thing? "What obligation do I have to tell you?" "Well, I am one of the victims." "You sure talk big for someone so weak." "Well, this is about what I expected. You don't have to answer. All that's left is the continuation of the appraisal." "Guess I'll have to deal with you before the Miko gets here." Fight time!

This is not actually a battle, it's a cutscene with some animations. Lithos decides to end it quickly, like she did with her servant (she recognized Ran as Yukari's servant?) but Yukari already knows this trick and closes her eyes. But with your eyes closed you can't dodge... this! Yes she can. Okay... maybe you can dodge one shot, but how about this! Yes, Yukari is dodging danmaku with her eyes closed. Well, apparently not. Yukari disappears when the barrage hits her and Lithos assumes she's been blown away. How foolish, I thought she seemed stronger than that.

Of course Yukari isn't dead. "Did you forget I could teleport?" That is how she entered the room in the first place. Lithos is eager to continue the fight, but Yukari claims that Lithos is already in checkmate. While Lithos is processing this statement, Yukari opens up a bunch of portals behind Lithos and pelts her with bullets from behind. "I can also use my power like this. Okay, playtime is over, this is the end."

Cut back to party. Wait, what are we even doing anymore? Yukari just beat up the final boss for us, not that we know it yet. Oh well. If there's anything we've learned from this game it's that when in doubt, charge ahead. The second half of the dungeon is more of the same, except with a higher ratio of unbeatable enemies. I'm sure I ran from more than I killed. Amusingly added to the enemy set are some old enemies from way back in stage 18. While they're quite weak now, they come in huge hoards and they can heal each other or summon reinforcements. While they could actually kill me quite easily if I'm careless or unlucky, I think of them as piles of experience. These guys prove that the "par" level is based on the area rather than the specific enemies you're fighting.

Shortly enough, there's a heal point and teleporter back to the entrance of this area. It's getting really annoying having to run back through the whole temple all the time. Luckily, this should be the end of that. Step forward, cutscene.

Yukari is... petrified in the middle of the room. Furthermore, she's in a kneeling position, so she wasn't just caught off guard but was losing beforehand. Go go Worf Effect! The party is suitably shocked by this turn of events. That Yukari was defeated?! The enemy's power isn't something half-assed.

"Of course". Lithos is apparently standing just off screen and the party moves to confront her. "You must be the Hakurei Miko. This is the first time I've seen you." Sanae sense that Lithos is no ordinary god, whatever that means, and that this will be troublesome. Lithos introduces herself, again, as the master of the Lakebed Temple, Lithos Medusa Gorgon. When asked if she was the one who defeated Yukari, she confirms and adds that Yukari was a bit too full of herself so she put her in her place. So Lithos is both a ditz and really arrogant.

Sakuya asks why she's still alive, given that the Medusa of legend was killed by Perseus. Lithos admits to having died, causing Sanae to wonder if she's a ghost, and then decides to elaborate. Apparently being a poor girl who you can't look in the eyes of counts as being dead, well it has the same meaning anyway. Marisa doesn't get it, and neither do I so I'm chalking it up to "ditz".

Sakuya decides to steal Byakuren's role and explain herself, using quotations from Anastasis. "The legend was a bunch of bullshit" and "part of a plan to make them fade into fantasy". Since the plan obviously worked, in some sense we could say she's dead. Nitori thinks that being dead in "reality" doesn't mean much when she's causing incidents in Gensokyo. Either way, she's definitely a nuisance now.

"Now you've said it! Not only are you rude, you come crashing through my temple without permission! What do you want anyway?!" Yeah, she's a ditz. We're. Here. To. Stop. The. Incident.

"...I don't get it. I thought humans were untouched? Youkai, the natural enemy of humanity, are being exterminated. Isn't this your job? Isn't this convenient for you?" "That's part of my job, but the other half is to resolve incidents." Marisa points out that Reimu used Lithos' argument in the beginning of the game as an excuse to slack off, but Reimu continues her Kirk Summation anyway. "Anyway, all you're doing is agitating the youkai. To humans, it's an unwelcome favor."

"I see. Gensokyo has its own power balance." "Now that you understand, how about we stop this incident?" "No way, we haven't accomplished our goal yet." "So, tell us what your goal is." "No way, you have to beat me first." "Well, at least that's easy to understand, let's go!" "I'll show you my power and get revenge for my sisters!"

Byakuren decides to ruin the mood by pointing out that Lithos loves her sisters. Lithos, easily flustered, denies this for some reason and Byakuren gives a cheesy speech about how even youkai have feelings like family love. Well, she is Byakuren, I guess preaching this is her job. But enough talk, have at thee! And we finally start the battle. And she kills us.

As you might expect, Lithos is a status ailment boss. Unlike her sisters, she goes all out right from the beginning and casts her Last Word on the first turn and every few turns thereafter. It petrifies your entire party. Other than than, she also has party-wide charm, field-wide dispel, and some relatively weak physical attacks. Note that her sword isn't drawn though. She's vulnerable to fire and has high magic defense.

If you've been following this you'll know that I have a pretty standard method of dealing with status ailments, just cast resist up on my party. That doesn't work too well here. While resistance is always helpful, her induction is too high to completely nullify it and it only takes one unlucky petrify or charm on the wrong person to ruin my day. If my healer gets petrified there's no one to cure it, and if an attacker gets charmed they're quite good at killing their allies.

So I decided to combine a few different things I've learned recently. Induction too high? Lower it! Can't hit with debuffs? Youmu's commander ability! Ultimately I go with a party of Alice, Sanae, Byakuren, Marisa and Patchouli. Even though she's strong against magic, she also has a ton of evasion so I'd rather pierce her defense with overwhelming power than bother with evasion down or accuracy up.

I start the battle with a Youmu boosted Unresist from Byakuren, which also lower Induction, as well as the standard resist boost. After that, I cast Hyper Trigger (induction up) on Byakuren and protect her from dispels by spamming cover with Alice. Whenever Lithos dispels herself I reapply Unresist using Youmu's commander ability. And... that's pretty much it. Marisa and Patchouli do their standard elemental land boost combo, Alice covers Byakuren, Sanae and Byakuren keep the buffs and debuffs up while healing. There's very little offense in this party, but Lithos falls shortly enough.

There's another cutscene after this followed immediately by another boss, but it saves your progress in terms of beating Lithos so that'll be part of the next installment, if I ever win. Spoiler: all three at once.

PS: I'm really proud of that pun my stage caption.

edited 1st Dec '10 5:54:36 AM by Clarste

 98 Fawriel, Wed, 1st Dec '10 10:35:10 AM from the bottom of my heart Relationship Status: If it's you, it's okay
dead but happy
I'm sure that your pun rocks hard.

Also, all three together.

Well then! G- good luck.
in spite of it all
 99 Fawriel, Sun, 5th Dec '10 12:48:50 AM from the bottom of my heart Relationship Status: If it's you, it's okay
dead but happy
What's the status, sir?
in spite of it all
 100 Clarste, Sun, 5th Dec '10 2:42:33 AM Relationship Status: Non-Canon
Three Steps
On indefinite hold. Honestly, I got distracted by another game and I don't have much motivation to play right now. I may come back to it later, but maybe not.

Total posts: 103
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