Part 23: Master of Arena - Chapter 10.5: ...Nine-Ball
I AIN'T DONE YET!!
This is it. This is what the game has been ramping up towards. If the video near the end of last update didn't tip you off, this boss is not someone to be trifled with. Even after all the run ins we've had with Nine-Ball over the game, nothing truly prepares you for the final form of this menacing machine: Nine-Ball Seraph.
Now, From Software has gained quite a reputation as of late thanks to the Souls series, primarily in the form of the masses talking about how the games are "so hard, oh my god", which is just the silliest thing ever, especially in the case of Dark Souls 1. What really makes something truly hard in a game is when there is one moment, whether it's a level, or a boss, or something else entirely, that even if you've played the game multiple time and know it like the back of your hand, you still go in with trepidation. You know there's a lot riding on that encounter and things could go horribly wrong in ways that the rest of the game normally would not for an experienced player.
That's what differentiates truly hard from just people being overall shit at the game and calling it the hardest thing ever with hyperbole, and Nine-Ball Seraph fits that category of "truly hard" to a tee. If you're new to the game, he will kick your ass in the most brutal fashion. If you're experienced with the games, he will still kick your ass, but not as hard so long as you put in the effort and skill to keep up the pace.
Nine-Ball Seraph's silhouette bears a close resemblance to the regular models, though of course he's got the gigantic rocket jets attached to the back and otherwise completely custom parts and stats that the player will never gain access to. He hits really hard, and despite what would appear to be a top heavy robot, he is extremely agile with the ability to transform into a jet like form and fly around at even faster speeds.
Seraph's weapons are a real force to be reckoned with. Especially when, with the exception of his machine gun arms, every other weapon attack explodes upon impact along with splash damage. This includes his plasma bolts, his dual large missiles, and the most devastating of all, DUAL FUCKING LASER BLADES. This shit can deal up to around 3K worth of damage upon impact and is the fastest way to die. Doesn't help that most of the time he immediately charges you at the start to use it (the other rare times he just transforms and flies away firing missiles).
So how do you do it. How in the fucking hell does one take down a boss that easily outshines every regular AC in terms of stats?
Remember how I said I was going to take multi missiles into the mission? This is what they're for.
Compared to many encounters in the AC series, the specific threat that Seraph poses to the player means that a wide variety of different builds are simply not viable. There are very few weapon types to rely on that can get the job done here.
Missiles are pretty much the best weapon to go for in this fight. The biggest reason why is that they follow the target upon launch and will connect assuming there are no obstructions, and it's generally hard to have missiles get blocked in this open space unless they're led into the ground. Because Nine-Ball Seraph moves incredibly fast it becomes very easy to waste ammo from your primary weapon just when trying to hit him. And you don't want to stand in front of him on the ground anyway since the dual blades also produce shockwaves like Human PLUS ACs can do. So with a large view box, and the automatic missile launch optional part equipped just so you have one less button to worry about, keeping a far distance from Seraph while he's in jet form and maintaining lock will end up killing him relatively quickly.
And this is also a prime example of why multi missiles specifically kick fucking ass in this series. You only have to get one lockon on an enemy for all six missiles to fire and track the target. For the maximum effect firing up into the air or from the air is most effective as the bottom two missiles won't collide with the ground mid flight. Regardless, it took only five volleys of missiles before I was able to see Seraph explode, and since some of those had the bottom two hit the floor, I'd estimate it would take around 25 missiles or so from this weapon to end the fight. And compared to using normal weapons that require you to hold a lock for longer before firing multiple missiles, you can see why this is value.
But with such high mobility that the fight requires, it begs the question why I even took the heavier legs in the first place. There is another challenge to this fight that isn't found from actually fighting Nine-Ball Seraph. The challenge comes in the preparation.
The final mission refills your weapons and heals your AC during the loading transition, much like the final mission of AC1. Both parts of MoA's final mission feel very different as the first half requires enough weaponry and armor to survive the endurance test of fighting one Nine-Ball followed by 2 at once. But then Seraph comes in and very likely there's a high chance that anyone going into that fight would find their build doesn't stand up to the test. Mobility means less weapons or other powerful tools that have lots of weight, but you need the weapons and armor to get through the earlier challenges.
It's an ultimate test of how you can balance the effectiveness of both these aspects in designing a generation one AC. And while I'd say I maybe skewed a bit too much towards the heavy weapons and armor side, fucking whatever I made it work despite failing multiple times before.
Well then. After all that sperging, Nine-Ball Seraph went down on the seventh take (some of which I intentionally flubbed for the sake of the failure reel), and we're treated to the final cinematic of the game. No last speech from the antagonist like R did in AC1.
Just a broken, burning machine.
A machine that refuses to go down to the bitter end.
If you pay close attention, you might recognize the music that plays near the end as being from the intro CG for the very first Armored Core. Kind of a fitting theme to use to close out the first generation of this franchise.
Everything during this fight, right up to the end of this cutscene, is what cemented the legacy of Nine-Ball and why I hold this game in the top three for the entire series. A great combination of missions and arena battles, a simple yet compelling revenge plot with twists, and topping it all off is this evil, determined son of a bitch AI controlled AC whose reputation, power, and even his fucking theme music would continue to manifest in multiple forms throughout the rest of the series. Yes, even across multiple continuity reboots as well as an entry in a spin off series.
Shine on, you fucking red bastard.
And again, the last piece of text in this is in a very similar vein to the end of AC1. We've essentially stopped the current natural order by murdering the one AI that was assigned to maintain it. After everything that has been revealed in this last mission and before, I still stand by my earlier assumption that this game's story is a reimagining of the first Armored Core, with that original game being a very clear sign of not having the overall continuity set in stone so retconning certain parts would ultimately be necessary for later games to make sense.
Though maybe somewhere out there while we were doing robot death matches, some Raven got the opportunity instead of us to fight a Devastator. The world of Armored Core is just full of mystery.
Oh, and here are the credits as well, so you know who to thank for putting together this masterful game.
Armored Core Master of Arena - Credits
Well that's that. The first leg of our journey in this game is complete. But this game is far from over, oh no.
After all, even by destroying the longest running #1 ranked AC in the Arena, I can't truly claim the title "Master of Arena" until I've conquered every last thing, can I?
Still, like I said, I never actually did complete all of the Arenas on the second disc. So getting 100% for both discs is gonna be somewhat of a new thing for me. Could be fun. Could be completely infuriating. But it could ultimately be very worthwhile.
Bonus content is on the way. Look forward to it.