Part 65: The Waterfall of Tears
At the end of the last episode, Darwin and Marie found themselves back at the planet's surface, with only the vaguest of goals to "investigate the situation". The first "dungeon" is named "Falls of Acheron". Japanese title is more along the lines of "Waterfall of Tears", however the English version is not too bad either, considering that Acheron is one the of rivers of Underground in Greek mythology across which the newly dead are ferried by Charon (together with the river Styx). Oddly, it's also the name of an actual river in Greece.
Like before, the game helpfully provides a map of the area--this time they are actually a lot more helpful as they give a better indication about how different parts connect, and also what you might expect to find on some of the screens. Note how there are no squares marked "Puzzle"--puzzles are not exactly 100% gone from the game (as we'll see in a moment) but they are reduced to an unobtrusive minimum. I will explain later what those differently coloured dots mean.
Before we start, let's just have a quick look at our characters' situation. As you can see, instead of the familiar "Genes" button, we now have something called "Sopia". This is actually a very similar thing (but not completely identical).
If we look at Darwin's equipment, we can see that he has already equipped his own Sopia (which is in this case an equivalent of a Gene plate from previous games).
His Sopia already comes with one skill enabled and four left to discover. Skill discovery is a little bit different in this game. First of all, you can only discover skills on Sopia you have equipped; second, you don't discover skills randomly by fighting enemies of a particular type--you simply get the next skill when you accumulate enough SP (that's why it says "NEXT: 61" over there on the screen).
Needless to say, Darwin is going to be primarily physical attack oriented but with some moderate dabbling in magic.
Here is Marie's Sopia. It comes with a basic non-elemental magic spell which will prove useful in just a moment. We'll obtain proper elemental spells quite soon. In case it's not obvious, Marie is your typical Final Fantasy-style squishy mage: slow speed, low HP, high magic power. Since later in the game we'll be able to deal with her two deficiencies, she's actually pretty good and I will be using her character quite a bit.
As Nominator, Darwin is a bit unique, in that he can equip an additional human Sopia, that is, those previously belonging to the Pillars he's sacrificed. At the moment, it's just Orlando, so we might as well equip it.
One final note about Sopias is that unlike in previous games, one Sopia can only be equipped by one character at the time. This is really not a big issue as most basic skills/spells are anyway duplicated on several of them.
Finally, we can move on with this. Marie seems interested in that waterfall frozen in time...
Moving forward from here...
...gets us to a typical connective screen between areas (think tiled corridors). They look cooler in this version and this is where we'll find the last vestige of original puzzles... But first let's hear Basch answer the question...
A divine passage between two spaces.
A path of light that guides the Nominator and his Candidates to their fated destination.
Go now, for at the end of that path lies the world's only salvation.
And on the next screen, we find this. The thing at the bottom left, looking like an eyeball, is in fact a chest containing an item--that's what they look like in this game! We can jump over the blue tiles, but only in a straight line. So in order to get to the chest, we need to around the other way and jump over, like so:
It was probably not worth the effort since it only contains a chocolate which we can easily buy. In order to continue, we need to go all the way around and jump in the other direction:
It will get a bit more complex than this, but really only just a little bit.
In any case, here we also run into our first random battle.
The guy on the left is not an issue...
...but doing a physical attack on that flower-thingy doesn't give good results.
Luckily, Marie has that Banish spell, which does a lot better. So these guys are basically like flans from Final Fantasy, they have loads of physical defence, but are very weak to magic. And so it goes.
And here we obtain our first monster Sopia...
...and it contains already the first elemental spell, the wind attack. We'll also put this to good use very shortly.
Further on, we come to this little area. We are up, but the chest is down.
Luckily, this game has yet one more new mechanic. Each character has one unique "field skill"; Darwin's happens to be the ability to execute big jumps. So he can simply jump down to that chest (which just contained another consumable item).
A cleverly(?) hidden chest...
In another connective area... there is a chest in bottom left...
But the way leads only forward, but over differently coloured tiles. Darwin, however, is unable to do anything about them.
Pushing the button on the top left, changes the character we are controlling to Marie, and here we can discover her unique field skill: she can move blue blocks around to open different paths.
This time the item is very much worth it. Blind buckler is an accessory which decreases the probability of getting the Blind status effect (which severely reduces your hit rate) on character who is wearing it. We don't need it right now, but it will be useful later.
Status effects in this game are insane and you really need protection and healing against them. This is in sharp contrast with first game where the only real status effect, pretty much, was poison. Not at all like that here! There is even a boss that has an attack similar to Bad Breath from Final Fantasy which basically inflicts on your character a random assortment of nasty status effects. Luckily they often work against monsters too--we'll come to a boss who is actually susceptible to Blind, believe it or not!
In any case, this is basically the extent of the "puzzles" in this game. Valuable items are often blocked by obstacles of this sort and you may need to bring a specific character to be able to get to them--as mentioned, each character has one of these special abilities.
After a bit more running...
...there is a boss, of course.
Here is our enemy, and his name is... uh... Qítiān Dàshèng. Or rather, 齊天大聖, if you want to write it properly in Chinese instead of Pinyin transcription. It means "Great sage equal to Heaven" and it is in fact a reference to the old Chinese tale, "Journey to the West"--this is the name that Monkey King, the main character, gave to himself. Which also explains the look of this boss. (Incidentally, if you are interested in a post-apocalyptic take on Journey to the West, then you should definitely play the game "Enslaved".)
Since this is the first boss, it's not too hard. Actually he is water elemental, which is helpful, because we just obtained a wind spell a few minutes ago, so Marie can keep casting it every turn (spells and weaknesses work exactly the same as before).
It so happens that Orlando is also wind elemental, so when Darwin equips his Sopia (like we already did), his physical attacks also take on wind quality as seen above.
So we are done pretty quickly. It's soon going to get much harder.
Nevertheless, we can't proceed. There is some sort of a barrier/force field on the path.
But, as Darwin is looking at it...
...two new enemies appear behind! Whatever shall we do!
We go into battle, but the whole thing plays out for us...
Hm, what is that skill? I don't recall obtaining it...
Have you guessed yet?
Yes, this game totally has summons! We'll come back to this later, but equipping a Pillar's Sopia, in addition to their skills, also gives us the ability to summon their special attack in some circumstances. Again, Orlando's attack is a powerful wind spell (Gale Roar), as expected.
Why would... you do a thing... like that?
Tell me! Tell me what happened!
Why are you calling his name? Why?
Why won't you tell me!
So I guess Marie just fainted. We should go check up on her.
But here is Araki, why not stop for a chat, right?
I've forgotten how to even feel fear. I haven't been able to pick my own battles in ages, so I plan to enjoy this to the fullest.
I'll enjoy fighting you someday, too. You killed Orlando, after all.
You should enjoy this a bit more yourself, kid. When're you gonna get a better chance to see how good you really are?
Marie's room is just behind us, but obviously we need to talk to Li Hua and Conor first...
...Um, excuse me.
I should've realised sooner, but... You and Orlando once helped guard my family, didn't you?
That's right... I thought I'd seen you somewhere. You're Count Whelan's son, aren't you?
We worked as your bodyguards, what, a year ago?
You were a huge help to my family back then. Especially Orlando...
You have some reason for all this, right? Y-you'll look out for me... won't you? You're not really going to kill me... right?
...Yeah. There's no way I could do that.
Thank goodness! I hope you'll serve as my guard again, just like last year! I can pay yo however much you want!
Don't get too excited.
No one knows what's gonna happen. It'd be a little tough for one puny human to stand up to this Creator's will.
B-but then... w-we'll all...
Hey, don't count me out so quickly! I'm not going down without a fight. You better do the same, kiddo.
This is turning into a real mess, isn't it.
You said it, Li Hua.
Finally... let's do what we came here to do...
At a guess, a flashback thanks to Orlando's Sopia.
Unfortunately, before we can go into her room, we are summoned by Basch...
* * *
So, this episode was a bit heavy on game mechanics, but that's only because game tries to get it all out of the way quickly, rather than subject you to a 20-hour tutorial (Final Fantasy XIII, I am looking at you!). There will be a bit more of this over the next couple of updates, but then we'll be able to mostly focus on the plot like we did in the first game. I just wanted to highlight all the changes and improvements that were made in the sequel because they for the most part make the game more interesting and enjoyable.