Part 12: Video 9
Whos the witch? Is it Elpizo?
100 pt requirements:
-Clear time: 3:30
-Enemies killed: 23
This stage is interesting in that basically all of the challenge comes from precisely timing your jumps, to the point that the enemy requirement is tied with one other mission for the lowest in the game. Thusly, hard mode is once again not all that relevant for the stage, though none of the Three Guardians are pushovers so theres always that to worry about. I actually had a lot of fun with the hard mode version this time, seeing as I got to plot out some fancy shmancy routes through the field of fire that had so often destroyed me in the past. Take that, stage!
The Shuttle Factory takes a similar but different route than the Forest of Notus. Rather than being a distinctly different location that looks and plays just like a previous one, the factory is an EXTENTION of a previous stage (Pheonix Magnions Power Room) that has its own distinctive playstyle and feel to it.
Whilst the Power Room focused on nonlinearity and exploration, the Factory is a literal platform hell. Taking the crucibles of molten metal from the Toitank section of said previous stage and making them your primary antagonists, this stage is entirely focused around timing your jumps around the bubbling pots of goo. Said pots can ruin your day in many ways; they do damage upon contact, standing under one as it lowers or on top of one as it rises will result in a red-tinted pancake, and far too many of them are situated above nice hot slag pits thatll kill you dead upon one over-zealous jump.
Its difficult, but entirely doable, and usage of the Ice chip to freeze some of the crucibles into temporary platforms makes the stage a lot more forgiving. Some of the later jumps on top of collapsible platforms are a little overly mean, but thats really my only gripe with this place. Its also one of only a few places in the game where you get to fight Pantheon launchers, probably my favorite Pantheon variant due to how stupidly over-the-top that gun of theirs is, so thats one more plus in my book. And theres a cameo of the Tentolancers in the backround of the boss fight! Thats the transport Ciel refers to later. What could Elpizo be up to, hmm?
Oh, and in case you were wondering, the reactor we start out at is #3, making the area we end up in literally directly to the right of the Toitank section and the aforementioned first appearance of the crucibles. CONSISTENCY. (Except if you come back to the power room via the Operators the hole in the floor leading into the shuttle factory wont be there, so uuuuhhhh .)
Another buster shot skill! This one rounds out the set; we now have a non-elemental skill, as well as one for each of the three elements.
However, as is the general trend, this one kinda sucks too. Equipping the Blast Shot requires the fire chip to be active, and changes your shot into a volatile sphere of burny death, which upon contact with a surface produces a prolonged series of explosions lasting about 2 seconds. Its visually satisfying, but like the Spark shot, robs you of your piercing damage which is a sucky thing all on its own. Worse still, it really doesnt do enough extra damage to justify its usage, and as you can see in the rightmost picture up there^^ it wont bypass enemy shields or anything. Putting the final nail in the coffin is its performance versus bosses; Due to their mercy invincibility following a hit, theyll actually take LESS damage from this than they would from a normal, non-EX attack, getting hit with only the very first boom and none of the following. Shelve this one the moment you get it, theres really nothing redeeming about it.
- Burst fire: shoots a series of fast-moving, smallish fireballs straight ahead. Can fire either three closely-packed ones requiring a single long dash under or jump over, or two shots with a delay between them requiring two shot dashes or hops.
- Blowback shot: Jumps into the air, then fires a quick series of three fireballs diagonally forward towards the ground. Each shot pushes him back in the air a bit, so back up rather than try to dash forward under him.
- Festival of fire: Performs an incredibly quick & long jump towards wherever Zero is located, firing a burst of three shots downward upon reaching his position. Generally performed when Fefnir gets off-screen, be prepared for this and dash preemptively to throw off his timing.
- Ground break: Charges energy in his fist, jumps forwards, and punches the ground, producing a green shockwave that travels about two of his body lengths. Back up and jump, or else dash under him while hes in the air.
- Rocket upper: Dashes towards Zero and attempts to grapple him; if he gets a good hold, hell raise you above his head and blast you sky-high. Thing is, it only does 2 damage, so its not all that impressive Just back away or jump over him to avoid getting grabbed.
- Fire explosion: Changes his arm into a Mortar-like cannon, and proceeds to fire a volatile sphere that bursts in mid-air, spraying 7 small bullets in a fan pattern downwards. Stand in between the bullets or dash far away.
- Charge: Takes a moment to gather his energy, bathing himself in a white aura. Powers up every previous attack: Fire shots convert to a single large fireball that cannot be dashed under and produces a lingering explosion upon contact with a surface, Ground break shifts to a single rock pillar being produced from the ground, stronger but with less range, Rocket upper lets him follow up the shot with a high-jump to your position, at which point you get grabbed and slammed into the ground at high speeds, and Fire explosion results in a second sphere being launched that explodes upon contact with the ground, creating a fanning upwards bullet spread. Vary your strategies accordingly.
- EX Skill: Hell Fire: Bathes himself in the Guardians signature golden aura, becoming completely invincible. Presses his twin guns against the ground, and proceeds to fire directly into it. This produces a series of ruptures in the ground surrounding Zero, three on the left and three on the right. Firstly, the middle one on both sides will flare up with a large pillar of fire, then the two closest to Zero will flare up with mid-sized pilliars. At the point another rupture will appear directly beneath your feet as the initial large pilliar dies down, your cue to jump over the smallish fire and to relative safety where the big pilliar used to be. Your previous location will light up in a large pilliar, then everything will die down for a split second before restarting based on your current position. Thisll happen three times in a row before the attack ends. Its hard to visualize in words, but its a lot simpler than it sounds. He also vocalizes rhythmically before each shot, allowing you to time jumps more easily.
For each of the guardians, Im gonna be talking about their personalities a bit before getting into the boss strategy, so I can slap em in the character list.
Fefnirs the Fire elemental of the Guardians, characterized by his FIREY PERSONALITY and BURNING PASSION. He has a love of all things raucous and violent, and thinks of little beyond his next bout. As such, hes rather friendly towards Zero, seeing him as perhaps the only opponent against whom he can have a clean fight. A stickler for fairness, he makes sure all his fights are an even one-on-one, and dislikes backhanded tactics like the earlier attempted bombing of the Resistance Base.
Design-wise, his names derived from Fafnir, a dragon from Norse mythology, a theming that carries over into his design. Built bulkier than his compatriots, the spikes adorning his chest plate and helmet bring to mind a dragons fangs, as do the distinctive fanged jaws surrounding his twin arm cannons, named Sodom and Gomorrah. Theyre named as such because of their biblical namesakes, which found themselves destroyed in a storm of fire and brimstone after inciting Gods wrath due to the corruption of their citizens. Neat!
As far as the fight against him goes, hes something of a tough cookie. As a boss, many of his moves are recycled from his previous duel with Zero, but his AI has been improved significantly. While in the original game, standing next to him basically guaranteed hed try to grapple you or do a ground pound (which absolutely trivialized the fight), this time around attempting to manipulate him will more than likely result in a fireball being applied directly to ones forehead. His new Fire explosion move also serves to freshen the fight up; hell often use it when youre up close and personal, and seeing as the best way to dodge it is too run all the way to the opposite corner of the room, it gives Fefnir a much-needed way to give himself breathing room.
Moreover, his newfound herding powers allow his extreme mobility to shine; unlike many bosses, having him off the screen is often MORE dangerous than sticking close to him, because itll entice Fefnir to hurtle across the screen at extreme speed and snipe you from above.
More improvements: while he had his charging ability in the first game, he uses it far more frequently here, meaning his moveset is one of the largest weve seen so far, necessitating many different tactics to fight successfully. Also Fefnir likes to vocalize, a LOT, upon each of his shots, yelling out *PWAT PWAT PWAT* in the same way a kid might go *BANG! BANG!* should he find his pistol not making the requisite amount of noise. Its cute
Theres really only two problems I have with him. The first is a general catch-all for the guardians; their EX skills last entirely too long and leave them completely invincible for the duration (on top of being generally hard to dodge) which becomes overkill in cases like Fefnirs, where hell always use his twice before dying unless you whittle his health away in a very specific manner to maximize the damage you do before passing the threshold where the skill becomes a part of his moveset.
The second is his lack of health; in the previous game, he was given a third health bar layer which weve yet to see represented in this game, and its disappearance serves to greatly trivialize Fefnir when fought with the thunder chip. I dont really think this was a necessary change, but its a fairly minor thing.
This time around the recycled stage elements warrant their own theme! And, like Gravity before it, Passionate has a more laid-back, industrial feel to it than some of its compatriots in the ost, though its more lively than the former. This makes it another one of my favs from the soundtrack, which I believe brings the total likes up to about half of the stage themes weve heard so far. What can I say, this games got some good tunes.
Also, as promised waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in January (holy butts I gotta wrap this up), Ive reupped X, the legend, after application of a copious amount of sandstorm-be-gone. Youre welcome.
X, the legend