Part 21: Video 16
In hindsight, I should have named the thread something more interesting (read: punny), but as long as it is what is it I figure we should end it like it began.
Thanks for sticking with me, folks!
100 pt. Requirements:
-Clear time: 8:40
-Enemies killed: 23
The most difficult part of hard mode stages are the boss battles, in which you have to deal with a reduced damage-dealing rate and enemy attacks that hit twice as hard. And, well
Also Hardmodemusic is from the PS3 RPG Time and Eternity, called the Towa battle theme. Ive never played it myself and hear its fairly mediocre, but goon Dragonatrix introduced me to the tack and I liked it enough to include.
The final area of Neo Arcadia is one that the game reaaaaly doesnt tell you enough about. Its an area called Yggdrassil, is located in the exact center of Neo Arcadia, is constructed like a GIANT TREE IN A TOWER, and has an amazing music theme; its awesome, though possibly not quite as much as the orbital elevator/space command center that ended Zero 1, but the game tells you almost literally nothing about it. Even more bizarre is that a character even makes an obscure reference to it waaaay earlier in the game, and then never elaborates!
You know what? In the center part of Neo Arcadia, there is a very huge tree, which I have never seen anywhere else. Behind its root, you may find something important. However, it's not easy for you to get there. Due to the fact that the area is protected by many buildings. Actually, this is just a rumor that I heard from someone else. So I guess it just depends on your belief in rumors...
Hirondelle is very clearly referencing this whole area (with the Important thing being an early forshadowing), but they NEVER MAKE ANYTHING OF IT. You never even get the area name, because the game ends before you can return via the operators. Its always seemed like a really strange design choice to me, and I cant make heads nor tails of it. Regardless, youre never going to know unless you check out the supplemental materials.
As for the way the stage is designed, its primarily vertical, but instead of making you climb straight up youre just winding back and forth. It has a weird surplus of ladders, but thats really all that Yggdrassil has going for it besides the requisite Mega Man boss gauntlet. Its not bad, but theres not much to the stage.
In regards to said gauntlet, this is one of the odder incarnations throughout the series in that its abnormally small, with only 6 boss rematches total as opposed to the usual 8. The blame for this can be primarily attributed to the Guardians; in the last game, the first gauntlet section had four of the normal stage bosses, while the second had the four Guardians, but here in Zero 2 weve already beaten their faces in twice. As such, Inticreates made the (wise, IMO) decision to cut them from the rematch roster, which removes some unnecessary fluff but also makes the stage a bit shorter.
HOWEVER. Theres one more interesting thing about this particular boss rush iteration. SAY HELLO TO
- All range attack: Herculious jumps to the middle of the screen while Kuwagust spins in the background. He proceeds to perform his EX skill from Zero 1, extending his limbs out on tendrils of electricity and shooting once at Zero from all four limbs. Once complete, jumps to the side of the arena as Kuwagust jumps to the foreground, and then retreats to the background himself. Followed by
- Pincer vortex: Kuwagust spins his head whilst standing in place, forming a wind vortex that sucks Zero towards him. Fighting against it doesnt work, but jumping above it allows you to gain some distance from him. If youre sucked all the way to Kuwa, youll be caught for damage, followed by an unavoidable explosive chomp the moment your invincibility frames run out. Should you jump over him, hell pause, then turn and continue his vortex. Same as the move he used in the Airborne Bomb stage. Immediately followed by
- Scissor strike: Both Herculious and Kuwagust appear on opposite sides, and proceed to airdash at high speeds towards each other. One will be slightly higher than the other, preventing jumping over them; instead, dash towards and under the lower of the two. Repeated a few times in a row, and if currently A or S rank, immediately followed by
- EX Skill: Brotherly bond: The brothers jump into the air at opposite ends of the room, link themselves via electricity, then slowly spin in a faux-3d circle that has them cycling in and out of the fore and backgrounds. In the middle of their link is an atom-like structure; when the bother nearest you is at his lowest point, jump over him and strike the atom to dissipate the electricity temporarily and get through safely. The brothers will either do two rotations, followed by a quick direction change and two in the opposite direction, or simply perform three rotations in a single direction. Once complete, or if not performed, they repeat their previous move pattern ad infinitum.
- Suicide slam: Upon depletion of their shared health bar, the brothers will complete their current move, jump to opposite sides of the screen, then muck up a scissor strike, resulting in them slamming into each other. Jump right before the moment of impact to avoid and win; getting hit will do damage and can kill, much like Phantoms death in MMZ1.
(I tried to find a decent pic of the two together, but only got a crappy genderbent DA pic, so uh, this'll have to do)
The Anchus brothers both return from the dead for a final rematch! This fight is amazing and unexpected in many ways, but the most prominent of those is the fact that THEYRE INTRODUCING A BRAND-NEW BOSS FIGHT IN THE BOSS RUSH. This is, to my knowledge, both unprecedented and unique in the series so far, and single-handedly makes Yggdrassil one of the coolest final stages in a Mega Man game. It really is a stroke of genius.
AS FOR THE BROTHERS THEMSELVES. Weve already been introduced to Kuwagust Anchus, but if you havent played/seen MMZ1, Herculious Anchus was the boss of the first Neo Arcadia area in that game, and managed to get revived in time for that games boss rush as well. Kuwa made mention of him in his death dialogue back in the day, but basically theyre brothers in that they were both built using the same technology, and also in that theyre designed to match both the red/blue oni and the Hercules/Stag beetle design tropes.
The boss fight against them is honestly both hard and easy at the same time; theyre extremely predictable, repeating the same pattern over and over, but said pattern consists of some rather dickish and hard-to avoid moves, requiring some outlandish movement on Zeros part and a knowledge that dashing lowers your hitbox a bit. By far their most dangerous power, though, is their EX Skill Like Kuwagusts, its super annoying to avoid, and is far more involved than most others in that you have to both time your jump AND attack at the right time to clear it safely. Its hard, and still trips me up occasionally. Theyre invincible while using it too.
Its not all doom and gloom, though. The fun part about the fight comes from the fact that the bros share a health bar, but not invincibility frames, so you can do super fun things like switching sides and bashing them one at a time, or throwing an ice boomerang and getting both of them on the return. Its a cool style of fight, one that I believe first shows up here and only gets repeated once or twice, and its just generally interesting. And their simultaneous death is just perfect, if a bit mean-spirited the first time you get sniped.
Elpizo: Battle form
- Rapier dash: Elpizo points his beam rapier towards Zero, steadies himself, then dashes forward while unleashing a furious barrage of strikes. Travels about 1/3 of the room, jump over to avoid.
- Splash laser: Raises his rapier above his head and produces a dark blot of energy from its tip. Said blot will then fire out four pointed beams of dark energy on both sides, starting at an upwards diagonal angle and fanning out downwards. Any shots that make contact with the floor will produce a shockwave of dark energy that will continue to travel until reaching a wall.
- Dark drain: Elpizo jumps into the air, twirls, and strikes with his saber, producing a circle of 6 dark orbs that will rapidly travel to (and home in on) Zeros current location. Should they make contact, they will surround and orbit Zero briefly, then separate one at a time, returning to Elpizo. Each orb will do 1 damage to Zero and restore 1 point of health to Elpizo upon returning to him. Will not do any additional damage/restoration in hard mode, but cannot be escaped or prevented once the initial circle has made contact. Run away as quickly as possible and jump over the circle at its lowest point.
- Distortion aura: Thrusts his hand in front of him and produces a dark portal slightly higher than Elpizo himself. Said portal will block all incoming attacks, and after a second or two, produce either a Pantheon hunter or a Spiking to attack you. It will dissipate shortly thereafter.
- EX Skill: Grand Burst: Elpizo becomes enveloped in an aura of darkness and becomes invincible, much like the Guardians EX skills. He then hurls his rapier high into the air in front of him, which spins for a bit before violently stabbing downwards into the ground. It produces a giant crater where it lands, which proceeds to spew forth a wide, light-blue pillar of energy all the way to the ceiling as the sword itself floats within. Said pillar damages Zero and blocks shots, on top of launching out rocky debris at various angles towards the ground surrounding it. Get a safe distance away upon the moves activation, or if cornered climb up the nearest wall to avoid all the rocks being thrown about and just wait it out.
Elpizos first form is, as far as Im concerned, basically perfect. The Zero games are all about speed, and after chasing Elpizo for a little over half of the game now, having a final climactic clash against an enemy nearly as mobile and destructive as yourself is an absolute rush and a joy to play. From the cinematic transformation sequence, to the redesign (those pauldrons!), to the absolutely amazing music, everything about this just feels RIGHT. They pulled this off in Zero 1 as well, with Copy Xs first form having extreme mobility and a buttload of cool callback attacks, but he didnt get the BOOOOOM picture sequence or a unique boss theme, so Id say Elpizo has him beat there.
His moveset is admittedly smaller than youd expect, but dang if he doesnt make full use of it his physical attacks hit hard and fast, his ranged attacks have super long range, and hes capable of making up for his somewhat paltry HP stock with a devilishly hard to dodge draining attack an attack which leaves you unharmed just long enough to go oh SHIT before it hits you.
Really, my only big problem with Elpizo is that he just doesnt LAST long enough. This is a recurring thing with Zero bosses, where the emphasis on speed lets you take even big bosses down in less than a minute, and the fact that Elpizo only has 2 health bars when he really should have three does not help matters. It feels like they tried to compensate by giving him nearly 10 seconds of invincibility for his EX skill, but its just NOT ENOUGH. I want more of this guy, his classy weapon and evil chuckle are great.
Also, just gonna drop Elpizos Japanese quotes here, because I cant match them up to their respective moves without some more context.
Oops, that was close!
I see you!
You've underestimated me!
Please enjoy yourself!
Elpizo: Dark Fusion
- Teleportation: Pulls in his hands and hair, fades out of existence as light-blue energy, and then reappears roughly 3 meters from his starting location. Roll your eyes for a second and then resume attacking.
- Chain walls: Flexes his hands and unleashes two streams of golden energy towards the floor below him. The streams quickly coalesce into two spiked golden walls slightly larger than Zero himself, with the spikes either facing outwards or inwards depending on Zeros current location. They will then slide either towards opposite walls or towards each other in an attempt to crush Zero. The spikes are NOT instant kills, and the top of the walls is safe, so just jump on top of or over.
- Dual Macabre: Flexes his hands and unleashes two streams of sickly green energy towards the floor below him. From the points of contact, three smallish green orbs appear and ever-so-slowly float towards Zero, for a total of 6. Slash/shoot them apart, go on with your day.
- Golden dais: Calls out the Baby elves, and uses their power to create a spiked, golden top-shaped platform, which then proceeds to fall in front of him. Said platform will then spin up and begin to fly in a figure-eight around Elpizo as he does ab-so-lutely nothing. It begins the loop by traveling to the left, and closes the 8 by returning to the floor and sliding to the left until it explodes on the wall; everything in between is free time to smack some sense into Elpizo. You can even jump on top of the top to get in Buster range, and the only ways to get damaged here is by purposefully jumping into the side of the dias, or by remaining on it too long and having it explode against the wall with you on top. Go nuts.
- Baby bombers: releases the Baby elves, which fly off to the sides of the screen. Theyll then come in from the sides at a decent clip
and stop right in front of you. As long as you dont jump into them or anything, they just kinda give you a second or two to jump over/dash under them before continuing. After dodging both, they return to Elpizo from the sides.
- Wandering eye: Calls out the Baby elves, and uses their power to create a large, green/black eyeball looking thing with a red pupil. The eye will begin spinning in a clockwise direction around Elpizo, with the distance between it and Elpizos core steadily increasing. Completes five rotations, then disappears off the top of the screen. Distance yourself or jump over at its lowest points to avoid.
- EX Skill: Chaos blazer: Begins channeling energy through his four larger wings, producing and subsequently firing a small golden ball of energy from each of them in a seemingly random order. Each wing produces 2 shots, and said shots will fly towards Zeros current position; climb a wall and alternate going up and falling down to avoid.
Remember all those good things I said about Elpizos battle form? Well, remove all that and replace it with the exact opposite and youve got Elpizo: Dark Fusion.
I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH how much I dislike this boss. Elpizo moved super fast and attacked quickly! Dark Fusion floats up and down a bit and uses attacks that last for 10+ seconds as he does nothing. Elpizo had a sweet, high energy theme song! Dark Fusion replaces it with a much less interesting, mildly repetitive track. Elpizo fought Zero as an equal! Dark Fusion sics his baby elves on you.
This all comes together to create a boss that I will go to my grave saying should have come first, if at all. If wed gotten this, followed by Elpizos plea for more strength, followed by the transformation into his Battle form (with maybe one or two more moves) Id be perfectly happy; as is, though, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
See, they pulled something similar to this with Copy X in the first game, transforming him into a giant winged seraph with more limited mobility than his first form. Again, I think it wasnt as good as Copy X form one, but at least there we got a distinct visual theming with it still visibly BEING Copy X, on top of an arena change with bottomless pits and spiked pillars and attacks that set the entire battlefield ablaze. It was moderately cool, and I could live with it. Here, were fighting an immobile boss in a wide-open space that really doesnt fit him, while dodging rather slow and generic attacks, while trying to figure out exactly what it is were attacking.
The only weak point on his body, the small heart-shaped thing, resembles nothing more than a core, while his hair seems to just be floating over a void, and for the longest time I actually thought the hair WAS his face (with the curls being the eyes). If you zoom waaaaay into the official art, you can begin to see that the heart is meant to be his head, with a little bit of his hair covering the left side of his face, but it just did not translate well to the pixel art and Ive never quite been able to make out what exactly Im looking at.
I dunno, I just dont like this form. There was no precedent for what the Dark Elf does to you up to this point, and its always seemed to me like he didnt quite manage to draw out its full power (which might explain the weakness of this particular boss), but still its just kind of boring. It never really feels like Elpizo is really fighting back at this point, and hes probably the easiest of the four final bosses of the Zero games. OH WELL. (He has a pretty great scream though, makes ya jump)
Don't get cocky!
Rust and Crumble!!
This is the end!
While the final boss itself might be a little mediocre, the ending is most certainly NOT. The destruction of Xs body here is ~incredibly~ significant in that it marks the true end of the X-series games. Though said series has never really rapped itself up (and, in fact, ended X8 on a cliffhanger), it gives a sense of closure that I really appreciate, given how Capcom has a thing about leaving their plots open-ended for more sequels. The Zero games are really good about that, giving you what you need and then moving on, and it seems kind of fitting to me that X sacrificed himself (or, at least, his body) to protect humanity in a non-violent fashion. Id make some kinda dumb memorial thing, but uh, somebody a little more famous than I already pulled that one, and as much as Id like to make my own sepia-toned tribute to a kinda dead video game character, I think the world is only capable of handling the one. Point is this is a cool moment, and although it didnt quite hit home with me given that this was the first Mega Man game Id really played, Im sure it was a REAL SHOCKER to veterans. Elpizo's name means "to hope" in Greek, and his fall from grace is made more poignant by it.
Speaking of X, according to extraneous sources, the shock of using his body as a seal is what separated his consciousness and power in Cyber-elf form; in fact, it actually separated his soul into 5 PIECES, with the other four pieces being used to create the four Guardians, so theyre both constructed in his image and partially ARE him. WEIRD. Apparently the main Cyber-X has all the personality though, although I question that a bit seeing how unperturbed he was by the fact that he is now without a body.
Like Harpuias first fight, the Yggdrassil bosses all have a little bit of taunting they give you if you die to them. Its all inane Elpizo-worshipping stuff (they were presumably mind-controlled by the Baby Elves as he traveled up the tree) but my duty as a Lets Player compels me to include it. Soooo
- The new world The new order The new peace Master Elpizo, forever!
- The new world The new order The new peace Master Elpizo, forever!
- The new world The new order The new peace Master Elpizo, forever. Bobobobhfa !
- We are ready to define our destiny Master Elpizo, forever Ribbid!
- Another chapter in history is about to unfold Master Elpizo, forever!
- History is about to be written
- Master Elpizo, forever And the bond between the Anchus brothers shall live forever
For the most part, the music introduced in the final stage and ending are all super-high quality.
I say for the most part, because again, I dont especially care for the final boss theme.
HOWWWWWEVER. While thats true, the others really are top-tier. Silver wolf, Yggdrassils theme, is just amazing and very final area-y, and I cant help but feel the namings supposed to be some subtle reference to play on the places Norse inspiration, like an allusion to Fenrir or something. Elpizos the wolf, X is the Odin he devours? Or something. It also acts as a bit of foreshadowing for the series ending, so theres that too.
Elpizos first form theme, Supreme ruler, Ive already given my accolades to, but I have to reiterate just how good it is. The bass is strong in this one, and that 3-note sting they use right at the beginning is suspiciously similar to the one used in Elpizos main theme, Combustion.
Following that is In Mothers light, which is a great atmospheric track that closes the game in excellent fashion, builds further and further up until about 2:10, and then loops til the end of the scene. Its constructed in such a way that youll generally hear the calming, gentle parts as Elpizo meets his ultimate fate, then get hit by the later, more ominous parts when the Dark elf reverts and you get the ending cliffhanger, and is just generally very fitting. The title also alludes to a tidbit of information the series hasnt yet given, which is a cool touch.
And finally, closing the main game is the ending credits theme, titled Awakening will. For this one Im just gonna let you listen because its that good, but make sure to open THIS in a separate tab to compare. If theres any reason to sit through a credits sequence, this is it.
The Last -The Wish Punished-
In Mothers Light