Part 1: Heaven's Gate, Part 1
Asgard, the realm of the gods. Utgard, home of demons.
Long ago, a war between gods and demons; Ragnarok; erupted, and the world was thrown into a state of chaos. Asgard, overrun by demons, was on the brink of destruction.
In desperation, the gods broke an ancient taboo. Sacrificing their very lives, they created black-winged reapers that came to be known as Grim Angels. Each wielding a godly weapon known as a "Diviner", the angels entered battle. Through their fierce resistance, the angels brought the war to an end.
The demons were sealed away, but the gods would soon follow. The gods left their power and knowledge in the heavenly isle of Riviera, the promised land, entrusting it to the Sprites until their return.
1000 years have passed since the gods' demise...
Signs of the demons' return have brought fear to this peaceful land. Without the gods, Asgard cannot withstand another war. And so, the 7 Magi, proxies of the gods, made a decision. They will actuate the Retribution, unleashing the power within Riviera.
The Magi selected their most powerful agents to carry out their plan; the Grim Angels, born anew for the first time in 1000 years.
Now two angels shall descend to the sacred soil of Riviera...
So there's our history. Gods prefer vanilla milkshakes, demons prefer chocolate milkshakes, Ragnarok ensues, gods get their asses handed to them, gods destroy themselves to create angels that are (somehow) more powerful than gods, demons get their asses handed to them, and I guess they're still a little sore about it all even after a thousand years, so now they're going to take it out on everyone else. Title screen!
If you're curious, the "Extra Contents" option contains things like galleries and sound tests, which are unlocked as you play through the game. There's also a lame bonus chapter that isn't really worth bothering with. Since we've just started, however, there's nothing in there yet.
This game has actual, progressive stages, rather than just being one big world. You can explore each stage as much as you like, but you can never return once you leave.
This is our buddy Ledah. Like Ein, our protagonist, Ledah is a Grim Angel.
He's also kind of a dick. And yes, I did say "he", just in case the androgyny is throwing anyone off. He certainly had me fooled for a while.
This is Rose, Ein's bat-winged faceless cat thing. She's supposed to be some kind of familiar, but she's really just here to explain how the game works and berate Ein for being a dumbass. More so the latter; tutorials end, but Rose's mockery is eternal.
This game has no random battles; all the enemies are in set locations. With some exceptions, you'll have the option to run away at the start of a battle; however, this being the initial tutorial chapter, trying to run just results in Ledah saying "Fuck that", and you end up fighting anyway.
You choose four items before each battle. Once it starts, you're stuck with your decisions. The two items that we have here are Diviners; Lorelei belongs to Ledah, and Einherjar belongs to Ein. Every item except these two has limited uses. If you use up all your chosen items in a battle, you lose. Apparently nobody ever thinks to just reach into the pack and pull out some more.
Note that this applies to all items, not just weapons. There's no separate inventory for potions and the like, so if you didn't bring any healing items, too bad, you can't heal. And if you didn't bring any weapons, you're an idiot and you're going to die.
The "M" next to Lorelei here indicates that we have to take it into battle with us, because Ledah is a stuck-up bitch who refuses to use anything else.
Here's the main battle menu. As you can see, there's quite a lot going on here, so I'll try and split the infodump over several battles so as not to overload anyone's poor brains.
Each type of item has a particular attack/skill, which usually varies depending on the character using the item. For example, we can see here that having Ein use Einherjar will cause him to use a Slash attack with a power of 84. If we had him use Lorelei, he'd instead use a magical Fire attack with a power of 136. So, if Einherjar is Ein's weapon, why is Lorelei more powerful?
Well, take a look at the "EFF" row in the bottom-right box. This indicates the added effects that the currently selected item has. Lorelei (if used by Ein) has the Low% effect, making it much more likely to miss. On the other hand, Einherjar has the XAvoid effect, meaning he will never miss with it.
Also, take a look at the "HITS" row, just above "EFF." The little icons in this row denote the element of the attack and how many times it will strike. For instance, the icon here is a green star. This indicates that the attack is of the Holy element, and since there's only one, it'll only hit once.
I'll explain more about the various bits and pieces here later on. For now, let's finish this fight off.
Only two items, only two characters, only one enemy, absolutely no strategy. Ein and Ledah are just spamming their respective Diviner attacks here, so there isn't much worth screencapping.
Ledah is basically here to make sure you don't get your ass kicked while you're still learning the ropes, which is why he's so much more powerful than Ein is. He automatically recovers health at the end of each turn, so he's more or less invincible.
After each battle, you receive a rank based on how many turns it took you to win, the attack you finished with, and how many of your characters fell in battle (if any). Usually, the higher your rank, the better the reward. It also affects how many Trigger Points, or "TP" you receive. I'll explain what they are shortly.
Hey look, the enemy dropped a Potion.
Uh...Ein? Aren't you going to pick it up?
Why bother? It's not like we actually need any healing items, with Mr. Fancypants and his auto-regeneration over here.
God, you are such a whiner. Fine, I'll take it.
There is no free movement in this game. You simply choose a direction to go in and automatically move to the next screen, much like a text adventure. However, if you press the A button, you enter "Look" mode, which lets you interact with your surroundings. This is where Trigger Points come into play; if you want to use, poke, examine or otherwise meddle with the things in your vicinity, you need to spend a Trigger Point to do it.
The only exception to this is if you HAVE to use a certain object in order to progress, in which case it won't cost you anything.
I'm not entirely sure how the TP system is justified from an in-game standpoint. It's not like examining your surroundings is a strenuous activity. I can only assume that "TP" is some objective measurement of your characters' willingness to stop and bullshit around. Once it's depleted, they've lost all patience and just want to get to the next cutscene as quickly as possible.
Speaking of cutscenes...
In the hizzy! I got a couple of spare minutes, so I thought I'd check up on you guys. What's shakin' down there?
It looks like this will be a little more complicated than we thought. We just ran into a demon, but we...no, *I* managed to fight it off.
Wait, what? I know I didn't just hear that. Ledah, don't be yankin' your homeboy's chain now. Demons in Heaven's Gate? For real?
It was just the one, but yeah. We're expecting to run into more.
Oh man. Shit. That's...shit. Look, I don't wanna be an ass here, but my hands are tied. You know how the gods are; they get something into their heads and there's no talking to 'em anymore. Demons or not, you'll just have to keep rollin'.
To Riviera, then?
Yep. Hate to send you into the eye of the storm and all that, but one more Ragnarok and we're totally boned.
Listen, this is costing me like five dollars a minute, so I'm not gonna be able to keep calling you. Once you get past Heaven's Gate, you're on your own. L, make sure you keep Ein's ass in line.
Will do. Over and out.
What happened? Who was that?
What, does Little Miss Tutorial need me to explain what's going on?
Just answer the question.
That was Hector, our boss. One of the seven Magi. The reason we're traipsing around in this godforsaken wreck.
Hey ladies, wrap it up. We're in a hurry.
Whoa. Is that Blanka?
Blanka's green, dude.
It could be a palette swap.
Whatever. It's going down.
Watch out for the electric attack!
These guys don't look happy. I think we might have killed their friend back there.
Oh, so now it's "we"?
GAH! Where the hell did that come from?! That was like half of my hit points!
Your enemies have their own meter in this game, called the Rage gauge. Poetry! Damaging an enemy will cause this gauge to rise. If it's filled beyond the halfway point, enemies will use more powerful attacks. If it maxes out, the next one to move will use a "Break Out", as you saw here. Some of these can mess you up pretty hard, so you need to watch what you're doing.
Well well well. Aren't we fortunate that one of us had the foresight to pick up this little healing potion earlier?
(I hate you so much.)
I'm sorry, what was that? That sure didn't sound like "Could I please have the potion, Sir Ledah?" to me. I guess you don't want it, then.
...could I...please...have the...friggin'...kill you in your sleep, I swear...
Close enough. Here.
As you can see, both of those enemies took a hit when I used Einherjar here. This is because Einherjar's "Slash" attack hits in a wide arc, damaging all enemies in the front row. The scope of attacks varies from weapon to weapon. Ledah's Lorelei, for instance, has "Enemy/Near" targeting, which just means he'll hit whichever enemy is closest.
More info to come in the next fight.
Looks like Blanka ain't shit. By the way, Ein, you owe me for that potion.
I've got what I owe you right here. Bend over.
No choice but to go back for now. There is a way to progress beyond this screen, but before we can look for it, we have to get chewed out for not looking for it.
Hey, look. There's a cliff we can jump down from here.
Uh, some of us don't have wings, you know.
Everyone who matters has wings.
OK, you two go. I'll just find another way down.
Ein, you can jump off, or you can get thrown off. Up to you.
Notice the treasure chest here? Let's spend a trigger point and open it.
Cool. If we keep finding potions at this rate, Ein might actually survive this.
If you keep cracking jokes at this rate, Ein might actually cut a bitch.
Whoa, more demons! Go get 'em, wingless angel! (She actually says this.)
Could we go just one day without you rubbing that in my face? Seriously?
Could we have just one battle without any yapping? Seriously?
In Riviera, you don't gain experience simply by winning battles. Instead, you receive it by using items.
Take a look at where it says "Exp", just above Lorelei. Every time you use an item that a character can master, one of those little gray bars fills up. Once they're all filled, two things happen at the end of the battle.
1. You receive stat boosts.
2. You learn an Over Skill for the associated item.
Over Skills are powerful techniques that consume a portion of the Overdrive gauge (top left) when used. The amount consumed depends on the level of the skill.
Alright! Double Slash! I can't wait to try this out.
Aww, Ein learned an Over Skill all on his own! That's so cute. Really.
...you can ruin anything, Rose. You know that? Anything.
I'm a cat. I exist to destroy your self-esteem.
Whatever. Hey, maybe I should try mastering Lorelei next.
(He can't do that, if that wasn't clear enough for you.)
Let's check the pile of rubble here.
Performing certain actions on the map, as well as winning battles, will add to your score. Your score doesn't really affect anything in the game, though; it's just a pride thing. Just like the good old days.
Notice the little musical note after the "Rock acquired" message. This is the game making fun of you. Every time you find a rock, it does that. Every time.
Crossing the pillar to the next screen.
This terrain's pretty rough. Must suck having to walk over it, huh Ein?
OK, honestly? I'm getting pretty sick of this. I had to give up my wings to get my Diviner, alright? Can you please stop bringing it up now?
Did you? How come Ledah still has wings, then?
'Cause I'm awesome.
Hey look, three more piles of rocks! That means we'll be able to find three more rocks!
Actually, examining this rubble uncovers a Mana Wisp, which gives every character in your party a permanent boost to all their stats. You want to track these things down whenever possible.
That's all there is here, so we'll head back to that junction and go east.
Where are we now? This place is bigger than I thought.
Oh, that's the least of our worries.
No, seriously, what is it?
Come on, stop trying to be mysterious. Just-
oh no a garden gnome whatever shall we do
Uh, isn't that the same enemy that used that Devastator attack earlier? You know, the one that left you both half-dead?
Hey, relax. I've got an Over Skill now. We can handle this.
Look, don't hog the gauge. We have to share that thing, you know.
I'M SORRY I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THE SOUND OF MY AWESOME OVER SKILL.
Let's give Ein's Double Slash a try.
Sweet! How's that, Rose? Impressed?
Pfft. Watch this.
YOU GODDAMNED OVERPOWERED MOTHERFUCKING-
I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of my awesome Over Skill.
Ledah's Over Skill is Execution Level. Although these skills are extremely powerful, (moreso depending on how full the gauge is) using them prevents you from using any further Over Skills for the rest of the battle.
Heading east. Examining the path on the next screen results in this happening...
Normally, this would end in a fight. However, we picked up a rock earlier, and rocks are nothing if not designed to throw at giant spiders. Instead, we get this:
This is a simple timing minigame. The arrow moves back and forth across the bar, and you have to press A when it's within the white area in order to succeed at whatever you're trying to do; in this case, nailing the spider with a rock. Succeeding lets us bypass a fight and also rewards us with twenty Spider Webs.
Really? This is how we're getting rid of demons now? By throwing rocks at them?
Oh, I'm so sorry for not giving you the chance to twirl your big, red phallus around. I know how much that excites you.
What's that, Lorelei? You want me to stab Ein in the eye socket if he ever makes fun of you again? Of course. For you, anything.
...so what you're telling me here is that Lorelei is into skullfu-
EW EW EW SHUT UP EW
NEXT TIME: We enter the Cavern of Judgement, discover more about the Retribution and what it entails, and slay ourselves a dragon. Be there.
Potion: Support item. Restores 75% HP.
Spider Web: Support item. Raises Wait gauge of all enemies.
---NEW OVER SKILLS---
Effect: Two-hit Attack combo, power of 101.
Target: Front row.