Part 4: Episode IV: Ghost DadEpisode IV: Ghost Dad
Music: Sphere -qu-
We now have our second party member in Alice Elliot. Before we continue our journey of err... finding a place to sleep for the evening and maybe bumming some food, lets take a closer look at our new companion.
Surprising to nobody, Alice has a stat bend suited more towards magical abilities than physical strength. Unlike in Koudelka where beginning stats were more of a suggestion and characters could be built in any way, the folks in Shadow Hearts must very much stay in their lanes with their archetypes. Alice is very much the healer of the group and will remain so. The only exception is kinda Yuri because... well, youll see eventually.
You might notice Alice has a big Light in her status screen. That is because characters (and enemies) in Shadow Hearts all have elemental affiliations. The elements from Koudelka have all returned -- Fire, Water, Earth and Wind. But this time around Light and Dark have been upgraded from vague vestigial elements that exist in the pile of overly complicated mechanics but functionally had little purpose to full on Elements. Yuri is Dark Elemental if you didnt catch his status screen earlier.
Each element has an opposite which theyll do more damage against but also receive more damage from as well. Theyre fairly easy to guess:
Fire >< Water
Earth >< Wind
Light >< Dark
Alice naturally comes with her own set of equipment. Lets take a closer look at her gear...
Our heroines weapon of choice is just beating people over the head with a thick Bible shes carrying around. Indeed, Ms. Elliots weapons of choice are all hardcover holy texts. I suppose thats a bit less awkward than having the white mage wandering around with a big staff or rod all the time.
Alice also comes equipped with a blouse. Unlike Yuris equipment, I suppose its reasonable she could be wearing this under her weird button-up jacket... thing.
By default, Alice comes equipped with the bandanna accessory which adds +5 to her defense stats. Seeing as she currently only has 20 HP total, we should probably just keep that equipped on her for now. Also, this thing was totally just made in the back of some sweatshop in under five minutes for about fifteen cents material cost.
A new Valuable is also added to our inventory once Alice joins -- her magic pendant that stopped Roger Bacon from blasting Yuri back on top of the train. That does seem kind of valuable...
Thats about it for Alices equipment chat for now. Getting back on our task, it seems there is a stream in our way we just simply cannot pass at this time. Ignore the part where Yuri leaped like a hundred feet while carrying Alice earlier. He forgot how to do super jumps past the prologue. Also nobody wants to get wet so swimming is out of the question. So well just need to find another way around.
Music: Brain Hopper
Not that the local wildlife is going to make it easy. Out stalking the Manchurian Plains are hungry wolves, vicious vampire bats and just straight up the Webspinner giant spiders from Resident Evil. Sure, why not? That sort of shit is probably hanging out in the countryside of China back in the early 1900s.
Of the three enemies in the area, only wolves are somewhat threatening in that they get to bite multiple times instead of just once. So Yuri is best off just kicking any wild dogs he sees to death immediately.
Alices unique ability is White Magic and right now her only spell is Cure. Yuri is down some health thanks to the assorted Chinese spiders and bats having taken a liking to biting his knees of late. So we can give that a quick go to top his health back off.
Its a Cure spell. It restores a respectable bit of HP. Thats about all there is to it. Its also the reason Alice will be in our party for the bulk of the game. Having a healer is kinda important to have around in an RPG where 999 is the maximum HP and were starting barely in the mid-double digits.
While Alice is mostly going to be focused on keeping everyone healed for the most part, enemies early on in the game have such low HP that having Alice bible thump em to death isnt a bad strategy. Shes very enthusiastic with her book bashing.
One particularly annoying bit about Shadow Hearts is Leveling Up. There is no allocating stats. All attributes just automatically increase on level up. The annoying bit is HP and MP always will increase when a character gains a new level but... their current HP and MP will not increase with it.
In other words, when our characters HP/MP increase, theyre now missing the amount of health between the level up value and the value they had at the end of the battle. So Alice has gone from missing 3 HP to 13. Its a minor nuisance but annoying either way. Especially if youre the type who likes to have their characters HP topped off most of the time.
Music: Sphere -qu-
Enough about random battles. We need to either find another way around that stream. Or maybe just get rid of the stream entirely... Alice and Yuri stop to discuss their situation.
Um maybe if we do something with this sluice gate, well be able to cross the river.
The HELL is a sluice? Ergh... I mean...
<turns to Alice> Ah, of course! Yeah, I was just thinking the same thing.
Er, anyway, lets have a little search, then.
Hah! Well be sluicing it up in no time!
<shakes head doubtingly>
Heres a big change from Koudelka. In that game the party immediately started stuffing every single key item they ever come across into our pockets until two-fifths of their belongs were puzzle pieces to problems theyd yet to even encounter. Seriously they had some dead Saints severed arm in their backpack for like a third of the game before finding any importance to it. This time around, we need to actually find the problem before we can go grab the solution. Which is reasonable but somewhat annoying gameplay wise.
As an aside, Shadow Hearts first save point is here in the burnt out ruins of some shack. No fighting a boss before earning the right to save properly this time around. Just step onto the weird glowing glyph (I think its a Judgment Ring rune but you never really get a close look at one.)
The party needs to go to the northeast corner of the area to discover one of the sluice gates, particularly the one allowing that stream to flow, is missing a handle. NOW we can go retrieve one from the derelict gates we passed.
There is a gate to the north and southwest of the area. It doesnt matter which we grab a handle from other than a reward that doesnt matter too much.
We need to use the Judgment Ring in order to yank off the Sluice Gate Handle. This is a Normal Ring which just means we need to tap three points on the Judgement Ring. So its basically like using any normal attack. No big deal.
There is no immediately evident drawback to failing the glorified QTE. Other than Yuri looking like kind of a chump and embarrassing himself in front of a girl. We can just try again until we get it right.
Now we have a Sluice Gate Handle added to our Valuables. There is a wee issue with the Valuables tab. You see, once a key item gets stuck into the Valuables community chest it... never leaves. Even when its already been used. So this Sluice Gate Handle? Well be holding onto it from now until the credits roll. Just in case! (There will never be a case.)
Some time later...
In any case, all we need to do is return to the handle lacking Sluice Gate (sluice is a fun word to say) and the situation will sort itself out. In time... As soon as we walk to the south, Yuri chimes in with...
Hey, I say we take a rest over there.
Shes asleep. <waves hand> Whats that all about?! Shes got some nerve
She didnt even find anywhere comfortable. Just plopped face first in the dirt and was out. Who does that...?
Yeah, to hell with it. Im just gonna...
Chill! Im just going to go out behind the shed and take a
Wha you talkin in your sleep!? Dont scare me like that!
Yuri stands up.
<bends down next to Alice> Oh, please. Dont tell me shes dreamin about her DAD.
Wait, that old dick in top hat wasnt her dad, right? They both have whitish hair. Ehh... I guess hers is more silver and his was more ancient geezer. Probably not related... Probably. How did she even end up with hair like that? Thats kinda weird, right? Im overthinking this...
Whew... Im getting a bit sleepy myself...
The campfire flares up as soon as Yuri turns his back. Spooky.
New Music: Destruction - Noise of Fangs
<warps into existence and laughs>
F-father! What What are you doing here?!
Being disappointed as usual.
Ive come to visit, boy. The souls of the monsters youve killed are quite lonely, you see
Souls of the monsters !?
<turns to Alice> What a lovely face.
Stop staring at her butt, you perv old man.
You are one to talk lately...
And yet, I must show proper courtesy. It is thanks to this womans power that I am even here.
Her power?! What?!
<turns back to Yuri> Havent you noticed? This world overflows with the ghosts of the monsters youve slain.
Yeah? Im good at my job. Nothing wrong with that, old man!
The gate of eternal darkness was closed until now, you see this woman is causing it to open! The ghosts sealed inside the darkest depths of your heart they call to me, boy. And they demand that I devour your very soul!
The incredible Mr. Fox Face begins teleporting around the area. Yuri doesnt seem to appreciate his ghost dad warping around.
New Music: Dirty Nails
Time for another boss battle. Maybe this one will go better than the one against Roger Bacon. Alice is going to be very confused if she wakes up from sleep to find Yuri in a fist fight with his ghost father.
Before Yuri gets a chance to do anything, Fox Face immediately performs a short combo halving his sons Sanity Points. I suppose we can touch on the Sanity Points mechanic. Sanity Points are effectively a time limit for battles that is constantly ticking down. Each turn a character takes uses one Sanity Point. Additionally, some special moves will drain Sanity as a source of energy to perform. And as we can see, enemies can straight up attack Sanity instead of health with special strikes. If a character falls to 0 Sanity theyll enter a Berserk state where they can no longer be controlled.
Berserk characters will behave like right assholes until the status is negated -- attacking allies or using restorative spells/consumables and buffs on enemies. We REALLY dont want anyone going Berserk. Yuri has the highest overall Sanity score in the game, despite being a man who readily claims to hear voices in his head and has gotten into a fist fight with a bat within the last thirty minutes. Alice, the pure white mage maiden carrying a bible around, meanwhile has the lowest Sanity stat of anyone well encounter. Read into that what you will.
As a final note: unlike HP and MP, Sanity Points are restored at the end of every battle. No need to waste consumables to restore it outside of fights.
But we dont need to worry too much about Yuris Sanity dropping to zero during this bout. Its more of a mirror match against Fox Face, who comes packing the same exact fighting style as his son. Except for a couple unique moves...
You know, like an attack that reduces Yuris HP to one hit point. I dont think Yuri knows how to do that.
Fox Face can also just turn into a Devilman. That one? Yuri can actually do that too! Here, lemme show y
Oh... Huh... Maybe next time...
Video: Episode 4 Highlight Reel