The Let's Play Archive

Shadow Hearts

by The Dark Id

Part 7: Episode VII: The Quack Oracle

Episode VII: The Quack Oracle

Music: Destruction - Noise of Fangs

Yes, this is what was left after the demons devoured the humans. Be careful. I think they mean business this time.
I’ve been doing this for a while. So here’s some tips... You see any little girls or church folk from a religion you don’t recognize? Get out of there!
Got it!
Anyone from your past that is dead or missing and you find a letter from them or a sexy doppelganger shows up? Walk the other direction!
And if you see anyone wandering around that looks normal but they’re looking for any of those things I mentioned? Lost cause! Sever.
Oh yeah. You see a ghost? Punch it.
Punch... it...?
Punch it! Nothing good ever happens with ghosts. They’re either evil, or a pain in the ass or both. Skip the cameras and just get punching.

Welp, the town is turned into a blood and gore filled nightmareville. If I had to guess, we probably need to sort out that shrine filled with human skulls if we’re going to break this curse. So let’s return there and see what’s up.

<laughs> Hey, lady, I put the kiddies to sleep. Permanently. Why don’t you show us your true form, too? We’re tired of this endless procession of fiends.
...But we only saw those two children.
Quiet! She doesn’t know that...
Oooooh. Sorry!

We figured if we came here, and took care of you… Well, you know how it always works!
Let’s just jump to the boss fight, lady.
Ha! Fools! Even if I die, the monsters well remain and you’ll still be imprisoned in this town. Because all of this is the will of the great Yamaraja, protector of our village!
Yamaraja? C’mon, I could take care of him just by destroying the shrine back there.
What do you think, Alice? Bet I could shatter it with one punch?
I don’t know. It seems pretty sturdy...
Could you not undermine me being a badass!
Oh... SORRY!

<clenches fist> Yeah! He could take it out with one punch!

Take a good look! These are the bones of all those I’ve sacrificed to him!
I thought you were planning to eat us.
Ergh... A meal can be a sacrifice!

I used the malice of the townspeople, and made this fence to keep one and all away from here. As long as I’m alive, this fence will protect Yamaraja. Because without killing me, you can’t get near the shrine!
<laughs> So I was right after all! You ARE the one to get!
<cracks knuckles> Here comes the fun part.
Hyahahah! First, you’ll have to catch me! POOF! And I’m gone!

What do you know, she wasn’t bluffing. Everyone knows cat demons have access to ninja style disappearance techniques. You should have been prepared for this, Yuri.

Hyah hyah hyah! You’re going to wander aimlessly through this village forever! Wither and die in the village where morning never comes! Hyah hyah hyah!!
Damn it!! I’ll skin your hide!!
Where did she run away to? I don’t think that cat-demon can escape this place any more than we can.
Yeah, she must be somewhere in the village. Let’s find her.

Our new goal is finding that darn cat-demon. This involves backtracking across town finding triggers to make her pop-up and be a jerk. The first such trigger is right by the well. Sadly, no jumping into said well to receive puns in this JRPG.

<puts up fists> Found you!
<jumps back> Hyuk hyuk hyuk! You mean you didn’t get eaten by my underlings yet. You’re a tough cookie.
It’s only been like thirty seconds and twenty meters from when I saw you last.
Has it? It gets hard to keep track of time here. Not that it matters!


Yuri you really need to start doing something to this cat lady immediately and not just threatening to punch it. Though on the subject of underlings...

Music: Brain Hopper

Crazily enough, random battles have begun cropping up in the area now that it’s gone from a shifty looking rural village to Hanuda from Siren. Chief ghouls stalking the streets are Zombies and a reskinned wolf Canus.

Canus are the biggest threats as they can once again bite our characters multiple times. But more pressingly, the can perform Flash Flood which is just a water elemental mouth laser which hits for around 10-15 HP.

Fun fact: The Japanese name for Canus is Inugami or Dog Spirit.

Yokai Wiki on Inugami posted:

Click for more info

Japanese folklore describes Inugami as zoomorphic, or anthropomorphic, dog-like beings, often similar to werewolves. They are also known to be masters of black magic. Inugami are a kind of familiar, or spirit of possession, which are found in Kyushu, Shikoku, and elsewhere in West Japan. In public, an inugami looks identical to an ordinary dog in order to blend in with society. However, its true form is that of a desiccated, mummified dog’s head, often dressed up in ceremonial trappings. This is kept safe (and away from prying eyes) in a secret shrine in its owner’s house.

Many enemies in Shadow Hearts are derived from Chinese or Japanese folklore (don’t ask me why a Japanese dog spirit is haunting a Chinese village.) Zombies are not one of them. They’re just zombies. Technically, spirits that have inhabited a corpse. So magic origin zombies and not T-Virus. There’s little difference in the two. They bite people. It’s mildly irritating. The bites have the potential to cause the Poison status effect in this game.

Last up we have these gross snail ladies -- Green Flyers. Much like the zombies, they just kinda slide up and bite at our characters’ ankles. Though in this case they have potential to inflict Confusion instead of Poison. Which is much more annoying.

Green Flyers get their name from a questionable translation of Hino-Enma.

Yokai Wiki on Hinoenma posted:

Click for more info!

A yokai who looks like a beautiful woman who seduces men into killing themselves. At first they seduce them so their wives leave them and then eventually, once they have nothing left, she makes them kill themselves.

According to the original text "Picture Book Millionen Tale", the original "Flying Beam" is a word derived from Buddhism, to reprove female criminals, even to destroy themselves with the falsehood of women's fascination. It is a word to admonish the foolishness of losing a house. The flying mermaid is a beautiful woman like a bodhisattva, but it is frightening like a Yasha, destroying the heart of a man who fascinated this figure, destroying himself, letting him lose his wife and eventually losing his life. The younger sister-in-law who once said to have luxuriously made the lords of the summer in China, the crown that the ruler of the Yin broke down, the princesses of the kings such as the prince who became a prime candidate who destroyed the circumference though it was the queen of Zhou. It is likened to this imaginary devil (legendary, their identity is taken as the fox of nine tails).

The name means "Enma of Fire", that is, "Judge of Fire Hell". The name of "Flying Guardian" or "Flying Soldier", and it is also an indication of the Tenno or Mara that brings a magic (bad obstacle) to the rim (faction). It is said that it means "flight devil" that flies over and sparks a big fire as it is related to the big fire of Tianya, a green-grocery shrine, born as Hinya.

Don’t ask me why they look more like a snail princess physically.

Combat wise, Yuri can (usually) kick any one of these guys’ asses in a single combo in human form and like 1-2 hits in Fusion form. Canus are the hardiest of the three. If they’re lucky (and we aren’t with RNG damage calculations) they can just survive a normal Yuri combo. Zombies will go down in about two hits. Green Flyers are weak enough that Alice can take one out bopping out a full combo with her bible.

None of the enemies are all that much more of a threat than what we encountered out in the Plains. That said, the encounter rate in Zhaoyang Village is quite high and we I’ll be battling quite a few random battles which will be omitted from the LP. With that in mind, our Malice will undoubtedly raise a level soon into our trek through the village. As soon as Malice reaches a new level, Yuri’s talisman will flash on screen following the completion of the battle that pushed it to the next level.

In order to clear out Malice, we need to find the nearest save point in the area. From there, we can go into the game’s menu and select the Graveyard to transport to...

Music: Graveyard Moon

Well... the Graveyard. What else did you expect? Only Yuri is allowed to travel to his Mind Palace or whatever the hell this place is meant to be. So it’s best to have his health topped off before sending him in.

From here, we wander back over to the Four Masks and request to clear our Malice. This immediately leads to...

A battle, naturally. We need to defeat an enemy equivalent to the amount of Malice we’ve accumulated. Evil 4, who we fought in the tutorial for Malice, is the spirit that appears when the Malice level is just before Fox Face starts showing up. A much beefier version of Evil 4 will appear if it ever gets to that level again.

We’re currently a Green Malice level so Yuri must fight Evil 2 -- which is just a stats increased transparent Wolf from the Plains area. It’s no problem at all to kick its ass in a couple turns. Its attacks are identical to the standard Wolf.

Fun Fact: The “Evil” series of enemies in the Graveyard have the much cooler name “Embodiment of Malice” in the Japanese text.

Following the Evil challenger’s defeat, the menacing aura on the Four Masks will dissipate and Yuri will be rewarded an item for doing away with the Malice. The item rewarded is actually one from a stock of about thirty items that are based off of a calculation of the total Malice accumulated. There’s actually a tracked number and every enemy produces different amounts of total Malice.

Unfortunately, Sacnoth haven’t totally done away with their esoteric bullshit from the Koudelka days, so that Malice sum and the amount of Malice produced by enemies is completely hidden from the player. Thankfully, the Malice rewards are not exclusive items so it’s not that much of a player unfriendly dick move. Still...

Anyway, that’s a rundown on dealing with Malice going forth. I probably won’t mention returning to the Graveyard to clear Malice unless Yuri unlocks another Fusion or the Malice reward is an item we’ve yet to see. Just keep in mind I’ll probably be venturing here at least once per dungeon to waste two or three minutes of time off-screen.

Anyway, back to the real world! Alice has no comment on what happened to Yuri when he’s in the Graveyard. Presumably he just ragdolls and flops over on the floor for a few minutes before popping up like nothing happened. Alice is just too polite to comment on that being really weird and worrying.

Music: Destruction - Noise of Fangs

But aside from that, while all other NPCs in the village have vanished presumably to become the town’s random battle monsters, the Wandering Peddler is still fine and offering his wares. Same price as before, naturally. We might stop by and do some business later.

For now, let’s keep retracing our steps across town and see if we can’t get the jump on that evil old cat lady. The next trigger is near the shops close to the gates of the town.

<puts up dukes> Dammit! Yer not gonna get away this time!
<jumps back> Hyuk hyuk hyuk! Don’t you think it’d be easier to just give up and let us eat you?
I’ve only been after you for like five minutes!
Five minutes too many!
Not really!

Poof! <vanishes>
At this rate, it’s just the same thing over and over. I’m not getting anywhere.

We definitely aren’t making any progress. But what if we just retraced our steps all the way to the gates of the town. Perhaps something has changed there... As an aside, I like how incredibly gross and fleshy the ground in town has gotten in its “dark” form.

New Music: Asian Parfait

Alice and Yuri come upon a pair at the town gate. One of them walks around inspecting the magical glyph on the ground and the gate itself as Yuri and Alice watch him work.

But he was supposed to have lost his powers fifteen years ago… Surely it can’t be that he’s… <shakes head and ponders>
Who’s that with you? An elder munchkin?
<jumps back spooked>
<shakes head> Well, well. Still people here, eh?
You picked the wrong day to visit town, pops.
Stand aside. <walks up to gate and yanks on it>

<looks the gate over> Huh, it won’t open!! <kicks and yanks on gate repeatedly>
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to leave. See this? <motions to ground>

In this country’s language, it means you can’t leave, right?
I said Tianfeng, but yes – that’s what that means. Are you familiar with the local tongue?
Nope. Just beat up a demon that had that tattooed on his face once. Learned that word there. The tattoo and his face didn’t survive the encounter.
Ahh... I see... You are one of THOSE sorts of... spirited wandering youths...
Hmph... So... This fancy graffiti... Am I right about it?

Yep, that’s about the size of it.
Excuse me, but how did you men get in here?
<motions to gate> Through here. We just pushed the gate open. It would appear that anyone is free to enter.
It’s strange. Traps like this usually hide their true nature initially.
Yeah... Might have mildly pissed off the demon natives. Punched out a demon kid or two... you know how it goes.
<grumbles> Quite...

We got in, but it looks like we can’t go back out. Ah, I hate this, I hate it.
I see… <walks back over to Alice’s side>
...And you are?
Hahaha... You want to know who I am?
A “Quack Oracle” is kinda a mouthful.
A what now, kid!?
Hey, I just call ‘em like I see ‘em.

I am the true ruler of the nine heavens. The absolute sage...

Meet our third party member coming in hot: Li Zhuzhen.

Among exorcists and spirit healers, I am quite well known.
Psst. You ever hear of this guy, Alice?
<shakes head and shrugs>

There are many adepts in the world, but only I will do that kind of work by the hour or day. I was hired by the elders in the neighboring village to come and investigate this place tonight.
An adept for hire by the day? That’s quite unique.
This guy’s weird all right. But he’s invaluable to me, for all the great jobs he brings in.
<looks at Yuri> But wait, handsome, don’t you want to know who I am? <walks up and tries to grab Yuri>

So fair warning: this character is, as the kids say, problematic. Japanese games from the early aughts aren’t the greatest at respectfully portraying gay characters or having others interact with them. This one sure ain't an exception. It's a good reminder that it’s a game from 2001.

This fellow here is a top-notch acupuncturist. Even brand new weapons feel like they’ve been yours for ten years once he’s worked on them. The only problem is, you have to learn to put up with certain predilections he has.
<chuckles> He’s right. I can’t fight, but you’ll love the way I assist.
Do you two have any other acts besides an odd couple?
Well, I was about to—
<turns to Alice> Let’s hit it, Alice. We can find our own way out.

Now hold on a second, kid. You, too, honey.

What is it now, pops?
I admire your spirit, kid. No matter how much you walk, you’ll never get out of this village the way you’re going.
What’s that supposed to mean?!
We already know this, Yuri.
...We do?

<steps forward> That’s because of this mysterious mark here, isn’t it, Zhuzhen?
<nods> Aha. She’s a smart one. Exactly. This seal’s power separates the village from the outside world. The seal itself is just like the lid on a pot. But this one has a lock that needs to be opened.
<looks around> How can we open that lock? What do we do to break the seal?
I already kicked the gate a bunch. Didn’t budge and I can kick pretty hard.
No, Yuri. We need to break the seal.
...Like I said I kicked it and no dice.
It’s a magic seal. Kicking won’t work.

That’s right. You get the idea. Now listen carefully, both of you. Someone in this village must be the key to this seal. You must find and defeat that person.
Wait, we were already doing that before we got interrupted by these geezers.
Yuri, we were getting nowhere. You said so yourself.
<scowls> Don’t tell him that!

…Well, as they say, the journey IS the destination, so I’m coming along to see how I can help out.
What a pain…
<laughs and walks further into the village>

If you want to get the most out of a new weapon, come and see me anytime. I’ll show you its true power.
Walking away now.

Li Zhuzhen has now joined the party. He comes in at Level 6 with stats closer to Yuri than Alice. Though slanted slightly more toward magic power than physical. It’s also worth noting he’s a Fire Elemental character. As an unfortunate aside, new party members have a set level on joining. While it’s fine with Zhuzhen (he’s about the same exact level as our current party) it can be a bit of an issue with characters later on who join our ranks and are lagging behind by like 5-6 levels initially.

Zhuzhen uses Staffs as his weapon of choice in employing Taoist Arts. His starting staff is pretty boring. Don’t worry, he’ll be using limbs cut from a cursed ancient tree from the depths of the void in no time.

Music: Brain Hopper

As far as gameplay goes, Zhuzhen’s Judgment Ring for his default attacks is probably one of the trickier ones to deal with as his first Hit Area is in range near instantly as soon as the dial starts spinning. I’ve definitely not paid full attention and blanked on tapping the button a couple times using him in the past.

That aside, while Yuri might be channeling Tekken with his physical attacks, Zhuzhen definitely is going for the Soulcalibur demographic during his strikes. It’s the glowing weapon after-effects.

Zhuzhen’s unique flavor of magical attack is called Yin and Yang. Currently he only has a single attack under its banner. But it’s not a half bad one.

Ogre Flamedance is a fire elemental attack that hits all enemies on the field for about 50-65 HP of damage currently, making it the single strongest attack we have access to at the moment. Ogre Flamedance is strong enough to just be a “nah we’re done here” button against any and all random battle encounters out on the field. So that’s pretty nice.

Before we conclude this session, let’s speak with Wander Meiyuan and learn some more about his services.

Music: Destruction - Noise of Fangs

Care for some acupuncture treatment? Or some moxibustion?
> Please. Er, no, thanks.
But before we get to that, since you’re a new customer, I have to tell you how my business works. There are plenty of great weapons, but they’re not worth much if you don’t master them. Normally it takes years upon years to learn just one weapon, but that hardly sounds like fun, right? With my acupuncture technique, you’ll feel like you’ve known the weapon for ages. And all you have to do is lie there while I work my magic on you... Who could ask for a better deal?

So Meiyuan is our weapon upgrade station. All weapons can have their levels upgraded by three levels for increased costs each time. The amount it’ll cost to upgrade weapons also increases from weapon to weapon. It’s kinda costly to the tune of tens of thousands of bucks per level by the time we get to endgame weapons.

Here’s Yuri’s Leather Glove’s Judgment Ring and stats at base level.

We can increase the Attack Power by three levels. To balance this out, the Hit Area level is decreased with each upgrade.

The Hit Area can also be increased for a lesser cost to offset that or just make it easier overall if the player is having trouble with the Judgment Ring timing.

Optimally, we want to increase by the Hit Area and Power Level at the same time to just get a flat upgrade to our weapon with no downside other than draining our wallet.

It’s not at all worth it to pump a bunch of cash into our party’s current weapons since new ones might be available for sale in the next chapter and they’re all far more powerful than any leveled up base weapons we’re currently equipped with at the moment. With that said, since Yuri is primarily dealing out physical attacks, we’ll give ourselves a small and not too costly edge by just upping his Attack Power and Hit Area one tick. Which results in... Hrmph...

All righty, everything’s done! I hope it was good for you, too. Hehehe...

...Yeah. Did I mention Meiyuan’s character had... issues...? Every character has a unique reaction to getting Meiyuan’s treatments. Specifically, the male characters... Alice meanwhile, has...


Anyway, on that note let’s never speak of this again and move on. Meiyuan will be a reoccurring character throughout the game but thankfully this is the only real time where people actively go "eww I don't want the gay!" Unfortunately, the weapon upgrade... session scenes never go away. But at least I can skip those going forth. With that out of the way, tune in next time as we get to tracking down that cat-demon, learn Zhuzhen is a very prepared man and perhaps crack a curse or two as Shadow Hearts continues!

Video: Episode 7 Highlight Reel

Zhuzhen Character Portrait – I thought it was illegal to wear a monocle and not be a portly rich old white guy.