The Let's Play Archive

Shadow Hearts

by The Dark Id

Part 9: Episode IX: A Single Thread

Episode IX: A Single Thread

Music: Destruction - Noise of Fangs

The Cat Lady is now dead. Which means we can now approach the Zhaoyang Village Shrine and go see what the deal is with this Yamaraja chap. We’ll go ahead and blow a Tent before heading out to restore all our HP/MP. It’s best to be in top shape going forward. I also perhaps got the whole gang to around Level 8ish since everyone was just at the cusp of leveling up after the Felinus fight.

As an added note, we hit exactly one random battle running from the save point to the town shrine. It was over a few seconds later but it resulted in the Soul Energy for Wind leveling up. We’ll address that sometime in the near future. Just keep it in mind.

You know, I don’t think anyone bothered to check to see if the Cat Lady actually was making any barrier. Everyone just kind of took her word on it and started chasing after her. Oh well. I guess it doesn’t make a difference now. Yuri is gonna violate the shit out of that shrine!

<nods> Yamaraja is the Lord of Hell. He’s quite different from those cat people from before. Be on guard.
Piece of cake! Now let’s blow this joint.
Time for the punchy part!

Yuri fiddles with the Shrine and is immediately met with a thunder crash leading to...

New Music: China Ogre
(It’s a major boss battle theme. You should probably listen to it.)

Well... that’s quite the large boy. Meet Yamaraja: Earth -- the first proper boss battle in Shadow Hearts. As in this guy is the first winnable boss enemy that could potentially actually wipe out the party. Despite towering over humans, Yamaraja: Earth only comes packing 300 HP. But to offset that he’s way more durable defense wise than the trash mobs and minor cat demons we’ve been tangoing with.

A Yama (the raja part is an honorific denoting a king/lord) is a deity from Buddhist mythology that judges the dead. His Japanese title is Enma-O: Sui Gaku which is the Japanese take on the original Hindu concept for a creature we're fighting in China... Sui Gaku part means “harvest” not “earth” that’s just a straight up translation fuck-up as you’ll see shortly.

Wikipedia on Yama posted:

Click here for more info!

Yama is a god of death, the south direction, and the underworld, belonging to an early stratum of Rigvedic Hindu deities. In Sanskrit, his name can be interpreted to mean "twin". In the Zend-Avesta of Zoroastrianism, he is called "Yima". According to the Vedas, Yama is said to have been the first mortal who died. By virtue of precedence, he became the ruler of the departed, and is called "Lord of the Pitrs".

Yama can be found in one of the oldest Japanese religious works called Nipponkoku Genpō Zenaku Ryōiki, a literary work compiled by the Monk Keikai in 822. Yama was introduced to Japan through Buddhism, where he was featured as a Buddhist divinity. He holds the same position title as other works depict him - a judge who imposes decisions on the dead who have mistreated others.

King Yemma in Dragon Ball Z, that giant bureaucrat devil guy in the afterlife that Goku has to talk to before getting let on Snake Way after he dies? Same dude.

Anyway, our first order of business is to immediately turn Yuri into a cat dude and immediately have him start chucking rocks at Yamaraja. You’d think using an Earth elemental Fusion and throwing an Earth element attack at a monster named Yamaraja: EARTH would be a poor idea. But nah. This attack still does around 50-60 damage to the big boy just like it did to Felinus. Why is that?

Like I said earlier, this guy’s Japanese name was Enma-O: Sui Gaku or Judge-King of Hell: Harvest. “Harvest” being a marginally more abstract a conceptual title than literally “Earth” -- an actual gameplay mechanic element present in combat. What I’m getting at is this dude is NOT an Earth element creature. He’s a Water elemental. Whoops!

Yamaraja Earth’s most devastating attack is Large Whirlpool, which hits Yuri and Alice for around 25-35 HP of damage while Zhuzhen, the Fire Element guy, takes it on the chin for 35-45 damage.

Even more pressingly, Large Whirlpool has the potential to inflict the first Judgment Ring status effect we’ve encountered in Shadow Hearts: Tight Ring. As the prompt says, for three turns the afflicted has the Hit Area on the Judgment Ring reduced in size. That’s the only abnormality that this Yamaraja can inflict. But other fun abnormalities for the Judgment Ring include:

We need everyone to be on point during this battle so negating the Judgment Ring Abnormality with a Phoenix Tail right away is probably a good call. We’ll need to stock up on more of those in the future.

Yamaraja: Earth also has the Flash Flood ability we saw from that undead wolf reskin enemy from earlier. It’s a real problem if he decides to target Zhuzhen with it. The old man does NOT do well against Water based attacks. A hit from Flash Flood will do 40-50 HP of damage and considering Zhuzhen only has 93 total right now... that’s a decent chunk of health gone down the drain.

Unlike in the Felinus fight, where Alice didn’t really need to contribute, this time around she is working overtime in the medic position making sure herself, Yuri and especially Zhuzhen have their health topped off as soon as possible. Optimally we don’t want anyone falling beneath 40 HP if we want to keep them alive. We also need to be mindful that Alice only has five turns before she'll run out of Sanity and go Berserk so we need to keep an eye on her quickly dwindling SP. The first time I played this I definitely had Alice lose all Sanity and was very confused as to what happened because hell if there's directly a tutorial about Sanity Points outside diving deep into the FAQ section of the menu.

Even though he is taking a beating, Zhuzhen is probably our MVP in dealing damage during this fight since that whole elemental weakness thing works both ways. Ogre Flamedance will nail Yamaraja: Earth for nearly 60 HP. He should be belting a cast of that out every single turn. It’s better to let Yuri chip in with healing items to support Alice topping off everyone’s health than letting Zhuzhen stop burning this idiot.

So in summary: Yuri turns into a catman and throw rocks at him, Zhuzhen set him on fire a bunch and Alice scrambles to keep everyone alive doing just that. Yamaraja: Earth will be slain in no time and with his death, the curse on Zhaoyang Village is finally broken.

Music: Results

In addition to a frankly underwhelming amount of experience points, we are reward with a Star Brooch for defeating the Yamaraja. This is actually a returning item from Koudelka... in name only. In that game, it actually was a brooch shaped like a star. It was a unique accessory only obtained by fucking up a sidequest to properly exorcise a vengeful nine year old ghost. She proceeded to turn into a giant rotting end of Akira-esque bloated mutant and was murdered by the party... again.

This version just gives +1 to Physical/Special Defense and allows us to bail on a battle if I somehow fuck-up enough to get the entire party in the Berserk status...? Err... I don’t think that hypothetical situation is going to come up often...

Music: Sea - Highnoon Fish

Thanks to you, too, girl. I guess my work here is pretty much done now.
That was quite the journey for a job that took all of a half hour. I’ll need to kill time until morning before returning for payment or they’ll think I skimped on the job.
But, wait, something’s been bothering me… Just who is this “person” that’s supposed to be controlling Yamaraja?
He probably thought that if the Black Tortoise was here, it would stand in the way of his evil plans. So he used the cat people to steal the Black Tortoise seal, actually just a small votive picture. It’s quite sad. He took advantage not only of the villagers but of the local, sleeping spirits.

Music: Wind Which Blows From the Dark II

Roger Bacon?
Little early for having breakfast...
He’s the warlock who tried to carry me off on that train.
Oh that old dick.
You two know Roger Bacon?!
Is he that famous?
Hmm… If Roger Bacon has reappeared… Then probably… There can be no doubt…

You gonna elaborate on that? Or just do the trailing off ominously thing geezers who know more than they’re letting on always do?
Hm? No. I cannot say with certainty...
So the latter.

I was captured by the Japanese in Changchun, and was being escorted to Fengtian on a special train. Bacon showed up on that train, killed the Japanese soldiers, and tried to abduct me.
<laughs> But of course, I came in gallantly, and picked him off like a helpless rabbit!
Picked who off?
Roger Bacon!
Ah hah hah hah hah. Roger Bacon? You actually think you killed him? Sorry young man, but that’s impossible.
I punched a hole in his stupid smug face! I am PRETTY SURE I got him!
Oh I’m sure you think you did.

He’s not likely to succumb to you, no matter how hard you may fight.
<clenches and shakes fist> Hmph! Well, thanks a lot, Zhuzhen!
Now, now, don’t get all hot under the collar. I know you’re strong, kid. Anyway, here’s what I think. It wasn’t Roger Bacon who used the local spirits, but I don’t doubt that he’s involved somehow.
Someone else behind the scenes? I wonder if this has to do with the army trying to take me to Japan? But the waves coming off this shrine seem to be a more deeply-rooted, purer kind of malice. It’s filled with hatred and lust… And vengeance.
Just smells like skulls and dead cats to me.

In my profession, people with powers of perception like yours are called “Demon Eyes”.
That’s rad.

Of course, in this country, anyone who has powers that others don’t understand will be tagged a demon. But your powers seem to be special. You can see things others can’t see, and hear what others can’t hear… Best not flaunt those powers. You’ll soon be the target of those who would use you, and then kill you.
<gets frightened> ……
Hey, old man! Keep your ominous fortune-telling to yourself!
We just kicked some ogre’s ass. Stop bringin’ down the mood!
<points at Yuri> You too, kid. The art of fusion is a forbidden art lost in ancient Japan. It’s a double-edged sword.
A forbidden art from the Age of the Gods?! What ARE you talking about?
I didn’t say that second part, but OK...
If your heart becomes enclosed in darkness and your powers run wild, you’ll be a danger to everyone.
<laughs> Give me a break! I can cover my own ass, thank you!
Just don’t be fusing with anything way out of your league, eh kid?
What are you my dad now!?

I suppose your father taught you how?

<turns away> Forget it. But I want you to know that the furor you’ve just been through is most likely only the beginning. Now, then, let’s be going. I expect we can open the gate now.

Music: Sea - Highnoon Fish

Killing Yamaraja has restored Zhaoyang Village to a decidedly less caked in gore and viscera motif. That’s not going to do much for the local tourism. Who wants to see yet another generic countryside watering hole?

Our only objective now is to return to the front gate and get the hell out of town. Before we venture too far, let’s do a slight touch of inventory management... You know, since the threat in town is over and all the demons are gone, I don’t think Zhuzhen needs that Bandana or Leather Belt anymore. He’s old, that stuff is just going to weigh him down.

With that done, we can continue out of town. There is one single person to chat up on the way out...

Ah, is that so? That’s good to hear. Now it’s possible to leave the village. Allow me to show you my gratitude. This might come in handy in the future. Please take it.
<You’ve received Guild Card!>
Thanks for everything.

The Lost Peddler gives us the Snake Card which is used in a shop discount mechanic we cannot yet dive into since the Peddler has ceased being an actual shop vendor. We’ll have to check it out once we reach the next area.

Now about that gate...

Well, I’m off. Hope to see you again sometime.
<nods> Yeah. So long.

Meiyuan dashes out of town.

...But who’d want to be touched by him?
Isn’t he a nice man?
<nods> I’m sure he’s perfectly safe for you, missy.

I think that’s the last time anyone actually actively discusses anything about Meiyuan outside of talking to him directly. So that’s probably for the best. That aside, last call for doing anything in Zhaoyang Village. We won’t be ever returning here.

Music: ENDS

Well then, see ya. We’ll probably never meet again, but I hope your business doesn’t fail, pops. <laughs>
<shakes head> Whatever will I do without a smartass kid heckling my work?
<nods> Thanks for all your help! Take care of yourself.
<nods and begins walking away>

New Music: Much Hatred Still Rankles

<looks the pair over> You two meeting up, then me, and then the events in this village… Somehow I can’t help feeling like all this is connected by a single thread that somebody has spun. And if it is, it means we’ll be meeting again somewhere.
Hey, pops! I’m gonna want a cut of your pay if you start showing up on jobs in places I’m punching demons!
Heh heh heh. Well, until then, take care!

Zhuzhen laughs and wanders off down the road, exiting the party.

Shoot! If only he were more generous about teaching me his secrets… The jerk!
I bet you money right now if we see that guy again he’s gonna be “ho ho... actually I knew a half hour long monologue of backstory I just chose not to tell you for dramatic effect!” Guys like that tick me off. It’s always some kinda kung fu doctor too. I swear!
Hee hee hee. Well, if we’re going to be seeing him again, we can ask him then.
<shakes head and waves her off> That’s true. A single thread spun by somebody… huh? Now that’s interesting! <looks to the sky>

And that concludes Chapter 2 of Shadow Hearts! Yuri Hyuga and Alice Elliot’s adventures will continue in Chapter 3: Fengtian Tragedy. ...I’m sure it’ll be fine.

It’s the proper end of the chapter so let’s have a rundown of all the folks we met along the way.


Wow, who knew undead kittens were such assholes? I’m glad we murdered those kids.

Zombie gonna zombie.

Pictured: The very face of sadness.

Perhaps it was a mistake to found Zhaoyang Village on a sacred Wolf Burial Ground. Or any burial ground in general. Did no one watch Poltergeist? It’s a bad idea every time! It’s up there with bringing a loved one back with alchemy. Just don’t do it!

Huh... That’s it? You’d think what was essentially the villain of the day for this small story arc would have a more grandiose backstory. But nope. Just an old cat lapped up some blood where a guy nicked himself shaving and whoops! Cursed into being a demon cat!

Much like it is not an Earth elemental despite the name, it also doesn’t have a kick attack of any sort... I have no idea what that description is talking about. Perhaps Yamaraja can cast some low-key anti-localization spell.

If you’re thinking Shadow Hearts has a small pool of enemies it’s going to repeat frequently with different colors and textures like Final Fantasy X loved to do... Nah. It’s just wolves. They frikkin’ loved wolves early on. Every other enemy at the game has at MOST maybe one doppelganger palette swap cousin. Wolves have like five. Couldn’t tell you why.


Wanderer Meiyuan is the type of guy who uses 15+ year old photos for all of his online profiles.


Video: Yamaraja Earth Boss Battle
(You should check out the big boss.)