The Let's Play Archive

Shadow Hearts

by The Dark Id

Part 13: Episode XIII: Seals and Guards

Episode XIII: Seals and Guards

Music: Blade

Margarete has now joined our party filling in the Water element niche. She is more of an all-around character unlike the more magically inclined Zhuzhen from earlier. Though she possesses the highest Luck stat of any character. Which I would imagine is an important trait of any super spy.

The only new piece of equipment Codename Malkovich comes packing is this Mini-Mauser. This is actually a 1914 Mauser Pocket Pistol which is a little weird for someone to be carrying in 1913. But we can hand handwave that with the whole spy having rare/prototype tech. Other than that, she comes equipped by default with a Leather Skirt, like the one we just bought Alice. No accessories to her name, though. That’s fine. There’s a reason we stripped down Zhuzhen before he departed the party. I hope spies are OK with second-hand belts and bandannas.

As it turns out in the weapon hierarchy according to Shadow Hearts, guns beat staffs and heavy books but they're no match for a strong fist. That's just science. At least Margarete looks like she's having fun.

Unlike the rest of our cast, who are varying degrees of arcane superhumans… Margarete is just a normal lady. Zero magical abilities. Instead, she has access to Secret Weapons and a vast spy network to aide her in battle.

Activating a Secret Weapon results in Marge pulling her 1913 cellphone out of her coat and calling for assistance.

Yeah, I could use some help here.

What did you think I was joking? S-P-Y remember? Don't worry about it too much! This call results in a grenade dropping from the sky into Margarete's hand, no matter the location. All of her Secret Weapons work in a similar fashion. She has a VERY good support network. It's like the assassins in AssCreed: Brotherhood. Doesn't matter if there's exactly one bush on an empty field 5km from civilization. There's a dude in there ready for go time to shank a guy as soon as the signal is given.

Despite being an explosive, the Grenade causes Water elemental damage and decent amounts of it too, in the 50-65 HP range where we're at currently. It's a very wet grenade, you see.

Our new spy also comes pre-equipped with her Water elemental imbuing "spell", Water Edge. This time she phones up for help and a rope pulley drops from the sky. Margarete casually yanks on it and…

…the targeted character has a bucket of water dumped on their head. See? Now they're just DRENCHED in Water element. It's that easy! Hopefully, Zhuzhen won't come back with Fire Edge which just results in him lighting a torch and tossing it at someone's head.

That does it for our brief overview of Margarete. We'll be seeing a lot of her in battle. Mostly because (spoilers) she'll be our third party member for a lot longer than Zhuzhen stuck around.

Music: ENDS. The sound of rushing wastewater takes its place.

Back to business, now that Margarete has joined our ragtag little band we can continue exploring the sewer. The whole area is just a big + layout wise. If we return to the entrance and head east, we'll end up at a Save Point and the exit. I told you it was a short sewer level! Let's crawl up and get the hell out of here!

Hey, is this…?! Yup, no question about it. It’s a Taoist seal… Maybe to keep us from getting out? But who set it? I doubt there’s anybody in the Japanese Army that can use black magic like this.
It’s a lot different than the kind of magic I know…
You’re right. This feels far more sinister… and evil. It simply reeks of it.
…Wait, did you say you knew magic?
Yes. Just a basic curative spell. Nothing amazing like Yuri.
Huh… What can you do, sonny boy?
Huh? I can use Fusion.
Right… You say that like I'm supposed to know what that means…
He can transform into monsters!
Hey! It's a little more complicated than that!
Ergh… Well, you see… I've got to get Fusion Souls from my mind Graveyard and there's Soul Energy that builds up and ergh…
<confused stare>

Yeah, OK. I guess it is transforming into monsters. Tch…
Well… that's… different.

Anyway, it doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to get out of these sewers unless we break it…
Break a Taoist seal? How? I don’t have a clue.
Met an old geezer that probably knows a thing or two about that but he's long gone.
It looks like something fits into the center of this symbol.

Everyone climbs back down.

There are two ways to break that seal: Open the lock on the other side, or destroy its guardian…
<looks around>There aren’t any guards around. It’s just us three.
But that terrible, oppressive feeling I get here… It’s like someone’s been watching us. Ever since we arrived…
Ah, what a pain. If you’re out there, save us both some time and show yourself! C’mon, let’s play!
Dear, dear. There are plenty of situations where brute strength just isn’t the answer, sonny boy!
I dunno… It's worked PRETTY well for me in all situations so far…
So that leaves the lock… And all we’ve got to do is find something to unlock it with! Right?
Awright, let’s start lookin’…

Right on schedule! The bomb I set in the train depot just went off.
Lady, could you STOP doing terrorist attacks!? Really reconsidering hanging out with you.
I told you, it's not terrorist attacks it's strategic strikes from a master spy!

Damn, Margarete, how many firecrackers do you have up there?
Tee-hee! That was the last one. I bet the Japanese Army didn’t even know what hit ’em!
Didn’t know what hit ’em…?! If this whole sewer system collapses, we won’t know what hit US, either!
Oh ho ho ho! Come now, who do you think you’re talking to? I’m Margarete, Miss Spy Genius! As if I’d make that kind of mistake. It’s all according to plan! Every last detail!

I can’t believe this…

Fun Fact: Margarete's bombings of the railroad in Fengtian is derived from the Huanggutun Incident which was a railway bombing in the same region (granted it was some 15 years later, in 1928.)

That bombing had very little to do with a haughty spy trying to dick over Imperial Japan. It was more some Japanese colonel stationed in the region Galaxy Braining the assassination of a regional leader in a bid to install a successor more malleable to Japanese interests. He did not take into consideration everyone getting super pissed they blew up a train and killed a bunch of people, which ultimately resulted in blowback weakening Japan's influence in Manchuria. Whoops!

May as well continue our trek around the perimeter of the sewer passages. The northern, righthand side of the tunnel leads to a treasure chest containing…

A new pistol for Margarete. That was quick. Unlike our spy's default weapon, which wasn't available until the following year, this is a Type 94 Nambu pistol which wasn't available until 1934 at the earliest. Don't ask me what it's doing in the back of this sewer in southern Manchuria 20 years early. We can't get too hung up on that when Marge is carrying a cellphone. Anyway, this weapon offers +2 Attack Power but -2 Special Power. That's not a huge difference either way. For running around with random battles, it's a touch better. But we'll be mostly using special attacks for upcoming major encounters, so…

I equipped it and forgot to switch back when it was boss time. Pfft… It's barely a difference! It's fine!

Unlike Koudelka, which had like all of 20 minutes of backtracking the entire 12-hour game, Sacnoth REALLY gets their money's worth out of each pre-rendered screen in Shadow Hearts. So to progress in this dungeon, we need to run ALL the way back around the perimeter of the area, past where we acquired the puppy and Margarete joined up, to reach the northern edge of the area. There's that chest we just found the pistol in.

C'mon, guys! That's like a three-foot gap. You could jump that!

Spy bomber's explosion has caused the brickwork to crumble and revealed this little trinket. That orb sure looks like it could fit in an evil Taoist manhole cover.

…Oh, oh ho ho ho! Th-this is according to plan, too. See? We got the stone, right??

Not buying that one, huh?
I'm afraid not.

Okay, I admit it, it was a mistake. But it turned out all right, didn’t it? See? Now, let’s hurry!

Before we retrace our steps all the way back to the exit, there's a Paralysis neutralizing accessory invisibly hanging out at the end of this platform. Good thing the architects of this sewer decided to make some useless platform, lest this orb be stationed over sewage and the party would have to get all gross wading through it. Real foresight.

Another trek clear across the dungeon, with a pitstop at the Save Point to clear Malice, use a Tent and naturally save the game. Let's try this again…

The evil I sensed before… it’s getting stronger!
Indeed, I’m breaking out in a cold sweat. This is just… icky.
Think that's just the turd on your boot? Watch your step.

<inserts Sealing Stone> …C'mon, baby…

Is that good!?
S-something’s… coming!!

Music: Brain Hopper

Oh CHRIST! What is this inside-out Creature of the Black Lagoon ass fishman?

Oh, good grief! There's three of 'em! Mini-boss time. Meet the Kappa (the green fish boys) and Water Tiger (the red fish lad.) The Kappa duos possess 100 HP while their big brother Water Tiger is packing 380 HP and is the actual mini-boss. Before we get into 'em, let's jump into some folklore.

Kappas are monochrome emotes used by degenerates who use actually use Twitch chat depicting Josh DeSeno, an employee of Justin.TV, the predecessor to Twitch. Little green imp-like dudes with beaks that hang out around rivers from Japanese. You've almost certainly seen a Kappa depicted in some other Japanese media over the years. The Imp status effect in Final Fantasy VI was a Kappa.

Wikipedia on Kappa posted:

Click here for more!

A kappa (river child), also known as kawatarō is an amphibious yōkai demon or imp found in traditional Japanese folklore. They are typically depicted as green, human-like beings with webbed hands and feet, with a turtle shell like carapace on its back. A depression on its head called its "dish" (sara) retains water, and if this is damaged or its liquid is spilled the kappa is severely weakened.

The kappa are known to favor cucumbers and love to engage in sumo wrestling. They are often accused of assaulting humans in water and removing a mythical organ called the shirikodama from their victim's anus.

Kappa are usually seen as mischievous troublemakers or trickster figures. Their pranks range from the relatively innocent, such as looking up women's kimonos, to the malevolent, such as drowning people and animals, kidnapping children, raping women and at times eating human flesh. Though sometimes menacing, it may also behave amicably towards humans

Had to look up the parts about sumo wrestling and mystical ass organs to make sure the wiki wasn't vandalized and nope. They're totally into that kinda shit. Sure… Water Tiger, on the other hand, is based on the Shui Gui -- the Chinese equivalent of a Kappa. It just has a feline head and possesses a more monkey-like than turtle motif. They took some liberties here…

Back to the enemy at hand. Margarete is just going to be lobbing grenades non-stop until otherwise noted. That might be Marge's game plan for a good portion of major enemy encounters for a time. The two Kappas are Water elementals, so Grenade is only doing around 35-40 HP of damage. But Water Tiger is, despite the name once again, a Fire elemental foe. So he's taking upward of 65+ damage a blast.

Meanwhile, we're going to have Yuri turn into a tiger of his own and start going hog on the two Kappa first. After Marge softened 'em up, a single decent combo should be enough to finish both of the two buggers off. Which is good, because Kappa possesses a curative spell and will heal Water Tiger if given the chance.

We're not going to allow that.

Water Tiger doesn't possess many attacks, though they do hit for nearly 40 HP of damage if he does strike. Knockback is a mighty kick that has the potential of knocking a character into the back row.

I suppose I should mention there are a front and back row formation during battles. Back row takes less damage from enemies but deals less physical damage as well. Magic-oriented characters hang out there since range does not affect Special Abilities. That's another thing from Koudelka that has thankfully been eliminated. Alice and Zhuzhen are back row folk. Likewise, front row characters deal/take more damage from physical attacks. Yuri and Marge hang out on the front lines. Row orientation can be swapped at any time (at the cost of a turn) by pressing right on the D-Pad to access a hidden option from the battle menu.

The Kappa can also slap around our characters, but it's much less impressive – only doing around 15-20 HP of damage.

As usual, Alice is on support duty topping off everyone's health as well as making sure she herself doesn't go Berserk. Tents are cheap and we're right next to a Save Point. No sense in conserving MP.

Once the two Kappa are dealt with, Margarete can take a moment from her Grenade spamming duties to dump a bucket of water on Yuri. Remember, Water Tiger is a Fire elemental.

Now that there is no threat of the Kappa healing up the Water Tiger, Yuri can get to business tearing away at the mid-boss' HP. Though I doubt in his current man-cat form, he much appreciates getting drenched in water.

Once the Water Tiger drops below 100 HP it tries a last-ditch effort of buffing its Physical Attack by 15% with some Shonen anime Fighting Spirit. This increases the monster's damage to around 50+ HP a strike.

This increasing in DPS does not help it to survive. Get rekt, you gross fish dudes. You're between us and getting out of a sewer level. That I cannot abide.

Music: Results

We get a pretty nice amount of EXP and Cash from slaying the assorted eastern river mythological creatures, including an entirely useless accessory. Getting knocked into the back row will never warrant an accessory slot to deter, sorry. Though I do want to know more about Quick-shoe Joey…

Music: ENDS

Jeez, what kind of trembling little coward double-locks? Hmph. At least it was an easy victory.
Ya know, you said that explosion before was your last bomb and then you turn around and toss like a half dozen grenades.

Pft! Those hardly count!

<look around concerned>
…What is it?
I know we destroyed that thing, but… I can still sense intense evil…
Don’t worry. The seal’s broken! Up ahead’s a landing strip. We’re gonna go get us an AIRPLANE! C’mon!
…We're doing what, now?
<looks around nervously> I still feel like someone’s watching us, though…

That does it for Shadow Hearts' obligatory Sewer Level. That wasn't so painful. Other than the hundreds of bucks it cost to replace my desktop, I mean…

The Puppy jumps out of… wherever Alice was storing it and trots into the field.

Who the heck is "Tiny"?
The puppy.
…You people were stashing a puppy with you this entire time?
<shrugging> Evidently…

Hmm? Aw, the mutt ran away, huh? Forget about him, Alice. He’s just happy to be outside.
<turns to Yuri> But…
Okay, fine!
<continued bewildered look that a puppy has been here the entire time>

The trio dash after Tiny, who has decided he is sick of the outdoors and wants to sniff around one of the plane hangars.

Bow wow wow wow! Heck!
…Did that puppy say "heck"?
I think it just sneezed. Aww. So cute!

A Japanese soldier wanders over to see what the commotion is all about.

Music: Army Mood

Uh-oh! Japanese troops!
Weren't we sneaking on their base? Who'd you think would be here?
I was hoping the bomb would draw their attention.
ALL of them!?
…There was a miscalculation or two, I'll admit.

Another soldier wanders over.

S-sound the alarm!! Prepare for battle!! Inform Lt. Colonel Kawashima immediately!!
<nods and runs off>
<swipes the air> Tsk! Damn dog!
<barks and runs off-screen>
Looks like we’ve got no choice but to fight!

An alarm sounds and more troops run to confront the party.

Music: Brain Hopper

For no particular reason, only two of the four Japanese "Elite Guard" decide to attack the party instead of all four just opening fire immediately. It's not like we've never fought four or more enemies in this game. The Elite Guards have only 45 HP being… ya know, just regular dudes with rifles. In theory, they would use those guns to take aim and take pot shots at our party members.

In practice… they all get their faces smashed in and gunned down before they even get a chance to yell "OH SHIT!"

If you're wondering if we just incapacitated those human enemies or some handwave? Nope. Totally just straight murdered them. Yuri gets Soul Energy and everything. Turns out the Japanese military are Wind Elemental folk if you were wondering.

I feel like we should fall back and get reinforcements.
I will not be dishonored by retreating!
The guy in the coat kicked Private Tokizawa so hard he disintegrated…
<cracks knuckles> Yup! Sure did!

…I think we can take 'em. Charge!

Yeah, it goes just as poorly for these two stormtroopers as well. Who'd a thunk? It might not be as messy, but Roger Bacon's rampage on the train only killed five soldiers in total. We've now racked up four and kind of justified the military being after us, especially when we're murdering guys on a military base we just broke into.

Music: ENDS. An alarm siren is heard in the distance.

What are we going to do now?! Reinforcements are going to be here at any minute!
They're going to be really upset when they find their comrades we knocked out.
Yeah… Knocked out…

Right. No time to waste! Let’s grab that plane of ours!


Now the killing the protagonists out of nowhere in some terrorist attack three hours into the narrative? Anyone can pull that off. Fake killing them that first time only to have them die for real in a completely unrelated explosion thirty minutes later? Now that takes some balls! Shadow Hearts continues to play by its own rules. Tune in next time as we return to check in Zhuzhen as the game shifts to a series of rural China vignettes involving the exorcism of assorted ghouls and ghosts!

Video: Episode 13 Highlight Reel
(You should watch this just to see Margarete's Secret Weapons in action.)

Margarette Portrait – Just chillin' with my peacocks. No big deal.