The Let's Play Archive

Shadow Hearts

by The Dark Id

Part 27: Episode XXVII: Hands On Trial

Episode XXVII: Hands On Trials

Music: Death - Zombie Party

OK. Time for the first trial of Wuhan Temple, the Dan Tian Court. No items are allowed in combat and we have a party consisting only of Yuri and Zhuzhen. That's fine. If we run into trouble, Zhuzhen has a healing spell so no items and no Alice on healing isn't a deal breaker. Speaking of items, if we talk to Master Xiaofang again before we leave...

I'll be watchin', meow! You can't use 'em, but I'll sell you some items. Meow, you want items?
I want you to stop saying meow constantly.
Meow, I used to be a cat! I gotta say meow.
He used to be a cat, Yuri. It's fine.
Cats say meow, sonny boy.
This is dumb...

Xiaofang is now running "Master Shoho's Allowance job." Not sure who Master Shoho is, but the point of the matter is Xiaofang is selling all the items that were available with Kato or in the Shanghai weapon's shop, in case we had forgotten anything. We're sorted out, but it's nice to know there is the option of stocking up.

Beyond that, Alice and Margarete only tell us good luck and a brief word of encouragement before we're sent on our way. Shadow Hearts hasn't had a real dungeon up until now, even though we're nearing ten hours into the game. I mean, maybe you could count Fengtian's Sewers but that was literally just a giant plus sign and lasted all of twelve minutes from start to mid-boss defeat. These Temple Ruins here is a dungeon ass dungeon.

A gimmick one on top of that, with the sealed items in battle nonsense. And boy, is it one of the worst parts of the game! Mostly because it's just really long and really boring. Do you see this cavern template motif above? Great. That's the entire aesthetic you'll be looking at while playing for the next hour or so.

Here's the main thing we're doing in this dungeon: trying to find these recolored save points which act as warp zones between the floors of the dungeon.

Each trial has three floors (spoilers we're going to do this again with a team of just the girls.) There's a bunch of treasure scattered about the area along with a bunch of dead ends and looping paths. Naturally, there is no map in Shadow Hearts so it's pretty easy to get turned around. Especially when considering each trial just reuses and shuffles around like five pre-rendered maps that maybe have an extra exit in one direction or has been inverted in orientation or the like.

Among the scattered treasure chests are also a shit load of empty chests for no particular reason. There are about a dozen or more empty chests in all over the course of this dungeon. There's five in this trial alone. They're not a mimic or anything. No enemy springs forth from 'em. It's literally a chest you just open and get a message saying there's nothing in it. It's not tied to any special prize for opening them all. It's literally just a waste of time. So that's fun.

Each floor after the first one, Xiaofang is hanging out near the teleporter and is once more offering his wares in case we really need some supplies. We'd supplies because it wouldn't be a big gimmick dungeon without a decent random encounter rate, now would it?

Music: Brain Hopper

Another reason this dungeon is really dull is each of the trials has an unusually limited pool of random battle opponents. See these two enemy types? That's it for the first trial. They'll come in this configuration or just that... whatever the hell that nightmare is in the middle alone.

These suspiciously familiar looking snake fellas are Pythons. They spam Fireball spells. That's all they do with their life. They took a community college course in pyromancy and called it a day. I dislike the fact they have a set of human teeth.

The Japanese name for these critters is Uwabami, which is... just a giant serpent. Most Googling just comes up with the snake hair pro hero lady from My Hero Academia so yeah... I guess Python is a decent enough localization. It evokes a big ass snake pretty well.

The other enemy hanging out in the first trial is a Sea Gremlin. This one just spams Lightning spells constantly. Which is a bit more painful than Fireballs, as it turns out. I'd probably rather get struck by lightning than set on fire, personally. But I'm not a JRPG protagonist. And if I were I'd be the designated grizzled old man one who'd seen some shit. I mean I'm older than Auron at this point. It's fucked up.

The Japanese title for this mass of tentacles with a teethed penis lugging a cancerous giant nut sack is Ayakashi, which is a collective term for a type of yokai that can be found above bodies of water.

Wikipedia on Ayakashi posted:

Click Here for Info!

In Nagasaki Prefecture, the atmospheric ghost lights that appear above water are called ayakashi, and the funayūrei in Yamaguchi Prefecture and Saga Prefecture are also called this. In western Japan, ayakashi are said to be the vengeful spirits of those who died at sea and are attempting to capture more people to join them On Tsushima Island, they are also called "atmospheric ghost lights of ayakashi (ayakashi no kaika)", and appear on beaches in the evening, and appear as if a child was walking in the middle of a fire. In coastal Japan, atmospheric ghost lights appear as mountains and obstruct one's path and are said to disappear if one does not avoid the mountain and tries to bump into it intently.

There is also the folk belief that if a live sharksucker gets stuck to the bottom of a boat, it would not be able to move, so ayakashi is a synonym for this type of fish.

Not quite seeing weird ghost lights and this weird ass sea monster connection. But there you have it.

In any case, Yuri is quite beefy after has grind through the underground pit fighter circuit. As such, he can take out any of these enemies in a single combo. In fact, he can punch a Python the fuck out in one hit. But Zhuzhen can also take out a Python in a single combo and Zhuzhen is barely stronger than Alice physically. Another thing that makes this dungeon really dull is that even without Yuri getting a couple extra levels before coming here, all the enemies are just... unusually weak. They are kind of overcompensating for the split party business way too hard so everyone here is kind of a cake walk. This dungeon is also technically the final (main plot) stop before we come to the equivalent of the end of Disc 1 as far as Shadow Hearts goes and enemies of every element are hanging out across the trials. It's the game's way of very strongly urging Yuri to get all of his Fusions unlocked by this point. But since we were responsible and did that earlier... eh... Kind of wasted effort.

Music: Death - Zombie Party

In any case, I'll spare the tedium of wandering the same sets of brown corridors for the next fifteen minutes while fighting the same two enemies and skip ahead of the rest, other than mentioning a couple pieces of new loot we retrieved along the way.

I don't think bronze is supposed to be blue like that...

Say, Mrs. Johnson. I heard about what happened to your newborn. Tough break, that. Would it be cool if I put the bones from his ear into a bell? I've got this theory about how to cure a sore throat and I'd love to test it out.

Gaining that morbid Bell Bracelet is actually a bit of warning for something coming up shortly. We've ignored Xiaofang's shop up to this point, but we're gonna pick up a companion Bell Bracelet here and equip it on our current active duo. Do you think the baby ear bones are from separate dead kids or do you get two from one dead baby -- one produced from each ear?

Dead babies aside, the third level of this trial leads us to an altar which Yuri can futz with to initiate the end of the trial and a boss fight. They're nice enough to put a save point just before we get into it. That's a trend that persists throughout this dungeon until the only real, challenging boss wherein there is like a fifteen-minute gap between the last save point and the boss. But that's getting ahead of ourselves. Let's see what the first guardian of the temple is in our trials...

Music: Brain Hopper

Meet the boss of the Dan Tian Court trial -- this peculiar ass spider with a hand for a head and a dapper ying-yang vest which seems to be going by the name Xieshi. This thing a Fire elemental and is packing a modest 530 HP which our odd couple here will have no trouble burning through, especially since we prepared for its only real hazard beforehand.

Xieshi's original name was just Blood Corpse. I honestly have no idea what a Xieshi is supposed to be... The bosses of the Wuhan Temple trials are (very vaguely) derived from the Three Corpses/Worms belief of Taoism in which there is a trio of supernatural parasite demons that enter your body on birth and just chill out inside you your whole life just waiting to fuck up your day. Usually punching them to death isn't an option...

Wikipedia on Three Corpses posted:

Click here for more info!

The sanshi 三尸 "Three Corpses" or sanchong 三蟲 "Three Worms" are a Daoist physiological belief that demonic creatures live inside the human body, and they seek to hasten the death of their host. These three supernatural parasites allegedly enter the person at birth and reside in the three dantian "energy centers", respectively located within the head, chest, and abdomen. After their human host dies, they are freed from the body and become malevolent ghosts.

The pernicious Three Corpses/Worms work to harm their host's health and fate by initiating sicknesses, inviting other disease-causing agents into the body, and reporting their host's transgressions to the gods. The Three Corpses are supposed to keep records of their host's misdeeds, ascend to tian "heaven" bimonthly on the night of Chinese sexagenary gengshen 庚申 "57th of the 60-day cycle" while the host is sleeping, and file reports to the Siming 司命 "Director of Destinies" who deducts a certain number of days from the person's life for each misdeed. One way of avoiding this bureaucratic snitching is to stay awake for the entire gengshen day and night, thus preventing the Three Corpses from leaving one's body (a belief later assimilated into the Japanese Kōshin tradition).

For a Daoist adept to achieve the longevity of a xian "transcendent; immortal", it was necessary to expel the Three Corpses from the body. Since these evil spirits feed upon decaying matter produced by grains being digested in the intestines, the practice of bigu "abstinence from grains and cereals" is the first step towards expelling them. Bigu alone will not eliminate the Three Corpses, but weakens them to the point where they can be killed with waidan alchemical drugs such as cinnabar, and ultimately eliminated through neidan meditation techniques.

It's real messed up to have some busta ass narc ghosts living inside you ratting you out to the spirit cops. So, let's get to work kicking this one's ass, eh? Yuri is best served here swapping into the Man Dragon Fusion and just spamming Flash Flood. This will do a massive 150-180 HP of damage to Xieshi and easily win us the fight in just a few rounds. Which is OK in my book, as Xieshi doesn't have much in the way of a move list. Especially, since Zhuzhen can't contribute too much offensively. The sage's physical attacks will barely crack 30 HP of damage output and since Xieshi is Fire elemental, the old standby of Ogre Flamedance is only pushing around 40+ HP of damage. So, it's up to Yuri to carry this fight.

In fact, it only has two moves. One is just simply gliding over to Zhuzhen or Yuri and smacking them with its head-hand. It does around 40 HP of damage, so par for the course for boss physical attacks.

Its primary move, and the one it'll spam most turns is Flaming Arm of Death. We saw this technique earlier during Yuri's brawls in the pit fights. It's a fire elemental attack. Turns out it strikes the entire party when there's more than just the one character around. If you'll recall, this attack inflicts the Silence status effect and that won't do with our current game plan. But, since we took the precaution of equipping those bells filled with the ear bones (cartilage?) to ward off such threats, all it does is deal out some decent damage.

Yuri will be taking way more damage than Zhuzhen while in his Man Dragon form. We've never had the need to use it until now, but Zhuzhen did acquire a healing spell in the form of Nourishing Potion he can use to top off Yuri's health. Nourishing Potion restores a hefty 160+ HP but it also comes with quite the price at 35 MP a pop. It'll work for now, but he definitely won't be replacing Alice as the designated healer of the party anytime soon.

That's sort of it. Yuri tosses a bunch of water fireballs while Zhuzhen keeps him alive. It's only the first trial. I'm sure they'll get more complex tactically as we go along! No, actually this one required the most strategy by far. This dungeon and its bosses are not great. I dunno if that point has been brought up yet.

For completing the Trial of Dan Tian Court, we receive a decent chunk of experience points and... nearly as much Cash as the entirety of that hour-long set of battles in Zhen's pit fight... Huh. I can't help but still feel mildly ripped off by that side quest reward for the amount effort asked to complete it...

Music: Death - Zombie Party

Whew! I’m glad that’s over. I guess it’s the ladies turn next.
Eh? Did they have to wait for us the whole time? That seems really boring...
Mhm. That's how it usually goes.
Now I feel kinda bad poking down every tunnel looking for loot.
I thought you would knock it off after the third empty chest in a row.
Yeah but that fourth chest totally had some swag in it.
It was a trinket we could have bought for pocket change at a market stall.
Yeah but, fr—

Master Xiaofang comes in over the intercom or psychically contacts everyone. It's really unclear. Either way, his voice pops into the room for a debrief.

Then... Just wait right there, meow. The door to Ni Wan Palace won't open just yet, meow.
Wait... are we gonna have to wait just as long for Alice and Margarete to do their spelunking?
Mhm. Probably...
Why, again, didn't both teams do their dumb trials at the same time?


<gains a power up aura>

Your Special Skills have been sealed away by Master Xiaofang.

OK. So not having access to items wasn't that big a deal with Zhuzhen and Yuri because one of those characters is the most powerful character in the game and could probably solo this entire dungeon with their bare fists. The girls not having access to Special Attacks is slightly more problematic when Alice may as well not have physical attacks since on a good day she's barely breaking into double-digit damage against a random battle mob jobber. Meanwhile, Margarete is the second strongest person physical in the party but that's just because the scale is S Rank Yuri and D Rank Zhuzhen and Alice. Margarete is like a B Rank fighter. Like honestly more like B-/C+ if we're gonna be real. An entire section just having those two doing physical attacks is... less than optimal.

<shrugs and shakes head> That's just RUDE!
Guns can hurt... whatever nasties are waiting in there, right?
<tilts head> What's a gun, meow?
I'll take that as a yes. Hey Alice... what do you even use outside of magic?
I have this thick arcane tome.
<squints> I... don't know if that'll cut it. So... I have an extra gun. Or three... Do you... like... want one to use?
No, I'll be OK. This book is pretty heavy.
...If you say so.

Okay, then!!

Xiaofang opens the second door to the right.

The trials are ceremonies that test your spiritual powers! Very dangerous, very scary! Meow! But you know what? I'm no demon. I'm a cute little Buddha! Meow!!

As with the boys, we can stock up on inventory shopping with Xiaofang. But we're still good, I think. Onward to the Jiang Palace Trial! It's even less interesting than the first one. Though of note, we're now controlling Alice as our lead party member on the field. Boy, does Alice have quite the arms flailing unathletic girl run going on.

Anyway, on to the trial! Guess what? It's the same exact looking area just with a completely different layout! We're still trying to find teleporters until we make it to a mid-boss at the end. The only difference between Alice and Margarete's trial and the past one is there is a different pool of enemies!

Music: Brain Hopper

All two of 'em, again. The third reskin of those ghost skulls, this time in a Light elemental flavor called Raging Spirits. They're accompanied by just straight up zombies called Puppet Guards.

Raging Spirits attack exclusively by either bonking into one of our two party members or casting Exorcism Arrow, the low-level general Light magic spell we've seen frequently. Either option does around 15ish HP of damage. In fact, all the enemies' attack here seems to do like 15-18 HP of damage, tops. At least they weren't huge jerks about having a party that can only heal with consumables.

The Japanese name for Raging Spirits is Ara-mitama which is err... just Violent Spirit. The only difference is Mitama denotes a Shinto belief that the soul is actually a cluster of several opposite but complementary aspects. Ara-mitama is the aggressive side of the soul and is complimented by the Nigi-mitama, the honorable side. Apparently, this whole thing is why when you collect souls in Japanese games, like Onimusha or Dark Souls, you often get a whole mess of soul bits out of a single person/creature instead of essentially a single ghost, like often seen in Western media. Huh... You learn something new every day.

If you were wondering about what happened to those two earlier teams of Japanese Army soldiers who were sent to investigate the ruins earlier, guess who we found! The Puppet Guards are the zombified remains of the soldiers Xiaofang or the monsters hanging out in these caverns ganked earlier. Now they just hang around vomiting Dark Messenger breath on those that passerby or try to bludgeon people with their rifles. The fine motor skills necessary for firing a gun while zombified only presents itself when zombie media takes the turn to actively bad. Again, both of these attacks suspiciously do less than 20 damage so as not to be too taxing on Alice or Margarete. And it might just be some weird confirmation bias, but the enemies in this trial seem to actively target Margarete most of the time.

That's a lot of talk in order to sum up how every random battle for the next fifteen minutes is just waiting for Margarete's turn as she fires her gun repeatedly into an enemy until they're dead. Marge can take out any one of these clowns in a single turn, but it's all on her doing the deed. Raging Spirit only has 38 HP while Puppet Guards have 45 HP. Just as a thought experiment I had Alice try to take on each by herself. She took 3 turns to kill a single Raging Spirit and four turns to kill one Puppet Guard. Alice, you've really got to hit the gym. That's just sad...

Music: Death - Zombie Party

Random battle aside, we're just going to skip the rest of that dungeon. There was no noteworthy loot that was anything we hadn't seen yet.

Before we proceed to the end of Jiang Palace and take out the boss inevitably hanging out there, we're going to do a short bit of prep work and re-equip those Rosewood Bracelets on the girls to prevent Paralysis. You know, just in case anyone wanted to prevent literally our only means of attacking or anything. That'd be quite rude.

Once again, we're given the chance to save the game and maybe use a Tent if necessary. The trials had been throwing a free one our way at the beginning of each test so far. But, we're good. Let's get this over with!

Music: Brain Hopper

WELL THEN! So, if I'm seeing this correctly, that's an albino stingray with a hand for a head, covered in a bunch of eyes and sporting a prominent penis flopping at the bottom there... I mean, you could tell me it's a tail. But...

...I dunno man. That's pretty ding-dong looking to me. Not a fan of trotting this thing out while having a forced party of female characters. This special boy is named Baigu and it is a Light elemental with 380 HP it'd like Alice and Margarete to beat out of 'em. ...That came out wrong. If you're wondering, its original Japanese title was White Maiden, which... If you say so, game. Again, it's meant to be derived from one of the Taoist Three Corpses. Don't ask me what that has to do with any other part of its design.

I'd usually say something about the best course of action to quickly deal with a boss. But... I mean... All we can do is just do physical attacks over and over. That's kind of it. So... Yeah. Alice bops it with her oversized hardback book a few times for next to no damage while Margarete does all the work dumping several magazines in it until it's dead.

Baigu can bop our party members (thankfully with just its head-hand) for a surprisingly large amount of damage, especially if it decides to hit multiple times. It can do upward of 35-50 damage a single turn. Since Alice may as well not even bother with physical attacks, she's on consumable distributing healing duty if she or Margarete get low on health. Or more pressingly, if Alice runs low on SP since it is going to take a number of turns for Margarete to plink away at the boss.

Other than that, Baigu primarily attacks with Shining Arm of Death which, once again, does not cause the Death status. This one hits the entire party and would cause Paralysis if we weren't already prepared for that trickery.

Err... That's kind of it. Margarete shoots it a lot for about four minutes until it keels over dead. There's not a lot to say about a boss when you take away all the unique attributes of our party. It's still not the lamest boss of this dungeon.

Music: Results

There's an equal amount of payout for defeating Baigu as the male team received. But additionally, we get one new accessory!

It's just a nice necklace that makes the Judgement Wheel spin somewhat slower. No baby bones necessary. Kind of pedestrian, really.

Music: ENDS

That wasn’t so bad. I did break a sweat, though…
You know... kind of doing all the work.
I thought the book would work out better.
You thought a book would be equal to a gun when fighting monsters?
Heh... Well, the pen is mightier than the sword, after all.
Yeah, but this is a GUN, kiddo! This has over six bullets. That's more than enough to kill anything that moves! It's just science! If we're in a situation like this again, I'm going to give you a piece and you're going to cap a fool. OK, missy?
S-sure thing...

Xiaofang comes in over the Taoist mysticism intercom.

Meow, impressive! You ladies are good! I can’t believe this is your first time. The door to Ni Wan Palace will now open, meow.

Elsewhere, at that same time...

Don’t worry. That girl’s pretty steady on her feet, and she’s got Margarete with her, too. I doubt they’ll be long. That door’ll open soon and we’ll all be able to enter Ni Wan Palace.

Music: Tanjou

What kind of person was my dad? Tell me about him… even if it’s just a little. I only remember him working the farm, and the fox mask he bought me on the day of the festival…
And that he only seemed to have this one coat he wore all the time. Like all the time... Even to bed. It was kinda weird...
You're one to talk, kid... But, yeah... Now that you mention it, he did wear that coat constantly. Shanghai gets hot in the summer and he was bundled up like he was going for a mountain hike. Your dad, hmm...

Heck, he was a real stand-up guy.

Zhuzhen stands up and nods to himself.

Something about a piggy-back ride...?
...After that.

When I first met him, he was a Japanese Army operative, you know. So, I didn’t trust him right off. Like with you, we got into fights now and then. But, he’d always laugh them off afterward. What I really liked about your old man, though, was, well… Like you, he would rally against any injustice, even if it meant opposing his own country. He didn’t just fight for his country, he fought for everyone who lived on this continent. He often wondered if there wasn’t some way he could build a truly good county with his own hands.
Then decided "no, that's crazy supervillain talk" and would decide against it. Never trust anyone that starts muttering about reshaping anything with their own two hands, kid. Express train to crazy town. A certain sorcerer I know in the area started out that way. Real warning sign...
So he was a good man?
Absolutely. He was a true friend to me… a better friend than I deserved.
<stands up> …I see. My dad must’ve felt the same way about you.
Heh heh… It’s nice of you to say that, kid.

Music: Death - Zombie Party

Hey! The door opened!
All right! I knew the girls had it in ‘em!
<phoning in> Let’s do it people! The last dungeon, Ni Wan Palace, is just ahead. Meow!! But before you step in, it’s time for yet another Trial! Meow!! Meow-meeeow!
It just saying the word "meow" is driving me up the wall. Is THAT pipsqueak why you were carrying around some anti-cat powder in the first place...?

No Items, Fox Only, Final Destination.

<shakes head> Cripes, can’t the old goat cut us SOME slack…?
I can still punch things and if I see that cat-boy, I'm gonna relieve him of one of his nine lives.
You know what...? At this point... Go for it, kid.

No, no more. I'm taking a break. Tune in next time for the last portion of this terrible, Xenogears caliber dungeon. I need a nap.

Video: Episode 27 Highlight Reel
(You should watch this just to see gross hand monsters in motion.)