The Let's Play Archive

Shadow Hearts

by The Dark Id

Part 32: Episode XXXII: A Well-Timed Fieldtrip

Episode XXXII: A Well-Timed Fieldtrip

Music: Blow Up

I guess we're doing this. Kowloon Fortress is so far off-field from everywhere else it gets its own world map screen. For reference, the distance from Shanghai to Kowloon is roughly 300km more than the distance from Dalian to Shanghai, which took this boat at least a day to sail. So, this field trip is, at the very least, taking over 48 hours. Just throwing that out there. You know, while Dehuai is fixing to do his whole evil, possibly world-ending ceremony while occasionally stopping to torture Alice for jollies. Oh well, too late to back down now.

If you're not aware, Kowloon Fortress is based on Kowloon Walled City, a Chinese military fort that became a crime infested, lawless hellhole that at its height crammed 50,000 into its walls and inspired all kinds of dystopia urban sprawl settings in media. You've probably seen Kowloon or something heavily inspired by it in at least some other movie/anime/video game and undoubtedly either a large shootout or some other dirt went down there (it was a level in Call of Duty: Black Ops for example.) Kowloon Walled City had all tenants evicted during the late '80s and early '90s and the structure itself was demolished in 1994. There's a lovely park in its place there now.

Some creative liberties were taken with the state of Kowloon in this game. In 1913, it was just an abandoned fort under British control called "Chinese Town" and was a tourist spot. Granted, a tourist spot with about 500 squatters hanging out in it. The British had weird ideas about tourism. It didn't become a sprawling nightmare apartment complex until the Japanese invasion of China in World War 2 lead to a huge number of refugees to Hong Kong which set up a clusterfuck of thrown together shacks and huts that kind of spiraled out of control for the decades afterward.

This sidequest is remarkably easy to miss since there is absolutely no indication it has unlocked. Nobody tells you the boat has been repaired unless you just abort the final showdown in Kuihai Tower for no particular reason and fart around Shanghai. Plus, the whole baffling Alice interrogation questionnaire being a prerequisite. The first time I played this game I was completely without internet access and HELL if I knew any of this existed until replaying the game earlier this year. The only reason you'd have an inkling you'd missed a chunk of content is skipping out on Kowloon leaves quite a wide gap in entries in the Library's Monster list. But we're in the know, so let's proceed to this lengthy diversion.

New Music: Someone's Table
(Not quite the right kind of ominous.)

It's amazing this whole sequence is a very easy to miss optional area because a LOT of effort went into all the background art for this dungeon. Certainly, way the hell more than the Temple Ruins mess of minimal effort we endured earlier. It's not even like it would be hard to incorporate a reason to go to Kowloon that doesn't make the party look like a bunch of highly irresponsible, negligent jerks. Kuihai Tower has some kind of magic barrier and only minions of Dehuai have the <insert McGuffin here> to pass it. Wugui has one of those and we need to get it. Oh, he and Roger Bacon fucked off to Kowloon. Welp, guess we'll have to go chase after them to Hong Kong! Heck, you could even stick the stuff with the Japanese military invasion in Shanghai afterward, so it looks like that went down while we were away, instead of an invasion and full retreat that took place entirely over the course of about eighteen minutes.

Oh well, we'll just have to roll with this. was such a frikkin' dump.
<points to building> Heh heh… This is the Kowloon Fortress, Wugui’s palace.
Wow… it’s incredible. Whoever did this is… pretty strange, I’d say.
Society and poverty, mostly...
Oh... It's not some chaotic force at work...?
Not unless that's another name for socio-economic issues.
But... Aside from that... Not sure why we're out here...
<shrug> I just had a bad feeling about Bacon taking off with Wugui, you know?
Kinda felt like we had more pressing issues. But it's your show, kid.

Who knows what might jump out at us, so watch out! It’s probably a den of thugs ready to strike!

A den of thugs indeed. Let's talk to some of the unsavory characters wandering around out front, eh? The very closest one is of particular interest.

I'm responsible for this place while Wugui is away, so mind that you don't cause any trouble!
<transforms into Lottery Member No. 10> But I can't go against da boss's wishes. Come to work out?
Why did your accent suddenly change like that?
Dat's just how da native Kowloon accent do. So, you in?

Count me in.
When crunchin', ya gotta bend yer knees. Otherwise, you'll hurt yer back.

We have another Lottery Member, so our adventure to Kowloon is mandatory if we want to keep up with this sidequest as well. This guy's Judgement Wheel is absurdly fast. I savescummed the hell out of this one and it still took me near a dozen tries to hit the red Hit Area for the best prize.

Double Attack Power is a pretty big deal. But not seeing the Judgment Ring Hit Areas is... also not great. This accessory can actually be combined with an additional accessory or two that widens the Hit Area, coupled with Wanderer Meiyuan's acupuncture upgrade to do the same, in order to make the invisible Hit Area wide enough that it can be reliably hit still and transform Yuri into even more of a beast. That's not really a method I'm partial to myself. But it's definitely viable if that's your kinda scene.

That aside, let's chat with everyone else before heading in.

Why? How should I know? I just wish boss Wugui would get back.
These monsters... Would you say they attack people, maybe even battle 'em, at random?
Ya. Had to randomly battle a couple getting the hell out of there.

It's fine. It's been established we can beat the hell out of any g-g-ghosts that might appear. Though now I want an episode of Scooby Doo where mid-mystery, Yuri and friends just barge in like lunatics and uppercut the Ghost Miner (who was secretly the corrupt mayor trying to run off the last residents) through a wall while Velma is busy trying to find her lost glasses or some shit.

Was he with anyone? Older white guy, has a big stupid hat and looks like there's a stick stuck up his ass?
I--I saw him! Lord Wugui's back! But no one believes me!
You... said that already.
I--I saw him! Lord Wugui's back! But no one believes me!

I--I saw him! Lord Wugui's back! But no one believes me!
Hong Kong is weird.
I--I saw him! Lord Wugui's back! But no one believes me!

The Silent Peddler has also made the trip to Kowloon. This version of him is special as he is also running a shop, The Tight-Lipped Merchant. This shop has a couple of pricey but rare accessories we won't see again for quite some time... We'll take a look, but not necessarily buy.

I always consult my local Hungarian warlock when I want my magic horoscope.

Fun fact: Yuri was born in the Year of the Ox (1889.) Alice was the Year of the Snake (1893.) Margarete isn't given an age, but the real Mata Hari was born in 1876 making her the Year of the Rat. Which also makes her 37 which is two years older than designated grizzled old man party member Auron from Final Fantasy X. Zhuzhen doesn't have an exact age beyond "over 60" for some reason. Weird to have a JRPG cast that is thus far entirely 20 or over. Anyway, not having to worry about all these status effects is not bad but not blow our entire war chest on the investment not bad.

That's enough chatter with the locals. Let's head on into the Kowloon Fortress proper.

This whole area feels like it was transplanted from an unmade early PS2 survival horror game. Or... I dunno, an actual Koudelka 2, I suppose. Kowloon Fortress is also host to an early taste of all the next level of restorative consumable items. Such as...

Yep. Only the finest of root that's been rotting in a back alley for around 20 months. It restores 300 MP and keeps your pecker working according to local herbalists. Your mileage may vary. No refunds.

Continuing onward, many paths await us ahead. Or... just two. Let's head to the right first. Always go right first. It's just smart.

Where do people even get those steel oil drums to burn fires in, anyway? I can't even remember the last time I saw a steel drum outside a dock or warehouse. But damned if every seedy back alley in media has one set up with a fire blazing at all hours of the day. That aside, another good reason to come to Kowloon is that it holds the best weapon for Yuri in the first act of the game. It's in a chest hidden behind the stairs there.

Just a good ol' fashion stab ring. This bad boy boosts 42 Physical Attack (Steel Claw only has 22 P-Atk) and 26 Special Attack (versus the previous 18.) Not a bad upgrade, all things considered.

We'll just slip that on Yuri's hand and head through the other side of the courtyard to find...

Well, then... I didn't know Umbrella Incorporated already had established a Hong Kong branch in the early 1910s... But that doesn't mean Wugui of Kowloon was running the joint. There are a few things to investigate here. Clicking on the gore-soaked operating table results in...

Ehh... I mean that could just be a rowdy cat's scratching post. It doesn't mean anything. And those organs in jars could be charitable donations to science. Maybe Wugui is running an accredited medical study program in this back room. We don't know the man too well.

So, what if we climb up into the loft above the lab and find a face guard crafted from a human skull? Everyone jumps to the worst possible conclusion about these sorts of things. It's not like Yuri will mind wearing it. It grants +8 Physical Defense. That's the best accessory defense of anything so far. Clearly, the science is working!

And if we examine the work table in the front of the room, we find this isn't even Wugui's room! See, the man wasn't committing any crimes against humanity back here. He had no way of knowing what nefarious deeds are going on in every apartment in the complex. We'll just take this with us to access Wugui's room whenever we find it, so he can explain himself. That said, we do now have to find Wugui's room and there might be a fella or two getting in our way to that goal...

Music: Brain Hopper

Oh hell, that old man was right! There is a g-g-ghost! One that seems to have glowing mutagen tears and has had its junk removed I'm guessing prior to death. One would hope you can't get your dick, or really any other limb, chopped off if you have the rotten luck to become a ghost. But in this universe's rules you can bust a ghost by just capping it in a drive-by, so who knows. In any case, this is a Namida which is just Japanese for "tears." It's capable of ghost-slapping party members and performing Wind Sheer. Neither of which are too damaging an attack. Namida is probably the least threatening enemy in Kowloon.

This guy, on the other hand, is essentially a random battle mini-boss. They shrunk down Yamaraja: Earth, gave him a paint job and started calling it the Dark Judge. This big boy comes packing 500 HP which is... kind of excessive for a random battle mook. Hell, the boss it's based on only had 300 HP at the time. Amusingly (confusingly?) enough, despite the name Dark Judge, it is actually an Earth Elemental monster. You know, unlike its template Yamaraja: Earth the Water Elemental.

Dark Judge only has two attacks, but one is a real doozy. Deathtouch might sound like it ought to be an instant kill technique, but you should know better than to trust any in-battle localization names or terms by this point. It's actually just a percentage-based attack that will peel off 75% of the target's HP. Couple that with the fact its standard hits do in excess of 50-70 HP of damage, that could be bad news if the Dark Judge decides to pick on a single target a couple turns in a row.

That aside, the original name of Dark Judge was Chénghuángshén which is the Chinese God of the Moat and the Walls or the God of the Boundaries or... just simplified to "City God."

Wikipedia on City God posted:

Click for more info.

The Chenghuangshen (literally: "god of the moat and the walls" or "god of the boundary"), usually translated as City God, is a tutelary deity or deities in Chinese folk religion who is believed to protect the people and the affairs of the particular village, town or city of great dimension, and the corresponding afterlife location.

Beginning over 2000 years ago, the cult of the Chenghuangshen originally involved worship of a protective deity of a town's walls and moats. Later, the term came to be applied to deified leaders from the town, who serve in authority over the souls of the deceased from that town and intervene in the affairs of the living, in conjunction with other officials of the hierarchy of divine beings. Chenghuangshen was originally the name of a deity or type of deity believed to be able to provide divine protection to a city's physical defenses, particularly its surrounding wall and moat. Later the concept became more generalized, and the meaning extended to the office itself of such a deity, rather than the presumed office-holder (in later times, it was standard to officially appoint the spirit of the government official in charge of the city to a three-year term as City God, upon his decease).

So, it's less a "Dark Judge" and more a "Ghost Mayor" if I'm understanding that right.

Back on track, there are a Red Ogre and Blue Ogre rival characters also stalking the halls and back alleys of Kowloon. Blue Ogre possesses Flash Flood while Red Ogre naturally has Fireballs. They seldom use either of those spells and instead opt to beat our party members over the head with their spiked clubs. If either ogre happens to be particularly ornery and does a three-hit combo, they can do over 80 HP of damage. There's a real difficulty spike in this optional dungeon considering what a complete cakewalk the Wuhan Temple Ruins were outside Yamaraja: War.

Naturally, these were originally a Red Oni and a Blue Oni. I fully guarantee you've seen an Oni in something before if you've consumed any Japanese media. It's the most basic ass Japanese demon that's in literally everything that deals with supernatural monsters. Big buff dude with huge teeth, probably had bright blue or red skin, and almost certainly had a deep modulated voice. He was probably a total jobber too. The Red Oni/Blue Oni are also traditionally rivals. The Red Oni being a big angry impulsive dipshit and the Blue Oni being the calmer, collected calculating one. Which is why you've got eight million hot-blooded scream boy protagonists wearing red and eight million rival characters being smug condescending assholes in anime and video games.

Semi-related, an HD Remaster of the original Onimusha: Warlords was announced while I was editing this update and that's a real random pick...

Returning to our rundown of random battle jobbers, we've got yet another frikkin' Kappa variant and... I don't even know what is going on over there to the right. We'll touch on that... whole situation... in a sec.

This Kappa is a Speckled Creeper and it always comes in a package set with that tall lad with the skull as its partner in all encounters. Speckled Creeper is a Light elemental variety of the Kappa that can potentially use Exorcist Arrows but hell if I ever saw it perform that. It mostly sticks to physical attacks which REALLY HURT compared to previous Kappa. Like 60+ HP of damage from just a kick to the face. Other than that, Speckled Creeper's only noteworthy trait is that it is completely immune to physical damage.

Zhuzhen's newly acquired Life Sucker is particularly good here since that is a Dark elemental attack for... some reason and will almost certainly one-shot the creature. Life Sucker has Zhuzhen summon just a cloud of smog to choke out its target like some kind of Captain Planet villain wet dream. It can potentially cause Confusion as well, so that can be fun if it hits someone coming to a battle with friends.

Speaking of new abilities, Margarete picked up Scout some time ago but hasn't had a real chance to use it since all her Secret Weapons were locked up the entire last dungeon. Selecting Scout makes the spy phone up her support staff over her 1913 cellphone as usual. This results in a comically oversized pair of sunglasses to get airdropped into her hands.

Let's see what we have here...

It's just this game's Scan ability. The spy specs will show off an enemy's name, HP, MP and elemental affiliation. Pretty basic stuff. But useful if you don't have a guide/wiki available and you run up against shit like a guy called Dark Judge being an Earth Elemental, which is way too common in this game.

Backing up a moment, the final random battle enemy that always comes paired with the Speckled Creeper is the Happy Creeper. It's a skull head on top of an elongated torso with a very squat, saggy ass and a very large, phallic protrusion coming out of its... let's just say belly button and not the obvious. Also, that's not its skin, it is wearing a leather gimp suit. This creep's only means of attack is bending over backward and vomiting a Dark Messenger attack while its penis mysterious protrusion wiggles around excitedly. This guy... this is not my kind of guy. He's definitely living up to his name.

The Speckled Creeper just originally went by the somewhat more verbose Spotted Disgusting Being. Happy Creeper, on the other hand, went by the way grosser sounding Pleasure Disgusting Being.

Music: Someone's Table

That's all the random battle beasts and walking sexual harassment suits stalking the halls of the city. Let's hurry on out of this dump. Now that we have Wugui's Key we can double back to the earlier hall and take the other set of stairs at the far end of the corridor.

Look at this room. There's more detail in it than any of the fifteen hundred rock corridors in the last temple and all you do is just run through it in three seconds.

Continuing further into the complex, we come upon a storeroom of sorts. Hidden by the omnipresent steel drums of poverty and decay, we've got another new item to scope out.

Muta always bragging about his Red Phoenix. Every time with that guy, all he talks about is the Red Phoenix. La-de-da.

On the far end of the floor, we find a chest containing the next level of consumable curatives. I guess you just take a big bite out of this five-year-old root and suddenly you've got 300 HP restored. You think anyone has ever choked to death chugging a healing potion or chowing down on some weird magical medicinal aid? That's got to be an embarrassing way to go.

Up the stairs, just around the corner, we round out our consumable discovering with the third level of SP restoring items. Look, eat this extremely poisonous root and you'll regain your nerve in a fight. Or you'll die of poisoning and technically that too will relieve any fear as well. Either way, you're coming out ahead in the sanity department, really. This restores 10 SP. SP restoratives remain kind of stingy the entire game.

Continuing our journey through OSHA violations and building code standards being cast to the wind, we've got one more item to acquire before finishing up Kowloon Fortress. No, it's not the one in that chest. That's just a Soul Benediction. There's actually another Lottery Ticket hidden somewhere on this screen. Can YOU guess where they're hiding it?

If you guessed the... urinal? Water fountain? Sink? The basin with very questionable plumbing, then congrats! You get a gold star!

Heading up to the top floor of Kowloon Fortress, we've got a save point and a locked door to Wugui's Room. We'll go ahead and clear any Malice we've built up and do a bit of prep before heading in to confront whatever evil is hiding on the top floor.

And by prep, I mean we're going to equip everyone with Leonardo's Bears again. Something tells me Wugui isn't going to give up with his Game of Death antics if we're forced to fight him yet again.

Alright, we've neglected our duties saving Alice and stopping a crisis that could be unfolding any moment now in favor of tracking down Wugui of Kowloon. What's the worst that could be behind this door? A bunch of gaudy furniture? An embarrassing stack of porn mags? Anime wall scrolls? Anime doesn't even exist yet! I think... This timeline is weird. Whatever, I'm sure it's nothing we haven't seen before. Let's head on in!

What the fu—

Video: Episode 32 Highlight Reel
(You should see Happy Creeper in motion .)