The Let's Play Archive

Shadow Hearts

by The Dark Id

Part 39: Episode XXXIX: The Bored Vampire

Episode XXXIX: The Bored Vampire

Music: Atmosphere - Blow Up

Normally when we make it back to the World Map it means the start of a new chapter. At least it did back in Asia. Europe plays by its own rules, so we're still within the realm of Cursed Bistritz. Either way, we're now moving on to the nearby Blue Castle. This, again, is just...

New Music: Coffin Fetish
(Going for a more low-key atmospheric vibe.)

...Straight-up Castlevania. Well, maybe sans the clock tower, Dracula, Death roommate, monster mash and optional Metroid-esque map traversing elements. But still, it's an evil ass looking, quite possibly vampire occupied castle on a hill with the moon so close to it the tides must by turbo jacked at this point. It is decidedly not very blue though, isn't it?

My father told me that most location names are based on legends or superstition. I think that’s nice. It’s more evocative.
You’re a real romantic, aren’t you? If I said anything like that, stones would come flying.
<frown> Yuri probably would have made fun of me saying that.

Music: NDE - Near Death Experience

It's barely worth mentioning, but there is one single enemy hanging out in the woods outside the Blue Castle -- a Paralysis inflicting hell wolf known as Garm. All it does is bite folk and possibly inflict Paralysis. It's a fairly decent enemy to grind since it gives decent EXP and Cash for a relatively short battle. But we're good for now.

Garm or Garmr has a Norse mythological origin. It's the guard dog/wolf of Hel (the location) owned by Hel (the dude.) He's basically Fenrir's much less popular cousin or Norse mythology's equivalent of Cerberus. In Ragnarök, it's destined to have a Double-KO with Týr, the Norse god of war. Kratos will probably murder it in a God of War sequel.

Music: Coffin Fetish

Anyway, let's head on into the Blue Castle proper and get our investigation underway.

I hope whatever ghoul or imp has the thankless task of lighting all the damn torches in all these evil castles and dusty old tombs in every video game and movie, those unseen diligent roadies of gothic flair, gets paid well. Seems like a really thankless job. Anyway, that giant iron gate seems worth investigating. But, let's ignore that for now and check out the small yard to the right of the stairs.

Hidden behind a fence we find the companion piece to the Moon Swallow we found back in Nina and Michelle's shop in Bistritz. Unless I'm crazy, this... just does the exact same thing as the previous item. Just with a different flavor text and item art. Maybe one is more potent than the other? I tried testing them both in a random battle and they seemed to be functionally identical but Zhuzhen and Alice aren't exactly the best test cases for inflicting critical attacks in battle.

Wanderer Meiyuan has also made his way from Prague to Transylvania in search of that seasonal Vampire D but isn't having any luck. You keep on being a weird creep, guy. Try not to molest a bat or anything. I think there are laws against that in this neck of the woods...

Getting back on track, a mysterious force is barring entry to the Blue Castle. If this were Koudelka, we'd undoubtedly need to go track down a nearby load-bearing boss encounter to progress. But somehow, I don't think we'll get anywhere by shanking Meiyuan. Instead, if we just walk away from the gate, then...

"A fine howdy-do"?
<shrug> I've been living here a few months. I'm trying out some western idioms. No good...?
...No good.
Noted. Anyway...

Do you suppose that’s supposed to be an invitation?

Zhuzhen and Alice enter the castle gates.

This is already some M.C. Escher ass shit. That looks like it'll be annoying to traverse when we get to the Inverted Blue Castle.

But we'll worry about that later. As soon as the party takes a few steps into the castle proper, they're interrupted by a man in stealth camouflage walking through the foreground. Alice immediately senses the anomaly and is startled enough to pop Zhuzhen out to investigate further.

I felt someone pass behind us…
<looks around> You felt someone…? But there’s no one there.

Probably just the wind.
Zhuzhen, we're ghost busting exorcists. You know darn well it wasn't just the wind!
We agreed I would be the eternally skeptical one in this partnership despite the overwhelming evidence of all manners of supernatural phenomenon week after week.
I never understood why you insisted on taking that stance.
Tsk-tsk. It's a tradition! I swear, young folks these days...

Continuing further into the rather dodgy constructed castle (was there crude ass game of Tetris used to fit these blocks into place) we come upon a save point and a locked door that needs something other than a key to open. I'm sure we'll come across the solution in due time. More pressingly, this area is home to a new set of random battle baddies.

Music: NDE - Near Death Experience

First up, we've got these bizarre ghosts/floating corpse fencers known as a Hollow. It's difficult to see, but they're a helmet with a floating set of eyeballs, a ribcage and spine with rotting flesh still attached, a couple of floating pauldrons and one rotting arm holding a rapier. The European section of Shadow Hearts leans less and less into broad interpretations of mythology and folklore and more into the Koudelka pioneered style of just weird shit for monster designs as the game progresses. And that's OK.

Hollows are a Light elemental enemy that can cast a new Light elemental attack in the form of Nova. It's not very powerful and just kind of a waste of everyone's time. But at least the trash mobs have learned something besides Exorcist Arrow for their generic light magic. Additionally, Hollow can poke Alice or Zhuzhen with their rapier to inflict Silence -- which is really irritating given our magic oriented party at the moment. That said, Zhuzhen can quickly sort these boys out with some of Ogre Flamedance or the Corpse Arm technique he acquired a while back.

Other than the Hollows, there's also Gremlins. These are just Wind elemental bats that seem to only spam Tiny Ring as an attack. That's kind of it. Thanks, now I need to squint at my monitor to kill you lot in a single turn.

Gremlins have absolutely nothing to do with bats and I have no idea why they went with that name. It's the same in both the localization and Japanese. Other than that, you might not be aware, but Gremlins are a fairly recent folklore creature. Their origin was from the early days of aviation to explain why parts of airplanes would randomly bust and break down.

Wikipedia on Gremlins posted:

Click here for more.

A gremlin is a folkloric mischievous creature that causes malfunctions in aircraft or other machinery. While depictions of these creatures vary, past findings present the animals to be similar to the Chupacabra with spiky backs, large strange eyes, and small-clawed frames that feature sharp teeth.

Although their origin is found in myths among airmen, claiming that the gremlins were responsible for sabotaging aircraft, John W. Hazen states that "some people" derive the name from the Old English word gremian, "to vex", while Carol Rose, in her book Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins: An Encyclopedia attributes the name to a combination of the name of Grimm's Fairy Tales and Fremlin Beer. Since World War II, different fantastical creatures have been referred to as gremlins, bearing varying degrees of resemblance to the originals. The term "gremlin" denoting a mischievous creature that sabotages aircraft originates in Royal Air Force (RAF) slang in the 1920s among the British pilots stationed in Malta, the Middle East, and India, with the earliest recorded printed use being in a poem published in the journal Aeroplane in Malta on 10 April 1929. Later sources have sometimes claimed that the concept goes back to World War I, but there is no print evidence of this.

An early reference to the gremlin is in aviator Pauline Gower's 1938 novel The ATA: Women with Wings, where Scotland is described as "gremlin country", a mystical and rugged territory where scissor-wielding gremlins cut the wires of biplanes when unsuspecting pilots were about. An article by Hubert Griffith in the servicemen's fortnightly Royal Air Force Journal dated 18 April 1942, also chronicles the appearance of gremlins, although the article states the stories had been in existence for several years, with later recollections of it having been told by Battle of Britain Spitfire pilots as early as 1940.

This concept of gremlins was popularized during World War II among airmen of the UK's RAF units, in particular the men of the high-altitude Photographic Reconnaissance Units (PRU) of RAF Benson, RAF Wick and RAF St Eval. The flight crews blamed gremlins for otherwise inexplicable accidents which sometimes occurred during their flights. Gremlins were also thought at one point to have enemy sympathies, but investigations revealed that enemy aircraft had similar and equally inexplicable mechanical problems. As such, gremlins were portrayed as being equal opportunity tricksters, taking no sides in the conflict, and acting out their mischief from their own self-interest. In reality, the gremlins were a form of "buck passing" or deflecting blame. This led folklorist John Hazen to note that "the gremlin has been looked on as new phenomenon, a product of the machine age – the age of air". Some experts believe this form of "passing the buck" was important to the morale of pilots. Author and historian Marlin Bressi stated, "Gremlins, while imaginary, played a very important role to the airmen of the Royal Air Force. Gremlin tales helped build morale among pilots, which, in turn, helped them repel the Luftwaffe invasion during the Battle of Britain during the summer of 1940. The war may have had a very different outcome if the R.A.F. pilots had lost their morale and allowed Germany's plans for Operation Sea Lion (the planned invasion of the U.K.) to develop. In a way, it could be argued that gremlins, troublesome as they were, ultimately helped the Allies win the war." Bressi also noted: "Morale among the R.A.F. pilots would have suffered if they pointed the finger of blame at each other. It was far better to make the scapegoat a fantastic and comical creature than another member of your own squadron."
That's a bit more interesting than a re-skin of the dumb bat enemies.

Music: Coffin Fetish

Getting back on track, to the west of the castle we find yet another locked door. This one is sealed by an unseen force, not some contraption other than a key. We'll just keep in mind this door exists for now and continue along the path. Upon making it to the same set of stairs where the invisible man walked past early, Alice once more gets startled and stops.

It happened again. Who’s here? I know you’re watching! Show yourself!
Really?! I don’t feel a thing. Where is it?!
If I could SEE it, we wouldn't be having this discussion!
If you say so...

The invisible man wanders off.

<shakes head> He's gone again...
<shakes head>
I still say it's just the wind.
Zhuzhen, we've already slain multiple ghosts getting up to these stairs.
None of which were invisible, mind you.
...Vampires can turn invisible. I think.
Western vampires can turn invisible!?
I... think...? Look, the rules and abilities of vampires are exceptionally vague and seem to change every time I read about them. Some burst into flames in sunlight. Some just sparkle when they do that... Sometimes they hate garlic. Other times water is really bad for them. Sometimes it's not. It's very confusing. I'm not an expert.
Hmph. If you say so...

The less than efficient path through the first floor of the castle eventually leads to a set of stairs down to the basement. Let's roll on in and investigate.

...Well, that is certainly ominous. We'll poke around with those coffins in a minute. Let's just keep on truckin' past 'em and up the stairs ahead to find...

I guess it means this really is a vampire castle, just like that lady Michelle was saying.
Or there's a corpse up there and we're off the mark. I can't see a thing from down at this angle. I don't smell a cadaver, though.
I don't know how you can smell anything with all this dust.

But… I don’t feel any evil here like I did in Bistritz. Instead… I feel eternal silence here, as if this place has been cut off from the rest of the world. Only eternity exists here… no sadness or hate.
Sure, if you discount those ghouls with the rapiers that tried to stab us upstairs.
That doesn't count and you know it.

The invisible figure wanders onto the scene.

There's clearly a shadow right there.
I told you so!
Yeah, yeah... Don't let it go to your head, kid.

Hellooo there!! Are you the prince of the castle Nina was talking about?
You should stop singing and dancing with random little girls in the woods, if so. That's a weird thing to do.

The invisible figure walks away.

Please, wait!

You can't chase down an invisible man, everyone knows that. The same is not true of an invisible Lottery Ticket, one of which just happens to be hidden on a small path above the coffin puzzle below. Oh yes, there's a puzzle in this room involving the coffins. Let's go check out that skeleton against the wall near the entrance to learn more.

So long as the eight flames remain unlit, the door to the throne will not open! Offer up thy prayers!

That isn't a terribly clear hint. So let's elaborate. There are eight coffins in this room. Clicking on 'em will reveal each has a name etched on the side. Praying to the coffin in question will light up a flame behind it. We need to light these flames in a specific order.

Here are the, aside from Abel, shockingly mundane names of the occupants of all the coffins. The trick to the puzzle is... just praying to them in alphabetical order. Which means:

Those are the first things that popped into my head seeing those names. Make of that what you will. Either way, one of those doors upstairs unlocked. So let's double back and see what we've opened up and maybe find that invisible lad trotting about the castle.

For all its splendor, it’s an awfully bleak room, isn’t it?
I'd change a thing or two about this tacky wallpaper and carpet.
<looks around> It seems so empty, but someone definitely lives here…

The pair goes to leave the room.

The invisible man struts into the room and approaches the throne. Alice and Zhuzhen quickly dart out of the way. Invisible dude snaps his fingers and the torches all light up the room.

The exorcists approach the invisible man.

Are you the master of this castle?
Yes, I am the master of this castle.
Are you... Count Dracula?
...No. I am not Dracula. You want the castle on the cliff edge overlooking the lake about thirty kilometers to the east.
No, we don't want Dracula. We wanted the master of this castle.
In that case, you have found him.

The man waves his arm and gains a corporeal form, spooking the shit out of Alice and Zhuzhen in the process. He looks like he stole his outfit from Prince.

<starts walking to the other side of the room>
<leaps back out of the way>

Not the respectable sort of monsters, mind you. Flea Men and Medusa Heads used to proudly serve the Blue Castles walls. Not like this current riff-raff. Bats calling themselves Gremlins...? Honestly... Absurd.
<shakes head> And a pesky demon had found its way into the tower as well.
<turns to Alice> Now, then, Alice, what brings the two of you to my humble abode?
We’re here to find out who is causing the monster attacks in Bistritz. Did you wake up around the same time monsters began attacking the village?
Ahh, so that’s it. You suspected me of setting the monsters upon the village. So, you came to question me about it… and kill me if your suspicions proved true.

The Bored Vampire walks to the throne.

Bingo. Glad we’ve reached an understanding so quickly, Mr. See-Through Man.
<enters fighting stance> What’s the scoop? Are you the master of the monsters?!
<shakes head> I’m afraid not. Neither I nor my ancestors have ever brought any harm to the people of our domain. If I did that, my granddaddies would come flying out of those caskets you saw and chew me out all night.
I do not want the ire of Grandfather Frank brought down upon me.
You must be a vampire. Are you a good vampire, like Nina believes?
<laughs> Hah hah hah, a good vampire? Yes, I am a vampire, and it is true that not all vampires are evil. It is the same among humans, is it not? There are good people and there are bad people.
I did indeed save the girl. But I also had to kill several wolves in the process. Who is to say the morality of such an action?
<relaxes from fighting stance> Huh. I was ready to kick some butt, but you just took the wind out of my sails.
For the record, we saw those wolves on the way up here. Putting those puppies down is a civic service.
<shakes head> Paralysis bites. Most rude behavior.

In that case, who’s behind the monster attacks on Bistritz?
I don’t know either, but if the village is under attack, you certainly can’t ignore it. As it happens, I’ve just been dying of boredom around here, so how about if I help you out?
Y-you’d help us?
<nods> Sure. And it’ll be nice to see my cute little friend in the village again. Shall we be going, then?

The Bored Vampire walks to the door.

<looks up to the ceiling> My name? Oh my! How many years has it been since I gave anybody my name, I wonder? My name is...

Boy, it's been a hell of a long time since we've gotten a new party member. Margarete joined in the frikkin' twelfth update around two and a half hours into the game. We're currently ten hours past that point in-game time wise. Anyway, meet our newest addition to the cast: Keith Valentine. His surname is a confirmed reference to the gothic protagonist of a certain terrible third person shooter in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII Universe. So there's that...

As a side note, all the core party members of the game do eventually get a voice acted scene. Particularly, in the endgame, everyone has a character loyalty mission type side quest to get their ultimate weapon or ability which concludes with a voice acted slideshow of art stating how they have grown over the journey. As it turns out, Keith sounds like the most stereotypical "I vant to suck your BLUD!" bad corny Transylvanian vampire accent. Fucker sounds like the Count from Sesame Street. So just keep that in mind while reading his dialogue.

Please, just call me Keith.
Okay, Keith. Let’s get to work.
Now, look. I understand vampires suck human blood. You’d better not chomp into our necks or anything.
Ah hah hah hah… I guess the books say all sorts of curious and silly things about us. But true vampires aren’t like that. Daylight and crosses don’t bother me a bit. Nor garlic.
My complexion does burn easily and I have no fondness for garlic in my food. It is simply disagreeable to my stomach, nothing to do with being a vampire.
Heck, same.
I like garlic bread.
Meh. I can take it or leave it.

We may be “undead” but that doesn’t mean we can’t be killed. We’re just tougher than humans.
<nods> Hmmm. A most curious constitution you have. I wonder whether being that way is boon or bane. At any rate, it’s good to have you with us.
The pleasure is mine.

And so Keith Valentine has joined the party. He's definitely far more durable than Zhuzhen or Alice and packs quite a bit more of a punch than either as far as physical damage goes. Indeed, Keith is runner-up to Yuri as the best physical fighter in the game. He also is our Earth elemental representative for the game.

Keith's weapon class is Swords, most of the rapier or general pokey type variety. Can't remember the last RPG with fantasy trappings I played where the guy who used stabbing instruments was the second to last person recruited. Oh... spoilers. There's still one more party member left to recruit.

Music: NDE - Near Death Experience

If nothing, Keith probably has the best attack animation in the game. Nothing like just shadow stepping into an enemy's face, stabbing it a hundred times before it can react and then teleporting back to your position like nothing even happened.

Keith's Special Attacks are Rituals. He's got three to begin with and will quickly pick up a fourth once we level him up once. Let's take a minute to roll down his move list before we continue our adventure.

<happily hums and doodles a pentagram with his sword and sheath>

All of Keith's Rituals involve him etching a pentagram and summoning some manner of demon to do his bidding. Drain Touch will do deal a small to moderate amount of damage (around 50-100 HP) to an enemy and restore that amount of health to Keith. It's a pretty handy substitute for having Alice or someone else burn a turn curing Keith if he gets banged up.

Earth Edge adds the Earth element to any ally's physical attacks. Always good if we're up against a Wind elemental foe. It would be better if Yuri or even Margarete were back in the party to take advantage of having decent physical attacks. But we can't have everything.

Finally, Bat Dance naturally just summons a swarm of (Wind Elemental) bats to vex all enemies on the field. Batman does that to bad guys occasionally and that seems like a really fucked up thing to do to a man. You got PTSD from a swarm of bats when you were a kid, Bruce. What the hell?! Why would you do that to another guy?

Music: Coffin Fetish

In any event, that's all there is to do in Blue Castle at the moment. We might be back here later after we sort out the world's most obvious evil creeper mayor whatever curse is befalling Bistritz. Tune in next time as the source of Transylvania's current misery is solved by a vampire getting annoyed someone is being a dick on his land as Shadow Hearts continues!

Video: Episode 39 Highlight Reel
(You should watch Keith perform... the rituals.)

Keith Valentine Status Portrait - Very purple.