The Let's Play Archive

Shadow Hearts

by The Dark Id

Part 72: Episode LXXII: The Ancient Ruins

Episode LXXII: The Ancient Ruins

We're almost done with the broad map of Europe and its end game content. All the sidequests outside of the greater UK area have been completed... outside of one. It's time to dive into one of Shadow Hearts' two bonus dungeons. Joy... Dedicated dungeons... That's really what this game has done best thus far. I can't wait. Oh well, let's pack our bags and head to sunny Laibach, Austria-Hungary and check out the Ancient Ruins.

Music: Don't Cry My Vampire

Yeah, those look like some ancient ruins. It checks out. Despite being near Keith's stomping grounds, having his theme playing and bats flying over the horizon we can have any configuration of party members we desire for this expedition. Which means we'll be sticking with Yuri, Alice, and Margarete. The only prep work we need before entering this dungeon is to make sure everyone is equipped with the status effect negating Crucifixes. Just assume everyone is wearing one of those in their accessories slots at all times going forward because all bonus area critters just LOVE to deal out status effects if left unchecked.

Heading into the Ancient Ruins proper, we come upon a save point, a door which is locked from the other side and a flooded stairwell leading down to a lower level of the dungeon. Obviously, we need to find a way to drain that water to access the lower chambers. It's unthinkable to just have a flooded section of a video game structure that is just permanently fucked by rainwater build-up and inaccessible until technology advances to make safely exploring such zones feasible. No, there must be some ancient mechanism that will sort that out in short order.

There's another path past the flooded stairwell leading to this little three-way set up. Let the dread of a gimmick dungeon wash over you. There are three paths with three reused colored flame assets denoting each path. There is no immediately obvious path to take. So...

Let's just pick one at random. We may as well start just try the first one from the right. What's the worst that can happen?

A loop back to the beginning of this segment of the dungeon and wasted progress, naturally. OK. So, obviously, we need to go in some sort of specific order. There is a hint for this dungeon. It's just not at all immediately obvious.

Even though we needed the Émigré Manuscript and the Book of Rituals to unlock both the end game bonus dungeons on the map, technically the Ancient Ruins were unlocked via the Book of Rituals. And if we look at the description in the Valuables menu, it mentions a rainbow. Do you know the order of the colors of the rainbow offhand? I mean like specifically. I hope you do because that's the gimmick of this dungeon.

For reference, it is: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Which means we need to start off with the red torch-lit path.

Following each entryway is a very dull pathway of little note or interest before we arrive at...

Another split path. Orange is supposed to be next but... that torch looks decidedly yellowish to me. I'd turn it down a few more shades to call it orange. But it's obviously closer to what we want than the blue or the red torches, so...

At least as far as gimmicks go this is fairly painless. Assuming you vaguely know which order the colors of the rainbow go or can just look it up if it understandably is slipping your mind. But, this being a dungeon and all there naturally are a few things standing in our way. Namely: random battles.

Music: NDE - Near Death Experience

There's actually new enemy models lurking in the Ancient Ruins: Lizardmen! Two types of 'em in fact. The red-scaled, jorts-wearing one here is a Fire elemental lizard dude known as a Basilisk. Unfortunately, they're not very remarkable enemies. They bite for a surprisingly decent amount of damage (around 150-250) which can also inflict the petrification status were we not protected against it. That's kind of it. The Basilisks possess 800 HP so they're JUST strong enough that it might take the whole party one turn and perhaps an extra shot from Yuri to finish one off.

You've probably seen a basilisk in other video games. They're fairly common mythological trash mob or mid-boss candidates being just kind of a very large, very pissed off bird-lizard that can petrify people.

Wikipedia on Basilisks posted:

Click here for more!

In European bestiaries and legends, a basilisk is a legendary reptile reputed to be a serpent king who can cause death with a single glance. According to the Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder, the basilisk of Cyrene is a small snake, "being not more than twelve fingers in length", that is so venomous, it leaves a wide trail of deadly venom in its wake, and its gaze is likewise lethal. Its weakness is the odor of the weasel, which, according to Pliny, was thrown into the basilisk's hole, recognizable because some of the surrounding shrubs and grass had been scorched by its presence. It is possible that the legend of the basilisk and its association with the weasel in Europe was inspired by accounts of certain species of Asiatic snakes (such as the king cobra) and their natural predator, the mongoose.

The basilisk is called "king" because it is reputed to have on its head a mitre, or crown-shaped crest. Stories of the basilisk show that it is not completely distinguished from the cockatrice. The basilisk is alleged to be hatched by a cockerel from the egg of a serpent or toad (the reverse of the cockatrice, which was hatched from a cockerel's "egg" incubated by a serpent or toad). In Medieval Europe, the description of the creature began taking on features from cockerels.
I guess lizardman with petrification bites is kinda... sorta... in that ballpark. If you squint real hard...

Accompanying the Basilisks are the Cockatrice. These are Light elemental lizardmen with 900 HP and... literally just the same exact attributes as their jorts sporting cousins. While the Basilisk could kinda, sorta hang with its mythological counterpart. The Cockatrice? Significantly less so. It being a giant, angry rooster and all.

Wikipedia on Cockatrice posted:

Click here for more!

A cockatrice is a mythical beast, essentially a two-legged dragon or serpent-like creature with a rooster's head. Described by Laurence Breiner as "an ornament in the drama and poetry of the Elizabethans", it was featured prominently in English thought and myth for centuries. The cockatrice was first described in its current form in the late fourteenth century. The Oxford English Dictionary gives a derivation from Old French cocatris, from medieval Latin calcatrix, a translation of the Greek ichneumon, meaning tracker. The twelfth century legend was based on a reference in Pliny's Natural History[1] that the ichneumon lay in wait for the crocodile to open its jaws for the trochilus bird to enter and pick its teeth clean. An extended description of the cocatriz by the 15th-century Spanish traveller in Egypt, Pedro Tafur, makes it clear that this refers to the Nile crocodile.

According to Alexander Neckam's De naturis rerum (ca 1180), the cockatrice was the product of an egg laid by a cock (a male chicken) and incubated by a toad; a snake might be substituted in re-tellings. Cockatrice became seen as synonymous with basilisk when the basiliscus in Bartholomeus Anglicus' De proprietatibus rerum (ca 1260) was translated by John Trevisa as cockatrice (1397). A basilisk, however, is usually depicted without wings. It is thought that a cock egg would hatch out as a cockatrice, and this could be prevented by tossing the egg over the family house, landing on the other side of the house, without allowing the egg to hit the house.

It has the reputed ability to kill people by either looking at them—"the death-darting eye of Cockatrice"—touching them, or sometimes breathing on them.
Decidedly not a lizard dude in shredded khaki shorts.

There is one final enemy I did not realize existed in this dungeon until I was already done with the area and saw a gap in between the lizard brothers and the boss of the area. I had to go back and grind random battles for another fifteen minutes to see even one of 'em. Mind you, I hit like twelve random battles across this dungeon just playing naturally. Naturally, given the garbage RNG involved in making one spawn, this is an Earth elemental enemy. What is your malfunction, Earth element?!

This big oozy boy is a Sweeper. No mythology story behind that one. It's just a big slime monster. It has 750 HP and it punches people. If it feels saucy, it can toss a rock at them for mediocre damage output. That is... literally of all it has going for it. It even has less health than the lizard dudes at a mere 750 HP. Maybe it was laying low in the trash mob pools for a reason.

Music: Don't Cry My Vampire

In any case, that's all I'll be dealing with while running through this brain teaser of a dungeon. You all don't have to worry about that. Now, where were we...? Ah yes. Yellow is next on the path of the rainbow.

Then next up is green! Simple enough.

Ergh... straight blue is supposed to be next but that is... like turquoise? Is that right? I can never remember any of those stupid slightly lighter/slightly darker offshoot colors. Either way, that's not right at all. But... I mean, it's closer to blue than the yellow and the very light orange also in the room. Also, that chest in the bottom right has one of the last Lottery Tickets we'll get in the game.

OK now, this time there is just a straight up blue. What the hell, Shadow Hearts!? You had ONE JOB for your stupid gimmick dungeon and you couldn't even get that right?! Sheesh!

Finally, there is a violet to finish off the rainbow. I guess Indigo is just getting the shaft in this color palette. It's too much to ask to pitch down the tone of a purple color, I suppose.

In any event, the water in the central chamber is drained and Yuri is unceremoniously dumped back into the main room through that previously locked door. We may as well head down and see what spoils there are to plunder, eh?

There has never been a more boss chamber ass looking room. Yet all that is here is a treasure chest in the center of the chamber. We may as well reap the rewards of our efforts and obtain...

The best armor in the game for Alice Elliot! I really hope that wooden chest was airtight or this is going to be one soggy robe. In addition to the half-damage from Light/Dark elements this grants Alice 74 Physical and 86 Special Defense. That'll work.

Surprisingly, no boss ghouls or spirits jump the party on the way out. We can just return upstairs and find the door from earlier has sealed once more and the central chamber has immediately flooded once again. Did you think we were done with this dungeon already? Oh no. I'm afraid we're only half-way there.

If we now take a peek at the Book of Rituals again, we'll find the description has changed. What if the colors of the rainbow but REVERSED?! Shadow Hearts throws down an enigma at our feet which we must unravel to face the true end of the Ancient Ruins.

And by that I mean it's the same exact gimmick but we have to go Violet-Blue-Turquoise-Green-Yellow-Orange-Red this time. I'll just go ahead and skip past all of that since it's just twelve minutes of running down the same copy-pasted corridors and fighting the same two lizard men over and over. It ain't exactly the most compelling content the game has had to offer.

We have a similar outcome to earlier. Yuri back in the entry chamber. Water drained. It was only a few screenshots ago for you. YOU didn't have to go through a half dozen random battles against Jorts Reptile. This time we MAY want to save the game and use a Tent to top everyone's stats back to max. For when we venture down into the previously flooded chamber this time...

...Yeah. That doesn't look too inviting. Well, let's go see what the robed birdman wants.

Tch. Were you gettin' some sound beauty sleep underwater?

Music: Brain Hopper
(Oh heck, the old random battle theme. We ain't heard that in a hot minute.)

Meet Seraphim the boss of the Ancient Ru—

SWEET JESUS! Buddy... clearly taking a nap in flood water wasn't in the best interest of your skin complexion. Or... possessing any skin. I mean you live your life as you want. I'm just saying... there's got to be a better way. Horrifying visage aside, Seraphim is kind of a pushover for a bonus dungeon boss. He only possesses an unusually low 4000 HP and a non-elemental affiliation. If you'll recall, Orb Chaos nearly had double that on top of being a buff machine. Seraphim doesn't know how to buff. Or... how to do much in general.

The angel has extremely high damage output with his physical attacks, which do anywhere from 250ish to 400+ HP of damage if he goes all in with a full combo. It's actually the most powerful physical fighter enemy in the game if I'm not mistaken. It's probably a good thing he's using telekinesis to attack and not trying to actually punch any of our party. You know... no skin and all. I can't imagine punching without flesh would be a pleasant experience.

But that's all it's going to do for that turn and as long as nobody goes down from Seraphim's physical attacks, Alice can just sort it out with Arc when her turn comes up. No harm was done! Indeed, Alice is just going to spend the entire fight (and most fights going forward) just spamming Arc to top off everyone's health. I equipped the Priest Earrings (20% MP consumption decrease) on Alice so that's a completely viable method without worrying too much about MP.

Likewise, Yuri and demonic laser beam attacks are the method of choice going forward. A perfect Judgment Ring hit on Demon Rays does a good 600 HP of damage with an imperfect Hit still doing a very respectable 500+ HP.

And as usual, Margarete is on support with making sure everyone's MP/SP is good and contributing with the occasional offensive attack. Bazooka can do a good 300 HP of damage. It's not Demon Rays but it's not half bad either. We're kind of solved combat issues with Shadow Hearts at this point. Really, the only variance in any endgame strategy for players is who you take as the third party member. A lot of guides seem to like using Keith which would work well enough too. I personally used Halley when I played last time through just because he outleveled everyone else by ten levels after his story arc. The only person nobody ever seems to use is Zhuzhen because he's just too damn slow and his toolset just kinda sucks compared to everyone else. Poor guy.

Back to the enemy at hand, Seraphim only has literally one other attack beyond its physical strikes and it is this utterly awful looking rainbow... mess -- Divine Punishment. The bumped up sharpness of playing the game on an emulator isn't doing it any favors, but this attack looked like complete shit on actual hardware too. I think those colored tiles were meant to be blurred more because they just look like awful sheets of early late-90s/early aughts colored lighting (remember the dark era of awful colored lighting effects everywhere) gyrating up and down. This psychedelic holy attack does do upward of 225-250 HP of damage to the entire party. But, again, as long as nobody takes a dirt nap from that, Alice can just sort it out with Arc her next turn.

It'd be frustrating as hell to fight against our party as a boss fight.

It is worth mentioning that Divine Punishment would also inflict random status effects ranging from Paralysis to Petrification and outright Death... were everyone not already equipped with those ever useful Crucifix accessories. You wouldn't think a holy cross would neuter holy retribution. But here we are...

In any event, that is... kinda all there is to say about Seraphim. I mean it literally only has two attacks, neither of which are enough to take down any one member of our party as long as we keep on top of healing. On a lighter note, Margarete once more managed to take down a boss in the most inglorious of fashions.

Nothing like taking down an angelic being by no-scoping it with a rocket launcher -- as the Lord intended.

Music: Results

For our efforts we receive another boatload of Experience Points and Cash, widening the gulf between our main crew and the bench warmers even further.

Speaking of bench warmers, our ultimate reward for defeating the Seraphim and completing the Ancient Ruins is the ultimate slingshot for Halley Plunkett -- a gun with some sort of crazy Tesla coil jammed on the end of it. This gives Halley +33 Physical and +28 Special Attack. Good luck getting through Customs with this if you decide to sail to America to find your deadbeat dad when this is all said and done.

We also receive +5 Soul Energy for every Element. Which just means +5 to the remaining Earth Element. Goddamn, I'm gonna have to actually grind that shit for a couple hours offscreen, aren't I? There's one more boss left that will provide +5 Soul Energy and I've got to make up the rest of it. That's still an eight Soul Energy deficit. I tried for like 90 minutes last time and got all of +5 for my efforts. Sonuvabitch...

Music: Don't Cry My Vampire

But let me worry about that. Our time in the Ancient Ruins has come to a close and with it the last of the sidequests outside of England/Wales. Tune in next time as we travel to an equally crappy bonus dungeon to challenge a significantly more threatening bonus boss. The not as bad as Final Fantasy X yet still slowly eroding at my soul all the same endgame of Shadow Hearts continues.

Video: Seraphim Boss Battle Highlights
(You should watch this.)