Part 73: Episode LXXIII: The Cave TempleEpisode LXXIII: The Cave Temple
Only one bonus dungeon remains. Indeed, we're down to the last few sidequests. Unfortunately, this next one? It ain't so hot. And yes that's in comparison to the already extremely forgettable Ancient Ruins we just ventured through the previous update. That place was a vibrant visual spectacle compared to this next joint. Oh well. No avoiding it. Such is the fate of the completionist.
You know, call me crazy but this place kinda strikes me as more of an Ancient Ruin given it is... clearly an ancient ruin. And the actual Ancient Ruin? I cannot help but notice it was entered via a cave like some sorta, I dunno, Cave Temple. They couldn't have mistakenly reversed the names of the two bonus dungeons. That'd be ridiculous.
I hope you enjoy more grays and browns with the occasional torch for flavor. Cuz that's the aesthetic we're rolling with for this dungeon too. It makes you miss the survival horror vibe of Kowloon or the Dollhouse. At least those had some character to them. This may as well be a damn Cloister of Trials from Final Fantasy X. But even those had some more colors in their palettes.
By the entrance, we have this mysterious grid with a line carved through it. This couldn't possibly be an upcoming puzzle solution. There's no reason to jot its directions down somewhere. Or in a modern world, take a snapshot of it with your phone. It's not that big of a grid. There's no need to bust out graph paper as prehistoric man did in the days of yore.
Much like how the Book of Rituals was linked to the Ancient Ruins, so too is the Émigré Manuscript technically what unlocked the Cave Temple. The description this time around is much less helpful than the one we received previously. But... I mean, we're already given the answer in that mural. It's not like it needs much more elaboration other than which end to start with (it's the bottom left.)
We should probably actually get into the dungeon proper before we discuss solutions to problems that have yet to present themselves, eh?
It's a maze! A really low effort maze! See those three screenshots above? That's literally every room configuration in the maze outside of treasure rooms and the end! The Ancient Ruins at least bothered with some unique connecting halls for each of its three paths. This cannot even be bothered to do that.
Naturally, going the wrong way in any of these paths of the maze will just magically dump Yuri back at the entrance to try again. So let's try to get this right the first time.
Despite the map grid from the temple entrance not indicating it in the least, at a few points in the maze Yuri can go north to reach a treasure chest room. The valuables aren't too noteworthy. Though, this is the penultimate Lottery Ticket in the game hidden down one of these paths.
Anyway, about that maze. In order to progress to our prize, we want to go from the starting room (there are Priest Earrings hidden in a chest directly north from the start):
- West to a Save Point
- North to the End
Music: NDE - Near Death Experience
Even the random battles of the Cave Temple are nothing to write home about. And indeed, I only hit a handful of them because the number of steps to trigger a battle resets with each map and each room can be traversed in less than a dozen steps. That aside, hey! That big pile of sludge monster from the Ancient Ruins has a purple palette swap Dark elemental cousin. It sort of looks like Grimer the Pokémon's tall cousin now. It's going by the name Oingo. Which... I can only assume is a reference to Oingo Boingo. There is no Boingo enemy, sadly.
You hate to see someone's brain go purple. Here we have a Light elemental version of those stakes through their brains hand standing ladies. These go by the moniker of Penalty. They have no other noteworthy features.
Finally, we have Buggys which are those giant roaches copy and pasted from Koudelka. These have gotten matching skull decals on their backs. This mob is rather annoying since they all use Deathtouch, a special attack which drains the target's HP by 66%. Additionally, wasting a whole mob of them almost certainly raises the Malice level by one rank since that's 5-6 enemies gone in one go when most fights have 1-3 jerks present. That's always some fun busy work. We should probably sort out that whole curse thing one of these days...
That's about it. Entirely unremarkable trash mobs on top of an entirely unremarkable dungeon. They're nice enough to give us a save point right before the final room of the maze. Heading north from here, we find...
A solitary treasure chest in a chamber that really looks like it ought to have a boss encounter hanging out. Wait... haven't we done this song and dance before? Ahh... I'm probably overthinking it. Let's just pilfer the contents of this chest to find...
The ultimate armor for Keith. Keith, a chill nice guy for a vampire. Not above wearing a mantle woven with the blood and tears of murdered virgins for that sweet halved Earth/Wind elemental damage. Additionally, it provides +87 Physical and +73 Special Defense.
After we leave the treasure room, we're unceremoniously dumped back into the opening chamber of the dungeon. But wait! We're not done yet! Copying its predecessor, the Cave Temple has a second configuration.
If we crack open the Émigré Manuscript again in the Valuables menu, its description and apparently fragrance has changed to a very vague hint. Remember this thing is responsible for hundreds of deaths across two separate games and now it's just a hint delivery system for a really half-baked bonus dungeon. That's quite the demotion.
It's not a very good hint given. I'm not sure if it's a translation issue or what. But, the actual solution to his reconfigured maze is by "right dragon" they mean East. As in, every time in the previous maze we went West, this time we go East instead. That's it. That's the whole maze gimmick. So it is:
- East to a save point
- North to the end
Music: NDE - Near Death Experience
Now there are no new enemies added to the random battle pool during this second maze. But there was something noteworthy that happened along the route. Alice made it Level 48 which unlocks her final White Magic ability -- Advent. Shadow Hearts has absolutely no intention of making you grind to Level 99 for any purpose. Most characters pop their ultimate ability in the mid-upper 40s level range.
Advent costs a massive 120 MP per cast and is "Heavy Light-class special damage to all enemies." That sounds fun. Let's see what it entails. I mean, other than the Judgment Ring exploding upon successfully clicking on all the Hit Areas. That's new...
That is a somewhat more bombastic opening compared to most of Alice's magic spells. It looks like she's about to kick off an anime OP, if anything.
Maybe not the best camera positioning for a character wearing a very short skirt. But let's just focus on the skybox descending from the heavens.
Oh, excuse me, my mistake. The sky pyramid descending from the heavens. Silly me.
Ouranos... Ouranos... Ouranos!
Let's just get the Eye of Providence to vaporize that pesky bug infestation. Just like the Lord intended. I bet James wishes he had this at his disposal back in the day. I doubt we're going to have many uses for the All-Seeing Eye to eradicate everyone on the field when Alice is usually backlogged with casting Arc all day long. But hey, at least Alice can join the orbital laser party if necessary.
Back to the task at hand. Let's be sure to save here, use a Tent and make sure everyone is still equipped with a Crucifix. We're also going to stick Alice with some Priest Earrings to reduce her MP usage by 20%. That doesn't sound like a whole lot. But it definitely adds up when she's casting the 80 MP Arc every single turn.
This seems more like it for the end of a dungeon. Let's see if this is more impressive than Skinless Jesus from the Ancient Ruins.
Music: Brain Hopper (I wanna say this is the last time we ever hear Brain Hopper. What a waste.)
Meet Cherubim. No... not that. That's just an Evil Pope Chicken stitched onto its chest.
That is Cherubim. Let's get ahead of this boss fight. This guy fucking SUCKS! Not for his abilities or anything, mind you. No, we'll get to why he sucks in a moment.
Like previous end game bonus bosses, Cherubim has no Elemental affinity so anything goes here. He does, however, have 10,000 HP which is a fair shake more than any of the other bosses we've faced thus far in the game. That alone would be rather problematic if not for another issue. Which, again, we'll get to the details of momentarily.
Cherubim displays slightly more abilities than its cousin the Seraphim. And by "slightly more" I mean exactly one more. Namely, it has !!! which you may remember from ages ago back during the Fox Face boss battles. If you don't...
It's the one that reduces its target's health to 1 hit point. Unfortunately, it's a way longer attack animation than Fox Face's rendition.
On top of the angelic being has a somewhat beefy array of physical attacks. It can do in the ballpark of 75-250 HP of damage. It tends to be on the lower end of that range. Its physical strikes aren't nearly as impressive as its skinless counterpart from the previous dungeon.
Finally, it has the same Technicolor nightmare attack of low rent rainbow effects of Divine Punishment. I wasn't kidding. It literally has one more additional attack over the Seraphim.
None of these are remotely an issue since the turn order is literally Cherubim > Alice > Margarete > Yuri. Anything Cherubim can do to our party will instantly be negated by Alice casting Arc the next turn.
So this all seems like it's nearly a copy and paste of the previous bonus dungeon boss, right? It just has 2.5x more HP is all. So why is that one something we can practically glaze over battle description wise and this one is within the realm of sucking total ass? One key difference.
Cherubim absorbs Special Attack damage. Cherubim absorbs ALL Special Attack damage. It's a boss with 10,000 HP that can only be hurt by physical attacks.
On a good day, Yuri with the Amon Fusion will output in the ballpark of 300-450 damage per turn. Margarete is usually around 200-300 HP of damage tops. Add maybe an extra 50-75 HP of damage if anyone gets a Strike hit. So let's say generously, we're doing about 600 damage per round. Against an enemy that has 10,000 HP and frequently does an attack that has an animation that lasts about fifteen seconds and Alice during Arc every round which is also around a 15-second animation.
This boss fight took 23 fucking minutes to compete and that was with actually messing with some of those fifty-three assorted items that rejigger the Judgment Wheel and various status, such as Moon Swallow making every attack a Critical Strike and then Third Key to have Yuri attack nine times in a row. At no point was the party remotely in anything resembling danger during the proceedings of this battle.
Hell, I never even had to top off Alice's MP reserves and she did nothing but cast Arc every single round. I was JUST maybe considering replenishing Alice and Margarete's SP the following round when goddamn FINALLY...
Welp, that was an intensely tedious nearly half hour of my life I'll never get back. The rewards for this better be damn good. Thankfully, that is the last of the angelic being bonus bosses in Shadow Hearts.
...A staff for Zhuzhen? Really? All that misplaced effort and tedium for the Level 29 guy that hasn't been in a battle for like 30 updates? What else did I expect? But, more importantly than that. Margarete hit Level 46 and unlocked her ultimate Secret Weapon: Diving Bomber. Let's jump out of time for a moment and take a look at that.
Hi, it's me.
Diving Bomber is another 120 MP (if I'm not mistaken ALL ultimate Special Attacks are 120 MP) Secret Weapon which "Summons a dive bomber to rain down bombs."
Supposedly it's a Fire elemental attack, despite everything else Margarete does being Water elemental. I have zero way to check that because all remaining bosses are non-elemental and it will undoubtedly one-shot any common trash mobs. So sure! Why not?
I mean... it is just dropping a bomb from an airplane. It'd probably make sense if that was explosive. I'm glad Margarete's dubious flight experience came back in a big way at the end here. Nothing screams spy like calling in a bombing run on your enemies. It's quite impressive they managed to get such a precise strike on a target lurking underground.
One final bonus is that this boss also grants +5 Earth Element Soul Energy. Shit... I still gotta go grind that last six percent. Maybe I'll get lucky and that will ONLY take an hour of my life. AGDQ is happening as of the writing of this update. It probably won't be that bad... The bad RNG deities are surely casting their ire upon more noteworthy targets at this point, right? Right...?
In any event, Zhuzen's ultimate staff is now added to our collection. It doesn't even have an interesting design or description. Why did you become such a disappointment when you left Asia, Quack Oracle? You used to be cool. This provides +86 Physical and +88 Special Attack that will never be utilized. Out of spite, at this point frankly.
In summary, that takes care of the two extremely mediocre bonus dungeons of Shadow Hearts. Tune in next time as we check in on Halley's collection of morally dubious mystical orphans and any underground death sports they may have gotten into in our absences as Shadow Hearts continues!
Video: Episode 73 Highlight Reel (You should watch this, if just for Margarete and Alice's ultimate attacks.)