Part 4: Episode IV: Glint of LightEpisode IV: Glint of Light
Music: Death is the Great Leveler ~ Tower of Atonement
Let's actually make it out of the first room of the game, eh? At least before another tutorial ambushes our duo.
The architecture of Apoina Tower isn't exactly the most compelling I have ever seen. But despite the outside appearance of the tower, there are only like... four floors we need to traverse to make it to the end of the dungeon. But not before hitting another...
Music: Vicious 1915 ~ Battle in Europe
Tutorial. Kinda. I suppose this is technically a tutorial. All shows off is the fact that it's possible to gain the initiative in a battle (and likewise get surrounded and with enemies getting in free hits.) Personally, I feel like ambushing Level 1 tutorial mobs is kind of mean spirited. They're just clocking in to give new players an easy time in the beginning. They're probably working multiple tutorial shifts to cover living expenses and the kids at home. Sheesh.
Music: Death is the Great Leveler ~ Tower of Atonement
Many have been imprisoned and died here over the years. Noblemen who lost in battle, tragic princesses who were thought to have died of illnesses.
Assassins who saw it fit to get into fist fights with the Pope.
That's happened before?
Oh yes, indeed. It's a story for another day.
You can still feel their malice...
Or should I say, their Malice.
...You just did, though.
No, Malice capitalized -- a proper noun.
Is there a difference?
Hmm... Don't trouble yourself with that for now.
Spooky howling noises from afar fill the air.
<gasp> I knew it...
What is it?
Don't mind the howling. You grow accustomed to it after a while. I barely take notice of it most nights anymore.
I'm not sure... but when I met that demon in Domremy, I didn't sense the malevolence that I feel from the people in this tower.
<approaches Karin> Huh... Could it have been because you were so afraid then?
That may be part of it. But... he was beautiful.
Interesting word to use.
He filled out those leather pants really well...
He seemed sad.
HATE sad demon boys.
Continuing forward, we find a mysterious item in a chest around the corner. We'll just put a pin in that for the moment since perhaps there is a tutorial for this trinket just a few steps away.
What looks like it ought to be a Save Point in another JRPG appears before Karin and Nicolai. They are very surprised by this turn of events. Even more so when it begins speaking to them.
The two approach the Ring Soul.
I can see it... I can see thy future... This I entrust to you...
The power to command the Judgment Ring. Such power will help you carve your way through destiny...
Wait! Why...why give this to me?
The Judgment Ring has the power to change the world... Fate only follows a straight path if it is used well...
Fate...? A straight path...?
There is nothing more to say...
That is demonstrably not true! I have a LOT of questions here.
I will appear to you again, to bestow upon you more power... But beware! I am always watching...
ESPECIALLY when you poop.
That was NOT what I was about to ask!
Watching to see if you are truly the one to command destiny...
And with that, the Ring Soul vanishes. As it said, we will be seeing that... thing... later. The party's relationship with that entity is... interesting...
I don't like anything about what just happened.
<turns to Karin> Don't keep your new power all to yourself!
A new system is unlocked. Well, more like a revised and streamlined system from the first game.
In the original Shadow Hearts, every weapon could be enhanced to have more attack power (which narrowed the Judgment Ring's Hit Areas) and could also have the Hit Areas expanded to counteract that. This was done via a gross old, peeping-tom stalker old man piece of shit called Wanderer Meiyuan, who provided an absurdly expensive acupuncture service to enhance the party's weapons. He also molested the male characters while doing this, including the fourteen-year-old boy one, because everything about that character was a big yikes old gay pervert stereotype. Wanderer Meiyuan was hopefully sent to prison or died somewhere in the ravages of the Great War and will never be seen again, thankfully. Judgment Ring rejiggering is now done via a per-character Ring Customization option at any time, free of exorbitant monetary fees.
Using items, like the Hit Area Expand we just received, will boost the size of Hit and Strike Areas on the Judgment Ring. While these items are limited, they're not consumables. We can add and subtract points at any time with no penalty for reconfiguration. We're given a handful of these to play around with initially.
There are also Add-On Effects that can be equipped for additional bonuses. Right now we've only got an Evasion Down, which reduces the enemies ability to evade attacks. That seems nebulous to the point who knows if it even works. But it might help a player sleep at night.
The Attack Boost we received from the Ring Soul can be used to expand Karin's (despite his suggestion, we're not actually going to give Nicolai shit since he's already way better than Karin at this point) number of physical attacks from two to three (which was default in the OG Shadow Hearts.) We could also reduce it to just one attack. There's not remotely a reason to do that at the moment. But, the option is there.
Another new feature is also Ring Types. In the original Shadow Hearts, everyone just had a three string combo for their basic physical attack. This was non-negotiable and stayed static the entire game.
The game itself provides an on-point and brief summary of each Ring Type with visual aids. So I'll let it speak for itself. Normal Ring is fine for now since we can't do anything too fancy and I've been playing Shadow Hearts 1 for the Internet for like seven months in the prior LP so I am KINDA used to one at the moment. We'll probably swap over to the more spicy versions later on in the game.
Also, if you just aren't good at pseudo-QTEs or timed button presses, there is the option to essentially just turn the Judgment Ring off. This does limit characters to just doing one single strike with no possibility of critical hits. I'm never touching that. But it's nice there's an option to just turn off that kind of stuff.
That's it for Ring Customization's tutorial. But it is worth checking out the fact that all the Ring Customization items also have artwork and blurbs just like any other item.
Shankar, god of shiving snitches.
I never pictured William Tell as some kind of shinobi archer. But I supposed I never gave much thought to what the hell William Tell looked like, either. Maybe he was a ninja? How are we to know?
That horse is no Roach.
Is it really tenacious if you're hunting fucking BABIES?! That is the most low-hanging fruit prey I could think of for a predator. Boo this spider!
Continuing to ascend the tower, we come upon an INCREDIBLY evil looking door. Unfortunately, it's locked at the moment. That's two locked doors in the tutorial dungeon now. I sure hope this joint doesn't come back as a mid-to-late game dungeon restaffed with much higher level baddies the second run.
Non-tutorial random battles continued as we make our way through the tower. We've already seen the only two enemy types in this region during the tutorials, so further fights aren't worth going over. What is worthy of note is the fact that Karin made it to Level 2 along the way. There is no stat distribution or anything upon Level Up. It's all automatic. Unfortunately, Shadow Hearts: Covenant continues the trend pioneered by Koudelka in having characters gain HP and MP on Level Up but not having their meters filled up at the same time (i.e. Karin went from 13/25 HP remaining to 13/35 HP.)
As someone that kind of likes everyone's meters topped off between battles, that has always been really annoying.
Past that the door with the giant demonic hands is the Vatican's patented teleportation runes which let the party skip straight to the top of the tower. Animated skeletons, spooky noises and 4th wall breaking entities all concern Karin. But a mystical instant transmission glyph? Meh. Doesn't even qualify for a cutscene comment.
Just past the teleporter, we're given a save point we should probably use since there may or may not be a boss fight coming up in the near future. Seems like a good time for one of those biodegradable tents while we're at it.
Conrad and Koenig approach the door at the top of the tower.
Be careful now. There's a familiar keeping guard in there.
Music: Suffocation ~ Grim Atmosphere
Ahh... there's the opulence I expect to see in a Catholic Church building. The rest of this joint was downright shabby.
And here is what is presumably the relic Nicolai was after. That's quite the uncomfortable looking stylus.
Music: Flame of Strain to Blaze ~ Tension (The official "hey there is a boss fight coming up" track.)
<gasps and shields her eyes>
There you are!
Is there a Green Room equivalent for mid-bosses where they hang out waiting and getting makeup done until the curtain call for warping in for a boss fight? I feel like there must be.
Alright, who is the joker that put boobs on a gargoyle? Fess up!
Karin is less than thrilled at this turn of events.
Music: Glint of Light ~ Mid Boss in Europe (It's the boss battle music. You should probably listen to it.)
Meet the first boss of Shadow Hearts: Covenant -- the Gargoyle. Gargoyles have certainly fallen a long way from being a super boss back in the Koudelka days to the end of tutorial dungeon boss we have before us here. The Gargoyle is a Dark elemental enemy with only 140 HP. That's equivalent to like SEVEN skeletons!
Since this is a Dark elemental enemy, Nicholai's Light element Blessed Light attack knocks off around a quarter of the best's total health. Nicolai has enough MP to cast that spell five times, so he could easily solo this boss fight.
Having Karin here just makes it even more one-sided even if she can only produce around the 25 HP of damage range per turn. Teaming up for a Combo only manages to output slightly more damage than just having Nicolai cast Blessed Light, so it's overall less effective than just having the two attack separately.
Gargoyle on has two attacks. Evil Ray, which err... well, it shoots a ray blast. I'll assume it is quite evil. But despite being flashy, it only does around 7-12 HP of damage.
Far more dangerous is Gargoyle's physical attack string. This can do in the range of 15-20 HP of damage in a single turn. Considering our characters are topping out at a mere 35 and 38 HP, that's can turn into bad news quickly if Gargoyle decided to focus on a single party member.
That is, you know, if it got the chance to live that long. Spoilers: It did not. It got two turns before getting wasted by our protagonists. Pfft. The last Gargoyle I fought took like thirty agonizingly long turns to take down using underhanded super weapons obtained from leaving the game running for hours. This was a sad excuse for a Gargoyle.
Music: Result ~ Victory
I pray for their souls.
Boss Battles track assorted stats such as highest combo achieved, number of turns the boss took and competence at the Judgment Ring awards addition items and experience points for doing well. I think that was about as well as we could possibly manage here.
Now that the lackluster guardian of the Vatican's doom tower is vanquished, Nicolai claims his prize of... whatever the hell this thing is...
Is that it?
...Yes. The ultimate tool for exorcising demons.
So we gain a new key item -- Holy Mistletoe. Uhh... sure, if you say so. We'll learn more about that on another occasion. For now, our time in Apoina Tower is concluded. Tune in next time as we return back to France to sort out the Demon of Domremy. I'm sure this will go without a hitch. When's the last time anything ever went wrong with a winged demon and someone fiddling around with supernatural arts? In Europe, at least...
That's the end of the first proper chapter of the game. With it, we've gained a small sampling of new entries from the ghouls and ghosts of the Vatican.
Now I'd been calling these skeletons, but looking at how much flesh is still on them bones... Would you classify this thing as a zombie? I think like Revenant is just a cowardly catch-all of "man I dunno what to call it" with the undead.
They kept catching this jerk smoking behind the bleachers at the Vatican and had to ground it.
"I want the tower guardian best to have big ol' yaoi hands, a nose-mouth, tiny baby feet, and Double-D titties!" - Official Decree by Pope Benedict XV, 1914
Nobody is prepared to learn more of the Ring Soul.
Video: Episode 4 Highlight Reel (You should see this big dumb boss in action.)
Karin and Nicolai Calendar Render - Where were YOU July and August, 2003?