The Let's Play Archive

Shadow Hearts: Covenant

by The Dark Id

Part 147: Episode CXLI: It Won't Be Long Now...

Episode CXLI: It Won't Be Long Now...

Music: Grey Memories ~ Map of Japan

Hey, remember when Kato summoned Yoriwara, the Vessel of Yamato to tear apart space and warp time to travel 100 years into the past to alter history thus destroying this timeline and that seemed bad? And Yuri was at the final stages of succumbing to the curse erasing his soul? Yeah, good thing all that business chilled out for a few months while the gang did a world tour shitpost and ignored those problems completely in favor of ghost relatives and homoerotic wrestling tournament arcs. But alas, we do need to return to the fold and actually finish Shadow Hearts: Covenant. To that extent, we now return to the Asuka Stone Platform to tackle the final area (well technically two areas but one just holds the final boss) of the game.

Before that, let's take one final look at our Score stats. We ended up as a Level 35 Samurai Ghoul. I'll take it.

I think five of the nine times I fled battles were the grueling return to Tiffauges Castle because was getting incredibly annoyed how goddamn long it took just to cap off a sidequest epilogue that had no tangible reward other than making an old man curse another old man. The rest were I got to the Save Point before a boss room. Used a Tent and saved the game. Walked two out of five steps between the save and the boss room and got a goddamn random battle. Fuck off!

Congrats on Gepetto somehow being the clutch Perfect Ring hitter. I'll admit switching to the Gambling Ring and pumping everyone with Ring Expansion slots definitely juiced my stats.

And no real surprises on who participated in the most battles. Anastasia and Kurando both definitely stuffed the ballot box with that Neam Ruins Underground Part 2 nonsense.

Music: ENDS

Anyway, we have done literally all the sidequest content of note in the game. Good grief.

Music: Deep in Coma ~ Battle in Japan

Welcome back to The Vessel of Yamato. We set foot here after confronting Kato for all of about thirty seconds before leaving as it was the impetus of which unlocked nearly a quarter of the game's content. Anyway, we're back, and guess what...? In true Shadow Hearts: Covenant tradition... it is not a very good dungeon! The Neameto Float in Shadow Hearts 1's conclusion was annoying to navigate, especially with the trial and error teleporter maze mid-way through. But at least it had a nifty techno-future meets gothic aesthetic. The Vessel is... what you see in this screenshot. It's a futuristic floating platform in a void with a map of constellations and Japanese characters rotating around it in the distance. And you may notice there is a floor indicator in the corner now. That's because it is four floors of exactly this and a smaller, slightly more elaborate boss fight floor at the top. That's it! That's the final dungeon!

Also, you may recall The Neameto Float had some decent tunes on our way climbing it. Multiple tracks in fact! But there was the obnoxious sticking point that the dungeon had an extremely high encounter rate and the track reset between every random battle. So unless you stood still you'd only ever hear the first 15-20 seconds of the music and the best track didn't pop off until about 30 seconds in. That is a problem in The Vessel as well... except they... didn't bother to make final dungeon music. It's just the random battle them for the Japan half of the game you'd have heard nearly 200 times plus at this point. Oh, the random battle music for the dungeon? It's the Japan boss battle music now instead that we've heard about 30+ times.

Yep... Sorry, we allocated all the budget and effort to shitpost optional content and through together the final dungeon in a weekend. Anyway, there is a gimmick to the dungeon. It's straight ahead.

It looks like some kind of altar. Or a weird machine?
I bet it's the mechanism that controls the vessel.
But it looks like it's locked somehow by this huge crystal.
The controls are trapped in this whack-ass crystal prison! How devious!
<nods> Hmm... Where to next, then?
I don't know... I can't see any way to get higher up...
Is there a higher up? It just looks like darkness above.
It says Floor 1 when I look down, so probably. Let's see...

Yuri looks around the area.

What even is that?
<shrug> I dunno. But mashing on stuff in dungeons has worked so far, right? Why stop at the end?
<concerned grunt>

Our ultimate goal is to dispel that whack-ass crystal prison over that control device in the center of the first floor of The Vessel. And the key to this is, of course. Switch flipping. Everyone loves it. Always be flipping switches. Oh and of course, since this is the final area. It's lousy with...

Music: Hardcore to the Brain ~ Mid Boss in Japan

Random battles! One final jump into the breach of filler content to pad out a half-assed area! The Vessel has by far the greatest variety of enemies of area in the game. In fact, the bottom two floors and the top two floors have completely different enemy pools and both have more members on their roster than most standard dungeons. Just ignore how most of them look suspiciously like palettes swapped and slightly altered models of enemies we've seen elsewhere.

Let's get into it! This umm... what am I even looking at? A floating spiny snake thing with a ring with fancy lace adornments...? Maybe? This is Takaokami a Light Elemental enemy with 218 HP. It's one of the weakest enemies in the dungeon and can be easily bodied in a single turn. If not it will cast Arc Barrier to itself and its allies or assorted Light elemental spells.

Takaokami is another name for Kuraokami the Japanese Shinto mythological deity of rain and snow.

Wikipedia on Kuraokami posted:

Click here for more!

Kuraokami in the Kojiki, or in the Nihon Shoki: Kuraokami or Okami , who is a legendary Japanese dragon and Shinto deity of rain and snow. In Japanese mythology, the sibling progenitors Izanagi and Izanami gave birth to the islands and gods of Japan. After Izanami died from burns during the childbirth of the fire deity Kagu-tsuchi, Izanagi was enraged and killed his son. Kagutsuchi's blood or body, according to differing versions of the legend, created several other deities, including Kuraokami.

The snake takes a more obtrusive part in the Japanese than in the Chinese dragon and it frequently manifests itself as a god of the sea. The old Japanese sea-gods were often female water-snakes. The cultural influences which reached Japan from the south by way of Indonesia — many centuries before the coming of Buddhism — naturally emphasized the serpent form of the dragon and its connexion with the ocean.

Magic water-snow snake, got it. I think I'd assign it the Water element in such a case. But what do I know? At least it looks the part.

This rowdy boy that looks an awful lot like a rowdy boy from the Dog Shrine is the err... Lion Dog. It's a Lion Dog. Kyō-shishi or Stone Lion is a better title for it. It's those decorative stone lions you see all over in East Asia. This version is an Earth elemental with 826 HP. It mostly bites folks. But its bites can cause Petrify and it can also throw up an Arc Shield for its companions.

The final in the more nightmarish man-spider series of creatures is the Hinogakutsuchi which comes in Fire elemental flavor and despite having a sturdy-looking carapace only has 340 HP. This fella likes to stab things and set them on fire. It sticks with what it knows.

Hinogakutsuchi is another name for Kagutsuchi a fire deity of Japanese mythology.

Wikipedia on Kagutsuchi posted:

The name Kagutsuchi was originally a compound phrase, consisting of kagu, an Old Japanese root verb meaning "to shine"; tsu, the Old Japanese possessive particle; and chi, an Old Japanese root meaning "force, power". Kagutsuchi is the patron deity of blacksmiths and ceramic workers. He is worshipped in several shrines, one of which is Atago Shrine, near Kyoto.

Kagu-tsuchi's birth burned his mother Izanami, causing her death. His father Izanagi, in his grief, beheaded Kagu-tsuchi with his sword, Ame no Ohabari, and cut his body into eight pieces, which became eight volcanoes. Kagutsuchi’s corpse created numerous deities, which typically includes Watatsumi, Kuraokami, Takemikazuchi, Futsunushi, Amatsumikaboshi, and Ōyamatsumi.

Kagu-tsuchi's birth burned his mother Izanami, causing her death. His father Izanagi, in his grief, beheaded Kagu-tsuchi with his sword, Ame no Ohabari, and cut his body into eight pieces, which became eight volcanoes. Kagutsuchi’s corpse created numerous deities, which typically includes Watatsumi, Kuraokami, Takemikazuchi, Futsunushi, Amatsumikaboshi, and Ōyamatsumi. Kagu-tsuchi's birth, in Japanese mythology, comes at the end of the creation of the world and marks the beginning of death. In the Engishiki, a source which contains the myth, Izanami, in her death throes, bears the water god Mizuhame, instructing her to pacify Kagu-tsuchi if he should become violent. This story also contains references to traditional fire-fighting tools: gourds for carrying water and wet clay and water reeds for smothering fires.

Rowdy fire boy. I suppose an angry red stone lion works well enough.

The final enemy of the lower enemies is this goofy-ass-looking muppet -- Yatanokami. It is the token sturdy, annoying enemy of the lower levels of The Vessel as a Water class enemy with 840 HP. As far as I can tell it just hits hard with its err... fins? Those look like fins. I don't like this thing. Not one bit. Take it away from me.

Yato-no-kami is a class of snake deities in Japanese mythology. They don't have a lot going on in their folklore. They were just asshole demon snakes that hung out in fields near a government office in rural Japan and would murder you and your entire family if you happened to see one. They're very bashful.

Music: Deep in Coma ~ Battle in Japan

So when Yuri... interacts with the... doodad by walking up to it and staring at it intensely, it activates a portal to a higher level. We will have to reach all four levels of The Vessel in due time. Honestly, this dungeon can be done fairly swiftly. Well, swiftly in Shadow Hearts 2 dungeon terms. Were we to ignore all the very, very long side paths on the perimeter of these platforms and just took the critical path. Unfortunately, The Vessel has quite a bit of unique loot down these paths. So... ugh... I didn't need that two hours of my limited time on earth anyhow.

The first floor, in particular, past the central crystalized controls at the very far northwestern corner of the area has Gepetto's... second-best weapon. This gives him +175 Physical and +197 Special and is a straight downgrade from the Crimson Thread we got from the only non-half assed dungeon in the final 20 hours of the game. Thanks for reminding me Gepetto, of all people, got the one effort dungeon as we slog through the same map copy and pasted four times.

You see? It's techno platforms on a void all the way up and down.

Now for the core gimmick of Floor 2-4. The control device on these floors is not frozen by a barrier and can be manipulated by rotating the disc corresponding with the current floor level. This, in turn, will rotate the outer platforms of the platform. Some of these rotations will grant us access to additional items since the central platform extends out a tiny bit to connect different segments and Yuri is utterly unable to jump a three-foot gap on the parts that don't completely connect. Even though Yuri can literally fly and jump 30 feet if he's feeling too lazy to do Fusion that day.

These discs are color-coded based on the directions. As you can see the frozen first floor is green. Our ultimate goal is to make the other three floors line up with the green section in front to unlock the first floor. These will open a portal to a higher floor level. But doing that wouldn't let us get loot we absolutely do not need! Sadly, we're 98% of the way to seeing everything the game has to offer... So...

For instance, manipulating the second floor's err... floor to gain access to the south-eastern corner of the area is where they went "fuck it!" and stuffed Lucia's ultimate armor set. What if they gave her a dignified outfit as her alternate costume instead of a sideways advancement to another horny outfit? Oh well, this gives Lucia +160 Physical and +176 Special Defense.

Going up! There is nothing else interesting about this dungeon until we get to the top other than the upper two floors have new enemies and new loot. So let's just cut to the chase.

Music: Hardcore to the Brain ~ Mid Boss in Japan

Five more enemies named after assorted gods of the east compose the final random battle bestiary for The Vessel floors 3-4. Starting up we have this three-headed statue accompanied by a jewel-laced ring. This is Ashra (which is a mistranslation of Asura) and is a Dark elemental creature with 356 HP. It starts the battle by using Entrance to gather everyone to one spot and if there is a secondary Ashra in the room it will use Evil Summoning to hit the entire part with an AOE. Or anyone else on its team. It's not picky.

Asura is the term in Buddhism mythology for roughly a demigod. They often have three faces (or heads) and a bunch of arms. They may sometimes be extremely angry Liam O'Brien.

Flanking them we have the floating abridged samurai skeleton the Takemikazuchi, a Wind elemental being with 225 HP. It likes to cast Arc Gale to speed up itself and friends before getting to stabbing people. I mean, it brought two swords. We all know what it wants to do here. They are very easy to shatter at the opening gambit of the first fight turn.

Takemikazuchi is a lesser god of thunder (Raijin being the big boy main god of thunder) with a minor in godhood over swords.

Wikipedia on Takemikazuchi posted:

Click here for more!

Takemikazuchi is a deity in Japanese mythology, considered a god of thunder and a sword god. He also competed in what is considered the first sumo wrestling match recorded in history.

He is otherwise known as Kashima-no-kami, the chief deity revered in the Kashima Shrine at Kashima, Ibaraki (and all other subsidiary Kashima shrines). In the namazu-e or catfish pictures of the Edo period, Takemikazuchi/Kashima is depicted attempting to subdue the giant catfish supposedly dwelling at the kaname-ishi ('pinning rock') of the Japanese landmass and causing its earthquakes.

There ain't nothin' in the rule book that says a skeleton can't sumo!

Following that we just have this big evil flying fungus named Kukunochi. It's got to some grain to it having 856 HP and being of the Fire elemental class. It spins around and smacks people with its... mushroom bits. It's not leaves, right? I don't know what you'd call that on a mushroom. Anyway, this can cause Paralysis and that's no good!

Kukunochi is a very, very minor god of trees out of Izanami and Izanagi's huge litter of deities in Japanese mythology. There is no information other than their deal is trees. It's in Shin Megami Tensei as a buff naked dude with a plant crown chilling in a big flower. So take that as gospel.

Finally, we have an enemy I had to reload the final dungeon and grind to find on the upper levels because it was the only missing entry in the Library. Admittedly, at this point, I've had the accessory that reduces random battles and was not wasting time with that shit if I could help it. This is Arahabaki, a 1000 HP enemy of the Dark class and is clearly the first boss we fought when we swapped over to Yuri as the protagonist but redesigned to be... less creepy, despite the hell mouth. I'll be real. I have no idea what it does. It took me 20 minutes of getting into random battles and running away since it didn't show up. And then I murked it immediately to get the Library entry so I could go to bed.

Arahabaki is by all accounts some made-up deity with no origin or information. It's supposed to look vaguely like the Flatwoods Monster cryptid. 95% of the info on it is it is in a ton of Shin Megami Tensei and adjacent games as a demon critter.

And that's all the random encounter enemies in Shadow Hearts: Covenant! Now let's move on to the remaining loot in the game found on floors 3-4 of the final dungeon. :toot:

Music: Deep in Coma ~ Battle in Japan

We find Monk Earrings which exist if you want to just finish the game and not have to level grind quite as much. These have no skill buffs but they do increase EXP by 20% in every battle at the cost of 20% lower overall SP. Honestly, we probably could have beaten the game right when we first got to the Asuka Stone Monument with some difficulty but not a ton. After doing all the side content to offer we're now picking up the dungeon and launching it into space with little effort strong.

Like Lucia, Kurando's ultimate armor set is tucked away in the corner of the last area in a non-descript treasure chest. I bet Anastasia is into this one, especially with its +173 Physical and +163 Special Defense.

And the final piece of unique loot in the game -- one last Tarot Card for Lucia. This inflicts Instant Death to all enemies and all allies on Reverse. Anyone immune to the Instant Death effect like... every boss in the game and almost every enemy in late-game... will be unaffected. For reference, the muppet that looked like Falkor from The Neverending Story's malformed bastard child is the only enemy in this entire dungeon that this could kill.

The Special Effect version can kill anything in the game. Anything. Even King Solomon. Even the final boss. It's not Instant Death it just makes all enemies or allies HP zero. There are no continues. So great, another way Lucia could spectacularly screw us for the end of the road. It's appropriate.

Getting back on track, we go to all three floors and rotate the platforms so it's all greens in front. Which results in...

<looks around> Is this Floor 1?
I can't say. They all look the same.
Well, it says "Vessel, Floor 1" in the corner, so...
...So it does.

Lightning crash!

Kato's not far away now...
You can tell?
Yeah. I can feel it.
Plus a Save Point just appeared and that's a little telling...

So about that Save Point. This is the place to save the game! This is not technically the Point of No Return but it is the point where we make the biggest decision in the game and there's no taking it back after entering this transporter.

Music: ICARO Piano Arrangement ~ Main Theme

<nods> No.
<steps forward> Are you sure now?

Tee hee hee!
I bet you have been... That was months ago the last time we spoke.
Yeah. I got... caught up in other people's stuff. Some of it I-I don't want to ever think about again... But, as for me...

Hehe. I've never been one to reflect on myself much. I just lived fast and hard, and that was about all I could manage. I want to thank you, Jeanne. You taught me the meaning of living, the meaning of happiness.
I'm really sorry I got you killed and... stuff...
Oh, come on, Yuri. That was ages ago. It was practically a different adventure. We're way past that.
<rubs neck> Yeah... I guess... It's still a bummer.

<steps forward> So you found out? What makes you happy?
<nods> Yeah. To me, happiness is...

So, much like Shadow Hearts 1 and Koudelka before it, Shadow Hearts 2: Covenant has two endings. Koudelka involved whether or not the party could defeat the far harder than anything else in the game (save the super boss) final boss. And Shadow Hearts 1 involved a very esoteric specific set of actions before setting foot into the final dungeon lest you were locked into a certain course. For Shadow Hearts: Covenant the deciding factor is... how we answer this question. That's it. Each choice has a different epilogue that decides Yuri's fate.

Naturally, we will see them both. But for now... we're going to start with...

...Living peacefully.

Happiness is something you feel for yourself. Other people can't tell you what it is. You have to decide. Just like you were happy, Yuri. Alice was happy too. I won't worry about you anymore. Hearing your answer really made me feel better.
Now go and be happy... And go clock that guy with the huge chin messing with time!
<smirks> Hehe. I'll give him a good slug for you, kiddo.


And that's the end of Jeanne. She finally stops living rent-free in Yuri's soul and passes on to the afterlife.

Music: Deep in Coma ~ Battle in Japan

And so we are locked into one of the endings of Shadow Hearts 2. There still are a couple of major boss fights ahead of us. But... that's far more reasonable than the previous title wherein we had to redo the entire two-hour final dungeon and last boss again from scratch to reach the second ending. And had to do it without Yuri's best Fusion since that was locked behind one of the two endings as well.

Yuri gets back to his feet.

Are you all right?!

Final farewell?
To Jeanne.
We were smiling when we said goodbye.
<nods> Oh...

It is nice Jeanne got a final goodbye with Yuri and Blanca. Not Gepetto though. Fuck that guy.

Yuri walks to the middle of the group for one final team-building pep talk.

<nods> Okay!
<nods> Awroo! (Okay!)

Lion Dog Concept Art - Bad dog. No biscuit.

The Vessel of Yamato Concept Art - Yeah... I don't know if this Tron bullshit would be much better.