Part 84: Episode LXXVIII: AstarothEpisode LXXVIII: Astaroth
Welp. Nicolai has released all the Catholic Church's collected Malice into the world because he couldn't get a date with an ex-coworker he's tried to kill on multiple occasions. I am not sure how this is going to help his ability to ascend to the throne of the Russian Empire but incels are mysterious creatures.
NEW Music: Astaroth ~ Battle with the Fallen Angel (This only plays a couple of times the entire time. You should listen to it!)
Time to jump right into it with the Disc 1 final boss -- Astaroth. You know, especially here I would have expected a battle with human Nicolai before he smashed the Soul Pact transformation button. I mean the guy had a full set of combat animations and everything from the early game. But Shadow Hearts 2 seems to avoid boss rushes in general which I am perfectly OK with given some past RPG experiences. I'm looking at you, Xenogears.
Getting back on task, Astaroth, much like Asmodeus, is another rare Non-Elemental enemy and has 3040 HP.
Overall, Astaroth is mostly an easier time than Asmodeus. Again, Apoina Tower is strangely lower on the difficulty curve than Idar Flamme in almost every way. This time around we are going with Fides as we're taking a physical damage oriented approach against Nicolai and our big chufty armored boy is the best bet in that situation. Arc Gale, Arc Rage and Arc Barrier are all also essentials. Arc Shield couldn't hurt either but as an opening gambit, that's a solid spread to get us ready for the fight.
Like Asmodeus, Astaroth's opening play is to cast a heavily damaging full party attack that lowers everyone's Special Attack power by 30%. It isn't quite as damaging as Rasputin's version, but it still smarts.
He will also cast Barrier on himself at the earliest time he can. These last few big boss battles have really been anti-magic caster affairs, huh. Maybe there is a reason the benched party members is full of their lot. If his Barrier ever falls he will immediately cast it again. Hence why we're sticking to physical strikes.
Nicolai's strongest attack is Meteor Fall which will well... just drop a meteor on everyone (what did you expect?) for 150-175 HP of damage. If we didn't have Barrier up it's more to the tune of 200-220. Buffs and debuffs! Use them!
His most annoying ability is that his physical attack chain can potentially cause delay and Astaroth likes to just slap around people far more often than Asmodeus did. Which can make setting up Combos irritating if someone is out of sync from the usual set-up.
That said, now that we're aware of his abilities the gameplay is to occasionally use an Arc Cure and just combo the shit out of him. Spoilers: That's kind of the flow of most Shadow Hearts: Covenant boss battles outside the occasional gimmicky ones. I've got to say, Astaroth lived up to its... complete lack of hype and only offhand ever getting mentioned alongside Amon and Asmodeus being the real deals.
Music: Result ~ Victory
We get quite the payout in all categories for finally whipping Nicolai's ass. Especially, the number of Souls. Time to pump some levels here.
To add insult to injury, Karin opts to just steal Nicolai's sword. Rude. Apparently its taint from Astaroth pushed it up to a +106 Physical and +104 Special attack weapon.
And with that, we have officially beaten Disc 1. Now just to watch the aftermath of our conflict before wrapping up the first half of the adventure.
<groans> I suppose I'm beaten... Even with the power of Astaroth... Uuugh...
Nicolai falls to the floor.
It must be obnoxious to have Malice orbs getting flung at your face the entire time you're trying to do anything. Speaking of which, you all should perhaps consider closing the Hellgate spreading hatred and ill will beams across Europe. Just a thought. That cannot be good for wartime morale.
Time to finish it...
Yuri seems pretty ready to curb stomp the smuggest mug in all of the Vatican. However, he stops short noticing...
Uhh... Hey there, Kato. It's been a hot minute since we've seen you last. Umm... whatcha doing here, buddy? This is an odd time for you to resurface. Got some diplomacy going on at the Vatican, or...?
Oh, you're just closing the gate to the Malice Zone. Smart. We probably should have done that as soon as Nicolai hit the ground. But, you know, you want to be respectful of dying villain's last words. It's only courteous.
It's good to see you, but... kinda in the middle of something here.
In the name of the Emperor, I'm taking this man under my protection.
Yuri ignores him and continues his advance to finish off the defeated Nicolai. However...
Music: Serious Mood ~ Unrest
I do not wish to fight you. Please leave.
(Going to let the laser blast slide. Kato is alright. Don't immediately punch him, Yuri.)
If this man is truly next in line to the Tsardom of Russia, then, as an allied country, we cannot simply let you kill him.
This man is the illegitimate son of Tsar Nicholas II.
He is... my brother?!
Yeah... that's some new info for us. What the hell? But besides that...
Look at those.
Do you have any idea what those are going to do?
I have some experience with Malice and it's a bad scene. And I don't think everyone has a mind palace graveyard in their soul to cleanse the buildup of that stuff.
It was you who let it happen.
Did you once more stand there and listen to a dramatic monologue instead of immediately taking action to prevent this?
Well... I... maybe...
The malice is already invading the people's hearts. It's too late for them. Taking this person's life is not going to change anything.
Punching all of your problems away is not always going to be the answer.
<clenches fist> Stay outta this!!
Yuri rushes in to punch Kato.
Yeah, so I guess these Mega Man X looking ass goons of Kato are here now. How does everyone keep sliding into the frame as though invisible until they're on screen? It's uncanny. This room isn't all that big. And it seems Kato's really put into some hours studying arcane arts considering he didn't know magic was a thing just a couple of years ago. It's good to have a hobby.
Kato blasts Yuri across the room with an energy ball.
I'm going back to the capital. Your war is over now. Look for another way to live.
Kato, his anime ass goon squad and the unconscious Nicolai all teleport away from the scene. I guess Kato can just use Instant Transmission now. Sure, why not?
Well, I suppose we should have been a little bit more concerned when Kato and his mighty chin returned ripped as hell and dressing like M. Bison. And the part where he was fraternizing with Sapientes Gladio or at least Nicolai. And the part where he obtained the Émigré Manuscript... That's never a good thing either. The warning signs were all there, honestly. But it's kind of wild the bumbling doofus with a giant chin sidekick to a character who stopped being relevant half-way through the previous game is now a major villain. But here are! Shadow Hearts 2 will do whatever it damn well pleases!
We are now officially done with Disc 1 of Shadow Hearts: Covenant! And with it Europe as well. Get your passports ready and your documents in order and see you next time as we shift focus to glorious Nippon. Japan awaits and so does the second half of this adventure. Stay tuned!
We didn't meet anyone new in this outing but there were a handful of colorful creatures in our path.
Look, it just wants you to be lukewarm blooded. The whole hot-blooded thing is played out.
You can execute faster if you have TWO swords.
The soul actually resides in the skin, you see.
I'm disappointed we didn't get an intensely smug mutant Nicolai face on this thing.
Video: Episode 78 Highlight Reel (It the final cutscene of Disc 1. You should watch it.)
Astaroth Concept Art - Honestly, underwhelming after the 12-foot tall facehugger Rasputin.