Part 2: AwakeningOkay. Okay. Okay. So.
No, wait, no, that's not productive. I can worry about everyone else once I'm done worrying about myself. This isn't the rooftop anymore. Where am I?
So it's got those tables with the raised edges, and drawers set in the walls. This can't be a...
Okay so it is a morgue. Great.
I don't feel dead.
That bug thing hurt like a son of a bitch when it... when it got in. But now, I feel like I'm the opposite of dead.
Is this what it feels like to be a demon?
*: Yeah, basically. A very, very weak demon, but a demon nonetheless.
Lv1 Fiend Francois Hawke
An enigma wrapped inside a mystery. That, or a high school student completely out his depth. It's hard to tell. Extraordinarily low HP, even lower MP, and he knows no skills. If it wasn't for his equipment stat bonuses, displayed as green bars, all his stats would be a glorious 2. Needless to say, you probably should trade him away for a better ally as soon as you can. About his only good aspect is that he's not particularly vulnerable to any type of damage, though a good 90% of the creatures in the game can one-shot him at will. Hopefully none of those are in this hospital.
Fiends are a new neutral-aligned race for the series. Given the circumstances of Francois', um, rebirth, you might be tempted to think of them as Choujin, human/demon fusions, but it's more complicated than that. In the original Japanese, fiends are called "Majin", which roughly means "devil" or "demon person" and tells us nothing new so I don't know why I brought it up. But we'll find out. We'll find out.
*: Speaking of equipment bonuses, there are no weapons or armor in this game, or none that matter to us in any way. But we are somehow able to swap out the strange demonic insect parasite thing we've been infested with. Or we could if we had more than one.
Meet Marogareh the Magatama, the charming little be-mandibled bastard we've been so graciously given by those generous strangers. It's not exactly the strongest of its kind, but it has no specific elemental weaknesses (or resistances), has tiny if well-rounded stat bonuses, and will start teaching us physical attack skills as soon as we start leveling up. If we live long enough to level up, that is.
We know that next up is the fairly basic "Lunge", and there will be five more skills afterwards. They all have level requirements before they unlock, though.
Interestingly enough, the status screen calls us by our full name, but the main menu is well content to call us by our nickname instead.
As much as I'd like to stay here forever and admire my sweet new tats, I'd really rather not spend more time in this room, or this building, than I strictly have to. And getting a move on might keep me from thinking about who the hell stripped me and carried me to the morgue.
Hello, what's this?
: I tend to stare at ghosts. I'm sorry, it's a bad habit.
: Am I that peculiar? Have you been living all your demon life in a cave?
: For all intents and purposes, yes.
This door is at the end of the corridor where we met Hikawa before. So the exit should be the other way.
And that was Hikawa's room. Probably still is. Hmm.
*: We enter it automatically.
: Fancy meeting you here!
: Yeah, that sounds like me. I'm glad you can tell.
: Man, I have no idea.
: ...I see. Well, at least you still think like a human...
: I took a quick look around, and it looks like I'm in a hospital... Since you're here too, does that mean this is Shinjuku Medical Center?
: Yeah, it is. I've come here before.
: ...Anyways. As much as I want to know what's going on out there, I don't think it's safe for me to walk around.
: I'm not sure what you're talking about.
: My guess is that they're... demons.
: Oh, uh. Can't say that I have, no.
: My strange experience... your new look... and these weird creatures... I don't think the police will be able to help us here.
: Not the regular police, anyway.
: Damn... I might have to seriously consider the possibility. It's hard to believe, but... If this is Shinjuku Medical Center, then I can't just rule it out.
: The Conception.
: The Conception... could have occured for real.
: If my memory serves me right, it belongs to a man named Hikawa.
: Yeah, it does. He was... looking into it. Before.
: He must have something to do with all this.
: Couldn't agree more.
: If you're strong enough to fight those demons, then will you gather information for me?
: Well, I was going to gather information for myself anyway. Given the circumstances, we might as well share.
: I tried talking to what looked like a ghost, but I didn't have much luck. What's happened to the world...? Are there other humans out there...? We can only learn the answers to these questions by finding somebody else. ...I wish I could do it myself, but I don't think I'd last very long against these demons. Besides, I'd like to spend some time studying this object. I'm counting on you.
: Sure thing, no pressure.
*: And here's our save point. This is essentially a Terminal equivalent, if slightly more limited. And we can still chat Hijiri up.
: Don't worry about me. I know I'll only slow you down if I go with you. ...Hey, I don't plan on dying here, you know. That's why I'm checking this thing out. ...So, go.
*: Yeah, Hijiri's not quite the badass normal we've come to expect from our human allies in the rest of the series. No non-demon party members for you!
When we leave...
: Maybe you should try and get out of this hospital. ...Good luck.
*: The A01 operation room we went in before is now labeled "Healing Room".
: Right now, freedom sounds good. But I'll take information if I can get it.
: I'll heal your wounds, so please don't eat me!
: Oh, err, I, um. Well. You got yourself a deal!
>The soul healed you.
: I'll heal your wounds anytime, so don't eat me, please.
*: So, free healing. Convenient!
: Ehhh, call me Zed, I suppose.
: Yet another demon after Magatsuhi.
: I'm fairly confident I have no idea what that is.
*: We reach the elevator without further incident.
The elevator itself is another story. We're asked if we're going to open it, but that's the only way out.
> You find yourself in a strange place.
Music: Amala Labyrinth
Voice: ...Show me... the strength... of a demon...
Okay, so. That's not the hospital anymore.
*: First treasure chest! Medicine restores a fixed amount of HP, 50 I think. Not great, but still useful, considering we have 30 max HP. Oh, and come to think of it...
Remember the Mysterious Drink from the vending machine? That's where this Sacred Water comes from.
Battle: First blood
Music: Fierce Battle
Huh. So that's the power of a demon.
*: First blood!
This is a fixed encounter; kind of a tutorial, really. It didn't reveal any of the wrinkles of the combat system, but we'll get to those soon enough. And we did gain a level for our trouble. I put our one stat point into Vitality because it doesn't matter how many allies capable of reviving us we have: if Francois hits 0 HP, it's game over.
In addition, Marogareh had a bit of a fit. Whenever you level up, you may or may not get the option of allowing your "equipped" Magatama to surge with a mysterious energy. This can have beneficial or detrimental effects, chosen randomly from a set unique to each Magatama. You can get fully healed, or receive permanent stat bonuses, or you can have various status ailments inflicted on you, that sort of thing. Fortunately the weaker Magatama tend not to screw you over too badly, and I think Marogareh in fact can't do you any harm at all.
Foul Will o' Wisp
Will o' Wisps are small flames that appear to float over the ground of forests, swamps and the occasional graveyard. They're a very real, well-documented phenomenon that results from the interaction of gases produced by the decay of organic material, but before Science figured them out, people were inclined to believe they were wicked ghosts. After all, if you try to get close to a mysterious blue flame, then proceed to sink into marshy ground and nearly drown, you're probably going to return to your village and tell everyone about the lil' flamy douchebag that almost killed you. Here they are mostly unremarkable creatures with low stats. They nullify instant death and resist physical damage, but they are weak to expel and to every other other kind of elemental damage and status ailment, so they can be a genuine liability in almost every situation.
We knew "Foul" as the Gedou race, though they're not a race so much as a catch-all term for assorted semi-intelligent abominations that know little but hunger, fear and hatred. Under most circumstances, you can't negotiate with them on account of their disposition.
*: A bit further down the corridor...
: Well, thanks.
> Dr. Dark healed your party.
*: And just before the door...
*: This little dude hurts a fair bit more than the Will o' Wisps but it's still an easy fight.
Preta is the Hindu name of the Gaki, which have been a mainstay of the early opposition in this series. They're hungry demons, beings in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology that are a very low stage of reincarnation inflicted upon the greedy and covetous. They are absolutely wretched creatures, their stomachs distended with hunger but their necks too slender to swallow anything. They are more to be pitied than feared, but some are hungry for flesh and blood and can be dangerous. You can't see it in this picture but they've got little polygonal penises and accompanying testicles. I'm not making this up. It's kind of scary that you think I would.
The Haunt race is the translation of the Yuuki, being demons or undead creatures generally associated with death and negative reincarnation.
The center of this door is pulsating. This whole place feels strangely... alive.
*: We come to a T intersection.
Voice: ...This way...
> The old man and the woman disappeared...
: Bah, like I have any reason to listen to you.
I go right instead.
*: And we get into another fixed encounter for our trouble. It's not much harder than the others, fortunately. It's worth noting that we can use our Talk command, but it always results in a "The demon is ready for action!" message, and we lose our turn.
Kodama are small tree sprites from Japanese folklore, somewhat analoguous to the Greek dryads. They come into existence when a tree grows to be a hundred years old, and are typically playful and harmless.
The Jirae used to be called Chirei, and are various earth and nature spirits.
*: Behind the demons is another Cache Cube, containing a Maragi Rock, a one-shot item dealing weak fire damage to all enemies. We took a bit of a beating, so I go back to Dr. Dark, then take the left path. There's an encouter with two Kodama, and another door.
The fight earns us level 3, which is the requirement to learn Lunge from Marogareh. Lunge is similar to our basic attack, with a bit more damage and a bit less accuracy. It also costs 5 HP. Non-spell attacks cost HP to use, like in SMT2. It's calculated as a certain percentage of the user's maximum HP, so physical attackers tend to need healers as backup.
Voice: ...So, you made it...
: This was... less difficult than I had expected.
*: And we're teleported back to the front of the elevator, in the hospital.
At least it still works. Hmmm... Let's try the roof first. I want to look outside.
Aw hell. This really happened, didn't it.
No, no, no. Focus. Keep moving. Elevator. Ground floor.
Gah. Guess I'm not getting out this way.
Had to check. I... I have to assume this happened when Tokyo crumpled up. I don't know if that'll ever stop feeling weird to say.
: Were you trying to leave the hospital?
: That was the plan, yeah. Still is, in fact.
: Then, how about next door? This is the main building, but there's an annex. Maybe you can use that entrance.
: Yeah, I remember! Good point, thanks.
: Chiaki? Isamu, you say?
: That's right. Did you see them or not?
: I don't know anyone by that name...
: I... don't know why I expected you would. Sorry.
If Hijiri made it, and I made it... There's the happiest thought I've had in a while, for sure. But I'll be even happier if I can find them.
*: Apart from the elevator in the north, the lobby has exits to both wings of the main building. I take the east one first.
I wouldn't have expected this place could get any more eerie.
*: The ground floor turns out to be mostly locked doors, though there is a Cube with a Medicine in the west wing. I head through a staircase to the second floor, which should connect to the annex in some way. And some of the doors up there are unlocked.
: Magatsuhi is the source of demonic powers, I think. I don't know much about it...
: It's still more than I knew before we met. Thanks!
>The door is locked from the other side.
: And I like it that way.
: Hot damn!
: He's probably dead by now... Eaten by a demon or something weird like that.
: Cripes, don't harsh my buzz! You gotta believe!
: You need an Annex Gate Pass to get through.
New goal acquired!
*: We find some more Medicine, and a couple Lifestones, which are basically the same Magic Stones as in previous installments. They restore a percentage of your HP and are often requested during negotiation.
I didn't expect anything I've seen so far, but I especially didn't expect this.
: I could say the same!
: Are you looking for something, too?
: I am, actually. A security pass of some description.
: Hey, about that thing you're looking for... I'll help you, if you want!
: I'd be delighted!
: A demon who can help take me to Yoyogi Park.
: Bodyguard duty, eh? I can swing that.
: You look kinda flabby and weak, but I'll let that slide.
: And you're rude, and you have impossibly high standards, but I can let that slide too.
: Whaddya say? Should we join up?
: Alright then, let's get outta here! If we have the Pass-thingie, we can get through that door to the annex. I saw some Pretas carrying it.
: Welp, I can see where this is going. At least I already know where they are.
: The pleasure's all mine.
>Pixie joined your party.
Lv2 Fairy Pixie
That's, well, a pixie, a cute little magic flying woman, originally from southwestern English folklore. This time around, they resist electric damage! It's so nice to have this info within reach.
And the Fairy race was known as the Yousei, which are various fey folk, sociable magical beings who tend to follow their own whims and fancies over anything else.
: Wait one goddamned minute. Hold the presses!
*: Aight, what's up?
: What is this fuckery?
*: Don't make me guess.
: This clown also gets a pixie for free? Am I the only one living on Pays-For-Pixies Island?
: Basically, yeah.
: Also! I don't see a computer. That is a huge problem. How do they even understand each other?
*: Pay attention, man. Dude's a demon now. He speaks fluent demon. The Magatama's the babelfish from hell. It's not rocket science.
: Alright, okay, I'll grant him that one. He got a flesh-devouring bug dropped down his gullet, he deserves a bit of a break.
*: How kind of you. May we go on now?
: Bah, fine. I'll just be over there, paying for pixies. Like a sap.
: How many pixies do you even need?
: IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO HAVE TOO MANY PIXIES.
*: Aaaanyway. We turn right back and return to the Preta room.
I gotta say, automap science has come a long way.
Battle: The Ding-Dong Squad
*: Now if you're used to your typical JRPG combat system, a number of things in that fight probably made you raise an eyebrow or two. In fact, this battle is a pretty effective demonstration of the glorious Press Turn System. Let's go turn-by-turn, if you will.
First off, the first team to act, in this case the Pretas' since it was a surprise round, receives a number of turn icons equal to the number of creatures on their side. These turn icons are the dragon-looking symbols in the upper right. Your enemies get red ones, you get blue ones. Every member's action consumes one icon, and everyone gets a move in an order determined by their Agility stat.
However, you've certainly noticed that the Pretas got four moves in before their turn was over: three basic attacks and a Suku-kaja cast. This is because the second Preta's attack was a critical hit. Criticals only consume half an icon. More precisely, they turn a normal icon into a flashing icon. Flashing icons can be used to perform any action, and are used up first. In any case, the turn order loops around to the fastest creature and keeps going until no icons remain.
Yes, this does mean that three icons can be turned into six actions. We can also take advantage of this, of course.
We take our first turn. Zed punches a Preta, and Pixie heals Zed because I forgot to make sure he was already full up. Two actions, two icons consumed.
Second enemy turn. The first Preta consumes an icon with its Feral Claw. The second Preta tries to do the same, but Zed dodges. This ends their turn: a missed attack consumes two icons, which is to say the icon used for the attack itself, and an additional penalty icon. There is no icon left for the third Preta to act.
Our second turn, Zed throws a punch and misses, consuming our only two icons. Turn over.
Third enemy turn. The third Preta crits, halving their last icon. The fastest Preta crits at the end as well, but you can't half a flashing icon. Turn over.
Our third turn. Zed finishes off the left Preta. This has the added benefit of making sure the enemy team only gets two icons instead of three next turn. Then Pixie casts Zio on the second Preta, hitting its weakness to electric damage. Exploiting an elemental weakness consumes half an icon, just like a critical would. In addition, the electric damage has caused the Shock ailment. Physical attacks on Shocked creatures always crit. Zed uses up our last icon to kill the Shocked Preta.
Fourth enemy turn. Only one Preta remains, so he has only one icon.
Our fourth turn, swing and a miss.
Fifth enemy turn. He crits and therefore gets a second action.
Our fifth turn. Punch, Zio, it's like Rapture in here.
So! That might have been a bit much to digest, so I'll summarize.
-Most actions take up one turn.
-Getting a critical hit only uses up half a turn.
-Exploiting a specific weakness only uses up half a turn.
-Missing uses up two turns.
In addition, there are a few more turn effects we haven't seen in this battle.
-All creatures can pass a turn, skipping their place in their team's turn order. This uses up only half a turn. (This can be useful in many situations, like passing a turn to your healer so you don't risk a miss before you can get your health back.)
-Dealing damage that is reflected uses up all your remaining turns, and your enemies start acting immediately.
-Dealing damage that is absorbed also uses up all your turns.
-Dealing damage that is nullified counts as a miss, using up two turns.
That is the meat and potatoes of it. Don't sweat it if it's not entirely clear; we're gonna see a lot more of it, and you're smart, you'll figure it out. Do feel free to ask for clarifications as well, that's why I'm here.
Aaaaanyway! We got ourselves an Annex Pass, didn't we?
: You'll probably die. Nice knowin' ya!
: You should be nicer to people you think are gonna die nearby, because we're gonna spend a long-ass time together if I come back as one of you.
*: We don't even have time to reach the other side of this passage before I'm forcefully notified that random encounters have been turned on. By stumbling on a random encounter, natch. Two Kodama, no sweat.
Hmm. Well, here goes nothing.
: Alright then, you'll just have to die first!
*: Oh hey, failing at conversation also eats up icons, depending on how bad you screwed up. The Kodama both attack Zed, leaving him with 7 HP. This is one of those cases where I have him pass his turn so Pixie can heal him before he has a chance to fumble the ball.
In any event, we take out one of the Kodamas and attempt to chat up the remaining one.
: Yeah, so, uh. I kinda killed your bro there. Sorry about that.
: You wanna play?
>Kodama is thinking to himself.
: Let me dwain your stwength. Then I'll listen ta you.
: Well, fair's fair I suppose. Go ahead.
*: Dude sucks up 3 HP.
: It was kinda gwoss.
: I don't know what you expected.
: That's still not enough.
: Aw, come on.
: Let me dwain your stwength again!
: Geez, fine, but only because I feel bad about your buddy.
*: Three more HP.
: Th-This flavor...!!
: Gah, don't enjoy it too much!
>Kodama seems to be satisfied.
: I'm Kodama the Jirae! Let's be fwends!
>Kodama joined your party.
: Well hey, I could get used to this. Let's go, kids.
*: And by "let's go", he means "let's go back to the healing room in the basement because I'm getting the shit kicked out of me". We run into more Kodama along the way, but seeing as we're with one of their own, they let us pass without problems.
*: Hey, that's new. A Will o' Wisp approaches us of its own initiative at the start of a first round.
: Urryyy... YoU... Life Stone...HaVe SSSpArE?
: Yeah, I got a couple. Here, first one's free.
: HEH HEH HEH HEH!!
>Will o' Wisp is happy.
: I never thought I'd see the day.
>Will o' Wisp edged up to you. It seems that it wants to join your party.
: I suppose I can use all the help I can get. Welcome aboard, my good fellow. Try not to drip pure malice on my shoes, it's the only pair I got.
: Fri-eNd! Fri-eNd! Fri-eNd! Me, Foul Will o' Wisp!! We, nICE toGeTher worK...!
>Will o' Wisp joined your party.
*: Just like that, its other allies leave peacefully. I wasn't expecting to see this so soon. The Foul race is among those who will never join you under normal circumstances, but clearly being approached out of the blue by what is usually a quasi-mindless blob of hate is not a normal circumstance.
On the way back to the healer, we gain enough experience to level up and learn Analyze from Marogareh, which basically scans an enemy for resistances and weaknesses, as you might guess.
We heal up, save, and then come back to the annex passage. On the way, a few of our allies level up.
: Wait what.
*: That's right, demons level up now. Will o' Wisp increased its Magic and learned Zan (single target force damage), and Pixie increased her Strength and learned Seduce. Seduce is especially interesting as it functions just like Zed's regular Talk command, so she can negotiate with enemies as well. It works a lot better on dudes and a lot worse on not-dudes, though. Also on level up...
: What's on your mind?
: I shouldn't need this, so I'll give it to you.
> ...You received Bead.
*: Beads restore someone's HP to maximum, so that's pretty cool!
As we reach the Annex at last, we are greeted by a curious sight.
: It's hard to miss.
: That's Forneus! As long as he's here, it's not gonna be easy to get out of this hospital.
The exit's down there. It's the only way out. I... feel like I should be scared. But I'm not. There's something inside me, literally inside me, telling me I should just be glad I know whose ass I gotta kick.
But I didn't need it to tell me that. I was already glad.
Is that who I am now?
I don't hate it.