Part 4: On a friend's trail*: Before I forget, I gotta mention beating Forneus earned us Wadatsumi, a new Magatama.
Unsurprisingly given its source, Wadatsumi is ice-aligned and a bit more spellcaster-oriented than Marogareh. There are several demons around this area able to cast Zio so it's a little risky to use, but we're putting it on anyway. Each Magatama icon on the selection screen pulsates, wriggles and shines at a different speed; the more lively the bug, the closer we are to the level requirement for it to teach us its next skill. Right now Wadatsumi is practically begging to give us Ice Breath, and I'll be more than happy to oblige on the next level up.
Alright, we're good to go. Let's blow this healthy joint.
Music: Large Map
That's a bit of a geographical change, let's say. In a neat touch, you can see the hill of dirt in front of the eastern entrance to the hospital. And your eyes aren't tricking you, we are indeed walking around the interior of the Vortex World.
Do note the spherical indicator in the bottom left corner. It shows us on which segment of the overall world we're currently located. The point of view of this indicator is fixed (think of it as being from the perspective of a geosynchronous satellite), so we can rely on the segment with Shinjuku on it always being the back, so to speak.
In any event, we're surrounded on three sides by a terrifying void speckled by chunks of land still somehow barely hanging on, so our only egress is to the west. Or, err, well, whatever "west" means here.
I'd talk to these new guys, but they are of the Wilder race and there's essentially no point.
Lv6 Wilder Zhen
A colorful mythical bird of Chinese folklore, the Zhen is most notable for being extraordinarily venomous due to its strict diet of viper heads. In an interesting parallel to the western Basilisk leaving devastation wherever it walks, the Zhen can kill animals and vegetation just by flying over them. Wing Buffet is still a fairly weak group-hitting force-elemental attack, Toxic Sting can cause poison, and War Cry debuffs physical attack power by two levels.
We used to know the Wilder race as the Youjuu. They are dangerous supernatural animals or demon beasts, and as with the Haunt and Foul races, communicating with them is difficult at best.
: No... But, let's pretend it is.
: Then, let me tell you something. This is Shinjuku, and if you go south from here... ...Well, Tokyo's round, so I'm just talking relatively here... If you go south, you'll see Yoyogi Park and Shibuya. Speaking of which, I saw a human head toward Shibuya.
*: In a clever bit of design, the enemies around here are Haunt, Wilder and Foul, so you pretty much can't avoid earning yourself some battle experience here, unless you run away from everything.
Here's Shinjuku Station, essentially inaccessible. As we wander around, we can see pockets of abandoned buildings in between stretches of nearly featureless desert. The sand around each island of former civilization forms concentric circles strangely reminiscent of zen gardens.
*: Hot damn! Look at the good fortune on this guy!
: Er...!! You! You, over there! You! You! You!
: Settle down, little dude, you're real easy to notice.
: Life Stone... You have? Have?
: Yeah, sure, don't spend it all in one... uh. Whuh-oh.
*: Yikes, I must have sold our last Life Stone to a Shikigami without realizing it.
: Me tricked! Me look stupid!
> Zhen suddenly attacked!
Guess I better start minding my supplies!
: Do I know you?
: ...Have you heard of the Tokyo rumor?
Rumor? Aw hell, that must be that student I ran into before the... before. Is it racist if I can't tell ghosts apart?
: I probably haven't heard, no.
: A guy with a strong will is going to change this chaotic world....
: ...That's a good one, huh? Tokyo's forever in chaos! Hahahahahahaha!!
: I gotta say, I liked you better alive.
So there's Yoyogi Park. We made a deal, better honor it.
: It's a bit further than I remembered, but I probably can't trust my recollection anymore.
: Does... does it have to be?
: We made it to Yoyogi Park, so I guess we can part ways now.
: Are you kidding? Have you seen the rest of my crew?
: Fire! Fire! Uweeheehee!
: GET IT AWAY FROM ME! IT'S IN MY HAIR!
: Awe we thewe yet?
: It's like hell's own daycare in here. Please stay. I need you.
: Mmmm... I like the way that sounds. *flirt* You win! I'll stay with you a while longer!
: Thank you! Oh thank you!
*: Just like that, Pixie is now with us for as long as we'll have her. You can tell her to go instead, and if you do so she'll give you the Ankh Magatama and leave forever. Now a Pixie with a couple levels on her versus a free Magatama seems like a no-brainer, but there are two facts to consider, neither of which you are aware of on a blind playthrough.
First off, Ankh is available for purchase later. It has basic healing spells learnable at low levels so it would be nice to have it now, but we're not permanently screwed out of it.
Second, this particular Pixie is unique. We want her in our party in some form for the remainder of the game. We can fuse her into something else without problems, and fuse her descendants as we please, but if we sacrifice or dismiss whatever creature she's currently part of, we'll miss out on something much later on.
There's no one keeping me from exploring this place now, so I might as well check it out while I'm here.
Oh what the deuce.
: Can't say I've had the pleasure.
: Then, hurry up and go to the Fountain of Life up ahead. ...She's hot!
: Alright, alright, just... Just watch where you're pointing that thing.
: They locked the door, so we can't get in...
*: He's not kidding. The door across from the entrance, leading to the construction site proper, is locked from the other side. Of course, Pixies can fly, so it wouldn't have been a problem for our companion.
: The name Hikawa comes up when I look at it... ...I feel like something bad happened to me...
: Trust me, it's best not to think too hard about it.
: Protesting the 1%, I suppose.
: Is there a large amount of Magatsuhi stashed there or something...?
*: As if on cue, we get into a fight with two Pixies, but it doesn't come to blows.
Better play it cool here.
: Not... specifically, no. What about her?
: Seems that she came from some hospital.
*: The area has a couple doors leading to nondescript square rooms and a few Cubes (we get Life Stones, a Dis-Poison, and a Chakra Drop), but on the eastern side...
Music: Recovery Spring
: Holy crap, penis dude was right, she is hot!
: Your name has reached my humble ears... I will assist you to the best of my ability.
: The honor's all mine.
*: Healing! Not free, but whatchagonnado. As in previous games, the cost of healing depends on how much HP and MP you need restored. I'm not sure of the exact formula, but MP costs more than HP, so I'm pretty sure it's not cost-efficient to give your own healers a shot at patching you up first, or at least not for a long time.
As there is no longer a law/chaos alignment axis, the Lady of the Fount is the only health care provider we have to deal with, and our choices never impact her pricing.
If we use the Talk command...
: The Magatama is a spirit of misfortune... There may be times when you shall receive a terrible curse by the Magatama raging within you. But, I will be able to purify your curse with this fountain. Please keep that in mind...
*: Some Magatama will randomly inflict the special Curse ailment on you upon level up. There are specific circumstances where being cursed is actually desirable, but I do recall it has occasional detrimental effects in combat so most of the time you want it cured as soon as possible.
: Go forth now, and do not look back...
*: That's all Yoyogi Park has to offer for now, but we check on Major Dick before we go.
: We've met the Lady. As much as it pains me to agree with you, you were right.
: ...Man, she's hot!
: I like this guy.
: You would, wouldn't you.
: I think I owe you an apology.
: It's just like I said... The world's all round! But even now, no one believes me!
: Well, I certainly believe you now.
: I hear prophecies from Jupiter! You believe me, don'tcha? *hic*
: I'd usually draw the line at drunk ghosts, but you have a good track record so far.
: Oh! You believe me!? Then, I'll tell you something good! The 'Demi-fiend' is the one that's going to create the new world...
: By gum! You wouldn't be... Naw! *hic*
: Man, there's no way that's me. I wouldn't even know where to start.
: Used to be a bit nicer, before the cultists moved in. Worst gentrification ever.
: I wonder if the east side of the park is being occupied by fairies.
*: We level up and learn Ice Breath (weak ice damage, multiple hits randomly assigned to enemy group). Both our Magatama seem relaxed enough now, so I switch back to Marogareh.
Between the high cliffs and the gaping void, we've been everywhere our feet could take us. The only way to the eastern part of this area is through Yoyogi Park, and that's not happening. This is Shibuya though, and if there's a human in here, we gotta check it out.
Not as lively as I'd hoped, but it'll have to do.
: The other cities battle it out because of disagreements, but everyone here's laid-back.
: Where's that Forneus!?
: No... no idea... sorry...
: There's one with shops, and one with a club. For shops, I recommend the Cathedral of Shadows. They have creepy ceremonies there.
: There sure is nothing else I'd rather buy!
*: Speaking of creepy ceremonies! Going behind the building in the center here...
...prompts us to open a door. It's rrrreally not obvious that there's anything at all back there.
*: Mysterious! Ominous!
*: If you look closely, you can see the four colored statuettes from Hanada's ritual in SMT2. Nothing else is going on in here for now, though, so we head back to the intersection and go down the stairs to the underground plaza.
Those floors are much shinier than I would have expected.
: What of it?
: He's the king of Shit Town, you know. Show proper respect!
: Welcome to Kick-Ass Deli, punk! Try my knuckle sandwich!!
*: We're thrown in battle against a single Will o' Wisp. It ends predictably.
: ............. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!
: That's better.
: I'll offer you some juicy information, so please forgive me...
: I'm listening.
: There's a human girl at the club downstairs.
: Okay thanks bye!
*: I was thinking of exploring the first basement, but this seems more urgent.
This must be it!
: The club's up ahead.
Yup, this seems clubby enough.
Lv7 Foul Mou-Ryo
Your basic earthbound human soul, unable to reach the afterlife on account of some emotional or karmic weight holding them back. However, they've degraded to the point where they hardly remember their former lives, and have turned into barely-sentient lumps of anguish and misery. The addition of Pulinpa (causes Panic ailment, single target) and Toxic Sting makes them a fair bit more dangerous than they used to be.
Lv6 Foul Slime
It's more a pile of animated ectoplasmic goo than a legitimate mythological being. Their physical resistance makes them annoying to fight hand-to-hand, so they tend to be a bit of a MP drain. Last Resort is a kamikaze explosion that can mess up your day, and Sonic Wave can Panic your entire party, so you really want to get these fights over with as soon as possible. Gathering summons more Slimes to the fight, but they seem to use it infrequently enough.
It'll take more than these miserable things to stop me now!