Part 6: The Amala Network: Head towards Ginza? You strand me in the middle of Demon Internet and all the advice you got me for is "head towards Ginza"? Hello?
Huh. Either he can't hear me, or he's pretending he can't hear me. I'm not sure which is worse. Well, I agreed to work with him, I have to assume if he was going to stab me in the back he would have waited to make at least some use of me first. There's nothing to it but to go forward, hopefully towards Ginza, and away from Demon 4chan.
: We're getting further and further away from Kansas every second.
: I wish I had couwage...
: I THINK I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE A HEART. EVEN IF ONLY A PAPER ONE. IT WOULD BE NICE.
: mE WaNT brAiNnnNnN!!
: Wow, you're full of surprises, Will. I keep underestimating you. I really wouldn't have guessed you knew anything about the Wizard of Oz.
: mE NoT kNOw WiZArD... mE jUsT HUnGrY...
: mE eAT wiZZzAarD?
: Uh, maybe later. Come on, guys.
*: The music's eerie and unsettling enough, but as we enter this door, a weird distorted electric guitar sound layers in, and the whole effect reminds me of the soundtrack to Rez's Noise mode. I'd link you up to it but it's not on the OST; it's really more of an atmosphere piece.
: Of course not. Is there anyone who's actually from around here?
: Then, let me warn you... If you don't have a map, you'll get lost.
*: He's not kidding, both sides of the fork here end in opaque black fog a few meters in, and taking the eastern side warps us back to the entrance. It's basically a trial and error maze, and the time until your next random encounter is always ticking down.
Our first fight, against three Mou-Ryo, showcases another possible effect of the Panic ailment: wasting a turn throwing money away. It's only 4 Macca this time, but I'm pretty sure it's a random percentage of your current cash, and later on it can cost you a small fortune.
The second fork has a Cube containing a Dis-Stone on the west side, and taking the path behind it returns us to the beginning.
Fortunately the automapper is up to the task of keeping track of where we've been, so the trip is time-consuming, but not particularly frustrating. We take a left, then a right, and...
: Something's up...
: Yeah, a door just turned into a dead end. Any advice?
: Alright, let me try something. Gimme a minute.
: Have you tried unplugging the router and plugging it back in? That usually does the trick.
*: The wall's enveloped in a cloud of smoke, and then...
: That makes one of us.
: Looks like the Amala Network never stays the same shape. Even you would have a hard time getting through here... Well, if something happens, call me. I'll do what I can.
: So you can hear me after all. Very mature.
*: Kodama gains his final skill right after we climb the stairs: it's Anti-Force, which halves received force damage. Now this doesn't do him any good, since he's already naturally resistant to force damage, but it can be pretty useful for whoever we fuse him into. Anti-Element skills don't negate a natural weakness for the purposes of causing enemies to use up more turn icons instead of less, but they're still good for general survivability.
*: This enemy group doesn't initially seem very threatening, but the Will o' Wisps are using Makakaja (magic power buff), which enhances the Mou-Ryo's Zan and Mazan spells to fairly dangerous effect. It's best to take out the Will o's with spells to exploit their weakness to magic and use your extra turns to take out the Mou-Ryo when you're done.
Zed levels up and learns Berserk, at which point I ingest Iyomante to protect him from Panic and keep him from throwing more money away. However, I'll try to put on Wadatsumi just before he levels up next, because I want him to learn Mana Bonus to increase his fairly puny MP reserves.
: Hopefully, it'll be as smooth as the last time...
: ...H...ey...... Ca...n...yo...hear...e? Say...som...ing...
: Hijiri! You're breaking up! What's happening?
: ...Dam...it...! Conn...ction's...unst...ble...
: Shut down the porn torrents!
> You can no longer hear Hijiri's voice.
*: This wall is labeled "Stairs", but there's still that ominous red cloud here. Better investigate the rest of this floor.
*: Aaaand we run into loose Elements in here, which is really not something you expect anywhere else.
quote:Lv7 Element Erthys
Good old earth elementals, of course. Gotta admit "Erthys" looks a lot more dignified than "Earthies"; someone earned their paycheck that day. Rakukaja is the defense buff spell, and if they get a chance to cast it a couple times, better start hitting them with magic. For now their Zio spells are entirely reflected by Shikigami, so if they target him or get a Mazio in, that's the last thing they do on that turn.
Elements are elementals, natch. They're creatures of being rather than acting or willing, but that doesn't stop them from demonstrating the natural world's destructive side when they feel like it.
*: Hot diggity! There's a relief. We certainly can't get to a Fount from here, so this is entirely welcome.
: I don't wanna talk to anyone. I'll heal you if you just go away.
: Well that's a foolproof way to make sure I'll come bother you again, but I'll be out of your hair for a little while at least.
: I'll heal you anytime. Just don't bug me.
*: The Amala Network has its own save points as well, which makes a lot of sense, considering how we entered it in the first place. Their design is real interesting, in that there is no physical cylinder present, but the actual glowy writing on the cylinder is definitely visible. They're also labeled "Hall of Records" instead of "Terminal". In a way, this Amala Network feels like a sacred place; not in the same sense that a temple is sacred, but in the sense that you're navigating behind the curtain of reality, and you're not visiting places so much as the bare, essential ideas of places. The Halls of Records aren't save points, they are The Save Point.
: It's just a little extraordinary to see actual consciousnesses in here. Though admittedly, not much more extraordinary than whatever else is going on.
: If you really want to talk, there's a place where you can talk to the outside world... So talk all you want there.
: Alright, maybe I can reach Hijiri from there. Thanks.
*: That makes two people we meet in the Internet that just want to be left alone. Hmm!
*: Oooh, more of this. Joy. Now that I'm back in one of these mazes, I realize that the distorted guitar went away when we exited the last one, because I notice that it's back for the second. That actually makes it kind of neat, how this feature of the Network has its own instrumentation.
quote:LV11 Element Aeros
Air elementals, you get the picture. They know Zio, as you might expect, but they also know Marin Karin and Dia, so they function as healers when they pop up alonside Erthys. They're resistant to magic, so you definitely want to bring your FISTO on.
*: Iyomante also protects Zed from Aeros' Marin Karin charm attempts, which helps us avoid the double-edged sword of paying 15 HP for a multi-hitting Berserk used on our own squad, and eats up their icons at the same time. That's some Macca well spent right there.
*: Anomaly, eh?
: ...y...he......y... It...me......Hijiri.
: Nope! Try again!
: Yeah, real funny... I know you can hear me, kid!
: From now on, if anything happens, let's meet up in stable places like the one you're in now.
: I can get behind that plan. Now how about finding me a way out of here again?
: ...Oh, yeah. You're stuck, huh? Just wait a... sec...
: That should be it, nice work.
: ...Damn. Looks like...communica...ion's...get...ing...ba...d......he...re...too... Let...s...meet...u...p...in...a...nother...stab...le...plac...e... ............ ......Okay...?
> You hear nothing.
*: All extended ellipses in the game so far are in multiples of three, it must be a special character to save space, heh. We take an intentional wrong turn in the maze to return to the start, then heal up, save again, and head for the stairs to B1.
*: Three doors are getting blocked off here, one of which clearly having some mad loot. We can't return to this portion of the Amala Network once we leave, so I'll do my best to get to those cubes.
*: Of course.
: You see the red things running along the walls and roof? That's all Magatsuhi.
: Huh. I don't know enough about it to tell if that's a lot, but it sure looks like a lot.
: Magatsuhi is born from the flow of emotions, such as suffering, anxiety, and sadness...
: Wow. I kind of want it less now. Emotions, huh?
: That's right. Emotions bring forth great powers.
: So it is a lot then.
: So, there are demons that jump in here, looking for Magatsuhi. Be careful not to be picked on.
*: We auto-battle a lone Mou-Ryo, but one hit away from defeating it...
: YoU... S-S-SaVe, mE...!
*: And there's one example of a demon interrupting a battle to beg for their life.
: Yeah, I could use Zan spells to take out those Erthys sonsabees. Welcome aboard.
: ShhShhWaaaa!! Me, Foul! Me, Mou-Ryo!! We dO wEll toGeTHeR...
> Mou-Ryo joined your party.
*: ...this one doesn't know Zan yet. Welp!
Every once in a while we run into a group of five Mou-Ryo. Berserk comes in real handy then, and I actually have Shikigami spend a good third of its MP a pop casting Sukunda (accuracy/evade debuff) to help us avoid some damage and chip away at enemy icons. Shin Megami Tensei: because an accuracy debuff that's absolutely worth using on mooks is the mark of a well thought out battle system.
Whoops, I forgot about Zed leveling up, and we learn Tarunda from Iyomante. It costs 20 MP and our maximum is 36, so that's sub-optimal. Oh well.
Our Pixie tries to evolve into High Pixie, but she can't because we already have a High Pixie on board. She's run out of skills to learn though, so that's my cue to start leveling Mou-Ryo instead. I'd love to get Will o' Wisp to learn its two final skills, but there are so many spells thrown around in here that having him facetanking everything would be the death of us.
Whew, at last.
> You can hear a voice.
: ............ It's good to know you're alive. Guess you didn't become a demon for nothing.
: At this point it would be uncouth to complain about it.
: You couldn't go any further, huh? Wait up.
*: He unblocks all three areas. Gonna have to look around the maze to find them, though.
: ..Oh yeah, there's something you should know.
*: Whoa, two periods. Guess I was wrong.
: It seems that someone's trying to intercept my communication with you. Might be an enemy. Be care...ful... ......Looks like...it's...get...ing...un...stable...he...re...to...o...... We'll...tal...k...la...er...
> You hear nothing.
*: Ooh, nice.
*: Holy crap we're having the best luck with all those evil glob fellers chatting us up.
: Urrryyy... YoU... Revival Bead...HaVe SSSpArE?
*: Those are worth 600, but I want to see where this goes.
: Not really, but you can have one anyway.
: HEH HEH HEH HEH!!
> Choronzon is happy.
*: Aaand it wants to join up.
: Yyyyeah sure.
: OoHhehhYohOHAh!! Me, Haunt Choronzon!! We, nICE toGeTher work!
quote:Lv11 Haunt Choronzon
A sort of demon, most remarkable for its importance in famous occultist slash crackpot Aleister Crowley's philosophy slash religion, though its name originally comes from 16th century occultism. Also named the Dweller in the Abyss, it seems to be a sort of personification of the last spiritual obstacles standing in the way of a magician's final enlightenment, and is given a form only so it can be vainquished. Interestingly, in the Bayonetta games, when angels speak their semi-made-up language, you can clearly tell that "choronzon" is their word for "witch". Anyway, here they're clearly fire-aligned, but most remarkably for now, they're some tanky-ass meat-shields with huge HP and the ever-so-useful physical resistance. They also hit harder than anything else we've got at the moment. They eventually learn Stone Gaze, which is a single target petrification attempt, and it counts as a death-type ailment.
: Oops! I should learn to keep my mouth shut...
I can't tell if he's dumb or faking being dumb, so this tell me absolutely nothing. Left it is!
*: We run into more Choronzon, so I end up reforming my party with Mou-Ryo, Will o' Wisp and our own happy friendly faceball in order to use their death-type ailment immunity to avoid Stone Gaze. Zed himself ends up being targeted by it a couple times, but fortunately it never hit. Man this maze goes on forever. We do meet some more Elements who do a number on Will, but Mou-Ryo is actually getting the worst of it because it doesn't have Deathtouch yet to steal its HP back. In between fights I get Pixie to top him off; demons that aren't in your active party can still use their skills at any time outside of combat, which is impossibly practical.
*: We find a Mazan Rock, a Chakra Drop, and a trap that does a small amount of damage. That's not so great, but opening the Mystical Chest in there on a Full K earns us a Bead Chain, an item which restores our entire party's HP to max.
: But... the Network is in a bad mood, as you can see.
*: A big ol' red wall is blocking the path that presumably leads outside. We gotta keep exploring. Fortunately, there's another Hall of Records and Healing Room nearby, so we don't have to go back to the previous levels to heal up.
: I don't want to involve myself with anyone or anything!
: More Network loners, hmm.
: I'll heal you. Just get outta my face. I'll heal you anytime, so leave me alone.
: You wish me to join your ranks?
*: Oh shi, I don't know why I thought you couldn't talk to Elements. That coulda saved me a bunch of hassle.
: We spirits gain meaning only by flowing freely through nature. I have no intention of giving up my freedom. So, forget it!
> It has no intention of joining you.
*: Ah, so that's why I thought that. I need to believe in myself more, indeed.
This should be the final one.
: You're finally here...
: Those mazes, man, those mazes.
: The exit is close to where you are. Let me open the--
*: The boss intro music is playing.
: ...Dammit, something's interfering... ......He...y... Yo...u......ok...ay...? ......hear...me...... ............
> You cannot hear Hijiri's voice anymore.
: YoU snEAk aRounD... YOuiN the w-W-w-Way!
: I don't really care about that stuff, I just want to go to Ginza.
: ......nO. YoU aRe LyiNg. Me woN'T Be fOoLED! YoU won'T pASS heRE. Me WOn't LeT yOU. G-G-GeT OUt oF HErE!!
*: We're kicked out, back to the corridor. This door doesn't have a warning about immense power to tell you about the incoming boss, so this is the game's way of keeping up its usual courtesy. We do have to go back in and whup some ass, though.
Boss battle: Specter
And there's a synonym for ghost, with connotations of illusion. This particular sumbitch sure was no illusion, though. As little damage as we did with physical attacks, the mofo is resistant to magic, and immune to expel, death, nerve and mind ailments. Interestingly, the level and stats of his large final form depend on how many mini Specters survived the first phase, so my fumbling at the start ensured we'd face his toughest possible version. I'd call him a wake-up-call boss... but we haven't seen THE wake-up-call boss yet. This is only a taste of things to come.
*: Iesus Cristo, what a bloodbath. It's a good thing there's a free Healing Room nearby, because that would have cost us a pretty penny. I decided to use Will o' Wisp's Last Resort when I realized that he wasn't gonna be any help, but not only did I forget that it causes damage to allies as well (and forgot to pay attention to the info bar that outright told me it would), the mini Specters were immune to whatever damage type that was. If I hadn't switched to Shiranui beforehand, which wasted the Specter's actions by nullifying fire damage, I suspect we would have seen our first game over right there. I knew there was a fight coming, but I had no recollection whatsoever of what elements to use or defend against, so I basically got lucky.
I could have reloaded a prior save and done a hell of a lot better, but screw that.
: ...YoU...... I eAt yOU oNE dAy...... Me...ErGh...sWeAr IT...... Me nO foRGEt yoUr uGLy FaCe!
Good thing I'm never coming back here, because I suspect it might very well pull it off.
: ......Alright... It looks like...everything's stabilizing. Hey, Francois, you okay?
: I've been better, but I can keep on trucking.
: I see... You're getting used to being a demon, aren't ya?
: It's... surprisingly simple.
: I'll open the door. Hang on.
: If you go through the path I opened, you should reach Ginza safely. You did take a slight detour but at least you're there.
: Slight detour? You're lucky my team doesn't hear you.
: Nice work. Now, let's hurry on.
> You hear nothing.
*: We reach the Healing Room without further incident. Whew.
And there's the exit. Or at least I hope it's the exit.
: The wall just went POOF! and disappeared. So, now it's connected to the Ginza terminal, but... I wish you were here to see it happen.
*: As we get closer to the end of the corridor, the Magatsuhi pellets streaming through the floor rise up and rush along towards the exit.
Ginza, here I come! Booooyah! And good riddance to the Internet!