Part 9: ¡Olé!*: So, money. We don't get a lot of guidance on this one. The collector Manikin suggests visiting a city; fortunately we've only been to two of what might pass for a city so far: Shibuya and Ginza.
: Some of you guys have been around here longer than I have. Any suggestions?
: NOTHING COMES TO MIND.
: Loki's a total hoarder, it's gruesome. If anyone's hanging on to some worthless cash...
: Huh, now that you mention it, one of those spirits around here told us about Loki collecting lots of stuff. It's a long shot -
: Considering he's a jackass.
: Right. But a lead's a lead. Let's go back to the lounge.
: I'm looking for a bill, and word on the street has it you're collecting old stuff. Can you hook me up?
: Is there a Bill in my room?
: Yup. A bill.
: Bill, as in human money?
: That would be it.
: It might, it might not... Heheheh...
: No, I'm just asking because you're great company. OF COURSE I want a bill.
: You wanna cut a deal?
: Against my better judgement, yes.
: I can tell you're not interested in taking this transaction seriously. I wouldn't give you twenty Macca even if you promised to stick them up your ass.
: Heheheh... Well, of course. Then, there's nothing to talk about. Go home.
Well, that was a bust.
: Did I mention he's a jackass?
: I don't know what I expected.
: I REMEMBER SOMEONE SAYING THERE'S ANOTHER ENTRANCE TO THE BACK ROOM.
: Yeah, something to that effect. Are we up for a bit of breaking and entering?
: Me love breaking stuff! Also entering stuff!
: Snazzy. Let's go.
*: You can look through every nook and cranny around Ginza and not find that secret entrance. What you gotta do, is leave, and pay attention.
That small building here is a third way in. It glows red like any other enterable building, but it's pretty dang small.
There's usually a large Troll at the end of this corridor. He just turns you away if you come here before the appropriate time, but right now he doesn't appear to be at his post. I kinda expected a fight, but this'll do. The door is locked, but it's locked from this side, and we can open it.
Man, that's swanky. I wonder why Nyx lets Loki have this room all to himself.
*: There's a Cube here, and three Mystic Chests, so we'll get into a few fights waiting on Kagutsuchi. We're on 5/8 rising, so it's not too long. We recruit a new Angel in the meantime, and we can open all chests in the same phase, netting us a sapphire, an emerald, and a pearl.
Ha, I got your 20,000,000 Macca right here, you drunk sumbitch.
Not a lot, but it'll do.
*: The other door is locked from the main bar room's side, so we have to go back the way we came.
: What were you doing while I was gone!?
: I stole your boss' gems, then I took his money, then I teabagged all the wine glasses. What of it?
: Hmmmmmmmmm! It's time for you to die!
*: Welp, there's that fight then. Analyze fails, so it's a miniboss.
Zhen spends nearly all its MP casting War Cry, then it turns out to be weak to Nerve ailments and Bicorn's Plinpa panics him in the first round. He subsequently spends most of his rounds "seeming dumbfounded", though he manages to hit Sudama once for over half its HP, so I tag in Nozuchi to avoid risking the resurrection fee. I'm pretty sure he would have one-shot the little guy if we hadn't debuffed him.
Haha wow, sucker basically paid for half of my next Magatama purchase. I'm tempted to stall the fight and see if he drops more, but with how hard he hits, I don't feel like taking the chance of having him snap out of it and start killing my dudes. In fact, we finish the battle in the following round.
Trolls originated in Scandinavian folklore, designating brutish humanoids said to live in small clans in remote wilderness areas. In Norse mythology the word is also used in certain contexts to refer to the Jötunn giants. Just as it is with goblins, kobolds, dwarves, elves, ogres and the like, the farther back you go, the less clearly-defined the actual legends were, and the harder it is tell various creatures apart and pinpoint when they coalesced into a form that our nerd culture, absorbing mythology through an alphabetized Monster Manual rather than oral tradition, would recognize and identify.
*: Before warping back to the Underpass, we return to the lounge to flip Loki the bird. What's he gonna do, call his bodyguard on us?
: Someone jacked up my room! Who did this!?
: Up yours, blondie! Booyah!
*: No further consequences! We zip back to the Underpass, and pick up Ankh from the trader, netting us another ticket. Now that he doesn't have Magatama to talk about anymore...
: You mean, living in old tunnels?
: Shall we go inside and have a chat? *wink*
: Mmmmmmmaybe later.
*: Stats-wise, Ankh is more tank gear than healer gear. And being weak to Death effects is a little bit worse than you think it is. Still, it'd teach us Dia for now, were we to ingest it.
: Guess who's got good news!
: Paper and ink and cocaine residue, all genuine!
: We had a deal, right? C'mon, c'mon! Oh, this is great!!!
: Never seen someone get so excited over 1000 yen. It's adorable.
> You handed over the bill.
: As I said, a deal's a deal. Hold on a sec.
It takes a moment.
> You obtained the Manikin's letter.
: Well, if you say that's what's gonna do the trick...
: See you later... I hope you get to Ikebukuro safely.
: Heh, how tough can it be? See ya.
: Hu-tut-tut-tut-tut. Feast your eyes on this.
: ............ ...What's this?
> You gave the gatekeeper the Manikin's Letter.
: ...? A letter from him? ............ ............? ............! ............
: ...I got it. If that's the case, it can't be helped. ...Go ahead and pass.
*: He closes the gate behind us, but he'll hear us just fine if we want to go back.
Huh. I wonder what was in that letter that changed his mind like that. Oh well!
*: On the other side we start running into groups of multiple Blobs. They resist physical and are weak to ice, but Zed's Ice Breath is our only source of ice damage, and at 9 MP a pop we can't just use it willy-nilly. The fights last forever, but at least Sudama learns Mazan and that accelerates matters slightly. In addition, the Blobs' own Mazan casts are nullified by the Hifumi Magatama, and that helps a lot.
*: It begs for its life, but when I accept to spare it...
*: It gets a free turn. Yeah, that'll happen. Welp!
The tunnel gets a bit more complex on this side, and the first fork we take leads us first to a dead end. Taking the other side...
Huh. What's with this thing? Maybe it's... showing me the way? Or maybe it's a draft.
*: Hifumi teaches us Tornado. If I were a wizardy type, this would be a keeper for a long time. But as we are it'd take us about one third of our MP to cast it once, and we have more important stuff to spend it on. I discard it. Afterwards I let it release its energy, and our entire party recovers for free.
: Whoa there, buddy. What's going on?
: The... grim reaper? Where?
: Up ahead! Up ahead!
*: There's another fork, but again, one side is a quick dead-end. And on the other...
Zed doesn't know what's going on, but I do. I reform the party, taking along Uzume, Nozuchi, and Sudama. Deep breath. Let's go.
Cutscene + Boss batttle: Fiend Matador
: Well hello there, golden boy.
: Man, what? Is this how it ends? That seemed a little...
: That's one way to put it.
: So it goes. One day you're king of Shit Town, and the next day someone kills you over a bunch of candles.
*: Yup. That's Matador alright. I knew he was packing Mazan, so I used Hifumi and chose only party members that at least resisted force damage. I knew he could max out his agility with Red Capote, so I made sure to keep Sukunda on Zed so we could hit him at all, ever.
But I forgot about Taunt + Focus + Andalucia.
Taunt applies two stacks of physical offense buff and two stacks of defense debuff to the enemy group, making it a bit of a double-edged sword by itself.
Focus multiplies the damage inflicted by your next physical attack by 2.5; however, if you use a skill with multiple targets, only the first target takes increased damage. Still, once we attain the necessary level, we will learn Focus and keep it forever.
And Andalucia, well, does what you've seen it do: it hits every target up to four times, like a powered up, extra reliable Berserk. Bosses typically get two turn icons to work with, so they can use Focus and a big ticket physical skill before you can do much of anything about it. Hence why I put so much importance on getting Vitality early, you see.
Wasn't enough, though.
Fiend Matador is the wake-up call boss I mentioned a while back. He's legendary for it. If you've never played before, this guy pops out of nowhere in the middle of a nondescript corridor, he dodges everything you throw at him, and he vaporizes you. Unlike many RPGs, there is an accuracy check for spells (somewhat more difficult than for physical attacks); with high enough Agility you can fairly reliably dodge magic, and Matador definitely gets high enough Agility. In any case, I neutered his spell damage, countered his ridiculous stat buff, and he still beat me.
Admittedly, I made a number of mistakes and wasted time finding out his immunities (not to mention I had a brain-fart and used Zan a second time, derp). So, let's give it another shot in the same circumstances right away, and see how it goes. I'm thinking I might bring in Zhen for a round to drop a War Cry and reduce his offense, but as you've seen, Matador knows the Dekunda spell that removes all debuffs, so it might not be as effective as we'd like. I suppose we'll see.
Boss battle + Cutscene: Fiend Matador Redux
: Hot damn! Best horse ever.
: WELL FOUGHT.
: I... Wha!?
: Me kick ass!
: Huh, I almost thought...
: Bad skeleton man! No good for eating!
*: Right! It dawned on me that Sudama was dead weight despite his force resistance, and I remembered Bicorn inherited the accuracy buff spell. Matador couldn't cast Dekaja to take it away from us, and that's what clinched it. I'm honestly relieved I only died once to this douchebag, even if I had to use up nearly all our Chakra Drops to do it.
It's... a skeletal matador. Not a lot of mythology behind this dude. Red Capote is unique to him, and applies four stacks of accuracy/evasion buff, which is the maximum possible amount of stacks.
Okay, so. Okay. We have our second Candelabrum, and they're numbered ninth and tenth. We were returning to Ginza so we could revive Zhen and generally heal up anyway, so we might as well look into this Amala business on the way back.
: Is the reaper still there?
: Took care of it, don't sweat it. Everyone's immortal now. You can thank me later.
: Hmmm... Where's the switch to activate the watermark?
*: We reach the Fountain, and have to pay about 1500 total, mostly on account of the revival and the buttload of MP we're missing. And then...
Yep, that's new. Let's go.
Remember when we left the Amala Network and I pointed out a door labeled "Terminal" that we couldn't enter? That's where we're coming out of.
At least this time I'm here because I chose to be here, and I know how to leave.
: Knock knock!
Music: Lord of the Netherworld
: ...... Francois, you recovered the candelabrum from that Fiend... I knew I could count on you... even if the world changed.
...was she watching me... before...?
: I believed in you... that you would always be my strength...
: Here is what my master has to say... The candelabrum that you acquired... It was part of his prized collection. The candelabra are flames of life that control the flow of Magatsuhi within the Labyrinth of Amala... But, they were stolen by terrible fiends.
: The candelabra grant to their possessors access to the Labyrinth of Amala. However, that privilege is not intended for just anyone. This place is strictly forbidden to all but those my master has permitted entry.
: Is it possible for you to retrieve the candelabra -- the flames that light the floors of the Labyrinth -- and return them here?
: ...to recover the eleven candelabra. If you are willing to accept the task, then you will be allowed to enter the Labyrinth of Amala. I believe that it is a fair offer, but it is up to you to decide.
: I... can't make any promises, I have a few things on my plate right now. But yeah, okay, I'll definitely keep an eye out.
: As long as you have your candelabrum, you will eventually come across the others.
: I will reward you as you return them to their rightful places. If you hold your candelabrum to the spinning drum of Amala... the device referred to as a "terminal" in Tokyo... you will be able to enter and leave here freely. Please be careful. I wish you the best...
: Let us see if our chosen Fiend will emerge victorious... if he is the one we have been waiting for.
*: And the creepy gate that was blocking our way is gone.
Behind is this room with five doors. Only one of them is open for now.
Minigame: Amala Pit
: Well that was something else I never thought I'd do.
: Can we go again? It was kinda fun.
: The free stuff doesn't hurt, either.
: Err, maybe later.
That must be where I put the candelabrum. Can't hurt to try!
Huh, this is different.
: Not to be confused with the Amala Network, I suppose.
: It is a world completely different from the Vortex World which you came from. It is divided into several regions called Kalpa, and at the very bottom resides our master, the ruler of chaos... If your wish is to pursue the path of creation as a human... then there is no reason for you to stay here long.
*: Long story short, the Labyrinth of Amala is optional expansion content.
Long story long, well...
When Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne was first released in Japan, it didn't have the Labyrinth of Amala. It also didn't have Dante, Matador or any other NPC fiend, it didn't have old man Lou and his nurse slash widow, and it had "only" five endings. Following the success of the game, an expanded version was released, adding all of that new stuff in, as well as a sixth ending; it was called Nocturne Maniax. That is the version that was released in English as SMT: Nocturne (or Lucifer's Call).
The five original endings follow "the path of creation", as this spirit just informed us. Decisions we make along the way inform which of these endings we will get. However, the additional sixth ending is on a parallel track.
The Labyrinth is split into five sections, called Kalpas, and you unlock each subsequent section by offering up a certain number of candelabra earned from Fiend battles encountered throughout the game, some of which are entirely optional. Therefore, progress in the Labyrinth is mostly tied to progress in the main story, though the Labyrinth itself is also entirely optional (since it wasn't part of the original game to begin with). However, once you reach a certain point down the Labyrinth, you are locked into the sixth ending, regardless of what other decisions you have made in the main plot. Similarly, once you reach a certain point in the main story, namely the point where one of the other five endings is locked in, you can no longer access the deeper Kalpas.
The Labyrinth itself is a huge dungeon, very reminiscent of the dungeons in the first two games, in that they're clearly set on a grid, and are intended to be much "mazier", with locked doors, switch puzzles, traps, teleporters, that sort of thing. The demons encountered are taken from the main game, but no conversation skills ever function here, and trying them always returns a "They're ready for action!" message. In essence, it's a combat-focused old-school endurance-test sort of challenge. There's good loot, it's great if you need to grind, and you get some really really really interesting plot revelations along the way. If this was any more my wheelhouse, it'd also be a roguelike, heh.
My intention for this LP is to explore the Labyrinth mostly as it becomes available, as long as we're sufficiently high level not to get destroyed by the locals. That said, if healing up from a trip down there is more expensive than the money we'd be earning, I'll be inclined to come back later. I know where the point of no-return is, and armed with the information we'll have acquired along the way, I'll let you guys decide if we follow the path of creation, or whatever other path the master of this place has in mind for us.
One last thing before we start. As I said, the Labyrinth is pretty much raw dungeon, so my write-ups are gonna be a little light on detail. Mostly I expect to mention the new demons and whatever interesting features the place might have, so it'll probably end up more like my earlier LPs.
For now, we'll delve in until we gotta go back to heal, and then we'll return to the Underpass and make our way to Ikebukuro as originally planned.
: The demons are all here for a certain reason, so I doubt they'll join you. Prepare yourself well if you don't want to die.
: ...I wonder how it is for you, since you're both human and demon...
quote:Lv23 Yoma Dis
The Disir are spirits from ancient Norse mythology, alternately ghosts or goddesses, associated with fertility and fate. Individual dis were occasionally worshipped as protectors of the clan which they were said to have belonged to in life, so they might very well fit the "honored ancestor" archetype of human culture, with a distinctly maternal flavor. Their Makajam causes Mute, and Agilao is the upgraded single target fire damage spell.
quote:Lv28 Yoma Karasu
The Karasu are a subspecies of Tengu, the famous birdmen of Japanese myth. In particular, they're a smaller, more evil subspecies of Tengu, taking the form of crow-men, skulking around just out of sight of the living, and whispering malevolent words in their ears.
*: Other long story short, these last guys are about 10 levels higher than us and we get near enough murdered that I decide to turn back immediately. We'll come back later! Even as we run out we get in a couple fights with groups of four Yakas and it's pretty dang tough. At least Zed gets to level 20 and learns Counter from Marogareh, which does pretty much what you think it does. We abandon Lunge for it; it's not so much better than our regular attack that it deserves the HP expenditure any longer. Counter isn't going to remain with us forever, as enemies that reflect physical damage cause it to be actively harmful to us, but those are far enough away that we'll still get good mileage out of it.
We also get another shot at the tunnel minigame on the way. The room with five doors connects to individual Kalpas you have already unlocked, and each offers a version of this minigame with increasing difficulty and rewards.
Anyway, we go to Ginza, heal up, and hit the Cathedral.
Wilder Zhen + Divine Angel =
: ...you have got to be shittin' me.
: Haha, hahahahaaaa! Who's the boss now, huh?
: Fuckin' 'ell.
Yoma Isora + Jirae Sudama =
*: Nozuchi is now our lowest-level member, and we have three open slots. We can finally get this show back on the road.
*: Whoa dang I didn't even remember Nozuchi could evolve. He's staying in the active party for the foreseeable future, then.
*: A Blob joins us in exchange for a Life Stone in here. I'm tempted to level it up so I can sacrifice it later, but I also want my real party members to get experience.
Aaaand another open room. Man, this place is big. There's a Mystic Chest right below where we entered, but it's 1/8th rising. Running around to pass time, a Chatterskull asks for a Life Stone and joins up. Considering it's level 20 just like Zed and Forneus, that's kind of a big deal. Good thing I freed up those slots. We also fight groups of four Sudama accompanied by a Nozuchi, but Heat Wave and Bicorn's new Maragi end those battles pretty quick. Mana Aid almost pays for one free Maragi per fight, so it's economical too.
: We're still on the right track, then.
: If you're going back to Ginza, head east.
: You can use it to return to the parent terminal.
*: Before we can reach said terminal, we are ambushed by three Nozuchi. Toxic Cloud is a bitch, especially now that we don't have access to Posumudi anymore. Zed levels up again, learning Fog Breath from Wadatsumi. It's equivalent to two stacks of agility debuff, so we replace Sukunda with it.
It's easy to go back and forth in this area and waste a lot of time trying to get to every door and cube and chest, but if you look around carefully and plot a path in advance you can get through with a minimum of backtracking. I'm definitely digging these newfangled 3D dungeons. In a display of good game design, you can get a feel for how these rooms are arranged in the relatively safe Manikin hideout before you get to jump in the deep end with tons of poisonous encounters.
And another one.
: Ikebukuro's right there after you get out of this hall.
: Excellent news!
: But, there hasn't been a single being that's escaped the Mantra's clutches once they've been caught! ...Gozu-Tennoh isn't a pushover. You'd better be careful.
: It's not like I'm going in there to overthrow him. Worse comes to worse, maybe I can convince him I can help fight his enemies.
If that's what it takes to get me closer to Ms. Takao and her answers...
: Would ya look at the legs on that one!
: I wonder why I ever felt bad for even a second about pulling your guts out through your asshole.
: Well, demons with a gift for gab have skills that calm opponents down when they get upset. A smooth talker like that would be popular with the ladies!
: The world's gonna get even more destroyed?
: This place'll be toast in no time.
: Oh, right, this Underpass specifically. Yikes, not a good time to be a Manikin.
*: Another small terminal. We could turn back, but, nah. We must be close to the exit.
Yeah, that's the way out alright. Can't wait to be away from here.
Not the most auspicious place to emerge from, but I'll take it.
There's Magatsuhi emanating from those dirt piles. Man I don't want to think about what's under there.
*: A hidden chest in the back gives us our first Incense! It's for Magic so it's not the best for us, but it'll still increase our max MP. It also refills our HP to maximum, so I'll hang on to it until we need the healing. Unlike in previous games, we can use Incense on our allies, but it's rare enough that unless you've got something real specific in mind, I wouldn't recommend doing so.
: All the Mantra demons are there. May their souls rest in peace...
Huh, he speaks as if they were already dead. Strange. Nihilo supporter, maybe?