Part 4: Launch! Mazinger Z!
Crowe and his little shuttle are still in Africa. He's debriefing with Traia, who has some news: they've identified the old guy from last week, the one in the video Celestial Being sent out, and, well, it doesn't clear up a thing. Just the opposite.
He's Aeolia Schenberg, the inventor of the solar power generation system that the entire world uses nowadays. And by nowadays, she means that the guy died 200 years ago! This means that either the message was recorded 200 years ago or the old fart's a time traveler. As Traia says, "the more you think about this, the less sense it makes."
She asks if Crowe thinks Celestial Being is serious, and Crowe can't deny that they're certainly more so than the WLF. The lab is assigned to track the Gundams, so it's a good thing Crowe's so interested in them.
Oh, and since the mission went sideways, he's not getting any pay from the company, though at least the moron CEO pulled strings to keep the AEU off his tail. Crowe manages to bargain Traia out of 19999 Gs from the Blaster's budget, since he is, after all, the test pilot.
Traia has two ideas for where to go from here. As I mentioned before, one is to go to Japan, and the other is to chase down Celestial being. In Japan, a program is about to start, the testing of a powerful new type of energy called Photon Power. The job for Crowe and the Blaster would be to keep the new scientific miracle from falling into the hands of, well, bad guys. Meanwhile, going after Celestial Being involves tangling with any number of opponents, since the whole world is gunning for them. Either way, Crowe's getting danger pay to the tune of fifty thousand Gs, which perks him right up.
As per the overwhelming landslide vote, we'll be checking out the Photon Power Labs first. This split is just two chapters long, though, so we'll be back to playing with Gundams fairly soon.
I understand completely. You're attracted to the light of hope shining in the darkness.
You make it sound like I'm one of those summer moths that flies into candles.
I certainly hope not. Though I'd like it if you got yourself into some serious trouble.
That's what you're going to leave me with, huh?
Next we turn to a mysterious locale going by Bardos Island.
This savory character Dr. Hell calls the equally savory Baron Ashura to him. If you aren't familiar with Mazinger Z, then yes, Ashura is half of a man and half of a woman stuck together. There are several reasons for this, some good, some bad, some ugly, and some pretty funny. But the point is s/he's pretty freaky. (The rest of Dr. Hell's vassals are no less bizarre, though.)
Anyway, this guy Dr. Hell (and with a name like that) proposes a toast, for his plans to TAKE OVER THE WORLD are finally about to start, and he wants Ashura's army to be at the head. Ashura accepts the mission with a healthy helping of brown-nosing. Dr. Hell dispatches him to, where else, the Photon Power Lab in Japan.
Crowe's debt now stands at 980000 G.
Anyway, let's head out to the mission proper.
In the city of Atami (a real Japanese city, fyi), Shiro Kabuto is woken up by the pretty mug of his grandfather Juuzou. (This house is a lot nicer than I remember in Mazinger or New Mazinger, by the way. What's up with that?)
Shiro and his brother Kouji are actually on good terms with Juuzou, and he's their caretaker as well as their loving grandpa - but it's true he's really really not a face you want to wake up to. Life is pretty good in Japan considering the chaos in the rest of the world is in. Kouji can't even take Celestial Being seriously - "Of course it's a joke. No one picks a fight with the whole world. If you're not God or the Devil, there's no way." Something about those words interests old gramps, but Kouji just wants to eat and get to school.
Shiro tunes the TV into news about the Photon Power test, and the anchor gleefully talks up what a fantastic success this new miracle energy was. Juuzou doesn't seem to agree. He wants to talk to Kouji and Shiro after school, and he seems deadly serious about it; then he leaves without another word. Shiro thinks the famous inventor Juuzou is just stressed about his new project, which is sapping most of his income. Kouji hopes he won't have some kind of research accident and die like their father did (you hear that? that's the sound of flags). The kids resolve to do as their grandfather says.
En route to Japan, Crowe is getting another expository lecture from Traia, this time on the topic of Photon Power. Apparently it's derived from an ore called Japanium that was discovered deep below Mt. Fuji. There's another similar piece of work from the other Japan (actually called Area 11), Sakuradite, which is the subject of serious resource conflict. Fortunately, this Japan is a neutral zone, so it's fairly safe from the three superpowers.
Crowe's entry is clear thanks to Axion. Traia suggests he go by the Photon Power Labs and see if they won't enhance the Blaster. That reminds Crowe, the Blaster doesn't use the Plasma Batteries that the Axio units use. Whatever it is, he's been told not to touch it. Traia says it's a company secret, even from him, and that's that. But she'll be hoping something awful happens in there!
Crowe makes it to Atami...
Crowe makes it to the House Kurogane hot bath in Atami. It's Japan, where else would you go?
Old Juuzou happens to be bathing too.
They chat a bit - Crowe introduces himself as a traveling businessman. Eventually he's overcome by the comfort of the hot spring, and comments (he's not the first ever) that if the whole world could just get in a hot bath, war would just go away. Juuzou reminds him that reality isn't that nice, then leaves, letting Crowe stew in that for a moment.
But not too long - Detective Ankokuji pops out of nowhere and asks Crowe about the old man. Obviously Crowe just met the geezer, so Ankokuji ditches, telling Crowe to forget the whole thing. Well, that sounds 100% legit.
While Crowe is wondering what the hell's going on, yet another shady character - this one's calls himself the 110% legit "Yasu the Weasel" - pops out of the woodwork. He's the attendant here, and his job is to wash the customer's backs, but he has to do it really quickly because his boss the landlady "has a feeling" that there's going to be a problem. I blame Traia.
Outside, Cross is reporting to the landlady Tsubasa that Yasu has gone to take care of the last customer and they're all ready for something or other. Sounds like something serious is about to go down.
At night, Kouji is getting beaten down by another completely respectable gentleman named Boss, who's got his claws on school gangs all over Japan... except Atami. He considers Kouji in charge and wants to fight him over the territory, and his thugs have kidnapped Shiro to make Kouji stand up to the challenge.
Finally, to get a rise out of Kouji, Boss starts threatening his grandpa Juuzou and talking smack about his ugly-ass face. I mean, not that he's wrong, but come on, dude. The fatass gets more than he bargained for; the enraged Kouji lays him out and then gives him the beating of a lifetime.
A girl's voice from out of nowhere interrupts him. She claims gramps is in danger! At that moment, the ground shakes, and...
Chapter 3: Launch! Mazinger Z
Enormous stone monsters begin advancing on the city of Atami. Kouji gets a call from Juuzou, telling him to run the hell away, because the monsters are after Juuzou, and Kouji himself!
He launches the "Pilder" to Kouji. Ankokuji is there, and has not the faintest what's going on. Juuzou tells him to get the hell out, seriously. But Ankokuji is a detective with a mission. "Fine, then! Prepare yourself and come with me! Now go, Pilder!"
The Pilder flies over to where Kouji is. One of the monsters goes after it, but...
Sayaka Yumi shows up in a giant robot! She's the one who called Kouji earlier when he was slugging it out with Boss, and her robot is Aphrodite A, one of the Photon Power Lab's robots.
Kouji and Shiro climb in. Juuzou explains to Kouji that the Pilder is controlled much like a motorbike (Kouji is a longtime biker since Mazinger Z), and it's armed with missiles. Kouji seems skeptical that the machine can stand up to the giant monsters. But Juuzou just wants to buy some time.
Hover Pilder (Kouji Kabuto)
Ace Bonus: 1.2x damage when above 130 Will.
Depressing. I know. It's only temporary, as Juuzou promises. The only thing to note right now is that the Morale skill is better than in most SRW games: every turn past the first, it increases Will by 3 (not 2 like in many older games, including Original Generation 2).
Aphrodite A (Sayaka Yumi)
Defensive Support L1
Ace Bonus: Doubles the healing from the Repair command. (unearned)
You shouldn't be surprised that I don't have Sayaka's Ace Bonus. She's a support unit, and absolutely not a strong attacker. Plus, I'm a bit of a defensive player so I don't use healers that much, and the game provides a fairly good one for free (we'll meet her before the paths merge).
Where was I? Sayaka has one defensive Spirit (the self-healing Vigor) and one support Spirit (Cheer, which doubles the experience an ally gets on his next attack). She's also our first unit with Repair, a special command that lets her spend her turn to restore the HP of an adjacent damaged robot instead of attacking. It works on herself, too, if you're wondering.
Depressingly, she just might still be a better fighter than Kouji for now.
There's no SR Point condition yet. This is a big sign that stuff is going to happen this stage, much like all that Lockon and Duo kerfluffle in chapter 2 (and, for that matter, the Dimension Shock in chapter 1).
There are four enemies on the board, but our forces are sorry indeed. Also, I lose if either unit runs out of HP, which is unpleasantly likely right now.
Goddammit Kouji. The more badass version of Kouji from Alpha could fly pretty well whenever he was forced to use the Hover Pilder, and even more so in the Kaiser Pilder, while the future alternate Kouji from Z did pretty well in the Double Spazer. Unfortunately, this Kouji is just a kid biker who got into a plane. Let's leave Kouji for the moment.
Aphrodite is doing very little better. She has a bit of HP to use, but... damn.
I don't see her doing great on the offensive, but since she's not flying, she can benefit from terrain modifiers, shown at the bottom of the screen. Tiles on the map can give a unit standing directly on them bonuses to defense and evasion, and very occasionally, restore its HP and EN for standing on it. Why don't we just let her hide in these buildings and counter on the enemy turns?
By the way, this is an example of how much having a terrible terrain ranking can hurt - the monsters on land have a 50% to hit the Pilder, but the one in the water has almost half that with the same attack.
If we put Kouji right next to Sayaka, she'll be able to take a hit for him once during the enemy turn. This effect isn't spent if Kouji dodges, only if he would get hit. That'll be a good way to keep the poor Pilder safe. I'll risk attacking too, and hope the Pilder can take at least one hit.
B-bro! What are we gonna do?
I'm not gonna die here when I don't even know what's going on! Hang on tight, Shiro!
The Hover Pilder isn't very strong.
But it's surprisingly tough.
Guess that's the end of that. Let's see how Sayaka does defending.
"I don't know how long Aphrodite A can fight, but I've got to try!"
Holy crap she dodged!
She fires missiles from her boobs.
Huh. Not bad.
Kouji gets attacked on the enemy phase. Wait, where's Sayaka? Well, I lied. To do Offensive Support or Defensive Support, you need to be able to move into the supportee's terrain. The Hover Pilder is flying, and Aphrodite can't fly, so Sayaka can't take any hits aimed at Kouji. How useless.
Also note that since Kouji took damage, his Prevail has kicked in and is helping him dodge.
Well shit, Kouji.
At least he hit back.
His Prevail is in full gear now - look at how much his dodge has improved from 50%. The question is, will it be enough?
Whew. One more.
Same enemy, same attack, same range - 5% more accuracy from that hit correction thing.
Prevail affects armor, too! At such low HP, Kouji can make even the tiny Pilder take outrageously reduced damage.
Okay. My turn again. Whatever Juuzou is planning, it needs to happen very soon, or Kouji is going to get dogpiled. I'm going to take a wild guess that taking out enemies is a trigger here, and if you remember, just one of the statues has been taking focus fire and is at low HP.
Boob missiles away!
Bingo. Apparently the answer was "take out a single enemy with these two sorry piles of junk." Ashura orders his/her underlings to crush the puny Pilder.
Three more monsters arrive, but just in time, so does Crowe. No time for introductions, but he's on their side, and they need the help.
Juuzou's finished too! He calls Kouji back up to the house.
As Kouji does, the ground shakes, and a sinister silhouette rises out of the mists. Everyone is terrified of the demon, but Kouji, for reasons he doesn't fully understand himelf, thinks it's... a god.
Ashura thinks it's a god too - the traitor god Zeus, and it's really freaking him/her out. Now that Kouji thinks of it, his house was always full of books on Greece for some reason. That's why he thinks it's a god, because he used to love those books, and the shape reminds him of one of those gods... Ashura declares that s/he'll destroy the robot and take revenge for Mycene.
Juuzou orders Kouji to dock the Pilder into the robot's head. How is this docking accomplished? How else? By shouting "Pilder On!"
This thing has the power to be a god or a devil...
Now crush them, Kouji! With your finishing move! Its name is!
Its name is!?
Its name is?!
Its name is?!
Everyone say it with me.
Ankokuji is incredibly excited. So is Sayaka. She's called her dad, Dr. Yumi of the Photon Power Lab, about it, and he's freaking out too. It seems like he didn't know Dr. Juuzou Kabuto was living here, and he can tell Mazinger is Juuzou's work.
Juuzou tells Kouji that the power we just saw isn't just the robot's, but Kouji's. Armed with Mazinger Z, Kouji can become more than a mere human. He can become... a god, or a devil.
Then he laughs and laughs. (I took this screenshot just to show you this face.)
Now, let's do this once more with feeling.
Mazinger Z (Kouji Kabuto)
EN Regen (S)
Ace Bonus: 1.2x damage when above 130 Will.
All I can say is, much better. Right now Mazinger only has two attacks, a basic hit and the Rocket Punch.
We still don't have an SR Point condition, but the board looks considerably better now. Sayaka ran up to get a closer look at Mazinger, but she's still done for the turn. On the other hand, Kouji and Crowe have yet to move. It would probably be wise to get the powerful Mazinger closer to the enemies than the weak Aphrodite.
It doesn't even really matter that Mazinger can't dodge, because the Fortress of Black Iron is tank as hell. If Kouji gets hit by one of the stone statues (which doesn't happen here, for some reason), Juuzou reveals that its body is made not of Alloy Z like Aphrodite, but the far more powerful Super Alloy Z. Kouji's naturally high Prevail skill (and it can only get higher) means that even as it takes damage, its HP will approach 0 asymptotically. Strong super robots with Prevailing enough pilots are known to get down into the hundreds and then start taking 10 damage (the bare minimum) from everything short of bosses.
Go, Kouji! You may not know how to pilot, but crush them with your spirit!
Rage! And roar! And Mazinger will answer!
You got it, gramps! I have faith in you and in Mazinger Z!
"Um... this button means attack, right?"
One lucky critical.
Crowe's Attack Again skill isn't firing, huh? These Greek monsters must be better at this than I thought.
"This is going down just like the Chief said. She must have a gift for predicting strategies. Well, let's get to work! Gotta do this right and pay off my debts!"
I'll spare you the excessive animation for the Clutch Sniper. It involves Crowe wasting two unnecessary shots and that takes at least as long as you're thinking. Also, two lucky criticals!
Ashura can't stop laughing, and wonders why. Because what s/he's looking at is both a god, a devil, and what's more, his/her enemy. To think they would meet again after thousands of years! (Wait, what?)
All of a sudden, Ashura goes completely batshit all over
Shiro is terrified of Ashura's face. Ashura says that that's Zeus' fault too. "You betrayed us! You destroyed Mycene! And you betrayed the gods! Today I will make you answer for that!" Kouji hasn't the slightest what s/he's talking about, but Ashura is blinded by rage and thinks he's really Zeus.
Dr. Hell's voice rings out, and he asks Ashura just what the hell s/he's doing. Ashura explains about Zeus, but Hell dismisses him/her and begins talking directly to Juuzou. Apparently, he and Juuzou are old friends - he hasn't had a good night's sleep for ten years just knowing Juuzou was alive. For his part, though, Juuzou's been having sweet dreams. Dr. Hell orders Ashura to get moving on his own dream, then - world domination!
Ashura's brings his subordinates, the Iron Masks, marching in.
And s/he's got more up his/her sleeve, too - the Mechabeasts Garada K7 and Dabras M2. Ashura orders them to advance on the Photon Power Laboratory - once again, Traia was dead on the money. Juuzou realizes that the Mechabeasts are head and shoulders over the statues and that we'll need more than just the Rocket Punch. Dr. Hell taunts Juuzou that he made all this possible when they opened that door... okay, Kouji is lost, but there's no time for that now - we've got a fight on our hands.
Finally, we get an SR Point condition - destroy either Garada or Dabras within three turns of their appearance.
And the first turn is wasted, because we're out of turns. That's the bad news.
The statues charge ineffectually into buildings. One dies.
Garada snipes Kouji ineffectually, but at far too long a range for Mazinger to counter. Kouji is forced to Defend, responding with no attacks but only taking 60% damage.
Dabras takes a shot at Crowe, but is rebuffed and countered.
Tsubasa considers giving out some orders, but decides to let Kouji handle it for the moment. She wants to see what he can do.
Kouji is (apparently?) having issues with the Mechabeasts. Dr. Hell takes the moment Juuzou one more chance to join him, but Juuzou tells him to fuck off. So Ashura shows up behind Juuzou, scares the crap out of Ankokuji, and asks very politely if Juuzou would please go back to Dr. Hell's side. They need him to work on Photon Power so that they can power up their Mechabeasts even further. Juuzou feigns interest, drawing Ashura into an explosive trap!
Ashura wants to take revenge, but Yasu the Weasel, actually an explosives expert, comes to his aid, together with a ninja known only as "Master" with a deadly sharp blade and the chops to take a slice out of Ashura.
With them covering him, Juuzou and Ankokuji flee out the back and into Mazinger Z's waiting arms.
Kouji has no idea who Ankokuji is, but Juuzou has more important things in mind: defeating the enemy. He wants to teach Kouji how to pilot Mazinger, but Ashura has other plans. Crowe is ready to butt in and give Juuzou his chance, but first, Sayaka spots something flying in from the coast.
Crowe recognizes them as Celestial Whatever's Gundams. Tieria and Allelujah consider Dr. Hell a terrorist and they've come to fight him as well. Defending the hope of Photon Power is fine with them, apparently, but Tieria is suspicious of the shady circumstances surrounding its invention. Allelujah is talking to himself: "We're fighting machines controlled by AIs. Hallelujah, I feel a little better."
Celestial Being's intrusion gave Juuzou just enough time to teach Kouji all he needs to know, though. Mazinger Z has unlocked two new weapons. First is the mid-range counter move Rust Hurricane, which causes metal to decay and disintegrate, reducing the armor of any enemy it hits for a round. The second is the point-blank, expensive, and powerful Breast Fire, when Mazinger vents all its heat buildup out into the enemy through the red things on his chest.
Oh, and now that we can get a good look at Garada and Dabras, it looks like they're equipped with stuff. And if they're equipped with stuff, that means that they'll drop that stuff when they go down. Unfortunately, we can only destroy one of them before the stage ends.
Garada has a Land Module, a piece of tech that allows any machine to function on land, and raises the machine's terrain adaptability and the terrain compatibility of all its weapons on land to an S.
Dabras is equipped with a Propellant Tank, which is a consumable like the Repair Kit. The Propellant Tank fully restores all of a unit's Energy pool, but not it's ammunition.
Personally, it's all the same to me. I'd prefer the Land Module to the Propellant Tank, but not by that much. Dabras is already wounded and Crowe and Kouji have better shots at it. Might as well focus on it.
Oh, and the Gundams.
Gundam Kyrios/Gundam Kyrios (Jet) (Allelujah Haptism)
Hit and Away
EN Regen (S)
EN Regen (S)
Ace Bonus: Evasion +20%.
Allelujah has yet another new mechanic: a transforming robot. Gundam Kyrios is a high-mobility Gundam which can turn into a flight mode for increased agility and much improved movement speed, which makes Allelujah good for getting places very quickly. The only downside is that when you transform, you're transformed for your whole turn, and jet modes like Kyrios usually have less offense to make up for their speed. Practically, this means you use jet mode to close and then switch when you want to attack. (He's better at it than Gundam Wing, anyway.)
Oh, and he has Hit and Away while Lockon doesn't. There's no justice, I tell you.
Gundam Virtue (Tieria Erde)
Defensive Support L2
EN Regen (S)
Ace Bonus: At more than 130 Will, casts Fury at the start of each player phase.
Gundam Virtue is an extreme tank, with heavy armor and a barrier that filters out all attacks that do 2000 damage or less. Tieria is a fine pilot, currently supportive in nature - he can block for someone else, and since he's flying he doesn't have the issues Sayaka does. Unfortunately, Virtue is slow, clumsy, and has low accuracy on its weapons, and Tieria has neither Focus nor Strike to make up for it. Attune can give the effect of Strike to any ally on the map, including Tieria himself, but using it like that is the most inefficient way to get Strike this side of Lunamaria Hawke.
His Ace bonus is the same as Wufei's, letting him blow through barriers and defensive abilities at high Will.
Here's the map. Our units are awfully spread out.
Saving his grandfather may have been noble on Kouji's part, but it also put him way up in the corner of the map. It'll take a turn or so for him to get into the brawl again, and we only have a couple of turns to take out either of the Mechabeasts. In the meantime, he has nothing he can do but move.
The Gundams are also on the wrong side, so they'll spend the round moving into the city of Atami, probably hitting the statues on their way.
Actually, Kyrios in its jet mode is fast enough to take a shot at Garada. I'll take a chance that Crowe and Kouji can deal enough damage next round to seal the deal with Dabras if I have to, and try to knock Garada down a few HP for the Land Module.
"The world is responding to Celestial Being's declaration. War will begin to spread. We'll continue on our path, even if it makes us slaughterers."
For his part, Tieria can only hit the statues. His one (P) weapon is an oddity, in that it's a (P) weapon that can't hit adjacent squares.
"All is as Veda has planned. Failure will not be tolerated, no matter who stands in our way. That is the duty of a Gundam Meister!"
Virtue may be kind of fat and slow, but it hits like a truck.
Crowe takes another shot at weakening Garada. Hopefully I'll have my pick of which one to incinerate with Mazinger next round.
I don't know why I bother with Aphrodite. If she gets hit, though, she might draw Garada towards her and into Kouji's reach.
Boob missiles away! She crits for a reasonable amount but gets hit for unfortunate damage in return. That's the end of the round, might as well see what the Mechabeasts d--
Oh right, this guy is still alive.
As expected, Garada targets Sayaka. I'll have her defend so I don't lose her.
Ouch. (I'm training myself to snap the exact instant where the damage number is visible but the HP bar is down to where it should be. Can you tell?)
Luckily, Dabras goes after Mazinger instead.
Kouji! Mazinger Z is my life's work! Do not let it fall to the Mechabeasts!
You got it! I'll try out those weapons you showed me!
Come on, Mechabeast! I'll show you how strong Mazinger Z is!
It may seem like a bunch of damage (or it may not, depending on your perspective), but remember how the Pilder survived.
In return, Mazinger fires the Rust Hurricane.
Both Mechabeasts are pretty low on HP by now. I guess I have my pick after all. Let's take down Garada for the Land Module - the classy way, with a super move video:
I absolutely love the panels lighting up effect Shin Mazinger put on Breast Fire.
Kouji wins a level, a pile of money, and the Land Module. I guess I should have used Cheer on him to amp up his experience gain. Oh well.
I still win an SR Point.
Ashura can't believe the Mechabeast s/he got from Dr. Hell got its ass kicked. S/he flees in fear of what s/he believes to be Zeus' honest reincarnation, taking Dabra with him/her. Allelujah is impressed with Mazinger's power, but Tieria, always the party pooper, reminds him again that if Mazinger were ever to be used as a weapon, Celestial Being would have to destroy it. The two Meisters pack up and go to rendezvous with their teammates.
Crowe takes the incident as a sign that they're serious.
Juuzou tells Kouji that all of Mazinger Z's power belongs to him and repeats his "god or devil" line. He considers it his penance for letting Kouji's parents die. Shiro wants one too, and Juuzou promises to build him another robot.
But to Kouji and Shiro's horror, the old man will never be able to keep that promise. Fighting Ashura and getting caught in that explosion was too much for his aged body, and in exchange for a new hero the world has lost a great scientist (and a great grandpa).
In Mazinger, Kouji runs towards the sea, intending to chase down Ashura and get his revenge for Juuzou.
Sayaka tries to talk him down - he and Mazinger aren't yet strong enough to take on Dr. Hell. Ankokuji's with her... besides, Atami's a wreck. Kouji can't just leave. Kouji finally gives up, but he's sure as hell not happy about it.
Back in his trippy command center on Bardos Island, Ashura is apologizing for losing one of the Mechabeasts Dr. Hell loaned him. But the good doctor is satisfied that one of his great nemeses, Juuzou Kabuto, is gone. Unfortunately, a certain woman remains, and so does Mazinger Z. Dr. Hell orders Ashura to use his remaining Mechabeast to destroy Mazinger Z and take Photon Power by force.
This brings the chapter to a close.
Kouji, Mazinger, Sayaka, and Aphrodite have been added to our little garage, and we can upgrade and train them as we see fit. For Kouji I recommend Chain Actions, EN Save, a heaping helping of SP Up, and any points remaining in Melee and Defense. For Sayaka I have no idea, Defense I guess? SP? Repair?
Oh and the Land Module is available to go on anyone. I'll put it on Mazinger, our main non-flying warrior robot, for now.