Part 11: Resolve TestedWe're approaching the end of this path split.
On Bardos, Pygman is reporting to Dr. Hell. Seems Ashura has taken the Undersea Fortress Salud to go after Tsubasa Nishikiori. Dr. Hell reflects that Ashura isn't the only one with a grudge against Tsubasa... he murmurs that she killed him once here on Bardos. Odd thing to say.
Count Blocken, a headless undead cyborg Nazi (oh, Mazinger ) is the next general to get orders from Dr. Hell: "Kill her, even if you have to burn down all of Atami to do it!" Blocken requests something unnamed to carry out his mission, and we can probably bet it's a nasty new Mechabeast.
Back at Izu, Naoto is sure that Takeru is a Gishin spy. The other pilots, Akagi, Kouji, and Watta, think he's jumping the gun. Akira is with Naoto, and for Kenji and Mika, the jury's still out for now.
Exhibit A, the investigation of the Gaia robot, waddles in with Ohtsuka. He says the investigation threw up a few mysteries and a few answers. And there are some answers about Takeru that need to come to light as well.
First of all, just as Naoto concluded, Takeru is a Gishin. Gaia is a Gishin weapon that runs on antiprotonic energy and Takeru's formerly latent psychic powers. And it's also the container for an antiproton bomb powerful enough to destroy the entire planet. And the bomb is set to explode if Takeru dies or loses his brain function, re-explaining why Zuul ordered his assassination. These are all things that Takeru knows (and that we know), but now the rest of the Crushers know it too.
Naoto votes to exile Takeru from the planet. He doesn't trust Takeru as an ally and actually considers him an enemy. Akira is, again, with him. (I'm pretty sure we're supposed to be remembering Baldios in Z, in which Marin Raygun had to gain the trust of his two co-pilots to form the super robot.) Takeru busts out his line about how his heart belongs to the Earth, but Naoto refuses to buy it in some harsh terms.
Ohtsuka delivers the final verdict - Takeru is to be locked up under surveillance. If nothing else, the Gishin want to kill him to destroy the planet, so he wants to keep Takeru under watch and off the battlefield.
Even Crowe can't say he's willing to entrust his back to Takeru in a fight. Takeru is forced to do as the commander orders.
After he leaves, though, he explains that he believes in Takeru too, but if the Crushers don't, then their teamwork on the field is going to break and the entire squad is going to die. Better to keep Takeru out of it so the rest of the squad doesn't suffer.
Meanwhile, over at 21st HQ, Major Busujima from the Defense Corps is trying to get Dai-Guard from the company. Ookouchi counters with an old law that basically says the military transfers all its rights to anti-Heterodyne weaponry to a private corporation, dating from when no one thought they would ever appear again. Besides, Dai-Guard is already contracted to the Peacekeeping Council. Anyway, Dai-Guard will still fight against Heterodynes and other enemies too, though under the WPC's command, not the Defense Corps.
The fact that the majority of 21st's stock is held by the Defense Corps doesn't help Busujima either. On the contrary, Ookouchi has taken it as a chance to borrow a man from the Corps as Dai-Guard's tactical advisor. Defeated, Busujima storms off, promising to be back.
When he's gone, Kamimura brings news for Ookouchi - R&D has finished the project he wanted. But in true anime style, neither of them actually say what it is.
Back at the Kurogane, Dr. Yumi has some questions for Tsubasa - the same ones Kouji has, about her past, about Juuzou, about Mazinger Z. First on the list, how does she know about Mazinger Z? "That's easy. The professor told me." He was a regular at her bathhouse, and he talked about a lot during his patronship, including Mazinger.
Second question: What's the deal with her and Ashura? Tsubasa refuses to answer that one on grounds of "Kouji's not ready to hear it yet."
The two head out to the yard, where Kouji is busy training. He's just finished 200 pushups and is about to go on to 200 situps. This is Akagi's idea of training - piloting is hard work and take serious muscle. But everyone agrees that while Shunsuke "charge!" Akagi is a good model for piloting technique, he's anything but when it comes to tactics.
Ikue and Tanigawa bring snacks for break time, and Crowe is just about starved - he had water for lunch! Poor Crowe is saving every cent he can, whenever he can, so he can earn his freedom just as quickly as possible. Watta offers to treat him to dinner at home in exchange for homework tutoring, and Crowe jumps on the deal.
Incidentally, most of PR Division 2 has come to visit, but the three big managers are back handling some kind of delivery. Akagi hopes the delivery is a new weapon for Dai-Guard. Whatever it is, it's big and expensive, and the gargantuan bill is on PR Division 2's budget.
Here's a somewhat familiar face. His name is Shiro Shirota, who you may remember from several chapters ago as a Defense Corps soldier who thinks Dai-Guard is a useless pile of crap. Unfortunately, he's now being lent to the Peacekeeping Council as the Crushers' tactical advisor, focusing on Dai-Guard.
Akagi and Shirota are already off to a bad start - on top of not thinking much of Dai-Guard, Shirota can plainly see how terrible Akagi is at running a robot. Akagi angrily responds that he'll do better next time, and the soldier leaves with ominous words: "If there is a next time."
The other employees guess that that's related to gossip about the Defense Corps trying to seize back Dai-Guard. It sounds like Shirota's main loyalties lie with them. Akagi absolutely refuses to give up Dai-Guard, but for the moment, it sounds like he's safe - qualified super robot pilots are in short supply.
Aoyama is less enthusiastic about his own position. He'll do it if the company needs him to, but gladly leave if he gets replaced. Surprising everyone, Ibuki is actually with Akagi. As long as Dai-Guard fights Heterodynes, they can take her off the team by prying her dead ass from the navigator's seat.
Tsubasa is enjoying this. In her book, those who want to should fight and those who don't shouldn't. Aoyama is fine with that - he doesn't want to fight. But also, there's someone down in Izu who wants to fight and isn't being let, though...
In the middle of this whirlwind of mixed feelings, Yokozawa gets a call. A Spacetime Quake is forming, and a Heterodyne is expected at any moment. Aoyama reluctantly resolves himself to doing his job. Akagi is fired up to prove Shirota wrong...
Chapter 8: Resolve Tested
Shirota is barking out orders. The Crushers aren't really taking to his leadership, but oh well. Gotta live with it. Meanwhile, Takeru is still under surveillance.
The Heterodyne, this one a ball-type, appears. Akagi is about to charge as usual, but Shirota has his own ideas - Mazinger and Trider will go first, and Dai-Guard will follow up. Akagi grudgingly obeys. The Crushers figure he's just being a good employee, but Kakekouji believes there's something else...
It's only the Heterodyne (named the "Globe") on the field right now. Kouji and Akagi being destroyed are both lose conditions.
Following Shirota's advice, I lead with Trider.
The Heterodyne hits back with the force of a boss.
Once Watta gets his strike in, Crowe gets a bad feeling... it's a Dimension Shock!
A small pack of Damons appears.
Crowe shouts to Akagi to deal with the Heterodyne while he handles the Damons. Shirota disagrees, but Crowe really needs to fight some Damons. Watta and Kouji offer to help him (um, whoops), leaving the Heterodyne to Dai-Guard.
The SR Point condition went from "defeat the enemies in three turns" to "defeat the enemies in three turns, saving the Globe for last."
But let's be serious here, I'm pretty sure Crowe can handle the Damons by himself. Maybe with some Cosmo Crusher help.
These ones are even worse! What the hell's going on?
Every time we fight them, they just come back stronger!
Hmm, maybe not. Guess Kouji can back him up.
He accelerates in...
and casts Strike, too, just to be safe.
I think they actually are getting stronger. Scary.
Cosmo Crusher can join that team too.
Meanwhile, Dai-Guard goes for the... Damn it, Dai-Guard! I've got to get some parts to fix this. At least some goddamn movement.
Finally, Aphrodite follows Dai-Guard, who will probably need the healing most, while the Shuttle stands ready to enable some spamming from the anti-Damon team. (I keep saying that and it never becomes necessary, but it doesn't hurt.)
Turn 1 over.
The Heterodyne attacks Dai-Guard.
Also, it seems to have regenerated all of its HP.
I didn't think you'd back down that easy.
You mean when he ordered us to run backup? That's all right with me.
How? Dai-Guard exists to fight Heterodynes!
All that really matters is stopping the Heterodyne. It doesn't have to be us.
This is about protecting people! If we can do that, that's all that matters!
Boy, Ibuki sure turned around fast, huh?
After Dai-Guard fights the Heterodyne, the Damons start.
With two Damons about to die within the turn, we can begin allocating resources towards taking down that pesky Heterodyne.
It has HP Regen (Medium), which restores 20% of its HP at the beginning of each of its turns, and EN Regen (Large), which restores 30% of its EN.
I'm not sure why it regenerates EN, though. Its only weapon takes a positively tiny amount of EN; it could counter my entire team for four turns straight before running out.
Crowe Hit and Aways a Damon, moving at the Heterodyne.
Kenji and Kouji team up against the other.
With all the Damons gone, it's time to shift to the Heterodyne. Sayaka hits it from safely outside its range.
Watta charges in and stabs it like a man.
(Trider status update: having trouble.)
Finally, it's Dai-Guard's turn to strike. First, Ibuki Gutses it to buffer it against the Heterodyne's attack and counterattack.
Not bad, actually. I give Dai-Guard some shit but he's not bad as long as the enemy is on land.
But neither was the counterstroke. Ow.
Well, it'll probably hit Dai-Guard or Trider or-
Oh crap it can move.
Defensive Support is useful because in the big scheme of things, it's taking damage like you were defending (albeit on a different unit) without giving up a counterattack.
And with regenerating bosses like this, counterattacks are welcome.
Now it's my last turn to off the Heterodyne, and I'm in just the right position to do it.
First, we prep it with Clutch Sniper...
Then we prep Akagi with Cheer. He's a little behind on levels.
Drill Arm is still Dai-Guard's closest thing to a finishing move...
Team Dai-Guard gains three levels. Ibuki gains her second Spirit, Strike.
The SR Point is over...
But the stage isn't. The Heterodyne regenerates itself and comes back for more! Apparently they can just sort of do that. Aoyama advises Akagi to retreat, but Ibuki won't have that!
Shirota says that we have to take out the Heterodyne's original Fractal Knot. Heterodynes draw power from their cores, called Fractal Knots, so destroying the core should destroy the monster for good. But how?
Sumita, Dai-Guard's maintenace head, calls in with the solution - Dai-Guard's new weapon, which is being carried to the battlefield as we speak. It's called the Knot Buster!
Using a pile, it pierces the Heterodyne's body and destroys the Fractal Knot in one clean blow.
But we're not out of the woods yet. Talos warriors and a new Mechabeast attack from the sea!
It's Ashura, and s/he's been lying in wait for us to get drained from fighting the Heterodyne. Even so, Kouji won't give up, and neither will the other Crushers. Kenji, once again taking command from Shirota, orders the team to intercept and destroy the Mechabeast!
With the SR Point in hand, the only thing left to do is fulfil the new win condition, which is destroying the new Mechabeast, Strongar T4.
He's an ugly, well-upgraded fucker with no parts to speak of.
By the way, enemies have Spirits, but they're strictly for show. I like how the Mechabeast doesn't even have SP to speak of. (Strongar's are Guts, Invincible, and Shout.)
While I'm here, the Knot Buster has been added permanently to Dai-Guard's arsenal. It's actually not a bad weapon at all, and it's the first step in Dai-Guard becoming a better super robot. (Many of the other steps, however, involve equipment parts.) Ignoring barriers and size adjustments for being smaller than the target make it a pretty good boss beater. And at four fires per stage, it has a quite reasonable lifetime outside of punching through big uglies.
Let's send Trider in. First, Aphrodite repairs it.
The Talos aren't very tough. They're also not too strong, a welcome break for Watta after getting smacked around by the Globe.
On top of that, they still have pretty bad attacking range, a welcome break for Kenji after spending a lot of SP Damon-hunting.
Mazinger has been worn down by the Damons too, but his Prevail L6 is active for it and is only going to get stronger... if Strongar doesn't take him out.
That Prevail and his Ace Bonus (plus his and Mazinger's raw brute power) are making him a damage beast, at least - powerful enough to smite down a Talos in one shot.
It may do no good as usual, but the Shuttle stands ready to fire a few shots or fuel up a robot.
Trider takes 10 damage from a Talos' strike. They're worse at anti-air operations than Dai-Guard.
After Mazinger takes out one, Crowe goes into the SRW "oh no we are clearly winning but I'm still going to comment on how much trouble we're having" routine.
Meanwhile, Takeru gets a visit from his mom. She tells him to go help his friends. With his psychic powers, he can easily escape from his little jail - and Ohtsuka was keenly aware of that fact, which can only mean one thing. Before she goes, she reassures Takeru that he really is hers and her husband's son.
Even after talking with his mother, Takeru feels he can't fight, because the entire planet is riding on his life. A mysterious voice, the one that always talks to him from in Gaia, asks if he can really, truly accept that. The voice encourages him to follow what he truly wants to do in his heart. Takeru steels his resolve and calls out for Gaia.
Takeru arrives at Atami and drowns out all of Naoto's objections with his declaration that he will fight for his friends and his home! The voice tells him that he can call the Five Gods when his spirit burns bright - or, put more succinctly, when he reaches 130 Will.
Meanwhile, the remaining Talos scratch Mazinger for 10 damage (which is, by the way, the minimum actual damage you can ever do in SRW) and then get ripped apart by the counters.
But the real threat here is Strongar T4.
It's a battle of the blowhards, and Kouji wins, dishing out serious damage while reducing Strongar's armor for the turn.
This is the SGC menu option.
It pops up this menu which looks kind of like Transform menus some other robots have, but in Gaia's case, there's no going back from Godmars.
Lacking any way to heal himself, Kouji gets healed by Mika's Trust Spirit. It'll reduce his Prevail bonuses for now, but better to stay alive.
Crowe, Dai-Guard, Aphrodite, and Gaia make their approach. On the way, the last Talos dies and Dai-Guard gets healed up.
Watta, who, unlike Kouji, can heal himself, does so and engages.
He deals serious damage, in part thanks to Rust Hurricane.
Strongar's fan range is 1-6, so Naoto uses his Snipe again to shoot the Cosmo Laser from 7 tiles away.
Last is Kouji. His outrageous damage output benefits from Rust Hurricane too.
As a boss, Strongar has been fairly damaging but not horrifyingly so. He and the Globe both managed to put out a couple thousands of damage a turn, a sum which is noticeable but not quite scary. Rest assured that this will change as I get more units and more potent defensive resources.
He'll finish off Strongar on the counter, probably, and without Cheer. But that's not so bad - he's definitely my highest level pilot right now. Getting to level 12 has even taught him the Invincible Spirit. (Speaking of defensive resources - like Alert, Invincible is something to drop right before getting into a fight with a boss unit.)
Mazinger gains defense rapidly as he loses HP. I've seen him get down to triple digits and then just take 10 damage from everything.
And that's the end of Strongar.
Count Blocken, the undead head, appears just in time to witness the end of Strongar. But that's fine by him, because he's got his orders and a new toy to carry them out with - a giant exploding Bomberbeast!
Groizer X10 is a Mechabeast that flies to its destination and then detonates, catching a 10 kilometer radius in the explosion. When Blocken accepted the order to burn all of Atami to the ground, he meant it. He programs his Groizer to fly to the Kurogane Bathhouse!
Shirota orders the Crushers to pull out for their own safety, leaving the people still in the bathhouse to their own devices. Ahh, I love a classic "hero struggles with douchebag commander" story, don't you? Akagi calls him out with a grand speech about how important each home is to its citizen, the comfort of having a place to come home to and the memories that each building shares with its residents. Kouji gets fired up and declares his resolve to protect Atami, his home.
Tsubasa has been waiting for that. She tells Kouji to fire the Photon Beam! There's one switch on Mazinger's weapons panel Kouji hasn't used yet, and the time has come to show him how to activate it.
Ashura packs up Strongar and leaves, while Groizer advances on the town.
Its destination is highlighted on the map.
To finish the stage, I have to destroy it before it reaches any of those tiles.
And it takes its turn, moving even further. Let's begin.
Groizer has a couple of turns worth of HP. That suits me just fine.
I'm going to use my powers and Godmars to defend the Earth!
I don't care what anyone says or who I have to fight! I will fight for this world!
Well, shit, I guess he doesn't.
Oh yeah, Groizer is a Bomberbeast as well as a Bombbeast. (Godmars is much bigger and better-armored than Gaia. It's nice.)
Yeah this is going to be over quickly.
By the way, Groizer's range is 3. It's pretty easy to outrange him.
Now he's weak. But I can't finish him until next turn.
The reason is that I'm waiting for this:
It doesn't go off in an event or anything even if you destroy Groizer, so I have to use it manually.
The Photon Beam is one of the wonderful things about Shin Mazinger in this game. Normally it's just one of Mazinger's weapons, and in SRW, the weakest of all his weapons, good only for energy-lean counters. But like everything else in Shin Mazinger, the Photon Beam is very serious and very outrageous, and Super Robot Wars Z2 gave it its due.
By the way, this incarnation of the Photon Beam also makes Mazinger a little bit of an oddity - you may have noticed that super robots like to get up close and personal with super attacks that hit the enemy point-blank. The normal Mazinger showings in SRW aren't an exception, showing off with Breast Fire variants, Great and Dynamic comboes with a range of a few tiles, and at best, the low-mid-range Wheel Rocket Punch. This Photon Beam is Mazinger's real finisher, and it's a non-(P) attack with a range of 7 squares. This makes Mazinger very comfortable shooting its lasers from pretty far away.
So there's a little SRW blogging for you.
So, woo, we saved the city again. Tsubasa still says Kouji has a long way to go, but he's earned a little credit. The other Crushers aren't in such great positions, though. Dai-Guard disobeyed orders from Shirota, and Takeru broke out of containment. Takeru actually has something he wants to say about that...
As usual, this message means the stage is officially over.
Takeru's message for the Crushers is simply what he's been saying all along - he's an Earthling at heart and he wants to fight with everyone.
Ohtsuka has accepted Takeru and trusts that he really does love the Earth and want to fight for it. One by one, the other Crushers agree - and Naoto is the first.
With the matter of Takeru wrapped up, Shirota confronts Akagi... and demands a report form by tomorrow morning sharp. Aww. He's taking responsibility for not properly calculating according to Dai-Guard's power, and next time, he'll command based on proper intelligence, so they'd better be ready to listen.
And contrary to Aoyama's hopes, no one on the Dai-Guard crew is getting replaced by soldiers. He might as well just accept his bad luck and stay on. (But if they do find a replacement, he's still out faster than you can say "Even salarymen can defend the world!")
In the shadows, Rika Domeki, the suspiciously young head of R&D for 21st Century, is gloating about all her theories about Heterodynes being spot on and her Knot Buster going off without a hitch. But it's not all brightness; there are still the Damons and they're getting stronger too. She's got her work cut out for her.
See you next chapter. But wait! Instead, we're going back to a time when Crowe joined Celestial Being and adventured around the world with a pack of mysterious terror robots. I actually like that path split, so hopefully everyone else enjoys it too.