Part 12: Beast Formation!Since it's been a long time, here's a refresher. This Crowe briefly met Mazinger Z and Dai-Guard, but bailed on Ankokuji after the battle and met up with Celestial Being -
If Crowe escapes and chases Celestial Being, he gets back in his transport and hightails it out of Japan, where he submits his report to Traia.
Part of his routine at times like this is going to be selling off the combat data he collected on enemy mecha for a bonus, and he's trying to push the data on the Talos and Mechabeasts. But Traia is writing it off today because he wouldn't send any reports while he was in Japan (because he was in jail!). What's left is the original 50k promised, plus a measly 5k in extra pay.
But then, Crowe's transport gets sniped into uselessness! Traia takes the whole 55k as a penalty.
To no one's surprise, Celestial Being is responsible, and they want Crowe's Blaster. Tieria says "Veda" wants to inspect it. Crowe knows he's not going to win in a four on one.
Celestial Being brings him to a little island and keeps his back to them and his hands up, careful not to show their faces. Even though we've all fought together once, haven't we? But Tieria is stone-cold as well as a stick in the mud. He (yes, if you're still in shock, Tieria is a he) asks why Crowe came after them, and Crowe's answer is...
He wants to join Celestial Being?!
The Meisters are taken aback, but at least they haven't shot Crowe yet.
This is where the new chapter begins.
Because Crowe has never adventured with the Gundams yet in this timeline, I've re-upgraded the Gundams and put all those copies of EN Save and Hit & Away back where they belong.
One of those scrolling exposition walls wanders by. It describes how the world is starting to turn upside down thanks to the near-simultaneous appearances of Celestial Being and the five Colony Gundams. There's another variable in the mix - the mysterious Dancouga, who, as we know, appears on the battlefield to aid the underdog. "Celestial Being aims to end war. Dancouga Nova appears where war is waged. [...] It was inevitable that they would meet on the battlefield."
CB has Crowe blindfolded again. Crowe claims that he wants to join Celestial Being because he believes in their vision. Tieria doesn't buy it and fires a warning shot.
Despite their rough treatment, they're really just being cautious, but honestly wouldn't mind some extra firepower. So Crowe decides to be honest. Why join Celestial Being? Well, he's an Axion test pilot, and he's being paid to gather as much practical combat data as possible. But on its own, that takes him to any mercenary gang or PMC, not a team like Celestial Being.
Well, test pilot is Crowe's job, but he has his own aims. "I want to see what you do myself. I used to be a soldier. I've got my issues with the stains on this messed-up world. I bet there are lots of people who do, the ones who don't live in nice quiet places... Now, your little declaration made some ripples. We know you mean it, we saw you hit the AEU's orbital elevator. I want to see just how far you guys are taking this with my own eyes."
Something about that hits a nerve, especially with Setsuna, but Lockon warns him that they won't let him just watch - he's going to have to get his hands dirty. Well, that suits Crowe just fine - he's "not exactly squeaky clean myself" - but seriously, first of all, do they really think they can bring an end to war?
Again, Setsuna jumps in with an emphatic "yes." The rest of the Meisters look surprised, but Crowe simply sounds content.
After a long and suspenseful pause, Celestial Being finally accepts Crowe into their ranks - but if he turns tail on them, they will hunt him down.
Now that Crowe's a real member, they remove his blindfold. Crowe immediately pegs Setsuna as the surprisingly confident one.
Setsuna replies: "You... are not Gundam." Crowe is confused.
The two mature Meisters, Tieria and Lockon, at least understand that this means Setsuna doesn't really trust Crowe. Neither do they, frankly, but he may be useful. Besides, Tieria wants to gather data on that Axion mecha - for Veda, of course. And both of them are ready to shoot Crowe in the back if he tries anything funny.
Anyway, the new mission is in, and it's in the HRL. The two wonder if they'll meet Dancouga on the battlefield. (You guys like blatant foreshadowing, right?)
The scene shifts to Dragon's Hive, home of the very Dancouga Nova.
A (goddammit) little girl named (goddammit) Ru Riruri reports that she has collected all four pilots and is bringing them back.
First is Aoi Hidaka, racer and supermodel, who was grabbed right after a big race.
Next, Kurara Tachibana, a hotshot narc yanked out from the boss's lair during a bust, and Sakuya Kamon, a homeless drifter who was apparently picked up while napping.
Lastly, Johnny Burnett, a prodigy businessman, yoinked from a taxi in transit.
After but a minute for these poor souls to wallow in confusion, Tanaka is forced to jump into business. He would like the four to pilot Dancouga Nova!
Dancouga Nova is the actual name of the robot the world is calling Dancouga, and I'll skip another explanation because we've heard of Dancouga like five times by now. But anyway, Dancouga requires four pilots, and the four are periodically cycled out. The previous pilots' contracts just ended, and these kids have been picked to fill the seats.
The group doesn't take well to being spied on without knowing and kidnapped out of nowhere, even after Tanaka makes his offer: "Let's say, take Miss Aoi's earnings last year and add a zero? We offer some very attractive benefits, as well..." Apparently, Dragon's hive is loaded. And all they have to do is put aside their current business and pilot Dancouga Nova, while keeping it an absolute secret. Even so, it's a lot to ask...
Seimi runs in with news that "they've come out," and Tanaka offers the sorta-team a chance to test drive Dancouga Nova. Without waiting for an answer, he drops them through the floor, calling after them that the controls have already been inserted into their minds while they slept (!). He'll take their final answer after they return.
Mysterious Figure calls in to say he's looking forward to the new team's performance. Also, that they've made contact with "someone," and that negotiations will take place after the mission.
Chapter 5: Beast Formation!
We arrive just in time to see the HRL forces get shot down by the WLF.
Celestial Being was hoping to crash the battle and crush both sides, but they're late - the HRL is already wiped out. Crowe is trying to figure out why Celestial Being would start shit with a local resistance force. But it's not just some rebels - the WLF is backing them, and other movements around here as well.
But then Lockon notices something...
It looks like the WLF let the resistance infantry charge in, then unloaded their artillery at the base, catching their own allies in the fire. The WLF really want to claim the base for themselves. So they use rebels, fight the HRL, and cause destruction, which is why Celestial Being will just destroy all their machines until they can't fight. And if the HRL just comes back with more forces, well, CB will take them out too, until they give up and stop fighting.
"They're going to end all violence in the world." "How?" "Violence. I don't think they've really thought it through."
In any case, the terrorists have finally opened fire.
Setsuna blasts off, again. Lockon, pleased to have someone else to babysit Setsuna, orders Crowe to do just that. "Finally, someone else can draw the short straw."
Defeat all enemies, don't let anyone die, do it in three turns. Simple.
Not what you'd call a complex map, either. There are a lot of units spread out to the east, and a few that will have to be dealt with on the north end, which Crowe will take care of. (I highlighted them for you - blue is me, red is them.)
Slow units and units in the back should go first, of course. Units already closed with the enemy have an advantage picking their targets. Unfortunately, Tieria can't hit anyone.
Lockon can just hit an enemy with his Snipe Spirit active.
Haro, keep your eyes on that Blaster!
Observing the Blaster! Observing the Blaster!
If he makes any odd moves, we're taking him out.
But then, we owe him for the battle at the Elevator. Let's hope we don't have to.
Other people who have played SRW games will sympathize with me when I lament that sometimes, units just can't finish enemies off.
Fortunately, it no longer prevents him from closing.
Next is Allelujah. When in doubt, spread damage. No point taking out that almost-dead Leo yet.
It's terrible, Hallelujah. Monsters who step on those who are fighting for something, just to feed their ego...
But if we are to save the world, we have to be like them...!
Another action, another wounded mecha slated to die next round.
Now, because he was closer in, Setsuna can choose his targets. Rather than attacking either of the damaged mecha, he can aim at this one, which none of the others could hit. It's a good thing he didn't hit either of those first.
There is no god here, either.
You are not Gundam!
Why don't any of these stupid Gundams have animations where I can actually show the damage and the final HP at once?
Oh, and Setsuna used his Shield Defense against that one. Using a shield cuts incoming damage to 40%. It goes off automatically when anyone is taking the defense action as a defender, but in this game, requires the Block skill to go off any other time, such as just now.
Crowe shirks his duties as Setsuna's babysitter to deal with the northern team.
He gets two attacks. Neat.
So I fast-talked my way into Celestial Being. But it wasn't all an act.
You wanna just roll your little revolution game through other peoples' business? Get lost!
The short version is, it dies.
On the enemy turn...
One more Leo dies.
On trigger, a new mecha shows up.
Or, as Tieria says, four mecha. (More on that in a sec.) He guesses that they form Dancouga.
Our four new friends are on board. They are confused, bewildered, frightened, and ultimately resigned.
Tanaka calls in to let them know that they are in "Variable Beast Machines," or VBMs for short. Once they get the hang of piloting the VBMs, they'll talk about the next step. Also, they're expected to target the WLF and cooperate with Celestial Being.
Celestial Being, likewise, is ordered by Sumeragi to work with Dancouga.
The Leos go back to dying.
During this turn, Setsuna has a terrible level, but learns the Strike Spirit. He doesn't need it yet, but he will eventually against certain annoying bosses.
Other than that, this is a boring phase. Several enemies refuse to take action.
Nova Eagle (Aoi Hidaka)
Dan-Magnum (12 ammo)
3A Daggers (5 EN)
VBM Charge (35 EN, 110 Will, Pierce Barrier, Ignore Size)
Ace Bonus: When the "Go Wild" Skill activates, casts "Zeal" once.
Whoops, I spoiled the ??? skill. It's not going to actually come for chapters and chapters, and neither is the Ace Bonus. It happens sometimes. (The "Wild" is in the animalistic sense. It sounds Saturday Morning/Power Rangers as hell, but considering this is a game about a giant robot beating up war and/or aliens, I think that's exactly what it needs.)
VBM Charge is a little flavor curiosity that SRW has been using for a long time. The idea is that Kurara, Sakuya, and Johnny are with Aoi, but their machines only do anything when Nova Eagle uses a sort of "team attack." It happens a lot in games that can't afford squads, and occasionally in squad-based games as well - in fact, two of the three Gravion units used a team attack at some point in Z.
Note Aoi's anemic SP pool. Like Takeru's six-slot Spirit template, this should be an obvious indicator of things to come.
The stage is now proper split into two segments - the Crowe part, and the everyone else part.
The everyone else part is looking a little sketch at the moment, with a good handful of units incredibly far away.
I feel bad for feeling so gleeful when I get to doublesnipe enemies like this.
I didn't even get to, though. It went down in one critical. Crowe might be a little too upgraded, you guys.
We place Crowe in a provoking position and wait.
I'm so glad I upgraded Virtue's targetting stats.
Veda compiles information from all over the world and guides our strategies to the best effect.
Veda gave me this mission, and it instructed me to gather data on that Blaster. I will obey.
Tieria learns Invincible from his kill.
Speaking of low accuracy...
It's not great after Focus, but the machine isn't upgraded, so I can't blame it yet.
The Nova Elephant will cover you from the rear.
Then I'll charge in with my Nova Rhino!
You can't handle that alone. I'll get you in with the Nova Liger.
Whatever works for you guys. This'll be our only fight.
But this is actually a pretty nice machine... here we go, Nova Eagle!
So naive, Aoi...
Anyway, Nova Eagle isn't too impressive.
Setsuna takes out the Leo.
The moment he does, Crowe detects something coming.
It's a couple of bigass ugly machines that the WLF was keeping in reserve. Now they've come out to fight against us.
Tanaka congratulates the VBM team on mastering the the VBMs already. Now it's time to move on to something new...
Aoi yells the code.
And the four machines combine into Dancouga Nova! (Damn. I wanted to do the VBM Charge at least once.)
Tanaka warns them that Nova can only operate for five minutes before its internal temperature rises beyond 100 Celsius, hot enough to boil their blood (and as Johnny says, "Hot-blooded isn't how I work").
Dancouga Nova (Aoi Hidaka, Kurara Tachibana, Sakuya Kamon, Johnny Burnett)
Missile Detonator (8 Ammo)
Metal Fist (10 EN)
Severance Cannon (40 EN, 120 Will)
Severance Sword (60 EN, 125 Will)
Ace Bonus: When the "Go Wild" Skill activates, casts "Zeal" once.
Now that Kurara, Superbum, and Johnny are all in the same machine as Aoi, they're synced and can use their Spirits on Dancouga.
Like Takeru's Gaia, Aoi's Nova Eagle can only initiate formation into Dancouga Nova when she's up to 130 Will. Unlike with Godmars, though, Dancouga has a time limit, which is helpfully displayed on Nova's main info screen. That said, it's an incredibly long timer, and I've honestly never seen it come into play.
Also, we've got Skill Active indicators so we know Aoi's Predict skill, which raises her accuracy, evasion, and critical rates by 10% each, has turned on.
Oh, and the last two weapons are a terrible joke being played on non-Japanese people (maybe Japanese people, too). "Dancouga" can be, and frequently is, written in kanji that, in a terribly roundabout way, stand for "I clear my mind of all and sever myself from sin." Dancouga and some of its weapons are named after the parts of that saying that mean "sever" and "clear mind."
By the way, I think Aoi needs EN Save too.
This is the enemy, the Genocidron Tank. It's big and ugly and has thick skin. There are two of them.
The last two Gundams move up.
Ah, Setsuna still has his second turn, from taking out that terrorist while qualifying for Chain Actions.
I guess they're minibosses of sorts, but they share more characteristics with ships or tanks - slow, powerful, and tough.
Not a terrible position.
Crowe goes back to work, countering both his remaining enemies.
Meanwhile, over on the east side...
All these bodies might actually pose a threat to my time limit. Not the Dancouga one, the hard mode one.
One of the Genocidrons (who named them that? how do you sell machines called that?) moves without attacking. The other tries to cannon Dancouga.
Checking the power output. Absolute Active Generator is stable.
I'll handle the aiming for you.
Perfect. All right, Dancouga Nova, just do what I need you to.
Wait, don't I get a sweet weapon?
Come on! I'll give you a taste of Dancouga Nova's power!
Aoi counters with Dancouga Kick Your Ass Weapon #1.
For a last turn, this is actually quite handleable.
A good first step is to push damage using Lockon's Offensive Support.
Tieria stops all the counterattack damage with his GN Field.
That's one of the nasty targets down.
Next, we use Lockon, whose usefulness as a supporter is basically spent because of his positioning, to take out one of the sad little enemies.
With his two turns, Setsuna deals with the others.
Finally, there's only one enemy left...
Dancouga Nova to-do list: Cannon dynamic kill, VBM Charge.
The SR Point is in hand.
Looks like we're all done here.
The Dancouga team is all awed at the experience of piloting Dancouga.
Lockon's orders from Sumeragi are to follow Dancouga back to their base and do as their commander says.
Looks like Celestial Being's people are already at Dragon's Hive, Sumeragi even coming down from space. It's her habit to meet her partners in person. So basically, Celestial Being and Dancouga Nova are officially a team, and Crowe, being sort of a CB member, is along for the ride. The Meisters still don't trust Dragon's Hive, but Sumeragi assures them that they have something to gain from the partnership.
Tanaka introduces himself to the Meisters as "not the top commander. Just sort of middle management." His boss is the one with the resources to contact the likes of Celestial Being. Speaking of which, Veda has recognized the partnership as well, surprising Tieria.
Crowe asks what this Veda thing is, since Tieria won't shut up about it. But first, Sumeragi introduces herself as Celestial Being's tactician and commander.
Liu-Min is, as you know, one of their agents. This other fellow is Hon-Long, her bodyguard. Crowe isn't terribly pleased to find that he's working for ladies again.
So anyway, Veda is the brain of Celestial Being's operation, a high-power, high-security quantum computer. So high-security that Tieria is absolutely baffled at how Dragon's Hive's leader could make contact with it.
Crowe's next question is about the reactors on the Gundams' backs. It seems pretty obvious to him that Celestial Being's force is based on those devices. Sumeragi can tell him only the device's name: the GN Drive.
Now that CB has spilled a little on some of its secrets, it's Tanaka's turn. After all, Celestial Being's goal is to end war. Dancouga seems to be messing with wars. What brings these two together, when it looks like they're opposed? Why shouldn't Celestial Being consider Dancouga Nova a threat to be destroyed?
Tanaka insists that Dragon's Hive is actually working to the same goal as Celestial Being, in a way, but can't explain why Dancouga always stirs up conflicts by supporting the losing side. He can only say that they have a different outlook on what it takes to end war. If they could at least trust him to cooperate nicely with Celestial Being as long as their partnership lasts?
Speaking of Dancouga, they're still working on the pilots' contracts. In the meantime, Tanaka offers Celestial Being full use of the base's facilities so they can rest and relax. Still, there's to be no relaxing in this uneasy partnership. Both sides have secrets, and neither is expecting the deal to last very long, but we'll see what happens while it does. For Crowe, it doesn't matter too much which way the balance of power shifts, as long as he gets data to sell back to Traia...
Nova Eagle/Dancouga Nova joins the party. See you next chapter.