Part 22: .hack Mutation - //Update 09 - Λ Pulsating Worst Core//Update 09
Are you guys ready for a wild trip? Today's update is even longer than last time's, and shit is gonna get fucked before the end. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First we need to get there. So, without further ado...
We're starting today off in the Hulle Granz Cathedral. There's some more .hack//Sign flashbacks to see. As per before, there are the in-game and anime versions of the flashbacks to choose from!
Video: (ANIME WARNING)
: If it could be done, I'd have done it by now! It is much easier for us to contact the person directly rather than just blindly chasing him around the 'net.
: Silver Knight...
: So. You're the knight the Wavemaster defeated.
: It wasn't him. It was a strange monster I've never seen before!
: Hmm. That's too bad.
: Well... wait a minute. He doesn't mean to do anything wrong. Well, he's doing... He's doing something wrong! But... It's not... Well, what I'm trying to say is...
: *scoff* Just spit it out!
: She means that it's possible that he is also a victim. As much as we all are.
: This conversation is over!
: No, friend. I agree with most of her assumptions.
: Please explain yourself.
: They're gone. Is this a player's memory left behind in "The World" as well? I wonder what they're doing now?
Alright. What we just saw was a flashback to one of the earliest episodes of .hack//Sign. Bear and Mimiru called BT, Sora, Subaru, and Silver Knight together to discuss Tsukasa's situation. Subaru and Silver Knight are both members of the Crimson Knights. In specific, Subaru is the founder and leader, while Silver Knight is basically her right hand man.
The Crimson Knights were an organization that was pretty infamous in "The World" about the time of .hack//Sign. They're effectively moderators - players empowered by the Administration Team to keep peace in The World. The system works a lot like the moderation here on SA - the Crimson Knights try to take care of the "minor" issues that arise, like investigating claims of players cheating, PKing, etc. If something big occurs, then it's up to Subaru to inform the administration team who can handle things from there.
They get involved in things in Sign because Tsukasa was spotted in the company of a cat-looking character. Given that such a character is obviously outside what a player can normally look like, it's of natural interest to them. So Silver Knight asks Tsukasa about the cat character, and he gates out in response. Later, Silver Knight blatantly abuses his moderation power to raise a barrier to prevent Tsukasa from escaping. Once it was raised, he decided to ask Tsukasa again about the cat - this time at the point of a sword. The monster you can see in the anime video above appears and data drains the Silver Knight in response.
This blatant abuse of power is not the last time it occurs, with the best example being when BT, Sora, and Silver Knight conspired to lure Tsukasa into a trap so the Crimson Knights could bind him bodily and take him prisoner. Subaru was not pleased and attempted to stop what was going on. Were it not for the intervention of another character we'll meet shortly, she would have been data drained by Tsukasa's guardian.
More than anything else, Silver Knight is obsessed with justice and doing the right thing as guided by his morals. You can see why all of his actions make sense, but in terms of the narrative of Sign, he is portrayed as one of the villains. Subaru, conversely, becomes one of the central characters and develops the closest relationship with Tsukasa.
That's a lot of words for anime characters isn't it? Let's check out that item we received, the M:Heavy Axeman.
You know what? That was so much fun, let's go back again!
Video: (ANIME WARNING)
: Aaaargh! If you both don't stop right there, then I won't be responsible for what happens next!
: You go on ahead.
: We meet again!
Tsukasa tries to run off.
: Stand still!
: Is this a player's memory left behind in "The World" as well? I wonder what they're doing now?
I mentioned above that the Crimson Knights captured Tsukasa as their prisoner? Well, this is Sora breaking him out of that. Like I said, Sora's an odd one.
However, Crim here is interesting. Like Sora, he's exceptionally high level and serves as his contrast a lot of the time. I also mentioned Subaru being the founder of the Crimson Knights. Well, Crim founded it right next to her. However, he quit the organization when he stopped agreeing with the direction it was taking.
In general, he tries to help new players. Indeed, the first time we meet him in Sign, he approaches Tsukasa, unaware of who he is, and offers to help him because he looks like he needs it. He wanted to help players so much that he found the most helpless player he could and helped her create an organization that would eventually become volunteer moderators.
Oh that's right. Did I forget to mention that when Crim met her, Subaru was a helpless newbie who could barely do anything? Her relative helplessness is a recurring theme with her character.
It should also be noted that she is frustrated with Crim most of the time because he quit the Crimson Knights. Every time she interacts with him, it's a chilly affair. At one point when he talks to her and the Silver Knight, she tells the Silver Knight "You don't have to listen to the insane rantings of an ordinary player."
It would be my guess that she had feelings for Crim, and when he quit the organization, she felt personally betrayed by it.
But enough sperging about anime. We have preparations to make! We're heading into the final dungeon of Mutation, and will require adequate supplies!
We won't need nearly as many of these as we buy, but it never hurts to be prepared anyway. Plus we have the bonus dungeon coming up, with its optional super hard bonus boss!
But before that, we actually need to beat the game.
Dammit! We're short more F-cores.
Back to the large monster grounds, I guess.
I also finally remember to equip Blackrose with the awesome weapon we received from Wiseman.
While there, I had someone confuse an IronBall Mania. Apparently that makes them heal the target of their melee. Who knew? Anyway, not pictured are 15 minutes of killing everything in the field before finding enough cores. So let's just cut to the chase.
: East North South West North - Gates to Paradise will open.
: I guess not...
: Don't smile and think!
This is why punctuation is important. It's the difference between "Don't smile and think!" and "Don't smile, and think!" The exact same number of words, but a single comma completely changes the meaning of the message.
The field was pretty empty of portals. So to the dungeon!
I have to admit, this dungeon entrance is pretty unique. Never seen an elevator type before!
: East North South West North - Gates to Paradise will open.
: I guess not...
: Ahhhh, I hate these things! You deal with it!
Apologies for the double face, but that was two entirely separate thoughts she had, and it simply didn't look right combining them.
As you can see, the dungeon layout is unique. And in the next room...
: East North South West North - Gates to Paradise will open.
Okay at this point she's not just talking to herself. The game has had a voice actor say it three times, and it was written in an e-mail as a spell to enter the Net Slum. I'd say that the directions she's giving are pretty important.
So let's apply them!
North! Gates to paradise will open.
Look closely at the minimap in each image. This is a "Lost Woods" scenario. As far as I know, it's completely unique in all of dotHack.
On the second floor, this is more akin to a normal dungeon. And what a dungeon it is! The first thing we meet out of the gate is a physical tolerant enemy and (not pictured) his friend that will endlessly revive him. Like all good final dungeons, this one is designed for maximum dickery. All the monsters are balls hard and are designed to drain your resources.
Granted, it is funny when a physical tolerant enemy is introduced to a Knight's Bane. Blackrose is quite good at dealing damage!
As you can see, the second floor is no slouch. Lots of hallways, lots of strong enemies, lots of chances to drain your supplies.
The third floor is no better. So as a means of break from this insane dungeon, let's look at our intrepid heroes.
A full party full of level 48 characters with some awesome equipment. We're pretty well equipped for the upcoming task.
On the first room of the fourth floor, we meet a dragon. A Dalaigon Anecdot, to be specific. Look at its tolerance: darkness. Recall that Kite has a Thunder Dance move, and Mistral is now the living conduit for lightning. Guess how this fight went. Go on. Guess.
Luckily, the fourth floor is smaller than the previous two. We get lucky and only need to go through four monster portals on this floor.
The fifth floor is super short. We also find a pair of boots for Kite.
I decide a little more defense and magic stats is worth the loss of some evasion.
And finally we're at the mist door. So one last First Aid command...
That's... not good. Blackrose's speech bubble means she doesn't have any consumable healing items left, and we're about to head into what is most assuredly the final boss of the game. Oh well, nothing for it.
: Dead end...?
: But... it feels strange.
: Aaaaaaaaah... disgusting! What are these things?
: This is... Net Slum?
: Where's Helba? I guess we should talk to the people here.
Alright, I'm gonna give you guys warning now: I'm gonna be making use of the No Picture "talking head" image. In each case it's used, it always goes with the person talking in the last full screenshot. Some of these things are quite chatty. So just be aware of who's talking!
Thea being the TV headed lady next to the gate.
: Isn't it similar to the process of making distilled liquor? I named myself for this reason. Before you ask for help, it is necessary to think yourself. Hence, I do not have the intention of answering your question, "I want to ask about Helba."
: ...you done?
:ducksiren: From this point onward, basically everything is going to be captured in video form. All the major events and beats have been recorded and painstakingly (fuck you Chrome) uploaded for your viewing pleasure. So if you care to watch with minimal commentary, that's certainly an option. Otherwise, just kick back and enjoy the show.
Shit gets real starting here.
: It so happens I briefly heard from her recently. The "Epitaph of Twilight." To sum it up in a nutshell... it is a tale. Or to elaborate further, it is a saga that recounts how the Age of the Spirits came to an end.
: The tale... of an end?
: Indeed. However, the texts are scattered. Even if found, they are extremely difficult to comprehend. Yes. It'll be a very tricky business.
: Say, uh... There's something that's been bothering me. The people around here. They all look so different from anybody I've seen anywhere else.
: This place was once where all the unsuccessful non-player characters drifted. Sort of a sanctuary for failures.
: Some of them simply don't know which category they fall in to.
: Mere memories. Faded reminders of the individuals they once were.
: Yes... the same fate as Harald.
: They're the words of the creator of this world - Harald Hoerwick.
: Well? You wanted to see me?
: "Epitaph of Twilight"... Both of you have succeeded in reaching it as well, I see.
WHOOSH. You know, like the sound wings make.
: Oh, look. We have an unusual and unexpected guest. As a representative of Net Slum, I greet you. Welcome to Paradise!
: You sided with Lios, I see. You cracked so easily for someone who was so sure of himself.
: Don't judge! I'm not like you!
: Stalking the boy is shameful behavior. You've disgraced the name of the Descendant of Fianna.
: What? Balmung... you used us?
: It was necessary to restore order.
: Order? There's an order that the world desires, and then there's the order that you desire. Which form should it take, Balmung?
Looks like Helba's getting through to Balmung. He looks pretty ashamed right here.
: The order that I desire, of course.
: Our featured performer. Now, all of the actors have assembled.
: Quit your yapping, woman! You are entities that unquestionably pose a grave threat to this world.
: What did you do?!
: I haven't done anything. This is her doing. It would appear that she doesn't care for us very much.
: Yes. In other words... this world itself.
Looks like everyone's bailing. Are you guys gonna leave too?
: A leaf...?!
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the Magus phase fight. Magus here is the final boss for Mutation, and is... honestly, he's underwhelming. If Innis was easy, then Magus is babby mode. Click the video below if you wish to get the tl;dr version of its dangerous attacks.
First off, let's cover his pattern. Magus will fly a wide, pretty lazy circle around the arena. See that "15" there slightly beneath it? It's just below the second health bar.
Here's a better view. Those little leaves on the side of Magus will fall off as it flies around the arena. In the time it takes each leaf to fall off, the boss completes one circuit of the arena. Your job is to destroy these leaves and quickly.
See, Magus is one of those infamous boss fights. It's a cakewalk, but only if you destroy these leaves. If you fail to... well, Magus is the only enemy in the entire septilogy that has an instant death attack. The "15" is a countdown timer, see. If the timer reaches zero, Magus will unleash a cute little move called Death and Rebirth.
To note, you have to not only ignore all the leaves yourself, but you have to tell Blackrose to specifically not target them. Basically, the only way you can see that Game Over screen is if you're going out of your way to see it, like I did there.
Let me state that again: to lose against this boss, you have to go out of your way to do it.
Anyway, after it completes a circuit, Magus will sit still and these white particle effects will fly out of its body. As far as I can tell, this is the boss trying to detonate any leaves you may have missed. After the white particle effect show ends, the boss will either continue its rounds, do the smash-into-the-ground move that all the phases can do, data drain someone, or perform Light of Purity.
Yeah, the move hurts. But because it immediately starts flying around dropping the leaves afterward, the move is effectively harmless. As with Innis, putting Mistral on healing duty the entire time neuters any threat the boss may have posed.
Skeith was a proper final boss fight. That fight was tense and you were constantly on the defensive. On this fight, Magus is always so tied up with setting up its instant death move, that it barely remembers it has other attacks.
According to the wiki, in addition to these attacks, it can also make one of your party members slower, and inflict paralysis. Yawn.
Eventually, you protect break the boss.
At 4500 health, the Epitaph Stone version of Magus isn't anything worth writing home about.
:staredog: Or... maybe it is.
Magus is a lot more dangerous in its data drained form. Before while it was worried about dropping leaves, now it's free to cast fairly high magic that it just learned.
In specific, it retained its ability to slam into the ground. It also has the tree ability we just saw hit Blackrose for more than her maximum HP, an Ol Repth spell, and in addition to the statuses earlier (slow and paralysis) it also gains the ability to put someone to sleep.
So nothing too bothersome. You just have to watch for those trees, because whoever it hits is going to die - full stop.
While putting this together, I also just noticed that as the phase dies and that bright green light overtakes it, you can see the epitaph stones lose their inherent glow. Guess it's a pretty good indication that the boss in question died!
And just like that, we've beaten .hack//Mutation. I'm gonna shut up now and let y'all enjoy the ending. Thanks for reading this, and I'll see you guys next time, when we tackle .hack//Liminality Vol. 2 - In the Case of Yuki Aihara.
See y'all then!
: It's... it's falling apart!
Quick interjection: a massive fucking earthquake just rocked the entire game. If you look at the Net Slum skyline, you can actually watch pieces of it flying off into the distance.
: Let's go. We'll head back to town.
Video: (You REALLY should watch this!)
: What the hell happened?! You're kidding me... right...?