Friday, 14 March 2014

Embarking on the Neutral Path (Shin Megami Tensei IV)

Huge the White
We had to fight manifestations of people from the real
world in the Monochrome Forest.
It's been a few days since my last post and with good reason. There is a lot of stuff one has to do once they've locked themselves into the neutral ending path in Shin Megami Tensei IV. Most notably, one has to plough through just about every side quest in the game, which can be very time consuming.

Before I could do that, though, Flynn needed to get himself out of the Monochrome Forest, where The White had trapped him. It was quite a large place, divided into several smaller sub sections. Mapping out and navigating the area took some time as I figured out which areas connected where, as well as learning the hard way which exits actually warped Flynn right back to the starting area of the zone.

In order to get out of this maze, Flynn had to track down for manifestations of The White and defeat them in battle. At first, I thought this was going to be pretty tough, but it turned out to be quite simple since the fights can be won quickly with smart use of spells that reflect physical / gun attack, magic, and light / dark abilities. So, what could have been epic wound up being fairly mundane.

All the while as we fought these creatures, each taking the form of someone Flynn knew from the real world, the White made their disapproval of Flynn's choice to follow the path of neutrality known. It sounds like this has played out several times, and Flynn may well have reincarnated on several occasions, as the White referred to him as their fifth son.

In any case, each of these enemies was beaten, and with that we met up with Stephen once more who further explained that he had to resurrect the Goddess of Tokyo in order to save humans from both the demons and the angels. The first thing that needed to be done would be to track down a deity named Masakado, who was the defender of Tokyo, and a powerful being that would be able to help.

The demon Cernunnos
Cernunnos was a demon we dealt
with a few times during side quests.
With that, Stephen sent Flynn back to his own world and the next thing we knew, Flynn was in the Counter Demon Force operations room again, with Isabeau hovering over him trying to wake him up. She was very distraught, almost on the verge of tears. Since Flynn, Walter, and Jonathan were sent to those other realities by The White things had gotten much, much worse in both Tokyo and Mikado. In Tokyo, demons were pouring into the city en masse thanks to the Yamato Reactor opening a rift into the Expanse. Moreover, the creatures had resurrected their king, Lucifer. Meanwhile, angels had taken over and locked down Mikado, wiping out those they felt unworthy and amassing a huge army with the intention of marching on Tokyo to fight the demons. The world was barreling towards war and things were looking grim indeed.

Looking around, Jonathan and Walter were nowhere to be found. Were they somewhere else? Dead? Did they make different choices and get sent to different realities? Who knows. For now, Flynn and Isabeau teamed up and decided to find a way to deal with the crisis. With no way of getting to Mikado, they wouldn't be able to talk to Hugo or Hope for advice, so the only logical solution left was to head over to Shinjuku and talk with Fujiwara and Skins. They seemed to be the most in the know people in Tokyo, especially now that both Lilith and Tayama were dead. Perhaps they had some ideas of how to deal with the situation.

Arriving back at the Cafe, Fujiwara confirmed that everything was pretty terrible, but when Flynn mentioned looking for the guardian of Tokyo, suddenly Skins was very interested. He asked what the guardian's name was and we confirmed that it was Masakado. This was when Skins explained a lot more about Tokyo's past. 25 years ago, when the demons came, things were looking grim, and I guess somewhere along the way some of the world's governments decided the only way to stop them was to order a missile strike on Tokyo in hopes of obliterating the beasts. However, someone from the Counter Demon Force met Masakado and convinced the deity to fuse with him, forming the huge stone barrier now encasing the city, thus blocking the missiles.

Before doing so, this human entrusted his sword with Skins, seeing as both of them served in the same unit at the CDF. The sword would remain stuck in its sheath until the right person came along. It was understood that one day this hero would be resurrected and be able to remove the sword in a vaguely Arthurian fashion. Skins handed the sword to Flynn, and asked him to unsheath it, and sure enough Flynn was able to do this, confirming that he was the reincarnation of the hero.

Guardian deity Masakado
Masakado can help Flynn but first he needs his powers back.
With that, Skins told Flynn to go to Ginza and look for a large stone in an intersection there. This was the remains of Masakado, and bringing the sword there would awaken him. So that's what we did. Unfortunately, the deity's powers were greatly diminished and it would take a lot of work in order to return him to his former self. In order to do this, he handed Flynn a chalice and asked him to fill it with the hopes of all the people of Tokyo after which the deity was dormant once more.

Popping by one of the hunter bars to heal up and figure out what to do next, the guy running the place informed us that the bars were changing the way the rankings board worked. Instead of dividing it into categories, there would just be one for best overall hunter. It was meant to be a way of promoting a hero for the city that everyone could look up to. The more quests that someone did for the Hunters Association and other people of the city, the higher their rank would be on the board. Hearing this, Flynn and Isabeau thought it would be a good way of filling the chalice for Masakado as well. They'd just have to do all of the quests, get to the number one position on the board, and hopefully they'd become Tokyo's heroes.

Beelzebub lord of the flies
Beelzebub was a right pain in the ass with his
Megidolaon spam.
So, that's what I've been doing, and why it's taken so long to post anything. There are a ton of side quests in Shin Megami Tensei IV, and getting through them all takes quite a bit of time. Some of them were actually very tedious, especially the lower level ones where the enemies were no challenge at all. It actually tried my patience trudging through many of them.

There have been some nice rewards to come out of doing all these, not so much in a direct monetary sense, or through items and equipment received, but in other ways. One quest involved helping to resurrect the goddess Amaterasu who was so grateful for our help that she gave us use of her airship and now we're actually able to fly around Tokyo quickly, which complements the city's network of teleporters nicely as a means of transportation. Another quest gave us access to the most exclusive areas of Ginza, which is helpful for a couple of reasons. First, these places store a lot of valuable relics that can be farmed for big money. Second, there are a couple of shops here with very high end goods that may be useful at some point.

One quest, though, was a real pain in the butt, and I only just managed to complete it. It all revolved around a red knight and a cult trying to revive a dead god. I'd dealt with them once before but the knight got away. This time, his god appeared after we defeated him and we found ourselves fighting Beelzebub. As it turned out, the red knight was the king of Mikado, who had been ousted when the angels came. He was seeking Beelzebub's help in order to get revenge. This Demon was tough.

Rangda demon
I made a Rangda specifically
for Debilitate.
I actually had to make an entirely new team just for dealing with this him. He hits hard, attacks everyone, puts out a lot of status ailments, and has a very powerful almighty attack that he spams three times per turn when he's near death. Basically, there's no way to reflect this type of spell. So, I needed one demon in my group who could cast Debilitate to take down Beelzebub's offensive output (and, as luck would have it, Flynn was able to learn the spell as well via whispers), then, I needed everyone to have as many resists and nulls as possible to limit the demon's moves per turn by negating some attacks. On top of all this, Beelzebub has no weaknesses. So, it was a very challenging fight.

It came down to the wire too. Even fully debilitated, he put out a lot of damage. One demon went down and we were running low on mana from the huge cost of all the spells we were casting. Looking at my resources, I knew we'd only make it another round or two before we were toast, and I'd already restarted the battle so many times because we ran into trouble that I was just hoping and praying that somehow we'd win.

Thankfully, we did manage to get him down that time and the quest was over. It was such a huge relief to be able to move one. Flynn even got a nice sword out of the deal. Returning to the bar to check the leader boards, I'd hoped that Flynn would finally be in the top position, but he's still only number two, so he's got a little more work to do. There aren't that many more quests left on my list, though, so hopefully he'll finish them soon and we can get down to reviving Masakado.