Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Ikebukuro, the Ring of Gaea, and Kagome Tower (Shin Megami Tensei IV)

Kaga of The Ring of Gaea
Kaga of the Ring
of Gaea.
Flynn and his samurai buddies have been busy since last we met them. Having finished things up in Shinjuku, they made their way to Ikebukuro so they could bring down the barrier in place there. The first time visiting the region, there were a bunch of people from the Ring of Gaea milling about. Their leader, an intimidating lady named Kaga, informed us that a powerful demon was living there and had created the barriers. If anyone wanted to get in they would need a powerful talisman in the very least. So, it was a good thing that the Ashura-kai gave us one after we helped them out.

It's worth noting that the whole situation in Ikebukuro is pretty complicated and probably could have been avoided. Up until only a short time previous, it was run under the supervision of the Ashura-kai like so many other areas of Tokyo. However, just like in the rest of the city, people weren't too keen on the thuggish way that the group went about exercising its authority. Eventually, they fought back and ran the Ashura-kai out of town. There was one big problem with that, though. With them gone, so went the supply of Red Pills they were distributing and as such the demons in the area were no longer placated. This caused them to run a muck with one powerful demon in particular marking out the city as its territory, and it was she who put up all of the barriers around there. Moreover, things got so bad that everyone abandoned the underground refuge in Ikebukuro. Unlike other such districts where people would be milling around everywhere, this place was a ghost town. Even the bar where the hunters hung out and took up new quests was empty. Things were actually in a pretty bad state in Ikebukuro.

Coming to the barrier once more, talisman in hand, it was a simple matter to bring the thing down.  After doing so, Kaga once again appeared and begrudgingly gave her thanks before telling us to mind our own business because the demon here was a Ring of Gaea matter before departing.  Of course, we weren't going to take her up on that advice and we made our way deeper into the district.

The zone itself was fairly big, but we did have to watch where we stepped as there were poisonous puddles in some places. The area was actually a bit of a hub with multiple exits granting access to other areas of Ikebukuro. We spent some time wandering around seeing where things were before finally coming to the building where the demon causing all of the problems were. It wasn't hard to miss since there was a member of the Ring of Gaea standing right outside.

Looting relics in Ikebukuro
Searching for relics in Ikebukuro.
When we entered we met an elaborately clothed demon named Xi Wangmu. She had quite the appetite and had been feasting on humans since the Ashura-kai left the area. Fresh young samurai in her presence, the demon was rather keen on devouring them as well. With that the fight was on.

I should note that there has been some roster changes of late in my party. Thanks to some fusions I've been able to do I managed to get an Archangel who has since evolve into a Principality. He has a really nice mix of buffs and heals in his repertoire as a deep mana pool, so I've had him replace my Leanan Sidhe on the healing front. Meanwhile, I was also able to get a Bai Suzhen, again via fusion, who has replaced Fortuna. She has a very good selection of offensive spells and I've been using her as a sort of mage in my party. Raiju has stayed put, though. He has a good mix of attack abilities as well as Endure, which makes for a handy free resurrection during battle if things go awry.

The fight itself was pretty interesting, and it took a few times to get a handle on Xi Wangmu. Early on she can't be hurt as she casts a warding spell and all incoming damage only takes off a single hit point at a time. After a couple of turns, she'll starting talking smack as the room fills up with members of the Ring of Gaea. She eats them all and then Kaga shows up and tries to fight her too. For all of Kaga's efforts, she doesn't inflict much damage on Xi before the demon eats her as well. However, despite being devoured, Kaga starts attacking Xi Wangmu from the inside, weakening her and giving Flynn and company a chance to attack and actually inflict a decent amount of damage, hopefully defeating her.

My problem was that her physical attacks were clobbering us. The amount of damage coming in was difficult to deal with. The only time her attacks weren't too terrible was when she did anything Zio-related since those spells didn't hit too hard and Raiju actually regained health from them. Eventually what I did was just have Flynn spam Rakukaja +3 every round to bring up everyone's defense until the scripted sequence with the Ring of Gaea. Meanwhile, Raiju was casting Sakukaja during this period to help boost evasion, and Principality was on Media duty to keep everyone's health up. I had to swap out Bai Suzhen for Ippon Datara during this fight so that we could use Fang Breaker and reduce Xi Wangmu's physical attack damage as much as possible.

Xi Wangmu
The best strategy I've come up with for Xi Wangmu is to use defensive
buffs and bring down her attack power early on, then hammer her with Zan.
This strategy wound up working well. During the opening rounds of the fight everyone's defense got maxxed out as did their evasion. Meanwhile, Xi Wangmu's attacks were greatly diminished due to Fang Breaker being cast on her so often. As such, the amount of damage coming in was a lot less. She wasn't hitting anyone for more than 60 damage usually with her physical attacks, and her electric spells often wound up hitting Raiju which automatically ended her turn since he just drained them. As far as offense was concerned, the demon was weak against Zan, which made things easy since Flynn could just unload with Zan +4, usually hitting for around 400 damage with each cast.

Before long, Xi Wangmu was dead and as a result the remainder of the barriers in Ikebukuro came down. Everyone was eager to head to that bookstore Hikari had told them about, but they couldn't help but feel a little bit sad about Kaga dying. The samurai were also starting to empathize more with the plight of the people in Tokyo, looking at them as humans in a difficult situation and not as the "Unclean Ones" that the clergy of Mikado labeled them as.

One more demon behind us, it was time to return to the abandoned underground district in Ikebukuro where the barrier blocking our way should now have been gone. Sure enough it was, but before pressing on I had everyone hop in the teleportation terminal there for a quick trip back to Mikado to rest and sell off relics we'd gathered. I didn't bother mentioning the fight for this terminal earlier as it was a very easy one that I was able to beat on the first try.

Healed and stocked up on provisions, it was time to head to that bookstore. The area in Ikebukuro where it was located was pretty big and it took a bit of exploring in order to get a lay of the land. Finally we came to the place's entrance. Upon entering, we discovered that there was a fairly large demon domain in place. The enemies here weren't very difficult, though. It was mostly a good chance to score some XP while navigating the labyrinth. Finally we came to a room deep inside where we found the Black Samurai.

Principality
Principality was a nice
addition to the team but he's
since evolved into Power,
who I'm not keen on.
For a time, she talked with the samurai, still suggesting that they didn't understand the situation. When she was finished, the Black Samurai said she was fine with being arrested if that's what the others wanted. However, she also seemed okay with telling them more about the world if they were interested. This gave me a choice between arresting her on the spot and refusing to do so. I chose the latter in the hopes that she would indeed give us more information. Unfortunately, Jonathan slapped handcuffs on her immediately so that she could be taken back to Mikado, shooting an angry glance in Flynn's direction while he did so.

When we returned to the castle, Hugo was most pleased by the arrest as was the king. Flynn and his friends were welcomed back as heroes and given medals. It was also decided that the Black Samurai would be executed. The extreme decision surprised everyone but there was nothing that they could do about it. When the time came for the execution, the Black Samurai was given a chance to speak to the crowd there. She told them that the people of Mikado were living a lie and they had no idea of the truth of their situation. Finally, her mask was removed and her face was exactly the same as Sister Gabby's, one of the ranking nuns of the clergy. The crowd was shocked. Here the Black Samurai said she was fine with being executed because she would be resurrected to continue spreading knowledge in Mikado. Hugo was outraged and ordered her killed immediately. After this, while the kingdom felt they should be celebrating the death of this woman, there was an uncomfortable feeling in the air.

A few days later, Gabby asked Flynn and his friends to come to the monastery, as she had a request to make of them. She wanted them to return to Tokyo and go to the park near Shinjuku on a secret rescue mission. There were some people there that had been captured by demons who were useful to the church. I'd visited the park early and figured there was something there because of a magical barrier along one of the paths. Gabby gave us a trinket that would bring down the barrier and we were on our way.

Arriving in the park, we quickly got past the barrier and continued further in. A short while later we came upon a path that led deeper but it was guarded by a member of the Ashura-kai. He didn't want us passing as the demons preferred this area left alone. If we wanted to get through, we'd need to fight. The guy summoned a very powerful demon before heading off. The thing hit really hard, and even using damage mitigating abilities wasn't a huge help. We just had to figure out it's weakness, exploit it, and hope he didn't get lucky on his more powerful attacks.

Sister Gabby
Been doing quests for Sister Gabby,
but I don't really trust her.
After beating the demon, we headed down the path and found ourselves in an odd looking structure called Kagome Tower. Its walls were a nondescript, glowing red, appearing more like something from a virtual reality room. The demons here could get pretty challenging at times, so I had to make sure to save often.

As the party worked their way up the flights of stairs before them, they came upon a few rooms. In each of them was a human in a cage being guarded by a particularly powerful demon. The first two were pretty easy to beat. Just pummel them with Bufu spells. The third, Asmodeus, was pretty tough, though. He cast a lot of fire spells that hit hard and I didn't have anyone who could resist, nullify, or drain them, so stuff like Hell's Torment proved problematic. Eventually I went with Bai Suzhen since she had a Zan spell (which Asmodeus was weak against), Raiju stacked Sakukaja, and I brought Leanan Sidhe back into the fold for healing. She had an ability that boosted heals and her mana pool was quite deep. Principality had evolved into Power and while he had a ton of hit points now as well as Megido, his mana pool was pretty low, so if he got hit by Spirit Drain he became useless pretty fast. So it was all about stacking defensive buffs while Flynn and Bai Suzhen unloaded with their Zan spells. It was a big relief when Asmodeus finally went down.

With the three people rescued from Kagome Tower it was time to return to the monastery in Mikado. The men all had weird masks on them, blocking their memories and they could only be removed by "kindred spirits" but Sister Gabby seemed to have it under control. She thanked Flynn for the help.

Just like that, though, they had a new mission. It would seem that the Black Samurai wasn't kidding about resurrecting to continue her work. While Flynn was away she did just that, killed her guards, and escaped. The young samurai's new mission would be to hunt her down and kill her, as the clergy didn't want her running around causing trouble anymore. This made everyone very uncomfortable as it totally violated the samurai code, but for now an order is an order and it's back to Tokyo.

Upon arriving in the city again, Flynn was contacted on his gauntlet by Tayama of all people, the leader of the Ashura-kai. He wanted to meet with Flynn to discuss something and said to meet in Shibuya, so that's where we're off to next. There are certainly a lot of factions in play now, and I'm curious who those three people we rescued actually are. For now, though, it's time to see what Tayama wants. TTFN! =)