Monday, 10 March 2014

Killing Lilith, Doomsday Reactors, and Alternate Dimensions (Shin Megami Tensei IV)

The Yamato Reactor
The Yamato Reactor
So, the decision has been made. For now, we're taking the side of Order. Flynn and Jonathan are returning to Ginza and will kill the demon Lilith, putting a stop to her plans.

A quick trip in the teleporter, and a walk down the street and we were back in front of The Ring of Gaea's temple. Outside we came across one of Tayama's men, badly beaten up and on the verge of death. Tayama was getting impatient waiting for Flynn, and sent his own men to take care of business. That didn't work out so well. Before dying, the guy told us not to take the main entrance, as it was too heavily guarded, and instead enter via the sewers.

We did this, navigating a small underground area before coming upon a rather large demon domain. The monsters inside were quite strong, but identifying their weaknesses and exploiting them made it easy to plow through them. There were a couple of Ring of Gaea higher ups that tried to stop us along the way as well, but they weren't much of a challenge, and before too long we were outside of the room that Lilith was holed up in.

This proved to be quite a challenging fight, and took a while to figure out a good strategy for beating her. Her regular attacks hit hard, she has a strong lightning attack, and could remove buffs from my party. It took a fair bit of roster tweaking in order to take her down. She's actually weak against gun attacks so I kept my Titan in there since he had Tathlum Shot, so he and Flynn could focus on that to bring down her hit points and get extra moves per turn. Meanwhile, I also brought in Minotaur mostly as a meat tank with decent physical attacks. He was useful since he wasn't weak against lightning and had lots of counterattack abilities. He wasn't going to get huge damage, but he was consistent and his large health pool meant it would take a while for him to die. For healing, I took Clotho, a Femme with very powerful spells. She could resurrect people and had both Mediarama and Diarama. The former was incredibly useful as a massive group heal during the fight. The big problem with her is her hit points are pretty low, so she could go down in an unlucky round. To help mitigate this, I did have Flynn cast Tetrakarn now and then to at least reflect some physical damage. Sometimes Lilith would counteract it with Silent Prayer, but even then that took away one move per battle as she focused on that.

Kiyoharu and Akira
Kiyoharu is a bit eccentric, but overall pretty okay.
The fight still took a bit of luck, but there were opportunities to make it easier since Lilith would stop to talk sometimes, and depending on Flynn's response, her defense would go down. Thanks to some rather fortuitous rounds, we finally defeated her. The demon wasn't ready to give up yet, informing us that Walter was on his way to Tayama's reactor to activate it. Doing so would open a rift to the Expanse, allowing legions of demons to pour into Tokyo. After informing us of this, Lilith died.

With no time to lose, Flynn and Jonathan needed to get to that reactor to stop Walter. On the way we popped by Roppongi in hopes of gaining some intel on what we needed to do. Tayama was gone, having headed to the reactor himself to take care of things. The captured samurai was still there, but he was unguarded. The man told us where we needed to go (head north!), and also gave us all of the security key cards for the lab below Roppongi.

Passing through a tunnel, we came upon the building where the reactor was stored. Along the way, we'd stumbled across some of Tayama's men, all beaten up and close to death. They told us of a young man marching in with his demons, destroying anyone in his path. Walter, presumably.

The reactor was stored in a place called Camp Ichigaya. It was a large facility that took a while to get around because of several doors that could only be opened from one side. This resulted in Flynn going around in circles for a while as we got a lay of the land. Thankfully, XP was plentiful and we got some very nice demons, which made for some great fusion fodder.

After wandering around the place for a while we finally came to an area in the third basement with a massive steel door like one would expect in a vault. Stepping through, we found a nondescript metallic room with a strange device in the center. Laying on the floor before the machine was Tayama, dead. There was a demon hovering over him who mocked the man before disappearing.

Akira the demon
Akira: Adorably not tough.
At that moment, Walter appeared. He was about to activate the reactor, but Jonathan stopped him so that they could talk. Walter reiterated that he thought Lilith's vision of the future was better because it was more meritocratic, so anyone could rise to the top if they worked hard enough. He asked Flynn once more what he thought of it, and I chose to respond by saying that Flynn could see where Walter was coming from, what with both men being Casualries. Jonathan was shocked by this.

Finally, Walter hit the switch and activated the reactor. As it fired up, a portal started to form with what must have been demons gathering on the other side. Slowly everything went black, but then Flynn found himself talking to these strange creatures taking the form of humans he had met. They were The White, and were explaining that the world can work in funny ways and wanted to show Flynn some possible realities.

Then Flynn woke up with Walter and Jonathan nearby. Everyone was in the old Counter Demon Force headquarters in Kasmuigaseki, and all of them had an encounter with The White. After a brief chat, Walter went outside for some air, as did Jonathan. I had Flynn take a look around once more, double checking all of the rooms. Most were still empty with the occasional item to grab, but the teleporation terminal's door was looked. Unable to check anything else, Flynn went outside to see what Walter and Jonathan were up to.

What was waiting for him there was disturbing. There were no buildings, only sand and rubble. It was like Tokyo had been pummeled by several nuclear bombs and they were in some sort of Mad Max future. Walter and Jonathan could hardly believe their eyes.

There was nothing to be done for it, though. The samurai would just have to take a look around and see if they could learn anything. The landscape was one crater after the next, most with nothing in them. Eventually, we did find one with a point of interest, so we decided to check it out. It was another underground city, but as soon as we entered, a large group of humans surrounded the samurai and took them prisoner.

These humans had noticed the gauntlets they were wearing, though, and offered to let them go if the samurai showed the devices to them. A very eccentric man named Kiyoharu was fascinated by them, and had been searching for such devices for a very long time. Eventually, he agreed to let Flynn and the others go if they agreed to help the people of this settlement with a problem.

Pluto made life miserable for the humans of Blasted Tokyo.
As it turned out, the whole situation was very complicated. The city that the samurai found themselves in was Shinjuku. Flynn was still in Tokyo, however it appeared to be some sort of alternate reality. The demon invasion still happened 25 years ago, and the Counter Demon Force still got annihilated fighting them. However, there was no stone dome over top of the city. Instead, Tokyo got obliterated, hence the desolate landscape. The surface had highly poisonous air, forcing everyone to live underground (though Flynn and his friends seemed unaffected), and there were demons milling around everywhere. Also, there were very few smart phones or other devices around that could be used to run the devil summoning program, unlike the Tokyo that Flynn had just left where people like the Ashura-kai and Ring of Gaea had salvaged them and had demons of their own.

The only major human settlement in the area was this crumbled remnant of Shinjuku with Kiyoharu and his friend Akira as the place's leaders. Akira was the person who actually called the shots as he was the more level-headed of the two. Interestingly, he too had been visited by The White, but in a dream. They foretold of people from another world coming to save the humans of this Tokyo. So, when Flynn and his friends showed up, Akira assumed these were the people he was told about. He offered them a remote that would allow them to activate the Yamato Reactor of this world, and presumably they'd be able to return to their own Tokyo. There was a catch, though.

Kenji the king of Tokyo
Kenji, king of Infernal Tokyo.
A particularly powerful demon in this version of Tokyo that was suppressing the humans and was also responsible for the poison. It's name was Pluto, and he lived in a "castle" far to the east of Shinjuku. Kiyoharu and Akira wanted the samurai to go there and defeat the beast, thus freeing the humans here, allowing them to return to the surface. If Flynn did this, he'd be given the remote to the reactor.

As everyone was about to leave, another group of humans came up to them and asked for their help. These people were all that remained of Shibuya, having fled to Shinjuku some time ago. Unfortunately, there was still a demon in their old home that had turned the people there into spirits, and the survivors asked Flynn to go there quickly and kill the creature, freeing the spirits. They then handed over a key that would open up the teleportation terminal door in Kasumigaseki so we could get to the remains of Shibuya.

We wound up taking them up on their request. Walter was in a bit of a hurry to deal with Pluto, but Jonathan was alright with the detour, hoping to be of help. It was a quick trip, and it didn't take long to defeat the demon, but it further emphasized just how bleak the situation was in this version of Tokyo. This Shibuya had no power, it was dark, not a living soul to be seen. Everything just felt so abandoned and empty. Kill the demon we did, though, and after that it was time to head to Pluto's Castle.

Surprisingly, this castle looked exactly like the cocoon in Shene Duque. Upon entering we were jumped by strange mechanical spider things. They were machines made by Pluto to help defend the area, often attacking in hordes. It was easy to dispatch them, though. Heading further into the "castle" everywhere we looked had a vaguely bio mechanical look to it, being not quite man made and not quite natural in composition. The place was really big, too. Flynn had to take a number of passageways and elevators before finally getting to Pluto, not to mention there were tons of demons and mechanical minions that they had to fight past along the way.

When they finally got to Pluto, what they saw was rather unexpected. This wasn't a demon but a robot / computer of some sort. It was programmed to keep down humans by attacking and poisoning them. In fact, it was God who put it there in the first place, so this was the doing of the angels' faction's leader. It was very unnerving for the samurai to learn this.

Girimehkala demon
Girimehkala have a lot of
weaknesses, but can still be useful
in a fight.
Fighting this guy was actually pretty easy thanks to the combination of demons I brought with me. Pluto is weak against ice attacks, so a key part of the fight was to make sure most people had something Bufu-related to cast. I started the fight with Lorelei, Clotho, and Pallas Athena in my group. Lorelei, Clotho, and Flynn had good ice spells in their repertoire, so focused on that to bring down Pluto's health and get extra attacks. Pallas Athena had a ton of support spells, most notably Makarakarn, so I had her cast that each round to reflect Pluto's spells back at him. When Athena ran out of mana I swapped her out for Minotaur who once again acted as a meat tank while using Damascus Claw to whittle down the enemy's health. Any damage that did make it onto the party was quickly healed by Clotho's Mediarama spell. The strategy worked great and it didn't take very long to beat Pluto.

Tyrannical God-bot defeated, it was time to return to Shinjuku and give Kiyoharu and Akira the good news. They were overjoyed and Akira gave Flynn the Yamato remote as agreed upon. Before leaving, Akira thanked everyone and said he'd lead his people above ground again since it was safe now that Pluto was dead. He'd use the demon summoning program to subjugate the remaining demons and build a new land for the humans. In honor of Flynn and his friends, Akira would name the land after their own homeland, and name the new human domain The Eastern Kingdom of Mikado instead of just sticking with Tokyo.

It was then that it dawned on Jonathan and others that they may have actually traveled to the distant past, as the founder of Mikado was actually named Akira. Was this the legendary first king of Mikado? It certainly begs a lot more questions. Was there some sort of time rift that occurred in Tokyo after the demon calamity, sending Akira and everyone far into the past? I'd always wondered how the timelines worked between Mikado and Tokyo because it seemed like the former was centuries old, but Tokyo only suffered its demon invasion 25 years earlier when Flynn first came to the city. The passage of time wasn't adding up. Now, for Flynn and his friends to have possibly met Akira, I find myself even more confused about how the two lands are connected in a temporal sense. Then again, this could just be a possible reality not connected to Flynn's world, as the White had wanted to show him.

There was no time for that now, though. The samurai had to hustle to this world's Camp Ichigaya to use the Yamato Reactor and return home.

Traveling through this version of the facility was a lot easier than the first time around, and it didn't take long to find the reactor and activate it. Unfortunately, the White weren't quite ready to send Flynn home. They wanted to show him one more possible world. Once again the samurai awoke in the Counter Demon Force base in Kasumigaseki. This time, there were demons here, but they weren't aggressive. One actually asked the Flynn to come talk with the place's leader, another person named Akira.

Pallas Athena
My Pallas Athena is a lean, mean
reflection spell casting machine.
Stepping out, we explored every room in the base, and it was far from empty this time. Demons were living here and they had pet humans called Neurishers. The humans were being kept as a form of cattle with a place where demons could insert a straw and drink from their brains. It seemed they were going after similar chemicals as were used in the Red Pills that Tayama was manufacturing. It was a grotesque scene.

Eventually we found Akira, who was the top demon in the base. He gave us the low down on what was happening. Flynn was in yet another version of Tokyo, and it was invaded by demons as well. However, here they kept humans around as food and some humans were even given the option to become demons themselves if they were interested. The top dog in this Tokyo was a demon named Kenji, but he was worried because the White had visited him in a dream, foretelling of humans coming to this world that would kill him. Akira assumed these were the humans in question, which was most fortuitous, as Akira had aspirations of running Tokyo himself. He wanted Flynn et al to kill Keiji, and if they did so this world's Yamato Reactor remote would be theirs. So, if the samurai wanted to go home, they were going to have to play ball with Akira.

Stepping onto the surface of this version of Tokyo was once again a shock for everyone. Instead of the blasted, desert-like wasteland of where they'd just left, the samurai saw a burning Tokyo that looked like a perpetual war zone with fires raging everywhere. It was a world where chaos reigned, and the strong wielded power by defeating those weaker than themselves.

Before facing Keiji directly, Akira wanted to go to Shinjuku in order to take over that region. So we headed over there first (as if we had a choice =p ). Getting there took a while because the world map was different, so the roads were blocked in some areas by rubble. There were also a lot of enemies in the way that we had to fight through, slowing us down further. It wouldn't have been so bad if the demons gave decent XP, but the groups that we encountered were fairly inconsistent, being comprised of both high and mid-level demons. So, some of the battles felt like a waste of time given the relative lack of compensation at the end of them. A few demons begged for mercy, and happily joined our group instead of dying, making for some useful fusion fodder, so I guess that's something, but on the whole the constant fighting on the way to Shinjuku was pretty annoying.

When we finally got to our destination, we saw Akira's true colors. He's a weakling and a coward. He'd never be able to fight demons and survive on his own in Keiji's Tokyo, and he needs the samurai to do the fighting for him. The current leader of Shinjuku had guards there waiting for us, so we needed to fight our way through them if we wanted to enter the city proper. It was a simple enough task, but funny to see Akira talking tough while hiding behind Flynn and his friends.

Femme Clotho
Clotho make for decent
healers mid-game.
The city area of Shinjuku was no different than that of the Tokyo Flynn knew in his own universe: underground, well-lit, with a weapons and items shop, and even a bar. There were areas where we could talk with demons who lived there, and the general layout of the city was about the same as well. There was even a functioning teleporter for easy travel back to Kasumigaseki. Where we needed to go was a large demon's domain in one area of the city. Here was where the current leader of Shinjuku resided and if Akira wanted the city for himself we'd have to go in there and defeat the demon.

Mahamayuri was the name of the demon ruling over Shinjuku, and he was mildly perturbed that Akira and the samurai dared challenge him. This was a world where the strong survived and the weak perished. Mahamayuri felt quite confident that he was on the strong side, so we would have to show him otherwise.

Before facing the demon directly, he summoned a horde of Yaksha that we had to plow through. These things were weak to force attacks, so I had Flynn and Clotho use Zan-related attacks while my Valkyrie and Lorelei attacked as best they could. It didn't take long to beat these guys, after which Mahamayuri attacked us. At this point we had to change tact, as he's weak against lightning. Here, Flynn and Lorelei focused on Zio-type spells while Valkyrie would bounce between various attacks and Tetrakarn to reflect physical attacks back at Mahamayuri. Clotho alternated between healing and casting Tetraja as Mahamayuri likes to cast Hamaon, a light-based instant death spell, and Tetraja completely negates its effects for one turn. This strategy worked well, and before long we were victorious. Before dying, Mahamayuri even congratulated us on a job well done, reflecting the survival of the fittest mentality that dominates this world.

With that out of the way, Akira was happy, and thanked Flynn for the help. He would tell his demon buddies in Kasumigaseki the good news so they could come to Shinjuku now. Also, he would help the samurai get to Camp Ichigaya where they would need to fight Kenji and get the Yamato Reactor remote in order to go home.

So, we made our way to the camp and met Akira at the door. The barriers that were blocking access to most of the facility were down and he wished us luck on our journey. Everyone was a bit worried about what would happen to him after the samurai left. He was obviously not all that strong, something that got people killed in this world. How would he survive after? Akira hoped that he would be able to make the world one where the weak and the strong could happily coexist. Walter wasn't so sure that would be possible, but I had Flynn say it was doable. Jonathan didn't really chime in on the matter, but I could see him smiling in the background when Flynn lent Akira his support.

Touching moment out of the way, it was time to assault Ichigaya, and defeat Kenji. As always, getting through the camp took some work. The layout was more or less the same, but in order to get to the third basement we needed to go upstairs first, and get some administrative demons there to give us access. It was more a matter of navigating the building and talking to some specific people than anything else, but this did help to shed more light on how this world worked. By the looks of things humans here willingly became demons or neurishers, and Camp Ichigaya was where they went to make it happen. I could sort of understand becoming a demon, but the appeal of being a neurisher was beyond me. It seemed like some humans were okay with more or less becoming livestock.

Lorelei demon
Lorelei has been working out well as a mage in the group.
In any case, eventually we found ourselves outside the massive vault doors once more. Passing through them we were standing below the Yamato Reactor again, the remote next to it. As we were about to pick it up, Kenji appeared and said we'd have to fight him for it, and fight him we did.

He was the demon who established the whole order of things in this world where the strong ruled. Kenji is weak to both fire and force spells, so I had to make a minor roster change early on in the fight, swapping out Lorelei for Girimehkala. Valkyrie stayed on for the first half of the fight in order to cast Tetrakarn since Kenji has a lot of physical attacks, and this allowed me to reflect them back at him. Meanwhile Clotho cast her Zan-type spell while occasionally healing. She also did a good job of resisting Ancient Curse (a nasty status ailment spell) later in the fight, which was nice. Once Valkyrie ran out of mana, I swapped her out for Pallas Athena and had her continue casting Tetrakarn for a few rounds. This reflection spell really helped both on defense by heavily reducing incoming damage, as well as offense since it resulted in a bunch of free damage being inflicted on Kenji.

The fight still took a little while to get through, and there were moments where we could talk with him. It was the usual stuff that could either make the boss stronger or weaker, and we did make him weaker. I chuckled a bit when Kenji tried playing possum and realized we weren't falling for it. Finally, though, we beat him and could fire up the reactor.

Once again Flynn found himself in the realm of The White.  Now that he'd seen the two worlds that they wanted to show him, one ruled by order, the other chaos, he had a choice to make.  Would he side with order, chaos, or simply return the world to nothing, thereby preventing either of these other worlds from existing?  The choice was worded to preserve the status quo, destroy it, or return to nothingness.

I chose to destroy the status quo, which made the White angry. This made it difficult for them to place Flynn, and they said as far as they were concerned he could stay in the realm of the White forever. The next thing I knew, Flynn was in a monochrome forest and Stephen appeared before him (I'd been wondering what happened to that guy). He told Flynn that the choices he'd made up to this point were balanced, not siding fully with either order or chaos, and that Flynn had chosen his own path. Now he wanted Flynn to make his way out of this forest, return to his world, and revive the Goddess of Tokyo.

It would appear that I was successful in unlocking the neutral ending path in SMT IV, so I'm pretty happy about that. So next thing on the agenda is finding a way out of this forest and going home.