Sarasvati is our lowest level ally. She's not trash by any stretch of the imagination, nullifying ailments is a huge deal and several of her skills never really get outclassed. But given her relatively low HP and largely obsolete damage spells, I'm finding it difficult to justify ever putting her in the active party. I'd have fused her long ago, but I don't want her to turn into something too unbecoming of our oldest friend. And that's been limiting our options.
That said, now that I've given the issue some thought, I think I got a good solution. After spending 21700 Macca on a Compendium summon...
Sarasvati + Valkyrie =
: You're literally glorious.
: It does feel good to have wings again!
Lv38 Deity Horus
In Egyptian mythology, Horus is the falcon-headed god of the sky, royalty, war, and hunting. He's easily one of the ancient religion's most important deities, to the point where Pharaohs were said to be either his descendants or his outright incarnations. Legend has it that Horus was born to Isis and Osiris, respectively goddess of health, marriage and wisdom, and god of life, death and afterlife, but only after the latter had been murdered and dismembered by chaos god Set, then put back together and resurrected by his loving wife. Sources do tend to disagree about whether Osiris' penis was his original equipment at the time, or if it had to be replaced by a magical golden simulacrum after the real one had been thrown into the Nile and eaten by a catfish.
The legends don't seem to spend much time detailing the subsequent exploits of the catfish that ate a god's dick.
*: Good Lord is Mana Refill a pain in the butt to pass down. Seduce and Soul Recruit will be largely ineffective, but Horus will learn a bevy of useful skills that will quickly replace them. Most importantly, he naturally learns Dekunda, plugging a long-lamented hole in our tactics. And Watchful will make sure he levels up to learn it even if we go to places where both Charm and Petrification are maybe not so great.
So. Our leads. We have no idea how to reach the Diet building, the hidden temple full of Magatsuhi is, well, hidden, and if the Manikins want to come up with a Reason, more power to them. Which leaves us with Hijiri and Isamu.
Which means we go to the Amala Network again.
> Will you use the terminal to go after Hijiri?
Out of options. Let's go.
> You used the terminal.
: What are you doing here?
*: Oh boy. No "I came to take out the trash" option. Hmm. Well, if nothing else, Hijiri's the one who offended us most recently, and Isamu had the decency not to make him track him down this time, so let's go with...
: I wanted to see how you're doing. Hijiri seemed to think he had killed you, so, you know. Old times' sake and all.
: Thanks... I really appreciate it.
: Come on, dude, don't even. Please.
: I'm just about ready to perform the ceremony to summon the god of Musubi. If you wanna help, come to Amala Temple with me. It's just down this passageway.
: Sure, I'll, uh, help out. Lead the way, buddy.
: ...Don't keep me waiting, alright Francois?
: I don't have anything better to do anyway, don't worry.
*: We're left in a round Anomaly, with no path behind us. Welp, let's see where this goes.
Wow, the exit already. This can't possibly be this simple. Unless Isamu decided to make this easy for us.
Waaaaaait a minute...
: Oh, you pissant.
: Got nothing better to do either, huh?
: I FIgUreD iT oUT. KiLL aLL wHO geT IN mY wAy... YoU aRe LikE mE.
: In your dreams.
: Yeah, I don't think that's how it works.
: What an unfortunate creature.
: It's quite pitiful, really.
: I don't know why you'd waste pity on a wretch like that.
: I... don't think it's even able to know better. Is it?
: NO, IT IS NOT.
: It dies in hatred, it is reborn in hatred. Demons do not change.
: Damn, it's like it's stuck in this horrible feedback loop. Can't you guys do something about it?
: You... you're death, right? End him.
: The power to break this cycle has not been granted to us.
: Cripes, this is messed up. I'm not even mad anymore, this is just depressing.
: Your desire to free it is meritorious, but it is not your place to do so.
: Maybe it's just looking forward to fighting you. Think about it this way: it's spending all this time floating around in here, not doing much. Trading blows with you must be the highlight of its day.
: So I'm doing it a favor by punching its face in?
: I never said it wasn't crazy!
*: This time around, the Specters know Last Resort, Dekaja and a version of Gathering that they can use mid-battle but will only summon one copy. They still reflect magic and nullify most ailments, which means that group-targeting physical skills are the order of the day. However, they're in no way immune to Curse ailments, and it appears that the Curse damage of Black Rider's Soul Divide works despite the magic reflection. If I didn't restrict myself to reading up on bosses only after I beat them, that would have come in real handy.
Hmm. This is... Roppongi. I've been here before of course, but, not since...
*: We've just arrived in the bottom section of the Vortex World for the first time. We popped in the middle of a nondescript wilderness so there's no obvious way back, but that should be remedied to when we find our next terminal. There's an enterable structure in the northeast, but I'd like to investigate the currently accessible areas first.
Oooh, Sati finds a Soma here; I almost forgot she has Lucky Find on.
And that's all we can access for now. The area with the Cube in the middle right is inaccessible from here, but the nearby Cube earns us 5000 Macca. Along the way, Hanuman learns Endure, replacing Stone Hunt.
It's hard to tell from just a screenshot, but the structure in this crater here has three pyramids in the north, west and east, and a fourth, inverted pyramid standing on its tip in the center, slowly rotating clockwise. That's definitely not original Tokyo architecture.
Once more, I don't know what I expected, but I certainly didn't expect this. I should just stop expecting things altogether.
*: There are no encounters here. Once we reach the crossroads near the other end...
: Hey, you're doing interesting stuff.
: Well, it doesn't matter to me anymore what you're thinking. But, if you're for Musubi, I've got the perfect job for you.
*: Ah, there's a large Terminal just to the side here, excellent. We don't need to heal or anything yet, but it's good to know where our lifeline is.
*: This short "cutscene" normally wouldn't merit a video, but... look at this place. Dang. The actual geometry is beyond simple, but the feel of it is... It's almost reverent, like it's a place of primal significance. I don't know how you could possibly improve on this landscape with modern rendering technology. When I started this LP and saw how good the game looked, I immediately thought to myself "the Amala Temple is going to look amazing", and my expectations are blown out of the water.
Hmm, the floor tiles here look exactly like the walls of the Amala Network.
I'm not sure if it's just a reflection on the still waters, but the pyramids at the edges seem to have inverted versions of themselves underneath.
: Don't let Isamu know, but, uh, no.
: Well, guess what? I can care less!
: DOES HE NOT MEAN...?
: Yeah, I know, I know, but don't waste your time.
: All the Magatsuhi from the Amala Network comes from here. This is probably the only place with this much Magatsuhi.
: I'd be surprised it's untouched so far, but since you can only come here through the Network itself...
*: We run into more Sparna here. Interestingly, the battle music here is the same as in the Amala Network.
: Haha, hahaha, you have no idea. Here. Have a dozen.
: Thank you very much!
> Sparna is happy.
: I can offer you this.
> You obtained 640 Macca.
: Apparently, yeah.
: This place has got lots of Magatsuhi. Plus, no one else knows about it. That makes it the perfect place for Isamu to summon his god. But first, we have to defeat the three demons in our way, so we can get our hands on the Magatsuhi. This is for the sake of Musubi. Good luck!
: Isamu's gonna make you do all the work, isn't he?
: Yeah, pretty much.
: You give any thought to, uh, not doing it?
: Isamu's not alone, there's definitely some serious power backing him up already. His crew would find a way sooner or later.
: At least, if we're here as it happens, maybe we can find a way to sabotage him.
: That's the plan!
: IT SEEMS... FOOLHARDY.
: The only reason we even found our way to this place is because he thinks I'm sort of on his side. I have a feeling we won't be able to get to the bottom of this if he figures out I just want to kick his ass.
: Could it be that, somewhere, you think you can talk some sense into him still?
: ...we've lingered here long enough. Let's go, before someone hears.
*: The spirits around here have an orange aura instead of the usual blue, so they're clearly Network dwellers.
There's a small pyramidal indentation in the floor here, right underneath the floating inverted pyramid. It must be intended to come down at some point.
Alright then, let's start in the middle.
*: We get in a fight with three Dominions; maybe they're Yosuga scouts. Hmm...
Cripes, even the Fairies are here now. Maybe some Musubi follower had loose lips.
*: Nocturne's soundtrack has largely been on my music playlists continuously for a decade, but going through the actual game again, it's a genuine pleasure to come across pieces that never made it on the CD release and that I basically haven't heard since the last time I played all those years ago.
The door in the middle leads to an empty square room with see-through wall. There's a strange pillar of light back there.
Lv55 Jirae Gogmagog
Gogmagog is a mythical giant of British folklore, said to be one of the last giants slain when actual humans settled Britain. Cornwall had been given to the legendary hero Corineus to rule over; the native giants weren't going to take that affront sitting down, so they organized a raid on Corineus' troops. They did kill a bunch of people, but they were all exterminated except for their leader Gogmagog. Long story short, Corineus and Gogmagog wrestled for a bit because apparently that's what you did with prisoners of war at the time, then Corineus threw his opponent off a seaside cliff, causing him to die upon hitting the craggy rocks below. That certainly set a lasting precedent regarding Brits sailing someplace and fucking up the locals.
*: We also run into Titans in here, which are generally amenable to discussion.
This eastern area has a small terminal and a room with two Life Stones inside. The terminal is labeled Amala Temple D, so you know this place ain't kidding.
Entering the first door on the western side, ostensibly to a room with two Cubes, teleports us back to the room with two Life Stones. Of course it would have been foolish to expect this to be straightforward.
This groups gets a surprise round and exploits Titan's weakness to electricity to devastating effect. I don't even want to risk fighting back from this; we use a Smoke Ball and reorganize our crew. Sati stays because the Gogmagogs are weak to fire, I get Sparna in because the Phantoms are weak to Force, aaaaaand I get Black Rider on board, mostly for Prominence but also because he'll learn Mana Aid on his next level. I'm not too worried about MP for now, there's an almost literal hub in this dungeon and we should never be far from a recharge.
Famous last words? We'll see.
The westernmost door takes us to a small room near the entrance, and going east from here returns us to the central room with the see-through wall. Going back and heading north instead takes us to three more doors... Welp, I want to hit every dead-end anyway, I guess there's no sense complaining.
Hmm. Now I wish I had taken the other one, I still haven't reached those two Cubes.
: Man, I wish.
: There's plenty of Magatsuhi here. It's just a matter of time. Shijima and Yosuga are too busy looking for Magatsuhi. ...Well, I've been busy here, though.
*: A sneaky chest hidden in the northwest corner of this room contains a Soma. We get into a few fights waiting for full K, and dang, is God's Bow basically amazing or what?
The eastern door takes us to the southeast. Yay, woo, etc. The western door sends us to the northeast; I sure am glad I can't help but take notes. Reaching the central northern room at last, we check the Cubes... and the first one is a fixed battle against three Legions.
Did I mention God's Bow is rad? They do manage to Mamudoon Sati, at which point I realize she's our only Recarm caster. We have 10 Revival Beads, fortunately.
...the other Cube in the room contains a Revival Bead. Ha ha.
We're getting real close to this pillar, but the nearby door just makes us backtrack some more.
Okay, from this room here, the northeastern one is the only one who takes us anywhere towards progress. Now to find out what's up with the southeast corner.
Ah, that was from the southeastern room. We'll get to the other two later, we're still missing a couple Cubes.
So that's a sort of elevator then.
Daaaaaaamn son. Ooooh dang. So rad.
The White Temple doesn't even have the courtesy to only warp us around when we use doors anymore. This is really a complex teleport maze at this point, I'm gonna spare you the details before you fall asleep.
Or, rather, lessee...
The green numbers are teleporters, the red numbers are destinations. There's a Chest with a Chakra Pot in the room with the red 6.
There's clearly a Cube on the eastern side of the cross here but I have no idea how to get to it. Unless...
Gah! If you go north from destination 4, then south again instead of east, you get taken to the eastern corridor.
Hmm, I remember this being pretty special...
Ah-ha! It's a free, reusable Mahama. Nice!
We're ready to proceed, at last.
We could turn back, but... after all this hassle? Nope.
Entity Albion, Zoa Tharmas, Zoa Luvah, Zoa Urizen, and Zoa Urthona
Back in the 17th Century, this English poet named William Blake decided to invent his own mythology, which I have to assume was the fashion at the time, combining Biblical concepts and various other religious ideas from around the world. Anyway, Albion is a sort of Adam figure, a primeval man said to be "originally fourfold but was self-divided", which I'm sure makes perfect sense to someone out there. I'm not sure of the details, but this Albion fellow at some point was split off into four distinct aspects of his being, which is to say the four Zoas. Interestingly, there seems to be a fair deal of similarity between this, and the Shinto concept of the Mitama.
The Entity race comprises deities or powerful spiritual creatures that are no longer worshipped or have for some reason been relegated to the margins of history. There are very few Entity demons in the series, and in fact Albion is the only one in Nocturne.
Zoa is a near-unique race that is only ever comprised of Tharmas, Luvah, Urizen and Urthona. It's so specific that in Imagine, they're actually lumped together with Albion as Entities.
*: Albion is mostly a strong physical attacker, with no special immunities beyond the typical boss ones; it's geared up with Stasis Blade, Guillotine, Hades Blast and Heat Wave. However, he also has the unique Conjuration that summons the four Zoas, which he uses automatically if he is alone, even if it's during his opponent's turn.
The four Zoas are each aligned with one of the basic elements, reflecting their own and being weak to their opposite, on top of the standard boss immunities. They know both appropriate -dyne spells, as well as a special 0 MP cost Samarecarm which they are guaranteed to use if it's their turn to act while Albion is dead.
Essentially, you want to finish off all Zoas and Albion in one turn, making sure that you don't save Albion for last. That said, Albion won't summon up his buddies if there's at least one left, so you don't have to make your life as difficult as I made mine by keeping all four Zoas alive. "Difficult" is a relative term here, of course; the sole hitch was Zed getting Bound for a bit. Besides, none of them know Dekaja or Dekunda, so we know where that leads.
It's important to note that Albion and the Zoas have a very distinctive slouching animation when they're low on HP, so it's not too hard to tell when you're close to killing one. It's just a question of not hitting them so hard that you kill them before they have a chance to change their animation.
Adama's the upgraded electrical Magatama; notably, it's the only one we have that outright reflects an element. Its first skill is Bolt Storm, which is a straight upgrade to Shock.
Oh, and I almost forgot...
Lv57 Lady Parvati
Parvati is Shiva's second wife, being in fact the reincarnated Sati. She's the goddess of love, fertility, devotion and divine power, as well as Ganesha's mother. She's moderate and peaceful when her husband exercizes his nature as the god of destruction, and she's the one who calms him down when the time for quiet returns. However, according to some traditions, the major Hindu goddesses are largely different aspects of a single being, and when enraged, Parvati can take the form of Kali, the goddess of death, and it is then Shiva's duty to bring her back to serenity.
The room is otherwise empty, but for a Zelda-style pillar of light that teleports us outside. Welp, two more to go, but we better go heal up first. The trip to and from Asakusa is uneventful, and we soon find ourselves heading for the western pyramid.
This one is the Black Temple. The layout's a little different this time, and a Cube at the entrance surrenders a Light Ball. Can you guess the gimmick?
If that's as bad as it gets, this'll be a cinch.
: Now, I can finally look face-to-face with my darkness without being bothered. I wanna stay like this until Isamu's Reason is conceived. Don't bother me...
*: We can reach the pillar in the back right away, but I don't want to leave all these doors unexplored.
Hmm, there's already a different assortment of foes than in the White Temple. That's a shame, I wanted to recruit a Gogmagog. For... reasons. Loki can be a hassle to kill because he resists both physical and magic damage, but, well, God's Bow.
Lv55 Snake Quetzalcoatl
This would be the famous feathered serpent god from the Aztec pantheon. He's known as the Lord of the Morning Star, and is said to have invented the Aztec calendar and to have given corn to mankind, which may not sound like a huge deal but actually is one. He co-operated with night god Tezcatlipoca to kill the gargantuan primeval crocodile whose body they would later turn into a continent.
*: We find the Small Terminal A in the southeast corner here. So far this seems like a fairly unremarkable set of rooms that barely qualifies as a maze. Maybe this is only a real problem if you don't have light.
A Cube in the southwestern corner gives us our first Megido Rock, which causes a fair amount of Almighty damage to all foes. There's a Mystical chest in the northwest; we reach it just as full K ends. While we run around, White Rider learns Mana Aid, his last skill. At this point he can use God's Bow once per fight and still come out with one more MP than he had. It's too bad I want the others to gain experience too.
And the Chest has a Luck Incense, excellent.
Oh, hmm, this second pillar leads down. So there is an inverted pyramid here after all. Let's head below for now.
This is a small empty room. We can see a Cube through a transparent wall, but there's nothing else to do, so we head to the second floor instead.
It... looks pretty much like the first.
There are four doors on each side, but they're all closed. On a hunch, I let our light run out and try them again, but no dice. There's a pillar leading to the third floor from here though, so we're not screwed just yet.
I don't like this. I'm not a fan of floating orbs of darkness to begin with, but it's been otherwise too easy.
*: A... black torch?
> Will you put it out?
Eh, yeah, sure. The thing's kinda creepy lookin'.
*: That's the eight doors for sure. Let's go back down and through the southmost door on the west side.
Hmm. My first thought is that a pit in one of those rooms would take us to the basement, but there are no matching pits in the ground floor. Welp, let's jump off and see.
Yeah, that's not a new area at all. Maybe there's something different in another room. There's another pit in the northmost door on the east side, and it's right above a similarly-shaped room on the ground floor. Could we possibly break through?
Bingo! And right next to a Chest with a Soma, too! The only way out takes us to the original basement pillar, but at least now we know what we're doing and it's not too much hassle to climb back up.
Judging from the location of the Cube we saw below, I pick the second northernmost door on the west side this time... but it's an empty room with a spirit in it.
: It's like we're in a crypt.
*: The last remaining western door drops us to where we wanted to be; the Cube only contains a Bead, but those are handy so I can't complain.
Zed levels up and refuses to learn Mana Aid from Satan. We find the small terminal B at the southern end of the first basement...
...as well as this suspicious door. Better check out the rest of this floor if we can, though.
None of the other pits above would take us anywhere new, but maybe there are other spirits or chests back there.
Aaaand there are not. To the altar, then!
Aciel is a prince of the underworld, his name meaning "black sun"; he was originally fron Babylonian mythology but was apparently later recycled in Judaism as the ruler of Gehenna, a place of punishment for the wicked in the afterlife.
*: Man there's got to be a better way to do this. I'm sure I could do better in a rematch knowing exactly what I'm up against, but hey, we won, it's good enough.
Aciel has the typical boss immunities, except that he reflects Death effects, and at this point if it occurs to you to use a Death effect on this guy, you deserve whatever you get. The immediately obvious show-stopper here is Sol Niger, which reduces your entire party's HP to 1. I'm pretty sure it's an Almighty effect; I've never seen it miss or otherwise not work. If you factor in Dragon Eye and Tempest, that's a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, he does spend the entire previous turn using Mana Drain as a warning sign, so you can see it coming at least, and prepare for the follow-up physical attacks. It took me a shamefully long amount of time to realize that, and it sure would have saved me a bunch of Tetrakarn casts.
The Mana Drain itself is only for show, as he has like 2000 MP to work with and Sol Niger costs nothing. He knows both Dekaja and Dekunda, so if you want to buff up or debuff down, you better be willing to start from scratch a few times.
Alright, one more down. We go on a healing trip again. Or, no, wait, I forgot those two Cubes in the White Temple. I'll try and get them now before I forget, then we'll go heal.
A Gogmagog joins up for a pittance. Huzzah! It's good to have a physical-immune ally again.
Alright, from the southeastern set of rooms, take the northeast door... for a Medicine and a Bead. Welp, at least it won't bug me anymore. Let's hit the fountain.
Aaaaand back in the saddle. Eastern pyramid, here we come.
This is the Red Temple. We run into a pair of Yaksini right away, so that's another set of foes.
: She sucks the blood of intruders in her World of Shadows. Beware the shadows...
: Let me outta the World of Shadows! It's full of traps! It hurts... Ow! L-Light gets me out! But, where is it...?
*: There is in fact a big ol' shadow right across the path to the elevator pillar. Maybe we should find an alternate route.
We find a giant pillar of light in the southwest corner. I see what's going on here: this must be the way back if you mess up. I kind of wonder if there's any loot in the World of Shadows, but I'm sure we'll get there by accident at some point.
Lv52 Femme Dakini
Important figures in Tibetan Buddhism, the Dakini are female embodiments of the drive towards enlightenment. They are teachers and protectors, and in the shared mythology with Hinduism, they serve the death goddess Kali and carry the souls of the dead towards the afterlife.
*: A one-way door in the northwest leaves us with no choice but to step in shadow. Dick move!
Oh dang this is creepy stuff. Still, it looks like a copy of the regular floor, so we can pop a Float Ball and beeline for the closest light.
The northern part of this floor has a hallway with five doors. Of course they're all one-way and four of them take you to inescapable shadow, yay. The correct one turns out to be the fourth one.
: I passed by here already. I dodged all the shadows. How come I can't make it upstairs?
*: We find ourselves in a rectangular room with four doors, not counting the one we came from. It's a pretty safe bet that we'll have to step in shadow at some point, but I want to do some recon beforehand if I can.
Oooh, terminal C. That should be the last one, unless there's another in that inverted pyramid afterwards.
Yeah, just north of the terminal is a room with one door in light and another in shadow; the correct path is probably the most dangerous one. In fact, taking the lit door leads to a pillar of light and returns us to the central room. Taking the eastern door from there drops us directly in shadow.
The spot where the pillar up should be is just an empty hole in the Shadows, so we'll have to find a light that doesn't shut us out of this area.
Alright, so. Once you make it to the pillar near the northeast corner (one "tile" southwest from the corner), you can proceed back north, east and south all the way to the pillar area, though you're faced with multiple choices of doors that risk dropping you in shadow again. But the area is pretty small and you don't have to go a long way if you mess up.
In Norse mythology, Skadi is a Jötunn giantess and goddess, associated with hunting, winter, and mountains. She's not of divine origin herself, but she ended up married to two different gods, including Odin, who fathered many of her children. The gods killed her father, and to compensate her for her loss they allowed her to choose one of them as husband, on condition that she could only look at their feet when making her choice. She picked the most handsome feet, thinking they'd belong to Baldr, the god of love and purity, but in fact they belonged to the sea god Njoror. In the end, neither could stand to live in the other's abode, and they split up.
*: Man that was a king-size bucket of fail right there. We haven't seen a pyrrhic victory like that since the first Dante fight.
On top of the standard boss immunities, Skadi absorbs physical damage. She knows Rakukaja, Dekaja, Dekunda, Thunderclap, Mazandyne and Makajamon, but that's all practically harmless filler in comparison to her actual threats: Dragon Eye, Tarukaja, and Earthquake. Earthquake is an extraordinarily powerful physical damage skill, with the unusual quirk of being unable to crit. Still, basically, if you let her buff up and you're not somehow immune or at least resistant to physical damage, she kills you.
In any case, my two main mistakes were not realizing that Earthquake was physical at first, and then underestimating Skadi's potential damage output and therefore neglecting my defense. I do like how I managed to recover towards the end there, because at the point where Zed was alone, I was pretty sure this was gonna turn into a failure vid. Once Earthquake is properly managed, it's just a question of executing on your usual strategy against physical immunes.
Alright then. If we're going to sabotage Musubi, it's now or never. Though I suppose Hijiri will have plans of his own.
*: At any rate, we're in far too bad a shape to do anything about Isamu right now, so it's another trip to Asakusa for us.
: Isamu will soon be able to summon his god!
*: And we're back.
Now, how do... we get inside?
> Will you enter the central temple?
Does the pope take a deuce in the woods?
: Yes, but very rarely.
: What are you even doing here?
: So bored. You have no idea. What's going on? Is this Egypt?
: I won't bother explaining, just strap in. The Serious Business is about to go down.