In our last exciting episode, we got the first official member of our harem party, so now it's time to seek out one more! Ah... all these mustaches... I can't wait~
Though before we do, I want to show a screenshot comparison with the rom hack that I talked about in the last post, so you can see what the changes are like a little bit.
Here's the fight with the demon from the end of Mikhail's scenario introduction, in the original game.
This is what it's like in the fan rom hack. Character sprites are all completely redone to match the official art more closely and add details. Most notably, though, is that the demon is completely different -- now instead of the demon, you fight Kzinssie, a character from Romancing SaGa 2. This is... probably the biggest reason I don't really play the aabeta hack too much, because I want to experience the game for what it is, not with all this crossover content overwriting the normal content...
But once I have played the original enough, I'll definitely try it out more probably. I do want to see all the stuff they put in it.
You can also see some UI differences. There are some changes to the game mechanics in aabeta -- moves have 'combo types' and you can combo them together, and you can change your formation mid-battle, just to name a couple.
But yeah, let's get back to Mikhail's adventures.
Today we're headed to Lance, one of the places we heard about in other towns.
And thankfully, it has a pretty different aesthetic from the towns we've been visiting so far!
Lance is a snow-covered town, which is next to the Holy Emperor's Tomb (the place Harid went to check out after our initial adventures together). It's also the place where the family of the astronomer who predicted the Death Eclipse moved to.
The NPCs here look different, too. We have a lot of winter-dressed people, and all the guys have big beards or huge mustaches. So, I like this place.
And when you walk in the snow, it leaves footprints. The NPCs leave them, too. It's fun.
The talk around town is mostly local -- we learn that the astronomer Johannes does nothing but sleep all day in his 'colorful house' (which looks just like all the other houses). He moved here with his mother and younger sister Anna immediately after the last Death Eclipse. Anna is known for her great personality, and even though she's received a lot of proposals from a lot of men, she's still single and hasn't gotten married.
And that the largest house in town is that of the Holy Emperor's family.
hot mustache dad guy in one of the houses who needs someone to help deliver goods to Yalmas, because recently bandits have been attacking traders between the towns. We've heard a few rumors of why there might be bandits here -- since it's going to Yalmas, maybe it's the Dophorle Firm hiring them. Or maybe they're just regular bandits doing their own thing, since, you know, that's what bandits do.
He'll pay us 1,000 Aurums for the safe delivery, but I don't want to embark on this journey just yet, since we're still looking around Lance, and I already have other plans anyway. But we'll surely come back to this later.
We can also visit the aforementioned Holy Emperor's Tomb, which is like a giant castle thing. This place is massive and there's a lot to explore, so I'm not going to go in there yet. In fact, whenever I've played this game before, I always kept putting this off, so I'm not sure what all is in there. For the longest time I didn't even realize you could recruit Harid, but he's just in there hanging out, so you can go in and get him if you want.
But we don't want. He's a great character and I really like him, but he's not part of the harem party. If only he'd gotten a bit older and grown his mustache... sorry, Harid.
We can also recruit Ellen here! She's another of the Shinon group that escorted Monica. Now we finally know where everyone ended up after the beginning events. I have no idea what she's even doing here. I don't remember her giving a reason for coming to Lance. Maybe she traveled with Harid? Of course, Mikhail doesn't interact a lot with the Shinon group too much, so perhaps her motives are explained in one of the other scenarios. But she's just kinda wandering around and you can ask her to join up with you if you want. Maybe if she had gotten older and grown her mustache... lmao.
And then we have the astronomers' house. Upstairs, we can find Johannes, who is always sleeping in his bed, just like we heard. There's no way to interact with him here, and you can only really talk to him in one specific way that we'll get to soon.
On the main level, we find Anna, who is willing to offer lots of information to us in the stead of her sleeping brother. At first, we only have the option to ask about two things -- ask about her, or ask about Abyss Gates.
If we ask her about herself, she'll get flustered and say something like "Of all the embarrassing things to ask..."
I think maybe if you're playing as a girl, she'll tell you about herself? But if you're a guy, I think she thinks you're trying to hit on her and won't go for it. At least I think that's how it works. I almost never play as the guys and I don't remember her giving this response before, so...
But since she apparently gets tons of guys hitting on her, I don't blame her for having this reaction, even if that's not what we were going for when we asked about her.
So, we can only really ask her about Abyss Gates. When we ask her, she tells us that it's a very long answer, and asks us if we really want to know.
And we do! But before she can answer herself, Johannes runs down the stairs and says that he'll explain the Abyss Gates. I guess it's his specialty.
The first thing he tells us is that it's a confirmed fact that the Abyss Gates were unsealed and opened because of the Death Eclipse.
Comparing the astronomical data his father had recorded prior to the Death Eclipse to his collected data from after the Death Eclipse, he's found that a gap is forming in the positioning of the stars. And according to older books on the subject, the energy from the Gates creates a shift in the positioning of the stars.
The positional shift is only slight, so the Gate Energy must still be fairly weak. However, the Abyss Energy that emerges from the gates is creating chaos in this world. The chance of the Devil Lords widening the Gates is increasing. The Gates need to be closed as soon as possible.
The location of the Gates is exactly where they're said to be in the legends:
Byunei's Gate is at Toughturn Mountain in Loanne.
Aunas's Gate is in the southern jungle.
Forneus's Gate is in the Great Western Ocean.
And Arakes's Gate is in the Devil Emperor's Palace in Pidona.
These locations are the result of his research in astronomy and literature.
And after this explanation, Johannes runs back off to bed immediately.
Sealing the Abyss Gates is the key to completing the game, and this tasks serves as the "main quest." While we know their general locations now, finding their exact locations is quite an undertaking.
We now have more options when we talk to Anna. We can ask her to tell us about the ultimate magic arts, fusion magic arts, and about the aurora.
There are four ultimate magic arts passed down from the Holy Emperor; however, because of the interference from the Devil Lords' energy escaping from the Abyss Gates, using these magic arts is impossible.
If we gather three people who can use magic arts, we are able to create fusion magic arts, but Anna doesn't seem to know the details beyond that.
When we ask about the aurora, she just tells us that it's not visible at this time.
After our long discussion with Anna and Johannes, we head over to the largest house in Lance, where the family of the Holy Emperor lives. Everyone here has purple hair, and they don't really tell us anything interesting. One person just tells us that this is where the descendants of the Holy Emperor live. Another just welcomes us to lance and the Holy Emperor's house.
But importantly, the woman near the staircase tells us that there's a town called Justerm to the northeast. That's great, because Justerm is exactly where I wanted to go!
Justerm is another snowy town, not too far from Lance it seems. It's pretty small. The bar only has one patron -- Get Away From Me Kid. And the bartender has nothing to say, either.
Around town, we learn that we can get to a village called Kidlanto by taking a boat across the Northern Sea.
A stranger tells us that the first Marquis of Loanne Ferdinand and his wife Hilda came from this town. Hmmm, so our roots are from here.
There's also a mage that teaches Genbu magic arts, and... that's about it.
Wandering around, we do find this strangely-dressed man. He asks us if we'd be interested in some work.
Hunting season is coming soon, so he wants to clear out the monsters so they don't kill all the game, as that would cause problems for the people of this town.
We're given the option to agree to help out, or ask how much he's paying for the work.
If you ask how much the work pays, he'll indeed give us a payment afterward. But the game also keeps track of how "greedy" you are with a hidden "greed" counter, and some things won't be available to you later in the game if you are too greedy. Each protagonist starts with a different greed level, too. I don't know what Mikhail's is, but he started with enough extra money from selling his armory, so I'm not going to ask for the reward.
When we agree, he escorts us to the Frozen Lake, which is the monsters' nest. Which means he also joins the party!
This guy is Ward -- yeah, I finally decided to go with the name Ward since I'm making up spellings for a lot of stuff already anyway, and Ward sounds a lot more like a name than Wod.
Anyway, there's not really any more to him than this, he has no story outside of being... some guy who wants to clear out some monsters. But he does have long hair and a mustache, and he's not a teenager or whatever (I think he's in his 30s which isn't old but I'll take what I can get), so... welcome to the harem party, Ward!
He has a really... interesting outfit, and personally I think he's adorable.
I also have a theory that his appearance is based on Gendo Fusanosuke as he appeared during the debut of B.B.QUEENS.
Ward has big Strength and an even bigger Endurance. He's also the only recruitable character in the game who has the Greatsword glimmer type. He starts out with decent levels in everything except Bow, which is fine, since his skill isn't anything amazing anyway.
Generally he's a great tank-like character, looks cool, and has a mustache and unique glimmer type, so you can't really ask for more.
Once you accept the job from Ward, you can only travel between Frozen Lake and Justerm until you finish the hunt. To finish the hunt, you have to find the boss fishie and defeat it.
Frozen lake isn't too big, but it's a fun area. If you stand too close to the water, the fish will actually jump out and attack you. I usually cleared out all the fish from a screen because I was hoping they'd drop fish scales, which is something that is useful later.
Plus, I was hoping to get in a few battles here to power up our characters. Mikhail still only has a level 1 in Seiryu arts and his martial arts isn't that great, either.
He did glimmer this... meditation thing. I don't really know what to call it... it's literally like "Ki-Gathering Method" lol. Basically he absorbs the energy from around him and it heals his HP. This is an extremely useful martial art!
Despite getting into quite a bit of fights, I never got a fish scale (especially since after a few battles, the monster rank went up a little so I could only encounter Seakiller, the shark thing, and Hectopus, a tentacle monster). And Mikhail hardly got any growth at all. His JP never went up, sadly, and he only raised his Seiryu arts level by one. Other than that, he got a couple HP ups and that's it.
I did master quite a few weapon arts across the party, though, including Shadow Sew.
And Sara grew a ton. When I say she grows fast, I mean it. She got a Bow skill level up almost every single battle, and often WP Up alongside it. Her HP still grows slow, but she's already surpassed almost everyone with her weapon proficiency level. And we've hardly done anything.
When you get to a certain point in Frozen Lake, you have to 'jump' to the other side. There are many points in the game where you can jump. Basically, if you run onto a jump point (like, you can't walk -- you have to be holding the run button) your character will jump to the other place. The thing is, you can't always really tell where these jump points are. Here you can kind of see a little ramp, and usually there's some kind of visual clue, but sometimes it's not so obvious.
When you get to the other side, this big fishie comes out. I forgot to screencap its name and have already forgotten it.
Fishie is pretty tough, especially this early in the game. But I figured with all the armor that I have, it wouldn't be so bad. Well, Fishie could still knock out most party members with a single hit, and the others took two hits. So I used Desert Lance formation and put Ward in front, since he's the bulkiest.
I also gave him Just Meet, a counterattack club art that Nora happened to both glimmer and master in a battle earlier. Very lucky! Though I never was able to successfully counter anything the fish did, so maybe it only counters certain types of attacks. But I'm pretty sure Nora glimmered it against a biting attack from a shark or something, and this fish bites a lot, so IDK.
Also, the battle starts out with a water elemental field, which allows Fishie to heal a bit of HP every turn. It's not much, though, but if you're struggling to keep your party alive instead of attacking, it can add up.
The fish also uses this ice barrier art which is pretty powerful. It shields itself with some ice, which sometimes blocks attacks like a shield (it will make a different sound effect than normal when you hit it and the damage will be drastically reduced). And in addition to that, the first person who makes contact with the fish after it does it gets hit with a freeze attack. It took away almost all of Mikhail's HP in a single hit. But fortunately he has his new self-healing martial art.
Fortunately, it doesn't do anything if you don't make direct contact, so using projectile weapons is fine. Nora had already glimmered Tomahawk, an axe art that throws the axe instead of hitting with it. This lets you hit enemies in back rows (since you can't "reach" enemies who have enemies in front of them) as well as lets you avoid making contact and triggering shield and counter abilities like this. Sara has a bow, and for some reason Screwdriver never triggered it, either. Maybe it's not a contact move? And Ward was always in a counter stance, so Mikhail was the only one who had to make contact, and he had a way to continuously heal himself.
I was trying to use Thumbing, a punching art that can potentially blind the enemy, but after a while of not inflicting blind, I gave up and started using spear arts to do more damage.
Another interesting thing to note about this game is that being knocked out doesn't count as some kind of special condition that needs to be cured in a special way. You can simply heal the HP of a knocked out party member, and it will cause them to revive since their HP is now above 0. So using healing or potions on a knocked out party member won't fail like it would in a lot of other RPGs.
So Sara spent a lot of time hitting people with the healing stick, and if Sara got knocked out, I used the potions that I had equipped to other characters. I didn't have a lot, though, and luckily, she only got knocked out once.
It took a while, but I managed to take Fishie out. Mikhail died just before Fishie died, so he wasn't able to get any stat-ups at the end of the battle. So this entire trip, Mikhail hardly got to grow at all... But at least he did glimmer that one art and get a Seiryu level up...
After defeating the big fishie, we return to Justerm and Ward thanks us. He leaves the party, but after finishing this quest, we can now recruit him simply by talking to him, and keep him permanently. So he was only gone for a couple seconds.
So, we've learned all about our main goal of closing the Abyss Gates, and we've recruited the second member of our Harem party~!