The Vanguard Murder Case

With our terrible financial management skills shoved to the side, we move on with the actual game to try to continue building our harem party.

There are many new places open on the map, but we're going to head back to Pidona and take another boat we haven't taken yet -- this time to Zweig.

Zweig is small and there's not much to see here. In the bar, a man tells us that he's heard rumor of some strange animals appearing in the area. If we happen to catch any, he will buy them from us.

I also found this person sleeping in the back of the weapons shop??

For some reason, it's always the children in the towns that say stuff about how their town or government is the best in the world. They really push the "patriotic" propaganda on kids in this world or something.

I found another agent and acquired some more businesses here. I noticed something else about this game, and figured out when exactly it ends. The red and blue bars in the background constantly 'push' against each other, and your goal is to push the blue bars all the way to the side so the red bars get pushed off the screen. As long as your bid is the highest at the moment, you'll be pushing the bars in your winning direction, but you can also use your negotiation arts to possibly make it go faster (or slow it down, if you're losing).

And other than that, we also heard about a genius who is living out in the woods nearby. This opens the woods on the map so we can go there. But we're not going there yet -- rather, we're going to head back to Pidona and catch another boat, this time to Vanguard.

We get a little additional part of the "riding the boat" scene to go to Vanguard -- we have to take a little boat to get to the port, because it's small and up against a cliff, where a big passenger ship like we've been riding on can't really reach.

When we arrive, we actually enter the side of the cliff and take stairs up into a building, and the exit of that building leads into town.

Vanguard is a pretty cool place. it's on some narrow land, so both the east and west sides of the city are cliffs overlooking the ocean. To the north and south is land, so you can exit from there, too -- you don't have to take the boat back.

One of the kids in the town says something kind of peculiar -- he says the idea that Vanguard can move is just fictional, like most stuff in stories about the Holy Emperor.

Another townsperson tells us about the city to the south called Moses, which has been divided in two (get the name?) between two mages in control.

There's this tower in the center of the town that has... a door? Really high up?

Someone else tells us that the mayor of Vanguard calls himself the "Captain" of Vanguard. I think this is a hint that is supposed to go along with the kid talking about how people think Vanguard can move...

Someone else tells us about how if you keep going west and west and west you'll eventually reach the end of the world, and he wonders if anyone has ever been there to see it.

In the bar, a patron tells us that the master of the bar suddenly came into a bunch of money shortly after the Death Eclipse, and used it to open this bar. But it's a mystery how he suddenly got so much money.

If we were able to talk to the other bar patron, he would tell us that the bar master is terrified of dolphins, so much that even hearing the word dolphin makes him jump. But we can't talk to him, because he's a business agent, and so talking to him now just opens up the company minigame instead. But I just remember this from other playthroughs because it's funny.

I accidentally walked out of the southern exit of the town and then back in, which entering the town from land instead of boat triggers a scene. I didn't intend to do this yet (though I was going to do it soon...)

We see a couple sleeping in bed, and the man hears a noise. He gets up to go and investigate... but then we see a monster dragging his bloody body back into the house. The monster tosses the body into the bed, to which the woman wakes up and slowly realizes that the body is covered in blood. The screen fades out and we hear a scream.

If we visit the house where they were, we find blood splatters everywhere. This was... kind of intense the first time I saw it lol. I wasn't expecting anything like this from this game.

I didn't go in here before accidentally leaving the town, so I don't know what those two people said if you talked to them.

Everyone in town just wants to gossip about the murders now. The fact that there's a murderer on the loose in Vanguard has everyone riled up. From talking to everyone, we find out that the murders only seem to occur at night.

Going to the inn after hearing about this causes you to wonder if the murderer is going to strike again tonight. Instead of the normal inn-healing jingle, there's a bit of silence and then a creaking sound when the screen goes black.

Everyone jumps up to ... surround Nora. Mikhail scolds her saying she should use the toilet before going to bed.

The screen fades out again, and we hear a different kind of creepy noise this time...

Jumping up, we catch the monsters by surprise. There are four, but we manage to kill one with the surprise attack!

The appear to be soldiers of Forneus. They aren't too tough, especially since Sara can easily paralyze them, and Mikhail's Thumbing inflicts darkness on them, too.

The next day, we report the incident to the Captain. He seems very worried about how they're going to protect the town now, if it's being targeted by Forneus.

Mikhail suggest that we get Vanguard to move! The Holy Emperor used Vanguard in order to fight Forneus in the past. I have no idea how Mikhail knows this? Maybe it's just common history knowledge or something.

The Captain wonders if it's even possible, and asks if we'll help out. We have the option of gladly offering to help, or demanding money. Demanding money probably raises greed, plus that's just... cruel to demand money to help them out when they're going to all be killed by Forneus's minions if we don't...

The Captain says the first thing we have to do is enter Vanguard's underground. Mikahil asks where the entrance is, but the Captain doesn't know. So our first job is to find that out.

After wandering around the village for a bit, we come back and talk to the Captain again. We ask him about what's under his feet, and he notices it's... the entrance to the underground. He laughs about how it's just like him to not even notice it when he's standing right on it. But now we can go down there.

He just tells us good luck. We're not told exactly what we're supposed to be doing down here...

Vanguard's underground is a creepy dungeon-looking place. There's a lot of enemies down here, but quite a few good treasures, too.

We're fighting the first slime enemies we've seen. I think they're pretty cool looking. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be like the slime enemy formed from the skeleton, or the slime is like... carrying the skeleton around as a trophy or something. Either way, I think it's a pretty cool design to make a slime enemy more than just a slime ball by making a skeleton sticking out of the back of it.

Trucks's WP has reached a high enough level that he has a WP crown now. When your WP or JP reaches as high as 45 more than 15 times the other, you'll get a crown. Or at least I think this is how it works. There seems to be conflicting information out there on what exactly makes it appear.

But anyway, having the crown will give you a discount to using those points. So having the WP crown means that all weapon arts cost 1 less WP than normal. That's extremely useful, since you're saving 1WP every single turn, so long battles you save tons of WP. And weapon arts that cost only 1WP normally are now free to use.

The way you get crowns means you'll need to completely focus on either weapon arts or magic arts. It's pretty much impossible for a mixed-arts character to get a crown. So they do come with the "downside" of having to completely forego the other type of arts but... in general you could ignore magic arts with most or even all of your characters and probably be okay, especially with the benefit of everyone having WP crowns.

But I like using magic arts, so I'd rather have variety over crowns. But I do like having some characters with crowns. Ward will surely get there eventually.

There are some trap doors in the underground, and when you fall into them, you might end up in a pit of monsters... If you come here later in the game when your monster rank is very high, it can be quite difficult to fall into one of these traps. You can see the trap doors, so you can just avoid them, but you'll need to fall into some of them to pick up all the treasures, since there are some one-way-only locked doors that require you to fall into the traps to get onto the other side.

Eventually we find this creepy thing next to a wall, and there's a nearby button.

Pressing the button opens a staircase in the wall, but the creepy thing is still in the way. There's no way to get past it other than fighting it.

We're thrown into a fight with four blue fireballs. These things can do around 200 damage with a single ice beam attack, and they also have an attack that can steal HP from their victim. They can also use that ice shield ability that the big fishie had, where they coat themselves with ice, and whoever hits them next will take big damage in retaliation.

With our current HP levels, this means they're going to knock out at least one character per round of combat. And they seem to have around 900-1000 HP, and our attacks do 200-350 damage.

This is a very difficult fight this early in the game.

The first attempt went pretty poorly.

The second attempt, I figured I would start out with Sara using the Life Cane, even on the first turn. The fireballs have a higher speed than the party, so it would make sense that Sara would get to heal after they've already attacked. So I had her focus on Ward since he's in front.

Well, since their attacks are ranged, they don't seem to care that much about targeting the front person. And they decided to kill Sara right away in this fight, so my strategy completely fell flat.

I did get down to just Mikhail and the last one, though. Counting its HP, at this point, it probably only had like 100 HP left, and Mikhail could easily do more than that with a single attack. The problem is I was mostly using Aiming to attack before, which always goes last. No matter what this thing did, Mikhail would have died in one hit... So I had to try to use something other than Aiming and hope it both went first and did enough damage.

There are some weapon arts in the game that give you speed priority, like the foil art Accel Sniper. But Mikhail has no such arts.

He ended up not going first and died.

After realizing that Desert Lance was doing effectively nothing at all for this fight, I tried Whirlwind instead. With everyone getting a speed boost, hopefully getting to take a fireball out before it can attack will give me enough of an advantage. I was getting close enough before that I feel like this battle is within my grasp...

Even with Whirlwind's speed boost, the fireballs usually got to attack first, though now and then the faster characters like Trucks would get an attack in before them, and I actually did defeat one before it could take its action on that turn, which I think was all the advantage I really needed.

Eventually it got down to where the last fireball was alive, and two of my characters were. And I only needed to hit it once more! So it seemed like I'd definitely win. Then it decided to do the stupid HP-sapping ability, so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to take it out... but fortunately Ward is the heaviest hitter in the party, and he was going to do his Smash art. It did almost 400 damage and I defeated the final fireball. Sadly, no one but Ward got to grow from the battle because they were all dead. Ward's Sword proficiency did grow, though.

During our adventure so far, though, Mikhail did raise his JP a few times, Seiryu arts a few times, and Martial Arts once or twice, so that was really nice! And Trucks mastered Random Arrow, too.

Climbing the stairs, we find this very strange room.

Approaching the little platform in the center of the room, we push a button or something and everything lights up! I guess we should go tell the Captain about this?

When we report to the Captain, he tells us that there was a control room that he saw in an old book, and he asks us if it looks like this:

I don't know if it's supposed to be like he's showing us a picture or what, because it sounds like he just... read about it. But that's a pretty accurate depiction!

We're able to say yes or no. The correct answer here is no, because there is a difference in what we saw and what he showed us -- there is a statue of a dolphin at the top in the Captain's image, but when we visited the control room underground, there was not a statue there.

No, I didn't realize this the first time. Especially since after finding the control room, you have to walk all the way back out of the dungeon (all of the monsters go away after beating the blue fireballs boss though).

Anyway, he is surprised to hear that the dolphin statue is gone -- that statue is manufactured orichalcum that acts as an amplifier for Genbu magic arts (hooray dictionaries!) Without it, Vanguard can't move at all.

He assumes that it had to have been stolen, because it would sell for a huge price.

Mikhail asks if there are any other entrances to the underground, or if anyone may have known about the entrance in the Captain's house. The Captain says that perhaps someone in the town may have known about it, but he doesn't want to believe that someone from Vanguard would do such a thing.

And with that, we have to solve the next step on our own. But it's not too hard -- remember how the bar master suddenly came into money several years ago, and also has a strange fear of dolphins? So much that even the word "dolphin" scares him?

Well, we can go up to the bar master now and say "Dolphins..."

And he'll jump back in fear. Talking to him again, we can repeat this... after three times, he can't take it anymore and breaks down and confesses.

He knew it was an important item, but he really wanted the money... With that he was able to open this shop, and now he has a wife and children... he begs us to forgive him.

Mikhail just asks him to tell us who he sold the dolphin to. The master replies that he sold it to the Dophorle Firm in Yalmas, because they'll buy even stolen goods there.

I bet Trucks was clenching his fists to hear the Dophorle name again!

Returning to Yalmas, we ask around in the Dophorle building. The guy tending the shop seems to know something, but he says we have to buy something from him before he'll tell us anything.

And it's expensive!! I've been wanting another axe for Ward and keep forgetting to buy it, though, so this is a somewhat convenient opportunity, I guess. So I buy the War Axe and the guy opens up. He doesn't have the dolphin statue any more, though. He gave it to the pirate Black.

This isn't much to go on, so I decide to head back to Pidona and check up on the workshop and head to the pub to dismiss Thomas from the party, because we're full, so once we find the next member of the harem party, we won't have room, and it will be convenient to already have the slot open. Thankfully I actually remembered to unequip him before dismissing him.

When we talk to the barkeep, though, he tells us that the pirate Black used to be active around Great Arc. That was... easier to discover than I thought it would be. I was actually planning on just going to Great Arc next since it was the only place left to go from the Pidona boat. I mean, I knew that Great Arc was where the next clue was, so I was going to head there anyway... but I wasn't expecting to get a clue from the bar :P

When you dismiss a character from the party, the barkeep tells them they have to go, then they turn and run out the door. They also jump over the stairs. It's really weird. It's also funny because if I was in a place that had just three stairs I'd probably jump over them, too. But I don't think most people would jump down stairs like that...

And with that, we head to Great Arc! Yeah, I was so surprised about the hint from the bar that I forgot to go check on the workshop. Oops.

Great Arc is sort of like a tropical resort. A lot of people vacation here, and there are a lot of cute huts built on the docks and stuff.

The very first person we run into is this guy with a cane and wild hair who says he'll tell us the location of Black's treasure for just 100 aurums.

If this guy knows about the pirate Black, he may know something about the statue.

Mikhail addresses him using language to show respect to an elder man.

Can you guess where this is headed?

Mikhail asks this good sir if he knows if Black's treasure includes an orichalcum dolphin. The man replies that even for Black, that's quite an item. He asks why we know about such a thing.

Mikhail responds that we need it to move Vanguard, so we can battle with Forneus.

The guy totally freaks out when we say we're going to fight Forneus.

He says he won't just tell us where the statue is, and Mikhail interrupts him asking if it's because he wants money. The man says that, no, instead he wants to travel with us and lead us to the statue personally.

If you don't want to recruit him, you can just pay him to tell you where the cave is. But he's actually a great guide.

He reveals the location of the treasure cache on the map...

And goes with us to give us directions once we're inside. It's a pretty big place, so it's very helpful.

And with that, we've now recruited Herman, the third member of our harem party!

Despite carrying a cane, Herman uses most of the base animations that all characters share, so he just runs while flailing the cane around in his hand lol.

And despite needing a cane, he can be a pretty badass fighter. His LP is only 4, and along with an Endurance of 11, he is quite fragile. But he has a Skill of 20 which is fantastic, and a Spirit of 24, which is extremely high, meaning he'll do great with Skill weapons like Bow and Foil, which also have many status effect moves for him to utilize his amazing Spirit stat!

Sadly, his Glimmer Type is Axe, and he starts with a high Axe skill, which doesn't match his stats at all. He also comes with many levels in Seiryu magic already, as well as a magic art already learned, Dancing Leaf. Which... I forget what it does and I didn't even check when I looked lol. But I think it raises defense or hides the user or something. Which he definitely needs something to raise defense... Though in my last game I switched him over to Suzaku arts, since they're largely support, so his low magic level wouldn't be a problem... but perhaps the Seiryu support arts like Nap and Dancing Leaf will be good, too, even though Mikhail is also on Seiryu. Wouldn't hurt to have two chances to put enemies to sleep, honestly!

Anyway, welcome the gorgeous Herman to our team. He'll definitely be the weakest member -- with a growth rate of 0 in everything and Glimmer Type that works against his stats, not to mention 4 LP and prone to dying, he'll be struggling to keep up with everyone else. His Skill and Spirit are top-notch, but overall he's one of the weakest characters available in the game.

That doesn't stop me from loving him, though. His scruffy beard and pencil mustache are beautiful, and I actually love his weird flippy long hair. Wearing a bandana like an eyepatch, walking with a cane... overall he's just a really fun design, sexy as hell, and stats be damned it's hard not to want him in the party when I play.

We'll go ahead and end here for now. The final member of the party is still a while off, and I'm not entirely sure of all the prerequisites to get to him... but we may be able to get there sooner than I think. I want to gather up all the members as early as possible so everyone can be in the party gaining levels and stuff through most of what we do.

But getting to the final member is pretty tough. Generally most players don't even reach him until way later, but since the game uses an open-scenario system, as long as we trigger all the right flags, we should be able to get to him early enough. We'll have to leave an extremely difficult quest incomplete halfway through for a long time, which is a little dumb story-wise, but it's worth being able to get the final member of the harem, IMO. Especially since he's possibly my favorite of the group (but honestly, this is a really fun crew).

Stay tuned!