Thursday, March 9, 2023

Shadowcaster (PC-98): Won

The Kappa changes up the capabilities of the player considerably. While Kirt could go underwater before, he would quickly drown. The Kappa, meanwhile, can just swim around underwater consequence free. Since this hasn't come up before, you see those purple gems on the sides of the viewing screen? Well, below or above thos, and if Kirt can, he'll shift to that area. There hasn't been much point in flying higher as the Opsis, since these areas haven't had any reason to, but with the Kappa, you get an entire new level.

While this admittedly isn't quite on the same level as the stuff in Ultima Underworld, this actually puts the game as one of the first titles to have multiple floors strung together, even if in a cheating way, and with underwater sections. (Midwinter 2 beat it to the latter though)
Its also the strongest form so far, just below the Maorin in attack strength, but having a whopping 80 HP to start with, but just 20 more per level. It also gets an electrical attack and a sonic attack.

...both of which are completely useless against the enemies populating the standard return trip to this dark temple. New, green ssairs. We'll be getting back to those boys by the end of this entry, but for now they just exist to make my playthrough annoying. They deal some good damage to the Kappa, far too good. So do the serpants. Fortunately, the trusty shuriken will do wonders. Kind of a slog though.

From later, this is supposed to be poisoned, but at first it just seems like a poor attempt at rendering something majestic

Meanwhile the new location, is also a slog. There are more mines, but the Kappa's attacks aren't doing much. Instead I brought back out the Opsis. That's a good sign. This place has a weird Greco-Roman sewer vibe to it. This is supposed to be a majestic underwater kingdom, but I think that intention is lacking somewhat, falling to the usual FPS trap from this time of being rather generic. There are blue water areas, but also more green, therefore dangerous, water areas. At least the music track is nice.

As I wander around, I stumble upon this mud monsters akin to Muk from the Pokemon series. Last time I played I made a joke about a place called the mud mines, guess that's why they were mining it. I'm not sure if the Kappa's special attacks work against these guys, but they work better than previous attacks have. Its pretty slow going though, as everything on this level seems custom tailored to just eat up damage.

Eventually I find a trident, this is supposed to be the most powerful weapon in the game. Unfortunately, the first enemy I find next is a different kind of flying enemy. I swear I have to do more fighting as the Opsis than as the actual character this section is supposed to be centered around. I have been concentrating on the above water section, but come on!

At least there isn't much left here. Just the locked off doors containing the water, the key of which is hidden in one of the green slime rooms. Now the only above-water enemies are the ssairs. Or red ssairs, not sure what the difference is. They're definitely Opsis enemies. Its best to clear out everything now rather than later, because you really don't want to run out of mana underwater.

Speaking of which, this is slightly better than the previous situation. Now enemies actually do take damage from the Kappa's magic attacks, although this seems to come at the high cost of health too. Ah, good, more waiting around. Take out a few enemies, burn through most of both bars, rinse, repeat. We've got mines, much easier than ones above water, electric manta rays, random fish, and oh, blue Ssairs. They all fall easily to the sonic attack. Huh, it practically feels like I'm cheating. It seems to work weirdly, being able to take out multiple enemies at once, and possibly ones I can't even see yet.

Its fun, whenever I actually get to play it instead of waiting around for another 15 minutes. Doesn't help that this area is incredibly mazey.

Ah, the boss, well, I'll just use the water cannon thing I have...and he's dead. Wow. Behind him is his throne, containing a tablet which gives me a message about the next area. Its about the Ssair, my next form. It was hard at first because Japanese is not built for words with "ss" at the beginning. It seems to be telling me they were poisoned, and I need to use the tablet to heal them. This does make me check the official cluebook, primarily because I'm trying to figure out how much of the game I have left. Not a lot, guess this is the final stretch then.
Yes, that usually is how low my bars go

The next area is called the Ssair Wellspring, in which there are many Ssair. I have no idea how to use the tablet, which is great. This is actually quite an annoying area, because you start off in danger, and the teleport back out leads to the underwater area, which means a long swim back to land. Even though the Kappa has a decent swimming speed, this is incredibly annoying. Guess I'm going to have to kill them after all. Just to even be able to manage getting through this section. And after killing three of the guys just so I don't have to swim back and forth again, I right click on the tablet above the green water and suddenly its solved. Sigh...The message I get on this second to last obelisk is that the Ssair is a flying dragon.

The game introduces so many elements like this as one-offs that I kind of feel like the game primes you for them

The Ssair starts off with a whopping 200 HP and 40 every level up. Its strongest form so far. It flies, much faster than any previous creature could walk, and it shoots fireballs. And it does the most physical damage, its tail attack does decent damage, but its claws do more. Not that it matters when it has a significant boost with melee weapons. I can actually kill enemies at a reasonable rate with the trident in this form.

This stage is the actual "mud" mines. My new enemy? Spiders again. At least I can just glide around now, and killing things is a piece of cake again. I even end up finding the obelisk tip fairly early on. Probably just luck. Its guarded by one of those flame traps, which you can't seem to get past without activating. Well, I'm a dragon, I don't care!
I do appreciate that they gave an appropriate character for an appropriate location.
Mud minotaurs? Or mud elementals? Considering the only way to find out the names of any of these creatures is to open up the official cluebook, I question the wisdom in making a section mud monster. These are...strong to fire but not physical damage. What's more distressing is the horde of lava creatures that look the same in the next room. For all of five seconds, before one falls quickly. Really, the only trouble this area is giving me is that there are quite a lot of fireballs getting shot off walls, and even that's easy with how fast the Ssair moves.

There's a puzzle at the end of the level consisting entirely of putting rocks on some plates followed by pulling a chain. The next level starts off empty, but without any clear path forward at first. There's a wall tile that looks different than the others that I can attack, but it turns out there's a flame elemental behind it. There's a frog statue in the wall, but it takes a moment to figure out it wants me to shoot the Caun's fly attack at it. Can't help but feel like that was a shallow attempt at making the Caun feel useful again.

One of my favorite fire elemental designs

There's a puzzle at the end of the level consisting entirely of putting rocks on some plates followed by pulling a chain. The next level starts off empty, but without any clear path forward at first. There's a wall tile that looks different than the others that I can attack, but it turns out there's a flame elemental behind it. There's a frog statue in the wall, but it takes a moment to figure out it wants me to shoot the Caun's fly attack at it. Can't help but feel like that was a shallow attempt at making the Caun feel useful again.

Then its more flying over lava. Its funny, the area that's the most seemingly difficult is the one that's in practice most easy. The flame elementals, while kind of nasty, especially if they can sneak up on you, are easy to back away from and hit with the trident. The game provides way, way too many side areas for you to stop and rest then are necessary.

At the end of the area I find an obelisk teleporting between four spots. Aha, I think, I just have to figure out where the obelisk goes and put on the tip. No, but there is a notch for an hourglass I found not too far away. That stops it, getting me the final form, the Grost, a stone golem. The usual text you get doesn't seem to say anything important. But wait, this isn't the end of the level, because several walls are special, and only the Grost can destroy them. This is reflected in the creature's health, 300, and its damage, which with its fist is more than most forms with weapons. Finally, it has an earthquake attack and a paralysis attack.

I say there's more, but its just more killing of enemies. The Grost isn't the best on lava, because unlike the Ssair which flies over it, the Grost just tanks damage. But boy, does it deal it out. Given how effective the Ssair has been, I was floating the idea of using him against the final boss, but we'll see. Its hard to argue with something that can kill previously annoying enemies in 3 hits. As such, the final return to the temple before entering the final level just consists of me making short work of the serpent things.

The final section is a creepy inside human kind of design, starting you off in a river of bloody water. Funnily enough I started this as the Grost, meaning he can swim. First enemy, something that looks like a green Opsis. The Grost's earthquake attack takes them out quickly, but it costs a ton of mana, not helped by how it has a much higher rate of consumption compared to other forms.

This area has two halves and one big three column area which seems to want something. My first choice is to go underwater, where a bunch of ugly looking things are. I don't really have much to say about them, beyond that they fall fairly quickly to the sonic attack. Most of the time. It is just slow going, kill a bunch of things, wait for a while. While there are some areas that can only be reached via this underwater route, there's an enemy up there. Meaning you have to shift to human then to something that can kill that thing safely.

Why is it on the ceiling though?
Meanwhile, I find a heart in one chamber. It doesn't attack you or anything, you're just supposed to kill it to get a crystal. a Blood Crystal, I think. One out of three.
The three column area has three passages that don't lead back to the rivers of blood. My first path is to a maze with those freaky faced walls that sometimes make an appearance in Doom. Now we have tiny dragons. I guess those are dragons? Skeletons too, just in case you wanted the Grost to feel really powerful. An interesting thing about the Grost is that because its taller than every other creature this is reflected in how far from the ground you are...which is a problem in picking up items. I'm mixed as to whether or not that's good balancing, its not like there's ever going to be a point now where I won't want to use the Grost, and yet they do try to give the creature as many disadvantages as seems prudent.

This section's puzzle is to find a stone sword and place it on a statue, while...uh...tanking fireballs. That's what I enjoy about fighting as the Grost, how well it tanks damage. This nets me the flesh crystal. The third area is one of bones. There's nothing special about it, outside of the final crystal. This leads to the final battle.

Veste, just taking the same form as the old man from earlier. He says something about killing me or Kirt's grandfather. Right, well, this should be interesting. With the Grost and the Trident, I take out the old man form quickly. Because this is the final battle, it isn't that easy. He shifts into the forms of the bosses I've killed, first the wereboar leader, then the skeleton and werewolf lord. This is easy, I think. Because my health isn't draining at all. Then I notice my mana is draining very fast. I'm being attacked by a blue cloak. So I run around, only for one of the walls to disappear into acid, revealing a group of red cloaks. You clever fellows.
Unfortunately, this puts me in an unwinnable situation. I manage to sit down somewhere safe from the red cloak attacks and Veste, but the blue cloak is draining my mana, and worst of all won't die. No matter, I probably should be recording this anyway.

I restarted the fight, after having first killed that blue cloaked fellow, and recorded it. Its not technically different from videos already on Youtube, but I kind of wanted to show this anyway. Veste's forms are randomized, and I didn't realize the green Ssair was a boss. After dealing with all those, Veste choses a final form of that of a gargoyle. This is when things get serious. I end up having to shift forms quite quickly in my efforts to restore my health, but I manage it in the end. Then after I upload the video to Youtube I realize I have to do it again. I did it wrong and now my system's cursor is there, just staring me in the face.

But I have to admit, I think the second video showcases the game a bit better. Interestingly, it seems like the game has some primitive AI! Enemies go after where they think you went rather than actually going after you. That's fairly impressive.
After taking out Veste's final form a cutscene starts. I checked the original words before, but it seems like the two aren't exactly the same. I could be wrong, but I'm reading it as, "you're not more of a man than I." and "you don't know about the truth about your power." Then a friendly figure, not Kirt's grandfather shows up and says he's a hero, he'll lead his (remaining) people and be the founder of a new linage. 

Then we're returned to Kirt and the People. He's great, he's a hero. And then Kirt's grandfather's hand is a demon. Did he get killed and replaced at the start of the game? Come to think of it, Veste's final form is the same as the gargoyle from the beginning. We'll never know. Really. Its been 30 years and even back when Raven wasn't a shadow of itself they didn't care for continuing the concept of Shadowcaster.

Total Time: 7 hours 40 minutes

No comments:

Post a Comment