It's a game with the good kind of bugs! Let's Play Bug Fables

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A game with the good kind of bugs! Let's Play Bug Fables

"The Paper Mario you've been waiting for [...] This is Paper Mario for grown-ups." -Arlo

"Bug Fables transcends Paper Mario." -KingK

Did you know that if you talk to an old man, then surf up and down the coast of an island halfway across the world, you can fight a block of glitchy static and multiply your items by 128? Of course you did, we all shared bug fables by word of mouth on the playground. Wait, I'm being told I'm getting this wrong, that's not what this LP is about? (I'm so sorry.)

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Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is an independently-developed, small-numbers RPG (or, in simpler terms, Paper Mario clone) set in a world of anthropomorphic insects. Developed by Moonsprout Games and published by DANGEN Entertainment, it was released on PC in November 2019 and consoles May 2020, after a successful crowdfunding campaign and over four years of development. The consensus among people who've played it is that the wait was well worth it; I'm inclined to agree with them, as this is one of my favourite games ever (maybe even my absolute favourite). Never mind the comparison to Paper Mario (though obviously fair, Bug Fables never tried to hide its inspiration), this game is just a really excellent JRPG-style experience all around, with a fleshed-out world and well-realised characters. Why did nobody think to use social insects as fantasy races before this?

Here are links to various places you can buy the game, if you want to play along. In my opinion, it's a great value for your $20-25 (this game is packed with content; my first playthrough ran over 50 hours, and it's very replayable).

Itch.io--Steam--Nintendo Switch--PS4--Xbox

(The itch.io page also has a free demo you can download, though it's an outdated build of the game. It doesn't run as smoothly as the release version and some mechanics were changed, but if you're on the fence about buying the game, try it out!)

The devs also have a Twitter and Tumblr. Nowadays, they mostly post fanart.

Introduction and Motivation:

I was something of a latecomer to Bug Fables, actually. I hadn't followed the crowdfunding or development history; I learned about the game from the Paper Mario: Master Quest LP thread on SA, and didn't get around to playing it until last April. Despite its popularity within the niche community of classic Paper Mario fans, and its general success, I still think this game deserves wider exposure.

Why do I want to LP this game? Plenty of other people (including but not limited to Paper Mario experts Kappy and Fatguy703) have already done video LPs on Youtube and several of those are quite good. I may have watched a lot of them. I think it deserves to be LPed in screenshot style, and I haven't seen one of those yet, so I figure there's a niche where I can still meaningfully contribute.

In addition to having a well-designed and strategic battle system, this game is very well-written and charming, and has excellent worldbuilding and characters. I want to show off as much of the text as I can in a single playthrough (trust me, there's a lot of it!). I seem to remember the developers saying they viewed the amount of text as overindulgent and were surprised how much players actually liked it. I will try to keep things organised such that you can read what interests you and skip what doesn't, to the best of my ability.

This is one of those games that just gets better and better as it goes on (the developers definitely improved in writing and design skill over the course of the 4+ years they worked on this game, and the early content seems to have been locked in before they really got into their stride); some people find Chapter 1 a bit dull, but I promise it's only upward from there. This isn't a perfect game, and I do have some minor critiques here and there, but it's damn good and it's worth playing if you like this genre at all.

Content Notes/Warnings:

This is a game about cartoon bugs. There are spiders in it. If you have arachnophobia, you might want to be careful.

Despite the cute art style, this game can get dark at times, dealing with issues of trauma and loss among other things. Nothing too excessive (IMO), but it's not green grass and sunshine the entire time, and you may want to know that going in.

There is a pair of recurring side characters (Mothiva and Zasp) whose dynamic comes across to many as emotional abuse. I don't think I can direct concerned readers to just skip certain scenes, either, because the issue is the overall dynamic that emerges more than any particular scene in a vacuum. The devs have stated they are intended to be a romantic couple, which suggests they might not quite realise how toxic a relationship they ended up writing. I'm not going to tell anyone not to read the LP or play the game because of it, but forewarned is forearmed.

Details for this LP:

This will be a 100% playthrough, completing side content as soon as it becomes available (more or less; I do have some exceptions in mind).

Please keep the thread friendly to unspoiled readers. Specifically, please don't spoil the story. Talking about upcoming mechanics, items, medals, strategies, etc. is fine (within reason) as long as it comes up naturally in conversation, but this game's writing is great and I'd like the LP to stand as a way for newcomers to experience it.

I will be playing on Hard Mode, with no other modifications. The developers have said that is the intended experience, and if you're playing along, I highly recommend doing the same for your first playthrough (you can switch off Hard Mode at will without losing any progress if it proves too much for you). This game offers a lot of difficulty options to customise subsequent playthroughs (including a built-in randomiser mode!), which I love, but I want to show off the baseline experience here. Once you get to know the game, the higher difficulties can be fun, but I think vanilla Hard Mode hits the sweet spot for a newcomer: challenging enough to make you pay attention and think, while not too overwhelming to be accessible.

I am playing on PC, version 1.1 (released on the game's one-year anniversary, the most recent revision as things currently stand). This patch added new endgame content, as well as making several quality-of-life and balance changes. I'll admit I'm iffy about some changes relative to the previous version (1.0.5); I was almost tempted to revert to that version for the LP. I'll try to point out differences when they come up, but overall I think this is the version to play if you're starting now.

I am using an Xbox 360 controller with the default control scheme, because that works for me. Any button prompts ingame will reflect that, as will buttons I mention in commentary (although I have a habit of calling the "Back" button "Select", I was a Nintendo kid). The game can also be played natively with a keyboard and will change the displayed prompts appropriately, and has fully customisable controls.

I am sourcing various icons (character portraits, items, medals, etc) and some data from the Bug Fables Fandom Wiki.
Music links will all be to the OST on Youtube
Image This icon is of Tristan's (the composer) ingame avatar, and will be used to indicate music links.

While I have some definite plans for this LP, there will be opportunities for reader voting about things like how I build my party or what strategies I use for certain encounters. More on this later as it comes up.

(This is also my first LP. I've been lurking/reading/commenting here for a while, it's about time I contributed something. If you have constructive criticism or think anything I'm doing isn't working, please don't hesitate to let me know. That said, as I'm still ironing out my workflow, don't expect a consistent update schedule for a while; please bear with me while I figure things out.)

But enough ado. Let's get started.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

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01: First Meetings
02: Snakemouth Way
03: Snakemouth Spelunking
04: Snakemouth Depths
05: Vicious Spider

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06: Meeting the Ant Queen (Part 2)
07: Cooking with Fry (Part 2)
08: Sidequesting in the Ant Kingdom (Part 2)
09: Golden Path (Part 2)
10: Golden Settlement
11: The Golden Festival (Part 2)
12: Festival Ceremony
13: Post-Festival Cleanup
14: A Pitcher's Worth a Thousand Words
15: Into the Golden Hills
16: The Sun is Also a Flower

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17: More Meetings, More Missions (Part 2)
18: A Study in Scarlet
19: Games Within Games
20: Sandbox Gameplay (Part 2)
21: Defiant Root (Part 2)
22: The Great Bugarian Bake-Off
23: The Queen on High (Part 2)
24: Lockdown (Part 2)
25: The Blob
26: Drone Strike

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27: New Complications (Part 2)
28: The Butler Did It, and Other Stories
29: Mother Mayhem
30: Chasing Cards
31: Metal and Paint (Part 2)
32: Victory is in the Cards
33: An Unknown Dungeon
34: Friendship Bites
35: One-Armed Bandit (Part 2)
36: Concerning Horns
37: Impostor Syndrome
38: The Magician and the Fool
39: Crossing the Streams

Miscellaneous Posts
Design Interlude: Fixing the Devourer
Design Interlude: Discussing Astotheles

Appendix (Bugs may not have one but this LP sure does!)
Dramatis Personae
Bestiary (Chapter 1)
Bestiary (Chapter 2)
Bestiary (Chapter 3)
Bestiary (Chapter 4)
Bestiary (Chapter 5)
Bestiary (Chapter 6)
Bestiary (Bonus Bosses)
Mechanics & Skills
Medals
Items & Recipes
Spy Cards
Title Screen History
Last edited by Explopyro on Mon Sep 20, 2021 8:15 am, edited 48 times in total.

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Fanart!

Bee smiley
(by vilkacis)
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"We do not see the appeal of your 'robe and wizard hat'."
(by vilkacis)
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"We'll be right back"
(by Leraika)
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Last edited by Explopyro on Mon Apr 19, 2021 2:57 am, edited 2 times in total.

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01: First Meetings

Image 01 - Bug Fables

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(The title screen evolves over the course of the game. I'll be posting changes as I see them, and will edit the most current one into the OP, but this is what it looks like when starting fresh.)

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That'll do.

Image 02 - The Everlasting Sapling

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Image Ahh, the land of Bugaria. A peaceful, prosperous place where many adventurous bugs gather. Although it wasn't always that way...

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Image Lured by the promise of riches and lush fields, a young Queen visited these lands many moons ago. Together with her daughters and fellow ant servants, she established Bugaria's modest first settlement. Her people were happy, the Ant Kingdom flourished... And yet, the Queen's dream had still not been fulfilled. For she had heard of an ancient people, who safeguarded a treasure of unbelievable power. It was none other than...

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Image The Everlasting Sapling! A plant which would grant unending youth and strength to any who ate even one of its leaves!

Image She searched, and searched... and searched... Alas, she never found it.

Image She entrusted her dream to the princess, before falling into a hard-earned sleep.

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Image Determined to succeed where her mother did not, the new Queen rallied the people together under her cause. Opening the doors of the kingdom to bugs of all shapes and kinds, she attracted ambitious and skilled adventurers!

Image Her decree was loud and clear: "Find me the Everlasting Sapling, and you shall know wealth like no other bug ever has!"

Image With this, the Explorers' Association was founded, with its many members searching across the kingdom for clues and treasure. Even though, to this day, the sapling has not been found. But every bug dreams of one day claiming it for themselves...

Image 03 - Where Adventurers Gather

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(Before we get started, let's address the elephant beetle in the room. You might have noticed everyone has four limbs. The devs have actually commented on this; I don't remember exactly what they said, but essentially they tried to design them with six limbs at first and couldn't get it not to look awkward. They wanted everyone to walk upright and not look like centaurs, and couldn't find a place to put them on upright characters that didn't look weird. It's not that they didn't know, they just made a stylistic choice.)

We open somewhat in medias res, here, this green beetle and mantis swordsman are clearly in the middle of an ongoing conversation.

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Image Despite many unfortunate incidents, tales of your people helped me keep my adventuring spirit alive.

Image Rest assured, Kabbu. They are not mere legends, but real history. This Explorers' Association, and all the explorers who risk their wings for glory, are proof of that.

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While Kabbu and Maki are talking, this bee sneaks into the scene behind them and approaches the blue beetle in the background. She walks at a fixed speed, irrespective of how fast you advance the text.

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Image Unproven!? Maki, I've bested many hardships in the north!

Image Or so you say. Your knowledge of our culture, and your passion for exploring are as true as my blade's edge, Kabbu.

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Image I'M NOT A KID!

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Image Hm? Well, if you insist.

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After that bit of tutorial text, we are placed in control of Kabbu. We'll get to know him more in a bit, but first, since the game wants us to follow Maki and see what the commotion is about... let's not, and talk to everyone else in the room first. This game has a lot of situational dialogue, and if we don't talk to these people now we'll miss out on what they have to say.

First up are these two over here by the table.

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Image No, he's just gonna cause a scene again. Like always.

Image This sort of thing occurs frequently?

Image Hey, didn't Maki ask for you? Don't make him wait, or I'll make you pay!

Image Gen, you're embarrassing me! You're not the head of his fangirl club!

Image Yes I am!

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Now, to go upstairs. We have this charming wasp:

Image Greetings, explorer.

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Kabbu asking "why am I even up here" might be one of my favourite lines. The game knows you're going to want to meander around, so it simultaneously rewards you for it and calls out how little sense it makes.

Last up, we have the orchid mantis behind the desk.

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Image (Hm. I shouldn't disrupt his work.)

Okay, enough procrastinating, let's get back on task.

When we get Kabbu close, he moves into position automatically and this cutscene triggers.

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Image This guy's calling me a kid, says I can't explore!

Image Shouting isn't going to change the rules, you child!

Image Shut it. It's not about age, it's about skill!
Image I'm Vi, the best explorer the Hive has ever seen! I'm not some random bee!

(By the way, since a lot of people find it ambiguous, her name is officially pronounced like "vee", it rhymes with "bee".)

Image An explorer bee?

Image Yeah. Got a problem? Saying bees can't explore? Expected honey and paint?

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Image Silence, please. This guild of ours is no place for petty squabbles.

Image Look. I can't just give a permit to some bee. Much less without a partner. Teams should be a duo of explorers, you know?

Image I'm worth like four bees, okay!?

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Image ... Hey, Vi.

Image What do you want?

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Image What, do I look that desperate? I don't even know you!

Image I have a promise I must keep, and for that I must explore. How bad could it be?

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Image Wait, you two are just crazy! You won't last a second at Snakemouth!

Image I'll prove you wrong!

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Now it's Maki's turn to hesitate, it seems.

Image No.
Image You are both, most likely, mere novices, ruled by your strong emotions...
Image I have no doubt that if you left today, you would return inside a bag.

Image Sir Maki. Although you outrank me in spades, you shouldn't underestimate me.
Image I... went through quite a bit to get here.

Image Yeah. Bugs like you that look down on others are really annoying!

Image Hmm. Very well. I shall test your resolve.

Image Test us, huh? Who named you king of this joint?

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Image I accept your challenge! Vi, get ready!
Image Watch your own horn, I was born ready!

Image 04 - FIGHT!

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We get this nice animation of leaves flying in to cover the screen for the battle transition. The game has lots of different variations on this animation, changing to fit the area and the circumstances, but for now we'll be seeing these bright green ones.

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Kabbu kindly offers to initiate the tutorial. I'm going to take him up on this for now.

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Image Listen, then. We can both perform one action per round, be it attacking, using an item, etc.
Image We can power up our attacks by performing commands unique to each move. Watch this.

(This game doesn't have a catch-all name for these, so I'll be calling them Action Commands, ala Paper Mario.)

Image If I hold D-pad down long enough... I can power up my horn strike!

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Image Holding a button? Lame. Look at this!
Image If I press A at the right time, I can power up my Beemerang!
Image A... beemerang?

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Kabbu and Vi have each dealt 2 damage. Once you know more about the game's battle system, you might notice something peculiar about the numbers this turn; I'll explain in a moment. (It took me forever to catch this, I wouldn't have except I had to keep replaying this while troubleshooting recording methods.)

Image See, we're doing great!

Image Don't let your guard down, Vi. After our turn ends, the enemy's next!

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Image Pressing A a bit before an enemy hits you reduces damage received!
Image With perfect timing, you'll reduce even more damage!

This is Bug Fables' version of timed defence. There are two overlapping timing windows; decent timing will reduce damage by 1, but if you hit the tighter window, that becomes a 2 point reduction. The game calls this a "Super Block". I am... not great at this.

This should seem somewhat familiar to Paper Mario players, though it's a bit different to the systems those games used. PM64 had a single block timing, and TTYD had two different buttons: A to block normally, or B to "Superguard", which had tighter timing but negated all damage and also counterattacked. While the risk-reward tradeoff could be interesting, that system was horribly unbalanced and I'm not sorry to see this game using something a bit more reasonable.

Image O-ow! What the heck?! You trying to kill us or something?

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Image We should pay him back, tenfold!

Image It's time to use a skill! They're just like attacks, but you select them from the yellow flower!

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Teamwork Points (TP) is this game's name for magic points. Think Flower Points (FP), in Paper Mario terms. Our team shares a combined pool, and right now we have 10 to work with.

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This is actually a bad idea right now (though I'm going to do it anyway to show off how items work), because we started with one item and this will use it up. Vi has only taken 1 point of damage. Still, I guess it's good the tutorial covers items.

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Here are Vi's skills. Right now, she has one: Tornado Toss, which costs 3 TP. Let's take it for a spin.

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I messed up the action command a bit there, but hey, you can see what that looks like! Tornado Toss does multiple hits (one for each time we successfully press A). The damage starts at (Vi's attack - 1) for the first hit and decreasing by 1 on each subsequent hit. As long as the first hit did nonzero damage, the follow-ups will always do at least 1 each.

This move might not look like much now, but it has some serious potential.

Now it's Kabbu's turn. Let's look at his skills:

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Kabbu also has one skill right now: Taunt. This costs 2 TP, and forces any enemy which is using single-target attacks to aim them at Kabbu. This also might not look like much now (Kabbu has 9 HP to Vi's 7, that's not exactly tank material yet), but as you might imagine, becomes very useful for a variety of strategies.

Instead, I'll do what the tutorial wants and have Kabbu use an item. Right now, we have this Crunchy Leaf:

Image A dry leaf. Has a satisfying crunch when bit. Restores 4 HP to an ally.

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Maki attacks Kabbu this time, and I flub the block, so he takes 2 damage.

At this point, no more tutorial text is forthcoming, it just goes to the next turn. So I'll just have Vi and Kabbu use their basic attacks.

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What gives? This time, Vi did 3 damage! Okay, it's time to explain the irregularity I mentioned earlier. Bug Fables has a positioning system in battle: the character in front deals 1 extra point of damage, in exchange for being targeted more often by enemies. (We'll discuss this in more detail once we get into some real battles.) But for some reason, this isn't the case on that first scripted turn.

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Maki went after Vi this time, and I managed to get the Super Block! That's what that looks like. At the end there, you'll notice the screen beginning to fade out: this isn't a normal fight, and ends automatically after Maki's third turn.

Image 03 - Where Adventurers Gather

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Kabbu seems impressed.

Image You pass.

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This reaction is great, I had to show the animation.

Image What?

Image You performed well enough. I could feel your desire to see the world through your attacks.
Image I am no one to keep you from your Explorer Permit. Eetl, you may grant it to them.
Image I get no say in this, huh?
Image ...But Maki IS the Queen's Blade. Here, you can have it.

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Image 11 - Key Item!

And we get an Image Explorer Permit. This is our first Key Item and we'll have it in our inventory for the entire game.

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Image Snakemouth Den, it lies to the west of the association. A simple path, although filled with danger.

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Just as Maki might have told us more, someone shouts for him from off-screen.

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Image My apologies, Kina.
Image Vi, Kabbu, I must be going now. As you can see, duty calls me. May you succeed in your mission.

Maki and Kina walk away. I guess he won't be telling us anything else for now.

Image What a weird bunch.

Image He ended up causing quite the scene himself. That fighting prowess... How many years must he have trained?

Image ...So, uh. I'm Vi, I guess. From the Hive near the big tree.
Image Oh! I am Kabbu. I moved in just one moon ago, from the north.
Image Cool.
Image Indeed.

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Well, this is awkward.

Image Um, Sir Maki said Snakemouth was to the west, right? Should we get moving?

Image Right! Yeah! Let's go right away! Don't fall behind, okay?

Image ...

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Image Something wrong?

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I'm going to say no here, because that gets us the more interesting version of this exchange. (I'll show the alternative at the end.)

Image What!? You'd go there without knowing anything!? It's like asking to perish!

Image Shush, Eetl. Just say it.

Image Your goal is to find an ancient artifact that is fabled to be inside Snakemouth Den.
Image Many tried, but no one ever found it. Most never came back.
Image I don't know what the Queen wants with that, but she is very determined to find it.

Image We will find it. Don't worry.
Image Yeah! I'm on the case, after all!

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Image 05 - Chapter 1

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Guess that's it for the prologue. Chapter 1 begins here. We're now given some more tutorial text:

Image Change the party leader by pressing (X)!
Image You can check your inventory, stats, and other things by pressing (START)!

Okay, let's have a look. First, here's what changing the party leader looks like. Now that Vi has joined the party, we're in control of her by default, and if we press (X) it will change which bug is in the lead (and therefore who we're controlling). Only the bug in front matters for purposes of platforming, contact with enemies, etc. This order will also determine our formation in battle.

Switching looks like this:

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If you look over on the left side, a little half-transparent icon of the character's face shows up when we switch to them. It's a nice touch.

While the game defaults to controlling Vi now and whenever we reload a saved game, I tend to find myself preferring to walk around with Kabbu. For now, it won't matter much, but you might notice that in later updates.

We'll look at the menus later. For now, let's talk to everyone again.

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Image You can be sassy at me if you want, but I was just worrying about you.
Image Give him some credit, Vi.
Image Exploring isn't a game. Many... have been lost while searching for treasure.
Image I know that! But we're not going to be one of those.
Image Even Maki thinks we're decent.
Image I hope his intuition is right.
Image As do I. Let's not be careless, Vi.
Image We'll make it back, don't worry.

Now let's go check in with Gen and Eri again. (Gen, Eri. Get it?)

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(This icon appears over someone's head if you're close enough that pressing A will talk to them.)

Image Oh, Eri, why must Maki be so dreamy?
Image Have you gone mad, Gen!? He's so arrogant!
Image You tell her, Eri.
Image Pompous as he was, he was at least kind enough to test us.
Image Oh, no. He does that to everyone. You see this once a week.

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Gen's text is dancing here.

Image Argh! That stupid, roleplaying wannabe gatekeeper! I'll show him!

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Kabbu mad.

Image I shall challenge him to a duel to the death, our honor on the line!

Image H-Hey! You don't have to go that far!
Image Oh, um, he's just kidding! Right, Kabbu?
Image Err, yes. Of course. "Kidding". I was most certainly only jesting.
Image You better have been!
Image Let's just go, Kabbu.

I love this exchange, even if it's a tad out of character for Kabbu. He's usually not this bloodthirsty.

If we talk to them again...

Image Stay out of trouble.
Image And far away from Maki!

Now to go upstairs.

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Image Greetings, explorer.
Image Hm. Good showing. Not many stand Maki's blade.
Image Why, thank you. I assume you've endured it as well?
Image Anyone who belongs to this association can say at least that much.
Image Woah. So everyone here is crazy strong!
Image Or they've found a reliable partner to carry them.
Image What? You trying to say something?
Image Not at all. If you're offended by it, it only shows your insecurity.
Image What's your deal!? You wanna fight!?

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Image Heh. Good luck, you two. You'll need it.

If we try to talk to him again:

Image Let's go, Vi. It'll do you no good to get angry.
Image Hmph.

And finally, in the back, the guy with the ! thought bubble. (If you're playing along, don't forget about him! A lot of people seem to miss this.)

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Image Uh, okay. Who are you again?
Image Excuse ya! I'm Artis, and I keep this place running.
Image Oh? Thank you for all your hard work.
Image Uh, yeah. Thanks.
Image So you two faced Maki, eh? Bet ya found it a tad too easy?
Image You know it!
Image Heh. I see you lot like challenge. One sec, I have this one thing... Please take it.

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Image 10 - Medal Found!

Image You got a Medal! These artifacts help you by giving different effects. To equip Medals, go into the Pause Menu by pressing (START), and select Medals and Stats. Once there, you can equip Medals to different party members using (D-pad Left) and (D-pad Right) to switch who you are equipping to. Medals cost MP to equip, be sure to check how many you have left!

Image What is this? A Medal?
Image Let's say it should make things more interesting for ya. The higher the risk, the higher the reward, as they say.
Image If you defeat any powerful enemies while wearing it, come see me, alright?
Image I won't say no to free stuff! You've got a deal!
Image Thank you for entrusting us with it! Take care, Artis.
Image Safe exploring, folks. Remember to check in every now and then.

If we talk to him again:

Image What're ya waiting for? Go explore! I gotta deal with the work coming in.

Okay, so a lot just happened at once there. Let's break it down. Artis just gave us our first medal of the game, and it's Image Hard Mode.

Medals are, essentially, equipment. We have a pool of Medal Points (MP) for the party (we start with 5), and each medal costs some amount of MP to equip. Medals can do all sorts of things, and there are 80 different types for us to find over the course of the game. If you've played Paper Mario 64 or Paper Mario TTYD, this should feel familiar: it's almost exactly the same as Badges and BP in those games (I fully expect to slip up and call them badges from time to time), though now we can choose who equips which medal.

Because Hard Mode is just a medal, you can put it on or take it off any time you want. If it ever becomes too much, or a specific encounter is giving you trouble, etc, you can always take it off, and then put it back on later if you so desire. You won't be punished for this at all. I like how willing this game is to let you make the experience exactly as hard as you want it to be at any given moment. (My only quibble is that, as Hard Mode is the intended experience, I think that would have been communicated better if it were the default and there was an Easy Mode medal instead. That said, I understand why they chose not to do that: psychologically people tend to be more comfortable saying "I opt out of Hard" than "I want Easy Mode", so maybe this way is better.)

Hard Mode changes a lot of little things (the wiki has a full list here). The short version is enemies usually have increased stats, and their resistances to status effects increase faster so they're harder or impossible to stunlock (more on this later once we learn about status effects). Most bosses' behaviours change, and they usually get at least one new attack.

And as Artis was hinting, there are also extra perks for playing Hard Mode. Every time we defeat a boss or miniboss with the Hard Mode medal equipped, we can come back and talk to Artis and he'll give us a new Medal. There are also achievements for beating each chapter boss in Hard Mode.

None of this is lost forever if you choose to play without Hard Mode, however. The medals will all become available for purchase in a certain shop instead, and you can make up the achievements in boss refights (which I'll discuss more once they become available). That said, a warning to PS4 and Xbox players: some people report only getting the ingame achievement if they do that, not the global system achievement.

Anyway, Image Hard Mode. Let's put it on.

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Okay, this is a good time to show off the pause menu too. First off, let's check our inventory.

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Here's our items. We don't have anything right now because I wasted the Crunchy Leaf during the Maki fight, but if I hadn't it would be here.

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And our key items. We just have the Explorer Permit right now.

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Now let's see our medals.

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Hard Mode costs 0 MP, so equipping it doesn't cost us anything. Press A and...

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Hard Mode shows up highlighted in orange, indicating that it is now equipped. This orange colour is because it's what I'll call a "global" medal, it doesn't need to be equipped to any specific bug. Some medals work like this; others need us to choose a bug, and we'll see what that looks like once we find one.

We can also press Y here to cycle through a few other screens: Equipped Medals (which shows only the medals we currently have on, instead of our entire supply), and then Skills (where we can see a summary of each character's skills). As we've already seen all the information that would be on those pages if we looked at them now, I'm not bothering to show them.

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Next up is the Library. Let's see what this is...

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Looks like we have our work cut out for us. These tabs are, from left to right: Discoveries, Bestiary, Recipe Book, Records, and Quest List. We'll learn more about all of these things later. For now, let's look at our quests...

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And finally, there's the options menu.

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I want to highlight one particular option here. "Mash Action Commands". You can change this between "Fill Bar" (which asks you to rapidly mash buttons) and "Sequential Keys" (it will display a button sequence which you have to match).

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I'm going to be leaving this on the default, I don't have a problem mashing buttons, but I like that they give you a choice since this can be an accessibility issue for some people.

That was a lot of menus. Let's actually go outside now?

Image 06 - Outskirts

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Looks like the staircase up to the Explorers' Association is made of flowers. Isn't that cute? Anyway, there's something weird over to the left, let's go check that out?

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We can't actually do anything with this weird mound of dirt right now, but I wanted to point out that it's here and we can get over to it. It's worth remembering for (much) later.

Now, let's get back on track, we saw someone with an ! over their head...

When we talk to him, before anything else, he... strikes the glowing yellow rock with a sword?

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Image Huh? You REALLY don't know?

Image Just tell us why.

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This one's a screenshot because I'm not sure if you'd have believed me if I transcribed it. That's... awkwardly worded, Levi.

Image This is an Ancient Crystal, correct? They're unique to this land.
Image They can store the record of previous travelers, if you smack them with something.
Image This crystal is yellow, so it will even heal your wounds!
Image You expect me to believe that!? All that awesome stuff for hitting a rock?
Image Heh. You are one of little faith.
Image Come on, Levi. Show 'em!

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Image It is done.
Image W-Woah! It really works! This must sell for a fortune!
Image All you'll get for this crystal is prison time.
Image Only the Ant Queen can authorize placing these rocks in public spaces.
Image Even if you find one in the wild, they are too heavy to be carried by a single bug.
Image There goes that idea...
Image Still, their properties are amazing! Let's use them when we can, Vi.
Image Yeah, sure. Let's get a move on.
Image Best of luck!
Image ...

Okay, so that's our tutorial on save points (I like how it's integrated with all of these world details!). Yellow ones fully heal us in addition to saving; blue ones only save. Good to know.

If we talk to them again, Levi doesn't have anything interesting to say (he just offers to help us save)

Image Care for some healing?
Image (yes) Very well. May the Queen guide you.
Image (no) Let me know if you need me to do it again!

I actually need to stop here and explain something, because this might seem a bit weird. Why is Levi hanging out here to save the game for us when we can just smack the crystal ourselves? Well, in versions 1.0.5 and earlier, Vi and Kabbu didn't have their field abilities unlocked yet, so they wouldn't be able to interact with the crystal. In v1.1, for some reason, they changed something about the field ability flags and they're unlocked from the start. So that's why it's like this.

Celia has some new dialogue, though:

Image It's nice of you to make friends and all, but don't distract us too much.
Image We'll be going on an expedition of our own soon, and we must prepare.
Image Hm. Best of luck, then.

Let's have a look around the area.

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The path to the north is blocked off by fallen rocks, but there are some travellers here with... a pack snail? Carrying canned tomatoes? How cute.

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Image If this isn't cleared soon, we will lose money! Get on with it, ants! This should never even happen!!!

Well, someone's angry. (These are the merchant caravan, but they're clearly not open for business right now.)

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He seems a little more reasonable.

There's also this fellow.

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If we try to go east, the way is blocked by more large rocks.

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But the ants seem to have workers on this.

If we go west...

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A sign helps us get our bearings.

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The way south is blocked off too. Guess there's nothing else for it, let's go talk to the guard at the west gate.

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We're prompted to show our permit here. Interestingly, if we press B, we can actually decline this:

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But let's just show it and go on ahead.

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Looks like the way is open, and we can head out on our journey to Snakemouth Den! ... next time.

In the meantime, here are a few tidbits from alternate dialogue choices we could have made.

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Let's have Vi refuse Kabbu's help.

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Interestingly, Vi deals 3 damage here! It looks like the problem is specifically with the scripted attacks during the other dialogue. Also, interestingly, saying "no need" here doesn't actually skip the tutorial, it just changes this first turn and the rest of it proceeds the same way as it did before.

I did take the opportunity to show off Kabbu's Taunt, though. Here's what it looks like:

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Now, for the second thing. Let's see what Eetl says if we tell him we know what the expedition is.

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Image Good luck out there.
Image Thank you. We will be back soon. I promise.

Much shorter this way.

Anyway, that's it for this update! Next time on Bug Fables, we'll set out for Snakemouth Den (actually leaving the first room of the game, good grief!) and see some real gameplay. See you then!
Last edited by Explopyro on Fri Feb 26, 2021 1:34 am, edited 5 times in total.

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Ugh, I found a whole bunch of screwups after posting the first update. I've fixed them now; hopefully I got all the mistakes? Sorry about that...

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This looks super cute!

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02: Snakemouth Way

First off, I want to apologise for a bit of sloppiness in the first update: I intermingled screenshots from the two runs, and if you pay close attention to my HP and TP in the menus, you might notice things fluctuating weirdly. I'll try to be more diligent about this in the future. This is going to be a shorter update.

Also:
Junpei wrote: Fun minor fact: the name "Kabbu" is derived from a Japanese word for a rhinoceros beetle, 'Kabuto'.
Yes! I wish I'd remembered to mention this, so thank you for reminding me. It's really the perfect name for him, since a kabuto is also a warrior's helmet.

Image 06 - Outskirts

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When starting up, we spawn in close to the crystal we used to save.

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Let's get back to business and head through the gate.

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As soon as we go through, we see this little guy. Let's say hello?

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When we get close, it sees us and starts trying to chase us. When it touches Kabbu, a battle starts.

Image 04 - FIGHT!

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First things first, this is a new kind of enemy and we don't know anything about it. Can we fix that?

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Yes we can. There's a lot of stuff in the Strategies menu, but right now we're only concerned with one option: "Spy". It says that'll give us information about enemies, so let's see what happens.

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Image Despite their adorable looks, they plague many fields and have no qualms about devouring crops.
Image Although weak and puny in comparison to me, their flying variation is troublesome, as I can't reach it...
Image I'll have to ask Vi for help.

We get a small dossier on the enemy (showing us its HP and defence), as well as some dialogue, which usually contains both flavour text and hints. Spy is, more or less, the equivalent to "Tattle" in the Paper Mario games. The difference is that in Bug Fables, every character can do it (so you no longer feel forced to use a specific character if you want to gather information), and they each have unique dialogue when they do, so they get a chance to show some personality.

These are Seedlings. These plant ball things are the most basic enemy of the game (essentially Goombas), and we'll see more variations on them later. So far all the bugs we've seen have been based on things that really exist, but clearly the game isn't limiting itself to those. Walking plant monsters!

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Once we've spied on a type of enemy, its HP bar will become visible. The little shield icon on the left side of the bar is their defence (this was added in v1.1 and it's very convenient, it even updates to reflect temporary changes like buffs).

Anyway, now that we've done that, let's go on with the battle. This should be simple.

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I knew you'd never forgive me if I didn't show the goofy animations you get when you fail the action commands, so I figured this was a good opportunity to show them since I could do so and still kill this Seedling:

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Kabbu falls flat on his back.

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And Vi trips and throws the Beemerang overhand.

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Image 07 - Battle Won!

The Seedling dies anyway, and when it does, it bursts into these little icons. These are... Exploration Points. Not experience points, Exploration Points. Sure, whatever. It's functionally the same thing: when we get enough of these (right now we need 100), we'll gain a levelTeam Rank. (I will probably still say experience and level.)

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When we get back to the overworld, the enemy sprite spins around and dissolves. It also drops this weird blue thing, which I'll pick up. A counter in the bottom right corner appears and goes up. We'll find out what this is later.

One other thing happens when we Spy on enemies: their entry gets added to the Bestiary! Here's what that looks like.

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It keeps track of how many we've fought, and how many we've killed (pretend it doesn't say 9 there, I obviously took this picture at the end of the update). When we open the entry, this is what we see:

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The Bestiary is even kind enough to show us what Vi would have said if I'd had her spy on it, so I don't have to do that manually! We'll be collecting entries on everything, but this is the last time I'll have it in the middle of an update, I'll make an appendix for these soon.

Let's press on.

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These rocks help us jump across this narrow stream. Unfortunately, I timed it a bit off and Vi fell right in the drink - which gives me an opportunity to show how the game handles this. It just respawns her behind Kabbu and keeps moving on as though nothing happened. There are no consequences. (If the bug in front had fallen in, it'd fade out the screen and reset our position, though with no other consequences. This game is pretty forgiving about things like that. Paper Mario used to ding the player's HP in similar circumstances, but this game doesn't let things deal damage outside of battles.)

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It's another Seedling! Looks like this one can fly, like Kabbu hinted earlier. (Though you'll notice we can still see its HP bar: a flying Seedling is still a Seedling.)

Kabbu can't reach it, though. (See how the attack icon is greyed out? We can't choose it.) Oh no! There must be something we can do...

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If I press B, the cursor moves to Vi and I can have her act instead! Her Beemerang knocks the Seedling down, and now Kabbu can finish it off.

Notably, switching to Vi this way doesn't change our formation, nor does Kabbu lose his turn. Our bugs can take actions in whatever order we want on any turn, irrespective of their arrangement. As you might imagine, this adds a lot of strategic elements to consider.

Anyway, I finish that battle.

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Image Ask a friend who can fly or toss something at it to bring it down! Press (X) to switch positions in battle and attack!

That said, this sign tells us how to change the formation if we want to do that, so let's try that out against the next one.

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If I press X (while all characters can still act), it will rotate my formation to put Vi in front. Now she's getting the damage bonus!

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Our two characters' attacks are just enough to take out this Seedling again (notice Kabbu does 2 this time, because he's in the back).

I like how the design elements here are set up to encourage the player to learn the mechanics. Seedlings have 5 HP, which is exactly enough for Vi and Kabbu to kill in one turn if they both attack correctly. And the flying ones teach us to think about which attacks we're using when.

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Now the Seedling encounters start having two of them. This means we're going to take some guaranteed attrition; right now there's no way we can output enough damage to kill both in one turn, even if we spend some of our TP on Tornado Toss. Better practice that blocking! (Especially since I don't have that Crunchy Leaf!)

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Now I'll just finish off the second one. No need to show this, you know the drill by now.

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That encounter was worth 14 EXP, 7 per Seedling. It's starting to add up!

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That's all the enemies in this area accounted for, so let's move along.

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More Seedlings are here.

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This is another two-Seedling battle, this time one's flying and one isn't. You know the drill at this point, no need to show it.

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Ooh, there's someone over there!

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But let's check out this path to the south first.

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Image Uh, yeah. I knew that.

Or not. The game won't let us go this way. This looks a bit weird because I had Kabbu in the lead, so it looks like he tries to walk off, then stops himself; this dialogue would've made more sense if I'd had Vi in front. Oh well.

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A cutscene starts when we get close to this brown wood-borer beetle. Vi tried to walk past him, but Kabbu stopped and initiated the conversation :)

Image Hey! Kabbu! We're supposed to be adventuring! Snakemouth Den? Endless riches?
Image Sorry, Vi. I cannot ignore an old bug in distress.
Image First of all, name's Chuck. And I bet I'm younger than both of ya! But if you've gotta know...
Image I'm almost done arranging my cozy rest space for travelers going to Snakemouth Den. I just can't pull out this darn weed!
Image You call this cozy?

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Oh, Kabbu.

Image ...Look, will you help me or not?
Image I'm not doing any pulling. At least not for free.
Image Hm. Watch this, Vi. If I press (B) near small bushes or rocks...

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I love how Chuck jumps for joy here.

Image Woah, nice!
Image Something like this is no match for my horn!
Image I'll be! You actually helped me! This made my week!
Image You've got a reward ready, right?

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Another favourite of mine, I love these little sarcastic asides.

Image It's really, really not.
Image Hohohoh. No worries. Helpful bugs deserve gratitude! I ain't got much, but please take this.

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Image Berries, so many berries!
Image Use 'em to buy something nice later, alright?
Image Thank you, we surely will. We'll be going now. Make sure to warn others of the danger!

This is the game teaching us about Berries. That's what those things we've been picking up after battles are (and we have 20 now with the 10 Chuck just gave us, or 21 after I grab that one that spawned when I cut the grass). These are money. We won't actually be able to spend any of these until after the Snakemouth expedition, though.

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This is where Kabbu's horn strike would be unlocked for use in the field, in v1.0.5 and earlier. I've been refraining from using it prior to this, but now I'll feel free. (One nice thing here: as that text suggests, that alert will appear no matter who's in front, even though only Kabbu can act on it.)

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In particular, there's this suspicious weed over here. When we cut it, something pops out.

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This will be useful. (Also, it amuses me that honey restores TP, because Honey Syrup was the basic FP restoring item in Paper Mario. They knew exactly what they were doing. Honestly, it makes more sense in this context!)

Before we leave, we talk to Chuck again:

Image Good luck, ye two!

That's all he had to say.

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In the next screen, there's this sign that helpfully explains how Spying works.

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Cutting down weeds occasionally makes berries appear. Just assume I'll be doing this whenever I pass something Kabbu can cut, it's practically a reflex at this point. The weeds that have items in them (like that Honey Drop we found) are guaranteed to have those, and only once, but berries appear randomly.

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Let's try out Kabbu's horn on this Seedling! It launches it into the air, and if we touch it after it lands...

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Kabbu starts the battle with an extra turn! This is how first strikes work in Bug Fables. Hitting enemies outside battle will stun them, and if we touch them while they're stunned, the bug in front gets one bonus turn. Notably, it doesn't matter whose field skill did the stunning, it's the bug in front who gets the bonus. Kabbu should be able to kill the first Seedling by himself...

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Wait, he only did 2 damage the second time? It was still enough to kill, but what's going on?

This is a mechanic the game calls exhaustion. Each time a bug takes an action, each subsequent attack they make that turn will be reduced in power by 1. That second action is still good, but it's slightly weaker than the first one. (It's tricky to see in screenshots, but a character with exhaustion will have sweat drops coming off them while they idle. I'll point it out if we catch a better view later.)

Anyway, the rest of that battle is nothing special.

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Cutting down a weed over here yields another Crunchy Leaf. This is good to have, since my characters are getting a tad low on HP. Onto the pile it goes.

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Let's move along. (Also, since we've got a clear view of it here, these little pier things extending over the void represent area transitions. And also are a huge Paper Mario reference, because this is the exact style used there.)

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Looks like we've reached Snakemouth Den.

Image It doesn't look that scary, you know?
Image According to rumors I have heard, it is the grave of a thousand explorers.
Image Having ended countless journeys, many a song has been written about its dangers.
Image F-For real?
Image Its interior must be absolutely riddled with monsters and death traps. We must be extremely cautious.
Image Geez, way to sell it to me, Kabbu.
Image But the higher the danger, the better the treasure!
Image Hm. It's true that the artifact is likely to be inside. But are simple riches worth such a risk to you?
Image Stop trying to scare me off. Let's get in there!
Image (...I must make sure she stays safe.)

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What's this? Logbook updated?

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Looks like we've gotten our first Discovery. Let's check it out.

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Charming. Sounds like a fun place.

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I cut down some grass and find another of these suspicious dirt mounds. Still can't do anything about it, though. Hmm, what's this weird shiny thing I see behind us...

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Image You found a crystal berry! These are rare items sought by collectors around the world. Maybe someone will trade rare goodies for them somewhere! You can check how many you have in the Pause Menu.

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You can see our Crystal Berry counter in the bottom right corner. Also, we have 63 of the 100 EXP we need to level up, and we're up to 32 berries.

Crystal Berries are one of this game's primary collectibles, and there are 50 of them for us to find. They're more or less analogous to Star Pieces in Paper Mario, though thankfully in this game we'll never need to worry about those !@%*# hidden floor panels. It'll be a while before we find out what these are for, but you can probably already guess.

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The healing from this save point is much appreciated, my HP was getting low enough to make me a little uncomfortable.

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Next time on Bug Fables, we go spelunking.
Last edited by Explopyro on Fri Feb 26, 2021 1:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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FYI, I've edited some more music links into the posts for things like the little fanfares that play when you get key items, medals, or win battles, I forgot to do that earlier.

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03: Snakemouth Spelunking

It's time to go into Snakemouth Den.

Image 12 - Snakemouth Den

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Walking in triggers a cutscene conversation.

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Image Uh huh... Hey, Kabbu? Do you really have to comment on every small thing?

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Image !!! I... I'm sorry.
Image H-Hey, don't look so sad! Err, how about this?
Image If I wanna know more about where we are, or about something or someone near us... I'll just tap (Back). Sounds good?
Image ... Very well. I will make sure to have information at hand for when you do.
Image Cool. Now, let's keep going!

This conversation is our tutorial for yet another mechanic: we can press the (Back) button to get party banters. They'll talk about the room, or a nearby NPC if you're within talking range. Sometimes they give hints, sometimes it's just for colour. There are a lot of these - they also update situationally, so you might get different banters in the same room depending on plot flags, different conversations about an NPC before and after you talk to them, etc. It's going to make my life hell trying to get all of these (and I'm sure I'll miss a few), but there's a lot of charm in them and some are really worth it.

Obviously I'm going to do this now.
Image Snakemouth Den is quite dangerous, but this room's quite cozy.
Image Let's go before you jinx it!

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Is that an enemy there behind the pillar? It doesn't look like a Seedling...

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Well, I managed to hit it with Kabbu's horn at least.

Image 04 - FIGHT!

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There's a new battle transition animation. The leaves are purple now!

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Definitely a new enemy. Let's spy on it. I'll let Vi do the honours this time:

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Image Its armor is really strong, so I can barely hurt it.
Image I bet Kabbu can flip it over, though!

Inichas (I don't know what if any real-life bugs these are supposed to correspond to, they seem to have features in common with pillbugs and caterpillars?) are our introduction to enemies with defence. Defence works the way you might expect: subtract it from the attack value to get the actual damage done. This is pretty scary, since Vi and Kabbu both have 2 attack right now: are we going to have to plink away at this thing, doing 1 point a turn from the positioning bonus?

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Not exactly. Kabbu's done 2 damage, which might seem a bit weird. The game will explain this in a moment, but his horn attacks have the bonus property of ignoring 1 point of enemy defence. He can also flip enemies, if they're vulnerable to that.

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That blue swirl icon indicates the Inichas has been flipped (if we couldn't tell from the way its sprite is upside down). While flipped, its defence drops to 0! (We can see that now, on its HP bar.) Let's finish it off.

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Even with 1 turn's worth of exhaustion (if you look closely, you can see the sweat drops here), Kabbu still deals enough damage to finish off the Inichas.

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The Inichas was also worth 9 EXP.

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It also dropped a Crunchy Leaf, in addition to a nice few berries. Not bad.

What's that green mushroom back there? That looks important.

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It acts like a spring, launching us up the cliff.

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Going south, there's a mushroom on top of the column. Unfortunately, we can't jump far enough to get to it (nor to see if there's anything on top of the second pillar further east). Let's go check that sign.

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Image Sharp horns ignore some defense, and can even flip certain enemies, negating defense entirely!

I'm glad the game explains this (though I do think it's a bit awkward that, as far as I remember, this sign is the only place the game mentions it; a player who skips reading signs is probably going to find the damage numbers confusing for a while). Let's move on.

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Image Well, that's it. Game over. Let's go back.
Image Wait, Vi. Hold on! It's too soon to give up! There must be a way...
Image Duh. I was kidding, you know? Look over there!

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Image You can just fly over to it, right?

(I'm glad someone is asking this)

Image That's too much effort. I've got a better plan.

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Image I will trust you with this, then. Give it your best shot!

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The Beemerang hits the cord (not the crystal switch), breaking it and causing the bridge to fall.

Image Well done, Vi. I wasn't expecting you to do that!
Image Um, yeah! Of course! Just as planned!

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Whatever works, I guess. The bridge is certainly down and we can cross it now. (This is also the point at which Vi's Beemerang field skill became unlocked in prior versions. As such, we could also backtrack and use it to grab that Image mushroom on top of the pillar... but I forgot to do that.)

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If we check the switch, we get this message. It doesn't do anything, no matter what we do with it. (I'm not sure what to make of this. I think that scene was supposed to teach us that these things are switches we should hit, and in the future they always will be, but this scene pointedly has the switch be completely irrelevant. It's just a little odd.)

There's another Inichas walking around over here. It notices us.

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Oh no! It hit us. And the leaves are red this time. Looks like the enemy has gotten a first strike on us.

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The enemies don't give us time to wait, either, and start attacking as soon as the transition animation ends.

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And it's not just the front enemy (or the enemy we saw on the overworld)! Every enemy in the battle gets a free swing at us (in Hard Mode, at least; without the medal, only the front enemy gets to attack). Both of these enemies went after Kabbu, too; his HP's starting to get low.

Once that mauling is done with, it's finally our turn. This battle isn't particularly hard: two attacks takes down the Seedling, then the next turn Kabbu can flip the Inichas for Vi to finish off. Kabbu does take another hit, though, bringing him down to 3 HP.

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It's worth a lot of EXP, though! Next battle we should level up.

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It also drops a new item we haven't seen before. This Image Aphid Egg isn't quite up to the standard of the Crunchy Leaf we're familiar with, but it's still a healing item and much appreciated. (That description's a bit morbid though, isn't it? Eat it before it hatches? This is just flavour text though, there's no actual mechanic for it to hatch: this isn't Earthbound.)

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Cutting down the weeds lets us get to this sign in the corner. Let's see.

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Image "We have already lost one of ours to this wretched place..."
Image Curses! This coziness was an illusion. Our path won't be easy, that much is for sure.
Image No place full of treasure's ever been safe.
Image So many have fallen looking for riches... Let's find the treasure quickly, so no one else ventures in here.
Image (I will do this for them.)

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We also get the logbook message again. Looks like this is another discovery.

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This sounds worrisome. We're definitely not the first to undertake this expedition, and it seems to have gone badly for our predecessors. We can't do anything about that now, though, we have to just press on. (Kabbu certainly intends our expedition here to be the last.)

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Ouch! Another first strike. (Full disclosure: the last one was completely intentional, I wanted to make sure I showed the mechanic at least one. This one... wasn't. This caught me by surprise and, well, look what happened. I swear I'm not usually this bad at this game!)

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Both enemies get free hits, and both of them went after Kabbu. Who was on 3 HP. I managed to Super Block one of them, but I'd have needed to nail the timing on both to prevent this outcome. Kabbu goes down.

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She probably wouldn't admit it, but there's no way Vi could win this fight on her own. My only choice is to run away.

The way running works in this game is pretty simple. The game presents a button sequence, and you need to hit the designated inputs in order before the timer runs out. If you get all the inputs, you flee successfully. Miss a single one, or run out of time, and not only do you fail to escape, it immediately becomes the enemy's turn (even if another bug had turns left). Running away also causes us to lose berries: the longer we take on the button sequence, the more berries we lose.

Anyway, we get away successfully.

One other important thing to mention here is that characters downed in battle will revive with 1 HP once the battle ends. So Kabbu is okay here; I don't need an item to revive him or anything. Let's try that again.

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Much better.

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Kabbu uses his two turns to get rid of the Inichas immediately, while Vi knocks down the Seedling. Unfortunately, the Seedling goes after Kabbu again (honestly, I should probably have taken him out of the front).

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That said, the Seedling is on 3 HP, so Vi can just switch into the front and take it down. (Yes, downed characters still count for positioning.)

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Image 08 - Getting Stronger!

That's more than enough EXP to levelRank up! Among other things, gaining a rank fully heals everyone, so poor Kabbu's out of the woods at last.

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We have a choice to make!

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Pretty self-explanatory. Each time we Rank Up, we get to choose one of these three stat bonuses: +1 HP for each bug, +3 TP, or +3 MP. (This is very similar to how levels work in Paper Mario, but you'll notice the numbers are pretty different. I honestly think these numbers end up working out a lot better.)

I'm choosing MP for now because I have to pick something, but that might change! I'm taking input from the thread on my stat build; at the end of this update I'll outline the options and explain how to vote.

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Vi also learns a new skill, Secret Stash! Each level, we'll usually get some kind of bonus, whether it's a skill or something else. Our characters are going to be learning a lot of skills this way. Let's see what Secret Stash does...

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It's a healing move! It's pretty expensive for what it does, but that doesn't mean it's not useful.

Back to exploring.

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There's a mushroom back here. If we bounce on it, it launches us up...

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To this ledge, where there seems to be some kind of block stuck in a vine. Vi's Beemerang can knock it down, so let's do that.

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This room has a big door and some mechanisms on the floor. Before anything else, let's see what our party have to say about this room:

Image We've reached a dead end.
Image But it's ancient ruins, so not really.
Image Right. If we leave no stone unturned, we will open a path!

Subtle, game. Block pushing it is. (This is why we needed to bring down the block from above, there are two big round switches to hold down.)

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When Kabbu gets close to the block, the ! icon indicates his horn will do something. Also, that bright green arrow appears, indicating the trajectory the block will take if he hits it from his current position. This is a really nice quality of life feature, and makes manipulating these blocks a lot less painful than it might be otherwise (but it wasn't always in the game, the arrows were added in v1.0.4).

Let's get the blocks onto the switches.

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Well, that's disappointing! That shaking made it look like the door was going to open, didn't it? Instead, all that happened was this mushroom falling from the ceiling.
Image A mushroom?
Image What!? We did all this for THAT?!
Image Seriously? It wasn't even a rare item. Heck, it wasn't even a rare mushroom!

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Image Come now, Vi. Unfortunate as it may be, let's pick it up and start looking again!
Image Grr!!!

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No being cheeky, the Beemerang won't pick up this Image mushroom. (Which should be a clue, really. Normally it can pick up items, like that other mushroom I forgot to go back for.) Oh well. We don't really have a choice.

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Mushroom is a new item, though. In addition to healing, it cures poison. Could be useful.

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Image IYAAAAAAAAAA--

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Oh, so she can fly after all!

Image Phew. That was close.
Image Hrgrgh...
Image Kabbu! Are you okay!?
Image Mrggfgh...
Image I guess he is. Hmm...
Image This is the perfect time to go home. I don't like the look of that place...
Image But I'm his reliable teammate...
Image ...I'm going to regret this...

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The door opened after all, but Vi and Kabbu have no way of knowing that. (I do love dramatic irony.)

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Things don't look very good for Kabbu, do they.
Image Nghgh...
Image No rush. I can wait.

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Image I would have carried you, but you seem really heavy...
Image I assure you I am lighter than I seem.
Image Uh huh.
Image Anyways, this place is really creepy.
Image I must agree. And there doesn't seem to be a way back up for me. We will have to look around.
Image Let's be careful, okay? You were almost a goner!

(Is she talking about his fall here, or my lousy gameplay? You decide!)

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Coming down from the mushroom, we see a yellow save crystal. We're still at full health, though. Let's see the banter here:

Image We're trapped. Well, I am.
Image How shameful, to make Vi come to such a dangerous place.
Image Look, I can take care of myself. Don't make me regret coming with you.
Image Sorry, I shouldn't undermine your choice. Let's press forward!

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At the far end of the room, it looks like... that's a spider web. Is someone caught in it?

Image By the Queen! What a terrible fate... A moment of silence, in solidarity for a fallen explorer.

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Image

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Image Quick! We must free him!
Image Okay, I'm just going to see if the Beemerang can cut through web...
Image I will make sure there are no other surviv--
Image Vi! Watch out!

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Image 13 - It's Getting Scary!

He knocks her out of the way as a strand of web shoots in from offscreen, followed by this big spider.

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Image How could a beast so huge sneak up on us!?
Image Kabbu! We've got to run! Treasure ain't worth this!
Image It's not that! We can't abandon this poor moth to his fate!
Image I...I...

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Image Vi! Vi, wait! Curses!

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Image 14 - His Friends Call Him Spuder (Don't Call Him Spuder)

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Looks like Kabbu's facing off against the spider alone. Can I spy...?

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Doesn't look like it. Guess I'd better just attack...

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That's not good.

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Neither is that.

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After another turn of back and forth, the spider raises itself up on some silk.

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Image Must I really sit here and do nothing!?

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Yes, unfortunately. There's literally nothing else Kabbu can do.

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The spider is still perfectly capable of attacking him, though, by spitting these purple globs. This isn't looking good. After this, it fades out and we leave the battle screen, though; clearly this is a foregone conclusion.

Image 13 - It's Getting Scary!

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Image

Image

Image

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Image Look, I--
Image By the holy jaws of the Queen, Vi! You left me to my fate! You are vile!

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Image You pushed me away from the web, but I still left, so I'm--
Image I will properly scold you later. The situation is dire, but I've got a plan.
Image We will attack the web holding the moth while battling the spider.
Image And we bail when we free him?

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Image H-Here it comes. Let's do this!

Image 14 - His Friends Call Him Spuder (Don't Call Him Spuder)

(While I do like this song, I have to say this upbeat jazzy dance number feels incongruous to the tense moment our characters are in; it's a strange choice.)

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Well, we're back in battle with the spider again (although we still can't spy). Kabbu's told us what we have to do, though. Attacking the spider is pointless, but now we can target the web.

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We repeat that sequence of events again. As far as I can tell, the web has exactly 10 HP, and when we've done enough damage, this happens:

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With this, we exit the battle scene.

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Image Huff... Huff...
Image Gee, glad it's too fat to come in here.
Image Um, Kabbu? Sorry for running away...
Image ...Sigh. Very well. You are forgiven, Vi. It was understandable.

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Image Let's turn over a new leaf, Vi. This moth is our priority.

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Image 15 - The One Left Behind (Leif's Theme)

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Image What the... Hey! You okay? You hit your head?
Image Jsgsn. Sjaika? Hsjaosidjs...?
Image Could this moth be speaking in an ancient tongue? Perhaps he is of the fabled tribes lurking underground.

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Image Do you need, like, a minute?
Image ......No.

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Image Thank goodness. You had us quite worried.
Image Where are we? Where is the spider?
Image Right... let's get you up to speed.

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Image No big deal. It sucks that we're trapped, though.
Image Were you looking for treasure as well, alongside fellow explorers? Err, what's your name?
Image Leif is fine. And somewhat. A scouting mission, in fact.
Image You've got some luck to be alive... Did you learn anything scouting? About the artifact?
Image Artifact? If it is here, it's probably ahead.
Image If we work together, we will surely find both it and the exit!
Image We have little choice. We will accompany you.
Image Can you fight?
Image ...Not really part of scouting.
Image Seriously!? You came into this place without knowing how to fight!?
Image Make sure to stay behind us, so we can protect you.
Image How reassuring.
Image Ok. We've spent too much time here. Let's look for the exit!

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Another discovery?

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As there's a save crystal just here, I think this is a good place to end the episode. Before we go, though, let's see if there's a banter in this room.

Image This is that blasted spider's den. I really don't want to stay here any longer.
Image No kidding. Can we just go?

Sounds good to me. Next time on Bug Fables, we'll get to know our new companion. The only way out is further in.

That said, before we go, it is...

**VOTING TIME**

We need to decide what I'm going to choose for my level-ups. There is a respec option in this game that lets you redistribute your level-up stats (and any other permanent stat upgrades you may get), so no choice we make is final. That said, it doesn't become available until pretty late in the game (chapter 6 of 7, which I do think is kind of unfortunate). So what I want to do is let the thread pick a plan for how I'll build my team, and I'll follow that plan until we get the chance to respec. (I can't ask for voting for each level-up because that would drastically inhibit my ability to actually make the LP.) Here are my suggestions:

Plan A: Alternating. HP-TP-MP so everything is distributed evenly, repeating every 3 levels. This is honestly suboptimal, but it's what I did on my first playthrough (on principle) and I think it's the approach that most leads to the game feeling like a traditional JRPG. This makes it harder to break the game, but it also means it'll be trickier for me to show off some of the cooler strategies because we'll have fewer MP (but of course I could respec to show them later).

Plan B: MP only. This will leave my characters a bit fragile in the early game, but nothing I can't deal with and long-term it's easily the best way to go. The more medals you can equip, the more crazy combos and strategies you can put together; you end up with a negative difficulty curve as you accumulate more and better tools, until you hit critical mass and basically become invincible. We'll get plenty of HP Plus and TP Plus medals to increase those if we need them; there are a handful of strategies that might want more TP, but not many, so we'll be able to do most anything.

Plan C: Hybrid. We'll put a handful of levels into HP and/or TP (I'm open to suggestions for how many and when, but my preference is no more than 2-3 levels each), then go MP only past a certain point. This would allow us to see some of the same complexity we would in MP-only, while not quite going all-in.

I'm putting a preemptive veto on "nothing but HP" or "nothing but TP". As far as I know it's still possible to succeed this way, but these are very much gimmicky challenge runs that would twist our experience of the game (for better or worse, like BP in Paper Mario, MP is overall the best stat). Otherwise, I don't really have a preference between these three plans, so tell me what you think. Please put your votes in bold.
Last edited by Explopyro on Wed Jul 07, 2021 5:48 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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I’ll just say MP only!

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I'm seeing a decent lead for MP only over Hybrid right now (currently 9 to 6 between here and SA), so let's say I'll give another 24 hours for voting and then call it decided so I can start working on the next update?

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04: Snakemouth Depths

Image 12 - Snakemouth Den

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When we left off, we'd just met a new companion. We still can't get out the way we came, so we have to go deeper in.

Before that, I haven't showed our inventory in a while, so let's have a look at that. (Honestly, I expect most players would have more at this point, between the wasted Crunchy Leaf earlier and the Mushroom I forgot to pick up.)

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Also, since I didn't mention it before, over on the right you can see we have a cap of 10 items and we're halfway there.

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This room's pretty big, with lots of platforms over water. Let's see what our characters think of it:

Image This room seems surprisingly straightforward.
Image No issues here. I needed a break from all the death traps.
Image It's a good chance to stretch our legs.
Image Leif. If you need to take a break, let us know. Vi will carry you.
Image That is not happening.

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Image I said it's not happening!

This is actually the first time I've seen this banter, and I love it. There's so much character in these.

Let's check out that glowing tablet.

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Image It seems to be ancient script.
Image Hmm... These letters look familiar to us. We should be able to decipher it.
Image Let us check it again.

The first time we interact with one of these tablets, we see this dialogue. After that, checking again will read them like any other signs:

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Image Whoever is in front receives a bonus to attacking power. In return, said person is targeted more often by enemies.
Image You can't switch if someone has exhausted all their turns.

These signs generally have tutorial text, and, awkwardly, most of them are now going to explain things I already talked about over the last few updates. I actually like aspects of the pacing of the tutorial here, in that you have a chance to experiment and start making observations before the game gives you concrete confirmation, but I can see how this might be ineffective for some players (and, for better or worse, a player who isn't diligent about reading signs might end up not understanding basic mechanics).

Anyway, one detail I didn't mention about this is that the bug in front is twice as likely as the others to be targeted, so it's 50/25/25 with three bugs, or 66/33 with two.

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There's also a new kind of enemy here...

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Let's spy on it.

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Image That's just a story the Queen tells kids to scare them... This is too creepy!
Image I'm gonna take it out!

Cordyceps fungus is a real thing, by the way. I thought it was quite clever to use something like that as the justification for zombies in this game.

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Unfortunately for Vi, she's not going to get a chance to attack. Zombiants have 1 defence, but with Kabbu's piercing attacks, he will do 3 and then 2 damage, killing it before it gets a turn. (We'll see what Zombiants can do soon enough.)

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It's worth 6 EXP.

It's worth pointing out that the requirement to rank up has increased slightly, we now need 101 EXP. I don't really understand why, to be honest: it never increases enough to make a meaningful difference, and it no longer has the elegance of every level being 100 EXP as in Paper Mario. (Like Paper Mario, the experience gain of enemies decreases as we level up.)

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It drops another Crunchy Leaf, too. It's pretty common to see enemies drop items in Snakemouth Den, which I think is nice for an introductory dungeon. New players really shouldn't have problems keeping supplied in here.

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Let's head west first.

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There's another Zombiant over here.

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Just like before, it's only a single Zombiant, and with the bonus turn Kabbu can kill it by himself.

There's another encounter hiding just past the Zombiant, though:

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A pair of Inichas. This is another unremarkable encounter, although at least this one isn't as much of a foregone conclusion: Kabbu can flip the first one and then either he or Vi can finish it off, then they're forced to take a hit from the second one before doing the same to it. Still, there isn't a whole lot to say about most of these battles, so I'm going to summarise them and keep moving.

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We get a Honey Drop and some berries. Now let's check out the sign in the back:

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Image Each party member has different ways of attacking, and different reaches for their attacks and skills.
Image Mind who is currently acting to not waste actions on the wrong enemy.

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There's a weed here in this strange blue lighting. Let's cut it down.

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It had a crystal berry inside! Well worth picking up.

Oddly, this is the only crystal berry in the game to be hidden inside a cuttable plant like this. Yet because this is here, countless players (myself included!) found themselves with a compulsion to cut down every single object in the game, just in case there might be another.

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Platforming toward the centre of the room, I find this enemy encounter. They're mixing things up a bit, and we're now seeing Zombiants and Inichas together. There's still not much to this one, though: with the extra turn or not, it still boils down to "kill one enemy the first turn, take one hit, then kill the second enemy".

(I wonder if the numbers were deliberately chosen so that the battles would work out this way regardless of whether you get first strikes?)

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Coming over to the left side of this central platform, there's something suspicious off to the side. Maybe Vi's Beemerang can grab it?

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Looks like it's an Image HP Plus medal! Let's check that out.

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It costs 2 MP and increases the equipped bug's maximum HP by 2. Not bad. We could give it to Vi, and even her out with Kabbu...

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But let's give it to Kabbu instead and make him a bit more durable, since he's been spending most of the time in front. You'll notice that there are two indications of who's equipping the medal: the colour of the bar, and the small head icon.

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Heading east, since there's no other way to go, there's a tablet to read over here, as well as an Inichas sneakily trying to hide behind some rocks.

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It doesn't have any friends, so this fight is trivial.

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Image Entering battle while an enemy is stunned grants one more action to the party leader.

Nice to have the game formally explain this.

What to do now, though?

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There's a switch we can hit with Vi's Beemerang, which makes a platform appear and opens the way forward.

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We reach the top.

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Wait, did that mushroom come alive and start flying?

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Image Leif! Watch out!

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Image By the great antcestors... what kind of sorcery is that!?
Image We, uh, are unsure? This is new.
Image You seriously expect us to believe that!?
Image We mean it, it's the truth.
Image Magic's no common feat. There are less than ten known sorcerers in history!
Image You're not some criminal with a HUGE bounty, are you?
Image You seriously believe that?

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Image We will talk later. I take it you can fight now?
Image We'll try.

Image 04 - FIGHT!

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Image Now that we're a trio, let me share a useful technique.
Image With Turn Relay, picked from the colorful flower...
Image One of us can lend our turn to another.
Image How is that useful? It sounds tedious.
Image Well, for example, we could let Vi attack twice to knock down flying enemies.
Image Heh. You should let me attack three times! I'll take them all on!
Image You shouldn't abuse it like that, though.
Image The exhaustion will reduce your attack power by 1 every time you act in a round.
Image Grr. Fine.
Image Well, it sounds mildly useful... We'll try it out.
Image Now, on your guard!

Before the battle starts, we get this tutorial conversation. A new mechanic becomes unlocked at this point, and it's one of the more interesting ones in this game. Turn Relay lets any of our characters donate their turn to someone else. So not only can they attack in whatever order we want, we can have the same bug act more than once if we need them to. This is also where it teaches us about exhaustion.

I do have a minor gripe here. Unlike the rest of the tutorial text in this section (which is on signs we can reread at our leisure), this conversation triggers exactly once. If you aren't paying close attention, you might gloss over this, and then go quite a ways into the game without understanding a core mechanic. I like that they tried to have this conversation come up organically, but this can be a bit awkward.

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Anyway, back to the battle. Regardless of what order we'd been in before, our party defaults to Vi in front. But hey, Leif is actually here now!

Let's do some spying. I'm going to switch Vi into the rear first and then have her do it (having a character in back do the spying is usually a good habit to get into, so you don't waste the damage bonus).

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Image I'll knock it out of the air!

Short and sweet this time. Anyway, since this is Leif's debut battle, I decided to let him show off a bit. Let's look at his skills:

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Icefall sounds pretty good. Let's try it out.

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This is a new type of action command. We don't choose targets for this move directly; instead, a reticle appears, and when we press (A), it stops and Leif launches an icicle at that location. This deals damage equal to Leif's attack (in this case he's getting +1 because Jellyshrooms are weak to ice) in a radius around the impact point, and also has a chance to freeze any enemy it hits for 1 turn.

Jellyshrooms have 0 freeze resistance, so this is guaranteed to work on them.

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Attacking a frozen enemy will break it out of the ice, but also deals an extra point of damage! Which is, conveniently, just enough for Kabbu to finish off this first Jellyshroom.

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The remaining Jellyshroom thaws out on its turn, but doesn't attack us.

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Here's Leif's normal attack, in the process of finishing off the remaining one. He has a slightly trickier action command than Vi and Kabbu: after the metre fills up, a random button between (A), (B), and (X) will appear and we need to press that. Leif can only hit grounded enemies, but unlike Kabbu, isn't limited to the one in front. This attack is also ice elemental, so some enemies (like this Jellyshroom) are weak to it, and others resist it.

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And we finish that battle.

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Image It's pretty cool.
Image If you truly couldn't do it before, this den is hiding more secrets than I first thought.
Image Everything's just too suspicious. I don't believe Leif yet.
Image We're telling the truth. If we had ice magic, that accursed spider wouldn't have caught us.
Image I say let's focus on getting out alive. We can collect our thoughts when we're safe.
Image Very well. If you need us to freeze anything, press (B) while we are leading.
Image I guess it's fine for now. Onward! I can almost smell the treasure!

I don't think that's how bees' senses work? Anyway, this is telling us about Leif's field skill. Which is ice, like everything else he does. We'll see more of that in a moment.

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The enemy also dropped this new item. (This isn't guaranteed, it's just a random drop that happened to trigger.) Image Danger Shroom is something we're probably not going to be too eager to use right now: it restores 1 TP, and poisons the user for 2 turns (if used in battle, characters can't be poisoned in the field). Still, I'm going to hang onto this for now.

There's also a new party banter, if we try again after seeing that battle.

Image The spores in this room are quite nice.
Image Yep. Blue and pretty.
Image Like that convenient ice magic you pulled off here.
Image It's made you more than formidable at combat.
Image If anything, it'll be easier to get out now.
Image Indeed. If we stick together, we should be able to do it.
Image As long as we can keep control over it...

Let's check the sign before we leave the room.

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This is talking about freezing enemies in the field, not in battle.

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In the corner, there's a Honey Drop inside a weed. May as well take that with us.

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Through the door to the north, we find these ruins. When we get close...

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A drop of water falls on Vi. She doesn't seem to appreciate this.

Image EEP!
Image It's not funny! I'm all soaked now!
Image S-Sorry, Vi. I couldn't help it. It seems the ceiling's dripping...
Image Ugh, why is there so much water in here!? Under us, above us... it doesn't make sense!
Image Hm. This is good, though.
Image What do you mean?
Image If it's water...

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Image Then it can be frozen.
Image Impressive! If you can do that, it opens up a lot of options for us!
Image I bet I can push them with my horn, as well.
Image That's pretty cool, Leif!
Image Mhm. Enemies, the water around us... Even though they seem like obstacles, we can exploit them for our own benefit.
Image Let's give your ice magic a try on all we can find.

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The ice block fades away at the end of the conversation. Get used to these water droplets and ice blocks, this game really likes using them for puzzles and we're going to be seeing them a lot. They usually don't disappear like this, though: generally if we make one it can be relied on to stick around until we do something to get rid of it.

There's also a tablet in the corner.

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Image That it is. It's a shame this monument outlived its creators.
Image Yeah. You only hear about roaches in folk tales nowadays...
Image Pardon? When did the roaches disappear?
Image A bit before I was born, I think.

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Image It was indeed quite a recent event. No one knows for sure the how or why, however.
Image This is depressing talk. We should really find a way out!
Image (...This can't be right...)

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That was mysterious. Looks like we got a discovery out of it, though!

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If we try to check the tablet again:

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Nothing more to be learned here. We can go inside the ruined building, but there's nothing to be found there, just a weed that can be cut.

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The enemy encounter is an Inichas and a Jellyshroom. Kabbu can take out the Inichas by himself, while Vi and Leif make a start on the Jellyshroom (Vi knocks it down first, so Leif can attack). They can't quite kill it, though, so it gets to attack:

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It launches these purple poison globs. This attack would have poisoned Vi if I hadn't blocked. In general, timed blocks will protect you from status effects.

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After finishing that battle, it drops another Crunchy Leaf.

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But we have too many items! Oh no. This is what happens if you pick up an item while at maximum capacity. Whichever item we pick to throw away (or the item we just picked up, if we press (B) ), will literally be thrown away from the characters and bounce around briefly before settling on the ground. It'll stick around briefly before despawning, meaning there's an opportunity to use another item to make room and then pick it up again (which is generally a good habit to get into if this happens). Snakemouth Den is very generous with item drops, so it's not that hard to stay topped off.

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Going further west, we see these pillars with some convenient water droplets. We can't climb up normally, but with Leif freezing them...

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We can get up.

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There's another droplet we can freeze here to make a path over to the Honey Drop.

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Then it's a simple matter to platform over the pillars and reach the top. There's a convenient save/heal crystal here, as well as a big door that won't open and another sign.

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The sign seems to want us to check the party banter for a hint.

Image This room is gigantic!
Image Indeed. It's hard to know where to go.
Image When in doubt, go left.
Image No way, right is right!
Image Given the way this cave has been laid out...
Image I believe we will have to go both ways.
Image What a drag...
Image No joke. Let's rest up and then explore some more!

It was already looking like the path would split here, but the game definitely confirms it.

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Since Vi wants to rest so badly, I guess we may as well use the save crystal.

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Heading left first, we need to climb up these rocks and mushrooms.

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We need to freeze a droplet and then use Kabbu's horn to move the block close enough that we can get up to the next platform.

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Up here is a Jellyshroom that wakes up if we get too close.

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It's a battle with two Jellyshrooms.

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We do get to see the Jellyshroom's other attack, though: it has this spinning dive thing. (They seem to do this attack regardless of positioning, but I think they only spit the poison globs when on the ground.) For some reason, I get a lot of Super Blocks against this attack; I don't actually know if the timing is easier or not.

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Behind this fin of the big mushroom is a crystal berry. This one can be pretty hard to see if you don't know it's there.

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There's also this mushroom hidden behind the stalk.

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Let's go into the next room. There's a sign here:

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Image By giving it a heavy strike, one can break them faster.
Image Geysers can also carry around light-weight objects on top of them.

Let's see what our characters have to say about this room, too:

Image Hey, I see some geysers!
Image Weird. I thought geysers were supposed to be hot, yet this room is very cool.
Image This place is very strange.
Image At least we should be able to freeze them.
Image Yeah, and maybe ice cubes won't melt when touching them!
Image Hm. The possibilities we could do with those two pieces of knowledge together...

This hint is a bit redundant with the sign we just read, but it's clear what the theme of this room is going to be.

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We go in and quickly see a bunch of geysers. There's a battle to be had first though:

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It's a Zombiant and an Inichas. This battle's pretty unremarkable, except for one thing:

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I happened to use Turn Relay at one point in this fight, so here's a gif of the animation. Short and sweet, and no doubt a thing we'll be seeing a lot of.

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With some attention to timing to freeze them at the right heights, Leif can make a staircase out of these geysers and reach the next level.

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We can make an ice block and then knock it into the geyser. It floats on top, giving us just enough height to, once again, make a staircase to the next level.

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Image However, hitting an enemy while it is frozen will thaw it out immediately.

A sign up here explains the freeze status effect in battles.

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This next room is really big. Let's see what everyone thinks of it:

Image This room is really tall, isn't it?
Image How does this even fit in this cave?
Image That trapdoor we fell through must have been deceptively deep.
Image Hmm... are we really going to be able to get out of here?
Image Not to be a downer or anything. I'm just kind of worried.
Image Thinking about it isn't going to change anything.
Image ...Leif is right. Our only choice is to push forward. That is our only way to get out.
Image Yeah. You're right. Sorry about that.
Image Let's keep going!

Well, that's a bit bleak. Still, everyone seems determined enough. Let's take this one step at a time: first things first, there's an enemy here.

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That's a lot of guys. For better or worse, these still aren't very interesting. We have to rely on Kabbu's defence-piercing abilities to take them down efficiently.

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This is convenient. I kept forgetting to get a shot of these, but sometimes the enemies drop these bigger red berries, which are worth 5 each.

There's another sign in the far corner of the room.

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Image If you block exactly when the enemy hits, an audio cue and different message will show up to confirm you have done so successfully.
Image That's what is called a Super Block.

This is a convenient time to talk about blocking mechanics in a bit more detail. According to the wiki, the window for blocking (at 60 FPS) is 19 frames, and the last 4 frames of that count as a Super Block (which is pretty tight timing!). There is a 36-frame cooldown between block inputs, so you can't just mash the button either.

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Activating this crystal switch makes the floating platforms start moving up and down.

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We can use the bouncy mushroom to get up here.

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Then freeze the geyser from the first moving platform and use it to reach the second and get across.

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Another elevator takes us up to this level. There's a Zombiant here.

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This is just a fight with two Zombiants. Not very remarkable, except:

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We finally get to see the Zombiant's attack animation! They hit us with the cordyceps coming out of their heads. Gross.

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This battle gets us enough EXP to reach the next level!

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In accordance with the thread's voting, I choose MP (now and forevermore). We now have 11 MP.

There are no other bonuses this level.

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We can freeze this geyser to get up to the ledge...

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freeze a droplet here to make a block...

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and knock the block onto the geyser after it thaws, then ride it up the cliff.

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There's a big crystal up here, so let's hit it.

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This causes the wall to the right to lower.

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Image Did we cause the tremor?
Image I guess. It was a pretty big switch.
Image We must have made progress in unlocking the door. Let's keep going!

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Conveniently, this is where the exit lets us out.

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Time to take care of the right side.

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It's another battle with two Zombiants.

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Looks like we'll be needing 102 EXP for the next level now.

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There's another ruined building back here. If we go inside it...

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We can find this Image Poison Defender medal!

This is going to be a theme in this game, by the way. A lot of medals activate situationally, and many are designed to synergise with various status effects that would normally be detrimental.

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For now, I'll put this one on Kabbu also.

You can start to see why we might want an item like that Danger Shroom, also! Sometimes we might want to be poisoned. (Although, admittedly, right now it's not the best idea, the damage from poison and the benefit from this medal will mostly come out a wash. Still, it's worth equipping to somebody: if they do happen to get poisoned, they'll still be better off with it than otherwise.)

Onward.

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Image Must've sucked to live here.
Image The residents probably didn't frequent this area. It's most likely security for the giant door.
Image A giant door wasn't secure enough?
Image Well, whatever. If they're guarding it that much... there's got to be something valuable behind it!

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If we stand on this platform and hit the switch with the Beemerang, it'll start moving and carrying us further east.

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For the second platform, there's a beam we have to jump partway across.

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There's another battle here.

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I happened to screw up the action command on one of Leif's attacks, so here's what his failure animation looks like. Seems he hurts his hand and needs to shake off the frost?

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There's a switch here.

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Hitting it causes this long platform to rotate so we can walk across.

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That mushroom was actually a Jellyshroom.

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Cutting down the weed on this platform reveals an important item. This Image Magic Seed is the only one we can find at this point in the game; we'll be able to buy these later, but not until after we finish the chapter, so we should definitely save this in case something goes wrong against the boss. (Oops, spoilers, there's going to be a boss in here. We've played a video game before.)

There's also a sign in the back.

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Image Many different creatures have different weaknesses and resistances which could change the outcome of a battle.

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Getting back on the platform, we can hit the switch with the Beemerang to make it vertical again. I check the southern end but there's nothing there, so let's go north into the next room.

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Another battle.

Image This level of security is excessive.
Image My Beemerang's paint is getting ruined from hitting all those switches!
Image It's quite the impressive trinket. I half expected it to break, but it's so reliable!
Image Good, cuz Vi's pretty puny.
Image What was that!? You wanna go back into the spider web!?
Image ...We're almost at the end. Please keep your fights for when we get out.

I'd never seen this banter before either. This one's cute.

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Hitting the switch makes the long platform rotate, just like before.

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An ice block helps us get up.

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And we can position another ice block to get onto the platform we rotated.

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Now we make it go vertical.

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Checking the south out of habit but there's nothing again.

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Up at the top, there's another Jellyshroom.

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Another straightforward battle.

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And the second big switch!

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Image Alright! That's two switches!
Image Pretty sure the door should be open now.
Image Good! Let's make our way back to the door!

Door no longer looks like a word to me.

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The exit brings us out here, above the right side.

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We see the door open in a cutscene.

One more party banter for the road:

Image The door's open. Hopefully there's not another trapdoor...
Image The one before got you as well?
Image Yeah... We fell straight unto the floor. The rest is history.
Image (Not a mushroom...?)
Image Okay. I'll go check it out first.
Image If there's another trap, I can just fly out of it!
Image Heh. Thank you, Vi.

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And back to this save crystal. This seems like a good place to leave things. Next time, we go through this big door! Surely we're getting close to the end of this place?
Last edited by Explopyro on Fri Feb 26, 2021 1:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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05: Vicious Spider

Image 12 - Snakemouth Den

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Last time, we explored the lower level of Snakemouth Den and eventually caused this giant door to open. It's time to go through.

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This room's very big, with lots of enormous mushrooms. (Well, they look enormous from a bug's-eye-view, anyway). Let's see what the party think.

Image There's so many cool mushrooms! I wonder how much they'd sell for.
Image They aren't that special.
Image Hmm. Don't be cranky, Leif.
Image There are quite a bit of bouncy shrooms in here.

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Image Uh... Are you okay there, Kabbu?
Image Y-Yes, I apologize. I got excited.
Image Let's put that energy into our goal.

Heh.

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Let's get moving.

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Is that a medal up there?

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Looks like there's nothing much we can do on this tier. We need to get up onto the mushrooms.

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The bouncy mushroom gets us up here. (Notably, we need to bounce to this mushroom, not the one lower down to the right - we can't jump high enough to get up from there.) There's an enemy waiting for us.

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These battles are getting a bit more complicated, aren't they? This is still pretty straightforward, though. I use the first turn to get rid of the Jellyshroom in front (our three characters together do exactly 7 damage).

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I decided to get a little clever the next turn. I had Kabbu flip the Inichas, Vi attack the Jellyshroom in back, then used Icefall with Leif. This was enough to kill the Inichas, while also freezing the Jellyshroom so it wouldn't get to attack again. The following turn, we clean up.

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This mushroom gets us up.

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Then we fall down to this central platform. Remember that medal over on the right? We can't get to it from this level, but if we take this mushroom up, we can drop down to it.

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It's Image Poison Resistance. This will give the equipped bug 50% resistance to the poison status. Not bad, although it doesn't combine well with Poison Defender...

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So I'll give this one to Leif for now. (All these poison medals being given to us is a good hint that that's going to be relevant soon.)

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One more battle to fight in this room, it seems.

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Lots of Jellyshrooms! Once again, I decided to get a bit fancy in handling this.

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Switching Leif in front, a well-placed Icefall hits and freezes all three, and deals 4 damage to each (Leif's 2 attack, +1 for being in front, +1 for ice weakness).

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They're all on 3 HP now. Vi and Kabbu can each finish one off, with their 2 attack and the +1 for hitting a frozen target.

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Kabbu wouldn't be able to finish it off on his bonus turn thanks to exhaustion... but Leif certainly can! (+1 for being in front, +1 for ice weakness, +1 for hitting a frozen target, 4 damage is more than enough).

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There's a save crystal here. The full restoration is much appreciated.

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Let's move forward.

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That looks like something important!

Image By Venus! Have we finally...
Image It's the treasure room! We did it! We super ultra mega did it! Yeah!
Image It's too early to celebrate.
Image Leif is right. This place has been consistently dangerous. We must stay vigilant.
Image Last one to the treasure is a FAT STINKBUG!
Image Fat!? V-Vi, wait!
Image ...

Yes, there's even a party banter here. This room is just a short corridor that immediately triggers a cutscene conversation, but they still put one here!

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When we get closer, the conversation triggers.

Image Could this be the artifact? Some sort of mask?
Image It doesn't really seem special. Or valuable.
Image ...

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Image L-Leif?
Image Are you alright!?

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Image That settles it, then. This is probably the real artifact.
Image Dibs. Leif shouldn't touch it anyways.
Image The Queen has claimed it already, Vi.
Image The Queen...
Image Yeah, yeah. Whatever.

Image 16 - Lost Treasure

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That was easy?

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Or not. As soon as we pick up the artifact, the pedestal starts to lower, the room starts shaking and water comes rushing in.

Image Curses! It's a trap!
Image We need to leave!
Image And quickly!

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We try walking back the way we came...

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Image 13 - It's Getting Scary!

Image YOU!
Image S-Seriously!? The spider!?
Image This is the worst possible timing!
Image We disagree. It's the perfect time for payback!

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Image If it won't let us escape, we might as well defeat it.
Image B-But last time we had to run!
Image We are stronger now, Vi. And Leif is with us. Some battles we cannot run from!
Image G-Gah! Alright! Let's take it out, before the room floods!

Image 14 - His Friends Call Him Spuder (Don't Call Him Spuder)

Also check these out:{Rock remix} {Piano remix}

ImageClick me for video!

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Looks like we're fighting the spider. Again. Hopefully things can go differently this time?

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The spider does this immediately as the battle starts. This animation with the yellow arrow indicates an enemy gaining multiple turns for the rest of the fight (as indicated by the x2 over the spider).

First things first, we should spy. We're fighting it for real now, so the option isn't locked any longer (for future reference, if the game doesn't let you spy, that's a subtle hint that you're in a scripted battle). Leif hasn't done any spying yet, so let's give him a turn!

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Image For all the time we spent inside that cocoon... you will suffer tenfold!
Image As long as Vi keeps it knocked down, we will attack it without a hint of mercy!

Leif deserved this, anyway.

I'm going to start things off slowly and just use normal attacks for now; it's probably a good idea to conserve TP for later in the fight when it can have a bigger impact.

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On the spider's turn, it uses its first action to hoist itself up, then its second to spit a poison glob at Kabbu (blocking successfully means he doesn't get poisoned). One of the reasons the spider gets two actions every turn is that it takes it a full one to lift itself, and if it spent an entire turn doing that, it'd be a complete pushover. We like seeing it raise itself up, because that means it spent that action not doing damage.

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Here's where things stand at the start of turn two. As long as Vi attacks first to knock it down, we can get a full set of three attacks in.

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Once again, it raised itself up and spit poison, this time at Leif.

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Second verse, same as the first.

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This time, it seems to have had enough of wasting actions, and uses both its turns to attack. Even getting a Super Block there, Leif's HP is starting to look a bit low.

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So far, so good. We've taken a bit of damage, but we're nearly halfway there. I decide to have Kabbu and Leif attack again, while Vi heals Leif.

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If you watch the video, you'll see me hesitate a bit here: I thought about using Secret Stash at first, before realising an item made more sense to preserve TP. That TP did end up mattering later.

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At the beginning of the spider's next turn, it has a surprise for us! It screams and calls for reinforcements, and this Inichas and Jellyshroom join the fight. This is guaranteed to happen the first turn the spider is below half HP, and it doesn't cost the spider one of its actions. It still gets to take two swings at us!

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The spider bites Vi...

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before breaking out this new attack, poison breath! We have to mash (A) to fill this bar; if we don't get it all the way there, it'd be 2 damage and poison for everyone. (The timing's pretty tight, too, I only barely got there. The sequential keys version is a bit easier.)

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Well, this looks a lot more complicated. (It could've looked a lot worse if I hadn't pulled off the mash command on the poison breath!) Still, if we think about it for a moment there's a pretty obvious way to handle it.

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Kabbu and Vi team up to kill the Inichas.

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Then Leif uses Icefall to put the Jellyshroom out of commission, while still damaging the spider a bit. (The spider has 70% freeze resistance; it is possible to freeze it if you're lucky, but I wasn't.)

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The spider attacked Kabbu and hoisted itself up; the Jellyshroom didn't get a turn thanks to being frozen. This could've been a lot nastier without neutralising the adds.

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Switching Leif into the front here is a good idea for a couple of reasons. He's the healthiest right now, but also being in front gives him exactly enough damage to finish off the Jellyshroom so we no longer need to worry about it.

Vi and Kabbu do a bit more damage to the spider.

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After another dose of poison breath and another bite attack, everyone's looking a bit worse for wear. Including the spider. We could spend this turn healing and then whittle it down afterward... but sometimes the best defence is a good offence, and there's a way to end things now.

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Moving Vi in front for a Tornado Toss takes off 5 of its remaining 10 HP.

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Kabbu attacks for 2 damage...

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then Leif relays to Vi...

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and yet another Tornado Toss, with our final 3 TP, is enough to finish it off.

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It's not quite enough to rank up, but we're close!

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And that's it for the spider! Thank goodness. (Although I have to admit, I think its facial expression while dead is pretty cute. That's kind of morbid, isn't it.)

That ended up being a very clean fight. This can go a lot worse, depending on how the damage gets distributed (if the spider decides to focus someone down, you can end up on the back foot a bit, needing to either spend turns healing or reviving someone). One mistake I see a lot of people making in this game is blowing all of their TP and/or items early in the fight; as we saw with the spider, bosses in this game tend to have at least one phase-shift where they become more aggressive, so it's often better to conserve resources until this happens and then use them to mitigate the impact. This isn't true of every fight (and later on, glass cannon strategies can go very far in this game), but it's definitely the case early on when medals are scarce.

I was planning to talk about the poison mechanics the first time it came up organically, but I never ended up getting poisoned, so I guess I may as well do it now. Poison causes the affected bug to take 10% of their max HP (rounded up) in damage at the end of the turn. This damage can't kill, and will instead leave the affected bug (or enemy) on 1 HP. Any attack which causes poison will also have a set duration: all of the poison sources in Snakemouth Den last 2 turns.

There's no music after the fight ends, just sound effects of rushing water and rumbling.

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Image Heheheh... Hahahahaha!
Image We really did it! What a scare... but working together, we were victorious!
Image We did it...
Image Thank you. We don't know much of what's happened to us. But beating up that spider was great stress relief.
Image No problem! I was gonna beat it up anyways!

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There's a tremor.

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Image We should probably leave while we can.
Image ...Aw, heck.

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Image A place known for having consumed any previous explorer that dared to enter. Even so, the team stuck together, and were surprised with a new friend, Leif. Together, they found one of the fabled artifacts that the Ant Queen has been looking for. Triggering a trap, they defeated the vile spider before being swept away. What will happen to this trio who met due to chance? Will they stick together in their journey? Little do they know that their adventure is just starting...

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Image Vi! Leif! Are you alright!?
Image Ugh! I'm all soaked!!!
Image Cripes, we really got lucky.
Image I'm a bit hazy... We got the artifact... then that spider attacked.
Image Eep! The artifact! I dropped it!
Image ...

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Image Seriously, Vi!? Worry about the artifact later! Let's make sure Leif is okay first!

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Image Phew. I'm so relieved to see you well.
Image So? Did you catch the artifact or...
Image Uh, the artifact... It's over there.

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Image Alrighty! Not a scratch!
Image Your concern is touching, Vi.
Image Oh, drop it. You look super fine!
Image Well, at least we've completed our mission!
Image Uff. We're going to need a good rest.
Image After we figure out where we are...
Image If we recall, this is close to the Ant Kingdom. We should get back to the city pretty quickly.
Image It's nice to feel the sun again. It'll be good to go back.
Image Honestly, Vi may be raving about the artifact. But saving you is the true victory in my eyes.
Image Um, thanks?
Image Geez, calm down over there! Let's report to the Queen and get our reward!
Image (Elizant...)

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We'll see what this is about in a minute.

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We also get an automatic save prompt here. This is actually a new feature; in v1.1, they added these save prompts at the end of each chapter. In prior versions, you had to go hunt down a crystal like normal. It's a nice convenience thing, but these always take me by surprise and feel a bit like an interruption. Still, not worth complaining about!

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We've actually gotten two achievements here, since we're playing on Hard Mode!

Image 06 - Outskirts

There's a party banter here:

Image This place is a bit... unkempt.
Image This used to be the popular route to the Golden Hills, but the northern path is preferred nowadays.
Image Eh, at least it's a quiet place. No issues with me!

Though it's a brief one.

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We can't sequence break by going into this cave, Kabbu will stop us.

This seems like a good place to wrap up for now. Next time on Bug Fables, we start Chapter Two... with politics. See you then!

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This is just a heads-up that, at the suggestion of several posters on the SA thread, I've cleaned up (and shrunk) the character portraits, and made some minor edits and formatting changes.

Also, if you haven't yet seen them, I've made a few appendices that are linked in the OP. Feel free to check those out if they're of interest.

Next update in a couple of days, most likely.

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06: Meeting the Ant Queen (Part 1)

Image 01 - Bug Fables

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First things first, look at that! Now that we've finished Chapter 1, the title screen has changed and shows our team hanging out in the plaza (awkwardly, a plaza we haven't seen yet, but we'll go there this update). I didn't mention it earlier, but this title screen is fully rendered and animated in-engine, the camera pans around a bit and the characters move around. This screenshot caught Vi in an angry pose, but other times you'll see her looking happy, or Kabbu talking, etc. It's pretty cute.

Fair warning, get ready for :words:, there's going to be a lot of talking in this episode.

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We left off with our team coming to at the bottom of this waterfall. We can't go into the cave, so let's explore and try to figure out where we are.

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This weed has a new item in it! Image Spicy Berry is our first status buff item. With how small the numbers are in this game, +1 attack for two turns is pretty significant!

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Oh look, another suspicious dirt mound! This one's up on a ledge we can't access.

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That's all there is for this area.

Image 06 - Outskirts

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And this is where we come out. We're back in Bugaria Outskirts! You may remember this path as one that was blocked off by a fallen boulder when we were first here; it looks like the Ants made good on their promise to clean the place up. Just how long were we in Snakemouth Den?

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Image Indeed. It's a relief to return to the association safely.
Image Was this area built pretty recently?
Image Uh... I haven't been out here that long, so I don't really know.
Image Regardless, it makes me pretty nostalgic.
Image Back then, everyone thought Vi was a small helpless child!
Image Stop! This nostalgia trip is over!
Image ...

Party banter.

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Looks like they put the portcullis back up, blocking off the way back to Snakemouth. We will eventually be able to backtrack, but for now, not so much.

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Eetl stops us when we get to the bridge. Gen and Eri are waiting on the other side too.

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Image It was a... rocky journey. What with the flood.
Image No kidding! I don't wanna see rivers for a while!
Image We're glad to finally be out of there, at least.
Image Rivers!? You're some lucky bugs!!!
Image But uh... Vi, Kabbu, who's this?
Image Oh! Eetl, this is Leif. We found him trapped in Snakemouth.
Image So you DID make it into Snakemouth!?
Image Honestly, we thought you'd bail. Going to Snakemouth is crazy!
Image Bailing would've been a good idea, really...
Image Well, we did! And we got the artifact!
Image Ah haha! Nice one, Vi. The river must have shaken up your hea-

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Vi takes out the artifact to show everyone. They seem pretty shocked. Was everyone betting on us to fail?

Image I-Impossible! You actually made it into Snakemouth's depths!?
Image Yeah! We did it! In your face, Eetl!
Image How sportsbuglike.
Image Vi, it is folly to boast.
Image It's folly to tell me I can't do something!
Image Um, so is it like, the real deal?
Image Yeah. It's quite like another artifact we've been looking into. That must be the genuine deal.

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Image Hmm?
Image I was just thinking that you should go see the Queen right away! She will be beyond ecstatic!
Image It has been some time since we last saw the Queen...
Image ...Wait. Actually, looking around, we don't recognize that structure over there. Was it built pretty recently?

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Image You are not from around here, are you?
Image We are. We recognize this place. But something feels off...
Image You're just fuzzy from the cave! I bet it'll come back to you!
Image (...)
Image Eetl, what about Leif? I heard that exploration teams can only have two members.
Image Oh, that! Well, it's unusual. But you did conquer Snakemouth. It's been a goal for ages...
Image (...Ages?)
Image I suppose that... Alright. With my authority as the association's caretaker, in honor of your feat...

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Image 05 - Key Item!

It actually plays the Key Item get fanfare here.

Image Team Snakemouth?
Image A proper explorer team name!
Image Uh, yay.
Image Well, that's that! Let's go see the Queen! She must know that the artifact was found!
Image Oh, I'm so jealous! I hope the reward is good!
Image Heheh. It better be!
Image Let us go, then.
Image Yes, a walk through the plaza should help.
Image (We need more information...)

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And we're back in control. Eetl has joined the group and is following us now, too.

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Image If you want to sell stuff, talk to my husband about it.

Looks like the merchant caravan is back in business.

Also, there's a new thing we can do now. If we press (Back) while standing close enough to an NPC, we can get party banter about that NPC instead of the general vicinity:

Image Cricketly's one of the members of the traveling caravan. I've heard she is pretty hot-headed.
Image No kidding, you can already tell by her looks!
Image She does have a soft spot for her husband, though.
Image It seems we shouldn't judge people by their appearances.

I'm not sure why Kabbu says "I've heard" when he personally witnessed her screaming at the ant workers cleaning up in the first update, but I guess it's been a while.

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Let's ask Huscada about the business.

Image We are no more than a humble caravan trying to make a living.
Image We travel all over the land, selling different wares wherever we go.
Image Our trusty snail has been with us for generations and we intend to keep it that way.

We can also talk about him.

Image Huscada's one of the members of the traveling caravan.
Image He is always managing trades and sometimes calming his wife down.
Image How did someone like him end up with a hot-headed cricket like her, anyway?
Image Vi, we shouldn't pry into other people's affairs!
Image ...Even if I am curious about that too.

I'm curious too, mostly about them being a cross-species couple. Especially when some species of cricket that are carnivorous and can prey on cicadas.

Let's check out their inventory.

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Image Spicy Berry (12 berries)
Image Burly Berry (12 berries)
Image Magic Seed (18 berries)

This is good stuff, although it's kind of pricey! We've seen Spicy Berries and Magic Seeds before; Burly Berries are just like Spicy Berries, giving +1 defence for 2 turns.

I wouldn't normally as I don't feel the need for them this early in the game, but I'm going to pick up one Burly Berry, for reasons we'll see soon enough (probably next update). If I'd had to use my Magic Seed against the spider, I'd probably buy a replacement, I always like having one around for emergencies. (Since I didn't mention it before, it's worth noting that the game will let you use a Magic Seed on a conscious bug, and it will work just fine as a 7 HP heal.)

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If we weren't playing on Hard Mode, we'd see this here. Quick Flea is the Hard Mode reward for beating Spuder, and we'll be getting it from Artis momentarily.

Any time there's a medal with limited availability that would otherwise be permanently missable (in practice this is mostly Hard Mode rewards, there are two others), it gets sent to the caravan and becomes available for purchase. If they have more than one in stock, they'll display one at a time in this fourth position, and you can ask Huscada to cycle through them if you don't want to purchase the showing one.

I like this, it's a nice compromise that allows them to include missable content while still letting the player catch up without much penalty. It does, though, mean that berries are probably going to be tighter on Normal since there are so many more medals to buy.

Over to the east, we find a pair of ladybug siblings.

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Image Dib, please don't do anything reckless. I will take care of both of us.

And, of course, we can talk about them:

Image These two truly embody sibling squabbles.
Image That's because she keeps acting like he's a kid!
Image He's super able to do whatever he wants!
Image Vi, we can't help but feel you're being biased.
Image Hmph. Think what you want.

We get a bit of insight into Vi's insecurities here. I like this one.

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We can also go in their house, and... steal their food?

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Oh. I don't think they'll be missing that much. Like the Danger Shroom we saw earlier, this causes 2 turns of poison if someone eats it. (Just like in Paper Mario, a Image Mistake is what you get for messing up in cooking. We'll learn about cooking soon enough.) I'm actually going to keep this (I had to sell another item to make room!) for reasons I'll keep to myself for now.

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Image We know! We know!

Eetl stops us if we try to cross this bridge.

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Let's go to the Association, we need to check in with Artis.

Also, do take note, the save crystal has turned blue now! No more free healing for us. The game tends to do this in chapter transitions, new areas will still often have yellow ones on our first visit, but they won't stay that way forever. This can often mean that backtracking isn't quite as trivial as you might expect (on my first playthrough I remember finding some areas harder on revisit than they were the first time! though this was due to me forgetting about some things, honestly).

There are still free sources of healing on occasion, but we can't take them for granted any more.

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Looks like Gen and Eri want to talk to us too. Before that...

Image P-Please, let's not deal with Gen and Eri.
Image They always drag me into their quarrels.
Image Hey! Gen! Eri!
Image Leif! Stop that this instant!

If you push the banter button before talking to them (and only then), you see this. Let's actually talk to them now (sorry, Kabbu).

Image Hey, Team Snakemouth!
Image You had Gen and me worried, you know? Good to see you up and running!
Image ...The river was not pleasant.
Image Yeah, we got super lucky...
Image Thank you for your concern!
Image Concern is the least we can show.

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Image Mmm... maybe. For a good reward!
Image ...Nonsense, Vi. Fellow explorers have our help anytime!
Image Awesome! I promise we'll ask if we ever need help.
Image Sure...

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Image But meh. Time to go questing again!
Image Let's stay away from rivers...

I think seeing this conversation actually unlocks a sidequest later in the game.

Anyway, there's also a different banter now after having spoken to them:

Image Gen and Eri seem a bit unreliable.
Image It's good to know they have our back, though!
Image Indeed. This camaraderie is what being an explorer is all about!

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Now for Artis. There's a banter first:

Image That's Artis the Mantis. He is the accountant of the association, and someone who loves challenges.
Image I've heard he gives prizes to members that have accomplished difficult tasks recently.
Image By the time we're done, he won't have any prizes left to give out!

Now let's actually check in.

Image Hey! You're back. Let's see how you have been doing with that Medal of mine.
Image Hmm! Good job, folks! You defeated that hardened Spider!
Image Was it too challenging for ya? You deserve a reward. Here, take this!

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Image Come back later when you've bonked some extra hard heads with that Medal, will ya?

Image Quick Flea is mostly just a convenience thing, it changes the button sequence when running away from 6 buttons to 3. That's pretty nice though, especially for just 1 MP.

Image

For now, absolutely no reason not to put this on.

If we try talking to Artis again:

Image Hmmm... You haven't really defeated any hard-headed foes yet, have you?
Image Fret not, though. Nothing is lost in this world, only found in different ways.
Image That's how life works, eh?
Image Come back later when you've bonked some extra hard heads with that Medal, will ya?

This is Artis' default dialogue whenever you talk to him and he doesn't have a reward queued up. I think this is supposed to be your hint about how the caravan works.

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Enough dawdling, let's get moving north.

Image 17 - Ant Kingdom

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The camera pans down from the castle ramparts down over the plaza to where we enter. This is the plaza we've been seeing on the title screen.

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Image You don't need to worry. Let's go...

Leif seems pretty disturbed by how different the architecture is from what he remembers.

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If I try to check out this statue, Kabbu stops us.

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We can still talk to people, though! That wasn't particularly enlightening, but there's a banter too:

Image Tod's growing big and strong!
Image He's such an adorable kid!
Image So small. To think we looked like that, once.
Image You must've been cute as a baby, Leif.
Image (I'm not walking into this one.)
Image I can easily imagine a small, grumpy, sleepy Leif.
Image (I must preserve my cute baby image!)

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I don't think Leif likes this topic of discussion.

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Image Mmm. Agreed. Maybe we should give him two honey drops instead of one.
Image D-Don't do that! It's dangerous!
Image What harm could some more honey do?
Image Look. Don't ask me. Just don't do it.

This is a hint about something, we're going to have to try this out!

Image Oh, Ann! She grows every time I see her!
Image She's such a great bug - she listens to all my stories without complaining!
Image That sounded really sad.
Image We're not being... too mean to Kabbu, are we?

Another great one.

Image Pibuu!

If we try to talk to the pillbug, this is all we get, but we can also talk about the pillbug:

Image This is a Pillbug.
Image Its tiny, round and docile nature makes it a very popular pet.
Image A pet, huh...
Image Pillbugs are also obedient, and simply adorable!
Image Maybe we could...
Image Don't even think about it. We're not getting one!

There's someone else over on the left side.

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Also, let's make note of that locked house for later. It'll be a while before we can get in there, but it's here to taunt us for now.

Image This Ant... I've never seen her before!
Image Or maybe I have? She seems to have no characteristics to make her stand out.
Image How tactful.
Image That's Janet, Kabbu. Remember?
Image By the holy spikes of Venus! I forgot Janet!
Image So cruel, Kabbu. So cruel.
Image I... I must go apologize...

Always fun when a game pokes fun at itself. Where would we be without forgettable NPCs?

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Eetl complains if we try to leave this area.

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And also if we try to talk to the theatre proprietor.

If we try to get a general banter for this area, Eetl also interrupts (yes, guest characters can also take part in these conversations!).

Image Ah, the Ant Kingdom's main pla-
Image We mustn't keep the Queen waiting.

Okay, okay.

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This soldier doesn't have much to say.

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Looks like Maki is waiting for us!

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Image Maki! Perfect timing!
Image The news spread quickly. So, you two succeeded? You conquered Snakemouth?
Image You've made a friend, even...
Image ...
Image You bet we did! You were all worried for nothing!
Image It seems my intuition was correct. I'm quite relieved...
Image I have arranged a meeting with the Queen for you. She is expecting us right now.
Image Well, since Maki is going with you, I guess it's back to work for me.
Image Thank you for accompanying us, Eetl.
Image No problem. Stay out of trouble, alright?

Image

Eetl leaves and Maki joins us.

Before crossing the bridge, there's someone to talk to here too.

Image What is this Ant doing?
Image She is always staring at the castle. Leave her be.

Proof of concept that Maki participates in banters too.

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Talking to her gets us a Discovery about the Ant Palace!

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Let's get moving.

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There are a couple of guards we can talk to here.

Image I know I'm keeping the castle safe, but I hope my friend isn't too bored waiting for me...

And on the right:

Image ...
Image Greetings, fellow guard!
Image ...
Image Not one for words, I see...

Riveting stuff. But there's a banter that's slightly more interesting:

Image Standing watch over the castle every day...
Image Must get super boring, right? Right?
Image Now, you two. All honest work is good work.
Image Easy for you to say. You spend the whole day exploring.
Image Yeah. I'd like to see you try being a receptionist!
Image I-If it is to make ends meet... I would endure...!

Some good character in this one. Let's go inside.

Image 18 - In the Court of the Ant Queen

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The Ant Palace is pretty big.

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Image Geez. I wanted to get mad, but she was way too polite!

We can't get into the areas past these guards. We can, however, have our characters talk about this:

Image That's a big door.
Image That's an area only Ants can enter. Not even I know what is beyond that door.
Image Hm... such mystery.
Image We should head for the throne room, though.
Image Yes, I apologize. Let's get back on track.

Spoiler alert, the area behind this guard doesn't actually exist in the game. But I like that they pretty consistently do things like this to imply areas are larger than just the parts we get to see, it makes the world feel more realistic.

Image

I was going to comment on how an invisible wall preventing us from going downstairs was a nasty contrast to that realism I just praised, but then I realised it wasn't an invisible wall, my eyes just suck! The entrance is cordoned off, there is actually a rope there. Always nice to be pleasantly surprised.

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Image What's her problem!?

A mirror of the interaction on the left (the banter would have been identical).

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Maki won't let us go down side passages, so let's go on with the plot.

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Image Please forgive us for the delay.
Image We're ready, though!
Image Then you wouldn't mind if we stepped right in?
Image No objections. The sooner we answer our doubts, the better.
Image That'll do. Let us proceed, then.

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Everyone files in.

Image You now stand before Her Majesty, Queen Elizant II.
Image (So it's true.)

Image

Image ...Wonderful. So very wonderful!
Image Lieutenant, you are dismissed. You have your own business to attend to.
Image As you wish, my Queen.

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We have a choice here. I prefer the version of the scene where we don't protest (for a few reasons, honestly), so I'll show that version here and the other at the end of the update.

Image Just like that, huh?
Image (She wasn't expecting to keep it, was she!?)
Image Here you go!

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Image Such beauty. Beauty which should belong to the Ant Kingdom...

Image Here, you've earned this.

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Image W-Woah! This is a ton!
Image Brave explorers! You've performed a valiant task. Your place in the history of our kingdom is assured.
Image Congratulations. It is praise well-earned!
Image O-Of course! Thank you, Your Highness!
Image Heheh. First bee in the hall of fame!
Image Uh. Thanks. Could we ask something, though?
Image I suppose we could afford time for one question. What would it be?

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Image What? What is this fuss about!?

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I'm showing all these screenshots to emphasise just how much effort the game is putting in to make this look suspicious.

Image Maki. I leave you to your mission. While you're at it, inform Artis that the next expedition is confirmed.
Image Of course. I shall move out at once, Your Highness.
Image You three... I'll bless you with a head start. Zaryant, brief them about the Golden Hills expedition.
Image Heed me. Reports state that an ancient artifact lurks in the Golden Hills.
Image This is a small rural settlement behind our kingdom. It can be reached through a tunnel south from the Explorers' Association.

(Convenient. That's the tunnel we washed up next to.)

Image Uh, isn't that Bee Kingdom territory?
Image Do not dare interrupt us again, child.
Image The Bee Kingdom is our close ally. They are, of course, aware of our expedition.
Image Now... talk to the locals, obtain information, and seize the artifact. No matter the cost.

Image

In other words, are we going to do what we were already planning to do? Don't be silly. (Asking to repeat here doesn't get any new dialogue, it literally just repeats it from when Zaryant began discussing the mission.)

Image Alright, then. Take this map, just in case. Although I'd hope you know how to head south...

Image

Image 05 - Key Item!

The map is a key item, we'll check this out soon enough.

Image Err, thanks. So, about our question...

Image

Image Do not make Her Majesty repeat herself. Move out!

Image Geez, alright. Let's go!
Image Indeed. It'd be unwise to anger our Queen...

Poor Leif.

Image 19 - Chapter 2

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This is where we get the splash screen for Chapter 2; everything in the update prior to this point has been some kind of interlude, I suppose.

Image ...Team, could we step out? We need to share something.

With that, we're finally back in control. Unfortunately for Leif, we can't leave this room just yet.

Image

We can talk to Zaryant.

Image Zaryant... The royal guard is truly an imposing figure.
Image With a name like that, it's like it was decided from birth...
Image I mean, wasn't it? Ants are weird...
Image I'm not an expert, but she does seem quite different. Maybe it's genetics?
Image We're probably better off not knowing.

Sometimes it's really weird to think they're whispering these right next to the person. That said, as a member of another eusocial species, I don't think Vi really has room to cast aspersions here.

If we try to talk to the Queen, Zaryant doesn't let us:

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There's also a banter:

Image ...Elizant II...
Image You probably shouldn't keep staring.
Image It was a long briefing. You'll have a chance to speak to her later!

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Let's check out the rest of the throne room. There are a couple of stained glass windows over here...

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Each of them triggers a Discovery.

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The guard by the door wants us to leave. We can also, of course, talk about her:

Image It seems this ant guards the throne room's entrance.
Image Woah, she looks grumpy!
Image Looks like she's never had any fun in her life.
Image Y-You're both being too harsh...

And a general banter for the throne room:

Image The throne room hasn't changed, but the atmosphere's completely different.
Image What d'ya mean?
Image It's a bit somber. They've covered some of the other Queens, too...
Image Bugaria's history isn't perfect. It's a shame that there have been issues between the kingdoms...
Image That'd be weird. Going from full peace to nowadays...
Image (History can prove cruel...)

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Let's check out this map Zaryant gave us. We can use it from the key items page...

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to see a map. The honeycomb icon shows our current location, and the yellow dots represent places we've been before; the rest of the world is a mystery.

Okay, let's actually leave now.

(I have to split the update here thanks to the character limit)
Last edited by Explopyro on Thu Mar 04, 2021 4:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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06: Meeting the Ant Queen (Part 2)

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When we leave the throne room, another conversation starts.

Image Hehe. I got a big scare earlier, but I have to admit... We did really well!
Image We've got to celebrate! Maybe in the Golden Hills festival!
Image T-That's right! How fortunate that our expedition would line up with such an occasion!
Image ...

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Image Vi... Kabbu... May we confess something?
Image Hm?
Image When our team left for Snakemouth...
Image The Queen was Elizant the First.

Image 15 - The One Left Behind (Leif's Theme)

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Image W-What!? Leif, that is not possible!
Image Y-Yeah! I wasn't even born when the new Queen took the throne!
Image It's... it's the truth.
Image The plaza has changed, there's a new Queen, we can't find our team anywhere...
Image We've been trapped for... decades? We don't even know.
Image We hoped we were too fuzzy, but walking around has confirmed it.
Image Leif...!

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Image S-Shh! You can't just say that in here!

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Image ...Sorry. Too much has happened. We didn't get a chance to ask anything, either.
Image Yikes, what should we do? This isn't normal at all...
Image Leif...
Image ...
Image I cannot understand the pain you are feeling. Probably there is no one who can.
Image But come with us. Maybe as we explore, we'll find the truth behind what has happened to you!
Image The truth...
Image Uh, yeah! Maybe there's clues around, or something...
Image ...Alright. Once again, we're left with little choice. You're fun to be around, at least.
Image Well, yeah!
Image Thank you, Leif. Together, we conquered Snakemouth...
Image And together, we will figure this out!
Image For now, let's focus on this mission. We'll be okay.

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I really like this scene. The player has almost certainly put together most of what's been going on with Leif by now, but the characters actually discuss it honestly, and there aren't any easy decisions. Even Vi gets in on trying to be supportive!

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And we're back in control again! Now we can explore the palace. Is that a book on the sign?

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It is! Welcome to the palace library.

Image This is the Library! A sea of knowledge! History in page form!
Image Meeeeeeeeeh...
Image We have a lot of catching up to do. Wonder if there's magic books, too...

Let's talk to the receptionists and see how this works.

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Image Uh huh. We're looking for this book - "The 20 Ways of-"
Image W-Wait! That's Brooke's job!
Image I'm the head of the Explorer Fact Hunt!
Image You... hunt facts? You can't smack facts...
Image ...
Image Please tell us more!
Image Right. Yay! Look, it's simple. This world is filled with "Discoveries"!
Image I'm sure you've seen at least one already. Super special places!
Image If you donate Discovery info to the library, we'll reward you!
Image Deal. How much info do you want?
Image The library will reward you for every 5 Discoveries you find. It includes berries, Medals and other goodies!
Image So it's good to drop by often!
Image It's like a fun school game! I'm in!
Image ...Sure, were' in. But could you help us find that book now?
Image Nope.
Image Tch...

Libren explained that well enough that I don't have anything to add! In addition to giving us information about the world and filling up our logbook, every 5 Discoveries we find are worth a prize from Libren. She has some good stuff, too, it's well worth doing this. Let's talk to her again.

Image Hey there! Came to turn in some Discoveries? Let's see how you've done!
Image Seems you have found 7 Discoveries so far...
Image Looks like you have enough for the next reward tier! Here you go!

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This is nice enough, if a bit underwhelming. I promise the rewards get better as we go.

Image That seems to be all for now! Come back once you have found more Discoveries!

Now for Brooke.

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Image We'd like to read some history books, if possible.
Image Tch. They've... gotten lost.
Image Lost? How is that possible?
Image We lent them out to the Bee Kingdom... But blasted bandits attacked the caravan!
Image Now they're just scattered across Bugaria.
Image So, uh, what can we do?
Image If you find any, make my life easier and return them. Then you'll be able to read them!
Image The nerve! They just want us to do the clean up for free!
Image Still, this is important to Leif. Let's help out.
Image Mhm. We don't really have another choice.
Image Remember, if you find any books, bring them to me. I will let you read any books you find free of charge.

This is the other major collectible in the game, alongside the Crystal Berries and Discoveries. We can find Lore Books and bring them back to the library, and in return we'll get to read them and learn worldbuilding and backstory. There are 26 in the game, and in addition to getting to read them there's another reward for finding all of them.

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Of course, there's nothing here right now.

There is also, of course, a banter about these two.

Image These two are like night and day, huh.
Image We can relate to Brooke's angry power reading aura.
Image Oh, then I'm Libren's joyful search for new stories!

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Leif actually starts prepping ice magic here, I don't think he likes being called a nerd.

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If we go over here, we can inspect this painting.

Image Grace, huh. I guess the new Queen has more of a power aura!
Image Mhm. Elizant was as kind as they came. Even some monsters would be friendly in her presence.
Image Her voice was soothing, and she saw the future in a bright light.
Image It must have been an honor. I must say I am envious of you having met her.
Image Aren't you giving the new Queen too much of a rough time, though?
Image Of all people to defend her, we didn't expect it to be you.
Image Well, she has a super big reputation to live up to. And a lot of bugs who didn't accept her from the start!
Image A lot of political and social issues forced her hand, too. Which you could even say Elizant's passing gave way to.

Image

Image But it's still difficult to accept... We can't pledge loyalty just yet.
Image Just yet, huh.
Image As long as you're willing to keep an open mind, she may surprise you.
Image ...Sigh. Until then, we have this painting to come back to.

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As might be expected, this is also a discovery.

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I quite like how our characters have different opinions on the political situation and are willing to acknowledge complexity and uncertainty.

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Image That's for the best. No need to spy the same enemy twice if you write your thoughts down, is there?

This person gives us another tutorial about spying. I think this is specifically hinting at the fact we can see every character's comments in the bestiary, even if we only spy once. There's also a banter:

Image Her reading speed's quite impressive.
Image "The Flower We Lived By." Oh dear, I'd been meaning to buy this one!
Image Ugh, that one's super sappy. You read that stuff?
Image It's that promising bee author's first book! Even if she hadn't polished her work yet...
Image I really want to know what her beginnings were like!
Image Hmm. If you vouch that hard for it, we'll give it a go.
Image Okay, okay. I don't like it, though.

I love that these three just talk about books sometimes. Kabbu is so earnest.

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Leif seems to have a strong reaction when I ask the party about this guy.

Image LEIF! What's wrong!?
Image ...Nothing. We just reacted to this guy's geek energy.

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This is just... I have nothing to say about this, it speaks for itself.

If we actually talk to him:

Image The Ant Kingdom's library houses the best books published in our time.
Image It's a shame, isn't it? Bad books are thrown out and forgotten...

Reeves loves reading awful books. I suspect a lot of us have a lot more in common with him than we'd care to admit... (Full disclosure, Reeves is my favourite minor character. We'll definitely be seeing more of him.)

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Sneaky! The first Image Lore Book is hiding back here in this corner. (How did Brooke not see this one from her desk? As the player, we have the excuse of perspective, but she has straight line of sight!) Let's go give it to her.

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Image Ah, wonderful. That is one of ours, yes. I'll put it on the shelf, so check it out whenever.

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If we go over to the shelf, we can now read the book!

Image Our Lifespan. Before the Day of Awakening, they say we used to live very little... Only a few days or moons! And most of that time, we were helpless larvae... Marriage marked the end of life! It's inconceivable nowadays. For one, we don't even remember being larvae! Truly, becoming an adult is like being born. And then, we get to enjoy this beautiful land for many years. It's hard not to pity our antcestors, who had to give up life soon after becoming aware of it...!

There are a lot of neat little details in these. Also, unlike most "books" in video games, the short length of these doesn't fight verisimilitude because, well, they're bug-sized, how much text do you think could realistically fit on those little pages?

No matter what order we find or turn in the books, though, the lore blurbs always unlock in a fixed order.

That's all for the library. Let's check out the rest of the palace.

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Image True. Back then, the Queen had to personally extend an invite...
Image Oooh. Did you get to visit, Leif?
Image Yeah. We were one of the first non-Ant teams willing to explore...
Image Although we all know how that turned out.
Image S-Sorry.
Image It's okay. Shall we go?

I remembered to check for a banter in here. Reminiscing always seems to depress Leif.

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There's another room over here.

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Leif seems really intrigued by this person. Let's talk to her.

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Image ...Wait... you're Rebecca, right?
Image Hmm? Yes, my dear. Just a humble caretaker...
Image Uh, you know her?
Image Yes! Rebecca, do you remember us? It's Leif! We scouted Snakemouth Den...
Image Hmm...

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Image Curses.
Image Now, dear. It's no problem! We can be friends still. Although I have little to offer.
Image N-No, it's not that. We'd be pleased to be friends.
Image Hohoh! Wonderful! I don't get too many visitors... This must be fate!
Image ...
Image We'll, um, come back. We're on a mission for now.
Image Come back soon, dear!

This always gets me in the feels a bit. Leif actually found someone he used to know in the past, and she can't remember him at all or tell him anything helpful.

We can talk to her again:

Image It's good to see you again. You bring me some peace of mind. I worry about Ellie too much!

Also, I like that she has a nickname for the Queen, it helps humanise her a bit after what we've seen. It's a bit of a cliche to have the overfamiliar elderly servant/nurse/etc type like this, but there's a reason it works.

Image So Rebecca was around, even in the early days?
Image Yeah. She was taller but dressed the same.
Image She's really stuck around... I've never met a bug so old!
Image Right here.
Image Eep! U-Um, sorry!
Image Heheh.
Image Really?

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A bit of levity in the new banter after meeting her.

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If we look around the room, there are several more of the stained glass windows of Elizant II, as well as another copy of the Elizant I painting on the far wall. We can't interact with these, though. (And, to my knowledge, only the prior ones work for getting the discoveries.)

There's also an amusing general banter in here:

Image I've heard of this place. It's the War Room!
Image So, what, they fight in here?
Image Err, no. This is a place to discuss strategy and missions...
Image Should just call it the Mission Room, then!
Image Vi's observations are, as always... very on point.
Image What's that supposed to mean!?

Weirdly, I don't think we'll ever see this room actually used for that purpose! All the councils take place in the throne room, like we saw before.

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Outside, we can talk to the lieutenant.

Image Indeed... Our search for the artifact has helped others. I am truly glad.
Image (If only we had bested it back then...)

We can also talk about her:

Image The laiu... lieu... the ant captain's really cool!
Image Lieutenant, Vi.
Image ...As I was saying, pretty cool!
Image Maki, Zaryant... The Queen has quite a dependable ensemble.
Image We just hope they follow out of more than obligation.

Speaking of Maki, there's also a new version of the banter about the door guards, now that he's no longer with us.

Image Now that's a big door.
Image I bet there's huge treasure on the other side!
Image Hmm... not quite. Ants have their own society isolated within this anthill.
Image There are probably housings and other structures for them to come back to after a hard day of work.
Image There's probably a lot of hoarded food, too.
Image Not listening. I'm not giving up on my big treasure dreams!

That's a bit more detailed than before. All Maki said amounted to "non-Ants can't go in there".

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We can actually go downstairs now! And if you look closely, the cable is indeed gone now.

Image Hmmmmmmm...
Image Um, what is it, Vi?
Image This is a miner ant, right?
Image Seems like it.
Image But she's not mining at all! She's just guiding people to the mine.
Image It's like studying to be a chef, but having to work at the bank!
Image You've made us feel a bit sorry for her...
Image Don't be like that, you two. Maybe she doesn't even like mining, and this is her dream job! Guess we'll never know...

You could ask her, Kabbu. (Also, Vi's remark puzzled me at first, but I think it makes a bit more sense when you remember that the money of this world is edible berries? I think she's saying a chef at the bank would have to look at all the food and not be allowed to do anything with it.)

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Going into the mines immediately triggers a discovery.

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This miner recognises us!

Image I'm the overseer here at the mines. We're digging tunnels across all of Bugaria to make life easier for everyone.
Image Currently only explorers can use the tunnels we've finished. We haven't opened them to the public yet.
Image We do have someone out to open them, but she's probably slacking off.
Image We're behind schedule already... I hope the Queen doesn't get mad at us again.

And also, naturally:

Image The miners look cool. Way cooler than they need to!
Image Might as well do their job in style.
Image (Should we work on our style more...?)

And the general one:

Image Just what is Elizant up to with all of these tunnels?
Image It seems the Queen hopes to connect many parts of Bugaria with these Ant Tunnels.
Image It's gonna make clearing quests a breeze!

If it wasn't already obvious, this is going to become our fast-travel hub. Not quite yet, though.

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Ants!

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This miner is sleeping on the job, it seems.

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Image If I hurt you swinging this thing, I'll get in trouble with the boss.

The exit there takes us into this back room.

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These miners hint at some areas we might get to go to soon! (Also, sneaky, there's another one of those suspicious dirt mounds in here.)

I wanted to keep going and explore more of Ant City, but this update's gotten quite long and text-heavy (I already needed to break it into two posts!), so we'll do that next time.

Before we go, though, here's the alternate scene in the throne room:

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Image Maki, you truly have a keen judge of character.
Image Count your blessings, explorer. Few do I spare the rod in respect to their accomplishments.

Full disclosure, I'm still not sure if the "keen judge of character" is meant to be sarcastic or not, and I find the "spare the rod" line really awkward. It's a strange saying to invoke in this context and the syntax doesn't help, I think it could have been worded better.

Image Y-Your Majesty! They are not worthy of being in your presence! Much less your pardon!

Image Stay put, Zaryant. They accomplished what your squad failed to do, didn't they?

Image Ngh...

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At this point, it rejoins the scene we saw before. Vi hands over the artifact, we get paid, and we proceed to learn about the next mission. I don't like this version of the scene as much, even before getting into some of the awkward wording.

Next time, we'll continue exploring the Ant Kingdom, and get started on some side quests. There's a lot yet to see.

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07: Cooking with Fry (Part 1)

Image 17 - Ant Kingdom

When we left off last time, we'd just finished exploring the Ant Palace. Today we're going to take a look around the greater Ant City area.

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Image It's impressive how well the palace stood the test of time.
Image ...I wonder if the Hive's been remodeled, or something...

New banter in the bridge area.

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Image Doesn't she have anything better to do?
Image You're one to talk.

And a new one about this ant. No, she doesn't have anything better to do, she has to stay here to ensure players can get the discovery! (Yes, she'll be here for the entire game.)

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When we return to the Ant Plaza, Leif stumbles after a few steps and this conversation begins.

Image Sorry about that.
Image Heheh! Well now... Leif, after all you've gone through, you must be famished!
Image ...Welp, he ain't the only one!
Image We should grab something to eat.
Image Yeah. It would also be a good time to prepare for the trip, would it not?
Image Yup! And the commercial area is right over there!

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The camera pans over to the western exit here.

Image Indeed, and it's got it all! Medals, items, and even a chef!
Image With all that's been going on, a little shopping wouldn't be the worst.
Image Just go easy on the budget.
Image Anyways, let's go hit up Fry for some food!

So this is our next immediate objective. Nice and simple. This is a sort of tutorial, the game is making sure we know about the cooking system and forcing us to try it out. That said, I like the way they integrated it, it's not like the characters being hungry is hard to believe.

We can also inspect that statue that Eetl wouldn't let us inspect before.

Image

Image Hmm, isn't it weird? I heard the Queen led everyone here.
Image How come she didn't make a statue of herself?
Image Apparently, the Queen was heading in a different direction when this ant got lost.
Image Rather than abandoning it, she decided to return with her people to find the ant.
Image When they finally regrouped... they were standing on this very soil.
Image Huh. So this whole town was built thanks to a clumsy ant?
Image Life works in mysterious ways.
Image The first Queen was extremely humble. Even if that ant hadn't gotten lost...
Image I'm sure she would have wanted this statue. It resonates with the people.

Image

Image ...Goodbye, Your Majesty.

Some nice detail in that conversation, the game is really making sure we don't forget how nice Elizant I was. (Also, of course, Vi being Vi.)

Image

It's a discovery!

Image

Image

Image

Once we have the discovery, checking the statue instead just shows this inscription.

There's also a general banter for the plaza now:

Image Ah, the Ant Kingdom's main plaza. It greets both tourists and citizens alike.
Image It is the bridge between the commercial area, the castle and the residential area.
Image To top it off, it has many historical points such as the Inn, the Theatre, and the founder statue.
Image Kabbu, you should look into the tour guide business.

Image

Before we go west, we can also find this distressed lady over here by the theatre.

Image

All right, Kabbu.

Image Sob... Sob...
Image Excuse us, fine lady. Is everything alright?
Image No! N-no, it's not. I've been trying to play in the theater for so long...
Image And I felt like I could f-finally do it... But now Mothiva's so popular... they only want her.
Image They said I'd never be as good as her... And now I don't know what to do, or how to make money.
Image So what? If someone says you can't do something...

Image

Image If you enjoy it... just play! Just do what you can! Who needs that dumb theater!?
Image Y-You're right!

Image

Image I just need to get fans of my own! Um... I'm hoping you'll be my first!
Image If there's any songs you like, I can play them for you. P-please bring berries and come hear me play soon!

Image

Our team walk just out of earshot and keep talking.

Image You being so uplifting... We must say we're surprised.
Image I was just being honest! You don't have to make such a big deal about it!
Image I assure you, you've made a huge difference today!
Image Yeah, whatever... It's all up to her now, you know?
Image She'll be fine. Let us drop by later and see what she can do.

It's nice seeing Vi have a supportive side, even if it does get filtered through her... unique worldview.

Let's see what she has to offer, shall we?

Image H-hello. I'm really happy you came back!

Image

Image

Samira here is the game's sound test, more or less. Every song we've heard will be here, and she can play them for us (replacing the background music until we leave the screen). She charges a fee of 2 berries the first time you play each song; there is also a reward we can get if we buy every song (though not until the postgame, because "every song" includes things like the final boss theme), so don't feel like those berries are wasted.

It's also a bit odd: songs appear in the list in the order you encounter them ingame, meaning they may not be in the same order from file to file. This might drive you absolutely bonkers if you have certain kinds of obsessive tendencies, like me (I eventually got over it, but it was a struggle). I also really don't understand why it works that way from a programming perspective; are they actually storing the songs as some kind of list, rather than just binary flags? That has to be rather inefficient, if so. Why do this?

Also, you may notice some of the song titles are slightly different than in the OST. In some cases this is because they were too long and didn't fit (e.g. the Spider theme is just "Don't Call Him Spuder" here), but I'm not sure what happened with some of the others (e.g. "FIGHT!" became "Let's fight, Team!"). I'll be sticking with the OST names for this LP.

Image

I don't understand how she's playing an ocarina with that proboscis. Does she have a mouth under there too? What is this anatomy.

(Also, she is a beefly; when I looked this up, I found out it is also occasionally known as humblefly. If her personality was deliberately chosen with that in mind, that's quite clever.)

Image O-Ok. I'm always here if you want to hear me play.

There's also a new banter about her now:

Image Samira's been doing good.
Image We do pay well.
Image Geez, it's not just that. Other bugs come to hear her play too!
Image Heh. I hope she gets a big following soon.

This one assumes we've come back sometime later, it's a bit silly seeing it now when we've barely paid her anything. Even so.

The two buildings here in the plaza are the inn and the theatre. We'll be back to see them later, for now I want to get on with things. Let's go to the Commercial District. (If we try to go the wrong direction, like back to the Outskirts, Leif will stop us.)

Image ...Please. We need to eat.

Image

The entry to the commercial district.

Image This is the commercial area, the best area of them all!
Image There's a Medal shop, a chef...
Image And Madame Butterfly's store! No other store can compare!
Image Commerce excites you too much, Vi.
Image Heheh. And there's a little something else. But I can't tell you what it is!
Image I suddenly feel like leaving no stone unturned...

The banter for this area.

Image

Let's immediately get distracted by an obvious secret behind those weeds. Is this what Vi was talking about?

Image

There's a big arrow on that building pointing at the ground, or more specifically, at that conspicuous lid (look at that! it's a cardboard box with "this way up" on the side, and the manhole cover is a bottle cap. There are a lot of repurposed human artifacts lying around, but the game almost never draws attention to them, it's just a nice subtle background detail). Also, hey, conspicuous dirt mound.

Image

Image Hmm? What is this place?
Image Heheh. Check THIS out!

Image

Image Entry Code.
Image 2 - 4 - 0 - 5!
Image Last month's code is no longer valid after... the incident. Please use the new code.

Image

Image That was great, Vi.
Image Shut it!
Image Hey! Let me in! It's me, Vi! Ask Shades about me or something!
Image There's no one here unless you know the code. Scram.
Image This place seems... shady.

Image

Image Excuse me, what is this place?
Image ...! Vi, you brought others with you!?

Image

Image

Image Seriously, what is happening here?
Image If you know what's best for you, you better stay away. All of you.
Image Well, that was a fun detour. Thanks for the good time, Vi.
Image Hmph... I guess we'll have to find the new code somewhere.
Image Maybe someone we help out comes here too!
Image Err... sure. But let us not get too sidetracked.

If we ask the party about it, all we get is this:

Image Hm. A weird cover on a shady place. I wonder what is underneath.

And interacting with it just gets a voice telling us to leave.

Image Scram.

This is obviously something suspicious, and it seems quite important, but there's nothing we can do about it. Vi has gotten herself barred from entry somehow (I love this detail) and we'll have to find another solution. It'll be a while.

Just past there, there's someone quite helpful to meet!

Image

Image That bag looks really heavy.
Image Ants can carry many times their weight. It is quite inspiring.
Image Such strength... Perhaps we were born as the wrong bug...
Image You don't get to complain, you can shoot ice!
Image Please, do not fight in front of Lady Amber. Her work is stressful enough already.

Let's talk to her.

Image

Image For a limited time, we're letting you sign up for a junior account! You can store and take out 35 items for free. For free!
Image Free!?
Image No more tears over having to skip that Crunchy Leaf!
Image Sounds pretty good.
Image Right? There's no way you wouldn't want this. I'll sign you up right now!
Image How wonderful. It's our lucky day!
Image It sure feels nice to get cool stuff without doing anything.

Image

This is Amber. She's very enthusiastic about her job! Which is good, because it's a useful one. She manages storage for consumable items. As she said, she can hold up to 35, which helps alleviate inventory frustration (she can hold onto extra things we don't need and free up room to pick up more, keep the things that are too valuable or good to use right away, etc). She can be found offering her services in nearly every town, usually near shops, and even occasionally some other places (don't ask how she gets around or how she's always there when we are).

Don't ask me where the number 35 came from though, I have no idea.

Image

Image

The "select multiples" option is new in v1.1, you can press (Y) on an item to highlight it and then give her all the highlighted things at once.

Image Thank you! I will guard it with my life.
Image Would you like to store anything else?
Image (No) Oh, okay! Have a nice day!

As proof of concept, I gave her my Magic Seed.

Image

And now it's in her stock, for us to take back whenever we need it.

Next to Amber is the shop, but let's talk to some people outside first.

Image

Image Who's tough now, Seedlings!? COME GET SOME!

This guy's name in the internal files is literally "Seedling Slayer", by the way.

Image Pfft. Who boasts about beating up Seedlings? A little kid could do it!
Image That armor looks cheap, too. Oh lord.

Image

Oh dear.

Image

Image M-Maybe I should press (Back) near the townsfolk to learn a bit more about them?

Who are we to refuse?

Image Geez, Mun's still in the same spot as always.
Image Still gossiping, huh.
Image Yeah, that can't be a good look!
Image You two can't talk!

Image

Over here we have some ant workers who seem to be erecting a new structure.

Image It's weird to see a Miner Ant out on the surface.
Image I wonder what they'll build here.
Image Maybe a house for us.
Image This is the commercial area, Leif. That is unlikely.
Image Details. A house is just what we need!
Image ...I'm just going to end the conversation here.

Put a pin in this one.

Image

Further west is the other exit, but we're not done here yet. That would take us to the Residential District, which can also be reached by heading east from the Plaza (don't ask me about the topology of this, maybe it's a long circular path that runs around behind the castle or something? It's convenient, though).

Image

Let's go inside Madame Butterfly's shop.

Image

Image It's Madame Butterfly! She's got the best prices in the whole kingdom!
Image Ahem.
Image Oh, sorry. I always get excited when I come here.
Image Everything's so cheap, and Madame Butterfly's so pretty!
Image I bet she's super rich, too...
Image Everyone has a role model.
Image Indeed. Let's make sure to shop here for what we need.

Honestly, Vi sounds like she has a crush.

Image

Image If you wish to purchase something, stand in front of the item you desire and press (A).
Image You can do that by yourself, can't you?

Just like with the caravan, we can also sell items here.

Let's check out what she has in stock:

Image Mushroom (3 berries)
Image Danger Shroom (3 berries)
Image Aphid Egg (2 berries)
Image Honey Drop (4 berries)
Image Crunchy Leaf (3 berries)

Vi wasn't kidding about everything being cheap, either. This is a good place to get basic goods if we need them. She doesn't have anything we haven't seen before, though.

Image

Image

This person gives us more hints. I don't know the exact formulae, but this isn't a lie - the higher level an enemy is relative to you (and the longer you take on the button sequence), the more berries you lose when running away from battle. Generally speaking, though, if you need to run away, you probably don't care much about the berries.

Image Poor fellow. It must be rough being so preoccupied while traveling.
Image That's what explorers are for. Post an escort quest, or something.
Image But then you have to pay a reward!
Image As opposed to dropping berries all over Bugaria?
Image Fair.

Further south...

Image

Image Aren't those poisonous?
Image To someone such as I, poison is nothing.
Image Hmm. We will have to try one as well...
Image Uh, no. We really shouldn't.

A hint that there might be reasons to eat poisonous items. There's also a banter about him:

Image This Beetle's always at Fry's. He eats pretty much anything...
Image Ah, a true gourmet. We may have things in common.
Image Yeah. You're both weirdos, alright.
Image ...

Just to the left of him is the person we came to see.

Image 21 - Fry it Up!

Fry's theme is proximity-based, it starts playing when we get close enough to him.

Image This is Fry, the fly!
Image Most chefs live in the royal castle, but he chose to work here.
Image Though I don't get it. He could make more profit at the castle.
Image He probably just wants to see his fellow common bug smile.
Image There has to be more to it than that...
Image What matters is I'm really hungry. Let's get him to cook for us!
Image We could go for a Mushroom Salad.
Image Hmm, a Cooked Shroom would do me good.
Image What's with you two and shrooms? Aphid Omelette all the way!
Image Let's make sure we have the proper ingredients, first.

Before we get into it with Fry, let's check to his left.

Image

Image It's cute sleeping like that...
Image Uh. Well... Fry isn't complaining, so I guess we can just leave him here.

According to the wiki, Oma here represents one of the developers. He has several different lines when we talk to him, chosen randomly (I actually don't know if I've seen all of them), giving hints about various recipes we can try to make.

Image Wrapping some leaves with eggs... zzz...
Image Mushrooms go well with honey... zzz...
Image Cooked... or with honey... both are different... zzz...
Image A big seed... can be served for a trio... zzz...

There may well be more. There are a bunch of hints here and there about recipes, but this is a decent start.

Let's stop dawdling and talk to Fry.

Image

Image

Interestingly, we can choose whether to cook with one or two ingredients right away, unlike in Paper Mario where two ingredients had to be unlocked by finding a cookbook. Other than that, though, it's basically the same system: we give him one or two items, and get back something else.

(Two ingredients)

Image Oh! We've got some hungry bugs! First ingredient, now!
Image Second ingredient, now!

Image

Let's try this first.

Image Watch a master do his work!

Image

Fry puts the items in his pot and stirs them around. Hearts coming out indicates a successful recipe!

Image Here it is, a masterwork! Eat up, small fry!

Image

And we get a new item.

Image Come back later when your stomach growls again! Ahahahaha!!

Fry is certainly enthusiastic.

Normally we'd just get the item and be done, but because this is our first time cooking (and loosely part of the plot), everyone goes over to some nearby seating and we have a cutscene.

Image

Image Can't explore on an empty stomach!
Image It's nice to be able to share like this...

Image

Everyone eats. (And, yes, they do eat the item we just made. It won't be in our inventory when we check. If you're trying to be practical here, make something cheap.)

Image Huff... We feel just like new. Literal ages since we ate something. And we get hungry real fast, so...
Image We'll definitely eat here again. It's been nice to share.
Image Sounds good. But it's time to get back to the mission!
Image We've gotta go south, to the Golden Settlement! Off we go!

Image

The recipe gets added to the appropriate page of our logbook. I won't bother showing these, as there isn't any new information in them; I'll make an appendix for the recipes and add them to it as we discover them.

So why did I go out of my way to get a Burly Berry earlier, if whatever recipe we cook here is wasted? (I had to buy it then if I wanted to use it here, because Leif wouldn't let us go back to the outskirts after entering the palace.) Well, there are a bunch of different versions of this scene, depending on what we cook, so I wanted to test it exhaustively with every recipe that it's possible to make at this point. (I'm obviously not going to keep the save in which I wasted these expensive berries, I'll remake the Berry Jam later.)

This is also why I grabbed that Mistake from Leby and Dib. If I hadn't kept that one there'd be no way to test what happens if you cook it. And yes, something happens if you cook that:

Image

Image Well well, you gave me bad quality ingredients! Not much I could salvage with this!

Image

Yes, this is a real recipe. You can compound your Mistakes and make them even worse. (What does this thing do? If someone eats this thing, they'll instantly be sent to 1 HP as well as poisoned for 4 turns.)

Image

Image Ngh... For the sake of the mission, we must eat...
Image (Poor them. I'll just eat some of my secret stash later!)

Then they eat it and the scene picks up from before. (You get this version of the scene for making any "bad" recipe. It's the same for a regular mistake, or also...)

Image

...this thing, which is what you get if you disregard Vi's advice and combine two drops of honey. (What is "a big price"? This reduces the user to 1 HP. 12 TP is pretty good though, I can see situations in which someone might consider using this.)

Then there are special variations for making specific things our team likes.

Kabbu likes Cooked Shrooms:

Image

Image Ah... Nothing like a plain smoked shroom. Healthy, yet filling...
Image It's such a boring meal though... Needs some honey!
Image We're just grateful to have a full stomach at this point. Thanks.

Vi, naturally, likes honey:

Image

Image Glazed Honey is just the best! It's honey, but even better!
Image Mmm... A bit sweet for my taste.
Image We'll eat anything, really... Except a Mistake.

And Leif likes Mushroom Salad:

Image

Image Ah... Our favorite. Fate has smiled upon us.
Image The textures work so well together!
Image ... A bit too savoury. We shoulda put honey in it!

It's interesting that two of these (Cooked Shrooms and Mushroom Salad) were mentioned in the banter about Fry, but Vi said something about Aphid Omelette (which is actually called Leaf Omelet) and doesn't react to that.

I didn't find any other variations when testing the rest of the recipes, but let's have a full list of what we can make with the ingredients we currently have access to:

Image Mistake (01)
"Why would you let this happen? It recovers 1 TP, but don't eat it. Don't say you weren't warned."
Recovers 1 TP, poisons user (2 turns).
Sell: 1 berry
Results from any invalid combination of ingredients.

Image Big Mistake (70)
"Please don't."
Sets user to 1 HP, poisons user (4 turns).
Sell: 1 berry
Made by cooking a Image Mistake.

Image Leaf Salad (02)
"This salad is just many crunchy leaves chopped up, but it looks fancy. Restores 6 HP to one ally."
Sell: 3 berries
Made by cooking Image by itself.

Image Glazed Honey (03)
"This warm honey's delicious taste is the pride of the Bee Kingdom. Restores 8 TP."
Sell: 4 berries
Made by cooking Image by itself.

Image Abomihoney (04)
"You should never improperly mix honey! Restores 12 TP at a big price."
Sets user to 1 HP.
Sell: 4 berries
Made by combining two Image

Image Cooked Shroom (05)
"Nothing like some smoking to improve a shroom. Restores 6 HP to an ally and cures poison."
Sell: 2 berries
Made by cooking Image by itself.

Image Cooked Danger (06)
"Cooking amplified this mushroom's taste and danger. Restores 5 TP. At a price."
Poisons user for 2 turns.
Sell: 3 berries.
Made by cooking Image by itself.

Image Sweet Shroom (07)
"A mushroom with some honey on top. Yum! Restores 5 HP to an ally and 4 TP."
Sell: 5 berries
Made by combining Image and Image

Image Sweet Danger (08)
"While this looks AND tastes good, it is still bad for you. Restores 7 TP. At a price."
Poisons user for 2 turns.
Made by combining Image and Image

Image Fried Egg (09)
"Fry the Fly came up with the frying technique. Restores 6 HP to an ally."
Sell: 3 berries
Made by cooking Image by itself.

Image Leaf Omelet (10)
"Leaves wrapped in fried egg casing. Restores 9 HP to an ally."
Sell: 5 berries
Made by combining Image and Image

Image Honey'd Leaf (11)
"This is definitely more honey than leaf. Restores 5 HP to an ally and 5 TP."
Sell: 5 berries
Made by combining Image and Image

Image Roasted Berries (12)
"A plate of roasted berries, family serving. Restores 2 HP to the party."
Sell: 4 berries
Made by cooking a Image or Image by itself.

Image Mushroom Skewer (16)
"Mushrooms cooked on a stick! Restores 6 HP to an ally and 3 TP."
Not poisonous!
Sell: 6 berries
Made by combining two types of mushroom, such as Image and Image

Image Hearty Breakfast (17)
"Bugaria's staple breakfast. Restores 5 HP to an ally, 3 TP, and cures poison."
Sell: 6 berries
Made by combining Image and Image

Image Mushroom Salad (18)
"It has a different, yummy texture in every bite. Restores 8 HP to an ally and cures poison."
Sell: 4 berries
Made by combining Image and Image

Image Berry Jam (42)
"A thick and spicy jam made from two kinds of berries that boosts attack and defense during battle for 2 turns."
Sell: 12 berries
Made by combining Image and Image

That's a pretty good variety of things we can make! At this point I usually just see what I can make out of whatever I had lying around after Snakemouth.

Image

Here's what I ended up with.

I will draw your attention to Roasted Berries, too: this is the first source of full-party healing we've seen (and the only way to do that right now), though it's not exactly efficient. It's expensive to make and not very strong. There will be a cheaper way to make them soon enough, but it involves an ingredient we can't get just yet.

That's it for cooking, at least for right now. From where our team gathered to eat, we can glimpse hints that there's a medal shop just to the east. Let's have a look at that.

Image

Image Ever picked up a resistance Medal and thought "Pfft! I can just block! I don't need them!"
Image Well, they actually have a hidden effect! If you have them equipped and eat an item that causes a status effect...
Image Let's just say the results of that experiment should be obvious, huh?

This is an interesting hint! Medals like Poison Resistance give 50% resistance to the status when inflicted by an enemy attack (if you don't block; as he says, blocking, even a regular block, will prevent status from being inflicted), but confer immunity to that status from items. There are certainly times when this can be good to know.

There's also a banter about this guy:

Image What a fanatic! Some bugs truly live to equip Medals!
Image Medals ARE awesome! Wish they were cheaper, though...
Image Costing a bit less MP wouldn't be the worst, either.

I'm never sure how to feel about characters openly acknowledging game mechanics in dialogue. I usually dislike it outside the context of tutorials, as it can really break immersion.

Image

Image Which he is now selling at high prices.
Image Indeed. It's surprising that he would part with his possessions, but I won't judge.
Image After all, these will be quite useful on our journey.
Image Travel, treasure, and power! Now that's the life!

This is Merab. He sells medals.

Image

Image Medals! Those great things you see on display! They are really useful!
Image By equipping them, you can get many effects, from simple stat changes to new moves and challenges!
Image You can equip them to anyone on your team, so mix and match for different effects!
Image I change up my stock now and then, so be sure to check back often!

Specifically, he tends to get new medals in stock each time we finish a chapter.

(How do we use medals)

Image Easy! You can press (Start) and equip them from under the Medal menu!
Image Medals require MP to equip, and each Medal requires a different quantity of it. Your MP is shared across your team.
Image Some medals can be equipped to different teammates, others affect everyone at once!
Image Make sure to use (D-pad Left) and (D-pad Right) to switch who you are equipping to!
Image Please try out multiple Medal combinations to triumph in any situation!

He's not really telling us anything we don't know, but still, good to have it in one place I guess.

"We'd like to see more medals" will cause him to reshuffle which medals are on display; he can have more than three in stock, but only a random three will be displayed (and therefore available for us to purchase) at any given time. Let's see what he has right now:

Image HP Plus (45 berries)
Image Poison Resistance (35 berries)
Image Hard Hits (30 berries)
Image TP Plus (55 berries)
Image Sleep Resistance (30 berries)

We have HP Plus and Poison Resistance already, but we can get an additional copy of each if we so desire. Sleep Resistance is just like Poison Resistance, but for sleep.

TP Plus costs 3 MP and gives us 3 TP, so it's the equivalent of converting a level of MP into a level of TP (just like in Paper Mario, though in that game HP Plus was also a direct counterpart to levels. Here, well, we could give each bug an HP Plus and that would be the equivalent of taking two levels in HP, but we can't simulate a finer granularity with medals). That's good to have.

Hard Hits is a challenge medal, it increases enemies' attack by 25% in return for doubling the berries they drop. This is convenient if you feel the need for grinding, or also just if you're getting bored and want to ramp up the challenge a bit. I'm not planning to use it on-screen in this LP, but I'll definitely grab it for offscreen grinding if/when that becomes necessary.

Image

Image Alright, take it on a great adventure!

Image

Whenever we buy a medal, it also reshuffles the entire current stock.

Image

Image

Image Please check for other wares you might want!

Merab seems to have multiple possible lines after you buy something.

I also bought Hard Hits and TP Plus. I can't afford the other two right now, but I'll be back for them soon enough; I have other priorities for my remaining berries.

Image

TP Plus is obviously going on. I gave the second HP Plus to Leif for now.

Image

That's all for the Commercial District (for now). Let's go check out the rest of the town.

(Once again, I hit the character limit and need to split the post. Really hoping I'm not going to make a habit of this...)
Last edited by Explopyro on Thu Mar 04, 2021 8:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
07: Cooking with Fry (Part 2)

Image

This is the Residential District. There's not as much here, but it's still worth a look around.

Image There's a lot of houses here now.
Image Is that so? How was it back then?
Image It was only the fountain. This was more of a social spot...
Image Huh. They turned a park into housing?
Image As more people came in, it was inevitable. But we do miss the park...

Image

Image

Image No probs. I'm the queen of multi-hit super smackdowns!

This person has some more tutorial/hint text for us. Some flying enemies need two hits before they'll fall down, but Vi's multi-hit skills will work on them just fine.

There's an odd banter here, too.

Image Hmmmmmm...
Image You okay there?
Image Look at the middle green coating covering its chest!
Image Maybe I should stick some leaves on myself... and try to emulate the look?
Image Were you seriously thinking about that?

Kabbu has really weird fashion sense. Then again, is this guy wearing the bug equivalent of a cravat? Maybe it's not so crazy.

Image

Image

This person seems to be trying to cosplay as a Seedling? Or is it camouflage?

Image Ants can grow hair?
Image Those are leaves, Vi.
Image (Really?)
Image R-Right...

Image

Inside the house that person was standing near, there's a spring mushroom.

Image

Eophi and Mun live together, but Mun is currently in the commercial district, we met him earlier.

Image Leaves can grow in such pretty patterns! What a cute mask!
Image And they never grow exactly the same. He's lucky.
Image It makes every mask more valuable, too!

Image

The fountain is water. That, obviously, means only one thing.

Image

Leif can freeze it like any other geyser, so we can get across.

Image

There's a medal up here! Image Bug Me Not! is one of the reasons the save crystals turning blue never causes much of a problem. This lets you skip battles if the enemies are too low-level to give you meaningful experience (the game still always gives you 1 point of pity experience if you actually fight them, though). For the Paper Mario players out there, this is Bump Attack - except Bump Attack was always a late-game reward and cost a big chunk of BP (I want to say 5?), while Bug Me Not! is handed to you for free here at the beginning and only costs 1 MP. This is a really nice quality-of-life change, and makes backtracking painless.

Very occasionally, enemies defeated with Bug Me Not! can still drop berries or items, but it happens so seldom that walking around with this on is not an effective means of grinding.

That said, I personally don't care much for it, and almost always choose not to use it. It feels cheap to me and honestly I'd rather fight the battles anyway. (Also, I should warn people to be careful with this: especially if you're doing all the side content, bonus bosses, etc, you can end up slightly overlevelled and then this thing will make your experience of the story content underwhelming. It will work on an enemy even if you've never seen or fought it before.)

Image

If we talk to this guy, he seems to catcall Vi. (Hey, that's a tophat, not a fedora. What gives?)

Image

She is not amused.

Image It's called flirting, Vi.
Image I didn't ask him to!

Image

Image I'm leaving. Bye.

There's a bit more in the banter:

Image That's a pretty charming dude.
Image He's gotta pick who to charm better!

Bomby isn't a bee. He's another beefly, like Samira. I don't think Vi is being speciesist though, she just seems annoyed.

Image

In the other house on this level, we find this sinister-looking guy.

Image A tip for you: stay away from water.
Image You never know what kind of monsters might be lurking below the surface.

What happened to him?

Image I agree with this guy, totally. Water sucks!
Image If an artifact's underwater, we're done. We quit.
Image ...Yeah. I will not pretend I would not be discouraged.

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Is that a gumball machine?

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Not quite. Or at least, not any more.

Image A bank, huh...
Image Sounds like a good idea to open an account, in case something happens to our berries.
Image I don't know. I don't trust anyone else with my berries. What if they run away after we give them a bunch?
Image This bank is endorsed by the Ant Queen. We believe we used to have an account here ages ago.
Image ...But we are sure they have terminated our account ages ago, too...

Let's see how this works.

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Image Welcome. I offer banking services here.
Image Annoyed when your wallet is full and no longer has space for that berry?
Image Panicking when thieves steal your hard-earned money?
Image Then my services are just for you!
Image I can offer you an account here at my bank to keep your berries safe when you're out doing whatever you do.
Image I don't know... I like my berries close to myself!
Image This is the kind of attitude that makes you never move forward in life!
Image Look, if you keep your berries here, you might even get some interest every now and then!
Image You'll earn a small percent of your account every 30 minutes! It's free money!
Image Free money's even shadier!
Image Just think about it, won't you?
Image ...What's that, you don't even have 50 berries?
Image Well... come back when your wallet is a bit fuller. Then we can talk.

The bank is exactly what it sounds like. It's well worth opening an account, though maybe not this early since there's so much else to buy; still, I'll be doing this as soon as I can afford it. We can carry up to 999 berries on our persons, and the bank can store up to an additional 10,000 (which is far more than we could ever conceivably need).

They also pay out interest every 30 minutes of game time (and yes, this is as abusable as it sounds, you can just leave the game running and rack up the money if you're so inclined). It pays 2% of the balance at the time it checks (though this is capped at 75 berries per payment). Prior to version 1.1, it was 3% interest and there was no cap, so it could get out of control very quickly.

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This person doesn't have much to say, but there's a banter, of course:

Image You know, this is a pretty good spot to sit in.
Image Perfect for some music!
Image Or for long team discussions... Let's enjoy it.

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Further west, we can cut some weeds to reveal a bouncy shroom.

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It launches us onto these ramparts.

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What's this?

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Oh dear. What will we be able to do with this?

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This house in the corner is an inverted teacup!

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He doesn't have much to say.

Image We're getting a huge nerd feeling.
Image Don't judge a bug by his cover, Leif!
Image It worked with you two, so...

Kabbu makes bad puns, but I'm left questioning why our resident wizard has such a grudge against nerds.

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That's it for the residential district, let's go back to the plaza. As I mentioned earlier, these areas loop around; it feels counterintuitive to me and took a bit of getting used to.

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Time to stop ignoring this.

Image Utter helps with the Notice Board.
Image He makes sure to keep the board in pristine shape, and to alert others of new posts.
Image I hear sometimes he helps out people himself!
Image Seems like an outstanding citizen. Vi could learn a thing or two.
Image I'm as outstanding as it gets!

Talking to Utter triggers a minor cutscene.

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Image Why, yes I do! Looking for the quick and dirty ones, ain't ya Vi?
Image We would like to see any and all available ones, if possible.
Image Ugh, those are almost never worth it.
Image Nonsense, Vi. Helping others is its own reward.
Image Oh. How noble... It's moving, really. Kinda.
Image Alright! I will make all quests available for you lot.
Image Well... here's hoping for good rewards!

If we talk to Utter again:

Image No new quests right now. I'll keep you posted!

(This is a bit cryptic. What he means is "no quests have been added since the last time I told you quests have been added", not "there are no quests available".)

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He does give us the option to accept all the quests at once, though, which is pretty convenient. I won't do this just yet, though, let's read through the board first:

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When we accept them all, Utter reminds us to look in our log for the details. I won't show much of this, because the descriptions we just saw on the board are more detailed.

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Proof of concept, though. (Worth noting, again, as we complete these, they'll be marked complete and added to the list at the bottom, where you see chapter 1. Like Samira's songs, these will permanently be in whatever order we complete them in; keep that in mind if you care about it.)

This is our first batch of sidequests, so most of them are pretty easy and can be done right now (though, notably, not all of them: the lore book quest will take us the entire game to complete). We'll get a start on these next time.
Last edited by Explopyro on Sun Aug 08, 2021 8:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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08: Sidequesting in the Ant Kingdom (Part 1)

Image 17 - Ant Kingdom

When we left off last time, we'd gotten a bunch of sidequests off the quest board. It's time to get to work on them, though there's one other thing to do first.

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We can finally go inside the theatre.

Image 22 - Fine Arts

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It took me a bit to realise what was going on here, but if you look at the gears on the side, and the tumbler to the right of us, it becomes clear this building is a repurposed music box.

Image Ain't this place fancy.
Image A bit too fancy. It's straight out of the Bee Kingdom. Yuck.
Image You know, Vi... for someone who cares so much for treasure, you dislike most high-class establishments.
Image It's just too pretentious! Use money to eat good food, or go on a trip!
Image I hate when bugs use money just to look important!
Image Ah, Vi. You're not too bad after all.
Image What's that "after all" supposed to mean?
Image Just take the compliment, Vi. Just take it.

I like this one, but I do think it's worth pointing out that Vi's feelings about this sort of thing are a bit inconsistent. What happened to "I want to put statues of myself everywhere", Vi?

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Here's one of this game's trickier hidden items (or at least one that eluded me for quite a while!). Attacking the drum with Kabbu's horn makes it rotate, and if you get it going fast enough a Crystal Berry pops out. (It also plinks out a few notes of the game's leitmotif while spinning, a nice touch.)

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Image What's he doing here anyway?
Image This place will fill up with fancy folk. Maybe he is selling expensive items.
Image We should speak to him, perhaps he has something of use.

Fuzzo's relocated in here, explaining why we didn't see him outside by the caravan. He normally travels around with them. Let's see what he's up to.

Image Heh. You look like smart bugs.
Image Some of us are.
Image Can we help you?
Image Heh heh. Sure you can. I've got an offer you just can't beat.
Image Gold? Some legendary berry?
Image Perhaps a powerful medal?
Image Heh heh. Take a look... at THIS!

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Kabbu's reaction here is priceless, there's no way I wasn't going to GIF that.

Image ...! Is... is THAT...!?

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Image Only 10 of them were ever made!
Image Eh. It's alright, I guess.
Image ...Bug Ranger?
Image P-please, esteemed merchant... name your price!
Image Oi, Kabbu!
Image Heh heh. For you, how about 40 berries?
Image Hngh! A bit steep.

Image

Image ......
Image Kabbu.
Image D-Don't worry, you two.
Image I shall save up and buy it myself.
Image Fine. It's your own money.
Image Heh heh. I will be waiting.

I'll explain what exactly this is in a minute. Needless to say, this is what I was saving my berries for earlier, and the reason I didn't buy another medal or open the bank account.

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Image (No thanks) Heh heh. This offer won't last forever, mind you.

(But of course we're going to buy it.)

Image Heh heh. Nice doing business with you.

Image 05 - Key Item!

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Image

Image

Image Well? Are you happy now?
Image I am happy beyond words!
Image We don't see the appeal of this doll.
Image You've been missing out!

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Image They're just actors, but they inspire young bugs all over the land! Even in the north!
Image The power of propaganda.
Image They're good, alright? And sometimes they do reruns at this theater!
Image Say, Leif. Next time they're in town, we can all go watch them!
Image Maybe you will take a liking to the Blue Ranger!
Image No way! Yellow Ranger is the best!
Image ...Heh. Thank you. It sounds like a fun time. We'll take you up on that.

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So, yeah. The Bug Ranger Plushie. Kabbu becomes a total dork over this thing, there's no way I wasn't going to buy it for him.

What is it for? You'll see soon enough. (For anyone playing along, it is absolutely not a necessity to buy this now and you might well want to prioritise something more practical, but for purposes of the LP I have no choice.)

We can also check out the proprietor of the theatre, who's waiting on stage.

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Image That's not a real name, is it?
Image Nah, but no one knows who he really is!
Image No one has seen him without his mask!
Image Half of his face is visible...
Image That part is a mask too!
Image What?
Image Unbelievable! I must go rip the mask off myself!
Image No! You're staying right here with us!

I don't know why Kabbu gets so aggressive over this guy. That said, half a mask, in a theatre, I think this guy might be a reference to Phantom of the Opera?

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Image Hello, what are yo-

Image

Image Heh, yo-

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Image As much as I want to keep this going, we should probably just go.

This is what you get if you talk to him, though. (Also, it was surprisingly difficult for me to catch screenshots of the lines he interrupts so I could transcribe them, his interruptions come in automatically. It also plays the "shocked" sound each time that happens.)

That happened, I guess.

Image 17 - Ant Kingdom

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With our new plushie in tow, let's finally get started on those sidequests. First up, the inn requested a review of their services. It's over here, the last building in the square we haven't explored.

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This painting catches our attention before we talk to the innkeeper.

Image Ah, the inn founders.
Image Indeed. We owe these cozy beds to them.
Image They'd be happy to know that every new owner took care of the inn with equal passion.
Image Say, why do you think that is?
Image How they could work just as hard for something they didn't create?
Image ...
Image If you ask me, I think it's not about being the founders.
Image They probably shared the same ideals, that's all.
Image You two are getting all sappy. Sounds like nap time!
Image Yawn... Maybe I am a bit tired...
Image Shall we call it a night?

Image

You probably guessed where this was going. Yes, this is another discovery!

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Image

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As per usual, after we have the discovery, inspecting it again yields only a short message.

Image Ah, that is the Innkeeper. The 7th owner of this inn!
Image This place has seen better days. Our support would do some good.

Short banter about the innkeeper. Let's actually talk to her.

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Image Heya. We've come to write a review!
Image Oh, by the Queen! Really? I am so glad you've come!
Image Be glad after the review.
Image Our standard fare is 3 berries a night.
Image So for you three, that would be 9 berries - with a free Honey Drop on the house!
Image But since you're writing a review for the inn, you can stay here for free tonight.
Image For free? I won't complain, but...

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Image O-oh, um...
Image Worry not, Innkeeper. We will accept your generous offer.
Image Please make sure we have the same experience as all your guests.
Image And we will keep the price of stay in mind for our review.
Image Phew. Alright, then. Your room is upstairs. I hope you'll have a lovely night!
Image We hope so, too.
Image Please come talk to me when you wake up, so I can get your review.

Image 20 - Night at the Inn

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We get this nice little fade-out animation and a variant on the game's leitmotif when we go to sleep.

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Waking up, we've fully recovered our HP and TP, and as promised there's a Honey Drop for the taking on the bench there. While it's not quite free healing from a crystal, at least the inn is nice enough to feed us. We didn't even have to pay to stay this time! Guess we'd better go downstairs and deliver on the promised feedback.

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Image

Image Gulp...
Image I slept pretty well. The Honey Drop you left was great!
Image We haven't had a bed so cozy in years. Or any bed, really. It was good.

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Image Alright! Service's still got it! I needed the confidence boost...
Image You're great! I Can't wait to come again!
Image Mhm.
Image Heheh. Come back anytime!

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And that's it for this quest. Yes, really. We don't get a reward, either, unless you count a free stay at the inn and that Honey Drop. I guess it's fair enough, this was trivial to do; I think this is really here just to introduce us to the inn.

Well, that's done with. On to the next one.

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Ali, this bespectacled fellow who lives in the teacup house, has a problem with overdue library books.

Image Oh, hello there! Are you explorers?
Image Indeed, good sir. We've taken your request.
Image Oh, thank you! I really, really need you to return this book to the palace library for me.
Image It's... quite past the return date!
Image Huh? You're not an Ant though, right? How'd you take it out?
Image Oh, I asked Gen and Eri to get the book for me. They seem to be busy, so they can't return it.
Image Here's the book. You're really helping me out here!

Image

Image Bleh, I hate being an errand bee...
Image The reward will be quite worth it! So please make haste, for the sake of my record...
Image Oh, and deliver it to Libren, ok? Brooke's scary enough without turning in late...
Image Sure thing. Leave it to us.

(He doesn't even realise the library don't know he has the book in the first place. Surely they'd blame Gen and Eri if anyone? Pretty sure Ali's reputation is completely safe.)

Image 18 - In the Court of the Ant Queen

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Heading into the Ant Palace, I make use of this convenient save crystal, because I'm definitely trying both options here.

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Image We have a book to return.
Image Oh? Thank you!
Image It is a bit overdue... but I will forgive you as explorers are always busy.
Image Thanks for your patronage!
Image Alright. Let's return to Ali and get our reward.

That was straightforward and not terribly interesting. What happens if we go to Brooke instead?

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We have to give it to her through the Key Items menu, like we do with Lore Books.

Image Wait, that book is WAY overdue!
Image W-we apologize.
Image Apologies won't cut it! Although Gen and Eri were the ones that picked it up, right?

Image

Image Well, book's delivered. Let's go back and get our reward.

Not too different, really, but that's a little more interesting at least. It's a nice touch that they let you give it to either of them for different dialogue.

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While we're here...

Image What?! That book is a disgrace to this library! Get that out of here!

Okay, okay, I didn't think she'd want that. (Especially since we know someone else who does. Let's go see him, since we're already right here.)

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Image Says the Wasp. We saw your request.
Image You're, um, searching for terrible books. Correct?
Image That's right.

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Image ...Yes. But there's some sort of... angry comfort in witnessing their poorly composed narratives.
Image We're not here to judge, so... Any leads on these books?
Image Not really. I reckon other cultured bugs with a collection have bad books lying around.
Image They usually let bugs take them for free.
Image Yikes, you can't even sell those books...

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Image I've made this library my den. I'll be here if you find something.

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Image Ah! This is one of the worst ones! Let's see...
Image Hmph. "Tragedy on the Hills".

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Image Uh, are you sure you want this?
Image ...Yes. It's going straight into my collection. Here's your reward.

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Image Two more should sate my urges... Let me know if you find more.

Sure, he paid us, but the real reward of this quest is getting his commentary on the books we give him :allears: I love Reeves.

Sadly, he doesn't have a reaction if you try giving him Lore Books, or the Overdue book from earlier. I did try.

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Before we leave, let's try something special. What happens if we try to give Brooke the Bug Ranger Plushie?

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Image I-Indeed... are you a fan of the Bug Rangers?
Image Well... yes. I love reading the comics.
Image Looks like you found a new friend, Kabbu!
Image Hehe... it's always nice to find other people that like the Bug Rangers!

Yeah. This is what it's for. Any time we're prompted to use or give a key item, we can choose the plushie instead of whatever we're meant to and it will usually trigger an easter egg conversation. There are some fun ones. I'll be seeing most of these for the first time now too; I never thought to do this in my prior playthroughs.

Sadly, Reeves didn't have a reaction when I tried it on him. I was quite disappointed.

We also have enough Discoveries to get the next reward from Libren.

Image Hey there! Came to turn in some Discoveries? Let's see how you've done!
Image This time you have 11 Discoveries, last time you had found 7...
Image Looks like you have enough for the next reward tier! Here you go!

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An actually meaningful reward this time! Nice. We're racking up a lot of these things. Though, of course, we still don't know what they're actually for, and it'll be a while yet before we can use them.

Anyway, let's go report back to Ali.

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Image It was a walk in the park.
Image Now you get to deliver our reward!
Image Of course. This should be enough, I think!

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Image Nice! Hard, cold berries!

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Image This is like, super inefficient! We're charging double!
Image S-sorry! I gave you all the spare berries I had, though...
Image It's alright, Vi. We can return it after a briefing!
Image That's not the point!
Image Just this once, Ali. We'll definitely charge next time.
Image T-Thank you... I'm very grateful!

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Obviously, the Lore Book is the real reward for this quest. Let's go turn that in.

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Image The Crowning of Elizant II. After tears were shed of Elizant's too sudden retirement, it was time to crown the new Queen. Elizant II's speech radiated power over kindness, leaving many uneasy. Although everyone cheered, doubt and fear festered amongst the populace. They could only wait and pray that their new Queen would be just.

This isn't really new information to us. Back to sidequests we go, then.

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Tod requested we find his ball. He doesn't have anything to say, just asks if we've found it. We haven't, but I can try the Bug Ranger Plushie!

Image W-whoa, is that a green Bug Ranger plushie?! Can I really have this?!

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Image Hee hee hee!
Image Aw man, what a bummer!

I do think it's interesting how what set off these conversations changes (they're usually pretty silly, though). With Brooke, the implication was Kabbu showed her the doll, or she just spotted him carrying it. Here, Vi snatched it from him and tried to give it to Tod without his permission!

Sadly for Tod, I'm putting his quest off a bit. It's more convenient to do the others first.

Image 06 - Outskirts

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Chuck wanted a Hearty Breakfast, so let's go take him one. I made one earlier during my cooking spree for just this occasion. Notably, the gate to Snakemouth Way is open again, so we can get to him just fine.

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Snakemouth Way is unchanged so far; I fought a few Seedlings as I went and got the last few points needed to reach Rank 4!

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More MP. More.

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Kabbu learns a new skill at Rank 4!

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Heavy Strike costs 3 TP and deals +2 damage compared to his normal attack. Like his normal horn strike, it ignores 1 point of defence. This isn't spectacular, but it definitely has its uses, especially early in the game: we don't have a lot of sources of burst damage, and one big hit can be particularly handy against enemies with high defence.

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Here's a demonstration. The action command is the same as before, just with a longer charge-up. If this reminds you of Power Smash from Paper Mario, you're not alone.

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This is new. Looks like someone put up a gate blocking the way to Snakemouth Den.

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Image If you have any complaints please direct them to the Ant Kingdom Safety Committee.

There's an Ant Kingdom Safety Committee?

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Image At least that old bug that lives nearby says hi sometimes.

The guard's been moved out here too, it seems.

Image Hey, isn't this the Ant we met at the gate near the association?
Image Indeed. It seems she was reassigned here after we found the artifact.
Image She looks so bored. I guess nothing really happens here.

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It really is blocked off, we can't get through with the abilities we have. This does mean that players who missed any of the medals or crystal berries in Snakemouth Den will have to wait a bit longer before being able to go back for them, but there will be ways back in there eventually, so they're not lost for good.

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However, this path (which our characters refused to take last time we were here) is now available.

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It's Chuck's house!

Image Hmm. So this is Chuck's Abode?
Image Uh huh. I think he calls it a hut though.
Image Is there really any difference?
Image For someone so well spoken to make such a basic mistake...
Image W-What?
Image It's just such a shame.

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Image Eh, there's no time. We'll tell you later.

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Leif is such a troll.

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Image Yeah, whoever that is.
Image Vi, you know fully well that's Chuck!
Image His hut has been coming along well. We should say hi.
Image Before he takes a nap.
Image Or he croaks.
Image *Grumble*

This is kind of mean.

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Looks like Chuck has something in common with Kabbu.

Image Chuck, we saw your posting on the quest board.

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Let's give him the wrong thing.

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Image Go visit Fry in the commercial plaza. I can't wait much longer!

This is your hint if you don't know how to make a Hearty Breakfast. (He doesn't actually keep whatever item we tried to give him.) I'm not sure how helpful this actually is, though - I have seen some people find it by e.g. assuming "hearty breakfast" is descriptive rather than an item name and giving him a Fried Egg or the like, but the fact you have to pick the wrong thing to see the hint means a lot of people never see it. Anyway, let's give him what he wants now.

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Image

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Image Whew. Thanks, you all. Yer always helping me out.
Image I was so desperate I ate a raw Mushroom. Never really liked them...
Image No problem. The breakfast platter is one of our favourites.
Image A bit too savoury for me...
Image I've got a better reward for ya this time!

Image 10 - Medal Found!

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Image That might look like a plain rock, but it packs a punch!
Image Just like me when I don't have food...
Image Thank you, Chuck. It was nice to see you again.
Image Be safe, now! If you ever feel tired, I'd be glad to lend my place to you!

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That's it for this quest!

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Let's take note of this boulder for the future. It shakes slightly if Kabbu tries to hit it, but nothing we do can actually move or damage it, we'll need to come back later.

Our reward for Chuck's quest is actually twofold. In addition to the medal he gave us, Chuck's home now acts as a free inn whenever we want it. (It's a little out of the way compared to the inn in the plaza, but it's not that hard to get here if you need healing. My first playthrough, I didn't realise you could actually rest here, and kept spending berries at the inn.)

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Image Mighty Pebble is interesting. This is our first skill-granting medal; it's treated like a global medal, but equipping this gives Kabbu a new skill. Pebble Toss costs 1 TP. It's a ranged attack that can target any enemy, and can knock them down if they're flying, but it always does 1 damage. Always, regardless of Kabbu's attack power, exhaustion, enemy's defence, etc. 1 damage. You might be able to do some tricks with this later in the game, but honestly it's pretty underwhelming.

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I'll put this on for now so I can demonstrate it. I have the MP to spare so it's no object right now, but I usually don't use this medal much.

Image 03 - Where Adventurers Gather

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The next quest we have is for Eetl, but on the way to meet him, we run into Kina.

Image Dear me... Kina's always worrying about her brother. Maybe a bit too much?
Image Can't blame her. Maki keeps running off by himself.

Short banter.

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Image We saw him in our meeting with the Queen...
Image Didn't he go off to the Golden Hills?
Image Ugh, no luck. I've already checked!
Image A-Already!?
Image Kina, your brother is one of the most respected explorers! He will be okay!
Image I know, I know...
Image But the nerve of him going without me! We're an unbeatable team! What if he needs me!?
Image Maybe he wanted some alone time?

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Image Holy Goddesses!
Image Uhh... nothing. Nothing at all.
Image That's what I thought!
Image S-She's scaring me. Let's get out of here!

The banter updates after talking to her. Now there's a new line at the end:

Image Dear me... Kina's always worrying about her brother. Maybe a bit too much?
Image Can't blame her. Maki keeps running off by himself.
Image S-she gets a bit scary. I don't blame HIM!

And if we talk to Kina again:

Image Just leave me alone. I'll worry by myself.
Image *Sigh* Good job, Leif.
Image We didn't do anything...

All right then. Let's go to Eetl.

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Image So it seems. We can't imagine him questing, though.
Image He's gotta relax more, too!
Image Vi, please don't cause him any trouble.
Image I won't! ...As long as he doesn't cause ME trouble.

New banter about Eetl. Also, that line about him managing the quest board isn't a lie, that's a functional quest board behind him just like the one Utter manages in the plaza. These are all linked and have the same quests on them, and when a new quest becomes available it will appear on all the boards simultaneously.

Let's talk to him.

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Image Is... that bad? We'd just like to help...
Image No, um, I just figured you were busy with more important stuff.
Image Don't sweat it! If it pays we'll do it!
Image A-Alright. Thanks a lot. Your team is more reliable than I expected.
Image It's a pretty simple job, really. Take this package.

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Image What's in this?
Image Don't open it, okay? Just deliver it!
Image My friend's a diver ant in the Bugaria Pier east from the Association. To reach it, just keep walking!

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Image She'll be waiting with a little something. No worries.
Image Cool.
Image We'll get going, then. Good luck with the paperwork.

This one's going to be a bit more involved, thankfully.

Image 06 - Outskirts

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This bridge we couldn't cross earlier is the way we need to go.

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There's a banter about this ant guard.

Image Is this the soldier that was guarding the Snakemouth Gate?
Image Hm... No, this seems to be someone else.
Image How can you tell? Most soldiers look alike.
Image It's the glimmer in her eye! The aura she radiates!
Image ...There's numbers on the armor.

I like this one.

(Once again, due to the character limit I need to split the update here. Sigh.)
Last edited by Explopyro on Fri Mar 12, 2021 1:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
08: Sidequesting in the Ant Kingdom (Part 2)

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Image This place ain't too shabby.
Image It's a popular hangout spot for tourists. And for, well, the Ladybugs.
Image With them, it's more that they have nowhere else to hang out...
Image Did the Queen really have to keep ALL of them out?
Image Don't ask us.
Image ...These are things we cannot control. It's best that we focus on our mission.

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Looks like there's a new kind of enemy here!

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Oops.

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You know the drill by now. Spying time!

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Image If it digs under, we'll use magic to bring it up. Let's try to capture one... for research.

Underlings are a new Seedling variant, based on root vegetables. These guys are a big step up from the enemies we've been facing so far, they have 12 HP so it's unlikely we can take them out in a single turn. Let's see what happens if we attack.

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This is Underlings' main gimmick. They counter any attack by burrowing under the ground. While underground, most attacks can't hit them. Right now, Leif's basic attack is the only thing we have that works on buried enemies, so let's do that.

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Hitting it while underground forces it to surface. Also worth noting, as a plant-based enemy, Underlings are weak to ice.

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Underlings have two attack animations while above ground, this is the other one. Both of these attacks do the same damage, but the timing is slightly different!

We finish it off.

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Underlings are worth 7 EXP right now, which is good because now that we're rank 4, the basic Seedlings are no longer worth any. If I didn't explain this explicitly before, enemy EXP yield is a function of both their level and yours, so as you level up, familiar enemies' EXP yield will degrade, eventually reaching 0 (at which point Bug Me Not works on them). This encourages you to keep finding new enemies to fight, rather than grinding the easy stuff (though you can if you want to badly enough, because a battle will still give you a pity 1 EXP if none of the enemies gave any).

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It drops a bunch of berries, and also a purple thing we've never seen before.

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This is a new kind of item! It acts just like the Danger Shroom if we use it, poisoning for 2 turns. More importantly, though, this opens up a couple of new recipes, and some of them are good, so these are worth grabbing if you have room. Right now, killing Underlings is the only source of these; I don't know the exact drop odds but I'd guess it's around 20% or so.

What can we make with these?

Image Baked Yam (20)
Sell: 4 berries
"Cooking this yam got rid of its toxins, making it safely delicious! Restores 7 HP to an ally."
Made by cooking a Image by itself

Image Spicy Fries (21)
Sell: 12 berries
"These fries will make you see red! Restores 4 HP and boosts an ally's attack for 2 turns."
Made by combining Image andImage

Image Burly Chips (22)
Sell: 12 berries
"Chips with a dash of burly berry! Restores 5 HP and boosts an ally's defense for 2 turns."
Made by combining Image and Image

Image Danger Dish (23)
Sell: 7 berries
"A very, very dangerous dish filled with all kinds of toxins. Restores 2 HP to an ally, 2 TP and poisons for quite a while."
Inflicts poison (4 turns)
Made by combining Image and Image

These are some useful recipes! Making Baked Yams is convenient if you just have a glut of the things, Danger Dish is obviously meant as an enabler for poison-based strategies, and we have upgrades to the buff items. Spicy Fries and Burly Chips are already quite good, but there's a quirk with them we'll learn about later in this chapter that makes them even better; these are some of the best stat-increasing items for the first two-thirds or so of the game. Remember these recipes.

Also, yes, potatoes can really be poisonous, although I don't know that I've ever heard of them being this small. Like tomatoes and aubergines, potatoes are a nightshade cultivar. Don't eat green potatoes, friends.

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There's a staircase to the south.

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Down here is a waterfall, a cave entrance, and a flying Seedling.

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Well, that's quite an escalation over the lone Underlings we just saw!

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A well-placed Icefall helps us make quick work of the Seedlings.

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Here's how Underlings attack while underground. This attack is slightly more dangerous than the ones it uses while aboveground, as it will cause poison (for 2 turns) if not blocked. After using this attack, the Underling stays above ground.

Time to clean up.

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Proof that regular Seedlings no longer give EXP.

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There's another sneaky secret here. Waterfalls often hide things in video games, don't they?

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If you stand at the tip of the rock and throw Vi's Beemerang into the waterfall, it'll bring back this Image HP Plus medal! This is our third one.

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Vi can have this for now. A lot of people like stacking all of these on Kabbu right now, and I won't deny there are good reasons to do that, but I personally like to give each bug one at this stage. 9 HP is a lot more comfortable than 7 when not planning around Taunt strategies.

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Now to check out this cave.

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This is all that's in here. We can interact with that dais, and it brings up the Key Items menu, but we don't have the right item (and for better or worse, it doesn't react to the Bug Ranger Plushie). There is, at least, a banter in here:

Image What a peculiar cave.
Image Huh... There's nothing here! Just a rock!
Image ...We can feel magic coming off this cavern. It's hiding something.

Whatever this cave is, we'll need to come back to it later.

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A stepping stone lets us platform across the stream.

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There's another Underling here.

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Underlings are really aggressive in trying to first strike, but if you have good timing you can get Kabbu to whack them as they're falling!

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This is pretty similar to the battle we just had.

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I decided to use this opportunity to demonstrate Pebble Toss. Kabbu just chucks a rock at them. There's no action command, and no way to modify the damage, this just hits for 1. I guess it's decent utility for knocking things down if Vi ends up dead, or something, but I honestly don't see much reason to ever use this. Maybe it could be a fun challenge to try to deal the final blow to bosses with this?

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Also, here's a demonstration of poison. If you miss the block against this attack (and aren't wearing Poison Resistance), you're going to get poisoned.

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Poison Defender kicks in, though!

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Kabbu takes 1 damage at the end of the turn (after the enemies have finished taking their actions). Looks like I misremembered about it rounding up: poison damage is 10% of max HP, rounded down.

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This skull icon next to Kabbu indicates the remaining poison turns.

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And this icon of the Poison Defender medal indicates that it's active! This is how the game shows status effects and situationally-active medals; if there are multiples active at once (like now, Kabbu is both poisoned and under the effects of Poison Defender), the game will cycle between icons though only one is on-screen at a time. This is a decent compromise between not showing this information and crowding the screen, I suppose, though it can get pretty silly looking if you stack certain medals and rack up loads of icons. I'm sure we'll see that later.

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Kabbu even looks purple in the battle-end screen, though he'll be cured once we return to the overworld. (Honestly, he looks good in purple!)

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Before we leave this screen, take note of that little island in the distance! It's hard to see from this distance, but there's one of those suspicious dirt mounds on it.

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We still haven't reached the docks yet!

Image Hmm... the route to the Lost Sands.
Image What's got you thinking, Leif?
Image Eh, not much. We're just glad to see they've built a bridge. Even though it's raised.
Image We used to have to hop on a bunch of small rocks. Seems the river's swept those away.
Image Personally, I'm grateful it was lowered when I came to the Association.
Image I wonder why it's up now, though...

Lost Sands is the desert area, to the north of here. We can't go there now, though, because the bridge is raised and we don't have the ability to lower it.

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The Underling in this screen has brought a new kind of friend with it! There's pretty good enemy variety in this area.

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Image I should try to take it out in one attack!

Midges are like mosquitoes, though I'm not sure what they are exactly, because we'll meet sentient mosquitoes and they look quite different. Maybe it's a kind of divergent evolution?

Vi alludes to them having a counterattack ability, but we won't see it in this fight. It only kicks in when we're fighting multiple Midges at once.

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Midges have two attacks: this dive

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and this HP suck, which heals them. I find this one pretty tricky to block.

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Midges are worth a lot of EXP right now!

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And that battle yields another Danger Spud.

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Hopefully we're getting close to the pier?

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Ouch! These Underlings are tricky to avoid getting hit by.

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Wait, what's this? Vi's dead! And the Underling is nowhere to be seen? What's going on? What IS this thing?

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Image It has unholy defenses...! Not even my piercing horn is getting through!
Image I need to think of a way to prevent its escape while we whittle it down!

Golden Seedlings are the Metal Slime, Amazy Dayzee, Shining Pom, etc, the rare-spawn enemy of this game. They have a 1% chance of replacing any Seedling-type enemy (there are ways to increase these odds later in the game, but for now it's always 1%), though thankfully they can't appear in Chapter 1.

As we've seen, they do a lot of damage. They're also prone to running away, and they have a defencive gimmick that makes them hard to kill. Specifically, damage dealt to them is divided by 10 (rounded up), so they usually take 1 damage from any hit, and most multi-hit attacks will only deal damage on the first hit (specifically, this applies to attacks like Tornado Toss which don't have new action commands between hits). And, of course, they give massive rewards if you manage to take them down, including a guaranteed item drop that's almost exclusive to them.

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I'm running away (note the effect of Quick Flea!). I don't have a chance against this thing unless I start the battle with a first strike, so I'm going to regroup and try again (the spawn chance doesn't get rerolled, it'll still be there). At least I have the spy data now!

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I fed Kabbu this Mushroom Skewer, I didn't want to enter the fight with two bugs on 1 HP, though in retrospect this didn't actually matter, it might have been better to give it to Vi.

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That's a bit better.

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Golden Seedlings are also immune to freezing, of course. It couldn't be that easy!

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The trick to keeping these from running away is to have Kabbu taunt them (also, this animation is quite silly when an enemy is frozen). Unfortunately, they do so much damage that he's not going to survive this.

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Yep. Sorry, Kabbu. (Incidentally, this damage number might look weird compared to earlier. I found it strange that the damage it dealt when first striking was lower. Like other forms of Seedling, these have two attacks, the ramming dash and this dive. Golden Seedlings' ram deals 12 damage, and the dive does 15, but it seems on a first strike the dive also does 12? I don't think I ever noticed this before.)

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Here's where things stood at the start of turn two.

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Sadly, I didn't have enough actions to kill it. Vi and Leif reduced it to 1 HP, I was left hoping it wouldn't run away (they don't always), but it did.

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To add insult to injury, we don't even get any EXP for this travesty! (It looks like the pity EXP only kicks in if the battle started out having no enemies worth EXP. The only enemy we killed was worth 0 EXP.)

Looking back at this footage, I made some obvious mistakes here, and in retrospect there were two different lines of play I could have taken to get a different outcome.

1: on the first turn, I wasted Kabbu's second action killing the normal Seedling (which was frozen, so it was no threat anyway), when I should have had him relay to Leif or Vi and get another hit in on the golden one. Then it would have had 2 HP left going into turn two, Leif and Vi could have killed it and then whoever survived would be left to clean up the normal Seedling.

2: on the second turn, I could have had Leif or Vi use the Magic Seed on Kabbu, then had him taunt again (I had enough TP). This would have left only 1 action remaining, but that'd be enough to get it down to 2 HP, then Leif and Vi would be guaranteed to live to turn three when together they'd have enough actions to kill it.

I'm pretty embarrassed I didn't think of either of these while recording, but hey, at least you get to see how tricky these things are! Golden Seedlings. They're scary.

We'll talk about Tangy Berries (the special item they drop) once I actually manage to get my hands on one.

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Thankfully, that's the last enemy in this area. Are we finally at the pier?

Image 10 - The Sailors' Pier

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Yes.

Image Woah. I'd never actually seen the pier up close before!
Image Up close, Vi?
Image Mhm. You can kinda see it from all the way up in the Hive...
Image It must be exciting to see those far-off lands!
Image I mean, kinda... But after Snakemouth, I ain't too fond of the water.
Image Say the word, and we'll freeze the whole ocean.
Image N-Now, it's enough to just tread carefully...

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We can inspect this statue of a ship's helm.

Image What's this... uh... we don't really know how to describe it.
Image It's a steering wheel, Leif!
Image ...A what?
Image It's to drive boats around in the water!
Image ...Hmm. Even when you explain it, it's hard to imagine how it works.
Image Back then, boats were way simpler.
Image Well, you DO have to study a lot to drive a boat...
Image We feel quite outdated...
Image Keep your head high, Leif! There's so much to discover in this pier!

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The helm statue is a discovery.

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Apparently, there have recently been advances in boating technology.

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The message after having the discovery.

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Let's explore this area!

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Looks like this is a restaurant of sorts?

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Dan the Gourmet Beetle is here. Talking to him gives us a hint about a recipe, though this is something we can't actually make yet. Despite Leif being able to freeze ice out of the air, and there being rivers everywhere, those won't work, we need a specific kind of water to make tea.

Image We meet again...
Image He really is everywhere!
Image Hope you won't mind if we stay for a snack.

Let's see what's on offer.

Image Hello there! Welcome to Pier Stop! Nice day we're having, huh?

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Image We are always open for business! Come back anytime!

We can buy food here. We've seen Roasted Berries before (notably, this is a tad cheaper than making it out of a Spicy or Burly Berry), but Berry Juice is new.

Image Berry Juice (15)
"A delicious berry juice! Restores 5 HP to one party member and heals any negative status effect."
Sell: 5 berries

This is something we'll eventually be able to cook, but not quite yet, it requires ingredients we don't have access to. It's not a bad item, but it's not something I find myself using much.

Image Pier food's got a certain something.
Image It's, uh, saltier?
Image It must be something in the area's water, perhaps?
Image As long as we don't get food poisoning, it's fine.

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Wow, that's expensive. I don't think we'll be going to Metal Island any time soon.

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There's a diver ant over here.

Image These ants are nuts! Who even wants to go into the water!?
Image Agreed. It's nuts.
Image I'm not saying I want to swim, but... isn't there a thrill to overcoming our insect limitations?
Image To break through that limit, to explore frontiers we never dreamed of reaching?
Image Nuh-uh! I wanna stay dry!
Image There, there. It's gonna be okay, Kabbu.
Image Siiiiiiigh.

Eetl's friend is over to the right.

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Image It looks like it'd fit you just fine. Maybe you should ask.
Image No way! His horn would slice through it!
Image ...! I didn't consider that...
Image You sliced through his hopes, Vi.
Image Oops...

Let's talk to her.

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Image Hm? Aye. Why? Something' happen?

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Of course we're going to do this.

Image Woah, I didn't know Eetl had this on him!
Image What!? E-Excuse me, not that!
Image Awww...

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Image Ah! He got the thing, finally.
Image What is it!? A super rare Medal!?
Image Just a part to improve my gear. You gotta thank Eetl for me.
Image ...Why'd he make such a big deal out of it, then?
Image What matters is it's been delivered safely!
Image What matters is the reward, Kabbu. The important part!
Image This should 'bout cover the walk. Thanks to you too.

Image 10 - Medal Found!

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This is a really good reward, making this easily the most worthwhile of these early quests! For just 1 MP, this ensures that our tribulations with first strikes are gone for good. (Weirdly, I never find myself using the equivalent Chill Out in Paper Mario, but First Strikes hurt more in this game, and the enemies are more aggressive in the overworld. Don't succumb to hubris, use Crazy Prepared.)

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This is going straight on and probably never coming off. I replaced Mighty Pebble for now.

If we talk to her again:

Image Thanks for dat. Aye, good luck out there!

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There are a few people to meet in this building.

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That's all this person has to say.

Image That poor sailor...
Image What do you reckon happened to him?
Image Dunno... It's just the sea.
Image I feel like it'd be best if we didn't try to figure it out. It could be most unpleasant.

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That is a functional quest board there, just like the ones in the Ant Plaza and Explorers' Association. No new quests, though.

Image This bug's fashion sense is impeccable.
Image What about me?
Image You're doing just fine.
Image Oi, just say I look good!

Leif would probably look good in a pirate hat.

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To the east we find the actual pier.

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This crystal berry is quite sneaky! A lot of people walk straight past it. It's a short drop off the back of the pier, but that means only the very top of the berry is visible and it's easy not to see it. (You can just barely see it peeking out behind Leif in the previous screenshot.)

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The sign wasn't kidding. We can go to Metal Island if we want, but it's going to cost a fortune.

Image (Let's go) What?! No money, no trip! Get out of here!

Image (That's too expensive) Psh. Don't waste my time then.

There's a banter, of course.

Image Grr...
Image Err, Vi?
Image How can they charge so many berries for a boat ride? It's insane!
Image We thought you hated the water, Vi.
Image You don't get tired on a boat. And it's way less tiring than flying to an island!
Image The boat must be quite expensive to maintain...
Image I don't care! It's too many berries!
Image Guess we'll have to save up, or wait for a better deal.

This oh-so-subtle hint that there will be a discount later means it's not a good idea to save up for this, even if the game will absolutely let us go if we have the berries. Metal Island is worth going to eventually, but there's very little we could actually do there right now. There are some shops, with goods we currently can't access otherwise, but nothing so amazing it's worth paying 300 berries to get there and then however much more on top of that.

This captain will charge us every time we want to ride the boat, too (though a shortcut will open up once we get there, so there's no reason to ever pay him again).

Before wrapping things up, let's head back to the Ant Kingdom to tidy some loose ends. We have enough berries now to buy the remaining medals and open our bank account, for instance.

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On the way back, I remembered I never showed this house in the Outskirts area (across from the Association). We can't actually go in, because the owner isn't home. Also worth remembering is that dirt mound (though how it got on top of that rock, I really don't know).

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I bought Sleep Resistance and Poison Resistance.

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and while I was there, had Fry make a couple of Baked Yams.

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Let's open a bank account.

Image (If we say no) ...Hmph. Don't say I didn't warn you when you're broke.

But let's do it.

Image That will do nicely. Thank you.
Image Your account is ready. Talk to me whenever you want to do an operation.
Image This better pay itself off later...

And now if we talk to her again:

Image Welcome... Oh, it's you!

Image

Image

Image All done. Your balance is now 10 berries.
Image Your berries are safe here. Come back anytime.

And that's it for how the bank works! I deposited 10 berries as proof of concept, but between the signup fee and the medals, I'm pretty much broke again.

This seems like a good place to break things off. Next time, we'll finish the last sidequest we can do right now (finding Tod's ball) and get on with our actual mission. See you then!

User avatar
09: Golden Path (Part 1)

Last time, we completed most of the available sidequests in Ant City, exploring the eastern side of Bugaria Outskirts on the way to the pier. We have one more sidequest to do, but it's on the way to our actual mission, so we'll get started on that and make a detour en route.

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I'm also putting Mighty Pebble back on, it might come in handy shortly.

Image 06 - Outskirts

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Image Well, at least when it's not raining.
Image It's a good thing rain is so uncommon. It gives us ample time to prepare.
Image Let's enjoy the view while we're here.

I took a quick detour to show this banter in the first screen of Bugaria Outskirts, I forgot to check there last time.

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We need to head south, back toward the cave.

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There weren't enemies last time we were here, but there are now.

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Lots of Seedlings. These are barely threatening. I was tempted into using Icefall to expedite these encounters, which isn't a horrible idea but I think it's a mistake to spend too much TP here.

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The second battle has even more Seedlings. Even when there are this many, they're not really a threat, and we only get pity EXP.

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They do, however, drop a new item. I think item drops are actually tied to the enemy formations, rather than individual enemy types, because the Seedlings we encountered before couldn't drop these and they start showing up on this screen.

Image Hard Seed is a battle item. It can be thrown at one enemy to make an attack with power 2; this is subject to modification by the enemy's defence (but not by the thrower's stats).

That sounds pretty underwhelming, and it is. The only real reason to use these is, again, to knock down flying enemies if for some reason you don't want to or can't relay to Vi. That said, they're quite useful in cooking. I'm going to hold off showing new recipes for now (we'll be encountering a lot of new ingredients over the next couple of updates, so I figure I'll cover them all at once) except to say that cooking one of these by itself also makes Roasted Berries, and that's a lot easier to justify than using expensive Spicy or Burly Berries.

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This doesn't look good!

Image 13 - It's Getting Scary!

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This really doesn't look good.

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Image Hmph! The renowned Professor Neolith doesn't know anything!?

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Image Assaulting someone who can't even fight... You have no dignity.
Image Stay out of this. We will eliminate any who get in the way!
Image Who do you think you are!?
Image You've made your choice. To protect my friend... I'll take you down!
Image Friend?

Kabbu apparently has a preexisting acquaintance with the professor here; I'm sure he'd be angry at seeing anyone harmed, but this fury seems a bit more personal.

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Image

Image

Image We'll help out!
Image It doesn't matter how many of you appear! We will complete our mission, for the Wasp King!

King? I thought wasps had queens. That's weird.

Image Focus your efforts on one of them, we will handle the other!
Image We didn't need your help! ...But thanks! Let's go!

Image 24 - Oh no! WASPS!! (Recommended listening!)

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First things first, of course, we need to spy. I'll let Leif do the honours this time.

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Image Regardless, if it's going to shake the peace, we'll freeze him in his tracks!

This isn't a miniboss, exactly, as the game doesn't count it as one, but it's definitely a step up from the normal enemies we've been facing (Golden Seedlings excepted). Those stats are quite scary - 2 defence is a lot when all your characters have 2 attack! Kabbu is going to be doing all the damage in this fight, as the others would barely scratch him (and then only if they're in front).

(As an aside, I think it's a bit strange they use male pronouns for the wasp soldiers; in nature, they would definitely be female. But these wasps have a king, so there's already something abnormal going on.)

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Kabbu gets things started with a Heavy Strike. I don't have enough TP to do that again, because I wasted a bunch using Icefall against the Seedling hordes, but we'll make this one shot count.

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Vi wouldn't be able to get through, so she gets to relay to Kabbu. (This fight is a lot harder if you forget you can do this; I've definitely seen people struggle here.)

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The Wasp Trooper has two attacks, one of which is this spear throw. This would've been 5 damage before blocking; he's not messing around. Thank goodness for Levi and Celia; fighting two of these at once would be terrifying (we could do it, but it would be a close thing).

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At the start of turn two.

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Kabbu attacks.

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And gets a relay to attack again. At this point, he has accumulated enough exhaustion that, taking into account the enemy's defence, attacking again would do zero damage.

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But Pebble Toss can still get through! (This was completely unnecessary, and doesn't actually change the course of the fight in any way, we'd be finishing things the next turn regardless. But still, it's good to see proof that it always does 1 damage.)

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If I'd saved some TP to do another Heavy Strike instead, I could have finished things that turn, but at least this way we get to see the Trooper's other attack animation. I have a harder time blocking this one, for some reason.

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With the Trooper on 1 HP, this is over.

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He's worth a nice chunk of EXP, too. (It should probably be more, but there's a cap of 15 EXP per enemy in normal battles, with only a few exceptions, and I think we're hitting it here.)

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Looks like Levi and Celia were successful too.

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And they run off. Typical villain lackey behaviour.

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Image Think nothing of it. Explorers must support each other.
Image What a scare... Thank you all so much!

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Image Neo! I'm so glad you're alright!
Image Kabbu, it was thanks to your timely appearance! This has to be fate!
Image So, uh, who's this Professor Neolith guy?

(Vi, always so tactful)

Image You don't know?! Professor Neolith is the leading authority in archaeology!
Image Oh! Nice to meet you!
Image (...Archaeology?)
Image Aw, shucks! I'm not that famous!

Image

Image It was nothing, compared to saving me from that ambush!
Image Coincidentally, I was examining this tunnel linking the outskirts to the Golden Path.
Image I never expected to get assaulted! Although a less visited path does lend itself to it.
Image From what I overheard, they seem to be looking for artifacts as well?
Image I'll have to make sure to report that upon or return...
Image The wasps have behaved for a few moons, but they can't be planning anything good.
Image If it's going to be this unsafe, maybe I should cancel this trip and head back...

Image

Image Phew...
Image Oh! Thank you!
Image We're on our way there as well, so we'll catch up to you eventually.
Image Heheh. It'll be a fun festival with everyone there!
Image Let's play some of the games later, Neolith!
Image Neo, stay safe. Let's hang out later!

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And off they go into the cave.

(I'm genuinely not sure if it's writer intent or not, but I've seen quite a few people read between the lines a bit here and come out shipping Kabbu and Neolith. Honestly, I can see it? Nothing ever rules out the possibility, anyway.)

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We're back in control now. Also, let's note we seem to have been healed to full after that fight (the game doesn't draw attention to that or offer any explanation, but I'll take it).

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Image 25 - Caves

Image This place is dreadful. Pretty sad, if you ask us.
Image It's not like anyone comes here often, you know? It does the job.
Image Indeed. If we cross quickly, we can leave behind this gray scenery.

Looks like nobody's really happy to be here. That looks like a new enemy, too.

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The leaf animation here is new!

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Does that snail have spikes on its shell?

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Image I'll try to take some for myself when Kabbu flips it out of its shell!

This is hinting that Numbnails' attacks can put us to sleep. We've already found a Sleep Resistance medal, it shouldn't be too big a surprise that this is now a possibility. Also, remembering the hint to flip them with Kabbu is important.

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Leif attacks. He only hits for 1, thanks to the Numbnail's defence...

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And when hit, it retreats inside its shell, increasing its defence to 4. We're not getting through that, are we?

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Wait, what?

This is another quirk of the battle system. Some enemies like this Numbnail have defencive stances, and those stances can be broken by flipping attacks. When you do that, in addition to breaking the stance for other characters to take advantage of, the attack that breaks the stance does full damage (as though the stance ended first before damage was applied).

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Numbnails attack by shooting these weird lightning bolts out of their eyes. This will cause sleep (2 turns) if you don't block.

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Kabbu finishes things.

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Pretty good EXP from these!

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Looks like it dropped a new item, too!

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Guess Vi wasn't kidding about us being able to collect their sedatives. This is an attack item like the Hard Seed; when thrown, it attacks for 2 and attempts to cause sleep (2 turns). This is a tricky item to use, honestly, because of some quirks about sleep, which I'll explain shortly once we see it in action. It also has some uses in cooking. Contra what Vi said earlier, though, they won't really make us rich, they're only worth 4 berries to sell.

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Over on the left side, there's another one of those boulders blocking the way, and this faded sign.

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The next battle in here is just a lone Midge, which we can dispatch in a single turn. It has 7 HP and that's exactly how much damage we do with our three characters.

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These are still worth a nice chunk of EXP too.

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Apparently, these can also drop Hard Seeds.

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The last battle has two Midges at once. Ugh. We'll get to see what these are really about, now.

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Vi attacks to knock the first one down...

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and immediately the other Midge has a shocked reaction and attacks Vi. It's not your turn, Midge!

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Kabbu attacks.

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And again, the other Midge reacts and counterattacks.

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Leif finishes off the one in front.

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This is the gimmick to Midges. It's really annoying! If there were three of them in this battle, we'd take two counter hits each time we attacked one of them! And, notably, these counterattacks are actually stronger than their normal dive attack (though not the HP vampire attack). The obvious solution if you have TP to spare is to try freezing them, they have 25% resistance so the odds are in your favour.

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After all those counterattacks, the Midge still gets its turn like normal.

After that nightmare of a turn, there's just one Midge left, and it's trivial to mop up.

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Lots of EXP, at least! That's enough to get us to the next rank.

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No special perks this time, just the stat increase we choose (which, of course, is MP).

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I've seen people have a hard time finding Tod's ball. Cutting this vine is the first step.

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Then we can step behind that pillar. You can barely see it peeking out in the front there, that rock in the foreground does a good job of hiding it!

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That's what we came for. May as well head back to return this before continuing onward.

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Image You're Tod, right? We've taken your request.

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Image You really found it! Thank you! Mom won't get angry now...
Image Please don't tell her I went out by myself either, pretty please?
Image Here, have this for helping me out!

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Image Alright! Another good deed, another reward!
Image Now, stay out of trouble. Don't worry your mother.
Image I promise... Thanks again!

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That's it for this quest! Our reward is a second copy of Sleep Resistance. With all the Numbnails around, it might not be a bad idea to put one or two of these on. (Incidentally, if anyone was wondering, resistance medals do stack. They grant 50% resistance each, and you can put two copies on the same bug to get 100%, which works exactly the way you'd think it does and grants immunity.)

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Let's take a quick look at our quest log. The two remaining quests (getting the Lore Books for Brooke, and getting Bad Books for Reeves) are long-running ones we won't be able to complete for quite a while. By the way, the Lost Books quest would have appeared on the quest board if we'd checked that before meeting Brooke; instead it got automatically accepted when we talked to her.

So far, so good. We're all caught up. (There are a lot of sidequests in this game, and if you're at all interested in doing them, it's probably worth trying to keep on top of them as they become available. Otherwise, they'll just pile up and become overwhelming.)

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While we're here, let's give Amber the Hard Seeds and Numbnail Dart, we'll put those away to cook with later.

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And let's put all our berries in the bank. I don't expect to get much interest, but every little helps and I'm not going to need them any time soon.

This post was, sigh, just barely over the character limit; this seems like a good place to split it. Back momentarily.
Last edited by Explopyro on Sat Mar 20, 2021 8:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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09: Golden Path (Part 2)

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Back to the cave. I wasn't planning to show the fights again, but something interesting happened with the two Midges:

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I used Icefall and it froze one of them, but not the other.

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After counterattacking, the Midge returns to its flying position! It doesn't matter in this particular case, but it's worth noting so you don't try to make a strategy around knocking multiples down at once.

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To get to the cave exit, we're going to need to freeze this water droplet and use the ice block to help us up. That rock is just a bit too high to jump onto without it.

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Like so.

Image 26 - Golden Lands

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The cave exit is a pipe? Anyway, welcome to Golden Path! This area has a nice autumnal palette (although I don't know why it's autumn here and not in the outskirts) and a lot of new things to see on our way to the Golden Settlement.

Image Ah, the Golden Hills! I have heard many stories about this place. They say Goddess Venus keeps this area in pristine weather!
Image Where are all these leaves falling from, anyways?
Image Just look up! That's the Bee Kingdom's tree!

This conversation feels weird to me, in that each statement seems a bit disconnected and doesn't quite flow into the next, almost like each of our party members is just independently making an observation.

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There's a save crystal here, though notably, it's blue. They're definitely getting a bit stingier with the free healing.

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Those weeds are a bit suspicious, aren't they?

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There's a path back here...

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with a hidden bouncy shroom that launches us upward!

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That was a crystal berry barely visible behind the foliage. Sneaky!

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A weed by the crystal has this new item in it. Clear Water is exactly what it sounds like, it cures status effects and does absolutely nothing else. Interestingly, unlike most items found in weeds, this respawns occasionally; I think this is the only weed in the game that does this. This is also the ingredient we need to make tea, as well as some other things like Berry Juice. On the pile it goes.

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Is that another new enemy?

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Another new leaf animation!

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Let's give Kabbu a turn to spy.

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Image But alas... It will be no match for my horn!

Acornlings are another Seedling variant. These have some armour, giving them 2 defence.

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They can be flipped, though, and when flipped that defence drops to 0.

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They're also weak to ice, being plants, so Leif and Vi can finish it off. We'll see what their attacks are like soon enough.

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They're not worth quite as much EXP as Numbnails or Midges, but this isn't a bad haul.

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Image Use the safe line express to reach the Settlement! - Golden Hills Tourist Center
Image (PS: In case the safe line is out of commission, please wait until an associate comes to escort you.)

The warning is nice, I guess, but somehow I don't think it's going to be that simple.

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We can get up to this platform with the aid of the mushroom, but there's no way to interact with the pulley, and there's clearly no gondola or anything here.

What happens if we jump on the flytraps? (Also... Kabbu mentioned a Goddess Venus. Flytraps seem ominous, don't they?)

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We can stand on them for a short time, but if we wait too long, they'll chomp us. If this happens, the game just resets us to the last stable platform we stood on, there's no penalty except having to try again. The timing isn't that hard, but you need to pay attention and keep moving.

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The northern flytraps just lead to this dirt mound we can't do anything with.

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The southern path is the way we need to go.

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This Acornling is waiting for us at the other side; it's almost an ambush, it starts moving and trying to hit us as soon as we set foot on the platform.

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This one has a regular (flying) Seedling alongside it. I'll kill the Seedling first so we can see the Acornling's attack.

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Just like Seedlings, they do this dive-bomb, the timing is the same. (They also have a second attack, the same ramming dash Seedlings do.) They're Seedlings, just with a hard hat on.

It's worth noting, though, that this Acornling was flipped at the start of its turn, but it got up and attacked like normal, and stays unflipped after that. I don't think I explained it explicitly before, but that's generally how flippable enemies behave. (Unlike Paper Mario, where you can stunlock most Koopas by knocking them on their back.)

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There's a mushroom to send us up.

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And here's the other end of the cable car. Though it looks like there might be another path upward? Regardless, the vehicle itself isn't here, so we can't go up for now. Let's go further west.

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More platforming on flytraps.

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There's a Numbnail waiting for us on the other side.

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It has an Acornling friend with it!

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There isn't a lot to show with this battle, except that I got a bit careless with Kabbu's health. Both enemies hit him for 2 on the first turn, leaving him at 3, then on turn two I missed the action command and got him knocked out. I should probably have healed him; I think I've gotten into a bad habit of not doing so, I need to remember I can use items or spend TP on Secret Stash. That said, characters occasionally getting knocked out isn't exactly unusual, and especially on higher difficulties it's something you'll get used to and plan around.

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That said, this wasn't a problem. Switching Leif in front, with the ice weakness and the positioning bonus, he can finish it off easily enough.

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These battles are worth a lot of EXP, at least.

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I fed Kabbu a Baked Yam after that fight, I'd rather not walk around with him on 1 HP.

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This seems like a good place to see the banter for this area:

Image The Golden Settlement is a pioneer of wind-based energy, isn't it?
Image Uh huh. And for heavier stuff, they wind up cranks to move around.
Image It's a pretty clever way to move about. The bee engineers deserve some praise.
Image Eh, it's nothing special.
Image Most bees can fly. It's no wonder you wouldn't see the greatness in these inventions!
Image Hmph.

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The technician seems to be sleeping on the job.

Image Darn. With the worker sleeping, how will we operate the cranks?
Image Leave it to me! Beemerang express is go! For a small fee!

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I'm pretty sure she was fully intending to charge them until Leif threatened her with magic :)

There's also, of course, a banter.

Image Sleeping on the job is so lazy... Maybe we should throw some ice on him.
Image Oh, we could cover his face with honey!
Image Stop it! You will do none of these things!

Heh.

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We know what to do. Standing on the platform, we can throw the Beemerang at the crank.

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The platform slowly rises, until we can jump off at the top.

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This battle looks very similar to the last one, but the enemies' positions have been switched. That actually makes things a bit easier, because we can take out the Acornling in a single turn with regular attacks, but we couldn't do that for a Numbnail.

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I missed the action command when the Numbnail attacked Kabbu, and he fell asleep! So let's talk about how Sleep works.

When a bug is asleep, they can't take actions, nor block attacks. They will also heal 10% of their maximum HP, rounded up, at the end of the turn (after enemies finish taking their actions), as you see here. Being hit by an attack will immediately wake up a sleeping character.

(There's a nasty glitch with this on enemies: if you put an enemy to sleep, then wake them up with damage the same turn, they'll still skip their next turn. You can exploit this to disable an enemy while avoiding the downside of healing them. I don't plan to take advantage of this, but I'd be remiss if I didn't discuss it.)

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Although, interestingly, a character being asleep doesn't stop you from rotating the formation, so at least we can get someone else in front and not waste the damage bonus.

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Leif can do 2 damage, at least.

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But this leaves Vi trying to get through 4 defence. That's not happening.

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Kabbu still gets the healing the turn he wakes up.

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And now he can finish things.

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These battles are really showering us in EXP. That's another rank up!

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Naturally, I choose more MP.

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And this time, we do get an additional bonus. Leif learns a new skill!

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Frigid Coffin is really, really good. It might not be clear yet from the description, but this is one of Leif's best skills and will serve us well throughout the rest of the game.

Frigid Coffin hits one enemy and deals +2 damage compared to Leif's standard attack. It also attempts to freeze, and has a duration of 2 turns: this is the only way to freeze for longer than 1 turn, so it's a much more effective way to disable an enemy than, say, Icefall.

Also, "a great chance to freeze" is a bit of an understatement. Frigid Coffin subtracts 30% from the enemy's resistance (provided the enemy has less than 100% resistance; immune is still immune) before rolling the RNG to see if it will succeed. That's even more important than it probably sounds at first; let me explain:

The game never explicitly teaches this (which I do think is a bit of a misstep because it's a great mechanic), but every time we successfully apply a status effect to an enemy, that enemy's resistance to it increases. You can't keep freezing the same enemy forever: every time you do, it gets harder to freeze it, and it will eventually become immune once that resistance reaches 100%. In the case of freeze (on Hard Mode), the increase is +18% each time they're frozen (an enemy with 0% resistance will reach immunity after 6 freezes). This means that, especially in boss fights, freezes are a finite resource you have to manage. That -30% goes a long way to help squeeze out those last couple of freezes once the enemy's resistance has built up.

When you want something frozen really badly (like, say, you want to create a window for a healing turn), Frigid Coffin has your back.

We'll see it in action soon enough. For now, let's get back to exploring.

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Remember this crank for later; those rails are tall and it certainly looks like this platform can go up much higher, but right now we can only get it high enough to reach the flytrap on the left.

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Like so.

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Up here there are two cranks, and a bit of a puzzle. The left crank controls the left platform and makes it go up; the right crank controls the right platform and makes it go down.

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We have to get the platforms into position by turning the cranks multiple times, then time our crossing carefully to get across, like this. Awkwardly, if you screw up and get stuck on the left platform at its lowest, there's no way back safely, you have to jump into the brambles so the game will respawn you on the platform.

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Also, that looks like a new enemy, doesn't it?

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Yes it is!

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Image It's quite fierce, too. We should discipline it before it can give us much trouble.

Weevils are an interesting enemy. It has 9 HP, so without a first strike we won't be killing it in one turn...

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Wait, what? It ate that Seedling and healed itself to full! They'll only do this when injured, and only to plant-based enemies. (This is a nice dose of realism, too: weevils are known for eating stored grain. Grain is seeds.)

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The next turn, we still didn't kill it off, so it gets to attack. It's the same animation as eating the Seedling.

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Decent EXP yield.

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In the next screen, a Numbnail is waiting for us.

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This one comes with a Weevil. (I do like how every battle in this area has had a different combination and/or formation of enemies, they do a good job at keeping things from getting repetitive.)

We take out the Numbnail turn one, then do some damage to the Weevil turn two.

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We see a new behaviour from the Weevil on its turn! When on low health, they can do this and give themselves an attack buff, and then they still get to attack like usual.

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When we get to the next turn it has this icon on it, showing the buff. Attack Up is always a +1 increase, the number shown is the number of turns remaining before it wears off. Weevils give themselves a 2-turn attack buff.

It doesn't matter right now, of course, because we're going to kill it.

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We get another Numbnail Dart after the battle. I have the room so I'll keep it.

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There doesn't seem to be a crank in sight. How are we going to get across here?

Image What a huge gap!
Image This place IS known for its hills.
Image No problem for me. I can just fly over em!
Image ...What about us?
Image You would not abandon us, would you, Vi?

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Guess they never did tell Leif what happened just before they met him, did they?

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Anyway, the solution is to the south, this staircase is hidden behind a weed Kabbu can cut.

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This is a hint for much later. The crank we need is right in front of us. (Also, just over to the left there, that white blip is the propeller of a flying Seedling, we're going to have to fight that because it'll get in our way.)

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It brought some friends. Vi and Kabbu team up to kill the first Seedling, then I decided to have Leif show off Frigid Coffin and disable the Weevil.

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The action command's a bit more complicated! This starts off the same as his normal attack, but then immediately goes to a 3-button sequence we need to hit (this can include the four directions, X, A, and B). Needless to say, that Weevil is frozen.

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The start of turn two. The Weevil is still frozen.

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One other advantage of the 2-turn freeze is that if we don't care about it being disabled a second turn, we can make use of that +1 damage bonus. When we were dealing with 1-turn freezes, we could get extra damage or disable, but not really both. Frigid Coffin is so good.

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If you look carefully at the left side of this screenshot, you can barely see a bit of safe ground on the other side of the brambles (as that sign was vaguely hinting). There's no way for us to get there now, or even to see the entrance, but there's a cave over there which we'll want to explore once we can cross safely. Put a pin in this.

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Turning the crank rotates the bridge. Now we can go back up and cross.

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We cross the bridge. You can see the windmill in the background, too; there are a bunch of these in this area, but this is the first screenshot that you can see them clearly.

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Another Weevil is waiting for us after we cross.

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This one's pretty simple. I decided to have Vi and Leif kill the Seedling first so the Weevil couldn't heal itself, but I didn't necessarily have to: as long as I left it alone, it'd have stayed in the air and out of reach. Weevils can only eat grounded Seedlings.

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There's also an Acornling here. (And another of those rock piles we can't do anything about.)

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They're still finding new configurations to throw at us!

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I had Kabbu flip the Acornling, then used Icefall with Leif. There's something kind of weird here, too: the Acornling is flipped, and shows the status icon for that, but its sprite while frozen is still right-way up! I guess they didn't make another sprite for being both flipped and frozen. Which is a weird oversight, because usually their attention to detail is quite good.

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We've finally arrived!

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Image The settlement's entrance is so pretty! I just love the sunflowers!
Image Heheh. It's so unusual to see Vi so... chirpy.
Image Make sure she doesn't hear you or we won't hear the end of it.

Let's talk to people.

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Image You won't want to miss it... I'll see you there!

And, of course, talk about people.

Image So tall...
Image Hm. I imagine you're not used to that feeling, Leif?
Image We've got to admit we aren't. Not to this magnitude.
Image Bleh. It's all the same to me. Why is everybody else so tall!?
Image More like, why are you so short?
Image You wanna fight, Leif?
Image (Never mention height ever again.)

Of course Vi has a Napoleon complex. Of course she does.

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Surrounded by these rocks to the south, there's another dirt mound.

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The merchant caravan are here too! Cricketly and Huscada don't have anything new to say. It looks like they have something new in stock, though, replacing the Burly Berry they usually stock.

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Drowsy Cake is an item we'll be able to cook later, but we can't now, one of the ingredients isn't available. That said, this item is actually quite good, and it's not too expensive. 7 HP and 7 TP is the best total recovery we've seen, and the drawback (2 turns sleep) can mostly be mitigated with Sleep Resistance medals (if we equip both on different bugs, it's essentially a healing item we can only use on 2/3 of the party). And, of course, used outside battle, the drawback is meaningless.

I didn't buy any but I'll probably pick up a couple later.

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Wow, who's this? She's huge.

Image Woah, that's a big ant.
Image Really makes you want to wake her up.
Image You two...

Let's talk to her.

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Image Sleeping on the job... Standards have dropped.

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Image Whatever you say.
Image What's a miner doing all the way out here?
Image It's Diana, okay? I'm here on the Queen's orders!
Image I'm finishing up the tunnel connecting the Golden Path to the Ant Kingdom!
Image Goodness gracious, you've dug all that distance!?
Image Eh, it was kind of a team effort. I just have to cut the rope, really.
Image What are you waiting for, then?
Image Mmmph. Honestly, I worked so hard, I'm a bit tired. I need a good rest to power through...
Image Or if I ate some berries now, I could probably get it done right now! Like 15, maybe?
Image Oh, maybe we could help!
Image Kabbu! She just wants free food! We can just come back later and it'll be done!
Image Think about it, though. It'd be nice to be able to walk back, just in case.
Image Hmm, we will have to think about this.
Image Well, gimme a holler if you make up your mind.

Whenever we see Diana, she'll offer to open up shortcuts back to the Ant Mines, but we have to payfeed her.

There's a new banter now we've met her:

Image Diana seems to hold massive strength.
Image What if she joined our team? She'd punch holes through spiders!
Image It's a shame. If she wasn't so committed to her job, it'd be such a great help...

Honestly, she probably would be a fun party member. Oh well.

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Let's see what happens if we refuse.

Image We should wait. We're on a mission right now, anyways.
Image It's always best to save and wait!
Image Eh. If we ever do need to come back, we could talk to her...
Image Aw. Fine. Just come back and talk to me if you want me to dig...

This is worth it, though, and I've got the funds.

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Image Those berries don't even taste good...
Image We don't think her taste would be the only weird thing here...
Image Oi, I'm doing you a favor, okay? Just sit and watch!

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Image Phew... All done! Thanks, y'all!
Image We might as well pay the paalce a visit, since we paid for this and all...
Image If you want to hop back into the palace, just talk to the guard standing near the tunnel, she'll guide you there.
Image Thank you, Diana. We'll be on our way.
Image Well, I'm off! See you some other time, folks!

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And she's gone. We'll generally find Diana each time we reach a new town.

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Image (Not now) Very well. Please talk to me if you ever decide to go.

And of course there's banter:

Image Hmm... It's a bit weird to see Ant Guards so far from the city.
Image With the mines, we could say they're not too far...
Image Mhm. These tunnels were a super great idea!
Image Guess we'll have to give the Queen credit for that...

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If we go into the tunnel...

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We come out here. The symbol of the Golden Settlement is on the sign above us, and to the left you can see the staircase up into the Ant Palace.

I don't actually have anything I want to do in the Ant Kingdom, so let's just go back to the Golden Settlement. This shortcut is very handy, though.

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There's one last person to meet here, to the south.

Image Woah, that's a huge Tangy Berry!
Image No, Vi. That's a beetle... quite a cute one.
Image What is he doing!!? That rock is extremely heavy!
Image We must talk him out of it, before it's too late!

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Let's talk to him.

Image Huuuu...
Image Excuse me, extremely round beetle!

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Image This rock is extremely heavy! You will hurt your horn!
Image I'm a fully grown Tanjerin! I can do it. I can move this rock!
Image Let the little dude do his job, Kabbu!
Image I'm not little! I'll fight you right here!
Image It's so cute. How can we feel threatened at all?
Image I came from a veeeery far land, from the right, to prove my might!

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Image I admire your spirit, but horns cannot withstand such pressure. You should take care!
Image My horn can never break, cuz I'm strong! Now I'm going right back to work!
Image It was cute at the start, but now I'm kinda worried...

Tanjerin is his name, not his species, in case his manner of speaking confused that. This guy has become something of a mascot for the game, and features in a lot of memes. We're not done with him yet.

Image So he came from a far land...
Image Any idea of which?
Image I've heard of one region where bugs look like seeds and berries.
Image I've heard of that place too! Err, in fairy tales?
Image So those tales could be real...
Image ...We should go there someday.

We can also talk to him again.

Image Huuu... I can do it...
Image That little guy really does look like a Tangy Berry.
Image We wonder why?
Image I'm not little! And stop interrupting me!
Image Besides, everyone looks like this where I come from.
Image Is that so? ...Well, where are you from?
Image The east.
Image Er, you've told us so. But whereabouts in the east?
Image I dunno what that means. The east! I just walked to the left a lot, and got here!
Image Oh dear, it's not too smart.
Image Shut up! And let me work!
Image Sigh...
Image Heheh. You don't see Kabbu get mad a lot!
Image Let's just... go.

Doesn't look like we're going to be able to accomplish anything here.

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Let's go into the settlement proper.

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Image I know, right? It's such a good place to visit!
Image And on top of its beauty, the settlement provides many items this region needs.
Image Beautiful, AND useful... we have a high respect for this place.

Exploring the town will have to wait until next time, though. This place is pretty big and densely populated, there's a lot to see and plenty of people to meet.

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The save crystal here is yellow, for a change. We haven't seen one of these in a while. That seems like a good signal to end things here; next time, we'll go out on the town.
Last edited by Explopyro on Sat Mar 20, 2021 1:35 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Diana is super cute, I like her design.

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10: Golden Settlement

Image 26 - Golden Lands

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Last time, we traversed Golden Path and arrived in the Golden Settlement. It's time to explore a new town.

(Before that, I'd like to issue a minor correction. Several people in the thread informed me that if you choose not to pay Diana to open shortcuts, they will eventually open up for free, usually at the end of the chapter. I never knew this, because I've never done that. I still generally think it's worth getting them ASAP, and you get to see Diana's animations that way, but this is good to know.)

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As we approach the stage in the centre, we can see a character with ! over their head, as well as Levi and Celia. Seems important. As soon as we get close enough, it starts a cutscene conversation.

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Image The way to the hills is sacred. I will not sully it for any reason.
Image Please, won't you reconsider? The wasps could beat us to the punch!
Image They tried. They failed. I will not waver in my conviction.
Image They... failed?
Image I dealt with them, yes.
Image Ngh. As rushed as we may be, if there's no danger, I don't think we'll manage to skip the festivities.
Image Bummer. Guess we'll have to relax, for once!

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Image Not sooner, not later. You must wait.
Image That's that, huh...
Image You heard her! Relaxing is the mission!
Image ...
Image That goes double for you, Leif. Let's check this place out!
Image Alright, alright.
Image The main event starts at nighttime. Let's talk to Aria when we're ready.

After this, we regain control. We're free to explore the town as much as we like, until we come back and tell Aria we're ready to proceed with the plot, at which point we'll be forced to stay in the Golden Settlement until we're done with the festival.

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Like so. We're not going to do this yet, though. (FYI, anyone playing along: if you do choose to start the festival right away, all you're going to miss out on is dialogue, and I'll be showing all of that in this update.)

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Image We have little choice but to wait. I will be glad to relax with you, comrades.

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Levi and Celia have a bit to say, though mostly it's just to reinforce the structure of this chapter. The artifact is somewhere in the Golden Hills, but we won't be permitted to pass until after the festival ends.

There are also new banters for each of them:

Image We really owe Celia. She was a big help against the wasps.
Image Eh, they weren't that tough. We woulda been fine!
Image That's easy to say, when they did half the work...

This is interesting, in that it's completely true in game mechanics also. Fighting two Wasp Troopers at once would have been really hard with our current stats, but definitely not impossible. (Also, we know what it's like to fight Wasp Troopers, which should probably give us some indication of Aria's combat abilities...)

Image Levi is formidable. I do have a question, though.

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Image Isn't that just because of Celia? She's probably keeping an eye on him.
Image They seem to be friends. You believe she's merely the Queen's informant?
Image We have no way to know, unless we ask them.

The ladybug exile is still a bit mysterious, but it's nice to see the acknowledgment that it does affect characters we know. We can't actually ask for more information, though.

We can also talk about Aria:

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Image Well, of all places, the Golden Settlement worships a very specific Goddess.
Image And it's worked out pretty good for them!
Image Indeed. It's not too uncommon to see devout followers around.
Image Every place has a different culture, huh.

One of the game's better subtle details is that Aria, the priestess, is a praying mantis. You won't find me complaining about puns, especially when they're that well-placed. (Also, is it really a pun when that very parallel is the reason the insect was named that?)

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To the south, under this overhang, we can meet this mosquito.

Image Heyyyy! You look... thirsty.
Image You wouldn't care for some sweet Berry Juice, made right here in the Golden Settlement?

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This isn't an awful price (though one more berry than we saw at the pier), but I don't need any right now.

Image Aww. Alrighty. Come back when you need to quench your throats...

She'll always be here selling these, we can come back whenever if we want some. Also, of course, there's a banter:

Image Hey, guys...
Image What?
Image How do you think she walks? That looks heavy...
Image Vi! There are things you must never ask!!!

Vi asking the hard questions. (Although, of course, we also have to wonder: what, exactly, was she drinking to get this full? Do big mammals still exist in this world, or do mosquitoes subsist on things like fruit juice now?)

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We have a few open-air buildings to investigate on the eastern side of town.

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On the left, we have a shop. Amber's in here too, if we need to access our storage.

Image Miss Amber's come to the festival too!
Image She's from the Storage Service... Pretty sure she's here for work.
Image That sucks, having to work on the festival...
Image Let's make sure to honor her sacrifice by making good use of the service.

This banter is new, but her dialogue is unchanged if we talk to her.

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I'll give her this Numbnail Dart, I don't particularly want these clogging up my inventory.

Image

The shopkeeper over here is a bit interesting.

(We're here to buy)

Image That's easy! Just stand near whatever you want and press (A)!
Image That way I can prepare the item for your purchase.

(We've come to sell)

Image ...Sorry, I am not interested in buying stuff. If I were to, I'd go out of business!
Image Please consider purchasing something instead! Check out what I have to offer over on the shelf!

Unlike the other shops we've been to, this person isn't interested in buying from us. This isn't a joke, we can't sell items here. I'm not sure why it's set up like this, and it's a bit annoying (although I guess the caravan is just outside town so we don't have to go that far to sell things, Huscada is still perfectly willing to buy from us). In fact, if we check the banter, our party will explicitly suggest that:

Image Ugh. This guy.
Image What's wrong with him?
Image He won't buy out stuff! It's beyond rude!
Image Vi, you DO know the shopkeepers have no obligation to buy our items, right?
Image This is a plentiful area, they are probably overstocked more than anything else...
Image Whatever. I'll go sell to the caravan. They know a good deal when they see it!
Image (Poor caravan...)

Anyway, let's see what's on offer.

Image Hard Seed (3 berries)
Image Clear Water (3 berries)
Image Honey Drop (4 berries)
Image Aphid Dew (5 berries)
Image Aphid Egg (2 berries)

This is a nice variety. We can now buy Hard Seeds and Clear Water instead of having to go find them in the wild, and there's even a new item (which is actually exclusive to this shop). They're light on HP-healing items, though. What's the new thing?

Image Aphid Dew
"Dew from happily raised Aphids. Restores 4 TP and cures sleep."
Sell: 2 berries

This isn't too bad, if you want to carry sleep recovery, though it's a bit lacking in versatility. It's probably of more value as a cooking ingredient.

Image 27 - Kut it Up!

Image

Speaking of cooking, that's what's next door!

Image

As we might expect, Dan can be found where the food is.

Image It's that gourmet from the plaza...
Image Yup. Anyways, let's go.
Image Can't we stay a bit? We wanted to drink some Aphid Dew together...
Image Leif, you've made friends without us noticing!
Image I'm... I'm so proud!
Image "Friends" may be a bit too strong a word...

This is cute. And also kind of cheeky of the devs: of course it happened without us noticing, we couldn't see any dialogue to that effect in the game!

Image

Image

Kut is the local chef. He can cook items for us, just like Fry. Let's have a demonstration:

Image

Not apparent from these screenshots is how fast-moving his menu text is; he's very eager to show off his skills! I like this as a character thing but it can be annoying: it's very easy to misclick with Kut so always check here and make sure you gave him the right things.

Image Witness it! A life of skill and mastery put to use!

Image

Image Here. You've never tasted a dish of this caliber, I'm sure.

Image

Image Come again, when you're ready for more high cuisine.

So, yeah, this is how you actually make Berry Juice. You can also use a Spicy Berry or Burly Berry instead of a Hard Seed, but the Hard Seed is a lot cheaper so that's definitely the way to go.

There's also a banter about Kut:

Image Kut is quite the skilled chef...
Image But his attitude sucks!
Image Normally we'd avoid him out of principle, but...
Image His food is actually a grade higher than Fry's.
Image I'm inclined to agree, regrettably...
Image Eh. You know how it is. If you're really good, you can act however you want!
Image Let's make sure to get some good festival food, at least...

The items we get are identical, for better or worse. I guess the taste isn't reflected in their effectiveness.

There are actually some minor differences between chefs, but we won't learn about those for a while yet. Right now, they can be safely ignored, any recipe we've learned can be cooked by either Fry or Kut for identical results.

This seems like a good time to go over some new recipes, we've discovered a few more ingredients (Hard Seed, Clear Water, Aphid Dew) since our last cooking roundup:

Image Sweet Dew (19)
"This incredibly sweet drink will keep you up all night! Restores 9 TP and cures sleep."
Sell: 10 berries
Made by combining Image and Image

Image Plain Tea (44)
"Simple tea made from plain leaves. Restores 4 HP to an ally and cures any status effect."
Sell: 5 berries
Made by combining Image and Image

Image Spicy Tea (45)
"This volcanic spicy tea boosts an ally's attack for 2 turns, and cures their status effects."
Sell: 13 berries
Made by combining Image and Image

Image Burly Tea (46)
"This doctor-approved super tea cures an ally's status effects and boosts their defense for 2 turns."
Sell: 13 berries
Made by combining Image and Image

Image Aphid Shake (47)
"This super nutritious savoury shake raises an ally's attack and defense for 1 turn!"
Sell: 7 berries
Made by combining Image and Image

We have a few new options for recovery and buff items, thanks to the new ingredients we've been finding. Sweet Dew is the best option for TP recovery right now (as well as curing sleep), it's less cost effective than Glazed Honey but still a nice item. The various kinds of tea give an additional effect on top of curing status, and Aphid Shake is a cheaper alternative to Berry Jam if you only need the bonus for one turn.

Image Spicy Bomb (55)
"This bomb is very unstable! Toss it at enemies to cause some big damage!"
Causes 5 damage (ignoring all defence) to the targeted enemy
Causes 3 damage to other enemies in blast radius
Sell: 10 berries
Made by combining Image and Image

Image Burly Bomb (56)
"Somehow, cooking this berry reversed its effects! Toss it at enemies to lower their defense."
Causes 4 damage to the targeted enemy and inflicts defence down (2 turns)
Causes 2 damage to other enemies in blast radius and inflicts defence down (3 turns)
Sell: 10 berries
Made by combining Image and Image

Image Poison Bomb (57)
"This bomb has been infused with dangerous toxins. Toss it at enemies to poison them!"
Causes 5 damage to the targeted enemy
Causes 3 damage to other enemies in blast radius
Inflicts poison (2 turns) on enemies hit
Sell: 14 berries
Made by combining Image or Image and Image or Image

Image Sleep Bomb (58)
"This bomb's infused with Numbnail sedatives! Toss it at enemies to make them sleepy!"
Causes 5 damage to the targeted enemy
Causes 3 damage to other enemies in blast radius
Inflicts sleep (2 turns) on enemies hit
Sell: 14 berries
Made by combining Image or Image and Image

Image Clear Bomb (61)
"This harmless bomb clears out ALL status effects from everyone in battle."
When it says everyone, it means it (allies and enemies).
Sell: 10 berries
Made by combining Image with any bomb

Hard Seeds, combined with various things, let us make explosives! These bombs are a lot more effective than the battle items we've seen so far: they do respectable damage and can even hit multiple enemies if aimed well (the radius is comparable to Icefall, centred on the targeted enemy), and they can be used to apply various negative statuses too. They're pretty neat.

Image

The documentation I had on Burly Bombs seemed a bit weird, so I went and did some testing to verify it. They do 1 less damage than the other bombs, but apply defence down status to anything they hit, which can really come in handy against bosses and such.

Image

For some reason, though, it lasts a turn longer on the auxiliary targets (this is what I wanted to verify; previously I think I'd only ever used these against single targets).

Image

I also found an interesting quirk with the targeting. You can't throw a bomb at an underground enemy, but if you target another enemy and catch it within the radius, it will be hit and forced to surface.

I'll be showing off bombs in action soon enough (though probably not for several updates yet). These are a lot better than they might look at first, and can be a cornerstone of strategy for low-level runs among other things.

Image

That was a nice interlude, but let's head east now.

Image

Looks like a nice little residential area.

Image So bugs do live here! I was wondering where they stayed.
Image Well, it's no Hive. But these are pretty cozy.
Image I wouldn't mind a longer stay, when we find all the artifacts.

There's a minor general banter here, but nobody has too much to say. I'm honestly a bit surprised Leif's anxiety about not having a home didn't come up.

Image

Image No problem. Who needs sedatives when you've got ice?

Leif's reaction, while a bit callous toward this kid (how are they going to get ice, exactly?), is probably in line with what most players are thinking. This is also a nice way to hint at the resistances of an enemy we'll be facing soon; we don't know what Chompers are yet.

Image All moths look so different from each other...
Image Indeed. Leif, using your wings as a robe is quite unique!
Image Well, Father did it all the time. We ended up copying him.
Image I see. Your father must have looked very cool too!
Image You could start a fad!
Image Eh. It'd be no fun if everyone did it.

This is a nice banter, though. We get a bit of insight into Leif's background, and also his hipster side.

Image

This butterfly doesn't have much to say right now either.

Image She's so... beeish.
Image It's not like she does it on purpose.
Image Nature loves to play tricks with our eyes. Although it sure enjoys the bee aesthetic.

I don't know if I see it, really? Bee mimics are certainly a thing, but she doesn't really look like one. (Also, I'm pretty sure Vi meant that as a slight on her attitude rather than her appearance, and the others, possibly deliberately, misinterpreted her.)

Image

Image

Inside the metal house, there's a diary we can read. (We're video game heroes, what do you think we're going to do?)

Image Day X: I am not sure if I believe in this story about Venus... I have always heard of her, but I have never seen her. Maybe this is nothing but superstition, but I feel I must follow my mother's footsteps.

Image Day XY: What have years of training been for? I still don't believe in Venus, even if the village does. And they say I'll be the next priestess? If I left the hills, maybe I could find a new purpose. Even so, I feel something calling to me from the top of the hills. If nothing there convinces me, I'll take my leave.

Image Day XXY: I saw her. Venus. She truly does exist! And she is so beautiful... I am not worthy of being her servant, after so many years full of doubt! Mother... As the new priestess, I shall spread the goodwill of Venus to all. I hope one day I feel deserving of having met her.

This is obviously Aria's diary. Seems like she wasn't always so devout.

Let's go back to the main square and see the rest of the town.

Image

Samira's here too!

Image

Image

She offers her usual services. We can also get a new banter about her:

Image Samira's come to the festival too!
Image It's inspiring to see her put in the legwork to achieve her goals.
Image Yeah... Hopefully business will be good during the festival.

Let's check out this building.

Image

Image 41 - Bugaria's Latest Sensation! (Mothiva's Theme)

Some familiar faces in here, as well as some new people. And new music, there seems to be a show on! This is a tavern of some kind, though they also have a quest board set up (we can't check it right now, though, and in fact this particular board won't be available until after the festival ends), and there aren't any refreshments available to us.

Image

Image She's the worst. I wouldn't take her money at all.
Image Vi?

Seems like Fuzzo isn't having the best of luck here, I guess not everyone can be as easy a mark as Kabbu.

Image Hey, it's that merchant that hangs around town!
Image He travels with the caravan, doesn't he? He seems to be striking a deal...
Image It's more like he's trying to strike a deal. Really trying.

Heh. I almost feel sorry for him.

Image

Image Let's go have fun somewhere else.

Vi really, really doesn't want to talk to this bee.

Image Vi, you seem to have some beef with this bug.
Image Annoying, arrogant, smug... she's everything I hate about the Bee Kingdom!
Image You're acting like all bees are like this. What about you?
Image I'm an exception. End of story!
Image (Vi...)

She's willing to explain why, at least.

Image

This is all the bartender has to say.

Image Hmm...
Image What's up?
Image I was once told the bartender of this settlement was an energetic mantis lady.
Image Suffice it to say, this fellow cannot possibly be her.
Image Who knows, maybe she quit or something...
Image ...Have you all noticed how nosy we get sometimes?

Heh. Thanks, game. I always enjoy this kind of self-aware ribbing from games. (Also, the only players likely to see this dialogue are the ones it actually applies to. If you're skipping any banters, you'll almost certainly skip this one.) That said, I also like this way of dropping in background details (and having the characters occasionally have incorrect or outdated knowledge), it really helps make the world feel more alive.

Let's check out this show.

Image

Image Oh dear! Mothiva is giving a live concert! Everyone, we mustn't interrupt!
Image (Those three... Hmph!)

Does she know us specifically, or is she just (quite reasonably) annoyed we walked onto her stage?

Image Wow... It's Mothiva! She is super popular!
Image Even I have heard of her from my homeland, it is such an honor to even be near her!
Image What exactly makes her so special?
Image She's explorer by day, performer by night!
Image Mhm. Most bugs struggle being successful, but it comes easily to her.
Image We'll give her music a try sometime, maybe...

Mothiva's popularity, you may recall, is the reason Samira struggled to find a job.

Image

Someone's hiding backstage over here.

Image

Not very talkative, is he?

Image Who's hiding behind this bush, though?
Image S-Shh! He will hear us!

Very mysterious.

Image

That's all for the tavern.

Image

Over here, it looks like there's an elevator up to the second floor. Before that, though...

Image

Image

Sneaky! There's no way to see this Lore Book, it's completely hidden from view. The only hint it's there is the cuttable weed blocking access. (We'll turn this in later when it's more convenient.)

Image

Let's go up.

Image

Image Unfortunately, we are booked full due to the festival! I apologize for the inconvenience!

This is the inn, but we can't stay right now, which might explain why there's a yellow save crystal in the square.

Image What a happy innkeeper.
Image It really makes you want to stay, doesn't it?
Image It makes me wonder how she's not bored...

I would've guessed she's happy due to the inn being sold out. Then again, the inn has one room, that's not particularly difficult...

Image

There are a couple of ladybugs staying here.

Image Huh, I didn't know ladybugs could have orange wings.
Image Yeah, we didn't know bees could be explorers either.
Image ...
Image ...
Image I-It's a joke, V-
Image It better be.

Looks like they're still messing with her about this.

Image

Image Oh, it's nice to see Bub again.
Image Again?
Image Well, yes. I ran into him back in the Lost Sands, and we had some nice talks.
Image Nothing too out of the ordinary, but back then, it was nice to be able to chat.
Image Well, don't let us stop you from saying hi or anything.
Image Just don't take TOO long!

I like that our characters clearly had lives before we started controlling them.

Image

Out here on the balcony, we get a prompt to inspect it.

Image

Image Yeah! It's the best thing about Sunset Inn! Totally worth the price.
Image It's alright. The Venus statue is really well made, don't you think?
Image I think it's a bit creepy. It doesn't have a face or anything...
Image Vi, no one has seen the Goddess Venus. It would be sacrilegious to paint her face!
Image Say, Kabbu. You're not a worshipper or anything, are you?
Image Not quite. I just like being well informed of the places I visit.
Image I bet you went into the palace library to read all about this place, didn't you?
Image ...M-Maybe.
Image Cute.
Image Hmph. Let us go back to enjoying the view.

The beetle doth protest too much, methinks.

Image

This is, of course, a discovery.

Image

Image

Image

As per usual, once we have the discovery, we get this on further interactions.

That's the last thing to see in this central area, so let's head west.

Image

Image It's the farms! It's so cool to see everything first hand!
Image Indeed. The big tree overlooking it is quite the spectacle too. I didn't take you for an agriculture enthusiast, Vi.
Image I'm not. But I sure like food... They work hard to make it easy for us!
Image You okay there, Vi?
Image What!? Can't I ever be grateful for anything!?

Is that... character development?

Image

Image We would do it all over again, Neo.

So this is where Neolith went off to!

Image Vi, Leif... Thank you.
Image What for?
Image For helping me protect Neo. I am very glad to see him safe.
Image Oh, I forgot to ask Neo for a reward!
Image ...
Image I... I was kidding! Just kidding, okay!?
Image Heh.

Image

There's a crystal berry visible inside that windmill, but we can't get in yet. That crank over to the left makes the blades move slightly when we interact with it (either with Kabbu's horn or Vi's Beemerang), but nothing we can do right now will make the door even budge. This is one of those moments in games where the player can easily waste time faffing about trying to solve a puzzle, when the real solution requires an ability they don't have yet.

Image

When we talk to this person, the camera zooms out and gives us a nice view of this pen.

Image

Image The aphids don't fall behind...

Image

That's a discovery too!

Image

Image

Image

I quite like the details they've put into these agricultural practices. There's quite a bit of realism here, too: ants quite often have a mutualistic relationship with aphids, taking care of them in return for sugary excretions they consume. And cochineals, while I don't know of other insects ever doing so, have historically been used by humans to produce red pigments. (As a vegetarian this has caused me no end of trouble, it's still in some foods produced today. Look out for "carmine" on ingredient labels.)

There's also, of course, a banter:

Image Oh... The aphid farms. It's a joy to be here. This girl has the right idea.
Image They're really cute, aren't they!? Shame we can't own one.
Image We could always get an adorable pillbug. Team Snakemouth's mascot!
Image No.

Image

What's that over to the left?

Image

Image

This guard clearly doesn't want us going any further, nor interacting with her pet.

Image Hmm. A lone bee, guarding a huge door.
Image Well, she is not truly alone. That aphid is keeping her good company.
Image It's truly adorable. Maybe we'll pet it.

Image

Image Wow. That's a super death glare she gave ya, Leif.
Image Guess we'll settle for watching from afar.

I'm genuinely curious how they saw her face, considering the big visors the bee guards wear. (The guard's sprite never changed at all.)

Image

Image This cute aphid... Did it escape the farm?
Image Heheheh. It seems to be giving this guard some company.
Image Hmm...
Image I'm sure it's fine.
Image We are grateful to be able to see it up close...

Leif's love of cute things seems to be the theme of this area.

Image

Image It's the last shift before the festival... So we've got to be efficient!

Let's see what our party think.

Image I don't mean to judge, but is this ant doing anything?
Image Management must have some value, don't you think?
Image Standing around all day giving orders? Maybe I should be a manager!
Image Those poor workers...

Her comments about efficiency fall a bit flat when she's not doing anything, don't they.

Image

Image It must be rough picking up berries all day...
Image Ants are extremely strong, are we right?
Image Indeed. Objects even I would find heavy are quite manageable for them.
Image Then this job must be like child's play to them.
Image This went from worst job to best job pretty quick... if you're an ant, at least.

It's a bit insensitive to have this conversation right in front of her, just after she complained about her job, don't you think?

Image

There's another farmer hanging out down here. (Before you ask, no, we can't get any of these berries off the bushes...)

Image Venus seems to be held in high regard, even by the workers.
Image There's no real proof of her existence, but the land is prosperous without fail.
Image Blind faith... It must be nice being able to live so carefree.

That's the last of what there is to see. Let's go back to Aria.

Image

This seems like a good stopping point. Next time: Festival games! Glorious combat!
Last edited by Explopyro on Fri Apr 09, 2021 4:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
FYI, I realised I forgot to include a banter in the last update, so I've just gone and edited it in. Here it is for convenience, so you don't have to go reread the entire post:
I wrote: Image Ugh. This guy.
Image What's wrong with him?
Image He won't buy out stuff! It's beyond rude!
Image Vi, you DO know the shopkeepers have no obligation to buy our items, right?
Image This is a plentiful area, they are probably overstocked more than anything else...
Image Whatever. I'll go sell to the caravan. They know a good deal when they see it!
Image (Poor caravan...)
Next update is in progress, I think I'll probably have it up sometime tomorrow.

User avatar
11: The Golden Festival (Part 1)

Image 26 - Golden Lands

Image

Last time, we explored the Golden Settlement. It's time to start the festival.

Image 28 - Harvest Festival

Image

The camera pans down from the moon, eventually stopping at Aria.

Image

Image Oh Goddess Venus, who watches over us, and ensures a bountiful harvest without fault...
Image We congregate to share our gratitude. May it reach your roots and bring you joy.
Image And when the two offerings, held by our esteemed guest hosts, are brought to me...
Image The final ceremony will begin.
Image Now feast! Laugh! All in good faith! Let's make this one more festival to never forget!

As soon as Aria's speech wraps up, it steps back a bit further to Team Snakemouth.

Image

Image Thank you, Venus. For watching over us...
Image Kabbu, you're praying too?
Image Er, I felt the need. We should be respectful of their tradition.
Image Didn't you hear? Feast and laugh! Now THAT's a way to show respect!
Image We should probably gather the two offerings. They sounded pretty important.
Image Let's look for them as the festivities ensue. They may help us complete our mission.
Image Uh, right. The mission. Yup. I'm on it!

And so we have a goal.

Image

We also automatically get a discovery.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Some parts of that are a bit vague, aren't they. Curious.

Image

If we talk to Aria again, she just reinforces what we're supposed to be doing.

Now that the festival's begun, a lot of new people have shown up around the town for us to meet, and many of the people who were already here will have new things to say. There's a new general banter too:

Image The town sure got lively real quick.
Image That's because the festival is awesome!
Image We won't get to enjoy a night like this often. Let's make some nice team memories!

Let's go meet some people.

Image Oh, I'm so not a party enthusiast...

Image

And she looked so cute and fluffy.

Image That's some admirable neck fluff.
Image It must be so comfortable, falling asleep with that around the neck!
Image It's so impractical! My fluff is way better!
Image Don't get jealous, Vi.

Image

And seems to bring Vi's issues with bees to the fore.

Image

Bomby appears to have a type.

Image This fellow lives in the Ant Kingdom, does he not?
Image Dunno. Sweet hat, though.

Image

Aw, it's a bee child.

Image You know... I was about her age when I came to my first festival.
Image Everything was so much cooler than the boring Bee Kingdom! It really made me want to see the world!
Image We haven't given you enough credit, Vi. Even you can get quite pensive.
Image Let's just enjoy the festival, okay?

It makes sense this is one of the first bits of the outside world bees generally get to see. Back in the throne room, Vi pointed out this area is part of the Bee Kingdom, even if most of the farms seem to be run by the ants.

Image

Image I've seen so many wonderful things on this journey, haven't I, Nero?

Image

Another cute little critter as a pet, though honestly I'm not sure exactly what Nero is supposed to be.

Image What a warm glow.
Image I've never seen anything like this! Could she be one of the 10 sorcerers?
Image Nah. It's a firefly! Sis told me some bugs in other regions glow in the dark and stuff.
Image Ice magic sucks. We want to glow in the dark.
Image For the sake of our missions, please keep the ice magic...

This is kind of interesting. It's nice to see Vi getting to be the one with the knowledge for once. Also, Leif, what are your priorities?

Image

Over in the southeast, we can find these two. (Ignore that ! for now, that's coming from someone else we can't see behind the big guy!)

Image That gigantic beetle, and a mosquito. Hmm... Could it be...
Image Your friends, Kabbu?
Image Not quite.
Image We should say hi. They look really strong!

This is the banter you get before talking to them. Kabbu seems to know them by reputation?

Image

Image That's us!
Image Nice! We're fellow explorers too. Ever heard of us?
Image Given what I've heard... Are you Stratos and Delilah?

Image

Image You're known as "Team Slacker", correct? Famous for never finishing missions?
Image Not even one?

Image No mission's interesting for long enough. Why bother finishing them?
Image And you still call yourselves explorers?
Image Of course! We love exploring! No place's outta reach!
Image Nice.
Image We're more like informants, ye? For the other explorers.
Image We gather intelligence about tough quests so other teams can do them. Nice deal, ain't it?
Image We're looking into the fabled Sand Castle in the corners of the Lost Sands!
Image After the festival, we'll resume our search. This'll be a good time to unwind.

Image

Image So that's how things were...
Image Let's meet again on the road, yeah? Maybe we'll meet at the desert!
Image Mhm.

As the length of this introduction might suggest, Stratos and Delilah are going to be recurring characters, helping us out with information over the course of the game.

A fun bit of trivia: these two were actually adapted from the protagonists of a game the devs had been working on before Bug Fables and ended up scrapping; they were originally going to be a lizard and a jellyfish. The devs tweeted this page from the artbook that shows some of the original concept.

They have only a little more to say right now, if we talk to each of them again:

Image We did come to the settlement a while ago to gather info on the artifact.
Image All we know, though, is that it rests on top of the hills. No one besides Aria and a few selects ever made it there, from what we gathered.
Image If you perform the special ceremony with Aria, you will be granted access. That's the only chance to get the artifact.
Image Maybe this year's lucky bugs will be you?

Stratos seems eager to live up to his reputation.

Image We will stick around until the festival ends, then we'll head out for the Lost Sands.
Image See you there!

And Delilah hints at future endeavours.

There's also a new banter:

Image Hmm...
Image What's up, Kabbu?
Image I may have been too quick to judge them...
Image You're still on about that?
Image Just because they aren't what I see in an explorer, doesn't invalidate their work...
Image If you feel that bad, just go apologize again.
Image Very well. I will face my sins!
Image He did it!

This is cute. Kabbu, you know there's such a thing as overcorrection?

Stratos is obviously meant to be a Hercules beetle, the largest extant species of beetle, but his horns are the wrong way around. I'm not sure if this was an intentional choice or not (his configuration does look a bit more functional?).

Image

Looks like Zasp was the person with the ! we couldn't see before. (Also, Mothiva's show has ended and she's come here, probably to get food, but it looks like the audience followed her...)

Image So you've seen this bug before?
Image I wouldn't say we're friends, but I do know him.
Image He holds a pretty high ranking amongst explorers... I don't know who his teammate is, though.
Image He better watch out. Our team's gonna take that spot!

Let's actually talk to him.

Image

Image Hmph. Hello, Vi.
Image Friend of yours, Vi?
Image Fat chance.
Image Zasp is a fellow explorer. We met in the association.
Image Congratulations on the expedition. I assumed we wouldn't meet again, given you almost drowned.
Image Oh, thank you so kindly for your concern. So glad to surpass your expectations.
Image Pfft.
Image Err, what do you say we start on a good limb this time?
Image You wish.
Image I'm too busy to hold grudges. Fine by me.
Image I'm here to represent my team in the eating competition. The winner gets an offering, so it is my aim to win.
Image I just wanted to relax a little before it, is all.
Image Is that so? However, we must say you're going to lose.
Image In an eating competition... We won't be bested.

Image

Image Grr! You better beat him, Leif!
Image (Can't we just get along...)

Image

Zasp leaves as soon as that conversation ends. Sounds like we know what one of our tasks is going to be, at least.

Image

Image Ohohoho! I deserve only the best food after such a show!
Image Oh dear, Mothiva's having dinner! We shouldn't interrupt...
Image (Those three... Hmph!)

Mothiva doesn't have much of interest to say (also, there's no new banter, we'd see the same one as during her show). She definitely seems to have some sort of grudge against us.

Image

There are some new people to meet in the eastern part of town, too.

Image

Image To be honest, I'm still searching for a place I can live peacefully in.
Image Maybe we'll meet again. You seem like you know where you're going.

This guy seems a bit pensive.

Image This dude's got style.
Image He is very accessorized! He must be a Bee Kingdom regular!
Image Bees don't really make hats, though. Maybe the glasses.
Image Hmm. Fashion built from many cultures, then?
Image He must be exploring around, too.

Kenny will be travelling all over Bugaria over the course of the game, and it's worth keeping an eye out for him.

Image

Image

Tanjerin has given up on the rock (for now) and come here. (Does he actually live in a tangerine?)

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Madame Butterfly certainly seems taken with him.

Image Madame's gotta be the only merchant taking a break.
Image Hey, everybody needs a holiday!

Image

Are they playing cards?

Image A fitting stage for a duel of this caliber!
Image Heheh. I won't lose!

Looks like it!

Image Wonder what game they're playing.
Image I do not know, but it is intense!

Image

This definitely looks interesting, but for now let's just put a pin in it, we can't follow up on this right now.

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Back in the main plaza, I try going south and get this. You can't leave the settlement once the festival's started.

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Image Although it's hard to stop, when its flavor is so amazing!

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... Berry Juice apparently has alcohol in it. Or something that intoxicates insects, anyway. This doesn't seem like it's going to end well.

Also, I almost didn't recognise Celia without her giant shield.

Judie is still here selling juice but doesn't have anything new to say.

Image

Neolith is here to study the ceremony, apparently.

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The tavern's cleared out since the concert ended, but Fuzzo's still hanging out in here.

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And he's open for business?

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Ouch, that's quite a markup. Still, it's good to know this is here, since otherwise we'd be limited to the local shop's inventory and whatever we happened to have with us (or in Amber's storage). He'll buy our items, too, unlike the local shop.

Image Harump! Maybe someone else will do business with me.

There's a new banter about him too:

Image Hey, it's that merchant that hangs around town!
Image He travels with the caravan, doesn't he? Although he seems to be alone...
Image He's probably the lone agent of the team...

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The quest board still isn't active.

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The bartender isn't exactly pleased with the circumstances.

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Also, this thing is over in the corner where we saw... that person... hanging out before. May as well take it with us, I guess.

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The innkeeper's come downstairs, it seems.

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As have her guests.

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This bee guard seems to have been assigned specifically to watch them.

Image Having guards around watching the ladybugs fouls the mood a bit.
Image Why, exactly, do they need supervision?
Image I think it had to do with them stealing a bunch of stuff. I'm not too sure, though.
Image I remember seeing a book about this, it'd be good if we could research more.
Image Yeah. We have no choice but to catch up with history...

The ladybug exile just keeps coming up.

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All that's left is the west side.

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Image Oh geez... I came all the way here...
Image But these plebs really can't compare to the Bee Kingdom...

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Image Well, she's rude.
Image She? Most bees are like that. They're so stuck up!
Image Vi, I never did ask. Have you any beef with your kingdom?
Image ...A little. We just don't get along. They tried to stop me from exploring because it was "dangerous".
Image They're annoying, okay? Being an explorer is way better! Who wants to be stuck in the Hive forever!?
Image So you're an outcast among your own people.
Image You don't have to say it like that, but I guess.
Image We do understand how it feels, though.
Image Stop. You're no outcasts! You're equally incredible within this team!
Image Heheh. You're too corny, Kabbu.
Image Agreed. Don't you get embarrassed saying stuff like that?
Image No. I am serious. I won't let my friends feel like outcasts!
Image ...Thanks.
Image Yeah... thanks, Kabbu.
Image Oof. Now I'm actually embarrassed! But I digress.
Image We have a festival to enjoy. It's our mission!
Image You're right. Let's go make some new memories.
Image And have tonsa fun!

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That conversation was apparently so inspiring Kabbu gave himself a new skill.

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Pep Talk brings back a fallen ally with 4 HP. This can be quite useful, and is definitely something we'll appreciate having, though of course the hope is that we won't have to use it very often (if nothing else, 5 TP is a lot).

This is also the only revival skill any of our characters will get.

Image

This bee is still here, and we can get this banter about her.

Image I guess I should just skip next year's festival...

She doesn't have anything interesting to say. Let's go meet the new people.

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Image That's a moth, Vi.
Image N-No way! Although I guess that explains it...
Image Don't worry Vi, you are plenty cool yourself!
Image Flattery will get you everywhere!

He is a hawk moth, some of which really do have bee colouring.

About the other one:

Image Now THAT's an old bee.
Image Leif! Could you not be so rude to the elderly!?
Image I mean, she is pretty old. I feel like I've seen her somewhere before, too...
Image Just be nice to the elderly!

Talking to them, we overhear their conversation rather than actually engaging with them:

Image Hawk. The aphids are still the same as last year!
Image Indeed, Professor. It seems our trip won't bear fruit in the end.
Image The Queen keeps saying I should come here, but every time I do I lose precious research time!

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Well, these two seem like fun. I'm sure this isn't the last we'll be seeing of them.

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Image They're heavy even for me... I won't be able to spin the crank long enough!

Hinting that maybe we'll be able to do that soon, perhaps?

Image Those berry baskets look so heavy...
Image Kabbu, you should try carrying one of them.
Image Heh. No need. I have successfully done so before.
Image Really? Commendations are in order, Kabbu.
Image Yeah. Sometimes I forget you're pretty strong!
Image (I chose wisely not to mention the ensuing back pain!)

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The gate to the fields has been closed, apparently.

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Hey look, it's Chuck!

Image Goodness, it's impressive to see Chuck walk all the way over here.
Image Bet his legs felt super young when he heard about the festival.

Just to the south, there's someone new by the aphid pen.

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Image Hohoh! Hey, Kabbu. You seem to be well back on your feet!
Image Mayor? Of where?
Image This is the Defiant Root's mayor. He graciously hosted me when I got lost in the desert.
Image You're just full of wild stories you haven't told us, huh.
Image I wouldn't say wild... Kabbu is such a good bug! Come visit at the Lost Sands when you can.
Image Right now I'm hosting this year's Whack-a-Worm! It's an honor, really.
Image Come talk to me to give it a shot, eh? You can even win an offering!
Image That we will!

We still haven't found the eating contest, but it seems like this is where the other offering is. We're going to have to play this game.

Before that, though:

Image So the mayor is hosting this year...
Image Every year there's a new host, right?
Image Why not just keep the same host every year?
Image Well, they've given a lot of reasons, but I think it's just so they can enjoy the festival the following year!
Image That's surprisingly reasonable.
Image I hope they're getting paid at least!

Of course Vi would ask that.

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No sense going in blind, let's ask how it works.

Image Easy! Every year these pesky worms keep making holes in the aphid farms!
Image Your goal is to get rid of all of them by hitting them before they escape!
Image If you get close to them, they hide away, so you have to hit them from afar!
Image Sounds like a job for you, Vi.
Image Alright! Time for some Beemerang action!
Image You've got a minute to reach the goal! And don't worry about the worms, they're too stubborn. They'll keep coming back for more!

Um, if they come back so quickly, what's the point of doing this? Anyway, let's do it.

Image Alright! Let's get things rolling!

Image 04 - FIGHT!

ImageClick me for video!

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This minigame is pretty straightforward. We control Vi, worms pop up out of the ground and we try to hit them with the Beemerang. If you get too close to the worms or take too long, they go back under. This can be a bit tricky at times, thanks mostly to the controls. Stick to the four cardinal directions, I find diagonal throws much harder to hit with. Also, the Beemerang seems to return a bit faster on a hit than on a miss, so aim carefully, missing too much is a good way to run out of time.

If you watch the video, you'll see these little arrows pop up at the edges of the screen to indicate there are worms offscreen; I think they added this in v1.1.

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We have a minute to get 15 worms, which is pretty generous. I ended up with 19. Good enough. (Also, there's a dirt mound in this pen. We'll remember it for later, as usual.)

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Image They didn't know who they were messing with!
Image Hohoho, that's right! Here you go, lass. You've earned this!

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Image 11 - Key Item!

Image Not bad, Vi. Not bad.
Image Mhm. I never knew a mission could be so fun!
Image We still need one more offering...
Image Hopefully, it'll be as entertaining to get as this one.

As soon as we're done with that, our team attempt to leave, only to be interrupted:

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Image Huh? What's your deal?
Image That boomerang you have there, where did you find it?
Image ...I uh, I bought it?

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Oh dear.

Image Vi, look what you've done.
Image One moment, please! Vi is no thief. There must be a misunderstanding!
Image Don't stick your horn where you ain't asked, you green stinkbug!
Image I didn't steal anything, okay? I bought it in the Ant Kingdom!
Image Professor, please watch your temper. Doesn't she seem to have mastered the A.D.B.P. quite well? She could be useful.
Image Useful!? How could this... Wait. Yes, I'm a genius!
Image Listen up, you rascal. You can keep that prototype.
Image ...If you help us gather data and with some upgrade testing. You can't say no!
Image This is what I get for buying from Shades... Fine. Upgrades sound cool, anyways!
Image Hawk! Give her prototype the Halt Upgrade!
Image Of course, Professor.
Image This will take just a moment.

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Image Professor, I've successfully upgraded the A.D.B.P.
Image Doesn't seem like you did anything.
Image Hmph! As if you'd know real science! The Halt Upgrade allows you to hold the prototype after you throw it!
Image Do physics work that way?
Image Shush, Leif. That's awesome!

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Image The kinetic energy generated by the Halt should be able to spin things around.
Image That is literally impossible.
Image In any case, we hope you'll aid with our research when you can.
Image For example, why not test the halt on that crank over there?

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And with that, we're finally back in control. I love this scene (especially Leif's little comments pointing out how little sense this ability makes).

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Professor Honeycomb and Hawk have relocated over here, so we can talk to and about them (and they can remind us what to do).

Image The professor that Vi stole from is quite old.
Image I DIDN'T steal the Beemerang!
Image ...She IS pretty old, though.
Image Let's hold our end of the deal and help her out. She needs all the help she can get.
Image She upgraded the Beemerang, so we do owe her a bit... And I pay all my debts!

Well, even if she didn't steal it, she almost certainly bought stolen goods...

Image

Hawk just reminds us of the controls.

Image I hate to admit it... but Hawk looks really cool!
Image A moth born with those colors, working with a bee... Life really is strange.
Image He's even a bit similar to you, isn't he, Leif?
Image Smart and handsome... Yes, we can see the resemblance.
Image Ugh. Can't you take a compliment like a normal bug?

Leif really does get full of himself sometimes.

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With this new ability, it's a cinch to get the windmill open. All we need to do is get the Beemerang into position and hold it there until the blades get going fast enough (the convenient plank on the ground shows us where to stand).

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Image No problem. Got anything for us?
Image Vi, y-
Image Here is something for your trouble!

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Image Thank you so much! I'll be able to enjoy the festival now!

Heh. Vi seems to get rewarded for opening her mouth quite a lot.

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Image Another tip for you. If you hold then release the prototype, it will come back in the same direction it came from in a straight line.
Image It can even go a bit beyond the starting point!

That seems important to know. I'm sure there will be puzzles involving this in the future. (Paper Mario veterans will find this familiar: it works exactly like Koops from TTYD.)

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Image Take good care of that prototype.

Some people in the thread were asking how Team Snakemouth were going to get more field abilities, since more bugs weren't going to be joining the party. The answer is, our current members will gain them more or less arbitrarily when the plot feels like it.

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And now we can finally get that crystal berry that was taunting us from inside the windmill.

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We got a new battle ability, also! Hurricane Toss is, with the exception of costing more TP, a strict upgrade over Tornado Toss. It ignores 1 defence, can flip enemies, and also (not mentioned here) can hit underground enemies and make them surface. It also has an action command that people tend to find easier to reliably succeed on. 5 TP is expensive, but this skill is worth it; Vi will be making good use of this throughout the rest of the game.

Let's check out the last part of this area now. (In the next post, because unfortunately I'm back to needing to split these.)
Last edited by Explopyro on Wed Mar 31, 2021 2:32 pm, edited 4 times in total.

User avatar
11: The Golden Festival (Part 2)

Image 28 - Harvest Festival

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Image She must be a true gourmet, if she's even hosting a competition!
Image You should just go say hi or something!
Image No. We are not worthy yet.
Image (Leif is acting strange, Vi.)
Image (Just let him be a weirdo sometimes...)

When we talk to her, we get this:

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Not that I would have done otherwise anyway, but we're obligated to talk to everyone here before we can start the eating contest.

(As it turns out, my desire for efficiency conflicted with my desire to show everything here. If we'd come and talked to her before Zasp, we'd have seen the following conversation:

Image The eating competition for an offering will start soon, when we have three contestants.
Image So far we only have one, unless some of you want to join.
Image Well, I'm not joining! I can eat, just not fast...
Image I, uh, will skip. Don't need any more weight...
Image We'll do it. We're pretty hungry.
Image Already!?
Image Well, we still need one more to start. Maybe you can find a willing participant?

The other conversations would have made a bit more sense in light of having seen this; when talking to Zasp, Leif seemed to already know about the eating contest and that he'd be participating in it...)

First up:

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Image Let's introduce her to the future winner.
Image Careful, Leif. Arrogance can lead to defeat.
Image As if...

This is the banter we get before talking to her.

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Image Mhm. We can't wait to show our eating prowess.
Image Don't let Leif's slim figure fool you...

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(I don't think you'd have believed me if I tried to transcribe whatever that punctuation is.)

Image Uh... What?
Image You're Vi, right!? Some people were talking about you! Short and with attitude... It must be you!
Image Uh oh...
Image Yeah. I'm short, so what? What do you want!?
Image Hehe. Easy there! I'm Chubee, your number one fan!
Image What?
Image The first explorer bee, who conquered Snakemouth and survived being dragged by the river!
Image I have no idea why the other bees aren't freaking out!
Image ...!...? U-Um...

Image

Image Uh, yeah! That's me! The greatest one and only bee explorer!
Image Wooow! You're even cooler than I thought!
Image So you don't think exploring's silly? I'm not too good at art or anything...
Image No way! It's cool to see bees trying new things!
Image Me, for example... I'm going to travel all around Bugaria. Go to lots of events and meet all sorts of bugs!
Image That's awesome!
Image Let us make this competition the highlight of your trip. Least we can do for Vi's friend.
Image Oh, you're on! I'm not going to lose!
Image We won't lose either! Do your best, Chubee!
Image Making unexpected friends, healing the spirit... This must be thanks to Venus too!
Image Uh, probably not. But let's go get that offering.

This is a cute scene and always catches me a bit off-guard even when I'm expecting it.

Image It's great to see you make friends, Vi!
Image Mhm. Even got a smile out of us...
Image Heheh. I'm too busy being happy to get upset! I just hope we keep bumping into her!

There's a new banter now we've met her. A little positive reinforcement seems to go a very long way with Vi...

We can also talk to her again:

Image Do your best, Chubee.
Image Sure thing! Let's chat later, when it all calms down.
Image That'd be nice. It's a promise!

This isn't just flavour, there's a good reason to talk to her after the eating contest is over.

Anyway, let's go see Zasp now.

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Image Not all explorers are like us. Some are in it only for fame and riches.

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Heh.

Image See you in the ring, wasp.
Image ...You're as good as finished.

Everyone's certainly quite confident!

Having talked to Chubee and Zasp, we can now return to the judge and start the eating contest, but there are a couple more people in this area to meet first.

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Image What nice robes.
Image He looks so magical!
Image Hey, Leif. Maybe you need a robe too!
Image You're RIGHT! Leif, with a sorcerer robe!
Image Uh, no. We'll keep our look.

There's this magical-looking fellow; he can't do anything for us now, but might be able to help us later. (Though probably not with fashion, Leif seems pretty resistant to that idea.)

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This person seems to have appreciated our minigame prowess.

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All right, let's do this, I guess?

Image

Image

Image The rules are simple: Mash (A) to eat as fast as you can. Whoever finishes their plate first is the victor!
Image Here are this year's competitors:

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Honestly, I kind of feel bad for Zasp here.

Image With that, we are ready to begin! Give it your all, for the Goddess Venus!
Image Ready... Set...

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Poor Zasp. He looks like he got sick fairly early and just couldn't keep going.

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Image Well fought, Leif!
Image You were a worthy rival.
Image Congratulations. Here's your reward.

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Image 11 - Key Item!

Image Consider joining us next year!
Image We may, judge. We may.

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Image You've got one heck of a stomach!
Image Thanks. It was a piece of cake, really. This festival was good, not gonna lie.
Image Leif, it's not over yet. You're going to have even more fun!
Image We'll try, Kabbu. We'll try.
Image Heheheh.
Image You've made a friend too, Vi. This festival is wonderful!
Image Geez, Kabbu. You should have some fun too!
Image I'm having the time of my life! No worries.
Image We've got both offerings now... we should head back to Aria!
Image Thanks, team. The festival was pretty fun after all.
Image And it's not even over yet! Let's go, everyone!

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That's a mysterious note to end on, isn't it? We haven't heard that name before.

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And that's it for the eating contest. Before we take the offerings to Aria, though...

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It seems like Chubee wants to talk to us again.

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Image Not at all. It was very close.
Image They gave me this, but I don't really want it. Here you go, pal!
Image Woah, thanks Chubee!

Image

Image 10 - Medal Found!

Image See ya around, folks!

Image Weak Stomach is a deceptively good medal, and if you forget to talk to Chubee here it'll get sent to the caravan and you'll have to buy it (I guess it's not that expensive, but it's the principle of the thing). This adds a 3-turn poison effect to healing items used on the equipped bug. We don't have the rest of the medals for poison strategies yet, but once we do, this makes it really easy to enable them; at some point we'll be really glad to have this. It's only 1 MP, too.

When it says "healing item", sometimes it can feel a bit arbitrary. Any item which restores HP, and, crucially, does not cure poison, will work. Items which restore TP will also work, if they are used on the bug wearing the medal; that gets a bit awkward, because it won't let you target an item that has only a party-wide effect, the bug using it just eats it themself (to make this clearer as an example: let's say Vi wears Weak Stomach. If she uses a Glazed Honey, she'll get poisoned; if Kabbu or Leif uses it, she won't).

If you remember from a few updates ago, when I discussed Image Spicy Fries and Image Burly Chips, I said there was a quirk that makes them even better than they look. This is it: because they have healing on them, they work with Weak Stomach (the plain berries don't, and neither do the teas because those cure poison). The action economy advantage of using a single item to both get a status buff and enable poison-based medals is pretty significant.

I don't plan to use it right away, but we'll definitely see this in action at some point; I quite like it.

Image

Image Have some class, Vi. He fought valiantly.
Image Let's leave him alone for now...

We can follow up with Zasp, too; he doesn't seem to be doing too well. (Though it's worth pointing out that anthropomorphism is doing a lot of work here: wasps' stomachs are in the abdomen, they're not anywhere near where he's holding.)

I wasn't sure whether it was possible for Chubee to win, as I'd never seen it before (or seen it discussed anywhere), and I got curious. Upon testing it turns out it is, and you get an alternate version of a few scenes:

Image

Image

Image Well fought, Chubee...
Image Same to you, Leif!
Image Congratulations. Here is your reward.

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Chubee gets the Moon Offering.

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Image Do not worry. But how should we proceed? That offering is essential for our festival plan.
Image Um, Chubee's my friend, right? Maybe we can trade with her!
Image A nonviolent plan? Impressive.
Image It's worth a shot! We've got nothing left to lose.
Image Oh, Leif was it? There's a runner-up prize. Don't forget it!

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Image

Image D-Defeat is also a precious memory. Stay strong, Leif!
Image Yeah, yeah. Let's go.

Leif is very unimpressed with the concept of coming in second. Good to confirm we get the Weak Stomach medal either way though.

Image

Image Hmph. Spare us your sympathy. We were completely defeated.
Image Heheh. No need to be so serious!
Image Say, Chubee... About that offering.
Image We're on, um, a mission! And we really need both offerings.

Image

Image Trade, huh? Sure! I didn't enter for the prize, anyways.
Image How about some Berry Juice? I saw a stall selling some!
Image We're on it! Berry Juice coming up super quick!

I already had some, so this is simple.

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Image Now that looks delicious! Promise's a promise, Vi. Here you go!

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Image Thanks Chubee! You really helped us out!
Image No problem. Let's have some Berry Juice together when you're less busy!

And from there it picks up with the conversation about having all the offerings (or "we've got one, hope the other one will be as much fun to get" if you did it in the other order). This is a pretty cute alternative, and honestly, I like that they put this in instead of just fixing the eating contest so the player always wins.

On the other hand... I got to wondering whether there's a possible softlock here, if you'd previously put all your berries in the bank and have no items, and after a bit of testing I'm pretty sure there is. There's that free Hard Seed from the ant farmer, but Clear Water costs 3 berries, and we can't leave to go get any berries. You can get around this by cooking it into Roasted Berries, selling that to Fuzzo for 4 berries, buying another Hard Seed for 3 berries, and repeating until you have enough berries to make or buy the Berry Juice... but if you sell that Hard Seed first, then you're completely stuck (yes, I tested this, and found no safeguard), and if you save the game you'll have an unwinnable file. I don't think this is a real problem because nobody in their right mind is going to do this, but nevertheless I think it's kind of interesting.

Back to the real timeline.

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Image Indeed. It's been quite the festival, but we should get ready and go meet her.
Image Let's go get that treasure!

This conversation triggers now that we have the offerings and return to the main square. We need to talk to Aria to wrap up the festival (and, it's been strongly implied, there will be some fighting involved, so we should probably get our medals in order).

Image

That said, this update's gone on long enough, so unfortunately I have to renege on my promise of glorious combat. We'll start with that next time.
Last edited by Explopyro on Fri Apr 09, 2021 2:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
12: Festival Ceremony

Image 28 - Harvest Festival

Image

Image

Let's do this.

Image Very well. Only three may perform the ceremony. Two bugs holding each blessing, and I.

Image So one of us will have to sit this out.
Image Well, we owe the offerings to you two. You should go!
Image No way, you haven't had any fun! You're going!
Image Vi...! Thank you!

Vi seems to realise how much participating would actually mean for Kabbu, even though he would certainly never say it and she'd never admit it.

Image

Image Very well. Take your time to prepare yourselves.

We are given a choice here. I seriously considered putting this to the thread for a vote, just because that's always fun and I'd like to have more opportunities to do so, but that would've made for a longer delay between updates and I thought it was worth showing both versions anyway. I usually end up picking Vi out of habit, so let's do that first.

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Image Alright! Let's do it!
Image Fine by us. Do your best.

4Image

Image May this ceremony please you and grant us a bountiful harvest for this following year...

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Image

Image Now, let us spar for the Goddess!

Image 29 - Team, This One's Stronger! (Miniboss)

Image Click me for video!

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Image

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We're fighting Aria herself! This definitely took me by surprise on my first playthrough, I wasn't expecting that.

At the start of the battle, before we get our first turn, she summons a vine and perches on it. This raises her out of reach for ground attacks, we're going to have to knock her down to attack effectively.

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Image Her vine platform is troublesome. I'll cut it down if I must!

I decided to leave Kabbu in back and let him do the spying for a turn, so Vi can get the positioning bonus when knocking her down.

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On her first turn, Aria uses this nasty diving kick! It's pretty scary; if I hadn't gotten the block, this would've been 5 damage. I think Aria always segues into this if you knock her down with the last move of your turn (whether by hitting her, or by having someone attack the vine), but she can also just use this attack normally whenever she's on the vine.

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At least she's on the ground now, so Kabbu can make himself useful. Let's get him in front, especially since Vi's been hurt.

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Starting with a Heavy Strike to get some damage in.

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Vi can just attack normally for now.

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Aria has a few other attacks while she's grounded. One of them is summoning these vines to hit from below. This attack's pretty tricky: after the first vine, there's a 50% chance that it'll attack again with a second one, for 1 less damage, but I got lucky here and it only hit once.

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Making some progress.

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Just normal attacks for now, I want to conserve some TP for later in the fight.

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And this time she uses the vine attack on Vi, and gets the second hit. Ouch. Vi's really not in great shape after that.

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Another attack from Kabbu.

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I finally broke out Vi's Secret Stash skill here, since she was getting low enough to be in KO range. The animation looks very similar to using an item; it can use any of three different item sprites (Mushroom, Crunchy Leaf, or Aphid Egg), but the effect is always the same.

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Aria has a surprise for us this turn! Her prayer summons this... flower thing with eyebrows... and she makes herself a new vine. The trigger for this is reducing her below 10 HP; she'll do this at the beginning of the first turn she's below that threshold.

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The flower immediately gets a turn, spitting this pollen spore at Kabbu (which can cause 2 turns of sleep if not blocked). It also recovers 1 HP at the end of each of its turns.

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And apparently the summoning didn't cost Aria her turn either, because she immediately drop-kicks Kabbu in the face. Ow!

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Notably, using the kick makes Aria start the next turn on the ground even though we didn't touch her vine. Let's see what the flower thing is?

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Image I wonder if they drop any rare items? I could get rich proving they're real!
Image ...But maybe they'll get mad if they find out I hurt it... Bleh. Less thinking, more fighting!

10 HP is certainly going to draw out this fight a bit.

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Kabbu can't get to Aria, so let's have him attack the Venus' Bud.

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It has a counter when attacked on the ground, and raises itself into the air. Flying flowers? Sure. Flying flowers it is.

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While flying, it can spit these rapid-fire spores. These aren't too hard to block at least partially, but the damage can add up fast, and this attack can also cause sleep! It doesn't recover health while flying, though, looks like its roots need to be on the ground for that.

Image

Aria summons vines again; I cut this pretty close, didn't I? A second hit could have been a real problem.

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Still, we'll have him keep attacking.

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Vi can throw him this Leaf Omelet and get him back up to full.

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Good thing, too! Although I messed up the timing here and he was sent to sleep, which is annoying. (Also, looks like that attack can fire either two or three seeds randomly, I guess at least this time it was only two?)

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Aria does something new this turn. This prayer gives her a defence up buff for two turns.

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At least being asleep gets Kabbu the end-of-turn healing?

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Well, Aria might have boosted defence, but Vi has an answer for that!

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Let's try out Hurricane Toss!

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Thanks to Vi being in front, and its ability to ignore 1 point of defence, Hurricane Toss does exactly enough damage to finish her off.

At this point, we have this won, it's only a matter of time. Kabbu is still asleep, though, so he doesn't get a turn.

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The Venus' Bud uses another attack we haven't seen yet. It launches a spore into the air. This is our introduction to a new mechanic: this is a delayed attack, and won't be hitting us this turn.

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Both the bud and Kabbu get end-of-turn healing. At least he's waking up.

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Here, we can see a new symbol. That yellow triangle represents the delayed attack, and it's warning us it will connect in two turns. Attacks like this target a position in our formation, rather than a character, as we can see if we rotate them:

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Like so.

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Basic attacks, since we're effectively out of TP.

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Looks like the buds can do the vine attack too. They're pretty dangerous! Also, I'm quite surprised I got a Super Block on the follow-up there, I almost never manage that.

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Even with its end-of-turn healing, it's still low enough for us to take down this turn, so we won't be seeing what the delayed attack does. (It's 2 damage with the ability to cause sleep; it's probably the least scary thing these buds can do, honestly.)

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And that's that! Having only two characters definitely makes this battle interesting, and it can easily go against you pretty quickly if you're not careful. I like it. (Also, having seen Aria in action, it's entirely believable she could hold her own against Wasp Troopers!)

Venus' Bud has one other move, which we didn't get to see in this fight:

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If it's on the ground, it can blow this healing gas to recover 3 HP for a grounded ally.

Anyway, that's how it tends to go with Vi. It's a tough fight, but it's perfectly manageable. Let's take a look at the alternative.

Image 28 - Harvest Festival

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Image Well then. We'll have to do our best.
Image Go have fun, Kabbu!

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Image May this ceremony please you and grant us a bountiful harvest for this following year...

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Image Now, let us spar for the Goddess!

Image 29 - Team, This One's Stronger! (Miniboss)

Image Click me for video!

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Just like last time, Aria summons a vine and perches on it immediately, before our first turn.

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We have Leif this time, of course. That's definitely going to change things quite a bit.

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Image To be able to fight this well is commendable. Still, we'll make sure to freeze the vines she summons!

Spying again, as usual (and switching Kabbu into the front since Leif's slightly more fragile).

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Neither Kabbu nor Leif can hit Aria while she's on the vine (at least not without spending TP or items), so they'll resort to hitting the vine instead.

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Easy enough.

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Aria's diving kick is no less scary this time!

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Unlike with Vi (where we could knock down Aria with the Beemerang for chip damage), she's still on full HP after the first turn.

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Let's just do some basic attacks for now.

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Aria elects to pray and give herself a 2-turn defence buff. Unfortunately for her, this is effectively a wasted turn:

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because we can just have Leif relay to Kabbu and use his piercing attack twice.

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She uses her vine attack on Kabbu, and gets two hits.

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Here's where things stand now. Time to start getting more aggressive, I think.

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A Heavy Strike from Kabbu brings her down to 11.

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Now let's get sneaky. We can freeze her with Frigid Coffin! One of the reasons I refrained from using it earlier in the battle is that Aria has a base 30% freeze resistance: with the -30% modifier on Frigid Coffin, it is guaranteed to work on her the first time we use it.

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And being frozen, Aria skips her turn. Being below 10 HP, this is the turn where she'd normally have summoned the Venus' Bud, but freezing her prevented that!

She's on 8 HP and there's absolutely nothing stopping us from finishing the battle this turn.

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Kabbu uses Heavy Strike again (getting +1 from breaking the freeze).

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And 2 HP is just enough for Leif to take her out with a normal attack.

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Well, that was anticlimactic by comparison.

We get less EXP doing it this way (and miss out on the spy data for Venus' Bud), but wow did that end up being a much more efficient battle. There's no need to worry about missing the spy, though, there will be more opportunities to get it later. I think, on the whole, the fight is easier with Leif even if you don't know this timing trick with Frigid Coffin, but it feels a bit riskier then (it feels more precarious without Vi's healing to fall back on, and you need to be careful with TP or run out of ways to knock Aria down).

I'll be continuing on the save where I fought her with Vi, because I'd rather keep the spy data and EXP, but I really wanted to show this strategy off. Frigid Coffin! What a powerful skill.

The dialogue post-battle is the same regardless of which character participated (the only difference is Vi's and Leif's respective positions during the cutscene), so the branches rejoin here.

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Image Respected acolyte, have we earned passage to the Golden Hills?
Image It is all up to the Goddess.
Image Oh Venus... If you enjoyed our display, please grant us passage to the Golden Hills!

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The statue plinth rises up, revealing a path to the north behind it.

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Image Woah! It opened all by itself!
Image Whatever is your business there, Venus has granted you passage.
Image W-Well, whatever! We did it! That artifact will be ours in no time!

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Image Let's tread carefully, team. We're heading into sacred ground. It won't be as simple as it seems.
Image It would have been nice to get some sleep... But we can do it.
Image No worries. We beat Snakemouth, right?
Image Heh, indeed. Let's go!

With that, we're given back control. You may notice that in the post-battle screenshots, the daytime lighting has returned: apparently, the festival and our battle really did take all night.

Image May Venus grant you what you desire.

If we talk to Aria again, she has this to say.

The Golden Hills, just north of this screen, are the "dungeon" of Chapter 2, to the extent that we can break the game's structure down that way. If we want to make a beeline for progress, that's where it can be found. However, before that, there should be some new sidequests available if we check the bulletin.

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The quest board is functioning now.

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Looks like there are three new quests; we'll start on these next time. Also, now that we have the Beemerang upgrade, there are some new side areas we can explore; we'll be looking into that too.

User avatar
13: Post-Festival Cleanup

A quick correction before we start:
Alien Arcana wrote: Vi actually can't knock Aria down, even if you use a multi-hit attack. Aria only comes down when you kill the vine, or when she uses her kicking attack.
If you want to avoid eating a first-turn 5-HP boot to the face, kill the vine immediately (it has 4 HP on hard). That forces her to the ground where she can't use the drop kick.
This makes a lot more sense than the explanation I came up with for how that battle worked! Thanks. This suggests to me that knocking her down isn't worth attempting, unless you're using Leif (in which case, in front, with the plant's ice weakness, he can one-shot the vines).

Image 26 - Golden Lands

Now that the Golden Festival has ended, we have some new sidequests to take care of, and a lot of NPCs in the Golden Settlement have new dialogue again. As some of these sidequests also involve talking to people, it's pretty convenient to take care of this all at once.

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Image G-Green Ranger!? Dear me, if only...
Image Hehehe. I hope you'll fight again next year!
Image Someone's got a fan.
Image Heheh.

Kabbu's pretty easy to fluster, isn't he?

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Neolith seems to have learned something from watching us fight, I guess?

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Business seems to have turned around for Fuzzo in the end, looks like.

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The bartender helpfully tells us the quest board is active, in case we didn't already know.

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Image We shouldn't have taken that nap before heading out...

Looks like Gen and Eri were supposed to be at the festival, but they overslept?

Image Oh no... They've missed the festivities!
Image How depressing. Even we have to admit it was pretty awesome.
Image There's always next year, right?
Image Indeed. It could become team tradition!
Image ...Sounds nice.

Aw, they're bonding.

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We need three Image Clear Waters for one of our sidequests, so let's buy some while we're here. 9 berries is a pittance.

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Arie over here has a new line, now that her friend (and card game opponent) is no longer here.

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Image The festival is over, but we are still fully booked! We are incredibly sorry.

The inn still seems to be full. Also, look who's in the room... oh no...

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Image How much Berry Juice did they drink to fall asleep so hard!?
Image Let's, um, give them some privacy.

Yep.

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Levi and Celia seem to have had a rough night. Let's leave them be.

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In the west side of town, the farm manager has a new line.

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Image Much of the Bee Kingdom's clothing is dyed with their help.

And here's someone new for us to meet, she seems to have shown up after the festival. Textile dyes derived from cochineal extract were definitely a real thing historically, though I don't know if it's still used in the modern day.

There's a new banter too:

Image How dashing! She's... like a bee Knight!
Image What're you gushing all over her for!? I'm way cooler!
Image Right, Vi...

I'm not sure what Kabbu is getting knight from, exactly, her sprite doesn't scream that to me. (Her name is Dashy, from dashing, but I don't think that's ever mentioned ingame.)

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New line from this farmer too.

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Fabri is over here at the far end of the field. She's one of the ones who posted a sidequest for us.

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Image Yup. Three Clear Waters, right?
Image You'd save my abdomen if you'd fetch them for me!
Image I'll tend to my other duties until then. I'm counting on you!

Nice and simple. We already have these, the quest description already said what to get so we could pick them up in advance.

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Image You're the best! Do you have more?

She literally repeats this line again for the next one, too.

Image Huff. That's just what I need. Thanks for the help.
Image No problem.
Image Will this Medal be a good enough reward? It's only caused me trouble...

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Image We do need a good nap, so... it's fine. Thanks.

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Our reward for this easy quest is the Image Heavy Sleeper medal. This is an interesting one. I'm sure there must be some neat shenanigans you can get up to with this, but the added inconvenience makes it tricky enough I've never quite figured out when you'd want to.

It costs 2 MP, and keeps whoever wears it from waking up if attacked while asleep. In return, they take half damage while asleep, and the end-of-turn healing is increased from 10% to 30%. That's a big boost in survivability, but it comes at the cost of them getting turns, and if you want to, say, use Kabbu's taunt to take advantage of this, he can only do it the first turn (e.g. a Drowsy Cake would knock him out for two turns, you can have him use Taunt and then someone else feed him the cake, but next turn he'll be asleep and can't taunt again). The action economy loss when trying to use this just seems so extreme. Still, it's fun to think about.

Readers, if you've found any clever or interesting uses for this thing, I want to know. Tell us about it in the thread, please.

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To the south, it looks like this robed fellow from the festival has set up a fortune-telling booth.

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Image How did you...

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I don't think Leif liked that answer.

Image Woah. S-so you can see the future?
Image Parts of it, yeah. And I can show where stuff is to you! For a price.
Image Humbug. I refuse to believe this.
Image Huh. Why not? It'd be so useful...
Image If the future is set in stone, we don't control our fate! I simply disagree!
Image So you CAN hate stuff, Kabbu!
Image Now, now. No need to argue. Just try my services! If it works, everyone wins!
Image Sounds good to us.
Image Yeah! We can get lots of treasure!
Image (It working is what would worry me most.)

This is a fun conversation. It's a nice touch that, despite being a Venus believer, Kabbu is still sceptical about things like this. (That said, I'm not touching the "free will" debate with a ten-foot pole, that's way beyond the scope of this LP.)

If we talk to him again, we'll now get the option to use his services.

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Image I'll be waiting for our fated reunion.

The fortune-teller (who as far as I can tell hasn't been given a name) functions as a hint system for collectibles. For a small fee, you get a semi-cryptic, one-line hint to help find the thing. Paper Mario fans will recognise the name Merluvlee; it's basically the same as what she did. Except... sadly, this is a lot less useful, or at least not until you reach the endgame.

See, in Paper Mario, Merluvlee would only give you hint text for things that were accessible to you with your current game progress and abilities. She also wouldn't repeat hints until you'd seen all the available ones. Neither such restriction is in place here, so if you buy hints now, the majority of them will refer to things you can't get and places you can't go, and you might see the same one repeatedly. They're all vague enough I wouldn't exactly consider them spoilers, but there's no value in showing them either, so I'm going to make an exception to my "show every line I can" policy and never use this service. I know where all the things are already.

Late in the game, this can still be quite helpful and point you in the right direction if you're not sure which thing you missed. It's not useless, just less useful than it could or should be.

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What's that peeking out from behind the foliage? This can be pretty hard to see if you don't already know it's there.

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It's the hat Bomby lost! We were asked to find this.

That's it for new things in the settlement proper. Let's be on our way.

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This person has a new line too.

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And Tanjerin is back to work on the rock. Nothing new to say, though.

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Let's head back to the Ant Kingdom.

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Image 18 - In the Court of the Ant Queen

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A few of the miners have new dialogue.

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If we look in the back room, we can see one of the miners is no longer here.

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Image She's probably lazing off somewhere though... If you see her, speed her up a bit.

The overseer wants to remind us to feed Diana.

That's all for the mines, though.

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We have a lore book we can turn in to Brooke, so let's do that.

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We were wondering about this!

Image Ladybug Exile. It had been just one moon after Queen Elizant II took the throne. Farmer ants kept reporting the disappearance of many Aphid Eggs! After a thorough investigation, a band of seventeen ladybugs were found to be the culprits. Yes, seventeen! Her Majesty acted quickly, and restricted entry of most ladybugs from the Ant Kingdom. As of the time this book was written, many special permits are required for them to visit. The move was seen as very controversial, and has been the Queen's most criticized decision. It remains to be seen how our generation will handle the shifts caused by this event.

In other words, this speculation from the thread
rbakervv wrote: I bet that the "incident" that got ladybugs in trouble has to do with the aphid farms. A staple of ladybug diets is aphids. Not the dew or eggs. The aphids themselves. Farmers would get pissed if someone came by and ate all their livestock.
got it pretty much on the nose! I guess they didn't want to go quite that far, but it's the same general idea. (It does seem a bit weird, in light of this, that we can buy and eat Aphid Eggs ourselves, but presumably that's a way of managing surplus rather than threatening the population.)

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We've also picked up enough discoveries to get the next reward from Libren! Still just crystal berries, but I won't complain about them (even if we still don't know what they're for).

Image 17 - Ant Kingdom

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Let's go deliver a hat.

Image That charming dude's missing his hat.
Image It seems it has hurt him deeply, we must help him!
Image (At least he's not flirting...)

After a banter, of course.

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And this, of course.

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Seems like he doesn't have a special reaction for the plushie. Oh well.

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Let's return his hat.

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Image He-heeey, you cutie Bee! Thanks for helping me out!
Image I'm not a "cutie Bee".
Image Sorry. I couldn't help myself!
Image Brave.
Image Look. Just pay up.
Image Anything for the cute savior of my dear hat!

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Image Ugh. I don't even want this anymore.
Image It's that coarseness that makes you so smooth!
Image Vi's gonna go on about this for days...
Image You bet. Let's get outta here!

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And that's another quest complete. This one has a really interesting reward, too: this medal's a lot of fun to use and creates a lot of interesting decisions.

Image Favorite One is probably the most complex medal we've seen so far. It's 3 MP and reduces the equipped bug's defence by 1, which sounds bad (and, in fairness, that is a hefty drawback). In return for this, though, the effect is pretty nice. At the end of each turn, if the equipped bug took damage (from anything; even poison!), the other bugs in the party get +1 charge-up. This can trigger at most once per turn; taking damage multiple times won't yield multiple charges.

What is charge-up? It's a temporary attack buff that works for exactly one attack. It can also stack (up to +3), if you don't use it right away. Favorite One is the first source of charge that becomes available, but there will be plenty of others; this is going to be an important mechanic, especially when you can start combining it with multi-hit moves.

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Let's try it out; Kabbu can wear it for now (it's a nice synergy with Taunt, if nothing else). Look over on the right, though: you can see he's got -1 defence now. Negative defence works exactly how you'd think, and increases the damage you take.

If we talk to him again:

Image He-heeey!
Image Let's get outta here!

You know, even after all this, I still can't get a good read on Bomby. He doesn't quite come across as a harasser despite Vi's annoyance, a lot of his lines just seem generically enthusiastic or happy aside from the "cutie" thing. And then there's the medal he gave us: is its name supposed to be diegetic? Did he literally hand Vi a medal saying "You're my favourite" as a statement, or is this just a normal thing that exists in the world that he gave us because it's useful? I have questions. They won't be answered.

Anyway, that quest certainly happened.

We beat a miniboss, so let's check in with Artis while we're here.

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This is an oddity. I don't think I ever realised this on prior playthroughs, but apparently there's no Hard Mode medal reward for beating Aria, despite her officially counting as a miniboss. (I was racking my brain prior to checking with Artis because I couldn't remember what the reward was, turns out the reason I couldn't remember was because there isn't one!) All the other minibosses we'll fight in the future will have them.

Anyway, our last remaining sidequest is for the cable car technician, who asked us to meet him where the cable cars are. It's in the first screen of Golden Path after coming out of the cave.

Image 26 - Golden Lands

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There he is!

There's a banter first:

Image Wouldn't you know. This guy does his job.
Image It's always after we've done things the hard way!
Image Let's make sure other explorers don't have to!

Heh. A bit more poking fun at the way things tend to operate in video games. Self-awareness!

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Image Hello, esteemed technician! We saw your listing on the quest board.
Image Cool.
Image ...Err, yes. Cool.
Image So uh...
Image ...
Image Here they come. Keep 'em busy while I fix this, okay?

Wait, what?

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Image 04 - FIGHT!

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This quest is a battle gauntlet, of sorts; we'll have to do a few fights in a row with no break. The first one's easy enough, at least.

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It's enough to push us over the threshold for a level, though! No bonus this time other than the one we choose.

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Image This is great stress relief, we must say.

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Ramping up a bit now.

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Because we haven't seen it in a little while, have an Icefall GIF.

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As an added bonus, the Midge's counterattack hits Kabbu, so we'll definitely see Favorite One in action this turn. After we get some hits in on the remaining enemies, we'll see what happens.

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At the end of the turn, Leif and Vi get this "shocked" reaction and receive a +1 charge-up.

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Having a charge-up also makes you glow neon colours.

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And here's Icefall damage with a charge-up boost! We've seen numbers like this before, but that was against enemies with an ice weakness; neither of these have one.

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We clean up.

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Image Huff... Huff... Don't give up, everyone!

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Another big group. Kabbu's a bit low on HP now too, the defence penalty from Favorite One is not trivial! I might want to relocate those HP Plus medals to compensate.

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Leif freezes one of the Weevils with Frigid Coffin.

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I decided to take this turn to heal (Kabbu used a Glazed Honey for some TP, then Vi used Secret Stash on him), I wasn't liking the look of things there.

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Good thing, too. That Weevil boosted its attack first, this would've been lethal if I hadn't healed him.

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Kabbu being hurt means we get more charge-ups, though!

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Which means we can do another boosted Icefall.

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After that, it's just a matter of cleanup.

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Image Alrighty. This was totally worth it!
Image Phew... I'm only glad everyone came out of this well.
Image Feel free to use the cable car by using those cranks.
Image Ride to the top. It'll be worth it.
Image Thanks.
Image Well. I'm off. See ya.

He leaves. Not much for conversation, this technician.

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Image You two are a bit alike, aren't you.
Image Whatever could you mean?
Image Heheh... Well, let's get going, yeah? Unto the next mission!

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10 berries doesn't really seem like an adequate reward, does it?

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That's because our real reward is up here.

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Image Super Block+ is exactly what it sounds like. It's 2 MP and only works for the bug who wears it, but this will make Super Blocks 1 point more effective (it has no effect on normal blocking though!). If you've got the timing down, this can be really good, but if you're at all inconsistent the MP might be better spent on something else.

Incidentally, we could technically have gotten this before fighting Aria, if we'd gone back to check one of the other quest boards after arriving in the Golden Settlement (but before starting the festival). I left it until now because I thought it'd flow a bit better that way, but this could have been nice to have for the fight.

Still, three sidequests down, and three new medals obtained! The rewards are definitely getting better, I'm not going to complain.

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I'll put this on Kabbu for now too, maybe it'll help mitigate the extra damage we're taking thanks to Favorite One.

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The cable car is fully operational now, so we can use it as a shortcut back to the entrance too. I'm going to take the opportunity to heal and regroup before checking out the remaining thing.

While in town, here's a neat little trick:

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A lot of recipes work with substitutions; specifically, cooked versions of a thing can often be used in place of the raw version to still get the same result. So I could turn my remaining Image Baked Yam into Image Spicy Fries. (This is, in fact, why I cooked my Danger Spuds immediately instead of holding onto them raw.)

I don't know every detail of what works this way and what doesn't, so I recommend saving before attempting something like this, but it could still be worth knowing about.

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After that little detour, let's get back to work. Here's where the secret is. This is in the second screen of Golden Path (just past where we helped out the cable technician).

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Holding the Beemerang on this crank causes the platform to rise steadily upward, until we find this path to a completely new area at the top!

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Well, this is a big area! There are a lot of enemies here.

Image Woah, this place is super messy!
Image It is quite removed from everything else. I have my doubts on cleaners coming here.
Image Exciting, isn't it? Let's go even further in.

Who am I to disappoint them? Let's have a look around.

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New enemies! Let's get a spy on them.

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Image And then they summon tinier, annoying Chompers! I'm gonna take it out before it can!

Guess we'll see what it can do after we get some attacks in.

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It throws a seed, which can grow into a new enemy (the wiki calls them Mini-Chompers, though in-game they're just named Chomper, and don't have new spy info). This doesn't always work, though (in this case I think it's failing because there are too many enemies, but it also just has a chance to fail even when there is room), and if it does fail the Chomper gets to attack right away.

Its bite will restore HP equal to the damage done if not blocked.

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Here's the start of turn two. We can kill the first Weevil easily, then seriously injure the second one.

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Thanks to the charge-up, Vi can go in front and then take it out in one hit.

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I wasn't expecting this, but in retrospect I should have. Chompers are a plant-type enemy, so Weevils can eat them to restore their HP. We don't get EXP from the Chomper dying if the Weevil kills it! I feel robbed.

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Anyway, we clean up the last Weevil. The battles here are tough, but they give lots of EXP.

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This Acornling has two Midges with it.

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This battle wasn't particularly interesting, but something of noteworthy did happen. See how Turn Relay is greyed out on Vi? This is after I had her relay to Leif earlier in the turn, and later had Kabbu relay to her. I'm honestly not exactly sure how this works (maybe it's relaying to a character who used relay earlier in the turn?), but apparently there's a kind of sanity check on turn relay and the game won't let you do it indefinitely within a single turn.

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We wrap up that battle.

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The battles here yield a lot of berries, too.

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This Numbnail is the last battle on this screen.

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These can take a toll if you're not careful (especially with those Midge counters!).

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Getting that Numbnail out of the way is important, so we can cut these weeds and reveal a crank back here in the corner.

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When we use the Beemerang Halt to spin it, it causes the green platform to rise up. How are we going to get up there, though?

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We need to climb up the rocks to the left (that mossy rock makes a stair up to the big one), then platform across the flytraps.

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And there's the way forward!

This can be a bit awkward, because you have to keep the (B) button (or whatever your field actions are mapped to) held down during all of this, while you're walking around and jumping. The hand positions this requires can be less than comfortable, shall we say.

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The next screen is even more enormous. And, likewise, full of enemies.

Image Incredible! I have never seen such a volume of flytraps!
Image That's nothing to celebrate. It just makes traveling a pain.
Image We should just cut 'em all down!
Image Err, let's make sure we don't need them to get across...

So there's our hint. More platforming on flytraps, yay.

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We're also seeing Chompers as overworld enemies now!

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We're looking a bit low on HP, aren't we. Time to run away and do a bit of healing, I think.

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That's better.

Unfortunately, since the Chomper's in front, we aren't going to get to see what it can do here.

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Turn two.

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On turn three, we see what it looks like when charge-ups stack! I didn't have Vi attack on the previous turn, so she kept her bonus, and then Kabbu got hit again. Now she can hit with +2, which is quite impressive.

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Ouch, one EXP off the next rank.

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We can fix that. I got into a fight with one of the flying Seedlings around this place; normally, these aren't worth fighting, as they respawn instantly: they're here to serve as obstacles during the platforming portion, not for us to fight. But they'll give that 1 point pity EXP, and I want the full-party heal.

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There. Much more comfortable. This was another level without a new skill or special bonus, though (I remember them coming roughly every other level but clearly I've misremembered and they aren't quite so consistently frequent as that).

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One interesting thing in this area is that, if you get an enemy's attention and run away, they'll only follow you so far, like they're on some kind of invisible leash. Overworld enemies seem to be restricted to a predefined territory, it's just that most of the ones we've seen so far have had either large enough ranges or small enough areas that it's hard to notice.

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This fight has a Chomper in back, maybe we'll get to see what it can do. First turn, we use all our action to kill the Weevil.

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This time, the seed actually sprouts!

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Mini-Chompers have 4 HP, 0 defence, and all they can do is bite. You can't ignore them, but they're easy enough to keep under control.

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Leif would have one-shot it even without the charge-up boost.

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Sometimes they just keep coming, though.

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The seeds don't always sprout even if there's clearly room for the new enemy. I don't know the exact chances of success, though. Anyway, you can see here how the Chomper segues right into the bite attack, and that it gets healing on a missed block.

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A lone Chomper is easy enough to clean up.

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Is that a Crystal Berry up on the ledge there? How do we get this one?

Let's clear out that last enemy first so we have free access to the crank.

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Nothing too frightening here.

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Cutting the weed reveals there are two cranks here. One of them raises the green platforms, and the other...

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The other makes the big plank rotate.

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To get to the crystal berry, we have to position the Beemerang so it turns both cranks at once, then hold it there to keep everything moving while we ride the spinning plank over.

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And we've got it! These are really starting to pile up.

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Now to move forward. This is going to be another long platforming sequence over the flytraps, and we need to keep at least one of the cranks spinning while we do it (we need those green platforms up or we won't be getting anywhere).

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We also need to time these jumps so we don't hit the Seedlings. They're not dangerous in battle (as we've seen), but entering the battle screen will interrupt the Beemerang and force it to return, so a misstep will mean we need to start this whole thing over.

Also, it's important to keep jumping while standing on the flytraps; stay still too long and it will close up on us, again forcing us to restart this sequence.

Does this sound annoying? Because it is.

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But we get across. So far, so good.

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Let's go on to the next screen. This area's been pretty huge already, how much more of it could there be?

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Um. What's this?

Image This thorny surrounding... it reeks of danger!
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Image It's fine! Let's load up on items and look around!

That sounds a little ominous.

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This save crystal seems important. (Make sure you stay close to the south side of this area on the way to it!)

Walking to the north...

Image 13 - It's Getting Scary!

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Oh. Oh no.

There is no sign that this is here, aside from the fact that the clearing is suspiciously empty, and there's a save crystal. It's really easy to stumble into it by accident, just walking around this screen (better hope you saved first!). Prior to version 1.1, it wasn't even a yellow crystal, so there was a very good chance you'd stumble into this thing with a heavily wounded party. The result is not pretty.

But this post is getting long enough, so I'm going to permit myself a cliffhanger. Next time on Bug Fables... being Team Snakemouth is suffering.

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14: A Pitcher's Worth a Thousand Words

Last time...

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(Thanks for making that, Leraika!)

Image 35 - Reckless for Glory! (Bonus Boss) (Recommended listening! This really sets the mood.)

Image Click me for video!

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Let's see what we're dealing with here.

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Image It may aim to swallow us. Vi, Kabbu, don't even think about fleeing before we break free.

Oh. That's a lot of durability, compared to everything we've seen so far.

The Devourer is one of five "Bounty" fights, challenging bonus bosses that I would estimate are tuned to be fought around Chapter 5 or so (the earliest we can face any of the others is midway through Chapter 4). Many people consider it the hardest of them (though I'm not quite sure I agree, it's certainly the most intimidating). But it's just here, and we can totally fight get ambushed by it now.

It isn't exactly a sequence break, since we can just come here, but I'm doubtful whether the devs intended anyone to try it at this point. The game will actually teach us about the Bounties soon enough, and give out sidequests to kill them, so I tend to think they expected that point would be the earliest people might try going after them. Even then, the Devourer is quite tough.

We are here... significantly earlier than that. Nothing else for it, let's give it our best shot.

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Let's give it a Heavy Strike to start off.

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Then Vi relays to Kabbu for another attack, because of the defence.

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Ouch! This is one of the less dangerous attacks the Devourer has, though blocking helps significantly (and my timing wasn't great this time!). Though, interestingly, it took me a while to figure out what's going on with the damage numbers here. Poison Defender seems to be kicking in on the first hit that caused the poison, and I didn't know it worked like that before this! (This attack has 4 base damage, but Kabbu has -1 defence from Favorite One, so I thought he should take 5 when not blocking.)

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For its second action, the Devourer summons a Flytrap, which immediately attacks. It does this on alternate turns, as long as there are fewer than two Flytraps present. The flytraps have 8 HP and bite for 4 damage, as if the main Devourer weren't scary enough.

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At the end of the turn, Kabbu takes poison damage, and Favorite One triggers. This isn't looking great!

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This is turn two. Ouch. Each hit from that attack gave Kabbu two turns' worth of poison, too.

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Vi throws Kabbu a Leaf Omelet so he won't die.

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I thought we might have a better chance with the Flytrap gone, so Leif and Vi team up to get rid of it, after a relay from Kabbu. (Honestly, this was an inefficient use of my turn, it might have been better if I'd rotated Leif in front to boost the Icefall, and then Vi wouldn't have had to spend TP to finish off the Flytrap. But I didn't think of it until after healing Kabbu, when it was too late. You can't rotate unless everyone has an action remaining.)

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It does the acid spit attack again. It looks a lot less scary when I manage to nail the blocking, doesn't it?

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For its second move (yes, it gets two actions per turn), it launches a poison blob into the air. This is a delayed attack that hits two turns later, it's 4 damage with 2 turns poison. This is by far the least scary attack it has.

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Start of turn three. Favorite One triggered again, and it looks like the delayed attack is targeting our centre position.

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Vi's injured and I was getting low on TP, so I had Leif throw her a Honeyed Leaf.

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Kabbu uses Heavy Strike.

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And Leif does a normal attack. This is with +1 charge-up, hitting an ice weakness, against 1 defence.

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On its first move, it does the acid shots again, aiming two at Leif. This attack can hit 2-3 times, so this time we got "lucky". I'm shocked how consistently I've been blocking this; after missing the first two, I've somehow Super Blocked every one of these. It's helping.

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And, because it's an odd turn and there's room, it summons a Flytrap which immediately bites us.

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Vi has +2 charge-up and we have exactly 5 TP, so it seems like as good a time as any to use Hurricane Toss.

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10 damage from a single attack is pretty solid! Though we're out of TP now, which isn't great.

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I spend the rest of the turn trying to get into better shape. Running very low on healing items, though...

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Another Acid Spit attack, and I guess I spoke too soon. I missed the blocks entirely here, and Vi went down after two full-damage hits. If I'd had better timing here, she could have lived.

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Then... the flytrap attacks? This surprised me, because the Devourer only took one action this turn. I don't actually know why that happened. Maybe it was feeling merciful? No, that's not possible.

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Or maybe it's because the delayed attack was queued up to hit this turn, though that would be odd if so, that isn't usually how they work. (A nice side-effect of putting Vi in front for damage here is that it also meant Kabbu, at full health, was in position to take the delayed attack.)

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This isn't looking good!

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But hey, it means we can see Kabbu's Pep Talk skill. For 5 TP, we can bring Vi back with 4 HP.

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Vi heals Leif, since he's the worst off.

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And Leif gets us back some TP. This is definitely starting to feel futile though, we're barely keeping up with all the damage that's coming in, and we're burning through resources fast.

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The Devourer finally shows one of its other attacks: it has a poison breath like the Spider did, with a mash-style action command. This does 3 damage (and poisons) if you fail to fill the bar. Also, while it's not at all obvious, you actually have a split-second chance to Super Block between the bar going away and the damage happening, which reduces the damage further; needless to say, I didn't manage to get that here.

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And, being an odd turn, it summons yet another Flytrap and they both bite. It's kind of lucky they went for Kabbu, thanks to Poison Defender, and I managed to time them well, but even with that, this is still a lot of damage coming our way!

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This really doesn't look good.

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Look at this power, though! Icefall at maximum charge is a beautiful thing. (Unfortunately, it's just barely shy of killing the flytraps; if I'd had a Spicy Fries or similar attack boost item on me, it would've been smart to use that here, but sadly I left it in storage.)

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So Kabbu wastes a turn finishing one of them off.

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Then I realised the only sensible way to get rid of the other one was with another Icefall, so I'd really wasted Kabbu's turn.

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It didn't matter in the end, though, because the Devourer decided to finally show us its remaining attack. This is the Head Slam, and it's brutal. We didn't even see the worst aspect of it here, because I missed blocking and the damage was enough to end things; more about that in a moment.

Image 09 - Game Over

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It's our first time seeing the Game Over screen. That's a depressing message, isn't it.

That said, it's worth talking about how this works. When you lose a fight the game considers "important" (basically anything that isn't an overworld encounter; for instance, I know the battles during the cable car repair quest from last update count), you get the "Retry" and "Change Loadout and Retry" options; otherwise, you'll just see the last two.

If you choose "change loadout" it takes you to the inventory screen, where you can move medals around and use items. I really like this: among other things, it's a good way to communicate that the game doesn't necessarily expect you to win fights on the first try, and wants you to learn from what went wrong and plan new strategies. It feels a tad awkward to me diegetically (the failed attempts don't happen, narratively speaking, so how did our characters know what strategy to use?), but it's such a good gameplay feature that I don't really care.

There are a few caveats, though: this doesn't fully heal your team or anything, it just restores whatever status you were in when you started the battle. And if you put on medals like HP Plus or TP Plus here, the character will not be healed to the new maximum. So, sometimes, you might still want to reload your save and regroup there instead.

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It takes you right back to the start of the fight, so you don't have to sit through any cutscenes again. That's not exactly an issue here, with how little lead-in the Devourer gets, but it certainly can be elsewhere in the game! It's the small things that show the devs care about your experience, sometimes.

One interesting thing: when you retry (with new loadout or not), you get to keep your Spy data. So, technically, if you're the sort who cares about diligently spying, the retry gives you a minor advantage of not having to spend an action on it again. (Though, do note: every time you retry, the game increments the "seen" counter in your bestiary; that might bother some people. It did me, at first. That number can change elsewhere, too, though, so I stopped seeing it as a black mark on my files; I mention this only because I don't want anyone who does care to be taken by surprise.)

Anyhow, clearly this attempt was unsuccessful, and ordinarily I wouldn't show a failure in such detail, but I wanted to give you a good sense of what it's like to stumble into this unprepared. I did make a few small mistakes, as I've mentioned (also, it would have been better to use the Magic Seed instead of Pep Talk, but I knew I was losing and wanted to show the animation for you). Overall, though, this was honestly a better-than-usual showing for conventional tactics here, and it could've gone far worse. It was left on 22 HP when it killed us, and I think that's a better than average outcome.

So let's break down exactly what's going on with this boss, and then how we're actually going to deal with it.

We didn't even see its most dangerous gimmick yet (because the Head Slam finished me off!). Here's what happens if you survive it:

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Head Slam knocks Team Snakemouth into the air, and the Devourer can catch and eat somebody on the way down. This isn't positioning-dependent either, it can get anyone. When I was first learning this boss ages ago I tried planning around it and assumed it'd always eat the person in front, which didn't go well for me.

It doesn't always eat someone when using this attack; I don't know whether it's 50/50 or the odds are skewed. There's a persistent myth that successfully blocking or Super Blocking prevents it eating anyone, which even I believed for a while, but it's just down to chance. I can confirm I saw every combination of block or don't, eat or don't in various attempts while recording this update.

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While inside the Devourer, the trapped character can't do anything, and at the end of the turn they take damage (I believe this is 20% of max HP, rounded up?) which heals the Devourer by the same amount.

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There's no way to make it release them, either, until they run out of HP and it spits them out already dead. So this attack is effectively like instant death, only even worse. (Someone in the comments on the wiki does claim it will release an eaten character after three turns if they're still alive, but I can't confirm this, I've never seen the battle go on that long win or lose.)

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Also, if both uncaptured bugs go down, you instantly lose, even if the trapped one might survive a few more turns. (This is honestly the more common occurrence.)

Especially with our current capabilities, generally speaking the Head Slam just means we lose the fight (unless we both Super Block and don't get eaten, and even then it's a lot of damage). It very often means that even for stronger parties later in the game. Everything else this boss does is tough, but manageable with sufficiently good block timing and judicious application of healing items (though it would still get tight and there's a real risk of running out). The Head Slam is the real killer.

So... can we prevent it happening? The only real way to do that is by keeping it from getting turns, which means either disabling it with status or outright killing it first.

The Devourer is immune to sleep and freeze, the two disabling status effects we have access to at this point in the game. (It has a more reasonable 50% resistance to Numb, and in fact the first time I beat it I used a Numb-based strategy to kill it without it ever getting to act. That was in 1.0.5, though, when you could inflict 2-turn Numb; it's been nerfed to last only one turn in 1.1, though that strategy can still be made to work. That's all moot for our current purposes, though, since we don't have access to the things we'd need.)

So what's the strategy? How do we beat this now?

For better or worse, it's going to be an outright damage race, combined with a hefty amount of praying the RNG will cooperate. The faster we kill it, the fewer turns it gets and therefore the fewest opportunities the RNG gets to screw us over.

Let's talk briefly about how enemy AI works in Bug Fables. For better or worse, the game doesn't really have AI per se: the enemies select their moves randomly (not necessarily evenly weighted), but the pool of available moves is context-dependent. (For example, look back at Acolyte Aria: when she's on the vine, the only available move is the drop-kick, so she'll always do that; when she's on the ground, she chooses randomly between vine attack, defence buff, and making a new vine. She won't do the defence buff if she already has it active.) Some enemies gain access to new moves at certain HP thresholds, etc. Outside of this system, there are scripted triggers (for things like phase transitions or summoning adds, etc) that are usually tied to HP values or percentages, and are separate from the enemy's turns. This can still produce interesting complexity in enemy behaviours, but it does mean there's always an RNG element involved.

The specific issue with the Devourer is that its attacks are so variable (the Head Slam is just so devastating) that a strategy basically has to assume some sequence in advance, and then will be more or less guaranteed to fail on other sequences, which means some percentage of attempts are completely futile. That can get frustrating to actually play.

Anyway.

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Here's the medal setup I'm going in with. Distributing the HP Plus medals evenly seems best to me here, because of how randomly the Devourer spreads out damage (and we don't have the time to waste actions taunting with Kabbu). Kabbu gets Super Block+, Poison Defender, and Weak Stomach to help compensate for Favorite One (which I'm keeping on because it can give us some extra damage, and every little bit helps).

You can see I'm not fully utilising my MP here (I have 2 left over due to just not having things to equip), and that I have a few useless things on (Sleep Resistance, Mighty Pebble, Crazy Prepared, and Quick Flea are all worthless in this fight). If I were optimising solely for the Devourer, I'd want to upgrade HP on a few level-ups instead: it wouldn't save us from the Head Slam, but it'd reduce the impact of damage-distribution RNG and increase the odds of success.

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Also, I reloaded a save, then went back to town and returned with some heavy ordinance. Time to carpet-bomb a pitcher plant. :unsmigghh:

Image 35 - Reckless for Glory! (Bonus Boss)

Image Click me for video!

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This was not my first attempt, as you can see by the fact the spying is already done.

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The first thing we'll do is feed Vi some Berry Jam. This gives her 2 turns of Attack Up and 2 turns of Defence Up, both of which are going to make a big difference.

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Leif tosses a Burly Bomb, which does 3 damage and applies Defence Down for 2 turns.

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Now we break out the Hurricane Toss! It's turn 1 and we've already done a cumulative 13 damage.

Something's odd, though. Vi has +1 attack here, but this Hurricane Toss damage is identical to in the failed run when she had +2 charge. To understand what just happened, we're going to have to talk about a bug in the battle calculations. Yes, this strategy technically incorporates exploiting a glitch.

Attacks which "partially ignore defence" (Kabbu's horn strikes, Hurricane Toss) are programmed in a strange way, and seem to just check whether the enemy has nonzero defence then add 1 to the damage. You'd think it shouldn't matter that it's implemented this way, and in most situations it works out to the same thing. But, crucially, it makes this check before Defence Down is applied. So, if and only if the enemy has exactly 1 defence, these attacks end up doing 1 damage more than expected. With Hurricane Toss, this affects each hit, which in this fight amounts to 3-4 extra points of damage each time we use it.

Negative defence is definitely a thing in this game, as we saw with Favorite One, and that would be a more intuitive explanation of what's happening here, but Defence Down and similar temporary effects don't reduce defence below 0. You can see this if you use any other attack on a debuffed enemy.

This gets even weirder when you involve a medal called Antlion Jaws, but we won't find one for a while yet so I'll hold off on discussing that until we do.

The devs are aware of this issue and have chosen not to fix it, they've said it would require too fundamental a revision of the combat system. I'm not entirely sure I believe that, but it's their prerogative, and it's not exactly gamebreaking.

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On its first turn, the Devourer uses its poison breath. I don't mind seeing this; it's one of its less threatening attacks (even if I still didn't manage the Super Block).

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It also, as always, summons a flytrap which gets to bite. I don't love seeing this hit Kabbu before Poison Defender is active, but he'll be fine.

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At least we get the Favorite One trigger.

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Vi now has +1 charge from Favorite One, in addition to the boosts from Berry Jam, and the Devourer's defence is still lowered.

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Which means the second Hurricane Toss hits even harder than the first! 14 damage in total.

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Kabbu uses the Roasted Berries to give everyone a bit of healing (and, thanks to Weak Stomach, activate his Poison Defender). Technically, something like a Leaf Omelet offers more HP per inventory slot, but we want the whole team staying alive as long as possible, and the Devourer spreads damage around more often than it concentrates it, so Roasted Berries it is.

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Leif breaks out the first of many Spicy Bombs. 5 damage is significantly more than any of our characters can do without spending TP.

There is something a bit weird about the hitboxes in this battle, though: Icefall can hit the Devourer and both Flytraps simultaneously, but bombs seem not to be able to (possibly because bombs have to be centred on an enemy, while Icefall can be more precisely positioned). I think if you bomb the left Flytrap the secondary explosion hits the Devourer, but if you aim at the big one they're both slightly too far.

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At least we're getting good mileage out of that defence boost on Vi, I suppose. I could've definitely blocked better here.

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I certainly won't complain about seeing the delayed attack, though.

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The flytrap also gets to attack, of course.

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Kabbu takes poison damage, and then we get the Favorite One trigger.

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Leif's still on full HP, and he also now has +2 charge. Seems like it's time to move him into the front. (Generally speaking, you want to put whoever is healthiest in front on this turn, now that Vi's out of attack boosts and will be joining the bomb squad.) The delayed attack is targeting that position, but it can be safely ignored, win or lose this fight's going to be over before it matters.

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With the last 3 TP we have, Leif uses Frigid Coffin since (with all his boosts) it will do more damage than a bomb would. It's convenient that I wanted him in front anyway.

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Bombs away!

Also of note here, Spicy Bombs ignore defence against the primary target (but not for targets hit by the splash damage). Other types of bomb don't have this property. If they did, I'd be using Poison Bombs instead for a bit more chip damage.

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It uses the poison breath again, and, even better, I actually manage to get the Super Block. I'm starting to feel pretty good about my chances.

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Although it could still go pear-shaped. It gets a second flytrap this turn, and they're both going to attack.

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The best possible outcome: both of them went for Leif!

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At this point, it's over. You can see how close this is: there's next to no chance we'd survive another turn of attacks.

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We don't even need all the actions this final turn, or every bomb I brought. (This is thanks to Favorite One boosts.)

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We don't have to kill the Flytraps, they die automatically when the main Devourer does.

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And it's done.

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Image 11 - Key Item!

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It leaves behind this item, which we immediately pick up. We'll find out what it's for later.

After the Devourer is beaten, there's also a new banter:

Image Sorry, Kabbu... We didn't heed your warning.
Image It's alright... we're all safe, and that's all that matters.
Image Phew... I'm gonna think twice next time Kabbu feels danger...

So, that's the Devourer beaten on Hard at the earliest possible opportunity.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did not develop this strategy in its entirety. The lion's share of credit should go to the Paper Mario challenge streamer Kappy, who demonstrated it in his ongoing "Rank 0" run (playing with a menu code that prevents EXP gain, and equipping no medals). This is much more difficult than what I did, or at least much less likely (requiring more persistence for viable RNG).

I had been experimenting with fighting the Devourer this early myself, and thinking along similar lines, but the last few pieces didn't click into place until I saw Kappy do it (I hadn't incorporated the "ignore defence" glitch into the maths, among other things, and I completely overlooked Roasted Berries as a healing option). Before seeing his video I'd beaten it on "normal" at this point, but not Hard Mode.

Adding medals to his strategy greatly widens the window of potential RNG sequences that could lead to success (and in my successful run, I finished one action early and was able to save two Spicy Bombs relative to the plan).

That said, the odds with my setup don't seem that bad. I don't have a lot of data, but my first successful recording had some issues and I had to do it again, so at least I have two points. The first time, I succeeded on the eighth attempt, and the second on the sixth.

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You can see this reflected in the screenshot from our bestiary.

I'm not sure if the second time was faster due strictly to luck, or due to getting better at the block timing from all the practice, but I'm at least reasonably confident you have a better than 10% chance to win with my setup, and each attempt only takes 2-3 minutes. It was a lot less frustrating than I thought it was going to be, frankly.

I think it's literally impossible to beat it this early on the harder difficulties you can access through menu codes. It might not even be possible on Hard if you wear the Hard Hits medal, but I haven't tried that.

Anyway, that's the Devourer fight. I'll also shortly be posting an interlude with my overall thoughts on this boss and how it might be redesigned to fix some of the issues, then we'll get back to the main playthrough in the next proper update.

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Design Interlude: Fixing the Devourer

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I'll be honest. While I think the concept for this boss is fantastic (both the general idea of fighting a pitcher plant, and having a late-game superboss available early to try whenever you feel ready), there are some serious design issues with the actual fight, and it needed at least another pass of revision and playtest.

Let's take a stab at fixing it.

The first thing I'd do is remove the Head Slam from its randomly-chosen moveset and make it happen on a HP trigger instead (either at half HP if we want it to happen once, or 2/3 if it should happen twice). It's the core gimmick of the fight, it doesn't seem right to have it potentially not happen. Likewise, having it randomly grab someone or not isn't a great idea (it just makes the fight RNG-dependent and encourages retrying until you get the right outcome), so let's have it either always grab someone, or do it if the player doesn't block. I'm not keen on tying it to blocking though, the difference shouldn't be quite that stark (and I've complained enough about "save or die" gameplay in the Paper Mario Master Quest thread, let's not have more of that).

Then I'd add a secondary target (maybe the lid?) with its own HP which, if damaged enough, will cause the eaten character to be released. (The player can then think about trade-offs and prioritise: they can try to recover their action economy, or they can focus on killing it.) It doesn't have to have a lot of HP, but should probably be a bit more than you can comfortably take out in one turn (I'm thinking maybe 6, to keep it just out of Spicy Bomb range?).

Another possible change, though I'm less sure this is necessary, is that it could behave differently while it has a character inside. Maybe have draining the trapped bug count as one of its turns, so the overall effect has it get less aggressive to the bugs outside? Or it could get one or two entirely new attacks (it seems a bit weird to me that, as it is now, the Devourer still does its spitting-things-out attacks while it's ostensibly eating, so this might help with flavour and verisimilitude). If it's substantially different, that adds to the trade-off question of whether the player wants to focus on getting the party member back, versus continuing to do damage.

I'd probably give it a bit more durability to discourage blitz tactics, but reduce its damage output somewhat to compensate.

In other words, the core goal of my revision is to make the gimmick more interesting, give the player more ways to interact, then require them to engage with it. The whole point of having a gimmick boss is to put a new twist on the combat and give the player something new to think about; if the best approach to a boss is "pretend the gimmick doesn't exist and roll the dice", it isn't serving its purpose. These changes might make the fight a bit more difficult than it is currently, but more importantly, they reduce the swinginess between attempts and make it overall more fair.

I don't think you actually have to change that much to make this a much better and more satisfying fight; I think what I've outlined here is more than enough, and it should still be recognisable and feel qualitatively similar.

The other thing I'd be strongly tempted to change, of course, is either to make it at least partially visible before you approach, or give the player an option to run away when it pops out. There's a place for ambush enemies in games, don't get me wrong (if nothing else, they're good at throwing a wrench into your resource management plans), but I think it's a bit rude to ambush the player with a superboss. The small flytraps, for instance, could be given an overworld sprite and become an ambush enemy that pops out like the Devourer currently does?

Let's discuss, friends.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a few photos of pitcher plants. I took these at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney about two years ago, they just happened to have a carnivorous plant exhibit on when I was visiting. I've always had a soft spot for carnivorous plants; I'm not really sure why. Maybe it's a twisted reflection of being vegetarian? ;)

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I think the Devourer ate a slight defensive nerf in a patch but yeah it was by far the bounty boss I had the most trouble with. The others weren’t nearly as harrowing in comparison for me.

I was doing a hard mode + hard hits run for Bug Fables, and Devourer was a real roadblock. I ended up fighting it much later, and while I figured out how to deal with the other bounty bosses, taking down Devourer felt kind of hollow because the strategy I used was luck based. In that I was hoping Lief wouldn’t get eaten or the fight was pretty much unwinnable at the point I chose to tackle the boss at. (The fact that he can burst down the plants and Devourer and making use of one of his later skills was the core of my strategy. So if he got chomped yeah that was an automatic reset.)

The head slam definitely feels like it needed to have been tweaked more. You barely have much counterplay to it other than skipping the mechanic entirely. And it’s such a huge wrench in the battle on top of all the other moving parts the battle has that adapting to it on the fly is kind of really not feasible because of the sheer disadvantage that a) being left with 2 party members is and b) you have no control over who gets chomped. If the flytrap mechanic wasn’t in, adapting to the situation from having a random party member be eaten would be more feasible, but as it stands all the moving parts together is kind of a bit much.

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I love carnivorous plants - thanks for the pictures of some actual pitcher plants.

I'm enjoying this LP, but I don't enjoy the mini-games to have attacks go off. Thanks for LP'ing this, because otherwise, I wouldn't see the game.

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Kacie wrote:
Sun Apr 11, 2021 8:23 pm
I love carnivorous plants - thanks for the pictures of some actual pitcher plants.

I'm enjoying this LP, but I don't enjoy the mini-games to have attacks go off. Thanks for LP'ing this, because otherwise, I wouldn't see the game.
Haha. Thanks. It's funny because that was very much a last-minute addition, I'd finished putting the rest of the post together and then realised "wait, I have some photos of pitcher plants, don't I?" and threw them in.

re: the action commands, I remember thinking it was weird when I first encountered the concept (in Paper Mario, ca 2001), but it ended up feeling surprisingly natural, and I quickly found myself liking it. The games are balanced around the ones for your attacks being pretty easy (and the game expects you to get them), while defence is harder but the baseline expectations are that you'll do less well (though Bug Fables expects a bit more from the player in this respect than Paper Mario did). I've seen some very bad imitations of it too though.

I'm happy to keep playing the game so you don't have to.

User avatar
15: Into the Golden Hills

Before we start, Alien Arcana has provided more details on how the Devourer works:
Alien Arcana wrote: A few notes on the Devourer's AI. First, on why the Devourer doesn't always make two attacks.

The Devourer doesn't pick two random moves each turn. Rather, it makes one "direct attack" and one "follow-up".
The direct attacks are the poison spit, poison breath, and slam attack. It picks one of these at random, with the poison spit being preferred above 50% HP, and the slam attack preferred afterwards. More on the slam attack in a second.
The follow-ups are summoning a Flytrap or launching a delayed attack. This move is not selected randomly.

The Devourer prefers to summon, and will always do so if it can -- but the move's got a cooldown (2 turns on Normal, 1 turn on Hard). Also there needs to be enough room.
Failing that, the Devourer uses the delayed attack. But that also has a cooldown (which is a random 2-4 turns, regardless of difficulty).
If it can't use either move, the Devourer doesn't get a follow-up that turn.

Lastly, the slam attack. The Devourer can use this attack at any time, but it's significantly more likely to if it's at half health or lower. The move itself has a 1-turn cooldown, so it won't use it twice in a row.
The Devourer can only eat someone after this attack if it's lost at least 30% of its HP (and it always eats if it can). It will never use the slam attack while its mouth is full.
The Devourer will indeed spit its victim out after three turns, if they're still alive. But as you say, it's rare for the victim and the party to both survive that long.
So it's a bit less random than I'd thought (and this makes more sense of the eating behaviour), though still quite variable. I'm not sure I knew that the game used cooldowns behind the scenes to regulate enemy attacks, but that seems like a sensible way to implement it to me. I stand by everything I've said about the fight, though.

Image 26 - Golden Lands

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On the way back to the Golden Settlement, I saw the caravan was here and decided to pick up a couple of Drowsy Cakes.

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And I decided that, despite my misgivings, we'll give Heavy Sleeper a go on Kabbu. I don't have any specific plans for it, but I have nothing else to do with the MP so I may as well give it a chance.

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Let's finally head north.

Image 30 - The Sacred Hills

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There's a lot to see here, including new music. This song is a nice change of pace, it really evokes an eerie feeling and makes this place feel different despite using the same visuals as the rest of this region.

Image ...I feel weird.
Image No kidding. Even the air feels strange.
Image This is not sacred land in name alone. There must be forces at play we can't see.
Image We won't let it stop us, though!

Our characters have picked up on it too, though presumably for other reasons.

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To the north, there's a hole at the base of the Venus statue, and it prompts us to use an item. Nothing we have does anything, though; presumably finding what goes here is going to be our goal for the area.

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Going too far toward either the right or left exits triggers a cutscene.

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Image Goodness!
Image Eeep! That plant can talk!
Image ...It can't count, though.
Image Huh? So there's three of you?

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Image I see. Hm. So that's how it is.
Image So what brings you here? Come to take in the sights?
Image We're here for the artifact! Fame and riches!

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Image Dear plant, we assure you there is more at play than mere riches...
Image Yeah right, you bugs always say the same!
Image Nice going, Vi.
Image If you want to get the artifact, you'll have to get to the top...

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After it says this, the bud just poofs away.

Image Vi, announcing openly you are here to take treasure wasn't very smart.
Image I mean, I wasn't gonna lie or anything!
Image We're sure that's the reason.
Image Whatever! You heard it. Treasure's at the top, so let's get climbing!
Image Let's be careful. Something feels off about this place.

After this conversation ends, we're back in control and can go explore.

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Just north of where the plant surprised us, there's another hole that seems to need an item. Again, we don't have it.

Let's go east to start with. You can take the two sides of this area in whichever order you want, but I prefer starting with the right side (I think the difficulty curve and escalation of the puzzles flows better if you do that).

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We're immediately confronted with a crank and a bridge.

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Using the Beemerang Halt on the crank makes the bridge rotate, until we let go of the button, when it will slow down and come to a halt. (The game is fairly kind about this, and will generally snap bridges like this to the closest right angle.)

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And now we can cross, though all that's over here is a flower dripping water, and another crank that controls the bridge from this side. Seems like we've got an ice block puzzle coming up.

Image Those flowers are dripping dew... how refreshing.
Image Ugh, I'm getting Snakemouth flashbacks...
Image I need to make sure to stay dry!
Image Silly Vi. Let's make sure to utilize that water wisely to explore the area!
Image It's been a while since we froze stuff... We're looking forward to it.

Checking the banter for the area reminds us that we can freeze droplets.

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So let's do that, even if it's not clear yet what we need it for.

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Kabbu knocks the ice cube onto the bridge. There's nothing to do with it on the platform we were on, so clearly we need to take it elsewhere.

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Then we can turn the crank again to orient the bridge vertically. From the bridge, we can start to get an idea of what we might need the block for: in the back corner of this area, there's a ledge too high for us to jump up. We must need the block to climb it.

(If you have trouble manipulating the ice blocks, especially on the bridge, one trick you can do is getting it onto the end of the bridge and then making sure to rotate that end closest to the north platform. You need to hit it fewer times that way.)

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Kabbu knocks the ice block onto the north platform. Before we keep going, though, let's get that Chomper out of the way.

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We're already familiar with Chompers, thanks to having explored the "bonus" area in the Golden Path. If we hadn't, this would be our first time seeing them. This is a pretty straightforward battle, we can make quick work of it.

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Here's where it gets a bit tricky. We have to get the ice block over to the far side, and that means getting it across this flytrap. If you jump onto the flytrap, you have enough time to hit the block and then immediately jump to reset the timer. There's not a lot of leeway, though, and if you mess up and get chomped, you'll lose the ice block and have to go back for another one.

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Success.

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At the top, we find this crank. Clearly, this goes in one of those holes we saw in the central area.

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To get back, we have to rotate the bridge while standing on it again.

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Out of curiosity, I tried the crank on the hole at the big statue, and got this special message saying it doesn't fit. Other items just get "This item does nothing."

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It goes to this hole on the right.

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As you might expect, it's a crank. We can raise the elevator now.

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At the top, there's a new path to the north. Let's go there.

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This room's pretty big, and has quite a bit going on.

Image It's been a while since we saw flying Seedlings!
Image Time for some smacking!
Image Wait.
Image Huh?
Image Haven't you noticed the spikes in our path?
Image Yeah, but what's that got to do with my smackdown?
Image I see...! We could freeze them to get across!
Image Mhm. Finally, a non-violent solution.
Image Yeah, cool. Whatever... I really want to smack something, though.

Don't worry, Vi, there will be plenty to fight soon enough.

I've seen people get stumped by this room, at least briefly, but if you check the banter it basically hands you the solution. This is the first (but certainly not the last!) time the game asks us to use frozen enemies as platforms. (The flying Seedlings in this area can be fought if you really want to, but there's only a single one in the battle, they don't drop anything, and they respawn instantly. They're clearly here for another purpose.)

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This gap is too wide for us to just jump across.

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There we go! Unlike the blocks we make from water droplets, enemies don't stay frozen forever, but you get plenty of time.

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The next gap is bigger; we have to get more creative now.

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This flower produces water droplets, so we can make an ice block.

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What you're supposed to do here is use the ice block as a stepping-stone to get close enough to the Seedling, then freeze it and use it to get the rest of the way. Somehow, I managed to get it to land perfectly in the centre, and then jank my way across without using the Seedling at all; I don't recommend this, but it's apparently possible.

DO NOT touch the red mushroom. It launches you back to the platform we were just on. It's very frustrating if you do this by accident, and I think it's a bit unfortunate it's placed the way it is because it's very easy to walk into.

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Things are getting complicated here. We have a dripping flower, and a bridge to the east that we can't rotate (if you look carefully, the crank is on the platform to the north).

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We freeze a block.

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Once again, the ice block serves as a stepping-stone to reach the Seedling, then we freeze the Seedling to get to the platform.

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Again, watch out for the red mushroom. This gap in particular is quite tricky, because it's harder to judge where you are vertically than horizontally, and aiming field skills vertically is harder (with the way the controls work), and you don't want to get sent back before doing the important thing.

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Which is rotating this bridge to a horizontal position.

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Now we can step on the mushroom and get launched back.

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At the end of the bridge is another conundrum: there's an item on that ledge, but it's too high for us to reach with the Beemerang!

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The answer is to go back and bring an ice block here.

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Standing on the ice block, Vi can reach the item.

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... Top half? Guess it was never going to be that simple, was it. Still, this is progress.

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We're done here, so the mushroom is no longer terrifying and we can use it to get back. (The observant among you may notice there's a platform in the back we haven't gone to, coming off a ramp out of the spikes. We don't have the ability needed to reach it, but it's worth remembering for a later time.)

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Whee!

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One nice thing about the segmented structure of this area is that we're constantly returning to this central hub, and there's a yellow save crystal here, so we can use TP more or less freely.

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Let's head west now.

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It's hard to see from here, but this room is very big.

Image What a vast space.
Image It doesn't seem like there's a way to cross...
Image Nah, it's fine. I see a lot of cranks!
Image I just have to be smart with the Beemerang!
Image You mean the A.P.B.D.?
Image Isn't it the A.B.D.P.?
Image It's the Beemerang!

(They're both wrong. It's A.D.B.P. And I am now sick of typing all those full stops; I'm firmly with Vi on this one.)

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Almost didn't see this Chomper until it was on top of me! It was hiding just offscreen to the south.

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This is a pretty easy fight.

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Acornlings are no longer worth any EXP, and Chompers are just giving us two. The drop-off in yield as we gain levels is very significant. We're a tad overlevelled after doing the bonus area, but if we hadn't gone there we'd be getting the EXP here instead, so it all tends to even out.

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Here we can start to get a better idea of what we're dealing with. Before touching any of those cranks, though, we should take the easternmost plank north: is that a staircase of flytraps?

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This one's a bit tricky to get up to, you need to jump from the right side. The ground's at an angle and the other sides are too low.

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There's a Crystal Berry just sitting there waiting at the top. I'll take that, thanks.

That's all, though. Let's go back down.

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Now that we've checked out the north, we can use the crank on the right to turn that plank horizontal.

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And the left crank lets us rotate this L-shaped platform, so we can get the rest of the way across.

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Looks like there's another elevator here, with another hole that's missing a crank.

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And this gate blocks us going south. Or at least, it blocks the easy way.

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The two cranks here also control the main platforms in the room; what we have to do is rotate the L platform again, then go over that way.

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There's also a Numbnail waiting on this side.

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Weevils still yield decent EXP, at least.

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This area looks more complicated.

Image So these lifts move differently when the cranks turn!
Image Gold star, Kabbu.
Image So the green ones go down, and the brown ones up?
Image Indeed. How nice of them to color code them!

The banter explains the puzzle so I don't have to. Mostly, anyway.

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Coming around south gives us a bit more perspective.

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Let's fight the Weevil first. These battles are still pretty simple.

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Up we go! We can see the platforms' gimmick in action, brown ones lift up and green ones go down when you turn the crank. This crank here just controls the two platforms next to it.

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That gets us up to the main platform.

See the crank behind the weeds in the back left corner?

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This is a bit tricky. We can ride this one up, then jump to the green platform...

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...hit the second crank on the way up...

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...then jump to the last brown platform. This jump's pretty tricky, and looking at this screenshot I have no idea how I actually made it. Vi's barely got a toe on there, and that platform is rising!

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But it worked. Let's check out what's up here.

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An enemy, of course.

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Chompers and a Numbnail. I'd have sped past this battle, but something interesting actually happened:

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Kabbu got hit by the Numbnail and sent to sleep, so we get to see Heavy Sleeper take effect!

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What on earth?

All the documentation I've seen on Image Heavy Sleeper said it changes the sleep healing from 10% (rounded up) to 30% (rounded up). The only way this number makes sense is if instead it's getting that 10% number, doing the rounding, and then multiplying by three afterward. This seems like a useful discovery; a 6 HP heal is huge, and a lot more than I'd been expecting!

I think I underestimated this thing. I still don't think you can really build a strategy around it, but it seems decent to put it on for incidental benefit if there are sleep-inducing enemies around.

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There's the Heavy Sleeper icon next to Kabbu.

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Anyway, we finish the battle. The rest of it was pretty straightforward. (And yes, Kabbu got another 6 HP heal on waking up the next turn.)

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There's another small crank hiding in this pile of leaves. We know where to take this.

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Before we go, there's one last thing to check out in this room. We went right past this tunnel halfway up the wall...

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This ledge has a Magic Seed hidden in a weed, and an Acornling. I won't turn up my nose at that.

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There are three of them in the battle, but it's still nothing to write home about.

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Nor is the EXP.

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Turning the crank raises these platforms and gives us a shortcut back to the first ledge. I think this is meant to make it more convenient if you take the tunnel first, but I did it backwards. Oh well.

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Just like before, the crank goes in a hole and we can now use an elevator.

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To the north we go.

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It's another mess of elevators and cranks!

Image This looks like a job for the Beemerang.
Image Mhm! The professor's upgrades actually helped out a ton!
Image We should probably start thinking up a performance report for when we see her again...
Image Uh... report? Right...
Image We will deal with that later. Let's focus on the mission!

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Let's survey the area a bit before we start messing with the cranks.

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And get rid of these guys.

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This is definitely a dead end unless we can reposition the elevators.

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This crank does just that, but if we want to be able to get over, we need to be standing on the brown platform when we start spinning it.

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Let's go left first. Letting the green platform rise again, we can get over here.

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Where a Midge tries to ambush us.

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It's just a fight with two Midges, like we've seen plenty of times before.

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Midges have joined the club of enemies we're too high rank to get EXP from.

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Was that a medal hiding behind that weed?

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Image Back Support is pretty great. It's the most expensive medal we've seen yet, at 5 MP, but it gives an unconditional +1 defence to the bug in the rearmost position, with no further tradeoff. That's huge.

This was slightly more situational before v1.1, when the "Swap Positions" command was added, since previously you didn't have full control over who was in the back (if Vi was in front, Leif would be in back, Kabbu in front would have Vi in the back, and Leif in front had Kabbu in the back), but the update gave us full freedom, and made this medal a lot more versatile as a result. You can do some clever things with this if you're willing to fiddle with positioning on the fly; if nothing else, the obvious thing you can do is put Kabbu in the rear when you want him to use Taunt.

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Needless to say, that's going straight on. I actually have more medals than I have MP now!

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I took off all the poison-related medals for now, since there aren't any poisonous enemies in this area. We could still get some benefit out of Poison Defender if we equipped Weak Stomach too, but the benefit's pretty marginal and I won't miss it right now.

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With the crank (and some good timing), we can get back onto the green elevator.

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Let's see what's up here.

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There's another crank...

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But this Venus' Bud pops out when we try to approach it.

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And it looks hostile!

Image 29 - Team, This One's Stronger! (Miniboss)

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It's a battle with two Venus' Buds. These are exactly the same as the one we (might have) fought alongside Aria, but they're a lot less scary when she's not around.

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Freezing one of them with Leif basically trivialises the entire fight. We can take out the other in two turns, just in time for the first to thaw and be low enough on HP to go down in one turn as well.

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That's that.

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Turning the crank up here rotates this large plank, so we can have it go vertical.

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Once again, we need to lower the green platforms so we can ride one up.

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Up here is a Numbnail...

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It's simple to take care of.

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And, at long last, the other half of the big crank.

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I hope you weren't attached to the halves, because as soon as we've collected both of them, they will automatically combine and become the Big Crank.

We know where this needs to go.

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On the way back, though, I return the bridge to horizontal and come over here, there's one last platform we haven't explored yet.

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There are just some weeds up here.

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And one of them has a Burly Berry in it. Not bad; these are always nice to have, although I'm not entirely sure it's worth the hassle of moving all the platforms again (I think you're intended to grab this before fighting the Venus' Buds and turning the crank, that would probably be slightly more efficient).

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Image Hmm... Something's odd. Let's make sure we're ready.

When we return to the hub area, this conversation triggers automatically. This is very obviously warning us that something will happen when we insert the crank, and encouraging us to use the save crystal.

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Who am I to refuse?

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Let's put the crank in place.

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What's this? Who said that?

Image 66 - Mothiva's Grand Stand!

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Zasp and Mothiva walk in from behind us.

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Image Excuse me!?
Image It's Mothiva! From the festival concert! Wow!
Image It's an honor to meet such a famous individual!
Image Hmph. That's better.
Image And she came with her personal stalker.

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Image I couldn't resist sneaking in! Seeing you work has been so inspiring!
Image Heheh. Thanks!

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Image WHAT!? No way!? We put in all the effort!
Image Aw, come on? I'll even mention you in my next show! You'll get so much exposure!
Image Hmph. Think of all the exposure we'll get turning in the artifact.

(This is rather pointed, isn't it, especially from an indie game. The devs knew what they were doing.)

Image I wouldn't recommend getting sassy.
Image Tch. What do you even need the artifact for!?
Image While I was busy bringing joy to Bugaria's citizens, you snuck into Snakemouth!
Image And now everyone's just talking about you!
Image That's not our problem! I ain't giving up that reward!
Image The summit may hold answers for us. So we're not going to budge.
Image I don't really care about fame, or riches. So I would let you pass, but...
Image Oi, Kabbu!
Image It matters to my friends. So my answer is no!

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Image Ohohoho! It's a bug eat bug world, on the way to stardom! We'll just put you to sleep for a bit!
Image This is stupid...
Image Have it your way! You're gonna get smacked down!

ImageImage Click me for video!

Image 29 - Team, This One's Stronger! (Miniboss)

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Looks like there's no talking this out. We're going to be fighting Zasp and Mothiva. This is a pretty interesting fight.

Let's do some spying.

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Image As much as it pains me, I won't let you get in my way!

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Image We should probably knock her out first, even if Zasp gets mad. Let's wrap this up.

Despite what Leif says here, there are advantages and disadvantages to taking them out in either order, and I'm not convinced his advice is the best.

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Easy come, easy go. I decided to have Vi use the Burly Berry we just found on Kabbu.

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First up, Zasp uses this martial arts combo (and vindicates my use of the Burly Berry by focusing on Kabbu). This can do anywhere from one to three hits, and with the way he teleports around, each hit can be against any member of our party.

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Mothiva can use Turn Relay? Yes, yes she can.

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Zasp also has a taunt move, with a very similar animation to Kabbu's. It works a bit differently, as we'll see shortly.

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And immediately after taunting, he goes into the combo again, though this time it's only one hit against Leif. I'm not sure if the taunt is just free or not; he seems to do fewer hits of the combo on a turn after he taunts, but that could just be coincidence.

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Now that it's Kabbu's turn, we can see the effect of the taunt! It prevents him from using anything other than the basic Attack and Strategies menus, every other flower is greyed out.

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Let's have Leif freeze Mothiva?

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Maybe that wasn't the best idea.

Whenever Zasp sees you hit Mothiva, he immediately has this angry reaction and gets a charge-up. It's very similar to the effect of the Image Favorite One medal, except this is a counterattack, and therefore can trigger multiple times in a turn. Let's... let's not do that again. (Although do note, I did say "if Zasp sees": if you freeze him or put him to sleep, you can hit her freely while he's incapacitated.)

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I wanted to save up Vi's charge, so I had her relay to Leif instead.

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And Kabbu has little choice but to attack.

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Ouch! This is Zasp's other main attack, the needle throw. He can throw 2-3 needles, distributed randomly among our party. They do a base damage of 3, but when he starts getting attack boosts, this can get scary fast.

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Leif is looking a bit worse for wear. Let's get him into the back.

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Also, with two charge-ups, let's do a Hurricane Toss!

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Kabbu just attacks.

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And Leif attempts to freeze Zasp, but it doesn't take (he's got 70% resistance so this was basically a toss-up). This was a bit of a greedy play, it would have been safer to heal Leif, but it ended up working out.

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Zasp uses a Spicy Berry on himself.

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That would be pretty scary, but thankfully we've gotten him low enough on HP that we can take him down this turn.

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Also, I get around to healing Leif.

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Thanks to the TP restoration on the Honeyed Leaf, Kabbu can do a Heavy Strike.

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And Leif finishes Zasp off.

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Mothiva does a new attack this turn. This giant... exploding music note... attacks our entire party for 3 damage; luckily I managed to Super Block it.

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Let's just get some normal attacks in.

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Apparently, the power of scolding is enough to bring Zasp back into the fight. (I was actually pretty surprised not to see this on the previous turn, Mothiva is very likely to do this.)

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It only brings him back on 5 HP, though, so we can just knock him right back down again.

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With him having a point of defence, the easiest way to do this is to have one of the others relay to Kabbu.

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This way, Vi can get some chip damage in on Mothiva too.

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This is probably the scariest thing Mothiva can do (keep in mind the numbers there are with Back Support active!). If you don't block the trip-kick, she'll do three stomps, each of which hits for 2. This is very often lethal; it is not a good idea to underestimate her.

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But she had 3 HP left, and we survived that turn, so it's over. (I'm actually surprised she didn't use the revival move again; a lot of the time I see this fight devolve into a sort of loop at the end, because she's very prone to using that. Poor Zasp.)

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This fight gives us enough EXP to reach Rank 9.

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I will have more MP, thanks.

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And as a nice bonus, we get this. We're not stuck with a 10-item capacity for the entire game! 13 really does feel a lot more comfortable.

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Image How DARE you sully my fluff, you talentless, disgusting peasants!?
Image That's what you get for trying to hijack our mission!
Image Mothiva, you are nowhere near as kind as I hoped you would be.
Image Mhm. And Zasp? You lost the little respect we had for you.
Image Silence! I won't forget this... You haven't seen what an amazing performance I can give!
Image Mothiva, we should retreat for now.
Image I know that. And not because you told me!
Image We'll meet again, Team Snakemouth.

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Zasp apparently has the ninja smoke bomb ability.

Image The things some would do for fame...
Image I mean, I almost can't blame her. Getting an artifact really bumps you up in the ranks!
Image Not like I was gonna let them take it from us, though!
Image Well, despite that unexpected detour, we should be able to proceed now.
Image We sense some strong magic up there. Let's make sure we're prepared.

Looks like we've secured ourselves some rivals, for better or worse.

The game really seems to like hinting that the player should save in this area. It also might not be a bad idea to restock on items, if that fight took a lot of them (this run was fairly clean, but it can go badly if you mess up, or if you don't quite figure out their gimmicks).

They have a couple of other moves we didn't see during that fight:

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Mothiva has a second musical attack, which throws a barrage of 2-3 notes for 2 damage each. Unlike Zasp's multi-hit attacks, this is always focused on a single character.

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Mothiva can do this song, which gives Zasp Defence Up. She doesn't ever boost herself, only him.

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And if you take down Mothiva first instead, Zasp gives himself a permanent Attack Up.

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Yes, that's an infinity symbol on the arrow. I've seen this freak out a lot of first-time players, who don't necessarily realise the number indicates duration and interpret this as "infinite attack". It's not quite that scary, but still something you probably don't want to have happen, this will make his combos hurt. It's even more terrifying if you've hit Mothiva multiple times that turn, in which case he could have charge-ups on top of it.

I really like this fight. The game's definitely starting to take the gloves off a bit here, giving us a few different gimmicks that interact in interesting ways (and give you multiple ways to approach the fight), and they also serve a narrative purpose on top of that. "You thought you should go after the squishy mage/healer? Gotcha!" is a trick a lot of RPGs have pulled, but it's a classic for a reason, and I think it works well here. On top of this, they've been given a lot of similar capabilities to Team Snakemouth (Turn Relay, charge-ups, items) so it really does feel like we're fighting another exploration team.

Also, I'm pretty sure these two were responsible for my first Game Over, on my first playthrough.

Anyway, this seems like a natural stopping point for today. Next time, we'll use the crank we spent so long assembling and climb even higher.

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16: The Sun is Also a Flower

Image 30 - The Sacred Hills

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When we left off last time, we'd just installed this crank, but were ambushed by Team Mothiva before we could use it. That's no longer a problem.

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Things look quite different up here!

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Leif has a reaction immediately.

Image Are you alright!? It's been a while since one of those episodes...
Image We're probably getting close to the artifact, then?
Image Ngh... Yes... So much magic...
Image Perhaps you should stay here, Leif. Until we clear a path.
Image N-No. We're fine now. We won't retreat when we're so close.
Image Look, stop acting tough! It'll be bad if you trip and stuff!
Image Thank you, Vi. But we're fine. Let's go.
Image If you feel weak at any point, we'll stop. Let's go, team!

This could be a problem.

Image I hope Leif is feeling okay...
Image Yeah. Vi, we must keep watch over him.
Image (...Thanks.)

The area banter just reinforces this. Let's take a look around.

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To the north, there seems to be a path between these two Venus statues, but it's blocked off by what looks like a fence made of brambles.

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That is... certainly a way to word that. Are we sure this is something we want to be doing? Nevertheless, this sign is our hint for how to progress.

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On the west side of this area, there's another Venus statue, and what looks like a flytrap mouth. The sign with an image of the sun on it suggests what we should do.

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Give it the Bug Ranger plushie, of course!

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Kabbu freaks out while the flytrap munches on it, then a Venus' Bud pops out of the ground.

Image This texture... This must be that famous Green Ranger plush!
Image Oh, what a great offering!
Image Vi, Leif, how dare you!
Image Give it back!
Image Taking back an offering!? You ingrates!

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Ooh, new leaf colour!

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Attempting to give the wrong item means we have to fight a Venus' Bud. These aren't very intimidating by themselves, though; it isn't really any more than an annoyance. They've also stopped giving EXP.

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After beating it, the flytrap coughs up the plushie.

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This reaction is unique to the Bug Ranger Plushie. Trying to offer other wrong items (including the Moon Offering) triggers a similar scene, but without any dialogue, the bud just pops out and a fight starts.

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What we need to do, of course, is use the Sun Offering.

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This time, no bud appears, the flytrap stays closed, and a success noise plays.

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Half of the barrier lowers. We still can't progress in that direction, though, the other half of the barrier must correspond to the Moon Offering.

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We're going to have to head east. There's clearly something on top of that ledge, but we can't get up there from here: the brown platform is stuck in a raised position, and there's a bramble fence at the top anyway.

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Image Leif, you're speaking weird again...
Image S-Sorry. It's been happening randomly...
Image This area's magic is too potent... Let's try to finish the mission quickly.

Leif reacts to the magic again in the area banter.

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There are still a few enemies about.

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The leaves are purple now? I'm not sure why, but there are a lot of different colours for the battle transitions up here.

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This isn't particularly intimidating. Especially since, in full knowledge there's a yellow save crystal in the previous screen, I don't feel any need to conserve TP; I can just have Leif freeze the bud so it doesn't interfere while we deal with the Acornling.

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Let's get a better look at the area. There's a hole on this platform where a crank needs to go, so we're still not done looking for those. There's also a big bridge leading further east.

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Those flytraps in the 'background' are too far to reach from the bridge in this position, we're going to need to rotate it and presumably that's what the crank will let us do.

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On the platform, there's a Chomper waiting.

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It has a Venus' Bud with it. Again, though, these fights aren't interesting enough to show.

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What do we do here? There's nothing immediately apparent to lower the green elevator.

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But there's a path to the south behind those cuttable weeds!

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There's the crank! This can be a bit tricky, though: we have to get the Beemerang to turn it, without getting chomped by the flytraps we're standing on.

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But you have enough time when you factor in that jumping resets the flytrap's state. We can see the platform going down.

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Now we just head back and get onto the platform before releasing the Beemerang.

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The crank we need was hiding behind some weeds up here.

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So let's go install it.

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This crank both lowers the green platform, and makes the bridge rotate. This means we can't rotate the bridge into place and stop it: we're going to need to keep it spinning, and ride the bridge while it's moving.

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Get to the green platform, then release the Beemerang and ascend.

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Easy enough.

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There's nothing up here except a path back to the first screen, but that's what we were looking for.

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Up here is the flytrap looking for the Moon Offering, as well as a wooden lever.

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Hitting the lever makes this barrier lower, and also starts the elevator moving.

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Let's drop off the Moon Offering.

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Just like before, the flytrap eats it.

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And the second layer of brambles is now gone, clearing the path forward.

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This elevator rises and falls automatically, so we can use it as a shortcut down, or back up if we need to do that for some reason.

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I won't turn down free healing before moving forward.

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Also, I'm removing Favorite One here, despite having nothing else to use that MP on. I could defend this decision in strategic terms, but the actual reason I'm doing this is that having it equipped makes it hard to show off the upcoming boss properly.

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Let's go!

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The artifact certainly isn't in plain sight, the way it was in Snakemouth.

Image Ngh... The magic... is very strong here...
Image So, the artifact is close isn't it?
Image It should be. Let's find it... And leave as soon as we can.

Just like last time, there's a banter here, despite the fact the game obviously just wants us to go forward and start the cutscene.

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Image You sure? I mean, it's just flowers all around us.
Image Flowers... That's it! One of these flowers must be the artifact!
Image Uh, probably not.
Image Only one way to find out! Start cutting, Kabbu!
Image W-What!

(I can't help wondering if this is poking fun at the way the gameplay encourages you to cut down every plant you can the rest of the time.)

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Image 31 - Venus, Goddess of Bountiful Harvest

Well, if there was any doubt about Venus existing before, there certainly isn't now.

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Image Hee hee hee! Indeed. The one and only.
Image I've been keeping my ear on you, with my precious buds...
Image I was really, really hoping all the bridges and monsters would stop you.
Image So stubborn! And now, you'd even trample upon my garden!? My precious garden!?
Image I-It was just a joke, okay? We just need the artifact!

(This is not the way, Vi.)

Image To line your pockets, hmph! You cared more for an artifact than your... blue friend there.
Image Washed up from a river, yet you worried more about a material thing than your own companion!
Image W-What? How did you...
Image My roots travel all across the soil. Sometimes, I catch some gossip.
Image I-Incredible! This is truly the feat of a higher being!

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Image You're so chivalrous and kind. So why won't you share your burdens with your friends?
Image Huh?
Image Venus, please! Say no more...
Image What's your deal!? Is nagging people a Goddess' job?
Image You know everything, then? What bothers Vi, Kabbu, and us.
Image Well, not everything. But I certainly know more than you lot.

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Image ...You, you're all way different than your average bug.
Image Greed, sadness, purpose... Such diverse motives within your team!
Image ...
Image Please, tell us!
Image Vi! Kabbu! Leif! The artifact, and all the questions you want to ask...
Image If you get through my special trial, they are yours!
Image Bring it on. We will have our answers.
Image Heheh! Well said! It's artifact time!
Image Venus, despite everything, I will face your trial with honor!

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Venus gestures, and the big sunflower disappears into the ground...

Image 13 - It's Getting Scary!

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... and reemerges as a huge monster.

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Image W-What in the shining crown of the Queen is that!?
Image T-That's way bigger than the spider!
Image ...Get ready, you two. We're getting what we came for.
Image Fight!
Image We can do it!

Image 32 - Frenzied Sunflower Dance (One of my favourites!)

Image Click me for video!

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It's an RPG, how many of you were betting we'd fight a god at some point? Let's see what we're dealing with, anyway.

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Image But it kinda smells like pollen. It's really distracting... Gah! Leif, just hit it already!

I'll admit I'm tickled by the idea that a monstrous flower is a problem because it messes with Vi's instincts.

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Venus' Guardian has 51 HP and 1 Defence, which is significantly more durability than the previous bosses (not counting the Devourer, which we fought early). This is certainly a step up from the Spider, and the minibosses we've been fighting.

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Let's take things slowly for now and just do some normal attacks.

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Venus likes to interject a lot in this fight, too.

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For its first attack, the Guardian does this arm chop and hits Kabbu for 5 damage. I don't know why, but I'm really not good at judging the block timing on this. (Also, if you're paying attention, you'll notice Venus in the background doing the same gestures, she's clearly not a passive participant here.)

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After it attacks, Venus grants it an Attack Up buff. This isn't guaranteed to happen: she has a 35% chance to give it either Attack Up or Defence Up at the end of each turn, but won't give it a second buff if it has one already. This chance also increases later in the fight.

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That turn could certainly have gone better.

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I'm still just going to do normal attacks with Kabbu for now.

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While Leif goes for a Frigid Coffin, to hopefully mitigate the effects of that attack buff?

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And Vi uses Secret Stash to heal Kabbu. Obviously, I don't want to be breaking it out of the ice.

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No luck there! If you've been relying on Leif's freezing to coast through fights, this one might be something of a wake-up call. If the Guardian is frozen, Venus will just break it out at the start of the turn, and this doesn't cost it any actions. (This means there's no reason not to break it out for extra damage if you happen to freeze it.)

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We get to see a new attack this turn! The Guardian shakes and launches a bunch of Hard Seeds at us. This can launch 2-3 seeds, distributed randomly over the party; the base damage is 3, but we're seeing it here with +1 attack.

This attack also has a reasonably high chance (I don't know the exact numbers) of giving Team Snakemouth a free Hard Seed if they have room in their inventory. You can see that happen here, Vi holds it up briefly after the attack has ended.

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We're making progress, if slowly.

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Just another round of basic attacks for now, though I had Vi relay to Kabbu instead for the third one (which gets an extra point through its defence).

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Image But have you ever seen something like this?

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Well, that's different. This indicates we've entered the second phase of the fight, which triggers when it has 65% or fewer HP remaining.

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It also attacks immediately after rising into the air. I'm pretty sure this Hard Seed attack has the same properties as the one from before, just with a different animation (and, again, we get a seed from it).

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The Guardian is flying now; hopefully Vi can bring it down?

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Not quite. An NPC gave us a hint a while back that some enemies require multiple hits to knock down, and Venus' Guardian is the first of them. That new symbol means it's off-balance, and a second hit will bring it down.

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So Kabbu relays to Vi and she does the job.

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And now it's back on the ground! Before we move on, let's talk about something weird: Vi was doing more damage than she should have, wasn't she? While Venus' Guardian is flying, it has a unique weakness: it takes an extra point of damage from all attacks.

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Vi's looking low on HP, and I wouldn't mind a bit of TP recovery, so we may as well use one of Chekhov's Drowsy Cakes.

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At the end of the animation there, you can see a puff of smoke, indicating the sleep effect did try to take effect. But Vi has a Sleep Resistance medal on, making her immune and allowing her to benefit from the healing without any penalty.

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At the beginning of its turn, the Guardian sprouts wings again. It always does during this phase.

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Good thing I healed Vi! All three Hard Seeds it fired went at her. (And I didn't even get the freebie this time.)

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Time to stop messing around. Here's a Hurricane Toss. This is where you can really notice the effect of the Guardian's weakness: the +1 damage is applied after every other calculation, so the follow-up hits of Vi's Beemerang moves end up doing 2 at minimum. You can really chew through its HP quickly if you know about this.

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Kabbu is still just attacking.

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And Vi's low on HP and in front, so Leif relays to her and she heals herself.

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Image But I can fight dirty too! You better get ready!

Looks like we triggered the next phase! This happens when it's below 37.5% HP.

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Venus summons a bud behind the Guardian.

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Then she gives it a Defence Up buff. (This one isn't random, it's part of the transition into this phase. Though the random ones are also more likely now: the chance of triggering those increases to 60% when the Guardian is at 33% HP or lower.)

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And the bud uses its healing breath on the Guardian. (I realised here that the buds' healing breath must not be a fixed number, it's clearly doing 10% of max HP and rounding up.)

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It doesn't attack, though, so while that turn definitely prolongs the fight, it can also be a bit of a breather.

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The first thing to do here is have Leif freeze the bud with Frigid Coffin. We don't want it healing the Guardian again, and Venus won't break it out the way she does the big one.

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Kabbu keeps the attacks coming. (Though these damage numbers are weird, and I can't fully explain them. I think there's a bug causing the Defence Up boost to be ignored here, and since it's happening on Kabbu's attacks it's probably connected to the 'ignore 1 defence' issue somehow, but I'm not completely sure what's happening.)

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At least I was able to partially block the chop this time.

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Almost there.

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Rotating Leif in front, he can do enough damage to finish off the bud with a normal attack (+1 for ice weakness, +1 for the enemy being frozen).

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Vi eats another Drowsy Cake.

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Which restored enough TP that Kabbu could switch to Heavy Strike.

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We finally see another of the Guardian's attacks: it can do this arm sweep to hit the entire party at once. I'm usually better at blocking this; you can see here I jumped the gun a bit, I think I misread this as the chop which comes out a bit faster.

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It has 12 HP left; we should be able to finish things this turn, with a little luck.

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First off, a Frigid Coffin from Leif. And the freeze is successful, which we needed. (This was likely but not guaranteed: at 50% base freeze resistance, and having been frozen once before, the Guardian had 68% resistance. Incorporating the -30% from Frigid Coffin, the chance of a successful freeze was 62%.)

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Kabbu does a Heavy Strike.

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Then Vi can relay to Leif for the final 2 damage.

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I don't think Venus liked that.

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And that's it for Venus' Guardian! It's a pretty straightforward boss, though the phase changes keep it interesting throughout. I think the Hard Seeds are given out to help make sure you can knock it down even if you don't remember you can use Turn Relay or Vi's multi-hit attacks. (Also, I have to admit I don't know why they did the "extra damage" weakness instead of having its defence drop by 1 while flying. It's not quite identical, but using defence would have made it more consistent with the rest of the game.)

It has one other attack we didn't see:

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While flying, in addition to launching the barrage of Hard Seeds, it can also launch a Spicy Bomb which hits the entire party for 4 base damage. (Unlike the actual Spicy Bomb item, this doesn't ignore defence.)

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Image It is our honor to hear so, Venus.
Image Now, if you'd answer us...
Image And hand over the artifact!

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Image Hm? Were your roots not all across Bugaria?
Image Well, my buds don't really have eyes. I can only sense things with them, you see?
Image So you didn't see what happened to us in Snakemouth Den?
Image Tell me more, you curious thing.
Image Back when Elizant the First ruled, our team was on a scouting mission to Snakemouth...
Image We fell under, and a spider trapped us. We went asleep and woke up. When Vi and Kabbu saved us. So many moons later...
Image That was quite a while back. Let me try and remember.
Image ......
Image Yes, a team of three. One of them falls, the other two flee with their lives.
Image They lived!
Image Thank goodness!
Image The remaining one lingers, yet the presence vanishes.
Image What, it just vanishes?

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Image Even now, I cannot sense Leif's presence. Although I see you here. I'm sorry, but that's all I can tell you.
Image Venus, thank you. Knowing our team was safe brought us much peace.
Image Hee he he! Ain't a Goddess for nothing!
Image We are ever closer to the truth, Leif.
Image Yup! Awesome!
Image No questions from you, Kabbu?
Image Thank you, Venus. But don't worry. I am managing quite well...
Image If anyone's fine on the team, it's Kabbu!
Image Hm?
Image I'll respect your wishes on this.
Image Anyways, that just leaves...

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Image But anyways, here you go-

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Image 16 - Lost Treasure

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Image After a festival of joy, friendship and bonding, the path to the sacred hills opened for them. Filled with determination, they gathered the pieces to reach its highest point and fought off Zasp and Mothiva along the way. Now that they've earned the Goddess' approval and artifact, could the way to the Everlasting Sapling finally be within reach...!?

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Image We should go report back, then.
Image That tablet is important to find the Everlasting Sapling that the Queen's searching for.
Image I do not know how it works, but it should hold clues on how to locate it.
Image Thank you, Venus. How can we ever repay you?
Image Hmm... Just promise to visit me sometime, alright? Bring Aria if you can! Hee he he!
Image Oh, and don't tell others of me, of course... Stay safe, and remember, I'm always watching over you.

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And there we have it, the end of Chapter 2. In the end, Venus was a lot less sinister than might have been expected, she's just a benevolent goddess with a capricious sense of humour. We're definitely going to need to think about the implications of what she's told us.

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Just like last time, because we're playing on Hard Mode, we get two achievements for finishing the chapter.

Next time, we'll get our mission briefing for Chapter 3.

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Quick update for everyone reading: the next update is probably going to be a bit delayed. I've had to do a bit of travelling to get my first COVID vaccine, so between the disruptions to my schedule and (for now) sore arm I'm not expecting to get any recording done for the next couple of days.

On the other hand... look at this! Limited Run Games are now offering physical editions of Bug Fables for both Nintendo Switch and PS4, as well as a collector's edition with all sorts of goodies. Spy Cards! I wonder if it will include enough to play the game with. I wasn't even necessarily planning to play this on console and I'm not usually tempted by this sort of thing, but I'm almost certainly going to end up buying this.

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17: More Meetings, More Missions (Part 1)

Last time, we met a Goddess, passed her trial, and received a lot of cryptic answers along with the artifact we were after. We certainly have a lot to think about. But enough about that, let's get started.

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First things first, on booting the game, the title screen has updated again! Aria's joined Team Snakemouth hanging out in the plaza.

Image 28 - Harvest Festival

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We start off where we left things, at the summit. The music has changed, though: from now on, the Golden Festival theme plays here.

Image Hey, Leif? You're feeling okay?
Image Did her words get to you? We're not angry at you or anything.
Image Ugh. You're fine alright.
Image The magic is still quite potent, but we can manage.
Image Heheh. Let's not spend too long here, then, for Leif's sake.

There's a new banter here now.

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Venus also encourages us to come back.

Image Goddess Venus is so nice for someone of her status!
Image No kidding... Elizant II could learn a bit from her.
Image Maybe we should bring the Queen to visit!
Image That will probably be difficult, I imagine.
Image And we're not willing to put in the extra effort to make it happen.
Image Aww...

And there's a new banter if we check near Venus. This is an interesting thought; I'm honestly not sure why Leif is so opposed to this. (Also, it's interesting that, despite acknowledging her as a goddess, Team Snakemouth seem to be putting her in the same category as queens.)

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On the way out, we notice the save crystals have all turned blue. No more free healing for us around here!

Image Leif, you don't feel weird anymore?
Image It's only weird when we feel new magic. Then it just kinda goes away.
Image Phew. It'd be bad if you couldn't be near the artifacts at all!

I had been starting to wonder about this, so I'm glad they actually address it. It seems Leif acclimatises after the inital reaction to strong magic.

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Also, before I forget, let's get Favorite One back on.

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Time to head down, there's nothing else to see here for now.

Image 26 - Golden Lands

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When we get back to the Settlement, someone hails Team Snakemouth from off-screen.

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It's quickly revealed to be Levi and Celia.

Image We couldn't even watch the last ceremony... but we heard you made it into the hills!
Image I assume you've found the artifact?
Image That's right!

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Image I'm so jealous! That's two important artifacts you snagged from everyone else!
Image Great job! We should head back to the Ant Kingdom at once! The Queen will be very pleased.
Image Heheh! We're doing great!
Image Come now, Vi, let's go to the Ant Kingdom.
Image We will go on ahead to notify the Queen and prepare an audience.
Image If you don't want to walk all the way back, you should go through the Ant Tunnels.
Image There should be one just outside the settlement.
Image Don't leave the Queen waiting!

I suppose they want to make absolutely sure that you know about the tunnels. There's not a whole lot to see or do here now, we'll want to head that way shortly.

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Image You must've done very well to receive her approval.

Aria's still here and has new dialogue; I guess she has a direct line of communication with Venus. Good to know that any backtracking we might want to do won't be impeded by the festival being through.

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Checking in with Samira, you can see the real reward for doing the Devourer early: "Reckless for Glory" appears as early as possible in the song order.

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The inn is actually open for us to stay now, if we want to. May as well, I guess, since we're injured from the boss fight and the chapter end didn't heal us.

Image Great! That's 9 berries accounted for! I hope you have a good night!

Image 20 - Night at the Inn

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Image Did you sleep well? I hope you consider returning in the future!

This inn's a bit of a rip-off compared to the one in the Ant Kingdom: we don't get any free breakfast here!

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If we go down to the bar, we can meet someone new. This person wasn't here before.

Image I heard Mothiva was here... but it seems I missed her!
Image I wonder where her next show will be.

Somehow, I suspect he's better off not knowing. The banter is a bit more interesting:

Image A stag beetle! How nostalgic...
Image There aren't many of these in Bugaria.
Image My homeland's bustling with them! And many other beetles.
Image Like a Kabbu kingdom, huh.

We don't know a whole lot about Kabbu's homeland, so it's nice to get the occasional hint.

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On our way back to the mines, there's another new face. This... Numbnail cosplayer?... has set up shop where the caravan used to be.

Image H-He's wearing Numbnails!
Image Not doing himself any favors, if he wants to look approachable.
Image L-Let's not be quick to judge! I'm sure he's an upstanding merchant!

Let's see what he's about, I guess.

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Image Kukuku... Try buying my Sleep Bomb! Press (A) near it!
Image Kukuku... Just mixing a Spicy Bomb with a Numbnail Dart has such a great result!

Okay then. Guess it's nice to have a hint about how to make that sort of thing, and mentioning the Spicy Bomb could be a hint to players who haven't discovered it yet that they might want to experiment more.

This shop's inventory is different from what the caravan had to offer in this location. Let's check it out:

Image Numbnail Dart (8 berries)
Image Sleep Bomb (30 berries)
Image Drowsy Cake (10 berries)

None of these are new, but it's convenient to have a source of Numbnail Darts if we need them for cooking, and it's good to know that the cheap Drowsy Cakes are still available if we want them. 30 berries for a Sleep Bomb is a lot, and it's more than it'd cost to make ourselves (23 berries for ingredients), but that's the price of convenience.

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There's nothing else new to see, so let's get moving. I'm not sure if I've shown this animation before, so here it is.

Image 18 - In the Court of the Ant Queen

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The mines are the same as the last time we saw them, no need to linger.

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Looks like some people we know are hanging out in the palace lobby, though.

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Image Whatever it was, it wasn't me!

Gen and Eri are over here.

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And Kina's back here.

If we check for a banter about either of them, all we get is this:

Image We should head to the audience.

All right then.

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Image Don't leave her waiting if you know what's best for you.

The guard at the door seems pretty impatient.

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Image Ah, you're here.
Image Come now, the Queen's waiting for us.

Levi and Celia both join in the chorus. Were we the last ones to get here?

If we check the banter for either of them, we get this:

Image We should talk to the Queen.

If it looks like a railroad, and it sounds like a railroad... hmm, that doesn't sound nearly as good as the duck version.

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When we approach the throne, we can see Neolith is here, and he starts the discussion. Everyone else files in behind us.

Image (It's really crowded... those questions will have to wait.)

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Image Yup! We're ready for that reward!
Image Wonderful! This timing is simply impeccable.
Image I must congratulate you, for bringing this artifact to my care.
Image This must be a sign of even more good things to come. For the Ant Kingdom, and Bugaria.
Image It was our honor, Your Highness!
Image Zaryant, please collect the artifact and hand them their rewards.
Image As you command, my Queen.

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Vi hands over the Ancient Tablet.

Image You have earned this, Team Snakemouth.

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We're still getting paid for the missions.

Image Heheh. Thanks again! The Vi Bank keeps filling!

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Image Oh! M-may I take a look, as we discussed?
Image Yes. Make haste, Zaryant.
Image Handle it with care, Professor.
Image O-Of course!

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Image This tablet must contain information on how to find the Everlasting Sapling!

(Venus already told us that)

Image What? But that's just a bunch of blue lines!
Image Oho, Vi! That's where that mask you found in Snakemouth comes in!
Image I-It really was a mask!? I thought it was just a weird rock...
Image Heheh, so I was right!
Image Don't boast, Kabbu.

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(It's really hard to tell who's saying what in this scene, with how many characters are here. I think the left bubble is Kina's?)

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Image Wonderful... Very, very wonderful...!
Image We are making progress in finding the sapling. Finally.
Image What do you need the Everlasting Sapling for?
Image ...That is not for you to know.
Image Tch...
Image Just know that with it my mother's dream will come true at last.
Image (Elizant's dream?)

(Honestly, I'm making an educated guess that Leif is the one speaking the three lines here; the speech bubble comes from off-screen so it's hard to be sure.)

Image Professor. How long will it take you to decipher this tablet?
Image Oh, um... it will be some time. Even with the mask, the runes are still in Roach Script. S-Sorry.
Image I see. Fret not, that leaves us with time to retrieve the other artifact.
Image There's another one?
Image Mhm. My research indicates there are three artifacts.
Image With the missing key, we can "unlock" the Everlasting Sapling!
Image Then... we're almost at the finish line!

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Image R-Really?
Image Long ago, before knowing of its real nature, they used it when building the Honey Factory's Core.
Image But I'm not sure if they will give it to us, because taking it out will shut down the whole thing...
Image It'll shut down the factory? B-But...
Image Do not worry, both of you.
Image We have sent our envoys to the Bee Kingdom ever since you told us about the key.
Image Finally, they have agreed to let us take it, in exchange for materials to build a replacement.
Image That is wonderful!
Image Oh, joy! Then it won't cause them any trouble!
Image So the job's trading these materials for the artifact?
Image Precisely. That is your next mission.

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Image Geez. Team Snakemouth is on a roll, aren't they?
Image It's all fair game, Celia. We have our own tasks to excel at.
Image With that, you are all dismissed.
Image Except Team Snakemouth and Team Celia. I wish to have a word with you.

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Image The professor has mentioned you all helped him when he was attacked. For that, you have my gratitude.
Image ...

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Image It was worrying, though. They seem to know about the artifacts somehow...
Image Then it is as I feared. We are running out of time.
Image You must all remain on guard, and avoid the northern border with the Wasp Kingdom at all costs.
Image As you wish, Your Highness.
Image To reach the Bee Kingdom, you must travel southeast from the Association, and take the first north exit.
Image With my permission, explorers may now cross the passage to the Lost Sands.
Image Be wary, however. The number of bandits in the Lost Sands has been increasing lately.
Image Head straight to Defiant Root as soon as possible, to enter the Bee Hive.
Image ...

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Image Dismissed!

Image 33 - Chapter 3: Factory Inspection

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And now we get the official start of Chapter 3! This sounds like a straightforward diplomatic mission; I wonder how that will end up going wrong.

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Image If you have time, perhaps you could check out the Quest Board in the Plaza...?
Image Try not to clear the mission too quickly, so we may catch up!
Image No promises.

With that, Celia and Levi leave, and the cutscene finally ends. That was a lot of talking! (We're not done with talking yet, though.) We were certainly going to check out the quest board regardless, but this is hinting about a specific quest that will end up involving them too.

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Image I hope it will be smooth sailing for you! Having Vi on your team must be a big help.
Image Uh. Yeah. Definitely.

Neolith is still here, and we can talk to him although that's all he has to say. There's also a banter:

Image I'm so proud of Neo! The Queen's own trusted researcher!

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I'm still not convinced this is platonic.

Neither Zaryant nor the Queen have new dialogue, but there's a new banter:

Image ...Elizant II...
Image You probably shouldn't keep staring.
Image Leif, she may not be perfect, but she's trying.
Image Our respect is something she must earn, as did the late Queen.
Image Okay, okay. But stop staring, before they jail us!
Image (It's that fear which separates them...)

Leif's still a bit uneasy about the Queen.

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Image Do it on the double. Don't keep Her Highness waiting.

The door guard is still impatient. We're definitely going to disappoint her, I think.

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When we leave the throne room, Team Snakemouth stop for a chat in the lobby again. This is getting to be a habit.

Image Uh huh...
Image Vi, are you okay? I know you're not on the best terms, but-

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Image Ah...
Image Well, if you don't want to talk about it... There's something we want to discuss.
Image What's up?
Image Venus mentioned that our... our team got away from Snakemouth's depths.

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Image Maybe their children are around. Do you follow?
Image Oh. Oh! That's right! Your team can be around in spirit!
Image Leif, you'd like to go look for them?
Image We're in the middle of a mission, so there's no rush. But if we ever find the time...
Image No problem! We'll just find them as we go along!
Image Indeed. We'll keep our eyes open.
Image ...Thank you. That's all. Let's get on with the mission.
Image Uh, right... Yeah. Let's go.
Image Oh dear...

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What's this?

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A new sidequest has automatically added itself to our quest log, with Leif as the quest giver. Trying to find the descendants of Leif's friends and family isn't just a flavour thing, it's an actual sidequest we can do. (Although, truthfully, it'll be a while before we can make much progress on this.)

Image 17 - Ant Kingdom

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Leaving the palace, Utter alerts us that the quest board has updated too.

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There are two new quests available, and as Levi and Celia were hinting, they want to cooperate with us on one of them. We'll get to that soon enough.

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The theatre's literally right here, so we may as well knock that one out now.

Image 22 - Fine Arts

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Is that Chubee on the stage looking for us? Yes, yes it is.

Image Woah, Chubee's an actress!?
Image It seems she holds many talents, aside from eating!
Image If she's as good at acting as she is at eating, this should be good.

Let's talk to her and see what she needs from us.

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Image Vi, you're going to participate?
Image Miss Chubee, you're the actress mentioned in the post?
Image A fierce eater, and also a talented performer...
Image It's nothing! You'll all do great! We just have to rehearse!
Image No audition?
Image M.M.'s a bit desperate...
Image We can start as soon as you are ready.
Image Let's do it!

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Oh dear.

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Image People are coming in, I believe in you!
Image Hopefully that won't be misplaced faith...
Image Let us do our best. This play carries a lot of people's efforts!
Image And we're actually getting paid. Let's do this!

The game actually gives us a break here; we have to talk to Chubee again to actually start the show proper.

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Image (No) Audience's getting impatient. Don't take too long!

That's what she says if we refuse. Anyway, let's do this?

Image 13 - It's Getting Scary!

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Image Travelers from all over the world wished to visit for its clear water and its beautiful ruler.
Image The princess would greet all who came with smiles and hospitality.
Image It was so, how an evil prince fell in love...

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The curtains open on Chubee and a ladybug actor.

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Image Oh, how I wished for thee to make this easy.
Image You have left me no choice!

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Image W-We will stop you!
Image Minions! Get rid of these pests. We have places to be.
Image H-Help me! Somebody save me!

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Exit stage left.

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(Vi's making it all up as she goes along)

Image You freakish beasts, you dare stand between us and the princess!?
Image You chose poorly. Prepare yourself!

Image 04 - FIGHT!

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There's actual combat in this play! Although this first battle is pretty simple, and not really worth showing. The neat thing here is the audience are still visible in the foreground, and they'll move around a bit while the battle goes on; this is likely a reference to the audience mechanics in Paper Mario: TTYD, though it's only a cosmetic thing here.

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Easy peasy.

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Image Curses! That villain escaped with the princess.
Image Whatever shall we do now? How will we face the people!?
Image We will get her back! After them!

Image 13 - It's Getting Scary!

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Image The journey was long, and the desert unforgiving...

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Image Water... Oh gods, guide us to water...
Image Do not complain! Our suffering is slim, compared to what the princess faces.

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Oh, Vi.

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Who are these guys?

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Image Out of our way, scoundrels. We have no time for thee.
Image Yeah! Or face my beemerang! I mean, blade!

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Image Your greed knows no end... Prepare yourself!

Image 04 - FIGHT!

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These guys are new! They're not exclusive to this play, but it serves as a preview of some of the enemies we'll be facing later in this chapter, and we may as well take the opportunity to get spy data on them.

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Image I'm gonna knock 'em out of the air and take everything he's stolen!

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Image Be ready, you rascal. My strength is far greater than you remember!

You might already be able to see these are a bit of a step up from what we've faced so far. These are definitely Chapter 3 enemies.

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Leif goes for Icefall in the hopes of freezing one or both, but it doesn't manage to get either. Still, it's decent enough damage. (You can feel free to spend TP freely in these battles, as Team Snakemouth get healed to full between scenes.)

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The dragonfly thief uses a diving attack on Kabbu, but I manage to block it. The glint in his eye means he'll attempt to steal an item from us, but blocking prevents that from happening. (We'll surely see the effects of this properly later.)

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And the cricket chucks a shuriken at Vi.

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Here we are at the start of the next turn. (I will note, because I don't think we saw it happen before, that apparently Favorite One still triggers even on a 0 damage hit.)

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Since he's now boosted, let's have Leif do another Icefall.

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Which leaves the Thief low enough for Vi and Kabbu to finish off.

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Leif blocks another shuriken.

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And that's more or less it. We can finish the cricket off this turn, by rotating Kabbu in front and then having one of the others relay to him once.

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These new enemies are worth a lot of EXP. Not bad!

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The fleeing bandits leave a Honey Drop behind.

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Image We are saved! Honey!
Image It's our lucky day!
Image Eat quickly, for there is no time to celebrate.
Image We must reach our liege with haste!

Image 13 - It's Getting Scary!

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Image And now, it was time to take back what they had lost...

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Image Even with all my riches, with the grandeur of my land...
Image You would still reject me!?

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Image Hey! Give the princess back!
Image You will pay for your crimes!
Image My knights! You've come to my aid!
Image Why... Why must fate work against me?

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Image 04 - FIGHT!

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Were you expecting anything different? Let's see what we're dealing with.

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Image We won't show mercy. We'll teach them a lesson they won't forget.

It's a bit awkward that the regular spy text is used here, honestly. That said, the "prince" isn't quite a normal Burglar: he has twice the standard HP and can do some things the regular enemy can't, bringing this closer to the level of a miniboss. While I wouldn't say this is as tough a fight as, say, Zasp and Mothiva, it isn't a joke either.

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Kabbu gets things started with a Heavy Strike.

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Then Vi relays to him for another hit.

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This is the special ability for this fight: he can blow a whistle and summon allies. This can be either a Thief or a Bandit, and both are annoying in their own way (we haven't seen everything either can do yet).

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The Bandit immediately gets a turn after being summoned, and throws a shuriken at Leif.

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The enemies have more total HP at the start of turn two than they did at the beginning of the fight. Lovely.

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Kabbu attacks the Bandit.

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Leif freezes the Burglar with Frigid Coffin.

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And Kabbu attacks again after a relay.

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More shuriken. At least this one hit Kabbu, so we'll get some charge-up boosts out of it.

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Let's leave the frozen Burglar alone, and take down the Bandit. Kabbu and Leif attack normally, then Vi relays to Kabbu for the finishing blow to preserve her charge.

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Seems like as good a time as any to move Vi in front and go for a Hurricane Toss.

The others just attack for now.

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This is not what I wanted to see. Looks like this fight's going to go on for a while yet.

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We do get to see a new attack from the Bandit, though. Like the Thief, the glint in his eye indicates this attack can steal items from us (though, again, blocking prevents that).

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Kabbu attacks the Bandit because he's forced to.

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While I have Leif and Vi stay on the Burglar. Focusing on the adds seems fruitless here when he just keeps summoning more.

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They both attack Kabbu this turn, and we see a new attack from the Burglar: he can throw rocks, looking similar to Kabbu's Pebble Toss though more damaging.

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At least hitting Kabbu gave us boosts this turn. That means we'll be able to finish the Burglar off.

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Leif switches into the front and attacks.

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Then Vi gets a hit in.

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And Kabbu relays to Leif for the final point of damage.

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We still have to deal with the final Bandit, but that's easy enough.

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Wow, look at that EXP haul! You can really rack up a lot of it in this fight if he keeps calling more help.

(He does have one other attack we didn't get to see here. I'm not going out of my way to show it now, because we'll encounter ordinary Burglars later in the chapter and they can also do it.)

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Yes, apparently you can level up while doing a stage play. I'm not going to complain. (No bonus this time, just whatever you choose.)

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Image I will show you my true power!
Image No... We are too drained from the fight!
Image Is this the end for us...?
Image Hey, I can still fight!

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Image 08 - Getting Stronger!

(Yes, it uses the level-up music as a victory fanfare here)

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Image In the name of my mother, the Queen... I grant you the highest honors.
Image To stay by my side as my right-hand bugs, as we restore our kingdom.
Image It was all for you, Princess.

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Chubee turns toward the audience and takes a bow as the curtains close. That's a wrap!

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Image It went way better than great.
Image I didn't really like my role, but I managed.
Image It was super easy. Now for payment...
Image It's a bit weird to be paying Team Snakemouth! Heheheh...

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Image Nyehehehe. Thanks, Chubee.
Image Honestly, a lot of people are asking for an encore.
Image Guess I'll stay 'til they're bored!

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And that's the quest completed. This one's pretty cute, I always enjoy doing it. (It amuses me that Kabbu complained about his role, when the knight Leif was playing would have been very well-suited to him. And of course Vi just improvised her way through the entire thing. The first time I did this I was halfway expecting we'd get to play the Bug Rangers; this is fun too, if not quite as exciting as that would have been.)

A fun bit of trivia here: a version of this quest was in the demo, but instead of Chubee and the Burglar, the starring roles were played by Mothiva and Zasp, and you fought Zasp at the end. The surrounding dialogue is different accounting for their personalities; I might show it in a bonus update at some point.

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Chubee wasn't kidding about encores: you can come back and talk to her whenever, and she'll offer to do the play again. She'll keep paying, too, so this might not be an awful way to grind berries if you need them.

For now, though, we're done here.

Unfortunately, due to the post limit, I need to split the update again. Now seems as good a time as any.
Last edited by Explopyro on Tue May 25, 2021 8:25 am, edited 2 times in total.

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17: More Meetings, More Missions (Part 2)

Let's go meet up with Levi and Celia now?

Image 17 - Ant Kingdom

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As we're passing through the Residential District, we can notice this house's door is now open, and if we get too close a scene will start.

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Tod's here.

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Leif reacts pretty strongly to the sight of her.

Image Aww, Mom... Can't I play a bit longer?
Image Sweetie, you need to eat! It'll give you all the power you need to play all day!
Image I made you your favorite! A tasty Hearty Breakfast!
Image Woah! Thanks, Mom!

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They go back into the house.

Image Leif? Who is Muse?

(We have heard this name before. Leif mentioned wishing she could be at the festival with him.)

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Image I-Impossible.
Image Then she's got to be your super mega granddaughter!
Image That's right...! Isn't it great? You can meet up with your relatives!

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Image Lost to time, not even understanding ourselves...
Image It can't be that bad...
Image To them, we're just a stranger. If we're going to intrude on their life...
Image We need to know the truth about what happened to us.
Image We will help you, Leif. Every step of this journey.
Image Uh, yeah! And when you're ready, we can come back and meet them!
Image ...Thanks. Let's keep an eye out for clues.
Image We can't ignore our mission, though. Let's keep going.
Image (Even so... we're glad to see them safe and happy.)

The plot thickens. This has to be really difficult for Leif to deal with. (Also, clearly he remembers more than he's been willing to talk about; this is the first he's mentioned having been married.)

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Our quest log adds a new update after seeing this scene.

The game is a bit ambiguous about how much time has passed and how many generations it's been since Leif fell into Snakemouth. Muze (the lady we just saw, not to be confused with Muse) is almost certainly his descendant, but it's unclear exactly how distant (the quest log text here seems to be implying she's his daughter, but most details elsewhere contradict that; I think the wording here is supposed to be speculative, but it doesn't quite come across correctly).

If we try to walk too close to the entrance of the house, Leif will stop us in a short scene:

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Image Very well. Let's come back once we learn what happened in Snakemouth Den.

We'll need to learn more before he'll be willing to meet them.

There's also a new banter for us to see at the bank:

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Image Hmph. What if after we put in a huge deposit they just steal our money and run to a hot spring or something!?
Image Come on... Have more faith in our land's bank system!

What kind of bug would do a thing like that? I'm almost certain that exact thing has happened to some other bugs in some other world.

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Entering the commercial district, we find Levi and Celia.

Image I hope we haven't made Levi and Celia wait too much...
Image Let's start this meeting, then.

Let's talk to them.

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Image Indeed, Levi. What seems to be troubling you?
Image Err... Are you sure about this, Levi? This IS pretty dangerous...
Image Celia, Kabbu and the others have found enough artifacts to prove their skill.
Image Heheh. You tell her. What's the job? Pays well?
Image Oh, it's worth the trouble.
Image The situation is... we're after this criminal known as Monsieur Scarlet.
Image Every now and then, he posts requests in the board asking for help.
Image And then preys on the well-meaning explorers, draining their life force!
Image Yikes. We expected a petty burglar, or something of that sort.
Image Sadly not. He's even the reason why the old tunnel to the Golden Hills is abandoned!
Image He's caused us a lot of trouble.

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Image We've gathered enough intel to confidently say his hideout is in that old tunnel.
Image Really? How can someone hide in a straight hallway?
Image If you offer us your help to catch him, it will become clear.
Image ...Please. He is not someone we can apprehend alone.
Image We'll do it. It sounds like being frozen over would do him some good.
Image Leave it to us, comrades.
Image Mhm!
Image What a relief! You're truly a team one can rely on.
Image Sheesh. At least wait until the mission's over to praise them!
Image We'll be going to the tunnel now, okay? Meet us there, and we'll begin the operation!
Image We'll see you there.

They leave as soon as this conversation is through. Looks like we have some bounty hunting ahead of us! Let's take our time though, we have a bit more administrivia to take care of beforehand.

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Such as this: it's a new chapter, which means Merab has gotten a new shipment in. Here's what he currently has on offer:

Image Numb Resistance (30 berries)
Image Secure Pouch (30 berries)
Image Poison Needles (65 berries)

I have enough berries, so I'm just going to buy all three.

Image Numb Resistance is just like Poison Resistance and Sleep Resistance, granting 50% resistance to the status. Seeing this here is a good hint that we'll be encountering enemies with Numb soon; it's probably worth picking this up, because Numb can be a debilitating status.

Image Secure Pouch costs 1 MP and prevents enemies from stealing items; it also makes it so you don't lose any berries when running from battles. This is pretty convenient, if not necessarily worth 1 MP later in the game; seeing this here, especially after doing the play, should be a hint that item-stealing enemies will be prevalent soon.

Image Poison Needles costs 3 MP and makes Vi's needle skills cause the poison status. What's that? Vi doesn't have any needle skills? Shhhh. (This medal does literally nothing for us right now, and it won't become useful until we gain some more ranks and Vi learns the relevant skills. But I have the berries to spare, and I'll want it eventually.)

Image 06 - Outskirts

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The caravan are back in the outskirts, with their usual inventory.

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The last thing I want to do for now is check in with Artis; he owes us a couple of medals.

Image 03 - Where Adventurers Gather

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Image Hmmm! Good job, folks! You defeated that hardened Venus' Guardian!
Image Was it too challenging for ya? You deserve a reward. Here, take this!

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Image Oh ho! You've been on a roll! Beat Zasp too, eh? Here, take this as well!

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Image Come back later when you've bonked some extra hard heads with that Medal, will ya?

As you can see, Artis can queue up multiple rewards just fine. There's no need to constantly come back mid-chapter if it would be inconvenient (though of course you can if you want the reward ASAP), he'll just store up everything until you come to claim it. This is a pretty nice haul, too: these are some fun ones.

Image Spiky Bod is one of my favourite medals to use. It costs 3 MP, and makes Kabbu deal counterattack damage when blocking (if the enemy's attacks make contact; it doesn't work on projectiles). It's 1 damage on a regular block, or 2 damage on a Super Block (which increases to 3 damage if he's wearing at least one Super Block+ medal, though multiple copies don't increase it further). Like poison, though, this damage can't kill enemies, and will leave them on 1 HP instead. If you set Kabbu up for tanking and plan to use Taunt frequently, you can get a fair bit of free damage out of this, especially if you're good at timing your blocks. It feels really satisfying to pull off.

Image Break is another skill-granting medal, the first of many that give Leif access to status buffs and debuffs (finally, a spell for him that doesn't involve ice!). For 2 MP, this gives him the ability to cast Break, which for 2 TP applies a 2 turn Defence Down debuff to one enemy. This can definitely come in handy, though it's kind of situational since it doesn't do anything against enemies with base 0 defence.

Both of these are a welcome addition to our capabilities, they're definitely going to see some use.

This seems like a good place to wrap things up for today; next time, we take on the notorious Monsieur Scarlet.

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18: A Study in Scarlet

Content warning: problematic LGBTQ character tropes (involving predatory gays and crossdressing). I've seen a lot worse, but it honestly isn't great.

Today, we're helping Levi and Celia with their plan to take down the notorious Monsieur Scarlet. They're setting the bait, and we need to help them close the trap.

While he's a distant second to the Devourer, Scarlet is a boss that can be quite challenging for the time you can first face him. I wouldn't hold it against any player who decided to leave him for later, when they're stronger. On the other hand, the rewards for beating him are excellent and open up a lot of content, so unlike the Devourer there are good reasons to do it ASAP.

Image 25 - Caves

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They're waiting for us here, in the cave connecting Bugaria Outskirts and Golden Path, just like they said they would be.

Before we talk to them, let's make sure we're prepared.

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I've restocked on healing items, just going for a decent variety of HP and TP options. In addition, I killed some Underlings for Danger Spuds and made them into Burly Chips.

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Also, Kabbu's added Spiky Bod to the combination of Poison Defender, Weak Stomach, and Favorite One he's been using recently. Let's see how that works out.

Checking for a banter near Levi or Celia just has Kabbu encourage us to talk to them:

Image We should talk to Levi and Celia once we are ready to fight Scarlet...

So let's do that.

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Yes, we're ready.

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Image Uhh... All I see is a wall?
Image Hmm. We can feel some faint magic, though.
Image You see... this wall is but an illusion.
Image Scarlet disguises the area up ahead from the common folk so he can hide there. Only his prey don't see it.
Image He only attacks when the victim accepts his request... That's why I cannot see the wall.
Image It's no wonder we couldn't find him, but when Levi picked up that suspicious quest...
Image Well, the pieces came together.
Image W-Wait, you mean Levi is Scarlet's target? That's crazy!
Image Please, calm yourself. I understand the risks. But if we fo