By Jeriaska . May 14, 2008 . 10:23am
With A-East up and running, thanks to a last minute intervention by Beat and Rhyme, chapter four begins with a scene between a bespectacled woman Reaper a French maid outfit and a young man with a hyena's grin in a baseball cap and red bandana. He has a knack for sculpting towers out of scrap metal, and has been responsible for several idiosyncratic sculptures found throughout the Underground plane of Shibuya. They are holding a clandestine meeting in the shadowy bar seen at the end of the precious chapter. The woman in glasses, Konishi, scolds the Reaper, Minamimoto, for being late.
Megumi Kitaniji, a svelte man in shades, appears from off screen. Having seen Konishi reporting to him the previous day as her supervisor, we are given a sense of the rigid hierarchy comprising the company behind the Reapers' game. Kitaniji is the highest ranking one there, answering directly to the composer. With him is Higashizawa, the giant in dreadlocks seen briefly during chapter two. The bulking Reaper has been appointed the "Game Master" of the day's events, and we discover in this conversation that he has a habit of falling back on culinary metaphors that all basically boil down to his devouring the Players of the Reapers' Game. Minamimoto declares he's had enough of the corporate meeting and heads out to resume his found objects art collecting.
The action cuts to the 104 Building, where the two pairs of Players are people watching. Rhyme is impressed by the diversity of the sea of pedestrians, while Beat expresses displeasure at the cacophony of their conflicting personal objectives. Scanning the crowd at once, Neku describes the wall of thoughts as a thunderous "clash of creeds." While Beat and Neku are airing their angst, Shiki notices that Rhyme is wearing a limited edition bell pendant she had seen in a magazine. Rhyme informs her that it was a present from her brother, someone like Beat that she admires for having a concrete goal in life. The day's mission then arrives on their cell phones–to reach Towa Records, only a couple blocks away. This time there is no deadline, the first of several hints that chapter four is meant to ease off on the game's rising learning curve. The simplicity of the task leads Neku to declare teamwork thereby unnecessary, and Beat declares a race to the record store.
Meanwhile, the winged Reapers from the introductory chapter are looking on. Coquettish Yashiro is tearing her hair out over the simplicity of the day's mission, which seems to offer little hope of erasing more Players. Kariya, the curly haired blonde with his signature lollipop pinched between his fingers, explains that making the mission a breeze is an expertly crafted strategy by the higher ups to catch the protagonists off guard. With no time limit and the Reapers on break, now is a good time to gain some levels and learn to use your pins. There are an assortment of new clothes to equip at "Ten-Four." Neku will resist shopping, but Shiki will with little provocation show you the ropes. Shibuya's thirteen popular brands each have their advantages in terms of doing damage against the Noise. Each area also has a brand chart, visible on the phones menu, meaning being out of fashion will effect your stats. While shopping you run into Eiji Oji, celebrated as the Prince of Ennui on the blogosphere, where his website receives a hundred thousand hits a day. The skull and cross-stylus insignia in the shop allows you a chance to chat with him, but he turns out to be a snob. After you have picked up some bargain clothing items and stat-boosting ginseng from the health food store, it might be time to face more formidable challenges.
Reaper hoodies will be stationed at the edges of the screen as you progress toward Towa Records. The Reapers will demand pins from you to progress and tell you how to set the difficulty level on your phone menu to increase the chances of picking up dropped items. At Cadoi City, you can find a couple badges for sale in the Darling designs shop. These will broaden your arsenal while you level up your party. While you are browsing, store clerk Hikaru Koike will point out a Happy Beam pin, which damages the enemy when you slash across Neku on the touch screen, and also a Cutie Beam pin which lets you send out energy round projectiles at the Noise. Having some leisure time on your hands to gain battle skills, you are given the ability to chain together up to four battles sequentially at a time. This allows you to level up your Players and equipment more quickly by chaining together diminutive frog skull insignias, elongated wolf emblems, and big grinning grizzly skulls after scanning. Activating the Player Pin on the Cadoi City crosswalk, a swarm of red chump Noise emblems will appear, and touching up to four of the floating insignias before the battle starts will line up several fights in turn.
The frog Noise will appear ice blue in color on this mission and are a bit more resilient than the green forms you might be familiar with. They start battles surrounded by a protective ring of tadpoles, which scatter once the fight begins. If you line up Shiki's ESP cards for a fusion attack, it can save you some time running after each hopping amphibian. If a fusion pin appears during a chain battle, you can hold onto it for subsequent rounds, so try not to waste it at the end of a sure victory. It might be advisable to equip the Ice Blow badge, which looks like a gleaming stalagmite on a purple background. You can catch the Noise off guard by assaulting them directly with the hand-to-hand Shockwave attack, and while they are reeling, slash up at them to cause an icicle to strike up through the ground. At first the icicle attack is limited, but after having it equipped for awhile, the pin will transform to enable a more estimable Piercing Pillar. The evolved badge sends a wave three ice blow attacks in turn, a good strategy for keeping mauling grizzlies at bay and also clearing out a swarm of pesky frogs. Keep cashing in pins and you will eventually have 100k in yen, enough to max out the room in your wallet.
Beat is waiting outside Towa Records, ticked off that instead of racing him to the finish line you have been leveling up. Rushing to catch up, calamity strikes. The Reapers Kariya and Yashiro have set a trap for you at the mission's finish line. They sick a pack of frog Noise on the party, led by a shark that swims through the cement as if it were liquid. The boss is tough to target while it's submerged beneath ground, and its pink fin will cut you as it crosses your path. The enemy moves too fast to hit with projectiles, so get rid of the other henchmen first, and attack the boss directly with the Shockwave, knocking it back with a Piercing Pillar while it is stunned. Soon the boss disappears in a flare of light and you are given a Murasame pin. With somber music playing, and the Players bitterly blaming each other for the tragedy that has just unfolded, the chapter abruptly ends.
Images courtesy of Square Enix.