A few days ago, I broke the 3 billion barrier for Imperishable Night Extra. Overall, I believe this run to be quite average for me. Neither the stage portion nor the boss fight were exceptionally good or bad. But let us start in the beginning:
The first half of the stage portion was okay, leaving me to enter Keine with about 12,900 time orbs (and, less importantly, 4700 graze). I could have entered the midboss with about 13,500 time, but I greatly messed up the last cancel, gaining only 2200 time, instead of 2700+.
Keine's first spell card is trivial to capture, but I slightly mess up the cancel, gaining 2100 time from the spell instead of the the optimal 2200. It is, however, a calculated loss because I haven't put any thought into how it exactly works. My grazing on Ichijo was quite solid and I managed to get 7600 time from it, which is 200 more than what ASL gets (The comparisons to ASL will only be used as a point of reference for you, the readers, as it was not my intention to try and beat the current world record with this run). The last spell card did not go well, but similarly to the first, I can't put my finger on what it is. I should have gained 3800 time, but only got about 3500.
The stage portion after Keine was not as good as I would have liked it to be, mainly because I greatly messed up the cancel before the last deathfairy. I enter Mokou with 8876 graze, 666 point items and 36654 time (ASL enters with 8780 graze, 668 items and 37904 time).
The first non spell was quite alright. Mokou's movement wasn't terrible, even though she moved left when she should have moved right near the end. It is realistic to get 4000 time on this attack, albeit neither I (3600) nor ASL (3800) reached that much in our runs. Iwakasa is a very easy spell with Youmu so capturing it isn't an issue; it is harder to keep the gauge below -30% to maximum time gain. Often have I risen above the threshold and lost some score that way, but it went well this run, and so did the second non spell. It is possible to milk the second non spell for graze by staying below -30% and timing the attack out, but it is something I chose not to do because it increases the room for error and lengthens the run for a small increase, and the same goes for the non spell after. They are simple attacks, but I did not want to start optimizing here when there were far bigger things I could have done.
Flying Phoenix is another spell card that is a very easy capture, but what is important is to pay attention to the cancel. You will want to finish the spell after Mokou shot the six phoenixes in quick succession. The window isn't super tight, but because I take one cycle less than ASL (2 cycles vs 3 cycles), it is easy for me to be too slow with the damage and get a bad cancel. I got a good cancel in this run, however. Maybe a bit early, but I got a lot of gold on my screen when I finished the attack. That means it had to be good, right?
Flaw of forgiving Shrine is an attack I do not need to say much about. Very straightforward, very easy. Don't fail it. The only thing to pay attention to is the same as it is during Iwakasa, except it's easy to stay below -30%.
The fourth non spell is something I milk due to sheer bullet density and the fact that I have to be at 30% for Xu-fu anyway. But it is also not very difficult and dying to it is quite rare. Overall, it's about 500 time I gain through milking this. Xu-fu itself was alright. During practice, I always try to graze as much as I can, and naturally that makes it quite a bit more difficult. During runs, however, I tend to take it a bit more safely. My gain on Xu-fu this time was 12,500 time which is what I usually get in runs. ASL has much better grazing on this spell in his run (13,600), though and if I do plan to beat him, I will have to leave out the safe movements.
The fifth non spell is the same as the fourth, except it's harder so I don't do it, which actually means it's not the same at all. ASL does milk it for about the same amount of time as the non spell before it, and I used to time it out too, but I have died too many times to it for me to deem it worth it risking the run for. Now, Honest Man's Death is what many people believe to be the most difficult attack, and the make and break of a run for this stage. And they would not be wrong if they say it's the hardest attack. It most certainly is. But it absolutely is not the make or break part. Doing Honest Man's Death successfully means you're halfway through the fight and there is still half an extra boss worth of fight to make mistakes on. But more on that later in this entry. My Honest Man's Death was quite good (17,500), especially if you compare to ASL's (16,200). It is the one attack where I gain more time than him every time I capture it, simply to me being used to be higher up on the screen than he is. it is nothing to be super excited about, and by no means a surefire way to beat his run when the time comes, but it is a nice improvement over the current world record.
Following Honest Man's Death is one of the three difficult non spells. Especially in more recent runs have I died to any of them quite often. I was fortunate enough to escape the first one of those three non spells without any loss of resources, albeit I did rise above -30% near the end because I had to focus to dodge. Woo is ass. Probably my most disliked attack in this stage. There isn't much RNG in Imperishable Night Extra, but Woo is an attack with RNG in it and it can completely shit you over. It fortunately did not do so this run. One other thing to pay attention to is when you finish the spell. Optimally, you will want nine familiars on the screen when you deplete the health. It is another improvement over the world record, as ASL did not do so, or even attempt to do so (why, I don't know. It was already known in 2009). But yeah, Woo is ass.
Te second to last non spell had the biggest mistake of the run and, in my personal opinion, makes it look a little silly. I could not dodge the attack and was forced to bomb. I was late with the bomb though, and consequently lost two bomb in form of a death bomb, losing over 20 million points on the spot. A tragedy I have to live with now, but a tragedy nonetheless. Phoenix Tail is another RNG heavy spell, but I can concentrate on just dodging here fortunately. I had some risky dodges too, which I didn't realize until I watched the replay.
The last non spell is something I bomb every time, and the 10 million I lose from the bomb is a calculated loss I was willing to take every time. I am simply not good enough to dodge this attack and did not want to lose hundreds on runs to it. I would normally have been willing to use two bombs on it, but due to the death bomb on the non spell prior to this one I had decided that there would be no second bomb on this one, even if I would die. It did not come that far and I could enter Fujiyama Volcano with my two last bombs intact. Fujiyama Vulcano is a spell card I do not quite understand. It is quite a simple attack, but it hits you far more often than it has any right to. And by that I do not mean anything like chaining the hits, but just randomly touching a bullets seems to happen a lot of this spell. Now, it didn't happen to me in this run and it went smoothly. I even damaged Mokou enough for my cancel to work (and I didn't mistime either causing me to lose all my items). This cancel is the only thing I found myself for the stage, seeing how everything else is copied from other replays. But it is not a huge improvement over ASL's cancel. A mere couple million I get extra, but it is those couple million that helped me break 3.04 this run (more on this later in the entry).
The first survival, Possessed by Phoenix, is the easiest attack after Honest Man's Death in my opinion. The only thing I have to be careful of is not over tapping on the streaming phase, which does not happen very often in the first place. I believe failed a run to it once, but not more than that. A very simple attack indeed.
Hourai Doll on the other hand is quite difficult. Not only is it late into the run, but it also becomes very tight, especially if you want to optimize your grazing. Fortunately, it starts out quite easy, only becoming difficult in the last 30 or so seconds. I'm very prone to failing the spells in runs, though, so I was worried. My movement was very bad. I was avoiding the stream of bullets in other to set up for switching directions a lot, losing a lot of graze (and therefore, time) in the process. I believe to have given up around 1000 time in order to make the spell safer for myself. I captured the spell, and was quite sure that I would get 3 billion with this run, even if I failed Imperishable Shooting.
However, Imperishable Shooting did not go as I would have liked. Why, you may ask, and the answer is very easy: My grazing was atrocious. Normally, I consider a 37 million Imperishable Shooting to be alright, even if it's not very good generally speaking. However, I didn't even reach 36 million. my movement was bad, and I lost a lot of graze. I was simply scared, you could say. I ended up finishing the run with an Imperishable Shooting that reached 35,4 million. The run was finished, albeit with many flaws.
That's the run. I went through it in a more or less detailed manner (except the stage portion. Didn't feel like I wanted to deal with that, even if it might have been more interesting for some of you). Now I want to touch upon my own thoughts more closely. Many of you no doubt follow me on Twitter or visit the same IRC channels as I do, and will know that near the end of my journey, I was fairly burned out on the stage. I pushed myself harder for this than ever before, even though some may say it was a normal effort considering the goal. I don't want to say that I put an inordinate amount of time into the category and I believe the time I spent reaching my score to be quite normal, but I jumped into it too quickly I believe. when I started Imperishable Night extra, I already went into the mindset that I would not quit completely before I have 3 billion. I did take a break after roughly 100 hours, but I knew that I would continue playing.
You know, throwing myself into a category with the route the world record uses is something I have done a lot, and I usually leave out some things that seem annoying or hard, but that wasn't much the case with this stage. Sure, I didn't do Honest Man's Death right from the beginning, but believe me, I tried. Back then, I didn't have the patience the grind out learning the spell, that is all. It is not that I will be quitting this stage for forever. I would like to improve this run further, maybe beat ASL, but it will be a while before I go back.
Another thing I felt while I was playing was that "teh urn" felt elusive. The sort of thing that should not meant to be. Even with my score sitting at 2,99b, I felt like getting 3 billion was somewhat out of my reach (and I don't think I felt that way because of my many resets). It felt like a magical number that only some very very strong players (2 only, in fact!) had reached before. And now comes along a small loli, inexperienced as she was trying to get that magical number. It didn't feel real whenever I said "I want 3b". I don't even know how many people believed I would really get it, but I wasn't one of them, to be honest.
But now, here I am, with a score well over just 3b and...it just feels like any one of my runs. The sort of SA normal or PCB easy kind of run. Sort of like a rushed "do everything, fail it all still beat 90% of other players". Pretty much as soon as I got the number myself, it lost all its magic. It feels like it just became the sort of number anyone could get if given time and effort, not some crazy super player score like before. I don't mean to say it's a bad score or that I am not happy overall. I know that, objectively, it's a solid run, but there are things about it I don't like and that seems to put a damper on the whole run to me, making it go from a good run to something...average? I know my standards are high, abnormally so, but it seems like I may be reaching a new level in that regard.
A thing I told myself (and maybe mentioned it in IRC before) was that I definitely wanted to have a score somewhere in the middle of 3 billion, not a run just barely rising above that mark like AM did and I considered everything above 3,04 in the middle of 3 billion and anything above 3,07 a high 3 billion score. And thus, I wanted at least 3,04, which I got. But knowing it could have been much higher if I could dodge makes me want to rethink what I originally wanted. I'm glad that I did not end up in the 3,03x, of course, but something about me really wanted to be way above my personal threshold. But you can't have them all.
One last thing I want to mention is that a lot of people seem to think 3b is a matter of getting Honest Man's Death and then the rest is free. Or so was the impression I got from people watching me. And even when discussing the topic of Imperishable Night Extra, people tend to mention Honest Man's Death first. But I must say, that's not all you have to do. Sure, it is the hardest attack in a scoring run, and getting past it may indicate a run, but that doesn't mean you will get 3 billion even if you captured and milked all spells from here on onwards! I have watched many runs and there were some that captured all spells and milked every spell and still did not reach 3 billion because they didn't optimize their grazing. I have seen some horrible, horrible grazing on Xu-fu and Hourai Doll in particular. And on Ichijo too, you need to have adequate grazing. To me, all those things are natural to practice and include in my runs, but I feel like people who know the stage through watching replays and watching me don't realize that much. To them, it is natural that, if I captured all spells and didn't die, I would get 3 billion, but why was that so? Because I optimized my grazing to the point where even if I did badly, I would still do better than most replays have. Many players hadn't gotten to that point and thus had horrendously bad Hourai Doll, or Xu-fu or both and lost too much score that way. Of course, there are other, smaller optimizations that can be done after the grazing is adequate (9 familiar Woo cancel or the new Fujiyama cancel), but those are just minor improvements meant for when you level of stage cancels and grazing surpasses 3b.
This may sound "hurr durr, praise me, I'm good at this", but this is not what I'm trying to say at all. I just want you to remember, the next time you discuss scoring for this stage, you should keep in mind that Honest Man's Death, even while the most difficult attack, is not the only thing that can screw you over. As people have seen watching me (and some viewers were there regularly, thank you!), I failed many runs after Honest Man's Death, dying do every attack afterwards at least once. A lot of things are difficult (though not to the point where they become ridiculous), and I just want discussions regarding the stage to be kept in a full view, not just be concentrated on one attack only.