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- Return to Mountain of Faith
Maintaining and increasing your Faith, short of the relatively elementary task of collecting Point items, is the single most important factor affecting your score. All of the advice below is given with the Faith meter in mind.
- A good overall benchmark for your Faith meter on Easy mode is 100,000*(Stage number). In other words, at the end of Stage 4, it is not unreasonable to suggest that your Faith be at or around 400,000. For Normal mode, the benchmark is around 120,000*(Stage number).
- The value of point items and spell card bonuses is linked to your Faith meter, which is constantly decreasing. Since defeating enemies, and collecting items cause the Faith meter to temporarily stop decreasing, you should try to always have either something to shoot or something to collect on screen at all times.
- This is not easy during periods where no enemies appear for a long while (for instance, just before bosses emerge or during stage titles). To last through these occasions without suffering a large loss of Faith, try to collect items individually and slowly instead of using the POC to collect them all at once. As each item renews the bar that keeps the Faith meter from dropping, this tactic will extend the length of time you can sustain a constant amount of Faith.
- While all items refill the Faith bar, only Faith items add to it. Therefore, where the option is available Faith items should always be collected first.
- The beginning of Stage 1 is a great example of an application. Slowly move from right to left to destroy the fairies, and then collect the items that fall at the bottom of the screen, starting with the Faith item. If executed well, the Faith meter will not begin to decrease until the next wave of fairies appears.
- When bosses or sub-bosses appear on screen, your Faith remains constant. Immediately move to the POC to collect every item on screen at maximum value, especially in the dialogue before boss battles when there are guaranteed to be no attacks to dodge in the meanwhile.
- Don't go too far with slow collection. As in earlier games, there's a considerable dropoff in value when collecting point items below the POC (except for the gold ones, of course). If you don't need to maintain your Faith meter, make sure to POC everything you can, and move upwards when you bomb to make auto-collected items worth more.
- If you capture a midboss attack or boss spellcard at 5.00 power, the boss will drop gold-outlined point items rather than power items. These point items are worth maximum value no matter where they're collected on the screen. When deciding whether or not to bomb boss attacks, consider whether you want them to drop more power items (and hence, more Faith for more points down the line) or more point items for immediate score gain.
- Stage bosses' last spellcard doesn't give point items, so you don't have to be at 5.00 at clearing them. Thus, it is advised to use one bomb for bullet cancelling on one of the non-spellcard attack patterns (the last ones are usually most profitable). Keep in mind that some bosses do two spellcard attacks in a row without normal attacks inbetween.
- If you are at 5.00 on early spellcards, you're missing out on some power (which could be used for more bombs and more Faith) in exchange for point items at a relatively puny Faith value. If you are NOT at 5.00 for Kanako, you may be missing out on a lot of high-value point items. There's a 100x Faith bonus at the end of the game, so Faith increases on Kanako may still be worthwhile, but bombs on her normals that don't gain Faith will hurt your score.
- Memorize which bosses and enemies drop large power items, and plan accordingly. The large items turn into small Faith orbs, just like small power items, so getting them at 5.00 is something of a waste. If you're at 4.x power, and a large power item is falling along with small ones, collect the large item first to gain the maximum number of Faith orbs (or better yet, bomb, if it's at all worthwhile).
Bombing for Score
Aside from the reduction in your power level, bombing also reduces your Faith by 3,000 points. In addition, the 20 small Power items that are required to return to the power level you were at before bombing represent a loss of 2,000 potential Faith points (since Power items convert to small Faith orbs at Full Power Mode). With this said, on Easy or Normal mode a single Faith star is worth 5,000 Faith (and on Hard or Lunatic, even more). If you bomb and end up collecting even a single Faith star as a result, in terms of Faith, you have broken even. In addition, every bullet that enters the bomb's radius converts to an item worth 10 Faith, and with this constant inflow of Faith items your Faith meter will not decrease. Moreover, the added damage done to enemies by the bomb will likely destroy them, allowing you to auto-collect the items they drop.
Simply put, when playing at full power, bombing offensively or to collect items you would otherwise not be able to reach is, for once, highly encouraged, especially in areas with high bullet density or in places where enemies cannot be destroyed before an item drought occurs (notably when fighting the large fairies in Stages 4 and 5). On Hard and Lunatic difficulties, the penalties for bombing twice and thrice respectively before returning to Full Power Mode can be made up by a single Faith star (although, before doing so, consider your ability to survive at the lower power levels you'll be at after doing that).
Large item auto-collection aside, however, you will score a net increase in Faith if a bomb manages to convert over 500 bullets into small Faith items. While this is not a common situation on the lower difficulties, there are a few places in the game where enough bullets are fired to be worth bombing.
Another consideration is the prevention of timed Faith loss. Even if you don't gain 5,000 Faith from a bomb, if that bomb prevents you from having your meter run out and losing 5,000 or more Faith, it's still worthwhile. This is mainly relevant when facing the large fairies on stages 4 and 6.
Deathbombing does not incur said 3,000 point Faith loss, so keep this in mind when facing boss attacks on the earlier stages, as well as any attempted bombing.
How Death Affects Faith
Recall that the prescribed target for your total Faith is 100,000 times the number of your current stage. However, dying costs [(Faith Score - 50,000) / 3] Faith - a third of what you have accumulated over the minimum so far.
Assume that you have just passed Stage 3 with 300,000 Faith and happen to die immediately at the beginning of Stage 4 - which is precisely in the middle of the game. Your Faith will lower by 83,333 points. Considering that in each stage except the first you are expected to accumulate 100,000 additional Faith points, you have in effect lost the vast majority of the Faith built up from an entire stage.
This hurts your scoring capability twofold. First, note that (assuming that you do not die any more) every Point item is worth 83,333 points (or some fraction thereof if Points items are not collected above the POC) less until the end of the game. Considering how many Point items are left in the game, just this single death is a tremendous cut into your final score! Second, enemy Spell Card Bonuses reflect a more conglomerate display of how many points are lost. Assuming for the purposes of an example that immediately following the above death you captured an enemy Spell Card at its maximum value, the difference in bonuses would be 4766674 points versus 6600000 points - a difference of almost two million points!
Simply put, dying is an absolute deathblow to a high score in this game - more so than in any other Windows Touhou game. Make absolutely sure to avoid careless deaths; bomb anytime you're in doubt (particularly in the stages, where bombing is usually beneficial anyway).
There is a flat 20 million point bonus per remaining life at the end of the game. As shown above, however, this pales in comparison to the effects of higher or lower Faith. A suicide at the start of the game may well be good strategy for advanced players.
- Return to Mountain of Faith.