Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Secret of Evermore #1 - Auburn Mountain

Secret of Evermore was a game I was quite fond of as a kid. It followed in the footsteps of Squaresoft's fabled adventure game Secret of Mana by featuring similar game mechanics and a slightly deceptive title that probably tricked some people into thinking this was a sequel. In my view, Mana is a vastly superior game to Evermore, but Evermore is a lot of fun in its own right.

What I'm doing here is a seven-part series looking at Evermore. This isn't meant to be a review... no need to do that for such an old game. It's primarily meant for people who have played it before. Part one here is named after Mt. Auburn Street in Boston (well, technically Cambridge), a street that has a lot of sentimental value for me just like this game does.

Have at it. Rated T for Teen.

The Squaresoft logo...is on fire. They really WERE on fire in 1995, so this logo...well, it's pretty appropriate.

1965. Back in the old days, when things were a little bit more innocent. Back before we had modern things like iPods and gay people. A time when people dreamed in technicolor. A wonderous time, when the threat of nuclear annihilation hung over our heads like a SWORD OF DAMOCLES! Oh yes. The good ole' days people always talk about. Drink it in. Drink in the grayscale! In any case... in 1965, a scientific experiment went horribly wrong. This created the parallel world of Evermore. And stuff. The people responsible for the experiment got drawn into the parallel world, and were never seen again.

Thirty years later, we meet our hero and his faithful pooch. Somehow, it took me fifteen years to realize that he's dressed like Marty McFly. In other news, this game has a killer intro. You know...I might be the only one, but I REALLY wish the "Regular Dog" we see here was playable at some point in the game. That would be interesting.

Our heroes go cat-hunting, and wind up in the ruins of the place that the experiment took place in.

Next thing they know, the feckless dog chews on some wires and gets our heroes warped...to another dimension!

Our hero is whisked away to Omnitopia, and comes face-to-snout with the nefarious Carltron. "Whoooooooooooo are you? Who who, who who?" he says.

He invites our hero into a strange room, then LOCKS HIM IN! SCOUNDREL! Unfortunately for him, he chose the room with a bazooka in it, so his plan to kill our hero is doomed to failure. Right away, we see that the game's villain (spoiler alert!) is an incompetent nincompoop.

What follows is the first instance of one of the AWESOME fight musics that this game sports. Unfortunately, the fight is over fast, because the two Guard-bots each only take one hit.

Our hero sets out on a pimpin' escape pod. It's shiny, sleek, and red...that's no ordinary escape pod, that's the Porsche of escape pods. Professor Ruffleberg must get MAD CHICKS with a vehicle like that. When he stops at a red light in that thing, screaming crowds of women throw their undergarments at him.

I actually don't mind when games do this, give you some high-powered equipment at the start and then take it away. Gives you a preview of later events.

Our hero is reunited with the dog, who has inexplicably transformed into a monstrous beast. Why does the dog transform while in Evermore's various districts? I don't know. In the other three districts, he takes on different forms. My favorite, personally, is the sleek dog he becomes in Antiqua.

That's because you're surrounded by RAPTORS!

Before I can swing my new boner, our heroes are ambushed by the raptors in question. This fight has music that doesn't appear anywhere else in the game, and it isn't necessary to win it. In a way, it's SoEs's optional uberboss. Hyuck. Greats like Yiazmat, Shinryu, Omega, Emerald Weapon, and Ruby Weapon ain't got shit on these raptors yo!

...or not, because I win handily on the second try. The fight isn't too bad unless you stay in the middle of the clearing. Move to the top of the area and it becomes much easier to deal with their attacks.

Moving on, our heroes meet Fire Eyes, who is of course another real-world import, and while you still don't know the name of the hero, this is the name of the heroic pooch: Hot Dog. Why?
Because this blog is brought to you by Nathan's Hot Dogs.

Nathan's Hot Dogs: They're dog-tastic. Now with more of the great-tasting fiber kids love!

Know what else I need? To be playing Secret of Mana again. Or Seiken Densetsu 3. Never did get to SD3. I need to overcome my fear of Mana, too. This game has made me wish I were playing Mana instead, to an extent. But I'd been wanting to revisit Evermore for a long time, and here we are. Still, the Jaguar Ring is a much-needed addition. I'm not sure why they didn't just give you the ability to dash from the start like Mana did, but the fact that you get the ability about fifteen minutes into the game kinda makes up for it.

This playthrough, I'm opting to avoid attack alchemy altogether. I might use Lance later on, because Lance is rockin'. Other than that, there's little point. Since formulas aren't grouped, any formulas you build up to usefulness will then become obsoleted. Which is the great problem with Evermore (besides the buggyness). There are only three, debatably four alchemy formulas that are integral to the game. What are they? I'll have them soon enough, so stay tuned.

Our heroes arrive in the nefarious Bugmuck, which is where the game starts getting creepy and ominous. This game seems pretty happy-go-lucky at first, but creepy and ominous is what it does best.

It takes a lot less time to get to the second power level for a weapon than it does to get to the third and final level, so I figure it's worth the small amount of trouble to go for that this time around. The spears are the only weapons I'll get to 3, most likely. I could just get the Horn Spear to 3 and use it for the whole game like I used to (and like people who just want to play the game without taking power-losses by switching to new, un-levelled weapons). But not this time.

That extra boner level is going to be useful against THRAXX. Jesus H, this thing still freaks me out, and never mind that it's only the first real boss, it's probably the hardest fight in the game. Why the designers did that, I don't know. It's Evermore's signature, most-recognizable boss, for sure.

I discover that it doesn't matter how much damage you do to the ribs, they'll open up after repeated hits. The hits could be for 1 damage, it doesn't matter. Once inside, power up and thwack.

After a lengthy, pitched battle, I get the win.

"MY EYE!!!"

Difficult fight, but I actually managed to level up fighting Thraxx's hench-slugs during the battle. Meanwhile, Thraxx was all "yo, I'm over here". And yeah, this is likely the game's most difficult fight. Though some people might argue that Salabog or The Verminator deserve that honor. Come on, The Verminator isn't bad at all.

 Music break. The music that plays for this fight manages to be both frenetic/chaotic AND dark/creepy at the same time.

 The standard boss fight theme of Evermore is also pretty dark.

There's the axe. Axes in this game are generally pretty useless since you usually get the next spear like five minutes later... but this time around I vow to actually use them. Thraxx's battle theme is total chaos. I wish it played more than twice in the game. Now that Thraxx is beaten, get ready to find out the name of our hero...

"LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHIN' DUDE!" says our hero while posing and strutting and pointing at the sky repeatedly. "I'D LIKE TO THANK THE BIG GUY UPSTAIRS, BROTHERRRR!"


While on this screen, there's something I want to mention. Besides the creepy, ominous undertones of the game, there's also an intangible that very few games can pull off: the sense of something laying just beyond your view. It's one of the things that the Metroid series is built on, the constant feeling that there's some secret place hidden just out of view. The feeling that there's more to the world than what you can see. Evermore has that in spades. This screen is one of many places in the game that seem to have this "what lies beyond?" sense, as there's a river going by that you can't get to. A sense of openness. This openness makes the world of Evermore seem that much bigger, even if it isn't.

Returning to the village, I finally get Call Beads and can summon Fire Eyes to torch stuff. These summons are REALLY powerful compared to the lame attack formulas at this point in the game, but the extremely limited uses you get make them a lot less useful. I don't think they deserve the rep they have for being useless, though.

This guy gives me Defend, the first of the Big Three alchemy formulas that I use. The other two? Heal and Speed. Heal is crucial.

Here's the debatable fourth, Cure. This one's for status ailments, but I find that status ailments in this game aren't that bad, so I'm not worried about it. Some swear by it.

Next up is the fight with THE VIPER, RANDY ORTON™!

...Oh? I'm told that this is in fact a different viper. My bad.

The silver viper sics his hench-vipers. This is only difficult if they corner you.

::Hulkster points at the viper:: "YOOOOOOOOOOU!"

They took out Hot Dog! "WHEN YA HURT MY FRIENDS, YA HURT MY PRIDE, DUDE!" says our hero when reached by reporters.


Here's the best formula in the game. I think there's an upgrade later, but as I recall the ingredients are harder to get, and by that point Heal will probably be levelled up to where it's about as good as the new one anyway. Now I don't have to worry about buying healing items.

Our heroes take a break and get some sleep...while a glow-in-the-dark old guy looks on creepily.

Our heroes reach the top of the auburn mountain, the highest point in Evermore. Next up, in Chapter 2: the swamp monster from hell, the depths of the volcano, and The Hulkster takes on Nobilia's finest battler.

Also, I want to mention the unusual amount of attention that this game has been getting lately due to the Ed Kann rumors. The Noise Coming From Inside Children? It's probably real, but good luck finding it anywhere. Short stories submitted to local newspapers decades ago can be difficult to find in this day and age. The idea that the guy responsible for it also originally wrote Evermore is probably a hoax, though. Still, the game sure does have a creepy edge to it, and judging from the mood of the artwork, commercial, pre-release screenshots with disturbing text, and even the cover of the game's soundtrack, Evermore was indeed originally intended to be something vastly different - and perhaps disturbing - than it ended up being. It's likely that the powers that be over at Squaresoft had to step in, which provoked the last-minute changes that the game seemed to go through. The changes were primarily to the text itself, completely overhauling the story to give the game a more light-hearted story. That's how it became less The Noise Coming From Inside Children and more B-Movie Silly Plot. Did Queen Bluegarden originally commit suicide? Who knows. What I do know is that the remnants of the original story and mood seem to be evident throughout the game's areas and the early promotional materials... as well as the music. The music in this game ranges from dark to very dark. In any case, I don't know if I'd go so far as to say the original game was the horrific story some people on the internet seem to believe it was, but I do believe there were some huge changes at the last minute.

Other Evermore Posts


  1. "I'm not sure why they didn't just give you the ability to dash from the start like Mana did, but the fact that you get the ability about fifteen minutes into the game kinda makes up for it."

    Like Mega Man X?

  2. What's all this at the end about?

  3. Evermore's been getting some attention lately on the internets due to some kind of "conspiracy theory" as to the game's development. Basically, the rumor is that the original writer of the game, a Seattle-based short story writer, made it extremely dark and disturbing. He was then fired before the game was released, and can't be found in the credits. The idea is that there was some big conspiracy to cover up that Evermore was originally a creepy disturbingness-fest. Personally, I think it's clear that the game itself is darker than the script (which supposedly was heavily changed at the last minute) is. However, I don't think it was as bad as the rumors say, and the conspiracy theories mostly seem like people grasping at straws.

  4. "and the conspiracy theories mostly seem like people grasping at straws."

    Like 99.9% of all conspiracy theories.

  5. I ran a post about the dark interpretation of My Neighbor Totoro (http://jsmyth.wordpress.com/2010/09/02/rethinking-tonari-no-totoro/), so I think the Evermore conspiracy theory is plausible. I totally agree with the decision to cut that writer and change the story if it's true. They got some really good humor in there, so whoever they put in charge of the script was pretty brilliant, and it just wasn't the time or place for a dark game like that. You would have made a lot of kids cry.

    The puppet fight later in the game really scared me when I was a kid. The Medieval World as a whole is interesting because it's set in autumn, and we usually see fantasy worlds in summer: The Millennial Fair and all that. That makes it seem darker all by itself. What's remarkable, I think, is that the artists were able to fit as much as they did into the game without turning more heads. The giant bug, robot octopus, title screen, box art, and such were seen as "cool" instead of "scary," but it would have gone the other way if we came into the game expecting Scream rather than Squaresoft.