Sunday, September 15, 2019

Secret of Mana #2 - Currents

 Today on The History Channel: We hear Luka's theory of how ancient civilizations nuked themselves into oblivion.

After telling me the importance of the sword and how it needs to be powered up, Luka hands over ANOTHER weapon. Now I have two things to power up! What kind of free time do you think I have, Luka?

This is very much a carryover from Final Fantasy Adventure. There's such an assortment of weapons to collect. Eight types in total, of which we now have two. 

Das Spear List. The spear is actually a little easier to use as a weapon than the sword because it jabs instead of swings, which works better with the game's slightly-iffy collision detection. Interesting to note that the spear has a completely different swing style than the Secret of Evermore spear, even though the sword animation is nearly identical between the two games. The axe is different, as well, with the Evermore version having more reach. ...and then this game has five more weapons beyond the Evermore trio. We're gonna collect 'em all.

BREAK IT DOWN! Previously on Secret of Mana: The Hero put on his "Dyluck-Nation X Outlaw 69" jersey as Dyluck and The Dyluck-X Army picketed outside the Witch's Castle. Dyluck then straddled the Cannon Travel cannon so it looked like his junk, and yelled something into a megaphone about the Witch's Castle not being sold out and to let his people go.

 After that weird event, our hero continues south to...OH MY GOD! GOBLINS! JUST GIVE THEM YOUR WALLET, HONEY! KIDS, STAY IN THE CAR!

 We get a scene of goblins dancing around a totem pole, and I can almost guarantee you that in another timeline, this scene has Chrono Trigger's Prehistoric Dance music playing. Remember, these two games both share the same DNA. Legend has it that they started out as one game called Maru Island for the Nintendo PlayStation. That sounds like a joke, but it isn't. You might find that game in an alternate dimension. In this world, the closest thing one can do is go to a retro game store in France or Germany and see how many SNES RPGs got "big box" releases there with player's guides that we didn't get here, including Mana and Evermore.

Anyway, instead of Prehistoric Dance, this scene has the Matango theme playing. More on that track much later.

 Crono "The Viper!" Randi The Boy Jack finds himself in dire straits as the goblins are cooking him. If this is what that "poi" stuff was in Chrono Trigger...

 But wait! Marle has shown up to rescue our hero! At the moment, he isn't looking so hot. Hyuck...hyee.

 This is our second party member, or third depending on where we go next after this. She's pretty much the equivalent of Final Fantasy Adventure's The Girl. Except that the third and final character is also kinda The Girl From FFA. I guess the persona that is The Girl split off into two characters for this game, not unlike how the Chrono Trigger DNA split between this game and the actual Chrono Trigger.

 The interesting thing here is that it's actually a direct callback to the scene near the beginning of FFA where the hero stumbles upon The Girl being harangued by woodland critters and rescues her, as their first meeting.

 The Girl spins The Boy around and gives him the once-over before determining that he is not, in fact, the guy she's looking for.

Well, a quick once-over never killed anybody, Especially when it involves a mutual admiration society.

We get trace amounts of Secret of Mana's largely omitted worldbuilding here in Pandora. From talking to townspeople, we can glean that Pandora is one of several nations that have been at war with The Empire for a while. According to these folks, on one side you have The Republic of Tasnica and The Kingdom of Pandora, as well as Ice Country...which doesn't make any sense because there's nothing there, but I'll get into my theory on Ice Country later. On the other side is The Empire and Gold Isle. Weird that Gold Isle sneaked in there. It's basically the Dubai of this world, home to The Top 0.0001%. Maybe they're bankrolling The Empire.

 In Pandora Castle, we're quickly reunited with The Girl. Turns out the guy she's looking for is Dyluck, the leader of Dyluck-Nation X and our fourth party member in the CD version of the game in some other timeline. Also...they're an item. Sorry, man. Looks like the hero of this game is going to end up as alone as the hero of the first game. Maybe in Seiken Densetsu 3 someone will finally be in a relationship.

WORTH NOTING: The Girl is the daughter of a nobleman in Pandora Kingdom, and rebels against her father here by running off to find Dyluck. None of these things are ever really mentioned again after this one scene of her barking out orders to The Hero after telling her father off through the door. But yeah, she's essentially a tomboy princess with no respect for the rules.

In other words...she's Marle.

Also not very well fleshed-out unless you talk to everyone in here: Her nobleman father is actually the one who sent Dyluck and his troops, severely undermanned, to attack the Witch's Castle, knowing full well that the threat was much greater than they'd be expecting, because he doesn't like Dyluck as a suitor for his daughter. Holy shit. Thus, she takes off after yelling at him.

Here's the thing. Before I came here and got her, I was supposed to go to the Dwarf Cave (of FFA fame) to see what's happening with the Underground Palace. That would have gotten me the Sprite a little sooner, saved me some running, and spared me a really difficult miniboss fight. Unfortunately I didn't realize this until it was too late. Not a big deal though.

 The Girl's name in this game? OASIS. Which is short for Oasis Rockwall, the most abrasive sexy name I could think of. Because if she's two things, it's abrasive and sexy.

 She starts with the first glove weapon. I'm a big fan of punching and kicking in this game, so this is a rad thing to get. Said attacks function just like they do in Sword of Mana, right down to doing a Haduken at max charge.

In other news, spiked knuckles are nothing to mess with. Tory really is the human version of The Girl, it turns out. All like "She's not my mother, TODD"

There are many gloves/claws in the game with different attributes. All of them have interesting bits of lore in Nintendo Power. One detail they left out: The Heavy Glove vibrates in four settings, while the Power Glove only vibrates in one. It's...not good.

 I take some time to PUNCH BEES. The punching sprite looks a little weird and incomplete, which isn't that noticeable in gameplay when things are moving, but it's noticeable here.

 Our next stop is Kippo Village, which functions as a resupply stop midway across the intertown expanse between Pandora and the Dwarf Cave. The weird thing is that this - a small throwaway town early in the game - is a bigger and more detailed town than the The Empire's "capitols" of Northtown and Southtown. You see a lot more detail in the early locations of this game, while the levels of detail and care both fall off in the later chapters as you get rushed through the endgame.

 After punching out another bee, we find ourselves at a crossroads. North is the Haunted Forest, where we can continue on with The Girl and tackle the Witch's Castle at a disadvantage (2 characters instead of 3). South is Gaia's Navel, which leads to the Dwarf Cave and the third character. So it makes sense to go there first. Except The Girl doesn't want to go be around smelly dwarves, and since I already got her before I should have...I'm more or less locked into a more difficult path.

 Gaia's Navel is one of the cooler locations in the game, with tremendous music and a lot of waterfalls.

 Much like Tupac, Neko gets around. He's got all the CBD-Infused Chocolate we can buy.

 Oasis Rockwall is upset at this turn of events. She wants to go to the Witch's Castle NOW.

Meanwhile a bat looks on like "look, I don't want to get in the middle of whatever this is."

I like how this early part of the game has some choices and different routes you can take, and it lets you know you have the option to go a different way.

Originally, Secret of Mana was intended to have many endings ala Chrono Trigger and several routes through the game ala Seiken Densetsu 3's final act. You can see signs of that in these early areas, where there's mobility to affect how the story plays out. These varied routes completely cease after the Witch's Castle and Underground Palace are both taken down, and the rest of the game from there is pretty linear.

 "Fine!" "FINE!"

"Have fun hanging out with a bunch of boring dwarves, TODD."


 At least I get to keep the spiky knuckles. Things immediately go from bad to worse, however, as I get ballooned by a bat. This is the latest annoying status effect. It's even worse than being unconscious/asleep, because enemies will just keep attacking you.

It also looks like the balloon from It. Figures because Pennywise and Thanatos have a few things in common, enough that I give this 50/50 odds of not being a coincidence.

 At this point I get the Magic Rope, which lets you escape from dungeons.

"Ooooh, rope. Dyluck would know what to do with that, unlike YOU. Sometimes a girl just wants to be punished!"

"What the hell? I thought you left!"


NICE JOB, WOOLSEY. I want a refund. This game isn't even 60 fps. I saw it chug down to 55 earlier. What a ripoff.

 The most important thing here? Watts. This guy is your best friend in Secret of Mana. He uses orbs from bosses to forge new and improved versions of weapons. Given how difficult the game is early-on, you want to forge as much as possible.

 Right now all we can upgrade is the Rusty Sword, using the Sword's Orb from Mantis Ant.

 This turns it into a real sword, or at least a less-rusty one. It isn't the fully-powered Mana Sword yet, though, and has a lot of forging to go.

 To go with the Spiky Knuckles, I buy a Spiky Suit. It leaves me destitute and impoverished.

 Finally! Some good news for our hero, as he stumbles into the Dwarf Village's Exhibition of Cultural Oddities.

 "Step right up and turn the crank!"

What follows is a debacle of a magic show. Jack is not pleased with this, and hollers "we want refund, we want refund yeah".

 But wait! Things take a sharp turn into the ultra-sad as a little orphan sprite child begs for donations so they can try to find their lost family.

Unlike the rest of this town, they aren't a dwarf. More imp.

 Turns out they were just Midge'd to look smaller, and they complain when they realize how poor our hero is. The Sprite IS an orphan, so all of the lying and subterfuge wasn't even necessary.

Elder: "You and me, Sprite, we're gonna make some cash!"

 While uncovering the whole crooked swindle, we learn that The Sprite has more expressions and animations than ANY other character in this game. They exude personality. They feel like a complete character in a world of incomplete characters.

 The Sprite is suffering from amnesia and can't remember how to get back to their homeland. That's right, they: The Sprite is gender-neutral. It's confusing though because some characters in the English translation refer to them as "he"... while they look female in all of the artwork... and yet they express attraction to The Girl at one point, adding to the "it's male?" confusion. So they're a gender-neutral imp-creature that, at least, sorta likes The Girl, and the occasional "he" is either mis-translation to simplify things for the audience or simply characters being unsure of what they were looking at.

 They look at the wall while apologizing. The Sprite is such a punk, and it's kind of awesome. Easily the best character in this game. I actually want to help them get home.

 Up next: An almost-immediate boss fight with Tropicallo. This is one of the hardest fights in the game since it's one-on-one and healing items are at a premium at this point. It took me several tries. Here's the actual battle:

This fight is very noteworthy because it's the only real one-on-one boss fight in the game, and thus the only Final Fantasy Adventure style fight. This boss, and everything leading up to it with one character, are as close as we've got to an SNES Final Fantasy Adventure 2.

EDIT: Here's the fight from the PS4 version, where I managed to bring The Girl. More on this later.

After the hero saves the dwarves from the psychotic plant, things get serious. The Sprite is a tragic character, but we don't know the half of it yet.

 Sprite's sprite animation then proceeds to completely freak out. WHAT IS THAT FACE?

 Our next goal? The Underground Palace. What about the Witch's Castle? I need to get back to that, especially considering the way to the Underground Palace is sealed.

 "BROTHER" says The Sprite while doing Hulkster poses. The Elder apologizes profusely.

 Since The Sprite has amnesia, I get to name them. Not sure why I got to name The Girl, she doesn't have amnesia. In any case, The Sprite is now MOON. Full name Moon Omega, chylde of the night.

This fell into place completely by accident. I've been putting pictures of Tory from Cobra Kai everywhere to represent The Girl, yet it completely escaped me that Cobra Kai has a character named Moon, and she sorta looks like The Sprite. Now, Moon is a name I decided on for this game weeks ago, so it's a complete coincidence this worked out. So yeah, here's Moon Omega's official character portrait. What a cutie.

It always weirds me out when game characters have a full first and last name. It happens a lot with new AAA IPs. It's how you know they're super serious, and worthy of a Game Informer cover.

 At this point we get TWO new weapons, and they're both all about that Zelda life: The Boomerang (Sprite's default weapon) and the Bow. Both are ranged attacks, super-useful at this point. They have very different properties, however.

 Boomerangs are fun in this game. They start out looking traditional, while some of the higher level versions of the weapon look like spiked disks. When thrown they fly forth and then back towards you, and can hit enemies more than once as they pass through. They can also hit an entire group of enemies that are clumped together. The downside? Terrible accuracy. You may be able to hit an entire group of enemies at once, but chances are high that all of those hits will be misses.

The bow, on the other hand, fires single-projectiles that only hit the first thing they contact, no pass-through. Arrows also don't go through walls the way the Boomerang often does. Positives? More damage than the Boomerang, greater accuracy, and the arrows travel in a bit of an arc that lets you hit enemies on higher platforms than your character. Something that'll be very useful for the next boss.

Getting two weapons at once is unusual in this game, since it paces new tools out well. Early-on, at least. Could this be the very first indicator of the game's development being rushed?

Our next stop: The Witch's Castle, where we can find out the fate of...

...Major Dyluck and his privates, still en route to the Witch's Castle.


Nintendo Power coverage of today's episode. The most noteworthy thing here is Watts looking both grizzled and hardy. Probably the best game-blacksmith artwork I've ever seen. The central sketch of the hero looking all ragged as he fights Tropicallo is our first real look at the hero in the artwork. He appears more mature and battle-worn than he does in the game. The Sprite on the side there is adorable.


Whisper and Mantra, which is a pretty cool name for a track. This plays in the Water Palace and a few other select mystical locations.

Mystic Invasion, the dungeon theme for Mana Palaces specifically (well, most of them...the Ice Palace is special and gets its own music). This is a remix of Whisper and Mantra, and introduces the slap-percussion that'd later permeate most of Seiken Densetsu 3's soundtrack. This is an imminently-listenable dungeon theme.

1 comment:

  1. You know what I like about Kippo village? The lack of drama. Just a chill place.

    You can't actually get to the Witch's castle with just the girl, but if you try and hit a dead end she'll stay with you for Gaia's Navel.

    If the L2 sword is the finest Watts has ever seen, then he's really going to be surprised later.

    The Sprite > *