Thursday, September 26, 2019

Secret of Mana #4 - High Sign

Today on Secret of Mana: Things aren't right in Pandora.

The Earth Seed is unsealed! ...or sealed? The game never makes it clear. The Empire is running around breaking seals on seeds to destabilize the planet, and whatever fondling of the seeds that we do doesn't seem to have much effect on their ability to do whatever they want later. At least we're getting new magic tiers every time we do this. Now I can level spells up to L2.

The Sprite bonks his/her/their head on the steps and it cures their amnesia. Now that they remember how to get to their homeland, we'll be escorting them there soon. In the meantime, we get to hang out with The Sprite. #Blessed

Sprite Gnome Spells:

Earth Slide - Drops a rockslide on an enemy. Lots of damage, 3 MP

Gem Missile - Fires gem missiles at an enemy. Less damage, more MP-efficient though, 2 MP

Speed Down - Slows down the movement speed of a foe

Girl's Gnome Spells:

Defender - Temporary defense buff, doesn't last long enough to be useful at low levels

Speed Up - Increases Hit% and Evasion, may or may not work because this is early Squaresoft

Stone Saber - Enchants weapons with Earth element that gives attacks the possibility of petrifying a foe. This is a lot better than Ice Saber because petrification is instant-defeat. Most likely the best Saber spell in the game against regular non-boss foes, and a game-changer.

It doesn't feel like it. Well, we're back in Pandora, and everyone here is an asshole due to Thanatos' mind-control power slowly taking hold over people one by one.

As opposed to the people of Potos, who are assholes all on their own!

The Pandora royalty are gathered to discuss what to do about all of this. Noted useless guy Jema is here too.

The King is distraught, expecting The Empire to invade at any time. Given what I've seen of both sides, I don't think Thanatos even needs to undermine Pandora. Let's be honest here, The Empire could roll this place at will.

Before heading to the ruins, I spend all of my money on a few Faerie Walnuts. One of these is the difference between winning or losing a boss fight if your MP runs out before the fight is over. Too bad I have to get fleeced by Neko, who is spending all of my money on leather jackets and bandanas to wear while lurking around with his new DX Army pals.

Here we go, the Ruins. Thanatos' theme plays for the first time here, one of the most unsettling tracks I've heard in any game. That track makes it feel like nothing is as it should be.

The Girl's best friend, Phanna, is one of the hypnotized Eloi being summoned to the ruins by Thanatos. As if losing Dyluck wasn't bad enough, she doesn't want to lose Phanna too. Phanna reacts to this by slapping her and walking away. For such a simple scene in such an underdeveloped game, it's depressing.

The Ruins are a dungeon that you're better off just beelining through. The enemies here are a pain, and most of them are immune to physical attacks. It's crucial to get Gnome to L2 before continuing, which this first room works well for.

Here's Thanatos, the villain. He's in here collecting people's life force, Cell-style. Well, not quite that gross.

One of the Emperor's four generals, Thanatos is the only one at this point that gets his power directly from Mavolia (The Underworld). Not sure what that means because the story never had a chance to delve into it much, but it is implied that at some point before SoM he ceased to be human, possessed by whatever ancient spirit was motivated to start the last great war. Eventually the other generals will be similarly infected by underworld power. At least, most of them.

The Empire is going to bring us order, whether we like it or not!

Thanatos summons Dyluck, or rather the husk of Dyluck since he's been completely brainwashed at this point. Apparently Dyluck is the most powerful human Thanatos could find, so he's keeping Dyluck around to possess later if something happens to his current body. Phanna is just there to hurt the good guys psychologically...

...and lure children into the ruins, because everyone likes and trusts her. This is getting way too dark.

Thanatos drops our heroes into a pit where they fight the Evil Wall. This is sorta like the wall bosses in the Final Fantasy series in that it gradually moves forward...

...and instakills your entire party if the fight goes on for too long.

Here's the fight in action, which is a matter of spamming L2 Earth Slide on the central eye. This is pretty much how boss fights are gonna go from here on out: Identify an elemental weakness, fire away with spells.

Here's the fight in the PS4 version, which is somehow even easier.

After that fight, I finally fixed the window size. Gotta watch out for that in the future. In any case, Thanatos realizes that our heroes have the Mana Sword, and with his plans more or less foiled in Pandora, teleports away.

Unfortunately...he also takes The Girl's two best friends with him. When all of this is over, she's totes going to have a threesome with Dyluck and Phanna. Yep, when all of this is over with and everyone's back home safe, she's gonna bed both of them.

Morgan Freeman Voiceover: "That threesome... would never happen."

In the Japanese version of the game, Jema is a lot more useful, especially here. He pretty much explains that Thanatos might not be human anymore and may instead be a vessel for underworld powers that want to destabilize the world.

After all of that, we get access to the great loot-house of Pandora, which is sorta like the tower treasures of Guardia Castle. Don't get too excited though, because most of these chests have 50 GP in them. A couple have weapon orbs, at least.

Our next stop? The Dwarf Village, where some thieves are apparently tunneling through the ground. They stole the Seed of Water and now they're on their way to the Seed of Earth. Who are these mysterious bandits?

Dropping into the hole lands us on an airship parked underground. This is pretty bizarre, and never shows up again in the game. I think this might have been designed for an airship vehicle that ended up being scrapped in favor of Flammie. The layout of this airship is pretty much identical to the Big Whale from Final Fantasy IV.

At this point the game starts dropping random weapon orbs into areas, so it's safe to say this is where the cuts started. Any omitted boss would have had its weapon orb transferred to a chest somewhere instead, and this accounts for about...35% of the weapon orbs, which isn't too far from the 40% number we have for cut content.


The Scorpion Army are a bunch of weirdo bandits. Not sure whose side they're on, or what the point of their existence is. They show up, steal some seeds, and then occasionally appear elsewhere as scheming buffoons.

Who? What? Why is the boss wearing a bikini?

...This is basically the Leblanc Syndicate from Final Fantasy X-2. Mana's influence goes far.

They sic their killer combat robot on us in the airship basement, then disappear. This airship will never be seen again in any form.

"Fear Me!" says Kilroy.

This is a potentially difficult fight because he hits hard and has a lot of HP. It's weird to be fighting a robot in this otherwise-fantasy setting.

Here's the actual fight. Attacking from just below horizontally works super-well for landing charged hits. This is one of the few fights that doesn't really require magic-spamming.

Here's the PS4 version. This is one of the few fights where you're just fine using weapons instead of spells, though spells speed up the win.

Nuts? Oh yeah? Well, double nuts on you!

Weapons start having special effects around their 3rd tiers, sometimes 2nd. Some versions of the Whip can tangle enemies, lowering their movement speed. Nintendo Power isn't just making these things up for flavor. Question is, are there some weapons that it's better to not upgrade since they have some really good effect?

After returning the stolen seed to the Water Palace, it turns out The Empire is already here, and they've got Luka.

Geshtar is one of the Emperor's four generals, and the second one we meet. He's basically an asshole. He's also the only one to really get any screentime or character development besides Thanatos. Though even in the case of those two, "character development" is pushing it.

He uses Magical Plot Power to keep the heroes from leaving the room. It's a good thing he doesn't use this immobilizing mind-magic when you fight him, or you wouldn't have a chance.

So yeah, our heroes brought the water seed right back here to them. Geshtar puts it back on the altar and breaks the seal...whatever that means. Notice how Geshtar actually has graphics for facing in various directions and moving. The Emperor and his other generals, aside from Thanatos, don't have that. They're only rendered from the front, because cuts.

This scene, with Geshtar looking at the heroes while Luka looks away, is seen in Nintendo Power's coverage:

What's that two-headed hydra on the left? Why, it's our next foe...

...the dastardly Jabberwocky. I never knew it when I was younger, but it's a reference to the two-headed hydra at the beginning of Final Fantasy Adventure.

Here's the fight on SNES. There's a point here where you can see a very annoying thing that happens sometimes: You'll cast a spell just as a character takes damage, and it'll cancel the spell cast. It happens one of the times I had The Girl cast heal. It's important to pay attention to whether or not the spell is actually casting after you fire it off. This fight is a little bit of a step up from earlier fights because it hits really damn hard.

The fight is easier in the PS4 version, yet again. Notice that physical attacks are much more effective in this version, at least at this point in the game.

Jema arrives right after the Empire's forces leave, having successfully broken the seal (whatever that means). You're a little late, dude. You're useless! USELESS!

Jema orders us around some more. Our next stop is the Wind Palace, which is where the Empire is headed next. If we can get there before them...what? What are we supposed to do, Jema? Geshtar has telepathic screen-freeze plot powers!

Oh, WHAT A SURPRISE. Jema isn't going to help with our struggle because he has to stay here and "tend to Luka's wounds". Here he is ushering our heroes out of the room so they can be alone. What a crock.

I get Whip L3. I've been letting a few weapon upgrades pile up, then doing all of them at once.

Something I could have been told about YESTERDAY, as the Water Palace shakes violently in the background.

With Luka moaning in the distance, our heroes don't need to go to the Water Palace for a while. Off to Upper Land, where we'll find The Sprite's village and the Wind Palace. Mainly we just want to get away from all of this noise. How are we hearing her from way over here?

The Great Forest of Upper Land is a place a lot of Mana players have fond memories of. For some reason I don't. I think I always just flew through this section really fast. Looking at it now, though, I totally get why people like this area. It's magical and the seasons change from screen to screen.

MOON hit their head when we were landing from the wildly-unsafe Cannon Travel, and can't remember where their village is. Meanwhile, moogles are chasing each other around trying to mate. Love is in the air here in the Upper Land Forest.

Turns out that the Moogles have been ousted from their village nearby by Pebblers, weird porcupine things.

This is the Winter section of the Great Forest. From here you can move around to other seasons.

Here's the Autumn section. My characters are taking a beating because enemies here are suddenly MUCH stronger than they were previously.

Evidence of rushed content alert: Sudden leaps in enemy difficulty, as if there's a missing area between this and the previous part of the game.

The Spring section has pink trees and mana beasts flying through the air. Without any Inns around here, we have to get revival/healing items from Neko to recover from the fights, and get fleeced in the process.

The Pebblers are a bunch of attack-resistant bastards. This isn't really even a miniboss fight, though they're difficult when you first encounter them.

Once they're defeated, the Moogle Village is restored. Still no Inn, though. Also: This is the Summer section of the forest, hence how green it is.

MOON recovers their memory! Now we can go back to their village, which is close to here. This is turning out to be the happiest episode yet of SoM. What could go wrong!

Even the Moogles are happy! Watts is here, Neko is here, there are weapon orbs laying on the ground because we didn't make enough bosses. This is the happiest things ever get in the world of Mana!

We find The Sprite's village only to discover that it's completely wrecked. It's unclear whether the village was destroyed by The Empire or the next boss (or both). Where are the people? All of the corpses were no doubt edited out, and the verbiage is sanitized to the point that it's difficult to tell what exactly is going on.

Either way, The Sprite's village is in ruins now, meaning they really are an orphan.

After that soul-crushing segment, we battle Spring Beak ( that a play on "spring break"?)

Watch me completely waste a Faerie Walnut here, as E-Tank With Boss At Low Health Syndrome strikes.

Here's the PS4 version of the fight. Spring Beak looks really weird here.

More soul-crushing follows, as we find The Sprite's grandpa and he's been beaten down by The Empire.

So we're too late, they've already unsealed this temple as well. I guess once they unseal all of them, the Mana Fortress can rise. They also blinded grandpa, though the game's translation dialogue jumps through hoops to avoid saying it outright the same way it does everything it can to sanitize The Sprite's village being massacred.

After the most depressing series of events in the game (until the next depressing series of events) he summons Sylphid the elemental of wind to give us our next spell sets. This seed also means we can raise spells to L3 now, though in all honestly L2 was already kind of OP for this stage of the game and we didn't need another magic tier yet. They could have had L5 be the highest magic level and the game would have been better-balanced overall. On the bright side, L4 magic isn't for a while. On the not so bright side, you basically get L4/L5/L6/L7 in rapid succession once the SoM Speed Tour begins in the second half of the game.


Balloon - Entraps enemies temporarily with an It balloon so you can attack with impunity. This is practically cheating. It's also a bit unnecessary at this point.

Analyze - Scans an enemy or switch to tell you what element they're vulnerable to.

Thunder Saber - Makes weapons Thunder/Wind elemental so they do more damage to enemies weak to that element. Supposedly also increases overall weapon damage to all foes, unlike the first two Sabers which just randomly inflicted effects. Not sure if the damage bonus works right, as reports are conflicting on whether it adds damage to all attacks or just attacks versus foes weak to this element. Doesn't add status effects like the first two Sabers do, so lets hope it works with what it is supposed to do.


Thunderbolt - Does a lot of damage, very expensive. Good against foes weak to this element, inferior to Earth Slide for general use against everything else due to the highest cost and similar damage.

Air Blast - Does decent damage at a lower cost. Basically the Gem Missile equivalent on the other side.

Silence - Confuses enemies so that they move in the wrong directions. Vaguely effective. Not sure why it's called Silence and not "Confusion". There isn't actually a mute-causing spell in this game. One would be super-useful since some enemies sling overpowered spells. 

After trekking through the Summer lands again, being hit with all kinds of status effects, we reach...

...Matango, land of the mushroom-people and general mystery. More on this later.

Nintendo Power coverage! How much did we get through today? A lot, it turns out. These pages were particularly interesting to me when I started reading this coverage, since I'd never gotten past the Fire Gigas on past rentals. It was one of those things where I didn't really think that much of the game was left, only to discover that I was like 20% of the way at the most.

Fun Fact: I forgot to get the Midge Mallet. This is what I get for not following the coverage more closely. Given how enemies in Upper Land like to inflict Midge on the party, and the Midge Mallet cures that, it makes sense that they'd give you that item right before you go there. I'll need to get back to the Dwarf Village to get the Mallet sooner or later. Problem is, once you take off to Upper Land, it's a real hassle to get back to the early areas.

Here's the Upper Land coverage, showing the Great Forest and its four seasons. According to this, Spring Beak destroyed the Sprite's village, but it makes more sense that The Empire did that on their way to ransack the Wind Palace and the Spring Beak is just some monster that wandered in to collect the bodies (the nonexistent bodies). Hard to say.

Sylphid is essentially a genie. The elementals in this game all seem to have distinct personalities.


Thanatos' theme, which plays for the Pandora Ruins, Northtown Ruins, and pretty much anywhere Thanatos shows up. This track is disturbing, can't put my finger on why. It feels like something awful is about to happen.

The boss theme. At first it sounds like musical chaos, but it's actually one of the better boss themes on the SNES. This is what the composer, Hiroki Kikuta, had to say about it:

In the world created by games there are many factors to consider. These factors of course are not always in harmony and are scattered all over. So naturally, you have the positives factors clashing with negative ones. When making something like battle music, thinking about the clashing of these different forces is very important. Once these clashing factors come together, they become one and you end up with a perfect sound that symbolizes that harmony. Much like in American football when you have the chaotic lead up of plays and the celebration when a touchdown is scored, battle music is very similar in how the colliding forces come together to create something amazing.

1 comment:

  1. Even Thanatos noped the fuck out of Potos.

    Thanatos claims he knows all about the main character, but is surprised that he has the Mana Sword. Dude, that's the only thing there is to know about him!

    You know, if it wasn't for their theme I would have completely forgotten about those scorpion guys.

    "Bye for now" indeed.

    Yeah, the Upper Lands are a pretty magical place. I feel like my first few attempts at this game I only made it as far as everything before this, so this always feels like the first "new" area of the game to me.

    I'd say Spring Beak always looks weird.