Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Secret of Mana #6 - Funhouse Mirror

Funhouse mirrors are known to be distorted reflections of what something is supposed to look like. Which is sorta what we've got with this game, at the end of the day.

Since today's episode is a bit on the depressing side, here's the happiest Mana video ever: The Potos Dance! Look at our hero dancing with everybody.

The people of Potos may be unimpressed and generally boring, but like Nietzsche said, those who dance are thought to be insane by those who cannot hear the music.

Time for my hot theory on what the deal is with Ice Country: This is Lorimar, the third country that went to war with the Empire. The alliance against the Empire consisted of Pandora, Lorimar, and Tasnica. We hear about The Empire attacking Lorimar, but we never actually go there. I believe that "Ice Country" is postwar Lorimar, or what's left of it decades later. This was left on the cutting room floor during development...or maybe they just thought that this development was too dark and scary for the audience so they left out anything alluding to it. They didn't even show corpses in The Sprite's "destroyed" "village" after all.

This explains the super-emotional music in this area, and correlates it with the Lorimar of Final Fantasy Adventure also being frozen. Different game/story/location, but considering how often these two games parallel each other without being connected...

We battle through the Ice Forest, which has a cannon travel center...for some reason. It's a good thing cannon travel exists since the Sea Turtle Boat got completely omitted from the final game and you'd have no other way to get to these distant lands.

What? Sea Turtle Boat? That's another major thing they left out. More on that later.

Neko is here, and he's chilly. At least he's got that fur.

We arrive at Lorimar Castle the Ice Castle. Not only does this place look really cool, it's also the only dungeon in the game to get its own theme. Why is it special enough for its own theme? Because it's really Lorimar We don't know. The theme in question is awesome, too. It's definitely going into the endnotes of this post.

This area is a bit frustrating because so many of the foes inflict Freeze status.


There's an easy-to-forget miniboss here, as you fight a trio of Tonpoles. At this point they're a bit of a joke, especially with Salamando. It's better to conserve MP for the real boss though.

Defeat the Tonpoles and they turn into Biting Lizards, as is tradition. It's so weird how these things are like the main miniboss of the game.


So, whether this is Lorimar Castle or not, it seems the only resident of the throne room now is Frost Gigas.

He's basically the same fight as the Fire Gigas, except both spellcasters can damage him since The Girl now has attack magic as well. Lighting this guy up with fire spells from both barrels is a rad time.

Here's the fight. No PS4 remake versions of the fights from here on out because I haven't played the second half of it yet. When I do I'll save those videos for the inevitable posts that the remake itself will get soon.

Frost Gigas turns into Santa Claus, and Rudolph arrives to make us feel bad.

Turns out Santa was trying to help the kids of the world by stealing the Fire Seed and turning into Frost Gigas, because he'd failed everybody by not protecting Mana. Or something.

Now that this oddball chapter of the game (with insane music) is over, it's time to get the Fire Seed back to the Fire Palace. That gets us L4 magic. Weird how L4 magic and Salamando are acquired so far apart. Usually you get a new tier the same time that you get a new elemental.

The Cannon Travel guy tells us to slide into the cannon, much like he'll be sliding into The Girl's DMs after this. Joke's on him, she's taken. And even if she wasn't, the PS4 version reveals that she's completely insufferable. More on that later.

The Fire Palace is found in the depths of Kakkara Desert. So is the Moon Palace. The desert is a weirdly busy place.

To get through here, you need the Varia Suit Salamando, so if you don't visit Ice Country first this is as far as you get. Even if you get Salamando and return, you won't be able to place the Fire Seed without doing the Ice Palace.

If this were Secret of Mana: Other M, our heroes would already have all of their powers, and would have to radio in to ask for permission to use Salamando. Their commanding officer would tell them no to teach them a lesson, and they'd suffer horrible burns in the Fire Palace while having inner monologues about how their commanding officer is right to teach them discipline.

The Fire Palace is full of spell orbs that have to be triggered to progress. The enemies here do a lot of damage and it was better to just sprint through with the casters ghosted until an orb blocked the way.

This last orb summons the boss, and it's a doozy:

Minotaur is a big bastard who stunlocks people. I liked the Secret of Evermore version better. STOP POWERBOMBING MOON!

After that the Fire Seed is placed, and we can mercifully move on. The Ice Palace / Fire Palace duo are one of the more appealing parts of this game, IMO. Funny thing is that neither gives an elemental and only one of them has a seed to raise spell tiers. They function only as standard dungeons, but manage to be memorable nonetheless because of their element-themes and because it's the last time the game gives you a choice of pathways to progress (even though you really kinda have to do Ice first)

Speaking of choices, once those two areas are done, The Empire becomes selectable at Cannon Travel. Having any luck sliding into those DMs yet, brah?

Oh yeah, because I totally forgot about the Midge Mallet in the previous episode, I go back to get it. This adds/removes Midge status to the party, which is useful for a couple of bosses.

We get a moment of sentimentality from the Dwarf Elder. When I was a kid playing this and it took me weeks to get through (if not months) there was legitimate nostalgia here. Now, when I can plow the entire game in 12 hours over like a half a week, not so much.

Time to get launched again! There's the Moon Palace, an intriguing place we'll visit later. It should get together with Chrono Trigger's mysterious Sun Palace and the inexplicable Star Hill from Super Mario RPG.

Here it is, The Empire. You'd think we'd have to lay super-low here, but it isn't like any of the Imperial Troops react to us or anything. The Empire consists of two small towns and like, nothing in-between, despite comprising the game's second-biggest continent.

The Empire is the continent on the east side. It's huge. The entire southern part of it on this map goes completely unused in the game. The northern part of it is where the two towns are (Northtown and Southtown). You don't get to traverse the forest in-between them. I feel like Gothica in Secret of Evermore is a more fully-realized version of this continent, since it two has two main towns with forest paths from one to the other. In this game you pretty much go from one to the other through a sewer path (which Evermore also has).

The Empire is bland as hell, with bland buildings and bland empty yards. The music here is also way too friendly (though still quite excellent). When I think of Empires, I think of menacing music. Like Black Castle in Legend of Dragoon, or Vector in Final Fantasy VI.

This old lady knows who we are! QUICK, TIE HER UP!

...oh, she's with the good guys. Way to just blurt out that she's a spy though. What if we're just lookalikes for the Mana Heroes? What if the room is bugged?

Southtown...isn't even as big as Kippo Village. Let's be real here, THIS is the point of the game where the massive amount of cut content becomes truly evident.

There's a Resistance Base here for people fighting against The Empire's tyranny. They're in the sewers somewhere. I swear some of this got into Locke's Scenario near the beginning of FFVI. This game is the proto source of so many ideas that made it into other Square games in that timeframe.

The sewers that connect the two Imperial towns (and the Resistance Base) are really obnoxious to get through because there are a ton of places for your AI characters to get stuck.

Also lots of ICE BLOBS


Here's SSJ1 Gohan Krissie, the leader of Le Resistance. You mean Jema is actually doing something?

There's a bit of Narshe here too, being greeted by Arvis and his two lieutenants who all have unique sprites for some reason.

OASIS gets jealous of Krissie's woman-ness for some reason. Why is this even being brought up, aside from that OASIS is awful?

Well, at least the characters are actually talking again...it's been a while.

Bad news: Dyluck is around, and he's draining people's energy Cell-style.

The NPCs in the Resistance Base have some interesting things to say. Matter of fact, there's more story to be found here than anywhere else from here on out. Turns out that Krissie's parents were killed by The Empire, so she grew up and started The Resistance.

Somebody should go back in time and warn The Empire that killing people would make people hate them and thus make them less safe.

The Emperor's under-served (by the game) generals get some mention here. Turns out they're some major badasses who wield the power of the Underworld, whatever that means.

Well, Thanatos, Fanha, and The Emperor wield the power of the Underworld, though we never see The Emperor do anything with it or fight him (Final Fantasy XV style). Geshtar is sorta just the overconfident goon of the group who gets killed early, before Underworld Power becomes a thing. And Sheex...well...Sheex isn't even in control of himself. You see, Sheex was intended to be the General Leo of the game, the honorable Dark Knight who wanted nothing to do with the schemes of the others but eventually fell under the control of Thanatos and sent to do his bidding. Course, none of that gets spelled out very well.

Hopefully they don't look in the sewers of their only two towns.

Man, I'd love to see The Empire expanded in this game to what it was supposed to be. Even if it was mainly just Guardia/Gothica type forests and ravines, which I'm 99% sure it was intended to be. Chances are any developed assets for it ended up in Chrono Trigger, probably 600 BC.

Ouch. Sprinkled throughout this game are some strong hints of the dark storyline it was originally intended to have.

This green-haired hottie mentions the Tasnica Republic, one of the three nations The Empire once fought. They'll come into play later...barely. Tasnica is absurdly underdeveloped in this game.

Aside from the two towns on the continent, Gold Isle got in there too. It's pretty much where the uber-rich live, and everything there is made of gold. Maybe they're the financiers of The Empire. Gold Isle is at least an interesting, unique, and finished (!!) location.

The shops here sell an abundance of armor, most of it new at this point. The super-weird thing is that they sell multiple tiers of armor at the same shop. Why buy one thing for 5000 GP when you can buy the next upgrade up for 7000 GP? Considering they've got 2-3 tiers of armor in these shops and every other shop to this point had 1 tier of armor, you can really see the designers cramming armor upgrades into the shops at this point. It'll get worse, too, as there'll come a point soon where armor upgrades double and then quadruple your defense in the span of like 3 areas. The armor scaling and placement are completely out the window at this point.

Even now armor is a humongous upgrade over previous tiers, completely dwarfing everything before this. At least the Tiger Bikini is super-memorable.

I once knew a girl who owned a leopard-print bra. It was the hottest thing ever.

Here's the infamous "road to nowhere" in Northtown. Originally there was supposed to be a lot more to this city, and this road brought you to it. More on that later.

Good news, citizen: Your side is probably going to win.

Enough tooling around The Empire, it's time to head for the ruins and confront Dyluck...and Phanna?

We get another sad scene where The Girl's best friend tells her off. She's also been luring kids here so Thanatos can drain their life-force, It-style.

She goes too far when she suggests that her and Dyluck are now together, and The Girl knocks her over.

The Girl and Phanna both turn away and cry (or as best as the game can animate) as depressing music plays. Thanatos is TEARING US APART!

Krissie arrives and takes the knocked-over Phanna to safety (since she's presumably back to her senses now that she's been bonked). Not sure if we even see Phanna again after this. They just...didn't finish that part.

The Oasis/Dyluck/Phanna three-way is looking less-likely by the minute here. She might have to settle for a two-way with MOON.

Northtown Ruins are a lot like the Pandora Ruins, with some new Gothica-esque outdoor sections...that contain weapon orbs, because of all the cut bosses.

Seriously, the amount of weapon orbs you find just lying around skyrockets at this point, in lieu of actual boss fights giving up these prizes. It kinda cheapens the concept, as well as illustrating how incomplete the game is. About 35% of the weapon orbs in the game are found in chests (very close to the supposed 40% of the game that was cut) and almost all of them are in the latter half of the game where it's most evident that a huge amount was omitted.

This room is cool. It's a multicolored smorgasbord of blobs! The fact that they divide up makes them a good source of EXP.

Seriously? Another one?


Fun Fact: Since you have to end up with the Sword at max tier, any Sword Orbs in chests that you miss will be auto-acquired in the Grand Palace when you get the Sword Orb there. Yeah. It just sorta gives you 2 or 3 of them at once, whatever you're missing.

This room is absolute hell on wheels to play with AI characters, as they have a dickens of a time getting around all of the spike walls.

Next boss! Doom's Wall is a redux of Evil Wall, and does all of the exact same things with a bit more HP. Even the room looks the same. Frost Gigas and Boreal Face may have been palette-swaps but at least they did a lot of new things. This...ushers in a new era of bosses being complete clones of earlier bosses, unfortunately. It was a common trend in that era. Sometimes it's cool, but in this game it's pretty clear it's mainly because they were running out of time.

Oasis is overjoyed to see Dyluck, and of course...

...he's evil, and one-shots her with an unknown, un-animated attack.

Man, the original CD version of the game in a parallel universe with four players would have been a lot better than making Dyluck into a villain like this. I wonder what powers he would have had. Considering that you get him in the Witch's Castle/Haunted Forest, it'd make a lot of sense if he had werewolf powers like Kevin in Seiken Densetsu 3. Then again, given the name similarity, he might have been more like Duran. I'm guessing he would have had limited spell ability, probably one spell from each elemental set. Maybe the Sabers.

Oh yeah, so anyway... he one-shots The Girl and we get another depressing scene. After that, he teleports her away to Thanatos (much the way Elinee teleported him there, they must have their hearths set to wherever Thanatos is).The Boy has had ENOUGH!

Dyluck recovers his senses, realizing what he's done. He can't move, though, and tells the two remaining heroes to go rescue The Girl without him. Then he just sorta...sits there, debilitated. Yeah, this game turned out real depressing.

In the back room, Thanatos is gearing up to suck all of the energy out of The Girl. Yep.

After being stopped by our heroes, he summons someone else who sucks even more than he does...

...The Vampire, of Final Fantasy Adventure fame. Well, THIS is a new boss. It's a tough one, too, since we don't have its weakness yet. As a kid I never knew that this guy was an FFA reference.

This is one of the better fights of the second half, partly because of the reference and partly because it's new and well-animated. These two Thanatos Ruins areas may be home to some of the game's saddest and most unsettling story, but they're also two of the most well-designed areas from start to finish.

Oasis cries when they realize Dyluck isn't here anymore, and that's it for today's episode.

The Nintendo Power coverage of the Santa part is suitably frosty, with a mind-bogglingly depressing picture of Santa.

The upper right is Mara, the oddball who recognized our heroes. Check out The Sprite behind her looking horrified (and ready to silently kill her if needed).

Lower right is Krissie, who gets like NO development and barely any screentime after that initial flurry of development at the HQ.

The Minotaur drawing in the middle is pretty great, especially The Boy's leaping attack.

Another great drawing of the Vampire fight. The ruins look amazing here too. I wish the Secret of Mana PS4 remake took more visual cues from these drawings and were genuinely 3D. It had a ton of potential that largely went un-utilized, much like the original game.

The two tracks I'm giving the nod to today are both from Ice Country. Here's "A Wish" which is probably the greatest snow-land theme of any video game ever.

And here's the Ice Castle's unique theme, which is also great. If it was originally intended as the ruins of Lorimar Castle and they just didn't flesh that part out, it explains the music being both different here and also melancholy outside.

1 comment:


    There's a really cool forest in Breath of the Wild that reminded me of the Moon Palace.

    I didn't know that about the Sword Orbs.

    Poor Santa.