Monday, October 21, 2019

Secret of Mana #7 - Dracarys

::scene freezes::

Geshtar: "You might be wondering how I got here. Well, it all started this morning..."

Watts arrives in Northtown with an astute observation.

After returning from the Northtown Ruins and being unable to stop Thanatos from doing more bad stuff, our heroes find out that the Emperor is now calling for a cease-fire. Matter of fact, he's inviting the resistance to a banquet to talk things over.

Yes, this part got fully-realized in Final Fantasy VI. I've concluded that the 40% of this game that was cut, as well as all of the things that weren't cut yet weren't fully-realized either, ended up in a handful of other games. Chrono Trigger got most of it, while the rest went to Final Fantasy VI, Seiken Densetsu 3, and Secret of Evermore. A tiny bit of it went to Final Fantasy VII.

The Resistance stand around debating whether or not the mass-murdering Emperor Vandole might be on the up-and-up.

They're in a difficult situation though. If the Emperor really does want to end the long and terrible conflict between The Empire and Everyone Else, then we should grab this chance.

You're not going to make me talk to 24 soldiers throughout the castle? Are you sure?

Nevermind, this isn't like Final Fantasy VI at all. In that game, the banquet table was horizontal.

Of course, it's a trap. Really? They aren't going to string us along for a while until they raise the lost continent out of the ocean and it becomes a sky fortress? ...which game am I talking about? It's a good thing I understand that Square's games all share DNA in this era, because otherwise one could say they were actually formulaic.

Everybody gets thrown in prison, and this is Krissie's infamous reaction. Who had the bright idea for us to waltz in here, again?

The imperial soldiers push our heroes off a plank. For whatever reason they get to keep their weapons, as they must fight with...

...Metal Mantis, a mech version of the Mantis Ant. It's awesome to have a real fight with this thing given that the fight at the beginning is an un-losable tutorial fight.

Here's the battle itself. Now that I've got all of that Final Fantasy Adventure experience, I recognize what a reference this fight is.

After defeating the Metal Mantis, we break the Resistance out of their cells. Apparently all of the soldiers in the area just kinda left. So their plan was to throw our heroes in with the Metal Mantis, then...what? This part is SUPER summed-up and clearly missing a lot.

Armored Knights attack as we move through the Imperial Castle. Not sure if these guys are imperial soldiers or machines. They use the same sprites as the Terminators later on, which are definitely machines, and The Empire is the forerunner of machine technology in this world.

There are weapon orbs just laying around in here. Once this area is finished you can never come back here, so it's important to get everything.

All things considered, I expected a little more from an Imperial Castle. The place is nice to look at, but it isn't that different from the other castles and dungeons in the game. Would expect the Imperial Castle to be a bit more high-tech, and darker, and so forth. Obviously they just reused a lot of material from the Witch's Castle and other locations.

The Emperor and his goons (except Thanatos) await in the throne room. I still think it's a big missed opportunity that you never fight The Emperor. It's also a missed opportunity that Sheex, the General Leo of the game, never actually says anything.

Geshtar is, again, the only one who does anything here, and steps up to challenge us again. The villains are absolutely the biggest dropped ball of Secret of Mana's story in the second half, with only Geshtar and Thanatos really doing anything. And Geshtar pretty much just does this one thing.

The Emperor, Sheex, and Fanha all just disappear from the screen at this point because they didn't have walking animations finished. They didn't even get a teleportation sound effect, they're just there and then they're not. This happens a bunch of times in the second half of the game, characters will just sorta f**** off suddenly.

Geshtar Fight II is a fun one because it takes place on the roof of the castle. It's exactly the same as the fight in the desert, almost as memorable, and still feels like the fight that the boss music was designed for.

Here's the fight itself. Like Metal Mantis, he doesn't have any elemental weaknesses, which means you can't roll him QUITE as fast as some bosses.

I still relied a bit on the two casters pelting him with Salamando, which figures because...

...he proceeds lose his mind at his inability to defeat us, and set fire to the whole place. The Imperial Castle burns to the ground (offscreen) and can't be visited again. Geshtar also dies in this whole thing (offscreen), so that's one Imperial general down. 3 to go.

As the castle burns and crumbles around us (use your imagination), Truffle flies in on Flammie (not seen here) to save the day.

The story of Flammie is actually one of the more touching parts of this game. It all happens SUPER fast, but you basically raise him from a kitten.

We get the best item in the game, which lets you summon Flammie at will.

Know what would have been cool? If instead of Geshtar setting the castle on fire like Seth Rollins, if it had let us TORCH THE PLACE WITH FLAMMIE.

In any case, now we can go anywhere in the world. ...well, anywhere that has a location on it. As I've pointed out before, large portions of the overhead world map are actually nonexistent on the ground level of the game.

Back in Matango, we get a lead on where we'll be spending most of the remainder of the game: The Lofty Mountains, home of the mysterious town of Mandala, the Dark Palace, and the cave lair of Sage Joch.

It's also a proto version of the Denadoro Mountains from Chrono Trigger, with Joch in place of Masa and Mune.

The sword gets upgraded to form 5 (of 8). Excalibur was the most powerful version of the sword in Final Fantasy Adventure, which means that the 3 forms after this are all surpassing the sword of that game.

The Flammie Drum is a rattle, not unlike the kind one would use to summon cats. In this case...

...OH MY GOD. That mushroom guy's cap just flew off his body!

Here's our next destination. We'll be running up and down this one mountain for a while. The good news is that the flight music here is fantastic and absolutely one of the most memorable tracks of the game. This part after you first get Flammie is about as happy as the game ever gets, as you can zip all over the place to some sweet music.

The mountain is a real chore to fight through, especially considering you have to do it like 6 times. It's a chore because the most common enemy here, the blue flower, ALWAYS casts Sleep on your lead character as its first move. This lands about 4 out of 5 times. So you're asleep for like 5-7 seconds at the beginning of every fight. If they'd just left that spell off of the attack list of that one enemy, this area would have been vastly more tolerable.

Neko shows up near the top, and he has some huge armor upgrades for sale...for steep prices. That said, it's a complete ripoff to buy anything from him here because there's a shop nearby that sells the same exact armor for half as much.

At the top of the mountain is this weird bird guy named Jehk, who says Sage Joch is out. You see, at this point we're supposed to meet with Masa and Mune Sage Joch to get the information we need to unlock the Masamune Mana Sword to defeat Magus the Black Omen Mana Fortress.

At this point, the next few hours of the game are just you climbing this mountain repeatedly to talk to this guy while he sends you to other places. You have to talk to him to trigger the next story events. Then you fly to those places, do super-quick non-dungeons that were clearly scrounged up from the cutting room floor, and repeat. In short, this guy and this mountain are what the developers used to fill in every blank in the second half of the game.

At the bottom of the mountain is an easily-missable town that you never actually have to visit during the game. It's funny that it's an optional area because it actually feels finished. It's a bustling place full of NPCs and shops, with a lore-rich shrine to the north that I'll visit later.

Here's the next tier of armor. WAY more affordable than what Neko charges. And despite the annoying Sleep-casting enemies, the mountain is actually a great place to build up some funds to afford this new armor.

Next stop: The Dark Palace, which is built into the side of the mountain it seems. This is where the 5th elemental and seed are acquired, and it's the last dungeon for a bit that actually feels somewhat complete. It takes a little while to get through and is appropriately shadowy.

One cool thing about this dungeon: Blue flames that appear out of nowhere and light your path through dark rooms. Also seen right before you fight Magus in Chrono Trigger.

At the end of the Palace is the Lime Slime, one of my favorite bosses. This thing is awesome.

It temporarily changes colors when you use spells on it, and it shrinks as the battle progresses. What a satisfying fight.

Here's the actual fight, where it took me way too long to win because I didn't just blast it with spells.

Shade is a particularly cool elemental. Only the Sprite gets spells this time, which I kinda like. It gives the two characters some differentiation when they each get an exclusive elemental.

Moon: "Woo hoo, darkness! I had a goth phase once. Not to be confused with my sexy phase, which is ongoing."


Evil Gate - Does damage proportionate to a target's HP, kinda like Demi in the Final Fantasy games. Doesn't work at all on bosses. Costs 8 MP, which is ridiculous when most attack spells cost 2-4. Meh.

Dispel - Super-useful spell here that strips buffs from a foe. Enemies that cast things like Lucid Barrier or Wall can be obnoxious to fight without it. Can lock Aegagropilon (difficult lategame boss) into a cycle of chain-casting Wall on itself.

Dark Force - Does a decent amount of damage at a very affordable MP cost, and is also the easiest attack spell in the game to chain-cast. You can get up to 999 damage chain-casting this against any enemy that isn't strong against Dark.

Climb aaaaaall the way back up to Jehk and he issues you your next order. Joy!

Hey, wasn't it cool to see Moon again? They're appearing about as often as they speak in the game in the second half. What is this, Xenogears Disc 2?

Dark Force is one of my favorite spells, one I was really looking forward to getting. It has a dark version of the Flare animation from Final Fantasy VI...which means it's basically a proto version of Shadow Flare from Final Fantasy VII. It's fun because not only does it look cool, the animation takes long enough that you can chain it very effectively and hit enemies for 999 pretty much at will.

On a well-defended island is Gold City, home of the wealthy upper class of The Empire.


Gold City is pretty much entirely made of gold. The guy in charge here is King Manmon, who never really does anything. He's sorta like the mayor of Midgar who got all of his orders from the Shinra Corp. His name is of course very similar to Mammon, the historic demon of greed. This, too, comes into play in Chrono Trigger as the name of the machine the bad guys build because they can't control their own excess.


Malmo, Sweden - $300+
Berlin, Germany - $400+
Amsterdam, Netherlands - $450+
Paris, France - $650+
Gold City - $2100+
Boston, USA - $2400+

Even stupider than U.S. rent prices is the fact that Gold City sells like 3 new tiers of armor all at once. I wonder where those other two tiers were supposed to be originally. The top tier here is the best buyable armor in the game outside of one set that's only available during the endgame. And since you can come here the minute you get Flammie, there's actually no reason to buy ANY armor anywhere else besides here. The armor from Neko, Mandala, Tasnica, etc are all obsolete before you even get to those places.

Case in point, the Duck Helm doubles the defense of the helm I got from Mandala. And since both areas are accessible at the same time... yeah, the armor tiers later in this game are a bit of a nonsensical mess. The best plan of attack is to stop and grind out money at the Lofty Mountain after getting Flammie, then go straight to Gold City and buy all of the best equipment there. You'd be set for a while.

Our heroes find Manmon lurking in the biggest house. Truly, the greed runs deep at Gold City.

Next up is the Light Palace, which happens to be right here in Gold City. ...did they seriously paint their trees with gold?

Anyway, this place is locked, so it's time to go on a time-killing sidequest.

...well, it isn't much of a time-killer if you know where to go. Talk to Mara in Northtown to get the key. That's it. If you don't have a guide telling you this, it could eat up quite a bit of time as you run around trying to find out what happened to the key.

The Light Palace is absolutely the epitome of rushed content in this game. Well, until the Moon Palace, which is even worse, but we'll see that next time. The Light Palace consists of two rooms and two bosses between the rooms. And of course, weapon orbs laying around randomly because we're missing so much content at this point.

The first boss in here is Blue Spike, an upgrade to the Spiky Tiger. While the first one is the toughest boss in the game, this one is pretty manageable.

Here's the fight. Lot more room to move compared to the Spiky Tiger battle. This boss has a mechanic that I don't think any other boss has: It feigns death when it's down to like 1/4 HP. It'll do the typical boss exploding animation, then continue the fight. No other boss does this that I know of. You can miss this event entirely by defeating it too fast, like with Dark Force spamming to create a mega-hit.

I'd really like to know what bosses all of these weapon orbs were originally supposed to go to. Since it's doubtful there were going to be four bosses here in the Light Palace (even if it was expanded to be a real dungeon), chances are these orbs would have gone on bosses in an omitted area.

Next up is Gorgon Bull, a Minotaur swap.

It pretty much spends the whole fight knocking your characters unconscious. This fight and Minotaur also have a unique mechanic: They can block to negate all incoming physical damage temporarily. It's interesting that the developers tried a couple of new mechanics with bosses at this late stage of the game.

Annnnd that's it for the Light Palace. The game sure does fly by in the second half. It's great if you're in a hurry to finish the game for some reason. I've played games that really dragged later on when I was ready to be done. And that's about the only good thing about this cut-content fest.

Turns out Lumina was being forced to turn everything into gold for The Empire. Gross. And that's it for today's episode. Tune in for the next one shortly, where I'll hit the Moon Palace and see what else happens.


Lucent Beam - The Evil Gate equivalent, and WAY better for the 8 MP cost. The most powerful attack spell The Girl ever gets, does huge damage to a lot of lategame bosses that are vulnerable to Light. Called Saint Beam in the Japanese version.

Light Saber - A damage enchant without added effects, similar to Thunder Saber. While Thunder Saber has uncertain effects on critical hit % and critical hit damage, Light Saber is supposed to give you a flat bonus to damage in general (especially against foes weak to light). Not sure how well it works.

Lucid Barrier - Another super-useful spell that makes everyone temporarily immune to physical attacks. It wears off pretty fast, but it's still overpowered. Lumina might be the best overall elemental in the game between this and Lucent Beam.

After all of the semi-depressing Mana, let's wrap up with a happy video! Here's the Adventure Island 4 invincibility theme. Both nostalgic and upbeat.

Hey cat, you're blocking our scene! AMATEURS!

Nintendo Power coverage for this episode brings us right into the third and final installment of the Days of Mana. This is, no hyperbole, one of the best things Nintendo Power ever did.

Outstanding picture of Blue Spike here. Notice the Sea Hare's Tail section, which I forgot to do ingame much like the Midge Mallet. It has a similar reward, the Moogle Belt. I'll get it next time. More importantly, it takes you to the mysterious Turtle Island, a place with almost nothing on it that I speculate might have originally been the acquisition point for the game's omitted sea travel vehicle.

Today's two Mana themes of note: The Empire Town Theme, which is a fantastic track. Is it appropriate for The Empire though? The tune is breezy and light, while The Empire is a dark and foreboding menace to the world.

And, of course, the Flammie Theme. There's no other choice for this spot. One of the most memorable tracks in the game. There are two other Flammie themes as the situation in the air grows increasingly desperate, and here's the kicker: They get progressively better. From this starting point. Yep. One thing this game 100% gets right is the soundtrack.

1 comment:

  1. Shade has two outstanding spells, and Lucent Beam is a true classic. Too bad that one just eats through your MP.

    The Days of Mana spread is sooooo good.

    No kidding about that flight music progression.