Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Secret of Mana Finale - Trinity and Crossroads

With the world about to be destroyed, our heroes beeline for the Mana stop and farm loot!

The Mana Fortress exterior deck is really interesting, since it's the proto version of Chrono Trigger's Black Omen. It's got what appear to be laser cannons on the top there. Not sure if the silo-looking things below are missile launchers or just rigging.

There isn't much to the deck, though it has a Fiend Head right outside the entrance here. Like the ones at the end of Final Fantasy Adventure, this one drops rare armor and specific weapon orbs.

The Vampire Cape is the second-best armor for the Girl and Sprite. The best armor drops further on. More importantly, the Fiend Head drops Axe Orbs, which you need TWO of to max out the axe because they ran out of boss fights. The weapon orbs are MUCH rarer than the armor, so players who go for everything can settle in for a haul here.

I like how the very first room of the fortress has these two crabs that emit bubbles. It's like they're heralding your arrival.

With all of the things to farm in the Mana Fortress, it's an exciting moment every time you see a chest much less two.


The Wolf Lord, seen here, is another key source of drops. It drops the Faerie Ring (best ring for all three characters) and the Glove Orb, which you again need two of. Meaning you need to kill LOTS AND LOTS of Wolf Lords.

Tsunamis are the easiest farm here, since they're one of the many enemies in the game that multiply as you fight them.

They drop the Spear Orb, which you only need one of, so it isn't much of a farm. They also drop a lot of Amulet Rings, which aren't as good as Faerie Rings.

Interesting note: In the Nintendo Power ring list, the Faerie Ring is first on the list and the Amulet Ring is last. Protecting against dark spell damage seems good on paper, except that hardly any enemies attack with darkness.

The Mana Fortress is a weird place. For a flying techno-city, it's inhabited by things like crabs and duck-soldiers.

BOSS FIGHT. It's the Vampire Lord, or Buffy as it's known in the U.S. version. Which is hilarious.

Rest in peace, Luke Perry.

The final incarnation of what began with Count Lee in the previous game is actually a pretty tough boss at this point, and can shield himself with a cape.

He's one of the few bosses that attacks with ice magic. The key is to spam him with Lucent Beam from The Girl. It's super-rare for her to be the one to own a boss with spells. He also attacks with shadow spells here and there, so I wonder if the Amulet Ring on everybody would have helped.

He also has a highly-damaging attack where he picks up a character and chomps down on them. Several bosses in Chrono Trigger have this same animation/attack.

Here's the fight recording. Yet again I try using physical attacks at first for a bit before going F it and spamming the magic. Also note that boss HP has a massive spike (hyuck, Spike) starting with Buffy here. The last four bosses in the game (in the Mana Fortress) dwarf all of the earlier bosses in HP.

Finally, I eke out a win. He actually took down The Boy.

The Boy's bad luck continues, as he gets Moogled. Wait, that's not bad luck at all.

The next boss is soon after the previous one: Dread Slime. This is a redux of Lime Slime, except it gets bigger as the fight goes on instead of vice-versa.

It gets...very big. Other than that it's a pretty easy fight, a real damage piƱata.


What a cool idea for a boss. My God.

This one is weak against Shade (that's right, the two midway Fortress bosses are weak to light and dark respectively). Since Dark Force is the most spammable magic, this worked out. The key was to not spam it more than necessary, since damage caps at 999. You can also see The Girl do a couple of Crono Cyclones here. Physical attacks are almost completely ineffectual on this fight so it wasn't even worth trying.

That's it for bosses before the finale. You'd think the Mana Fortress would have more than two preliminary bosses, considering the boss-parades in the previous two dungeons. All that's left now is to cross a few rooms with Terminators (very tough Armored Men) in them. This is where I turn back, though, because farming isn't done.

The most annoying thing about traversing the Mana Fortress is the way characters get stuck constantly while following. They just had to make this place all winding and anti-autofollow

Terminators are another prime farm-target, which makes their placement at the very end of the dungeon into a bit of a problem. They drop the Faerie Crown (best helm for the Girl and Sprite) as well as the Whip's Orb, which you need one of. The orb is INSANELY rare.

The last room of the dungeon has three Terminators in it, which the Nintendo Power coverage treated like another boss fight. It really isn't though. Even though they're the strongest normal enemies in the game (with more HP than most of the bosses) they're pretty easy to defeat.

I farm a Bow's Orb from the Metal Crabs in the first room. Just need one of these. As the orbs are much rarer than the armor drops, they're cause for celebration. The armor drops come naturally and aren't even worth worrying about.

Though you can always sell them to a merchant and make BOOKU BUCKS. Which you have nothing to spend on at this point.

Heading to Watts and forging the final-tier weapons is a fun thing to do. When I played this for the first time as a kid, I got one weapon orb in the Fortress from normal play. It was a Spear's Orb. I was confused because Nintendo Power doesn't mention anything about the final tier weapons. So I went back and forged it and it felt like I'd found a big secret.

A shot of the Dragon Buster in action. I was going to level all of my weapons up to max, until it turned out that doing so takes ages and you actually level up to 99 faster than your weapons max out. Also, weapons stop gaining levels once you hit level 71, because weapons only level off of enemies that are higher level than you are and Mana Fortress enemies top out at 70. You can still level them up by tricking the game with weapon-switching but I didn't bother.

I did however focus on leveling spells up all the way since there's no reason not to. They aren't bound by any level rules and can be leveled up on anything.

Going back to Upper Land Forest is how I did a lot of my spell-grinding. The Wind Palace elder restores your MP, making this quick. It's the best place to grind out The Girl's magic, since your magic levels up twice as fast when your characters have their weapons out (which they don't at a normal inn). I didn't know this until this very playthrough. The Sprite's magic I can work on in the Mana Fortress since The Sprite has MP Absorb to replenish it at will now.

The best armor for The Boy is dropped by an oddball eye-machine type enemy called Whimper. This'll go well with the Griffin Helm from Pure Land. The enemy in question also drops the Javelin's Orb once in a blue moon.

When you level up an element to 8:99, the spell graphics change and they do critical damage. Here's the spell graphic for Dark Force, which looks even more Flare-like. It's basically Shadow Flare from FFVII.

The best 8:99 animation might be Fireball. It becomes a pair of fire dragons that tear around the screen. The only negative about these super versions of spells is that they pause the action while they're going on, and can't be chained. The latter doesn't matter much due to the high damage. The action-pausing is very reminiscent of Seiken Densetsu 3 special attacks.

This one took ages. Like literally about an hour of killing this one enemy over and over. At this point I began to wonder why I'm doing all of this. But I'm glad I did.

Selling Power Suits once the inventory is full again. Like I said, it isn't even worth worrying about armor drops, because you'll get everything and then some while farming the rare orbs. The main thing to worry about while going for the best armor is just making sure to get a Griffin Helm in Pure Land before it closes forever.

I may not have maxed out all of my weapons, but at the very least I made sure to get The Boy's sword skill to level 8. His maxed-out attack? ...Crono's Cyclone. It's the exact same move.

Now that we've outleveled the Fortress enemies, there won't be much more weapon leveling, but I'm fine with it.

The game can be finished around level 55 with some difficulty, so over level 65 is more than sufficient to beat the final bosses easily. We'll see how it is at level 99. The levels seem to have diminishing returns later on because my damage output had less difference between level 99 and 70 than it did between 70 and 50.

The best armor drops aren't much better than the second-best armor drops. This is specifically for the min-max type players.

After a while I started dreading armor drops. It's funny how these things happen. At first they were a joyous event, then a couple hours later you'd be opening a chest hoping for an orb and being let down by yet another armor drop instead.

I haven't mentioned the deadliest enemy in the dungeon: Master Ninja. They're found in the same final section as the Terminators. While they aren't as strong on paper, Master Ninjas have a super-high critical hit rate. Sometimes they barely do any damage, sometimes they one-shot one of your characters. They're also classified as undead so Moon Saber will obliterate you if you use it on them. These guys were the only thing that could kill me, after a while. If you get mobbed by them and they get a couple of critical hits in a row you can find yourself with the party at half-strength in seconds.

The best armor for The Girl and The Sprite, dropped by Master Ninjas. They also drop a Boomerang Orb. My advice is get what you need and then leave them alone.

Level 8 Burst is a brilliant green explosion, rather than the odd powdery-looking series of puffs it was before this. It seems to be the most effective spell attack to use on enemies here.

At one point I went through a scare when Moon glitched off of a platform and got stuck. Nothing I did seemed to be able to fix it, and I'd been farming for like an hour and a half. Lucky for me, there's a whip-square nearby, and those automatically pull the entire party to them. Was able to drag The Sprite out of the glitch by doing that.

The strongest glove is a big achievement, since it takes no fewer than two Glove Orbs from Wolf Lords. That was a hell of a farm.

Air Blast's level 8:99 form is pretty rad: Tornadoes.

With a little more spell grinding, I've got The Sprite all maxed out.

From there it was a matter of grinding out the remainder of The Girl's spells at the Wind Palace, for the reasons mentioned earlier. Here's Moon Energy at 8:99.

As the number of orbs remaining dwindled, things sped up. I was able to focus specifically on the enemies that dropped what I needed, rather than having to fight everything for something or other.

Done with Master Ninjas, which means I can stop fighting down to the last part of the Fortress to farm them. Having to get this and the above Whip Orb from Terminators was the most difficult part of the farm. Only missing two (2) Axe Orbs now, since Fiend Heads absolutely refuse to drop them.

I wish I could convert this into currency in another game. I've got more money than I could spend in ten New Game Pluses.

The last thing to farm? The Fiend Head right outside the door here. After a while I started to think maybe this particular Fiend Head didn't drop the Axe Orb, and then...boom. Need another one though.

The crazy thing is, I expected to have to grind quite a bit to get level 99 after the farm was done, and wasn't even planning on doing that if that was the case. As it turned out, the farm was so incredibly time-consuming that it got me from level 50ish all the way to the low 90's on its own, though. Only had to grind out the last few levels.

Final Axe Orb. My God. I did it. I farmed all of the top-tier armor and weapons in this game. I've always wanted to do that, and I'm glad I finally did...once.

That gets me the Gigas Axe and then the Doom Axe. Here we've got all of the tier 9 weapons (well, tier 8 in the sword's case, no final orb for that).

All that's left now is to bang out the last few levels. This room with respawning Tsunamis worked pretty well. I found that most Fortress enemies gave similar levels of EXP, meaning it's better to fight weaker foes than bother with Terminators for slightly more EXP.



I think this might turn into a new hobby, getting to level 99 in games I've never done it in. I wonder what something like Final Fantasy IV would look like with a level 99 party.

Here's a quick video of the points where I did my farming, in case someone out there wants to do the same thing in their next run of Secret of Mana.

Maxed-out party. Much like it took 999,999 EXP to max out in the previous game, it takes 9,999,999 to max out here.

Final weapon skill levels. I managed to get at least one "main" weapon for each character maxed. I aimed for one melee and one ranged weapon. The sword/whip, gloves/javelin, and spear respectively. The Sprite probably could have maxed the Boomerang but I didn't focus on it enough. Those pairs seem like fitting weapons for the characters.

No love for the axe and bow though. They can be Dyluck's main weapons in spirit, as the lost playable character.

After all of that farming, it's finally time to proceed with the game. Get ready for MORE SADNESS to ensue.

They really play up Dyluck as being a superhero here, saying that Dyluck is the strongest body Thanatos could find and things like that. It's all a little odd because he's such a minor character in the finished version of the game.

Thanatos finally crumbles, with his spirit leaping to Dyluck like Azazel from the movie Fallen.

Now that Thanatos is Dyluck, CAN HE BE STOPPED? ...why is Dyluck getting this super-push? It's almost like he was supposed to be the main character or something. An idea they resurrected for Chrono Cross, where the villain switches bodies with the main character. Come to think of it, a number of things made it into that game that may have had Secret of Mana origins. Whatever didn't get usage in Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI.

Dyluck speaks to us from The Ether, as he no longer has control of his body. Thanatos is yet another guy who sold out to The Underworld. The fact that he'll keep recurring throughout time and continuing to try and destroy the world is perhaps the scary component of the idea of reincarnation. If evil people benefit from it the same as anyone else, then they're never actually gone from the world.

More depressing stuff. If the game had gotten the amount of character development it was supposed to, no doubt this would be a wrenching scene. It still is, largely because the music in this game punches above the game's weight emotionally. Case in point, the Ice Country, an inexplicably emotional part of the game.

Oasis smacks Dyluck around a bit (and I think he resisted) which causes Thanatos to float out form-less as Dyluck just sort of vanishes. That part didn't make any sense. Most likely the original idea here was that Dyluck regained control long enough to throw himself off the platform, depriving Thanatos of his new body.

The bad news for our heroes? Without a body, Thanatos is actually way more powerful. Here's Dark Lich, which I sorta consider the final boss of the game. At least, he's the Big Bad. There's another fight after this but it's more of a Squaresoft Final Boss Outta Nowhere.

He has 6666 HP, the same amount as Magus in Chrono Trigger. The key to victory here... to spam Lucent Beam. At 8:99 it emits an array of beams that snake around. A few shots of this and even 6666 HP is knocked out quickly. I mixed in physical attacks too since they weren't as useless as usual, especially with Light Saber on.

Even at level 99, he managed to take out The Sprite before we got him.

He has a tendency to fade out most of his body and attack with only skull and hands, which bears a striking resemblance to the Queen Zeal fight in Chrono Trigger. They also both clench their hands during the battle.

It's cool that The Girl got to be the one to nuke this guy to smithereens, since The Sprite got most of the game's bosses.

And even better, the next fight is going to rely on The Boy for damage output for the first time since...Spiky Tiger? Maybe Aegagropilon?

This just in: The Sprite will disappear when magic does, much like Terra in FFVI. Except here it's actually going to happen.

Back to the idea of reincarnation and why it's somber: Even if you live on, you won't remember anything or anyone or the time you had with them, much less meet them again. Probably.

In any case, the Mana Beast has been summoned by The Planet, WEAPON-style, to stop Thanatos. We already stopped him, but it doesn't matter. When the Mana Beast attacks the Mana Fortress, it could result in the end of the world.
The Mana Beast. Look! Flammie is evolving!

This is an interesting fight, with really good music, and starts with a massive unavoidable fireball crashing into the Fortress. While the previous fight has Dark Lich looking a lot like Queen Zeal, this fight emulates the screen of the Queen Zeal fight. You're on the highest ledge of the Mana Fortress/Black Omen, fighting an enemy floating in the sky.

Interesting. Most of Chrono Trigger's Mana similarities seem to happen in the second half of that game...while most of Secret of Mana's cuts were in the second half. A lot of those ideas for a finale and the events that lead to them were probably transplanted right over, with some smaller things making it to Chrono Trigger's early game like the Millennial Fair, Denadoro Mountain, and Spekkio/Undine. Though at this point nearly every part of Chrono Trigger can be traced to a root origin in Secret of Mana.

As mentioned before, this is the one boss fight in the game where The Boy can really shine. Spells do very little damage to this thing while charged sword strikes often do 999. The other two characters have to keep the Mana Magic buff on The Boy for sword damage to work, but man, does it work.

This is the only spell The Sprite has to worry about. The Girl can add Moon Energy and Lunar Boost to make even low-level charged attacks from The Boy critical hit for 999.

The idea here is that Mana Magic restores the sword to its full power, aka the L9 form we can't forge (not without glitches, anyway). It goes from being called "Dragon Buster" in the subscreen to being "Mana Sword" while this buff is active (from both casters).

Lots of 999 hits in this fight, which makes its astronomical HP (roughly 10,000) fly by.

Eventually, it succumbs. I feel kinda bad about this thing, since it was just trying to protect The Planet. To the game's credit, it doesn't dwell on this to further depress the player.

Here's the fight, great music and all.

The ending's already sad enough, as Moon is no more. And speaking of moons...we've got a couple of them in the sky here, FFIV-style.

This is as Chrono Trigger esque of a vista as you'll see outside of that game. Snow begins to fall and the credits roll, so that's it for this game. What a great game, even as incomplete as it is.

We get various scenes of other characters and what they're up to, as snow falls over the Land of Mana. Here, The Scorpion Army are doing whatever it is that The Scorpion Army does. Who are they, again?

The heroes (minus Moon) visit Matango. Probably my favorite location in the game. It helps that King Truffle is one sweet piece of ass.

A stroll through the Upper Land forest. I like when the endings of games show your characters visiting various lands that you've explored. A lot of Super NES games do this, especially those from Square.

Watts interrupts their romantic? date? to wonder how they got the sword to L9 without him. He then throws his badge on the ground and retires, like Crockett and Tubbs at the end of Miami Vice.

The Boy drops The Girl off in Pandora, because let's be honest, they're not getting together. Looks like Phanna is here too, so at least there's that. Phanna and The Girl are probably going to have the Vegan, meat-less version of a Dyluck sandwich later.

Sorry for ruining Secret of Mana, because it's about to get worse:

The Potos people welcome Jack back into the town and begrudgingly decide to give him a chance. Upon which he decides HE DOESN'T WANT A CHANCE, HE'S GOT NOTHING TO PROVE TO THEM and dishes out STONE COLD STUNNERS to everybody in sight. Even the girl! JACK GIVES NO FUX! EQUAL OPPORTUNITY STUNNERS!

And finally, Moon's spirit resides at the destroyed village of their origin, hopefully with the other spirits that were lost to The Empire offscreen.

The final shot of The Sprite is a striking one, as they've become one with the cosmos. All of the random nonsense that the rest of the cast is concerned with is a distant memory once The Sprite transcends the mortal world. It's simultaneously both a sad and happy final shot for this game. The Sprite is free to rejoin the lifestream, but won't see the others again, and their time in the mortal world isn't coming back.

Last shot of Nintendo Power. That Mana Beast artwork is tremendous, especially the rays of light coming off of the restored Mana Sword.

Mana Fortress Theme - One of my favorite tracks in the game, which is good because I had to listen to it for about six hours. It seems incongruous with the Mana Fortress itself though. The Fortress is a world-destroying flying techno-city, and this theme is a bit on the happy side for something like that.

Dark Lich Theme - One of the better battle themes out there, suitable for fighting an enemy that is trying to end the world and probably succeeded at it at least once before.

Meridian Dance - That's right, we get three tunes on this episode. Here's the final boss theme, which is a bit iconic in and of itself. It has more than a little bit in common with the final boss theme of Final Fantasy IV.

Lastly, here's one big boss rush video. Crank up the speed and see the entire lineup in a row.


1 comment:

  1. Love those NP descriptions of the rings.

    Those Terminators aren't making the whole armor=robot confusion any simpler.

    With all of the equipment drops is it possible to run out of room? Oh, I see you can. About how much room do you have?

    The final weapon sprites are a lot of blues and purples.

    Dyluck looks a lot like Krissie from the side.

    Nice detail about the ending. I think my favorite ending where characters revisit various parts of the game is Destiny of an Emperor, because the three characters that do so have been out of the party for a while at that point.

    Final thought: Potos sucks.